Thursday, April 29

How long do we continue to stay?

"We tend to prefer answers to questions" says Charles Ringma in his devotional, Dare to Journey. "Answers are meant to reassure. Questions usually disturb us."

As we approach our 24th year as missionaries here in Guayaquil, one of the questions that "disturbs" us is, how long do we continue to stay?

The IMB leadership suggests the following items as indicators when the missionary should begin to trasition out of their assigned people group/population segment:
  • 2-5% status of evangelization in a people group or population segment
  • 1:1000 church-to-people-group or population segment ration
  • widespread 2nd and 3rd generation churches being planted
  • 50% of church leaders receiving leadership training
While these are helpful, there are other considerations that must be included in the mix. The main one being a sense that it is the Lord who is leading us in this process of transitioning out.

While information is difficult to come by, I am fairly confident that we have surpassed the 2-5% evangelization threshold. But does that by itself signal our need to transition out? When only 5 out of every 100 people who die will go to heaven, have we completed the task? Is it time to move on? This is a tough question for missionaries to deal with. There are no easy answers.

Another related question: if we stay, are we being more of a hindrance than a help? Most missionaries realize (whether they admit it or not) that as long as we are on the scene people tend to rely upon us. We are looked to for answers, for help, for support, for training, for money...the list is long. As long as we are here the brethren will continue to lean upon us. It is a good feeling to be needed. Missionaries have a lot to offer emerging churches. But our presence can also be a limitation. Often our presence hinders local leadership from truly coming into their own. Ownership of the work is not really theirs as long as we continue to be present.

Is it right that we remain where God has placed us when daily unreached people groups--like those featured in the right-hand side bar from the Joshua Project--reveal that 0.00% of these peoples are reached? I don't know about you, but everyday when a new UPG is featured showing anywhere from tens of thousands to MILLIONS with less than 1% reached, my heart is crushed. It is just not right. Where are the laborers? Does anyone care that virtually 100% of those dying within these UPGs will spend a Christless eternity?

Ringma continues..."there is nothing as significant as the power of the question...questions ruffle the smooth front of what we already know and open us up to new possibilities...but so often we close off the power of the question..." He concludes, "We many often think that God is only with us in the answer. He is, however, equally present in the question."

So, how long do we stay? We continue to struggle with the question. Will you pray with us and for us?

Tuesday, April 27

How to kill church planting


1. Establish a “Come To” environment, instead of a “Go To” environment.

Many church-starts begin by going to a new community, but then set up a building for people “come to” in order to find God or Community or … you fill in the blank. Going doesn’t stop until we are staying in homes, transforming individuals, families and communities. See Matthew 10, Luke 9, and Luke 10.

2. Make converts, instead of Disciples.

Most churches are concerned with convincing people to believe like they do and adopt the church’s peculiar doctrine – making converts. A disciple is one who believes like Jesus does and gives his or her life to be like Jesus and help others to find Jesus and become like Him. Converts are about a brand of church or denomination. Disciples are about obediently following the Master regardless of consequences. No one wants our religion, or our style of worship, or our doctrines. Almost everyone wants to be a follower of God, a disciple of Jesus without the crud we have added in the modern church. Yes, there are some who will come to our churches. What about the 80-90% who will never darken the door of a traditional church? They will refuse to become converts. They may respond to the becoming disciples of the Creator of the Universe.

3. Grow Churches, instead of establishing new churches.

I am frequently asked to consult with churches who are interested in starting new work. The first question I ask is, “Are you interested in growing your church, or in reaching your community for Christ?” Many people see these as the same. They are not. Growing a church is about getting more people to come to the church. The reality is that no single church appeals to even a miniscule part of society. Churches have personalities, and these personalities click with only a few. So, if you start out to simply grow a church, there is a limit to how many people can be reached, simply because most people will have zero interest in the church.

On the other hand, if you start out to reach a community, regardless of whether or not the new believers will come to any particular church, numerous churches with just the right personalities for new believers will be initiated. In the course of all these new groups being starting, the catalytic church or churches will grow.

