Friday, May 31, 2013

Embrace Diversity for Kingdom Purposes

Joe Thorn, the founding and lead pastor of Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, IL wrote a blog recently on perceptions, specifically focusing in on denominational baggage. Thorn, like myself, is currently a Southern Baptist in denominational affiliation. In his context being part of the Southern Baptist denomination comes with a lot of baggage, I would say that almost everywhere one goes in a Western context the Southern Baptist label comes with a lot of baggage. That is one reason that I rarely mention my denomination affiliation unless it puts me in a more positive light. It is not that I am ashamed or want to hide it, but I see it as a non-essential in taking the gospel forward in the title itself.

Thorn points out that the reason there is so much baggage associated with the Southern Baptist denomination is based on peoples perceptions. To be fair, many of those perceptions are probably valid, but not always. Trevin Wax also wrote an interesting piece recently on 9Things You Should Know About Southern Baptists that is worth the read and will probably come with some surprises. 

The one thing that both Thorn and Wax point out that I love about the Southern Baptist is the diversity. The perceptions in peoples minds of a Southern Baptist typically fit into this neat and tidy little box, but the truth is they are a very diverse group of people. On Thorn's blog he said it this way, "Southern Baptist churches are actually very diverse outside of their core beliefs about God, the gospel, and the church." 

This is perhaps one of the strongest areas for Southern Baptists, they are a large group of people who embrace diversity for kingdom purposes. Sure, there are always going to be perceptions when something is given a title, and I am not committed to the Southern Baptist as a denomination, but Jesus Christ and his mission. 

In the words of the great Bob Dylan, "For the times are they are a-changin," and I think that could be said of the Southern Baptists and their perception. Likely the most diverse denomination in the world, coming in all shapes and sizes, that is continuing to fulfill the Great Commission by coming together for Kingdom purposes. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Seeking the Lost As Jesus Did

This week I started reading the book What Jesus Started: Joining the Movement, Changing the World by Steve Addison. In chapter one he goes into why Jesus came and in concluding the chapter he says, "Jesus came to seek and save what was lost." Addison then goes on to give us six ways that Jesus did this that would be helpful for us to remember as we seek out the lost in our lives:

1. Jesus saw the end. 
He was moved with compassions. He prepared his disciples to take the gospel to the whole earth.

2. Jesus connected with people.
Jesus crossed whatever boundaries stood in the way and connected with people. 

3. Jesus shared the gospel.
Jesus proclaimed the good news of salvation in words and deeds.

4. Jesus trained disciples.
He modeled and taught them a new way of life.

5. Jesus gathered communities.
Jesus formed his disciples into communities characterized by faith in him, love for one another, and witness in word and deed.

6. Jesus multiplied workers.
Jesus equipped his followers to make disciples of all nations.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Introducing Liam Gideon Boyd

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
-James 1:17

My family is happy to announce that on May 27th our family grew from three to four as we welcomed Liam Gideon into the world at a whopping 10.36 pounds! People always want to know where the choice of a name came from and the meaning behind the name so here is the brief reason and meaning behind his name.

Liam is an Irish name in origin than means, "helmet of protection." We chose this name for few reasons. First, because it was a name that we liked the way that it sounded and one that is more neutral for Spanish speakers. Second, because we desire our son to have a name with a strong meaning. Third, just as Liam means a helmet of protection we have put our faith in God as he is our ultimate protector over our family.

Gideon is a Hebrew name in origin that means "Mighty Warrior." Our sons middle name comes from Gideon in the Bible, who God chose to free the people of Israel and condemn their idol worship. We long for the day to see Liam Gideon as a mighty warrior for the Lord, fulfilling the will that God has on his life.

Together the name Liam Gideon makes up a name meaning a "mighty warrior" and "strong protector." We want to raise our son in such a way that he becomes a mighty warrior for God and a strong protector for His Word and to see it go forth. As parents this is our prayer and hope.

