Wednesday, March 28

Is "security of the believer" a 1st tier matter?

I believe firmly in the security of the believer. "Once saved always saved" would describe my belief that true salvation is never lost. To try to convince me otherwise would be as futile as trying to convert me to Islam or to becoming a Jehovah Witness. But that is not the issue I want to address in this post...

Yesterday, I was talking on the phone with a fellow missionary colleague in another city about a problem Baptist church in their region whose pastor does not hold to the doctrine of the 'security of the believer'. The missionary shared that he had asked the pastor what would happen if he, as a saved person, were to sin and were to die before repenting of that sin? The pastors sad answer was that he would go to hell.

As I continued to talk with my missionary colleague, he shared that his IMB church planting team has made the conscious decision to not partner or work with any other Christian group that believes or tolerates the teaching that salvation can be lost.

In other words, the eternal salvation of one's soul is, for my colleagues, one of those 1st tier, undebatable issues, where the line has to be drawn. Anyone not subscribing to this doctrine, may be a Christian, but my colleagues cannot (in good conscious) work alongside of, or partner with anyone holding to the possibility that salvation can be lost.

So the question becomes for me, is the doctrine of the security of the believer a 1st tier matter? Should this teaching be on the same level as other 1st tier Baptist beliefs such as 'salvation is on the basis of faith' in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ? Is the 'security of the believer' on the same level as there being only one way to God the Father, and that is through Jesus Christ? Is it equal to our belief in the literal, physical death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus? My missionary colleagues, whom I highly regard, esteem, and respect would answer, yes. The 'security of the believer' is a 1st tier doctrinal issue for them.

This is not a theoretical question only, but is very real issue with serious consequences to our future work. Should we draw the line in the sand on our belief in the 'security of the believer' as one of those 1st tier doctrinal issues? Or is it a 2nd or even 3rd tiered issue? Should our position on this matter determine who we may, or may not work with in the Kingdom? What insights would you be able to share to help us?

Sunday, March 25

Our world is changing fast

I just finished Thomas L. Friedman's The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century.

As the sub-title sugests, the book is a brief history of how our world has forever changed in only the past dozen or so years. Basically to continue to operate in the old paradigm way of thinking and understanding the world, will lead to serious consequences.

The book's jacket describes Friedman's account of the "great changes taking place in our time, as lightning swift advances in technology and communications put people all over the globe in touch as never before...[The book] shows how and why globalization has now shifted into warp drive and brilliantly demystifies the new flat world for readers, allowing them to make sense of the often bewildering scene unfolding before their eyes... More than ever, The World Is Flat is an essential update on globalization, its successes and discontents..."

What does the flatenning of the world mean for global missionary work? There is so much in these 575 pages that speak to missions issues. In order to stay in tune with a rapidly changing world, we will need to adapt our thinking, methods and outreach strategies. The implications of a flat world must be faced if we are going to continue to make any kind of impact upon lostness in the years to come.

The following YouTube video is not directly related to Friedman's work, but speaks in the same language and vein of how flat our world is quickly becoming. I have seen this PowerPoint video featured here and on several other blogs, and invite you to ponder the significance of the following facts...

Thursday, March 22

Making a difference

Bob Roberts, Jr. recently posted on his blog an interesting article entitled Societal Engagement Formula from Hanoi to Puebla to NE Tarrant County. In this post he basically spells out a formula for making a difference in people's lives.

I confess to being one of those people who secretly like formulas. Everyone is always saying formulas for ministry don't work in the real world. If something works in one place, it won't in another. But I still like formulas. They are helpful in assisting me to bring some kind of order and understanding to complicated matters far over my head. A formula lays out a long-term picture of what needs to be done and helps me see the bigger picture.

Enough said by way of introduction...on to Roberts formula for making an impact--a difference in people's lives...

Long term + relationships + specific projects(wholistic engagement) + personal sharing and living = IMPACT!

In Bob's article he proceeds to break down each of the above elements of the formula. I would like to do the same, but applying the elements of his formula to a few of our own observations.

