Thursday, March 30

Never fear making mistakes

After Monday's semi-depressing post, I was encouraged to find the following quote by former IMB missionary Curtis Sergeant on the YWAM Church Planting site...

Never fear mistakes. The U.S. Marine Warfighting Manual states that risk is inherent equally to action and inaction. This is manifestly untrue in matters of church planting. Inaction has infinitely more risks than action. Almost any way of planting a church is better than not planting a church at all. Wayne Gretzke says, "You miss one hundred percent of the shots you never take." Nothing significant is ever achieved without taking risks, and there is no risk greater than the status quo in our situation. If the situation does not change, unreached people groups will remain unreached, and millions will die and enter a Christ-less eternity. No possible alternative is a greater evil than this. So the greatest risk of all in our situation is the status quo. We must not fear making mistakes, because the mistakes can be no worse than the current situation.
-- Curtis Sergeant

So, therefore, fellow laborers in the harvest, let's get out there and go ahead and try some of those ideas we fear will not work. If only 1 of 10 things we attempt bear fruit, we will be making an impact on lostness and lives will be touched for eternity. That is what is at stake.

Monday, March 27

9 out of 10 things we attempt don't bear fruit

The other day a fellow missionary commented to the effect that our Guayaquil church planting efforts seemd to be going so much better than their own. The comment caught me totally off guard. Do they not know that 9 out of every 10 things we attempt in the work don't bear fruit? In our own eyes we are scratching and struggling everyday. We are at a loss most of the time to get a handle on the overwhelming lostness around us. How are we supposed to reach the 3.3 million people in our province for Jesus?

It is easy to become disillusioned with it all. So much of our effort seemingly goes for naught. We have many more failures to show than successes. Disappointments far outnumber the success stories.

Last night is typical. I spent the evening at one of our Baptist churches who had invited me to share about our COSECHA (Harvest) church planting materials. My understanding was that the church was eager to implement the plan to reach their community for Christ (why else would they have invited me to share the materials?) After an exciting, interactive evening with people pumped up and ready to get on board with the vision, I turned the service back over to the pastor. He thanked me for coming out and wished us the best and from there went on with the weeks announcements and the meeting ended. We were just another Sunday night service! I drove home upset and disappointed. It didn't help matters to drive by a large open air AOG church packed to the hilt. Instead of rejoicing over the multitudes they are winning to Christ, all I could think about was how we had been turned down, how sad, lonely and confused I was feeling.

It is frustrating to spend months training a group of believers to go out and make disciples and plant new churches only to see nothing come of the effort. How many times have we poured ourselves into a project that was supposed to make a major impact for the cause of Christ, only to honestly evaluate and realize it accomplished very little? How many hours I have poured myself into individuals with little to show for the investment into their lives?

I hate to count the times we have prayed, invested time and money, expended vast amounts of spiritual and emotional energy, but when all the dust settles at the end of the day there is little to show for all the effort. Church plants begun in a burst of excitement and glory dissolve after a few short weeks without much of a reason. People we thought won to Christ just melt back into the multitudes. What on earth is going on?!?!

Where is the promised victory? The spiritual fruit that remains? Why is there so little to show for all our effort and sacrifice? Why does everyone else seem to be getting the job done and we are still trying to figure out what it is we are supposed to be doing? Why do 9 out of 10 things we attempt come to no avail?

Oh yeah, we are good about putting on a good public face about all we are doing and the "great things" happening out there (the 1 out of 10)... But in our prayer closet we sit stupefied before the Lord asking those painful questions: What happened? Where did we blow it? Why weren't you able to bless this, Lord? What am I doing wrong? Where's that abundant fruit promised in John 15?

I wish I could now turn the page and write a spiritually satisfying response. Something to give a nice spiritual perspective to the above frustrations (I'm sure 9 out of 10 reading this could!)

After sitting here a long time thinking on these things, the only consolation I can come up with is that which Paul tried to explain when he wrote the Corinthians, "while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2 Cor.4:18)

We simply have to trust God on all these matters. It really is a faith journey. That which is "seen" is not real. That which is "not seen" is real. We just need to keep on keeping on...

Somewhere in the mystery of God's ways, His will is being accomplished through our lives. It is not up to us to judge or question God's ways with us. We tend to measure ourselves by the world's standards of success--yes, even missionaries to do this!--but He clearly states,

"My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it." (Is.55:8-11)

So what if 9 out of 10 things we attempt don't bear fruit according to our good intentioned plans? God is at work accomplishing what HE DESIRES. Our part is to be happy knowing that we are allowed to even play a small part in this mysterious drama of the ages. He is faithful to bring about his purposes in his own good time and pleasure.

God is God. Enough said.

Friday, March 24

What do we mean by 'simple church?'

