Wednesday, March 30

Making disciples that make disciples that make disciples = CPM

The way to get to a 'church planting movement' is focus on what it will take to initiate a 'disciple making movement.'

Our focus is usually trying to get churches to reproduce themselves. The whole CPM thing of 'churches planting churches that plant churches' just hasn't happened in our context.

What we are learning from the Lord is that we need to get back to basics: 'making disciples that make disciples that make disciples.' Church plants will follow if new disciples are making disciples themselves.

Christ didn't charge us with going out and starting churches. Our assigned task is to 'make disciples.' Jesus stated, "I will build my church"--not, 'WE will build his church.'

God is on mission. He invites us to partner with him in bringing about the Kingdom. In this partnership each "party" is responsible for certain things. If we will do our part and 'make disciples', He will certainly do his part and 'build his church'!

There is nothing new about any of this. But for some reason, we busy ourselves with all kinds of activities other than the clear cut commands and instructions of Christ to go, make disciples, baptize, and teach the new believers to be Christ followers who reproduce themselves into other new disciples.

One of the more helpful and practical books on discipleship and church planting is Neil Cole's Organic Church. On page 98 he writes...

Trying to multiply churches is starting at the wrong place...We must go further down microscopically, to the smallest unit of Kingdom life if we want to start the multiplication process...The way to see a true church multiplication movement is to multiply healthy disciples, then leaders, then churches, and finally movements--in that order.

As passionate as I am about church planting, I found it perplexing that the Bible never instructs us to start churches...we are not to start churches, but instead to make disciples who make disciples. that is actually the way churches are started...Jesus gave us instruction that is one the molecular level of Kingdom life, for a very good reason: it works. Trying to multiply large, highly complex organisms without multiplying on the micro level is impossible.
Our focus must be on getting back to multiplying healthy reproducing disciples. Trying to get churches to multiply who are filled with non-reproducing believers is futile. Until we get back to basics of being disciples, and multiplying ourselves in others, there is little chance of ever seeing a CPM in our midst.

Sunday, March 27

When do we start taking them to church?

Five days a week our team trains new house church planters. At this writing, we are training more than a 100 people throughout the week in the basics of church planting. Most of these come from evangelical legacy churches with corresponding paradigms.

One of the most common questions asked is: at what point do we start taking the new believers to church? This question always frustrates me, but I understand the paradigm struggle many face with house churches being "real churches."

The response I am tempted to give is, "what I hear you asking is at what point do we stop making disciples, and allow them to just start attending church services?" Of course, I bite my tongue before saying this, but it reflects the difficulty we have of understanding the who, what, when, where, and why of the true nature of the New Testament ekklesia.

A large percentage of the legacy church planters we train see house churches as yet another way to reach people for Christ and grow their church. The real goal in people's hearts is, 1) win people to Christ, 2) get them into our church. House fellowships are merely a stepping stone to help grow existing churches.

Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart...Scriptures like Acts 2:46 only reinforce the conviction that church took place in the temple. Houses were merely where Jerusalem believers ate and fellowshipped. Back to our original question...

The standard response we generally give is to try and briefly explain our understanding of what Scripture teaches about the church, the Bride of Christ.

1) Romans 16:5, 1 Corinthins 16:19, Colossians 4:15, Philemon 2 describe churches as meeting in homes. This was the standard. The norm. Small groups meeting in homes allows not only them, but us, to minister personally to one another. Special church buildings, programs, services, and crowds didn't show up onthe scene until several hundred years later.

2) Ephesians 2:19 teaches we are "fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household..." We are truly family. Families take care of each other, watch out for each other, and some 50+ other "one anothers."

3) Acts 2:42 teaches that continuosly the church engaged in at least four primary activities: 1) devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching, 2) to fellowship, 3) to the breaking of bread, and 4) to prayer.

4) I Corinthians 14:26 describes what they were instructed to do when they gathered: "When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification." Everyone is encouraged to participate and bring something of edification to the gathering. Church is not a spectator sport where only a few perform and the rest are spectators.

5) Hebrews 10:24-25 teaches us the reason for gathering, " and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near." The main reasons we are admonished to gather is to, 1) stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 2) encourage one another. If our gatherings do not encourage and motivate us to truly love one another and perform good deeds, then something is out of line and needs to be corrected.

