Tuesday, December 10

What if church is something meant to be less permanent and more fluid?

House churches are not permanent structures. They were never intended to be ongoing "home versions" of church. The idea that "church" is something solid, permanent, or institutional, is more what we have fashioned the church into becoming over the centuries, but not what is described in the book of Acts.

Felicity Dale over at Simply Church once shared ideas from the World House Church Summit held back in November 2009 in New Delhi, India. In particular, I found interesting what was shared in regards to house churches ceasing to multiply when they become permanent structures.

House churches should be neither independent, nor permanent. If they are they will not multiply, but will only have shifted people from the pew to the sofa. Instead, they should be an interdependent network. Each house church is a debriefing center and a sending center that sends people out.

A starfish has no brain or head. If you cut off the arm of a starfish, it will grow into a new starfish. A house church does not require a CEO or a commander. Any of the people in it can multiply it out. The leader is more of a facilitator that cares for the household...

...Church planting is a process. Jesus stayed a few days in Samaria (John 4). Philip, the evangelist, preached the gospel powerfully there and many sick people were healed and baptized (Acts 8:4-13). Then Peter and John (apostles) came and worked with them too (Acts 8:14-25). Different people used their different giftings to see the church there come to maturity (Acts 9:31).

I have to confess that it has taken us 10 years to understand what Felicity shares above. Most of the church planting types I relate to are focused on starting churches. Once we have something up and going, we think, "Great, let's now look around and see who else we might train who might start another one." We have this mindset of permanency. If the house church continues to meet regularly, it is good. If it dissolves after a few months, that is bad. Or is it?

As I reflect upon this, nearly every single church plant connected to our house church network that I can think of, resulted from Christ followers not staying in their home assemblies. Instead, these laborers were discipled, and then sent out to make more disciples. When we make new disciples, churches are planted. The longer we stay together, the more comfortable we get with one another. Soon we want this to go on forever. We want our kids to experience the same we have experienced. We inevitably start organizing, programming, and hiring people to do what we do not have the time to do. Soon, we become the focus of ministry. What we have set into motion begins to define who we are. Before long, 10-20% are the ones engaging in some level of church ministry, while the rest become consumers. Is this what Christ really intended for His Church?

What if the church is something meant to be less permanent, and more fluid? What if we understand Christ's declaration, "I will build my church", to be about his Universal Church (all the saints throughout history), and not the building of local church assemblies? In reality, we are the ones out there trying to build His church. We are the ones trying to do Christ's job for him! Rather than equipping/sending centers; we have organized, programmed, and structured our churches to the point that permanency is what is seen as normal; when in reality, from the viewpoint of Acts, quite abnormal.

Part of the problem is that we have it in our heads that church--whether gathering in a house or a temple--is something solid that must visibly survive if it is to retain its value . In Acts we see the church as more fluid, more about "seeking first the Kingdom"--not the local ekklesia. The above Acts scriptures indicate a church-on-the-move. She is more about being the church in a lost world, and less about going to an organized, programmed, structured place.

I wonder what would happen if there was some way we could reboot our understanding of Jesus and His Church to be more in line with the concept of debriefing and sending centers, and less as permanent structures? Are permanent structures less able to multiply than those which are fluid? What do you think?

Friday, November 15

Have we turned Christianity into a religion?

Once upon a time, Jesus commanded his disciples to make disciples of the nations, baptize, and teach them to obey what He had commanded. Jesus instilled within each the full DNA to accomplish the assigned task.

For many years his Church was on course for completing the task. Servants like Peter, Paul, and their companions pointed us in the way. The blueprint clearly found in the pages of the New Testament.

However as the Kingdom grew, so did the desire to control and monitor all that was happening. God has certainly not ceased to work through His Church, but in a real sense, his divine methods and purposes have been substituted for man-made religion, programs, dogmas, denominations, and church-related organizations. Simply stated: we are the divided body of Christ.

Instead of the simple obedience to the commands of Jesus--love the Lord your God, love one another, seek first His kingdom, abide in me, go make disciples, do this in remembrance of me, etc.-- the church has set up different standards for governing what it is Christ said to do. We have turned Christianity into a religion. Complete with hierarchy in our churches, organizations and institutions. We have added rules, regulations, expectations, and interpretations which go way beyond the simple commands of our Lord. Isn't this the same kind of stuff the Pharisees were condemned for by Jesus?

However, all over the world today, there is an emerging breed of believers ready and willing to exchange Institutional Christianity for a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation--a people for God's own possession (I Peter 2:9). A return to the reality that all God's children are empowered to be active participants in the Great Commission and the coming of God's Kingdom upon this earth.

Today we get bogged down in a never-ending debate about who, what, when, and where, and how things can and should be done. Instead of just doing what Christ said to do, we now have formal written documents, clauses, guidelines, interpretations, and definitions for everything. Clutter.

Thom Rainer writes in Simple Church: Returning to God's Process For Making Disciples
"[Jesus] stepped into a complicated and polluted religious scene. It was cluttered with Sadducees, Pharisees, Herodians, Zealots, and Essenes. He did not play by their rules. He could not stand their hypocrisy. He preferred spending time with tax collectors and sinners."
Is anything different today? How does Christ react to all we have made of his Church? His Bride!

Why can't we just get back to being the simple first-century, Spirit empowered disciples meeting in homes, by river sides, under Mango trees, spurring one another on to do those things Jesus commanded us to do?

Thursday, October 10

What does Scripture actually say about the church, the Bride of Christ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 9

Guayaquil De Mis Amores

193 years ago Guayaquil gained her independence from Spain. October 9 is Guayaquil Day. View some historical and current photos of the city where my wife and I have lived and served for 27 years.

Sunday, September 15

Consejos prácticos para un siervo del Señor

1. Guarda celosamente su tiempo diario a solas con el Señor. No deje que otros asuntos tengan prioridad sobre su relación personal con Cristo.

2. No empequeñezcas a otras personas.

3. Viva con el 80% de lo que gana.

4. No descuide los “clavos de la herradura”
            “Por falta de un clavo se perdió la herradura
            Por falta de la herradura se perdió el caballo
            Por falta del caballo se perdió el jinete
            Por falta del jinete se perdió la batalla
            Por falta de la batalla se perdió el reino
            Y todo por la falta de un clavo.”

5. Guardar el sábado es uno de los 10 Mandamientos de Dios. (Ex. 20:8-11)

6. No endeudarse. Regale dinero, pero no haga préstamos de su dinero. Igualmente, no pidas dinero por prestado. Si ahora estás en deuda su prioridad es salir de esa deuda. (Rom. 13:8)

7. Examinadlo todo; retened lo bueno. (I Tes. 5:21)

8. Tenga en claro la misión que el Señor tiene para tu vida y entrégate de lleno a ella. (Mat.6:33)

9. Comunica continuamente con tu “tribu.”

10. Sea transparente y honesto en todo. Tus hermanos perdonarán tus faltas confesadas, pero no el orgullo de tu deshonestidad y el tratar de ocultar las cosas.

11. Lidera con fe y optimismo.

12. Siempre esté leyendo un libro. Lea también libros fuera de tu zona de comodidad para entender otras perspectivas. Lee diferentes tipos y géneros de libros para ampliar tus conocimientos.

13. La educación, la capacitación, y la preparación es algo continua durante toda la vida.

14. Menos es más. Más es menos.

15. Aprenda a escuchar a los demás. Dios nos dio dos oídos y una boca para escuchar el doble de lo que hablamos. Muchas veces el mejor regalo que podemos dar a alguien es nuestro oído y tiempo para escucharles. 90% de consejería es escuchar a la otra persona atentamente.

