Sunday, February 25

The Ten Commandments of Jesus Christ

Everyone knows, or at least has heard about the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament. But how many Christians know and can quote the Ten Commandments of Christ?

As part of the Great Commission Jesus clearly instructs "teaching them to observe ALL that I commanded you..." What exactly did Christ command? What are His commandments?

If we are Christians, we ought to be clear on not only teaching, but OBEYING these commandments. They are what Christ himself thought most important.

In our own discipling of new believers we teach early on the "Ten Commandments of Jesus". It is first taught as a single lesson, and then a deductive Bible study is done on each individual commandment.

How many of Christ's commandments can you name? Even though there are more than ten commandments of Christ to his followers, we feel all of them are covered in the following ten...


2) Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you. The Great Commission: Matthew 28:19-20.

3) one another. The New Commandment: John 13:34-35, 15:12.

4) first His kingdom and His righteousness... The Priority commandment for every believer: Matthew 6:33.

5) this in remembrance of Me...
The Lord's Supper: Luke 20:14-20, 1 Corinthians 12:23-26.

6) ...wash one another's also should do as I did to you... The Great Example Commandment: John 13:14-15.

7) Abide in Me... The Commandment that is the secret to a fruitful life: John 15:4-8.

8) ...beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest... The only specific request Christ commanded his disciples to pray besides the Lord's Prayer: Luke 10:2, Matthew 9:38.

9) not pass not condemn...pardon...give... General Commandments of Jesus for victorious living: Luke 6:37-38.

10) your good to those who hate you...bless those who curse you...pray for those who mistreat you... Commandments for loving our enemies: Luke 6:27-36, Matthew 5:43-48.

Christians should not measure their spiritual maturity based upon their knowledge of the Gospel, but upon their obedience of what they know of the Gospel. We should never confuse our knowing the commands of Christ with obeying them in our personal lives. The Christian walk is not about what we know, but about how much we OBEY what it is we know.

Thursday, February 22

The 'Curse of Knowledge'

OnMovements, a blog I often read, recently caught my attention with the following thought, which is highly relevant to anyone working in the harvest fields of the Lord...
The Curse of Knowledge is the tendency for leaders to think that having a great idea is enough. Leaders cursed by knowledge think that the communication part of that idea will come naturally. They don’t see the difficultly of getting a thought out of their own heads and into the heads of others.

As Chip and Dan Heath argue in their book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and 0thers Die, that the great cruelty of the Curse of Knowledge is this:

The better we get at generating great ideas—new insights and novel solutions—in our field of expertise, the more unnatural it becomes for us to communicate those ideas clearly.

Successful leaders of movements overcome this natural tendency to encode vision, values, and strategy in language that is sweeping, high-level, and abstract. They consciously think about the “communication part” — choosing language that works in the streets and is at a level that everyone can reach. A movement leader’s language is storied and concrete.

The “Curse of Knowledge” is best illustrated by a psychology experiment conducted in 1990 by a Ph.D. candidate named Elizabeth Newton. She designed a simple game in which she assigned her subjects to one of two roles: “tappers” or “listeners.” Tappers received a list of 25 well-known songs, such as “Happy Birthday to You” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Each tapper was asked to pick a song and tap out the rhythm to a listener (by knocking on a table). The listener’s job was to guess the song based on the rhythm being tapped.

The listener’s job in this game is quite difficult. During the course of the experiment, 120 songs were tapped out. Listeners guessed only 3 songs correctly out of 120, a success ratio of 2.5%.

But here’s what made the result worthy of a dissertation in psychology.

Before the listeners guessed the name of the song, the tappers were asked to make a prediction: What’s the probability that the listeners will guess the right song? The tappers predicted that the probability was 50%. The tappers communicated successfully 1 time in 40, but they thought they were communicating successfully 1 time in 2.


When a tapper taps, she is hearing the song in her head. It is impossible for the tappers to avoid hearing the tune playing along to their taps. Meanwhile, the listeners can’t hear that tune—all they can hear are a bunch of disconnected taps. In the experiment, tappers are flabbergasted at how hard the listeners seem to be working to pick up the tune. Isn’t the song obvious? The tappers’ expressions, when a listener guesses “Happy Birthday to You” for “The Star-Spangled Banner,” are priceless. How could you be so stupid?

