Monday, January 30, 2012

Advice for International Church Planters

I have been on the ground for one month now in S. Asia. And although it may seem early on to share any practical advice for those considering planting internationally, I wanted to share the ten most helpful pieces of advice given to me by others through the assessment process, leaving, and now arriving on the field.

Ten Pieces of Advice for International Church Planters:

1. Talk about Jesus the first time that you meet someone. -Numerous

2. You aren't necessarily going because you love the people, but because God loves the people. -Sam James

3. If you get off the plane and all that arrives with you is your Bible, then you have all you need to plant a successful church. -George Robinson

4. Build accountability into your life from the start. -Numerous

5. Unreached people groups are Unreached for a reason, it is our job to discover that reason and get passed it. -Robert Nosker

6. Go as a learner not just a knower. -George Robinson

7. Don't be afraid of failure, but be afraid of succeeding at things that don't matter. -William Carey

8. The moment you want to shut yourself in the house to escape the culture is the exact moment you need to force yourself out into the culture. -George Robinson

9. Do everything in two hour increments as not to get overwhelmed. -Curt Alan

10. Consider it a successful day when you are able to accomplish one thing on your list. -Craig Harris

Friday, January 27, 2012

How Soon Do You Mention Jesus in Conversation?

So this week my family moved into our new house in an area of the city that is experiencing a lot of growth, which I see as a very strategic spot to be located in order to build relationships, proclaim the gospel, and see lives changed. 

We have already had the opportunity to spend some time with our neighbors the two days we have been getting the house set up and we quickly learned of their many gods that they worship.The idea of a god naturally comes up in conversation here as the majority of people in our city are Hindu and have many gods. We made an observation about our neighbors house, which was a glass room located on the second floor, which we learned is basically set aside as their prayer room where they worship their gods. We quickly shared that we too pray, but that we have the one God who came to be the Savior of all mankind in Jesus Christ.

Although the conversation did not go much further than that, it was a start, and I believe the right one. Often we meet people and tell them about everything that is important in our lives, but fail to mention the one area that should be the most important. Especially in the context in which I am now in, if you do not mention anything about Jesus until weeks into a relationship with someone they will question if he is really all that important to you. And can you really blame them? 

As the praise song we used to sing in my youth group says, "You (Jesus) are my all in all..." If this is true then we should express that with everything in our lives not as if he is an after thought if we have time in the day. So it's about a relationship not a religion as the recent video gone viral proclaims, then we should start acting like that relationship is the most important one in our lives above all.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Faith Without Works is Dead

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
James 2:17

It seems today that we hear a lot of talk about being missional in our community. And I am one of those young leaders who talks about loving the people, the community, and the city that you live in; where you use every opportunity to be on mission and leverage the gospel into peoples lives. 

But I also realize that talk is cheap and that boasting about being missional does not in itself make one missional. My fear is that in today's young evangelical crowd it is more of a cool hipster trend to talk about being missional than actually being on mission, but hopefully I am wrong on this one.

Either way, to heed the warning of James in 2:17, I have an opportunity coming up to be missional in my new community and I don't want my faith to be dead because of a missed opportunity. Recently moving to S. Asia I didn't think much about how to be missional once finding a home. I assumed that I would just move in and wait until I learned a little more of the language and culture, but then James really spoke to me in this passage.

So this week we move into our new home and once getting settled we plan on having a party to celebrate moving into our new place where we invite all of the neighbors. The plan is to serve the best food and drink that are culturally appropriate as a way to set the foundation for gospel-centered conversations with our neighbors. 

It is safe to assume that most of my neighbors are Hindus, which means that at the heart of their homes is a shrine dedicated to the honor and worship of their gods. So throwing a house warming party will be an awesome opportunity for my family to talk about Jesus and present the gospel in word and deed right away. 

So my question for you, is your faith dead? What opportunities are you missing right now to show your faith and make much of Jesus? Perhaps it is as simple as having a party at your place to get to know your neighbors to start that foundation of gospel-centerdness.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Documentary: It's A Girl!

This documentary, It's A Girl, reveals a dark aspect of the context in which I am currently living, where girls are not wanted. Many times if a baby girl is not killed then they are abandoned, often times leading into a life of trafficking. My wife Andrea has already had been exploring opportunities to minister to the women and the children in the redlight district part of our city to give these women the love of Christ and a hope for their future.

I encourage you to watch this documentary for awareness purposes, but also to intercede on behalf of the girls in this part of the world, which often have no hope of any.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Scriptures Come To Life

If you live within a four hour drive of Raleigh there is an upcoming conference that you will not want to miss, discussing the Scriptures Coming to Life. The conference is the weekend of February 3-4, 2012 and features highly respected teachers and scholars: Daniel Akin, D.A. Carson, Tony Merida, and Tullian Tchividjian.


The following topics will be discussed:

  • In what way is the Bible "the true story of the whole world?" 
  • Why should I trust the Bible?
  • What are some tools to help me read the more difficult passages in the Bible?
  • Why does the Bible matter for my college classes, future vocation, and liesure preferences?
For more details check out the 20/20 Collegiate Conference website.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Little Light of Mine...