16.Reconoce y aprecia la labor y esfuerzo de los demás.

17. Escoja tus batallas sabiamente; no podrás combatirlas todas.

18. Cuídate de los tres “D” del diablo: desánimo, distracción, división.

19. Las personas son más importantes que nuestros programas o estructuras.

20. Transforma tu vocabulario con frases mágicas de una a cuatro palabras: perdóname, me equivoqué, tienes la razón, hiciste un buen trabajo, ¿qué te parece? gracias, por favor, ¿cuál es tu opinión? Lo hiciste bien, tenga la bondad, ¿puedo ayudarte? Quiero entenderlo de tu perspectiva.

21. Aprenda a callar hasta poder decir algo constructivo o edificante. (Col. 4:6)

22. Aprenda a escuchar y a obedecer a la voz de Dios. Si él puede hablar por una asna (Num.22:28), también nos puede hablar por muchos medios a nuestro alrededor: Su Palabra, la naturaleza, un libro, esa voz quieta en nuestra alma, la boca de otra persona, la música, un sueño, etc. (Juan 10:27)

23. Charles Swindoll dijo, "Estoy convencido que la vida es 10% lo que me sucede y 90% como reacciono a lo que me sucede."  Mi actitud frente a lo que me ocurre en la vida es más importante que los mismos hechos que me suceden. Muchas veces uno no puede controlar lo que le vaya a pasar en la vida, pero sí puede decidir cómo va a reaccionar a lo que le sucede en la vida.

Monday, August 19

Teleamigo is 20 years old

Teleamigo is an evangelistic counseling and prayer ministry which we helped begin back in August 1993. Last night Teleamigo celebrated her 20th anniversary. Literally thousands upon thousands of people have been touched and lives changed by this volunteer ministry that uses prayer and counseling to reach people for Christ. There are so many people to thank. So many whose lives, love, and offerings have gone into making Teleamigo a ministry that has impacted over 3-million people who have made contact through one or another of the different levels of ministry.

As my wife and I participated in the anniversary celebration, I couldn't help but reflect on all the people whose lives have been part of Teleamigo over the past twenty years. It was noted that at least three different sister ministries are today the "grandchildren" of Teleamigo. Each of these three have gone on to specialize in areas of helping people that go beyond what Teleamigo is able to offer. The leaders of these other ministries all "cut their teeth" with Teleamigo and today continue to impact people's lives with the love of Christ.

Jesus assured his disciples in John 14:12 "The one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father." How true!

Over the past fourteen years the "five loaves and two fish" offered to the Lord on August 3, 1993 have been abundantly blessed by Jesus Christ. What began as something so small and insignificant, has touched the lives of over 3-million people:

Untold thousands have been helped...
tens of thousands prayed over...
marriages saved...
babies born instead of aborted...
the abused forgiving those who have hurt them...
alcohol and drug addicts loved and ministered to...
families restored and reconciled...
the hopeless encouraged...
and yes, hundreds accepting Christ as Lord and Savior.

Only eternity will show the full impact this tiny ministry operating on a shoe-string budget has had on the lives of so many who live here in Guayaquil. To God be the Glory.

While the below video has been out now for several years, it is a good summary of what God continues to do through this ministry. Thanks for viewing and especially for praying for Teleamigo as she begins her 21st year of ministry.

To read past articles in this blog about Teleamigo, type in the word "teleamigo" at the top of the page in the search box.

Monday, July 15

Ecuadorian Baptist Identity

In Ecuador, what is it that makes a Baptist a Baptist? Is it our traditions and practices brought to us by the first Baptist missionaries who arrived in 1950? Our programs and literature?  Our contextualized understanding of Scriptural mandates and doctrine? Exactly what is it that determines if one is truly an Ecuadorian Baptist, or more identified with some other group of evangelical believers?

I have observed with interest in recent weeks a resurgence amongst many of my Ecuadorian Baptist brethren the expressed need to clearly identify what it is we believe as Baptists. In an evangelical world that is fragmented almost beyond recognition, many are wanting to define positions on a number of contemporary issues, including: church polity, same sex marriage, the church's involvement in social ministries, Christians in the political arena, education, the role of the State within church convictions, Baptist distinctives, role of women in ministry, etc.

One of the earliest attempts to define who Baptists are is the London Baptist Confession 1644/1646. While too long to quote in its entirety, I pulled a few of the articles that caught my attention. As I read this document many of their original convictions mirror my own. After each article are my own comments in italics. Some of my observations are particular to our own context here in Ecuador and not necessarily issues in other parts of the world.

BEING thus joined, every church hath power given them from Christ, for their wellbeing, to choose among themselves meet persons for elders and deacons, being qualified according to the word, as those which Christ hath appointed in His testament, for the feeding, governing, serving, and building up of His Church; and that none have any power to impose either these or any other. Acts 1:23,26,6:3,15:22.25; Rom.12:7,8; 1 Tim.3:2,6.7; 1 Cor. 12:8,28; Heb.13:7,17; 1 Pet.5:1,2,3, 4:15.

"...choose among themselves" seems to be the pattern of those early Baptists who preceded us. The current practice of importing trained professionals from outside the congregation seems foreign to the wording in this article. As is the idea of home-grown plural "elders and deacons" which is in contrast with the more common "Senior Pastor" model which seems to be the norm today.

THAT the ministers lawfully called, as aforesaid, ought to continue in their calling and place according to God's ordinance, and carefully to feed the flock of God committed to them, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. Heb.5:4; John 10:3,4; Acts 20:28,29; Rom.12:7,8; Heb.13:7.17; 1 Pet.5: 1.2,3.

"...ought to continue in their calling and place..." means to me that if they are a school teacher, they are to continue in that profession and not abandon it for the ministry. Our modern idea of having full-time professional church ministers seems out of tune with this earlier confession of Baptist belief and practice.

BAPTlSM is an ordinance of the New Testament, given by Christ, to be dispensed upon persons professing faith, or that are made disciples; who upon profession of faith, ought to be baptized, and after to partake of the Lord's Supper. Matt.28:18,19; John 4:1; Mark 16:15,16; Acts 2:37.38, 8:36,37,etc.

"...to be dispensed upon persons professing faith..." is the only prerequisite for baptism. In many Baptist contexts, especially in Ecuador, other prerequisites are often added to that of "professing faith"--usually in the insistence that the person requesting baptism be legally married (not living in adultery/fornication) before consideration is given to their profession of faith.

THE person designed by Christ to dispense baptism, the Scripture holds forth to be a disciple; it being no where tied to a particular church officer, or person extraordinarily sent the commission enjoining the administration, being given to them as considered disciples, being men able to preach the gospel. Isa.8:16; Eph.2:7; Matt.28:19; John 4:2; Acts 20:7,11:10; 1 Cor.11:2, 10:16,17; Rom.16:2; Matt.18:17.

The administrator of baptism are disciples. No where in Scripture is baptism tied to a particular church office. Our modern practice (especially overseas where this is an issue) of only ordained, recognized church leaders being the only ones authorized to baptize seems to contradict not only our Baptist forefathers but Scripture itself.

CHRIST hath likewise given power to His Church to receive in, and cast out, any member that deserves it; and this power is given to every congregation, and not to one particular person, either member or officer, but in relation to the whole body, in reference to their faith and fellowship. Rom.16:2; Matt.18:17; 1 Cor.5:4,11,13;12:6;2:3; 2 Cor.2:6,7.

