Thursday, December 30

9 ways to pray so that you're in sync with God's ways--John Piper

Here are some ways to pray for yourself so that you're praying in sync with the way God works.

1. For the desire of my heart to be toward God and his Word.

Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to gain. (Psalm 119:36)

2. For the eyes of my heart to be opened.

Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law. (Psalm 119:18)

3. For my heart to be enlightened with these “wonders.”

[I pray] that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened. (Ephesians 1:18)

4. For my heart to be united, not divided, for God.

O Lord, I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name. (Psalm 86:11)

5. For my heart to be satisfied with God and not with the world.

O satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)

6. For strength in this joy, and endurance during the dark seasons.

[I pray that God] would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man. (Ephesians 3:16)

7. For visible good deeds and works of love to others.

[I pray that you] will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord...bearing fruit in every good work. (Colossians 1:10)

8. For God to be glorified.

Hallowed be thy name. (Matthew 6:9)

9. In Jesus’ name.

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? (Romans 8:32)

Monday, December 27

No Graven Image

Years ago, I read Elisabeth Elliot's only published work of fiction, No Graven Image. A novel with some hard things to say about missionary motives and the way we measure ministry success. I can see now why the book was never a Best Seller.  In fact, as I recall, it was not received well when first published in 1966--especially amongst the, then, large missionary population here in Ecuador. The reason? We prefer to hear inspirational missionary success stories and not the real day-after-day plodding of mostly unfruitful labor.

Last week, I reread this no-nonsense fictional missionary story taking place in Ecuador less than a four-hour drive from where I sit typing. "No Graven Image" is an unusual missionary story in that it is NOT an inspirational read.  Blogger Loraena describes the novel as, "a book about submission to God's sovereign hand, even when life doesn't happen the way we expect." Her own excellent review can be read here.

Margaret Sparhawk is the fictional missionary working amongst the highland Quichua of Ecuador. As she settles in to her long-prepared for ministry, Margaret shares common struggles many missionaries encounter in their day-to-day life...

It was surprising how many days I managed to spend getting settled. It seemed that each day was full of little things that could not wait. I could not begin my work until my living routine was established and my house in order, and although I awoke each morning with the thought of going to visit Indian homes, each evening came before the thing was done. During the day I felt triumphant to see the time passing in useful ways, conscious that I was not sitting down and wasting time, but when evening came and I took stock of the day's accomplishments I felt guilty to see that no breach had yet been made in heathenism. Hudson Taylor had made an impact on China, Mary Slessor on Calabar, John Paton on the South Sea Islands, David Livingstone on darkest Africa. Just exactly how had they begun? It was strange to find the actual daily doing of missionary work so unspecific, so lacking in direction. "Margaret Sparhawk is working among mountain Quichuas." I could not get away from the image I knew I had projected at home, but here was the other side of the coin. "Working." What does she do? Missionaries wrote of "doing" visitation, of "reaching" people, of "witnessing." I did not need to read any more missionary books, prayer letters, or progress reports in magazines to learn the terminology. I needed to find out what was really basic in the operation..." p.58-59

No Graven Image is, of course, referencing the 2nd Commandment in Exodus 20:4-5,

"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me..."

Strange as it may seem, this passage isn't alluded to at all in the book. As Loraena's own review explains,

Unexpectedly, the graven images in this story are the ones that exist in the heart of the Christian, not the pagan. The book's message is this: as Christians, we engrave in our minds, images of what we think it means to serve God - a picture of ourselves doing a good thing - and that is idolatry. We need God's grace to help us see ourselves as we truly are and worship the God who calls us. As Margaret says in the book, The Indians had become people to me - the were no longer my "field". While I had once declared them to be my equals, I now regarded myself as theirs. Instead of saying, "Oh, you are as good as I - let me help you," I now said, "I am as poor as you. God help us all."

Though we openly acknowledge this commandment, we continue to fashion God in our own image. We know what He should be doing, how He should do it, when things should begin to happen, and even presume Him to fit into our theological "God boxes."  When He doesn't, then we have a way of explaining things in such a way so that He does fit our graven images of Him.

This in a nutshell is Elisabeth Elliot's point for missionaries laboring away in the "fields of the Lord"...God is God. He will not be conformed to any of our expectations. He is the Potter; we the clay. The clay doesn't tell the Potter what He should or should not do. God will be glorified with, or without us. He is Sovereign. He does not need our permission to act, or have to explain himself to us.

While a bit harsh for those of us who might be tempted to think we are "sacrificing our all for Jesus" it is nonetheless a needed wake-up call. I often find myself confused with God. After all, I am doing my part, shouldn't He be doing His?

I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is out there "serving the Lord" and especially to my missionary colleagues. Somewhere along the way, we have all grown accustomed to hearing only the inspirational and successful missions stories. A lot more goes on in real life than what gets printed and told by the media. "No Graven Image" is the other side of missions rarely told.

Thursday, December 23

Unto the least of these

Pedro* was the key leader of our growing network of house churches in the Taura area. He and his brother, Gustavo* had faithfully made the weekly bus trips into Guayaquil for training. Soon along the banks of the Bulubulu River several new believers were baptized, and there were several outreach groups and house churches meeting weekly.

Last year Pedro was tending his mango trees when a poisonous snake bit him. His 10-year old son found him dead by the side of a tree. Pedro went to be with the Lord, leaving behind his wife Clara* and nine children. Such a tragedy. Of all the people who might have been bitten by a snake and die, why did it have to be Pedro?

Pedro & Clara w/7 of their 9 children
Fast forward a year later. Yesterday I received a telephone call from one of Clara's daughters. She was asking if I might be able to contribute towards helping them out this Christmas. Immediately I assumed she was asking for help for her mother and siblings so that they would at least have something to eat this Christmas. However, I was wrong in my assumption. What they were planning was a Christmas party for all the children of the community along the Bulubulu River--not for themselves. Could I help with the cost of some small toys and possibly enough to provide each child a small bag of candy and cookies?

Here is someone who has every right to be asking for help and receiving it. Yet she was not asking for herself or for her children. Clara was thinking of all those other children in her community who would have nothing unless she did something about it.

Children playing in the Bulubulu River
This morning, my son and I met Clara at the bus terminal. She had brought along two of her children to assist her in carrying the purchases they would make in town. We gave her five $20 bills for toys and goodies bags, and she in turn, gave us a giant sack of beautiful mangoes from the trees her husband tended until his death. She was excited to be able to now go buy something special for the kids along the Bulubulu. As we said good-bye Clara gave us a big hug and kiss on the check.

Clara has understood the words of Jesus, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'  When we think of others first above ourselves, we have done it unto HimIsn't that what Christ did for us at Christmas? His first thought was not for himself. He willingly chose to leave Heaven, come to earth, and give his life so that we might have life.


*not real name

Monday, December 20

If the world were a village of 1000 people

--Taken from research done by Dona Meadows. The information has been updated over the years, but the numbers remain close to the original 1990 publication.

If the world were a village of 1,000 people, it would include:

· 584 Asians
· 124 Africans
· 95 East and West Europeans
· 84 Latin Americans
· 55 Soviets (includes Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians & others)
· 52 North Americans
· 6 Australians and New Zealanders

The people of the village have considerable difficulty in communicating:

· 165 people speak Mandarin
· 86 English
· 83 Hindi/Urdu
· 64 Spanish
· 58 Russian
· 37 Arabic

That list accounts for the mother tongues of only half the villagers. The other half speak (in descending order of frequency) Bengali, Portuguese, Indonesian, Japanese, German, French and 200 other languages.

In this village of 1,000 there are:

· 329 Christians (187 Catholics, 84 Protestants, 31 Orthodox)
· 178 Moslems
· 167 "non-religious"
· 132 Hindus
· 60 Buddhists
· 45 atheists
· 3 Jews
· 86 all other religions

* One-third (330) of the 1,000 people in the world village are children and only 60 are over the age of 65. Half the children are immunized against preventable infectious diseases such as measles and polio. The other half are not.

* This year 28 babies will be born. Ten people will die, 3 of them for lack of food, 1 from cancer, 2 of the deaths are of babies born within the year. One person of the 1,000 is infected with the HIV virus; that person most likely has not yet developed a full-blown case of AIDS.