One can’t reach a community by trying to grow a church. But, if one reaches the community by all means available, the church that does this will grow.

4. Teach stuff, instead of obedience to all the commands of Christ.

One of the most misquoted and misunderstood passages of the Bible is Matthew 28:18-20. Ask people, sometime, what this passage tells us to teach. I think you will be surprised by the number of people who will not say, “to obey.” Most of our churches, and most of our doctrines, are about teaching facts or knowledge about the Bible or theology or doctrine, or our own particular brand of church.

We will not see significant church planting until and unless we are willing to teach everyone to obey all the commands of Christ, our Creator and God. How does one teach obedience? By being consistently obedient in public and in private, in word and in thought. Obedience is taught by an obedient life that supports daily life decisions from the principles of God’s Word regardless of the consequences. A faithful life is an obedient life in all situations and circumstances regardless of the consequences of being obedient.

The Great Commission is one commission with four parts or commands. If any one of these commands is not obeyed, then the commission is broken and will not produced the fruit that God intended – obedient Disciples and Churches.

Matthew 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)

Monday, April 26

Radical scandalous love for the nations

I first saw this convicting Dave Black blog post here.

The real problem in our churches is not that we are mired down in traditions. The real tragedy is that we have gotten our eyes off of the world for whom Jesus died. For instance, if we really believed that there are over one billion lost souls in this world who have never even heard about Jesus, then we would automatically begin rethinking how we spent the Lord’s money. Do we really need those Sunday School curriculum booklets? The answer is “Yes” if we put our church first. The answer may well be “No” if we consider the needs of the world. Calibrating our church budgets in light of the mandate to evangelize the whole world takes the focus off of ourselves and our comfort and spotlights the crying and dying needs of others. Moreover, a missional focus takes our eyes off of “our” kind – our churches, our denominations, our missionary programs – and unleashes holy havoc across the world as we intentionally adopt a cooperative model of serving King Jesus and building His kingdom of love.

Yeah I know, none of this is news to you. But that’s part of the problem. We so easily forget first things and make second things first things. So let’s rethink our church structures and priorities, not because someone tells us to, not because “the denomination says so,” but because Jesus calls us to radical, scandalous love for the nations!

Saturday, April 24

Missionary perks

Many of our supporters back in the United States often feel sorry for missionaries living overseas and "suffering for Jesus." But the truth is, we are better off than most think. Folks back home simply aren't aware of the many privileges and advantages we enjoy in our host countries. Here is a sample of just a few of the many perks we enjoy as missionaries:

-Getting our own glass to drink out of at social occasions and not having to share with someone else.

-Being given the seat right in front of the only floor fan in a closed room where 30 perspiring people are crammed together in equatorial heat and humidity. (If you don't think this is an honor and privilege, just try sitting somewhere else in the room and not pass out!)

-Being asked to sing, preach, teach, baptize, speak, dedicate babies, marry, or give the devotional at any church gathering that takes place. (If you're a missionary, you know what I am talking about. Not even Billy Graham gets asked to do all that we are honored to do!)

-Being invited to everyone's birthday party, anniversary, or wedding. (They know at least the missionary will bring a nice gift.)

-Having a wireless cell phone with a balance. (That way everyone who needs to make a call can borrow ours and we save them money. We call it our "phone ministry!")

-Always the one invited to go places. (They know the missionary has a car and will provide the transportation for all the other 15 people also wanting to go.)

-Double portions of rice, chicken and plantains at any social occasion. (They reason we must eat twice as much to be as big as we are!)

-A nice siesta every day after lunch. (How do people in the States manage to go all day long without a nap?)

-Fruit vendors, knife sharpeners, plumbers, sewer cleaners, professional con artists, street sweepers, bottle collectors, repairmen, newspaper collectors, beggars, Jehovah Witnesses, gardeners, electricians, and salesmen, ringing your door bell 20 times a day to see if you need their services or can give them anything. (While sometimes annoying--especially during afternoon siesta--it is generally a nice perk when you actually do need their services!)

-Always being complimented on how fat we are getting, or how much weight we have gained over the past month. (It truly is a cultural compliment meaning we are "well fed", "healthy" and can afford to eat like we do.)

