Sunday, April 29, 2012


I'm reading Steve Smith's book about T4T--Training for Trainers and I very much like it.  In fact, I recomend that you read it.  But he says a couple things in there (so far) that I don't quite like.  One of them I mentioned in my last post about fads in missions.  The other one has to do with obedience.

The idea that if a Chrisitan is sharing the gospel with others (doing evangelism) he is obedient to God, and if he is not, then he is a disobedient believer.  Now, I agree with that, partially.  The problem is that Smith (and other missionaries I've met) seem to imply that doing evangelism is the ONLY way we are obedient to Christ. 

I certainly don't agree with that.  Obedience means obeying any and every command that God has given us--not just the one about evangelism. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fads in Missions

It's probably been going on for centuries.  It's likely to have been happening at least as long as Christians have made intentional efforts to reach the unreached with the gospel message.  Every now and then, someone figures out a new "key" to evangelism and it becomes a fad. 

Perhaps "fad" is not the right word.  A fad sounds like a whim--a trivial item of fashion or style.  But what I'm talking about are serious and important approaches to missions that do have lasting value.  It's just that the "fad" nature of it is that we tend to say this is THE key for success in missions.

I have seen a number of these come and go.  Here is my list:
  1. Incarnational Missions - The idea that if we "go native" by living and identifying as much as possible with the daily life of the people we're trying to reach--much like Jesus was incarnated to our world and empathizes with us--we will be effective in evangelism.
  2. Redemptive Analogies - Popularized by Don Richardson and his books "Peace Child" and "Eternity in their Hearts," the idea is that if we can just find the correct redemptive analogy that God has already place in the unreached's culture, we can unlock it and lead the lot of them to Christ.
  3. National Evangelists - Still pushed by Gospel For Asia and K.P. Yohannan, the idea is that Westerners shouldn't go to be missionaries, but just send your money to support native evangelists who already know the culture, speak the language and can do so much more with just a little bit of money.  Yohannan's book even claims this approach to be the "Coming Revolution" in world missions.
  4. Contextualization - The idea that if we dress Christian worship and practice up like the local culture as much as possible, large numbers of people will come to Christ because they aren't having to accept Western traditional religion.
  5. Tentmaking - The idea is that people with vocational training can get jobs in otherwise hard-to-access countries and be a witness for Christ. 
  6. Business As Mission (BAM) - Owning and managing businesses that provide access, can have a developmental impact and can provide funding for ministry.
  7. Church Planting Movements - The idea that God wants to have CPMs happen in all unreached people groups and we just need to "get out of the way" or do other things to facilitate them--then the world will be reached for Christ. 
  8. Training For Trainers (T4T) - This goes along with CPMs, but it is a process of evangelism/discipleship where people who hear the gospel are immediately trained to share it.  In Steve Smith's book he claims this is a "re-revolution" and is a discipleship model based on Acts, rather than Jesus' model which is "pre-pentecost" and therefore, not the model we should use. 
We Christians like to throw theological weight behind whatever good method, approach or process we are trying to promote.  If we can somehow make theologically loaded statements that prop up our pet approach, we feel we can get more people to do it--because if you don't, then  you're going against God!  Statements are made such as...

"God wants to see a CPM in every people group."
"The problem with Jesus' discipleship approach is that it was pre-pentecost."
"Paul, the most effective missionary ever, and his friends were tentmakers."
"God has placed a redemptive analogy in every culture and our job is to discover that and use it."

It's these dogmatic statements that get me.  We walk out on thin theological branches to make them.  And it almost unnecessarily ruins the value in whatever approach we're promoting.  An approach doesn't have to be THE key to be a valuable way of accomplishing the Great Commission. 

In CPM training I attended Church Planting Movements were compared to avalanches.  They even showed a couple videos of avalanches.  We described an avalanches properties and compared it to a CPM.  One of the main concepts is that an avalanche already has the potential energy built up into it.  When the guys shoots his gun, the snow breaks and then it starts building momentum until nothing can stop it.  The problem is... if the shooter went around and shot every single mountain peak with snow, there is NOT going to be an avalanche on every single slope.  Some slopes will produce them.  Others will not.  Some slopes will have dramatic avalanches, others not so much, and still others none at all.  How can we be so confident that CPMs are just waiting to happen in every single unreached people group around the world? 

