Thursday, December 28

What Volunteers Want

The following comes from Jay Lorenzen's OnMovements.

In an article he did for Christianity Today, Ted Harro suggests the following five things that every volunteer wants. As we lead local movement building efforts, we’re all dependent upon volunteers.

Volunteers want:

1.You to call them to a clear, compelling purpose.
Happy volunteers are crystal clear on their ministry’s purpose. They can tell you not only why their group exists, but also why that cause is important. For an important cause, they will give selflessly, and thank you for it.

2. You to involve them as much as possible.
This principle is counter-intuitive, but miss it and you’ll drive volunteers nuts. On one hand, volunteers are busy and juggling multiple priorities. On the other hand, we desperately want to have input into the direction and execution of the ministry. Simply donating funds or executing staff-made plans fail to excite long-term motivation.

3. You to help them celebrate moments by creating traditions.
Harro writes: I recently decided to do a take-off on the foot-washing story at a recent volunteer appreciation retreat. We gave each leader a servant’s towel and, as a group, affirmed some way that they had imitated Jesus’ service. Dry eyes were at a premium as we soaked in the affirmation of God and our peers.

The next year, with the same result, we decided to make the towel-affirmation a tradition. It allows us to underline core values and say the positive words that often go unspoken. And it speaks to the desire of volunteers—consistent relational investment punctuated by meaningful moments.

4. You to not waste their time.
Remember, volunteers want to contribute. They see their unpaid work as a wonderful way to build meaning and purpose into life. And they evaluate every meeting, e-mail, and phone call to see if it adds meaning. If not, they will withdraw and allocate their time elsewhere.

Our volunteers develop a sensitive nose for the hopelessly under-resourced project. Nothing leads to the starving of projects more predictably than a failure to regularly prune the ministry

As a leader, Harro finds that he needs a “stop doing” list at least as much as a “to do” list. Otherwise, he argues, we’d simply confuse and frustrate our volunteers.

5. You to stop the ball-hogging.
Any ball player knows how little fun it is to play with a ball hog. What that player is silently communicating is that he doesn’t trust you to do something good with the ball. And eventually, you just want to sit down. How often do we really entrust our volunteers with doing the most important part of ministry?

Saturday, December 23

The best gift you could give us

This time of year many people contact us in sundry ways asking if there is anything we might need (or like) for Christmas. We feel a profound gratitude to the Lord for placing so many caring people into our lives. We are thrilled this year to have received a "Dr. Pepper" fund from a group of blogger friends who understand just how important DP is to keeping us on the field!!!

But if there is one gift you could give us it would be to make a commitment to pray for us during the coming new year 2007. I can't think of a more meaningful gift than to remember us regularly before the Father in prayer.

There are several things you might do to help you remember to pray...

1-Everytime you see or eat a banana pray for us (Ecuador is the world's leading exporter of bananas). Same goes for coffee or chocolate (other major exports).

2-Sign up on one of our two prayer lists by sending a blank email to either:

To learn a bit more about these lists click on the links in the top right hand side bar (just below my profile.)

3-Choose a landmark along the route you drive/walk to work and associate it with us. Everyday when you pass that spot pray for us.

4-Choose an item or symbol that reminds you to pray for us. I do this for one of our Ecuadorian national missionaries serving in India. "Brahma" beer is popular in Ecuador and everytime I see a bottle or advertisement, I am reminded of the Hindu god "Brahma" which triggers me to whisper a prayer for this Ecuadorian missionary. You can do the same for us with "Dr. Pepper!"

5-Pray for us everytime you stop by to read our blog. One idea might be to pray along the lines of what is being posted. Just turn the post into a prayer. Hopefully there will always be something to trigger a prayer response.

6-Not sure what to pray for?
We have three standing petitions that are good 24/7/365

-safety and protection for our family
-love for the people God has called us to serve
-workers for the harvest (Luke 10:2)

If you decide to give us the "gift of prayer" in 2007 or choose any of the above gifts, please let us know in the comments section!

Thank you.

May each of you have a FELIZ NAVIDAD

Thursday, December 21

Things Jesus Never Said To Do

I often read John Umland's Umblog. In one of his posts John shares a list of things Jesus Never Said To Do.

*Go into all the world and build big buildings.

*Go into all the world and entertain the Christians.

*Go divide up into factions and constantly argue with each other.

*Go find people you can pay to go into all the world so you don't have to tell anyone yourself.

*Go into all the world that's easy to get to and will let you in without too much hassle.

*Go and elevate certain men above all the others and listen to them more than you listen to Me.

*Go into all the world and see what you can learn from them about how to influence people.

*Go get an education so you'll be thoroughly prepared by the theories and programs of Man before you go do what Jesus commanded.

*Go into all the world and learn to be just like them.

*Go into all the world and ignore all the poor people, recruit all the rich people, and then spend 95% of all the revenue on yourself and your own comforts.

Monday, December 18


This 1-minute video produced by the IMB-SBC packs a powerful message. May this piece be used of God to encourage you to continue to pray for the 5.5 billion faces around the world who have yet to hear about Jesus. May He touch your heart this Christmas Season to give liberally towards the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering so that all may hear the story of Jesus.

Friday, December 15

10 questions out of Luke 10

10 questions out of Luke 10
--by Svend Løbner Madsen

I like "the Luke 10 concept" of evangelism through finding "house of peace" in a town and take it from there...From 12 years of church planting in Denmark through homes, I have experienced the danger of becoming introverted and people using all kinds of excuses to not do what they are supposed to do. Here are three of them:

1. I am not mature enough. God is working in me, but he is not finished yet.
- Well, that's true, but it isn't an excuse. I know some people who are not "dry behind their ears yet" and they are the best evangelists! Begin where you are, using the opportunities that come along the way!

2. I am not educated enough. Let's have one more round of Bible Study on evangelism.
- Well, I've even heard of some folks, who just got saved, only knowing John 3:16, and then went out gathering their neighbors and friends. Sure they needed more teaching, but it didn't hinder them from doing the job!

3. I haven't heard the Lord tell me yet. I'll do nothing until God's telling me!
- Well, here you have a major misunderstanding. God has already told you to "Go out into all the world, preaching the gospel to all men"! What are you waiting for? Only when you are obedient to the ordinary, you will experience the extraordinary!

In Luke 10...what was Jesus really telling his disciples to do? Here are 10 questions that will highlight the passage for us, beginning in the parallel passage in Mathew 9:35...

1. Are we living among the people?
"And Jesus went about all the cities and villages..." For so long the church has isolated itself from the ordinary life of ordinary people. Church members have become isolated, only socializing with Christian friends. If this continues, how will we ever communicate the gospel and how will people ever believe that we are serious and that the gospel actually works in our lives?

2. Are we seeing beyond peoples' facades?
"But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd." Do we see behind the stone faces of the men, the makeup of the women? Do we at all see them as precious individuals, not only a crowd or a statistic in our evangelism program?

3. Do we interpret the needs right?
"And then he said to his disciples: The harvest truly is plentiful..." For so long we have mourned about the sins of the world and the devastating effects on people. But Jesus had another angle: He saw the needs of the people as an opportunity for God! "The harvest truly is plentiful!"

