Monday, December 31, 2012

As the Journey Continues

Going to see The Hobbit recently reminded me of starting my own church planting journey in S. Asia one year ago. I can't help but recapture the conversation between Gandalf and the Hobbit as the Hobbit is contemplating the journey:

Gandalf: You'll have a tale or two to tell when you come back.
The Hobbit: Can you promise I will come back?
Gandalf: No. And if you do, you will not be the same.

Embarking on my own journey one year ago was full of the unknown and in many ways uncertainty to what I/my family was about to experience. For those of you who have also served overseas you understand what I mean and for those of you who have not then you likely do not and cannot. One thing that I was told by my mentors was that they could not wait to see me again in the future because they knew that I was going to change so much and never be the same. But could they promise I would come back? No, but they knew if I did that I would never be the same.

I distinctly remember sitting around a fire pit outside of my parents house the night before I left feeling this uncertainty, much in the same way that the Hobbit did. But then I came back to God's promises over my life and recognized that at this moment in my life he was calling me to something greater in moving to S. Asia to see new churches planted where there are none. 

As I look back it has not been the easiest year of our lives in many ways, we have dealt with much sickness, broken bones, car wrecks, mold issues, and overall hardship, but as we finish 2012 and move into 2013 we are more excited than ever to see what God is going to do. Much like the Hobbit dealt with adversity and continued on his journey we too are marching on. And just as the Hobbit wanted to so badly return to the known and familiarity of his own home he did not yet because he believed in the mission that the group was on.

In this same way there have been times over this year that we or at least I was ready to throw in the towel and get on the next plane home. But I always came back to being here because of God's love for these people and so that they too would have a local church and an opportunity to hear the gospel and experience God's love in the same way that I did growing up.

So as the journey continues into 2013 there are still many unknowns but one thing is for certain, that God is at work in our lives and in the lives of the people in S. Asia. At this time he has us on his mission in this place because it is not yet time to return to the familiar.

Friday, December 28, 2012

12 Christian Books from 2012 Worth Your Time and Money

2012 has proven to be another year full of new book releases from Christian publishers. I always remember hearing in seminary that for every new book you read you should read three to four old books, primarily by dead guys, because many of them were saying these same things along time ago. Although I generally agree with that statement, it is also enjoyable to pick up a brand new book that may have a more modern and fresh perspective on the topic. In an age with so many new book releases to choose from it can be hard to know which ones are really worth the investment of money because even the average kindle book release is going to set you back $10. So here is my list of 12 Christian books that were released in 2012 that are worth your time and money.

1. Center-Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City by Tim Keller (Zondervan 2012). In Center Church, Timothy Keller offers challenging insights and provocative questions based on over twenty years of ministry in New York City. This book outlines a theological vision for ministry - applying classic doctrines to our time and place - organized around three core commitments: * Gospel-centered: The gospel of grace in Jesus Christ changes everything, from our hearts to our community to the world. It completely reshapes the content, tone and strategy of all that we do. * City-centered: With a positive approach toward our culture, we learn to affirm that cities are wonderful, strategic and underserved places for gospel ministry. * Movement-centered: Instead of building our own tribe, we seek the prosperity and peace of our community as we are led by the Holy Spirit.

2. Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry by Paul Tripp (Crossway 2012). Dangerous Calling reveals the truth that the culture surrounding our pastors is spiritually unhealthy—an environment that actively undermines the wellbeing and efficacy of our church leaders and thus the entire church body. Here is a book that both diagnoses and offers cures for issues that impact every member and church leader, and gives solid strategies for fighting the all-important war that rages in our churches today.

3. Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century by Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim (Jossey-Bass 2012). The Permanent Revolution is an original work of theological re-imagination and re-construction that draws from biblical studies, theology, organizational theory, leadership studies, and key social sciences. The book elaborates on the apostolic role rooted in the five-fold ministry from Ephesians 4 (apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers), and its significance for the missional movement.

4. The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler with Jared C. Wilson (Crossway 2012). Inspired by the needs of both the overchurched and the unchurched, and bolstered by the common neglect of the explicit gospel within Christianity, popular pastor Matt Chandler writes this punchy treatise to remind us what is of first and utmost importance—the gospel. Here is a call to true Christianity, to know the gospel explicitly, and to unite the church on the amazing grounds of the good news of Jesus!

5. Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free by Tullian Tchividjian (David Cook 2012). In this world, one thing is certain: Everybody hurts. Suffering may take the form of tragedy, heartbreak, or addiction. Or it could be something more mundane (but no less real) like resentment, loneliness, or disappointment. But there’s unfortunately no such thing as a painless life. In Glorious Ruin, best-selling author Tullian Tchividjian takes an honest and refreshing look at the reality of suffering, the ways we tie ourselves in knots trying to deal with it, and the comfort of the gospel for those who can’t seem to fix themselves—or others. 

6. Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions? by David A. Black (Energion Publications 2012). The church in America has come to depend on professionals to "do ministry." In many churches, the pastor, paid to do the job, is the one who is expected to carry out all functions of the church. But it was not always this way. Jesus came as God-in-the-flesh. The pattern portrayed in the New Testament is that every Christian is part of the body of Christ, and the function of Christ's body is to be incarnational, to be Jesus Christ for the world (John 20:21).

7. Gospel Coach: Shepherding Leaders to Glorify God by Scott Thomas and Tom Wood (Zondervan 2012). Many ministry leaders serving in churches find themselves overwhelmed, disillusioned, and depressed by the enormous and challenging task of leading and serving others. When leaders aren't healthy, the result is often an unhealthy church. Leaders need someone to shepherd their soul so that they can then lead others to the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Every church leader---from fulltime ministers to volunteer leaders---needs a Gospel Coach who will come alongside them with words drawn from Scripture and godly wisdom, grounded in the gracious saving work of Jesus Christ, and presented in the context of a trusting relationship. Gospel coaching is an intentional relationship of skillful caring for others based on four ancient shepherding principles: 1) Know the sheep 2) Feed the sheep 3) Lead the sheep 4) Protect the sheep Gospel coaches inquire about the personal, spiritual, and missional aspects of a leader's life in a loving yet focused manner, probing the heart for compulsive unbelief or selfish motivation, disobedience, and sin, leading them back to the Gospel through belief, repentance, and obedience.

8. The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected by Nik Ripken (B&H Publishing 2012/13). The Insanity of God is the personal and lifelong journey of an ordinary couple from rural Kentucky who thought they were going on just your ordinary missionary pilgrimage, but discovered it would be anything but. After spending over six hard years doing relief work in Somalia, and experiencing life where it looked like God had turned away completely and He was clueless about the tragedies of life, the couple had a crisis of faith and left Africa asking God, "Does the gospel work anywhere when it is really a hard place? It sure didn't work in Somalia.