-The privilege of receiving calls from people asking for help in translating an English letter, recipe, their kid's homework, legal documents, etc. (How many times have I heard, "oh, it will just take a minute, you don't mind do you?")

-Being able to go to the Pharmacy and buy whatever medications you need without a prescription. (Just go down to the corner drugstore 24/7 and get what you need--none of that $120 doctor fee to tell you what you already know!)

-Being the first person people think of when they are in an economic crisis and need a loan.

-Oh yes, having a maid to cook, clean, and wash everyday. (How do people manage without one?)

And finally, my favorite perk...

-Garbage picked up seven days/week, 365 days/year without anyone questioning what it is you are throwing away. This is probably my favorite missionary perk, and the one I most appreciate getting back to after every Stateside furlough. (On a previous furlough (no joke) NOT ONCE was our garbage picked up by the trash collectors due to our never figuring out how to do it right. I was totally overwhelmed by "garbage manual" explaining all the rules and regulations about what kinds of trash will be picked up, on what days, in what type of containers, etc.)

And people wonder what missionaries do with all their time. Well, as you can see, managing our perks takes quite a bit of our daily time!

Care to add some of the perks that come with your career-job-ministry? Just add them to the comments section!

Thursday, April 22

More... Scripture As We Live It

More Scripture...As We Live It by Alan Knox...

Jesus asked, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy pointed out his theological error.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37 re-mix)

If my people who are called by my name Americans humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways pass conservative moral laws, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14 re-mix)

I [John the Baptist] baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire water also. (Matthew 3:11 re-mix)

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved; and if you are baptized in the proper manner and partake of the Lord’s Supper in the right way and become a member of the right kind of church organization and give a portion of your money to that church and profess doctrinal agreements with us and do anything else that we deem appropriate, then we will treat you as if you are saved. (Romans 10:9 re-mix)

So I exhort the elders among you… shepherd the flock of God that is among you preach sermons, organize programs, officiate weddings and funerals,administer finances, supervise employees… (1 Peter 5:1a, 2a re-mix)

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you you should repeat these words after passing out the bread during the Lord’s Supper but before eating the bread, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, repeat these words after passing out the cups but before drinking saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25 re-mix)

There was not a needy person were needy persons among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. (Acts 4:34-35 re-mix)

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task occupation. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church. He must not be a recent convert, but must be a seminary graduate or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1-7 re-mix)

Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house concerning a personal issue between us and you alone… there’s no reason to involve the whole church in this. (Philemon 1:1-2 re-mix)

Monday, April 19

Apostolic jurisdictions

Are we free to assign people where we think they need to serve? Whose business is it to designate where God-called individuals will go, and what they do?

While the answer to these questions seems obvious, what I am seeing more and more is organizations, institutions, and churches assuming this role. In many ways we are moving in the direction of usurping the role of our Lord in assigning people to tasks, territories and mission fields.

In Wolfgang Simson's Starfish Manifesto many pages are spent defining, defending and restoring the long lost and highly misunderstood (and abused) role of the apostolic.

I would be quick to say that not all missionaries are apostolic. Most in fact are teacher/pastoral, evangelistic, or administrative-types. But if one accepts that the apostolic and prophetic roles are still legitimate and needed roles in the planting and establishment of Jesus' Church and if, God continues to appoint in the church, "...first apostles, second prophets, third teachers..." then what right do we have to usurp this appointment process?