It’s hard to be a tapper. The problem is that tappers have been given knowledge (the song title) that makes it impossible for them to imagine what it is like to lack that knowledge. When they are tapping, they can’t imagine what it is like for the listeners to hear isolated taps rather than a song.

This is the Curse of Knowledge.

Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has “cursed” us. And it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create the state of mind of our listeners.
The question then becomes, how do we avoid the curse of knowledge? How do we move beyond knowledge and communicate with those around us the ideas so that they too "get it"? OnMovements seems to want to tackle this issue in upcoming posts (which I plant to read), but in the meantime, what are your thoughts? How do you personally go about overcoming the 'curse of knowledge'?

Monday, February 19

More Neil Cole

After reading Neil Cole's "Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens", and the source of my previous post, I took it upon myself to reread the book a second time for specific things we might apply to our own work here in Ecuador. This second, slower reading has turned out to be quite a rewarding experience. Possibly the sentence that captured my attention the most appears on page 98 where he states, "The way to see a true church multiplication movment is to multiply healthy disciples, then leaders, then churches, and finally movements--in that order."

Cole goes on to point out that the Bible no where instructs us to start churches, and yet that is where most of our focus has been for the past seven years. We are church planters, we are here to start churches! Instead, Neil points out that we are not to start churches, but instead to MAKE DISCIPLES that make disciples. That is quite a different focus from the church planting focus we have had. "Jesus gave us instruction [the Great Commission] that is on the molecular level of Kingdom life...trying to multiply large, highly complex organisms without multiplying on the micro level is impossible...the basic unit of Kingdom life is a follower of Christ in relationship with another follower of Christ. The micro form of church life is a unit of two or three believers in relationship. This is where we must begin to see multiplication occur."

On page 99 he comes right out and clearly states, "Let's face it: if we can't multiply a group of two or three, then we should forget about multiplying a group of fifteen to twenty. By focusing on the simple, we actually can see dramatic results in the complex."

To see multiplication we must go smaller to the most basic unit of church life. If that unit can be infused with the DNA of healthy church life and reproduction, then the influence will spread throughout the entire Kingdom (page 99.) Neil then goes on to share seven Biblical reasons why he believes that "two or three" is the ideal size for effective fellowship and ministry that will go on to penetrate the rest of the church and ultimately the Kingdom.

1) Community is stronger with two or three (Eccles.4:9-12).
2) Accountability is stronger with two or three (1 Tim.5:19).
3) Confidentiality is stronger with two or three (Matt.18:15-17).
4) Flexibility is stronger with two or three (Matt.18:20).
5) Communication is stronger with two or three (1 Cor.14:26-33).
6) Direction is stronger with two or three (2 Cor.13:1).
7) Leadership is stronger with two or three (1 Cor.14:29).

What are the implications of all this for our local ministry here in Ecuador? How does this play itself out in our church planting context?

Neil talks about reproduction being easier at the level of "two or three" (page 103.) If you have a group of three and want to multiply groups of two or three, all you need is to find ONE OTHER PERSON. In other words if you have two people (disciples with the intent to plant a church) all you need to find is one other person. These initial three then begin multiplying by forming other groups of two or three. Together the various groups of two or three make up the new church plant. "By reducing multiplication at this simplest level, reproduction can be part of the genetic fabric of the entire body of Christ."

One of the difficulties of church planting is simply getting started. How does one get the ball rolling? What I can envision us doing in the days ahead is break down the process further to its most simplified level where we train groups of two to go out and simply find ONE OTHER PERSON and begin to make a disciple of him/her, following our already proven pattern of making disciples. The three meet together and reproduce by forming new groups of two and three. These groups continue to meet for discipleship and accountability, but also begin meeting with the other small groups which are forming. The combination of these small groups IS THE NEW CHURCH PLANT.

