Monday, December 30, 2013

People Are Desperate for Something Real

It is hard to believe that this will be my last post of 2013. This year has been the fastest of my life and the last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind that has left my head spinning. Most of my readers and followers know that the last two years my family has been on a church planting journey in S. Asia. We, ourselves, did not plant a single church, but God used me to equip a number of men to plant reproducing in churches in areas where there were none and have never been any. Leaving these men and the work was surprisingly one of the most difficult tasks that I have ever done.

The last two weeks have been full of reunions with family and friends back in the US and while it has been a blast it has also numbed some of the emotions of returning to life here. All of the holiday cheer and gatherings are temporary and ending very soon. In one way this has been a great time to return to this context, but at the same time it has made it difficult to see the reality in front of me and to receive any clarity of what is exactly ahead.

A few things have sharply stuck out to me in observing the culture as a third culture adult and in conversations with those around me. First, I have a growing burden for the US population to know and worship Jesus. I know what you are thinking, "Of course you are supposed to say that, you are a returning overseas missionary." But regardless of your thoughts, the burden I have is from the Lord and it is to see people encounter Jesus in a real way.

Second, many people, including those within the church culture, are desperate for something more meaningful. I am not knocking on any one church, but what I have heard people express is the desire for true biblical community. And quite frankly, most US churches don't actually have that within their DNA. Sure, most claim that they do, but merely having a Sunday school class or even a small group will not suffice for true biblical community. What I hear people saying they want is what we see in Acts 2:42-47. 

Third, I think that in order to see the US context reached that we need more churches planted. I am sure that this too will come as no surprise to anyone, but I believe this with all my heart. The church is God's plan a to reach cities and communities and there is no plan b. What saddens me is the lack of churches that are actively planting reproducing churches. Just yesterday in conversation with a friend who I respect from my own sending church said that they recommend a new church plant within three to five years. That sounds great, but waiting three to five years to me is unhealthy and leads way to never planting at all.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Top Ten Blog Posts of 2013

2013 has been another growing year of blogging for me personally. This year the look of the blog changed slightly and I finally went to my own web domain, matthewboyd.net, instead of sticking with the traditional blogger page. The global audience of readers grew again this year and 2013 doubled the amount of monthly views from 2012. As a way to revisit this past year, I want to share the top ten blog posts of this year. Be on the lookout for more content in 2014 as I plan to continue the development of both my own writing skills and the blog itself. Thank you for another great year!

10. Making One Stumble and Making One Uncomfortable Are Not the Same Thing

Making a person stumble and making a person uncomfortable are two very different things, but they are often assumed to be the same thing. This piece takes a look at the two and helps to differentiate between them in our day to day social interactions with others.

9. Moving Law to Grace on Alcohol and Tobacco

Things such as alcohol and tobacco are not as black and white like many Christians would like to make them; but they would both fall into a "gray" issue. This piece looks at this topic in a different light and commends Moody Bible Institute for the drop on their ban of use of alcohol and tobacco.

8. Book Giveaway: A Call to Resurgence

In Mark Driscoll's newest book, he delivers a wake up call to all Christians: We are living in a post-Christian culture-a culture fundamentally at odds with faith in Jesus.

7. Introducing Liam Gideon Boyd

The birth of my second son has changed me and my family forever. Daily Liam brings so much joy to our lives and those around him through his personality and smile. This piece takes a look at the meaning behind his name and his introduction to the world.

6. Quotes from Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart

This piece was straightforward with some of the most noteworthy quotes from J.D. Greear in his newest book Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart. The topic of the book is one that all Christians have wrestled with at some point and likely one of the best to be released on the topic in the last five years.

5. When the Known Becomes Unknown

My family is still in a state of the known becoming the unknown as today marks two weeks since we have returned from our life in S. Asia. This post reads like an open journal as I am brutally honest with the emotions that I was dealing with as this was written.

4. Making A Disciple that Makes Another Disciple Every 6 Months Could Change the World

I have always been bad at math, but it is amazing what you can figure out when you do a math equation. This piece looks at how the entire population could hear about Jesus if all Christians would just simply make a reproducing disciple every six months.