* With the 28 births and 10 deaths, the population of the village next year will be 1,018.

* In this 1,000-person community, 200 people receive 75 percent of the income; another 200 receive only 2 percent of the income.

* Only 70 people of the 1,000 own an automobile (although some of the 70 own more than one automobile).

* About one-third have access to clean, safe drinking water.

* Of the 670 adults in the village, half are illiterate.

In the village of 1,000 people, there are:

· 5 soldiers
· 7 teachers
· 1 doctor
· 3 refugees driven from home by war or drought

The village has a total budget each year, public and private, of over $3 million - $3,000 per person if it is distributed evenly (which it isn't).

Of the total $3 million:

· $181,000 goes to weapons and warfare
· $159,000 for education
· $132,000 for health care

The Miniature Earth: 2010 Official Version...

What do all of these numbers mean? What do they represent in terms of the Great Commission and global missions?

Saturday, December 18

Do you know how much the average Baptist gives to global missions per year?

Every year Southern Baptist Churches in the United States collect a special offering in December for international missions. 100% of this offering goes for overseas work. The goal this year for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is $175 million.

Since we see first-hand and experience the impact of this offering, I would like to say THANK YOU for giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

Do you know how much the average Southern Baptist gives to international missions per year? $8.35!!!

Here are a few suggestions that you might consider this Christmas Season as you determine what amount to give. Most of what follows are things we have tried over the years or personally practice as a family.

1) Decide what amount of money you will spend on your family this Christmas and give MORE than this amount to the LMCO. After all, it is Christ's birthday we are celebrating. Should we be getting more than He if it is his birthday?

2) Something we have done as a family for many years now is set aside an amount out of our monthly paycheck and have that amount automatically credited to the LMCO. This took a couple of email and phone calls to set up, but we haven't had to fool with it since, and are able to give to LMCO throughout the year.

3) A variation on the idea above would be to have a LMCO gift box that you deposit a set amount every week/month throughout the year. Then give this amount to your church when the offering is collected in December.

4) Sell tickets to a mother-daughter or father-son breakfast or brunch. Invite a missionary as a guest speaker. Proceeds go to Lottie Moon.

5) Auction students to church members for a day of service, from cleaning house to raking leaves. Money members give for the work youth do goes to Lottie Moon.

6) One idea we have had fun with is hold an auction where a volunteer team brings in "goodies" from the States and auctions them off to the highest bidder.  A six-pack of Dr. Pepper went for $120 one year! My son paid $60 for a box of Double-Bubble gum. I myself have paid $35 for a jar of Jiff peanut butter! All proceeds go to the missions offerings. Might your church or group do something similar?

7) Challenge folks to save money for the offering by giving up something small. Examples include a fast-food meal a week or a movie a month. Host a special ceremony for everyone to give their offering and share what God taught them through their sacrifice.

8) Double (or triple!) whatever you gave last year. Give sacrificially, not what is convenient.

9) As a church body, decide to channel funds to a lost world instead of to building improvements or beautification projects.

10) Try out some of the ideas and resources made available at the IMB website.

Whatever you decide to give, please do so beforehand in prayer. The idea of just reaching in your pocket and giving whatever comes out doesn't seem worthy of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Give thoughtfully, prayerfully. There are few offerings that make as much of an eternal impact on the world as the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Is $8.35 really all we can come up with in a year so that the world may know Him?

How much will you give this year to see souls around the globe come to the Savior?

You can give online here or checks can be mailed (gifts are tax-deductable) to:

Lottie Moon Christmas Offering
International Mission Board, SBC
P.O. Box 6767
Richmond, VA 23230

Thursday, December 16

Reflections on our recent trip to Asia

November 8-21 of this year, eight of us traveled from Guayaquil to a major Islamic country in Asia. We had several specific objectives for the trip, all of which were accomplished, but not at liberty to openly share (though I'd love to!) It was truly one of the most rewarding and eye-opening trips that I have experienced.

What instigated the investigative/vision trip was a conviction that after 60 years of Baptist work and 100 years of evangelical work in Ecuador, between 5-7% of the Ecuadorian population profess to be Christ followers. It is now time for Ecuadorian believers to take their place alongside other evangelized Latin nations as viable mission forces in reaching the nations for Christ. It is our conviction that Ecuadorians must engage not only their Jerusalems, but also their Judeas, Samarias, and nations of the earth.

This past week, the investigative/vision team was able to sit down and share with one another what each of us felt God had revealed collectively to us as a group from our recent trip. Here are some of the things we dialogued with one another well into the night.

1) There is a major need to give serious attention to stirring up the "sleeping giant" Church in Ecuador and make her aware of the global implications of the Great Commission. We are now in the missions "Major Leagues" and need to see ourselves in that light.

2) We need to look at sending missionaries out in teams, rather than individuals.

3) Before sending workers out in teams, they need to be tested together by sending them first to work in areas here in-country to live together and work, before sending them overseas.

4) Similar to #3 above, if going overseas with a platform, they must prove first they can be effective locally with their chosen platform, before moving overseas and attempting to do so in a different culture and language.

5) Living and working together in community is the best way for Ecuadorians to accomplish the Great Commission task. Individuals working together is not the same as communities of disciples engaging communities of non-disciples.

6) Latins are natural missions workers and can adapt easier to other third world cultures which are similar to their own. Can make do with a lot less than required by missionary workers from places like the USA.

7) The overwhelming lostness of the 10/40 window and what might be done to begin to make the Church in Ecuador aware of her Great Commission responsibility for engaging the 1.5 billion who have had little-to-no access to the Gospel message. Well produced missions videos is an effective way to begin to accomplish this awareness.

8) Identified obstacles for Ecuadorian missionary workers: identity (what are they doing there?), support (churches aren't up to giving levels to sustain more than a handful of cross-cultural workers; therefore, what other support mechanisms must be explored?), and on-going care of workers once they are overseas.

9) The need to expose local believers in becoming personally involved in local national missions efforts. As people begin to engage in local and national missions opportunities, they will be more disposed to hearing God's call to the nations.

10) The need to investigate unique areas where Ecuadorians (Latins) might bring in something desirable or original to their host countries. This would also facilitate their entry to the country.

11) This is definitely the time to actively mobilize Ecuadorians into global missions. While we need to move ahead in sync with the Holy Spirit, we must not wait until we have everything figured out.

12) The need to raise awareness in our churches of the peoples from around the world living in our midst. These need to be adopted and actively engaged by our churches (Lebanese, Chinese, Japanese, Haitian, etc.)

13) Even though we have taken seriously Christ's command to "beseech the Lord of the harvest for laborers..." this is something that we must take to the next level in regards to a nation-wide emphasis and begin to really importune the Lord for Him to send out the workers.

14) There is a huge need for a more outspoken (prophetic voice) to raise awareness in the churches of how financial resources are being hoarded for exclusive local use, rather than seeking first the Kingdom (which includes Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.)

While each of these points could easily inspire several pages of commentary, what we concluded is that God himself is bringing together many of the missing puzzle pieces. We must in earnest examine each piece and see how it fits with the others. What is it that needs to be done today to mobilize Latin Americans into becoming major players in the Great Commission task?

Saturday, December 11

A life of significance

Who is this person called Lottie Moon and why is the annual Christmas offering named after her? See why Lottie lived a life of significance.

Thursday, December 9

December 9, 1986

Twenty-four years ago today, Linda and I were appointed by the Foreign Mission Board, SBC (IMB-SBC) as missionaries to Ecuador.

I can still remember how stressed I was that entire day because the bulletin listed us as going to Ecuador as Mass Media Specialists. I had insisted throughout the appointment process that we be appointed as Music/Mass Media missionaries. I can't help but smile, that 24 years later, we are still dealing with title issues and roles. I never have quite accepted any title or role assigned me yet!

One of the things I have come to realize during the past few months, is the high cost--the sacrifice--involved in obeying our calling to serve the Lord as cross-cultural missionaries. For most of my life I have had the attitude of tossing aside any semblance that we are "sacrificing" anything for Jesus. I guess we have always seen our own condition as far more blessed than the vast majority of people we relate to on the mission field. We have been given so much. What are we sacrificing? Are we really out there "suffering for Jesus?" God has provided for our every need. He has always been faithful.

