Sunday, January 31

If you make disciples, church happens

We are entering our third week of evening trainings for new church planters. Actually, we are discipling groups of men and women on becoming true followers of Christ, and not just "evangelical pew-sitting Christians." Currently, we are training four different groups to go out and "make disciples". It is our conviction that as you make disciples, church happens.

The following comes from a post by Gary Snowden who quotes Allan Karr, a missions professor at the Denver campus of Golden Gate Seminary at the recent Forum 121 Gathering. "If you make disciples, church happens."

Allan outlined a series of shifts needed to achieve a viable 21st Century ecclesiology and expressed them in terms of respiration, breathing in and out.

1. Breathe in - From extrabiblical traditions to biblical minimums.

2. Breathe out - From institutional church-based to Kingdom of God based ecclesiology.

3. Breathe in - From a regional focus to a neighborsphere/local community focus.

4. Breathe out - From an organizational maintenance focus to an incarnational community transformation focus.

5. Breathe in - From hierarchical structure to shared leadership.

6. Breathe out - From "going to church" to "being the church."

7. Breathe in - From a focus on a main gathering to "doing life together."

8. Breathe out - From "right belief" to living out sound biblical doctrine holistically.

9. Breathe in - From efficiency-driven strategies to collaborative relational efforts.

10. Breathe out - From strategies of the flesh to a reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit.

Friday, January 29

14 reasons for missions

The Traveling Team lists 14 Biblical reasons for missions. Yet, most followers of Christ will simply yawn as they skim over this list, and satisfy themselves that "God hasn't called me to that..." Really?


1) The Promise (Gen 12:1-3) – Because God has promised to bless all nations (or people groups) on the earth. What better motivation and encouragement can we have than the understanding that missions (blessing the nations with the Gospel) is in the sure purposes of God.

2) The Purchase (Rev 5:9) – Because Jesus has already purchased people from every tribe and nation with His blood. Like the Moravians motivated by this purchase we should repeat what two Moravians missionaries said as they set sail for India, “May the Lamb receive the reward of His suffering!” In other words, He has already purchased them, our job is only to gather in what is His.

3) Because the Harvest is plentiful (Matt 9:37) – Now this is for all the numbers gurus out there who are motivated by sheer statistics. Today, out of the 6.5 billion people on the planet, over 4 billion are without a saving relationship with Christ. More tragic is that 2.4 billion of these who are lost have no means to hear the message of salvation through Christ – they are cut off from the gospel through lack of missionaries, lack of resources, etc. If you lined them up in a single file line they would wrap around the earth 25 times...The harvest is plentiful!

4) Because the Laborers are few (Matt 9:37) – This is probably what runs through my head the majority of the times I get up to speak. Only one in every 20,000 believers will ever take the gospel to those who are out of reach of the church. What’s worse than that? Out of all the cross-cultural missionaries in the world, you would hope that the majority would be working where the majority need is. However only 2.5% of all the 430,000 missionaries are working in the 10/40 Window. More laborers are needed.

5) Because the Destiny of the Lost (Rom 1; John 3:18; John 14:6) – Now this is harder to take in, but I believer the Bible gives us no means by which a person can be saved other than through Christ’s work, and by exercising faith in His name. This means not by other religions, not without hearing specifically about Christ (through evangelism and missions) and not because they died without hearing. The Scripture leaves no loopholes for those living in ignorance. All are born in sin, the Cross has real meaning for salvation, and the Great Commission is necessary for people to hear and be saved. If this shocks you, you may have been influenced by the universalism that is gossiped among church goers. In Romans 1 (creation) does exactly what God designed it to do – it condemns people, leaving them without an excuse and knowledge of a creator – but not salvific knowledge of God through Jesus Christ. This makes missions not only important, but urgent.

6) Logically Necessary for Hearing the Gospel Message (Rom 10:14-15, Acts 8 (Philip) and 10 (Cornelius)) – This goes along with the last one. Every time someone comes to Christ in Scripture there is a human messenger involved. It would be great to think that God would draw people to Himself in the world apart from someone going. He is able, but this is not the means He has chosen to use. The Church is the means. The Ethiopian eunuch was reading Isaiah (the OT Bible!) and still God miraculously transported Philip, a human messenger to explain Christ to him. An angel appears to Cornelius, a god-fearer. But still Peter must be summoned and travel all the way to Cornelius’ house to explain the gospel to him before he could be saved. Why didn’t the angel just tell Cornelius? It would have saved a lot of time and gas money for Peter – but God used a human messenger. Missions and evangelism are necessary.

7) The Example of the Church (Acts 1:8, 10, 15, Rom 15:20) – The early church has given us a model to follow. They went out, sent out their own missionaries like Paul and Barnabus, and evangelized the Gentiles beyond the reach of the gospel in their world.