There are many other passages that relate to the who, what, when, where, and why of the church. A few that amplify and describe the above in greater detail are I Corinthians 11-12-13-14, I Peter 2, Acts 2:42-47, and I Timothy 3.

If any existing church is able to closely mirror these values and characteristics, then by all means, feel free to encourage those young disciples to be part of such a church. But if not, we strongly encourage church planters to not try and short-circuit the task by handing them off to a church that is something other than a true NT ekklesia as described in Scripture. In those majority cases it is best to focus on continuing to make disciples, baptize those disciples, meet with those disciples in their homes, and teach those disciples to observe all that CHRIST commanded.

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 23

Great Missions Quotes

"The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed." --Hudson Taylor

"If I had 1,000 lives, I'd give them all for China." --Hudson Taylor

"God uses men who are weak and feeble enough to lean on him." --Hudson Taylor

"Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God." --William Carey (called the father of modern missions)

"The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become." -- Henry Martyn

"He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." --Jim Elliot (missionary to Ecuador)

"We are debtors to every man to give him the gospel in the same measure in which we have received it." --P.F. Bresee

"In the vast plain to the north I have sometimes seen, in the morning sun, the smoke of a thousand villages where no missionary has ever been." --Robert Moffat (who inspired David Livingstone)

"If a commission by an earthly king is considered a honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?" --David Livingstone

"Sympathy is no substitute for action." --David Livingstone

"Can't you do just a little bit more?" --J.G. Morrison (pleading with Nazarenes in the 1930's Great Depression to support their missionaries)

"Lost people matter to God, and so they must matter to us." --Keith Wright

"The Bible is not the basis of missions; missions is the basis of the Bible."
--Ralph Winter, U.S. Center for World Mission

"Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell." --C.T. Studd

"If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him." --C.T. Studd

"No one has the right to hear the gospel twice, while there remains someone who has not heard it once." --Oswald J. Smith

"Any church that is not seriously involved in helping fulfill the Great Commission has forfeited its biblical right to exist." --Oswald J. Smith

"The mission of the church is missions." --Oswald J. Smith

"We talk of the Second Coming; half the world has never heard of the first."
--Oswald J. Smith

"This generation of Christians is responsible for this generation of souls on the earth!" --Keith Green

"If God calls you to be a missionary, don't stoop to be a king." --Jordan Groom

"If you found a cure for cancer, wouldn't it be inconceivable to hide it from the rest of mankind? How much more inconceivable to keep silent the cure from the eternal wages of death." --Dave Davidson

"In our lifetime, wouldn't it be sad if we spent more time washing dishes or swatting flies or mowing the yard or watching television than praying for world missions?" --Dave Davidson

"Let my heart be broken with the things that break God's heart" --Bob Pierce
(World Vision founder)

"No reserves. No retreats. No regrets." --William Borden

"If ten men are carrying a log--nine of them on the little end and one at the heavy end--and you want to help, which end will you lift on?" -- William Borden (as he reflected on the numbers of Christian workers in the U.S. as compared to those among unreached peoples in China)

"The reason some folks don't believe in missions is that the brand of religion they have isn't worth propagating." --unknown

When James Calvert went out as a missionary to the cannibals of the Fiji Islands, the ship captain tried to turn him back, saying, "You will lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages." To that, Calvert replied, "We died before we came here."

"Someone asked, 'will the heathen who have never heard the Gospel be saved?' It is more a question with me whether we--who have the Gospel and fail to give it to those who have not--can be saved." --Charles H. Spurgeon

"The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time" --Carl F. H. Henry

"Our God of Grace often gives us a second chance, but there is no second chance to harvest a ripe crop." --Kurt von Schleicher

"You can give without loving. But you cannot love without giving." --Amy Carmichael

"Only as the church fulfills her missionary obligation does she justify her existence." --Unknown

"As long as there are millions destitute of the Word of God and knowledge of Jesus Christ, it will be impossible for me to devote time and energy to those who have both." --J. L. Ewen

"The command has been to 'go,' but we have stayed--in body, gifts, prayer and influence. He has asked us to be witnesses unto the uttermost parts of the earth ...but 99% of Christians have kept puttering around in the homeland."
--Robert Savage (missionary to Ecuador)

"People who do not know the Lord ask why in the world we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget that they too are expending their lives...and when the bubble has burst, they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted." --Nate Saint (missionary to Ecuador)

"We must be global Christians with a global vision because our God is a global God." --John Stott