4. Are we praying for the right thing?
"Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers..." Therefore pray! You can't do anything but pray, before you have prayed, writes S. D. Gordon. But are we praying? That is directing our needs and wishes towards the throne of God, or are we just sighing or telling God what we think He ought to do? And are we praying for laborers? There is only one bottleneck to revival and church growth, and that is leadership capacity. Someone who will lead somebody to Christ. Or someone who will lead all the some bodies who lead somebody to Christ.

5. Are we heeding the call?
Just after the above verse Jesus calls his disciples and gives them power over demons (Luke 10 and Matt. 10). They became the answer to their own prayers. Because by praying, you are adjusting your spiritual ears, so you can hear the call of God. Those who pray are most likely to be the ones who actually act on their prayers. So when you pray - listen!

6. Are we actually moving beyond our comfort zone?
"Go your way, behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves!" (Luke 10:3). The great commission starts with the word: Go! Go into all the world! Go make disciples of all nations! Go, go go! Why is that? Because if we don't go, we stand, and if we don't stand we sit, and if we don't sit, we lay down passive! This is the spiritual law of gravity. If we are not disciplined, we fall apart!

7. Are we keeping focus on the task?
"Carry neither money, bag, knapsack, nor sandals, and greet no one along the road..." There are so many things that will deviate us from the right track. Good intentions are not enough, not even a good start. If we are going to finish well, complete the task, we will have to keep our focus.

8. Do we actually convey the presence of God where ever we go?
"But whatever house you enter, first say: Peace to this house! And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it..." Your peace! Do you have peace? You know, people are not stupid. They look through you, and if you are not in peace with God, yourself, your wife, your children etc. your words will be the ones of a hypocrite!

9. Do we convey the power of God?
"And heal the sick there, and say to them: The kingdom of God has come near to you"! The kingdom is not words, but power. Just as it is not what you eat and drink, but the real values of righteousness, peace and joy. This should be our prayer: “Lord, let me be a channel of your power!” But it starts with peace. Having peace with God through Christ, allows him to work in you. So bringing forth that peace among the people, will also convey the power of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit prepares the way for the gifts of the Spirit.

10. Are we realistic about the results?
"But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you..." Which bible school prepares its students for opposition? I know none. We all think in success and growth. But not all people will receive. In the end times there will be both a great harvest of people receiving the gospel and a great persecution from people resisting the gospel, and many Christians will slide back into a worldly lifestyle. Let's get rid of the "success syndrome" that only counts the positive, and be realistic, and also credit the work that many are doing in hard areas, where there are not much to brag about!

If we are faithful here, obeying the words of Jesus in Luke 10, I am convinced that the time of harvest will come. And in an unprecedented scale! But not if the skip the hard part. And not at all if we isolate ourselves in our nice little churches. Let's answer the 10 questions before the face of the Lord. And act accordingly!

Tuesday, December 12

Church planting with charismatics

Do we work with and relate to Charismatics overseas? Yes. They are often passionate believers who are generally, more on fire for the winning of a lost world to Jesus Christ than, sad to say, most of our Baptist brethren.

I have been told 80% of evangelicals in Ecuador are either charismatics or pentecostals. To ignore and disassociate ourselves from them is not only unbiblical, it is ministry suicide, and quite clearly sin if you ask me.

Elsewhere I have posted about "unresponsiveness" being one of my biggest aggravations about being a missionary. It has been a source of frustration trying to motivate, convince, inspire, and partner with our Baptist brethren to go out into the world, evangelize/disciple and start new churches. Those who are eager and responsive are, for the most part, charismatics and pentecostals. Is it any wonder they make up 80% of the evangelical community?

I would personally feel a lot more comfortable training like-minded Baptists, but when there is little, to no response forthcoming, we do what the parable of the wedding banquet says,
"The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. "Then he sent some more servants and said, 'Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.' "But they paid no attention and went off--one to his field, another to his business...The king was enraged..."Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. --Matthew 22:2-10
When the invited guests make excuses for not coming, we literally "go to the streets" and invite anyone who is willing to come to the "training banquet" and be part of our church planting. Our constituency may not forgive us for doing this, but I feel the Lord does! :)

The IMB has made clear we are not to count such churches that are pentecostal in orientation or have women in leadership. But this is a very gray area...

What do you do when a charismatic/pentecostal brother or sister comes to one of our church planting trainings? Turn them away? No way! They are invited guests and treated with full courtesy and get everything the invited guests would have received. They grasp the concepts, use our Baptist materials, are mentored, guided by Baptist missionaries, and then go out and plant one or more "outreach groups" that soon become NT churches.

The end result is New Testament churches started by charistmatic/pentecostals. Are they Baptist churches? Pentecostal churches? I don't know what they are!

Why can't we just simply call them New Testament churches?

If they are NT churches, shouldn't we count them as legitimate? Just because the brother/sister who started them comes from a different church background than myself, does that invalidate their church planting? I personally do not think so. Yet, to protect the integrity of our reporting only Baptist work to our S. Baptist constituency, many of these new works end up only being counted in Heaven by the Lord of the Harvest.

Now to be honest, I myself believe these "baptistic" NT churches that have been planted by our charismatics/pentecostal brothers should be counted. We relate to them, and have trained those that lead them. A gray area for me personally is... when do they cease to be legitimate "baptistic" church plants, and clearly become pentecostal church plants? What line has to be crossed to cease to be "baptistic" and become "pentecostal"?

Most of our established, traditional Baptist churches in Guayaquil are to some degree influenced by charismatic teachings and practices. Some more than others. There are some that carry the name "Baptist" who are nearly as pentecostal in practice as any Pentecostal church around. Yet they call themselves Baptist. They are reported year after year on the annual IMB statistical reports. When does one cross the line and cease to be Baptist? Maybe I should know, but I don't. Who is it that defines these things?

I seriously believe that if the Baptist Faith and Message were made an issue here like it is in the States, very few would have a problem with the document (my opinion). Yet many of these same Baptists have been greatly influenced by the charistmatic/pentecostal movements around them. If you were to come down and visit some of our churches you would certainly wonder if they were indeed Baptist by their teachings and practices!

If anybody out there would care to share your thoughts on any of this with me, please feel free to do so. I have two open ears, and am willing to listen and learn. I admit they are not easy matters. While I do not believe we are even close yet to seeing a church planting movement in our midst, what David Garrison describes as a characteristic of CPM is something we see quite clearly already: church planting is a MESSY business! I couldn't agree more.

Saturday, December 9

My call into missions service

Twenty years ago today, December 9, 1986 my wife Linda and I were appointed as missionaries with the International Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention.

I was just looking at the appointment certificate signed by R. Keith Parks and recalling much of the drama that accompanied our appointment. Actually the "drama" was spread out over nearly ten years...

As a college student at the University of North Texas I struggled with God's call upon my life during much of the 70's. I was pretty open to doing whatever God wanted with me, but always shut the door on foreign missions.

Strangely enough, this was due to my great admiration for missionaries. Growing up as an MK on the mission field (here in Ecuador) my heroes had always been missionaries. I truly admired them and considered my own missionary parents some of the finest people I have ever known. I knew in my heart I was not that caliber of person! The idea of ME being a missionary was beyond my comprehension. I couldn't preach, teach, sing, counsel, administrate, evangelize, or do ANYTHING as well as my missionary aunts and uncles. I didn't even necesarrily LIKE doing many of those things anyway. I was more into the music scene and interested in the communication arts.

