Monday, April 30, 2012

Friendships in Ministry

"A true friend is one who is walking in, when everyone else is walking out." -Martin Luther

The above quote by Martin Luther is truer today than ever before as most of us have hundreds if not thousands of "friends" on Facebook and Twitter. But we all know that most of us truly have very few friends and often in ministry the numbers can be less. Why?

Because ministry is a lonely place, especially for those that serve in the pastorate position or overseas. Sure most of us have lots of acquaintances and casual relationships, but very few people that we can go to at anytime with anything. Proverbs 18:24 says it this way: "A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother." 

I believe one of the things that makes friendships difficult in ministry is the pressure to feel that we have to be friends with everyone, which is both impossible and unhealthy. It is not that it would be a bad thing to befriend everyone, but it would be filling up your calendar with "good" things while in ministry you should focus on filling up your calendar with best things.

So my main point is that ministry can be lonely so it is important that we have friends; but that it is better to have a few friends instead of trying to cater to the masses. Mark Driscoll describes friendships in ministry this way, "Be friendly toward all, but friends with a few like Jesus, who knew many people but had Peter, James, and John as his friends."

Since moving overseas and taking on a new role in ministry I have quickly come to the conclusion that many times other people in ministry will still only be colleagues and that is okay because we are not called overseas to be friends with them, but to be obedient to Jesus.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Night Of Worship


The following post is taken directly from the Summit Church website. Since a large percentage of my readers are in the NC area I thought that this upcoming night of worship, along with a cd release was worth sharing.

What: Jesus In My Place: a Night of Worship

When: Sunday, April 29th

Where: Brier Creek Campus, North Venue

Time: 6:00PM - 7:15PM

In many ways, what we sing is a confession of who we are and what we believe. Gordon Fee once wrote, “Show me a church’s songs, and I’ll show you their theology.” Singing and theology are connected because songs teach. Songs help us remember. They help us rehearse. Songs help us celebrate the gospel and encourage one another.

On April 29th, Summit Worship is releasing Jesus In My Place, a brand new collection of worship songs from the worship leaders of the Summit Church. Every song on this record was written and compiled with one goal in mind -- to display the life-changing power of the gospel.  The gospel is the good news of what God, in Jesus Christ, has done for us.  

Simply put, the gospel is "Jesus In My Place."  Jesus lived the life we could never live.  He died the death that we deserved.  He rose again, and offers us His life. We believe that the message of “Jesus In My Place” is worth remembering, rehearsing, and celebrating.

We invite you to join us April 29th at the Brier Creek Campus North Venue for “Jesus In My Place: a Night of Worship.” The Summit Worship staff from all campuses will combine to lead this powerful night and release the album.

Come ready to celebrate what God has made possible through Christ....and come ready to pick up your copy of Jesus In My Place!


               

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Prayer of Exaltation

Over the last week I read The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer, which is a book that will definitely challenge your faith and commitment to God. At the end of each chapter a prayer is included as you cry out to God as a result of what you just read. 

This prayer is towards the end of the book that I would like to think it is true of my life, but to be honest I know that in many ways it is not. But my reason for sharing it is as a way of declaring that I am not there, but hope to be there someday in my pursuit of God.

A Prayer of Exaltation:

O God, be Thou exalted over my possessions. Nothing of earth's treasures shall seem dear unto me if only Thou art glorified in my life. Be Thou exalted over my friendships. I am determines that Thou shalt be above all, though I must stand deserted and alone in the midst of the earth. Be Thou exalted above my comforts. Though it means the loss of bodily comforts and the carrying of heavy crosses. I shall keep my vow made this day before Thee. Be Thou exalted over my reputation. Make me ambitious to please Thee even if as a result I must sink into obscurity and my name be forgotten as a dream. Rise, O Lord, into Thy proper place of honor, above my ambitions, above my likes and dislikes, above my family, my healthy and even my life itself. Let me decrease that Thou mayest increase, let me sink that Thou mayest rise above. Ride forth upon me as Thou dist ride into Jerusalem mounted upon the humble little beast, a colt, the foal of an ass, and let me hear the children cry to Thee, "Hosanna in the highest."