8) The Descriptive Future is Prescriptive for Today (Rev 7:9, Rev 21:24-26) – Now, it’s tricky but follow this logic. If there are people described in heaven in the future – it is logical that they must be reached with the gospel at some point in history. So because we see a great multitude gathered around the throne from every tribe, people, and nation – we must labor to begin with this end in mind, bringing it into reality as God uses us to fulfill it.

9) Because We Will be Held Accountable (Ezek 33) – Here is a passage that will cause you to re-evaluate life. The people of God, meant to be a blessing to the world, were held accountable for not warning others of the danger coming. Will believers be held accountable for their obedience to the Great Commission? It may mean great reward-loss by many Christians for failing to use what God has blessed them with to bless the nations.

10) Because To Whom Much is Given Much is Required (Luke 12:47-48) – Here is Jesus’ measuring standard. It’s like a blessing and obedience math formula. Our accountability may be based on our resources, our understanding, or our ability – more given equals more expected.

11) Because the Church is the Means (Rom 1:5, Gal 3:14-15, 2 Cor 5:17-20) – You are God’s ordained means for the blessing of Christ reaching to all the nations, just like He promised (Gen 12). Jesus has purchased them (Rev 5:9) and commissioned us with the task of gathering them in for God’s glory.

12) Because History Awaits the Fulfillment of the Promise (Matt 24:14) – Not sure how it’s all going to play out, but if God has promised that all nations are reached and Jesus says here that the gospel will be preached to all nations…then the end will come – it just seems logical. The story of history seems to be arranged on the thread of this mission, even the history we are a part of today. That is exciting!

13) Because the Glory of God is Yet to be Known (Hab 2:14; Ps 72:19, 86; Isa 11:9) – There are actually about a dozen times that Bible talks of God’s glory “filling the earth as the waters cover the sea.” God has created people to worship Him and that worship is being given to other lesser things right now. Missions is spreading the worship and enjoyment of God to those who are not currently worshippers, because God’s glory is increased by the increase of His church in the world. As John Piper says it, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Where passion for God is weak, zeal for missions will be weak.”

14) The Commands of Jesus (Matt 28:18-20; Acts 1:8, 13:47; John 20:21) – And last of all – because Jesus commanded it. Just as Jesus says in John 14:21, "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me,” or 1 John 3:24, “The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him.” I hope we can all stand before him in the end and hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Wednesday, January 27

Once upon a time...

Once upon a time, Jesus commanded his disciples to make disciples of the nations, baptize, and teach them to obey what He had commanded. Jesus instilled within each the full DNA to accomplish the assigned task.

For many years his Church was on course for completing the task. Servants like Peter, Paul, and their companions pointed us in the way. The blueprint clearly found in the pages of the New Testament.

However as the Kingdom grew, so did the desire to control and monitor all that was happening. God has certainly not ceased to work through His Church, but in a real sense, his divine methods and purposes have been substituted for man-made religion, programs, dogmas, denominations, and church-related organizations. Simply stated: we are the divided body of Christ.

Instead of the simple obedience to the commands of Jesus--love the Lord your God, love one another, seek first His kingdom, abide in me, go make disciples, do this in remembrance of me, etc.-- the church has set up different standards for governing what it is Christ said to do. We have turned Christianity into a religion. Complete with hierarchy in our churches, organizations and institutions. We have added rules, regulations, expectations, and interpretations which go way beyond the simple commands of our Lord. Isn't this the same kind of stuff the Pharisees were condemned for by Jesus?

However, all over the world today, there is an emerging breed of believers ready and willing to exchange Institutional Christianity for a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation--a people for God's own possession (I Peter 2:9). A return to the reality that all God's children are empowered to be active participants in the Great Commission and the coming of God's Kingdom upon this earth.

Today we get bogged down in a never-ending debate about who, what, when, and where, and how things can and should be done. Instead of just doing what Christ said to do, we now have formal written documents, clauses, guidelines, interpretations, and definitions for everything. Clutter.

Thom Rainer writes in Simple Church: Returning to God's Process For Making Disciples
"[Jesus] stepped into a complicated and polluted religious scene. It was cluttered with Sadducees, Pharisees, Herodians, Zealots, and Essenes. He did not play by their rules. He could not stand their hypocrisy. He preferred spending time with tax collectors and sinners."
Is anything different today? How does Christ react to all we have made of his Church? His Bride!

Why can't we just get back to being the simple first-century, Spirit empowered disciples meeting in homes, by river sides, under Mango trees, spurring one another on to do those things Jesus commanded us to do?

Sunday, January 24

When our theology gets in the way of obeying what Jesus said to do

Tuesday-Friday of this past week we began Week #1 of a 12 week training for starting house/simple churches. We are training 4 groups of "70". These are then responsible for training five others as they themselves begin to plant their initial house church. Busy week!

Yesterday, Saturday, I drove to a neighboring province to train legacy church pastors and leaders in our COSECHA (Harvest) evangelism, discipleship, and church planting materials.

