Friday, June 28, 2013

5 Questions For Training Believers to Make Disciples and Plant Churches

Many times either on here or in a conversation with someone I will share the methods that we use in S. Asia to see the gospel go forward to start reproducing churches. A common response is that I live in a different culture, but those methods will not work in the US. Sure, the way in which the methods are implemented may look different for each context, but the method itself can and does work worldwide. A practitioner of the methods both in Nepal and now rural NC is a man named Jeff Sundell.

Jeff has seen much fruit both in parts of S. Asia and now the US, but the key was that he realized he could not do it all on his own. In response to this realization, Jeff started to ask himself five questions:

  • How do I enter an unreached region and connect with people?
  • How do I share the gospel?
  • How do I make disciples who disciple others?
  • How do I form groups in the community that will reproduce?
  • How do I develop and multiply local leaders?
These same five questions are useful for all of us to ask in our context, whether that be in the village of India, rural NC, or New York City. In each context, answering these five questions is the key to getting into an area, sharing the gospel, making reproducing disciples, forming them into communities of faith, and developing multiplying leaders. 

The thing I really like about these five questions is that they can be asked and answered by anyone, these are not for some elite level of seminary trained Christians. In other words you don't necessarily need to change the routine of your normal life in order to implement these, instead start asking these questions and see what happens as you answer them, you may be surprised!  

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Real Change = Heart Change

I hate going to the dentist, not because of the time that it takes, but I hate going somewhere that I know I will leave in pain. The pain though is brought on myself. I have a confession to make, I am not a good  flosser so my gums are usually swollen and not in the best shape. Yes, I know all the reasons that I should floss at least once a day, but I can give you many more reasons why I do not. This results in me being in the dentist chair longer than most because of the plack build up on my teeth.

On my recent trip the dentist asked me, "Do you floss daily?" I smiled and said, "No, I am not going to lie to you, I rarely floss." To which he responded, "It is okay if you do not want to floss, only floss the teeth that you want to keep." Ouch, point taken. Now, usually I would leave the dentist with a new determination to floss daily, maybe even twice a day so that my gums are healthier and I no longer have plack build up on my teeth. But, I have done this my whole life so what should make the dentist or myself believe that this time will be any different? Nothing.

Our struggle with sin is similar, we usually struggle with one or two sins more than others. As a result we will fall into the sin, feel bad, ask forgiveness, and then promise to try harder next time. That sounds all good and well until the next time. For many this can become an endless cycle of entrapment into one sin. It is not that forgiveness doesn't work or that we probably were not genuinely apologetic, but often times there has been no real heart change.

The reason that I promise to do better with my flossing is because it is what I know I am supposed to do, even if I have no plans of changing my routine. Sin is the same way, we often feel guilty for the sins we have committed because we know that we are supposed to do, but if there is no real change (heart change) then nothing will change. The key to our struggle with sin is that we often turn to our own strength to overcome sin, when we need to turn to the person, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In our weakness, he is our strength. After all he was tempted in every way that we are but never gave in  to any temptation. Real Change = Heart Change.

In regards to your sin, you can't fix it or change on your own, but Christ can fix it and can change you.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Does Packaging Make a Difference?

According to my wife I am a borderline coffee snob, not in the sense that I act like I know everything about coffee or even use the right lingo, but I like a good quality cup of coffee. This means that I buy coffee whole bean, grind it fresh with a burr hand grinder, and make it either using a french press or a pour over. I know I just lost some of you in that sentence so just forget it if that is you, but I promise you will enjoy a fresh cup of coffee if you ever come by my house.

Recently when I went to purchase some coffee, fresh from the roaster, I was very surprised at the bag of fresh coffee that he handed me. It looked like a bag of pre-ground coffee that has been sitting in a hotel stock room for months. Initially I was excited about this sweet little coffee roaster that I had found, but then some of that excitement left based on the packaging that my coffee came in alone. I know this sounds silly to some, but we all do this with something. I came home, opened my coffee and brewed some and thankfully it was a good cup of coffee. At that point the packaging didn't matter as much as I had went through the process to make the coffee and it was delicious.

So, my question then is, does packaging make a difference? I would say absolutely it does as I almost considered not purchasing my coffee based on packaging alone. Maybe as someone who has a BA in Communication with a marketing focus I look at these type of things more than others, but I think to some degree we all pay attention.