We cannot go where we want to go and do apostolic work at our own will and whim wherever we feel, but we have to learn to respect the territoriality of God’s plans. [Starfish Manifesto, p.230]

Paul clearly establishes that apostolic work is measured out by God according to geographical territories, a mission field, a “man’s territory,” magistrates,a parish in this sense of a geographical sphere of influence. I call these apostolic jurisdictions, an area of legitimate apostolic function. And just like human governors or the police have only delegated authority in certain political districts...the same is true for spiritual work of the Kingdom of God. It follows specific geographic or ethnic borders as it is meted out by God (and never by a human) to certain people in order to become their kanon, their legitimate field of work, their turf. [p.230-231]

Apostolic jurisdictions, the kanons measured out by God today for apostolic purposes, can encompass geographical areas, often with natural borders like deserts, rivers, seas, lakes, valleys, and mountains, or can encompass an ethnic a classical apostolic task in the advancing of the Kingdom of God. [p.233-234]

It grieves me to think that what is driving our missions enterprise is vision by a few for all; rather than regional, apostolic vision. Stan Meador writes,

The apostle’s calling will be to a people or place. The apostle’s vision will relate to that place or people. The apostle’s vision will be larger than any one “church”. Denominationalism does a great deal to complicate the work of the true apostle today. Many churches follow party lines, denominational leadership, and have no ears to hear the voice and vision of the true apostle. Centuries ago we lost the truth of the interdependence that exists between apostles and local churches.

So what do you think about apostolic jurisdiction? Is God still the one appointing, or do we place people in positions based upon predetermined criteria?

Saturday, April 17

Mt. Chimborazo

One of my favorite stories in the history of evangelical work in Ecuador took place in 1892.*
I love God's sense of humor. See if you don't agree.

Francisco Penzotti, a Uruguayan carpenter-turned-preacher, had been jailed in Lima, Peru for eight months for distributing the Word of God. After his release in early 1891, he headed north to Guayaquil with his boxes of Bibles. As he pushed these pass the customs inspectors, one of the officials declared defiantly: "As long as Mt. Chimborazo stands, these books will never enter Ecuador!"

Not only did the Word of God enter the country that year, but today, all around the slopes of Mt. Chimborazo, an estimated 40-45% of the population claim to be evangelical believers. Chimborazo Province has the highest concentration of followers of Jesus Christ than any other region of Ecuador or South America that I am aware of.

From Chimborazo, the Gospel is spilling over into the neighboring Andean provinces of Tungurahua, Cañar and Cotopaxi. This is an exciting time to be a missionary in Ecuador. Click on this video to hear a Quichua believer singing to her Lord and see the faces of a people long held in spiritual captivity, but now being freed to join the swell of what is rapidly becoming a nationwide spiritual tsunami.

I love being on the winning side! More than 100 years since the infamous customs official's words were spoken, God is still proving to Satan and all his hosts that no matter how hard he tries to stop "those books" from entering, JESUS SHALL REIGN WHERE'ER THE SUN! And Mt. Chimborazo, at 20,946,230 feet, the highest point on the surface of the Earth (when measured from the core of the earth), stands tall as a majestic spiritual icon to remind the world "the gates of hell shall not prevail." Don't you love God's humor? Can't you just see Him smiling?
*Source: Daybreak Over Ecuador by Richard P. Reichert.

Wednesday, April 14

Working with Pentecostals

Do we work with and relate to Pentecostals? Yes. They are generally, on fire believers who have a huge heart for winning a lost world to Jesus Christ. Probably more so than any other group of Evangelicals in Ecuador (including Baptists).

I have been told 80% of non-Catholic believers in Ecuador are either charismatics or pentecostals. Does that stat surprise me? Not in the least. Their passion for the lost amazes me. That is why they are exploding in growth. To ignore and disassociate ourselves from them is not only unbiblical, it is ministry suicide, and quite clearly sin if you ask me.

Elsewhere I have posted about "unresponsiveness" being one of my biggest aggravations about being a missionary. It has been a source of frustration trying to motivate, convince, inspire, and partner with our Baptist brethren to go out into the world, evangelize/disciple and start new churches. Those who are eager and responsive are, for the most part, charismatics and pentecostals. Is it any wonder they make up 80% of the evangelical community?