COSECHA is based upon Jesus instructions given to the 70 in Luke 10:1-9. We literally take each of the commands and seek to implement them in starting new "kingdom outposts" (house churches).

Beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers...
Go...I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves...
Carry no purse...
Greet no one on the way...
Say, 'peace be to this house'...
Do not keep moving from house to house...
Eat what is set before you...
Heal the sick...
Say to them, 'the kingdom of God has come near to you'.

Pretty straighforward commands, right?

In verse 9 Jesus commands, 'heal those...who are sick' and say to them, 'the kingdom of God has come near to you.'

After my teaching on how to implement these two commands, a pastor stood, and took it upon himself to interpret Jesus words for us. He felt Jesus instructions needed to be clarified. What did Jesus actually mean by 'heal those who are sick'?
  • First, these words were addressed to the 70, not to us today.
  • Second, 'heal the sick' means heal their soul by preaching the Gospel to them.
  • Third, why waste time healing, when they'll just get sick again?
Up to the time of that pastor's well-meaning intervention, people had been excited, motivated, and eager to get out and, in faith, implement Jesus words. After the pastor's explanation, people were staring at the floor, doubtful, and no one knew what to say.

When the microphone was given back to me, I responded, kindly, but firmly, "brother, the argument is not with me, but with Jesus. He is the one who instructed this command. If you have a disagreement with his telling us to heal the sick, please take your case and argue it out with Jesus."

I may not fully understand some of Jesus words, but to take clear, imperative instructions, and seek to reinterpret, negate, and dismiss them is simply bewildering to me.

Is it any wonder so many churches continue to struggle, seeing only a handful of new converts per year, and live powerless, sub-normal Christian lives?

Not only do we disobey, we don't even believe Jesus words!

Do we really think our ways are better than the Master's? Do we know better than Him? If our ways are so great, where is the harvest? Where are the results? Where's the beef? (as the old Wendy's commercial used to say.)

The point of all the above?

It almost seems as if we first come up with our theology, and then have to make Scripture fit that theology. When Jesus words do not align themselves our theology, we are forced to reinterpret and reword them until they do fit our theology.

What is your take on this? Does our theology too often get in the way of obeying what Jesus said for us to do?

Thursday, January 21

Lessons from Master Leaders

George Barna has written a book entitled, Master Leaders. A few days ago, he blogged some of the more important personal lessons learned from the 30 leaders interviewed.

After reading these shared lessons, I want to get a copy of the book!


  • Great leaders motivate people by seeing and retelling compelling stories that relate to the vision to which they are committed
  • A leader rarely changes a person; he/she simply figures out how to get the best results out of who they are, and who to team them with for the greatest productivity
  • Leadership analysts tend to focus on how leaders articulate their ideas; yet leaders more often succeed because of how effectively they listen than because of their speaking prowess
  • The world is increasingly complex and challenging: leaders help make sense of the world, often by reducing the complicated and misleading to a simpler, logical understanding
  • Individuals who are popular pander to public opinion; genuine leaders expect to become unpopular, choosing to do what’s right and necessary rather than what’s expected and safe
  • The probability of success increases if the focus is on the outcomes rather than who gets credit for those results
  • If you are not clear about your vision and values, and passionate about the corresponding convictions and goals, success is not likely
  • No leader is the “complete package.” There will be times when the chief leader must allow other leaders to provide direction under given circumstances to compensate for the chief leader’s weaknesses
  • Leadership is a collaborative process; it’s less about what the leader does than about what he/she facilitates through others
  • Great leaders recognize that all people have great worth; the leader’s task is to maximize their delivery of the unique value each person brings to the party
  • Leaders get what they measure and what they tolerate
  • All great leaders believe they have a moral responsibility to take care of people
  • Do not attempt to lead people unless you are prepared to pay a significant emotional, physical and spiritual price

The key, of course, is applying this shared wisdom and not just nodding my head in agreement. This kind of leadership is rare indeed, but needed more than ever. Which of the above lessons speaks to you? Which catches your attention?

Tuesday, January 19

Pastoring is a gift, not a title

My good Kiwi friend, and former team-mate, Colorado Negrito, pointed me to Kathy Escobar's blog post rethinking the word 'pastor'. I like what she has to say. What do you think?


i believe pastoring is a gift, not a title. many have come to believe that being a pastor means someone who 1) has gone to seminary; 2) “runs” churches; 3) preaches sermons; 4) marries and buries people. i really don’t think this was the biblical idea of the word poimen, which is synonymous with shepherding...