Again, what caught my attention is that "power" is in the body of believers, and not in any particular sub-group or special persons like it is in many Baptist churches here in Ecuador (usually the pastor.)

AND although the particular congregations be distinct, and several bodies, every one as a compact and knit city within itself; yet are they all to walk by one rule of truth; so also they (by all means convenient) are to have the counsel and help one of another, if necessity require it, as members of one body, in the common faith, under Christ their head. 1 Cor.4:17, 14:33,36,16:1; Ps.122:3; Eph.2:12,19: Rev.2:1; 1 Tim.3:15, 6:13,14; 1 Cor.4:17; Acts 15:2,3; Song of Sol.8:8.9; 2 Cor.8:1.4, 13:14.

While meeting in various geographic locations around the city, the "several bodies" are to "have the counsel and help one of another..." How I wish we could get back to this basic practice of understanding that we are all one in Christ and in need of one another. We are to be there for one another and not separate ourselves from our brothers in our own mini church kingdoms.

Also such to whom God hath given gifts in the church, may and ought to prophecy [viz., teach] according to the proportion of faith, and to teach publicly the word of God, for the edification, exhortation, and comfort of the church. 1 Cor. 14:3, etc.; Rom 12:6; 1 Pet. 4:10, 11; 1 Cor. 12:7; 1 Thess. 5:19, etc.

This is nothing more than direct teaching from Paul out of I Corinthians 14. Yet we have taken away from the people to publicly prophecy/teach and hired out professionals to edify, exhort, and comfort the church.

Comments? Oberservations? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Sunday, July 7


Curtis Sergeant was the first to introduce me to the concept of IYKDWYBDYKGWYBG: If You Keep Doing What You’ve Been Doing, You’ll Keep Getting What You’ve Been Getting.
One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get different results. Also, if you just do the same thing you have been doing but do more of it, you will probably get the same thing you have been getting, just more of it. So, if you are dissatisfied with the current results, then you need to consider altering your approach or changing the methodology that is currently being used. Constant ruthless evaluation is an important habit if you are seeking maximum effectiveness. Never be satisfied with the status quo. Always seek to improve...
I have found this advise to be so true. We get stuck in our ruts and just keep ploughing away hoping somehow that if we just do more of it and work harder at it we will somehow get the desired results. Even when something is obviously not working, we have the tendency to not change what we are doing.

My experience has been that nothing seems to work for very long. It seems we are always in a state of transition. What may have worked well three months ago is no longer as relevant. Those "perfect materials" were perfect for about two weeks, today something else is needed. Those we thought were our "superstar church planters" have moved on to something else. Once again we are back to square one asking the Lord of the Harvest for God-called laborers.

We want a plan, a program, a tried and proven formula that keeps on working year after year. Yet ministry (the world for that matter!) doesn't seem to operate this way. The IYKDWYBDYKGWYBG idea reminds me WHAT we do and HOW we do things matters. We need to constantly evaluate and measure what is working and make needed changes.

Thursday, July 4

Pindal Medical Missions Trip

from Guy Muse on Vimeo.

Highlights from our June 21-28, 2013 medical missions trip to Pindal, Ecuador in the southern province of Loja.

Friday, June 21

Does God Have "To Do" Lists?

The past few weeks have been frustrating. For every item I am able to cross off on my "To Do" list, 2-3 more are added. Calls needing to be made, reports overdue, projects awaiting attention, documents needing translation, individuals needing counseling, materials needing to be reworked, follow-up visits that should have been taken care of weeks ago, banking and financial matters needing attention yesterday, etc.

In the past fourteen days, I have only been able to cross off fourteen items total out of 40+ things needing attention yesterday. That averages to one item accomplished per day!

Why am I getting so little accomplished these days? I can answer that with one word. INTERRUPTIONS. And what is the definition of interruptions? PEOPLE!

People calling. People needing help. People asking favors. People dropping by the house. Meetings...requests...office/paperwork. Endless correspondence where you respond to an email and there are two more that pop up in the inbox while answering! Night and day, it never lets up. When is one supposed to get around to doing "our stuff" when everybody else's stuff is taking up all our time?


What if God also has "to do" lists? What if God has on his list today for Juán to call me and see about our getting together for coffee at 2:15 this afternoon and talk about his problems?

When I seriously pray, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done..." am I not in effect saying, "Lord, your "to do" list has priority. Your agenda today takes precedence over my own." While meeting Juán at 2:15 may not be on my list, I would be foolish to blow off meeting Juan at 2:15 if he is on God's list.

I am reminded of a Mark Batterson quote I once came across,
One of my mottos is "ministry happens." I think that at least 90% of the ministry that happens in the gospels is spontaneous. Jesus was headed from one place to another and an opportunity would present itself. Jesus was willing to get off the beaten path and take the road less traveled. He didn't see them as detours or dead ends. Too often we mistake human interruptions for divine appointments. --from a Mark Batterson message entitled "Wild Goose Chase."
For people like myself who are geared toward intentional ministry and "to do" lists, the above thought is a needed reminder. Am I too busy to take time for someone interrupting "my ministry?" Am I so geared towards that 10% intentional ministry that I overlook the 90% God sets in my path daily?

Friday, June 14

Pray the Lord of the Harvest...

One of Jesus' most ignored commands is "...pray to the Lord of the harvest, that He send out workers into His harvest." Luke 10:2b (ten2b praying).

This is one prayer the Lord wants to answer. It is the first command Jesus instructed the 70 in Luke 10 as he prepared them for going out into the fields white and ready for harvest.

If I were training the "70" prayer would be an important element. But would praying for workers be the primary focus of the praying? Probably not. To me it is interesting that Jesus doesn't tell them to pray for the lost; he instructs them to pray for workers. It seems our job is to ask God to call out the laborers and send them to the harvest fields; it is the Holy Spirit's job to put those workers into contact with hearts He is dealing with.

I am more convinced than ever He is just waiting on us to ask him for workers. One of the most consistent prayers I pray everyday is for harvest laborers. Unless the Lord calls out the workers and puts it in their hearts to do the work, it doesn't matter how many people we might train. Very little fruit will remain.

Ten2b praying works. It is God's way of getting the job done. Praying for workers is something He wants to answer. He is waiting for us to get serious about praying for workers, so that He can get serious with us about sending us the workers he intends on using.

There are so many stories I could share but will limit myself to this one from Posorja...

Posorja is a 2-hour drive from Guayaquil. The first night of the training two men came. Nobody seemed to know who they were and they didn't say much. It was obvious they were visitors. As we were concluding the training I asked for people to share what the Lord had impressed upon them during our time together. Much to everyone's surprise both visitors stood, indicating they wanted to speak. The first man began to weep uncontrollably for several moments. Slowly their story got out...
My partner and I are professional fishermen from Costa Rica. We have been in Posorja for the past few weeks wondering why on earth God led us to this place. We have not been able to accomplish anything we had originally come here to do. Our plans were to go to Manta (another port city on the coast of Ecuador) and yet God strangely led us here. The first day we decided to go out and try to find an evangelical church. We happened to "discover" this church the first night of the training. We now fully understand why God brought us to Posorja. It was not for fishing permits, but for an understand on how to FISH FOR MEN. We have been wanting to work for the Lord and serve Him, but didn't know how to go about doing it. The tools we received in this training are exactly what we have been needing. We fish up and down the coast of South America and come into contact with many people in our travels. Our desire is to be effective fishers of men to all the places God takes us. We now feel prepared for the task God has called us to.
Some would call the above a coincidence. But I firmly believe this was yet another answer to ten2b praying.

