Tuesday, December 23

Wednesday, December 17

What if the church were run like an airline?

I travel quite a bit, and have been watching all the up-charges that the airlines have been passing on to customers. From paying for the first checked bag, to fuel surcharges, to purchasing soft drinks, they have really socked it to the consumer with all the new charges. I was thinking... particularly during this economic trying time for many churches, maybe we should take some advice from the airlines. Here are some things that I think we could take from the airline world and apply to our churches that might help get us through these trying times:

--First donut free; each additional donut 75 cents.

--All aisle seats are now $10/week. Back row premium seating available for $20 per week.

--First ear plug is free. Additional earplugs just $5 each.

--iPod rental with a Perry Noble sermon - $20 upcharge

Oh... there's more...

--Valet parking: $20 plus tip

--No Bible charge: $10

--Cell phone ringing during service: $50 one time charge

--Late to service fee: $10/per person

--"Sing that chorus one less time” request: $20

--Nursery diaper change fee: $5/lb.

--KJV upgrade to NIV: $15

--U-PIC the sermon topic: $250

--Hit job on the organist (rates vary per city/church)

--Online tithing discount rate: 8%

--Music Volume Up fee: $20

--Music Volume Down fee: $20

What would you add? Leave your ideas in the comments!

Tuesday, December 16

The last 'caudillo'

For most of our 22-year missionary career in Ecuador the name of León Febres-Cordero has been prominent in our lives. The former President died Monday, 4:30pm in Guayaquil. The name probably will not ring a bell with many reading this blog, but his political life and influence has been enormous over the decades in Ecuador.

A good summary of the colorful life and political influence of Febres-Cordero can be read here.

The closest I personally ever got to the man was to stand behind him in the immigration line at the Miami International Airport Jan/07. As we approached the black American woman official with passports in hand, I wondered if she had any idea who she was addressing. "The Lion" has been one of the most feared, respected and powerful voices of the past four decades. I found it amusing that she kept him there for several minutes asking "his reasons" for coming to the USA. I guarantee you, nobody in Ecuador would have questioned Leon like that! It will be interesting to watch the direction the Ecuadorian conservative political right takes without the presence of the last 'caudillo'.

Sunday, December 14

The missing love factor

If love is what God most wants of us, and if love is what we most want in return from others; why do we spend so much time, energy, and money (check out this Geoff Baggett post) on things that are not about loving God, or loving one another?

I invite you to take the following church quiz from Jonathan Brink.

1. I would rather go to a church that:

(A) Had great worship
(B) There was love.

2. I would rather go to a small group that:

A: Had cool people.
B: There was love.

3. I would rather participate in community that:

(A) Had lots of programs
(B) There was love.

4. I would rather attend a function that:

(A) Was hip and entertaining
(B) There was love.

5. I would rather be lead by:

(A) A really smart person.
(B) Someone who loved.

How did you do on the quiz?

In all our strategies, methodologies, planning, programs, structures, are we missing the main ingredient of love? Does complicating something make it better? Why do we think that clutter and more activity is what people need/want?

As we approach a new year, I intend to use the "love factor" as a filter for everything we decide to do. Before embarking on yet another busy schedule, does the activity encourage a greater love for God? Are we really loving others in a way that they "feel" loved?

Do you think the focus of the activities, programs, gatherings you are involved with foster genuine love for God and others?

Friday, December 12

The church within the church

Within every church lives what I would call, the real church. What I mean is that attending a church service or even joining a church, is not the same thing as being the church.

Regardless of size, there seems to be a core group of believers within every assembly who are truly "church." This group can include or exclude leadership, but in every sense, they ARE they church. They are the church when there is a scheduled meeting, just as they are the church throughout the week.

Over the past seven months we have been Stateside, we have visited many different churches. One observation I have made is that within churches there seems to exist another, much smaller, assembly of people. This smaller "church within the church" is made up of vibrant, loving, serving believers--call it the 20% who do 80% of all that ever gets done.

I have been fascinated by this group of people. To me, they are the real church. The rest seem to make up what is certainly called the congregation, but the true ekklesia seems to be the heart and soul of what makes a church a church.

Not only does this core group fill the slots in their local church's program, they are the ones who pray for one another, visit the sick, witness to the lost, invest their money in the Kingdom, fellowship together outside of the planned programs, minister in Jesus name, engage with their community, walk in fellowship with the Lord, disciple/mentor others, share their spiritual gifts within the body of Christ, engage the marginalized of society, share what they have with those less fortunate, serve others instead of waiting around to be served, gracious with those who don't see eye-to-eye with them.

It doesn't matter if that church takes the form of a mega, simple/organic, traditional, or cell church. Nor does it matter what denominational background they come from. A true remnant of God's people can always be found within the gathering of believers who are truly seeking first His Kingdom, His righteousness, and His glory.

These people exist within every church I have ever known. They are the real church within the church.

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 9

I did not like what you had to share today

"I did not like what you had to share with us today."

"What you had to share really challenged me."

"We're not used to hearing
the kinds of things you talked about."

"Wow, I had no idea..."

Variations of the above seem to be common reactions shared with us after gatherings where we have been invited to speak.

So what is it about our sharing that strikes a chord in people?

Usually, I am just sharing about our life and ministry in Ecuador with the house churches. It is pretty standard fare--the normal everyday ABC's of what God is doing in our midst. I am certainly not one of those "polished" preachers--it's not my gift.

So what is happening?

The more I think about it, a Vance Havner quote keeps coming to mind,

"The church is so subnormal
that if it ever got back to the New Testament normal
it would seem to people to be abnormal."