And yet, following God's call on our life as overseas missionaries has been costly on us as a family. We have given up much. Each member of our family has had to pay a real price. I don't know if things would have been better or worse living this time in the USA, but I do know it has been costly to us as a family emotionally, spiritually, physically. In a real sense we bear real "scars" of our choice to follow Jesus like we have.

I have often thought about Jesus response to Peters words in Luke 18,
"Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You." And He [JESUS] said... "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life."
These words were the text of the message preached by Keith Parks at our appointment service as missionaries 24 years ago today. I have always focused on the last part that promises we will receive "many times as much" for the little we might have sacrificed. But there is no skipping over the high cost entailed in leaving behind those things and people in order to fulfill one's calling. There is a price to be paid. It isn't easy.

I guess it is only human to wonder, "what might have been" had we chosen NOT to heed God's call and taken this step 24 years ago? When we see the lifestyles of our friends and peers, we can't help but wonder what kind of life we too might have lived had we chosen differently.

Don't get me wrong, we aren't regretting for a moment our choice. I can't imagine our lives any differently! I wouldn't trade what we have lived and experienced these past 24 years with anybody on earth! But anniversaries are a time to reflect on God's goodness and faithfulness. I don't believe He is quite finished with us yet. And I can't help but believe the best days are yet ahead!

Some of the questions going around in my head these days are:
  • has it been worth it?
  • are we really making a difference overseas?
  • have we really made any kind of lasting, significant contribution?
  • is it time to move on and do something else?
  • is the work better or worse off for our being there?
  • have we been faithful?
  • is it time to return to the USA?
  • does God have more for us to do here before relieving us of this responsibility?
  • how do we balance of obeying God's call with the needs of our children and aging parents?
I share these thoughts as a means of expressing how important praying for missionaries is. We are people just like everyone else. We need your prayers, words of encouragement, and support (a la Lottie Moon Christmas Offering!)

Before William Carey, the "Father of the Modern Missionary Movement" went to India, he said to the little society of believers sending him, "I will go down the mine, if you will all hold the ropes for me."

Will you continue to hold the ropes for us?

Click on the above images to zoom and see better the program and people we were appointed with.

Sunday, December 5

Ideals to live by

Be faithful in the little things. God will accomplish much through my small acts of obedience.

Thoughts are sub-conscience prayers. Be aware of what I am praying.

What is not given is lost. Am I hanging on to anything that ought to be given away?

One negative comment packs more power in someone's life than a dozen positive or uplifting remarks. I need to be very careful how and what I communicate with others. If I can't build someone up, it is better to keep silent rather than using my words to tear down.

Confront problems, hurts, misunderstandings, and mistakes as soon as possible. Don't allow Satan to carry out his agenda of rejection, suffering, division, fear, and pain.

What does God have to say about it? It is not about me deciding everything and doing things as I deem best. If He is Lord, he is lord of ALL, including the things I think I can handle on my own without his input.

This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it. This is a choice I have to make daily.

John the Baptist said, "He must increase, but I must decrease." Who is actually increasing/decreasing in my life? Am I moving in the right direction?

Seek first His Kingdom. Does this thing seek to advance my kingdom or His Kingdom?

Charles Swindoll writes that life is 10% what happens and 90% of how I react to it. Am I focusing more on what has happened, or how I am reacting to what has happened?

Mother Teresa wrote, "Slowly I am learning to accept everything just as He gives it." Am I learning to accept all things without complaining and whining, understanding that it is God who allowed it?

Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote,
Earth's crammed with heaven
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries...

Am I seeing God in every common bush, or am I one of those plucking blackberries?

Excellence is in the details. Attention to details is one of the ways I worship God who is worthy of my best.

People come first. Everything else falls in line behind them.

We are blessed to be a blessing (Psalm 67). Am I using my blessings to bless others?

Simplify. Get rid of the clutter in my life and in our home. Do what I can to help others simplify their complicated lives. Less is more.

Friday, December 3

Surpassing 4 generations of disciple making in less than a year (by Miguel Labrador)

The following article by fellow church planter/disciple-maker, Miguel Labrador who also serves the Lord here is Ecuador, has several excellent insights into how they have been able with the Lord's help to surpass 4 generations of disciple making disciples in less than a year...


What does that mean? It means that disciples were made who made disciples who made other disciples who in turn made others and that all generations continue to make disciples. How did we pull it off? We didn’t, Jesus did. But I will tell you how it happened.

There are scores of methods including one of my own for sharing the gospel with people and most are cursory introductions to the person of Christ at best. I will not say that any in particular are incorrect, but I will say that most are incomplete. If we assume that evangelism is not a method to win souls but a manner in which to communicate the good news of the person of Jesus to the world and we further assume that evangelism ( proclaiming good news) is a necessary part of making disciples, then for better or worse, you can begin to understand how this amazing thing happened.

Let me provide a little background. My wife and I, after having left our careers, home, and family in the United States, answered a call to go to Ecuador and serve as missionaries. We work in a region of Ecuador where there have been no other missionaries for many years. It is not the city and the population no where nears the populations of the cities in Ecuador. On any given day, there are hundreds of missionaries, short and long term visiting the cities and doing Kingdom work. In our region, the Cloud Forest, harvest workers are few and far between. We are often challenged in ways which most would find intolerable. Many times we have been trapped by mud slides, without electric, phone, water and a myriad of other and sometimes life threatening situations. We have been attacked from without and within by people and spiritually. Nothing here works out the way we want it to and if it does, it usually takes twice as long than expected.

In spite of the renewed interest in being missional and reaching our native communities, which we think is absolutely encouraging, we were called by God to serve in a foreign mission field and become part of another community in a different part of the world. We do believe that Making Disciples is an integral part of every believers life regardless of where you are called or where you find yourself. In that light we have moved from what would be considered more traditional methods to what we believe are God inspired processes. In fact, I would call them “7 God-Directed Deviations in Disciple Making.”

From Follow up to Follow in - Following up with a person or a community usually entails a consistent pattern of entering people’s day to day lives for a time and then leaving again for others to do more follow-up. We have chosen to follow people into their lives and live amongst them, work amongst them, suffer and cry with them, grow with, encourage and be encouraged by them. Following in and staying in, to us at least, seems more like the biblical pattern of Jesus.

From Outreach to Inreach - Closely related to the first, it remains somewhat different. In outreach, when you have to leave where you are, where you live or where you have been called to, to reach others “outside” of where you would normally live, there always comes a time when you have to return to where you came from. That place is often contextually different from the place you reach out to. Reaching inward, within your sphere of influence is naturally more productive because your context is already defined. You should not have to seek how to be culturally relevant, you should already be culturally relevant.

From Fly Paper to Flying like Eagles - The desire to attract and trap is replaced by equipping and setting free. We have to trust God in that when our time of influence over a community or a person is done, that He will propel them into the next phase of their lives.

From Dependency to Development. - We do not want to be pushers of the gospel offering all sorts of addictive attachments so that we can report large numbers of “salvations,” but are more focused on developing those that God has appointed us for and to. Though it may seem to us to be too few at times and hurt our prideful effectiveness, we know that focusing on a few at a time in equipping and development have much greater long term impacts. We focus less on being leaders and more in the development of leaders.

From Verbal to Tactile - In the abundance of words there is foolishness. (Proverbs 10) We don’t minimize the eternal power of the scriptures nor the use of those very same scriptures to bring people to salvation. At the same time we are convicted that there has been, in most cases, entirely too much talking and not enough action. A woman whom we recently visited in a remote town said “They come to preach sometimes, but never has one come to visit the poor, pray for the sick, or help those in need." This was the answer she gave when asked if any Christians have visited. Our desire is to never be one of the “they.” My wife and I make sure we physically touch in every single person in appropriate circumstances. A hug, a kiss on the cheek, the laying on of hands, or even a simple pat on the back. Then we evaluate how we can touch their lives in most effective way with our current ability and capability.

From Regimental to Relational - Routine is good for some actions, but a routine implies that there is little or no change in the execution of a task. Discipleship is more of a process and like a relationship, there is give and take and constant adaptation. We have a relationship with Jesus and yet we hopefully become more Christ-like all the time. In any relationship, there is continual shifting, giving, and receiving. Methods may change, manners may be different, but the message of the gospel remains steadfast.