We are often asked about the kind of church planting going on overseas. There seems to be much interest in what these churches look like in comparison with the home churches back Stateside. They say a picture is better than a 1000 words. With that in mind a few days back I attempted to "draw with words" a description of a typical Guayaquil house church meeting.

Today's entry is an accompaniment piece to the one linked above. It is taken straight from the House2House website and in a few broad strokes describes characteristics of what we call 'simple church.'

What do we mean by 'simple church?'

Some call them house churches. Some call them organic churches. Some call them simple churches. We prefer to just call them churches.

They are rapidly multiplying, simple communities of believers, meeting in homes, offices, campuses, wherever God is moving. This is the pattern common to many parts of the globe, and is now becoming more and more common in the U.S. as well.

Where are two or more are gathered in His name, there is church.

Where "DNA" is present among people, there is church.

"D" stands for Divine Truth (loving God/Jesus)
"N" stands for Nurturing Relationships (loving one another deeply)
"A" stands for Apostolic Mission (being on Jesus' mission to the world)

Buildings, programs, and professional clergy are not essential elements of a church.

By 'simple church', we mean a way of doing and being church that is so simple that any believer would respond by saying, "I could do that!"

By 'simple church', we mean the kind of church that is described in the New Testament. Not constrained by structure but by the needs of the extended family, and a desire to extend the Kingdom of God.

By 'simple church', we mean a church that listens to God, follows His leading and obeys His commands.

By 'simple church', we mean spiritual parents raising spiritual sons and daughters to establish their own families.

House Church

House Church is a term sometimes used in the way we use the term Simple Church. It can be confusing in that: A Simple Church may or may not meet in a house (it can meet anywhere).

Church Planting Movements

Church Planting Movements occur when simple churches multiply rapidly.

This is a Very Old "New" Idea

Churches in the New Testament were most often small gatherings that met in homes.

"Greet Priscilla & Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful for the. Greet also the church that meets at their house." Romans 16:3-4

"But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, 'Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.' Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God." Acts 18:6-7

Does 'simple' mean lower quality?

Absolutely not! While no structure or format can guarantee quality, we believe that the small, participatory, family-like environment of a simple church is ideally suited to the goal of helping people become passionate disciples of Jesus Christ.

Monday, March 20

Lower the bar of how church is done; raise the bar of what it means to be a disciple!

"We want to lower the bar of how church is done and raise the bar of what it means to be a disciple." --Neil Cole, "Organic Church"

Neil goes on to say: "If Church is simple enough that everyone can do it and is made up of people who take up their cross and follow Jesus at any cost, the result will be church that empowers the common Christian to do the uncommon works of God." (p.27)

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 5+ 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; 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 group multiplication is the focus, not addition to existing works. (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.

Friday, March 17

Good news and bad news about our evangelism efforts

Do our evangelistic efforts count for anything? The good news first...

Baptist Press has a
recent story quoting SWBTS Evangelism Professor Roy Fish as saying,

"On average, one person who is lost comes the seventh time he or she is exposed to the Gospel."

"To illustrate, Fish recounted the many exposures to the Gospel in his own journey to faith -- a Sunday School teacher, someone who placed a tract in a bus station and a sermon from a pastor. Each individual shared the Gospel with Fish, but none of them were present when his moment of salvation came. Fish challenged [his audience] to be willing to be the fourth or fifth contact in the process of someone coming to salvation."

"There would never be a number seven, he said, if there wasn't a number four."

That is certainly something to think about. How many of us really know where in the Holy Spirit's time-line we fit in? It is good news to know that the Holy Spirit is at work in people's lives, and we are part of that work that will eventually lead to many of them coming to Christ.

The bad news?

The longer we are Christians, the less we tend to hang out with people who aren't. I got this from a great post by
Dan Kimball. His graph says it all.

Instead of being "salt and light" in the world, we tend to spend all our time with other Christians who are just like us. Shouldn't the opposite be true? How is the world ever supposed to get a clear picture of who Christ really is if we are never around those who need Him most?

If we are honest the reason most of us don't hang out with non-believers is not so much that we don't have much in common with them, it is that we are just plain scared! Have you ever noticed that new believers don't seem to have near the problem with sharing their faith as much as the older ones of us?

I have learned much from my fellow Ecuadorian believers over the years. They are constantly thinking up new and creative ways to evangelize through small group events, large group events, and personal evangelism projects. But what impresses me the most is that they have so many non-Christian friends and family whom they relate to on a daily basis. They...

  • visit their friends
  • play soccer in the streets with them
  • do things together
  • go to each other's houses for parties and celebrations
  • help one another in times of need--not as a means to "earn the right" to share the Gospel, but simply because it is the Christian thing to do.
Maybe that is why they win so many to Christ. They actually "love their neighbors" like Jesus said to do. What I have learned is that evangelism is less about preaching the Gospel and more about genuinely "loving our neighbor as ourselves." If we do our part, the Holy Spirit will certainly do his part and allow us to be that 4th contact, or even 7th getting to see a new birth take place to the Glory of God.

