Wednesday, September 30

A few personal notes and prayer requests

Today, Wednesday, Sept. 30 is my wife Linda's birthday. If you'd like to drop her a note you can do so by leaving her a note on her blog A Foreign Life. Thank you for praying for her. I am most blessed to have such a special lady as my wife!

Thursday, Oct. 1, Linda and I will be headed off to Asia (October 1-20) for a worldwide gathering of missionaries and church planters to: 1) repent of our man-made strategies and definitions for missions, 2) to hear God together on how He wants us to mission/network together, and 3) based on the results of what we hear God say, to repent and reform and be in line with the revelation He gives. Sounds like a unique kind of gathering, wouldn't you say?

*Pray for Linda and I to be in tune with the Lord to what He has to say to us during our trip. Pray for our safety in travel, health during the trip, and making all the connections we have to make in getting there!

*Pray for our Anna as she goes to Quito to be with my sister Gail Smallwood and family during the three weeks that we will be gone.

*Pray for our son Joshua in Seguin, TX. His birthday is October 1 and will be turning 18 this year. Pray that God would continue to be at work in his life and in his heart to conform him to the image of Jesus. Pray also for my mom and dad to have the stamina and energy to keep up with a teenage grandson always on the go!

*Pray for our continued safety. This past week we had two accidents while on the road. One was on the way home Saturday evening from the new church being planted in Vernaza. While no one was hurt, our car is in pretty bad shape.

Thank you for your faithful praying. One of my favorite quotes is "Things happen when we pray, that don't happen when we don't pray."

Monday, September 28

What would you do differently if you could start all over today?

For the past five years I have moderated an email church planting forum. Most of the participants are IMB-SBC missionaries engaged in planting simple churches throughout Latin America.

The first cpf entry on Sept. 24, 2004 was a question posed to the forum by a fellow missionay who asked:

1) What would you do differently if you were starting LA IGLESIA EN TU CASA (The Church In Your House) today? 2) What suggestions would you give to people that try something similar in a large metro area?

The response I sent in to the forum five years ago is pretty much the same answer I would give today...


At least four things come to mind...

1) Even though we worked hard at simplifying, I believe what we did was too complicated and over most people's heads (as evidenced by what is actually practiced today in most of those first house churches which were planted.) Just because something is said or taught, does not mean it is caught. I would model more, and talk less. Spend more time actually doing what it is we would like to see happening, and spend less time trying to explain things.

2) Maybe compromise a bit more on our own personal ecclesiology convictions so as to be able to work with a greater number of our more traditional Baptist churches. Yes, there are a lot of differences in the way we approach the Great Commission, but there should be more we have in common than differences. We have got to figure out a way to "package" what we are doing so that it is acceptable to our churches and national leadership.

3) Spend more one-on-one time with the individual servant leaders. While we have always given lip-service to the importance of this, the truth is we do very little in this area. It is easier to say come to such-and-such a meeting, than it is to go out to where these guys live, drink a glass of Tropical with them, and enter their world for a while, helping them where they are struggling. And closely related...

4) Spend more time with those first house churches to make sure the new groups were practicing the right things so that they would be able to survive and move in the direction of multiplication. It is a lot of fun to report large numbers of new groups being started, but the truth of the matter is we tend to let it go at that and do not do the harder work of seeing them through those crucial first 4-6 months. We might see fewer new church plants in the beginning doing it this way, but in the long run the numbers will come if we do it right!

Friday, September 25

How does a medical mission trip fit into simple church model?

In response to my previous two posts of the FBC-Lewisville medical team, a reader sent me the following questions. I appreciate his asking. One of the reasons I blog is to bring practical and relevant mission, and church planting issues to a broader audience. By answering, it also allows me to shed a bit more light on the exciting things God continues to do here in Ecuador.


How does a medical mission trip fit into the framework of the simple church / house church model? Is a new assembly of 30+ not already a little bit larger than the ideal simple church?