The years went by in college with me praying continuosly that God would "reveal His will for my life."

As a college student I was active in the University of North Texas BSU program. I was involved in many mission endeavours during my college years from 1974-1979. One of the frustrations I experienced was how few of my fellow BSUers or home church members seemed interested or responsive towards global missions. We would go to missions emphasis meetings geared for college students and hear wonderful speakers and great music. During the invitation I would "peek" and see only a small handful of people responding to God's call. It didn't matter that my own heart was bursting on the inside. All I could see and understand was that all the OTHERS were NOT responding. What was wrong with THEM? Didn't THEY know there was this huge world out there and all they seemed interested in was their own little world?

Slowly it began to dawn on me that maybe, just maybe, God could use me in some small way. As a music major, I could play the guitar and piano, and could manage to sing in tune. Through my minor, Mass Communications, I knew a bit about radio, TV, film, drama, etc.

Christmas of 1977 I went home to Quito, Ecuador to spend the semester break with my missionary parents. While there I decided I would try and get a reaction out of them by announcing that I thought maybe God was calling me into foreign missions. I intended it to be just an opening to discuss with them and hear their thoughts about what they sensed God's will might be for me, especially since my graduation was less than a year away.

Much to my astonishment and surprise they made the comment, "well, son, it's about time you finally figured out that God has been calling you all these years...we've known this for a long time now...we're so happy for you..." I was totally floored! We did talk about the matter during those days and I sensed God speaking to my heart through the words of my parents as they related all the "signs" God had worked in my life over the years. Only a fool like me wouldn't have seen the Hand of God at work in my life!

When I got back to Denton, where Linda and I were members of Grace Temple Baptist Church, I went forward on a cold winter's Sunday night during the general invitation and told the pastor, Bro. Robert Richardson, that I felt God was calling me into missions. There were no fireworks or lightening flashes. I don't even recall anyone coming forward after the service to shake my hand. But the deed was done in Heaven.

Not too long afterwards, on April 11, 1978, there was an appointment service at the Tarrant County Convention Center in Ft. Worth, Texas with the full board in session (William L. Self, presiding.) Dr. Baker James Cauthen was then President of the Foreign Mission Board. That man could preach a missions sermon like no other living person of his day. The hymn of invitation was "Take My Life, and Let It Be." By that time there was absolutely NO DOUBT in my heart that God was calling me to serve him overseas. I was one of the first to make it down to the front!

That night three couples were appointed to Ecuador. Little did we know that years later we too would end up in back in Ecuador and actually serve alongside two of these couples, Jim & Dawn Packwood, and Jack & Karen Ables!

Well, thanks for reading my story. There is more to tell, in fact--a lot more, including my wife's call into missions and how that got us together, but I'll stop here for now.

If you think even there is the remotest chance that God might be leading you to serve Him overseas, my prayer for you is that you would consider Dr. Cauthen's paraphrased words as I recall them, "unless God has specifically told you to stay put, He has called you to go." International Missions is a big step of faith, but in our 20 years so far, I wouldn't trade any of it for the world.

Wednesday, December 6

Praying for international missions

Interested in specifically praying for international missions prayer requests during this week of prayer? Click here for a daily list of new prayer requests coming in from all over the world.

At the bottom of the page is a button to subscribe to CompassionNet. At CompassionNet there is a whole assortment of international prayer request/updates on a daily basis. Sign-up to receive as many different lists as you are interested in praying for, including Spanish missions prayer requests!

"Tell Me The Story of Jesus" is the theme this year for the week of praying for international missions. The following music video by the IMB-SBC reminds us all of why it is important to pray for missions. Does not the whole world deserve a chance to hear the story of Jesus? What would you sacrifice that all may hear?

Tuesday, December 5

Week of Prayer for International Missions

This week of December 3-10 has been set aside as a special week dedicated to prayer for international missions. This year West Africa is the featured focus of prayer. The IMB website has tons of helps, activities, videos, resources to aid us all in praying. I encourage you to click on their site and follow some of the links.

One of the couples featured from West Africa are Warren and Sharon Hessling serving in Niger. We were in missionary orientation with them back in the Spring of 1987. Please read the following and pray for them today.
Tuareg of Niger
Pray. “We want to see the salvation of the Tuareg,” Warren says. “This requires undying patience, constant prayer and prioritizing of time, personnel and resources. Pray the Word would touch their lives and give them their identity and their freedom in Jesus.”

Because you give. “The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering provides us a comfortable home and schooling for our son,” the Hesslings say. “It also allows us to keep a supply of Scripture on hand to give away when opportunities arise.”

While some Lottie Moon Christmas Offering funds are spent on vehicles and other ministry tools, 82 percent of the offering is used to support missionary families by providing their salary and benefits.

Sunday, December 3

Conversational prayer

Over the years of working with house/simple churches one of the most meaningful parts of our times together are the prayer times. We train church planters to practice several different ways of praying. One of these ways is conversational prayer.

Recently John White sent the following from Gail Graves ( on conversational prayer:

" is my belief that intimacy through conversational prayer is an area that virtually all simple churches need to consider. The molding of hearts together in Christ is tremendously facilitated as people learn to pray this way together. The results are astounding..."

Conversational Prayer:

Acknowledge God’s presence in the group. Praise and adoration is always good to help focus the group on communicating with the Lord.

Pray short prayers of one, two or three sentences.

Pray about one subject, idea or person at a time until everyone has shared as much and as often as prompted by the Spirit.

Be reluctant to change the subject as you would in any conversation until everyone is finished with it.

Times of silence can give the timid and the thoughtful time to contribute.

The more the conversation with God is passed around the group the deeper the intimacy grows. In time a small group becomes totally unified and purely transparent.

Watch God’s love flow freely, lives transform and answers to prayer abound.

Friday, December 1

Ideas for giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions

Every year Southern Baptist Churches in the United States collect a special offering in December for international missions. 100% of this offering goes for overseas work. The goal this year for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is $150 million.

Since we see first-hand and experience the impact of this offering, I would like to say THANK YOU for giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

Do you know how much the average Southern Baptist gives to international missions per year? $8.35!!!

Here are a few suggestions that you might consider this Christmas Season as you determine what amount to give. Some of these ideas come from the IMB website here, but most are things we have tried ourselves over the years and personally practice as a family.

1) Decide what amount of money you will spend on your family this Christmas and give MORE than this amount to the LMCO. After all, it is Christ's birthday we are celebrating. Should we be getting more than He if it is his birthday?

2) Something we have done as a family for several years now is set aside an amount out of our monthly paycheck and have that amount automatically credited to the LMCO. This took a couple of email and phone calls to set up, but we haven't had to fool with it since, and are able to give to LMCO throughout the year.

3) A variation on the idea above would be to have a LMCO gift box that you deposit a set amount every week/month throughout the year. Then give this amount to your church when the offering is collected in December.

4) Sell tickets to a mother-daughter or father-son breakfast or brunch. Invite a missionary as a guest speaker. Proceeds go to Lottie Moon.

5) Auction students to church members for a day of service, from cleaning house to raking leaves. Money members give for the work youth do goes to Lottie Moon.

6) One thing we missionaries have done for many years is have an auction where a volunteer team brings in "goodies" from the States and auction them off to the missionaries. A six-pack of Dr. Pepper went for $120 one year! My son paid $60 for a box of Double-Bubble gum. I myself have paid $35 for a jar of Jiff peanut butter! All proceeds go to the missions offerings. Might your church do something similar?

