Wednesday, March 31

What do mature disciples of Jesus look like?

What does a "mature" disciple of Jesus look like? 
by Traver Dougherty

1) Primary life orientation centers on Jesus and his kingdom (e.g. Sermon on the Mount).

2) Sees the totality of his or her life as on mission with God, being sensitive to the Spirit's guiding.

3) Social status unimportant, views social groupings missiologically and often seeks reconciliation.

4) Primary allegiance to God's kingdom, not a human government (although appropriately submits to a human government).

5) Often suffers on account of Jesus and is willing to risk possible death and/or martyrdom.

6) Sees value in Christian leadership, submits accordingly, and provides leadership when necessary.

7) Adheres to Jesus' teachings and knows what those teachings (commands) are.

8) Life is lived to the fullest when God's goals are attained via the disciple's life.

9) Costly sacrifice is the norm, usually monetary.

10) Deeply involved in Christian community, will not leave community unless directed by God.

11) Relies on God for all needs continually and actually due to a perpetually sacrificial life.

12) Is humble, considers others better than self, gives others the advantage.

13) Genuinely loves an increasingly accurate understanding of God and demonstrates that love via obedience to Jesus's commands and intimate prayer.

Jesus commanded us to "make disciples," so it stands to reason that we'd better know what one looks like (at least in broad strokes). Although I know you're not perfect, here's a good question: Do the above thirteen qualities characterize your life? If not, why not? What needs to change? Remember, Paul the Apostle implores us, "...let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity..." (Heb 6:1).

My friend, Neil Cole, is right; we westerners have a tendency to be educated beyond our obedience. So, as we continue to move forward as the church of Jesus Christ, fluidly, organically, let's be soberly reminded that the quality of the ecclesia is only as good as the disciples of which she is made.

--Traver Dougherty


Traver Dougherty lives in Roseville, CA (Sacramento area) with his wife Aimee and two sons, Keith and Keagan. Before his encounter with the organic church, Traver served as a college pastor, missionary to the Philippines, conventional church planter, and senior pastor. Today, Traver equips organic church planters, functions as an elder in his own missional community of faith (The Banqueting Table), and serves as an adjunct professor of missiology at William Jessup University. Archives of Traver's "Tid Bits for the Organic Church" articles HERE.

Sunday, March 28

Church planting is messy

Church planting is messy because people are messy. Four nights of every week are spent training four different groups of church planters. All are in various stages with their newly forming house church groups. Anyone engaged in church planting will quickly find they are up against some messy situations.

We usually approach the tough messy questions from three angles. I admit to having used the first two, but believe the third is the best.

1) The urge is often to run to my library of heavily marked writings and see what David Watson, Neil Cole, Curtis Sergeant, Wolfgang Simson, Tony and Felicity Dale, Steve Atkerson, George Patterson or Frank Viola have to say about the matter. After all, they are the CP experts, right?

While I have greatly benefited from the writings and teachings of these, I have learned that each case is fairly unique to the particular situation. Therefore there are few copy-and-paste answers that work neatly every time.

2) A second solution is to come up with a string of related Bible verses. Sew these together into a logical argument, and voila! you have a Biblical answer taken straight from God's Word. Most times this approach will be accepted because no one wants to be seen as questioning God's Word. But is this an accurate way of handling Scripture and answering people's real life questions?

While I admit that we have used both of the above ways to answer problem situations, I'll save the third approach until after describing some of the kinds of issues and questions we deal with on a weekly basis.