9. Gospel Deeps by Jared C. Wilson (Crossway 2012). While pastoring for the past fifteen years, Jared Wilson has become known in contemporary evangelicalism for his passionate, gospel-centered writing and teaching. Following Wilson’s well-received publication of Gospel Wakefulness, he writes Gospel Deeps as a “next step” to establishing the need for astonishment, which begins by looking at the astonishing things God has done in and through Christ. Wilson holds up the gospel like a diamond and examines it facet by facet, demonstrating the riches of its implications. This book serves as a valuable contribution to the emerging canon of gospel-centered literature, in the spirit of John Piper’s Pleasures of God and Tim Keller’s emphasis on a “robust gospel,” and continues in the glory-reveling legacy left by Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, and the like. The distinctiveness of Gospel Deeps is found in Wilson’s winsome and frequently ecstatic writing voice, as well as his unique approach to showcasing the gospel’s beauty.

10. Every Day Church: Gospel Communities on Mission by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis (Crossway 2012). We live in an increasingly post-Christian culture. More and more we find ourselves on the margins as less and less people have any intention of ever attending church. What used to work doesn’t work anymore and we need to adapt.
Helping us to see the way forward, this book offers practical ideas and personal stories for engaging with Western society. Find out how to effectively reach people in the context of everyday life and take hold of the opportunity to develop missional communities focused on Jesus.

11. Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together by Mark Driscoll and Grace Driscoll (Thomas Nelson 2012). In Real Marriage, Pastor Mark Driscoll and his wife, Grace, share how they have struggled and how they have found healing through the power of the only reliable source: the Bible. They believe friendship is fundamental to marriage but not easy to maintain. So they offer practical advice on how to make your spouse your best friend - and keep it that way. And they know from experience that sex-related issues need to be addressed directly.

12. Unleash: Breaking Free from Normalcy by Perry Noble (Tyndale House Publishers 2012). Why is it that we trust Jesus with our salvation but never fully trust him with our lives? God longs to unleash his full measure of power in our lives to fill us with passion and purpose. But too often the things of our past—fear, anger, bitterness, worry and doubt—hold us back. Rather than focusing on the reality of who Christ is and what he has done for us, we allow ourselves to be identified by all the things we aren’t. But we are not who our past says we are, and we are not who the enemy says we are. We are who God and his Word say that we are.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Top Ten Posts of 2012

At the start of 2012 I was uncertain on whether or not I would continue to blog from India based on a variety of factors, but here we are at the end of the year and it has been by far the best year of blogging with both content, amount of posts, and interaction. As a way to say thank you to all of my readers from this year I want to share and reflect back on the top five blog posts from 2012. Be on the lookout for more and better content in 2013 with a new formatted blog to hopefully be released soon.

1. ESV Global Study Bible Giveaway

Of course a giveaway is likely to be the top posts when you are giving away something such as an ESV Bible. Be on the lookout for more giveaways in 2013.

2. The (Fattest) Elephant in the Sanctuary 

Yes, you read that right in case you missed this one. A good friend of mine started his own weight loss journey as the gospel stared him in the face and convicted him of his own weight issues but he also started to realize that in the hundreds of accountability conversations that he had that his weight never came up. Joshua was determined that something must be done to change this in our church settings, which is the idea behind Gospel Wellness.

3. Why Are The Unreached Unreached? 

Veteran overseas worker Nik Ripken makes his case for why the unreached are unreached in this article based off of his 25 plus years of overseas service. This is one man that we should all be humbled by and take time to learn from.

4. Why Christians Should Celebrate Halloween 

This is an orignal post by George Robinson that originally appeared on my blog on 2011 but it had enough hits and is written well enough that it was only fitting to include it in 2012. This year it received more traffic than the first time it was posted. George was one of my favorite seminary professors and continues to encourage and challenge me in how I live my own life. He is a former overseas worker that is continuing to live as a missionary regardless what culture he lives in.

5. The Church and Amendment One 

This posts came amidst one of the biggest controversies of 2012 with the passing of Amendment One. It was interesting to watch this one play out living from afar. The lead teaching pastor from my sending church, J.D. Greear, wrote an excellent piece on how to respond now that amendment one had been passed that also helps put things into perspective.

6. Does Taking a Stance = Being Openly Discriminatory? 

Amidst another large controversy involving Chickfila and the stance on marriage. Although this story has been overplayed, this was written when the story first released, before all the big names had written their piece on it. I think this helps show where America is in regards to stating your own belief if it differs from popular public opinion.

7. Lessons Learned One Year In Part 1 

This was the first of a three part series on lessons learned one year in overseas. Although part 2 and 3 did not make it into the top viewed posts of the year, I think they both have some important lessons too so you should also check them out.

8. Car Wrecks - An Opportunity to Glorify God 

Perhaps the hardest day that I have had living in India to date was on the day of my first ever accident. It was one of the most helpless moments of my life but I depended on God like never before in He provided in ways that allowed for him to receive the glory!

9. Traditional vs. Biblical 

This post developed out of being part of a training for a large Baptist Convention in India that has many man-made traditions that are not biblical that are hindering the gospel from going forward. This led me to reflect on my own upbringing in the Southern Baptist tradition and see how many in my own background are still struggling with this same thing.

10. Going Into Full-Time vs. Part-Time Ministry 

This post came as a way to bring out the unnecessary attitude that many of us carry around that we are "professional" ministers if we are full-time and that everyone else is an "amateur." And unfortunately this is as true overseas as anywhere by missionaries who think they are better than other based on their organization, status within that organization, and length of term. They too are hindering the spread of the gospel whether they realize it or not.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Summit Church Christmas at DPAC

The below video is the Christmas eve service from my sending church The Summit. It is longer than your traditional Christmas eve service but that is because it is packed full of Christ centered worship and a powerful gospel message from the lead teaching pastor. Having the opportunity to watch this from India greatly blessed me and my family and hope that it blesses you too. I know two hours is a long time to watch so if nothing else just have the sound on in the background while you do other things.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Celebrating King Jesus

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
(Luke 2:1-14 ESV)

BORN IS THE KING: IT'S CHRISTMAS!



Friday, December 21, 2012

Jesus Film Media

The Jesus Film is a huge tool that has been used worldwide for years to help share the message of Jesus with those that have not heard. Although this is not and never will be my number one tool for evangelism, I do think that it is a tool that can assist in the process. This is especially helpful and useful in places like S. Asia where there are so many languages and films like this have proven to be a way to help spread the message of the gospel.

There is now a new Jesus Film App that allows you to have access to the Jesus film and other resources in over 1,100 languages! Once again not my number one go to tool but it is a tool and a great way to help share with those that you meet worldwide, especially when you do not know their language.

