Monday, December 31

How to make disciples

Please watch this short video clip "How NOT to make disciples" as an intro for the rest of this post on "How TO make disciples."

So if we know (have memorized) what it is Jesus said to do, why don't we make disciples? What is so hard about obeying?

I think there are at least two issues that need to be dealt with:
1) we are distracted by the many other good activities going on in our lives,
2) we don't know what to actually do to "make disciples"
Both of these can be overcome.

Awareness. The first thing needed is to become aware of where our time is going. One of Satan's most effective tools is to distract us by filling our time with a lot of good activities. Many of these fall under the category of entertainment. They aren't bad or sinful, but have a way of side-tracking us from engaging eternal matters.  Hour by hour, how are we spending our days?  Once we are more aware of what is pulling us away from making disciples, we can eliminate--or at least reduce--a great many things freeing us for intentional discipleship making.

Doing is doing.  As Leo Babauta writes,
It’s not knowledge of what to do that’s stopping us. That’s usually fairly simple:

If you want to lose weight, eat fewer calories and move more. If you want to be healthier, eat more veggies, beans, nuts, fruits, etc. If you want to be in better shape, exercise.
But that’s not what we do. Here’s what we do instead:

We read about various programs.
We talk about it a lot.
We put off doing it and go do something else.
We feel guilty, and then push it to the back of our minds.
We finally decide to take action, so we read and talk about it some more.

Reading isn’t doing.
Talking isn’t doing.
Doing is doing.
So what’s stopping us from doing the doing?  How do I go about actually discipling somebody?

Process. Come up with some kind of process for making disciples. For me, it is the same process whether the person is a not-yet-believer, a new believer, or an old believer.

1) establish a relationship with the person
2) begin modeling/teaching the "10 Commandments of Jesus" making sure each is not only memorized, but implemented--doing is doing.
3) release the disciple when they have begun steps 1 & 2 with someone else.

Intentionally befriend or choose 1-2 people to spend time with every month. Teach them by personal example to obey these commandments. The first three in the list will take the most time. Use the list as a "discipleship outline." Try not to rush through the list. Knowledge is not the goal, obedience is. The first three need to be integrated into every disciple's lifestyle before proceeding on to the rest of the commandments.

1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength...

2) You shall love your neighbor as yourself. [The Great Commandment: Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:28-31.]

3) Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you. [The Great Commission: Matthew 28:19-20.]

4) one another. [The New Commandment: John 13:34-35, 15:12.]

5) first His kingdom and His righteousness... [The Priority commandment for every believer: Matthew 6:33.]

6) this in remembrance of Me... [The Lord's Supper: Luke 20:14-20, 1 Corinthians 12:23-26.]

7) ...wash one another's also should do as I did to you... [The Great Example Commandment: John 13:14-15.]

8) Abide in Me... [The Commandment that is the secret to a fruitful life: John 15:4-8.]

9) ...beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest...[The only specific request Christ commanded his disciples to pray besides the Lord's Prayer: Luke 10:2, Matthew 9:38.]

10) your good to those who hate you...bless those who curse you...pray for those who mistreat not pass not condemn...pardon...give... [General teachings of Jesus (commandments) for victorious living: Luke 6:27-38.]

One final word. Remember, making disciples equals spending time with those disciples. Whatever you do, teach, model, if time is not invested in the person, it is doubtful you will end up with a disciple.

Friday, December 28

How close are we to finishing the Great Commission task?

December 21, 2012 was supposed to be the end of the world. But for those keeping tabs on the global status of the Great Commission, it is no surprise we are still here! As revealed below, the global missions task still has a long way to go. 

Jesus declared, When the good news about the kingdom has been preached all over the world and told to all nations, the end will come. -Matthew 24:14 (CEV)

This doesn't mean everyone will believe, but until the good news has been heard all over the world and told to every nation, Jesus will not return. It would seem these words should motivate us to "get with it" but for some reason, we are terribly distracted by many other things going on around us.

As 2012 comes to an end, the global status of evangelical Christianity* finishes the year with a long way to go. Consider the following numbers:

11,342 - Number of people groups in all countries. A people group is the largest group through which the gospel can flow without encountering significant barriers of understanding and acceptance.

6,422 - Number of people groups where Evangelical Christians comprise less than 2% of the total population. These UPG stas do not include USA & Canada.

571 - Number of unreached people groups in the United States and Canada. [Note: engagement and statuses for many people groups in USA and Canada are still unknown. This number will change as more information becomes available.]

3,133 - Number of unreached people groups not engaged by anyone. A people group is engaged when a church planting strategy, consistent with Evangelical faith and practice is underway. In this respect, a people group is not engaged when it has been merely adopted, is the object of focused praer, or is part of an advocacy strategy.

393 - Number of unreached people groups with populations at or above 100,000.

Another way of looking at these mind-boggling figures is through population numbers:

6,944,287,685 - Number of people in the above 11,342 people groups.

4,192,663,816 - Number of people in the above 6,422 people groups where Evangelical Christians comprise less than 2% of the total population.

240,245,046 - Population of the 3,133 unreached people groups not engaged by anyone.

96,381,569 - Population of unreached people grooups that are not engaged by anyone, anywhere around the world.

Every one of the 6,944,287,685 persons is loved by God.  Let's not confuse numbers with real people. Each is a father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter of someone. Every single person is someone for whom Christ died.

So what does all of this mean? For me there are at least three ways to respond:

1) Indifference--not my problem, I'm not going to do anything about it, I already have a full plate of other concerns.

2) Involve myself--as we begin a new year, I am going to intentionally engage in trying to do my part in making sure the Gospel gets to the nations--I am going to inform myself, pray with understanding, give purposefully, and maybe even go myself.

3) Invite the Holy Spirit to speak to me about what He would have me do, and then do it.

*Above information courtesy of Global Research Department of the International Mission Board.

Thursday, December 27

20 prácticas que están frenando el avance del Reino de Dios en el Ecuador

Felicity Dale comparte 15 reasons why we don't see harvest. He modificado su lista original en inglés para incluir algunas de las razones que creo están frenando el avance de la obra del Señor en el Ecuador. Sus comentarios son bienvenidos.


1. Estamos tan involucrados con otros creyentes que no tenemos tiempo para invertir con los que aun no conocen de Cristo.

2. Tenemos miedo de ser contaminados al tener demasiado contacto con
el mundo.

3. Entender al evangelismo como un serie de eventos que se hacen en vez de un estilo de vida de cada creyente.

4. Oramos por muchas cosas, pero poco por las almas perdidas.

5. Falta de rogar al Señor de la miés por obreros.

6. Poco énfasis en preparar a los obreros para trabajar en la cosecha.

7. Líderes que creen que la Gran Comisión significa crecer más la iglesia donde ellos pastorean.

8. El creer que "hacer discípulos" significa predicar el evangelio y esperar que Dios haga su obra.

9. Pescar en aguas donde no muerden los peces, o cambiando la
metáfora...buscar cosechar en terreno que aun no está listo, o donde poca semilla ha sido sembrada.