"The mark of a great church is not its seating capacity, but its sending capacity." --Mike Stachura

"'Not called!' did you say? 'Not heard the call,' I think you should say. Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear Him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father's house and bid their brothers and sisters and servants and masters not to come there. Then look Christ in the face -- whose mercy you have professed to obey -- and tell Him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish His mercy to the world."
--William Booth

"Never pity missionaries; envy them. They are where the real action is--where life and death, sin and grace, Heaven and Hell converge." --Robert C. Shannon

"People who don't believe in missions have not read the New Testament. Right from the beginning Jesus said the field is the world. The early church took Him at His word and went East, West, North and South." --J. Howard Edington

"It is possible for the most obscure person in a church, with a heart right toward God, to exercise as much power for the evangelization of the world, as it is for those who stand in the most prominent positions." --John R. Mott

"In no other way can the believer become as fully involved with God's work, especially the work of world evangelism, as in intercessory prayer." --Dick Eastman

"What's your dream and to what corner of the missions world will it take you?"
--Eleanor Roat

"We can reach our world, if we will. The greatest lack today is not people or funds. The greatest need is prayer." --Wesley Duewel

"Missions is not the 'ministry of choice' for a few hyperactive Christians in the church. Missions is the purpose of the church." --Unknown

"The average pastor views his church as a local church with a missions program; while he ought to realize that if he is in fact pastoring a church, it is to be a global church with a missions purpose." --Unknown

"The Christian is not obedient unless he is doing all in his power to send the Gospel to the heathen world." --A. B. Simpson


This wonderful selection of missions quotes comes from Thanks for this great collection! Check out the hundreds of free audio messages by many of the great saints of old.

Sunday, March 20

Is anybody out there really praying?

Help! I desperately need prayer. But I can't pray for you the same way I want you to pray for me. This pretty much sums up the embarrassing predicament of my intercessory prayer life.

Praying for the sea of prayer requests has sadly become part of the information glut many of us find ourselves drowning in. Seems everyone (including us) is out there soliciting prayer. About 95% of the requests I get for prayer maybe get 5-seconds. I whisper a quick prayer not because I am really all that concerned, but want to be honest when I tell them, "I prayed for you..." letting them know that I am at least concerned about their situation.

Prayer is not an easy task. In fact it is a struggle for me to pray. Long ago I came to the realization that I talk a lot about prayer, but fall far short in my own prayer life. 

It turns my stomach when I see TV evangelists lay their hands over a 3x3ft stack of prayer requests and pray a single 30-second prayer for all those desperate people who have called or sent in their heart cries for help. But really, what other alternative is there when you get several thousand requests per day? What would I do any different?

Not a day goes by that we too aren't handed our own stack of prayer requests. They come in from all over the world via emails, text messages, missionary prayer newsletters, phone calls, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, churches, leadership, the IMB, the SBC, the EBC, the ABG, the JBG, IM, CAPCO, Twitter updates, people we haven't talked to in years but suddenly they are asking us for prayer, Facebook, and last, but not least, extended family. It is even one of our job responsibilities to promote prayer amongst our missions supporters.

As stated previously, most are matters that are important to the one needing prayer. It takes a real prayer warrior to pray in the Spirit for people and situations that are far removed from them personally. My hat goes off to all those who can truly pray like that.  Few things humble me as much as knowing that there are people like, David, a person we met 23 years ago in a cafeteria line who has prayed daily for us all this time. He writes us a couple of times a year assuring us that he still continues to pray!

How do you deal with prayer in your own walk with the Lord? What are some of your prayer "secrets" you might share that could help all those like myself who struggle in this area? How do you handle the daily bombardment of prayer requests?

Thanks for sharing below in the comments. I eagerly await your insights.

Wednesday, March 16

Why are we still trying to do missions by objectives?

Jim Plueddemann has adapted an interesting article calling into question the practice of doing missions by objectives. He writes...
Dear Missionary:

Tom Peters, famous for the book "In Search of Excellence", writes...

"Plans? Goals? Yes, I admit that I plan and set goals. After I’ve accomplished something, I declare it to have been my goal all along. One must keep up appearances: In our society “having goals” and “making plans” are two of the most important pretenses. Unfortunately, they are dangerous pretenses -- which repeatedly cause us to delay immersion in the real world of happy surprises, unhappy detours, and unexpected byways."