Even where I currently serve, the app has over 140 of the local languages in a culture where regardless how remote the people live, they all have cell phones. This is a huge asset and one way to help spread the message of the gospel to those around the world.

And of course the app is free for both android and iphone. I encourage you all to get this app, make use of it, and add one more tool to your toolbox of being able to share with all people from all cultures.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

John Piper reading "The Innkeeper"

Crossway Books and Desiring God have partnered together to give a gift this season of John Piper reading "The Innkeeper." It is worth the eleven minutes to watch it, so I hope you enjoy!


John Piper reads "The Innkeeper" from Desiring God on Vimeo.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Celebrating God's Faithfulness One Year In

It's hard to believe that my family is only two weeks away from our one year anniversary of serving as church planters in S. Asia. It has not always been an easy road but at the same time God has been faithful and blessed us in so many ways. As we have been reflecting over this last year of our lives we look on one hand at some of the difficulties that we have faced and been through as a family and in many ways it has been the roughest year we have had as a family. But then on the other hand we reflect on all the work that God has done through evangelism, discipleship, church planting groups, and living in a missional way in general. Although these numbers don't scratch the surface of the needs in S. Asia, they do represent peoples lives and families that have been changed by the gospel and new churches that are now in areas reaching people where there were no churches before.

For the new followers of Jesus that are now being discipled and the new churches that are now meeting we praise God! It has been incredible to see the gospel come alive in places where it was not living before and knowing that as a result through the local church these communities will be changed.

Many people are often confused on why are primary focus is not orphanages, water projects, or prostitues. While we are not against any of those things we firmly believe that it is only through the planting of a local church in a community that will cause a community to have everlasting change. So while we are not in anyway against those things, we put the majority of our efforts on seeing new churches started that in turn are to be the one that reach out to all of the other spheres of life.

For those of you who have partnered with us this last year through prayer, encouragement, giving, and serving next to us we want to say thank you! You have a bigger part in the work here than you realize and we truly could not be here if it were not for your partnership with us. We continue to look to you as the ones holding the rope for us back home. A special thank you to individuals and groups from the following churches: The Summit Church RDU, Northside Church WilmingtonWestern Avenue Baptist Church, and Summit Church Denver.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Lessons Learned in Year One - Part 3

This is the third post in a series on lessons learned in year one as International Church Planters. To see part one go here and part two go here.

11. Find A Local Church to Invest In and Partner With

It is weird coming over as an International Church Planter when your primary role is to equip national brothers to be sent out to plant churches. In other words we help get them started, but we neither pastor or lead the church once it really gets started. This leaves us with the question of what to do as a family for church. Some cross-cultural workers choose to do family church or a form of house church, but in most cases with other foreigners. Neither of those is bad and we have freedom in Christ to express church in those ways but we have learned that it is beneficial to invest in and partner with a local church. This allows for further relationship building and it allows you to be a part of something larger that is trying to hopefully love and reach the city in which you live in. We made the mistake of bouncing around a good bit early on but are now actively involved with one local body that is also allowing us to help equip the people in the church to further the mission of God here.

12. Be Adaptable and Flexible

Some would say that these words are interchangeable and in some ways they are but not completely. In a broad sense they convey the same meaning but they are not identical. By being adaptable for us is making the long-term changes that needed to be made for our time here. In other words by adapting to our surroundings in a contextualized way. This can cover all areas of life from clothing to the way we drive. Being flexible is more of a short-term thing such as in the moment. So we have tried to adapt ourselves to the culture and tried to be flexible in the moment of whatever happens to be going on.

13. Work Like an Arminian and Sleep Like a Calvinist

We believe that we need to give it all that we have while we are here. So we like to adopt the mentality that while we are awake we work like an Arminian as if the work here depends on us. But at the end of the day we sleep like a Calvinist because the reality is that we know the work here does not depend on us but on God alone. We are here to do our part and the rest is up to God.

14. Take a Sabbath and a Vacation

I wrote a blog post on this one back in September when we took our first vacation in over a year. The truth is that we all need to take a day of rest to rest and remember that it is God that gives the increase. Along with this, the idea of a regular vacation is good as an extended period of rest or Sabbath. The truth is that whatever people group or city you are focused on, they will still be there waiting on you when you get back. Take a day off, take a vacation and enjoy yourself.

15. Remember It Isn't Simply About Winning More People to Christ but About Planting Churches Amongst All People Groups.

This is actually a quote from John Piper about missions. New followers of Christ is always something to rejoice about but I agree with Piper that the unique task of missions is to plant churches amongst all people groups because through the planting of the local church more people will become followers of Christ.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Lessons Learned in Year One - Part 2

This is the second part in a three part series on lessons learned in year one as international church planters. To see part one click here.

6. Be Patient When Equipping Nationals

Once you have chosen some nationals to invest in, you will need to be patient in equipping them. One primary reason for this is that many of them are brand new believers themselves. A second reason for this is that often times what has been modeled for them in ministry is not very healthy so it can take some time to get them focused on a more sold biblical model.

7. Don't Invest All of Your Time or Resources In Only a Couple of Nationals.

The reason for this is that you can waste a lot of time. Yes, it is important to choose some nationals to invest in and you want to be patient with them, but if you spend all of your time with only a couple you are likely setting yourself up for disappointment. I have had to learn this the hard way at times this last year as many national partners turned their back on me only to spread rumors about me and other nationals. One guy in particular was the guy I saw with the most potential...live and learn.

8. Teach People To Be Missionaries

We commonly mistaken missionaries as only people who leave and go away to far away countries. While that is one aspect of missionaries, it misses the majority of people who are called to be missionaries right where they live. Serving in S. Asia I always focus on the nationals also being missionaries to their own culture as one day when I leave I do not want the work to stop or disciples to stop being made. For the entire year that I have been here I have been hitting the same drum over and over, the Great Commission and that it was given to all believers. I focus on the four things that all believers are to be actively doing: Go, Make Disciples, Baptize, and Teach Obedience.

9. Don't Be Surprised at Special Gift Support

We have been blessed to be sent out by our local church that partners with an organization which makes it possible for the majority of our finances to be taken care of. But there are always other ministry needs and a budget for extra things such as trainings, materials, Bibles, etc. For the most part we have never gone looking for this extra money but God has continued to use individuals and groups to bless the work and ministry here. As people such as high school students and single parents have given sacrificially in order to see people here have a chance to hear the gospel.