The church and the message (the gospel) we are proclaiming is the same way. How are you packaging or contextualizing the gospel? How is your church packaging the gospel? Some churches proclaim loudly that "We are a Bible believing Church that preaches the old truth of the Scripture." That sounds good, except for when you come across arrogant and do nothing but make your audience conform to a bunch of man-made rules to fit your legalistic version of Christianity.

We here a lot about embracing being missional, and all about rejecting attractional, but somewhere along the way we have gotten this out of whack. We need a good healthy mix of both, missional and attractional. I hate to think that people reject the gospel because of how we present it and if that is the case then I have to question if you are preaching the message of the gospel with love at all.

Packaging makes a difference whether it is for a bag of coffee or how you and your church present the gospel. I am not asking that you water down or change the message, but contextualize the message in a way that clearly speaks the truth to the culture.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer Reading List

As you begin all the adventures that your summer holds take some time to read a few good books during your travels or while relaxing on the beach. The following is a list of books that I have either read recently or am in process of reading now. All highly recommended or they would not be on this list.

1. What Jesus Started: Joining the Movement, Changing the World by Steve Addison

Sometimes we get so caught up in the power of Jesus shouting from the cross, "It is finished!" that we forget that Jesus started something. What Jesus started was a movement that began small, with intimate conversations designed to build disciples into apostles who would go out in the world and seed it with God's kingdom vision. That movement grew rapidly and spread wide as people recognized the truth in it and gave their lives to the power of it. That movement is still happening today, and we are called to play our part in it.

2. Letters From A Skeptic: A Son Wrestles With His Father's Questions About Christianity by Greg Boyd

I just finished this book and although I do not agree with everything theological that Greg Boyd presents, this book is packed full of goodness. This is a good handbook for all believers to have when dialoguing with their unsaved family or friends as it addresses all of the big and hard questions that people will likely throw at you. 

3. True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia by Jerry Bridges

Fellowship among believers is more than just talking over coffee after church service. Biblical fellowship in New Testament times—or koinonia—had rich and varied meanings, including covenant relationship, partnership in the gospel, communion with God and others, and the sharing of earthly possessions.

4. The Camel: How Muslims Are Coming to Faith in Christ by Kevin Greeson 

Although I am very familiar with the concepts that this book has to offer, I have never taken the time to read through and study it. I encourage all of you in Christ to read this as every year more and more of our neighbors and co-workers are of the Islamic faith. I actually had the privilege to meet Greeson last month, who gave me the impression of a very genuine man who desires to see Muslims come to Christ. Really spend some time in this one and help prepare yourself to win your Muslim friends to Jesus!

5. Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together by Mark Driscoll

In Real Marriage, Pastor Mark Driscoll and his wife, Grace, share how they have struggled and how they have found healing through the power of the only reliable source: the Bible. They believe friendship is fundamental to marriage but not easy to maintain. So they offer practical advice on how to make your spouse your best friend – and keep it that way. And they know from experience that sex-related issues need to be addressed directly.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Praying For Workers For The Harvest

He told them: "The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest." 
-Luke 10:2

The North American Mission Board (NAMB) has called on all local partnering churches to pray Luke 10:2 every day at 10:02 and a special day of prayer on October 2 for the Lord to send out more laborers into his harvest. I've set an alarm on my phone to ask the Lord for this everyday at 10:02 as I believe that we need more workers in the abundant harvest both locally and internationally. Will you join me in this endeavor?

To learn more go here.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Sometimes Discipleship Happens In A Taxi

Go therefore and make disciples...
-Matthew 28:19a

A few weeks ago I shared how I led a taxi driver to Christ after meeting with him and discussing the gospel and life for a few hours. Although I greatly rejoiced that my new friend followed Jesus after our time together, I also knew that my job was not finished. Let me explain briefly. At times we put too much focus on evangelism when we need to put more focus on discipleship. We are not called to make converts, but we are called to make disciples. Sure, you need a new believer in order to make a disciple, but really evangelism or pre-evangelism can be part of the disciple making process.

So, what does discipleship look like? That is the question that everyone wonders because we are continuously told to make disciples, but very few people tell us how to make disciples. I have been in church my whole life and this was one thing that I was unsure of for years in my own faith. I like to describe discipleship as simply showing someone how to do something. In life we are all making disciples or are disciples of someone. 