If secular managers are rejecting the old management-by-objectives movement, why are we still trying to do missions-by-objectives?

People with a passion for measurable objectives have a passion to control the details of the future. They have little tolerance for ambiguity, for the unfolding serendipitous opportunities the Lord may bring. Missionaries who are forced to write measurable objectives are tempted to “think small” so that they will be quite sure they will be able to be accomplished. Here are some problems with trying to control the future by precisely predicting outcomes.
  • Measurable objectives are often not outcomes but activities. An example of a measurable objective might be to hand out 100 tracts per day. Such an activity is measurable, but we don’t know the outcome. Do the tracts make people angry, cause a litter problem, or actually are used by the Spirit to bring conviction of sin. Measurable objectives are often pseudo-aims and are merely a to-do-list activity and not real goals.
  • Measurable objectives often reflect bad theology. Eternal outcomes for our ministry are in the hands of the Lord Jesus. For example, it reflects bad theology for us to set a measurable objective of saving ten people per week. When we say that our goal is to plant one church per year, we may get trapped into thinking about a mere building and forget about the inner qualities and true nature of the church. The church is a body of the people of God, whether meeting in a building or under a tree. Healthy churches are measured by the inner quality of faith rather than by the external quantity of numbers or buildings. It is heretical to attempt replace God so as to precisely predict and control inner spiritual qualities.
  • Measurable objectives grow out of anti-Christian philosophy. Dangerous philosophies are often below the level of our awareness. The Western world is strongly influenced by logical positivism which argues that all meaning must be verifiable by empirical data. Behaviorism claims that observable behavior is all that matters. The secular world tells us that what we can see and count is the only reality. But Paul commands us to “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor 4: 18).
  • Measurable objectives stifle vision. If we know our support might be cut because we don’t meet predetermined objectives, we will aim at goals that are easy to attain. We will set goals that will make us look good at the end of the year rather than goals that grow from faith in a God of hope. Such goal-setting is a dreary guilt-producing exercise. People often produce measurable objectives out of fear and a desire to look good, or at least not look too bad in front of others.
  • Measurable goals encourage us to control and manipulate people. If all our energies are focused on a predetermined quantifiable goal, we tend to use people as mere objects to help us accomplish our goals. Leadership style becomes controlling when the task requires us to treat people as objects. Measurable objectives require leaders to control people and coerce them into accomplishing our goals.
So what is the alternative? Should we wander around "in faith" hoping God will open doors and do dramatic things oblivious to anything we might plan?

Jim suggests faith goals that help us focus on the eternal...
While measurable objectives are often mere activities, heretical, and discouraging, faith goals help us to focus on the eternal. Faith goals are visionary and can become a driving force for our ministry...We set faith goals by spending time on our knees in prayer.
  • Begin with yourself. Spend time in prayer asking the Lord to give you a fresh vision of Himself. Ask the God of hope to rekindle hopes and dreams, and faith goals for ministry. Picture with eyes of faith how your ministry might develop if the Lord would wonderfully bless your efforts.
  • Dialogue with national church leaders and other missionaries. Be ready to enlarge your faith goals as you listen to the vision of co-workers. Share your faith goals with the team.
  • Continue wider discussions in your district or country. What is the Lord showing you as a family? Be willing for many faith goals. Don’t make this a mechanical exercise, but an exercise of the family of God catching a fresh vision of his glory and our task.
What do you think? How do you deal with vision and goals in ministry?

Sunday, March 13

Acts--description or prescription?

A few years back I was in the office of a respected denominational pastor here in Ecuador. As I was seeking his advise on a number of church-related matters, he looked me in the eye and said,

"Guido, do you know what your problem is?"

I know I have a lot of faults, but was completely blind-sided by what he said next...

"Your problem is you believe the Book of Acts is still relevant for today. You are trying to make 1st-Century practices the norm. You don't seem to understand that Acts is a historical account of what happened in the early church. But little of what is recorded there applies to us today."

I tried to respond, but he plowed on...

"Acts tells us about the birth of the church, but we have grown far beyond the infancy stage described in its pages. I for one, am not going to lead anyone to go backwards; I want to lead my church forward building upon all that been learned through 2000 years of church history. Why go back to diapers?"

I was left speechless.

Is Acts solely a historical description and non-binding on us today? Or is the record meant as a prescription--a kind of road map Jesus meant we are to follow?