7) Challenge folks to save money for the offering by giving up something small. Examples include a fast-food meal a week or a movie a month. Host a special ceremony for everyone to give their offering and share what God taught them through their sacrifice.

8) Double (or triple!) whatever you gave last year. Give sacrificially, not what is convenient.

9) As a church body, decide to channel funds to a lost world instead of to building improvements or beautification projects.

10) Take the "How Much Should I Give?" quiz.

Whatever you decide to give, please do so beforehand in prayer. The idea of just reaching in your pocket and giving whatever comes out doesn't seem worthy of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Give thoughtfully, prayerfully. There are few offerings that make as much of an eternal impact on the world as the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Do you feel a yearly offering of $8.35 is worthy of the One who left his throne in glory to die on a cross for our sins? How much will you give this year to see souls around the globe come to the Savior?
Checks can be mailed to (gifts are tax-deductable)
Lottie Moon Christmas Offering
International Mission Board, SBC
P.O. Box 6767
Richmond, VA 23230

Tuesday, November 28

Alternatives to monologue preaching

George Patterson & Galen Currah offer the following alternatives for monologue preaching in new works. I have found this article (reproduced in part here) to be quite helpful and practical in our own local work...
Why offer alternatives to monologue preaching from behind pulpits? After all, monologue is the only style that many Christians know. Few realize that the Word of God sets forth very different styles of teaching that have proven to be consistently more effective.

...The sermon, as a form of monologue, preached by paid specialists, has mostly replaced New Testament practices for teaching believers. Eloquent and persuasive preachers of monologue sermons have often swayed audiences and nations, and God has used His Word to win and edify many with such messages. However, where churches and cells reproduce in great numbers — as is the case in many lands today — few are able to preach well by monologue. Most who try to preach monologues communicate poorly, set an example that others cannot easily follow, and fail to make disciples.

Both the New Testament and church planting movements offer very effective alternatives to the monologue. As mentors of emerging leaders of new congregations, we should be able to train others in these alternatives.

Dialogue. (Acts 17:2; 20:7; 17:11; 24:25) The apostles preferred to “dialogue” with both seekers and believers, both individuals and groups. Dialogue, conversations with a purpose, allow a teacher to answer folk’s questions, allay their fears, inform their ignorance, appeal to their conscience, and help them choose what they will do. Believers are to teach and instruct “one another” (Col. 3:16; Rom 15:14). Dialogue is easier to do in small groups than in big congregations. Since most folks already know how to dialogue with their friends and relatives, doing so is a superior way to share about Jesus and the way of life that He calls everyone to follow.

Gifts of the Spirit. (1 Cor 12:7; 14:24-26) A primary task of those who shepherd flocks is to ensure that all the believers have time and opportunity to serve one another. In doing so, their gifts of the Spirit will “manifest” and many will be helped and strengthened. In fact, as all the believers share one with another, even unsaved folks who listen to them will see their own need and turn to Jesus. Gifts of the Spirit manifest more readily in small groups where believers see each other face-to-face and have freedom to speak one to another.

Demonstrations of power. (1 Cor 2:1-5; 1 Thes 1:4-6) The reality and truth of the Word of God are learned more from experience than by listening to logical discourses. One of the main tasks of those who shepherd flocks is to ensure that all the believers have time and opportunity to pray for one another, and to show love within their worship. As they do so, the Holy Spirit will work many miracles of healing and deliverance.

Drama and role play. Drama and story-telling remain universally appealing to all classes of society, and are a preferred leaning style in many of the more neglected societies. Men and women, young and old, can act out Bible stories that illustrate every major doctrine of Christianity. So doing also allows children to participate actively in worship. Brief role plays, presented with little preparation and without costumes, can prove both entertaining and evocative. A skit, followed by reading a Bible text, can open up discussion and help folks to apply truth to their lives and work. Furthermore, even the newest believers can participate.

Questions and answers. Folks have genuine questions and issues for which they seek help and answers. If we cannot answer a question, then let us admit so and promise to find answers.
If you would like to subscribe to MentorNet to receive these mailings regularly from Patterson/Currah, send an email to
They have recently begun a blog at

Saturday, November 25

What can Stateside churches learn from their Ecuadorian counterparts?

In the 2005 Annual Church Profile (ACP), Baptist Press reports, "...compiled statistics for the Southern Baptist Convention show that baptisms...slumped again in 2005 from 387,947 to 371,850, or -4.15 percent."

Along this same theme, Thom Rainer in an article for the Florida Baptist Witness "The Dying American Church." states the following:
The facts of a 2004 research project I led are sobering. It takes 86 church members in America one year to reach a person for Christ...if the research is even close to accurate, the reality is that the church is not reproducing herself. In just one or two generations, Christianity could be so marginalized that it will be deemed irrelevant by most observers...
Compare this to the 3:1 baptism ratio as shared in one of my previous posts of the folks in the Guayaquil house churches. It takes three of them one year to baptize one new believer. While that is a far cry from our goal of every believer winning/discipling four per year, it sure beats an 86:1 ratio for churches in the States!

Baptisms are a key indicator to overall church health.

Why has the American church become evangelistically anemic? Thom of course gives several reasons in his article, but I would like to capitalize on just one of them, "Christians in churches often get caught up in the minor issues and fail to become passionate about the major issue of evangelism..."

I honestly believe most Stateside churches have more to learn from their Guayaquil brethren than the other way around!

What differences are there between our Ecuadorian national brethren and their Stateside counterparts? Why are the folks here so much more effective with their evangelism than Stateside Christians?

I can identify at least seven overlapping things I see house church believers consistently doing that are not usually seen in most Stateside churches:

1) Praying daily for the lost. Talk to the believers in a Guayaquil house church and they will show you their list of people they pray for daily of unsaved family, friends, and neighbors.

2) Active regular sharing of the Gospel. It is a very natural part of their Christian walk to share the Gospel with people they encounter in their daily lives. Christ has made such a difference in their lives, and they cannot help but share with those they come in contact with.

3) Planning regular evangelistic events. The house churches plan regular evangelistic events inviting those they are praying for to attend (concerts, outdoor street meetings, special programs, family conferences, DVD/Videos, invited guest speakers, neighborhood evangelistic door-to-door blitzes, etc.)

4) Visiting the sick and personally ministering to lost friends, neighbors and family in times of crisis. They are very good about visiting sick people outside of their church family, praying for healing and ministering to lost family and friends during difficult times.

5) Not distracted by a lot of outside issues like Thom Rainer mentions above. We too have our sticky issues, but they are more along the lines of things like can unmarried couples who get saved be baptized? How to counsel people with difficult problems? How to discern if someone is demon possessed or just emotionally unstable? How to handle questions that Roman Catholics always ask? Why doesn't God always heal someone when they are prayed for? If I were to share with them (and I don't) the issues that are causing all the uproar in the States these days, they would shake their heads in disbelief!

6) Intentionally focus on evangelism as a life priority. Talk to them and they will tell you that their ministry is to win/disciple at least four people to Christ this year. They expect God to give them these souls and are consciously praying and working to achieve this goal.

