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