Now, that is not to say I'm against praying for and working for CPMs--I am not.  I am very much in favor of doing ministry that will lead to movements.  I just don't see the need to be dogmatic about it. 

And to let you know--I'm very much in favor of all 8 of the approaches I listed above.  I just don't think that any one of them is the single key or "silver bullet" for accomplishing the Great Commission.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Accepting Criticism

Do you feel betrayed when someone offers you criticism?  Annoyed?  Irritated?  Offended?  Hurt? 

I think many of us do.  We have so much pride, that we can't take it.  We feel worse after receiving a word of criticism than Paul did after receiving a 100 stones being thrown at him.  Or, we find any and every reason possible to say that the criticism is unwarranted, illegitimate or hypocritical. 

So you know what happens?

We learn not to criticise others... to their faces.  Because if we do, they'll be offended, irritated and hurt.  No, we should just "love" them.  And by "love" we mean tolerate them.  (To their faces, that is--we are pretty good at criticising them to others in the name of "venting.")  Tolerance has become such a value in our society it means that we are, for the most part, cowards about directly telling people in our lives things we know they don't want to hear. 

Yes, cowards.

But let me ask you... Which would you rather have:
  1. People thinking about you in a negative way and not brave enough to offer any criticism.  Instead, they discuss your short-comings with others at length and only hint in a general way about "people out there" who have problems, when they really mean you.  They grumble and display an uncooperative and bad attitude around you. 
  2. People telling you directly what their criticism is, in private, and couched in statements of love and respect for other good qualities along with a disclaimer that perhaps they could be reading things wrong and allowing you the ability to accept or explain.
If you ever get the latter, be very happy!  You are blessed!  If someone shares criticisms of you like that go to great lengths to explore the depths of their thoughts and probe them for as much insight as they can offer.  Thank them for giving you their criticism.  They are gold! 

They are gold because there are so few of them.  Few people will really tell you what they're thinking.  Instead, they will take the former approach in the name of "love" and "tolerance."  But only the latter can be truly helpful to you.  You may disagree with them, and that is okay, but be thankful to God that they loved you enough to truly try to help you.  They will become the people you respect the most.

Don't be offended or hurt by their criticism because, c'mon--you already know you're far from perfect and so do others.  Don't expect others to think you are perfect, or to effectively worship you, in order for you to trust them.  Don't just accept criticism... be thankful to the person who is brave enough to offer it to you in a loving way.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Adopting Babies and New Ideas

What do you make of this? 

Yesterday I told you about the couple whose children died from heart complications.  After they first inquired about God, which was months ago, they went to the hospital in the city and were able to adopt two twin baby boys from a family (not of the same tribe) who were not able to raise them. 

Not too long after they adopted these boys they found out the wife was pregnant.  So, they felt like twins and a newborn would be too much.  They decided they needed to give one of the twins back to the birth mother.  However, they didn't know who the birth mother was--they had only dealt with hospital officials.  All they knew is that the birth family was from a particular district.

So this husband and wife took the baby with the whiter skin (the "better-looking" one) and went to that district and asked around everywhere until they found the birth mother.  The reason they brought the one with whiter skin was so that they birth mother would more readily take him back and not feel like they were dumping the less-desirable baby on her.  This lady accepted her son back and now this husband and wife only have the one to raise. 

Now, before you begin to think that the valuing of "whiter skin" has anything to do with foreigners or foreign influence, let me assure you that it does not.  It is just how the people here think.

But this story reveals a lot of different values and perspectives from our western way of thinking.  It is easy for us to judge them as a result.  I'm not going to try to defend or promote those values.  But I wanted to share them with you just to make you think. 

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments...

Friday, March 30, 2012

Feeding Steaks to Babies

Well, with a nod to full disclosure...

A week or so ago I talked about wanting to plant a house church in the home of a lady we had recently led to the Lord.  The next time we visited here we found out that it would take time as she just has a very basic understanding of things and is very young. 

We visited her again a couple days ago.  When we walked in the door she and her mom announced that she wants to "leave Jesus."  Yowser!  Why??

The time before last when we visited we brought her a cd of worship songs in her language, along with a print-out of all the words.  We also printed out a very simple plan for having house worship.  Well, I guess it wasn't so simple.

This young lady felt overwhelmed.  Her comprehension of her own language is limited and her literacy is not too high.  She was afraid she couldn't learn it all and that when we visited her we would be disappointed in her and reprimand her.

