Saturday, February 28

I can't stand your religious meetings

I can't stand your religious meetings. I'm fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I'm sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I've had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice--oceans of it. I want fairness--rivers of it. That's what I want. That's all I want. --God (Amos 5:21-24 The Message)

Don't miss watching this video parable of what to me is an excellent illustration of what God is saying above.

Thanks to Kamp Krusty and sbcIMPACT for bringing the above verses & video to my attention.

Wednesday, February 25

Baptism was given to all disciples of Jesus

Neil Cole wrote the following baptism article entitled The Weirdness of the Church Over Baptism for Raw Religion.

Christians who are not clergy are often times instructed by the church to disobey Jesus when they are not allowed to baptize their disciples. The practice of baptism is not something Christ gave to the “clergy,” church organization or institutions, but to all disciples. One of the sayings in our own church-planting movement is: “The Bible doesn’t command us to be baptized but to be baptizers” (Matt. 28:19–20).

There is absolutely no biblical support for the idea that only the clergy in the local church can baptize. Though our traditions and experience may reinforce such standards, the Bible does not. In fact, it is my opinion that the Bible is slanted in the other direction. Those who are seen to be the leaders in the New Testament are often not the ones who are doing the baptizing but instead their disciples are. It specifically states that during Jesus’ baptizing he wasn’t actually the one doing the baptizing but his disciples were. Paul states that he is glad he only baptized a few in Corinth.

It is amazing how much damage the simple idea of baptizing another has caused through church history. People have been killed, cults have been initiated, denominations started and split, heretics burned at the stake, and parachurch organizations have been formed—all because we view baptism in a strange, unbiblical fashion. If we would only read the Bible and take it for what it says literally, rather than defend our “sacred” traditions, the church would be healthier.

We have created spiritual boundaries to manage spiritual practices, but these boundaries are not in the Bible. When false boundaries begin to take on a biblical sense of authority, they are quite insidious. We accept them as truth and even rise to defend them as though they come from the Bible, when they do not. Unfortunately, we are often willing to submit to these false divisions more than to Scripture itself. This is how the subversive strategy of the Enemy causes much damage. Because we have allowed artificial boundaries to separate Christian groups weird things happen.

For instance, one motto for a parachurch ministry has been: “To fulfill the Great Commission in this generation.” This seems honorable, except that they have rules in place that prevent them from ever fulfilling the Great Commission in any place. Right in the middle of the Great Commission is the command to baptize disciples, which they strictly forbid in order to maintain their parachurch status since (in their view) only churches can baptize.

I want to raise awareness of the weird, almost schizophrenic policies we have made in the church. Whether it is separating a spiritual family into voting “members” and silent “nonmembers” or telling Christians to fulfill the Great Commission by disobeying it, false and artificial divisions have caused some strange practices to be established.

I found myself agreeing with what Neil says. What do you think about the above article?

Sunday, February 22

Words of Wisdom (Part 3)

Continuing my list of Nuggests of wisdom we try to live by: Part 1 and Part 2, here are some more words and quotes that help guide and inspire us...
  • Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)
  • Examinadlo todo; retend lo bueno. (I Thes. 5:21)
  • Don't sweat the small stuff.
  • Choose your battles wisely: you can't fight them all.
  • Live in the present.
  • What you feed your mind with is what you become.
  • En boca cerrada no entran moscas.
  • Facts. Faith. Feelings. In that order.
  • What God reveals to us in the light should never be doubted when in the dark.
  • Everything that touches me has first passed through the hand of God.

Wednesday, February 18

The multiplying church - Bob Roberts

I am currently reading through Bob Robert's The Multiplying Church: The New Math for Starting New Churches. The book offers the author's insights on why churches are multiplying in the East but not in the West...keys to church multiplication...the missing link--pregnant mother churches... Antioch vs. Jerusalem: which got it right?...what kind of churches should we be starting?...what is the end game of church planting? big does a church have to be to start multiplying churches?...and church planting movements or Jesus movements?