Wednesday, February 14

Words of wisdom from Neil Cole

Last month I attended Neil Cole's Organic Church Multiplication Movements Conference held in Long Beach, California, January 26-28. I am still processing the load of great stuff shared by Neil, Alan Hirsch, Reggie McNeal, Wolfgang Simson, Felicity Dale, and several others.

While there I picked up a copy of Neil's "Organic Church: Growing faith Where Life Happens." As founder of Church Multiplication Assciates, Neil and gang have grown to more than 700 churches in 32 states and 23 nations in only six years. There are quite a few out there "talking the talk" but not necessarily "walking the walk." In my book Neil and gang have earned the right to be listened to and learn from.

In Chapter 13 of "Organic Church" Neil shares what he would do differently if he were to start again. I personally identify wholeheartedly with each of these seven issues and have seen the truth of them in our own church planting ministry here in Ecuador. Neil writes...

FIRST, I would begin in the harvest and start small. Don't start with a team of already-saved Christians. We think that having a bigger and better team will accelerate the work, but it doesn't. In fact, has the opposite effect...churches birthed out of transformed lives are healthier, reproductive, and growing faster. It is about this: a life changed, not about the model.

SECOND, I would allow God to build around others. Don't start in your own home; find a person of peace and start in that home. Read Matthew 10 and Luke 10, and do it.

THIRD, I would empower others from the start. Don't lead too much. Let the new believers do the work of the ministry without your imposed control. Let the excitement of a new life carry the movement rather than your intelligence and persuasiveness.

FOURTH, I would let Scripture, not my assumptions, lead. Question all your ministry assumptions in light of Scripture, with courage and faith. There is nothing sacred but God's Word and Spirit in us; let them lead rather than your own experience, teachings, and tradition.

I would rethink leadership. The Christian life is a process. There is not a ceiling of maturity that people need to break through to lead. Set them loose immediately, and walk with them through the process for a while. Leadership recruitment is a dead end...Leadership farming is what is needed. Any leadership development system that doesn't start with the lost is starting in the wrong place. Start at the beginning, and begin with the end in mind. Mentor life on life and walk with them through their growth in being, doing, and knowing. The end is not accumulated knowledge but a life of obedience that will be willing to die for Jesus.

SIXTH, I would create immediate obedience in baptism. Baptize quickly and publicly and let the one doing the evangelizing do the baptizing. The Bible doesn't command us to be baptized, but to be baptizers. It is absolutely foolish the way we hold the Great Commission over our people and then exclude them from obeying it at the same time.

SEVENTH and last, I would settle my ownership issues. Stop being concerned about whether "your" church plant will succeed or not. It isn't yours in the first place. Your reputation is not the one on the line; Jesus' is. He will do a good job if we let him. If we have our own identity and reputation at stake in the work, we will tend to take command. Big mistake. Let Jesus get the glory and put his reputation on the line; He can take care of Himself without your help.

Friday, February 9

The rest of the story -- some of our "unsung heroes"

I'd like to pick up on something I wrote in my previous post below about our very first group that we trained in church planting in response to the ten2b virus. Towards the end of the article I state...
To make a long story short, within eight weeks that unpromising group of believers had begun SIX NEW WORKS!!! Today seven years later, four of those still are active NT churches!
I thought it might be interesting to share a bit about the "rest of the story" of these four unknown heroes of the faith who are out there making an impact on the lostness of their communities.

MANUELA. Is an older single mother who has a great pastoral heart. She never quite grasped the house church methods we taught, but did understand the part about evangelizing the lost around her community. Almost from the beginning she set out winning her lost neighbors to Christ. Everyday after work she hurries home, cooks supper for her kids and then rushes across the street to where the church she planted seven years ago continues to meet. The church meets 7 days/week and she never misses. Over the years Manuela carefully saved every extra dime she could and slowly began to remodel and expand the tiny building where they were meeting to be able to accomodate more people. With her own hands she has personally laid a cement foundation and built the walls and roof to, what is today, a modest temple for the growing group of believers she helps to shepherd.