We our excited as our family has grown from three to four and ask that you pray for us as we go through many transitions in the coming days. We know that we have been given a great responsibility in raising Liam Gideon and seek to raise him in a godly way.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Using Words People Can Understand

Sitting in the doctors office recently as my wife and I listened on what to expect going into her last week of pregnancy, I realized that although I am familiar with the birthing process because this isn't our first child, but that the doctor still used many words that I really am not sure their meaning. It reminded me of my own conversation when sharing the gospel on Monday of this week with the taxi driver from my last couple of post. Although I have lived overseas for some time now and I know to use simple English because my own Hindi skills are limited, I still catch myself wanting to use the big words.

As I was sharing God's story, I caught myself continually going towards a big word that this Indian man would have no clue the meaning or perhaps even many people reading this would have no clue. That caused me to throw a red flag on myself as there needs to be clarity in what we are communicating. My tendency is to blame this problem on seminary in my own life because after all I spent over three years studying the deep theological truths and using these big terms so I could come across as smart in my classes and even sound it outside of the classroom.

But, the average person is not impressed with big theological terms and most people do not understand them. I must also confess that at times other seminarians use words that I am not even sure their meaning so I have to secretly google the term on my phone during our conversation so that I can continue to carry my own with the theological big boys.

Most people would prefer that you use everyday vocabulary when communicating with them. By using the big theological terms only makes you look like you are out to prove something and make people feel dumb, which is not what we are called to do in making disciples. To my theological buddies, do I believe there is a time and place to use theological terminology? Absolutely, but not as often as you probably think. And if you just cannot get away from using some of those terms as I myself get stuck sometimes, then use them, but along with a clear definition of what the word really means. Don't leave people puzzled after you have a conversation with them, but ensure that clear communication took place so that life change can take place as a result of the truths these large terms often represent.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Answering the "What" and the "Why"

On Monday afternoon I met with the taxi driver that I mentioned in my most recent post. We walked, sat, drank chai, and talked about the Bible and the things of God for over two hours. It was a great afternoon and to God be the glory this taxi driver, Raju, is now following Jesus as Lord of his life. As great as the afternoon went and even better that he is now a brother in Christ, there was one thing that continually stuck out to me. During the last three years at many different times people had given Raju some of the "what" of the Bible and the Gospel, but nobody had even given him the "why."

Approximately three years ago someone had given him a New Testament and I am thankful for whoever did this, which gave him a good starting place, but he was left with no explanation. Over the next three years he met a few other followers of Christ and one person even gave him an evangecube, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but according to his own story he was continually given some of the "what," in this case he knew that Jesus died, but he was never given any of the "why."

This man has even attended a church a few times, but he was still only given more "what" and never any "why." So in the midst of our conversation I picked up on this very early and did my best to give him both the "what" and the "why." I am thankful for all of those people that he met during the last three years because I believe that God placed them in his life as a means to begin to draw Raju to Himself, but it also showed me the importance of answering both the "what" and the "why" when sharing the gospel.

In the midst of our time together I could see things started to click for him as the "what" and the "why" were both given to him. At the end of our time together he was so happy as he finally had some understanding of "why" Jesus died. In his own words, "God placed you in my life to answer all of these questions I have been looking for answers to...I now have a peace as I have found God." Although there is much discipleship that needs to take place from here, this man now has some of the "why," and understand the phrase, "Jesus in my place."

So as you live on mission in your city and share the gospel with people, make sure that you are given them the "what," but also the "why." For Raju I came to him as the answer to the question/s that he has been asking the last three years; but I believe that they could have been answered for him much sooner if someone would have just stopped to see if he had an understanding as to answer the question/s that he was actually asking.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Divine Appointments

Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails. 
-Proverbs 19:21

My family has been staying in the city where we will deliver our second son so we are without a car and relying on public transportation to get around. The most common, convenient, and cheapest mode of transport for us is what they call an auto-rickshaw. Sure, it is not the most comfortable ride to get around when the temperatures are soaring in the 100's daily, but it is what we use the most. There are actual taxi companies that we could call, but they are more expensive and you have to wait longer so are rule of thumb is not to take them.