10. Don't Be Surprised At Conflict with Other International Workers

Although we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, we don't always treat each other that way. One of the number one reasons that cross-cultural workers leave the field early is because of other cross-cultural workers. That is the sad reality that we live in and the enemy loves pinning cross-cultural workers against one another. We have experienced our fair share of this and at other times observed it. It caught us off guard at first that some of those within our own organization would act in such ways. But by God's grace he has provided other foreign partners that many times are out here on their own. We were greatly reminded of this beautiful thing at Thanksgiving when we had over five different organizations represented as a family around one table.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Lessons Learned in Year One - Part 1

My family left the US on January 1, 2012 and arrived in our new city on January 3, 2012. In our one year as church planters to an unknown land we have learned many important lessons. We desire to share these as a deeper way into our lives but also as a way to help prepare futurer international church planters. In no way is this list exhaustive or necessarily new to those who have been in our shoes before; and we do not pretend we have it all figured out because we learned something but rather we want to share our lessons to help others in the pipeline to serve internationally. To share these we will break it into three posts, each containing five lessons learned.

1. It's All About God's Glory

You would think that this is a given but many people struggle to keep this as the ultimate goal in church planting. It is easy to look at the numbers, if you have some to report, and allow some of that recognition to go to oneself. Our ultimate aim should be to continually point to Jesus as the one who worked and deserves the glory.

Our aim here should ring true with Psalm 115:1: "Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!"

2. Go with or Join a Team

This cannot be stressed enough as any mission field can be a lonely place to be. Aside from that greater things usually happen with a larger group as they are able to do more. By joining an existing team we were able to not make some of the same mistakes that are teammates had already made in their time overseas.

This also allows for the work to be spread out to more places and areas in our part of the world. When joining an existing team it is also helpful to plan times of regular prayer, encouragement, and fellowship as it will take some time for true bonding to occur.

3. Set Clear and Realistic Expectations (Cultural, Language, Ministry, Etc.)

If you are the team leader it would be a good idea to establish what the expectations look like for those who are joining your team, especially in the areas of cultural, language, and ministry. Doing this sooner than later is a huge benefit to the overall team dynamic. It is a shame to be too lax on some things up front only to fumble through setting them up later.

This also helps so that there is no confusion and also allows for built in accountability. It is a shame to see people struggling through a certain area only because it is an unknown expectation, many times not realistic to their amount of time on the field.

4. Recognize that You Will Change, Your Marriage Will Change, and You Will Be Dealing with Change!

This is one that you hear a lot before moving overseas but it is also one area that you cannot fully grasp until experiencing it. It is not a bad thing, but it is a reality that if you try to ignore it may be your end. And it is not that you necessarily desire all of the change, but when you move to a cultural that is sometimes the opposite of your own then things will not continue to work as they did before. The most important thing is to recognize that this change will happen and use grace with one another through these changes.

5. Intentionally Choose Some Nationals to Invest In

You cannot invest in everyone, nor should you, but it is a good idea to intentionally choose some to invest in. You will not want to do this too early as it could blow up in your face but you also do not want to allow too much time to pass before choosing some to invest in heavily.

Friday, December 7, 2012

God Alone Can Enlighten Your Darkness

Someone recently sent me this excerpt in a care package from perhaps the greatest preacher of all time, Charles Spurgeon.  It was a great encouragement to me and hope that it is to you too regardless of what you are going through.

For thou wilt light my candle. 
Psalm 18:28

It may be that my soul sits in darkness; and if this be of a spiritual kind, no human power can bring me light. Blessed be God! he can enlighten my darkness, and at once light my candle. Even though I may be surrounded by a 'darkness which may be felt,' yet he can break the gloom, and immediately make it bright around me.

The mercy is, that if he lights the candle none can blow it out, neither will it go out for lack of substance, nor burn out of itself through the lapse of hours. The lighters which the Lord kindled in the beginning are shining still. The Lord's lamps may need trimming, but he does not put them out.

Let me, then, like the nightingale, sing in the dark. Expectation shall furnish me with music, and hope shall pitch the tune. Soon I shall rejoice in a candle of God's lighting. I am dull and dreary just now. Perhaps it is weather, or bodily weakness, or the surprise of a sudden trouble; but whatever has made the darkness, it is God alone who will bring the light. My eyes are unto him alone. I shall soon have the candle of the Lord shining about me; and, further on in his own good time, I shall be where they need no candle, neither light of sun. Hallelujah! 
-C.H. Spurgeon 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Story of God via Matt Papa



"For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen."
-Romans 11:36

Monday, December 3, 2012

Joining God Where He is Working

For the past five days I have had the privilege of hosting a Spanish team from the Chicago area. This group is from a church of a few hundred and are just now starting to sense the need to get involved in God's larger mission around the world. I love groups like these because they come in recognizing that they have not been joining God in his global mission but are now seeing ways that they can get involved.

It has been a great few days as we have seen God call people to salvation in three different villages, totaling 18-25 people, and we were able to start a new church planting training set. This group has asked a lot of questions as they recognize that getting their entire church on board will not happen over night.

But what I have enjoyed the most about this group is that upon recognizing they were not fully obeying the Great Commission, they sought to where God would have them go to join in what He is doing. That process has now led them to S. Asia and based on their experience and seeing God move, this will not be the last time.

Currently they have sent nobody out of their local body to serve internationally and they have only taken a few trips, but I can sense that God is getting ready to use them in big ways to advance his church globally.

So maybe you too are at a church that is not obeying the Great Commission on a global scale. I encourage you to stay there, ride it out, and be the advocate for the church joining God where He is working globally.

Friday, November 30, 2012

ESV Global Study Bible Giveaway

I've been using the ESV Bible as my Bible of choice for over five years now and thoroughly enjoy it and believe it to be one of the better translations available. I have no problem with someone preferring a different translation, although I have some old friends who are of the KJV only camp. Crossway has recently released their ESV Global Study Bible and I want to give one of them away today.

THE BIBLE

The ESV Global Study Bible is a one-volume study resource for globally minded Christians everywhere. It has been designed from beginning to end to be highly accessible and value priced for distribution on a global scale.

The Global Study Bible features a fresh design, with a wide range of new features. Each book begins with an introduction, followed by a unique, insightful description of the global message of the book. Likewise, a set of new articles by global Christian leaders apply the Bible to global issues, such as the role of government, the nature of the church, world religions, social ethics, and missions and evangelism.

Each print copy comes with free access to the online Global Study Bible, available anywhere worldwide with an Internet connection.

The Global Study Bible’s notes and maps were adapted from the best-selling ESV Study Bible and contain a wealth of information about the biblical text, history, and geography. With overviews of each Bible book, special facts, and character profiles, the Global Study Bible is an outstanding resource for Christians everywhere who seek to know and understand the truth of the Bible and its global meaning.

Buy One, Give One

For every copy of this Global Study Bible purchased, Crossway distributes a free digital copy to a Christian in need of one somewhere in the world. This is a unique global strategy so that when a copy is purchased, it in small way is helping to "equip the Global Church through God's Word."

THE GIVEAWAY

To Enter: Leave a comment below telling me: 1) What is your preferred version of the Bible and why. Or 2) You must share this post either on Facebook or Twitter. 