Planting house/simple churches is not our reason for being here. Making disciples of the nations is. Having said that, I personally believe 'making disciples' is best accomplished in small house/simple gatherings. However, I believe just about any kind of NT Christian church is better than no church at all! Such is the case for the area where the medical team ministered last week. We were invited by a traditional church to come help them with their vision of planting churches in the 160 surrounding communities. The inviting church would definitely be described as "traditional" in their ecclesiology. The new church plant will more than likely also be traditional. While there were 30+ in the first meeting of the new church, from experience I can almost guarantee this number will fall to the 8-15 range within a couple of weeks.

Also, is the pastor of the mother church a seminary trained, "professional" pastor, or a lay pastor? Does this new church have a professional pastor or will it be led by lay pastors?

This new church plant is a 3rd generation church plant from the mother church. Yes, the pastor of the mother church is a seminary trained "professional" pastor (one of my seminary students years ago.) The second generation pastor directly involved with the new church plant is an unordained, non-seminary trained "lay pastor." The brother who will be leading the newly planted church is also a "lay pastor" with no formal training.

And PTL for 70+ professions! How was the gospel presented? Many North American gospel presentations share a series of propositional truths. Was storying integrated into the gospel presentations? If so how?

The Gospel was presented differently by each of those sharing. Usually the format is along the lines of sharing one's personal testimony in abbreviated form. This is followed by a few questions to the listener seeking to understand their standing with the Lord. The bulk of the sharing was done with a few key evangelistic verses--call them "propositional truths." And, no, storying was not used.

The Coast of Ecuador is what we would call a harvest field. The Gospel was planted here over 100 years ago. There have been many before us who broke the hard ground, plowed, planted, watered, pulled weeds, etc. Today it is our privilege to harvest what those saints before us worked for so long.

If you caught the numbers shared in the original report of 232 people seen, and 77 professions of faith, that is 33% response rate of those hearing the Gospel presented (1 out of 3.) We are in truth a ripe field ready to be harvested! When the fruit is ripe like this, it doesn't take a lot of fancy methodology, or slick presentations of the Gospel to get one's message across. People are open and receptive to the Good News, and it doesn't take much convincing for them to say "yes" to the love of Jesus.

Having said this, though, I personally do not put much weight into how many pray the sinners prayer to "receive Christ". It is easy to do, and many here will do so out of a sense of not wanting to offend, or will do so to please the person taking the time to share with them. What really counts is when they decide to be baptized. We have a saying, "Baptism does not save, but until they are baptized they are probably not saved."

For us the key is the discipleship process. Within 48 hours of someone expressing an interest in following Christ, we do our best to set up a meeting with them to begin discipling the interested new believer or seeker (as is usually the case.) To learn more about our approach to discipleship click here.

Feel free to interact with the above questions yourself, or with anything I write. I enjoy dialog and discussion about how we might better implement measures to bring in the harvest the Lord is giving us here in Ecuador.

Sunday, September 20

My favorite North Carolina church

FBC-Lewisville is my new favorite church in North Carolina! This past week a medical team of eight came down to help us plant a new church in Vernaza (Salitre County) as part of the Guayas Cantones for Christ project.

It was our joy to have Les Puryear and his wife Debbie stay in our home. Les is pastor of the church, well-known blogger, and advocate for "small church." During the week Dr. Mark Bardou and his team of nurses Veda, Amy, and Cindy saw and treated 232 patients. Mark's wife, Jane, fitted reading glasses for another 100+. Tara helped coordinate those arriving to be seen by el doctor. Les, along with a team of national youth, shared the Gospel with each person seen by the medical team. In all there were 77 professions of faith. With these new believers, a new church has been planted in Vernaza.

Some might question whether or not a church can truly be planted in only two days time. But many factors were already set into motion long before the Lewisville medical team arrived on the scene this past week.

--For many years prayer has been showered upon Guayas Province (which includes Salitre) by great numbers of local believers on a daily basis. For this trip there were over 1000 people specifically praying.