CARLOS AND MARIA. Carlos was the man who showed up for the training in the previous post whose home burned to the ground leaving him, Maria and their children with nothing more than the clothes on their back. He slowly began going around the neighborhood collecting a board here and there, borrowing a sack of cement, receiving donations from neighbors, and with the help of the Lord rebuilt a semblance of a house for his family. From the very beginning both Carlos and Maria decided that they would use the ground floor for the church to gather. They themselves occupy the floor above the church for their personal use. Over the years this church meeting in their home has baptized dozens of people. They too meet seven days a week and are big on prayer, rising every morning around 4am to pray to the Lord. Recently they noticed a starving young boy wandering around their neighborhood. Carlos and Maria have never been able to find the child's parents (who apparently abandoned him to the streets) and have since taken him in as their own child. Yet another mouth to feed, and yet as they say, "The Lord always provides..."

MARIANA. Mariana is another single mother advanced in years whose husband left her many years ago when he gave her the ultimatum of choosing between himself or the God she served. Mariana chose the Lord and her husband left never to come back. Every weekend Mariana travels out on a bus to Kilometer 16 outside of the city where she shepherds a small group of baptized believers won to the Lord through her witness. She has been faithfully going now every weekend for nearly seven years and considers it her calling. Mariana does not have a very high education but has managed to work her way through to the second level of the Theological Education by Extension (TEE) program we offer our servant leaders.

VICENTE. Vicente's wife left him several years ago as an unstable drug addict. Vicente has done everything in his power to win his wife back, but to no avail. He continues to try to work full time, raise his children, and function as a missionary out in the neighboring provinces round Guayaquil. When Vicente came to us as a 2-month old believer he lied about the amount of time he had known the Lord, thinking we would not allow him in the training if we knew how young he was in the Lord! As he received the training, Vicente went out and promptly started meeting on the street with a group of prostitutes. He would bring them food and then sit out on the sidewalk with them and share with these ladies and their families how much God loved them. In another group he worked with, out in a dangerous part of the city, they would meet openly out on the street. One time one of my fellow IMB missionaries went to visit one of their "street services. " Suddenly a man began shooting a pistol at another person right near where they were meeting. Vicente calmly got up, went over to the guy shooting, and invited him to the sidewalk Bible study. My missionary colleague was quite upset and afraid to say the least, but not Vicente! Over the years Vicente has been used by the Lord to open many new works. For a two-year period he left all behind and felt called of God to go into the countryside to plant churches amongst the rural provincial people. There he started several works and with the help of his brother Felipe, still continue to this day to stay in contact with the believers there. Vicente feels a strong call to serve as a missionary. Right now he is a tent-making missionary supporting himself and his children while continuing to try and open works out in the provinces.

Would you pause right now and pray for Manuela, Carlos and Maria, Mariana, and Vicente? All these live very difficult lives and yet are joyfully serving the Lord where He has planted them. Who knows, maybe God is calling YOU to plant a church in your community as well. If they can do it, why can't you?

Tuesday, February 6

ten2b virus

Jesus commands us to "pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest..."

This is not an option if we are followers of Christ. It is a direct command of Christ and one that has enormous implications on world evangelization.

When we first began our church planting back in the year 2000, the Lord led us to Luke 10. This is where Jesus sends out the 70. In the first nine verses are a series of instructions (commands) that Jesus gives the seventy.

The first instruction in what is a series of steps and instructions to the disciples is to PRAY FOR WORKERS. When we first decided to follow the ten2b virus in Luke 10 we soon realized that to do it Jesus way would mean that we could no longer "recruit" laborers in the way we had originally envisioned. Jesus way of "recruiting" is through prayer. So we began to pray in March of the year 2000. As a team, we prayed throughout March, April, May, June, and July with no one coming forth in response to our praying.

It was a difficult time where we highly questioned whether or not we were accurately interpreting this literal command of Christ. If it was applicable for us today, where were the laborers? Just as we were about to give up on this approach to finding workers to train, the Lord opened a door. I was walking out of an office one day when a pastor tapped me on the back and said something like, "I hear you guys are willing to come and help train our people in evangelism and church planting. Could you come to our church and train our people?"

I could barely contain my excitement, but remained "cool" and took out my blank agenda and checked to see if we had any open "available dates." It didn't take long to agree on a date and time for the training!