10. Invitar a las personas venir a nuestra iglesia, en vez de comenzar nuevas iglesias con ellos y sus amigos en los lugares donde viven.

11. Cuando alguién se convierta al evangelio, lo extraemos de su propia comunidad para formar parte de la nuestra.

12. Evangelizamos sí, pero lo hacemos al azar en vez de buscar hacerlo con "personas de paz" como mandó Jesús. (Lucas 10:1-9)

13. El amar más nuestros reinos que Su Reino.

14. Falta de evidencia del poder del Espirítu Santo en nuestra obra.

15. El insistir en trabajar en secuencia (orar, planificar, proclamar, ganar, enseñar, bautizar, discipular, capacitar, ministrar, etc.)

16. Todo centralizado dentro de las cuatro paredes de la iglesia.

17. Iglesias que gastan el 95% (o más) de sus ingresos en si mismas en vez de invertir en "hacer discípulos a las naciones."

18. Líderes que creen que llenar el templo es la meta, en vez de mobilizar a la iglesia a los campos de la mies.

19. Esperar que otro lo haga. Y cuando nadie lo hace criticar a los demás por su falta de compromiso con el Señor.

20. Usar la excusa que no he sido llamado para eso, o de no haber recibido de parte del Espíritu Santo los dones necesarios para obrar en los campos de la cosecha.

Wednesday, December 26

Thinking like a missionary

Ernest Goodman wrote a while back a great post worth sharing entitled If you thought like a missionary...

The word “church” would conjure images of people, not buildings.

Your plans for the year would be limited only by your creativity, not your available funds. You’d have a plan for what happens after you’re gone (a plan that could be implemented tomorrow).

You’d worry more about getting things right than being right. You’d know that every decision you make along the way has far-reaching implications for the work. Missionaries think about the long-term strategic consequences of decisions like establishing elders too soon, dividing up families for Bible study, and growing one large church vs. starting several smaller ones.

Church planting would be more than just starting a church and being its pastor; it would entail discipling indigenous leaders and pastoring through them.

You’d exegete your cultural context, not consume it. What you learn would inform what you do, because indigeneity would be a goal of your work.

You would love your city, but never quite feel comfortable in it. Something would always remind you that you are a stranger, pilgrim, and at best, an acceptable outsider.

Your church would understand that it’s only a part of what God is doing around the world. There’s a lot to learn from believers of other times and in other contexts. Global involvement cannot wait until local work is mature.

Your team would spend more time listening to the Holy Spirit than listening to you.

Your family’s active involvement would be vital to your ministry. Missionaries, at least the ones that last, include their spouse and children in building redemptive relationships.

The people you’re ministering to would have your mobile phone number. The real one.

Your stories would be current, first-person, and self-depreciating.

You would be keenly aware of the depth of your inadequacy, the dangers of the spiritual reality, and the blessing of God’s gracious provision.

You should become a missionary.

Friday, December 21

This is the "less is more" book of the year

Over the past decade I have read dozens of books related to church planting. Six Word Lessons to Discover Missional Living by David DeVries sits among my top five favorite titles. It would seem David has read all the same books and yet somehow managed to summarize them all in just 140 pages. He does this with "100 Lessons to Align Every Believer with the Mission of Jesus" (the sub-title of the book.)

Like the title says, the book consists of 100 simple to understand six-word lessons. Just six words per lesson? Yes. Each lesson is explained in 2-3 carefully worded sentences. This has got to be the ultimate "less is more" book of the year!

Here is Chapter One in its entirety:

Follow Jesus. Help others follow Jesus.

Jesus said, "Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men." (Matthew 4:19)

First, follow Jesus fully. Then, help others to follow Jesus.

If you aren't helping anyone to follow Jesus - are you really following Jesus?
Enough is said in this chapter alone to keep me busy the entire year. And yet there are 99 others just like it!
Some of the categories dealt with in the book:

1. Love God. Love People. Make Disciples
2. Disciples Make Disciples Who Make Disciples
3. It’s His Mission, What’s My Part?
4. Think and Act Like a Missionary
5. Discover God’s Heart for Your Neighborhood
6. Embody the Gospel Where You Live
7. Church Isn’t a Destination, It’s People
8. Time To Take the Missional Challenge!
9. Lessons I Learned Planting a Church
10. Don’t Skip Reading the Final Chapter

Also available on for Kindle or in paperback here.

Wednesday, December 19

Say that again? Things people say to missionaries

I bet y'all eat a lot of Mexican food down there in Ecuador.  Nope, we only eat Mexican food when we're in Texas (or go out to one of the two expensive Mexican restaurants in our city.) In Ecuador we eat Ecuadorian food. You ought to try some, it's very delicious!

When are you guys coming back home?  You mean, when will we be going back home to Ecuador?  Home is less a place, and more wherever it is that we are together as a family.

How do you talk to people when they don't speak English, or do they speak English down there?  You have to learn their language. In our case, that would be Spanish. Language and cultural adaptation are two of the toughest hurdles for most cross-cultural missionaries. 

Can you share a 5-minute testimony in our Wednesday night service? I would love to share in your church, but wish it was more than 5-minutes. It is hard to summarize three years of experiences in a meaningful way, and share what the Lord has laid on my heart, but I will give it my best shot. Five minutes is better than nothing at all.

Will your kids be going overseas with you?  Are you offering to keep them with you while we are gone for three years? [smile] Yes, they will be going with us. We believe God calls families, not just moms and dads. Our kids are just as much a part of our mission as we are.

Right now our church is doing other things and can't take on any new committments at this time. You do understand, don't you?  No, I really don't, but what else can I say.

[Closely related]: Our church is committed to the building campaign and for now missions giving is on hold. Once this is paid for we can look at some ministry options with you. Can you get back with us in a couple of years?   Thanks, but no thanks. Just hearing from you that 'missions giving is on hold' for something else, confirms for me we are not reading the same Bible and not a good partnership match. As I walk away, I am quoting Luke 9:5 to myself, "wherever people don't welcome you, leave that town and shake the dust off your feet as a warning to them."

We aren't doing missions because our church is into other things right now.  Are those "other things" keeping you from obeying what Jesus Christ has commanded? If so, maybe those other things are what need discarding.

Why are you down there in Ecuador when there are so many lost and needy people right here at home?  Yes, there are lost and needy people wherever we go, but the Great Commission is not only about our Jerusalem, but also about being his witnesses in Judea, Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth.  What makes you so sure I am the one in disobedience?

Our dollars are needed right here at home. Those people are just 'reaping what they have sown.'  I understand where you are coming from, but before jumping to conclusions, why not come down and spend a week seeing first hand the plight of 'those people', and then decide where it is you want to invest all those dollars you think should be kept 'at home.' My experience is those who speak the loudest on keeping money at home, neither give to help those at home--or anywhere else for that matter!