The giveaway ends on Sunday night at 11 pm EST. The winner will be announced on Monday.

Hear what Francis Chan has to say about The Global Study Bible:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

If You Want Applause, Join the Circus

I recently watched the movie Argo, which I highly recommend by the way. There is a scene towards the end of the movie where the CIA operative will receive an award for his accomplished mission, but because he is in the CIA the award will immediately be taken back and kept a complete secret. Then the one CIA agent looks to the other and says, "If we wanted applause we'd a joined the circus."

This type of attitude should be the exact one that we as ministers of the gospel have. It can be hard at times to look at the "rock star" pastors out there and not feel discouraged about our own ministry when we are not having the same type of success or receiving the kind of recognition that they are. And I am not knocking those pastors because I believe that most of them are genuine and God has placed them in that role for a reason, but it should not be the standard that the rest of us achieve for.

Rather for the majority of us and really the "rock star" type pastors too, our desire should be that God receives all the glory. The moment one enters vocational ministry, we should immediately have the attitude that if applause is what we desire then we would have joined the circus.

That is the attitude that more of us in ministry need to have on a daily basis. This type of attitude helps keep our motives for ministry in check and keeps it from becoming all about us. The truth is that we are called to be faithful and obedient in whatever ministry God has placed us and we will receive our award in heaven, but until then direct all the applause toward Jesus or go and join the circus.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Why Are the Unreached Unreached? - An Article By Dr. Nik Ripken

Veteran overseas worker Nik Ripken has recently published an article on "Why are the unreached unreached?" You can access the full article online at nikripken.com Here are some of the obstacles that he outlines fuller in his article: 

With the modern missionary movement shifting into high gear, attempting to access unreached peoples,  it is advisable to pause and ask, "What are the obstacles to giving a viable Christian witness to those who have never heard?" Looking at the obstacles to reaching the unreached will move mission personnel beyond sticking pins in maps, gaining institutional satisfaction from the initial command to "Go." 

What are some of those obstacles, not necessarily in the order of importance? 

1. A Harvest Mentality 

The New Testament word for evangelism is to "tell" or "proclaim." Somewhere along the line the missionary task added the seemingly mandatory element of harvest. Reviewing the relationship between what ministers of the Gospel are primarily responsible for through obedience and what God, Himself manges is obligatory. The missionary task is to clearly share the gospel until all peoples have had an opportunity to hear; baptizing and discipling those whom God has quickened into faith.

2. We Know One Way to "Do Church"

80% of the unreached do not read or write a word. Many of the unreached dwell in enemy held territory where there are few, if any, churches, pastors, Bible studies, etc. Remove church buildings, corporate worship, pews and hymn books from believers environments and where does one meet God?

3. Security

Institutions grow and perpetuate themselves by generating funds through the promotion of their programs and personnel. How then do sending boards, seminaries, and mission publications handle ministries they cannot talk about? The need for the institution to promote themselves at times exceeds the needs of the ministry. How does one publish the baptism of a former Muslim businessman when doing so may cause his death?

4. Persecution

The real issue here is biblical. Is Jesus worth it? To you as the witness bearer? To the one believing Jesus' claims? Is Jesus worth, not only dying for, but causing the death of one who embraces Christianity? I often, in orientation, challenge the new overseas workers with, "If you do not believe that Jesus is who he claims to be; the way; the truth; and the life - the very son of God and the only way to heaven; then please keep your mouth shut. Don't get someone killed for something that you are not sure about."

5. Ignorance and Prejudice Toward Christianity 

Christianity, many unreached believe as represented by the West, is a faith of abortion, high crime rate and drug abuse. Therefore, a true follower of Christ does not often begin on level ground among the unreached. We start at minus three of four. 

6. Climate

Many of the unreached are in environmentally unfriendly regions of the world. Reaching the unreached will require consciously moving from one's comfort zone. What a challenge environmentally  to incarnate Christ in the climates!

7. It's Expensive 

Must we live more modestly? Yes. But oftentimes the only way to access the unreached people is through projects and human needs response. Must nationals be utilized for carrying the gospel to their own people? Yes. But where the church is scattered or non-existant, efforts will be expatriate driven for quite some time. 

8. High Personnel Maintenance

Many agencies do a credible job in calling out the called, equipping, and sending out personnel. They they forget them. Consistently I've witnessed godly persons among the unreached lasting six months to a year of service. Quickly the isolation, persecution, danger, and lack of pastoral support system causes stress and burnout. Reaching the unreached will require intentional care on a regular basis, intervention care when special crisis arise and referral care when the normal is just not enough. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Insanity of God

I have been waiting for the release of the story of Nik and Ruth Ripken for over three years now since I first sat under the teaching of Nik. It was a life changing week for me as I sat in awe at the stories and at moments I was left in tears at hearing stories of the global church. I promise you that this will be one story you will want to read.

Nik Ripken and his wife, Ruth, continue to work amongst believers in very high-risk countries. This documentary tells the story of how God led the Ripken's to Somalia na├»vely expecting (while feeding thousands of people each day) to partner with Jesus to see light overcome darkness. Instead, after seven long, hard years they exited Somalia asking faith-shaking questions such as, "Is Jesus who he says He is? Does He have both the love and power needed to overcome the entrenched evil in places like Somalia? Or is Jesus just for the Western countries where resurrection has become so celebrated, but crucifixion has been forgotten?"



Accompanying the documentary, Nik Ripken's book, THE INSANITY OF GOD: A True Story Of Faith Resurrected, explains how he traveled to more than 72 countries and interviewed more than 600 believers who live, or have lived, in the midst of persecution. By reading this book, you can sit at the feet of the Ripkens and learn from them whether one can say in the places of severe persecution, "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world."

For more information on the book and resources go to http://www.nikripken.com/

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Are You Surrounded By People of Faith?


And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
(Mark 2:5 ESV)

This past weekend I was reading the story of when Jesus healed the paralytic in Mark chapter 2. And though I have read and heard this story many times over the years, I had never really paid attention to the fact that it says, "when Jesus saw their faith." Most likely the paralytic himself also had faith, but the verse implies that it was the faith of the friends that brought him to Jesus that was recognized.

The implying of it being the faith of his friends being recognized as leading to his healing and his sins being forgiven made me think about community. If you have read this blog for any amount of time then you know how important I believe community is, specifically in a small group type of setting where you can really live life on life with other people.

This passage gave me one more reason when considering the question, "Why small groups?" In the case of the paralytic it led to his healing and ultimately the forgiving of his sins. Many times we find our self in difficult situations or circumstances and to be completely honest we can not do it on our own. As much as we try we ultimately crumble at some point or we simply do not have the strength to carry our own burden.