Wednesday, March 15

Can women baptize?

Over the years whenever there has been a tough theological/doctrinal issue, or practice that is causing concern in the churches being planted, one of the spiritual exercises we do with our house church people is:

1) ask everyone to close their eyes and imagine they were born and raised on a deserted island with no outside voices to influence their thinking

2) one day they discover in their midst a single book, the Bible.

3) what conclusions would they come up with about the question at hand by having no other outside influences, tradtions, or sources to interpret for them? Just the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and nothing else.

The first time we used this exercise was when the question arose whether or not a woman can baptize?

This is what happened...

Instead of just telling them either yes or no, it was a weighty enough issue to bring before the assembly of believers in what might be called our own "Council of Trent".

What does Scripture have to say about women baptizing?

The easy way would have been to just answer them according to our own tradition and what we had been taught. As missionaries, our say on the matter would have probably been accepted as the final word. Instead we set aside a block of time to gather, pray, and discuss the issue.

Our role as missionaries was to facilitate the gathering together of all the verses related to baptism in the New Testament. We didn't even distinguish between the narrative and didactic portions. The real question for us was whether the Holy Spirit would be able to guide sincere Christians to discern the truth as found in the Word of God without relying on outside influences or extra-biblical sources.

After praying and asking the Spirit to reveal to us the truth from His Word and show us his will on the matter, we carefully examined each passage of baptism Scripture. For several hours we went back and forth, around and around, until the group came to a solid united consensus. Their conclusions?

1) The New Testament is SILENT about whether or not women can baptize.

2) Since Scripture does not expressly allow, or prohibit it, then women are free to baptize, BUT...

3) Since their culture is "machista" where men dominate the women, it was determined culturally appropriate that a woman NOT baptize under ordinary circumstances, but seek out a brother in Christ to do the baptizing.

4) If for whatever reasons no brother is available, a sister would be free to do the baptizing, but normally it was best to have a brother do so if at all possible.

What a great answer to a tough question! At this point, it has become irrelevant to me what I think about women baptizing. That day the Spirit, the Word, and the Body of Christ spokie in unity and I am quite content to abide by the consensus.

Monday, March 13


What is one of the most aggravating things about being a missionary? Well there are many, but surely one of the most frustrating is something all of us live with and that is the lack of response we so often get from the people God has given us to work with.

How often we organize events, call people, set up meetings, leave messages, send emails, pray, plan training events only to end up waiting for people to respond who never do? It is such a personal disappointment, and is surely the source of much frustration causing us to "reconsider our call" about 20 times a day!

I wonder how God feels at our unresponsiveness to His Word? How He feels when we don't bother to spend time with him? When His Spirit impresses us to do something and we ignore it and go on our way?

One of the bloggers I read often is Jon Dale's "Chasing the Wild Goose." Today he links to an article by Michael Hyatt on the Secret of Success. While coming from a secular viewpoint, this is nevertheless a GREAT ARTICLE that will bring a big AMEN! to your lips.

The key word Michael looks for in people is: responsiveness...

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.]

Sunday, March 12

A Church Planting Movement Among All Peoples

A Church Planting Movement among all peoples,
the gospel to every person,
every believer a full participant in the Great Commission.

The first part of our region's vision statement speaks of "A Church Planting Movement among all peoples..."

What is a church planting movement?

David Garrison, in his classic book "Church Planting Movements" defines a CPM as a "rapid multiplication of indigenous churches planting churches that sweeps through a people group or population segment..." There is a whole lot more to it than that, but this gives a general idea of what it is we are talking about.

In the book Garrison identifies ten common elements found in every CPM taking place around the world (it is my understanding there are some 40+ confirmed CPMs going on in the world today):

1-Extraordinary Prayer (we are talking about a lot of serious praying going on)

2-Abundant Evangelism (the idea of sow abundantly=reap abundantly; sow sparsely=reap sparsely)

3-Intentional Church Planting (not just evangelism, but planting new churches with the new converts, not trying to get them into existing churches)

4-Authority of God's Word (not only in doctrine, but in church practice)

5-Local Leadership (locals "call the shots" not so much the foreign missionaries)

6-Lay Leadership (not seminary trained professional pastors, but everyday lay people in leadership positions)

7-House Churches (no church buildings, instead many small home-based churches averaging 10-20 per house)

8-Churches Planting Churches (the idea of multiplying new groups rather than adding numbers to existing groups)

9-Rapid Reproduction (they multiply very quickly and in short time)

10-Healthy Churches (rapid reproduction in no way means lower quality, deficent teaching, or unhealthy church life)

In our case here in Ecuador we do not have a CPM--(yet!) While all ten elements can be found in our church planting efforts, we are weak in most of the areas that are crucial to seeing a CPM. I feel we are weakest in elements #1,3,8,9. Areas that we are making good progress would be 2,4,5,6,7,10. If I had to label what we are observing in Guayas province it would be an "emerging CPM". We are doing the right things, but not consistently enough to see a true CPM in our midst.