Monday, April 23, 2012

Strategy vs. Structure

This post is meant to be a follow up post to last weeks, "Traditional vs. Biblical," where I described how as man we often allow our man made traditions to take precedence over the biblical way of doing things. The idea presented in the below video by David Watson on "Strategy vs. Structure," go hand in hand with last weeks post.

               

Just as our traditions are often based on us instead of the Bible, so too our strategies for reaching the people are based on us instead of the people that we are trying to reach. Watson hits the nail on the head here that we often allow our strategies to be limited by our own context, which makes it about us. One of the most common ways that we experience this is walk into most churches on any given Sunday and you will most likely see a congregation that is mostly made up of a bunch of people that are similar to each other.

I agree with Watson in his own assessment of this when he declares this must CHANGE! We must get to a place where we are willing to get out of our normal routine of doing things in order to reach the people. This means we must study the culture, learn new things, map out our communities, etc. We must get to a place where we build our strategies from the side of the people that we are trying to reach because they are not likely to come see us on any given Sunday at our convenience.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Suggested Spring Reading

Periodically I like to share what I am either currently reading or will be reading in the near future for my own development. Spring is here and I feel like I have finally settled enough in my new context to start reading on a more consistent basis as I am travelling a lot now. This list is in no particular order, but I would like to note that the first two listed have been highly recommend to me by many others. The last book listed is also one that I am reading in preparation for my role here in S. Asia.

So here is my suggested spring reading:

Missionary Methods: St. Paul's or Ours by Roland Allen: Buy on Amazon

The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer: Buy on Amazon

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas: Buy on Amazon

Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism by Carl Medearis: Buy on Amazon

T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution by Steve Smith: Buy on Amazon

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Traditional vs. Biblical

I just returned from a week long trip where I along with two of my teammates were part of a conference for the largest Baptist Convention in the country where I am serving. You probably didn't know that such a thing existed, well neither did I. It was amazing to sit in with these leaders of this convention and hear how God had been so faithful to reach the majority of their people group over the last 150 years.

The topic of the conference was, "Church Planting Movements." You see this group of leaders had somewhere along the way stopped and realized a couple of things. One, they were rarely planting new chuches and when they were it was with a lot of extra baggage. Two, if they would like to see a church planting movement in their lifetime then they would need to start doing things differently, which as is with all Baptists, easier said than done.

My teammate and supervisor did most of the teaching during our time with the group and it was definitely an uphill battle. What he was presenting was simple and biblical, which can be difficult for a traditional convention that has been around for over 150 years. As a team we are uncertain as to what will come of this conference, but it definitely caused some of their leaders to think more biblically.

In many ways being part of this conference caused me to reflect back over my own upbringing within the Southern Baptist Convention. There are many correlations and similarities between these two conventions that live worlds apart only in this part of the world the fights more often revolve around meat instead of alcohol.

Traditions, never being bad necessarily, but when they take precedence over biblical they become bad. This is exactly what I have often seen in the SBC in the US and now in the GBC in S. Asia. And this is testimony from some of their own leaders at the end of our teaching time so don't think that this is coming from me.

I am thankful for this convention for hosting this conference because this tells me that there is hope for them. Hope that they will leave their traditions behind in order to move forward with the mission of God in a more biblical way that will allow them to reach more people and plant more churches.

Perhaps you too are stuck in a traditional system. My encouragement to you would be do what you can do in a respectful and grace-filled way to bring about the change that needs to take place in order to see the Kingdom of God advance!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Crazy Love

This week I have been taking some time to read through Crazy Love: Overwhelmed By A Relentless God by Francis Chan. A highly recommendable book now that I have read most of it, along the lines of David Platt's Radical. It is one of those that causes you to stop and question whether or not you are truly following God in the way that you claim to follow him based on a biblical premise.