Long term - Most of us are conditioned to a lifestyle that expects instant gratification, and quick results from efforts. But making a lasting difference takes time. A long term commitment is crucial to making a lasting impact. Bob Roberts says, "most of us want to do dine and dash, [but] that doesn't work if you want change. You have to be there - really be there..."

Relationships - the key to opening doors is relationships. The world hinges in more ways than we would like to think on the kinds of relationships we build and maintain with people. Bob says, "you don't do anything if you don't know anyone. Who has God put in front of you?"

Specific projects (wholistic engagement) - here Bob says, "...the rubber has to meet the road. Put the book down, instead of going to another conference, get a shovel and find a barn - you'll learn more in that barn than you will at a conference with incredible speakers, thinkers, and writers. If those projects are tied to wholistic engagement of society...then you'll gain credibility..." I would add that a lot of us are waiting for God to drop something down from the sky, but it is more like God is waiting for us to get out there and OBEY--DO THAT WHAT HE HAS SAID TO DO! Give that project/idea a try. "Pray as if everything depended upon God; work as if everything depended upon man." We are called to toil in the harvest fileds of the Lord--to work those fields. Nine out of ten things we try may fail, but the one that works will make a difference.

Personal sharing and living - Nothing takes the place of personal involvement and rubbing shoulders with those you are trying to impact. Jesus himself left Heaven as God Incarnate and dwelt amongst us. He lived and experienced what we live daily. It is hard making an impact when we do not connect with the people we are trying to touch. I once read that leaders never ask followers to do anything they themselves are not already doing or willing to do.

The sum of the parts?

Impact - making a difference in people's lives.

Monday, March 19

On being a missionary church planting catalyst

What is my task/role as a missionary? I will not attempt to speak for my colleagues and fellow missionaries around the world. What I seek to describe is how I understand my own calling/role/function as a missionary.

Through the years, missionaries have served the Lord in many capacities. Church planters, physicians, administrators, Bible translators, pilots, social workers, educators, evangelists, are only a few of the many roles and tasks taken on by missionaries around the world.

In our own 20 years on the field we have served as a consultant, administrator, Minister of Music, and as a church planting catalyst.

We were appointed in 1986 by the IMB as a Mass Media Consultant. Our first years of missionary service were spent working closely with the Ecuador Baptist Convention as director of their Mass Communications Commission.

This position evolved into an evangelistic counseling ministry known as Teleamigo. Several more years were spent in this ministry mainly in an administrative-director role.

When New Directions came along along around 1997, we took on the role as a church planting catalyst.

"Church Planter" is really not an accurate descriptor of my role as a missionary. I have never planted a single church. However we have functioned in a catalytic role to see over 250 churches planted in the past seven years. To me there is a critical difference between being a "church planter" and a "church planting catalyst." Allow me to explain...

If I set out to plant a church, with the help of the Lord, I might be able to plant one or two new churches per year. If, however, I refrain from actually planting a church and give myself instead to a catalytic function of training, mentoring, and coaching 50 others to plant churches, there will be anywhere from 20 to 30, and possibly even 50 churches planted. One church, or fifty. Which will make a greater impact upon lostness?

Using the words of Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom in their provocative book, "The Starfish and the Spider", a catalyst is "any element or compound that initiates a reaction without fusing into that reaction..." They go on to explain, "Take nitrogen and hydrogen...put them in a container, close the lid, come back a day later, and...nothing will have happened. But add ordinary iron to the equation and you'll get ammonia...The thing is ammonia doesn't have any iron in it--it's made solely of hydrogen and nitrogen. The iron in this equation remains unchanged: it just facilitates the bonding of hydrogen and nitrogen in a certain way..."