Our goal is to see 500,000 people come into the Kingdom in the next five years. Will you pray with us to this end? Thanks!

Thursday, March 9

the gospel to every person...

A Church Planting Movement among all peoples,
the gospel to every person,
every believer a full participant in the Great Commission.

Tuesday's "What was Jesus intent?" was written to address the last part of our region's vision statement: "every believer a full participant in the Great Commission."

Today I'd like to share some of our thinking as a church planting team on how we are looking to take "the gospel to every person" in our assigned people group (the Guayas Mestizo.)

How are we going to take the gospel to the 3.3-million people in our province?

Below in our "You pray...and God answers" report, the baptism ratio of the house churches is 3:1. What this means is that it takes three local believers to baptize one new convert over a year's time. This ratio is currently around 44:1 in the SBC. It takes 44 Baptists one year to baptize every new convert.

So what is the point?

The point is that if we could somehow turn around our 3:1 baptism ratio to 1:8, we could personally share the gospel with every person in less than five years. Not only that, we would easily reach our team goal of 500,000 followers of Christ in the coming five years.

What we are saying with the 1:8 ratio is that every single one of us must pray, serve, evangelize, baptize, disciple and teach just EIGHT people this year.

Next year our eight will go out and do the same: win eight and disciple them so that they will go out and win eight more, and so on...

As a team we are asking the Lord of the Harvest to give us 200 laborers this year. These 200 church planters will focus on winning, baptizing, and discipling just eight souls between now and the end of the year. We will train and work closely with these 200 church planters. The task of these 200 is to pray the Lord to give them at least eight new believers this year and repeat the discipleship process in the lives of these new converts.

As each of the 200 focuses on the eight the Lord gives them, the multiplication factor will begin to work for us like leaven in the bread dough:

Year 1: 1600 disciples in 200 new house churches
Year 2: 12,800 disciples in 1,600 house churches
Year 3: 102,400 disciples in 12,800 house churches
Year 4: 819,200 disciples in 102,400 house churches
Year 5: 6,553,600 disciples in 819,200 house churches

At the end of the fifth year, we will have discipled to Christ, not only our entire people group, but 1/2 the total population of the country!

Many are curious about CPM (church planting movements) strategy and if it works or not. What we are describing is a CPM strategy designed for our local context. By faith and with the blessing of the Lord it can be done. We are already a fifth of the way to reaching our goal. It works.

Will you pray with us asking the Lord of the Harvest to give us 200 church planters this year?

Would you pray that Jesus who wills that all men be saved give each of the 200 at least eight souls this year?

Will you pray that these would continue the task of winning, discipling eight/year until the gospel is shared with every person in our assigned people group?

To help you remember to pray, every time you eat a banana or drink coffee (two of Ecuador's best known products) associate these with us and use them as prayer reminders. All that is needed is a short prayer before eating your banana or drinking your coffee. Above you can see what the multiplication process produces. This applies to prayer as well.

That is our strategy. Yes, it's that simple. But it totally depends on God. The only way we know to move God to look down upon this people to save them is through prayer.

Tuesday, March 7

What was Jesus intent?

The vision statement for the South America Region of the IMB is:

A Church Planting Movement among all peoples,
The gospel to every person,
Every believer a full participant in the Great Commission.

Do we really believe, teach and practice that last part?

One of the issues making headlines in S. Baptist circles these days centers on Baptist interpretation of the baptism portion given in the Great Commission. Does baptismal authority rest with individual believers or with a local church congregation?

What was Jesus intent when he gave the Great Commission?

Were his words intended for, 1) the gathered disciples and them alone, 2) the local church throughout the ages, 3) all disciples of Christ down through the ages?

If your interpretation is #1, then sit back and relax, there is little for you to worry about. It's not your business what God chooses to do with the untold millions who are on their way to an eternity separated from Christ. As strange as it sounds, I have dialogued with many believers who don't like to admit it, but by their actions actually hold to this postion. They feel their responsibility is only to those the Lord brings directly into their life. They have been pacified in their conscience that God only "calls" certain ones of us for this kind of work. They, of course, are not part of this select group.

If the second interpretation is where you find peace, then you believe that every believer is charged by Christ to:

a) go,
b) make disciples,
c) ?
d) teach these new believers.

What happened to "c"? Why was it skipped? Those holding to this position feel that baptism as an ordinance is reserved only for those proper administrators, someone who has been given authority to baptize.