Yes, Jesus ultimately is our strength and carries our burdens, but he also designed it so that we would be in a community who would be our faith at times when we have none. I could give you countless examples of where this has been true of my own life.

So maybe you are going through something right now or even need a physical healing yourself, remember that Jesus did not design it so that you go through this alone but with a community of faith around you. If you are like many then you may be trying to do life without this community around you, my advice, STOP and GO find community. If you are not in church that means getting into a body of believers. For many of my readers you are in a body of believers, for you that means getting plugged into a form of a small group, whatever that looks like at your particular church. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions? - A Book by Dr. Dave Black

Greek Scholar Dave Black in one of his newest books has written a book titled, "Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions?" You can find this book on amazon or read a related article on his own site "Can We Please Do Church Planting Cooperatively?" Here are a few things I would like to highlight as he answers his own questions:

If we as the church in America, would learn to invest our money more wisely, it could be used to empower and equip nationals to evangelize their own people. Think about it. They speak the language. They know the culture inside and out. They are used to going without. They do not need to be pampered.

Once we understand that we have only one King and one kingdom, we should be able to begin working cooperatively, side by side with foreign nationals, to get the job done. Once we see this principle, it is the most liberating revelation. We will find ourselves working intentionally with national churches as each one of us does our part to finish the task before night falls.

Of course, I fully realize that this issue tends to divide modern missionaries. Reared in a culture that has sent out church planters for generations, we argue that we cannot leave the work to nationals on the assumption that we are indispensable. In my new book I contest this belief. Slowly and patiently, God is working to create a spirit of cooperation among His church. My prayer is that God will help free us from the tendency to work as though the church universal does not exist. My hope is that we will become increasingly aware that He is very much at work in the hearts of nationals who desire, more than even we do, that Christ’s kingdom be established in their nation. 

In his new book "Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions?" Black encourages his readers to view modern missions as "a global, cooperative movement," where there is more of a partnership between local churches in America and the local churches in other nations.

Unfortunately [I continue], many U.S. mission teams fail to coordinate their efforts with the churches of host locations. Recently a student of mine mentioned that his local church was going to plant a new church in China. I asked him, “Have you ever considered simply going to China and asking the existing churches how you can come alongside them and help?” Failing to understand and connect with God’s already-at-work global purpose is one of the greatest mistakes we can make as churches. More and more local churches in America are forging effective partnerships with local churches in foreign nations, asking how they can best serve the needs in those countries. When done well, everybody benefits through this kind of beautiful partnership, and Christ is honored as His people submit to one another in love.

Friday, November 16, 2012

New on the Kindle

In today's post I just wanted to give you a snapshot of what is new on my kindle as a way to share what it is that I am currently reading that may also interest you. Some of these books are brand new and others have been around for some time now. And some of these titles are less than a dollar on the kindle format so enjoy!

New on my Kindle

The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church: And the Causes That Hinder It by Roland Allen

True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia by Jerry Bridges

Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City by Timothy Keller

Gospel Coach: Shepherding Leaders to Glorify God by Scott Thomas and Tom Wood

Primal Credo: Your Entrance Into the Apostles' Creed by Derek Vreeland

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Benefits to Confession of Sin

"Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit."
-Deuteronomy 29:18

In his book, Gospel Coach, Scott Thomas talks about how confession of sin is one of the key ingredients to true repentance. And from Scripture he provides at least seven benefits to confession:

1. Confession of sin gives glory to God. (Joshua 7:9)

2. Confession of sin is a means to humble the soul. (2 Chronicles 26:19)

3. Confession of sin gives release to a troubled heart. (Psalm 51:11-12)

4. Confession of sin purges sin out. (Nehemiah 3:13)

5. Confession of sin endears Christ to the soul that needs atoning. (Romans 7:25)

6. Confession of sin makes way for forgiveness. (2 Samuel 12:13; 1 John 1:9)

7. Confession of sin makes way for mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)

So, what's the point? In your repentance, a key ingredient is confession of your sin, which highly outweighs the benefits of lack of confession and keeping it stored inside yourself.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Why We All Need Gospel Coaching?

It is old news now that the L.A. Lakers put together arguably one of the best lineups in all of the NBA and thus far have started the season with a big flop. It was no real shocker then when the team decided to let their current coach go in search of another, hopefully more successful one. But one could ask, is the coach really that important? Absolutely!

Just as a team can only be successful with no coach or a mediocre coach, so in ministry we too are only so successful when we lack a Gospel Coach in our life. I just finished reading "Gospel Coach: Shepherding Leaders to Glorify God" by Scott Thomas, who points out that even Michael Jordan and his team only won 48 percent of their games and their team had no championships, prior to Phil Jackson coming onto the scene.

After Jackson became the head coach of Jordan and the Bulls, they won 75 percent of their games and six championships. The point that Thomas is getting to here is that Jordan always had the talent and ability, but coaching made a significant difference in helping him reach his full potential.

The same is true in ministry, that we may be able to accomplish some good things, but that the Gospel Coaching relationship will allow us to reach our full potential as we are constantly reminded of the gospel. Scott Thomas says, "The benefit of gospel coaching is that it takes the message of the gospel - a message proclaiming that God takes a weak and ordinary people and does great things through them to show off the surpassing greatness of Jesus Christ - and uses it to transform leaders and their churches so that they, in turn, will be used to transform the lives of others."

Often times as leaders in ministry we are busy shepherding others souls to the point that we neglect our own. This is one reason that many ministry leaders fall into sin as they are busy shepherding others, they often allow a secret sin to enter into their lives that they allow to stay there as a secret until one day they fall. Those around the leader are often left in shock as they wonder what went wrong with this man of God. Ultimately these leaders failed to believe the gospel on some level, but if they had a gospel coach that they met with regularly than perhaps some of these secret sins could have been caught early on and avoided altogether.

Thomas continues by saying, "What leaders need is someone to shepherd their souls so that they, in turn, can lead others to the chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Coaching for church leaders looks less like corporate consulting and more like biblical shepherding."

So just as the L.A. Lakers and Chicago Bulls can and will only be so successful without proper coaching, ministry leaders too will be more likely to succeed with a gospel coaching relationship. I will take this a step further by suggesting that we all have a gospel coach in our lives and we too are also coaching someone else.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Are You Overqualified to Do Missions?

Today is my last post on looking at some of the issues that Roland Allen points out in regards to mission organizations and how at times they can greatly hinder the spontaneous expansion of the church. This post involves the equipping process of those being sent out and how the large mission organization continues to add to these requirements, which obviously hinders spontaneous expansion.

Now, this is not entirely the fault of the organization, but much of this really falls onto the local church. I firmly believe that it is the job of the local church to equip its people to be sent out, but unfortunately many of them are not doing a very good job at it. I had a seminary professor who said, "It is the job of the local church to equip the people for ministry; if they were doing a better job (as a whole) there would be no real need for seminaries."