From because “They say so,” to because “He says so.” We could easily employ the latest and greatest ideas in how to disciple others, how to win souls, and how to effectively grow the church, but we are more interested in what God says to us and for His people that we have been called to work with. There are many times when certain pragmatic approaches will not work in different contexts, so we do our best to go where the Father says to go, say what He says to say, and do what He says to do. For the record, I love analyzing trends in disciple making and seeing how our iron can be sharpened by others who are also making disciples.

These 7 God-Directed Deviations from the status quo discipleship that has prevailed for years has produced remarkable fruit in our region of Ecuador.

Not all traditional methods are invalid - “Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set.” (Proverbs 22:28) To be fair, we have used many traditional methods at times which seemed appropriate in the moment and context. We have practiced door to door evangelism, used gadgets, gizmos, and gifts as ice breakers to reach the lost. We have used tracts and dramas, street preaching, medical incentives, and clean water projects to effect positive changes within the communities in our region. We have hosted mission teams from the United States for the benefit of all involved, those ministering and those being ministered to. We have had a discipleship group meeting at our house every week for the last year covering a wide range of topics in a sometimes formal and sometimes informal teaching mode. All of these traditional methods have been brought under the guiding principles of the 7 God Directed Deviations listed above and they may not look exactly like what people are used to, but it has produced multi-generational disciples and disciple-makers.

The subject matter of our weekly gatherings has not been so traditional. With each week we encourage discussion amongst new believers and we have practical homework. For example, we in the States are used to finding bargains like “buy 2 get 1 free.” We decided as a group on several occasions to “buy 2 give 1 free.” We instructed in this manner: In the course of your daily lives this next week, whatever you need to buy, and if possible, buy 2, milk bread etc. Then find a person to give the second item to, someone in need. If they ask why you are doing this, explain the love of Christ to them. In this manner entire communities were affected.

All of our subject matter has also come under the guiding principles above. We have had a Discipleship Conference that was very successful at motivating others to make disciples in their communities. As a capstone to these practices, we have also instituted small discipleship groups of no more than 4 people (a variation of “Life Transformation Groups”*) and entire communities are involved in these as well. We can’t say that we have figured out the secret to making multi and trans-generational disciples, nor would we want to, but many have asked how we have gotten where we are. I hope this helps to answer some questions and I would be happy to give further details to those who would like them. You may also leave your comments below.

In and For Him,
Miguel Labrador

Tuesday, November 30

What is truth?

Pilate asks Jesus, "What is truth?"

Truth might be likened to a house.

We start by getting to know the house by entering through the main door into the foyer. Here we admire the prints on the walls, hang our coat on the rack, and wipe our feet on the door mat.

Just about the time we think we have figured out the house based on our experience and observations of the foyer, our host leads us into the living room. There we discover even more wonders as we sit in the soft chairs, walk on the plush carpet, and admire the flower arrangements on the coffee table and mantel.

With our visit to the living room we are even more sure we know and understand what the house is all about. We begin to tell our friends about all we have seen and experienced based on the foyer and living room.

One of our friends mentions liking the fried chicken and mashed potatoes he had enjoyed in the dining room.

Fried chicken? Mashed potatoes? Dining room? For one not yet introduced to the dining room and kitchen areas of the house, this sounds suspect from our foyer/living room point of view.

I begin to deny the "truth" of my friends fried chicken experience. I lovingly try to correct him in his error and restore him to the FULL TRUTH as was revealed to me in the foyer and living room parts of the house.

While maybe a flawed illustration of how we understand truth, it does reveal how many of us interpret truth based upon our experience of a portion of the whole.

Back 20 years ago, as a new missionary to Guayaquil, a national friend invited a bunch of us over for a Sunday evening parillada (Bar-B-Que). I was horrified and disappointed that the invitation was for a Sunday evening at 7:00pm. Why? That, of course, was the same time as the Sunday evening church service. What would God think of us having a parillada when we all should be sitting in church? Sunday was the Lord's Day, not a day for parilladas and friends.

I remember sitting in church that Sunday evening totally convinced that I was right and my worldly brothers were wrong for going ahead with the parillada. I had understood the truth of church through my limited exposure as something I had learned in the "foyer." Since the kitchen, patio, and Bar-b-que grill portions had not yet been revealed to me, I was quite certain that my paradigm of church was right, and that my unspiritual brothers were quite immature in their worldly ways. It was up to me to correct their "dining room theology" with my "foyer theology".

Isn't truth an ever-deepening revelation as we allow the Lord to lead us further into his "house of truth?" Just when we think we have finally discovered the truth of one of God's mysteries, He leads us through a new door into another room of the house, revealing yet more wonders which add to our understanding of that truth.

It seems to me a lot of arguing and divisiveness--especially amongst fellow believers--is that we argue our case for truth out of our limited exposure to only a portion of the whole truth. Those who have journeyed through only the foyer and living room think those enjoying fried chicken in the dining room are way out of bounds.

But could it be that the riches of Christ Jesus, the author of all truth, go so much deeper than most of us have experienced to date?

What do your think?

Friday, November 26

The Gifted Teacher (by Neil Cole)

The Gifted Teacher
By Neil Cole

Getting the message right is only a quarter of the task for the teacher. Communicating the message so that others understand the content only brings the teacher to half of his or her role. Seeing the content applied well in the listener’s context is another 25% of the task of the teacher. Yet this only brings the teacher to 75% fulfillment of the task. 75% on an exam is barely passing, and certainly not a success. How can a teacher get to 100%? The only way a teacher can fulfill one hundred percent of the call of the teacher is by releasing the learners to fulfill the task of the teacher themselves with other people!

When you are starting to pass the content on to others is when you have learned the content on its fullest level. To teach others best you must see the process through until the learners become the teachers.

I used to think that a great teaching gift was actually a bottleneck to multiplication. When a truly gifted thinker and communicator is at work people want to stay and listen and rarely feel that they can do it themselves…and reproduction ends. At one point in my own ministry I was tempted to dumb down my teaching for the sake of reproduction, but that is tantamount to being ungrateful for Christ’s gifts and neglectful stewardship of His blessings. So how do we allow for great teachers and still have reproduction?

The gifted teacher is called to equip the saints for the work of ministry, not to do it for them. A true teacher is not simply to teach the saints, but to equip the saints to teach. Are all saints to teach? Yes, they are to teach disciples to obey all that Jesus has commanded them. We need teachers, but we need teachers that will truly fulfill their complete call. We should not settle for teachers that only go half-way any longer. If you are a teacher do not be content to fulfill only a portion of your task.

We need to redefine what it means to teach. It is not simply passing on content to others. I prefer to see teaching this way: facilitating the learning of others so that they know, do and pass on to others the relevant and meaningful truth.

We in the Western church are educated beyond our obedience and more education is not the solution, we need more obedience. A couple of suggestions for the teachers out there:

1. Never teach a second lesson until the first one is done.
2. A lesson is not done until it is being passed on to another.

What would the kingdom of God look like if we had more teachers like this?

All of us who have fulfilled the role of teacher are aware that we learn so much more by teaching than we ever did by being taught. In fact, one of the most frustrating realities of teaching is that you are not able to convey to the people all that you have been able to learn studying for the process. There is good reason for this. It is God’s design for teachers to teach people to become teachers, for then they will learn the truths of God’s word on much deeper levels.

This pedagogy has many benefits…

* The people learn the truth on a far deeper level.
* The people understand the truth, not just remember it.
* The people are held to greater accountability to practice the truth they learned.
* The people own the message, not just know it.
* The people spread the core message to others, who in turn learn to own it and spread it themselves and the kingdom multiplies into a movement.

When you take a test you reveal what you remember from someone’s teaching. When you practice what you have heard you demonstrate that your will is involved in the learning process and you are learning beyond a cognitive level. When you start to teach the subject to others you engage the lessons on a far deeper level and you have to reconcile the logic behind the facts, and not just remember the facts themselves.

When you pass on the lessons to others you demonstrate a greater level of ownership. Isn’t that what we want? We do not want people who merely know facts about the Gospel, but apply them and then own them in the depth of their soul. We do not want only an audience, or even practitioners…we want agents of the Gospel. Change is not enough, we want change agents.