NOTE: All the above (along with their variations) are real things that have been said to us on more than one occasion. We share them, not to embarrass, but hopefully to help the reader see things from our perspective. Not all missionaries view these things in the same way. What I have shared above are just my reactions to some of these statements that have been repeated to us over the years.

Saturday, December 15

25 years in Ecuador and what God is teaching us through our mango tree

Twenty-five years ago today, December 15, we stepped off the plane in Guayaquil to begin our missionary service in the country of Ecuador.  A good portion of those years have been spent--as Evelyn Underhill says,
*conjugating three verbs: to want, to have, to do.  Craving, clutching, and fussing over these verbs has kept us in perpetual unrest. We too easily forget that none of these have any ultimate significance except as they are transcended in the fundamental verb, to be. It is in being--not wanting, having, or doing--that we find our essence and purpose in life and true service to God.
In our back yard is a medium size mango tree. Every December the tree bears fruit. Not just a few mangoes, but year after year it RAINS MANGOES! It always amazes me that this happens without my having done anything to bring about this harvest (I am a terrible gardener!) My only contribution is to pick up  the fallen fruit.

No matter how much I may fret, work, strategize, and even pray during the entire year, there is absolutely nothing I am doing myself to make this tree bear its annual harvest of mangoes.
"And he will be like a tree which yields its fruit in its season." --Psalm 1
As the Psalmist says, a tree cannot help but bear fruit in its proper season.  Our mango tree may want a lot of things, even wish things were different. The tree may not be content with what it has to show for its years of service. It may not like the idea of where it is located out back where it is out-of-sight. It may even try to do more on its own to somehow bring about a greater mango harvest for the glory of God. But, of course, all these are foolish strivings.

God himself commands that we are to cease striving, be still, let go, relax and know that HE IS GOD. (Psalm 46:10)

The only thing for a tree to do is to be the tree God created it to be.  What I am learning after 25 years of gardening on the mission field is that trees bear fruit in their season regardless of all the fussing, fretting, and fighting I may try to do to hasten in the harvest.  It makes more spiritual sense to do what God commanded and cease striving, slow down, chill out, [try to] be still, let go, release to God, relax and simply BE that mango tree hidden in the back yard.  Galatians 6:9 promises we shall indeed reap in due time if we do not grow weary and do not lose heart in doing good.

This Christmas Season let us keep in mind Jesus left his home, his comfort zone, his Glory to be the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:36) -- a sacrifice for sinners, not exactly the most appealing role for the Son of God. Yet who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men...He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

We too want to continue to be obedient to our Master and Lord. Twenty-five years is a milestone, but it is not the end of the journey. As you pray for us, the Muses in Ecuador, pray we would continue to be His faithful mango trees who in due season bear fruit. The Christmas gift we desire from you is to take the time and NOT CEASE to pray for Guy, Linda, Joshua, and Anna the prayer Paul prayed for the Colossian believers:
  • that we might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding
  • that we may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord
  • that we please Him in all respects
  • that we would bear fruit in every good work
  • that we would increase in the knowledge of God
  • that we would be strengthened with all power for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience
  • that we would joyously give thanks to the Father who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.  

* "We mostly spend [our] lives conjugating three verbs: to want, to have, and to do. Craving, clutching, and fussing, on the material, political, social, emotional, intellectual--even on the religious plane, we are kept in perpetual unrest: forgetting that none of these verbs have any ultimate significance, except so far as they are transcended by and included in, the fundamental verb, to be: and that Being, not wanting, having and doing, is the essence of a spiritual life."
--The Spiritual Life, by Evelyn Underhill, pg.20-21

Thursday, December 13

Entendiendo mejor la iglesia misional (o iglesia simple)

¿Qué es la diferencia entre una iglesia "misional" ó "simple" y una iglesia evangélica tradicional?

Tuesday, December 11

Discipleship questions worth pondering

Fellow missionary Miguel Labrador on his thought-provoking blog God Directed Deviations asks some very pertinent questions related to evangelism and discipleship.  If we are going to seriously engage in making disciples of the nations, each of Miguel's questions deserves attention.
Which of the following challenges you? Are there any you would like to comment upon? Which questions are you going to spend some time with praying about?  I'll share my list, if you'll share yours! 
1. Can a person be a disciple and not yet a believer in Jesus, a “Christian.”
2. Can you disciple an unbeliever?
3. When someone becomes a believer or Christian, can we consider them as a “disciple made?”
4. Are we supposed to be determining when others believe?
5. If we focused on Making Disciples instead of conversions, would that make any practical difference?
6. How did biblical messengers of God’s Gospel determine when others believed.
7. Someone asks you, “How can I follow this Jesus that you follow?” What do you say, and what will you do?
8. Is Making Disciples, “The” Mission of The Church?
9. Are we to obey the teaching component of the Great Commission, or are we to step out of the way and let Jesus (or the Spirit) teach others directly?
10. When does programing or bringing structure to discipleship get in the way of God’s desire to disciple others directly? Examples?
11. If the making of disciples, or discipleship requires that we teach others to observe/obey ALL that Jesus commanded, then wouldn’t that take a considerable amount of time? Are we relieved of our responsibility to teach when we have taught all of those commandments?

Sunday, December 9

We have left our homes and followed You

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

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 26 years later, we are still dealing with title issues and roles. I never have quite accepted any title or role assigned me yet!

I have often reflected on Jesus response to Peter 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. Most of us focus on the last part that promises we will receive "many times as much" for the little we might sacrifice along the way. But there is no skipping over the high cost entailed in leaving behind those people, houses, etc. in order to fulfill God's calling. There is a price to be paid. It isn't easy.

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 26 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.

Thursday, December 6

Favorite missions quotes

The command has been to ʻgo,ʼ 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

"While vast continents are shrouded in darkness the burden of proof lies upon you to show that the circumstances in which God has placed you were meant by God to keep you out of the foreign mission field." -Ion Keith-Falconer

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

"I wasn't God's first choice for what I've done for China. I don't know who it was. It must have been a well-educated man. I don't know what happened. Perhaps he died. Perhaps he wasn't willing and God looked down and saw Gladys Aylward. And God said, "Well, she's willing." -Gladys Aylward

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

"And 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 martyr, Ecuador

"Young man, sit down: when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid or mine." -said to a young William Carey (who, thankfully, did not listen)

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

"The mission of the church is missions." -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

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

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

"God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supplies." -J. Hudson Taylor

"Prayer needs no passport, visa or work permit. There is no such thing as a 'closed country' as far as prayer is concerned...much of the history of mission could be written in terms of God moving in response to persistent prayer." -Stephan Gaukroger

"You can give without loving. But you cannot love without giving." -Amy Carmichael, missionary to India

"He must increase, but I must decrease." -John the Baptist

"Kingdom people seek first the Kingdom of God and its justice; church people often put church work above concerns of justice, mercy and truth. Church people think about how to get people into the church; Kingdom people think about how to get the church into the world. Church people worry that the world might change the church; Kingdom people work to see the church change the world." -(Howard Snyder. Liberating the Church. 1983:11)

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

"I used to think that prayer should have the first place and teaching the second. I now feel it would be truer to give prayer the first, second and third places and teaching the fourth." -James O. Fraser

“God had only one Son and he made that Son a missionary.” -David Livingstone

"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

"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

Many of the above quotes were found at World Christian Quotes, Assembled and Adapted by Mark Struck. 