--Missions minded people. Instead of people being content to hang out in ongoing local church programs, or saying "I can't do this" or "I don't have time for this", people have the spirit of "can I come help and be part of this too?" It is amazing the number of believers, both Stateside and locally, wanting to serve if given a chance. We must be proactive and invite them to join with us in what God is doing to reach the nations.

--Visionary Acts 1:8 leaders such as Carlos Goya, pastor of the Salitre Baptist Church, who even though they are only a new church plant themselves started two years ago, have already grown to over 200 and are intent upon reaching the remaining 160 communities in their Judea (Vernanza is one of those 160 communities in Salitre county.)

--Having clearly defined "persons of peace" such as Luis Ramirez and his family open up their home (actually an hacienda) as a meeting place for the new community church. Luis is a respected local figure. Out of his own resources Luis is providing the space for the new church plant and will likely provide most (if not all) the needed materials for discipleship, Bibles, chairs, etc.

--Intentional church planting. Having the intent of not just 'preaching the Gospel' but planting a church with those hearing the Gospel message. So much of our evangelistic efforts are wasted by not having the clear intention of planting a church with those being exposed to the Gospel.

--Partnering with like-minded brethren. In this case "the team" consisted of a large assortment of local youth from several different churches, the Lewisville eight, three different national churches (Israel BC in Guayaquil, Israel BC in Samborondon, Israel BC in Salitre), several members of our Guayas Mestizo Team, and even a young lady (Gaby) from an Assemblies of God church who translated for Les!

God has given us all the resources we need to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. It is up to us to identify the resources He has entrusted, fit the pieces together, proclaim the Gospel by word (preaching) and deed (eg. medical teams) and add to that a hefty portion of faith and perseverance. The result? A church plant.

Thanks Les, Debbie, Mark, Jane, Amy, Cindy, Veda, Barbara, Linda, Anna Victoria, Julieta, Gaby, Marcos, Rene, Kimberly, Carlos, Luis, Annie, Carolina, Delia, Connie, Ana Mari, Connie, Bryan, the ladies who cooked for us, and those who opened their homes for the Lewisville team. ALL OF YOU DID A GREAT JOB!

While we do not yet have photos up of the trip, if interested, please click on one of the following YouTube videos for images of past work in the area where we were this last week.

Christ has no body now but yours (Ecuador flood relief)

Salitre baptisms

UPDATE: 8pm - Just returned from the first meeting of the new church plant in Vernaza. There were 31 present and one new lady visiting accepted the Lord.

Monday, September 14

Missional Renaissance by Reggie McNeal

Open Reggie McNeal's new book Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church to any random page and find enough there to camp out in thought for a couple of hours.

If missional has been one of those fuzzy buzz-word terms that you keep hearing but don't know exactly what everyone is talking about, this book will more than clear up the matter for you like it did for me.

Reggie explains in the Introduction, "Missional will require that you make three shifts, both in your thinking and in your behavior:
  • From internal to external in terms of ministry focus
  • From program development to people development in terms of core activity
  • From church-based to kingdom-based in terms of leadership agenda"
He goes on to explain these shifts are not destinations but compass settings for moving you from doing church as "primarily a refuge, conservator, and institutional activity in a post-Christendom culture to being a risky, missionary, organic force in the increasingly pre-Christian world..."

These shifts will necessitate a new scorecard from that of the typical church way of measuring how many, how often, and how much. The new scorecard needs to find ways of measuring external focused ministry, people development efforts, and a kingdom-oriented leadership agenda.

There is so much packed into the 188 pages that it is hard to know where to jump in. Like I said previously, one can open the book to just about any random page and find plenty to chew on. To illustrate my point, a few moments ago I flipped open the book and put my finger on page 45:
[An] airport is a place of connection, not a destination. Its job is to help people get somewhere else. An airport-centric world of travel would be dull and frustrating, no matter how nice the airport is. When the church thinks it's the destination, it also confuses the scorecard. It thinks that if people are hovering around and in the church, the church is winning. The truth is, when that's the case, the church is really keeping people from...their real destination...The church is a connector, linking people to the kingdom life that God has for them. Substituting church activity as the preferred life expression is as weird as believing that airports are more interesting than the destinations they serve.
While I sensed that the book was targeted mainly towards the more traditional/institutional type churches, there is plenty within its pages to challenge all of us. I guess what most attracted me about this book is its subtitle: "Changing the Scorecard for the Church." What kinds of things does a missional church measure?