7) They maintain friendships/relationships with lost friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. They play ball on the street with them, visit them in their homes, minister to them in times of need. How are we ever supposed to win people to the Lord if we have little/no relationship with the lost? How is a Christian supposed to win lost people if they do not even know any? Folks here know plenty of lost people whom they are burdened for their salvation.

Stateside churches may be doing a lot of neat things, have wonderful church programs, great worship services and solid Biblical preaching, but if they are not winning people to Christ, baptizing, making disciples, and teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded, are they really a healthy N.T. church?

Tuesday, November 21

When is a church a church?

In a previous post "The church in your house" Bro. Tim Rogers asks a good question:

"The process of this type of church plant sounds interesting. When do you determine if it is a legitimate church?"

For us it is a fairly simple process. Church is not a complex institution. It is a living, growing organism. Therefore what we consider "church" is far simpler than what many think of when contemplating First Baptist Church, Bible Belt, USA.

There are basically three stages to becoming a church. All are undergirded by prayer.

1) engage in some type of evangelistic outreach to win people to Christ,
2) meet as an outreach group with these new converts until some are baptized,
3) become a church.

Before proceeding, just a word of clarification. We don't try to start churches with people who are already believers, or members of other existing churches. We only target non-believers and it is with new converts that we do all our church planting.

All that is needed to start a new church is a worker, a church planter, and a little bit of training. Therefore prayer to the Lord of the Harvest for laborers is high on our priority list.

Once we have a laborer (preferably a pair), we train them in much the same fashion as Jesus did with the 70 in Luke 10. We teach them to...
  • work in pairs (vs.1)
  • pray (v.2)
  • go (v.3)
  • don't take...(v.4)
  • find the person of peace (v.5,6)
  • stay in that house (v.7)
  • eat and drink with the POP (v.7,8)
  • heal (minister) (v.9)
  • proclaim. (v.9)
Once we have a group of people who have made professions of faith, the discipleship process continues but in group fashion. The group meeting can be anywhere from 2-3 people, to as many as fit inside the meeting place. They are called an "outreach group." Outreach groups will sing, pray, study the Word, minister to one another, even collect offerings, but they are not a church.

New believers in outreach groups are led to understand the security of their salvation experience. They are shown in Scripture that new believers are baptized.

This is the first real test whether or not they have truly given their hearts to Christ. If they back out or want to postpone baptism (for whatever reasons) we continue to work with them as an outreach group. For us the key that opens the door to becoming a church is baptism. Why?

Many Latin Americans with Roman Catholic backgrounds realize that being re-baptized is a clear break with the religion of their fathers. It is a major step. Much like it would be for Baptist readers deciding to make a break with their own church to join the Mormon church. Many times new believers are hesitant to take this step. Sometimes it takes several weeks, even months for them to come around to what we would consider a genuine decision of turning one's life over to Christ.

Once one or more people are baptized, they simply become a church. No need to make a big deal out of what already is. There are no other in between stages (mission, Bible study, preaching point.) Usually the same day as the initial baptisms we will also serve the Lord's Supper. From that point forward they are no longer considered an outreach group, but a church. They will, of course, continue the disicipleship process begun with their profession of faith. From the very beginning they are a self-supporting, self-governing, and self-propagating church. Church only becomes complicated when we begin adding extra-biblical requirements.

Just as a new born baby is a real human being, a group of new born babes in Christ is a real church. As long as they have someone to nurture, lead, and guide them (a church planter), and hopefully apostolic workers behind them for backup and encouragement, the new born church has a good chance to grow into a maturing body of believers. But as in real life, especially in the third world, many times new born babies die prematurely. The same thing is true for new churches. In our own case we have a high percentage of new church plants that die. Some of the reasons for this have been shared in an earlier post "Why do so many of our church plants fail?"

So therefore, a church is a group of baptized believers who meet regularly together where God has planted them and function as a NT ekklesia.

There is more to it than we have been able to briefly describe here, but this is essentially how we define "church." Any questions, clarifications, observations, etc. are welcome.

Saturday, November 18

What is one of the most aggravating things about being a missionary?

Well there are several things that aggravate me about being a missionary, but surely one of the most frustrating is the often lack of response we get from the people God has given us to work with.

How often we will...
  • organize events,
  • call people,
  • set up meetings,
  • leave messages,
  • send emails,
  • pray about a matter,
  • count on people for something,
  • plan a training event...
only to end up waiting for people to respond who never do? It is such a disappointment, and let down!

Jon Dale linked to an article by Michael Hyatt on the Secret of Success. While coming from a secular viewpoint, this is nevertheless a great article on the importance of being responsive.
What's the secret to your success? As a CEO, I get asked this a lot. And, I'm always a little embarrassed by it...I received an email from one of my readers. He [asked]... If you had to boil it down to one thing, Mr. Hyatt, what would you recommend to a young, aspiring person such as myself?"

I'm not sure I could boil it down to one thing. Life isn't usually that simple. But if I really, really had to boil it down to one thing, I would say this: responsiveness.

So many people I meet are unresponsive. They don't return their phone calls promptly. They don't answer their emails quickly. They don't complete their assignments on time. They promise to do something and never follow through. They have to be reminded, prodded, and nagged. This behavior creates work for everyone else and eats into their own productivity. Sadly, they seem oblivious to it... [read the rest of the article here.]
I wonder how God feels at our unresponsiveness to Him? How He feels when we don't bother to spend time with him? When His Spirit impresses us with something and we shrug it off and go on our way? Our lack of immediate, radical response to Him surely is a source of "holy frustration" with us, His unresponsive children.

God, make us responsive to Thee, and to those around us you bring into our lives.

Wednesday, November 15

The church in your house

Our "simple" church planting here in Guayaquil is known as "La Iglesia En Tu Casa" (LIETC)--The church in your house.

We have identified at least 13 guiding values that the Lord has seemingly been pleased to bless over the past 6+ years of church planting.

1.) LIETC is built upon a foundation of prayer, which is the most important work in which we are engaged. (Luke 10:2)

2.) LIETC is built upon the idea of "mobilizing the laity." The laity is empowered to go and do tasks traditionally assigned only to trained professional clergy. (Eph.4:11-12, 1 Pet.2:9-10)

3.) LIETC is built upon the concept of taking the church to where the people are, rather than bringing the people to the church. (Matt.28:18-20, Luke 10:3)

4.) LIETC crosses denominational lines and works with Great Commission Christians to plant New Testament churches. (Eph.4:4-6)

5.) LIETC depends on God to provide the workers, free of recruitment or manipulation. Prayer is the key. (Luke 10:2)

6.) LIETC is built upon the understanding that women are likewise called to plant churches. (Matthew 28:18-20)

7.) LIETC is built upon the understanding that it is Christ's responsibility to build His church, not ours (Mt. 16:18). Our task is the Great Commission--to make disciples; his to build His Church.

8.) LIETC is built upon an understanding that the missionary task is primarily one of praying, modeling, teaching, training, encouraging and mentoring. (Eph.4:11-12)

9.) LIETC is built upon the strategic use of locally available and reproducible communication media. We don't use or model anything that can't be done/reproduced locally by the people we work with.

10.) LIETC is built upon the idea of church being more a "family gathering" held in a home setting, and less a "traditional church service." (1 Cor. 12-14, 14:26, Book of Acts)

11.) LIETC is built on the twin pillars of prayer and lifestyle evangelism. There is a continuous emphasis on these two areas.