This sums up so well what I feel my role/function is as a missionary. The authors clarify that in organizations, a catalyst is the person who does the initiating but then fades away into the background. A catalyst gets things going and then cedes control to the members. "The catalyst is an inspirational figure who spurs others to action...A catalyst is like the architect of a house: he's essential to the long-term structural integrity, but he doesn't move in." (pg.92-94) That is exactly what I feel my role is as a missionary--to spur others to action, and then get out of the way and allow God to work through their lives.

In our experience, outreach groups and new churches do not form by themselves in a vacuum. A human catalyst is needed if one is to see fruitful ministry. If you simply gather a bunch of people in the same room, not much is likely to happen of consequence. But add a CP catalyst and soon you have people talking and planning about planting churches.

While being careful to not make blanket statements that apply to everyone everywhere, I feel we need to have more of a catalytic mindset as missionaries. In our desire to impact lostness, too many of us are trying to do the work of "starting a church" when what we need to be doing is acting as a catalyst. A catalyst who can be used of the Lord to ignite dozens of fellow believers to step out in faith to carry out the Great Commission.

Tuesday, March 13

Why not CPM?

CPM: Babies Teaching Babies? is one of my first posts written over a year ago on the "M Blog". It also stands as probably my most read and commented post.

Recently, a year after writing the post, I received yet another comment from "Uncle" an IMB missionary serving in East Asia. What was particularly interesting to me is that "Uncle" is personally involved in what has been classified as a "Church Planting Movement". CPM is what all of us M's out there are praying for and longing to see happen in our midst.

"Uncle's" comments about CPM brings the subject back to center stage and revisits some of the issues that have made CPM a highly debated subject in many quarters. I definitely think it is worthy of our attention (especially for M's and church planters) and so I am reprinting his comments with the hope of rekindling what I believe is one of the most relevant church planting subjects out there.

"Uncle" asks, "Why not CPM?"
Hello, I must say that I just found your blog on CPM (is this thread really a year old?) …read it from top to bottom and found it interesting. I am an IMB M in EA with a city focus and we have been classified as a CPM by the current standards.

I must tell you that CPM is difficult to define outside of the definition of “churches rapidly reproducing churches”. There are lots of “handles” or “tools” that are taught at the Farm or Ranch …what ever they are calling it now that are solid principles that can help you reach your goal of a CPM.

Maybe unlike some of you I believe that these handles/tools which are what I would call “canned” do indeed provide building blocks by which you can indeed plant churches. I am not negating the role of the HS in this for without the stirring of the hearts of the lost by the HS we would not see salvation occur, therefore no church planting and ultimately no CPM. For those of you who would look at things like T4T, MAWL and others as a “model” and therefore dislike it I am sorry that you feel that way. I also know that as you will as I did when you attempt to use the material will look at it and wonder how will this simple thing work. But, I can tell you that your being on your knees, your trust in God and the HS as he does his thing will do wonders with your effort and this small tool.

Granted I know that it does not work for everyone that way and we are experiencing mixed results here in different areas of our work as a team, but I think that Clyde Meador, Executive Vice President with the IMB has a very good take on the subject in his article “Left side of the graph”. I know that in our area of work the HS used many years of folks on the “left side” to get us to a point that we got to see huge numbers of people saved. Granted it is never going to be easy and the groups and churches that are started are difficult to manage and growth is messy, but it is worth the effort. The CPM model that we are utilizing that includes T4T is showing huge results out to past the 5th generation of churches.

My word to you is don’t take away what the HS can do with your effort, a small little tool and a willing heart. There is a lot that goes into the effort part that I don’t have room for here, but would be more then willing to go into some of it later if folks are interested? Peace and grace my brothers and sisters.

Press on,
QUESTIONS: What are your thoughts, comments on CPM? Can it be done in your context? Why or why not? What is different about "Uncle's" context from your own? Does our context make a difference whether or not we should see CPM? Does "Uncle" serve a different Lord than you or I? What can we learn from the above comment?

Saturday, March 10

Overwhelmed by all the needs for prayer

The needs are always there. Dozens of people asking and needing our prayers. Everyday. The phone calls...emails...prayerletters. The sick...spiritual battles raging...those going through a crisis. It never stops, never even slows down! It's everyday! Then there are all our own prayer concerns...the needs of our family...our ministry...personal concerns...trials...burdens...loneliness.

