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:  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.
[1] John Simpson and Edmund Weiner, Oxford English Dictionary 2d. ed. (London: Oxford University Press, 1989).

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Disciple Making @Verge 2013

Verge 2013 Conference |
March 1-2 | Austin

What is the theme of Verge 2013 and why is it important? Find out from past and present Verge speakers like Francis Chan, David Platt, Jo Saxton, Alan Hirsch, Dr. John Perkins and Kevin Peck as they give their insights into this important and challenging topic and Conference.

Monday, October 22, 2012

What Do Fake Apple Products and The Word Missional Have in Common?

I was shopping in a large outside market recently in town and came across the Hong Kong market where you can buy all types of knock off items that look and feel like the real thing, but are as fake as Pamela Anderson's...well you know. I enjoy these type of markets and make the occasional purchase just for fun. In walking through the market this time something caught my eye, the apple symbol! But the funny thing about these fake apple products is that they looked nothing like the iPhone. I immediately laughed and commended these guys for attempting to trick the shoppers in this market by putting an apple logo on all types of phones. 

As I made my way home, I started to reflect on how just because you put an apple logo on a product does not indeed make it an apple product, it is just a mere logo. In the same way many people and churches I believe have done the same thing with the term missional. Just because you slap the word missional all over your church does not indeed make it missional, at that point it has become just a meaningless term.

It is no secret that the term missional in many church circles has become a buzzword that is many times over used. Personally, I like and use the word missional often because I do feel like it incorporates what we as a body of believers should be wherever God has placed us. But I also feel in many ways as if some have mistaken that slapping the word missional in front of anything makes it such. It is not much different than slapping the word Christian in front of anything such as mints, video games, music, etc. As if such things can be Christian in and of themselves. 

My point is that just because you use the term missional does not make you missional. I might go as far as to say that if you over use the term or have to use the term in order for people to believe that you are missional than you are not. Just as legit apple products speak for themselves, true missional believers and churches are seen as such by the way in which they live life and live out in the community. 

If you are a missional believer or a missional church, you will not have to convince others by telling them, but they will already know even if you never use the term. Missional Christians, communities, and churches are all good things and we need more of them. In fact, I at times question, if there is any other type of Christian other than a missional one? My point, if you are not considered missional, then maybe you are not a follower of Jesus at all or at least not an obedient one.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Considering Planting A Church, Consider This First

Although once unheard of or very uncool, church planting has come around as something that not only many seminary students are considering but lay people trained and equipped solely by the local church to be sent out are doing. I think that this is an overall a good trend, but hopefully the ones called by God to plant are planting because if one goes out to plant based off of a trend than the cool factor will quickly leave, which results in a group of people with no direction and a lot of confusion. In fact, many of my friends who have planted domestic church plants will be the first to tell you that it is the hardest thing that they have ever done.

I read a blog post by Ed Stetzer this week on "Why plant churches in the south?" in which he basically laid out some options to consider in planting a church and in his case it led him to the south. I fully agree with the options that he puts forth and would like to revisit them here, aside from the last but not least option of considering planting in the South.

I believe that considering to plant a church is a good thing, but when considering to plant a church, consider this first:

1. Consider International Planting First. Yes, there are needs everywhere and as one friend reminded me recently, "Everywhere is unreached," but many guys do not even consider international planting. Although there are needs everywhere, the greatest needs percentage wise are within the 10/40 window. For some this may be a season of planting and for others this may be a lifetime, but what is important is being open and willing to be obedient to Jesus for where he would have you plant. Currently this is where my family and I are as God has led us to plant in an unreached area for a season.

2. Consider Planting in A MegaCity in North America. Over 50% of the world's population now lives in the cities. In the mega cities of North America the needs are the greatest and Christians often flee from them for fear of their influence. Culture flows out of the mega cities and therefore we need more planters in these cities with a body of believers living in them as missionaries.

3. Consider Planting in Rural and Unchurched Areas. God does not call everyone to plant internationally or even in a mega city because of course God cares for the rural folks too. Some of you considering planting know that a rural church planter is exactly what God is calling you to and hopefully you are considering in an unchurched area. Rural planters do not often get the recognition that one planting in a mega city receives, but remember that your obedience to planting is to God above not man below.

It is often said around my sending church that the church is God's plan A for reaching the people. More guys need to consider church planting, but consider the three options above in planting. The needs are great everywhere and the work is not finished, but plant where God has called you to, whether that be in S. Asia, Denver, or rural South Dakota.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Thank You, Pastors! via Luke Wilson

October is Pastor Appreciation Month and Luke Wilson from Deep Roots Library has put together an excellent video as a way to say, Thank You, to pastors. I wanted to share this video as a way to encourage you to show your pastors how you appreciate them but not only during October but all year long. I personally have been reflecting on the handful of pastors that I have had in my life and how each one of them impacted me in a different way in my own walk with God. To those pastors, I wanted to sincerely say, THANK YOU!