The words to the song, "This little light of mine," have much more meaning to me now than they ever have before. A few nights ago I decided to go out to the local market to purchase some fruit even though it was getting dark outside. Still being very new to the area I didn't think much about light or if they'd even be open.

Upon getting to the main street and start of the market I saw that many of the vegetable vendors were closed up so instead of potentially wasting my time I decided to return home, but another route. Quickly my trip home turned into me being lost. I wasn't extremely lost because I knew that I was in the right vicinity, but lost enough that I wasn't exactly sure how to get home.

So I decided to take a side street thinking that it would take me towards home, which it did not, and it was much longer than I thought. As I made my way down the street there were fewer and fewer lights, but more and more people. Not only people, but also many bicycle taxis, motorcycles, and cars. Many of which have no lights, but they keep on driving past you as if it is the middle of the day. It was quite the experience and pretty scary at times.

Needless to say I eventually got my bearings about me and found my way home. But on my walk home, once I knew I was on the right road, I started to be impressed heavily about the darkness that surrounded me. Yes, it was physically dark, with glimpses of light here and there, but the spiritual darkness reigned heavy around me.

I suddenly remembered why it is that I came here because these people have no light. Most of them are on a path to darkness that leads to nowhere. The long physical road that I had taken represents a long spiritual road that most of them have been on in search of a deeper meaning in life, in search of truth. And I may be only one person, but God has given me that light that they are in search of and I am here to proclaim to them the love of Jesus so that they may find their way to truth through the only man that can give them truth.

Friday, January 13, 2012

I Can Change...vs. Gospel Change

I was catching up on sports the other day on ESPN when I came across an article on Manny Ramirez, who abruptly retired from baseball last year after a second violation of baseball's performance-enhancing drug rules. I am actually not much of a baseball fan, but the article caught my attention because it discussed Ramirez wanting to re-enter baseball because he felt as if he could now be a role model.

He was quoted in the article saying, "I want to show people that Manny can change, that he can do the right thing."

Now I in no way intend to judge the sport of baseball, their rules, or whether or not a team indeed reinstates the player. In fact I agree with Ramirez for wanting to finish his career in baseball in a different way, so for that I respect his decision to leave a better legacy.

So Manny thinks that he can change and do the right thing. Well perhaps he can for a season or two until he retires again. I do believe that he can follow the rules of baseball for that amount of time. But Manny changing and doing the right thing long-term will not happen on his own strength, but only through recognizing his need and dependency on the man Jesus Christ.

Just like Manny Ramirez believes that he can change to do the right thing, many Christians inherently believe the same thing. They may not always say it, but if you have a deep conversation with them it will come out. For many people that you sit right next to every week in church believe that if they try harder that they will become a better person and indeed go to heaven. What ends up happening is if the gospel has never saturated their life then they are really turning to self for change.

We have all been there at one time and we all know how the story goes. I will try harder at not doing x, y, or z or at doing x,y, or z and within time we fail. We pick ourselves back up and try harder. This is a never ending cycle that only the gospel trumps.

Religion says, I can change on my own; but the Gospel says you can be changed in and through Jesus Christ. Instead of trying harder to change on our own, we need to try harder at listening to the spirit of God, and listen to what he is calling us to do. We will never be able to change and do the right thing on our own, but the good news is that Jesus has already made a way that we can change in himself.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Christian Agnostics = Religious Ones?

By now you have all seen this video unless you are living under a rock. I am currently in S. Asia and saw it just about as soon as it was posted. I re-posted the video and I am not saying that I agree with everything in the video, but I do agree that it is all about Jesus and that he wins over religion.

I have seen a mixed reaction to the video, mostly supportive, especially from my grace driven charismatic friends. But the reaction that surprised me most came from my self-proclaimed "Christian agnostic" friends who now apparently have a problem with Jesus > Religion. My take, maybe they are the religious ones.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Finding Favor

Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' graves, that I may rebuild it.”
Nehemiah 2:4-5

Although not always talked about much in the church, the concept of finding favor is seen throughout the Bible. Nehemiah here is a prime example of someone who was seeking favor in a situation, prayed to God for it, and we see him receive it.

Why do you think that Nehemiah received favor? Something tells me that it had a lot to do with his faith because the more favor you receive, the more faith it will require on your part. Nehemiah showed that he had faith here in making the requests to the king in the first place and you can see that he placed a high priority on prayer as he did so before the requests and much more earlier in 1:4.

Maybe there is something in your own life right now that you are seeking favor for, but you aren't certain about the situation. It is key to remember that favor equals opportunity, but that does not always guarantee comfort or the desired outcome.

We all have things in our lives that we are seeking to find favor. Our culture dictates to look to ourselves in order to find favor, but the truth is that only true favor come through Jesus. Jesus opens doors and opportunities that otherwise we would never have and when true favor is found it is done so in a way that all honor and glory points to him.