Wow!  That was not what we intended!  What we thought was so simple was very intimidating to her and put pressure on her.  I felt guitly of trying to get a newborn baby to eat a steak.

I apologized to her.  And of course we told her that she has not to worry--that she can take "baby steps."  There is no need to try to learn all of that stuff over night.  She was encouraged by that, I think, and has decided not to "leave Jesus" just yet.

But there is more to the story...

I told her husband (who is much more capable and a leader in the family) that it would be best if he believed, too.  That way they can seek and worship the Lord together as husband and wife.  He agreed, but he said he has to fulfill a commitment first.  A commitment to what?  A commitment to the spirits.

This couple previously had two children. They were not babies, but in the 5-8 year old range.  Last year they both died from heart complications.  That is why they were first interested in Jesus.  It is also why the husband "borrowed" from the spirits in a ceremony--asking for the spirit's protection and that after a year's time, he would "pay back" the spirits with a huge sacrifice.  The time for that ceremony has not yet come.  But he says after he does that, then he will become a Christian.  He also assured me that he prays along with his wife before they eat dinner. 

So... I am not yet convinced that this family is "out of the woods" just yet.  There is a lot of spiritual darkness there.  The fight for their salvation is a spiritual battle.  I told them that God is higher than any spiritual being and that if we believe in him we must obey him.  But right now the wife is pregnant with another baby.  They don't want to mess things up.  But we must pray for them.  Pray that God reveals to them exactly what he wants them to do and that they obey him. 

Thank you for praying.

Due Process?

Okay, finally one article that I've read regarding the Trayvon Martin case that actually makes sense and isn't trying to exploit the situation for sensational news or to support another agenda:

This is on, which, to tell you the truth, has really seemed to want to stoke the fire of racism in their coverage of the story.  Especially Anderson Cooper. 

I'm sorry if you disagree with me, but I agree with William Bennett:  Let's not rush to judgement or exploit the situation for our own agenda.  Let's seek the truth and allow due process to work. 

This has nothing to do with my blog, I know.  But I'm not using Facebook now and I felt I needed to post this somewhere.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Pure Heart

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Jesus is the Lord

Jesus is the Lord.  I am not.  Jesus is good.  I am not.  Jesus is king.  I am not.  Jesus is God.  I am not.  Jesus is the Savior.  I am not.  Jesus is holy.  I am not.  Jesus is worthy of praise.  I am not.  Jesus is the good shepherd.  I am not.  Jesus is all-wise.  I am not.  Jesus' ways are higher than my ways; his thoughts are higher than mine.  People should look to him, not to me.  People should be excited about him, not by me.  People should be impressed with what he has done, not by what I have done. 

Jesus is the one.  Jesus is good.  He is good.  He is good.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Who do I think I am?

Who do I think I am?  I am nobody.  As soon as a few things go well I have proven over and over again to be filled with pride and think that I am somebody important.  I get this idea that I can speak into other people's lives--tell them things they don't want to hear about themselves.  It's classic, "Let me take this speck of dust out of your eye," while the log in mine is blinding me.  Then it usually doesn't take too long before I get slammed down to the ground.  How dare I stick my head up and act like I know something about anything.  Pride makes me so ready to do so.

Lord, forgive me.  I am a fool.  Have mercy on me because I am a sinner.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Where are the Prayers?

Where are the prayers?  Not the things you say when you pray, but the people who pray:  Pray-ers.

Have you ever noticed that for all of the activities your church puts on, prayers meetings are the least attended?  Why is that?

I guess it's because it's just not that fun.  Honestly, that's how people feel.  No one wants to admit this or say it, but praying is something that we just don't feel motivated to go do like we do to speaking events, concerts, fellowship times, dinners and even Sunday services. 

Why is it that when it is time to eat, no one wants to be the one who prays?  Some Christians even play the game where they stick up their thumb and the last person who does so is the one who "has" to pray.  I guess whoever invented that little game figured that if they start it by being the first to stick up their thumb then they never have to be the one who prays. 

One time I was the only person who failed to stick up his thumb in a group of college Christians as we sat down to eat.  I was condemned to pray for the meal.  So I prayed, "Dear God, please forgive everyone for not wanting to talk with you and thank you for this food.  Amen." 