And for you pastors that maybe reading this, if you watch the entire video, Luke has a nice surprise for you of 15 free books.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Do You Remember Hearing the Gospel for the First Time?

There is no way getting around it, I come from a church background. I am the kid who from the time I was born attended church at least three times a week. I look back at my upbringing and thank God for two wonderful loving parents who loved me and had me in church.

But with my kind of background, I honestly cannot tell you the first time that I heard the gospel. Why? I heard it all the time and it became part of normal everyday life for me. Now, what I can point to is the first time I remember understanding and surrendering to the gospel as God was calling me to himself.

I share this snippet of my life because it never ceases to amaze me at the amount of people who have never heard the gospel around the world and now in a very real way in my own backyard. Sure, many of them have heard of the historical figure of Jesus but they do not know much of anything about him. 

Just this week I took time to share the gospel with the worker where I pay for more minutes on my phone. I had asked him about Jesus before and he said he knew about him but not much. So when I shared about Jesus death and resurrection, he looked at me with amazement and said, "I do not understand, how is that possible?!? 

It dawned of me, this guy has just heard the full gospel for the first time. And if I had to guess I would say that this guy is about my age. So you have two guys, same age, one cannot count the amount of times he has heard the gospel, the other just hearing for the fist time.

So if you grew up hearing the gospel like me than be thankful for God's sovereignty in your life and more importantly for calling you to be a chosen one among him. I encourage you to take time weekly to pray for those around the world who have never even heard the gospel. Pray that they would have the same opportunity that you did to hear about the sacrifice of Jesus in your place.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Where Does Prophecy Fit Into a Battle?

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12

I continue to be reminded that the Christian life is a never ending battle of struggles, a war with the world, our own flesh, and of course Satan. Thankfully in Ephesians we are given the list of armor that we need in fighting these battles but I often believe that we forget a piece or all of our armor. This is one reason that we are perhaps many times surprised when the battle hits harder than normal. We don't expect it and we aren't ready for it because we have bought into some lie that we are living our best life now.

In Sam Storms book, Convergence, he points out that there is an additional implement for battle that we often ignore in much of the church, prophecy. Storms premise for this comes from Paul's appeal to the young Timothy: "Timothy, please, I implore you as my spiritual son, don't even think about trying to fight Satan, the enemy of our faith, without drawing strength and encouragement and power from the prophetic words delivered to you! Never attempt to face opposition in the church apart from the reassurance that flows from those revelatory words you received. Timothy, there is strength and confidence for you in the truth and certitude of those Spirit-prompted utterances that came to you at your ordination. By all means fight. Never fear. But fight fearlessly through the power of those prophetic words!"

Storms goes on to answer how is it that one appeals to the prophetic words during a war time? "By constantly reminding oneself of God's commitment and presence and unshakeable purpose to enable Timothy (and us) to fight doubt and anxiety and fear and despair." For me this looks like remembering over my lifetime when people spoke prophetic words into my life, holding fast to these, and charging forward by doing what God has called me to do.

I agree with Stoms that this is a very neglecting but much needed implement for battle. Without such a thing one will either give up and quit, forget their purpose, or waste their time. So I encourage you to hold onto the words that God has given you in your life whether from others or to you directly because when the battle gets tough and you begin to question why it is that you do what you do, you will remember God's calling on your life.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Everything Speaks Part 2

Back in June, I wrote a post titled Everything Speaks that was a bit of venting over culture frustration when it comes to customer service but also as a way to remind our churches that in many ways we too are like customer service reps to our first time guest. From the moment a guest enters the parking lot of your church the sermon starts in many ways. What I mean by this, is that if what is being preached on stage does not match the rest of the experience at a church then it is likely just a bunch of words and not a truthful message.

Today I am writing an opposite account of what I typically experience in S. Asian culture. In July I had to attend some company meetings at a nice resort up in Kathmandu. It is a little bit older of a resort but they have done a great job maintaining the place.

From the moment we pulled into the parking lot you could sense something different about this place. They helped you park, there were door greeters, people to help with luggage, a check in counter, and someone to help you find where you were going. This in many ways reminded me of the modern day church, specifically in a Western context.

Everything they did was near perfect and always with a smile. I would not have been surprised one bit if Dan Cathy and his crew from Chick-fil-A leadership had been there in the past and trained them.

