Thursday, December 30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. For God to be glorified.

Hallowed be thy name. (Matthew 6:9)

9. In Jesus’ name.

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

Monday, December 27

No Graven Image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 23

Unto the least of these

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

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

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

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

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

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


*not real name

Monday, December 20

If the world were a village of 1000 people

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

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

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

The people of the village have considerable difficulty in communicating:

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

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

In this village of 1,000 there are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of the total $3 million:

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

The Miniature Earth: 2010 Official Version...

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

Saturday, December 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 16

Reflections on our recent trip to Asia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 11

A life of significance

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

Thursday, December 9

December 9, 1986

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will you continue to hold the ropes for us?

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

Sunday, December 5

Ideals to live by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 3

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In and For Him,
Miguel Labrador