A lot of other good stuff is to be found on its pages, but on page 172 Bob lists his "Things I Never Want You To Forget"...
  • Until you can stand up in front of a group of people and say, "Imitate me," you have no business starting or leading a church.
  • It's really not about church planting--it's about transformation.
  • May we have such an impact that it will merit the attention of historians. Upon research, the conclusion of the historians should be, "It wasn't because of any single one of them, but because of every single one of them."
  • You've been called to the kingdom, not called to preach.
  • Steal from every model, yet make sure you don't copy any one.
  • Start a church for the world, not some little spot on the map somewhere.
  • Finish it. Anyone can start a church; it takes much more to complete the task. What we need more of are not church starters but church finishers.
  • You're not going to win the world for Christ 9:00 to 5:00 Monday through Thursday.
  • Any vision that doesn't require your entire life isn't a vision; it's just a thought.
  • If you make your family hate you for starting a church or winning the world, you did it wrong. It they hate you, what difference does starting a church make?
  • It's all about the kingdom--kingdom in, kingdom out.
  • Converts may grow a church, but disciples change the world.
Which of the above caught you attention? For me it was ALL OF THEM!

Monday, February 16

Give me your eyes

Brandon Heath - Give Me Your Eyes from Brandon Heath on Vimeo.

I was hungry,
And you formed a humanities group to discuss my hunger.

I was imprisoned,
And you crept off quietly to your chapel and prayed for my release.

I was naked,
And in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance.

I was sick,
And you knelt and thanked God for your health.

I was homeless,
And you preached a sermon on the spiritual shelter of the love of God.

I was lonely,
And you left me alone to pray for me.

You seem so holy, so close to God
But I am still very hungry – and lonely – and cold.
--author unknown

Thanks to Jonathan Brink and Alan Knox for pointing out the two shared pieces above. As Jonathan says on his blog, "this song is best heard loud and with headphones on." I agree.

Friday, February 13

Baptism and Martinis

Interesting post from Matthew over at Raw Religion.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” -Matthew 28:19-20

“Do you like blackcurrant martinis? I can also make mango.” Dennis stood in his kitchen with a bottle of triple sec in his hand, a martini shaker in the other, and–yes–a bottle of Vodka sitting on the counter. Honestly, the question had taken me by surprise; not because of the offer of alcohol, but because of the context in which it was asked. Dennis had just been baptized.

Would we? Could we? The unexpected merger of things I once considered sacred and secular was taking place before my eyes. What surprised me more than this head-on collision was my response that came out so naturally that it caught me off-guard.

“Yeah, we’d love some - uh - martinis. Make ‘em blackcurrant! Thanks, man.”

This is only the intro to a fascinating story. Before getting too upset about Matthew celebrating the baptism of his friend with a martini, read "the rest of the story" HERE.

Tuesday, February 10

The most ignored words of Jesus

I think some of the most ignored words of Jesus are to be found in Matthew 23:1-11, especially verses 6-11...

"They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, (7) and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. (8) "But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. (9) "Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. (10) "Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. (11) "But the greatest among you shall be your servant...

I'll mail anyone reading this a s/.100 bill (not to be confused with US $100 it's an old extinct Ecuadorian bill worth about $0.004) if they can show me anywhere in the New Testament where servants of God are referred to by a title before their name, rather than by description of their giftings or functions. For example, Paul never refers to himself as the 'Apostle Paul', it is always something like:

Paul, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ (Rom.1:1)
Paul, called as an apostle (I Cor.1:1)
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus (II Cor.1:1)
Paul, an apostle (not sent from men...) (Gal.1:1)

You can look up the rest of Paul's epistles for yourselves. In every case he describes his calling, gifting, function within the Body of Christ--AFTER his name, not as a title proclaiming his accomplishments or importance.

In Christ's Kingdom we are all on the same level as brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all "bond-servants" of Jesus Christ. The only thing that differentiates us is our gifting, or function within the Body of Christ.

If this is the biblical pattern, why do we continue to practice the use of honoring one another with titles such as Dr. So-And-So, or Rev. So-And-So? Why do we refer to servants as "Pastor John" or as they do here, "Licenciado Pastor Reverendo Pedro Gomez" (they tack on ALL of the titles they can think of to make sure everyone knows how important they are!)