The main point that Allen brings out is that in the Early Church the people were equipped by the local church and then set free for the work of ministry, which led to the spontaneous expansion of the church. As the majority of mission work started to be outsourced to an organization the local church stopped equipping the people, relying more heavily on the organization.

As this has continued on, more and more requirements have been put into place by these organizations, which have put a halt to many that are gifted and called to do mission work. As more requirements have been put into place, there has been created a sense of professionalism about mission work, making it only for the select few. The reality is that we are all called to be on mission and Allen is right on in sensing that these type of extra man-made requirements often hinder the spontaneous expansion of the church through missions.

Are most organizations sending out overqualified people to do missions? In most cases, yes! Now, that does not mean that someone who has a masters degree or PhD should not do missions, but the organization should not require it of them in order for them to be sent out. My point is that those things are great to have, but should not be the standard level for one to do missionary work.

Most of the men that I am equipping to plant churches in S. Asia have very little education, some can barley read. Now, imagine how much I would hinder the gospel going forward in one of the least reached places in the world if I told these men that they needed to finish high school, go to college, and then go to seminary all before they were really ready to be sent out and plant churches. That would be ridiculous and that is my point exactly.

And so I am not misunderstood here, I am two months shy from completing my required courses to finish my masters degree and I am currently serving with a large organization, although clearly sent by my local church. And yes, this organization does require a lot, including seminary education, but they are not the reason I attended seminary.

The reality is that none of us are qualified to do missions on our own efforts, but through Jesus we are called and qualified. The Great Commission was given to all of us and for some of us that means serving overseas, but for some of us our obedience along with the spontaneous expansion of the church may be hindered due to a structure of a large organization.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How an Organization Can Hinder Spontaneous Expansion of the Church

Already discussed in my last post was the inherit differences that are presented by modern day missions with that of the early church. Today I want to continue on with some issues that Allen points out can hinder the spontaneous expansion of the church due to these organizations.

Through the creation of missionary organizations comes a lot of baggage be it necessary or not. Quickly one finds the need for offices and departments, directors, accountants, etc. The larger an organization becomes the more likely it has the tendency to become an end in itself. As Allen puts it, "Men incline more and more to rely upon it: they learn to ascribe to it virtues which do not belong to it."

Here are three things that Allen points out that often happen:

(1) There is a horrible tendency for an organization to grow in importance till it overshadows the end of its existence, and begins to exist for itself.

  • The maintenance of the organization has become a greater incentive to work than the purpose for which it was first created.
  • Suppose that it were indubitably clear that the end for which all these organizations exist would be best served by the elimination of some of them, or by their fusion: would their directos be ready to serve the cause for which the organizations were founded by destroying them?
  • Imagine one of our great missionary organizations losing itself to further the cause for which it exists!
(2) Our love for organization leads us to rely upon it.

  • The direction often becomes mechanical, and as it becomes mechanical the organization ceases to produce the results expected.
  • Give us more money and more men and the propagation of the Gospel will advance in proportion.
  • This attitude shows that they are beginning to rely upon the organization to do the work.
(3) Not only does our love of organization lead us to expect from it spiritual results, it also leads us to ascribe to it results which do not belong to it.

  • The tendency is to believe that the great success of our modern missionary work is due to our splendid organization, while history shows that it has been attained without such organization.
  • To insist, then, that our missionary organization is essential for the continuity of that work which we do in foreign lands, and to ascribe the continuity of that work to the organization, is to ascribe to our work a particular character as being in itself lifeless.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Does The Progress of Your Mission Efforts Depend on Money Within An Organization?

I have been spending time this week reading, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church: And the Causes That Hinder It, by Roland Allen, which was written in 1927. And though, it is over 85 years old, in many ways it speaks to issues in modern missions more than ever before. Specifically what I want to look at today and in my next post is the section included on the missionary organization.

Allen's whole premise for including this section in his book was to warn of the dangers that mission organizations can produce along with the serious difficulties it can cause both at home and abroad. The first major thing that he points out is that it makes all the progress depend upon money, which in result is the antithesis of spontaneous expansion.

Allen further points out that in a sense there have always been mission organizations, but the original he refers to as the simple necessary one, being the local church itself. It was only later and in to today that the more complicated large mission organizations came to be. Basically what he is pointing out is that there was no such thing as an organization that did missions for the early church, but the church itself was sufficient for such cause; obviously allowing for a spontaneous expansion of the church as we read in the New Testament.

Here Allen says, "If we compare our modern missionary work with the missionary work of the Early Church, this is what differentiates them: with us missions are the special work of a special organization; in the Early Church missions were not a special work and there was no special organization."

The key thing that Allen has pointed out that I want us all to get here, is that by allowing the progress to depend upon money, we are failing at be faithful to the Great Commission. Yes, I know and realize that our global church planting efforts take money, but we should not allow the progress to depend upon money. For example, each year there is a huge campaign that not enough is given to the work of international missions within the organization I currently operate under. It is often said, "If we don't give than how will these people in this place ever here." I understand that statement and believe that there is a proper time for it, but part of the shortfall of money could be that individual churches are no longer operating fully under the modern missions organization but rather going back to the simple necessary one of the local church.

Along with this issue, there are churches that in a sense sit by and watch the work not progress as their people are delayed waiting for a spot, once enough dollars have been given. But if the local church was operating as the missions organization, and I may argue should be, it would allow for them to funnel their money from within to those willing to go. In other words the work is still progressing apart from the large missions organization.

Now, before I get myself into too much trouble here, I want to be clear that I am not necessarily against the modern day missions organization. In fact I have friends that work and operate under at least ten different organizations. And they have and will continue to do great things for the advance of the Kingdom of God. But I will point out that as my family was being assessed for an International Church Planting role we were told, "You are not being sent by your local church, but you are being sent by this organization." I am afraid that is a commonly held attitude within many of these organizations that is not healthy or biblical. And to be clear, we corrected his thinking by responding, "We are sent by our local church as they are the ones that recognize our calling/gifting and they equipped us to be sent out." Truthfully I wanted to add that it is churches like ours that pay his paycheck to begin with but the Holy Spirit helped me to bite my tongue on that one.