In other words, all of us can do three of the four commands of Christ. But only certain individuals can do all four. Was that Christ's intent when he charged his disciples with carrying out the Great Commission? Did He consider baptism something above the other tasks of going, disicipling and teaching? Is it so special that it can only be administered by a select group of authorized individuals? If so, who are those individuals? How do they get to be the lucky ones to get to obey ALL that Christ said?

Now that may well be the intent of the passage. It certainly seems that many Baptists truly hold this conviction. Fine. But my own reading of this, in combination with other baptismal passages, point me to the third option. I simply feel that the plain reading of the GC lends itself to just what it says: ALL of us followers of Christ who consider ourselves to be His disciples. We are the ones charged with carrying out Jesus' commission.

We are all part of the Body of Christ. There are no individual followers of Christ who have "more authority" than others. Any differences amongst those making up the Body, are functional, not authoritative.

The Spirit has given gifts to each for the building up of the Body of Christ. To begin to elevate persons over others is to go down the road leading to the whole sacerdotal/priestly function like is found in the Roman Catholic Church. There we find a clear separation between the professional clergy (who have authority), and the laity (who do not.) The clergy are authorized to perform the ceremonies of the church, but the laity are not. There we find classes of Christians, distinctions.

In a February 6, 2006 editorial in the Southern Baptist Texan the writer states his conviction for #2 above, "If the commission were given to every believer then any 9-year -old girl who was a Christian could baptize her convert in the backyard swimming pool...Jesus vested the authority to baptize in the church."

At first glance the example seems to prove the argument for church authority in baptism. But isn't there also plenty of room for the literal interpretation of the Matthew 28 passage? Could it be that the reason we have NOT finished the task after 2000 years is that we simply misinterpreted what Christ intended all along?

Imagine with me for a moment the following scenerio...

What would happen if every Dick, Jane, Bill and Harry were to get it into their heads that, yes, THEY are responsible for the Great Commission? Not just a select chosen few, but ALL of us! Like Peter, James, and John, they too have been vested with authority by Jesus Christ Himself (Matt.28:18). It is for us to fulfill--not part--but ALL of the Great Commission! I dare say, we would be far closer to finishing the task than we are today.

P.S. A big thanks to Kiki Cherry for allowing me to use her original artwork above, the Jesus illustration.

Monday, March 6

Those questionable churches being planted overseas!

I guess it just needs to be said over and over, but the churches being planted on the field do not look like those back home in the States.

We do not plant Southern Baptist churches overseas. We plant New Testament churches that are "baptistic" in their practice, doctrine and outlook. Other than the language barrier, I truly believe most S. Baptists would feel quite comfortable attending any of the churches being planted. They resemble more what churches looked like in the book of Acts, than FBC, Any-Town, USA.

These "controversial" churches meet in homes, have leadership, baptize, teach the Word, nurture one another, worship, make disciples, and are FAR MORE evangelistic than most USA churches (see below entry entitled: You pray...and God answers) and compare their 3:1 baptism ratio with the 44:1 in the SBC. They are talking less, and obeying more! No, we don't have mega-facilities with bowling alleys and waterfalls, nor multi-million dollar budgets, and paid professional staffs. But is that the standard expected for the kind of churches we are talking about? What we have here is LIFE in Jesus and a passion for winning souls.

We welcome any doubters out there to come visit us. But to save you a bundle of money in airfare, allow me a moment to walk step-by-step through a Guayaquil house church experience. Last night my wife and I paid an unannounced visit to one of these questionable churches. Judge for yourself whether or not this is the kind of churches you want to see your missionaries planting overseas:

1) 6:30 pm we began with around 20 adults and several children, meeting in the home of the church planter which also doubles as a beauty parlor during the week. All the hair dressing equipment had been moved to another room to make space for the plastic chairs that were set up in a circle around the small room. It was very hot and crowded, but nobody seemed to mind (except the visiting missionaries!)

2) We sang a cappella 2 hymns, 1 psalm, and 1 praise chorus, all chosen at random by those present from tattered song books and a few xeroxed copies. No instruments--nobody there could play, no praise band, no orchestra, no choir, no microphones, pulpit, or any of the other "essentials" that many consider necessary in order to have "church". The singing was off-key, but it was a joyful sound!

3) Several people shared testimonies of how God is working in their lives and experiences from the week. There was an open time of prayer.

4) The church planter led in a participatory inductive Bible study of Matthew 10. The focus was on persecution and how we are to confront it as Christians. There were no theologians quoted, books referenced, Greek word studies--just pure Bible, verse by verse. The illustrations were all from their own personal life experiences. Lots of participation, questions, and dialogue. The visual aid was a piece of newspaper print with the main points handwritten and taped to the wall.