On friday, however, I was with my son waiting for an auto-rickshaw when I see an actual taxi coming my way. He pulls over and instead of my natural instinct telling me just tell him no, I felt compelled to use this taxi to get to the mall.

The driver starts driving the direction we need to go and I simply ask him about his faith/religion to which he replies, "I am a Hindu sir, but I have been reading the Bible recently that an American man gave me sometime back." He then continues, "I feel a peace like I have never felt before when reading the Bible, but I want someone to tell me why did the Jesus hang on the cross."

You can imagine my surprised look to his response to my question. So in our fifteen minute drive to the mall we discuss faith, the Bible, why Jesus died on the cross, etc. Once arriving at the mall he opens his glove box and shows me the Bible that he has been reading. We talk a little longer, exchange numbers, and then he leaves to get home as I was his last customer of the day. He actually told me that he was on his way home because his work day was finished when he saw me and decided to pull over.

Now, I don't know about you, but this is what I would call a divine appointment from beginning to end. I broke my own rule of taking a more expensive taxi and felt compelled to do so. It is not uncommon for me to ask someone about their faith, but I have never gotten the type of response that I did, which is obviously someone open to the gospel. The driver himself was on his way home to end his day and he too decided to stop and pick me up.

We both had our plans, but it was obvious that God had different plans. This week I plan to meet with the driver to dig into the gospel deeper and ask that you pray as we meet that he would understand the gospel and Jesus death and resurrection clearly. How about you, Are you looking for the divine appointments in your life? What is a divine appointment that you have experienced recently in your life? Share below.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole

I have long been under the impression that there is a lack of men in the church as much of manhood has been taken out of the church and replaced. Just take a look around at your church this weekend and I can almost guarantee that there will be a higher percentage of women than men. A church full of women is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is if you want to reach men and allow them to be restored to what God has called them to in Himself through the Gospel.

This issue is exactly what Pastor Eric Mason addresses in his book Manhood Restored: How The Gospel Makes Men Whole. Mason is clear from the introduction where he is headed with this book. He is spot on with this statement: "Men can have covenants, documents, strategies, and pragmatic principles, but without the gospel there is no authentic empowerment to execute what is laid out in them."

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.

Mason describes it like this, "Man was meant to function like a mirror - something to reflect the image of God into creation." He continues by saying, "When God restored men through Jesus Christ, the first thing highlighted isn't ruling or responsibility, but relationship."

Mason concludes that the biggest and scariest challenge that emanated from the Fall is that of fatherhood. In the book he refers to fatherlessness as an epidemic today, especially to the maturation of men. It does not take one long to look around and see the results of this epidemic in society with the genocide of the family and gender roles continually being pushed further back, which is causing the role of the father to disappear. Mason says, "God's design has always been that men would be fathered. That earthly fathers would be a representation of the heavenly One."

In his chapter "The Restorer of Manhood," we see how everything about being a man is restored in Jesus. Mason shows how "Jesus is the prototype man for men. All of us men are only as manly as it relates to the standard set by Jesus." Mason points out what I referred to in the beginning of this review, that men in the church are perhaps unclear about who they are supposed to be because many of our churches have failed in giving the genuine picture of the ultimate man Jesus Christ. He continues, "Jesus is the paradigm for the new man. Through his courage to face sin, his restoration order, and his status as the son of man, he not only serves as our example; He is the means by which any of us can really understand and be what God intended a man to be."

One thing that I absolutely love about this book that you do not always get in books on being a man is that it is packed full of Gospel and Jesus. You cannot read more than a page without being pointed to Jesus or the Gospel. Perhaps that is why Mason says, "Without the gospel no real change will ever happen in a man, for only the gospel can cut and shape so deeply." That is the reason that this is not a book with a 12 step program for men to become better men, but a book that shows how as men we fall short and only through Jesus in the gospel can we ever be restored to what God designed.