I know that most of you have probably already read through this book since it has been out for some time, but I still wanted to share some of the parts that I thought were worth noting/highlighting.

I get nervous when I think of how we've missed who we are supposed to be, and sad when I think about how we're missing out on all that God wants for the people He loved enough to die for. (17)

This book is for those who don't want to plateau, those who would rather die before their convictions do. (18)

The core problem isn't that were lukewarm, half-hearted, or stagnant Christians... it is that we have an inaccurate view of God. (19)

Solomon warned us not to rush into God's presence with words. That's what fools do. And often, that's what we do. (20).

God will not be tolerated. He instructs us to worship and fear Him. (26)

In our world, where hundreds of things distract us from God, we have to intentionally and consistently remind ourselves of Him. (26)

Not being able to fully understand God is frustrating, but it is ridiculous for us to think we have the right to limit God to something we are capable of comprehending. (29)

No question about it: God hates and must punish sin. And He is totally just and fait in doing so. (32)

Worry implies that we don't quite trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what's happening in our lives. (39)

Stress says that the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace toward others, or our tight grip of control. (39)

The point of your life is to point to Him. Whatever you are doing, God wants to be glorified, because this whole things is His. It is His movie, His world, His gift. (42).

The greatest good on this earth is God. Period. God's one goal for us is Himself. (60)

To put it plainly, churchgoers who are "lukewarm" are not Christians. (81)

Jesus Christ didn't die only to save us from hell; He also died to save us from our bondage to sin. (101)

When I look at my relationship with God as a chore, a sacrifice, then I am getting the glory-not God. (105)

God wants us to trust Him with abandon. He wants to show us how He works and cares for us. He wants to be our refuge. (121)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Do Domestic Ministries and Global Missions Relate?

         

John Piper here hits on some valid point in ministry today. Namely that domestic ministries and global missions should really go hand in hand in the life of a church rather than compete with one another. I think that Piper points out the importance of domestic ministries and showing how it is the role of the local church to fulfill those; and then show that in unreached area there is no local church. So the idea being to take the domestic ministries and export them to other countries as churches are planted.

Good training ground for people that you are going to send out as missionaries overseas is to see how they are being a missionary in their own backyard and community. If you do not have a love for the people of your own community and you are not serving them then please do not move overseas because any superficial love wears off quickly and you will quickly die on the field.

Perhaps overseas missions is something that you are considering, but you realize that you are not involved as a missionary in your own community. I would encourage not to forget about moving overseas, but to get involved with what God is doing in your own community as early training ground. God uses the local church for both domestic ministries and global missions as he has called us all to both.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Reach the Unreached By Creativity and Sensitivity

I like this true and simple video by the organization Pioneers that shows that there is no one type of missionary out there. I think one of the many things that keeps people away from missions is because they fear having to give up the gifts and talents that they love. This may be true in some cases, but I have also found that often God has given you talents and gifted you in a certain way so that you can use them as a platform for missions.

In order to see the unreached peoples of the world reached it is going to take innovation and flexibility by individuals, by churches, and by mission organizations. There can no longer be this mentality of doing it one way, but rather there must be a joint effort by the people of God being on the mission of God.

             

Monday, April 9, 2012

Post-Easter Reflections

This year the Easter season has been quite different for me, not because I haven't seen the easter bunny at the mall, or because I didn't eat any cadbury eggs, but because of the amount of lostness that is around me. None of my immediate neighbors know Jesus and to my knowledge only a handful of people that live in my neighborhood do and they are also here for the same reason that I am here.

I love Easter and what it represents, which when everything else is taken away in my life that is the reason that I am living in S. Asia. We in the Christian world tend to get carried away with our "callings," but the truth is that because the resurrection of Christ did take place that we are all called to take up our cross and follow Jesus. Forget the idea of calling, because this event is true it changes everything!

Nobody that is a follower of Christ needs a calling to take the gospel to those in need of it as every Christian is called to spread the good news of the gospel and to make disciples among all peoples, tribes, and tongues. 