5) They next served the Lord's Supper. 1 Cor.11:23ff was read, followed by several moments of silent confession of sins. 3-4 shared testimonies of what Christ meant to them and how grateful they were that Jesus had saved them. As they partook of the elements we sang a love song of thanksgiving to Jesus for what He has done for us. Here one might have reason to criticize--they used Ritz crackers and grape koolaid instead of unleavened bread and wine--but nevertheless what was done was done in remembrance of Jesus.

6) An invited guest was introduced and it was quickly ascertained she was not a believer. At that point 2-3 shared with her their testimony of how they got saved. A couple of others shared several salvation verses. One person took the lead in extending an invitation. The lady did not accept the Lord, but did ask us to pray for her sick husband. Several people did so.

7) The offering was prayed over and collected with nearly everyone putting something in the basket. I was one of the last to put money in. It looked like there was less than $5 in total. All the proceeds of the offering were to go for #8 below.

8) Announcements were about next Sunday's evangelistic blitz of the whole neighborhood. Several minutes were spent going over the details and making sure everyone would be able to participate in the door-to-door witnessing blitz. This little church is dead set on winning their whole community to Christ. The offering will help buy some tracts for the event and hopefully something left over for refreshments afterwards.

9) Refreshments were served consisting of a half slice of white bread, an empanada (fried meat pie), a spoonful of tunafish, one tiny cookie, and a small glass of soda pop. There were only eight glasses for 20+ people so most had to share a glass (we guests got our own glass and didn't have to share.) We sat around visiting, laughing, and sharing for about a half hour. One sister went over and continued to share with the unsaved visitor while we ate, still trying to get her to accept the Lord.

10) They next invited the other IMB missionary who accompanied us to share about her work with the Chinese. We learned a song in Chinese, prayed for the Chinese, and asked questions about all the Chinese who live in our city. Everyone was moved that there are so many Chinese in Guayaquil who do not know the Lord and actually are Buddhists rather than Catholics.

11) A little after 9pm we broke up, everyone hugged, kissed on the cheek and we went home happy that we had been in the "house of the Lord."

Folks, these are real churches. Is there anything above that isn't Baptist? I guess I could confess the part I left out about the tongues that were spoken since that seems to be one of the issues being raised--the whole meeting was done in tongues--the Spanish tongue! The tongue they are all positive is spoken in Heaven!

Sunday, March 5

Dancing in the rain

A couple of Sundays ago I was invited to a celebration time for the baptism of several new believers in one of the new Guayaquil house churches. I had attended their baptisms a few days earlier but now they just wanted to have a party and celebrate--and celebrate they did!

Just before dark, about 20 of us gathered out under an open patio and had a time of open singing and sharing with one another. People spoke out freely testifying what Jesus meant to them. 2-3 spoke words from the Scripture. Those who had been recently baptized were called up one by one and given baptism certificates. Photos were taken, hugs were given, and as each received his certificate everyone clapped and cheered for the person who had now become their new brother and sister in Christ.

This was followed by the first Lord's Supper for most of those present. Mini Ritz crackers and local brand koolaid did nothing to detract from the solemnity of the occasion as many knelt in prayer on the ground. Several had tears in their eyes.

What got to me though, was what happened next. It began to rain. There was no shelter except for a tiny piece of tin that only 3-4 could stand under (I was one of them!) Instead of the rain spoiling the party, the boombox was turned up LOUD. Two of the younger men began to dance in the rain. They were soon joined by a couple of others. Everyone was soaked by then, but who cared? There they were, splashing around in the pouring rain with the rest of us clapping and cheering them on. Laughter and singing was on the lips of everyone as the dancers stretched and jumped and twirled on the ground to the beat of the music.

At first my conservative upbringing caused me to recoil at such indecency going on--in church! But these were new believers, most only a few months old in their faith. What they were doing was expressing their uninhibited joy and love of the Lord who had saved them. It seemed totally inappropriate to do anything but worship with them! Didn't Jesus himself say that there is more rejoicing in heaven over ONE SINNER who repents than ninety-nine righteous? After a few moments it dawned on me that no one was more pleased than Jesus Himself! He is the One who had come to earth and died so that their sins might be forgiven. Their life now has purpose and meaning. Why not laugh, shout, clap, and dance in the rain?

Friday, March 3

You pray...and God answers!

Hello today from the Muses in hot, rainy, muggy Guayaquil. We are in the middle of our invierno (winter) the hottest and most miserable time of the year!

We recently completed our 2005 annual evaluation of the work year and wanted to share with you--our prayer faithful partners--what your interceding resulted in last year.

Rejoice and give thanks to the Lord for the following highlights:

307 baptisms
31 new churches started
44 new outreach groups (groups on their way to becoming churches)
1641 average weekly attendance in more than 101 house churches
3:1 baptism ratio (the number of believers it takes to baptize a new convert--compare this with the 44:1 ratio in the SBC!)

