Monday, February 28

Our plans...His plans

A tension seems to exist between the plans we make and the plans God chooses to bless. In fact the Lord actually states it this way: "My thoughts and my ways are not like yours. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, my thoughts and my ways are higher than yours." Is. 55:8-9 CEV

Like most organizations, the IMB stresses intentional ministry and a high level of accountability. Missionaries are expected to set goals, action plans, and work towards fulfilling them. We fill out annual ministry plans (called MAP--not sure what the letters stand for, but that is what it is called!) Every month we are to turn in monthly progress reports. I personally don't mind putting things down on paper. Knowing what one is trying to achieve and working towards ministry goals brings a sense of direction and satisfaction.

Only one problem though. Year after year, only a small percentage of what is put down on paper happens as it was envisioned. We plan, but He leads. As He leads, we follow. More often than not, He leads in directions we had not anticipated. I often think about what would happen if we just decided to stick to our plans as written in our documents, and not follow the Spirit's leading.

Most of what actually fills our days is closer to the idea of Paul and his companions experience as recorded in Acts 16:6-9...
Paul and his friends went through Phrygia and Galatia, but the Holy Spirit would not let them preach in Asia. After they arrived in Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not let them. So they went on through Mysia until they came to Troas. During the night, Paul had a vision of someone from Macedonia who was standing there and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us!"

I could write pages of examples going back years, but suffice it to say Paul and his companions might have sat down and planned to go to Phrygia, Galatia, Mysia and Bithynia, but it clearly says, "the Spirit of Jesus would not let them." How many times has the same Spirit of Jesus blocked our intentions of doing ministry in a certain way or place because He had something else in mind?

I find it interesting there is no indication of frustration and rebellion on the part of Paul and friends when their ministry goals in Asia didn't go according to plan. They just kept moving until God made it clear the what, when, and where He intended they go next. Why can't we be that way? Why so much insistence upon our own plans? Aren't His plans, His ways, and His thoughts better and higher than our own?

What usually happens when our plans don't come to fruition as envisioned is we double the effort, work harder, and plow forward insisting at all costs we be permitted into Phrygia and Bithynia. After all, Asia needs the Gospel and we know that it is just Satan that is standing in our way!

But Paul didn't blame Satan for not having been allowed to go to these places and do what he had planned. He understood it was Jesus who was calling the shots. I guess that is the difference between Paul and us today. We follow our MAP plans, Paul followed the Spirit of Jesus.

In the first two months of this year, we have already experienced multiple changes to "the plan." What we are doing today is almost 100% different than what was envisioned even a few weeks ago. One can choose to be frustrated by such dramatic and a seemingly ever-moving target, or accept it all as coming from the Spirit of Jesus. It really is a choice I have been having to make a lot these days!

How do you deal with this tension in ministry of making plans and following the Spirit's leading?

Thursday, February 24

Christchurch earthquake

I am certainly not the first to notice the spiritual implications in the recent earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.

As tragic as this event is, could the Christchurch earthquake be a true prophetic warning for Christ's Church? The physical and material devastation is one thing, but could God also be trying to say something to His Church?

I believe it is inevitable that very soon the church, as we know it, will be shaken not by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake, but by the very hand of God himself. Extreme opinion you might say. Yes. But how long can Christ's Church continue to be Man's Church? How long can one get away with ignoring God's Word, the Spirit's warnings, prophetic words, signs--not to mention sin, waste, inefficiency, empire building, disobedience, indifference to a lost world...and there not be consequences?

Arising out of the dust and fallen stones will be a new church. This re-reformed church will be the one the Spirit will use to bring in the final great harvest of souls before the end.

I envision a much leaner, smaller, simpler, rugged, lighter, faster, economical, efficient, and mobile church.

If it is indeed true that this pared down version of church-as-we-know-it will be God's primary instrument to bring the nations unto himself, why aren't we in full swing right now to work with Him to bring about these known changes that are needed?

While in no way do we diminish the real suffering and devastation of the Christchurch earthquake, I find within this tragedy a renewed hope that Jesus is not indifferent to the state of His Church today. I believe more than ever that major changes are ahead for Christ's Church. It is possible that these changes will take place after some kind of major earthquake reduces to dust and rubble the current institution we call 'church.'

This is one post that I hope I am wrong.

God have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy on us all.