pastors are the people who are caring for, shepherding, loving, and journeying in close-relationship with people wherever they are, whether that be as part of church, at work, in their neighborhoods, etc. their focus is on relationship, relationship, relationship. years ago a young woman told me that the weekend communicator at the mega-church she was going to was a “really amazing pastor.” it was hard because i wanted to say back to her, “honey, he is not a pastor. yep, he’s an amazing speaker and teacher and extremely gifted CEO,but he will never, ever know your name, let alone your story… he will never counsel you or have you over for dinner, hold your babies or be with you when you or one of your family is sick in the hospital or going through a rough patch. he will never do anything that someone with a true pastor’s gift will naturally do.” yet, he will get all of the kudos and benefits of being a “pastor” without ever actually shepherding or being in pastoring relationships with people. i can’t tell you how many times i have heard from a variety of different churches that their senior pastor “isn’t really a people person.”

to me, pastoring doesn’t require an education. sure, we can all learn new skills and strengthen our gifts, but i know many-a-pastor-in-the-truest-sense-of-the-word who has never taken a class at Bible college or seminary. again, we are mistaking a gift for a role or a job, a leader for a pastor. often people will ask me if they should get seminary training to learn how to become more pastoral. my response “um…well….in my opinion, the best education you can get is to start working the 12 steps for yourself and steep yourself in learning about codependence, boundaries, and spiritual and emotional healing individually and in groups. and yeah, that’s free!”

we need to quit calling people who don’t like to be with people pastors because it is diminishing & unempowering the ones who do. it’s so funny to me how there are women in all kinds of churches who shepherd, love, and care for people and can’t ever be called “pastor” and yet i have seen men-who-can’t-stand-people-and-only-are-in-charge-of-networking-the-computers be called an “operations pastor.” it’s comical on one level, but on a whole other one, it’s not funny at all. my vote is to call preachers who never interact with a person in their congregation beyond the big-donors-they-golf-with “weekend communicators” or “executive directors” and reserve the word pastors for people who are providing spiritual and emotional care to people.

most people’s true “pastors” aren’t the pastor of their church, they are close friends or people in community who care for them and love them. the person who you are going to call when you are hurting, who will be with you in the hospital when you are sick, who loves your babies and cares about their well-being beyond just words, who will provide prayer and spiritual and emotional support when you need it, that’s your pastor. i have a lot of amazing pastors in my life–some with pastor titles, some without–but they are all lovely naturally gifted people that do all of these things for me in different ways. i have one challenge for us this week–tell those people, whoever they are, that you consider them one of your pastors and are thankful for their love & care. it will encourage them–and maybe surprise them more than you might expect. i think that is a step in the right direction to re-claim the word far beyond official church leaders.

i do believe there are all kinds of amazing pastors truly pastoring their churches. their gifts line up with their role and they love their people in amazing ways. i am privileged to know some of these pastors and see their heart for shepherding their communities. it doesn’t bother me a bit that they are called pastors; i honor their heart and commitment to live out what they are built to do. journeying with people is hard work, and i deeply respect those shepherds out there who are really shepherding.

like the word “church”, i don’t know if we will never be able to fully redeem the word “pastor.” i think it might be too far gone. there’s too much baggage with it. the seminary system that cultivates people who have to get “paid pastor” jobs to pay their bills after all that debt perpetuates it. people confusing leadership & pastoring perpetuate it. people who don’t have anyone to fan their natural gifts into flame and validate them will stay underground thinking they might not have what it takes to contribute as much as they could. and so we’ll keep re-creating little systems where there is a separation between the “professionals” and the “not-so-professionals”, the “strong leaders” from the “real shepherds” and those who aren’t the pros or loud or leader-y enough will continue to feel inadequate or unprepared or un-infused with support to use their gifts. i recently told someone that the refuge is “full of pastors.” it is. there are so many mercy-people, shepherds, true lovers of people. they have no education or training or any of the put-together requirements we have placed upon the role. but they naturally pastor people, advocating, caring, and loving for others.

i am not calling for the abolishment of pastors. i believe it is a beautiful and lovely gift; one of the many beautiful and lovely gifts that it takes to make a body whole. i’m just calling for a re-thinking of the word so that its true meaning & purpose shines through instead of associating it with a whole bunch of things that have absolutely nothing to do with the heart and spirit of pastoring...


Read the entire article here.

Sunday, January 17

House churches as sending centers

House churches are not permanent structures. They were never intended to be ongoing "home versions" of church. The idea that "church" is something solid, permanent, or institutional, is more what we have fashioned the church into becoming over the centuries, but not what is described in the book of Acts.

Felicity Dale over at Simply Church shares more from the World House Church Summit held in New Delhi, India, November 2009. In particular, I am interested in what she shares about house churches not multiplying if they become permanent structures.

House churches should be neither independent, nor permanent. If they are they will not multiply, but will only have shifted people from the pew to the sofa. Instead, they should be an interdependent network. Each house church is a debriefing center and a sending center that sends people out.

A starfish has no brain or head. If you cut off the arm of a starfish, it will grow into a new starfish. A house church does not require a CEO or a commander. Any of the people in it can multiply it out. The leader is more of a facilitator that cares for the household...