I would personally feel a lot more comfortable training like-minded Baptists, but when there is little, to no response forthcoming, we do what the parable of the wedding banquet says,
"The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. "Then he sent some more servants and said, 'Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.' "But they paid no attention and went off--one to his field, another to his business...The king was enraged..."Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. --Matthew 22:2-10
When the invited guests make excuses for not coming, we literally "go to the streets" and invite anyone who is willing to come to the "training banquet" and be part of our church planting. Our constituency may not forgive us for doing this, but I feel the Lord does! :)

What do you do when a charismatic/pentecostal brother or sister comes to one of our church planting trainings? Turn them away? No way! They are invited guests and treated with full courtesy and get everything the invited guests would have received. They grasp the concepts, use our Baptist materials, are mentored, guided by Baptist missionaries, and then go out and plant one or more "outreach groups" that soon become NT churches.

The end result is New Testament churches started by charistmatic/pentecostals. Are they Baptist churches? Pentecostal churches? I don't know what they are!

Why can't we just simply call them New Testament churches?

If they are NT churches, shouldn't we count them as legitimate? Just because the brother/sister who started them comes from a different church background than myself, does that invalidate their church planting? I personally do not think so. Yet, to protect the integrity of our reporting only Baptist work to our S. Baptist constituency, many of these new works end up only being counted in Heaven by the Lord of the Harvest.

Now to be honest, I myself believe these "baptistic" NT churches that have been planted by our charismatics/pentecostal brothers should be counted. We relate to them, and have trained those that lead them. A gray area for me personally is... when do they cease to be legitimate "baptistic" church plants, and clearly become pentecostal church plants? What line has to be crossed to cease to be "baptistic" and become "pentecostal"?

Most of our established, traditional Baptist churches in Guayaquil are to some degree influenced by charismatic teachings and practices. Some more than others. There are some that carry the name "Baptist" who are nearly as pentecostal in practice as any Pentecostal church around. Yet they call themselves Baptist. They are reported year after year on the annual IMB statistical reports. When does one cross the line and cease to be Baptist? Maybe I should know, but I don't. Who is it that defines these things?

Anybody out there care to share your thoughts on any of this? I have two open ears, and am willing to listen and learn.

Sunday, April 11

Scripture...As We Live It

Alan Knox, who got my vote for best blog in 2009, has just completed his 100th "Scripture...As We Live It". I love this series of posts where Alan quotes well known Bible verses as we live them, rather than by what is actually said.

Some of my favorites are:

What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation find a place to sit, sing along with the band or choir, and listen to the preacher. Let all things be done for building up as prescribed by your leaders. (1 Corinthians 14:26 remix)

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for to do the work of ministry, and for building up the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-12 re-mix)

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting not forget to meet together in the church building every Sunday morning, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another let your leaders encourage you, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25 remix)

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind unless they’re wrong, having the same love unless they’re wrong, being in full accord and of one mind unless they’re wrong. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit unless they’re wrong, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves unless they’re wrong. (Philippians 2:1-3 remix)

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food you made a profession of faith, I was thirsty and you gave me drink you were baptized, I was a stranger and you welcomed me you faithfully attended church meetings, I was naked and you clothed me you joined a Bible study, I was sick and you visited me you gave your offerings to the church, I was in prison and you came to me you even gave to the building fund.’ (Matthew 25:34-36 re-mix)

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not certainly be so among you. But So whoever would be great among you must be your servant leader, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave authority… (Matthew 20:25-27 re-mix)

Go into the church building therefore and make disciples of all nations who come into the church building, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you the specific tenets of your church. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age, well, sort of, but not in a real sense. (Matthew 28:19-20 re-mix)

By this these things all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another by your t-shirts, bumper stickers, signs, speeches, political affiliation, church membership, vocabulary, etc. (John 13:35 re-mix)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart as much as is reasonably possible, and do not lean on your own understanding, especially your theological understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him do what seems logical, practical, or expedient, and he will make straight your paths ask him to bless the paths you’ve chosen. (Proverbs 3:5-6 re-mix)

Which is your favorite? To read all archived 100, click here.

Friday, April 9

25 Random Things About Me

1. 38 of my 53 years have been lived in Latin America (Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica.)