Page 117 gives only one of many lists, but will give the reader an idea of the huge shift Reggie is trying to get people to understand:
  • Number of people reporting improved marriages over time
  • Number of people reporting improved friendships over time
  • Number of people being mentored
  • Number of people serving as mentors
  • Number of people able to articulate life mission
  • Number of people serving other people in some venue
  • Number of people practicing intentional blessing strategy for those around them
  • Number of people growing in financial giving to kingdom causes
There are pages of these kinds of "new scorecards" covering areas like leadership, finances, calendar, facilities, technology, people, prayer. To begin to implement even 5% of the kinds of changes suggested would completely transform the church as we currently know her.

If you decide to read this book, I recommend getting yourself a yellow highlighter to mark all the passages you will want to remember. Here are a few of my favorites all coming from pages 54-57:

--Jesus followers believe that the way they demonstrate love and service will intrigue people to pursue getting to know the God who inspires such service.

--Our acts of service and love, not our oratorical brilliance and institutional success, will intrigue people with our message.

--Jesus followers live the truth; they don't just study it.

--The missionary church is made up of missionaries, who are playing the big game every day. They live their lives with the idea that they are on a mission trip.

--On mission trips, people focus on the work of God around them, alert to the Spirit's prompting, usually serving people in very tangible ways, often in ways that involve some sacrifice or even discomfort.

--Life on mission is more intentional and more integrated.

There are hundreds more just like these to begin to challenge the way we think about ourselves and our mission here on earth.

In summary, this is a book well worth reading for anyone focused upon being a follower of Jesus and seeking first His Kingdom. As Reggie puts it, "In a kingdom-oriented worldview, the target of God's redemptive love is the world, not the church (For God so loved the world, Jesus said; not 'for God so loved the church') This means that God is always at work in the world, not just in the church, prosecuting his redemptive mission."

Friday, September 11

Jesus' way; or our way

In Luke 10, Jesus sets out clear, step-by-step instructions for the 70 disciples to obey in reaching out to "every town and place where He was about to go." If Jesus himself trained, taught, and instructed his disciples in the way He knew would work, why 2000 years later, do we think we can improve upon His methods?

Jesus instructed his disciples, "PRAY to the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers into His harvest..." (10:2)

We have improved upon this instruction by, 1) substituting 'praying to the Lord of the Harvest' for TALKING about the need for praying, 2) forget about praying, what needs to be done is massive recruitment--get out there and do what has to be done to get people involved, mobilize the masses into training seminars at the largest convention centers in town and invite in the biggest names that will draw the crowds.

Jesus instructed his disciples, "GO, I'm sending you out like lambs among wolves..." (10:3)

We have improved upon Jesus' words by substituting His command to go for something much more convenient for us: COME! Come to our church...meeting...revival...youth group...evangelistic crusade...ladies brunch...sports event...spiritual emphasis...Bible study...etc.

Going out to where the lost are and entering their world is always a lot messier than sitting around hoping and praying they will somehow come to us and whatever event we have planned for them. While I can give a couple of hours for an event at church, I certainly don't have the same couple of hours to go out of my way to seek out those in need. I might be seen associating myself with non-desirables in places not known as appropriate Christian hang-outs.

Jesus instructed his disciples, "DON'T CARRY a money-bag, traveling bag, or sandals..." (10:4)

Since we have never really understood exactly what Jesus was trying to say with this obscure command, we have simply ignored it and done just the opposite. We believe it is not possible to do the Lord's work unless we have a large money bag, and having all the necessary implements in our traveling bag for the journey (cars, land, building, salaries, literature, support packages, furnishings, sounds system, musical instruments, laptop, PowerPoint, video projector, etc.) And certainly let's not forget the importance of the having the latest fashion in sandals and attire and other necessary personal implements for the task. After all, we want to make a good impression on those we are trying to reach!