I too have the feeling of, "I just don't feel like praying today," when the time for a prayer meeting rolls around.  I often find myself looking for any excuse not to attend.  I am lazy and unspiritual just like anyone else.  But what I have noticed is this:  When I do attend and after I am done praying--Wow!  I feel totally encouraged by the effort!  I feel so tired going in... and then so pumped coming out.

I really think Satan doesn't want us to pray.  I think that, somehow, he makes us feel tired and unmotivated to pray, and tries to distract us when we do.  But when we kneel down and bow our hearts in front of the Almighty and consider the Authority, Power and Grace on the throne, his Holy Spirit completely revives us. 

May we all become fervent pray-ers!  It may be the most effective thing we ever do in our lives.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Key Mission Trainings and Concepts

My organization is promoting the following to all of its missionaries:
  1. Church Planting Movement Training Link
  2. Kairos Course Training Link
  3. Community Health Evangelism (CHE) Link
Another important approach is the following, especially for Creative Access Nations (CANs):
  1. Business As Mission (BAM) Link
Enjoy exploring these great trainings and concepts!

Friday, March 23, 2012

It's not me... it's God!

Yesterday I was having a conversation with a friend.  We work together and do accountability each week.  I shared with him about some of the things that were happening with me and some success we had seen , which we had been praying for.  In a similar area of effort he was not seeing as much success and so he complimented me, saying that I was good at doing that type of thing. 

How did I respond to that?  How would you?

I kind of blushed wishing to deflect the praise.  I didn't want to send (or accept) the message of, "Yes, I'm better than you."  So, I said, "It isn't me, it's God!"

As soon as the words came out of my mouth it hit me--That is probably worse than me saying I'm better than him!  It is like I am saying, "Yes, God works through me--why doesn't he work through you?"

That's not what I wanted to imply either.  So, I find it difficult to know what to say.  Spiritualizing the meaning behind any success I have in ministry can become more judgemental than just saying I'm talented.  In effect, it is saying that God works through me and not you.  Certainly, that was not my attitude.  Is that what my friend heard, though?  Which would be easier for him to accept:  That he is not as talented, or that God's blessing is not upon him.  I think the former is easier to accept.  But what is the truth?

The truth is that we don't know the mind of God.  Does God measure success the same way we do?  Perhaps it's not a matter of failure but timing--the fruit is just not ripe yet and in time it will be.  Perhaps God's blessing is that he is teaching perseverence rather than giving fruit. 

In everything, we should give praise to God.  And I still praise God for the fruit he has given.  So does my friend.  But I just want him to know that I don't think he lacks God's blessing and in time he will bear fruit, too.  Maybe in the same way; maybe in different ways.  I certainly have gone fruitless many, many times, and have utterly failed at others.  So, in everything, to God be the glory!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Update on new church planting effort

Well, it didn't go as well as I had hoped... But that is okay.  It still went well, and I think that it just needs some time.  This lady is such a brand new Christian that she needs to be taught some more very basic things.  The good thing that happened tonight is that we talked at length with the grandfather and a nephew, too.  Shared the gospel with them and they were interested to listen and discuss.  I shared my testimony with the younger man and he said that he related to it.  Still hoping to lead this whole family to Christ and start a church there.  We'll keep praying!

Time is short. Life is fragile. Don't wait.

My heart is heavy as one of our workers was in a motorcycle accident last night and lost his life.  I just saw him a few hours before.  He came to my house.  I chatted with him, asked him for his phone number and took a picture of him with my phone.  He didn't smile until I told him to--I said, "When you call me your picture is going to pop up and I want to see you smiling!"  He smiled.  I snapped the picture.  We shook hands.  It was a good, firm handshake. 

It was the last picture that was taken of him and probably his last handshake. 

This morning his mother arrived in town and saw his body, with the hole in his head.  She and her relatives wailed.  They have no hope.  Though a former Buddhist monk, he was not a believer.  When I heard the moaning I was overwhelmed with emotion.  All I could think about was what would I feel like if I lost my son?  Tears flowed. 

He had heard the gospel.  He was present once when I shared the message of Jesus to a large group of all of our workers.  I noticed he seemed interested.  Man, I wish I would have sat him down and talked with him more last night.  His friends told me they saw him after he left my house.  He said he was so happy I took his picture. 

I smiled.  But I wish I had done more than that. 

Time is short.  Life is fragile.  Don't wait.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Simple House Church Service

I am going to try to put into practice a phrase I learned at the Church Planting Movement training I attended about two years ago:  Every new believer is a potential new church. 