Many take a middle-of-the-road approach. The parts we like we tend to classify as "prescriptive." For example, we like Acts 1:8 where we Gentiles are included in Jesus' Great Commission. As Evangelicals we believe we have the responsibility for taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

The parts we don't experience or practice today, we tend to label as historically non-binding narrative. After all, where in Acts are we commanded to sell our house and lands and lay the proceeds at the Apostles feet? That is something they chose to do, but we don't have to follow their example. Instructive for us? Yes. Obliged to obey? No.

To me, that is the problem of the middle-of-the-road Acts position. We tend to pick and choose which parts we like and will try to put into practice. Those practices that aren't part of our tradition we classify as descriptive narrative--the same way we do with large portions of the Old Testament.

So where do I stand?

I tend to lean towards understanding Acts as standard for us today, in the same way it was for the believers back in the 1st Century. To me the question isn't so much whether Acts is descriptive or prescriptive; rather, why am I not seeking to live up to its higher standards?

So, if I lean towards Acts being prescriptive, why haven't I sold my house and lands and laid them at the apostles feet? Well, for starters, we have no house of our own to sell, nor lands, nor even the car that we drive. So what about other possessions like our furniture, stove, bank accounts or even the floor fan blowing on me as I type this post on my laptop?

This is where we many of us (including myself) come face-to-face with the true god of this age--materialism. I struggle with Shelby Smith Jr.'s thought-provoking quote, "We are always willing to sacrifice that which is not our treasure to hold on to that which is our treasure." What is it in my heart I hold on to? What am I NOT willing to lay at the Jesus feet (or as Acts describes, at the apostles feet?) Whatever THAT is, this is what we tend to categorize as descriptive/narrative portions of Scripture.

Do we really believe like the above pastor that Acts is the Church in diapers? Has today's Church really progressed beyond what we find in the pages of Acts and the Epistles? I will admit that in practice we believe like this pastor. At least he was being honest! But I cannot personally get away from the conviction that Acts and apostolic teaching was given to us not only as historical record, but as a prescription for healthy church expansion and life. To ignore, discredit, or seek to improve upon what we find in Acts/Epistles seems to me to be dangerous ground.

Paul gives strong indication that there were definite standards about the way things were to be done in the churches he had planted. Variations of his words, "...and so I direct in all the churches..." can be found many times in Paul's writings (eg. I Cor.7:17; 11:16; 14:33; 16:1, 2 Thes.2:15.)

If there was, and is, a standard of church practice, wouldn't it make sense that what we find in Acts and the instructions given in Paul's letters are standards intended for the church down through the ages? What right do we have to think we have progressed beyond Paul and the Apostles "diaper" instructions for the young churches? Seems to me we would do well to go back to relearn the lessons that apparently have been forgotten by today's advanced, modern church practices!

What are your thoughts? Is Acts and the Epistles to the churches intended as mere descriptions, or prescriptions for the Church of Jesus Christ thoughout the ages?

For more on this subject, check out Steve Atkerson's Apostolic Traditions: Who Cares?

Wednesday, March 9

How to start a house church

There are two steps.*

1) Gather people.
2) Make disciples.

Both are bathed in prayer day and night.

Gather people. It is much easier to gather people and win them to Christ than to win people and then try to gather them. The best way we know to gather people is to use food (yes, the real stuff!)

Invite friends, family, and neighbors to eat. The idea of the gatherings is to get to know one another. In knowing one another better, we build trust. Eating together is a natural way to begin relating we want to be church with. There is no planned devotional. No Bible under the table that we pull out as people are finishing their dessert. If a spiritual topic arises in the natural flow of conversation, follow the Spirit’s lead. Share openly as a Christian, but not dominating the dialog.

If things seem to go well, encourage everybody to bring one or two others with them next time. Ask who might be able to bring sandwiches, drinks, empanadas, fruit, etc. to the next gathering.

Make disciples. Continue meeting with food being the drawing card. As the servant-leader senses the Lord’s leading (remember we are praying day and night about all this) begin introducing participative group activities to encourage spiritual dialog. In our context (Ecuador) where there is an openness to the Gospel, we can begin introducing the below elements early on, even in the first gathering. This is especially true if the ‘person of peace’ is well known and respected by those who are gathered.