Tuesday, December 4

What does a New Testament Church look like?

*David Alan Black, professor of New Testament at the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and textual critic, shares his convictions for What Does a New Testament Church Look Like? 

I am convinced that the house church rather than the sanctuary church was the New Testament norm.

I am convinced of the normacy of tentmaking leadership.

I am convinced that the church exists in part to equip all of its members for ministry.

I am convinced that the leadership of the church should be shared for the health of the congregation.

I am convinced that top-down structures of leadership are unquestionably more efficient -- efficient in doing almost everything than equipping, which is the primary task of leadership.

I am convinced that the process of appointing new elders is best done on the basis of recognizing who is already serving as an elder in the church.

I am convinced that any local church that takes seriously Jesus as the Senior Pastor will not permit one man to become the titular head of the church.

I am convinced that the essential qualifications for ministry in the church have little or nothing to do with formal education and everything to do with spiritual maturity.

I am convinced that the church is a multigenerational family, and hence one of the things that makes the church the church is the presence of children, parents, and other adults.

I am convinced that because every local church has all the spiritual gifts it needs to be complete in Christ, believers should be exposed to the full expression of the charisms (grace-gifts) when they gather, in contrast to specialized ministries that center around singularly gifted people.

I am convinced that the local church is the scriptural locus for growing to maturity in Christ, and that no other training agency is absolutely needed.

I am convinced that the local church ought to be the best Bible school going.

I am convinced that Paul's letters were not intended to be studied by ordinands in a theological college but were intended to be read and studied in the midst of the noisy life of the church.

I am convinced that the church is a theocracy directly under its Head (Jesus Christ), and that the will of the Head is not mediated through various levels of church government but comes directly to all His subjects.

I am convinced that the goal of leadership is not to make people dependent upon its leaders but dependent upon the Head. I am convinced that since all believers are "joints" in the body, ministry is every believer's task.

I am convinced that pastor-teachers, as precious gifts of Christ to His church, are to tend the flock of God by both personal care and biblical instruction, equipping God's people for works of service both in the church and in the world.

I am convinced that the role of pastor-teacher is a settled ministry in a local congregation.

I am convinced that leaders should communicate that every part of the body is interrelated to the other parts and indispensable; every member will be appreciated, every charism will be treasured.

I am convinced that the whole church, the community of all the saints together, is the clergy appointed by God for ministry.

In conclusion, the fundamental premise upon which I operate is that each believer in the church needs to be equipped for his or her own ministry both in the church and in the world. If the church is to become what God intended it to be, it must become a ministerium of all who have placed their faith in Christ. The whole people of God must be transformed into a ministering people. Nothing short of this will restore the church to its proper role in the kingdom of God.

*June 1, 2011 David Alan Black is the editor of Reprinted with permission.

Saturday, December 1

It's Lottie Moon Season!

While the amount varies from year to year, the best I have been able to ascertain is the annual capita giving swings somewhere in the neighborhood of $7.00 on the low end, and $8.35 on the high end.

In other words, if you contribute a mere $10 a year to global missions, you are giving more than the average S. Baptist.  As Lottie Moon herself asked over 100 years ago, "Why this strange indifferences to missions? Why these scant contributions? Why does money fail to be forthcoming when approved men and women are asking to be sent to proclaim the "unsearchable riches of Christ" to the heathen?"   I don't know, either, Lottie.

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

Since we see first-hand and feel the direct impact of this offering, I would like to say to everyone who gave last year or is planning to give this year, THANK YOU.  Maybe $10/year is all you really can give, and if so, God knows this and will multiply that $10 like he did the five loaves and two fish to feed the 5000.  But there are others who really could give more, but aren't.

Would you be willing to ask the Lord what he would have you give to make His Name known amongst the nations?

Click here for some great ideas and resources to assist you in becoming a better informed giver to what God is doing in the nations. What follows is a list of things we have personally tried over the years or practice regularly 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. Shouldn't He be getting more than us if it is his birthday?

2) Something we have done as a family for many years is set aside a monthly amount from our 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 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 missions.

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 missionaries have done in the past is hold an auction where a volunteer team brings in "goodies" from the States and auction them off to the missionaries. 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 do something similar with imported foods purchased from your local grocery store?

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) See how every dollar makes a difference by clicking on any of these related stories.

Whatever you decide to give, please do so prayerfully. The idea of just reaching in your pocket and giving whatever comes out doesn't seem worthy of the King of Kings. Give thoughtfully, prayerfully. There are few offerings that make as much of an eternal impact on the world as the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Do you feel a yearly offering of $8.35 is worthy of the One who left his throne in glory to die on a cross for our sins? How much will you give this year to see souls around the globe come to the Savior?

Checks can be mailed to (gifts are tax-deductable)
Lottie Moon Christmas Offering
International Mission Board, SBC
P.O. Box 6767
Richmond, VA 23230

Thursday, November 29

Getting to know one another through our stories

Of the 50+ "one anothers" in the New Testament, I am not aware of any that exhort us to listen to one another's stories. Yet, I know of no better way to begin fulfilling the one another passages than by getting to know each other's stories.

Listening to one another's stories:

-brings us together
-unites us
-makes us more human
-gives us context for understanding each other better
-reveals our hearts
-corrects misconceptions
-draws us together
-makes us more of a "real" person
-reveals what we have in common
-makes us appreciate others more
-reveals areas we were unaware of before
-reveals how much more we have in common than differences
-fills in gaps about the "why's" of people's actions/behavior
-rids us of false impressions we might have had
-clarifies things we only vaguely knew before
-and a lot more...

The sum total of the above is that we are drawn together to better:

-be of the same mind toward one another
-be devoted to one another
-give greater preference to one another
-help to not judge one another
-build up one another
-accept one another
-bear one another's burdens
-care for one another
-serve one another
-tolerate one another in love
-be kind to one another
-be subject to one another
-consider one another more important than ourselves
-bear with one another
-forgive one another

These and other similar exhortations draw us closer to fulfilling the command of Christ to truly love one another as God loves us.

Sadly, most of us define people by a few skewed perceptions. We are quick to label a person based upon what someone else has said about them, or our own quick conclusions from distorted or partial facts. People seem a lot different when we know their story.

I know in my own life I do this all the time. I tend to define people by a single action, word, attitude, behavior, or impression. A brief encounter and I unconsciously label people: boring/interesting, liberal/conservative, shallow, uninteresting, creative, cry-baby, know-it-all, hick, bad/good, want to know better/never want to see again, useful, proud, etc. How is it that we are so quick to define an entire person's life solely on the basis of a quick impression, out-of-context facts, an incident, appearances, a word spoken, or hasty conclusions?