God heard our prayers for workers...
...coordinated our coming together with two fishermen just "passing through"
...the Lord choosing a remote fishing village that neither of us had ever been to before
...to a church that neither of us had ever set foot in before
...for a divine encounter with eternal consequences!
Such are the kinds of things that happen when we pray like Jesus commanded.

Wednesday, June 5

The difference between converts and disciples

If making disciples is the what we are to be about, how do we know if we are accomplishing this effectively? The difference between converts and disciples is that disciples obey what Christ commanded. Converts listen and might believe what they are taught, but little is applied in their own lives.

With converts, activity takes the place of obedience. We are easily seduced into thinking if we are involved in Christian activities, we are doing the right thing. Being obedient disciples is something quite different. It is not activity oriented. It is obedience to Christ's commands. Not how much we know of the Bible, but how much we obey what Christ says.

As part of the Great Commission Jesus clearly instructs "teaching them to observe ALL that I commanded you..." What exactly did Christ command?

One quick test to see how much of a disciple we really are is to grade ourselves on a scale of 1-10 on the approximate degree of obedience to each of the following commandments.

Add up the points. If you score 50% or greater, you lean towards being a disciple. If 50% or less, you probably lean more towards being a convert.


YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. The Great Commandment: Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:28-31.

2) 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.

3) ...love one another. The New Commandment: John 13:34-35, 15:12.

4) ...seek first His kingdom and His righteousness... The Priority commandment for every believer: Matthew 6:33.

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

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

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

8) ...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.

9) ...do not pass judgment...do not condemn...pardon...give... General Commandments of Jesus for victorious living: Luke 6:37-38.

10) ...love your enemies...do good to those who hate you...bless those who curse you...pray for those who mistreat you... Commandments for loving our enemies: Luke 6:27-36, Matthew 5:43-48.

No disciple should measure their spiritual maturity based upon their knowledge of the Gospel, but upon their obedience of what they know of the Gospel. We should never confuse our knowing the commands of Christ with obeying them in our personal lives. Being a follower of Jesus is not about what we know, but about how much we OBEY of what it is we know.

Sunday, June 2

Bearing fruit in abundance


In Matthew 13:23 Jesus shares Divine insight, "And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty." 

To be able to bear and bring forth fruit it is absolutely necessary to understand what the Word of God is saying. Once understood, this Word has to be acted upon.

We assume people are understanding just because we have said the right words and they have smiled and nodded their heads. What has taken us a lifetime to understand and grasp, we expect those we are sharing the Gospel to instantly comprehend. Is it really a surprise when they don't?

The reality in many cases is something quite different than we intended. I have seen this over and over again. People tend to hear what they think you are saying, not necessarily what you are saying.

Another aspect of this is our tendency to believe people need lots of information before they can really "get it." Often, little of what I am trying to communicate is getting across. All my words are filtered through their own worldview, experiences, prejudices, upbringing, etc. How nice it would be if there were a way to get inside someone's brain and see what is really being understood!

Our message is also suspect in that our listeners often question or are confused by our motivations. Why are they here? Why are they telling me this? What do they really want out of me? What's in it for me if I accept their message?

Anyway, I think I'll go back and meditate a bit more on Matthew 13. A key missiological feature is the need for people to clearly understand the Gospel message. It is our responsibility to communicate that message clearly.

Thursday, May 23

When our kingdoms get in the way of His Kingdom

Is there a connection between Acts 1:8 and Acts 8:1?

Jesus last words to his disciples before ascending to Heaven were, "but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." (Acts 1:8)

The apostles knew this teaching. They had undoubtedly taught it over and over to the growing Jerusalem church. Yet, only a small percentage of the thousands of believers seemed to be taking Jesus' words seriously. Interestingly enough, not even the apostles themselves seemed to grasp the magnitude of Jesus' words!

When Acts 1:8 begins to take a backseat, we shouldn't be surprised by an Acts 8:1 wake-up call.

Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him [Stephen] to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
(Acts 8:1)

In the midst of all that absorbs our attention:

social media
material possessions
church, etc.

...as important as these are, we must remember that Jesus expects his followers to be about being his witnesses not only in each of our Jerusalems, but in Judea, Samaria, and unto the ends of the earth. Jesus loves and cares about those in Somalia, Haiti, Iran, and India as much as he loves us. His focus and love is not only for us, but also on the individuals (people just like us) in the nations. The priority of taking his message of love and salvation to all people groups on the face of the earth is a serious matter with our Lord.

Instead of using Jerusalem as our launching pad to Judea, Samaria, and the nations, we go the opposite direction. We start with our Jerusalem, segment down to our suburb, and from there to our own micro-worlds. Our kingdoms gets confused with His Kingdom.

But one way or another Jesus will make his name known to the nations. We can either willingly obey, or be persecuted and scattered. Both get the job done!

When our personal kingdoms and local Jerusalem consume all our time, energy, and resources, and do so at the expense of the Great Commission; it should not come as a surprise when the Father permits Acts 8:1 measures to get us out of our secure comfortable environments and out into his harvest fields.

Friday, May 17

El tercer hombre en la historia para caminar sobre el agua


El primero fue Jesús (Mateo 14:25).


El segundo era Simón Pedro, discípulo de Jesús (Mateo 14:29).


y el tercero...Jorge!

Monday, May 13

Cómo explicar en 2-minutos lo que es una iglesia simple

Roy McClung nos ayuda visualizar lo que es una iglesia en casa en el video que sigue

¿Qué piensa Ud.? ¿Cree que podría hacer lo mismo en su contexto?

Wednesday, May 8

¿Qué es una iglesia simple?

La iglesia simple es conocido por algunos nombres diferentes:

-la iglesia en casa
-casas de oración
-iglesia orgánica
-casas culto
-la iglesia hogareña

A menudo se pregunta, ¿qué es la diferencia entre grupos pequeños reuniéndose en las casas, células que se reúnen en casas, e iglesias en las casas que también se reúnen en hogares? ¿No son todas la misma cosa?

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

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

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

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

Roy McClung también nos ayuda visualizar el concepto en su corto video, "Cómo explicar en 2-minutos lo que es una iglesia simple" utilizando una servilleta.

Sunday, May 5

What if...

God-Directed Deviations asks an excellent question,
...what if the singular act of making disciples comprises all of what the church is to be? I don't want to be reductionistic here, but think about it. Jesus told his disciples to "go," "make disciples of all ethnic groups," "teach them to obey all that he commanded," and "baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." Within "all that He commanded" is everything the church is supposed to be...
Indeed, what would the nations of the Earth look like today if making disciples was the primary focus of our churches?  I can't help but believe we'd be seeing an unprecedented global harvest on a scale far beyond anything the world has ever seen.

Are we doing what Jesus said to do?

Are we going out to the where the lost live? Or are we planning yet another "come to" activity for ourselves?

Are we making disciples of all ethnic groups? Or are we ministering to the same group of believers who come to our churches?

Are we teaching one another to obey all those things Jesus commanded? Or are we distracted with media events, entertainment, our personal happiness/ambitions, or living the "good life?"

And what did Jesus command? Scanning through the New Testament Gospels one can find a number of things Jesus expects his disciples to do. But since He knew we would have a hard time remembering all these commandments, He did us the favor of summarizing them all in what we know as the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).