Tuesday, February 22

Bad day

I've been having quite a string of bad days lately. I know, bad days happen to us all. But that doesn't make them any easier, does it? My usual way of handling a bad day is acknowledge it as a bummer, go to bed, and start all over the next day. But when one bad day follows another, and then another, and another...bad turns to rotten. Disappointments, frustrations, bad news, and things falling apart all around us--these are the ingredients that make up a good 'bad day.'

Most of the things I whine about are peanuts in comparison to what those around us live with day in and day out. It's like that saying, "I complained because I had no shoes until I saw someone who had no feet." My gripes pale with those of nearly every person around me. I could not even walk a mile in their shoes.

One of the things I am learning about bad days is that they aren't so bad. Driving across town in my air-conditioned vehicle for a meeting only to find no one else showed up is minor when compared to brothers paddling 3 days upriver in a canoe in the blistering tropical sun, only to discover those they were supposed to meet gave up waiting 2 days earlier and went home. If anything, my life is far more comfortable and easy compared to almost everyone we work with in ministry. Not having hot water for a shower is nothing when having to walk a mile for a bath in a muddy river!

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to teach at a church made up of abused, abandoned, hopeless women. While most of these are new believers just beginning their walk with the Lord, their lives are truly miserable filled with pain, fear, suffering, and extreme poverty. As I tried to listen and share some encouragement, I realized the physical, emotional, and spiritual loads they were carrying were way beyond anything I could ever bear.

I don't mean to minimize the disappointments, frustrations, and things that go wrong for us. When they happen they can be tough indeed. Many impact our family's well-being, or the Kingdom. Some cause needless suffering and heartache. But what I am learning is to try and keep things in proper perspective. The things that make a bad day for me might be welcomed relief for my brother who carries a heavier load.

I think it was Charles Swindoll that wrote about life being 5% of what happens and 95% how we react. I've noticed over the years that my fellow Ecuadorian brothers do not sweat the small stuff quite as much as I tend to do. As I sit there spouting off my gripes, I sometimes perceive an amazed twinkle in their eyes that I can get so riled up about such small things. I suspect they have learned better than I what the writer of Hebrews was trying to say,

Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up. For in your struggle against sin you have not yet had to resist to the point of being killed. Heb.12:3-4

Monday, February 21

The 'Curse of Knowledge'

Chip and Dan Heath argue in Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and 0thers Die, that the great cruelty of the Curse of Knowledge is this:

The better we get at generating great ideas—new insights and novel solutions—in our field of expertise, the more unnatural it becomes for us to communicate those ideas clearly.
The “Curse of Knowledge” is best illustrated by a psychology experiment conducted in 1990 by a Ph.D. candidate named Elizabeth Newton. She designed a simple game in which she assigned her subjects to one of two roles: “tappers” or “listeners.” Tappers received a list of 25 well-known songs, such as “Happy Birthday to You” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Each tapper was asked to pick a song and tap out the rhythm to a listener (by knocking on a table). The listener’s job was to guess the song based on the rhythm being tapped.

The listener’s job in this game is quite difficult. During the course of the experiment, 120 songs were tapped out. Listeners guessed only 3 songs correctly out of 120, a success ratio of 2.5%.

But here’s what made the result worthy of a dissertation in psychology.

Before the listeners guessed the name of the song, the tappers were asked to make a prediction: What’s the probability that the listeners will guess the right song? The tappers predicted that the probability was 50%. The tappers communicated successfully 1 time in 40, but they thought they were communicating successfully 1 time in 2.


When a tapper taps, she is hearing the song in her head. It is impossible for the tappers to avoid hearing the tune playing along to their taps. Meanwhile, the listeners can’t hear that tune—all they can hear are a bunch of disconnected taps. In the experiment, tappers are flabbergasted at how hard the listeners seem to be working to pick up the tune. Isn’t the song obvious? The tappers’ expressions, when a listener guesses “Happy Birthday to You” for “The Star-Spangled Banner,” are priceless. How could you be so stupid?

It’s hard to be a tapper. The problem is that tappers have been given knowledge (the song title) that makes it impossible for them to imagine what it is like to lack that knowledge. When they are tapping, they can’t imagine what it is like for the listeners to hear isolated taps rather than a song.

This is the Curse of Knowledge.

Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has “cursed” us. And it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create the state of mind of our listeners.
The question then becomes, how do we avoid the curse of knowledge? How do we move beyond knowledge and communicate with those around us the ideas so that they too "get it"? What are your thoughts? How do you personally go about overcoming the 'curse of knowledge'?

Sunday, February 20

King of the Jungle

Impacto Mundial is a missionary organization mobilizing Ecuadorians to take the Gospel to the nations. The above video are shots from a recent KIDS ON MISSION camp held at Manglaralto, January 28-30, 2011 to encourage, promote, and talk about missions. My wife and daughter participated in this camp.

Wednesday, February 16

Kingdom work is done in seasons over time.

We speak of the harvest, but rarely take into account that seasons of plowing, planting, watering, and weeding precede harvest.

When we find ourselves in one of these pre-harvest seasons we need to be fully engaged in that phase of the harvest cycle. In between harvest cycles, there is little we can do other than pray and wait upon the Lord. Since apparently we don't see anything major happening, we assume nothing is taking place. But the Holy Spirit needs to be trusted. He is the One at work behind the scenes. Kingdom work is done in seasons over time.

Prayer must accompany each phase in the harvest, but all the prayer in the world won´t speed up the process. If we are in the "watering" period it does little good to fret and cry out to God because we still haven't seen fruit from our labors. We have a hard time accepting that prayer doesn't seem to be able to accelerate or change the planting cycle!

We want Kingdom matters to operate on our time schedule and conform to our expectations. When they don't we anguish, pray harder, and maybe make adjustments to the way we are working thinking that the fault is with us. If we can just do things better, correct our errors, then we will see the longed for harvest.

Often what we need is to do less and trust God more. He is at work in the invisible world to bring about all of his plans and purposes. In His time he will bring about His Kingdom.

Does "waiting on the Lord" mean sitting around doing nothing while we wait for the Lord to act?

I personally feel we can do only so much within a given season of the harvest. If it is plowing season, we can plow. If it is planting time, we should be throwing everything we have into getting that seed into the ground. Same goes for watering, weeding, and bringing in the harvest. But beyond doing what we can in the current cycle before us, there isn't a whole lot more we can do. So why stress, fret, and allow ourselves to anguish over things we have no control over?

The following 4-min. "Frog and Toad" story expresses well what I believe Paul was saying to the Corinthians, "So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth...for we are God's fellow-workers; you are God's field..."

Tuesday, February 15

¿Qué es la diferencia entre un grupo pequeño, una célula, y una iglesia en casa?

A menudo se pregunta, ¿qué es la diferencia entre grupos pequeños reuniéndose en las casas, células que se reunan en casas, e iglesias en las casas (iglesias orgánicas/simples) que también se reunan en hogares. ¿No son todas la misma cosa?

Rad Zdero, en su libro, Nexus: The World House Church Movement Reader hace una buena explicación sobre las diferencias.
Muchos creyentes hoy en dia forman parte de los grupos pequeños de sus iglesias. Estos pueden ser estudios Bíblicos, grupos de oración, grupos de apoyo, etc. Sin embargo, los grupos pequeños son utilizados en formas diferentes según el tipo de iglesia. Casi todas las iglesias utilizan a los grupos pequeños de alguna forma u otra. Estos generalmente saben reunirse en los hogares y animan la participación activa de los asistentes. Pero a partir de allí terminan las similaridades.

Aunque reconocemos y celebramos la mano de Dios en todos los modelos de hacer iglesia, hay importantes diferencias entre las iglesias tradicionales, celulares, e iglesias en las casas.

Las iglesias tradicionales utilizan a los grupos pequeños como una iglesia CON grupos pequeños (a menudo usan equivocadamente el término célula.)

Las iglesias celulares ponen el énfasis de la vida de la iglesia en el grupo pequeño. Usan correctamente el término célula para distinguir entre la reunión del grupo pequeño, y la del grupo grande (celebración) cuando todas las células se reunen juntas en un solo lugar. Una iglesia celular es una sola iglesia DE grupos pequeños.

Una red de iglesias en casa entiende que cada iglesia en casa es una iglesia completa y autónoma en si misma. O sea la iglesia ES el grupo pequeño. Una iglesia en casa es una iglesia en todo sentido y hace todo lo que una iglesia tradicional o celular hace.