It upsets me to know others define me as something I am not. It hurts to be unfairly labled by the distorted conclusions people make about me based upon fragments of my story.

Recently I was hurt to find out a fellow brother in Christ despises me in his heart. This is someone with whom we have worked closely for many years. Why? I was born in the USA. No other considerations factor into the equation. I am an American, therfore I am the embodiment of all that he thinks is wrong about America. He doesn't see Guy Muse, he sees an ugly American.

Unfair? Of course it is. But that is what most of us do all the time with each other. We make judgements about people based on a few distorted facts or impressions without knowing the other persons story.

Suggestions for telling our story:

-allow time for "small talk" but suggest listening to one another's stories
-"break the ice" by being the first to share your story
-take the time needed to really hear one another's story
-ask questions allowing for further clarification
-share only what you are comfortable sharing, but enough to allow us to get to know the real you
-share family background and upbringing
-share struggles (people tend to identify more with weaknesses than achievements)
-influences in my life, key people
-how I got to where we are now
-who I am in my own eyes, how do I see myself?
-key milestones in my spiritual journey
-how I met Jesus
-events/experiences that have helped shape my life
-passions, interests, hobbies
-dreams, goals
-mistakes and what was learned
-pray for the person after hearing their story

What is important in all the above is that we get to know each other beyond that which is superficial. What makes people interesting is what is on the inside. The more we know one another, the easier it is to love and accept them for who they are. We want to know the real you, not the masks we hide behind. To know is to know.

Tuesday, November 27

One of the most talked about but least practiced passages of Scripture

Then Jesus came to them and said,  "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  (Matthew 28:18-20)
The Great Commission is surely one of the most most talked about, yet least practiced passages of Scripture.

Why do I say this?

Because of its familiarity. Most of us just assume that what we and our church are doing is fulfilling the Great Commission.

But is it?

The reason this passage can be such a stumbling block is that we do a lot of talking about and believe these words, but when it comes to putting them into practice, we end up doing something entirely different from what Jesus originally commanded. We read these verses one way, but practice them another.

Here is how many believers today interpret Jesus' words...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 25

Lottie Moon quotes*

“What we need in China is more workers. The harvest is very great, the laborers, oh! So few. Why does the Southern Baptist church lag behind in this great work?"
Nov. 1, 1873, Tungchow

"How many there are ... who imagine that because Jesus paid it all, they need pay nothing, forgetting that the prime object of their salvation was that they should follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ in bringing back a lost world to God."
Sept. 15, 1887, Tungchow

"Why should we not ... instead of the paltry offerings we make, do something that will prove that we are really in earnest in claiming to be followers of him who, though he was rich, for our sake became poor?"
Sept. 15, 1887, Tungchow

"Is not the festive season when families and friends exchange gifts in memory of The Gift laid on the altar of the world for the redemption of the human race, the most appropriate time to consecrate a portion from abounding riches and scant poverty to send forth the good tidings of great joy into all the earth?"
Sept. 15, 1887, Tungchow

"Why this strange indifferences to missions? Why these scant contributions? Why does money fail to be forthcoming when approved men and women are asking to be sent to proclaim the "unsearchable riches of Christ" to the heathen?"
Oct. 3, 1887, Pingtu

"A young man should ask himself not if it is his duty to go to the heathen, but if he may dare stay at home. The command is so plain: "Go."”
Nov. 1, 1873, Tungchow

"Oh! That my words could be as a trumpet call, stirring the hearts of my brethren and sisters to pray, to labor, to give themselves to this people. But some will say, "we must have results, else interest flags"...We are now, a very, very few feeble workers, scattering the grain broadcast according as time and strength permit. God will give the harvest; doubt it not. But the laborers are so few.  Where we have four, we should have not less than one hundred. Are these wild words? They would not seem so were the church of God awake to her high privilege and her weighty responsibilities."
Nov. 11, 1878, Pingtu

"The needs of these people press upon my soul, and I cannot be silent. It is grievous to think of these human souls going down to death without even one opportunity of hearing the name of Jesus...Once more I urge upon the consciences of my Christian brethren and sisters the claims of these people among whom I dwell. Here I am working alone in a city of many thousand inhabitants, with numberless villages clustered around or stretching away in the illuminate distance: how many can I reach?"
Oct. 3, 1887, Pingtu

"I would I had a thousand lives that I might give them to ... China!"
Aug. 27, 1888, Zhenjiang

"When the gospel is allowed to grow naturally in China, without forcing processes of development, the 'church in the house' is usually its first form of organization. God grant us faith and courage to keep 'hands off' and allow this new garden of the Lord's planting to ripen in the rays of the Divine Love, free from human interference!"
Sept. 10, 1890, Pingtu

*quotes taken from website: Quotables: Lottie Herself and "Send the Light: Lottie Moon's Letters and Other Writings" edited by Keith Harper.

Friday, November 23

I cannot be silent - Lottie Moon of China

Who was Lottie Moon?

Lottie Moon - the namesake of the international missions offering - has become something of a legend to us. But in her time Lottie was anything but an untouchable hero. In fact, she was like today's missionaries. She was a hard-working, deep-loving Southern Baptist who labored tirelessly so her people group could know Jesus.

Why was the "Lottie Moon Christmas Offering" named for this early China missionary? Throughout her career, Lottie Moon wrote numerous letters home, urging Southern Baptists to greater missions involvement and support. One of those letters triggered Southern Baptists' first Christmas offering for international missions - enough to send three new missionaries to China.

Lottie served 39 years as a missionary, mostly in China's Shantung province. She taught in a girls' school and often made trips into China's interior to share the good news with women and girls. Lottie frequently wrote letters to the United States, detailing Chinese culture, missionary life and the great physical and spiritual needs of the Chinese people. Additionally, she challenged Southern Baptists to go to China or give so that others could go. By 1888, Southern Baptist women had organized and helped collect $3,315 to send workers needed in China. Lottie died aboard a ship in the Japanese harbor of Köbe on Dec. 24, 1912. She was 72 years old.

In 1918, Woman's Missionary Union (WMU) named the annual Christmas offering for international missions after the woman who had urged them to start it. Dec. 24, 2012, will mark 100 years since the death of Lottie Moon. The final day of Week of Prayer (Dec. 2-9) is dedicated to Lottie Moon, a portrait of obedience who influenced thousands to follow her, going just as boldly, obediently and sacrificially.

For several years now, my wife and I have set aside a percentage every month that we give to this missions offering.  Will you pray and ask the Lord how much He would lead you to give to this offering so that His Name might be known amongst the nations?  Like Lottie Moon, we cannot be silent.

Thursday, November 22

Impacto Mundial's Ghana Missions Trip

We are so proud of the eleven who worked so hard for so many months to make this trip to Ghana. The Lord did many wonderful things in and through them during the two weeks they traveled the country. Please pray with us that God would strengthen the call to make disciples of the nations that was begun on this trip.