What follows are just some of the dozens of practical questions we dealt with in last week's training times.
  • When we had the Lord's Supper this week as a meal, like you said was the NT practice, we had mostly non-believers present. We felt bad leaving them out of the meal so we invited them to share with us. Did we sin?
  • We have eight people ready for baptism in our house church. When I shared this with my pastor he told me I had done a good job, and that the church was planning a baptism service for late May. Since we were taught in the training that it is the responsibility of disciples to baptize ASAP those they win to the Lord, I asked him if it would be all right for me to baptize them myself now? He said no. The church would get into trouble with the denomination if he allowed such a thing without proper credentials of the one baptizing. So brother Guy, "What do I do? Obey my pastor like Hebrews 13:17 tells me (in the most widely accepted Spanish translation 13:17 literally says, 'obey your pastors and be subject to them')? Or do I do what I think is the Biblical mandate for disciples to baptize their disciples? Who do I disobey? If I choose to disobey my pastor, there will be serious consequences for me and my family in the church."
  • In one of the most exciting new church plants, it was revealed this past week to be led by a brother who has destroyed the last two churches he started due to his immorality. With the training received from us, this brother has now started a third church. This week we were confidentially made aware of the situation. While the brother seems repentant for his past sins, do we allow him to continue with the new church plant? Who decides what should be done in these situations? Are we who have been invited to train some kind of authoritative ruling body to decide these kinds of issues? What will this do to their faith once the ugly truth comes out? Who will take over the new group and continue the work with them?
  • If the Bible speaks of bread and wine as being the two symbolic elements of the Lord's Supper, why do we substitute the Biblical wine for grape GatorAide, grape Kool-Aide, grape juice, grape soda (all very common practices in evangelical churches here)? If we can substitute anything purple in color for the Biblical wine, what is to keep us from doing the same thing with the bread? Can rice or cookies be substituted for the bread, and mora juice (black berry) if we don't have wine and unleavened bread?
I bet you are curious as to how we answered each of the above! How would you have responded? With quotes from church planting experts? Or with sewn together "proof texts" taken from related Biblical passages? None of the above were hypothetical mind exercises. They are real questions from real situations that came out of last week's training sessions.

So what is the third way we approach matters in giving answers to these kinds of questions?

3) Rely on the Holy Spirit for his wisdom and guidance into all truth. He is the author of truth. For dozens of years I have read His Word, and read countless books on subjects related to God's Word. The Spirit living within brings to mind all this stored knowledge and experience. When asked these kinds of questions, I trust the Holy Spirit to speak through me and answer in a way that brings Glory to God and honors His Word.

Some questions are pretty straight forward as revealed in Scripture. For those situations, it is a matter of speaking the truth in love. But for most of the situations we encounter that aren't clearly addressed in the Bible--such as the above kinds of questions--we must be careful to not just tie together a bunch of Scriptures from Proverbs, Luke, and Acts and make them say what we think should be said. I can certainly do this. I know God's Word. But this approach to Scripture has been extremely harmful to the Body of Christ in my opinion, and has gotten us into more tangled messes than even the original problems.

Will you pray for us that the Lord would give us much wisdom and humility in all these matters? We simply don't have the perfect answers for all the questions that get sent our way. But I do believe we have the Holy Spirit who was given to us by Jesus to help lead and guide us into all truth.

What do you think about all these matters? How do you go about answering the tough and messy questions that arise from your own ministry and church planting?

Wednesday, March 24

10 ways to avoid becoming a missionary

Adapted from 10 Ways to avoid becoming a missionary

1. Ignore Jesus' request in John 4:35 that we take a long hard look at the fields. Seeing the needs of people can be depressing and very unsettling. It could lead to genuine missionary concern. (John 4:35 "Do you not say, `Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest."

2. Focus your energies on socially legitimate targets. Go after a bigger salary. Focus on getting a job promotion, a bigger home, a more luxurious car, or future financial security. Along the way, run up some big credit card debts.

3. Get married to somebody who thinks the "Great Commission" is what your employer gives you after you make a big sale. After marriage, embrace the socially accepted norms of settling down, establishing a respectable career trajectory and raising a picture-perfect family.

4. Stay away from missionaries. Their testimonies can be disturbing. The situations they describe will distract you from embracing whole-heartedly the materialistic lifestyle of your home country.

5. If you happen to think about missions, restrict your attention to countries where it's impossible to openly do missionary work. Think only about North Korea, Saudi Arabia, China and other closed countries. Forget the vast areas of our globe open to missionaries. Never, never listen to talk about creative access countries.

6. Think how bad a missionary you would be based on your own past failures. It is unreasonable to expect you will ever be any better. Don't even think about Moses, David, Jonah, Peter or Mark, all of whom overcame failures.