...Church planting is a process. Jesus stayed a few days in Samaria (John 4). Philip, the evangelist, preached the gospel powerfully there and many sick people were healed and baptized (Acts 8:4-13). Then Peter and John (apostles) came and worked with them too (Acts 8:14-25). Different people used their different giftings to see the church there come to maturity (Acts 9:31).

I have to confess that it has taken us 10 years to understand what Felicity shares above. Most of the church planting types I relate to are focused on starting churches. Once we have something up and going, we think, "Great, let's now look around and see who else we might train who might start another one." We have this mindset of permanency. If the house church continues to meet regularly, it is good. If it dissolves after a few months, that is bad. Or is it?

As I reflect upon this, nearly every single church plant connected to our house church network that I can think of, resulted from Christ followers not staying in their home assemblies. Instead, these laborers were discipled, and then sent out to make more disciples. When we make new disciples, churches are planted. The longer we stay together, the more comfortable we get with one another. Soon we want this to go on forever. We want our kids to experience the same we have experienced. We inevitably start organizing, programming, and hiring people to do what we do not have the time to do. Soon, we become the focus of ministry. What we have set into motion begins to define who we are. Before long, 10-20% are the ones engaging in some level of church ministry, while the rest become consumers. Is this what Christ really intended for His Church?

What if the church is something meant to be less permanent, and more fluid? What if we understand Christ's declaration, "I will build my church", to be about his Universal Church (all the saints throughout history), and not the building of local church assemblies? In reality, we are the ones out there trying to build His church. We are the ones trying to do Christ's job for him! Rather than equipping/sending centers; we have organized, programmed, and structured our churches to the point that permanency is what is seen as normal; when in reality, from the viewpoint of Acts, quite abnormal.

Part of the problem is that we have it in our heads that church--whether gathering in a house or a temple--is something solid that must visibly survive if it is to retain its value . In Acts we see the church as more fluid, more about "seeking first the Kingdom"--not the local ekklesia. The above Acts scriptures indicate a church-on-the-move. She is more about being the church in a lost world, and less about going to an organized, programmed, structured place.

I wonder what would happen if there was some way we could reboot our understanding of Jesus and His Church to be more in line with the concept of debriefing and sending centers, and less as permanent structures? Are permanent structures less able to multiply than those which are fluid? What do you think?

Saturday, January 16

Rescue the perishing

Convicting prophetic vision given to William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army.

As sad and horrifying as is the Haiti Earthquake tragedy, every day an equal number of people pass into a Christless eternity while we go about "business as usual."

Thanks to Erich Bridges for pointing us to this video.

Friday, January 15

If there was no such thing as Christianity

I love blog posts that rattle my cage, cause me to reflect on something I hadn't thought of in quite that way before. There are a lot of great bloggers out there who do this (too many!) John Dennis is one of those. By reposting his article, I am not saying I agree with everything John writes. What follows simply causes me to reflect upon some of my own attitudes, pretenses, baggage and masks I often wear as a Christian.

If there was no such thing as Christianity...
  • I would have to appreciate books simply for the good writing.
  • I‘d have to socialize with my community rather than the people in my church.
  • I’d have to use common sense and wisdom rather than using fleeces and ‘sensings’ to make decisions. So, I wouldn’t have had to get so stressed about missing God’s will if I chose to buy that red car instead of that blue one.
  • I wouldn’t be able to watch a movie looking for anti-Christian themes and stuff.
  • I’d have no option but to enjoy music simply for the music, not for the message or for the worship experience.
  • I would have to love my family, my relatives more than my church family.
  • If I couldn’t be a Christian, I couldn’t call a non-Christian my enemy, because I would be one of them myself.
  • I wouldn’t feel compelled to turn my eyes away from the topless statue, ‘Venus’, Instead, I would feel compelled to admire its artistic beauty and grace.
  • I would not have religious reasons to think I am above the guy I work with.
  • I wouldn’t pretend that I don’t like beer.
  • I couldn’t have sentimental reasons to favor Israel over the Arabs and would have to let my opinion on that issue be based on what is fair.
  • I couldn’t break fellowship with another Christian who doesn’t agree with my view on doctrine.
  • I’d have no choice but to give due consideration to the arguments of scientists.
  • I would dress up the kids for Halloween thinking only of the fun of it all.
  • The crusades - the ‘Holy’ wars, would not have happened.
  • People wouldn’t make a fuss about those Harry Potter books.
  • I couldn’t say that the devil made me do it.
Sometimes I wonder...

If Jesus would really be a ‘good’ Christian by today’s standards of what a Christian is supposed to be like. Maybe somebody would tell him to repent.

Thursday, January 14

Haiti Earthquake Relief Giving

All of us have been saddened by the earthquake tragedy in Haiti. Seeing the images on TV makes one wants to reach out and do something to help. One excellent way is through the IMB and Baptist Global Response. Click HERE to make a safe, online donation with your credit card.

Details of how your money will be used and how it will be coordinated through the various cooperating SBC agencies can be read here.