We use a variety of tools. Which elements are utilized depends upon the group, their spiritual receptivity, etc. Some of the more common and widely used are:
  • Short general-interest downloaded YouTube videos burned to DVDs that help generate dialog
  • Listening to one another’s stories, spiritual journeys, testimonies
  • Singing Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual songs from our green songbook accompanied by CDs.
  • Ice-breakers (some fun, others of a more serious nature)
  • Simple group sharing and praying for one another
Again, elements are introduced as the Spirit leads. Our goal is to make disciples, not converts. We don’t want to drag our feet, but neither do we want to rush ahead of the Spirit. After 3 or 4 weeks we will have a pretty good idea of who all is shaping up as the core group. These will be at various stages along the discipleship path. Several will have made public professions of faith.

While continuing to encourage everyone to bring their guests to the “eating meetings” we prayerfully ask them a key question, “HOW MANY OF US WOULD SAY WE LOVE GOD?” After a show of hands we share Jesus’ words, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” What are the Ten Commandments of Jesus Christ? To be a disciple of Jesus we must obey those things He said were important. No one can be a disciple unless he keeps Jesus commandments.

At that point we start with #1, the Great Commandment. We ask three people to read aloud Matthew 22:36-40. Then ask three questions:
  • What does Jesus say? (Tell it to us in your own words what you understood.)
  • What did He mean? (What do the words mean?)
  • How are we going to obey this commandment? (What specific actions can we take to obey?)
This becomes the pattern for the rest of Jesus’ Commandments that will be studied over the coming weeks. Once this pattern of self-feeding is learned, it can be used with any passage of Scripture and is easily reproducible even with new believers starting new groups.

At this point we generally introduce the second major discipleship tool which is to get everyone into a “GRUPO DE TRES” (Group of Three) discipleship group. These are very similar to Neil Cole’s LIFE TRANSFORMATION GROUPS. We try to encourage everyone to be in a group of three. Everyone receives a bookmark card which serves three purposes, 1) Bible reading plan, 2) accountability questions, 3) praying for one another and the lost.

The final element we phase in for the “eating meeting” is a time of “one another” ministry where prayer, exhortation, encouragement, counsel, sharing, etc. are openly shared amongst those gathering week by week (1 Cor.14:26.)

There are a few more “nuts and bolts” but this is the gist of how we train house church leaders to start in our context here on the coast of Ecuador.

To see the above in action, click the previous video posted below, It's All About Jesus to view scenes from the Guayaquil house churches. Many of the photos are actual shots of implementing the two steps described above. If you still have doubts that this will work for you, try it first! We welcome any questions that might arise, but TRY IT FIRST first before writing with a bunch of questions. We will gladly walk you through the steps.

*Over the years we have taken several similar approaches to starting house churches. What is shared here is the way we have been working for the past two years. Our context is the coast of Ecuador, particularly in Guayaquil, the largest city in the country. Some of the earlier successful approaches were LIETC (La Iglesia En Tu Casa), COSECHA (Harvest), and the most recent described above CPM (Capacitar Para Multiplicar).

Tuesday, March 8

It's all about Jesus

It's all about Jesus. It really is, isn't it?

Faces and scenes of Guayaquil house churches.

Monday, March 7

Paperwork and information exchange

I don't know about you, but I spend an enormous amount of time on paperwork and exchanging information with other people. In fact, as a missionary, it embarrasses me to admit that more of my time is spent exchanging information than engaging in what I consider real face-to-face people ministry!

Before you judge me too quickly though, this is not by choice. Yes I could choose to ignore all the communications, paperwork that fills so much of my time, but it won't make it go away. We live in an information society. Information is the commodity being traded. I engage in ie to the extent I do, not so much by choice, but because it has to be dealt with.

I personally think we are spending way too much time exchanging information. We are over saturated with information that we cannot absorb. Most of it doesn't even matter! (Of course, if it is information I NEED or WANT, then that's a different story! :)

Exchanging information has become an end in itself. Passing endless information back and forth seems to be the norm. It is what we do when we get up in the morning. Like alcoholics, we seem to have an unquenchable thirst for more and more. But wouldn't it be better to just start using a small portion of the info we already have and do something with it? The more time we spend passing info back and forth, the less time we have for doing what Christ told us to do.

All around me I sense an overall decline in fruitful ministry. How many of us can actually show ministry indicator numbers rising instead of falling? Seems baptisms, church plants, leadership training, discipleship, etc. are lower today than in the recent past. My own response to this is that "the work" has ceased to be the work. In place of what used to be old-fashioned missionary work of preaching and teaching, today we exchange information!