These can be further reduced for easy recall into three objectives:

1) Love God
2) Love Others
3) Make Disciples

What would our cities, towns, and nations look like if those who claim to follow Christ would simply carry out these three commands of Christ? What would happen if the church began to restructure itself in such a way that her singular focus was upon making disciples who love God and love others? And would repeat the cycle of intentionally going out into the world to make other disciples teaching them to love God and others?

Welcome to the missionary call and task!

This 1:59 video expresses well what we attempt to share above...

Wednesday, May 1

Teleamigo: Guayaquil, Ecuador

Built upon the foundation of prayer, the Teleamigo Counseling Center in Guayaquil, Ecuador has been used to reach over 2.5 million people in the past decade.

Thursday, April 25

14 Biblical Reasons for personally engaging in missions

The Traveling Team lists 14 Biblical reasons for missions. Yet, most of us will give their list a quick skim while thinking, "God hasn't called me to that..." Really?


1) The Promise (Gen 12:1-3) – Because God has promised to bless all nations (or people groups) on the earth. What better motivation and encouragement can we have than the understanding that missions (blessing the nations with the Gospel) is in the sure purposes of God.

2) The Purchase (Rev 5:9) – Because Jesus has already purchased people from every tribe and nation with His blood. Like the Moravians motivated by this purchase we should repeat what two Moravians missionaries said as they set sail for India, “May the Lamb receive the reward of His suffering!” In other words, He has already purchased them, our job is only to gather in what is His.

3) Because the Harvest is plentiful (Matt 9:37) – Now this is for all the numbers gurus out there who are motivated by sheer statistics. Today, out of the 6.5 billion people on the planet, over 4 billion are without a saving relationship with Christ. More tragic is that 2.4 billion of these who are lost have no means to hear the message of salvation through Christ – they are cut off from the gospel through lack of missionaries, lack of resources, etc. If you lined them up in a single file line they would wrap around the earth 25 times...The harvest is plentiful!

4) Because the Laborers are few (Matt 9:37) – This is probably what runs through my head the majority of the times I get up to speak. Only one in every 20,000 believers will ever take the gospel to those who are out of reach of the church. What’s worse than that? Out of all the cross-cultural missionaries in the world, you would hope that the majority would be working where the majority need is. However only 2.5% of all the 430,000 missionaries are working in the 10/40 Window. More laborers are needed.

5) Because the Destiny of the Lost (Rom 1; John 3:18; John 14:6) – Now this is harder to take in, but I believer the Bible gives us no means by which a person can be saved other than through Christ’s work, and by exercising faith in His name. This means not by other religions, not without hearing specifically about Christ (through evangelism and missions) and not because they died without hearing. The Scripture leaves no loopholes for those living in ignorance. All are born in sin, the Cross has real meaning for salvation, and the Great Commission is necessary for people to hear and be saved. If this shocks you, you may have been influenced by the universalism that is gossiped among church goers. In Romans 1 (creation) does exactly what God designed it to do – it condemns people, leaving them without an excuse and knowledge of a creator – but not salvific knowledge of God through Jesus Christ. This makes missions not only important, but urgent.

6) Logically Necessary for Hearing the Gospel Message (Rom 10:14-15, Acts 8 (Philip) and 10 (Cornelius) – This goes along with the last one. Every time someone comes to Christ in Scripture there is a human messenger involved. It would be great to think that God would draw people to Himself in the world apart from someone going. He is able, but this is not the means He has chosen to use. The Church is the means. The Ethiopian eunuch was reading Isaiah (the OT Bible!) and still God miraculously transported Philip, a human messenger to explain Christ to him. An angel appears to Cornelius, a god-fearer. But still Peter must be summoned and travel all the way to Cornelius’ house to explain the gospel to him before he could be saved. Why didn’t the angel just tell Cornelius? It would have saved a lot of time and gas money for Peter – but God used a human messenger. Missions and evangelism are necessary.

7) The Example of the Church (Acts 1:8, 10, 15, Rom 15:20) – The early church has given us a model to follow. They went out, sent out their own missionaries like Paul and Barnabus, and evangelized the Gentiles beyond the reach of the gospel in their world.

8) The Descriptive Future is Prescriptive for Today (Rev 7:9, Rev 21:24-26) – Now, it’s tricky but follow this logic. If there are people described in heaven in the future – it is logical that they must be reached with the gospel at some point in history. So because we see a great multitude gathered around the throne from every tribe, people, and nation – we must labor to begin with this end in mind, bringing it into reality as God uses us to fulfill it.

9) Because We Will be Held Accountable (Ezek 33) – Here is a passage that will cause you to re-evaluate life. The people of God, meant to be a blessing to the world, were held accountable for not warning others of the danger coming. Will believers be held accountable for their obedience to the Great Commission? It may mean great reward-loss by many Christians for failing to use what God has blessed them with to bless the nations.

10) Because To Whom Much is Given Much is Required (Luke 12:47-48) – Here is Jesus’ measuring standard. It’s like a blessing and obedience math formula. Our accountability may be based on our resources, our understanding, or our ability – more given equals more expected.

11) Because the Church is the Means (Rom 1:5, Gal 3:14-15, 2 Cor 5:17-20) – You are God’s ordained means for the blessing of Christ reaching to all the nations, just like He promised (Gen 12). Jesus has purchased them (Rev 5:9) and commissioned us with the task of gathering them in for God’s glory.

12) Because History Awaits the Fulfillment of the Promise (Matt 24:14) – Not sure how it’s all going to play out, but if God has promised that all nations are reached and Jesus says here that the gospel will be preached to all nations…then the end will come – it just seems logical. The story of history seems to be arranged on the thread of this mission, even the history we are a part of today. That is exciting!

13) Because the Glory of God is Yet to be Known (Hab 2:14; Ps 72:19, 86; Isa 11:9) – There are actually about a dozen times that Bible talks of God’s glory “filling the earth as the waters cover the sea.” God has created people to worship Him and that worship is being given to other lesser things right now. Missions is spreading the worship and enjoyment of God to those who are not currently worshippers, because God’s glory is increased by the increase of His church in the world. As John Piper says it, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Where passion for God is weak, zeal for missions will be weak.”

14) The Commands of Jesus (Matt 28:18-20; Acts 1:8, 13:47; John 20:21) – And last of all – because Jesus commanded it. Just as Jesus says in John 14:21, "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me,” or 1 John 3:24, “The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him.” I hope we can all stand before him in the end and hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Monday, April 15

¿Qué podemos aprender en cuanto al bautismo de la iglesia del primer siglo?

A continuación una lista completa de todos los pasajes en el libro de Los Hechos que hablan del bautismo.

Al estudiar los pasajes haga las siguientes preguntas...

¿Cuándo fueron bautizados?

¿Cuál era el requisito para ser bautizado?

¿Quién bautizó?

¿Cuanto tiempo pasó en cada caso entre el haber creido y el haber sido bautizado?

En estos pasajes, qué es más importante, ¿la persona quién bautiza, o el nombre en quién se bautiza?

Según los pasajes arriba, ¿cuándo sería un caso cuando un pecador se arrepiente y NO se le debería bautizar?

¿Qué podemos aprender en cuanto al bautismo de la iglesia del primer siglo?

¿Tenemos el derecho de imponer otras prácticas o impedimentos al bautismo a las que se observan aquí en estos pasajes del libro de los Hechos, la Palabra de Dios?