My point is that this is how our churches should feel to those outside the church. They should feel as our honored guest as we serve them in a loving way, pointing them to Jesus. Now, I know someone reading this is thinking that I am referring to seeker friendly church environments here. Not at all, but rather an environment where we seek to give God our best at all times, which naturally results in our guest services, creativity, and an opportunity to help people embrace Jesus as Lord.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The "DNA" of Multiplying Churches

**The following post was taken from the Four Fields of Kingdom Growth by Nathan and Kari Shank**

The "DNA" of Multiplying Churches

1. Rapid - Paul covers an area with a population of over 25 million within a 15 year window (Rom. 15:19, 23).

2. Six streams of Church Planting - multiple streams developing simultaneously (Cyrpus, Phrygia, Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia, Asia).

3. Clear Priorities - Find and win man of peace, baptize, disciple new believers, release authority, revisit - evaluate and appoint elders.

4. Authority Passed Quickly - Longest stay - Corinth - (Acts 18:11/18 months). In 1 Cor. 1:10-14 - Paul says he did not baptize! Who did?

5. New works were treated as churches from the beginning. Paul's letters are never addressed to cell groups or fellowships. Respect is given to "co-laborers", "brothers chosen by God," equals!

6. Ownership of Great Commission among new believers. Example, the Thessalonian Church (Acts 17:1-9-three week stay), 1 Thess. 1:7-8 - "rang out", "known everywhere".

7. Persecution - the cost of following ensured true believers.

8. Immediate Baptism - no example of delaying in Paul's writings!

9. Began in Regional Centers - Paphos/Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Phillipi, Thessalonia, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus - helped local believers reach out from there.

10. Key trainers/Helpers in each region - see the Lordship development chart within the section.

11. Returned when possible - Every field visited was revisited at least once before Paul's imprisonment. Letters also.

12. Holy Spirit Driven - Paul was never in charge of direction. Rather God determined the doors and timing of his entry and departure. Many times persecution allowed by God moved Paul to new fields. It was God who said leave the new believers to stand!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Five Equippers of the Church

In the brief clip below, missiologist, JR Woodward, lays out the five equippers of the church that are taken from his book, Creating a Missional Culture: Equipping the Church for the Sake of the World. The five equippers are the following:
  • Teacher: Concerned about the community understanding the word of God.
  • Pastor: More concerned about what is happening within the community of faith.
  • Evangelist: Concerned with trying to help the church understand how to connect with the world in meaningful ways; and also to help the world to understand the craziness of the church.
  • Prophet: Connecting people directly with God.
  • Apostle: Concerned about the whole picture and desire to help the other equippers live into their roles.

As a leader if you are trying to create a missional culture within your church then it would be good to know the top two equippers that you operate within. Below are three questions that Woodward gives to help you gauge this accurately.

1. Do I have a real passion for this particular calling and gift?

2. Do I see some good fruit from doing this?

3. Do other people confirm my sense of calling?

Monday, October 1, 2012

God Breaks You, Then Makes You Great

It is no secret that my family has been through a lot of hard times in the last couple of months. Some would say, "welcome to overseas life", others would say "you are being spiritual attacked", and yet others would say, "you are not trusting God enough." Ultimately none of us are sure which of those things it is in each situation of our life, but God is sovereign overall so it all gets attributed back to being in his care. 

But what I want to share with you all today is an excerpt from a sermon from one of the greatest preachers of all time, Charles Spurgeon. He speaks to these very issues and being broken before God does something great through you:

Is it not a curious thing that whenever God means to make a man great, He always first breaks him in pieces? There was a man whom the Lord meant to make into a prince. How did He do it? Why, He met him one night and wrestled with him! You always hear about Jacob’s wrestling. Well, I dare say he did, but it was not Jacob who was the principal wres- tler—“There wrestled a man with Him until the breaking of the day.” God touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh and put it out of joint before He called him “Israel,” that is, “a Prince of God.” The wrestling was to take all his strength out of him and when his strength was gone, then God called him a prince. Now, David was to be king over all Israel. What was the way to Jerusalem for David? What was the way to the throne? Well, it was round by the cave of Adullam. He must go there and be an outlaw and an outcast, for that was the way by which he would be made king. Have none of you ever no- ticed, in your own lives, that whenever God is going to give you an enlargement and bring you out to a larger sphere of service, or a higher platform of spiritual life, you always get thrown down? That is His usual way of working! He makes you hungry before He feeds you! He strips you before He robes you! He makes nothing of you before He makes something of you! This was the way with David. He is to be king in Jerusalem, but He must go to the throne by the way of the cave. Now, are any of you here going to Heaven, or going to a more heavenly state of sanctification, or going to a greater sphere of usefulness? Do not wonder if you go by the way of the cave. Why is that?
It is, first, because if God would make you greatly useful, He must teach you how to pray! The man who is a great preacher and yet cannot pray, will come to a bad end. A woman who cannot pray and yet is noted for the conducting of Bible classes, has already come to a bad end. If you can be great without prayer, your greatness will be your ruin! If God means to bless you greatly, He will make you pray greatly, as He does David who says in this part of his preparation for coming to his throne, “I cried unto the Lord with my voice: with my voice unto the Lord did I make my supplication.”
Next, the man whom God would greatly honor must always believe in God when he is at his wits’ end. “When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then You knew my path.” Are you never at your wits’ end? God has not sent you to do business in great waters, for, if He has, you will reel to and fro and be at your wits’ end, in a great storm, before long! Oh, it is easy to trust when you can trust yourself, but when you cannot trust yourself—when you are dead beat, when your spirit sinks below zero in the chill of utter despair—then is the time to trust in God. If that is your case, you have the marks of a man who can lead God’s people and be a comforter of others.
Next, in order to greater usefulness, many a man of God must be taught to stand alone. “I looked on my right hand, and behold, but there was no man that would know me.” If you need men to help you, you may make a very decent fol- lower. But if you need no man and can stand alone, God being your Helper, you shall be helped to be a leader. Oh, it was a grand thing when Luther stepped out from the ranks of Rome! There were many good men round him who said, “Be quiet, Martin. You will get burnt if you do not hold your tongue! Let us keep where we are, in the Church of Rome, even if we have to swallow down great lumps of dirt. We can believe the Gospel and still remain where we are.” But Luther knew that he must defy Antichrist and declare the pure Gospel of the blessed God! And he must stand alone for the Truth of God even if there were as many devils against him as there were tiles on the housetops at Worms! That is the kind of man whom God blesses! I would to God that many a young man here might have the courage to feel, in his particular position, “I can stand alone, if need be. I am glad to have my master and my fellow workmen with me, but if nobody will go to Heaven with me, I will say farewell to them and go to Heaven alone through the Grace of God’s dear Son.”
Once more, the man whom God will bless must be the man who delights in God alone. David says, “I cried unto You, O Lord: I said, You are my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.” Oh, to have God as our refuge and to make God our portion! “You will lose your job! You will lose your income. You will lose the approbation of your fellow men.” “Ah,” says the Believer, “but I shall not lose my Portion, for God is my Portion! He is job, and income, and every- thing to me—and I will hold by Him, come what may.” If you have learned to “delight yourself in the Lord, He will give you the desires of your heart.” Now you are come into such a state that God can use you and make much of you—but until you make much of God, He never will make much of you! God deliver us from having our portion in this life, for, if we have, we are not among His people at all!
He whom God would use must be taught sympathy with God’s poor people. Hence we get these words of David, in the sixth verse, “I am brought very low.” Mr. Greatheart, though he must be strong to kill Giant Grim and any others of the giants that infest the Pilgrim path, must be a man who has gone that road himself if he is to be a leader of others. If the Lord means to bless you, my Brother, and to make you very useful in His Church, depend upon it, He will try you. Half, perhaps nine-tenths of the trials of God’s ministers are not sent to them on their own account. They are sent for the good of other people. Many a child of God who goes very smoothly to Heaven, does very little for others. But another of the Lord’s children who has all the ins and outs and changes of an experienced Believer’s life, has them only that he may be better fitted to help others! That he may be able to sit down and weep with them that weep, or to stand up and rejoice with them that rejoice.
So then, dear Brothers who have got into the cave, and you, my Sisters, who have deep spiritual exercises, I want to comfort you by showing you that this is God’s way of making something of you. He is digging you out! You are like an old ditch—you cannot hold any more—and God is digging you out to make more room for more Grace. That spade will cut sharply and dig up sod after sod, and throw it to one side. The very thing you would like to keep shall be cast away and you shall be hollowed out, and dug out, that the word of Elisha may be fulfilled, “Make this valley full of ditches. For thus says the Lord, You shall not see wind, neither shall you see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water.” You are to be tried, my Friend, that God may be glorified in you!
Lastly, if God means to use you, you must get to be full of praise. Listen to what David says, “Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise Your name: the righteous shall compass me about; for You shall deal bountifully with me.” May God give to my Brothers and Sisters here, who are being tried for their good and afflicted for their promotion, Grace to begin to praise Him! It is the singers that go before—they who can praise best shall be fit to lead others in the work. Do not set me to follow a gloomy leader. Oh, no, dear Sirs, we cannot work to the tune of “The Dead March in Saul”! Our soldiers would never have won Waterloo if that had been the music for the day of battle! No, no! Give us a rejoicer—“Sing unto the Lord who has triumphed gloriously; praise His great name again and again.” Draw the sword and strike home! If you are of a cheerful spirit, glad in the Lord and joyous after all your trials and afflictions, and if you can rejoice more because you have been brought so low, then God is making something of you and He will yet use you to lead His people to greater works of Grace!