So pray and seek favor and sit back and watch what happens!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

This week I came across this 15 minute discussion on "How Manhood and Womanhood Are Different" via John Piper interviewing Darrin Patrick, who also released the book Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission in 2010. This short video gets at the cultural epidemic of manhood and womanhood in our culture and how the church specifically can respond going forward.

The video outlines the absence of men in our culture and its implications and then gives clear definitions of manhood and womanhood. Some may think that the church has nothing to do with this epidemic, but there are specific things that the church can do to help the situation and define biblically what a man should be and do.

Our culture is very confused as to the roles of men and women and has attempted, quite successfully, at mixing the two, and unfortunately the church is not far behind the culture. But in Jesus both manhood and womanhood are completed in the way that they were meant to be as discussed in the above video.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Obedience to Jesus for His Glory Not Yours

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.
Psalm 115:1

I was recently attending a seminar where the speaker mentioned obedience to Jesus for his gory not for our own. Hearing it I thought of course we obey Jesus for his glory and not ours, but upon further thought I realized that in many ways we can allow the glory to go to us as we become elevated and self-absorbed in what we are doing.

A prime example in my own life is moving to church plant in S. Asia. I did not grow up wanting to move here, nor have I had the desire to move here very long. But I knew at this point in my life it would be disobedience not to move here for this season as God has called me to this part of the world. The reality is that I am not here because I love the people or the culture, but because God loves the people. 

So initially all of the glory went to Jesus completely for his glory, but there were times as I got further in the process and journey of getting here that being elevated by others often felt like some of the glory was coming to me and my family like we were some sort of heroes before even doing anything. To be transparent there was a fleshy side of me that liked this, that appreciated the elevation, seeing my picture on a card as a church planter. 

But upon leaving and arriving in my new culture just a few short days ago all of that went away. Suddenly I realized I am essentially a nobody, there are no more cheering crowds, and in a sense I am broken because I already realize the deep dependency that I have on God that I had often forgotten in the weeks, months, and years of planning to get here.

I believe that this is a good place to be in order to show my dependency on God for everything; something that we easily forget in the US. And I write all of that to say that my sincere prayer upon this journey is that the glory would not go to me or my family, but that everything that is done and accomplished here would be to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ because of his love and faithfulness in our lives.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Everything Rises and Falls on Leadership

On my plane ride to S. Asia I was reading some of Dave and Jon Ferguson's book Exponential, which I highly recommend if you are trying to start a missional movement. I especially appreciated their section on reproducing leaders as that is a huge part of my role in my new context. And although the list may not fully apply to my new context, I still believe that it is helpful for recognizing when leadership is lacking, wherever you are.

Twelve Indicators that leadership is lacking:
 1. I wait for someone to tell me what to do rather than taking the initiative myself.
 2. I spend too much time talking about how things should be different.
 3. I blame the context, surroundings, or other people for my current situation.
 4. I am more concerned about being cool or accepted than doing the right thing.
 5. I seek consensus rather than casting vision for a preferable future.
 6. I am not taking any significant risks.
 7. I accept the status quo as the way it's always been and always will be.
 8. I start protecting my reputation instead of opening myself up to opposition.
 9. I procrastinate to avoid making a tough call.
10. I talk to others about the problem rather than talking to the person responsible.
11. I don't feel like my butt is on the line for anything significant.
12. I ask way too many opinions before taking action.

It is important to recognize that everything rises and falls on leadership and these twelve indicators may help you realize why something that you are part of right now is not succeeding to its fullest potential.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

And So It Begins...

And so it begins, the big adventure that my family has been planning for over two years now. Today we are leaving for South Asia at 1:30 PM out of Charlotte, NC. In some ways it will be sad to see the skyline I grew up to love, especially the Panthers stadium, for the last time as we take off. In other ways it will be a joyous occasion as we are walking in obedience to our Savior and planting churches where there are next to none. 

To think we just came out of the holiday season where we celebrate the birth of King Jesus and many in the part of the world where we are going have never even heard of his name. We know that at this season in our lives this is what God has called us to and to do anything else would be disobedient. We know that we are in the center of God's will, but we are also feeling the sadness of the goodbyes to family and friends as reality is slowly setting in.

Perhaps a conversation between Gandalf and the Hobbit best describe our lives as we set out on this great adventure: 

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.

For the next three days we will be traveling with a total of 12 pieces of luggage, carseat, stroller, etc. Please keep us in your prayers as this can be a very stressful time and we do not want to let the enemy use anything stupid against us in this transition. By Wednesday late morning we should be in our new city starting our new lives.

In regards to writing on here, I plan to keep it up the best that I can. During January I may re-post my top posts since starting the blog as I transition and then start with fresh material in late January or early February. That is the general plan right now, but either way I appreciate the support of all my readers as I have been tracking the stats and this blog has been growing over the past year.

Lastly, I pray that you all have a happy new year and that 2012 will be a year to remember as I know that it will be for me and my family as we begin our great adventure!