A large void in the church today is a lack of manly men to lead the church. I know that some may critique this by pointing to many influential women in the church and this is not to discredit those women as we see many powerful examples of women in the Bible too. But what Mason points out cannot be ignored that "the earliest church leaders were dudes, Paul implemented manly men as the earliest church leaders." Today we often see the opposite as we have many women leading the church or effeminate worship leaders, which both cause men to flee the church as they see no place for them. Mason helps show that the church is exactly the place for men, but they must be shown a God-sized vision of what it means to follow Christ that will inspire and challenge men as they get to be a part of something that truly matters.

Mason is not shy in calling out the church for their lack of focus on men as he sees a focus on manhood as essential to discipleship and the restoration of the church. He points out, "It's hard for a man to be real in church because he must squeeze himself into this feminine religious mold." In his conclusion, Mason puts much of this responsibility on pastors, calling them to take seriously and lead the charge in discipling men whether done formally or informally.

This book is one of the best to come out on manhood in modern times that I have read. It will be a challenging book for many in the church to read because it shows a picture of what a man can be, which is vastly different than the one that we often see. For pastors and leaders in the church, this book is going to call you to wake up and start focusing on men in your church. It is time for the church to get past church systems that are only comfortable and attractable to reach women, and to put much more focus on reaching men. Mason provides a good starting place by suggesting initiatives like church planting, pioneering missions, and missional engagement of men in the city.

Mason has shown us how the Gospel makes the man whole, resulting in manhood restored. After reading this book, I highly recommend it to any man whether in the church or out of the church. This book defines what it is to be a man in the most manly sense of the word and I believe that it will help catalyze a movement of restored men in the church.

Read the first chapter for free by going here and purchase the entire book here.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Why India?

The below video is from an average group of Christ followers that became aware of a need, they were burdened by that need, which caused them to be committed to the mission in India. The video helps answer the question, "Why India?" which is a country that remains heavy on my own heart. In the video you will see the simple process that is used in my everyday life to see multiplying churches started as myself and others function as Catalyst for a movement of God in a country that contains more unreached people groups than any other single nation.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Christian Suffering

My last post talked about Rejoicing in Godly Suffering when it comes. Today I wanted to post the four main points with sub-points that the pastor who preached that sermon pointed out from 1 Peter 4:12-19.

"Rejoice in Godly Christian suffering for you will be saved and you will receive the crown of glory."

1. The Reality of Suffering

  • Don't be surprised by it
  • It's not strange
  • It's real
  • It's inevitable 
2. The Purpose of Suffering

  • To test us
  • To judge us (Not unto condemnation but salvation)
3. The Nature And The Cause of Suffering

  • Suffering as a criminal
  • Suffering as a Christian
4. The Required Attitude in Suffering

  • Rejoice in the midst of suffering
  • Praise God in the midst of suffering
  • Commit yourselves to God
  • Continue to do good

Friday, May 10, 2013

Rejoice in Godly Suffering

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
-1 Peter 4:12-13

Somewhere along the way we in the West bought into this idea that to be a Christian meant to live your best life now without any harm or suffering. I will not point out specific teachers of this lie, but there are many out there and many of their churches are flourishing due to the falseness in their message. But recently I heard an Indian pastor preach from 1 Peter 4:12-19 on suffering as a Christian and I intently listened to this man because he lives in one of the top persecuted countries in the world and because he started his sermon with a personal testimony.

This pastor told of how when he started following Jesus initially there was no persecution. His life was radically transformed, but to his family and friends Jesus was just one god amongst many gods and took  no real issue with him following Jesus. This is a very common attitude in India and is generally like that  whether in the city or the village. But within a year this man's family had noticed that he was exclusively following Jesus and living a radically different life than his Hindu upbringing. During this time he started to be verbally and physically abused. This forced him to develop a theology of suffering and turn to this passage in 1 Peter to take comfort.