About a week ago I led a lady to Christ who lives near my home.  Her husband is on the edge but wasn't ready to make the decision.  Normally, when someone first believes it is important for them to learn how to begin personal devotions, reading the Bible, praying, etc.  That is what we teach every new believer.  and we usually always invite them to attend church, too.  However, before I rush her to church, I want to teach her how to lead a very simple church service in her own home. 

This might seem crazy to some (What does she know?  She's not qualified!), but it is the most opportune time to train her to be a leader.  If we bring her to church there are some things she might learn that aren't so great:
  • To think that being a Christian is about mere church attendance.
  • To think that the sum of what makes a good believer is sitting and listening (or not).
  • To think that she's just joined a religion and not a relationship with the Almighty.
  • To think that she doesn't have any place in Christian service, leadership, teaching, etc.
  • To think that if she's going to evangelize her family she can only do that by inviting them to church.
I am not against her going to church, and there are a lot of good things she could gain from that.  But I am going to encourage her to do something very simple and reproducible.  I am going to ask her to have her husband, her parents, her sister, and anyone else in their household who is interested to join her, even if they do not yet believe.  This is what I'm thinking I'll have her do:
  1. Learn about 10 different worship songs in her tribal language to use for singing together.
  2. Pray for God to lead them and show them what he wants them to know.
  3. Go through the following study material:
    1. A very simple Gospel presentation/explanation lesson. (1-2 meetings.)
    2. A series of chronological Bible stories. (About 40 stories--one per meeting.)
    3. The Gospel of Luke.  (A chapter per meeting.)
    4. An ongoing Bible study--through the whole Bible.
  4. Read the above material and ask one another the following questions:
    1. What does this text teach us about God?
    2. What other meaning is there in this text?
    3. What should we do or how should we live based on this text?
  5. Pray that God will help them to obey the message.
  6. Pray the Lord's Prayer.
Very Simple.  That's the idea.  The problem is, when you start thinking about things they "ought" to do in a service, or other questions they "ought" to ask about the text, you can easily add in a multitude of other things.  Then the list becomes very long and cumbersome and it begins to become more about following a prescribed "order of service" than it does about just doing something simple that focuses on the meaning and on God. 

The one thing I'd like to add in there is a simple practice of the Lord's Supper.  I think that could be done if they all eat a meal together first, then do their meeting.  Before the final prayer, they pick out some drink and some rice from the table and remember Christ's death and resurrection together. 

I will need to model this to them a number of times before they will understand, I think.  But I want to keep it simple.  I also want her family to have the opportunity to study and come to faith when they would never be interested in going to church.

I'll let you know how it goes...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Impressed By Our Own Obedience

Seems like I've run into a lot of people lately who are announcing to others how they serve God, supposing to encourage others to do the same. 

What has happened, however, is that these people are being filled with pride about their own ministry and judging others for not doing the same.  In some cases, other people are in fact active in ministry--just doing so in a quiet way that these people are not aware. 

This reminds me of two things that Jesus talked about:

The first is Jesus' description of the Pharisees about how they pray and give in public for everyone to see.  He said they have received their reward in full.  They are implicated for not doing it out of love for God and people so much as for impressing the masses and gaining more respect.  It is problematic when we do good things to impress other people.  It's often hidden behind wanting to be a "good example."  If you want to be a good example--be one and let others point to you; don't point yourself out to others.

The second is the story of the two men who went to pray at the temple, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee thanked God for how good he was and that he wasn't like the tax collector.  He listed off all the ways he was serving and obeying God.  The tax collector beat his chest and said, "God have mercy on me for I am a sinner."  The latter is the attitude that God wants. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Unintentional Promulgators of the Prosperity Gospel

The so-called "Prosperity Gospel" is basically the idea that if you believe in Jesus, and follow him correctly, your problems and ills will disappear--you will become healthier and wealthier.  Happiness is the result of not having problems, of things working out, life becoming easier. 

How many times do we unwittingly send this message? 