12.) LIETC is built upon the understanding that multiplication of disciples is the focus of all we do. Simply adding to existing works will not get the job done. (Matthew-Luke, the "parables of the kingdom.")

13.) LIETC belongs to God, and He can do as He pleases. Change in the way things are done is an on-going process as God continues to open our eyes to his ways of building the Kingdom.

Sunday, November 12

Abundant gospel sowing

One of the 10 universal elements found in all church planting movements around the world is abundant gospel sowing. This is not to be confused with evangelism. Ken Sorrell posts a good article on his blog about this difference. Suffice it to say, abundant gospel sowing (or gospel saturation) is a key element in moving us towards a church planting movement.

Here in Ecuador missionaries have employed many media over the years in the attempt to touch as many people with the Gospel as possible at an affordable cost. Some of the means used to abundantly sow the gospel include: radio, TV, literature distribution (tracts), films, parades, and many other ways with varying degrees of success.

For us, though, we have had the greatest success over the years with a prayer and telephone counseling ministry known as Teleamigo. I have previously posted on Teleamigo here (YouTube video), and here (ModernDay 'Five Loaves and Two Fish' story).

Not only is Teleamigo an inexpensive and cost effective way of reaching people, it is an EFFECTIVE way that has worked well for us over the years. I once calculated the cost per contact at $0.038/each. It has cost us less than four pennies to contact each of the 2.5-million Teleamigo contacts with the Gospel message!

Teleamigo functions as a wonderful "door-opener" for the Gospel by caring and listening to people and their problems. Spiritual issues almost always come to the forefront and we have an opportunity to share Christ and how he can make a difference in their lives. While there are certainly people who accept Christ directly through Teleamigo, our greatest result has been to draw men and women closer to a decision for Christ. After contacting Teleamigo, they are one step closer to making a decision for Christ. That to me is the definition of an effective "abundant gospel sowing" ministry. When our message holds people's attention and causes them to reflect and consider the implications of that message, that is effective AGS!

Without AGS leading the way (as John the Baptist did before the coming of Christ) there is often heavy resistance to the Gospel message. People do not see the relationship between their lives and the need of a Savior. They are usually content with their "own religion" and not interested in changing religions. This is where AGS comes in. It works like fertilizer in rough ground to prepare the heart soil for the seed which is to follow.

Enough talk about Teleamigo. Here is another short video done by the IMB several years ago produced for children's missions education in churches back Stateside, but still applicable and informative to show how abundant gospel sowing really works.

Thursday, November 9

What is the most effective way to continuously evangelize?

Join in on this week's Guayas Mestizo team meeting. Our team meetings are always open to any believer who would like to attend, so you are welcome to join in the current dialogue.

Today we are trying to answer the question:

"what is the most effective way to
continuously evangelize our people?"

We are all in agreement that sporadic, half-hearted evangelism is not the way to go. What is needed is to find an effective means to continuously evangelize our people group by the greatest number of existing believers.

Several minutes are spent differentiating between one of the CPM pillars, "abundant gospel sowing" and what we are calling "continuous evangelism."

In AGS the seed of the Gospel is abundantly shared through any and all available means to get the message out continuously to as many people as possible (literature distribution, radio, TV, mass media, tracts, telephone, Jesus film, any/all seed sowing type efforts). A decision for Christ is not necessarily expected of AGS. It is more understood as an effort to "prepare hearts" for the Gospel message to follow later--sort of what John the Baptist did prior to Jesus' coming.

In evangelism we are seeking to present the message in such a way that the individual is personally confronted with the Gospel message and is given an opportunity to either accept or reject what is shared.

Once this is clarified, several mention the more common methods usually used to evangelize: door-to-door witnessing, open air preaching, gospel films, evangelistic pulpit preaching, home Bible studies, evangelistic crusades...

The question is asked, "are we getting the desired results from these methods?" The answer is, "not really". We believe many more people are open to the Gospel than are currently responding. They are not rejecting the Gospel, they are rejecting our methods!

We begin to explore several ideas gleaned from a book one of our national team members has read that discusses "open" and "closed" groups. We determine that "open" groups would be a more effective way to collectively win groups of people, rather than winning individuals and then attempting the nearly impossible task of gathering them into groups. "Open" groups would be good for evangelism, "closed" groups would be better for discipleship.

More discussion takes place questioning the effectiveness of this and that evangelism method. Finally, in the midst of several of us talking at once, Geovanny quietly walks to the white board and writes...
1. Buscar la dirección de Dios (orando) para evangelizar continuamente.
Seek God's direction (praying) to continuously evangelize.

2. [for now blank] - depends on what is heard from the Lord on #1

3. [for now blank] - do it.

Does the Holy Spirit have the answer to our evangelism question? Yes.

Are we willing to wait upon Him in prayer until He makes clear how to best carry this out? Answer: to be seen in the coming days/weeks....stay tuned.

Be part of our team this week. Help us win our city/province to Christ. What would you add to the dialogue? What are your thoughts? Observations? Insights? How would YOU go about doing things?

Tuesday, November 7

Everything that comes is by His ordination or permission

One of the most influential writers for me personally is Elisabeth Elliot. I have read most of her books, even those no longer in print. I have also kept past articles and speeches as I have had access to them over the years.

Back in August of this year I was delighted to learn that Back to the Bible offers a free daily devotional from Elisabeth Elliot. I have yet to discard a single email, they are all that good!

One of the threads that is woven into much of her writing that has been such a blessing to me over the years is simply this: nothing happens in the life of a child of God unless God himself ordains it so, or permits it.

One of her recent devotionals expressed this thought with the following words...
Never mind whether things come from God Himself or from people-- everything comes by His ordination or permission. If I mean to be obedient and submissive to the Lord because He is my Lord, I must not forget that whatever He allows to happen becomes, for me, His will at that moment. Perhaps it is someone else's sinful action, but if God allows it to affect me, He wills it for my learning... (Oct.30, "Waiting")
As my own world becomes seemingly...
  • more chaotic,
  • less personal,
  • more busy,
  • less friendly,
  • more frustrating,
  • fewer victories,
  • more lonely,
  • fewer answers has been refreshing to realize the truth of the Psalmist words, "Lord, You have assigned me my portion and my cup, and have made my lot secure." (Psalm 16:5).
I know of no greater simplifier for all of life. Whatever happens is assigned. Does the intellect balk at that? Can we say that there are things which happen to us which do not belong to our lovingly assigned "portion" (this belongs to it, that does not)? Are some things, then, out of the control of the Almighty? Every assignment is measured and controlled for my eternal good. As I accept the given portion other options are heart becomes inexpressibly quieter. (Sept.17, "A Quiet Heart")
It is indeed the LORD who assigns us or portion and our cup. Nothing that happens in our day to day toiling is an accident. Everything comes to us either by His ordination or permission.

Click here to see subscription options for Back to the Bible's daily deovtionals, including Elisabeth Elliot's Daily Devotions.

Sunday, November 5

Third Generation Thinking

Third Generation Thinking

--by Chris Ammons

Seventeen years into my missionary career, a term came to me that described very well the process of doing missions...The term is “Third Generation Thinking.” This term does not deal with family generations, but with generations of new believers.

When the Gospel was proclaimed to non-believers in the not so distant past, one of two strategies was used by the missionary proclaimer. The author would like to propose a third way of thinking and of approaching everything we do in missions.

