Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Conference for Pastors and Leaders

I wanted to make you all aware of a two day conference that my sending church the Summit is hosting this coming May 3-4 in Raleigh-Durham, NC. The conference is called the Gospel Summit and the focus will be on what Gospel-Centered ministry look likes in the day to day. Specifically designed for pastors and ministry leaders on how the gospel directs real, day to day ministry. The two days will consist of powerful worship, gospel-based church philosophy, practical breakouts, and life-changing conversations.

Being both a member of the Summit Church for a number of years and being sent out as an international planter by the Summit I can truthfully say that this is a two day event that pastors and leaders in the area will not want to miss. It is not often that a growing church body opens up themselves to the outside for the greater good of the Kingdom of God so you will not want to miss this opportunity. 

For more information on registration, travel, and schedule, check out summitRDU.com or theGospelSummit.com

Monday, February 27, 2012

Identity in Christ

The latest leadership coaching video with Mark Driscoll was focused on your identity not being found within your ministry but rooted in Christ as we read in the book of Ephesians. This goes against our culture as one typically thinks that they get to create their own identity, but this is no longer true for those that follow Christ. 

Driscoll points out three things that we tend to build our identity off, but he reminds us that although these things may help explain us, they are not where are identity is to be found.

1. You're not your gifts so you're identity should not be found there.

2. You're not your position whether that be pastor/elder, deacon, etc.

3. You're not ultimately your performance.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Piper on a Christless Heaven


I found these thoughts from John Piper's book, God Is the Gospel, to be both challenging and pointed at the commonality of the thought of heaven for many people in our churches and society today. Piper points to the reality that God is the Gospel and Christ himself will be the supreme pleasure of heaven. What he points to is both truthful and convicting in so many ways as to how we teach and prepare people for heaven.

"Would You Be Happy In Heaven If Christ Were Not There?" 

"The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied in heaven, if Christ were not there?" (15) 

"And the question for Christian leaders is: Do we preach and teach and lead in such a way that people are prepared to hear that question and answer with a resounding NO? How do we understand the gospel and the love of God? Have we shifted with the world from God's love as the gift of himself to God's love as the gift of a mirror in which we like what we see? Have we presented the gospel in such a way that the gift of the glory of God in the face of Christ is marginal rather than central and ultimate? If so, I pray that this book might be one way God awakens us to see the supreme value and importance of "the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (15) 

"Can we really say that our people are being prepared for heaven where Christ himself, not his gifts, will be the supreme pleasure? And if our people are unfit for that, will they even go there? Is not the faith that takes us to heaven the foretaste of the feast of Christ?" (15-16)

"Nothing fits a person to be more useful on earth than to be more ready for heaven. This is true because of readiness for heaven means taking pleasure in beholding the Lord Jesus, and beholding the glory of the Lord means being changed into his likeness (2 Cor. 3:18). Nothing would bless this world more than more people who are more like Christ. For in likeness to Christ the world might see Christ." (16)

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Time for Everything


For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
Ecclesiastes 3:1

This poem in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, "A Time for Everything," has come as much encouragement to me recently as I have been dealing with different issues with other believers. Specifically as I focus on 5b, which says, there is a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing. 

Although I will not go into the specifics of the situation here as I do not feel like that is either biblical or appropriate, I will say that I have recently been reminded that there is a time for everything and that it could come at any moment from anyone. Life is complex and it easy to get so caught up in what we are doing that we are surprised or taken back when certain events take place. 

This passage has helped me to remember that at all times to expect the unexpected, but within that it has reminded me to look to Christ for strength within one of my spiritual gifts of discernment. Facing issues and having conflict in life is easy because we are still two sinners even within the most godly friendships or relationships, but having the discernment to know what action is most appropriate within that conflict is the difficulty. 

Ultimately showing our dependence and need for Christ and his wisdom is the best action taken and allowing the Holy Spirit to change you or the other party within a given situation. Be open to admitting that you may be the one at fault and humble when approaching others about a conflict.

So is there a situation, decision, or conflict that you have been ignoring for sometime that you know it is time to embrace? Remember that there is a time and season for everything and perhaps today it is time for you to embrace it!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Church Multiplication with A Pioneer

The following video is an interview of former missionary, author and professor at Western Seminary, George Patterson being interviewed by George Robinson of Southeastern Seminary on issues regarding church multiplication, discipleship and education. This interview is special to me both because of my indebtedness to the work of one who has gone ahead of me in George Patterson and sitting under George Robinson during my time in seminary. The video is close to 45 minutes long, but it is well worth your time if you can listen to the entire thing as you are learning from a pioneer of church multiplication.



Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jealousy Within the Body of Christ


And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.
(Matthew 20:9-16 ESV)

Most of us read the parable of the "Laborers in the Vineyard" in Matthew 20 and keep on reading as if we would not be like the first laborers and complain about the wages we received. The truth is that most of us if we are really honest are just like the laborers that were hired first. We think that we deserve more because we have put in more work. That is truly a man centered way of thinking that we all fall into.