Now, there are those who believe that this is what the Bible teaches.  I am not one of them.  True, Jesus healed people in the Bible.  True, God solved problems for people many times.  True, the Almighty has blessed people in many ways, including materially.  But I believe God's ultimate purpose for all of us is holiness, rather than happiness defined by material comfort and ease of living.  Jesus said that the way to life is a narrow road and that only a few find it.  The road that leads to destruction, however, is broad and many travel on it.  So Jesus never promises us that the road we take will be easy.  But the destination is good.  If we choose the road according to the ease of travel and not the for where it leads, then we're asking for trouble.  This could be it's own discussion, but we'll save it for another time.

Sometimes we become unintentional promulgators of the prosperity gospel when we share testimonies about how God helped overcome our problems.  Now, I don't think we shouldn't praise God for such help or keep from sharing those testimonies.  But we should be aware of who is listening and what misunderstandings they might draw about the underlying meaning of our testimony.  If the people come from an animistic worldview, it is very likely that they will assume the message is this: Believing in God is the way to prosperity. 

Do we want people to be tempted to believe in God because of what they think they'll gain materially?

Sometimes we become unintentional promulgators of the prosperity gospel when we give money away too freely and openly.  I see this a lot.  Let me say this again:  I see this a LOT!  Sure, we want to be generous and help those in need.  But we must be careful and we should do it in secret, as Jesus instructed us.  I've had numerous people approach me seriously ready to become Christians (or "enter the religion") if they can just get the financial help they need.  Where did they get this idea?  They saw rich foreign Christians helping poor local believers and made the assumption--If I believe in their religion I will get a lot of stuff. 

It sounded like pretty good news to them.

But if we are simply feeding someone's greed, then we are not helping.  Indeed, we are hurting the work of the kingdom.  Other people around the recipient see that his "belief" has allowed him to become wealthy, and they are then tempted to

Sunday, March 18, 2012


This past year we've been doing chronological Bible storying.  I got a set of 37 stories from Creation to Christ--summaries of the main Biblical stories--and had them translated into our language here. 

As we started to use them I found out that these stories are WAY too long to be done orally.  Whoever wrote them can't possibly be using them in an oral story-telling approach.  The only way they could be using these stories is to read them out of the book they've printed them in.  This is even more evident when you consider the introductions, the questions and commentary printed along with each story.  All it is is a simplified Bible commentary. 

So I have been "re-crafting" each of the stories so that they can be used orally.  It is a lot of work.  But the idea is that we can all teach and learn the story without having to look in a book.

The results have been amazing.  In the format we use, the story is repeated at least 6-7 times in one setting.  The narrative is ingrained in the memory of the participants.  I have seen them refer to these stories while sharing the gospel with other people.  Nothing has helped them to better retain the message of the Bible than working through these stories.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Being a Model

I believe that my role as a Western missionary in a non-Western, creative-access location is NOT to be the evangelist who wins all the people to Christ, or the pastor who counsels and comforts all the believers.  My role is not to be the preacher in the church or to be the leader of the Christian community. 

I firmly believe that it is my role to train and equip national believers to do those ministries.  I can disciple, train and teach leaders, but I must be doing it in a way that is equipping them to go out and do it with more people.  I can help mobilize them to do it one way or another that doesn't cause dependency. 

But what I've also found is that I have to model what I want them to do.  If I don't, I have a hard time training them to do it.  I can teach them an evangelistic message to share, but they don't really get trained in evangelism until I take them with me and show them how to do it "live."  If they don't see it in action, chances are they won't really put it into practice.

So, I've been setting aside time lately just to go visit non-believers in a way that I would like to see our disciples do so.  I have a short gospel message and my own testimony ready to go each time, no matter who I visit.  And I also try to take my disciples with me.  Not only can they help, but they get to see it modeled.  I am finding that this makes all the difference. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sheep Rustlers

One of the saddest parts about being a missionary is when missionaries fight over nationals.  Now, you would think this would never happen.  You would think, that for all our theological and philosophical differences, we would still all agree not to steal each other's sheep.  You would think that, wouldn't you?

I know that some (most?) missionaries who do "steal sheep" do so unintentionally or without realizing that this is what they are doing.  Sometimes missionaries just feel they are building relationships in the wider national Christian community and then "following opportunities."  Sometimes they offer free financial assistance more readily than others and unwittingly draw nationals to them who feel they can get more from the new guy.  Sometimes they just think what they're doing is better than what you're doing and they are justified in pulling someone away from you. 

But with all the fish in the sea...

There are an ocean of unreached people here in The Location and in most of the Least Reached World (10/40 Window, or whatever you want to call it).  Why do we fight over a few of them? 