As I watch the world in the West from afar I see many things that alarm me about my home country, and although different than what most of us in Christ are used to, I cannot help but wonder if we are prepared to rejoice in godly suffering. I think we are far off from physical beatings in the West but I would say that many are already receiving verbal abuse for their faith. Just this week I have been reading different articles referring to how the US is becoming tolerable of everything except for those in Christ and the things of the Bible. Yes, this saddens me, but in hearing this passage exhorted this week I could not help but think that we should not be surprised by the changing tide against the God of the Bible and his followers.

This Indian pastor spoke so clearly and honestly to his congregation. He said, "If you are in this room and a follower of Christ or considering following Christ, you need to know that you are not choosing an easy life, but one that will most likely be marked by fiery trials and suffering as you take up your cross and follow Jesus."

Do we seek this change? No. Do we desire fiery trials and suffering? No. But we need to recognize that for followers of Christ around the world this is normative and when it does happen we need to be ready to rejoice in godly suffering.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A First Time Guest Worst Nightmare

This past Sunday my family visited a nearby church that had been recommended to us from some people that work with our organization. We were excited to worship in our mother tongue since that isn't always the case where we live and we also were excited that they have a nursery/Sunday school that we could send our two year old to so we both could enjoy worship.

After we worshipped corporately through song it was time to take the children to their class. I made my way with the other parents as a first time guest and found the appropriate room for my son. Walking in the room I noticed that nothing had been set up, it was just two big boxes that contained foam mats and some toys. This wasn't a big deal, but it did seem strange for the children to arrive at the same time the adults did to set up the room for a church that holds two services. It was also strange that I had to introduce myself first before my son and I were even acknowledged.

Next I looked at the lady who appeared to be in charge with a diaper and wipes in my hand and said, "Hopefully you will not need this, but just in case here is a diaper and wipes." To my surprise her response, "We don't really change them, we just let them stay however they are until the end of service, unless it really offends (smells bad) us." I smiled and said, "Okay, well here is my number, you can text me if he needs to be changed and I will come and do it."

We really enjoyed the service, most likely because I did not fill my wife in on the nursery situation. As the service ended I went to pick up my son along with all the other parents. I opened the door to the nursery to see the room filled with many children of all ages. This was no big deal, but made it more difficult as I was looking around the room for my son. Then it happened, every first time guest worst nightmare. The lady in charge looked at me nervously and said, "Oh no, we must have gotten distracted when the older children came in here, it looks like your son and another boy his age escaped the room, which was five minutes ago."

Now, anyone who is a parent of a two year old, especially an active one like my son, knows how much ground they can cover in five minutes. Oh yeah, the nursery room was right off a staircase in a five story building that is full of many dangerous objects. So yes, they lost my son on our first visit, but thankfully he had been recovered the next floor down by some kind lady who was walking him back up to the room.

Is this a first time guest worst nightmare? Most likely. Especially for those who are not within the body of Christ and are skeptical about leaving their children with some random stranger. So my point is that if your church is going to offer/provide services such as Sunday school then you need to make sure that the workers are equipped to do a superb job where the guest can rest assured, not return to their child being lost in the midst of a five story building. And believe it or not, a nursery experience can make it or break it for a family when visiting a church.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Going Above and Beyond Expectations

The last ten years have been full of traveling for me. The first year of marriage my Argentine wife who had never been to the US before our marriage (No, she is not a mail-order bride) got to travel and see twelve different states. I have family that have never left the state of VA, oh what a sad and small life they live. Traveling a lot also means that you fly a lot, especially once you start being an international traveler, which I think I would qualify as one now considering I was in five countries last year and live in a S. Asian country now.

Because I am the type of guy that likes to save money I usually go with the cheapest airline ticket that I can find, which means I have taken many different airlines. Some experiences have been good, some have been bad, but none of them have ever been quite like what I experienced when I flew Emirates Airlines. My wife and I had heard rumors that Emirates was an amazing airline with some of the best food but we had never had the opportunity to experience them first hand until our vacation last year.