3. Dr. Benjamin Carson's Speech at the National Prayer Breakfast

If you don't know who Dr. Benjamin Carson is than you should, but watching this speech from the National Prayer Breakfast with President Obama is well worth your time.

2. 3801 Lancaster - A Documentary Revealing the Kermit Gosnell Story

This piece shares the trailer for the story of one of the most gruesome murder trials in US history, revealing the Kermit Gosnell Story.

1. 10 Observations My First Week Back in the USA

Today marks two weeks that my family has been back in the US, but this piece was written just one week back as a way to express some initial observations. One thing I fear and I know will happen as that I will quickly lose my new perspective as I begin to blend back in with my first culture.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas from the Boyd Family

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
(Luke 2:1-14 ESV)

Friday, December 20, 2013

10 Observations First Week Back in USA

One week ago my family arrived back in the USA after living and serving in S. Asia for two years. I know that overtime my first culture will become the norm again, but for now I am still able to view things with a slightly different perspective as a third culture adult. This week has been a great time of catching up with family, seeing a few friends, and trying to get over jet lag.

During the course of this week there have been a few initial observations that come to mind that I would like to share in no particular order.

1. Americans are entirely too busy and work too much. The culture where we had been living started the day around 10 am and somehow those who had jobs were always able to meet you at random times of the day for coffee or rather chai. I've seen a few friends in the area where I grew up this week, but for the most part everybody is busy working.

2. Americans spend way too much time in the car. This could be due to locality of where I grew up in NC, but I miss being able to walk to nearby places. I calculated this week that in the last twenty-five years my dad has spent approximately one full year commuting back and forth to work.

3. Everything is so nice and clean. Let's face it, I have been living in a culture that has very different hygiene standards and many people are uneducated as to what is proper hygiene. This caused me to lower my own standards and expectations to now I will go eat at about any hole in the wall restaurant, even if there are a few roaches on the counter.

4. Everything is big in America. McDonald's is not the only place that does the super size me, but everything is super sized! Food, drinks, people, stores, traffic lanes, etc. All of it is big!

5. Americans also worship 330 million gods like the Hindus. This is not a new observation so much, but seeing all the materialism at Christmas time and how much stuff Americans have to spend their money on can quickly reveal who and what they are worshipping. It may be packaged in a nicer looking temple, but all people worship something and I do not care if that is political correct by saying so.

6. There are too many traffic laws. Wow, did I just say that? Driving was one of the most stressful things for me overseas, but I have realized that there are too many laws in US driving and some things that S. Asians do actually make some sense to me now. I have only used my horn once, but I did keep thinking I ended up on the wrong side of the road somehow.

7. Political correctness is more rampant now than it was in 2011. I knew this was the case because I kept up with the major news outlets from overseas, but just this week I have already seen how absorbed people have become with things like the Duck Dynasty controversy. American culture is headed in a direction that it is going to become increasingly more difficult for the so called "nominal" Christians to be in, which is not entirely a bad thing.

8. The US culture in many ways is a harder place to minister and be a missionary. I was living and serving in the least reached area of the world, but it was such an easy place to share the gospel and talk about spiritual aspects of life. In the US, everyone wants to keep faith private or if you live in the South many people that are not truly disciples think that they are because it has become part of the culture.

9. You can find anything and everything in America. I'm returning from a much simpler life where you could find a limited amount of foods and things. You get to a place where you realize that you truly have everything you need so it bothers you less and less. Now, there is so much stuff that I forgot even existed. I even left boxes of stuff in my parents garage and it felt like an early Christmas this week looking through the stuff.

10. Most people will not be able to relate or understand the life I have lived. This is nobody's fault, but just the reality of not many people living in the same country where I lived. In many conversations this week I can tell that people are unsure of what to talk to me about or what to even ask, so they usually ask nothing instead. This has been a disappointment because not many people have asked at all about our life or work there, but instead only focused on us being back here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Top Books of 2013

There have been many good books written this year, but I have only been able to read a handful of them; so I split my top ten into two lists. List one is the top books that I have read that were actually released this year. The second list is the top five books that were released before this year, but that I just worked through this year. 