Could it be that too many of our churches are living so "subnormal" that anything "normal" now sounds so extraordinary that it shakes people up because they aren't experiencing anything even close?

Another thought I can't get away from is that the ministries of apostles, prophets, and evangelists have been so marginalized in our contemporary churches that anyone functioning out these giftings tend to "stick out", and seem "abnormal" (eg. how people react when I share).

I am all for the needed pastoral and teaching gifts of Ephesians 4:11-12 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ... but sadly, I have seen little evidence of functioning apostolic, prophetic or even evangelistic roles so commonly found on the pages of the NT.

Those not functioning in the accepted pastoral/teaching roles, have been largely relegated to "a.p.e." status and silenced to the side lines of church life.

When we silence the apostolic, prophetic and evangelistic voices in our midst, we become a crippled body of believers. We can easily miss out on the full measure of what Christ intends for his church. When we ignore those He has placed in our midst with a "different beat" and allow ourselves to only be led by those who functioning out of a pastoral or teaching basis, we do unintentional harm to the body of Christ. The church was meant to be led by a balance of Spirit-empowered functioning "a.p.e.'s" and yes, pastors/teachers.

1Co 12:28 is very clear, and yet so totally ignored, And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues...

It grieves me to see that we are becoming churches that exalt knowledge about the Gospel, over obedience to the Gospel. Passages like 1 Cor. 12:28 have been reinterpreted to make them fit with our current church traditions and practices. But, do we have that right?

Can we even identify who those individuals are that Paul says are FIRST in the church? How about those he appoints SECOND? What ever happened to these roles that in Paul's instructions to the churches was the norm?

I interpret many of those who "compliment" my sharing, as really saying, "we need apostles, prophets, and evangelists in our midst to be the healthy vibrant church God wants us to be." That is what I hear them say. It has nothing to do with me, my speaking abilities, or our missionary stories--it is a realization that something is missing.

My point is NOT diminish the roles of pastors and teachers--the Lord Himself appointed them for the "building up of the body of Christ". What I am saying is, we need to restore to active duty, and RECOGNIZE those apostles, prophets, and evangelist types in our midst. They, like the pastor/teacher types, are equally meant to be part of the Spirit's leadership team help to "equip the saints for the work"...of making disciples in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

What do you think?

Will we be found faithful?

Saturday, December 6

A truly meaningful Christmas

Recently seen at Missio Dei and well worth reflecting upon this Christmas Season.

So, how do you plan to modify your Christmas spending to accommodate giving something of more lasting value? What our family is doing about this is shared below in #1,#2 of our Lottie Moon post.

Wednesday, December 3

My spot

Over the past months here in the USA, we have traveled, visited, eaten great food, seen beautiful country, met wonderful people, and had many wonderful experiences. But of all the places, my favorite has been right in our back yard in Bulverde, Texas.

"My spot" is located about 100 feet behind the mission house where we are staying. Our "home away from home" is located on the top of a hill on about 11 acres of land. Trees are everywhere. To be able to sit under their shade, under clear blue skies, feel the cool breezes whispering through the branches, and spend time with the Lord is about the closest thing I have gotten a Garden of Eden experience in many years.

We are very grateful to the Lord for providing this beautiful place to rest, recharge, reflect, and prepare ourselves mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually to return to the mission field. This has been a good time for all our family. We are thankful for the Bulverde Baptist Church graciously providing us this wonderful place to stay while we are here in the USA.

In S. Baptist life, the week of Nov.30-Dec.7 is observed as the Week of Prayer for International Missions. In all the hustle and bustle of the Christmas Season upon us, I would invite you to find your own special "spot" and pray for a world in need of the Savior. There are plenty of resources available to help you and your church intercede for international missions.

Don't know where to start? Try clicking one of the links above, or just start praying for missionaries along any of the following lines from a site found here.

Specifics to pray for missionaries:

Health and safety objectives

* Protection for the missionaries from accidents, crime, natural disasters

* Protection for the missionaries from sickness

* That missionaries will find time for proper sleep, rest, and exercise

* That missionaries' food and water needs will be met

Spiritual watch care objectives

* Times of intimacy for missionaries with Jesus in Bible, prayer and worship

* Shielding for the missionaries from dark forces in spiritual realms

* Preservation for missionaries from discouragement, fear, and doubt

* That missionaries will demonstrate purity, humility, boldness, wisdom, patience, love for people, a teachable spirit and the power of the Holy Spirit

Teamwork objectives

* That teams of missionaries will experience and express unity, love, good communication, patience, and spiritual gifts

* That missionaries will resist temptations toward jealousy, envy, bitterness, and pride

* That missionaries will be granted grace for cultural adjustments, dealing with jet lag, being away from family and friends and lack of privacy. [ more on culture shock ]

* For missionaries to have wisdom to design and implement effective efforts that will make a long-term difference here . . . and that they will be able to establish and maintain a solid friendships with government officials and other leaders in their chosen land.

BLESS -- an acronym to guide your prayer for missionaries or a people group

B - Body
Pray for physical health and nutrition.

L - Labor.
Pray for their work.

E - Emotions.
Pray for emotional health and well-being of the missionary or people group.

S - Social.
Pray for their social relations, their families and extended families.

S - Spiritual.
Pray for their spiritual condition.

If you took a moment to pray, would you be so kind to drop us a note in the comments? We would like to return the favor, so please mention something we can pray for you...and thanks!

Monday, December 1

Who was Lottie Moon?

How many there are who imagine
that because Jesus paid it all,
they need pay nothing.

Lottie Moon, Tungchow, China, Sept. 15, 1887.

How do you define significance?

Thanks to Rick Boyne for posting this on his blog.