As a missionary, people come to me daily with an assortment of needs. There is only so much one can do. Why me Lord? Why does everyone come to me with their burdens? The standard answer we give people is to let them know we will "pray for them." Ten minutes later there is another need and situation. By days end we have such a pile of prayer concerns on our shoulders with little idea of what to do with them all except to feel guilty about letting people down who are depending upon me for faithful prayer support.

Sometimes I just feel overwhelmed by it all. How does God handle the billions of daily prayer concerns and millions of people crying out to Him every second of the day? I feel guilty that the best I can usually offer is a hurried, whispered prayer under my breath as I am already doing something else. I confess to not really feeling much of anything for most of those needs tossed my way. Sure, I care, but do I care enough to drop other things to really spend meaningful time praying? All of them are important. All need serious consideration. When I have needs and concerns, I want people to passionately pray for what I bring to the table. But where do we find the spiritual energy and disposition to do justice to so many needs clamoring for our attention?

Does God really expect us to seriously pray about each and everyone of all the requests we are bombarded with daily? I wish I had that kind of prayer passion in me, but unless something directly touches my life, there is little praying that gets done for others prayer concerns and needs.

So, how do you deal with all the needs fired your way? What do you do to give appropriate prayer support to the needs God sends your way?

I have been giving some thought to this. I truly want to be a person of prayer. I want my prayers to be heard and answered by God. I want my prayers to make a difference. I want to be known as a "person of prayer." What do I need to do to become this kind of prayer person?

Some ideas that come to mind...
  • Set aside a daily time slot for praying for the needs of all those asking me for prayer support.
  • Find appropriate Scripture verses and promises that apply to the particular need. Pray the Scripture over the need and let the person(s) know this is the verse the Lord has given me for them and their need.
  • Pray for these needs (albeit brief prayers) throughout the day as the Spirit brings them to mind. Some of them will be brought to my mind several times a day. My interpretation is that as often as the Spirit brings them to mind, the more that need should be prayed for.
  • Make it a point to follow up via email, phone, or face-to-face with each request, expecting an answer from the Lord about that particular need.
  • Ask the Lord specifically about personally giving financially to help alleviate the particular situation. Most of our "tithe money" is already given for the needs of the saints, but giving can be tricky, and I don't want to create problems with our giving. If you give to one person, others also expect to be given to (word gets around no matter how hard you try to make it secret.)
  • When someone asks for prayer, if possible, try to stop right then and there and pray with them on the spot.
  • Spend time in silence before the Lord after laying one of these requests before Him and wait for the Lord to show us how to pray for the situation.
What comes to your mind about this whole matter of prayer and the multitude of prayer requests? How does one best get a handle on all of them to do them justice?

Thursday, March 8

Maintenance or Missional

Rick Meigs recently quoted the Rev. Canon Dr. Harold Percy, Rector of Trinity Anglican Church in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, who wrote “Good News People: An Introduction to Evangelism for Tongue-Tied Christians,” (Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 1996). The book is an introduction to evangelism in the context of the local church and its ministry.

In "Good News People" the author articulates questions that contrast the difference in thinking between a church in maintenance mode and one in mission mode. What follows are some of Rick's adaptations of these questions...

Rick writes, "...more important than getting the right answer is asking the right question. These questions can help us understand missional, show how important a shift in thinking is when understanding and being missional, and can help train us to actually think missionally."

Maintenance or Missional

1. In measuring its effectiveness, the maintenance congregation asks, “How many visitors have we attracted?” The missional congregation asks, “How many members have we sent?”

2. When contemplating some form of change, the maintenance congregation says, “If this proves upsetting to any of our members, we won’t do it.” The missional congregation says, “If this will help us bless and touch someone outside of our faith community, we will take the risk and do it.”