These lists are purely based on the limited amount of books that I was able to read through, but all are highly recommended even if they would not make others top ten lists for 2013. 

TOP 5 BOOKS RELEASED IN 2013

5. Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole by Eric Mason

Many times men, including myself, are reluctant to read a book on being a man because usually the author attempts to motivate men with the guilt of their failures; but Mason does not do that. Rather his goal in the book is to facilitate an encounter with the ultimate God-man. Mason really presents a theology of manhood saturated with Scripture throughout the book. His writing does not come across as a way to beat men over the head, but in a pastoral way that deeply desires to see manhood restored to its fullest, which comes through Christ alone.Pastor Eric Mason combines theological depth with practical insights that puts men in step with a gospel-centered manhood that will enrich every facet of their lives.

4. The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected by Nik Ripken

The Insanity of God is the personal and lifelong journey of an ordinary couple from rural Kentucky who thought they were going on just your ordinary missionary pilgrimage, but discovered it would be anything but. After spending over six hard years doing relief work in Somalia, and experiencing life where it looked like God had turned away completely and He was clueless about the tragedies of life, the couple had a crisis of faith and left Africa asking God, "Does the gospel work anywhere when it is really a hard place? It sure didn't work in Somalia.

3. Prototype: What Happens When You Discover You Are More Like Jesus Thank You Think? by Jonathan Martin
In Prototype, Jonathan Martin creates a vivid understanding of what it means to be beloved by God. To completely trust, as Jesus did, that God loves you. To live life without fear, confident in your identity and purpose. To handle life’s wounds as Jesus did, and to wake every day with a deep awareness of God’s presence.

Martin reveals a startling truth at the heart of the gospel: Jesus is our prototype. And as we discover how the knowledge of being God’s beloved changed everything for Jesus—how it set Him free to live out his purpose and love God, others, and the world—it will begin to do the same for us.


2. Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church by Matt ChandlerEric Geiger, and Josh Patterson

Creature of the Word lays out this concept in full, first examining the rich, scripture-based beauty of a Jesus-centered church, then clearly providing practical steps toward forming a Jesus-centered church. Authors Matt Chandler, Eric Geiger, and Josh Patterson write what will become a center- ing discussion piece for those whose goal is to be part of a church that has its theology, culture, and practice completely saturated in the gospel.

1. Who Do You Think You Are? Finding Your True Identity in Christ by Mark Driscoll

Pastor and best-selling author Mark Driscoll believes false identity is at the heart of many struggles—and that you can overcome them by having your true identity in Christ. InWho Do You ThinYou Are?, Driscoll explores the question, “What does it mean to be ‘in Christ’?” In the process he dissects the false-identity epidemic and, more important, provides the only solution—Jesus.

TOP 5 I'VE READ IN 2013

5. Letters from A Skeptic: A Son Wrestles with His Father's Questions About Christianity by Greg Boyd

Greg Boyd and his father, Ed, were on opposite sides of a great divide. Greg was a newfound Christian, while his father was a longtime agnostic. So Greg offered his father an invitation: Ed could write with any questions on Christianity, and his son would offer a response.

4. Holiness by J.C. Ryle

J.C. Ryle's Holiness has imparted a standing challenge to Christians for 130 years. In this new, slimmed-down series of excerpts from Ryle's masterwork, we aim to present his original message to a whole new generation. Holiness, Ryle argued, was not simply a matter of believing and feeling, but of doing


We live in an increasingly post-Christian culture. More and more we find ourselves on the margins as less and less people have any intention of ever attending church. What used to work doesn’t work anymore and we need to adapt.

Helping us to see the way forward, this book offers practical ideas and personal stories for engaging with Western society. Find out how to effectively reach people in the context of everyday life and take hold of the opportunity to develop missional communities focused on Jesus.

2. Paul's Missionary Methods: In His Time and Ours by Robert Plummer and John Mark Terry

This book examines Paul's missionary efforts in two parts. First Paul is examined in his first-century context: what was his environment, missions strategy and teaching on particular issues? The second part addresses the implications of Paul's example for missions today: is Paul's model still relevant, and if so, what would it look like in modern contexts? Experts in New Testament studies and missiology contribute fresh, key insights from their fields, analyzing Paul's missionary methods in his time and pointing the way forward in ours.