When we arrived at the church with our big box of training materials we had worked on for months, we were disappointed to say the least. Instead of a church full of excited, young, intelligent, eager church planters like we had imagined, there were only a handful of not-so-promising individuals. Present were several elderly ladies, one blind woman, another woman who had physically lost her voice and could only whisper, a 2-month old Christian, and a man whose house had burned to the ground and was there aparently looking for a hand out. Not one of those present fit our profile for starting a church planting movement as we had dreamed and prayed for!

To say the least we were disappointed. But since the commitment had been made with the church, and we had no other invitations, we could do no other than present our church planting materials to this unpromising group. I remember thinking to myself what a cruel joke God had played on us. There we had prayed for months on end and this was the answer to our prayer!?!?

But God works in mysterious ways. It was more a lesson for us as a team than it was anything else. To make a long story short, within eight weeks that unpromising group of believers had begun SIX NEW WORKS!!! Today seven years later, four of those still are active NT churches!

The lesson God had for us is that if we take His Word seriously and attempt to do things His way, He will work! It has nothing to do with what man sees on the outside, it has everything to do with prayer and believing God honors His Word. I truly believe God very much wants to answer the 10:2b prayer if we will just pray it!

Is God still working in this way seven years later? You bet.

Yesterday I received a phone call from the northern part of Ecuador from a man I had never heard of, nor knew from Adam. He introduced himself and said he wanted to start planting churches in his area of the country. Could I train him? I said, "sure, when can you come?" He said he could catch a bus and travel all night and be here in TEN HOURS! I told him to come on, again not really expecting him to show up. Guess what? He indeed showed up today and we spent several hours training him and showing him how to use our COSECHA church planting materials. He left fired up and ready to conquer the world! After eating a meal with us, we said goodbye and he left to catch a bus back home.

That is the way God is working in today's world. It is extremely humbling to be part of something that is way beyond our control. I have learned to pray daily 10:2b. Will you begin to pray this prayer too? I challenge you to take seriously this command of Christ. It is one he wants to answer if we will but ask Him.

Friday, February 2

OrganicChurchMovements Conference

I have just returned home from the OrganicChurchMovements Conference sponsored by Neil Cole and his Church Multiplication Associates movement. The conference was held in Long Beach, California January 26-28. Speakers and workshop facilitators included: Alan Hirsch, Wolfgang Simson, Reggie McNeal, Neil Cole, Tony and Felicity Dale, Ori Brafman (author of the great must-read book "The Starfish and the Spider") and several others who I would have loved to have gotten to listen to but was unable to coordinate available time slots to attend all the sessions.

To be honest I am still processing the load of material that was shared. It was so deep and "right-on". To assist me I spent a fortune buying up several new books by the above named folks who explained in greater detail things they were sharing in their sessions.

Probably the biggest blessings was getting to not only hear these guys but actually sit around and talk with them! The conference was scheduled over several meals where we not only ate together, but had plenty of time to dialogue and share with those around our tables. What a blessing to link up with so many like-minded fellow pilgrims on the same journey! If I started mentioning names I would certainly forget to name them all, so won't even attempt it, but suffice it to say, I was incredibly blessed to hear the stories, struggles, victories, defeats, dreams of fellow church planters from all over the world. I went to the conference on "spiritual fumes" but have returned revived and ready for yet another round on the battlefield.

All the speakers and workshops were great but will share just a bit of what Wolfgang had to say. He spoke about the fact that we are in a new phase of Christian history where a new OS (computer operating system) of TRUST IN GOD will replace the old OS of knowledge. Listening to God as He leads step by step will become more and more the basis for ministry replacing plans, programs, strategies, etc.

When we feel that nothing is happening it is when God is most active. What is happening in these "silences" is that God is in the process of replacing our old operating systems for the new one that will carry us into the greatest harvest the world has ever seen.

How does one implement this new OS? Wolfgang shared that we must slow down and do less. We need to detox and allow God to replace the old OS with his new one. It's not about speeding up and trying to do more; rather get in tune with what God is wanting to do and follow Him step by step--listening carefully and trusting that He will bring about His Kingdom here on earth.

More later...