We have developed a learning system for systematic theology based upon this type of thinking. It is a one year learning process for proven leaders where they learn theology in a small community by teaching it in a highly reproducible manner. It is called TruthQuest and is available on the CMA website. TruthQuest will not teach you what to think but how to think. The participants may not come out thinking the same as you, but they will come out able to think for themselves. I for one value that even more than simply agreeing with me.

Let’s see the teachers as catalysts for multiplication rather than a bottleneck for it!

©2010 Neil Cole

Wednesday, November 24

Do it anyway

A while back our family read aloud in family devotions, Kent Keith's Do It Anyway. For many years now these ten paradoxical commandments have impacted people all over the world.

The Paradoxical Commandments

by Dr. Kent M. Keith

1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.

2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.

3. If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.

4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.

5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.

6. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.

7. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build it anyway.

9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.

10. Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.

© Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001

Sunday, November 21

Lessons the Spirit taught me through his servant Luis

Luis had faithfully attended the training sessions for church planting. He lived across the river from Guayaquil in the neighboring city of Durán. In his local community, everyone knew the friendly Luis who operated a small business out of his home selling eggs, TP, bananas, rice, batteries, and other daily necessities.

Well into the training, Luis invited me to visit the Saturday evening gathering of friends, family, and neighbors.

I arrived about 15-minutes before the meeting was scheduled to begin. Luis was thrilled I had come and wrongly assumed I would be leading the meeting,

"It is so good that you have come, Bro. Guido, you can lead the meeting tonight..."

"No, Bro. Luis, I have come as a visitor and look forward to the blessing God has in store for us tonight. Besides, as your teacher, I'd like to see how some of the things we are practicing in class are working out for you with your new group."

"But what should I do?" he asked with a confused look on his face.

"Do it just like we practiced in the classroom this past week. Pick one of the ice breakers to loosen people up. Lead them in singing 2-3 songs that relate to the Bible Study. Talk about the message of the songs. Facilitate the Bible Study #4 making sure all participate. Close with a time of ministry praying for the various needs. Finish up serving refreshments and visiting with everyone...just like we practiced and talked about in class earlier this week."

Luis smiled and said, "Oh yeah, now I remember. No hay problema (no problem.) Let's do it. Are you ready to go?"

We walked across the street and entered a small room crowded already with some fifteen adults and a bunch of kids running in and out. There were 3-4 other believers present, but the rest were all people who Luis knew and had been visiting during the preceding days.

After greeting everyone, Luis's wife Rosa passed out songbooks and then led everyone in singing a couple of their favorites. I was a bit peeved that Luis had jumped straight to the songs instead of employing a fun icebreaker to ease the tension of those in the room who didn't know one another.

Not only did Luis skip the icebreaker, but he let Rosa choose songs that had no connection whatsoever with the 4th lesson. Then, instead of doing lesson #4, Luis flipped randomly through the pages of his Bible looking for some familiar passage, and proceeded to read out loud a few verses from one of the Gospels. Internally, I was totally frustrated with Luis that instead of following the simple meeting outline as he had been trained to do, he was just "winging it." If I were grading him, he certainly had earned an "F" by this time.

Luis then proceeded to share an "off-the-cuff" choppy commentary on what he had just read. Where was the group participation that we stressed so highly in training? My blood pressure was rising by the minute.

Suddenly, one of the visiting women stood and interrupted Luis's "sermon." She had tears in her eyes. I nearly fell off my chair when she began speaking...

"This is the first time in my life that the Gospel has been presented to me in such a clear and simple way. I truly understand now what Jesus did for me and I want to declare my allegiance to Him. What do I need to do to be saved?"

Luis walked over to the woman, smiled real big, and gave her a huge abrazo (hug.)

Then, out of Luis's mouth flowed the clearest presentation of the Gospel I had ever heard. The handful of believers present gathered around and led her in a prayer of repentance. When the "Amen" was said, everyone clapped. One by one everyone stood in line to abrazar and congratulate the their new sister in Christ. Even before everyone had finished hugging, someone picked up an out-of-tune cracked guitar and next thing I knew everyone was singing! Spontaneous prayers, testimonies, and more singing followed. As prayer requests were made, everyone would gather around the person and pray over them. In the middle of everything else going on, someone brought in mangoes to suck on. Soon it was hard to tell if we were still "in church" or had moved into the "social time."

And where was I during all this?

Sitting in the corner picking myself off the floor from the lessons the Holy Spirit was teaching me--the novice--about His ways not being our ways, and His thoughts not our thoughts.

That outreach group soon became a church and continued to do everything just about as opposite as possible from everything we were teaching. But out of that seemingly "chaotic mess" dozens of people were saved, baptized, and a local ekklesia was birthed.

The "rest of the story" of that church plant could be written up as a book, but suffice it to say, I learned several big lessons that evening.

1) Locals know their people better than the outside "experts."

2) People do not come to Christ by our methodologies (however good we think they may be.)

3) The importance of love and relationships developed with those one is trying to reach (Luis was a "10" on a scale of ten on this one.)

4) It is much easier gathering people (not-yet-believers) who live close by and presenting the Gospel to them all at once, than winning a bunch of individuals separately and then trying to gather them all in one place.

5) A simple atmosphere of warmth, acceptance, and informality is more appealing to those we are trying to reach with the Gospel than a programmed formal church service.

6) As good as our way of doing things might be, His way is better.

7) What works with one group may not work equally well with another group. In other words, one size does not fit all.

Any of these lessons resonate with your own experience? What are some of the lessons the Holy Spirit has been teaching you of late?

Friday, November 19

El Padre Nuestro

No digas PADRE
Si cada día no te portas como su hijo.

No digas NUESTRO
Si vives aislado en tu egoísmo.

Si sólo piensas en las cosas terrenales.

Si no lo honras.

Si lo confundes con el éxito material.

Si no estás dispuesto a aceptarla aún cuando sea dolorosa.

Si, teniendo, no te preocupas por el hambriento.

Si le guardas rencor al prójimo.

Si tienes intención de seguir pecando.

Si no tomas parte activa contra el mal.

No digas AMÉN
Si ni siquiera has tomado en serio las palabras...


Visto originalmente aquí. "Jesus sketch" cortesia de Kiki Cherry.

Wednesday, November 17

The best way to start a church? Start a church.

Back in the mid-70's, while getting a music degree from the University of North Texas, I was active in our local church choir at Grace Temple Baptist Church. Terry Fansler was an extraordinary church musician. But what I remember most from Terry was his often repeated refrain, "the best way to have a great choir is to have a great choir." Words I have never forgotten.

These can be applied to just about any worthwhile endeavor, including church planting.

The best way to share the Gospel? Share the Gospel.
The best way to make disciples? Make disciples.
The best way to start a church? Start a church.

Our failure to obey the commands of Christ (and here I am speaking more personally of myself and our team's ministry) is rooted in our thinking if we can just somehow get people together in a room and tell them how to do something, they will do it.


Personally, I think we have some of the best contextualized church planting materials and methodology being used in Latin America. But the "best" means nothing unless implemented. What is missing?


Desire may be there, but if there is no real intention of going out and planting a church, a church will not be planted.

I may desire to lose 20 lbs. Believe I need to lose 20 lbs. Feel convicted about losing 20 lbs. Pray about losing 20 lbs. But I will never lose 20 lbs. until I actually start by losing those first few pounds on my way to losing 20 lbs.! You have to do it, to do it.

Well meaning believers flock to our trainings throughout the year. But the truth of the matter is that very few really intend to actually plant a church. It doesn't matter how good the trainers are, how wonderful the materials are, or how much one might affirm or believe what is being taught. IF THEY DO NOT PERSONALLY INTEND ON BEING AN INSTRUMENT IN THE LORD'S HANDS TO PLANT A CHURCH, THEY WILL NOT PLANT A CHURCH.

So, where do we go from here?

In our case, we will train anyone for ONE MONTH. Just long enough to expose them to the concepts of Jesus' Luke 10 methodology, start them praying for their lost friends/family, help them identify men of peace, begin to love/serve/minister those they are seeking to reach, teach basic evangelism/discipleship tools, etc.