7. Always imagine missionaries as talented, super-spiritual people who stand on lofty pedestals. Maintaining this image of missionaries will heighten your own sense of inadequacy. Convincing yourself that God does not use ordinary people as missionaries will smother any guilt you may feel about refusing to even listen for a call from God.

8. Agree with the people who tell you that you are indispensable where you are. Listen when they tell you that your local church or home country can't do without you.

9. Worry incessantly about money.

10. If you still feel you must go, go out right away without any preparation or training. You'll soon be home again and no one can ever blame you for not trying!

Sunday, March 21


If you Googled "CPM" in hopes of reading something about Church Planting Movements, you've clicked onto the right place. However, for us, CPM stands for Capacitar Para Multiplicar (Train for Multiplying). It is our conviction that as we train people to multiply themselves, we will eventually see a Church Planting Movement.

Nothing really new about this concept. Many have been saying these things for years, but there is a lot of difference in talking about these kinds of principles and actually doing them.

One of the most common questions we are asked is how many churches have we planted? For me, that is not the right question. Having lots of churches used to be our goal.

In our early years of church planting in Guayaquil we were meticulous about keeping track of church starts. On any given day we could tell you the exact number (14-36-75-112 etc.) But to our dismay many of these fell by the wayside. What was happening? They had not been instilled with the DNA of multiplication. We were so thrilled to see churches added to the flock of newly planted churches, that we conveniently overlooked the fact that they weren't multiplying.

Over the past few years we have sought to correct this error. Today we are more interested in reproduction principles, rather than just planting more churches. Paraphrasing Neil Cole, "if you can't reproduce disciples, you will never be able to reproduce churches."

Three key words in our CPM:


missional vs attractional,
movements vs institutions,
empowering vs controlling

String the three ideas together and we are about empowering missional movements.

Missional is us engaging people where they are and making disciples.
Attractional is expecting them to come to us and fit in with our program.

Movements are viral and difficult to control, they flow like water.
Institutions are definable, structured places/programs.

Empowering is everyone engaged in the task of making disciples.
Controlling is about trying to make it happen our way, or take credit for what is happening.

I realize this may be oversimplifying, but we try to keep things simple. We value the power behind these three principles. They help keep us focused on the task without becoming distracted with a lot of other good stuff going on out there.

How does the above play out in our context?

We are continuously training trainers to go out and make disciples. As disciples are made, churches get planted. If we have done our job right with those we train, they are able to pass on the concepts to the next generation of disciples. We aren't looking to control anybody. We aren't even counting any more (or don't make a big deal of it.) What we try to do is empower people to engage in the missional task given by Jesus 2000 years ago. Missional is being the church where the people are, rather than trying to get people to come to institutional churches where a few do what all of us should be doing.

We measure success not by how many churches are being planted, but by how many people are engaged in the missional task of making disciples where they are. It is our conviction that any believer can (and should) be engaged with at least 3 other people, and maybe up to 20 total.

Do we have it all figured out? No.
Do we make mistakes? Way too many.
Are we open to input, advice, suggestions? Definitely.
Are we excited about empowering missional movements? YES.

Friday, March 19

Vote for the M Blog

Time again for the SBC Blog Madness, a fun competition taking place amongst SBC bloggers.

To vote for the "M Blog" click here and scroll down to the SOUTH DIVISION and click on your favorites, but make sure one of those votes is for me!

Voting ends, Sunday, March 21st at an undisclosed time, so go vote will just take a few seconds. Gracias.

Where is the God of Elisha?

For many years now I have been blessed by the writings of Maurice Smith's Parousia Letters. The following article by J. Lee Grady, editor of Charisma Magazine was quoted in the latest Parousia mailouts and worthy of reflection...