Yes, this is a parable, but this parable is a picture of what the kingdom of heaven is like. As we see in verse 16 the last will be first, and the first last, which we as man do not like. This attitude of jealousy is often seen as God is blessing another church within our city. We quickly become accusatory towards this church and instead of thinking that it is God who is blessing we start to talk about how they are too seeker friendly, too charismatic, all about the money, etc. There may even be some truths to those accusing marks, but often time these come out of mouths way too early.

We also see this jealousy with others within any organization or business, especially Christian based ones. We tend to carry the attitude that if we have been with any certain group any amount of time longer that we should be the ones raised upon a petal stool, but we are quick to forget that the kingdom of heaven is vastly different than the way that man has organized their own structures.

We see a warning here to the early followers of Jesus' that they are not to despise those that came later or think of themselves as better because they are not. Unfortunately we all tend to forget this warning in this parable and fall into the entitlement trap of our culture. We are exactly like the first laborers and we need to stop! If we are honest with ourselves we have all been there but I must be honest again that I am tired of experiencing it from others. Be thankful for what God has blessed you with and what he has blessed others with and remember that you may have been first but the first will be last, and what you think you deserve may in actuality go to someone else. I will leave you with a challenging question, are you still going to praise God if he chooses to bless someone else where you think that you should have been blessed?

Monday, February 13, 2012

What Should We Teach About Creation?

I recently had a conversation with a couple of my colleagues that revolved around Creation and our views based on what the Bible says. This short clip below of John Piper on "What should we teach about Creation?" captures the essence of this conversation well. My two colleagues who I love dearly both held to a more six literal day creation, whereas I, like Piper, am more comfortable with John Sailhamer's view. His view is that all creation happened to prepare the land for man.

As Piper says in the video, "In verse 1, 'In the beginning he made the heavens and the earth,' he makes everything. And then you go day by day and he's preparing the land. He's not bringing new things into existence; he's preparing the land and causing things to grow and separating out water and earth. And then, when it's all set and prepared, he creates and puts man there."

"So that has the advantage of saying that the earth is billions of years old if it wants to be—whatever science says it is, it is—but man is young, and he was good and he sinned. He was a real historical person, because Romans 5 says so, and so does the rest of the Bible."

Friday, February 10, 2012

Four Fields Church Planting Training


I wanted to take a brief moment to share the diagram of the Four Fields , which has become considered one of the best training methods around the globe to see Church Planting Movements started. It may look simplistic at first view, but it is a method that comes straight from the Bible and in many ways what we need to return to in Church Planting is a simple model that is reproducible. I both have the privilege of using this training method in church planting and I get to serve under the people who developed the Four Fields. And in case you are wondering it is not only for church planting internationally as there is a man in rural NC that has been able to start 60+ house groups with this exact method. For the entire training manual of the latest Four Fields click on the above link.
The Four Fields

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Are You Listening to God?

This past Sunday my family and I visited Grace Church and if I had to guess it is not often that White Westerners visit there. So as in most places where I am, I stand out for my height, skin color, and large beard. Only this time I stood out even more because I had my 11 month old hanging off the front of me in one of those carriers. Yes, I am manly enough to wear my son on the front of me so back off, :).

Upon arrival the service had already started, but I immediately was greeted by the pastor who then asked me if I would like to share something. I had forgotten on the way to church that this will more than likely happen every time I visit a church so I should if nothing else have something prepared to say. I was also under the impression that he meant immediately share something so I thanked him for the offer and told him that I would love to share next week.

He then proceeds to sit me on stage right next to him because I have a baby attached to the front of me. I truly appreciated the gesture of my Christian brother, but I felt a little awkward as the congregation of about 50 are all sitting on the floor and here I am, first time visitor, sitting at the front of the church on the little platform in a chair, next to the pastor.

Either way sitting there I wasn't sure if I was sharing that Sunday or not so I started to think of some of my go to passages, my favorite Bible verse, something...anything. In the midst of singing I started to realize  that in the week leading up to attending this church that I had been so busy setting up our new house that I don't feel like I had really even been listening to whether or not the Spirit of God had spoken to me. Yes, I was daily in the Word, but thinking back over the week I believe I had done it more out of thinking it was my duty than to truly spend time with my Heavenly Father.

So there I am a seminary trained international church planter in one of the least reached areas of the world and I told the guy that I had nothing to share but maybe next week. I had a brief moment where I thought what in the world am I even doing here on the other side of the world?

In that moment God taught me what he had probably been trying to teach me all week, to stop, trust him, and really spend time with him to hear what he is trying to say to me.

So lesson learned and in regards to sharing next week, I learned that I am next weeks featured guest speaker so now instead of sharing a brief testimony I have the opportunity to preach at Grace Church in one of the least reached areas of the world. My plan, preach Jesus, make much of him and less of me!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Let No One Despise Youthful Obedience

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.
1 Timothy 4:12-13

This past weekend Cam Newton was named the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the year and rightfully so as he set numerous records this season as a rookie. But I remember as the Panthers, my NFL team, were considering drafting Newton before the start of the season there was all kinds of negative talk about him, his playing style, etc. Even after shutting up most of his critics in week one there still managed to be lingering skepticism on this rookie quarterback.