In the past, we have been recipients of disaster relief funds and can vouch for the effective use of these funds by missionaries and BGR workers who through local contacts in the affected areas, like pastors, churches, and key community leaders, are able to get the help to where it is most needed without all the red tape that often accompanies efforts to help in disaster situations.

Two years ago, the coast of Ecuador was severely flooded. Our team was given immediate access to funds which went directly to some of the hardest hit people whom nobody else was helping. We used our local contacts and were able to canoe into these hard hit areas and provide basic food supplies and drinking water as shown in the video.

Give to the Haiti Earthquake Relief. We have done so as a family. Every bit counts. I remember in the flood relief below, how many houses we went by with children begging for anything, and we had already run out of everything we had been able to purchase. I wished then that somebody would have just given at least $5 more which would have fed at least one more family for several days. Give today.

Tuesday, January 12

My thoughts on the new IMB global objectives (KRAs)

The new International Mission Board (IMB) global mission objectives, or KRA's* are great objectives. Three broad challenges. All worthy of our best efforts, energy, time, and sacrifice.

1. Engaging and reaching the UPGs*, UUPGs**, and UUUPGs.***

2. Engaging and reaching the unreached megacities.

3. Mobilizing America's partners to the Great Commission task.

My concern, though, lies in what is not stated. It is in the "fine print" of how some of the key words are being defined where my concerns lie (see my related blog post People or Unreached People Groups?).

I am certainly all for engaging and reaching the "unreached people groups" of our region and the world. But when "unreached" is defined as 2% or less, something within my missionary heart also cries out for the millions who are supposedly "reached" but are on their way to hell! Who decides when 2.1% of a people group has been engaged, they are "reached" and time to move on? Why not 3%, or 10%, or 25%?

The same hold true for the 2nd KRA of engaging and reaching the unreached megacities. Which passage in the N.T. guides us in our definition of "unreached megacities" as cities with populations greater than 5-million and 2% or less evangelized?

The detail in our 3rd KRA is the subjective "partners". Who are we defining as those partners? Are America's Partners...

1) Like-minded Baptists coming from anywhere in the Americas?
2) Any great Commission Christian (GCC) in the Body of Christ?
3) Both #1 and #2?

If #3, great! But for the moment, the parameters around the term "partners" are still not clear to me. Do the former "New Directions" guidelines for partners still apply, or are there new definitions now in place? I just don't know.

What I would like to see lifted from the first two KRAs are the unnecessary definitions that have been tacked on to the terms "unreached" and "megacities".

With these definition of terms, Guayaquil's 7% evangelical population is a "reached" city. But when 93 souls out of every 100 are on their way to a Christless eternity, how does this reconcile with Jesus own teaching on the matter? (See Luke 15 of the Good Shepherd leaving the 99 to find the one lost sheep.)

Some might argue that unless we put definitions to these terms, the 2% or less evangelized people groups will continue to be ignored, lost in the shuffle. But are we to disengage from the millions--in our particular case, 6 million plus--to engage the remaining American UPGs, or UUPGs, with populations often numbering only a few thousand?

My experience has shown the best way to engage UPGs is mobilizing our partners from within the greater than 2% Evangelical population centers. It seems, more than ever, we need strong apostolic presence in the "reached" cities of the Americas if, for not other reason, to make sure all three KRAs are given priority attention.

In summary, it is not the wording of our KRA's that concerns me, but the unnecessary definitions that have been attached to the terms.

The most likely scenario for truly engaging the 2% or less UPGs, UUPGs, UUUPGs and Megacities has less to do with defining percentages as criteria for missionary presence, and more with placing genuine apostolically/prophetically gifted workers in key "reached" centers. There, from a strategic field position mobilize, connect, partner, train, engage, and support coordinated CPM efforts to make disciples of the nations, and bring in the final Great Harvest.

What do you think? How do you see and understand the IMB's Global Objectives (KRAs)? Can you answer any of my questions? Your thoughts are welcome.

*UPG=unreached people groups (2% or less evangelical Christian)
**UUPG=unengaged unreached people groups
***UUUPG=uncontacted unengaged unreached people groups
KRA=key result areas
CPM=church planting movement

Monday, January 11

30 years ago today...

...Linda and I were married!

We were married in Denton, Texas at Grace Temple Baptist Church (Terry Land, pastor.) The ceremony was done by my dad, James C. Muse, Jr. My best man was my brother, Greg Muse. Linda's Maid of Honor was her friend, Lynne Fuller Morris. Linda came down the aisle to Edvard Grieg's "Wedding Day at Troldhaugen" played on the grand piano by my college room mate, Greg Albright. The solo was "The Lord is My Light and My Salvation" (Psalm 27 ) sung by Linda's sister, Jana Cowan Nelms, and arranged by her brother, Tom Cowan. Ruth Stowell, Linda's aunt accompanied her on the organ.