We've faked the power of Pentecost long enough. Let's set aside the imitations and reclaim the real deal.
Shortly after Elijah was carried to heaven in his fiery chariot, a group of  young prophets asked Elisha to go with them to build new living quarters near  the Jordan River. While one of the young men was cutting down a tree, the  blade of his axe fell in the water and sank into the murky depths of the  riverbed (see 2 Kings 6:1-7).
The construction project came to an abrupt stop. This was before the days of  flashlights and sonar devices. These guys were in trouble.  Knowing that his friends could not replace this expensive iron tool they had  borrowed, the young prophet cried to his mentor Elisha for help. The wise  prophet threw a stick in the water where the axe head had sunk. Immediately  the heavy iron blade floated to the surface—defying the laws of physics and  proving that nothing is impossible with God. Elisha's faith saved the day. We can gain so much comfort from this story. It reminds us that God has power  over the natural world. It also proves that He cares about the seemingly  trivial details of our lives—and that He is even willing to bail us out of the  messes we make.
As I have meditated on this passage in recent days I've also applied it to our  current situation in the American church. It illustrates how desperately we need to recover what we've lost. Perhaps you've noticed that our blade is missing. I don't know exactly when it  fell off the handle, but it seems as if we've been trying to build God's house without the sharp edge of His genuine anointing. We've traded the real for the  phony. We've cheapened Pentecost to the point that it's been reduced to dry  religious programs and circus sideshow antics.
We've mastered the art of hype. We know how to fake the anointing. We push  people to the floor during our altar times. We know how to manipulate music  and crowds so that we can create the atmosphere of the anointing. But in so  many cases the real anointing isn't there. In its place is a hollow imitation. Some charismatic leaders today are even selling specially handcrafted oils  that promise the Holy Spirit's power. Others sell scented candles that claim  to bring God's presence. And last year one brother was traveling the country  with feathers in a jar— claiming that these belonged to an angel with healing  powers.
Lord, forgive us for our charlatanism. We need the blade back! We must cry out  to the God Who has the power to raise iron from the bottom of a river.  We are not going to advance Christ's kingdom, or build His victorious church,  using scented oils, fake charms, ear-tickling prophecies and goofy charismatic  gimmicks. This is all wood, hay and stubble destined for the furnace. What we  need today is the sharp blade of the Word that is empowered by the Holy Ghost  and fire.
In my world travels during the past few years I have met humble Christians who  carry the genuine anointing of the Spirit. I've spent time with Chinese  believers who see miracles inside their prison cells. I've met an Indian  evangelist who has seen six people raised from the dead. I've met a Pakistani  apostle who regularly sees Muslims healed during outdoor gospel meetings. Last week I interviewed an Iranian church leader whose ministry is leading 5,000 Iranians to faith in Christ every month. In the midst of persecution and  political upheaval, a New Testament— style revival is erupting in that Shiite  Muslim stronghold - all because the church in Iran is weilding the axe head of  genuine Holy Spirit anointing.
Where is the God of Elisha? There is a cry in the American church today that  resembles the cry of the desperate young prophet in 2 Kings 6. We have not been good stewards of the Holy Spirit's gifts, and now  the precious power of God has eluded us. We dropped it. Yet we are beginning  to acknowledge our blunder.
Let's fully humble ourselves. Let's repent of fakery and fraud. Let's ditch our counterfeits and our cheap substitutes, and ask the Lord to restore the  axe blade. Let's cry to Him for a pure, unadulterated, genuine, life-changing, planet-shaking revival.

Thursday, March 18

Being a missionary is...

Giving when you feel like keeping.
Praying for others when you need prayer.
Feeding others when your soul is hungry.
Hurting with others when your own hurt can't be spoken.
Keeping your word when it is not convenient.
Being faithful when your soul wants to run away.
~Author Unknown

Wednesday, March 17

St. Patrick's Breastplate

I arise today
Through a mighty strength,
The invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of creation.


I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection
With his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent
For the judgment of Doom.


I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.


I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.
I summon today all these powers
Between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power
That may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts
Man’s body and soul.
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.


I arise today
Through a mighty strength,
The invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

Monday, March 15

Is it God's money or our money?

Imagine if next week the IMB-SBC were to receive notification that our Korean brothers and sisters in Christ had felt led of the Lord to donate to their USA brothers $47-million to help cover current missions giving short-falls, and to help finance the sending of dozens of new missionaries to the field.

Added to this imaginary scenario, our Chinese, African, Indian and South American brothers committed to jointly raising another $10-million/month for at least the next five years, and send this directly to the IMB as well. On top of this, Christians all over the USA got wind of what their global brothers were doing and, themselves, started sending their tithes and offerings directly to missionaries and ministries they know and trust...funds that up until that time went exclusively to their local church. I know all of this is ludicrous, but stay with me a bit longer...