2. Linda and I were engaged four years before getting married.

3. I prefer hymns over contemporary praise and worship songs.

4. The only TV I watch is Fox News, but will view 4-5 movies/documentaries every week.

5. I am not a sports fan, but can tolerate those who are.

6. I love books of all kinds and will read 3-4 every month.

7. I have lived with 2-3 migraines/week for the past 20 years--no treatments seem to work.

8. At age 17 I had a root canal performed in Ecuador without any anesthesia.

9. More people know me as "Guido" than Guy.

10. My biggest regret is not keeping up my proficiency in playing the guitar and piano.

11. My favorite word is DANCE, and have a favorite word for every letter in the alphabet.

12. Before I die I'd like to learn to dance, speak semi-fluent Italian, visit all 50 States in USA, visit every country in the Americas, and spend a couple of weeks each in Spain and Italy.

13. I function better by instinct than by planning. Really.

14. I am most attracted by the mysterious.

15. If I could be successful at anything of my choosing I would be a good dad and husband.

16. My favorite fruits are a good Texas cantaloupe, Chilean cherries, and Ecuadorian papaya & bananas.

17. The people I probably most admire are my parents.

18. I have had a mustache now for 26 straight years.

19. I hate going to shopping malls and will only go to one to eat out or to see a movie.

20. Favorite stores: Best Buy, Barnes & Noble,

21. My idea of a really exciting time would be to spend a month by myself in some far off lonely place without anybody else around.

22. Wherever I go I hear the music playing in the background and judge the place/people based on what is being played. Music is always playing inside my head--even in my sleep! Everything gets accompanied to some kind of music track going on inside my brain.

23. I love all kinds of music--everything from A-Z--with an exception for "screamo" and "salsa" especially when it is blasted from one of our neighbor's all-night parties in Guayaquil.

24. I hate talking on the telephone. I will do so to take care of business, but anything more than that quickly sets me on edge. I'd rather email or text message than make a phone call any day.

25. I really believe that Texas is the closest thing to Heaven here on earth!


Feel free to be "tagged" and write your own 25 random things about yourself. If you do so, please let me know in the comments section so I can read your "things".

Wednesday, April 7

Two obstacles to church planting movements

Two Obstacles 
by Brian Hogan

As I coach church planters all over the world, I get to evaluate a variety of approaches to this difficult task. God has relentlessly brought two facts to my attention—the two main obstacles to church planting movements across our world.

ONE: What we are doing is too complex. Even though we stress to those we train that they must reduce the “heavy package” of ‘Church As We Know It’ to bare New Testament essentials before carrying it to an unreached people group, most church planters are still struggling to strip away the cultural elements that slow or stop reproduction in the new cultural setting.

For example, dispensing with the need for a special “holy” building to meet in on Sundays may be easier than modeling active ministry by every believer. The church planter often does so much of the work himself that the fledgling church sees ministry as something only full time religious professionals can accomplish. The movement is stillborn since “qualified leadership” can never reproduce itself rapidly enough. One thing we really need is a simpler and more Biblical view of what “church” actually means. When I speak of “church” ...I mean the living organism that corporately forms Jesus’ Body and Bride on this planet, not a religious organization. In practical terms: a gathering of any size, committed to one another and to obeying the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have been lugging around a model and definition of “church” that is far too complex and encrusted with layers of nonessential, non-Biblical “barnacles.” We need to get radical in simplification.

TWO: We don’t trust the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. The biggest reason indigenous churches are continuing, year after year, under foreign direction and control, and why new churches are not even allowed to form in many cases, is a deep distrust of God’s ability to work His purposes through others. This is what is behind our reluctance to release our disciples into real responsibility and leadership. We can trust God to work through us, but we think they will mess it up. We need to return to the Bible and take a good look at the Holy Spirit’s jobs (conviction of sin, bringing the Word to remembrance, guiding, etc.) and quit trying to do His work for Him.

We need to look at Paul’s model again. Paul consistently left baby churches for months and even years before appointing elders (or any other leaders beyond Jesus Christ). As he says farewell to the Ephesians’ elders in Acts 20, Paul says he knows that they will be attacked from without and within, but he entrusts and commits them to God. He trusts the Holy Spirit to do His job presenting His church in Ephesus as spotless and holy. We must get radical in trusting in God’s Spirit in our fellow believers’ lives.