Today many pastors are struggling to adapt to a post-Christian culture without abandoning orthodox theology. How do we communicate the concepts of grace and substitutionary atonement in our globalized culture and context?In Center Church, Timothy Keller offers challenging insights and provocative questions based on over twenty years of ministry in New York City. 

Although these are my top ten books of 2013, I recognize that there are many I have not had the opportunity to purchase or read. What books would you add to my list from your own reading this year?

Friday, December 13, 2013

When the Known Becomes the Unknown

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.         -Philippians 4:6-7
By now most of you are aware that my time in S. Asia has come to a close and by the time you are reading this I will most likely be eating lunch at Chick-fil-A in North Carolina with my family. This past week has been full of many hard goodbyes, some expected and some not. It has been extremely hard for me to fathom all that we have experienced as life these past two years and to watch it all slip away as we take a step of faith back to what was once familiar is scary for me.

As our plane lifted off on Wednesday afternoon I could not help but look out the window at all the villages of people below, many never hearing the gospel, and have tears in my eyes. As I looked down at these villages, it represents what my life has been the last couple of years, a life that few can or will be able to understand. I glanced over at my soon to be three year old son and remember the nine month old baby that we brought here with us. The city that we are leaving is all that he knows as home, the only friends and in many ways family that he has had.

My emotions are normal from what I have been told of people preparing to transition back to their first country, but it has caught me by surprise in many ways. Amongst all the trials and the hardships that life overseas has brought it has also become what I am used to and my normal. I keep looking back on so many of the hard transitions that took place the first year overseas and realize that I am going to have to reverse all of those in a matter of days. 

I am honestly not sure where I am going with this post other than it is more like an open journal post than anything. I keep finding myself with tears in my eyes and I am not even sure why other than that this is part of the normal process for returning from the life that has been lived the last two years. And please do not misunderstand this for me not looking forward to many things in the US or visiting with family and friends, but rather me openly processing when the known becomes the unknown. 

Returning as we are puts my family in a position of humility and great dependency on those around us. Although I do not like being the one in need, the body of Christ is already responding to the needs that we have, even before we arrived in Charlotte today. I posted the verses from Philippians at the top because if I am transparent I have been anxious about this return, very anxious, which has caused much worry about entering the unknown. But I am trying me best by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving to let my requests be made known to God.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Son of God Movie Trailer

Don't ask me why, but I have never been a huge fan of the Jesus film. It has done a lot of good and I even attended a large event when it released in the mother tongue that I have been working amongst the last two years; but overall I am not a huge fan of the film. Announced recently the Son of God Movie is set to be released early 2014 and I have high expectations for this film. See the trailer below and click here for more details.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Tooth & Nail "No New Kinda Story"

Tooth & Nail Records announced a few months ago that they are releasing an upcoming documentary, "No New Kinda Story," on the history of their record label. I basically grew up on the 90's bands that made up Tooth & Nail and consider it truly an era in the music industry that has been unmatched. Some of my earliest music memories and purchases came from bands that were signed to this label.




The following press release describes well the upcoming documentary:
Tooth & Nail Records became one of the most controversial record labels of the ‘90s, and its story—twenty years in the making—is finally being told. BELIEF (http://www.beliefagency.com), a Seattle-based creative agency, produced and edited the full-length documentary, No New Kinda Story: The Real Story of Tooth & Nail Records.
In early 1993, after watching a handful of hardcore bands in Southern California, Brandon Ebel, son of a preacher from a small town in Oregon, knew he saw something special. He took a loan from his grandfather, and with a little cash and even less industry experience he launched one of the most influential independent labels in the last twenty years.
From its start, the label seemed destined to fail. Ebel lived on five dollars a day, but his relentless belief in the music inspired him to transform Tooth & Nail from an insignificant startup to a label selling over 20,000,000 records and breaking bands like MxPx, Underoath, August Burns Red, and Anberlin. No New Kinda Story is a no-holds-barred, behind the scene look at the rise, fall, and rebirth of the iconic label.
The documentary will be submitted to a variety of film festivals including Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, Seattle International Film Festival, and Hot Docs. The trailer is available to view at http://www.nonewkindastory.com.
Tooth & Nail Records is record label headquartered in Seattle, Washington. They work with artists from all over the world to showcase good and honest music. The label has released music from rock bands big and small, including Underoath, Emery, Hawk Nelson, Thousand Foot Krutch, and The Almost. Tooth & Nail Records is also the parent company to Solid State
Records (Demon Hunter, Haste The Day) and BEC Recordings (Jeremy Camp, Kutless).