The first strategy used by those who lacked training or cultural sensitivity, was to teach exactly the way he or she had been taught. This can be called “First Generation Thinking” because the emphasis is placed squarely upon the one doing the proclaiming, with little thought given to the learner. Using this kind of thinking, generations of oral learners have been taught to read and write, parse Greek words, and preach three point messages. If only to prove He is all powerful, God has still used many who hold to this strategy to bring indigenous people to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Works that were based on this kind of strategy, however, seldom lasted past the lifetime of the believers whom the Missionary led to Christ.

A second strategy is used by those who have recognized or been taught the need to communicate the Gospel in a way the listener can understand. This kind of thinking can be called “Second Generation Thinking” because the emphasis is placed upon the one being taught, the second generation of believers. Most modern missionaries have used this kind of thinking. Missionaries have gone to great lengths to make sure that their message was understandable to the listener. The assumption was made that if the listener could understand the message, he or she could also teach the message to others. Less thought is given to the ability of the second generation to teach further generations. This kind of strategy often results in a two generation church. It lasts for the lifetime of the missionary’s students and their children, but usually does not extend past that third generation.

The third strategy, one that is being used by an ever-increasing number of missionaries, using a terminology I would like to propose, is called “Third Generation Thinking.” In third Generation Thinking, the emphasis is not on the first generation (the teacher), it is not on the second generation (the learner), but on the future generation who will be taught by the learner. Before teaching anything, we ask questions like; “will the learner be able to teach this as effectively as I do?” and “am I doing anything that will prevent my student’s learners from being able to pass on the message just as effectively as I am passing it on?”

Third Generation Thinking is more than a strategy; it becomes a filter through which every ministry decision passes. A very wise man once told me that every team needs an “idiot.” One that does nothing but ask one question; “why are we doing this?”

Most missionaries, by nature, strive for excellence. When a teaching is passed down to the second generation, it is usually highly polished and done with a flair. We strive to do the best we can. This is usually positive, unless it makes the student think, “He does it so well, I will never be able to teach in such an exciting way.” This can lead to discouragement, and in the long run is counterproductive.

A Third Generation Thinker would say, “I am going to do this just above the level of the one I am teaching. I will give him something to reach for, but will not “dazzle” him so much as to discourage him from teaching this to his students. I want the third and forth generation of believers to be just as effective as I am.”

Church planting movements do not break down because of mistaken observations. They do not break down because of bad intentions of the missionaries. They often stop but because we are a little too short-sighted in our strategy, not looking toward future generations.

A remedy for our own short-sightedness is to set our filters to not let anything pass through that cannot be reproduced several generations after we leave. This could be greatly helped by appointing one from each team to be the one who always asks “can this be reproduced by the next 10 generations of believers?”

Thursday, November 2

Guayaquil: the cool city

My wife and I, along with our two children, live and serve in the city of Guayaquil, Ecuador as Southern Baptist, International Mission Board missionaries. While these images are extremely selective, showing mostly the attractive tourist side of our city, hopefully they will stir you to pause and pray for the 9 out of 10 people in our city who have yet to meet the Savior. Our goal is to see 500,000 new believers in the coming five years. Hopefully the Lord will use you to help us reach our goal by either:

1) praying more for us,
2) giving liberally to the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (this is one time it is OK to be a liberal!), or
3) coming personally on a mission trip to help us.

GUAYAQUIL: Ciudad Super Chévere

P.S. For those who have ever been to Guayaquil, you are probably wondering about being designated as a "cool city." Anyone visiting or living here knows that year around HOT is a much better descriptor! The "cool" comes from the original Spanish title of the video, "Guayaquil: Ciudad Super Chevere." which literally translates as "Guayaquil: a super cool city."

Monday, October 30

Why after 2000 years we are still not even close to fulfilling the Great Commission

In Luke 10, Jesus sets out clear, step-by-step instructions for the 70 disciples to obey in reaching out to "every town and place where He was about to go." If Jesus himself trained, taught, and instructed his disciples in the way He knew would work, why 2000 years later, do we think we can improve upon His divine model?

Jesus instructed his disciples, "PRAY to the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers into His harvest..." (10:2)

We have improved upon this instruction by, 1) substituting 'praying to the Lord of the Harvest' for TALKING about the need for praying, 2) forget about praying, what needs to be done is massive recruitment--get out there and do what has to be done to get people involved, mobilize the masses into training seminars at the largest convention centers in town and invite in the biggest names that will draw the crowds.

Jesus instructed his disciples, "now GO, I'm sending you out like lambs among wolves..." (10:3)

We have improved upon Jesus' words by substituting His command to go for something much more convenient for us: COME! Come to our church...meeting...revival...youth group...evangelistic crusade...ladies brunch...sports event...spiritual emphasis...Bible study...etc. Going out to where the lost are and entering their world is always a lot messier than sitting around hoping and praying they will somehow come to us and whatever event we have planned for them. While I can give a couple of hours for an event at church, I certainly don't have the same couple of hours to go out of my way into the scary unknown. I might be seen associating myself with non-desirables in places not known as appropriate Christian hang-outs.

Jesus instructed his disciples, "DON'T CARRY a money-bag, travelling bag, or sandals..." (10:4)

Since we have never really understood exactly what Jesus was trying to say with this obscure command, we have simply ignored it and done just the opposite. We believe it is not possible to do the Lord's work unless we have a large money bag, and having all the necessary implements in our travelling bag for the journey (cars, land, building, salaries, literature, support packages, furnishings, sounds system, musical instruments, laptop, PowerPoint, video projector, etc.) And certainly let's not forget the importance of the having the latest fashion in sandals and attire and other necessary personal implements for the task. Afterall, we want to make a good impression on those we are trying to reach!

Jesus instructed his disciples, "DON'T GREET ANYONE along the road..." (10:4)

Jesus obviously didn't understand the importance of greetings in our present day cultures. How is one ever to gain access into "their world" unless we spend a lot of time greeting and building relationships? So, once again we seek to improve (ignore) another outdated command of our Lord and actually spend enormous chunks of time and plan whole evangelistic strategies that never get beyond anything other than "greeting" and nurturing a few relationships. We do ladies teas, let's meet the neighbors, go to ball games together, find someone to drink coffee with, etc. While all these may be good activities, the problem is that we seldom move beyond the "greeting stage" to the remaining instructions of Christ as given in Luke 10:1-9. We tend to lose focus when we stop and greet folks unless we are in tune with the whole strategic process that Christ was teaching. Jesus knows how easily we are distracted, so He warns us upfront to not greet anyone, or do anything else that will distract us from the important mission we are on.

Jesus instructed his disciples, "SAY 'PEACE to this household' and if a son of peace is there your peace will rest on him..." (10:5)

Modern consensus agrees that 'saying peace to this household' is a waste of time. The best way to win a community, town, or city is to get out there in vast numbers and knock on as many doors as possible. When they open the door, invite them to your church, and maybe even preach the Gospel and let them know this might be the very last chance they will ever have for salvation. If they refuse, leave them a Gospel tract, and a bunch of literature from your church and be sure to pray for them before leaving.