Jesus instructed his disciples, "DON'T GREET ANYONE along the road..." (10:4)

Jesus obviously didn't understand the importance of greetings in our present day cultures. How is one ever to gain access into "their world" unless we spend a lot of time greeting and building relationships? So, once again we seek to improve (ignore) another outdated command of our Lord and actually spend enormous chunks of time and plan whole evangelistic strategies that never get beyond anything other than "greeting" and nurturing a few relationships. We do ladies teas, let's meet the neighbors, go to ball games together, find someone to drink coffee with, etc. While all these may be good activities, the problem is that we seldom move beyond the "greeting stage" to the remaining instructions of Christ as given in Luke 10:1-9. Jesus knows how easily we are distracted, so He warns us upfront to not greet anyone, or do anything else that will distract us from the important mission we are on.

Jesus instructed his disciples, "SAY 'PEACE to this household' and if a son of peace is there your peace will rest on him..." (10:5)

'Say peace to this household'? What is that all about? The best way to win a community, town, or city is to get out there in vast numbers and knock on as many doors as possible. When they open the door, invite them to your church, and maybe even preach the Gospel and let them know this might be the very last chance they will ever have for salvation. If they refuse, leave them a Gospel tract, and a bunch of literature from your church and be sure to pray for them before leaving.

Jesus instructed his disciples, "REMAIN IN THE SAME HOUSE, eating and drinking what they offer..." (10:7)

Remain in the same house? Just that one house? You've got to be kidding! The more houses you visit, the more contacts you will have, the greater the number of positive results. You wouldn't want to dare risk everything on just one household. There is a high chance things will not work out and then you will be left with nothing. Plus, what's the big deal with wasting time by eating and drinking with people? Does eating and drinking accomplish anything of eternal value? Don't think so...

Jesus instructed his disciples, "EAT THE THINGS set before you..." (10:8)

It's like Jesus foreknew we would have trouble with understanding the importance of the eating/drinking part, so He said it TWICE to make sure we would get it. But the fact is we have yet to grasp the importance of eating and drinking with people BEFORE trying to proclaim the 'Good News" to them. What's important is getting down to business and sharing the Gospel with lost folks. We eat and drink with our fellow Christians, not with pagans!

Jesus instructed his disciples, "HEAL THE SICK who are there..." (10:9)

Well this one is easy to ignore because we all know that only the Pentecostals and the Charismatics are the ones into the healing stuff. We certainly can side-step this sticky one. We wouldn't want to actually involve ourselves in any controversial issues like healing the sick (might lose our jobs over it!) After all, most of us are cessationists and no longer believe these extraordinary gifts of the Spirit are valid today. We have the Bible and that's all we need. So, basically we are off the hook on this one. Next...

Jesus instructed his disciples, "TELL THEM, 'The kingdom of God has come near you..." (10:9)

Well FINALLY Jesus gets around to telling us to do what really matters--the 'main thing'-- which is declaring, preaching, teaching the Gospel message of the Kingdom to these lost people. Let's just cut to the chase and skip all the other stuff. It is time to get down to the important business of witnessing and sharing the Gospel. We are free to skip over the parts of Jesus instructions we don't like or understand. Wasn't his main thrust obviously this last point? We will certainly try to obey this part, but the rest is up for debate and interpretation--in other words, not much of importance in all those instructions preceding this final one.

Is it any wonder that after 2000 years we still haven't finished the task given us by Christ? We think we have a better way of doing things. We have the new, improved version, and yet continuously scratch our heads and wonder why things aren't working out the way they are supposed to?

Thursday, September 10

Where two or three are gathered

Excellent read from Acquire Wisdom by Galen Currah, Edward Aw and George Patterson.