Friday, December 6, 2013

What is A Gospel-Centered Church?

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

It seems that everywhere you go today you hear of something being gospel-centered. I cannot even begin to count the amount of books that have been released this year that claim to be gospel-centered and we are strongly encouraged as followers of Jesus to make sure that everything about our life is gospel-centered. Being gospel-centered is a good thing as it reminds us to keep the gospel as central in all that we do; but we must be mindful not to just slap the title gospel-centered on anything and everything that we want.

Recently a former Greek Orthodox Priest friend of mine said that he was staying at home on Sunday to watch a political news program because there were not any Greek Orthodox Church parishes in the area where he was staying. I challenged him on this and encouraged him to check out one of the many gospel-centered churches that I know exist in this city. 

Another friend of his challenged my claim due to many claiming to be gospel-centered, but falling very short of the gospel and the early church. I understand his point that many can claim something and not in actuality be it, but it caused me to think, "What is a gospel-centered church?" How would one really define a gospel-centered church.

I agree with Joe Thorn when he says, "A gospel-centered church is a church that is about Jesus above everything else. That sounds a little obvious, but when we talk about striving to be and maintain gospel-centrality as a church we are recognizing our tendency to focus on many other things (often good and important things) instead of Jesus. There are really only two options for local churches; they will be gospel-centered, or issue driven."

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

J.O. Fraser on Prayer

The following is a quote on the importance of prayer from the journal of J.O. Fraser who was a missionary to China and by far puts anything that I have ever written in my journal to shame.

“Behind the Ranges: The Life Changing Story of J.O. Fraser” by Geraldine Taylor

I used to think [he continued] that prayer should have the first place and teaching the second.  I now feel it would be truer to give prayer the first, second and third place, and teaching the fourth. 

For these people out here are not only ignorant and superstitious.  They have a heathen atmosphere all about them.  One can actually feel it.  We are not dealing with an enemy that fires at the head only-i.e., keeps the mind only in ignorance.  This enemy uses GAS ATTACKS which wrap the people round with deadly effect, and yet are impalpable, elusive.  What would you think of the folly of the soldier who fired a gun into the gas, to kill it or drive it back?  Nor would it be any more avail to teach or preach to the Lisu here, while they are held back by these invisible forces.  Poisonous gas cannot be dispersed, I suppose, in any other way than the wind springing up and dispersing it.  MAN is powerless. 

For the breath of God can blow away all those miasmic vapors from the atmosphere of a village, in answer to your prayers.  We are not fighting against flesh and blood.  You deal with the fundamental issues of this Lisu work when you pray against “the principalities, the powers, the world-rulers of this darkness, the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies” (Ephesians 6:12).

I believe that a work of God sometimes goes on behind a particular man or family, village or district, before the knowledge of the truth ever reaches them.  It is a silent, unsuspected work, not in mind or heart, but in the unseen realm behind these.  Then, when the light of the gospel is brought, there is no difficulty, no conflict.  It is, then, simply a case of “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.”

This should give us confidence [he urged] in praying intelligently for those who are far from the gospel light.  The longer the preparation, the deeper the work.  The deeper the root, the firmer the plant when once it springs above ground.  I do not believe that any deep work of God takes root without long preparation somewhere.