We give Him all the praise and glory for what he continues to do in our midst. Your prayers are indeed being heard by the Father who wants "all men to be saved" and come to the knowledge of the truth. Thank you for standing by us with your praying!

TELEAMIGO. Many of you have prayed over the years for the Teleamigo couseling ministry. In the past 13 years there have been over 2- million evangelistic contacts. Each month dozens of people are ministered to and the Gospel shared. Recently the ministry has been going through some difficult days financially and in need of new counselors to take the place of older ones who no longer are with the ministry. Please pray that God's hand of blessing would continue upon Teleamigo and for God's provision with all their needs.

BIRON. Biron is a young man who from his wheel chair has begun an evangelistic outreach to street kids and gangs in one of the roughtest parts of the city. It is a difficult ministry with many ups and downs. Please pray that God would continue to give him the encouragement and perseverance to work with these youth and win them to the Lord. This past month five more were baptized. They are continually winning new youth through the three cells that make up the church that meets at Biron's house.

CPM: Babies teaching babies?

Our family doesn't have cable TV but we tend to spend a lot of our free time surfing the net. I enjoy reading various of the SBC web logs and news sites. In the midst of all the issues currently under discussion, one topic that seems to come up is the ongoing debate about the IMB's emphasis on CPMs as their principal methodology for fulfilling the Great Commission.

For example, on Marty Duren's blog in an issue related to the IMB and MLC orientation, there are more than 50 responses (comments) from SBC constituency and M around the world, most of them questioning the IMBs emphasis and teaching CPM methodology at the Missionary Learning Center.

It seems there is a lot of misunderstanding about CPM and I am not hearing many voices seeking to clarify the issues.

In summary, the concern seems to be that CPM methodology is about "babies teaching babies that teach other babies" and that house churches aren't real churches. Of course these are issues we face on the mission field as well, so it shouldn't surprise me that S. Baptists are now beginning to question the same things as well back in the States.

Is it time to revisit our reasons for using CPM methodology in our church planting?

For me, CPM methodology is about using the CPM principals and hammering out their applications in each of our local contexts. There is no one universal way of getting the job done. Each missionary team has to prayerfully seek the H.S. guidance as to how to reach their assigned people group.

CPM methodology is a tool chest of proven principles and great ideas that encourage a church planting movement. No one can MAKE a CPM happen. It is like the sails on a ship. If you set them correctly, when the winds of the Spirit begin to blow, you will move in the direction of a CPM.

I realize some of us may be frustrated with the level of results we are seeing, but is CPM to blame, or other factors? It seems CPM gets the bad name when in reality there are numerous other issues that need to be addressed first before throwing in the CPM towel. SHOW me something better that is being blessed by the Lord and bearing an abundant harvest!

If there is a question for discussion in all this, it would probably be to identify what some of those factors are that are hindering a CPM in our context?

Anybody out there is welcome to voice your opinion on the matter. Is there a better way to fulfilling the GC in our generation? What ideas are working for you in your local context that might help the rest of us?

Thursday, March 2

It's not fair!

Once again I have set myself the goal of reading through the Bible this year. I am currently plowing through the pages of Exodus where God gives Moses page after page of precise instructions on how things were to be done. Details for the "veil" the "screen", the "altar", the "court", "Aaron's garments", and so on; verse after verse, chapter after chapter...

Listen to this example: "you shall make a table of acacia wood, two cubits long and one cubit wide and one and a half cubits high...overlay it with pure gold...make a gold border around it...make a rim of a handbreadth around it...make a gold border for the rim...make four gold rings for it...put rings on the four corners...the rings shall be close to the rim as holders for the poles...the poles..." --and all that's just for a TABLE!

What do the rest of us get today from our Lord? Just a great big broad, GO MAKE DISCIPLES OF THE NATIONS...I WILL BE WITH YOU ALWAYS... Huh? Where are all the details, the precise instructions, the "how to" manual?

To be given such a huge task with so little to go just isn't fair! Who does God think we are anyway? Super Saints? If we are expected to reach the nations, where are the pages and pages of instructions and details like Moses got back in the Old Testament days?

Yet Jesus felt what He gave us was enough, "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the HELPER shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you...But when HE, the Spirit of truth, comes, HE WILL GUIDE YOU INTO ALL THE TRUTH...He will speak; and He will disclose to you..."(John 16)

Our problem? We aren't "hearing Him." The Spirit is alive within us, wanting to fulfill the purposes of Jesus through our lives, but is hindered by our deafness to his still small voice. We understand so little about the Spirit filled life. A life that is truly dead to self, and alive to Christ--what it means to "walk in the Spirit".