I am still fairly new on the ground here in regards to being an international church planter, but my goal is by this time next year to have poured into at least twenty different men that I have discipled, equipped, and trained to be sent out to plant churches in one of the least reached areas of the world that at one time was coined with the name the "Graveyard of Missions."

In my short time here I can sense that God is moving in this area and that instead of being the graveyard of missions it is now becoming the focus of missions where a movement is about to take place. A movement that I am excited to be a part of and look forward to one year from now being about to report back to you with the amount of lives that have turned to follow him and the amount of churches planted.

I love easter and I love to see lives changed as a result of what took place on Easter Sunday, but this year caused me to also be somber as I look at what is around me. This also stirs up excitement in me for next year to see what God has done amongst these people in one years time where I sense that his Spirit is on the move for something BIG!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Thank God Saturday is Not All We Get

This is a re-post from last Easter, which was initially a response to my good friend Jacob Beaver, on the discussion of "What if Saturday is All We Got?," in regards to the death of Christ on the Cross.

I am sure that if we could experience today without the hope of tomorrow that we would really be able to resonant with the followers of Christ in that day. We would be able to experience the doubts that they went through, the depression, and feeling of being wrong. 

But I would also like to point you to Luke 22:46, as J.D. Greear help me see, that Jesus knew that his disciples would experience the temptation to disbelieve that even the cross of Christ took place and especially the resurrection. It is what we still experience today when people deny the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

Today represents a day where we feel lonely, our skeptics appear right, everything we put our hope in appears to be maybe wrong... we have doubt as the disciples had doubts.

But the difficulty of this scenario is that we, as the disciples, know that Sunday exists and is coming. Everything changes tomorrow, whether I have doubt of it or not, it all changes.

Christ told his followers that the grave would not hold him in that he would raise again to life. It is the most important miracle that ever took place, which has huge implications for everyone everywhere in all of human history.

So continue to reflect and be somber today, but at the same time get ready for a celebration is coming tomorrow! Please celebrate with your local community of faith and invite people to your church so that they can hear the message of the gospel on Easter!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Cross - Jesus Dies


This post is a summary of the content that I am developing in one of my studies that will be used in teaching Hindus through the whole metanarrative of Scripture. This lesson focuses in on the death of Christ, which being good friday I thought that it would be a good time to share it with you. 

"God shows his love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

First, in essence, Jesus came into the world to die and cover sin.
How did Jesus die?
  • On a cross through crucifixion.
  • Crucifixion is the most excruciating form of death.
  • It was designed for the worst of criminals in society.
  • Jesus was crucified in order to bear our griefs and carry our sorrows (Isa. 53:3-4).
Second, Jesus death on the cross finished his purpose for coming.
  • Jesus himself declared "It is Finished," referring to taking on the sin of the world (John 19:30).
  • Jesus came as our atonement (Rom. 4:25).
  • Jesus came and died in our place:
    • Living the life we were meant to live.
    • Dying the death we deserved to die.
    • Ultimately rising from the dead as a way to prove he conquered sin, death, and the grave.
How does the cross satisfy the wrath of God?
  • The result of sin is death so in order for the wrath of God to be appeased someone has to die.
  • In the Old Testament the wrath of God was appeased through an animal blood sacrifice.
  • In the New Testament we see the ultimate and final blood sacrificed required in Jesus.
  • Jesus, dying in our place, died the death that God revealed we deserved.
    • Hebrews 9:22
    • 1 Peter 1:18-19
  • Jesus ended the need for a blood sacrifice.
How does the death of Christ justify us before God?
  • God deserves justice and will get justice.
  • Because we are not righteous we cannot justify God.
  • Jesus alone, being the perfect man, could justify us before God (Rom. 1:37; 5:16-17).
How does God redeem us through the cross?
  • Before the cross we were enslaved in our sin with no hope.
  • Through Jesus alone we have been offered a way out to be redeemed.
    • Justified by his grace (Romans 3:24).
    • Jesus gave himself for us (Titus 2:13-14).
    • Christ became cursed for us (Galatians 3:13-14).
    • Redemption through the blood (Ephesians 1:7).
So whom did Jesus come to die for?
  • Sinners, which includes all of us (1 Tim. 2:6).
  • He came to be the Savior of all people, but only in a saving way for those that believe/are elect (1 Tim. 4:10).
How is God triumphant through the cross of Christ?
  • Forgives us of all sin.
  • Expiation
    • Our sin is taken away from us and we are made clean through Jesus.
  • Our sin is taken away and put on Jesus.
At the cross of Christ we see the ultimate love sacrifice of God for us, which makes a way for reconciliation with God.