Tuesday, November 20

La definición de la iglesia según el Nuevo Testamento

La iglesia no es nada más, ni nada menos, de lo que uno encuentra en las páginas del Nuevo Testamento.

Lo que vemos allí es:

1-La iglesia es el cuerpo de Cristo. (Efesios 5:29-32)

"...porque somos miembros de su cuerpo, de su carne y de sus huesos."

2-La iglesia es "la familia de Dios." (Efesios 2:19-22)

"Así que ya no sois extranjeros ni advenedizos, sino conciudadanos de los santos, y miembros de la familia de Dios, edificados sobre el fundamento de los apóstoles y profetas, siendo la principal piedra del ángulo Jesucristo mismo..."

3-En esta familia hay una sola cabeza: Cristo Jesús. (Efesios 5:23)

"...Cristo es cabeza de la iglesia, la cual es su cuerpo, y él es su Salvador."

4-El tamaño normal de cada iglesia local era de "2 o 3 unidos en su nombre," o el número de personas que normalmente podrían entrar en una casa. (Mateo 18:20)

"Porque donde están dos o tres congregados en mi nombre, allí estoy yo en medio de ellos..."

5-El lugar donde la iglesia se reunía era en las casas de los creyentes. (Romanos 16:5, 1 Corintios 16:19, Colsenses 4:15, Filemón 2)

"Saludad también a la iglesia de su casa...Las iglesias de Asia os saludan. Aquila y Priscila, con la iglesia que está en su casa...Saludad a los hermanos que están en Laodicea, y a Ninfas y a la iglesia que está en su casa...y a Arquipo nuestro compañero de milicia, y a la iglesia que está en tu casa..."

6-Estas familias que se reunían en las casas se caracterizaban por su perseverancia en la doctrina de los apostoles, el partimiento de pan, la comunión y en las oraciones. (Hechos 2:42)

"Y perseveraban en la doctrina de los apóstoles, en la comunión unos con otros, en el partimiento del pan y en las oraciones."

[Por unos pocos años, hasta la destrucción del templo en el año 70, la iglesia en Jerusalén aparentemente también seguía con las costumbres judáicas de la Ley de Moisés, junto con sus sacrificios, y su sistema religioso sacerdotal. Esto era una excepción y no la norma para las demás iglesias que encontramos en el Nuevo Testamento.]

7-El propósito de reunirse era para estimular y exhortar el uno al otro al amor y a las buenas obras. (Hebreos 10:24-25)

"Y considerémonos unos a otros para estimularnos al amor y a las buenas obras; no dejando de congregarnos, como algunos tienen por costumbre, sino exhortándonos..."

8-Pablo enseñaba a la iglesia que cada creyente debería venir a la reunión preparado para contribuir algo de edificación para los demás. (1 Corintios 14:26)

"¿Qué hay, pues, hermanos? Cuando os reunís, cada uno de vosotros tiene salmo, tiene doctrina, tiene lengua, tiene revelación, tiene interpretación. Hágase todo para edificación."

9-El acto principal de las reuniones centraba en el comer juntos la cena del Señor. (1 Corintios 11:18-20)

"Pues en primer lugar, cuando os reunís como iglesia, oigo que hay entre vosotros divisiones; y en parte lo creo. Porque es preciso que entre vosotros haya disensiones, para que se hagan manifiestos entre vosotros los que son aprobados. Cuando, pues, os reunís vosotros, esto no es comer la cena del Señor..."

10-La misión de la iglesia fue dada por Cristo Jesús de hacer discípulos a las naciones en Jerusalén, Judea, Samaria y hasta los fines de la tierra. (Mateo 28:18-20 y Hechos 1:8)

"Y Jesús se acercó y les habló diciendo: 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...pero recibiréis poder, cuando haya venido sobre vosotros el Espíritu Santo, y me seréis testigos en Jerusalén, en toda Judea, en Samaria, y hasta lo último de la tierra."

Lo descrito arriba es lo que el Nuevo Testamento dice en cuanto a la iglesia. El quitar o añadir de estas enseñanzas es quitar o añadir de lo que fué enseñado y practicado por Cristo y los Apóstoles.

Pablo dice, "Por esto mismo os he enviado a Timoteo...el cual os recordará mi proceder en Cristo, de la manera que enseño en todas partes y en todas las iglesias."  Pablo no dejaba que las iglesias que él fundaba siguieran sus propios costumbres o que hagan lo que les daba la gana. Había enseñanzas y prácticas bien establecidas y eran iguales para todas las iglesias.

Todos los cambios que tenemos hoy en dia empezaron a comienzos del segundo siglo con la muerte del Apóstol Juan. Las enseñanzas de la iglesia descritas arriba fueron cambiándose poco a poco para acomodar lo que ya se estaba practicando.

A comienzos del tercer siglo con el Emperador Romano Constantino, la Iglesia tomó una forma distinta de la que vemos en las páginas del Nuevo Testamento. Ellos justificaban los cambios al explicar que la Iglesia es como una semilla. Al ser plantada en la tierra de la historia, la semilla muere en su forma original para dejar un árbol creciente con muchas ramas. Lo que encontramos en el Nuevo Testamento es el inicio de la Iglesia (la semilla), pero no es su forma final.

Esta enseñanza de la iglesia no proviene de Jesús, Pablo, ni ninguno de los apóstoles. Pero pocos cuestionan los cambios que se han dado a través de los siglos. Creemos que hemos "mejorado" los patrones dejados por los apóstoles. Justificamos nuestras prácticas extra-bíblicas a igual que lo hacía la Iglesia Católica Romana para poder sobrevivir. El volver a ser la "semilla sencilla" de la iglesia nueva testamentaria sería el fin de la iglesia institucional como la conocemos hoy en dia.

El punto que quiero destacar es que la iglesia tradicional con toda su infraestructura extra-bíblica reconozca la legitimidad bíblica del creciente número de creyentes sinceros que buscan volver a retomar las enseñanzas y prácticas de la iglesia primitiva. La iglesia que no sigue con las enseñanzas descritas arriba es la que debería ser cuestionada ya que ha dejado practicar lo que fue entregado por Jesús y los Apóstoles.

Sunday, November 18

What is the best way to start a church?

Answer: Start a church!

Back in the mid-70's, while getting a music degree from the University of North Texas, I was active in the church choir at Grace Temple Baptist Church. Terry Fansler was an extraordinary church musician, conductor and mentor. Terry believed, "the best way to have a great choir is to have a great choir."

These words can be applied to just about any worthwhile endeavor...

The best way to share the Gospel? Share the Gospel!
The best way to make disciples? Make disciples!
The best way to start a church? Start a church!

It seems a lot of our failure to obey the commands of Christ is rooted in our thinking if we can just somehow get people together and share with how to do something, they will somehow go out and implement everything we have taught them to do.