Where Two Or Three Are Gathered
Copyright © 2009 by Galen Currah, Edward Aw and George Patterson
This document may be copied, translated, posted or distributed without permission.

Jesus promised: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matt. 18:20) If you mentor those who multiply new gatherings and those who shepherd them, then you understand the importance of this basic unit of the living Body of Christ on earth. You can help your trainees plan, form and multiply many tiny gatherings as part of a bigger congregation.

What they can do

Little gatherings of two, three or more, prove entire capable of fulfilling many, biblical requirements of an authentic body. However little gatherings may be, they can:

* experience the Presence of Christ
* obey, together, all Jesus’ basic commandments (believe, baptize, love, pray, share, praise, commune, give, make disciples…)
* exercise spiritual gifts (evangelize, prophesy, exhort, teach, show mercy…)
* edify one another with loving interaction, practicing the biblical “one another” commands
* persevere through time, trials and persecution
* reproduce by adding members and forming new gatherings

Other advantages

The littlest of gatherings enjoy certain strengths and advantages that prove difficult for bigger congregations. Consider these:

* quick growth, easily doubling in only a few day’s time
* starting and thriving without budgets, benches, bells, banners
* a married couple worshiping with their children or servants
* easily moving location according to needs or convenience
* quickly learning from mistakes and make needed changes
* providing discipleship for seekers and new believers
* opportunity for new leaders to gain experience
* avoiding being bullied by oppressive laws and hostile authorities

Two or three of whom?

The New Testament provides examples of many small gatherings, some of them consisting, at least temporarily, of two or three individuals. These include one individual sharing with another (a couple from Emmaus), newly-saved households (a Philippian jailor), home-based gatherings (Lydia’s house), apostolic teams (Paul and Silas), those praying for restoration (Matt. 18:19-20), training leaders (Priscilla and Aquila with Apollos). Thus, the two or three may consist of individuals, evangelists, married couples, heads of households, team mates, military personnel, students on campus, friends at coffeehouses, and so forth.

Basic unit of all growth

A silent reality of all social groups, including congregations, missionary bands, house gatherings and discipleship groups, is that they grow mostly in units of two or three. That is, every one or two believers finds another; every one or two couples seeks a third; every one or two shepherds seeks to train up a new one.

Shepherds, missionaries and trainers can enhance groups, both quantitatively in numbers and qualitatively in maturity, by paying attention to this basic pattern. Of course, this is not a matter of mathematical precision, but of simply working together on a micro-level to win folk to Christ and to disciple them in a normal, effective and reproductive way.

1 + 1 = 2

2 + 1 = 3

3 + 1 = 2 + 2

2 + 2 + 1 = 3 + 2

3 + 2 + 1 = 2 + 2 + 2

et cetera

Every believer seeks to win a friend, every couple finds another couple, and every shepherd appoints an apprentice. Next, every two friends win a third, or every two couples seek a third couple, every two shepherds appoint a third. Each of these “triads” seeks another individual, another couple, another shepherd, until they are four and can become two pairs of individuals, two pairs of couples, two pairs of shepherds. Thereafter, every pair, again, seeks another.

A tactic for reproduction

You can help your mentees plan to match every believer or believing couple with another believer or believing couple, for purposes of mutual encouragement. Such matching can happen during cellular or congregational gatherings, or between gatherings. Instruct every pair to pray and ask God to bring them a third believer or couple. The three will then pray and ask God to bring a fourth. When the fourth has come, these will form a new pair of two individuals or two couples who will pray and ask God for a third believer or a third couple.

Each of you mentors should pray and ask God for an apprentice mentor, and the two of you should pray and ask God for another apprentice mentor, then a fourth. Soon you will be two pairs of mentors, praying and asking God for yet another. This will continue until the Lord Jesus be revealed from heaven with power and glory.

Tuesday, September 8

Is preaching really the best way to get our message across?