I have made it my policy to try to find and work with locals who have no connections with other full-time foreign missionaries.  It's not because I have anything against those who do.  It's just that I want to maximize the effectiveness of ALL of our efforts.  I don't want to be accused by others of stealing their sheep, nor do I want to be guilty of that.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Destructive Dynamic

One of the most dangerous and destructive dynamics is the desire on the part of missionaries (short or long term) to feel like they're making a difference. 

Watch out!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Movement ← Multiplication ← Reproducibility ← Simplicity

No one can make a church multiplication movement happen except God.  We can pray for it and plead with him for it.  But we can't make it happen by the force of our will alone. 

Preventing one is kind of useless, too.  Especially if the movement has already gained a lot of momentum.  Then we would do best to take Gamaliel's advice--"Leave these men alone! Let them go!  For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.  But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."

But if a movement has yet to begin, it is possible to do things in a way that prevents it from starting (apart from a sovereign act of God) and hinders its progress.  So, what we must learn is to do things in a way that leave the possibility of a movement happening and to pray that God grants that it is so. 

I like to think of it in reverse order:  A movement only happens when there is multiplication.  Multiplication only happens where there is reproducibility.  Reproducibility happens only if the processes and activities are simple enough for almost anyone in the population to do it.

So there you have it--do things simply so that it will be reproducible and lead to the possibility of being multiplied into a movement.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Insanity... really?

A while back (okay, October 2009) I wrote the following post named IYKDWYHBDYWKGWYHBG

I mentioned that one of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting different results.  I bet you've heard some version of that statement before.

Well, the lessons from that post are still valid.  I'm not here to recant it or anything.  But perhaps bring some more perspective.

Have you also heard the story about the guy who takes a hammer to a rock to break it in half?  He hits it 1,000 times in the same place and in the same way.  On the 1,000th glance, the rock splits in half.  The question is, which blow broke the rock?  If you answer the 1,000th blow, then why didn't he just skip the previous 999 blows and hit it that one last time?

Somehow, all of those blows added up to make an imperceptible difference. 



Monday, March 12, 2012

BAM allegations

A couple years ago when I started this blog I was excited to share with anyone who would read (all 11 of you) about BAM--Business As Missions.  It was (and is) one of the most cutting-edge approaches to missions being put into use in the world today.  The idea is that Missionaries engage in some sort of business (usually as owners or managing directors) which allows them to gain access to unreached peoples as well as giving them a way to associate with their targeted people.  BAM is one type of "tentmaking" approach. 

And let's face it--the majority of the world's unreached peoples live in what are called "Creative Access Nations" (CANs).  CANs aren't going to have many visas available for people who want to be public missionaries, and the opportunities that are available for living and working there will likely be out of reach for people who have only theological education.  So, BAM is one of the best ways to go.

But I've learned that BAM will also bring a number of allegations against you... Usually from people who are just making assumptions and don't really know what you're doing.  If you are planning to do BAM, be prepared to be accused of...
  • Being Greedy--not really in it for ministry, but you're in it for the money.
  • Being Distracted--you can't possibly doing as much ministry as you would be doing if you were a "full-time" missionary without any business responsibilities.
  • Being only about Presence Evangelism and not Proclomation (or about social justice and not evangelism)--your business helps people physically, but you aren't doing any gospel sharing.
There is a lot that can be said about each one of these points.  And, the truth is--there are probably real examples of each of these out there in the world.  But I am confident that we are not guilty of these three things.  If any of them, we might be guilty of being distracted by business responsibilities at times--but those are really only distractions if the ministry you're doing is completely separate and unrelated to the business.  In our case, much of our ministry happens because of our business, so the time we put into the business contributes to the ministry. 

BAM is not for everyone.  It takes a team to work well.  But if you decide to do BAM--don't be discouraged if you find that you're not the sexiest missionary on the block in the eyes of some. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Peyton Manning

Okay, so I saw a friend of mine this past week and I said to him...

"Hey did you hear that Peyton Manning was released today?"

"Who is Peyton Manning?" my friend asked?

"You don't know who Peyton Manning is!??!" I was incredulous.

"No, I don't follow the NBA," he said.

"NBA!  Oh my!" I said laughing at him now.  "Peyton Manning is only the best QB in the NFL."

"Oh, really?" My friend started to sound halfway interested.  "What was he in prison for?"