On the human side, evangelistic work on the mission field is like a man going about in a dark, damp valley with a lighted match in his hand, seeking to ignite anything ignitable.  But things are damp through and through, and will not burn however much he tries.  In other cases, God’s wind and sunshine have prepared beforehand.  The valley is dry in places, and when the lighted match is applied – here a shrub, there a tree, here a few sticks, there a heap of leaves take fire and give light and warmth long after the kindling match and its bearer have passed on.  This is what God wants to see: little patches of fire burning all over the world.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Psalm 23 from an Unbelievers Perspective

This past weekend our team took a mini-retreat in the nearby mountains and discussed the upcoming year as we looked at vision, goals, and how to accomplish them. In one of the last sessions we were encouraged to look at Psalm 23 from the perspective of an unbeliever and what it is that they are internally crying out. It was an interesting exercise that I have never done and wanted to share what Psalm 23 would look like from the life and perspective of one not in Christ.

The Lord Is My Shepherd (Unbelievers Perspective)

A Psalm of David.

23 The Lord is not my dshepherd; I am in great need.
I have no where to lie down
And I'm without peace.1
My soul is hopeless. 
As I am without righteousness and know not where it exists. 
Everything that I do is for gain of my own name sake.
As I kwalk through the valley of lthe shadow of death,
3I am terrified of evil,
because I am alone; and without comfort.
My  enemies torment me
and I have nowhere to rest;
you ranoint my head with oil;
I am empty with nothing left to offer.
All the days of my life are full of evil
and I take mercy on no one,
and I am uncertain of my eternal dwelling,
which is most likely going to be in hell.

Most likely the unbelievers that you are around do not realize that this would be their cry or plea because the enemy has blinded them to the truth.Therefore, if this is the perspective of one not in Christ, what should our response be to them?

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Bible App for Kids

The much anticipated Bible app for kids released yesterday and I immediately downloaded it for my two sons. My oldest is going on three and would use the iPad all day long if I would let him so I believe that this app will be a helpful tool in learning the Bible at his age. It's Black Friday so many of you have already spent a lot of money today, but this is one gift that you can download for free.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Being As the People in Order to Win Them

To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.
-1 Corinthians 9:20

In first Corinthians we see that the Apostle Paul surrendered his rights in order to reach the people he was targeting with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul took his calling so serious that he actually became as the people in order to win them to Jesus. To the Jews he became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law he became under the law in order to win them.

For the most part this is not what I experienced growing up in church or Christian school. I most often remember hearing that we are in the world, but not of the world, which led many to conclude we should physically look completely different and not associate in anyway with the world. Some Christian groups have taken this so far that they have created a legalistic bubble that is scary and cultish looking at times.

It is funny that as one in cross-cultural ministry I am almost expected to be as the people I am trying to reach, but often in the church in the West we ignore this principle. Somehow many churches have missed this example given to us by Paul.

The last two years for me this concept has come in many forms in order to be as the people in order to win the people. I will always stick out and never be a true insider, but the effort is noted by the people and makes the gospel more accessible to the people.

How about you in your context? Are you surrendering your own rights in order to reach your community? This is no easy task as Americans we like our individualism and freedom, but you have to ask yourself if Jesus and the gospel is worth it? If your answer is yes then become as the people in order to win the people.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Rules As Life Guidelines, Not Law that Leads to Sin

At the age of 28 I have come to realize that sometimes rules are just necessary. It did not take me 28 years to realize or full understand this, but I struggled with the rules mentality for so long because I have often experienced rules as a law when in many cases they are guidelines. My main issue with rules over the years has been generally when someone lays down a rule as if it is biblical or the only way. 

When rules are presented this way it does a couple of things. First, it often causes something to become sin that was never a sin. A great example of this is alcohol. Often times an institution will prohibit the consumption of alcohol, which often results in turning alcohol now into a temptation and sin when it is consumed. Alcohol is a gift from God, the first recorded miracle of Jesus, and when consumed appropriately and moderately can be a wonderful thing. 