In my skateboarding days I was a disciple of the guys who had been skating longer than me. They took me under their wing and showed me the ropes of skateboarding. They taught me everything I needed to know about a good quality skateboard, the fundamentals of tricks, and the best spots to skate. It was a slow process starting, but eventually I got better.

Discipleship is really the same way. It is taking someone, often a new believer, and showing them what it means to be a follower of Jesus. In my role in S. Asia I typically start with getting them a solid and readable translation of the Bible. I will spend some time studying the Bible with them (typically focusing on assurance, baptism, and evangelism), teach them how to become a self-feeder of the Bible, and see them through the first step of obedience in baptism. 

What has that looked like with my taxi driver friend? Discipleship has been riding in a taxi. My friend does not have a lot of extra free time from driving a taxi or being with his family so I have started intentionally using his taxi to go places. During our hours together we discuss the Bible, next steps, etc. I have given him full permission to give me any question that he is struggling with, not promising to have the answer, but promising to help him find the answer. I would say that part of discipleship with my friend is most often not giving him the answer, but as much as possible pointing him to Scripture to help him find the answer.

So, sometimes discipleship happens in a taxi. Where has discipleship happened for you most recently?

Friday, June 14, 2013

6 Father's Day Gift Ideas

In case you forgot this Sunday is Father's Day and if you are like me you often do not know what to get for your father. My father always says that he needs nothing and wants nothing; but I still enjoy getting him something because I love my dad and enjoy giving him gifts and not just on Father's Day. The following is a list for you last minute types on ideas of what to buy your father.

1. Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole by Eric Mason.
Manhood Restored by exciting new pastoral voice Eric Mason combines theological depth with practical insights, putting men in step with a gospel-centered manhood that will enrich every facet of their lives. For a look at my review of this book go here.

2. ESV Study Bible
Every man should have a good study Bible and the ESV Study Bible is the best available. I received mine as a gift in 2009 and have loved studying with it. There is a Kindle version, but I suggest getting the leather edition that also comes with an online log in code for free.

3. A few of his favorite cigars or pipe tobacco.
I realize that not every father smokes cigars or a pipe and many of my readers may be surprised to see this on my list, but in the words of the great preacher Charles Spurgeon, "smoke to the glory of God." It has been discussed that he did not actually say it that way, but the connotation was still there. If this one does bother you in some way then skip it as there are a few other suggestions on my list. As far as where to buy, look up your local tobacconist and enquire as to what exactly to buy.

4. French Press, Pour Over, or AeroPress
Throw out your father's old coffee maker and get him one of the above mentioned. Bodum is a good company for a french press. There are a variety of pour over methods, here is a site to help educate you. Aerobie is a good company for an AeroPress. If you go with this idea also make sure to buy him some good quality whole bean coffee. 

5. An iPad
This gift option is obviously for the big spenders or if you have siblings you could all go in together to buy your father this. I have an iPad2 that I absolutely love, but if I were receiving one as a gift today then I would probably prefer the iPad mini. You cannot go wrong with either model and you know your dad so you should know what size he would prefer.

6. Take him to see Man of Steel and out to eat
This is what my family has chosen for me this year. I am going to see Man of Steel this weekend and then on Sunday morning go as a family to the breakfast buffet at the Hilton. Both are great gifts and fun for the entire family.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Are You Willing To Play the Background?

Every person has dreams and ambitions of what they want to do in life, including those in Christ and ministers of the gospel. Dreams and ambitions are good, often from God, and what helps us strive on towards the goal. But my question is are you willing to play the background?

Let me use my own life as an example for a minute. I am a 27 year old in full-time paid vocational ministry who most have never heard of and most never will. I am not the leader of some huge church or ministry that you hear about, read books (or blogs) that I write, or attend a conference to hear me. Not longer after I moved overseas I had one of the most humbling ministry experiences. I drove three hours to a training that I expected thirty plus people to show up to only to have a handful show up. At that moment I had to question my own reasons and motivations for being overseas. If I had to be honest at that moment a handful of people was not exciting, how was I supposed to make this number sound incredible in a newsletter?