I just returned from a three-day pastor's conference in central Ecuador. It was an excellent time of seeing many old friends and hearing some great teaching and preaching from my Ecuadorian Baptist brethren. However, as I sat through hour after hour of one preacher after another, I could not help but think about a recent Alan Knox post where he quotes from an article entitled It's Better to Preach to Your Pet than Sit Through Sermons.

As Andrew points out, most of us tend to retain only 5% of what we hear in a lecture-type sermon/message. Yet for some reason this style is the most common form used.

Here is Andrew's graphic of how much is retained from various learning methods:
If there are more effective ways of communicating our message, why do we continue to favor the least effective forms? As pointed out in Andrew's graphic, other styles of teaching and learning are better suited for a higher retention rate.

Would you not agree that this study is an important consideration for those of us involved in making disciples? Preaching the Gospel? Teaching others? What are the implications? What must change in the way we "do church" to be more effective communicators of the truths of God's Word and building up one another in the Body of Christ?

Friday, September 4

Simple churches need simple plans

What are some of the things you sense God is leading you to undertake this year? Our small band of simple churches has determined to stick to our five-year plan of working towards seeing 500,000 come to know the Lord here on the coast of Ecuador.

Simple churches need a simple plan of action.

There are four things we are constantly focusing upon to accomplish this task:

1) Praying the Lord of the Harvest to send laborers.

This one is interesting because continually we see God answering this prayer request. I could share scores of examples, but will give you a recent one: Upon joining with other believers for a day of prayer for our city, a pastor came up to me and shared that he wanted to sit down and talk with me about small groups. On the spot I invited him and his wife to join us for lunch the following week. After the meal we began to share our hearts. One thing led to another and before they left the house we set up a time to begin training in his church. After only a few weeks they now have opened 3-4 new house churches (their goal is five by year's end!) If Jesus himself commanded us to pray the Lord of the Harvest for laborers, it is because it is a prayer he wants to answer!

2) Every church plant a church every year.

Can you imagine what would happen if every one of our churches simply reproduced itself once per year? How hard can this be, and yet year after year our churches get involved in all kinds of programs and another year goes by without planting new works. Our team feels that we need to use all our influence, every opportunity given us to get across to our pastors, churches, leaders to start new works. We aren't talking about planting hundreds of churches; just start ONE this year. Multiplication will take care of itself if we will do our part of working towards one new church plant each.

3) Every believer winning/discipling four others to Christ in a year's time.

Part of the difficulty we encounter here in Guayaquil is fierce competition from many good and noble emphasis going on all the time. There is a continuous stream of programs, conferences, concerts, etc. All these are good, but they have a way of terribly distracting us from the "main thing." What our team is saying to our people is FOCUS ON ONE THING and that is winning four people to the Lord this year and discipling them so that they become reproducing disciples themselves. Like #2 above, if we will do this faithfully, multiplication will get us to our goal of 500,000 in less than five years.

4) Repeat the above until we reach our goal of 500,000.

We feel the need to concentrate on a few things and do a few things well. We are trying not to be reactionary to what comes along, but be pro-active in a few things. Focus on the above three goals, repeat them over and over, and leave the results up to God.

What kinds of things is the Lord impressing upon you, or your ministry this year?

Wednesday, September 2

Count them but rubbish

If anyone has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I am up there with the best of them:

--licensed to the Gospel Ministry (Jan/84),

--commissioned to missionary service by my local Baptist church (May/86),

--Masters of Music degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (May/86),

--appointed by the Foreign Mission Board (now IMB-SBC) as a missionary (Dec/86),

--ordained to the Gospel Ministry (Sept/94),

--of the nation of the United States of America,

--of the tribe of Muse,being the son of legendary Baptist missionary parents.

--a Texan of Texas (the Mecca of American Christianity);

--as to religion, a Baptist: signer of the BF&M 1963 and 2000

--as to zeal, a missionary; Team Strategy Leader for the Coast and Lowlands of Ecuador

But whatever things were supposedly gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.

More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of [many] things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from [my background and upbringing, titles, etc.] but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.
--a personal paraphrase of Philippians 3.