Being in the dead of Winter, we had not planned on many coming to the wedding, but Saturday, January 11, 1980 turned out to be a bright sunny day, and more than 300 people showed up! In fact there were so many present we were short on food, and neither Linda, or I, got any of our wedding cake, food or drink!

We spent our first night at the DFW Airport Marina Hotel (today the Hyatt) and the next day left for a 7-day honeymoon in Cancún, Mexico.

Over these past 30 years we have:
  • lived in 14 different homes together
  • been with the FMB/IMB 25 of those years
  • held nine jobs between the two of us (6 during seminary years)
  • raised two children, Joshua Caleb (18) finishing up high school in the USA, and Anna Victoria (14) who home schools with Linda
In my 53 years, I have made two decisions that have made all the difference in the world: 1) giving my life to following and serving my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and, 2) marrying Linda Beth Cowan!

Sunday, January 10

The coming crash of organic church?

Christianity Today magazine just released an article entitled, Long Live Organic Church! But what do we do if the world isn't transformed? Is the organic/simple/house church movement doomed to eventually crash on the rocks like all other historical renewal movements? Read what Mark Galli has to say, and then share your thoughts in the comments section.


Long Live Organic Church!
But what do we do if the world isn't transformed?
Mark Galli | posted 1/07/2010 10:30AM

I love the work that Neil Cole is doing—and Alan Hirsch (The Forgotten Ways), Bob Roberts (Transformation: How Glocal Churches Transform Lives and the World), Frank Viola (Finding Organic Church), and many, many others.

In one form or another, they are champions of "organic church." The term is fluid, but it contains at least three ingredients: Frustration with the-church-as-we-know-it, a focus on people (vs. programs) and mission (vs. institutional maintenance), and a vision to transform the world.

As Neil Cole put it in his book Organic Church, "It is not enough to fill our churches; we must transform our world." He puts it similarly in his latest effort, Church 3.0. The book is ostensibly about how to shift from program-driven and clergy-led institutions to churches that are "relational, simple, intimate, and viral." Still, says Cole, "Changing the church is not the idea of this book … . The only reason to shift from Church 2.0 to Church 3.0 is to change the world."

I love the passion. And the prophetic word to institutionalism (believe me, I know the evils of institutionalism: I'm an Anglican!). And the vision to make Christ's love and grace known to the four corners of the planet.

What I worry about is the coming crash of organic church. And after that, I worry about the energetic men and women at the forefront of the movement. Will they become embittered and abandon the church, and maybe their God?

That the organic church movement will crash, I have no doubt...

Read the rest of the article here.

Thursday, January 7

2009 Favorites

Favorite Blogger: Hand's down, my favorite blog in 2009 was Alan Knox's The Assembling of the Church. I follow 86 blogs in my Bloglines Feed reader. Out of these, there are some excellent writers, but the one that most consistently comes up with quality and thought-provoking material is Alan's "Assembling..." If I had a suggestion for Alan, it would be to maybe post only 2-3 entries/week. There is simply too much good stuff to absorb!
Favorite newly discovered music artist: Eva Cassidy. Until this past year, I had never heard of the her or any of her songs. She was only 33 when she died in 1996 of melanoma. I discovered her amazing voice and unique interpretations by doing a search for the classic song "At Last" (most often heard sung by Etta James.) Besides downloading Etta's version, I was blown away by Eva's interpretation of the song. To get a taste for her voice, listen to her rendition of "Fields of Gold."

Favorite 2009 quote: Followers want comfort, stability, and solutions from their leaders, but that’s babysitting. Real leaders ask hard questions and knock people out of their comfort zones and then manage the resulting distress.--Ronald Heifetz and Donald Laurie in “The Work of Leadership,” Harvard Business Review

Favorite 2009 books: I recently blogged my Favorite books for 2009 so will not repeat that list here. One category that was not covered in my original post is "Best Book in Spanish". This goes to Alan Hirsch for his masterpiece CAMINOS OLVIDADOS (The Forgotten Ways). I highly congratulate those responsible for making this important work available for the 400-million who speak Spanish as their first language.

Favorite media website: Commission Stories. Stunning stories about what God is doing around the world. The photography/videography is outstanding. Congratulations to all the team responsible for putting out these moving pieces. A glimpse into hell is their latest story.

Favorite movie: While drama is my favorite movie genre, Avatar was such a stunning visual experience, that it has to get my vote for best movie coming out in 2009. Avatar clearly sets a new standard for the giant screen, and will certainly go down in movie history as one of the greatest productions of all time.

Favorite YouTube video: Even though I first viewed this video back in 2007, Lifehouse's Everything Skit continues to be my favorite. I have seen it dozens of times and am still deeply moved every time I watch. Check it out...

Favorite song:
For someone whose hobby is searching the world over for new music, this is an almost impossible task due to my love for music in a wide variety of musical genres. In this category I have to go with just one of my 2009 favorites, Jesus Adrian Romero's "No Hay Paredes". I recently put together a video slideshow of the Guayaquil house churches using this powerful song. To see and listen, click here.