Personally, I think we have some of the best contextualized church planting materials and methodology being used in Latin America. But the best means nothing unless implemented. What is missing?


Desire may be there, but if there is no real intention of planting a church, a church will not be planted.

I may desire to lose 20 lbs. Believe I need to lose 20 lbs. Feel convicted about losing 20 lbs. Pray about losing 20 lbs. But I will never lose 20 lbs. until I actually start by losing those first few pounds on my way to losing 20 lbs.  

You have to do it, to do it!

Well meaning believers have been coming to our trainings for many years. But the truth is, very few have the intention of actually planting a church. It doesn't matter how good the trainers are, how wonderful the materials are, or how excited people get, IF THEY DO NOT PERSONALLY INTEND ON BEING AN INSTRUMENT IN THE LORD'S HANDS TO PLANT A CHURCH, THEY WILL NOT PLANT A CHURCH.

So, what needs to be done? How do we address this issue?

In our case, we will train anyone for ONE MONTH making sure they have all the basics that are needed to get started.  After one month, though, it is DECISION MAKING TIME.  Either DO IT NOW, or don't come back. The only way to plant a church is to get out there and plant a church. Those who do start at least one group (what we call an outreach group), we will continue to train/mentor/coach. But for those who don't?  Well, Dios te has been fun...see ya around...thanks for your time...chao (good-bye!)

Does this sound too harsh? Un-Christlike? Too much like the business world? How did Jesus respond to the undecided, wavering, excuse-making disciples in Luke 9:57-62? 

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, "I will follow You wherever You go." And Jesus said to him, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." [that 'someone' never appears again in the pages of the NT] 
And He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." But He said to him, "Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God." [Jesus leaves this guy at the cemetery and moves on] 
Another also said, "I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home." But Jesus said to him, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." [Jesus declares this guy 'not fit'. He too disappears from the scene.]

What do you think about these things? What has been your experience in training church planters? If you have personally experienced a better way to start churches (not something you might have read in a book, but something you have actually done and it works), THEN PLEASE SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH US. We would love to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, November 17

He made us in order to use us for His purposes, not our own

I am currently re-reading Evelyn Underhill's The Spiritual Life.  It is one of those rare classics that continues to speak as freshly today as it did when first published in 1937. While the book is in reality a series of transcribed radio broadcast talks, it remains a powerful reminder that we belong to Him, and God doesn't have to explain himself to us or make things work according to how we want them to be.

"He made us in order to use us, and use us in the most profitable way; for His purpose, not ours. To live a spiritual life means subordinating all other interests to that single fact.
Sometimes our positions seems to be that of tools; taken up when wanted, used in ways which we had not expected for an object on which our opinion is not asked, and then laid down.
Sometimes we are the currency used in some great operation, of which the purpose is not revealed to us.
Sometimes we are servants, left year in, year out to the same monotonous job.
Sometimes we are conscious fellow-workers with the Perfect, striving to bring the Kingdom in.
But whatever our particular place or job may be, it means the austere conditions of the workshop, not the free-lance activities of the messy but well-meaning amateur; clocking in at the right time and tending the machine in the right way. Sometimes, perhaps, carrying on for years with a machine we do not very well understand and do not enjoy; because it needs doing, and no one else is available. Or accepting the situation quite quietly when a job we felt that we were managing excellently is taken away. Taking responsibility if we are called to it, or just bringing the workers their dinner, cleaning and sharpening the tools. All self-willed choices and obstinacy drained out of what we thought to be our work; so that it becomes more and more God's work in us." (pages 75-76)

Thursday, November 15

C.L. Culpepper's audio testimony of the China Shantung Revival

This moving and powerful personal account by Southern Baptist missionary C.L. Culpepper of the Shantung Revival in China in the 1920's (one of the most remarkable mass moving of the Holy Spirit in history) continues to move and convict me each time I listen.

More than ever before, we need to be listening to the voices of these saints of old as they wrestled with personal sin and allowed the fullness of the Spirit of God to do what He so much wants to do--bring revival to his people! If only those of us who are called by His name, "will humble ourselves and pray and seek His face and turn from our wicked ways," then He promises to "hear from heaven, forgive our sin and heal our land."

This testimony is well worth the 50-minutes it will take to listen. Many believe this revival was the catalyst for the house church movement that has flourished in spite of communist persecution for nearly 75 years in China.

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Wednesday, November 14

Things God is teaching me

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. What am I hanging on to that ought to be given away?

One negative comment packs more power in someone's life than a dozen positive remarks.  I need to be careful how and what I communicate with others. If I am unable to build someone up, it is better to remain silent than use words that will tear someone 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 those things I assume I can handle on my own without his input.

This is the day the Lord has made. It is up to me to choose whether or not I will rejoice and be glad in it. This is a daily choice.

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% how I react to what happens. 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 allows these things in my life?

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 can 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?

Tuesday, November 13

Follow-up letter from Wolfgang Simson

On November 7, the day after Barack Obama was re-elected to a second term as President of the United States, I posted a letter received from Wolfgang and Mercy Simson entitling my post Are we confusing the Kingdom of God with the United States of America? This turned out to be one of my most read posts of the past five years!

Due to the large volume of response to their original letter, a couple of days later, Wolfgang and Mercy sent out a Follow-up to the letter "Our Dear America" to address many of the questions and concerns generated by their original letter. If you were challenged by their original letter, I highly recommend you take a few minutes to reflect upon this more detailed explanation.

Monday, November 12

Why everyone is NOT a missionary

Herbert Kane writes, "The Chinese have a proverb: If two men feed a horse, it will lose weight; if two men keep a boat, it will soon leak. What is everybodys job is nobodys job. If every Christian is a missionary, missionary work is bound to suffer. It is correct to say that every Christian is, or should be, a witness. It is not correct to say that every Christian is a missionary."
One of the common misconceptions about missions is that all believers are missionaries. It continues to be stated so often that few question the validity of this oft quoted misconception making the rounds from our pulpits and missions conferences.  I truly wish it were true, but frequent repetition does not make it so.  I personally believe we need to correct the language we are using and stop calling all believers missionaries. Gordon Olson says it well when he states:
"If every Christian is already considered a missionary, then all can stay put where they are, and nobody needs to get up and go anywhere to preach the gospel. But if our only concern is to witness where we are, how will people in unevangelized areas ever hear the gospel?"

