Monday, September 22, 2014

10 Things That Change Once You Live Overseas

The rewarding experiences one gains from living life overseas can sometimes be crowded out by the inevitable struggles that come with the full, expat-life package. But it’s through those struggles and challenges that you discover more about yourself and the world around you. You embrace lessons learned and broaden your horizons. If you’ve ever lived for an extended amount of time somewhere other than your home country, then you’ve probably experienced some if not all of these changes while living abroad.
1. You are constantly learning and unlearning language. I’m no expert on the brain, but I have a suspicious feeling that my brain regularly shuts the door on certain native-tongue-vocabulary words so that my search will lead me to the word I’m looking for in my newly acquired language. That’s all fine and dandy; that is, unless I was really hoping to find the word in my native language. It’s one thing to feel a little embarrassed when you don’t know the word for something in the language you’re still learning. It’s a whole new level of embarrassment when you’re talking to close friends and family members and can’t seem to find the English word to express what you’re trying to say. No, I’m not trying to be pretentious and passively brag about the fact that I’m confusing two languages, thereby pointing out that I know two languages. I’m legitimately having a humiliating moment right now and I’m desperately trying to find the word before I let the sentence, “I forgot the English word for it,” depart from my lips.
2. Life is regularly lived out of a suitcase. For some reason, I thought our suitcases would start collecting dust once we made the big move across the world. I even thought to myself, “Wow, what are we going to do with all these suitcases now that we’ve arrived to our final destination?” Now I know. We keep on using them. The suitcases are continually slid up and down the top of our bedroom armoire as we make visa trips, medical trips, business trips, and the occasional vacation sprinkled throughout each of the aforementioned trips. We know airline luggage allowance and how to get the most use out of luggage space like it’s our national anthem. If unloading your bags and pockets, walking through a metal detector (while also herding and maintaining control of your children) and then recollecting all your possessions on the other end were an olympic sport, we would likely take home the gold year after year.
3. This is your life, not a trip. It’s a clear distinction you’re able to make once you’ve packed your life into an allowed amount of suitcases, hopped onto a plane, and then started from scratch in land that’s full of newness to you. Last time I checked, I’ve never had to repair my own toilet or pay bills and rent on any of my trips. Nevertheless, you will still be asked “How was your trip,” when you return back to your home country for a visit every now and again. Your lip might get blistered from biting it so many times. Sometimes you might want to yell from the mountaintops, “I haven’t been on a trip!” Sometimes you might want to snap back with a question of your own, “I don’t know. How have the past 3 years of your life been?” But in reality, the person asking the question means no harm or offense. Instead you give a quick, honest, and polite answer, “So much has happened the past 3 years. We’ll have to sit down to a meal sometime so I can share some of the highlights!”
4. Conversions and exchange rates are always on the mind.  In the kitchen, I have my recipe set out and my conversion app opened up on my phone. When I’m grocery shopping and see vanilla extract, my joy is quickly followed with disappointment once I’ve calculated the exchange rate in my head. We change currencies so frequently, I’m always the dumbfounded customer at the check-out counter searching frantically for the numbers on the bills and coins because I haven’t had time to memorize “the look” of the money. Cue the kind cashier woman giving me a nod of reassurance when I pull up the appropriate bill.
5. The line between normal and strange has blurred a bit. Every culture has it’s clear distinctions on what is acceptable and what’s not. However, to the outsider coming in, who brings with them a set of different, but still clearly marked, cultural “dos and don’ts”, it can cause quite the clash of viewpoints. For 23 years of my life I believed that openly picking your nose in public was just plain wrong, but picking your teeth with a toothpick after a meal was acceptable. Would you believe that the exact opposite is true where we live now? I’m not saying I pick my nose in public now…but I’m also not prepared to deny it.
6. Time is measured differently. It becomes harder and harder to measure things by calendar measurements. You tend to gravitate towards unique mile markers that help you remember how long you’ve lived in one location or how many times you’ve moved or where all you’ve lived. Sometimes a visa situation causes you to make an unexpected move, temporary or permanent. Sometimes you live in one location for language school until you’ve passed all your tests and can move on to another destination. You are never sure how long you’ll be able to stay in one spot so you just throw calendar days out the window. Instead, you measure time with things that stick out to you most. I’ll never forget the words of a TCK whose family has moved more than a few times while living overseas: “We don’t measure our life in years, but in kitchens.” For her, it’s easier to remember how many kitchens she’s cooked in with her mom rather than how many years they’ve lived in certain locations.
7. The word “routine” is not in your vocabulary. Whatever predictable outcome you once had for any given set of events has now been removed as a possibility. In fact, you now put it in the category of “miracle” if something happens the way you once thought it should happen. It’s no longer out of the ordinary to devote an entire day to paying two bills. You don’t expect electricity and water each day. You always have a back-up plan for that “just in case” moment when you’re suddenly without electricity and/or water. Your senses have sharpened because of your need to be on your toes at any given moment for the unexpected…because those moments happen a lot more frequently than they did before you moved abroad.
8. Material possessions do not equate happiness. You don’t have to move overseas to realize this, but there’s something about the nomadic life that makes you really stop and consider what you hold on to and let go of. The possibility of moving to another country is always in the back of your mind. In many cases, you’re better off not shipping a crate of all your belongings due to the fear of it being held up in customs for a year or more. This means that things might have to be sold again and dwindled down to the essentials that can fit in those suitcases of yours. You stop gathering and collecting and start making mental notes of what’s most valuable and worth hauling to another far-away land. You come to find out there are a handful of things that make this adventure of yours so great and everything else is expendable.
9. Anything seems possible. Before you moved overseas, you didn’t think it was possible to pack everything you wanted to take with you in a few suitcases. But you did it, and now you can’t remember half the stuff you left behind. Cooking seemed like such a daunting task with all the substitutions that were required to make it work. Now you’re able to whip up some of your old favorites in a flash and you’ve since added some new, local recipes to your collection (so no substitutions are required). You’ve kissed your comforts goodbye and you’ve survived. You might even be thriving in your new culture at this point.
10. You are different. You leave marks on people and people leave marks on you. Some things don’t matter to you as much as they once did and other things matter more. You’re continually humbled as you frequently find yourself in a position of needing help and guidance…sometimes from a complete stranger. Almost daily you are in a position where nothing is so familiar that you’re able to take it for granted. You knew you would set out on this new adventure as a learner of language and culture, you just didn’t realize exactly how much, in turn, you would learn about yourself.
“If you’re brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting, which can be anything from your house to bitter, old resentments, and set out on a truth-seeking journey, either externally or internally, and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher and if you are prepared, most of all, to face and forgive some very difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you.”
Elizabeth Gilbert