Favorite photo: This photo was taken by Curtis Sergeant at Seleucia, on the very beach where Barnabas and Saul set out on their first missionary journey. I find it highly symbolic and prophetic. One of these days, I hope to get around to blogging about what I see in this picture.

What were some of your own 2009 favorites? Share them in the comments section below.

Tuesday, January 5

People or Unreached People Groups?

Is reaching every UPG (unreached people group) our primary task, or is reaching people the task? The answer to this question seems to be at the center of a growing hot missiological debate, and at the heart of recent major changes taking place at the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Does God place a higher value on reaching UPG’s than he does on merely adding more and more children regardless of where they come from?

Is the Great Commission a command to make disciples of the nations--bringing in the harvest-- or is it a command to make sure that each people group be represented with at least a few disciples? Or both?

If both, is it right that we walk away from those nations and people groups where we are seeing the culmination of decades of faithful plowing, sowing of the Gospel seed, and watering, only to disengage at the very moment of bringing in the harvest?

No one is arguing we should not do all we can to engage the 6500+ known UPGs, but does this mean that when we are able to identify a people group as having 2% or more Christ followers, then they are "reached" and it is time to move on?

Act 5:14 And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number...

Act 6:7 The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly...

In Acts, and similar references, are we talking about UPGs or people? That seems to be the question.

To see the direction we are headed in our Southern Baptist global missions outlook, click on this link from an IMB website study that clearly espouses UPG's are God's priority. But is this so?

Here is an excerpt from the study (bold letters are my own for emphasis)...

The promise of God is that “all nations (people groups) will be blessed through you” (Gen 12:1-3). This means that God is infinitely concerned with the reaching of each and every people group that exists. In fact, He is so concerned with reaching all of them that He is keeping a meticulous record of the fulfillment of His promise. In Psalms 87:4-6, the Lord says, “I shall mention Rahab and Babylon among those who know Me… The Lord will count when He registers the peoples, ‘This one was born there.’” We see that God is recording in the Register of the Peoples all those that He is bringing to heaven. They will one day make up the multicultural worship service seen in Rev. 7:9.

So, if God has promised to reach them all and we are commanded to go to them all, we must be familiar with the task remaining and rally the church to the targeting of them all. There are currently 11,260 people groups on planet earth and there are about 6,534 that are considered unreached. The Great Commission is finishable. It is measurable and something that can be completed. The question now is; what is an unreached people group (UPG)?

Ed Dayton says, “It is a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize their own people. In other words, unreached people groups lack a church that has the numbers and strength to reach their own people. Obviously, if there are no Christians within this group, there will be none who can share the gospel with them. And this is the situation in which we find over 3 billion people of the world. They are the people groups in which there is no church that is able to tell them the good news of Jesus Christ."

Trent Rowland clarifies what is not an unreached people group by saying, “Since ‘unreached group’ refers to a group of people with no viable and relevant church, a non-Christian neighbor of most Americans would not be termed ‘unreached.’ They are unsaved and need the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet they probably have a church available in their own language and culture. They could go to church if they chose. In other words, they may be termed ‘unsaved’ or unevangelized persons,’ but not ‘unreached’ because they are part of a ‘reached’ group.”

God is not just concerned with reaching more and more people as He seems to be with reaching every People Group. I would like to borrow an illustration from John Piper in which he compares the situation to two sinking ocean liners. If the promise of the Navy General was that no matter what ship in his fleet went down there would be some rescued from that ship, and if he enlisted his crew for that one purpose, what would they do if there were two ocean liners sinking at the same time? After reaching the first sinking ship you might see that there is great need and that you could justify staying to save as many as you could from the first ship, rather than going to the second. You could even argue that in the effort and time it required to get to the second ship, you could be a better steward by staying at the first. Perhaps the people at the other ship are unwilling, and this seems to be a fruitful ground for desperate swimmers. There is plenty of need here.

However, this was not the General’s command. He specifically ordered his crew to save some men from both ships, not just one. This is why it is necessary for men to take the rescue boat to each ship. There must be representatives and survivors at the General’s banquet from every ship. God has promised to reach some from every tribe, tongue and nation and people. He has enlisted us to rescue them and one day there will be a banquet, where all nations and people groups are represented before the throne.

So, what do you think? In a world with so much lostness, and so few laborers, where should our priority be? Bringing in the final great harvest? Making sure there is representation from every people group on the face of the planet? Both? And if both, how with limited resources and personnel is this to be accomplished? Which gets 'top billing'?

Have you considered the possibility that YOU might be part of the solution to this dilema? Will you go to an UPG and patiently plow, sow, water till the first fruits start to be seen? Or would you rather be one of those that helps bring in the harvest where others have gone before and worked those fields so that you and I can be the ones to reap what we did not sow?