3. When thinking about change, the majority of members in a maintenance congregation ask, “How will this affect me?” The majority of members in the missional congregation ask, “Will this help align our activities around the missio dei — the mission of God?”

4. When thinking of its vision for ministry, the maintenance congregation says, “We have to be faithful to our past.” The missional congregation says, “We have to be faithful to our future.”

5. The leadership style in the maintenance congregation is primarily managerial, where leaders try to keep everything in order and running smoothly. The leadership style in a missional congregation is primarily transformational, casting a vision of what can be, and marching off the map in order to bring the vision into reality.

6. The maintenance congregation is concerned with their congregation, its organizations and structure, its constitutions and committees. The missional congregation is concerned with the culture, with understanding how secular people think and what makes them tick. It tries to determine their needs and their points of accessibility to the Gospel.

7. When thinking about growth, the maintenance congregations asks, “How many Christians, who aren’t currently members, live within a twenty-minute drive of this church?” The missional congregation asks, “How many unreached people groups live within a twenty-minute drive of this church?”

8. The maintenance congregation looks at the community and asks, “How can we get these people to come to our church?” The missional congregation asks, “How can we go and be engaged with these people?”

9. The maintenance congregation thinks about how to save their congregation. The missional congregation thinks about how to plant new missional communities to extend the Kingdom of God.

Monday, March 5

'Top Ten' Neil Cole Quotes

10. If you want to win this world to Christ, you are going to have to sit in the smoking section.

9. If we can't see them, we won't love them (Matt.9:36).
If we can't love them, we won't pray for them (9:36-38).
If we can't pray for them, we won't win them (10:1).
If we can't win them, we won't send them (10:2-5).

Bad people make good soil--there's a lot of fertilizer in their lives.

7. Simplicity is the key to the fulfillment of the Great Commission in this generation. If the process is complex, it will break down early in the transference to the next generation of disciples. The more complex the process, the greater the giftedness needed to keep it going. The simpler the process, the more available it is to the broader Christian populace.

6. There are two kinds of lost people in the world, the moths and the cockroaches. In the darkness, it's impossible to tell them apart, so the best way to discover the difference is to turn the light on. The moths will be drawn to the light, and the cockroaches will flee.

5. Though we long for fresh fruit, many of our efforts at growing it leave us with nothing but mud because we have failed to plant the seed that brings life. It does not matter how good you are at fertilizing, watering, cultivating, and harvesting. If you do not plant the seed, you will never have a harvest--never.

4. We must invest everything in the few who will bear fruit. Life is too short and the potential yields are too great to spend our lives babysitting fruitless people.

3. We would do much better as leaders in the Church to learn at the feet of the farmer rather than study with the CEO...It is time we see that the Church starts in the fields, not in the barns.

2. We have taught people to be consumers rather than workers. We have made a terrible mistake by separating the convert from the worker. They are not two, but one. Each new convert is a worker--immediately.

1. We want to lower the bar of how church is done and raise the bar of what it means to be a disciple.

Honorable Mentions:

*Jesus shows us that the workers must come from the harvest itself. He transforms the twelve from being disciples in chapter ten verse one to being apostles in verse two. They went from praying for the harvest to preaching in the harvest in one verse.

*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.

*The resources needed for a great harvest are already found in the harvest itself--finances, facilities, future leaders. All we need is to get out there and reap. There is much power in 'showing up'.

*What is needed for a harvest? Prayer and workers. The more prayer we offer, the more workers we will see. The more workers raised up, the greater the harvest.

*Instead of bringing people to church so that we can then bring them to Christ; let's bring Christ to people where they live.

*We believe that church should happen wherever life happens. You shouldn't have to leave life to go to church.

Thursday, March 1

House Church Baptisms

In January 2007, on Super Bowl Sunday, three of the Guayaquil house churches got together for a joint baptism service at a nearby river about an hour out of town (slide show length 1:37).

NOTE: Please turn up computer speakers more than normal to be able to hear the audio track which was recorded at too low of a volume.