In the church planting training we do around the world, we are exposing this pair of obstacles and equipping workers to overcome them. Through the grace of God I continue to learn more all the time about how He wants His Kingdom spread and multiplied. Simplicity and trust in God’s Spirit opened the doors of Mongolia to the Kingdom of God.


Brian and his wife Louise, have served in missions since 1987. From the Navajo Tribe to Outer Mongolia, their passion has been to see Jesus glorified and lifted up among those who have never known Him. From 1993-1996 their team pioneered a church planting movement in Erdenet, Mongolia that continues to grow under fully indigenous leadership to this day. Their Mongolian disciples are now training and sending out their own missionaries to other unreached people groups. The story of the work in Erdenet can be read in Brian's book: There's a Sheep in my Bathtub (Asteroidea Books), and in the case study article - "Mongols Follow the Khan of Khans" - included in the 1999, third edition of Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader, ed. Winter & Hawthorne (William Carey Library). Brian and Louise have four children: Melody, Mollyanne, Alice, and Peter. Currently this family makes their home in Northern CA where Brian manages the YWAM Church Planting Coaches office. In addition, he coordinates the Church Planting Coaches activities in Africa and Europe. Brian travels extensively conducting workshops and seminars on cross-cultural church planting skills and Frontier Missions.

Monday, April 5

Definitions of church

One of my favorite lessons in training new house church workers is when we get into trying to define what a New Testament church actually looks like. I'll get to our own Biblical definition in a minute, but first...

People come with all kinds of understandings and baggage about what a church is and what it is to look like. Back in the early years of our church planting, our team debated for months as to what we thought a NT church was supposed to be.

There are many helpful definitions and guidelines floating around out there. Here are a few that have played a role in shaping our current understanding of a NT church...

BAPTIST FAITH & MESSAGE 2000: A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.

IMB GUIDELINES: We believe that every local church is autonomous under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of His inerrant word. This is as true overseas as it is in the United States, and some churches to which we relate overseas may make decisions in doctrine and practice which we would not have chosen. Nevertheless, we are accountable to God and to Southern Baptists for the foundation that we lay when we plant churches, for the teaching that we give when we train church leaders, and for the criteria that we use when we count churches. In our church planting and teaching ministries, we will seek to lay a foundation of beliefs and practices that are consistent with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, although local churches overseas may express those beliefs and practices in different ways according to the needs of their cultural settings. Flowing from the definition of a church given above and from the Scriptures from which this definition is derived, we will observe the following guidelines in church planting, leadership training and statistical reporting.

--A church is intentional about being a church. The members think of themselves as a church and they are committed to one another and to God (“associated by covenant”) in pursuing all that Scripture requires of a church.

--A church has an identifiable membership of baptized believers in Jesus Christ.

--A church practices the baptism of believers only by immersing them in water.

--A church observes the Lord’s Supper on a regular basis.

--Under the authority of the local church and its leadership, members may be assigned to carry out the ordinances.

--A church submits to the inerrant word of God as the ultimate authority for all that they believe and do.

--A church meets regularly for worship, prayer, the study of God’s word, and fellowship. Members of the church minister to one another’s needs, hold each other accountable, and exercise church discipline as needed. They encourage one another and build each other up in holiness, maturity in Christ, and love.

--A church embraces their responsibility to fulfill the Great Commission, both locally and globally, from the beginning of their existence as a church.

--A church is autonomous and self-governing under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of His word.

--A church has identifiable leaders, who are scrutinized and set apart according to the qualifications set forth in Scripture. They recognize two Biblical offices of church leadership: pastors/elders/overseers and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor/elder/overseer is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.

Kind of long-winded, but since the IMB works in church planting around the world, the Board of Trustees wants to be clear about the criteria used for what they would consider (and count) as a legitimate NT church planted by their missionaries.

STRIDER'S DEFINITION: "The Church is a group of baptized believers who meet together regularly, to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and worship together, and are obedient to fulfilling the Great Commandment and the Great Commission together." --Strider

JESUS: "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." I know a lot of people argue this verse is being taken out of context and is not Jesus defining for the ages of what a church is. But nevertheless, it is a helpful verse (and passage) in understanding Christ's idea of how a church not only operates, but is.