But after one month, it is DECISION MAKING TIME. Do it now, or don't come back. The only way to plant a church is to get out there and intentionally plant a church. Those who do start at least what we initially call an outreach group), we will continue to train/mentor/coach. Those who don't? Well, Dios te has been fun...see ya around...thanks for your time...chao (good-bye!)

Does this sound too harsh? Un-Christlike? Too much like the business world? How did Jesus respond to the undecided, wavering, excuse-making disciples in Luke 9:57-62?

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, "I will follow You wherever You go." And Jesus said to him, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." [that guy never appears again in the pages of the NT] And He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." But He said to him, "Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God." [Jesus leaves this guy standing by the road and moves on] Another also said, "I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home." But Jesus said to him, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." [Not fit? Sounds pretty harsh and to-the-point to me. I don't think Jesus was able to use this guy either!]

What do you think about these things? What has been your experience in training church planters? If you have personally experienced a better way to start churches (not something you might have read in a book, but something you have actually done and it works), THEN PLEASE SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH US. We would love to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, November 14

The future of missions organizations

The future of denominational/institutional missions organizations is something that is clearly being redefined. As a missionary serving in one of the largest denominational missions organizations (IMB), I can attest to the urgent need that organizations change to meet the challenge of a changing world. The question becomes, though, how do we do this? What needs to be done to stay on the cutting edge of global missions today?

Bob Roberts, Jr. shares his thoughts on what this needs to look like...

There has never been a time, or as conducive an environment, for mission agencies and institutions to engage the world like there is today. If it happens, mission agencies and institutions are going to have to:

1. See themselves as connectors of the whole body of Christ to the whole world.

2. Release control or lose any control at all because people aren't going to sit around and wait.

3. Train not just local culture and practices to a missionary, but global culture and practices.

4. Redefine how missionaries work, what they do and how they operate.

5. Be a revolving door not just of sending western missionaries but of "global" missionaries from every society.

6. Be a receiving entity for missionaries coming to America who feel called to work here [in the USA]...

7. Value local churches and laymen beyond just seeing them as cows to milk for their institution (I'm convinced the key to raising funds is not asking for money but partnering and doing things together--there will be more money than they could ever imagine.)

8. View themselves not as funders of people who want to be vocational missionaries, but partner "gospel seed planters" of the kingdom throughout the world...People are going to work with people that are willing to work together and ignore those who aren't willing to partner. The days of a huge bureaucracy telling a church that is funding it what it can and can't do are numbered. Getting a bunch of young guys in a room and telling them "we want to hear from you" won't cut it. Getting a bunch of youngsters with a radical "newlight" missionary--saying there's a city, now take it, and the skies the limit. You empower them all, you infuse enthusiasm, and you learn from one another...

What do you see as the future of missions organizations like the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, SIM, YWAM, CCC, etc. as we know them today?

Thursday, November 11

Victor Choudhrie's 21 steps to transit from being a barren church to a millionaire of souls (Part 2 of 2)

--21 Steps to transit from being a barren church to a millionaire of souls--
(Part 2 of 2)
by *Victor Choudhrie, 2010

11. Challenge purposeless churches to enunciate a clear vision and a road map to translate that vision into action plan to ‘do greater things than these’. Armed with maps, stats and the Great Commission, go two by two and teach divine arithmetic of planting just one multiplying church every month and in ten short months, even the least shall plant a thousand meta churches. John 14:12; Acts 16:5; Luke 10:1, 2; Isa 60:22

12. Unglue from the pews all those Christians who sit, soak and stagnate and send them to heal the sick, raise the dead, tread on snakes and scorpions (expel demons), bind the ‘strongman’, plunder his possessions and demolish the gates of Hell. Matt 11:12; 12:29; 16:18,19; Mark 16:17-18; Luke 10:19

13. Resurrect from being a dead organization to a living organism. Eliminate all extra-biblical cosmetic titles like Director, Chairman, CEO, and Secretary, by appointing five-fold ministry-gifted Elders, like apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers, as equippers. By feeding, leading and keeping the flock healthy and reproductive, they must reach those who are outside the fold. Eph. 4:11; Tit.1:5-9; John 10:16

14. Empower every Sunday school, bible school, prayer cell, women’s fellowship, and cottage meeting, by calling them full-fledged, authentic churches. They must make disciples who baptize, break bread, equip laborers and send missionaries and like the school of Tyrannus, change spiritual demography. 1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15; Acts 19:8-12

15. Filter out selfish-goat church members who come only for hatching (baby baptism), matching (wedding) and dispatching (funeral), and replace them with sheep who take care of the hungry, thirsty, naked, strangers, sick and prisoners. Culling the non-productive barren sheep is a very important principle of sheep rearing. God chose David to shepherd Israel because he took care of “ewes great with young”. Matt. 25:31-46; Psalm 78:70-72

16. Simplify disciple making. Get a Bible and invite a couple of truth-seekers for a meal where the main dish is - The Lamb. Redefine authentic church as wherever two or three friends meet to eat, gossip the gospel, and to multiply. Meta church is the most cost effective strategy for city penetration and reaching the ends of the earth. Acts 2:46-47

17. Substitute seminary training by sharing the whole wisdom of God from house to house. Sound doctrine is the ability to convince those who oppose. The lost of this world do not need scholars as much as they need spiritual fathers and mothers who bring many spiritual sons and daughters to glory. Acts 20:20, 27; Tit. 1:9; 1Cor. 4:15; 2Tim. 2:2; Heb 2:10

18. Reorient your own personal paradigm. Your business, workplace or home, wherever you spend most of your time, is your ‘primary nuclear church’. It matters little whether you are the CEO, or the janitor or the kitchen queen, you are a full-time minister there and accountable. Adam and Eve were accountable for the Garden of Eden and failed.

19. Recognize ‘Hi, there,’ ‘Hello,’ handshaking, Sunday church as your ‘secondary optional church’. A church that does not send you out to ‘raise your holy hands to pray everywhere’ and equip you to make Christ ‘high and lifted up’ in your home, workplace and neighborhood is not worth going to. 1 Tim. 2:8; Isa. 6:1

20. Re-set your priorities to preach Christ where He has not been named. For this you do not have to go to church from Sunday to Sunday nor work from paycheck to paycheck. You are “ordained” to be fruitful, to multiply, and to fill your home/workplace/neighborhood and the city with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Matt. 6:33; Rom. 15:20; John 15:16; Gen. 1:28; Hab. 2:14

21. Adopt a ‘completion mindset’. Evaluate your ministry with the Great Commission as the mandate with the number of disciples made, baptized, equipped and sent out, as benchmarks. Aim to be a millionaire of souls. Why not? After all, you claim to believe in a great and awesome God for whom nothing is impossible. At the very least, like Peter, shoot for 3000 baptisms by every Pentecost. Or like Paul, plant a multiplying church every day and claim that there are no more places left here for me to ‘fully preach the gospel’, not just with words, ‘but with signs and mighty deeds’. Acts 2:41; 16:5; Rom. 15:19, 23.

*Victor Choudhrie is a cancer surgeon by profession. He is a Senior Fellow of the American and British Colleges of Surgeons. He left his position as Director and CEO of the Christian Medical college, Ludhiana, Punjab, India, in 1992, to take up a full-time Church planting ministry in central India. His wife, Bindu, is also in a full-time church planting ministry, equipping women to be house-church leaders and trainers. They now have disciples making disciples in some forty countries. Theirs is presently amongst the fastest growing movements deploying volunteers with no paid workers in the field. God has blessed this ministry abundantly. In the year from Pentecost 2009 to Pentecost 2010, over one million underwent a ‘holy dip’ through their ministry partners. Large numbers of grassroots level leaders have been trained, who, subsequently, have planted tens of thousands of house churches across India and abroad.

Books written by Victor Choudhrie include: The Ekklesia, the Church in your House; The Apostolic Gardens; The Prayer Warrior; Teaching Cards and From Mega Church to Meta (Beyond) Church soon to be published. Electronic copies are available on payment of US $10 via PayPal:

Tuesday, November 9

Victor Choudhrie's 21 steps to transit from being a barren church to a millionaire of souls (Part 1 of 2)

*Victor Choudhrie's 21 steps might sound like something coming from some fringe extremists. But when you realize that from Pentecost 2009 to Pentecost 2010 we are talking about ministry resulting in over one million people baptized and tens of thousands of house churches planted, these guys have my attention. What other ministry anywhere in the world even comes close to a tenth of what these Jesus radicals are experiencing today in India?