This forced me to be honest, but also to embrace the background. Hip-hop artist Lecrae refers to this in his song "Background" that I encourage you to take a listen. In your own life, doing what God has called you to do, are you willing to play the background? Living the background is not living a lesser life or a lesser calling, but it is embracing the place that we are all called to be behind Christ.

Read the lyrics while you listen.

Monday, June 10, 2013

How Are You Contextualizing The Gospel?

To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.
-1 Corinthians 9:22

Contextualization is becoming all things to all people that we might see them come to know Christ. Cross-cultural missionaries have been doing this for years and it is expected of them, but many times people in their own context struggle with contextualization the most. For some fundamentalist groups they see it more as a compromise if you contextualize the gospel. I've written on here before about the school that I attended for years that would fall into this group where they want to look cultish within themselves as a backlash to not resemble the world in anyway. For others they see and understand that in order to reach those in their own culture they must practice the art of contextualization without over-contextualizing.

Chuck Colson said it this way, "We must enter into the stories of the surrounding culture, which takes real listening. We connect with the literature, music, theatre, art, and issues that express the existing culture's hopes, dreams, and fears. This builds a bridge by which we can show the Gospel can enter and transform these stories."

Sadly the church often does not do a good job of contextualization, but many others do a great job of it. Although, I am not a fan of McDonald's, my family has eaten there a couple of times recently in Delhi, which is a primarily vegetarian, non-beef eating culture. One of the first questions I get from someone in the US is, "Wait...what does McDonald's serve if there is no beef?" Exactly, McDonald's has done an excellent job of contextualization and packaging their product for an audience that otherwise would not eat it. There are no beef hamburgers on the menu (One wonders if there is beef in the patties in the US), many chicken items, and a full menu list of 100% vegetarian items.

McDonald's gets it, in order for it to work here they had to contextualize McDonald's. In my current context this means that I have had to contextualize my own life, eating habits, dress, etc. for a season in order to become all things to all people in order to win some to Christ. What is the goal in contextualization? Contextualization without compromise. So, in your own context take a look and see what areas could you do a better job of contextualizing the gospel for all people? Even in your daily routine this may look different for your neighbor, work, and in your hobbies. We must be flexible in our contextualization and constantly become all things to all people.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Are Yogis and Christians Professing Similar Philosophies?

Yesterday a friend of mine, who has been taking Yoga classes for the past six months, wrote a brief reflection of his experience on his FaceBook wall by saying, "Yogis and Christians are professing very similar philosophies...quit competing, quit comparing, God created you and God loves you."  My initial response to this friend was this: One has to ask what God each is referring to? Yoga, typically associated with Hinduism, has 330 million gods and their gods don't leave me with this impression. Christianity has one God who by definition is love, sent himself in the form of Jesus (God-man) to save us and show us his love through death in our place. So while the two may sound similar as there are many correlations between Christianity and other belief systems, the two are not one in the same. In addition, if one removes Jesus, where does that leave the God of love in Christianity?

My friend may have been innocent in his posting of this, but I know this guy personally, he is a professing Christian, and it was posted publicly. This post is not meant to be a rant against him, but rather to take a brief look into Yoga and whether or not it is a good idea for a Christian to participate in such a practice. While the philosophies may sound similar, there is a big distinction in the two. There is only one God of the Bible, creator of the universe and he is not the god associated with Yoga and its practices. In addition to that, Yogis do not have Jesus, which is a key essential to the God of the Bible. If you take Christ out of the equation it can sound as similar as you want, but without Christ you are left with nothing. 

I have to agree with Pastor Mark Driscoll who says, "There is nothing wrong with stretching, exercising, or regulating one's stress through breathing. But when the tenets of yoga are included, it's by definition a worship act to spirit beings other than the God of the Bible. By way of analogy, there is nothing inherently wrong with intimacy, sex, and pleasure. But when the tenets of adultery are included, it's a sinfully idolatrous worship act. A faithful Christian can no more say they are practicing yoga for Jesus than they can say they are committing adultery for Jesus." To see Driscoll's full and lengthy post on Yoga go here.

One must ask the question, can you really practice Yoga and separate the spiritual elements from it? I with Driscoll, along with a prominent Hindu academic professor Aseem Shuka, do not think that you can completely separate the two. Go here to see his full article that appeared in the Washington Post. 

