Friday, November 30, 2012

ESV Global Study Bible Giveaway

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

THE BIBLE

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

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

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

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

Buy One, Give One

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

THE GIVEAWAY

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

If You Want Applause, Join the Circus

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 26, 2012

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

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

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

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

1. A Harvest Mentality 

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

2. We Know One Way to "Do Church"

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

3. Security

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

4. Persecution

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

5. Ignorance and Prejudice Toward Christianity 

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

6. Climate

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

7. It's Expensive 

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

8. High Personnel Maintenance

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

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Insanity of God

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

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



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

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

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Are You Surrounded By People of Faith?


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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 19, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 16, 2012

New on the Kindle

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

New on my Kindle

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

True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia by Jerry Bridges

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Benefits to Confession of Sin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 12, 2012

Why We All Need Gospel Coaching?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 9, 2012

Are You Overqualified to Do Missions?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How an Organization Can Hinder Spontaneous Expansion of the Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 5, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 2, 2012

Building a Faithful and Effective Church


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