Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Is Missions Voluntary or Compulsory Act?

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

Sometime back I read a book on spiritual warfare and missions and 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 and building campaigns. 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 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?

Friday, November 21, 2014

J.O. Fraser on the Importance of 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.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Now that you are back, What's Next?"

Over the last year many of you have asked, "Now that you are back in the U.S., what's next?" This has been a good question that I could always give some general answer to, but not a specific answer. It has been a difficult season of transition, uncertainty, open and closed doors, and now a new opportunity. During this season I have learned a lot about myself, my marriage, and the God of the universe. On really bad days I questioned my calling and on really good days I was ready to see missional communities and churches started on every block throughout the U.S.

Much of what I have experienced has been described as "normal" for someone that was sent out overseas, but it has honestly been hard to fit back into the American Church because I sense that many sitting in the pews or stadium seats are Christ-followers, but not the Kingdom minded type of people that I was amongst for so long. Many seem content with their safe social clubs that genuinely love Jesus and each other, but struggle to reach out to those that look different than them within their own context. This is one reason I believe that God called us away from India and back to the American context, in order to help see the bride of Christ, the Church, embrace her calling as missionaries sent on mission into the world to every rural town, suburban cul-de-sac, and major city.

A lot of my time this year has been spent networking with leaders from multiple denominations, house churches, traditional churches, mega and multisite churches, and churches made up of missional communities. Truthfully I have a love for every single one of them because I too, love the bride of Christ. Networking has allotted me many opportunities for pulpit supply preaching this year, which has been an incredible way to connect further with the Universal Church, work on a the art and craft of preparing and delivering a sermon, and assisted in providing for my family.

Networking has also led me to join The Table Network as a regional director, primarily focused on the mid-south region. At the Table Network we desire to see people find freedom, rest, and wonder in the life-changing reality of the gospel. We are a growing network that desires to see new churches started within the fabric of every culture. At the moment this is one of many hats that I will be wearing moving forward. If you would like to learn more about the Table Network, our initiatives, or how you can become part of us then check out the website and feel free to contact me directly.

Friday, November 14, 2014

11 Church Planting "Do Overs" from Bob Roberts Jr.

Bob Roberts Jr. is the founding senior pastor of Northwood Church in Keller Texas and the author of the book The Multiplying Church , which I highly recommend. The other day I caught a series of Tweet's in regards to church planting and if he were to do it all over again. These are eleven nuggets of wisdom that young aspiring church planters like myself should take note of and learn from.

If I were planting all over again . . . .

1. I would study & pray over the Sermon on the Mount & the Kingdom of God until I was broken & obsessed over it.
2. I would ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit & not get up off my knees until I was overcome & anointed.
3. I would ask God for a team & it would be multiethnic - only 2 others.
4. I would fast & pray over the city a week. 
5. I would find the oldest Godliest believer in the city and ask what God has been saying to them.
6. I would head towards the area of the city that had 3 socio-comic groupings.
7. Our team would start a small group & practice Body Life - focus on our individual neighbors & do a community project.
8. Teach Kingdom - Hear & Obey disciples - City as grid - & 3 expressions of church.
9. We'd pray and fast over a hard place in the world to work.
10. We'd announce our community & global focus along w/introducing our intern who will be planting a new church our first Sunday.
11. I would not focus on church planters, but sons & daughters.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Missional Moms via Soma Communities

I absolutely love the content and resources that are coming out of Soma Communities. They are a family of churches that are very similar in nature to what my own heart longs and desires to see in the church. Recently they released a new series, ordinary people, and my wife and I sat down and started to watch all of the initial ones released. This one was particular encouraging for Andrea as she is also a busy mom that desires to live with mission intentionality. For all of the moms out there that are busy with children, you are my hero, and know that God still wants to use you in this stage of life to see his mission go forward.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Are You Practicing Faith in Community?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 3, 2014

Pursuing God from the Urge Within

My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.
Psalm 63:8 

Chasing hard after God should be our highest goal and first priority in life. I was greatly challenged with this a few years ago in my preparation to move to another country as a church planter. It struck me how often my highest goal had been to please fellow man in many ways such as coming off as a good communicator, a respected leader, or even at times a good blogger. But the truth is that if I am not chasing hard after God to please him as an audience of one then I have ultimately failed.

Before I go any further I do want to point out that the only way in which one can chase hard after God would be dependent first on a work of enlightenment from God of himself to that individual. In the words of A.W. Tozer, We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit. 

Tozer further says, The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after Him; and all the time we are pursuing Him we are already in His hand: "Thy right hand upholdeth me."

So if God has originated a work in you then your natural response of that work is an impulse of following hard after Him. To do anything less would be to fall short of all that God has for you and your life. Remember that you are created to please an audience of one, God himself, therefore chase hard after that audience.