Where are those that follow the Spirit as He leads, guides, directs, maneuvers circumstances, instructs, and reveals? I dare say, those who "hear" are the ones turning their worlds upside down for the Glory of God!

Jesus has given us the Spirit to do exactly what the Law of Moses did for the Israelites--to guide us, step by step, day after day to fulfill His purposes in today's world. We have been given the Spirit and the Word. Together, both are fully adequate for discerning the will of God in all aspects of our daily life and in the fulfillment of His Kingdom's work.

The Spirit not only has at His disposal a few chapters of Moses Law, but an entire library of 66 BOOKS to draw from in clarifying His will for us as we face today's tasks and challenges. It's not fair to the Kingdom that our ears stay so stopped up and that we are so distracted by so many things that really don't matter.

Do I want God's detailed instructions on how to build a table, or do I want His guidance on how to go about starting 100 churches this year? I think He has entrusted us with something far greater today. I'll take the Spirit with all His power anyday over the Law with its details for Aaron's garments!

The old hymn says, "All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One come down..."

Wednesday, March 1

Revisiting CPM Methodology

On 16 Feb 2006 at 11:25, a fellow missionary in South America wrote:

I have an experiment for the IMB. I think the IMB should transfer all the missionaries who have been involved in an actual CPM or are currently experiencing CPM and send them to South America and take over our positions. Then the IMB should send all of us in S.A. to the areas where there is CPM and see what happens.

What are the chances that us from S.A. would kill the CPMS that are currently happening? What are the chances that those which are experiencing CPMwould also experience them here?

I think it would get at the heart of the struggle. Are our lack of results a missionary problem or a S.A problem?


When I first read this, I chuckled at what I thought was a good "tongue- in-cheek" post. But your question at the end really is a good one that continues to haunt me. Is our lack of results a missionary problem or a South American problem?

It may be both, or it may be neither. I don't know. I too think it would be interesting to bring in some of the better known CPM experts and see what they would do different in our S. America context.

After two years or so evaluate and see what kind of things happened (or fail to happen) just because THEY were here and not us.

However, if it is any consolation, this whole "guilt trip" that we all frequently bestow upon ourselves for our not living up to our high ideals and expectations of what "should be happening" out there, is really missing the point of why God called US to the PLACE He did, and not someone else.

One of my favorite books mentioned several times on the cpf in the past is "The Present Future" by Reggie McNeal. He writes the following words that really get to the heart of the much bigger picture that we are all a part of as missionaries:

God must have had a lot of confidence in you to put you on the planet at just this time. It was his sovereign decision to insert you onto planet earth during a time of huge transition. It takes incredible faith to lead during hinge points of history.

Think about John the Baptist as a transitional leader...[He] saw heaven open and the Spirit descend when he baptized his first cousin. Yet when he was thrown in jail he sent word of Jesus, "Now, let's go over this one more time: are you the one?" Jesus doesn't slam John. In fact, he extols his cousin, "There's never been a better man born," ...

Jesus doesn't slam you either for your doubts, your fears, your uncertainties. He wants to encourage you in your current assignment. You are being asked to lead during a time when you are not sure where all this is going. If previous history is an accurate indicator, the kinds of changes we are undergoing will not settle out for another century or more. This means that some of you are giving direction to the great- great-great grandparents of the leaders of the Christian movement when it all shakes out on the other side of the postmodern wormhole. You are leading by faith, trusting that the subplot obediences you practice will contribute to the larger drama. Your courage to believe with partial sight will be rewarded one day when a full view is afforded.

On the flip side, you have the chance to do what only a few have been privileged to do. You get the chance to give shape to the movement that will define its expression for perhaps hundreds of years (if Jesus doesn't come back and usher in the kingdom). You must choose carefully... (pg.120-121)


I think each of us is God's choice for the place He has placed us. Surely there are better people out there who might be able to do things better, but they are where God wants them. We are where God wants us!

It's time to blog!

I've done so much commenting lately on others blogs, I figured it was time to start one of my own!

It has been exciting to see the growing number of new "missionary" blogs. I have no illusions about my own writing abilities, but see myself joining fellow M's out there in sharing pertinent missions and church planting thoughts and ideas.

Sometimes I just like to bounce ideas off people. Church planting is not an easy task. There are few "How To" books out there, and the few that are available make for good reading, but somehow fall short of doing what only the Holy Spirit can do. I like feedback, and this seems to be one way to get some from time to time. Most of what we know has come from first hand experience on the field. We have had far more failures than successes, but that is how we learn.

I already moderate a church planting forum consisting of 90 or so missionaries scattered throughout South America. I enjoy the forum, but want to take this next step and try out the blogging. Hopefully to make some new friends and link up with some new folks interested in ssues relating to missions, church planting, CPM, etc.