Would we not humbly and gratefully accept these expressions of love and solidarity in our joint global missions task of making disciples of the nations? Or would we view this as an unhealthy dependency issue? "Thanks, but no thanks. We don't want to become dependent upon these monies coming in that are unsustainable over the long haul. After all, if we begin to accept your money now, we will start depending upon it, and the day you guys decide to not send us the funds any more we are back to where we find ourselves now."

I may be wrong, but I think most of us would prayerfully and humbly accept the gifts and put them to good use.

My point is, ALL RESOURCES BELONG TO GOD, not to us as individuals, or churches, or denominations, or missions/ministry organizations. If the Head of the Church, Jesus, wants to move resources from China to the USA, what is wrong with that? He is Lord. He owns all the cattle on a thousand hills. Can he not appropriate from one hill in his Kingdom and move that over to another hill?

In theory, we say, "of course He can", but in practice, "that would be creating a dependency issue and we don't want to go there..."

One of the paradigms I would like to see disappear is the one where we think we have to be the ones to control the purse strings of God's Kingdom. We are terrified to think what might happen if we just allowed King Jesus to run the financial side of Kingdom business rather than ourselves! The bottom line seems to me to be, we trust the Lord for grace, salvation, etc. but not when it comes to money and the way money is handled. We have created all kinds of extra-biblical rules, guidelines, and policies for handling Kingdom finances.

But do we find these kinds of things in Acts, or Paul's Epistles? In Acts all money was laid at the feet of the apostles (scary thing, but that's what they did!) Today we have so many rules, regulations and forms to fill out for money matters my head swims.

So what am I actually proposing?

Kingdom money needs to flow at the discretion of the King. "Seek first the Kingdom of God..." includes our wallet! At first it might seem we are opening up ourselves to mass chaos, but chaos has a way of ordering itself (I am actually reading a book on this subject right now!)

If we believe Jesus is truly King, we have to believe He will make sure money flows to where it needs to go. Can this be any more chaotic or unbiblical than the current accepted way we handle money issues where churches/denominations, etc. keep 95%+ for themselves and send their left-over change for Kingdom causes outside their jurisdiction? Is it God's money we are talking about, or our money?

I await your flaming arrows. Bring them on!

Friday, March 12

The prevenience model of church

...from an email received from John White (Denver, CO)...

I first learned the word "prevenience" from Eugene Peterson in his book "The Contemplative Pastor". I was struck by what he had to say because it was immediately obvious to me that he was right. However, it was exactly the opposite of what I had been taught.

I knew how to be proactive. I knew how to "run the church" and get things done. I knew how to "make it happen". I had a lot of unlearning to do (I'm a recovering control addict).

Here's what Peterson has to say (with a few of John's comments in italics):

"In running the church (or the house church), I seize the initiative. I take charge. I take responsibility for motivation and recruitment, for showing the way, for getting things started. If I don't, things drift. I am aware of the tendency to apathy, the human susceptibility to indolence, and I use my leadership to counter it. (Isn't that what we have been taught that leadership is? If it isn't this, what is it?)

By contrast, the cure of souls (he means here the true work of a pastor or leader of a church as an organism) is a cultivated awareness that God has already seized the initiative. The traditional doctrine defining this truth is prevenience: God everywhere and always seizing the initiative. He gets thing going. He had and continues to have the first word. Prevenience is the conviction that God has been working diligently, redemptively, and strategically before I appeared on the scene, before I was aware there was something here for me to do.

...there is a disciplined, determined conviction that everything (and I mean, precisely everything) we do is a response to God's first work, his initiating act. We learn to be attentive to the divine action already in process so that the previously unheard word of God is heard, the previously unattended act of God is noticed?

What has God been doing here?
What traces of grace can I discern in this life?
What history of love can I read in this group?
What has God set in motion that I can get in on?"

I call these "the prevenience questions". Learning to ask/answer these questions is the starting place for the church each time she meets. This is the "prevenience model" of church.

With apologies to Steven Covey, we Christians were never called to be "proactive". We are called to be "reactive" to God. (Or, perhaps "responsive" to God is better.)