Hechos 2:36-41 Sepa, pues, con certeza toda la casa de Israel, que a este Jesús a quien vosotros crucificasteis, Dios le ha hecho Señor y Cristo. Al oír esto, compungidos de corazón, dijeron a Pedro y a los demás apóstoles: Hermanos, ¿qué haremos? Y Pedro les dijo: Arrepentíos y sed bautizados cada uno de vosotros en el nombre de Jesucristo para perdón de vuestros pecados, y recibiréis el don del Espíritu Santo. Porque la promesa es para vosotros y para vuestros hijos y para todos los que están lejos, para tantos como el Señor nuestro Dios llame. Y con muchas otras palabras testificaba solemnemente y les exhortaba diciendo: Sed salvos de esta perversa generación. Entonces los que habían recibido su palabra fueron bautizados; y se añadieron aquel día como tres mil almas.

8:9-13 Y cierto hombre llamado Simón, hacía tiempo que estaba ejerciendo la magia en la ciudad y asombrando a la gente de Samaria, pretendiendo ser un gran personaje ; y todos, desde el menor hasta el mayor, le prestaban atención, diciendo: Este es el que se llama el Gran Poder de Dios. Le prestaban atención porque por mucho tiempo los había asombrado con sus artes mágicas. Pero cuando creyeron a Felipe, que anunciaba las buenas nuevas del reino de Dios y el nombre de Cristo Jesús, se bautizaban, tanto hombres como mujeres. Y aun Simón mismo creyó; y después de bautizarse, continuó con Felipe, y estaba atónito al ver las señales y los grandes milagros que se hacían.

8:34-39 El eunuco respondió a Felipe y dijo: Te ruego que me digas, ¿de quién dice esto el profeta? ¿De sí mismo, o de algún otro? Entonces Felipe abrió su boca, y comenzando desde esta Escritura, le anunció el evangelio de Jesús. Yendo por el camino, llegaron a un lugar donde había agua; y el eunuco dijo*: Mira, agua. ¿Qué impide que yo sea bautizado? Y Felipe dijo: Si crees con todo tu corazón, puedes. Respondió él y dijo: Creo que Jesucristo es el Hijo de Dios.Y mandó parar el carruaje; ambos descendieron al agua, Felipe y el eunuco, y lo bautizó. Al salir ellos del agua, el Espíritu del Señor arrebató a Felipe; y no lo vio más el eunuco, que continuó su camino gozoso.

9:17-18 Ananías fue y entró en la casa, y después de poner las manos sobre él, dijo: Hermano Saulo, el Señor Jesús, que se te apareció en el camino por donde venías, me ha enviado para que recobres la vista y seas lleno del Espíritu Santo. Al instante cayeron de sus ojos como unas escamas, y recobró la vista; y se levantó y fue bautizado.

10:44-48 Mientras Pedro aún hablaba estas palabras, el Espíritu Santo cayó sobre todos los que escuchaban el mensaje. Y todos los creyentes que eran de la circuncisión, que habían venido con Pedro, se quedaron asombrados, porque el don del Espíritu Santo había sido derramado también sobre los gentiles, pues les oían hablar en lenguas y exaltar a Dios. Entonces Pedro dijo: ¿Puede acaso alguien negar el agua para que sean bautizados éstos que han recibido el Espíritu Santo lo mismo que nosotros? Y mandó que fueran bautizados en el nombre de Jesucristo. Entonces le pidieron que se quedara con ellos unos días.

16:13-15 Y en el día de reposo salimos fuera de la puerta, a la orilla de un río, donde pensábamos que habría un lugar de oración; nos sentamos y comenzamos a hablar a las mujeres que se habían reunido. Y estaba escuchando cierta mujer llamada Lidia, de la ciudad de Tiatira, vendedora de telas de púrpura, que adoraba a Dios; y el Señor abrió su corazón para que recibiera lo que Pablo decía. Cuando ella y su familia se bautizaron, nos rogó, diciendo: Si juzgáis que soy fiel al Señor, venid a mi casa y quedaos en ella. Y nos persuadió a ir.

16:29-34 Entonces él pidió luz y se precipitó adentro, y temblando, se postró ante Pablo y Silas, y después de sacarlos, dijo: Señores, ¿qué debo hacer para ser salvo? Ellos respondieron: Cree en el Señor Jesús, y serás salvo, tú y toda tu casa. Y le hablaron la palabra del Señor a él y a todos los que estaban en su casa. Y él los tomó en aquella misma hora de la noche, y les lavó las heridas; enseguida fue bautizado, él y todos los suyos. Llevándolos a su hogar, les dio de comer, y se regocijó grandemente por haber creído en Dios con todos los suyos.

18:7-8 Y partiendo de allí, se fue a la casa de un hombre llamado Ticio Justo, que adoraba a Dios, cuya casa estaba junto a la sinagoga. Y Crispo, el oficial de la sinagoga, creyó en el Señor con toda su casa, y muchos de los corintios, al oír, creían y eran bautizados.

19:1-7 Y aconteció que mientras Apolos estaba en Corinto, Pablo, habiendo recorrido las regiones superiores, llegó a Efeso y encontró a algunos discípulos, y les dijo: ¿Recibisteis el Espíritu Santo cuando creísteis? Y ellos le respondieron: No, ni siquiera hemos oído si hay un Espíritu Santo. Entonces él dijo: ¿En qué bautismo, pues, fuisteis bautizados? Ellos contestaron: En el bautismo de Juan. Y Pablo dijo: Juan bautizó con el bautismo de arrepentimiento, diciendo al pueblo que creyeran en aquel que vendría después de él, es decir, en Jesús. Cuando oyeron esto, fueron bautizados en el nombre del Señor Jesús. Y cuando Pablo les impuso las manos, vino sobre ellos el Espíritu Santo, y hablaban en lenguas y profetizaban. Eran en total unos doce hombres.

Tuesday, April 9

G.D. Watson's "Others may, but you cannot"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 27

A shift in our missionary role

My wife and I arrived in Guayaquil, Ecuador as missionaries in December of 1987. In those early missionary days we labored at the center of where "the action" was taking place. We were in high demand by the churches, associations, and Ecuador Baptist Convention and all their related institutions and programs. A lot of our time was spent attending all the different meetings of both our own denominational work, as well as the events and programs of other evangelical denominations. I served on various denominational boards, committees, and task forces. Our advice and opinions were respected and listened to. We were constantly called upon to preach, teach, administer, counsel, train, and coordinate ministries, institutions, and strategy. Each of us wore multiple ministerial hats. All of us were responsible for carrying out an assortment of assignments, often in areas we were not particularly gifted in, but "someone" had to fill those shoes, so we took on these tasks as well. Our phone rang incessantly. Rare were the days when we had an entire evening to ourselves without someone in our home, someone dropping by to chat, or the phone ringing day and night.

Over the years, all of the above has continued to decrease to, what is today, a mere trickle of what it was 20 years ago. Has the work diminished? Not at all. In fact far more is happening now on multiple levels than anyone could have ever imagined. But our personal influence and role has diminished from what it once was. Probably to be fair, a better description would be our influence and role has changed. While we are certainly still loved and respected by our Ecuadorian brethren, the things we used to do--as "principal actors on stage"--are now being done by those we poured ourselves into years ago. The very men/women/youth we taught, counseled, trained, and encouraged have taken our place. They are the ones now that others call upon, serve in "important" capacities, speak, teach, train, travel, lead, preach, etc.

One of the hardest missions lessons is the one John the Baptist must have also struggled with: "He must increase; but I must decrease." Someone once defined missionary success as working oneself out of a job.