I don't believe that modern day mission organizations are going away nor should they, but I would like to see the local church take the lead role in our missionary efforts as did the Early Church. It is time to quit outsourcing missions to the large organizations and raise up and send out from within the local body, even operating within an organization.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Building a Faithful and Effective Church


Although, I am current living outside of the US, I still want to tell you about an upcoming event that I’m excited about as it is happening in my hometown; and if I were in country there is no question I would be there. On March 19-21, pastors and leaders from around the country will gather in Raleigh-Durham, NC, for ADVANCE13: Building a Faithful and Effective Church.  Speakers include John Piper, Matt Chandler, Bryan Loritts, Larry Osborne, JD Greear and others. Here’s a brief overview:
There is a false dichotomy in the church today, between faithful ministry and effective ministry – depth and width – making disciples and reaching the lost. Most of our churches are good at one or the other. Churches that prioritize faithfulness make mature disciples, but don’t always reach the lost. Churches that prioritize effectiveness reach the lost, but often don’t make mature disciples.
 The gospel calls for both. Faithfulness and effectiveness cannot be separated. Churches that grow wide without growing deep are not producing width that lasts. Churches that grow deep without growing wide are not as deep as they think.
We need faithful AND effective churches.
This conference seeks to answer a simple question: how do we build churches that are both faithful and effective? Its lineup reflects that tension, a mix of pastors, theologians, and experienced practitioners, both from the church and the business world. They aim to equip not only pastors but church members for everyday ministry both inside and outside the church. This promises to be one of the richest and most practical conferences of the year. I hope you’ll join in on this conference in my place.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Why We Need Missiona/Incarnational Communities

Todd Engstrom from the Austin Stone captures here why it is that we need missional/incarnational communities everywhere, full of people acting and operating as missionaries.

Todd starts out by giving us a proper framework of how to define a missionary: "A missionary is someone who sacrifices everything but the gospel for the sake of the gospel."



And speaking of being in a missional community, Halloween is a great opportunity to be missional by engaging with your neighbors instead of condemning them on the one night a year they voluntarily come by your house.

Monday, October 29, 2012

My Son Literally Opens Doors for the Gospel

Being the father of a 19 month old you often times have to be strategic in your planning of overseas ministry. My wife and I have always felt as if our son, although a full blown sinner in need of Jesus, opens as many doors to share the gospel as we do if not more. It is not uncommon to get invited into peoples homes, to birthday parties, and to gatherings all because of our son.

This has been a huge blessing and it is enjoyable to see God use him in so many ways at such a young age and as one who is not even following Jesus. There are times though that my son also makes it difficult because just showing up somewhere is not sharing the gospel. Yes, it always allows us to work on the relationship side of building within our community but if we only stay there, then we may build a good friendship without ever sharing the gospel. 

In my current ministry context, we often study the New Testament passages together where we see entire households getting saved at one time. This leads us to focus on getting into a house and staying there and sharing with the entire family when one is doing evangelism. None of this handing out tracts throughout the city, where it is impersonal and often obnoxious.

I mention the above because this week my son literally opened the door to share the gospel. We were walking down the steps to go play and he literally went up to someones door, pushed it opened, and walked inside. This resulted in us both being invited in to a home that had three generations represented in one living room. 

They were very welcoming and friendly, offering us food and water. The conversation quickly turned spiritual as it is currently a big puja (worship) season in S. Asia. This is where I utterly failed as I mentioned being a follower of Jesus. The oldest daughter quickly spoke up saying, "I have always heard about Jesus, but nobody has even taken the time to explain to me or tell me the story of Jesus." 

I told the family that I had a Bible in their mother tongue of Hindi that I would love to give to them as a gift. She said, "That would be nice sir, but the problem is not whether the Bible is in English or Hindi, but we want someone to explain to us the story about Jesus." 

At that moment my phone rang, letting me know that lunch was ready at our house. I thanked them for their hospitality, let them know I would be coming back along with my wife, and left. I honestly left feeling pretty good about this new opportunity until about three hours later when it hit me. I had the entire family sitting around willing to listen to me share about Jesus and I just left to go eat my lunch.

So my son is literally opening doors to share the gospel and I am often to blind to see the opportunity in front of me. In case you are wondering, we plan on going back to share with the entire family asap!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Why Christians Should Celebrate Halloween


[Editor's Note: The following is a re-post of George Robinson's Sep. 28, 2010 blog.

October 31st.  For most Americans this date means one thing: **Halloween.**  Costumes, candy and trick-or-treaters spending to the tune of $2.5 billion making this holiday second only to Christmas in marketing revenue.  But good Christians don’t celebrate Halloween.  Or do they?  Some Protestants may prefer to call it Reformation Day, for after all, that is the date that Martin Luther nailed his Theses to the door at Castle Church in Wittenberg back in 1517.  That does pre-date the first usage of the phrase “All Hallows Eve” (commonly known now as Halloween) which didn’t emerge until some 40 years later in 1556.[1]

Ironically, most good Christians that I know won’t be celebrating either Reformation Day or Halloween.  Instead, they will be showing support for their local church by attending a “safe and sanitary” alternative called a Fall Festival.  This alternative allows good Christians to invite their neighbors and friends to come to the church and get candy, play games and have some good, clean Christian fun.  No pagan witches and goblins allowed.  But they can dress up as David or Moses or some other biblical character.  All the fun without the pagan revelry, right?

I would like to propose another alternative – that good Christians should indeed celebrate Halloween.  I think that they should stay home from their church’s alternative Fall Festival and celebrate with their pagan neighbors.  Most of them wouldn’t have come to your Fall Festival anyway.  And those who did would’ve stopped by briefly on their way to “real” trick-or-treating.  I’m sure that some of you reading this blog might be more than a little unhappy with my proposal at this point, but stick with me for a moment.: The reason I propose that good Christians celebrate Halloween and stay home from the “Christian alternatives” is that Halloween is the only night of the year in our culture where lost people actually go door-to-door to saved people’s homes . . . and you’re down at the church hanging out with all your other good Christian friends having clean fellowship with the non-pagans.

Living with missional intentionality means that you approach life as a missionary in your context.  I lived with my family in South Asia and we had to be creative and intentional in engaging our Muslim neighbors.  We now live in the USA and we still need to be creative and intentional.  That’s why for the past 2 years we have chosen to stay at home and celebrate the fact that Halloween gives us a unique opportunity to engage our neighbors.  In fact, last year we had over 300 children and 200 adults come to our doorstep on that one night.  And we were ready for them!

We had a tent set up in the driveway and gave away free coffee and water to the adults who were walking with their children.  Our small group members manned the tent and engaged them in conversation and gave each one of them a gospel booklet (“The Story” gospel booklets are available with a Halloween distribution rate here:  http://story4.us/offer).  The children ran up to our door while the parents were waiting and got their candy, along with gospel booklets (even if they were dressed as witches or goblins!).  In all we gave away more than 500 pieces of literature that night, each with our name, e-mail address, and a website where they could get more info.

I sure wish more good Christians would celebrate Halloween this year by staying home and meeting their pagan neighbors – an option which I believe surely beats the “good Christian” alternative.
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[1] John Simpson and Edmund Weiner, Oxford English Dictionary 2d. ed. (London: Oxford University Press, 1989).