Wednesday, March 10

I wlil bilud my cuhcrh

Can you read the following lines...

And I tlel you taht you are Pteer, and on tihs rcok I wlil bilud my cuhcrh, and the geats of Heads wlil not oevrcmoe it. I wlil gvie you the kyes of the konigdm of hvaeen; wahveter you bnid on etarh wlil be buond in haveen, and wethaver you losoe on eatrh wlil be losoed in heevan.

Even with the atrocious spelling, I am fairly certain that most were able to read and understand the message. Why?

1) you had a pretty good understanding of the general context of the message.

2) the first and last letters of each word are correct; the mind reorders the middle letters to their proper place.

This is too often what our church planting looks. It appears as a jumbled mess. Yet, time and time again, God breaks through and does something beautiful to rearrange the letters into something intelligible.

The three most important words in church planting are...


Prayer is the most important ingredient for a church planter. Prayer gives us the needed guidance and context for understanding God's ways. Prayer keeps us on course even though we may make a huge mess of things between steps in the church plant.

The second most important words for the church planter are passion and perseverance.

If the first and last letters are needed to make sense of a word, passion and perseverance are the equivalents needed to see churches planted. When passion and perseverance are on the ends of each church planting step, a lot can go wrong in between and still come out OK.

I find it reassuring to know that if I will focus upon prayer at the center of my life and ministry, asking the Spirit to fan the flames of passion within, and persevere regardless of the ups and downs along the way, God will do what He said he would do 2000 years ago...I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH!

Monday, March 8

The most controversial biblical passage we use in our training

Then Jesus came to them and said,
"All authority in heaven and on earth
has been given to me.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and
teaching them to obey everything
I have commanded you.
And surely I am with you always,
to the very end of the age."
(Mat 28:18-20)

The Great Commission is by far the most controversial passage that we teach in our discipleship/church planting training. We usually get into the Great Commission during our second week of training. After that session, usually about half of those coming drop out, never to return.


Because of its familiarity, most of us assume what we and our church currently do is fulfilling the Great Commission.

But are we?

The reason this passage is so controversial is that we say and believe these words, but practice something entirely different from what Jesus commanded. We read these verses one way, but live them another.

Jesus gives us four specific instructions (commands). Here is how most believers in our Ecuadorian evangelical context interpret Jesus' words...

JESUS SAID: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
OUR INTERPRETATION? All authority has been given to to our pastor/denomination/church. These are our spiritual guides (covering). What these have to say weighs more in what we do (or not do), than what Jesus commanded. Permission to engage in the GC must first come from our leaders. Jesus is not sufficiently authoritative by himself.

JESUS SAID: Therefore, GO...
OUR INTERPRETATION? We understand "go" to mean come. Come to our church, youth group, event, concert, etc. Come is a lot more convenient for us than actually trying to find the time to go and engage relationally those who are lost and need the Good News. We go on mission trips, go to camp, go to conferences and concerts with high-profile Christian mega-stars, etc. The lost are expected to somehow find their way to us. They are supposed to come to our meetings and events planned for them. For the occasional permission granted to actually GO, those going are expected to bring home with them any who might respond. We can't have believers out there "doing their own thing" and starting "splinter churches." Real church is "mama church."

JESUS SAID: MAKE DISCIPLES of all nations...
OUR INTERPRETATION? Since we really do not know how to make disciples, we believe that what this means is that they need to hear the Gospel. Therefore, we focus on evangelistic events and invite people to pray and receive Christ. Church sports activities, Fall Festivals, youth car washes, Christmas pageants, and musical concerts are understood to be the appropriate means to reach people. Those handful who might raise their hand at one of our events are given an envelope of church literature. But "make disciples" is understood to be that they will now start coming to our church. There they will meet other believers, and hopefully learn more about God's Word and somewhere along the path turn into disciples (whatever that is).

JESUS SAID: BAPTIZING them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...
OUR INTERPRETATION? This certainly does not mean I should be the one to baptize the new believer. If someone makes a profession of faith, it is my responsibility to make an appointment and introduce them to the pastor of the church. There they will be, 1) warmly received, 2) invited to participate in a new believer's class to prepare them for baptism, 3) when there are enough ready to be baptized and there are no circumstances which would prevent them from being baptized, 4) schedule a date on the church calendar, and 5) watch as the pastor baptizes them as part of one of our regular scheduled church services.