Sunday, February 13

What curious alchemy is this?

For every person that seriously decides to follow Jesus, there is a price to be paid. As Jim Elliot wrote, "The will of God is always a bigger thing than we bargain for." In his own particular case, it meant giving up his life on a river bank in the eastern jungles of Ecuador.

One of the oft neglected little secrets that is seldom shared with want-to-be apostolic church-planter-types is how much will be demanded from them by their Lord in choosing to follow and serve Him.

In all fairness, Jesus himself warned those thinking about following him, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it." Yet few of us really believe that we have to deny ourselves anything in order to follow Christ. Nor do we have a clue about what it means to take up his cross and lose our lives for his sake. Aren't we good Christians if we are good people?

Few of us--including myself--have experienced anything close to what Christ says is the norm for those who choose to follow Him. We don't give up much of anything, and certainly suffering for his sake is relatively unknown to most of us. We somehow expect that if we do suffer a little, He will surely take notice and reward us for our faithfulness. Not so. The above invitation only promises that we will find life when we lose it for His sake. Nothing more is guaranteed.

So why follow Christ if the price is so high?

Catherine Marshall said it well, "I can see that Jesus drew men and women into the Kingdom by promising them two things: first, trouble--hardship, danger; and second, joy. But what curious alchemy is this that He can make even danger and hardship seem joyous? He understands things about human nature that we grasp only dimly; few of us are really challenged by the promise of soft living, by an emphasis on me-first, or by a life of easy compromise."

In our dealings with those we mentor, disciple and train, we try to be as straight forward and realistic as we can about hardship and suffering. Once released onto enemy territory the going gets rougher, not smoother.

Nice Christian cliches like "Yes, it will be hard, but the Lord will give you the grace and strength to withstand whatever the enemy might throw at you" are quickly forgotten when real and unexpected hardship hit the new worker. While this and similar statements are certainly true, we feel people need to be ready for just about everything to go bad for them--at least for a while. This is Satan's way to try and knock out early any well-intentioned do-gooders. I also suspect the Lord allows it as well. Much like he allowed Satan to mess with Job. Who are the ones He can count on long-term? Who will fall by the wayside when the going gets rough? All that to say, it isn't easy to do what Jesus asked us to do. There is a price that will be paid in more ways than we can imagine.

2 Corinthians 11:23-28 is a partial list of Paul's trials and sufferings. I believe the Spirit inspired Paul to share his sufferings so that we aren't surprised when similar things hit us as well.
Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
While our own list does not come close to the kinds of sufferings Paul endured in his own obedience to Christ; nevertheless, we openly share the kinds of things we have personally endured. We repeat over and over, "this is the norm, not the exception."

Over the years of service here in Ecuador our own 2 Corinthians list goes something like this,
Are they servants of Christ? (We are out of our mind to talk like this.) We are more. Twice, thieves have broken into our home and stolen our earthly valuables. Twice we have been assaulted at gunpoint and robbed. In one robbery our car was stolen (later retrieved.) We have had our skull cracked by the butt of a pistol and dumped onto the street bleeding and dazed from the blow. Fire in our house. We lost our daughter for seven weeks when her biological mother took her back without our ever knowing her whereabouts or well being. We have had stones thrown at us and been cursed as devils. Our car windows and headlights have been bashed by angry people intent on hurting us. Many times we have been verbally threatened and warned to leave...or else. We have had brothers in Christ refuse to shake our hand or talk to us, and have been publicly denounced as heretics. Our car has been broken into so many times I have lost count (the latest being only a few days ago.) We have been wrongfully sued. One place where we were gathered with fellow believers the house was stoned by a mob of angry people. Trees have been cut down to intentionally block roads where we have gone to preach the Gospel. We have been shot at (luckily they missed!) We have had to escape at night down dangerous mountain dirt roads fleeing from an angry mob coming after us with sticks, machetes, torches and broken bottles. Not to mention all the common ailments of being human: sickness, depression, loneliness, family problems, being cheated, separated for years at a time from family and loved ones, lied to...lied about, and discrimination for being an American. And, like Paul, we too face daily the pressure of our concern for all the churches.
Still want to be a follower of Jesus? Still want to serve the King as one of his ambassadors to the nations?