In our own mission work we use only the terms "hermano" (brother), and "hermana" (sister) for everyone. We try to be very careful to not give the impression that some of us are somehow more important, or "more called" than others. In any of our meetings ANYONE is welcome, even those meetings of a sensitive nature. We don't want to do anything that would give an impression that some are more qualified or more important to deal with matters than others. As a result, our poorer, uneducated brethren are often used of God to accomplish extraordinary things as they are encouraged to use their spiritual gifting, rather than something they have been made to feel inferior about through no fault of their own.

At first glance it may seem I am making a big deal about nothing. But is it a big deal? I think so. Allow me to put forth my case a bit more, I'm just getting warmed up! :-)

Galatians 3:28 speaks of, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for YOU ARE ALL ONE in Christ Jesus." James 2 speaks about not holding an attitude of personal favoritism towards those more fortunate than the poor by making "distinctions among yourselves." Are not titles a distinction amongst us?

All of us have heard introductions of fellow believers beginning something like...

"Today we have with us one of the most influential and respected pastors in America. His church has grown from 0 to 50,000 in just five years...certainly one of the most humble men on the planet...and one of the most insightful visionaries in Southern Baptist life today, it is a great honor for me to present to you Dr. _____ (applause). Why can't we simply introduce each other as, "John Jones, a dear brother serving our Lord in Oklahoma...?"

Am I against successful ministry, or education and learning? No, certainly not. I strive for these things in my own life. We highly encourage everyone we work with to get as much training, education, learning as they possibly can throughout their lifetime and within their means to do so. We rejoice in the victories and successes of those we co-labor with.

The problem comes that education, titles, ordination, recognition, and degrees have a way of separating us from one another. We unintentionally create religious castes amongst ourselves. We invite the pastors to come to certain meetings, or the "professionals" to a prayer breakfast. We single out "leaders" for certain events, and so forth. All of this has a subtle way of silently killing off the "priesthood of all believers."

Those without the public recognition of their "importance" begin to feel and ACT like second-class Kingdom citizens. They begin to expect Rabbis with the titles to do the work of the Kingdom. Since they are just "ordinary" Christians, the attitude quickly becomes one of mediocrity and complacency, and business as usual. I am not "called" so therefore it is not my responsibility...

Therein lies the reason that 2000 years after Christ gave us the Great Commission, we are no closer to fulfilling the task! Imagine what would happen if every single Christian really understood themselves as a "CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION..." Knew they were a front-line soldier in the advance of the Kingdom? That the Great Commission is not just for the Drs. the Revs. the Pastors, the professionals, but for ALL OF US!

'Nuff said on the subject for now. Now you know why they ship us quirky missionaries off to the far extremes of the earth! :-)

Sunday, February 8

An unorthodox devotional

While I know that God primarily speaks to us through his Word, this has been a season where I have also sensed the Lord speaking through nature. I cannot recall a time in my life when I have been more aware or more appreciative of the natural beauty of God's creation than I have the past eight months. It's like everywhere I look God is there. God in the starry night skies. God in the trees behind the house where we are staying. God in the winds that blow.

For most of the past year I deliberately chose to immerse myself in the four NT Gospels. Some days I would read only one verse and soak in a single phrase. Other days I would read several chapters.

However, a few days ago, I decided to give the Gospels a rest, and simply ask Jesus what was on His heart. What words did He have for me today? My devotional times are usually spent outside with the Lord.

This particular day the wind was blowing quite steadily. In what is--for me at least--an unusual break in tradition, I asked the Spirit to "blow" the pages of my open Bible until they rested on the very words he wanted me to pay attention to. The "deal," I told the Lord, was that I would read whatever page remained open for twenty consecutive seconds. For more than 10-minutes the pages of my open Bible whipped back and forth from Genesis to Revelation--it was quite windy that day! Seldom more than five seconds passed before the wind would blow, and again the pages would flip over and over. I was about to give up on the idea thinking it a bit silly to expect God to respond in such an unorthodox way, when one more gust turned the pages and then...stillness.

I counted slowly 17, 18, 19...20 and just to be sure, 21...22...23 and still the same page remained open on my lap. "OK, God, let's see what You have to say." I looked down...