JESUS SAID: TEACHING THEM TO OBEY everything I have commanded you...
OUR INTERPRETATION? The newly baptized believer is then expected to begin attending church on a regular basis. There they observe how other Christians look, talk, and act. "Church Culture" is quickly assimilated about what is acceptable, and not acceptable. Basically it is understood that the new believer will learn God's Word through the listening of the weekly preaching of the pastor, and maybe if we can get them up early enough, a Sunday School class.

With this understanding of the Great Commission, is it any wonder people think we are controversial in our teaching? But I ask--JUST AS WE ASK THOSE WE TRAIN--did Jesus really mean what he said? Or is the truth closer to the below cartoon...

Copyright © 1999 Bob West. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 5

Things I like about living in Ecuador

1. Summer weather year round. After living in summer type weather for over twenty straight years, I simply cannot tolerate cold weather. While it is nice to BRIEFLY experience cooler weather, I am always eager to get back to the warm coast of Guayaquil. Our weather here is either hot and humid, or hot and dry. From June-October we even have some nice breezes to help cool things down a bit. Fans and window unit A/C are some of our most valued material possessions. I'm embarrased to say it, but in our bedroom we have five fans and an A/C. And they are often all running at the same time! If we're going to live in the hot, we want the bedroom, at least, to be cool and comfortable as a haven of rest!

2. Ecuadorian foods. Living here, we miss the Stateside foods. But when we are Stateside we crave the good Ecuadorian foods we have learned to love. The cebiches, humitas, arroz con menestra y carne asada, fresh sea food, and the wide variety of fresh fruits not readily available Stateside: naranjilla, maracuya, tamarindo, guanabana, tomatillo, guayaba, mora, papaya, granadilla, etc. One of our families favorites are patacones. These are green plantains which have been crushed into flat cakes and twice fried with salt sprinkled on top. When eaten with fresh white cheese one cannot imagine life getting any better!

3. Friendly people. At first they can appear to be a bit intimidating, rude, indifferent, and even frightening as to their outward semblance and mannerisms. But as soon as you begin to talk and spend even a short amount of time with them, one discovers how friendly and open they are. They really make you feel like they want to be your friend. They are easy to get along with and really fun people.

4. Having a maid and gardener. While we aren't rich, the wages of those who work these service jobs are affordable and within our range--even on a missionary salary. If you could have your house cleaned from top to bottom daily, including washing/ironing clothes, food preparation, bathrooms scrubbed, windows cleaned, beds made, etc. and do so about the same cost as it is for a burger and coke at the local fast food restaurant, wouldn't you do the same? The only down side to having people do this for you day in and day out, is that one gets mighty spoiled!

5. An openness to the Gospel. We live in a "harvest field" that is ripe and ready for harvesting. While other parts of the world are cold and non-receptive to the Gospel message, here there is an open window of opportunity to bring in the harvest. Even amongst the non-born again, one will still hear in their language and belief systems a fear of God. Listening in on conversations one will hear statements like, "by the mercy of God..., God saved/healed/rescued me..." Expressing belief or faith in God is not taboo here, and people are quite open to talking about spiritual matters. I truly believe that in ten years this country (along with other Latin American countries) will be centers of Christianity, taking the place of the USA.

6. Living on the coast. I love the sand, sea, and sun which are found within an hour's drive of the city. One of my greatest regrets is not being able to spend as much time on the coast as we would like. It is always relaxing and refreshing to get out of the city to the beach. Also related to living on the coast in a port city is my appreciation for the improvements continually going on to make Guayaquil a more attractive city. Since 2000 there has been a massive city-wide effort to beautify the city. The results are quite impressive. Come visit us, and you can see for yourself!

7. The great desire of the people to learn and a high appreciation for education. Offer a training course, seminar, or study and people will flock to it in response. I love that the people here value learning and will make every effort to participate in educational events when they are offered an opportunity to study. What truly humbles me is that people will ride buses for hours just to attend a training event. Many times they will not get home until late at night, but won't miss a class.