What I have described is truly only kindergarten stuff for what most of the people we serve alongside with go through for the sake of Christ. Many have faced death, imprisonments, gasoline poured on them and matches lit in their faces, persecutions of all descriptions, hunger, loss of everything they own, humiliation, kicked out of their homes, lands taken away from them, disowned by their families, kidnappings, shot at, stabbed, disease, raped, verbally and physically abused...and the list goes on and on with all these simply being because someone decides to follow and obey Christ. The emotional and physical scars and wounds are very real.

Yet, like Paul says, "I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ...that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death..."

These things are very much a part of what it means to follow Christ. Somehow we have lost sight of the things that really matter and have entangled ourselves in the affairs of everyday life. We are more concerned about our well being and comfort than we are about pleasing the one who enlisted us as soldiers of the cross (2 Tim.2:4). Christianity has become more about the latest fads, gadgets, going to church, slick conferences, debating nuances of Biblical interpretation, and taking one another out to dinner where we discuss the latest Christian books.

Very few of the people we work alongside have ever experienced "that side" of Christianity. Theirs is a much harsher reality where they find themselves clearly marked targets for Satan's constant onslaughts. Yet, honestly, I stand amazed at the joy and spiritual power in their lives and ministry.

May Paul's words encourage us today as they certainly did for those 1st-century Philippian believers "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am...I can do all things through Him who strengthens me...keep living by that same standard to which we have attained [and] join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us..."

Saturday, February 12

The passion of the sheep

The following is taken from Mercy Simson's blog While We Slept. What she describes is a beautiful picture of the kind of relationship intended between shepherd and sheep.

The village where we live mostly consists of farmers who cultivate land, tend cattle and grow chicken and goose. A herd of cows or sheep grazing the meadows is a common sight here. One day as I was walking our dog along the fields, the herd of sheep that were grazing beside became restless and started to bleat. First I thought they were afraid of my big black dog, so I shortened the leash. Suddenly all the sheep started to move briskly towards one direction. For a slight second I thought perhaps they sense an earth quake. Now the bleating grew louder and the sheep became more restless. I kept walking past them, having a close eye on them.

Right around the corner, a tractor turned in. I could only hear its engine now. The farmer in the tractor greeted me with a smile and a nod as he passed by and slowly drove towards the sheep. By now the sheep were bleating louder and nonstop. I stood there for a while totally amazed. Not only the sheep will hear its master’s voice, modern day sheep can hear the noise of their master’s tractor as well. There are quite a lot of farmers in our village and some of the farmers have more than two tractors.

The farmer went inside the electrified fence and the sheep were so fulfilled. He patted some of them, each one wanted it to be known that “my master is mine; and I am his”. Each one wanted his touch. They crowded around him forever bleating just to get their master’s attention. Where ever he walked they followed. He took a little lamb into his arms and walked further, the mother followed him closely knowing full well, her little one is in safe hands. The farmer went once around the fence, checking carefully for any damages, he checked the water trough. He then went into the shed that was there and all the sheep just stood quietly outside except for a few that were still so excited to see their master come to them. All their eyes stayed focused on only one spot – the door. When he came out after a minute or two, they were happily bleating again. He brought out a salt block and put it out for them. They weren’t so interested in the salt block; they just wanted to be close to their master.

I found a wooden bench to sit and just watched the whole drama. Tears were flowing in my eyes and I started to pray for such a passion of the sheep towards my master. To graze the green pastures with a longing to hear him come, way before my eyes could see him; way before my mind could grasp him. A passion to see my master enter my world and to pat me. A passion to be drawn close to him and follow his every move. To feel safe in my master’s arm because he provides and he protects and he doesn’t threat.

The farmer got out and secured the fence carefully behind him. He sat in his tractor and drove past me with a smile and a nod. I nodded back to him and pretended a smile to hide my tears. I continued watching the sheep. They ran bleating adjacent to the tractor as far as the fence allowed them to as if to say, “come back”. Then they stopped. They saw the tractor disappear in their eyes. They kept on watching towards where the tractor disappeared hoping their master would change his mind and turn around any time now. They stood there for quite a while and their bleating slowly faded. Some started to walk towards the salt block, some went grazing, and some kept watching the far end of the muddy road.

I stood up from the wooden bench and walked past the sheep. I could almost hear their passion on their innocent faces ask, “If you see my master, will you tell him, I long to be in his presence?”