It is Good Friday, the day that we remember the reason that Jesus came to earth to die a bloody gruesome death on the cross in our place. At first look it appears that Christ death was nothing more than death in itself, appearing to some skeptics as proof against the claims of Jesus. But it is only friday and as we will see on Sunday, the resurrection comes and Jesus is Alive!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Don't Just Invite People to Church

This time of year is always exciting as Easter is upon us, which should cause Christians everywhere to be throwing huge parties, the best parties! Why? Because we actually have something to party about and those around us should know that. But it is not the only time of year that we should celebrate the resurrection of our Lord as it is really something that should be celebrated everyday, but with a special emphasis on Easter Sunday.

Easter is also a great time of year to invite your neighbors, co-workers, friends, and family to a service at your church, where they will hopefully hear a clear and simple gospel presentation. I know each year at my church, the Summit church, it is an exciting time with a big celebration that makes it the perfect time to invite someone. Each year the Easter celebration seems to get bigger and bigger as it should because we should never get over the resurrection as it is really where Christianity rises or falls in all of its claims. If there were no resurrection then there would be no reason to celebrate, do church, or invite people along with you.

But today I am writing you to tell you please don't just invite people to church! Yes, I am all for inviting people to church, in fact let me take a brief moment and invite any of you that will be in the Raleigh-Durham area that do not have a church to the Summit for this years Easter celebration. We have multiple campuses with multiple times all through out the Triangle, including four non-traditional times as you can attend on Saturday night. For more complete details click on the Summit link above.

So why not just invite people to church? Because as great as it is that they will hear the gospel presented, you also need to take follow up action with those you invited. Take them out for a big lunch after the service to show them that there is reason to celebrate and take time to share your story of how you came to follow Christ. Take the time to ask them if they understood everything the pastor said, if there is anything they disagreed with or maybe something you can help clarify for them.

To me this is part of being missional because I think you are only being part missional if you only invite people to church. This is my first Easter living in S. Asia and my family plans on having some of our neighbors over to explain Easter to them and to let them know why it is that we are celebrating. For three months now I have watched Hindu festivals come and go and these people know how to party so I want to show them that followers of Christ throw the best parties and have the only reason to celebrate. So please invite as many people as possible to church this year, but don't just invite them to church.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Preach the Gospel to Yourself Daily

The last couple of weeks I have been busy preparing 10+ lessons from the Bible that I will potentially get to use in a Hindu context to help them see their need for Jesus as Lord. The lessons are tied in with the metanarrative of the Bible: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration, but with much more filled in of the fuller story. In preparing the lessons it has helped me two realize a couple of things about my own life:

     1. I still desperately need the gospel.
     2. I need to preach the gospel to myself daily.

Prepping these lessons has forced me to go back and look at the big picture of Scripture. And instead of me always focusing on the mission that is in front of me, it has allowed me to be better prepared to give an answer to those that will ask of me the "why" questions of my faith. 

Looking at the whole of Scripture has caused me to fall deeper in love with Jesus as I desire all people to have the saving knowledge of him. Everyone that lives around me is of the Hindu faith and the men that I will be equipping to plant churches will be planting in a Hindu context. I am praying that this study I am preparing will turn out to be a useful tool to not only my own ministry, but also to those that are ministering amongst the many Hindus of the world.