I have yet to do a personal study of time spent engaged in actual people ministry vs. info exchange, but would guess for many missionaries--including myself--it is somewhere in the ball park of a 3:1 ratio. Three times more is given to ie than pm (people ministry.) And then we are shocked at how little there is to report in the way of new Christ followers, baptisms, church plants, and new UPGs engaged. I sometimes think we are more in love with our media outlets and communication gadgets than we are with real people!

Ministry activities such as teaching, training, prayer, discipleship, counseling, mentoring, visiting, helping, encouraging, serving, listening, witnessing, planning, engaging, etc. take up MINUTES of our days, while HOURS are spent exchanging information via Skype, emails, phone calls, listening/viewing news, SMS text messages, Facebook, chatting, reports, tracking finances, logging receipts, blogging, filling out forms, tracking down needed information, clicking internet links, reading the latest 'must-read' hot book title, Twittering, skimming internet articles, meetings, and more meetings. Organizing, passing along, finding, tracking, reporting and exchanging info is now what we do. We have become information junkies!

Of course, some ie is necessary in order to engage in effective ministry. But when that ratio falls out of balance into something akin to my 3:1 ratio, something needs to be done. It would seem a 1:3 ratio--one part ie, three parts ministry--is what we should strive towards.

The real problem is not what everyone else is doing--or even what I think everyone else is doing--it is what I am doing! Where is my time and energy being spent?

Some of the things I am personally trying to do to overcome this lopsided 3:1 ratio...

1) becoming aware of the amount of time I am spending each day with paperwork and exchanging information

2) purposefully spending less time exchanging information by being more selective (prioritizing what is responded to, what is delayed, what can be discarded, etc.)

3) sticking closer to daily "to do" lists where real ministry tasks are at the top of the list

4) trying to get emails and other paperwork done during designated ie times of the day, rather than trying to tackle them all day long (the inflow is never ending)

5) being more intentional with ie that I select to engage and channeling it for specific ministry purposes (see "Why I Blog".)

6) resisting the temptation to "chase rabbits" (eg. starting out to do a simple Bible Study on John 3, and end up reading about the influence of Charles Wesley's hymns on the Great Awakening.)

7) realize that just because everyone else seems to be happily engaged in a 3:1 ie ratio, I don't have to keep up with everyone else

8) just because someone throws me the ball, I don't have to catch it (if I don't have the information being requested, just say so, and leave it at that rather than engage in a long hunt for something the one throwing me the ball could do for themselves)

What do you think about any of the above? Are you drowning in the sea of information overload? How do you balance these matters in your own life and ministry?

Wednesday, March 2

Others may, but you cannot

Don Davis reprinted this old tract on his blog The Dreaming Revolutionary. It is well worth a few minutes of your time...

If God has called you to be truly like Jesus in all your spirit, He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility. He will put on you such demands of obedience that you will not be allowed to follow other people or measure yourself by other Christians. At times, He will let other people do things which He will not let you do.

Other Christians who seem to be very religious and useful may push themselves, pull wires, and work schemes to carry out their plans, but you cannot. If you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.

Others may boast of themselves, their work, their successes, their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing. If you begin to do so, He will lead you into a deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.

Others may be allowed to succeed in making great sums of money, or may have a legacy left to them, or may have luxuries, but God may supply you only on a day-to-day basis, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence on Him and His unseen treasury.

The Lord may let others be honored and put forward, and keep you hidden in obscurity because He wants to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory which can only be produced in the shade.

God may let others be great, but keep you small. He will let others do a work for Him and get the credit, but He may make you work and toil without knowing how much you are doing. Then, to make your work still more precious, He will let others get the credit for the work which you have done; this to teach you the message of the Cross, humility, and something of the value of being cloaked with His nature.

The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch on you, and with a jealous love rebuke you for careless words and feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem distressed over.

So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign and has a right to do as He pleases with His own, and that He may not explain to you a thousand things which may puzzle your reason in His dealings with you. But if you absolutely give yourself to be His child, He will wrap you up in a jealous love and let other people say and do many things that you cannot.

Settle it forever; you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit. He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue or chaining your hand or closing your eyes in ways that He does not seem to use with others. However, know this great secret of the Kingdom: When you are so completely possessed with the Living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of heaven, the high calling of God.

--Rev. G. D. Watson (1845-1924)