YWAM: "A group of believers of any size, committed to one another to obey Jesus' commands." (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 2:42-47) See here for details.

NEIL COLE: "The presence of Jesus among his people called out as a spiritual family to pursue His mission on this planet." (from Church 3.0) 

There are certainly many other definitions out there, but will now share our own. It is probably the most awkward and rough around the edges, but it works for us.

GUAYAQUIL CP TEAM: We base our definition upon the following Scriptures: Romans 16:5, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Colossians 4:15, Philemon 2, Matthew 18:15-20, Ephesians 2:19, Acts 2:42-47, I Corinthians 14:26 and following verses, Hebrews 10:24-25, Matthew 28:18-20. String all these passages together and you get something like:

A New Testament church is a small local gathering of believers usually meeting in homes. They are knitted together as a spiritual family with Christ as Head. Everyone contributes towards mutual edification out of what has been given to them by the Lord. Churches are characterized by their devotion to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. The environment is one where everyone is stimulated to love one another and do good deeds as they encourage one another to obey all the commands of Christ.

I realize the above definition sounds more like a rough draft, and could certainly use some polishing up. But what we actually do in the eighth week of training is dig into each of these passages and talk about each in depth along with the meaning and application. Rather than have a catchy, quotable definition, we are more interested in putting into practice these passages, and less in the definition itself.

I could say a lot more about this subject but will stop here. What is your understanding of a New Testament church? Does it really matter how we define church? When is a church a church and not just a group meeting in a home or auditorium?

Friday, April 2

What is a missionary supposed to look like today under the new IMB changes?

My previous post describes what a mature disciple of Christ looks like. The author's point is that if we are to be out there "making disciples" we certainly ought to know what one is supposed to look like!

After reading I started wondering what the ideal IMB missionary is supposed to look like these days? With all the new changes being implemented, I confess I am not sure what is being expected. What qualities and characteristics define the kind of missionary needed today?

Back in the late '90's as the IMB's "New Directions" was just getting underway, I remember David Watson being invited to Ecuador to speak to the missionaries about church planting movements he was involved with. What he shared back then was so far removed from our frames of reference that it was hard to take him seriously. Were we being expected to do in Ecuador what David was experiencing in Asia? Most of us could not imagine such a thing, yet this seemed to be the model we were being expected to contextualize in our Latin America setting. At least we had some kind of idea of what it was that was hoped would begin to happen globally.

Then came David Garrison's Church Planting Movements which put more substance onto the remarkable experiences being reported by Watson, Sergeant, Carlton and many other unnamed CPM practitioners. With Garrison's "10 Universal Elements", "Ten Common Factors" and "Ten Practical Handles" we M's had a clearer idea of the kinds of things expected and what all this was supposed to look like. Many of us poured years of our lives into trying to work out these principles within our own local cultures and contexts.

After that, I stumbled onto the writings of Frank Viola, which led to my discovery of a host of very helpful organic/simple church practitioners like Cole, Edwards, Dale, Atkerson, White, and many others too numerous to begin mentioning here.

So now we come to 2010. The IMB is once again transitioning into what is hoped to be a more effective and cutting edge missionary enterprise to accelerate the 2000 year old commission given to us by Jesus Christ to "make disciples of the nations."

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what would the picture today look like of an effective IMB missionary? What are the expectations? What kinds of tasks should he/she be engaged in? When does he/she know they are on the 'right track'? What kinds of activities currently being done by missionaries should be set aside in order to accomplish the more strategic objectives? How are these objectives measured?

Right now what we have are broad KRA's (Key Result Areas) which outline the global IMB objectives. But little to date has been shared on the implementation--the "how to" of these objectives. What would be helpful are pictures, models, descriptions, examples, and written materials on how/what it is we are to be moving towards.

Is there someone, some place, some example of where these kinds of things are happening that we can take a look and get some practical ideas? Again, what does a model missionary look like today under the new IMB changes and current direction?