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