8. Able to purchase the medications you need without a prescription. I love being able to walk to the corner drug store and get what you need for whatever is ailing, without having to first go a doctor. There are so many times you know what you need for an ailment, and can just go get it without having a prescription. I get terribly frustrated in the USA at not being able to do the same thing! I remember one time in Texas getting a migraine and having to go the ER where they ran several tests on me. I ended up spending three hours and paying a $1050 bill when all I needed was an a $3 pill available from the corner drugstore in Ecuador!

9. Ease and facility of the medical system. Related to #8 above is the easy access to good doctors, medical facilities, etc. at only a fraction of what they cost in the USA. Rarely do we have to wait more than a day to get in to see the top medical specialists. Usually one gets an appointment the same day. Without a doubt one of the most frustrating things we encounter about Stateside furloughs is getting in to see the needed doctors. Our experience is having to use approved HMO doctors on the list we are given. Of these 2 out of 3 aren't accepting new patients, and the remaining MD. doesn't have an opening for three months! I am not exagerating on this point. There are plenty of good doctors, but it is so hard to get in to see them, not to mention the extremely high medical costs Stateside. Locally, we use the best doctors, specialists, and labs in the country and pay about a fifth of what one pays for the same services in the States.

10. People here are very social and people-oriented. They love to party and will use any excuse/reason to get people together. Unlike the USA where you have events scheduled from, say, 4pm-6pm, where everyone goes home promptly at 6pm, here they will arrive at that same function anywhere from 30-minutes to 2 hours late, but they will stay till past midnight! Here there is a lot less of people getting up, going to work, coming home, watching TV, and going bed type-of-routine. They are open, friendly and a lot more social finding ways to spend time with other people. Night life is BIG here, much more than we ever experience in the USA.

Wednesday, March 3

Ever wonder why...

...if there really is only One Body of Christ, we persist in separating ourselves from one another and clinging to our denominational distinctives?

...we don't ever hear any sermons on 1 Corinthians 12:28ff "And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues..."?

...our churches aren't structured according to Paul's above order, rather than the way we do so today with extra-biblical Senior Pastors leading the list? Are pastors even mentioned in the 1 Cor. 12:28 list?

...we delay baptizing new believers when every instance recorded in the Book of Acts indicates immediate baptism upon profession of faith?

...we program our gatherings into hour-long meetings rather than allowing the Head of the Church (Jesus) to lead and move among us as He desires?

...Paul never addresses his letters to the pastor or leadership of the churches he writes like we would do today?

Ever wonder who the Ephesian 4:11 apostles, prophets, and evangelists are amongst us? Can you name any in your church today? What happened to these folks? Have their roles been absorbed by the pastor-teachers in our midst? If so, is this what the Holy Spirit intended when he gave these functions to the church?

Ever wonder if Paul's epistles were written to individual local house churches in Corinth, Ephesus, Thessalonica, etc. or to ALL of the Church in each of these cities (house churches-plural?)

Ever wonder where we get the idea that listening to a prepared sermon is an essential part of believers gatherings?

Ever wonder how small can a church be and still be a church? Does the Bible say anything about how big is too big for a church to be?

Ever wonder when a group meeting together becomes a church? What is a church? What is the Scriptural support for your answer?

Ever wonder where in the Bible it refers to believers as members of a local church?

Ever wonder if believers can be part of more than one local church at the same time? (eg. a member at FBC-Dallas, Faith Bible Church, and Misión Evangélica Sión all at the same time) Why or why not?

Ever wonder whether a seminary education helps or hinders those seeking to multiply new church starts?

Ever wonder about what happened to celebrating the Lord's Supper as a meal? When did we begin substituting the Lord's SUPPER (meal) for a tiny cracker and sip of grape juice?

Ever wonder about where we get the idea of paid/salaried pastors and church staff when 1 Corinthians 9 is clearly referring to itinerant apostolic workers?

Ever wonder where we get the idea that "double honor" in 1 Timothy 5:17 for elders refers to a monthly salary and benefits package?

Just wondering.

While listening yesterday to a John Eldredge podcast I was struck with his statement that, "The biggest enemy of the Gospel is not paganism, but religion." I agree.