The page was opened to Acts 18:22 in the top left-hand corner and ended at Acts 20:13 in the bottom right-hand corner.

These are the phrases that jumped off the page and spoke to me as clearly as if Jesus Himself were sitting there speaking to me in an audible voice.

...he [Paul] went up and greeted the church

...he went down to Antioch

...traveling through one place after another in the Galatian territory...strengthening ALL THE DISCIPLES...

Then he entered the synagogue and spoke boldly over a period of three months, engaging in discussion and trying to persuade them about the things related to the kingdom of God...

...he withdrew from them and met separately with the disciples, conducting discussions every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years so that all the inhabitants of the province of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord...

After the uproar was over [described in chapter 19] Paul sent for the disciples, encouraged them, and after saying good-bye, departed to go to Macedonia...

And when he had passed through those areas and exhorted them at length...

Words cannot express how perfect these (and a few other) phrases answer the very questions I have been asking the Lord to reveal to us as we prepare to return to Ecuador and the work He has called us to. In the days following this unusual encounter, I have continued to read, study, and meditate upon the words found in Acts 18-20. What a gold mine!

Have you ever had an "unorthodox experience" like this where God surprised you and spoke in an unusual way? Why is it that we always try to box God in to our preconceived notions of the way we think He should act and speak?

Friday, February 6

Catching up with the rest

The following comes from a Bob Roberts presentation at the Innovation3 gathering in Dallas as shared on Ed Stetzer's blog January 29. I thought it was pertinent to what we are about as missionaries in the global south and worth taking a look at.

What are your thoughts about what Bob shares below, especially the part about getting the order right of Gospel-disciple-society-church, along with any input concerning his nine points about what can be learned from the church in the global east/south?


The church is alive, healthy, explosive, and transformative like never before in the history of Christianity - just not in the West!

The Great Commission in Matthew says as we are going to make disciples of all nations. The idea of "as we are going" is the idea that it is a natural integration of all of life. There are two core fundamentals to the Great Commission. The first is the lowest common denominator - the disciple. To make disciples is what we have been called to do - not plant churches, not make converts - but make disciples. BUT, I don't think we understand what Jesus meant by disciples. How did the early church produce so many disciples so fast?

, it was a different kind of decision - not merely accepting Christ, but more of an abandonment to Christ - a Galatians 2:20 kind of disciple. Second, the early disciple probably wasn't as "educated" as modern disciples given the reality that they didn't have the Word of God as we have it - but what they did have they obeyed.

The second core fundamental is the grid on which the disciples live and bear fruit - the society. This is the "all nations" part. All nations, "ethnos", people groups, families, tribes, etc. are made up of the same domains of society. There can be as few as 3 or as many as 13 domains depending on who you read. For our purposes we will list governance, education, economics, agriculture, communication, arts-entertainment, science-technology, and social. Society is the grid on which all of humanity lives and the grid on which the disciple lives and operates.

In our western context the progression generally is:

Gospel ->preacher -> church -> society

In Acts and the East the progression generally is:

Gospel -> disciple -> society -> church ->

My book The Multiplying Church gives more of a full discussion of this, but if we want movement and multiplication we have to get the order right. Having laid the ground work let me share some common things I hear from pastors and we need to learn from the church in the global east and the global south:

1. The focus is first on the Holy Spirit - not nearly as much on the pragmatics.

2. The Word of God is viewed first as a book to be obeyed and a manual for discipleship and following Jesus - more than a book of propositional truth and theological systems. This doesn't mean theology doesn't matter - it does. It doesn't mean they don't want to learn, know, understand theology - they do, but they are limited by teachers, etc.

3. They are "missionaries" from day one. They value the Sons of Ishmael as much as the sons of Isaac. In the West when we think of the Middle-East our loyalties often go first to Israel - they would be just as passionate and concerned for Muslims.

4. They don't debate the issue of church "models." They value all expressions of the church be it house, building, factory or whatever. They value the church, not the form and are often involved in multiple forms.

5. There is the integration of faith and life in all dimensions. Being a disciple is not just about the Sunday event for them. Evangelism takes place more in the community and where people do life as opposed to a church service.