Wednesday, February 9

What is it that really matters?

I am convinced one of Satan's major schemes is to distract us from the few things that are truly important.

As Jesus says in Luke 10, Martha, are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.

In practical terms, how does one go about choosing Jesus first?

God is showing me that I don't have to respond or act upon all that gets tossed my way. Just because someone throws me the ball, doesn't mean I have to catch it.

It also means simplify. Reduce. Unclutter my life. Define what is really important in regards to the Kingdom and focus on doing fewer things better. If the enemy can somehow fill my day with endless trivial tasks, I will not have the time, energy, or focus to deal with the really important things.

Everyday there are just too many ministry opportunities, tasks to perform, expectations, reports to absorb, books/articles to read, requests for prayer, favors asked of us, calls for help, meetings to attend, programs, work-related tasks needing attention, and daily responsibilities with family.  About 3/4 of the things I engage with are things I don't care anything about, but do them anyway so as not to offend anyone, and stay on people's good side.

The truth is, few of us are able to process all the data and requests that get sent our way. It is unrealistic to expect people to process and act upon so much new and changing information without it affecting the side of things that do matter and have eternal consequences.

Back to Jesus, Mary and Martha...What are the many things that keep me worried and upset? Jesus says only one thing is needed, and Mary had figured it out. I think Mary was so in love with Jesus that very little of the stuff her sister was distracted with seemed all that important in comparison. Mary was commended for choosing--and it is a daily choice--Jesus first. When Jesus, his kingdom, and his righteousness come first, the other stuff might not get done, but our lives will be more of a blessing, and will bear the fruit promised by Jesus in John 15.

Monday, February 7


In Rad Zdero's Nexus: The World House Church Movement Reader we are quoted on p. 371 as saying, "The missionary task is to equip others. The job of missionaries is primarily one of praying, modeling, teaching, training, and mentoring. (Ephesians 4:11-12)."

I feel one of our greatest contributions as missionaries to the fulfilling of the Great Commission in this generation is primarily in the area of training. Yes, we are all called to go, make disciples, baptize, and teach. However, if we invest ourselves in praying, modeling, teaching, training, and mentoring others to also engage in these tasks, we are more likely to see the results described by Christ, "...some 100, some 60, and some 30 times what was sown."

In my files I have a copy of What We Can Learn From The U.S. Marines by Curtis Sergeant. Several of these are instructive for those engaged in reaching people groups/nations, making disciples, and church planting movements...
The Marines are a highly effective fighting force who take great pride in the fact that the U.S. government will send a handful of Marines to do what it would call a battalion of other soldiers to do. They are known not only for effectiveness but also for their speed and versatility. There are many unique things about the Marine Corps as compared with the other branches of the U.S. military...

For the Marines, training is one of their highest values. They recognize that, as the training goes, so goes their performance. For the Marines, the purpose of all training is to help Marines achieve success in combat. Training is not something that is delegated. Every officer is personally responsible for the training of those under his command. In the Marines, training is continuous. To quote the Warfighting Manual, “You are either in contact, moving to contact, or training.” And again, “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.”

All Marines are trained in basic combat skills. This is true for every file clerk, every cook, every medic, every lawyer. Everyone in the U.S. Marine Corps is trained in basic combat skills. This has tremendous implications for us. Every business services manager, every English teacher, every short-term volunteer, everyone who is involved with the target people group should be trained in basic evangelism and discipleship and church-planting skills.

For the Marines...everyone is in training, period. From the loftiest general to the lowest enlisted man, everyone is in training. The Strategy Coordinator must be a continuous learner as well. It is a guarantee of failure if the SC ever stops learning and growing. A strategy coordinator is responsible for training those with whom he or she works, or for seeing that they get trained. Modeling and mentoring are therefore essential skills.

For the Marines, training is challenging and focuses on a central task. They don’t spend time training people for peripheral tasks or in peripheral issues...

Marines make extensive use of...actual combat stories that are instructive for communicating ethos, tactics, principles, or philosophies. In telling these stories they communicate more than facts; they communicate an attitude...Debriefing is especially important for an SC. Debriefing experiences with personnel increases the value to that person by crystallizing and cementing lessons learned and also helps to make those lessons and insights available to those who are doing the debriefing and, hopefully, to others. Debriefing is a valuable tool which should never be neglected.