So, in conclusion, Yogis and Christians are not professing similar philosophies, but very different philosophies. I did not get into the history, type, or the idea of Christian yoga here, but I encourage you to read Driscoll's article to get a lengthy view into all of this. Keep stretching, exercising, and regulating your stress through breathing, but do so in a way that does not leave you vulnerable to the tenets of Yoga and non-Christian mysticism. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Why Did You Want to Be Involved With Frontier Church Planting?

It is not uncommon that I will get a question from someone asking me, "Why did I want or decide to be part of frontier church planting?" It isn't really one of those quick answered questions as it is not something I ever really thought of doing or becoming, but rather it was a journey of a calling that required obedience. And I think to some degree all Christ followers should be involved with frontier church planting, but that is a different post for a different day.

Why Did You Focus On International Church Planting?

First off a lot of guys I talk to these days around my age that want to be a church planter often leave me with the impression that their mentality for wanting to do so is because it has become "cool" or at least within the church culture. Or I run into guys who think by doing so that they will become the next Mark Driscoll or Steven Furtick and become a "rockstar" pastor, which I am hoping becomes less of a phenomenon.

For me when I think about church planting or wanting to be a church planter it was all about obedience to a calling, it had nothing to do with being known or having the biggest or most successful ministry. Church planting for me started with a calling many many years ago and I am just trying to be obedient to that calling. Currently that has me in an international role where I am more of an equipper of others to plant churches where there are none, but only God knows exactly where I will end up in the future.

I see it this way, as long as you are called and being obedient to that calling then in some way you will be successful. Some people see it as a failure if you are not the biggest church or you don't look like Mars Hill Church, but any dream or goal that God has given you should keep you striving towards it and never give up. Some people I have talked to see it as a failure if they have to be a bi-vocational planter, but to me there are times when being bi-vocational will be the only possible way, especially starting out. And that is one sided to begin with as many church planters around the world are bi-vocational. Sure, you will have failures in the process, but God is there in the good times and the bad and believe me, you will have bad!

The only guaranteed failure is to give up and be disobedient to your calling and ultimately to quit. In the midst of your mistakes, keep being obedient, learn from your mistakes, and find the beauty within the struggles as you lean more on Jesus to plant the church. Enjoy the journey, learn from your mistakes, and allow God to change you and make you stronger as you follow him in continued obedience.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Ebook Deal, Freebie, Articles and Blog Posts

This past week my second son was born, and my wife and I celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary. Although, I usually try to schedule my blog posts out at least a week in advance, this time they have caught up with me so I thought it would be a good day to post some links that you won't want to miss from this past week.

$4.99 Kindle version of Manhood Restored by Eric Mason 
This is a book by a pastor about how the Gospel makes men whole. Eric Mason has done a terrific job on showing how apart from the gospel a man is never living up to what it means to be a man. To read a review of the book and receive the first chapter for free before buying click here.

Free audiobook, More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity by Jeff Shinabarger
In More or Less, readers will learn how to draw a line of “enough” in their consumer choices, how to see generosity as a chance to experience freedom in a greedy world, and how to make small changes now that will help others forever. As Shinabarger reminds them, defining “enough” is more than a responsibility—it is an opportunity to give hope. For the free download go here.

Article worth your time: Why Facebook Cofounder and Google Are Giving Cash Directly To The Poorest, Karen A. Dolan. This article outlines a radical shift from what most people think of when helping the poorest in the world. Here’s a radical idea: Instead of providing services or training to the world’s poorest, how about giving them cash instead?

Christian School Criticized Over Dinosaur Test, USA TODAY.
Did dinosaurs live millions of years ago? The answer is "False" according to a 4th grade science test at a South Carolina school.

Denominational Baggage comes based on ones perceptions, Joe Thorn.
Blog Post by Pastor Joe Thorn, who is a Southern Baptists, discussing how we can attribute to changing peoples negative perceptions of a label based on how we represent it. This post was interesting to me as I have also dealt with the many negative baggage that comes with being raised and currently in ministry as a Southern Baptist. 

Birth of my second son, Liam Gideon Boyd.
The birth announcement and meaning behind the name Liam Gideon. I am a proud father so I could not resist adding this one to the list of links worth your time. 

Preview of Christian Death Metal Band, Extol, upcoming album.