--21 Steps to transit from being a barren church to a millionaire of souls--
(Part 1 of 2)
by Victor Choudhrie, 2010

1. Rewrite the job description of professional clergy from a pulpit orator, sacrament dispenser and tithe gatherer to a shepherd who feeds his flock to be healthy and reproducing by encouraging them to practice priesthood of all believers with authority to baptize, break bread and equip fishers of men. He must model a flat church structure where brothers and sisters submit to one another, pray one for another, serve one another, exhort, forgive and love each other. John 13:34, 35; Matt.18:21-22; Eph. 5:21

2. Move from meeting in temples to gathering in ‘houses of peace’. ‘God does not dwell in temples made by human hands’; rather He dwells in human hearts. For we are the mobile walking and talking temples of the living God, with a maximum of organism and a minimum of organization. Luke 10:5-9; Matt. 10:11-13; Acts 7:48-49; 2 Cor. 6:16

3. Phase out programmed Sunday ‘services’ while implementing informal, small gatherings. The Bride of Christ must have intimacy with her Lord every day, not only for a couple of hours a week, lest she become unfaithful. However, discourage cross-gender disciple-making, lest chemistry foul things up. Acts 2:46-47; Hebrew 3:13

4. Replace Mosaic tithing with Christian sharing, thereby harnessing the enormous, financial resources, hospitality and goodwill available in Christian homes. Believe that God is going to work a work among the nations through you which will leave you utterly amazed, and also provide resources for it. Deut. 8:17-18; Acts 5:32-34; Hab. 1:5

5. Dispense with wafer-and-sip Holy Communion services, and promote breaking of bread with simple Agape meals (love feasts) from house to house that believers take together with glad hearts, so the Lord can add to His numbers daily. Acts 2:46,47; 1 Cor.11:20-23

6. Replace professional music with believers speaking to each other in psalms and spiritual songs, making melody in their hearts to the Lord. OT worship required the sacrifice of four-footed beasts, the NT celebrates by offering two legged Gentiles as a living sacrifice. The meta church is a discipling hub and not a singing club. Eph 5:19; Col 3:16; Rom. 15:16

7. Shift from spectator-oriented church to ‘metastasizing’ interactive, participatory, prophetic church. Empower men, women and youth, to get the dragon off the driver’s seat. We, the seed of Abraham are blessed, “with multiplying I will multiply you and your seed will possess the gates of the enemy”.  
1 Cor.14:26-31; Acts 13:13;18:4; Gen. 22:17,18

8. For powerful synergy, metamorphose mega churches into city, regional and national, networks of ‘meta’ (beyond) churches. Instead of bringing everyone under one roof, have them gather under thousand roofs, just like the mega church at Jerusalem planted meta churches across Judea, Samaria, Antioch, Corinth, Rome and beyond (meta) that grew in faith and in numbers (both quality and quantity) daily. Romans 16:3-15; Acts 1:8; 16:5

9. Infect barren Bride with the multiplication virus. A healthy mature female (Bride) implies that she is ready to have babies. Rebecca the Bride of Isaac was blessed by her family to have millions of children. The time has come for the Bride of Christ to stretch her tent to the left and to the right and to the north and to the south and produce millions of meta churches and fill the earth. Gen. 24:60; Isa. 54:1-5; Acts 1: 8

10. Know your identity in Christ: you are a royal-priest; made so by the blood of the Lamb. Dismantle ‘Reverend’ culture that divides clergy from layman. Like Melchizedek, the royal-priest of Salem (city of peace), who served bread and wine, took tithe and blessed Abraham, bring godly governance to your city. Catch the vision of cloning royal-priests for every city and run with it. 1Pet.2:9; Rev.5:10; Hab.2:1-3; Isa. 9:6-7; Gen. 14:18

*Victor Choudhrie is a cancer surgeon by profession. He is a Senior Fellow of the American and British Colleges of Surgeons. He left his position as Director and CEO of the Christian Medical college, Ludhiana, Punjab, India, in 1992, to take up a full-time Church planting ministry in central India. His wife, Bindu, is also in a full-time church planting ministry, equipping women to be house-church leaders and trainers. They now have disciples making disciples in some forty countries. Theirs is presently amongst the fastest growing movements deploying volunteers with no paid workers in the field. God has blessed this ministry abundantly. In the year from Pentecost 2009 to Pentecost 2010, over one million underwent a ‘holy dip’ through their ministry partners. Large numbers of grassroots level leaders have been trained, who, subsequently, have planted tens of thousands of house churches across India and abroad.

Books written by Victor Choudhrie include: The Ekklesia, the Church in your House; The Apostolic Gardens; The Prayer Warrior; Teaching Cards and From Mega Church to Meta (Beyond) Church soon to be published. Electronic copies are available on payment of US $10 via PayPal:

Sunday, November 7

Locksmith or fireman: Understanding the primary missonary task

A few weeks ago I blogged Is there still a need for missionaries in the major cities of Latin America? Esteban, a fellow missionary commenting on the post contends, "Mobilization and connecting may be a part of that task but they are NOT the primary M task...Biblically the M task is the zero to one stuff of entering new communities, making new disciples and starting new NT groups where previously there were very few or no believers or NT groups."

He goes on to quote Ralph D. Winter who likens the missionary task to that of a locksmith, "Here is one way to look at it: Anyone can open a door and walk through it, but only a locksmith can deal with a locked door. Missions is "locksmithing" new groups. Once the lock is open (a very special skill), expanding the number of churches is by comparison a relatively simple task." (p.5 of the November-December 2002 issue of Missions Frontiers.)

So, is the primary task of missionaries today to "locksmith" new groups?

A few days prior to this post, Ron, a visiting missionary from Guatemala, helped us in a camp for missions mobilizers and described the missionary task/role this way,

"If there is a big fire needing to be put out, is it the wisest thing for the fireman to try to put it out himself, or would he be more effective to awaken 100 other firemen to come help him?"

For Ron, the missionary is primarily a fireman who awakens other firemen, who by working together, are better able to put out the fire than the fireman trying to do so by himself.

Both analogies are true and illustrate some of the tension going on in missionary circles these days about the evolving role of the 21st century missionary. Today missionaries are as likely to be referred to as either a mobilizer or a connector, as they are a church planter.

If the missionary task has evolved into something akin to "locksmithing new groups" and firemen awakening other firemen to put out the fire, then who is it that is supposed to actually carry out the task of making disciples of the nations?

The Church.

All of us have been charged with the responsibility of making disciples of the nations. It is no longer the responsibility of a few called, special, chosen, gifted, self-denying individuals traditionally known as missionaries.

Locksmiths and firemen are both needed. Each are but part of "the church." While these are certainly highly specialized giftings (callings) they were never meant to be the sole workers in the harvest. If we are to reach the world with the Good News of Jesus, all of us will have to do a lot more than what is currently being done by the church today.

As David Platt says in his must-read book entitled, Radical
"Every saved person this side of heaven owes the gospel to every lost person this side of hell. We owe Christ to the world...We are in debt to the nations. Encompassed with this debt, though, in our contemporary approach to missions, we have subtly taken ourselves out from under the weight of a lost and dying world, wrung our hands in pious concern, and said, "I'm sorry I'm just not called to that"...But what if we don't need to sit back and wait for a call to foreign missions? What if the very reason we have breath is because we have been saved for a global mission? And what if anything less than passionate involvement in global mission is actually selling God short by frustrating the very purpose for which he created us?"
I am encouraged to see so many signs that the global Church of Jesus Christ is awakening to her Acts 1:8 calling and role to take the Gospel not only to our Jerusalems, but to our Judeas, Samarias, and yes, ends of the earth. This is indeed an exciting time to be a missionary locksmith, fireman, mobilizer, connector...whatever you want to call us!