The above is not just theory about what we think should be done. It is what we do.

To illustrate just how serious we are about training, this past weekend we were involved with multiple training opportunities:

Friday we had the opportunity to speak to a large crowd about what the N.T. teaches about the church and what the N.T. churches did when they gathered.

Saturday morning we attended a training conference for leaders. We too consider ourselves to be learners and try to take advantage of every opportunity to learn so that we might be better trainers and teachers.

After leaving that leadership training conference, I went to a local church to share with their leadership team our COSECHA church planting materials and answer their questions and encourage them to engage in multiple church planting.

Sunday I was invited to a celebration where 7 house churches had gathered who are all actively engaged in new church planting. I shared with them a synopsis of the 2-hr training conference I had given on Friday, spending a great deal of time in Q&A about various theological and practical matters regarding different people they were working with.

Today (Monday morning) we will be training 150+ pastors with our CAPACITAR PARA MULTIPLICAR materials in "how to start house churches" (ought to be interesting!)

Monday afternoon, we will be training 20-30 house church leaders in practical ministry matters, and ongoing theological education (TEE).

Tuesday evening we will begin a new round of church planting training with a group of GCCs (Great Commission Christians).

Wednesday evening we will be doing the same with another group of interested GCCs.

Thursday evening, we will be repeating the Tuesday/Wednesday trainings with yet a third group of new trainees from across the city.

Why am I sharing this? It is because training and mobilizing are two of the most important ways we can contribute to Kingdom efforts taking place in Ecuador. We have got to stop theorizing and talking about what needs to be done, and start doing it.

If only 10% of the 500+ people we engage with training this week actually start multiplying churches, we are talking about many souls and new churches being added to the Kingdom.

--*Source, "What We Can Learn From the U.S. Marines" by Curtis Sergeant

Thursday, February 3

La Gran Comisión y como la ponemos en práctica hoy en día

Mateo 28:18-20 - “Versión Moderno”

Mateo 28:18  Toda autoridad ha sido dado a los siervos pastores, líderes de las denominaciones y misioneros y obreros con credenciales otorgados por hombres. Ellos les dirán lo que tienen que hacer, cómo hacerlo, y cuando. Todo hay que hacerlo decentemente y en orden como dicen las Sagradas Escrituras.

Mateo 28:19a  Por lo tanto, cuando hay un énfasis o programa evangelístico de la iglesia, vayan con la bendición de los líderes y evangelicen a los perdidos, predicándolos la Palabra del Señor. Invita al pecador a orar una oración de salvación y cuando diga el “Amén” usted responderá, “Gloria a Dios...¡un nuevo hermano en Cristo!”

Mateo 28:19b  Ya que no entendemos claramente como hacer discípulos como Jesús nos mandó hacer, hagamos todo lo posible para cumplir con el "Plan B" de animar a los que oren la oración de arrepentimiento a buscar una iglesia evangélica (preferiblemente la nuestra.) Allí podrán escuchar los mensajes del pastor e involucrarse en todos los buenos programas que tiene la iglesia. De esta forma aprenderán todo lo que es necesario para ser un buen discípulo de Cristo.

Mateo 28:19c  Ya que solamente tienen la autoridad los pastores y líderes con credenciales para bautizar, entonces nuestra responsabilidad es llevar a los nuevos convertidos a la iglesia y presentarlos al pastor para que él u otra persona designada los prepara en clases bautismales. Estas clases deberán durar por lo menos 13 semanas. Al cumplir satisfactoriamente con la materia estudiada, el candidato tendrá que esperar hasta la próxima fecha programada por la iglesia para efectuar su bautismo. Cuando ese día llegue, habrá que vestirse con una toga blanca y uno de los pastores de la iglesia llevará a cabo el bautismo. (OJO: ¡Hay excepciones de poder bautizar a las personas quienes no han podido primeramente poner en orden su vida familiar y/o matrimonial! A estas personas se les tendrá en limbo espiritual hasta que puedan comprobar su estado legítimo de relación conyugal.)