But actually saying these words is a lot easier than living with the consequences of someone else now doing and filling the roles one used to have. We too want to be needed, sought after, consulted, and called upon. In fact, instead of the phone ringing in the evenings with yet another crisis for us to solve, we now can sit most nights quietly reading a book without interruption.

As I reflect back over the years of all the assignments, responsibilities, tasks, and roles we have played; ALL, without exception, are today in the hands of nationals who are doing an excellent job.

So what are we still doing here if we have successfully worked ourselves out of all our jobs?

The task is far from completed. With only 7-10% of the population in Ecuador followers of Christ, much remains to see the Great Commission fulfilled in our region of the world.

What I sense is most needed is not more missionaries continuing to come from other parts of the world to Ecuador, but rather a shift in role existing missionaries play.

We must begin to see ourselves more in the apostolic role of encouragers, enablers, equippers, trainers, motivators, connectors, and coordinators who are principally engaged in mobilizing God's people into the ripe harvest fields--not as fun as front line stuff, but necessary!

While there will always be room for the first generation apostolic church planter who goes into unreached/under-reached territory to proclaim the Gospel, make disciples, and leave a NT ekklesia; in the later stages of a ripe harvest field (like Ecuador) we best serve the King by shifting our focus to helping the church see what remains to be done, how to accomplish the task, provide tools and training, and mobilize to lead hundreds of laborers to bring in the harvest God is giving.

Another way of understanding this role change is to explain it this way: I can feel great about spending 30-40 hours a week directly engaged in proclaiming the Gospel, making disciples, baptizing 15-20 and hopefully planting 1-2 churches in a year's time...or, I can spend that same time modeling, training, mobilizing several hundred others to do the same things, and at the end of the year see the Kingdom grow by dozens of churches and hundreds of baptisms and scores of new disciples also equipped to going out and making even more disciples.

In the first role we are the primary actors on stage. Everyone sees us, needs us, and looks to us for direction. In the second we are behind the scenes and the ones "seen" are those we are coaching. The difference in the way we understand our apostolic/missionary role is between planting a church, and being an instrument in the Spirit's hands for dozens of churches planted all over the region.

What do you think? As usual, your thoughts and observations are welcome.

Monday, March 25

How traditions often trump Jesus' teachings

One of my favorite Vance Havner quotes says, "The church is so subnormal that if it ever got back to the New Testament normal it would seem to people to be abnormal." So true! And yet this 'subnormal church' continues to sail along with few daring to ask the difficult question, why.

Why do we do what we do? How have we managed to stray so far from New Testament practice and teaching, yet think we are being Biblical in our way of doing things?

Years ago I discovered a series of free downloadable audio teachings entitled The Tradition of the Elders by Beresford Job at House-Church.org. This series of teachings brought to light many of the perplexing questions that have haunted me over the years. The series is in six parts* (TR1-TR6) and takes a while to listen to, but it is a most enlightening trip through early church history showing how we got from 'there' to where we are today.

It was in this series that I was first seriously introduced to the writings of the early church fathers. I now possess a large quantity of these writings and have spent many a fascinating hour pouring over their words. For me these early church fathers are the key to understanding how we managed in such a short amount of time to shift from the practices and teachings of Christ and the apostles into what we have today.

Take for example, Ignatius the second bishop of Antioch. Here is a direct quote from his epistle to the church in Smyrna written only a few years after John the Apostle died...
See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid. --The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, Chap. VIII:22b-25.
The whole concept that the pastor/bishop/elder is God's chosen servant to lead the church, and only the pastor can do certain holy functions does not originate with the teachings of Christ, nor the Apostles, but with bishops (pastors) like Ignatius. It is Ignatius who says that only bishops can baptize and officiate the Lord's Supper, not Jesus or the Apostles. Yet the practice that prevails today is that of Ignatius. His words have been elevated to those of Holy Scripture!

It is Ignatius who opines that bishops/pastors/elders are in separate spiritual classes. His order is clearly...

-God the Father
-followed by Jesus the Son
-then the local bishop
-the presbytery
-the deacons
-the common lay person (you and me)

How does this reconcile with Jesus' own teaching to his disciples in Matthew 20?
But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. (26) "It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, (27) and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; (28) just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
To be fair, the Canon of Scripture as we have it today, was not in their possession at the time these and similar words were penned. I don't doubt the good intentions these early church fathers had in writing these kinds of things for the churches of their day. These were difficult days dealing with heresy, persecution, and things we cannot even imagine. There was no Bible to guide them like we have today. What is amazing to me, though, is that these aberrations were not corrected once they did have the complete Canon of Scripture in hand!

Few are aware that many of our church traditions, practices, and commonly accepted teachings we have today do not come from Scripture. Instead, they originate with things taught by the early church fathers, like Ignatius. These traditions have been passed down to us over the centuries. Any one questioning the traditions is suspect. But shouldn't it be the other way around?  Shouldn't we judge our traditions and practices by what we find in Scripture?

What are your thoughts?

*If you don't have time to listen to the entire series you might consider starting by fast-forwarding to TR3 and TR4 to get at the heart of the series.

Friday, March 22


Safe Hat is an acrostic for:

Sad (or stressed)


The "Safe Hat" is a tool we use in house church gatherings to facilitate people sharing what is going on in their lives.  We believe God is constantly reaching, teaching, leading, and pointing things out to us. We all need some encouragement in sharing these these experiences in order to stimulate one another to "love and good deeds." (Heb. 10:24-25)

How it works is we "pass the hat" from person to person. While passing the Safe Hat around we sing a short chorus that says,
God has something to say to you
God has something to say
Listen, listen, pay close attention
God has something to say.
God speaks to us in many different kinds of ways. We just need to "listen, listen, and pay close attention" to be able to hear what He is trying to say to us.

We keep singing the chorus until someone places the cap on their head (like Mark is doing above!) and then immediately stop singing to hear how God is working in that person's life.

The person with the cap on his head is now SAFE and can freely share what is on their heart by choosing one of the safe hat words to begin...

I am sad...
I am angry...
I am frustrated...
I am excited about... etc.

After the person is through sharing, he/she can choose one of three responses from those listening:

1) I just wanted you to hear what God is doing in my life
2) I would really like for you to pray with me about this
3) I need you to "listen to God" first before saying anything

The group then will share appropriate Scripture verses/passages, words of encouragement, hugs, or any number of other appropriate responses back to the person who has just shared.

Most of the time #2 is what is asked for and we spend the needed time praying for the situation.

This tool has worked very well in our gatherings and has proven to be a good way to get people to open up and share. It has also helped unite us in more in the common bond we have in Christ Jesus.

Any questions? Feel free to share/ask in the comments below.

Sunday, March 10

At a "Cross Roads" over "Proof of Heaven"

Two books. Both take the soul out of the body and go places not been to before--the afterlife. One is fiction, the other a true story. In both narratives, the main character goes into a coma and emerges from the experience transformed by what is discovered in the spiritual world that lies beyond. I enjoyed both immensely, and hope you read both books!

There is something within us that draws us to the mysterious, the unknown. I love writers who are able to transport us into other realms where the profound questions of the meaning of life are explored. I relish anything that challenges me to think outside-the-box of my own small world. Two such books, listened to back-to-back, are the audio versions of William Paul Young's second novel Cross Roads and Eben Alexander's personal journey into the afterlife, Proof of Heaven.  The former is Young's long awaited follow-up to his 18-million bestselling novel, "The Shack." Alexander's book is a detailed recounting of what happened to him both physically and spiritually while in a coma for seven days.