Second, by presenting or making rules as law it makes them appear as the only way. This in turn often results in the judgement of others when they may not be following those same given rules. It is important to remember that you can and still should have fellowship with fellow brothers even though their rule following may look different as the body of Christ is unique. What some can do in good conscience, other cannot. So, in some instances an issue or certain behavior maybe a sin issue for some and not for others. We must not make the mistake of making something a sin for all believers that was not clearly given as one in Scripture. I have many friends (okay a few) who only read the KJV of the Bible, don't go to movies, and dress funny. We are still friends, but the more their rules become law the less we find we have in common or want to hangout, but I love them as brothers all the same. 

Are rules necessary? Absolutely, but I have come to see the freedom in rules as guidelines and not as law. Any organization and institution will have rules and I fully believe that you should follow those as your general guidelines because in most cases you agreed to those in working with them. And following rules as guidelines does not give one an excuse to sin, but rather respect them for what they are by submitting to the authority over them in their lives in a way that is Christ honoring (1 Peter 2:13-16).

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Is Missions Optional for Christians?

I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
-Romans 1:14-15

This week I finished reading a book on spiritual warfare and missions. In one section the book focused on common strategies used by Satan in order to keep unreached people groups from ever hearing the gospel. One of Satan's most common strategies and he's doing a good job at it is to convince Christians that missions is optional.

Most commonly this does not take much convincing because in place of international missions to unreached people groups there is the sole focus on a churches own community, programs, building campaign. None of those things are necessarily bad and in many cases they are good things that are assisting in reaching people within the churches own community. The problem therein is when missions to unreached people groups is all but ignored as if it is an optional.

Ed Stetzer rightfully pointed out that "Missions was not a voluntary act for Paul. It was compulsory." The above passage from Romans shows the attitude that the Apostle Paul took towards missions and it was not one of being optional. Paul was transparent and showed how deeply burdened he was for the people, which led him to feel obligated to do something to impact the lostness of the people surrounding him.

Our ministry focus should not be either local or global, but both local and global. One of the authors of the book, Jerry Rankin, said, "If a church does not have a plan to 'make disciples of all nations,' then they are shirking their responsibility for the mission of God."

So, where are you and your church? Have you been viewing missions as optional? Do you feel the compulsion that Paul felt that all people would hear the gospel?

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Season of Transition

The last few weeks many of you have been watching the leaves of autumn change color as they are in a season of transition. Although the leaves do not change colors where I live, the pictures that many of you have posted have reminded me of the upcoming transitions that my family is about to experience as we enter into a new season of life and ministry.  Two years ago our family was sent out to S. Asia to see churches planted and after two years of faithful ministry we sense that Jesus is calling us out of our current role and on to something new.

Throughout Scripture God calls different people to different areas of ministry and service at different points in their life. The call to go and make disciples is a life-long call on all people that are in Christ, but that does not necessarily mean that it will always be in the same place or necessarily in a cross-cultural setting. At this time in our life we sense that the best way to continue to invest in and serve S. Asia is to leave it because we believe we can do more for it from the United States.

This is one of the most difficult decisions that I/we have ever made, much more difficult than the decision to go in the first place. Amongst all of the trials, hardships, and success in this crazy life of ours, it has become in many ways our new "normal." As I sensed the Lord moving us back to the American context I was as shocked as anyone, but I have a peace that can only come from walking in obedience to Him. 

Although we are returning  in one month, we still plan on playing an active role as non-residential missionaries. As time allows I will likely travel back and forth to different areas of S. Asia on a semi-regular basis to continue the work. One thing I am very excited about is the opportunity to help mobilize individuals and churches in the US to partner with nationals on the field to see the Great Commission fulfilled through the planting of churches in areas where there are few to none.

The past two years have not been a trip, but they have been our life. After much prayer we were given a peace at the decision, but I must be transparent in that there is a sense of sadness that also enters into our lives. Once you call a place home and have a child there then it will always hold a special place in your heart. All of the details of what is to come are not figured out, but I am excited to see what God has in store for us as we wrap up life in S. Asia.  