The Great Commission is taking the Gospel to our Jerusalem. This is where we live. It is where most of our time, efforts and ministry are centered. But Holy Spirit empowered believers are likewise charged to be His witnesses to their Judea, Samaria, and, yes: the ends of the earth--the nations.
When we begin to move beyond our Jerusalem and seek to engage our Judea, Samaria, and the nations--then, we become misionaries--the sent ones that we are meant to be.
I believe Jesus intent was for us to be fully engaged in all four regional dimensions of the Great Commission. Too many have deceived themselves into believing they "aren't called to missions."  Really? It would seem the burden of proof would be more on the side of our being NOT CALLED to engage the nations. For too long, disciples of Christ have excused themselves from doing what Jesus commanded simply because they have chosen to live a life to their own pleasing. It has nothing to do with anything God might be asking of us and His call on our lives.
When we lose sight of just how serious our Lord was about Acts 1:8 we run the risk the disobedient Jerusalem church ran into in Acts 8:1
"And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria...those who had been scattered went about preaching the word..."
It took some serious persecution allowed by the Lord himself to get them to obey, and engage their Judea, Samaria, and ends of the earth. In our present imbalance of uneven distribution of Christians, do we not think the same could again happen today? Just how serious was our Lord when He commanded us to "make disciples of the nations?"
So everyone may indeed NOT be a missionary, but it is my belief that we should deliberately seek to do everything in our power to make sure we ARE missionaries.

Friday, November 9

Como sembramos nuevas iglesias

Hay dos pasos...

  1. Reúne a las personas.
  2. Haga discípulos.
Suena sencillo, pero no es fácil. Ambos puntos tienen que ser bañados día y noche en oración continuo.

Reúne a las personas. Es más fácil reunir a personas y ganarlas para Cristo, que ganar a personas y tratar de reunirlas. La mejor forma que sabemos para reunir a gente es con la comida (sí, con comida real que a todos nos gusta!)

Invite a sus amigos, familia, y vecinos a comer. La idea de las comidas es llegar a conocernos. Al conocernos mejor, se crea confianza. Comiendo juntos es una forma natural de empezar a relacionarnos con quienes eventualmente queremos ser iglesia.

No hay un devocional planeado para después de la comida. No tenemos una Biblia escondida debajo de la mesa que sacamos mientras todas terminan su postre! Si un tema espiritual surge en forma natural de alguien en el grupo, siga el liderazgo del Espíritu Santo. Comparta abiertamente como Cristiano que eres, pero no domine el diálogo. No trate de corregir o tener la última palabra en cuanto a los temas que salen.

Si las cosas les va bien, anima a todos traer uno o dos amigos más para la próxima vez. Pregunte quién podría traer una bebida, empanadas, fruta, humitas, torta, sanduches, etc. al próximo encuentro. Desde el principio vaya enseñando que el Cristianismo es compartir el uno con el otro de lo que tenemos.

Haga discípulos. Continúe con las reuniones de comida por tres o cuatro semanas hasta que haya suficiente confianza y amistad entre los integrantes del grupo. Durante estos primeros encuentros utilice actividades de grupo que puedan animar que la gente dialogue de temas espirituales. Recuerde, Ud. está orando día y noche por todas estas personas y lo que Dios va a hacer en sus vidas!

En el contexto Ecuatoriano donde hay una apertura hacia el evangelio, uno puede introducir estos elementos tempranamente, aun en la primera reunión. Especialmente si la “persona de paz” es bien conocida y respetada por las demás personas en el grupo.

Usamos una variedad de herramientas. Cuales elementos usamos depende del grupo con quien estamos trabajando, su receptividad a asuntos espirituales, etc. Algunas de las herramientas que sabemos usar para romper el hielo y abarcar temas esprituales son:

• Videos cortos bajados de YouTube. En el VCD hay 6 juegos de videos con tres temas que rotan entre 1) un rompehielos chistoso, 2) un valor humano, y 3) un drama, relato o historia Cristiana

• Escuchando las historias de vida de cada uno en el grupo (ej. ¿dónde nacieron, un poco de su niñez y juventud, su familia, sus sueños, trabajo, etc.)

• Cantando juntos con un cancionero acompañado por CDs

• Rompehielos (tenemos una lista larga de que escoger según el grupo)

• Lista de preguntas preparadas de antemano para llegar a conocernos mejor (también están en una hoja)

• En grupos que están abiertas y deseando estudiar directamente la Palabra de Dios podemos usar la herramienta “Siete Señales de Juan” (un estudio evangelístico de la vida de Jesús.)

Escogemos de nuestra “cajita de herramientas” la más apropiada para el grupo. Después de tres o cuatro semanas tendremos una mejor idea de quienes de los asistentes tienen más seriedad en cuanto a las cosas de Dios. Recuerde, nuestra meta es hacer discípulos, no convertidos. Un discípulo sigue a Cristo. Un convertido sigue a una religión. Estos discípulos-en-formación van a estar en diferentes niveles de entendimiento y compromiso con el Señor. Algunos bien podrían haber confesado su fe en Cristo, otros no. Seguimos reuniendo semana tras semana animando siempre a todos seguir invitando a sus amigos.

Al llegar la tercera o cuarta semana, hacemos al grupo una pregunta clave,

¿CUANTOS DE NOSOTROS DIRÍAMOS QUE AMAMOS A DIOS? Después de darles la oportunidad de alzar la mano, compartimos las palabras de Jesús,

Si me amáis, guardaréis mis mandamientos...El que tiene mis mandamientos y los guarda, ése es el que me ama; y el que me ama será amado por mi Padre; y yo lo amaré y me manifestaré a él. --Juan 14:15,21

Un discípulo de Cristo es alguien quién obedece las cosas que mandó Jesús. Nadie puede ser un seguidor de Cristo sin guardar sus mandamientos.

¿Cuáles son algunos de los mandamientos de Cristo que deberíamos guardar?

A partir de allí empezamos con el Primer Mandamiento de Jesús: Mateo 22:36-40.

Pedimos a tres personas leer el pasaje en voz alta.

Después hacemos TRES PREGUNTAS del pasaje...

¿Qué nos manda hacer Jesús en este pasaje? Diganos en sus propias palabras lo que Ud. entendió.

¿Qué significan estas palabras de Jesús?

¿Cómo vamos a poner en práctica este mandamiento? ¿Qué acción específica vamos a hacer para cumplir con lo que Jesús nos está mandando hacer?

Estas tres preguntas forman el modelo para seguir usando con el resto de los “Diez Mandamientos de Jesús” que se estudiarán semana por semana. Una vez que este patrón de auto-alimentarse se aprende, puede ser usado con cualquier pasaje de la Biblia y fácilmente es reproducible aun con nuevos creyentes quienes también pueden empezar nuevos grupos con sus propios amigos y familia.

También a partir de este primer mandamiento de Jesús en Mateo 22, enseñamos el uso de una herramienta que consta de un marcador para ayudar a todos obedecer lo que Jesús nos mandó. Un GRUPO DE TRES consta en tres personas quienes se ponen de acuerdo reunirse durante la semana para cumplir con TRES propósitos: 1) un plan para empezar a leer la Biblia, 2) preguntas para rendir cuentas entre los tres, 3) orar el uno por el otro y por amigos/familia que necesitan del amor de Dios.

Hay otros detalles más, pero esto básicamente es como capacitamos a obreros para abrir iglesias en las casas. Le invitamos a probarlo para ver como le va. El paso más importante es HACERLO. En el camino habrán muchas preguntas, dudas, etc. pero todas estas tienen solución en hacer camino al andar.