Mateo 28:20a  Por último, el nuevo bautizado tendrá que aprender las reglas y forma correcta de andar como creyente evangélico bautizado. La lista varía de una iglesia a otra pero podría incluir varios de los siguientes puntos:
• asistir regularmente a los cultos, reuniones y programas de la iglesia*

• si aun no le hayan regalado una Biblia, hay que conseguir una y empezar a leerla*

• aprenda a cantar las alabanzas lo más antes posible ya que estas van a ser la forma principal que se le permitirá participar en los cultos y reuniones de la iglesia*

• el creyente tiene que cuidar de la forma como se viste y se arregla--¡especialmente las hermanas! (varía de iglesia a iglesia así que hay que poner atención en como los demás se visten para no causar escándalos con sus nuevos hermanos)*

• dé el diezmo entero de lo que gana y entrégueselo al Señor en el alfolí (en otras palabras, dé el 10% de lo que gana a la iglesia donde Ud. se congrega)*

• ya tiene que dejar de fumar, bailar, tomar licor, ver novelas en la TV, hablar malas palabras, ir a fiestas mundanas, jugar naipes, o ir al cine (esta lista también varía de iglesia a iglesia)*

• también tendrá que dejar atrás sus viejos amigos del mundo (con la excepción de predicarles la Palabra de Dios) y en adelante relacionarse solamente con su nueva familia de la fe*

• aprenda lo más pronto posible el vocabulario aceptable para un creyente, “DIOS TE BENDIGA”, “GLORIA A DIOS”, “AMEN”, “MI AMADO PASTOR”, “ALELUYA”, “A SU NOMBRE GLORIA”, y muchas frases más que le servirán como un buen comienzo para y así poder hablar como todos los demás hermanos*

Mateo 28:20b  Al aprender y poner en práctica todas estas cosas puede estar seguro que la promesa del Señor se cumplirá, “y he aquí, yo estoy con vosotros todos los días, hasta el fin del mundo.” 

Me pregunto, ¿son estas las ideas de lo que el Señor Jesús tenía en mente cuando nos dió la Gran Comisión?

Toda potestad me es dada en el cielo y en la tierra. 
Por tanto,  id,  y haced discípulos a todas las naciones,  
bautizándolos en el nombre del Padre,  y del Hijo,  y del Espíritu Santo; 
enseñándoles que guarden todas las cosas que os he mandado;  
y he aquí yo estoy con vosotros todos los días,  hasta el fin del mundo.  --Jesús

¿Qué piensa Ud.?

* a propósito, ninguna de estas cosas fueron mandadas por Cristo. Ni una sola. Si no fueron estas cosas las que el Señor nos mandó enseñarles, ¿qué significan sus palabras, “enseñándoles a guardar todo lo que os he mandado?”

Tuesday, February 1

Why we have not seen CPM in Ecuador

There are at least two reasons why we have not seen a Church Planting Movement (CPM) in Ecuador. Both have to do with baptism.

1) only recognized licensed, credentialed pastors can baptize
2) only sinners who have first straightened out their moral lives can be baptized

Closely related to these two, would be a third reason:

3) pastors/leaders unwilling to release those God has entrusted to them as legitimate Jesus-commissioned disciples to go, make disciples, baptize, and teach.

In the cases where believers are released to go fishing, they are instructed to bring everything they catch back home where the newly caught fish are made to look everyone else.

In my book--or my understanding of God's Book--all these are extra-biblical requirements that go beyond what Scripture actually teaches. It wouldn't be so bad, except these beliefs are keeping us from effectively bringing in the harvest.

Obviously, though, my understanding is flawed in some way because 19 out of 20 pastors/leaders we deal with hold to all three positions and no amount of talk, dialog or Bible Study seems to change their mind. If I sound a bit frustrated, it is because I am a bit frustrated!

Ecuador is a harvest field. There are few places on the planet as responsive to the Gospel as this country. Yet, the greatest barriers to bringing in this harvest are not political, any lack of resources, or even other religions. We are the problem! We who profess to be Christ followers are the dam holding back the rising river waters.

Yes, I believe, sooner or later the Lord of the River will do one of two things: the rising waters will eventually build so much pressure that the dam bursts; or, the river will take on a new course around the dam.

Right now neither of these two alternatives have taken place. But eventually something MUST give way. I guess I am the eternal optimist and am holding out for both to happen. I just hope it is within my life time!

Thank you for pausing a minute and praying for God's Spirit to do something in our midst that has nothing to do with any of us, or the dam. Something that only God can do to bring this nation unto himself.

The clergy-laity divide (Jon Zens)