6. They live their faith out in the context of the theology of the Kingdom of God. That means the reconciliation of individuals, but also of "all things."

7. They live more by faith than by dollars, technology, or material things that we as mega-church pastors in the west would consider as necessary.

8. They are inspired by living saints versus old heroes dead for generations. We are living at a moment in history when the new "Calvin's" and "Luther's" will have names like "SonLee" and "Akmed."

9. They listen and respect us - even though the church as a whole in the west is not growing or as impactful as they are. We talk and don't listen thinking we have all the answers. Humility and dependence upon God is a necessity for them, for us - nice character traits.

Wednesday, February 4

The squirrel

Today as I sat out in my spot a squirrel ran up and down the surrounding trees, barking and chattering up a storm as it glared down upon my intrusion into its space. Or was it just simply having fun and like myself delighting in the beautiful day? I don't know, but the squirrel put on quite a show.

As I sat observing, I asked Jesus what was going on?

After a few more minutes of watching the squirrel, I sensed the Lord saying, "there is no message...the squirrel is just being a squirrel...he's come to worship with us today...let's just enjoy the squirrel together...that's all."

There doesn't have to be a lesson in everything. Some things just are. See it. Hear it. Enjoy it. Thank God for it. No need to complicate, or philosophize. Just accept the beauty of creation for what it is.

Today a squirrel was just doing his thing on a beautiful sunny morning. God is good. Need more be said?

Sunday, February 1

The Shack: One More Review

Is there anyone out there who hasn't yet read The Shack? Paul Young's book, written for his kids and family has now surpassed over 5.5 million copies and continues at #1 on the NY Times Best Seller list for its 34th straight week. What is it about "The Shack" that is touching people so deeply? There are as many answers to this question as there are readers. But for me, it is all about being reassured the God we long for in our hearts is the same God that is out there intimately involved in the details of our lives. We are not alone. He is our "papa." In all the insanity of this world. God is in control.

Sadly, religion has created a distant impersonal God that few can identify with or understand. The Shack resonates with readers because it tears down this false image built up over the centuries. Deep in our hearts we long for the kind of God portrayed in the pages of The Shack, not the rules, regulations, and pharisaic expectations of today's religious establishments.

In the book we find delightful, intimate scenes where "Papa" (God) is in the kitchen baking a batch of muffins for supper, encounters with Jesus in the workshop and out by the lake, and garden work with the Holy Spirit. In these common encounters we find God absolutely tuned in to every detail that has ever taken place in our lives. Not a single tear drop escapes, but even these are collected in a special purposeful bottle. To see how loved we are, and to see the Father, Son, and Spirit in such perfect love, harmony, and purpose is what we long to see and understand in this mixed up and confusing world where nothing seems to make sense.

When I went to hear the author, Paul Young, at a House2House conference in September of 2008, I was delighted to learn he grew up as an MK (missionary kid.) MK's are TCK's and very unique individuals. The Shack could not have been written unless he had lived through the suffering and tragedy that he had endured as an MK. The book, while fiction, is very much his own story of pain and suffering inflicted upon him as a child and the long journey of coming to terms with the pain and abuse he suffered and the "God of love" he served. To hear his personal story was even more powerful to me than even the book. I hope that someday Paul will publish in some form what was shared at the conference in that there are many people whose lives have also been raped, torn, trashed, abused, and shattered. A life who has lived and survived such pain and suffering is powerful in ministering to others in like circumstances in offering hope and courage.

There are scores of video interviews out there which you might want to check out, but the best thing is to simply get hold of a copy and read the book!

The following is the first of a 3-part interview with Paul Young which is quite good and gets more into the aspects of the author's background on the mission field where he talks about being an MK/TCK and how this has impacted him. After hearing this interview it explains many things that come out in the book, such as God being depicted as a black woman named "papa." He speaks of his own sexual abuse as a child and how "the shack" is a metaphor for the soul where secrets are stored. Paul shares that for 38 years he built "his shack" of shame and the years that it took to deal with the healing process (eleven as I recall.) This is powerful stuff, don't miss it...

Atlanta Live, Prt.2
Atlanta Live, Prt.3