Jesus instructed his disciples, "REMAIN IN THE SAME HOUSE, eating and drinking what they offer..." (10:7)

Remain in the same house? Just that one house? You've got to be kidding! The more houses you visit, the more contacts you will have, the greater the number of positive results. You wouldn't want to dare risk everything on just one household. There is a high chance things will not work out and then you will be left with nothing. Plus, what's the big deal with wasting time by eating and drinking with people? Does eating and drinking accomplish anything of eternal value? Don't think so...

Jesus instructed his disciples, "EAT THE THINGS set before you..." (10:8)

It's like Jesus foreknew we would have trouble with understanding the importance of the eating/drinking part, so He said it TWICE to make sure we would get it. But the fact is we have yet to grasp the importance of eating and drinking with people BEFORE trying to proclaim the 'Good News" to them. What's important is getting down to business and sharing the Gospel with lost folks. We eat and drink with our fellow Christians, not with pagans!

Jesus instructed his disciples, "HEAL THE SICK who are there..." (10:9)

Well this one is easy to ignore because we all know that only the Pentecostals and the Charismatics are the ones into the healing stuff. We certainly can side-step this sticky one. We wouldn't want to actually involve ourselves in any controversial issues like healing the sick (might lose our jobs over it!) After all, most of us are cessationists and no longer believe these extraordinary gifts of the Spirit are valid today. We have the Bible and that's all we need. So, basically we are off the hook on this one. Next...

Jesus instructed his disciples, "TELL THEM, 'The kingdom of God has come near you..." (10:9)

Well FINALLY Jesus gets around to telling us to do what really matters--the 'main thing'-- which is declaring, preaching, teaching the Gospel message of the Kingdom to these lost people. Let's just cut to the chase and skip all the other stuff. It is time to get down to the important business of witnessing and sharing the Gospel. We are free to skip over the parts of Jesus instructions we don't like or understand. Wasn't his main thrust obviously this last point? We will certainly try to obey this part, but the rest is up for debate and interpretation--in other words, not much of importance in all those instructions preceding this final one.

Is it any wonder that after 2000 years we still haven't finished the task given us by Christ? We think we have a better way of doing things. We have the new, improved version, and yet continuously scratch our heads and wonder why things aren't working out the way they are supposed to?

Thursday, October 26

Our vision and strategy

Our missionary church planting team is known as the "Guayas Mestizo Team." Guayas is the largest province in Ecuador and Guayaquil is the largest city. The GMT is responsible for a church planting strategy for winning Guayas province to Christ. There are some 3.3-million people we feel God has entrusted to us and for whom we are spiritually responsible (yes, we feel the heavy load on our shoulders!)

Our vision statement is:

"Win and disciple to Christ 500,000 people
living in Guayas in the coming five years."

With the Lord's help, guidance, and empowering, how does our little "band of survivors" envision reaching all 500,000 (15% of our province) for Christ?

Christ said, "I will build my church." We understand Jesus himself is responsible for building his church. We also understand that we are only a small part of His Church here in Guayas and that He will certainly use others as well to bring about the coming of His Kingdom in this part of the world. But 500,000 is our assigned portion of the task!

Our role? To go, make disciples, baptize, and teach these new disciples to observe all that Christ commanded.

There are four things we feel will help us maintain our focus on the entrusted task...

1) Pray the Lord of the Harvest to keep sending laborers into the harvest fields of Guayas province. (Luke 10:2b)

2) Every single church in our informal network of house churches planting at least one new church every year (we would expect at least 10 baptisms from each new church plant.)

3) Every single believer winning and discipling at least four people every year.

4) Continuing this process for the next five years until we reach our goal of 500,000.

It's that simple! See below the multiplication effects that will take place if we will simply focus on the above four objectives...

2006-50 churches planting 1 new church/yr, w/10 baptisms=500 new believers
and 500 disciples, each winning/discipling 4/yr = 2000 new believers

2007-100 churches planting 1 new church/yr, w/10 baptisms=1000 new believers
and 2000 disciples, each winning/discipling 4/yr = 8000 new believers

2008-200 churches planting 1 new church/yr, w/10 baptisms=2000 new believers
and 8000 disciples, each winning/discipling 4/yr = 32,000 new believers

2009-400 churches planting 1 new church/yr, w/10 baptisms=4000 new believers
and 32,000 disciples, each winning/discipling 4/yr = 128,000 new believers

2010-800 churches planting 1 new church/yr, w/10 baptisms=8000 new believers
and 128,000 disciples, each winning/discipling 4/yr =
512,000 new believers!

Can it really be done? We believe so! Why complicate matters when it really boils down to every church starting one new church and each of us winning/discipling four new people to Christ over a year's time? It really is that simple! The million-dollar question becomes, can we maintain our focus and not become distracted from the task with everything else going on around us?

Will you passionately pray with us to see this vision become a reality over the upcoming five years? Why not stop RIGHT NOW and pray for this to happen!

Tuesday, October 24

Four facts about witnessing in church planting movements

One of the most helpful church planting mailouts I receive is George Patterson and Galen Currah's MentorNet that is sent out to subscribers. (For those interested, send an email to subscribe[at]mentornet[dot]ws). What follows is an excerpt from MentorNet #41 entitled, "Witnessing for Christ in Other Cultures."

There was a time when Evangelicals took to the mission field a fairly standardized formula for communicating the gospel, using mainly verses from the book of Romans. “All have sinned…The wages of sin is death…But God shows His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…” etc. which is all true and logical, but was not the apostles’ approach to witnessing...

Missionaries have found that a doctrinal approach to witnessing does not work well in non-Western cultures. The less they structure a standard form of witnessing, the better folks understand the message. The best way to spread the good news is simply to let believers tell spontaneously--with the Holy Spirit’s power promised by Christ in Acts 1:8--what Jesus did to save sinners and what He has done in their own lives.

In wide-spread church planting movements today, one observes four starkly evident facts about witnessing:

1) Nearly everyone who comes to Christ does so because of prayer for healing of a physical ailment in Jesus’ name. Someone in the family, or a close friend, has been cured or liberated from an evil spirit.

2) Nearly everyone who comes to Christ in a pioneer field does so through the influence of a new believer. New believers still have many unsaved friends and can talk with them about spiritual matters without hesitation.

3) Nearly everyone who comes to Christ in a church planting movement has done so together with family members and close friends. Their faith is not a private matter. God sees the family as a unit, and brings it to faith as a unit, as Acts 16:31 promises.

Westerners’ background in individualistic cultures, leads them to emphasize ‘personal’ faith and Jesus as “personal savior”, etc. This is not found in Scripture. (The word ‘personal’ once simply clarified that we are saved by our own faith and not by that of our parents, but in time came to mean ‘private,’ which devastates witnessing.)

4) Powerful conviction of sin is more frequent, and sinners find it easier to come to permanent, saving faith, in a group that is small enough to have spontaneous interaction, where believers practice the many ‘one another’ commands such as exhorting one another, teaching one another, correcting one another, confessing faults to one another, etc.

Sunday, October 22

'TOP TEN' Einstein quotes for missions and church planting

Many Albert Einstein sayings and quotes are highly applicable to missions and church planting. The following are my "top ten" favorites...

10. "The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them."

9. "Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."

8. "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

7. "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them."

6. "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds."

5.  "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."

4. "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."

3. "Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile."

2. "The important thing is not to stop questioning."

1. "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Have any other favorites or comments about any of the above you'd like to share?