Both narratives fall into the category of exploring the mysterious afterlife. Neither author questions whether or not life exists after death; but rather, seek to describe what the afterlife is like. Young, utilizing a fictional story, has greater freedom to explore this "other world" without having to justify every word, scene, and sentence. Alexander's recounting is tougher because what he describes of his experience of heaven is limited by having to share only what he personally saw, heard, felt, and experienced without additions. Add to these limitations, his "proof of heaven" is not distinctly a Christian Heaven, which can be a little disconcerting for someone like myself.

Needless to say, both are thought-provoking and explore the timeless questions about life, where we come from, where we are going, what happens after we die, is God real, and does God really love us individually and personally. I think both succeed in assuring us that Heaven is indeed real, and the afterlife is more real than life as we know it now.

Young and Alexander's writing engage the reader on multiple levels:
  • theological--what does the Bible actually say about these things?
  • physical--understanding the brain and our physical world what happens on a scientific level
  • emotional--the power of our emotions and beliefs that directly affect the lives and choices we make in this life
  • spiritual--the soul, the consciousness, our spirits and how all that "fits" inside our body
These four aspects intertwine themselves around two fascinating stories. Both narratives alternate back and forth between the heavenly regions and things as they are back here on earth. They explore choices made here on earth and how these affect what is going on in the "real world" beyond.  If the reader already believes in the afterlife, there is little doubt these two books will only strengthen that hope that lives within, as well as challenge those who might be skeptical.

While I was intrigued by Alexander’s recounting of what happened while he was "dead" for seven days, his experience of heaven was not distinctly Biblical. He even uses different terminology for God, heaven, angels, etc. While there is little doubt Alexander believes in God, what he describes is what one would expect from someone who is not familiar with the Biblical passages and language used in Scripture. He describes in detail meeting God (“the Core”) and learned many things about the universe, including how much we are all loved intimately by God, regardless of our past sins. If you have read Rob Bell's "Love Wins" several of the more controversial concepts he relates in his own exploration of heaven and hell are revisited in these two books.

Alexander didn’t see Jesus but describes in detail the afterlife as being a place of great beauty and peace. There is even an entire chapter entitled, "REAL" where he attempts to describe in human language things incomprehensible.  He likens the difficulty of relating his indescribable experience as if a chimpanze becomes human for one day and then reverts back to being a chimpanze and then trying to express to his fellow chipanzes what he experienced as a human. The language, words, concepts, dimensions are just not there to be able to express the unexressable. I couldn't help but think on Paul's difficulty as he too attempted to describe his own beyond this physical world experience...
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know--God knows. And I know that this man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows-- was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.  (2Co 12:2-4)
I have often wondered if Paul's hearing inexpressible things "that a man is not permitted to tell" was meant only for him because of his pride issues (see the verses immediately following 2-4). But it also might be that we are not permitted to tell because we have not yet been given the vocabulary and understanding of what is beyond. To try and tell it as these authors have done falls short of the whole truth. Thus, any attempts to describe the indescribable might distort or cloud what really awaits us over on the other side.  A partial truth can be more dangerous that an outright lie.  Alexander repeatedly refers to his inability to put into language that which he saw, heard, felt, and experienced. In "Cross Roads" Paul Young is not restricted by language and thus is able to offer fascinating dialogues through the interactions of the main character with the beings he encounters in the other world. If you enjoyed the dialogues of Mack with the Godhead in "The Shack" you'll love "Cross Roads" in that, here too, Young has his main character posing the difficult questions of life, trying to make sense of a senseless world, and doing so with the only One who has the answers.

Anyway, be as it may be, these two books are very thought-provoking and are guaranteed to shake you up and rekindle interest (hope) in the next world that awaits us all.

Thursday, March 7

5 Common Great Commission Myths

5 Common Great Commission Myths
By Joey Shaw

Matthew 28:18-20, And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The passage above is commonly known as “The Great Commission”...Many people teach on this passage… most of us don’t regularly obey it. Below are five of the more common myths about the Great Commission that lead us to miss out on disciple making.

1. The myth of accidental discipleship. Many Christians think, consciously or unconsciously, that we can make disciples without changing anything in our daily lives; that as we go about doing our own thing, disciples will be almost accidentally made. This comes across in phrases like, “I will just live my daily life and if someone wants to ask about the Gospel, I will share it”, or, “I just ‘do life’ with others and pray that they will start becoming interested in Jesus”. Many Christians are willing to talk about or declare the Gospel, but only if opportunities pleasantly come they’re way. They are waiting for the perfect moment to drop from the sky upon them to actually verbalize the Gospel or start demonstrating the Gospel. The myth here is that merely “doing life” with others is an straight path to making disciples...The bottom line here is that the Great Commission will be completed only by intentional action and resoluteness. Jesus commands us today to set our eyes on the goal of disciple making and pursue that goal with stubborn focus. This means, that unless you pray and plan to make disciples, you won’t do it!

2. Crossing cultures is a step beyond the general mandate. This myth is that only select missionaries are called to cross cultures in order to make disciples. The rest of us should only focus on people like us, in our culture. The problem with this myth is that the actual Great Commission commands otherwise. Incredibly, Jesus gave a commandment to his mostly Jewish audience to go to a mostly Gentile people and make disciples! Jesus commanded his Jewish followers to go to all people groups (all ethnos, the Greek word for “nations”). In other words, the Great Commission itself is a mandate to cross cultures!

3. Jesus wants converts. The most interesting thing about the Great Commission is that it does not command us to make converts of Christianity. Instead, we are to make disciples of Jesus. The difference between convert making and disciple making is crucial. Converts change religions. Disciples change masters. Converts follow a system. Disciples follow a Person. Converts build Christendom. Disciples build the Kingdom of God. Converts embrace rituals. Disciples embrace a way of life. Converts love the command to “baptize them” in the Great Commission, but that is all. Disciples baptize others but only in context of “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you”. Converts love conversion. Disciples love transformation. Are you making converts or are you making disciples?

4. When I am ready and able, I will start making disciples. This is the ultimate delay tactic. Have you ever told yourself that you aren’t capable for some reason – lack of training, lack of experience, lack of skill, etc. – of making and multiplying disciples like Jesus? Have you ever thought of someone who is making and multiplying disciples as a super Christian? Have you ever said or prayed something like this, “We just ask you God to send out to the nations the best among us, yes, Lord, send out our marines!” If so, then you have fallen to believe the myth that making and multiplying disciples is for “elite Christians”.

5. Making disciples is great advice. Cultural Christianity loves this myth. Cultural Christians love to sing the praise of disciple makers while themselves simultaneously avoiding, through the most crafty cop-outs, actually engaging in obedience to the Great Commission. In other words, when it comes down to it, many view the Great Commission as merely great advice.

The fact is, though, that the Great Commission is a commandment coupled with the commissioning of Jesus. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15)...In other words, the measure of one’s love for Jesus is one’s obedience to Jesus! You cannot love Jesus and not obey him...you cannot disregard the Great Commission and claim to love Jesus. The command is simple, “go and make disciples”. Ask yourself, “Am I currently making disciples of others?” If not, why not ask yourself, “Will I today commit myself to beginning the process of making disciples of Jesus?”

Joey Shaw is the Minister of International Mission at The Austin Stone Community Church. He is currently writing a book on evangelical Christian thought on Islam.