We want to thank you all for your continued prayer, support, and encouragement during these past two years. It has been an adventure and it is not over yet. I am looking forward to connecting with as many of you as possible in 2014 and really wish we could bring you all a tiny piece of our lives back to you.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Cherry Blossoms

My friend Andy Squyres has written an album of songs, "Cherry Blossom," and now needs help to make the album a reality. To do so, Andy started a Kickstarter campaign a few days ago and I believe in both the man behind the album and the album itself and would like to see it become a reality. Check out the video below and go to the kickstarter page in order to help fund this project.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Essential Characteristics of an International Church Planter - SENDRDU

The last two years I have been serving overseas as an International Church Planter and I frequently receive an email with people asking me about what this looks like, what is required, and what are the qualifications. The following list is the essential characteristics of an International Church Planter that one is required to possess in order to be sent out by my local church, the Summit.

ESSENTIAL CHARACTERISTICS OF AN INTERNATIONAL CHURCH PLANTER
  1. Spiritual Vitality & Maturity
    1. Do they give evidence of a Gospel‐centered life?
    2. Do they possess a passionate love for Jesus and a vibrant devotional life?
    3. Do they exhibit a godly character?
    4. Are they growing in their understanding of the gospel and Christ‐likeness?
  2. Calling
    1. Can they communicate a compelling personal calling? Do others recognize their call?
    2. Are they ready to work hard to see this calling fulfilled?
    3. For couples – does their spouse share their call? Do their children support their call?
  3. Healthy Marriage and Family
    1. Do they exhibit a healthy marriage and family?
    2. Do they understand the balance of family and ministry?
    3. For Singles – Are they content in their singleness?
  4. Humble/Teachable
    1. Have they displayed a humility and willingness to listen and learn from others?
    2. Are they submissive and responsive to leadership?
    3. Can they receive constructive criticism and feedback?
  5. Relational
    1. Do they show genuine love and compassion for people?
    2. Do they establish and maintain healthy relationships?
    3. Are they friendly? Do they take the initiative to meet new people?
  6. Missional
    1. Can they naturally build relationships with the unchurched?
    2. Do they consistently and effectively share the Gospel with the unchurched?
    3. Have they shared the gospel with people from a different culture?
    4. Have they discipled others? Are they engaged in disciple‐making now?
  7. Committed to Biblical Community
    1. Are they active members of the church?
    2. Do they love the local church as God’s primary strategy for advancing the gospel?
    3. Are they committed to loving one another?
    4. Are they willing to be accountable to others?
  8. Flexible/Adaptable
    1. Are they adaptable to new people, places, cultures and concepts?
    2. Do they exhibit flexibility to changes and needs?
    3. Are they willing and committed to learning a different language and culture?
  9. Resilient
    1. Do they have an entrepreneurial, risk‐taking spirit?
    2. Have they demonstrated resilience and the ability to push through adversity? 

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Bridge Church Wilmington, NC

Wilmington, NC was home to me for five years and the first city that Andrea and I lived in as a married couple. Wilmington is the city where I first became an adult and went through some major life transitions. Although I left Wilmington almost five years ago, it still holds a special place in my heart as a city that I will always have memories from and long to visit when time allows.

During my years in Wilmington, one of the hardest aspects for me was to find a meaningful community of believers. Sure, there were church buildings all over the place, but many of those churches were dying as they merely represented the dead religion that haunted Wilmington. I do remember there being more church plants than one could count, I was part of one, and as many of them, it did not survive.

People mistakenly think that Wilmington is an easy place to plant and that the lone ranger can do it, they cannot. I witnessed this first hand, but I do believe that Wilmington is a place with a great need for more gospel-focused churches and pray that more people would be called to plant there. That is why I am excited to share with you about my old small group leader and friend, Ethan Welch, who is the lead planter of the Bridge Church, which will be launching in Wilmington in Fall 2014.

Hear from Ethan himself on the Bridge Church and see how you can be involved with seeing the city of Wilmington reached.


Ethan Welch - Bridge Church from The Summit Church on Vimeo.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Message of the Cross presented by Billy Graham

Billy Graham has been called the Protestant Pope by some and for good reason. Regardless of what Christian tribe you belong to, Graham has a way of brining us all together for the most important message of history and the reason that we all fall under the banner Christian. Watch this moving video and share it with others as we seek to make disciples of all nations.