Emirates went above and beyond any expectations that we had and made us feel like they were actually there to serve us. We have never flown first class, but this felt like first class compared to any other flying experience we had in the past. We found our seats, got settled in and they were offering us juice and water. If you know me, then you know that I immediately asked, "Is this free or included in the price of my ticket?" They then gave our son, who was on an infant ticket, a backpack to keep that was full of games, a blanket, and a stuffed animal. We were all set for a fifteen hour flight, which had three meals and snacks. Each meal a menu was given out with three different dishes to choose from, we felt like we were at a restaurant every time there was a meal served.

I could go on and on about all of the helpful and convenient things that Emirates did that other airlines do not, but I will spare you the details and just encourage you to fly with them if you have the opportunity. The reason that I mention Emirates to you is because our churches should be the same way but often are not.

We should go above and beyond the expectations of our visitors. As the body of Christ we should wow those outside the church in how we function as a body. As first impressions Guru Danny Franks says, "We should answer the question they're not asking."

What are some areas where you have seen a church go above and beyond what you expected as a visitor or an outsider? Share below.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Recommended Church Planting Residency

I have been around church planters and church plants on and off for the last eight years now. Currently I have the privilege of equipping and training church planters to be sent out in S. Asia. But the one thing that I noticed early on about the struggles of church planters in N. America was that they were often times sent out with little to no training and almost always alone. This seemed to be one of the biggest hindrance to every personal church planter that I knew and many of them did not survive whereas they would have had a better chance had they just had some better equipping and a team to plant with them.

That is why I am thankful for networks like The Summit Network that is building and planting gospel-centered churches. Their vision is to plant 1000 churches in our generation and although their residency is tailored more for guys planting in the US, it is out of the same group that I was equipped to be sent out to equip others to plant in S. Asia. I have also had the privilege of watching some of their most recent plants be sent out and even personally know a couple of the guys.

Here is what they have to say on their website about a Church Planting Residency:

"Residency is a full-time, 9-month position at the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham for lead planters. Participants receive a realistic experience of life and ministry in a church planting church while preparing to plant a church in North America. Residents receive assessment, training, and ongoing coaching through the Summit Network while recruiting a team, fundraising, and developing the strategy for the future plant. Upon successful completion of the program, participants will be sent out to plant."
On their website you can find more information on the benefits of a residency and a series of recent blog post that are useful for those considering planting. For more information check out their site and email their team with any further questions.
This is a network that I believe in fully as I am on board with their vision and hope that if you are considering planting you will check them out. I know they currently have a couple of spots open for their upcoming residency, but the deadline to apply is May 15th so don't wait too long to apply.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Are You a Sunday Christian Only?

Most of us within the church are familiar with the idea of a person living one way Monday through Saturday and then pretending to be something else on Sunday. In fact, I am sure that your church and the church universal is full of people that fit that description whether you know it or not. Many people are good at pretending to be Christian and in many traditional churches these people are hard to detect as you show up on Sunday but do not interact with these people again until the next Sunday. On a side note, I question whether that is really church at all.

Reading the Bible is exactly the same way and fits hand in hand with this idea. Do you read the Bible one way on Sunday and then differently Monday through Saturday? Do you go along with certain ideas, nod your head, and give an amen on Sunday, only to no longer follow those same truths on Monday? 

The church is full of people that fit this description and on one hand I think that is awesome because the church should be reaching people like this; but on the other hand I recognize that these people are not true disciples and if it is like the church that I grew up in than these people are probably on the role and counted in that large number of church members because we are all about the numbers often instead of life change.

So if you are a Sunday Christian then I ask you to STOP being one and just be genuine. I would rather see you be real with people, still attend church as a seeker/skeptic than to pretend to be something that you are not. In my skateboarding days we called these kids posers because they had the skateboarding style down, but were as far away from being skaters as my grandma. I am not telling you to stop attending church gatherings because you are more than welcome, but just telling you to be real because the church is a safe place for people to be real about who they are and then be surprised when they are changed by the Holy Spirit.