Thursday, November 4

Rejecting those forms of evangelism that brought us to faith

Frank Viola recently dared to challenge some of the common held beliefs about evangelism with his controversial post Rethinking Evangelism.

My purpose is not to rehash Frank's words in this post. I chose to express my own thoughts as one of the 128 comments which the post has generated to date (see comments #15-18.)

What I think needs to be said about evangelism is simply this: just about any kind of intentional evangelism is better than no evangelism at all.

It would seem that many of those who are most critical of certain kinds of evangelistic methods are the ones who are least involved in personally evangelizing others. To criticize the simplistic methods others are attempting without personally doing anything at all to win others to Christ seems a bit hypocritical.

I fully agree with another commenter on Frank's post Dan Kimbal (#27 down) who stated it this way:

I was at a NT Wright event recently and he said something to the sort, that today we often reject the very forms of evangelism that brought us to faith because we now see them as simplistic. Which they might have been true. But he then said maybe these simple forms are what God uses, as he knew people who stay in the faith for their lifetimes as a result. And it is almost becoming an excuse not to evangelize or to have reasons for not seeing new disciples, blaming for simplistic forms – and ironically, the very ones which God used often to bring us to a decision point for Jesus. It is fascinating to hear that such a large majority of us came to faith in Jesus through an altar call (like I believe you told me you did) or someone sharing with us directly about faith who did “evangelize” us. But now we say that isn’t right, but at the same time being in a local church we just baptized 15 people last week and listening to their stories they were “evangelized” as in proclaiming the good news from someone. Either a family member, or someone who was a friend or someone at the church took the time to explain and go out of their way with them. And I am so happy someone did with me. But all these stories has someone taking the effort and time to do so. It didn’t happen via osmosis without words, explanation also taking place intentionally.

In our own ministry we teach many different contextualized ways we believe are effective in sharing the Gospel with not-yet-believers. We expose trainees to six methods/tools for using in small group evangelism, four ways to evangelize in large groups, and ten tools for personal evangelism.

What we encourage is to use these as an evangelism TOOL BOX. Use the tool that is needed for the situation at hand. You don't want to use a hammer for every job. Sometimes a screw driver is needed, or a wrench, or a combination of various different tools. But all tools are useful in the right context.

I can't tell you how many people have come to Christ over the past decade of teaching these "simplistic" methods. The very ones reached with these "outmoded" methods are today using them to reach their own friends, neighbors, and family. These new believers are then taught to do the same.

As the previous blog entry video slide show of the 60 years of Baptist missionary presence in Ecuador reminded me; it is not so much about what methods were used to bring the Good News to Ecuador. What matters is that people did proclaim and continue to share the Gospel. Some methods are certainly more effective than others, but just about anything attempted is better than nothing at all.

Tuesday, November 2

60 Años de Obra Misionera Bautista en el Ecuador (1950-2010)

60 Años de Obra Misionera Bautista en el Ecuador (1950-2010) from Guy Muse on Vimeo.

60 years ago Baptists began working in Ecuador. This compilation of photos was shared this past weekend as part of the annual meeting of the Ecuador Baptist Convention meeting in Quito, Ecuador.

Thanks to Joiner, Jones, Muse, and Smith families for sharing their historic photos with us for this time of celebration of what God has done.

Saturday, October 30

Firing on the saints

Many years ago, the British Navy arrived on the Atlantic coast near what is now Quebec. They were told to wait until reinforcements arrived and then begin attacking the city. Growing bored with the wait, the commander of the British fleet decided to do a bit of target practice, and so he ordered his gunmen to fire the ships cannons with the goal of destroying all the statues of the saints, which sat on top of a nearby cathedral. By the time reinforcements arrived, most of the ammunition was used up, and there were insufficient military resources for the British to soundly defeat the French. Two hundred years later, Quebec is still a French city, because the British decided to "fire on the saints" instead of the enemy.

--read some time ago on Joel Rainey's blog

Wednesday, October 27

Prayer bombs

Before pastoring a church in Texas, Bruce Parsons and family served alongside us as missionaries here in Ecuador. In light of all ongoing media attention being given to Islamic issues in America, my friend writes about a far more effective strategy we who call ourselves Christians could be using with Muslims. Better than bombs or bullets is prayer...

Jesus commanded us to "pray to the Lord of the Harvest, that He send laborers into the harvest." Every time a believer asks God to send more laborers into the harvest, it is done immediately. I pray this daily, and lead my church in praying it when we are together. Our one small church has used this promise to unleash thousands of laborers into the harvest. Imagine what would be happening if every church in America began to pray this prayer, regularly and fervently.

So what does this have to do with bombs? I believe that we at our church are bombarding the kingdom of the evil one with these prayers, which he sees as "weapons of mass destruction." Prayer hits the very foundations of Satan's kingdom. It crumbles the base on which he has built. It destroys his work.

In one way, I, as a Christian, am like these radical Muslims. I believe that there is one true God, and one true way to salvation. I believe that the Christianity that Jesus Himself brought to earth is the only way to God's favor, and that all other religions are wrong. I don't even accept Allah as a true god, but see him as an imposter.

My difference is in my response. I do not believe that it is my job to "kill the infidels." I think it is my joyous obligation to love them, to pray for them, and to ask the Lord of the Harvest to send laborers into Allah's back yard with the truth of the Gospel.

Christ's coming put an end to the edge of the sword. True conversion is not brought about by intimidation or extermination. I desire no one's death...

From my prayer closet, I am bombarding Teheran, Baghdad, Kabul, and Riyadh. I am dropping prayer bombs all over the Middle East that is cloaked in the darkness of deception. I'm also praying for Jerusalem, where Christ is excluded. I'm praying for Pyong Yang, for Calcutta, for Moscow, for Shanghai, and for Manila. I am an equal-opportunity bomber. I am dropping prayer bombs on New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Miami. I am also remembering small communities, and I have dropped bombs in my own neighborhood.

One well-said prayer, in accordance with God's will, can do infinitely more than bombs, bullets, or ballots. We need to bombard the strongholds of Satan in our world, whether it's on the other side of the world, or in our own backyard.
I whole-heartedly agree with Bruce. But are we using this powerful spiritual weapon as given to us by our Lord? How effective is prayer? Is praying the Lord of the Harvest for laborers just church talk, or does it really "bomb Teheran"?

Sunday, October 24

Bearing fruit in season

"...he shall be like a tree planted 
by the rivers of water, 
that bringeth forth his fruit 
in his season..." Psalm 1:3b

I write these words in our backyard tree swing. Most mornings I enjoy my first cup of coffee out rocking under the ciruela tree. To my left is a mango tree. This time of year the branches are loaded with fruit. From where I gently swing I can count more than 50 mangoes in a single 2'x3' branch area. Every year in December/January this tree bears an abundance of sweet juicy mangoes.

This morning as I was expressing my disappointment to the Lord over the last few months of lean Kingdom harvest, the Spirit turned my attention to the mango tree. Every year that tree bears its season.

I can pray fervently throughout the year for fruit in March, June, August, or October and it would make little difference. The tree will bear fruit, but will do so only in its season.

God's ways are not our ways. Our ways are to set annual "fruit goals" which we then average out over what we expect for the year. My own 2010 Ministry Assessment Profile (MAP) states by 12/31/10 we will have trained 300 house church planters to begin 200 New Outreach Groups (NOG). Hopefully, at least half of these NOG will result in true NT ekklesias if those trained "do it right."

To attain this goal we must train 25 people every month so that at least 16 of these will bear some kind of measurable fruit. I can assure you we are FAR BELOW achieving these numbers! Last weekend we graduated 15. That was the fruit of, not one, but three months of work. Discouraging indeed from a MAP point-of-view.

But God works not on monthly averages, but on fruit bearing in season. If the tree remains planted by the rivers of water (Ps.1:3), abiding in the vine (Jn.15:4), Jesus says there will be much fruit (Jn.15:5,8).

Just like those mangoes to my left, my "real job" is not to achieve our MAP goals, but to remain/abide in Him. Staying attached to the branch, allowing Him to do the work in, through, and around us--THAT IS OUR TASK. To bear fruit, yes; but to do so in His season, timing, and way.

Two young ladies who never missed a single training session. Who knows what all the Lord of the Harvest has in due season for these two potential mango orchards!