I want to say that I am happy for my team and for Cam Newton for consistently going out there every week and giving it his all, which resulted in his critics shutting up based on his actual performance not his expected one. As a young star, Newton showed up and he showed up big.

As I was celebrating this award for my team's quarterback, I began to reflect on how going into ministry, especially at a young age, can often be the same type of experience that Newton experienced. Publicly surrendering my life to the ministry at the age of thirteen caused me to turn to the above passage in Timothy often as many people questioned how a boy of thirteen could be called into ministry at such a young age.

Although I am now 26, I am still a young leader and often hear the same doubts that I have heard for the last thirteen years. Commonly they sound like, "You are going to do what? And you want to go where? I mean you are young, but you have a wife and child now, why would you want to do that?" 

Yes, the situations are a little different and sure the paychecks are a very different, but still Newton is an example of a young guy who though was despised by many gave them an example that would not allow them to despise him any longer. 

My point is that I am here to do the same thing because if God is the one who called me to do something, He will glorify himself through my obedience to set an example for the believers in lifestyle and my devotion to teaching God's Word will leave my critics with nothing to despise, but themselves. My goal as a church planter is to be obedient, proclaim the gospel, disciple believers, and form churches that plant churches.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Key Issue - Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?

If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn't rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead. -Tim Keller

The above quote by Tim Keller reminded me of a conversation that I had recently with one of my cousins who was raised Catholic and if anything is a nominal Catholic now as an adult. This conversation basically revolved around the above quote in whether or not Jesus rose from the dead and that is what everything revolves around and hangs on in Christianity. 

Our conversation basically came to a point in which we had discussed the distinguishing differences between every other world religion and Christianity, discussed some of the different tribes or sects of Christianity, including Catholicism, and what it is that makes it true and different then the rest. Our twenty minute conversation revolved around the man Jesus Christ, his life, death, and resurrection. We already agreed that nobody can deny that there was a historical man named Jesus or that he was killed on a cross, but that what really makes the difference is the claim of a resurrection.

Being nominal Catholic there is a lot that she doesn't understand because she was never taught solid truth. So in the midst of our conversation she turned to me and said, "So basically if Jesus rose from the dead then the claims to Christianity would have to be true?" My response, exactly, it isn't whether or not you like his teachings, but that if he rose from the dead you have to accept all that he said as truth.

You see the only concept that she had ever been taught was a religious one in the sense that everything hung on her own behavior or that she would at least have confession with a priest when she had done wrong things so that they could be forgiven. She found exactly what she should have found, an endless cycle of meaningless confessions, by some man who cannot forgive or intermediate on your behalf for forgiveness. As with most Catholics I know this led to nominalism.

I wish I could tell you that she fully saw her need for the Savior Jesus Christ that day, but she didn't, not yet anyway. Everything was so seemingly new for her that she needs time to let it all set in from the religious baggage that she like many of us carry.

So to quote Tim Keller, I say to you as I said to my cousin, "If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn't rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said?"

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Other Unreached People Group

An article came out last month in World Magazine on  "The Other Unreached People Group," referring to what they call the 10/30 Window. The article talks about how most of us have heard of the 10/40 Window, the area that I currently live in, which is home to the largest unreached people groups-and the poorest and most spiritually impoverished-in the world; but not many of us have heard of the 10/30 Window. The 10/30 Window as Eric Larson and Jonathan Taylor of Global Youth and Family Ministries refer to it, is in their own words, "both geographic and generational and is made up of 2.4 billion of the world's population between the ages of 10-30." Of this people group, Taylor says, "the largest unreached people group in human history, larger than the 100 largest geographically defined unreached people groups combined."

Due to many forms of media such as Facebook and Youtube, "this emerging global youth culture is said to have more in common with each other than they do with the adults of their own culture." This is something that I have observed heavily as I moved across the world just one month ago. I am living in a culture where the people that fall into the 10/30 Window look vastly different from those older than them in their own culture. Many within that younger generation, which happens to be my generation, look very similar to the same age group from my city of Raleigh back in the States. This is an area that I have often wrestled with in strategies to reach both old and young alike within one culture. Basically how to be contextual without secluding one segment of the population. Traditionally the thought in missions was to reach the old and the younger will follow, but I am not so sure that the rule applies as it once did with the shift of the younger generation.

I am not saying in anyway that I only want to reach this younger generation because I also live amongst the 10/40 Window, but I think that our strategies for reaching the 10/30 Window and their parents will likely look different; while both can be gospel focused. As Dr. Danny Akin said of this 10/30 Window, "I think it has significance for how we strategize missions in the days ahead. There must be a laser beam focus on the young in terms of evangelism and discipleship. We must prioritize time, energy, and resources to reach this massive unreached people group with the gospel of Jesus Christ."

This is one unreached people group that we all have the opportunity to impact with the gospel in whatever context we live. I would make a case for why youth ministries are important in the life of a church based on this article, but I will save that post for another time as the article should speak for itself. The question is are you up for giving away your time, energy, and resources in order to see the 10/30 Window reached with gospel? I know I am and I am excited to see what God will do right here amongst the younger generation in S. Asia.