Friday, September 12, 2014

Inmate Football

There was an unusual high school football game played in Grapevine, Texas . The game was between Grapevine   Faith Academy and the Gainesville   State School. Faith is a Christian school and Gainesville State School is located within a maximum security correction facility.
Gainesville State School has 14 players. They play every game on the  road. Their record was 0-8. They've only scored twice. Their 14 players  are teenagers who have been convicted of crimes ranging from drugs to assault to robbery. Most had families who had disowned them.  They wore  outdated, used shoulder pads and helmets. Faith Academy was 7-2. They  had 70 players, 11 coaches, and the latest equipment.
Chris Hogan, the head coach at Faith Academy , knew the Gainesville team  would have no fans and it would be no contest, so he thought, “What if half of our fans and half of our cheerleaders, for one night only,  cheered for the other team?”  He sent out an email to the faithful asking them to do just that. “Here’s the message I want you to send,”  Hogan wrote. “You’re just as valuable as any other person on the   planet.”
Some folks were confused and thought he was nuts. One player said,  “Coach, why are we doing this?” Hogan said, “Imagine you don’t have a home life, no one to love you, no one pulling for you. Imagine that everyone pretty much had given up on you. Now, imagine what it would  feel like and mean to you for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you.”
The idea took root. On the night of the game, imagine the surprise of  those 14 players when they took the field and there was a banner the  cheerleaders had made for them to crash through. The visitors’ stands were full. The cheerleaders were leading cheers for them. The fans were  calling them by their names. Isaiah, the quarterback-middle linebacker said, “I never in my life thought I would hear parents cheering to  tackle and hit their kid. Most of the time, when we come out, people are  afraid of us. You can see it in their eyes, but these people are yelling  for us. They knew our names.”
Faith won the game, and after the game the teams gathered at the 50-yard  line to pray. That’s when Isaiah, the teenage convict-quarterback surprised everybody and asked if he could pray.   he prayed, “Lord, I  don’t know what just happened so I don’t know how or who to say thank  you to, but I never knew there were so many people in the world who cared about us.”  On the way back to the bus, under guard, each one of  the players was handed a burger, fries, a coke, candy, a Bible, and an  encouraging letter from the players from Faith Academy .

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Radical Sacrifice by Trevin Wax

Last Thursday, James MacDonald gathered a group of mega-church pastors for a conference called “The Elephant Room.” The sessions featured lively discussion and friendly debate regarding a number of controversial methodological, theological, and practical issues related to church ministry. (See notes here.) One of the most interesting sessions was David Platt and James MacDonald’s conversation on sacrifice and generosity.
David Platt made the case that wealth and money, though not inherently sinful, are dangerous in the hands of sinful people. Our current context of self-indulgence needs to be challenged. Spiritual transformation leads to material transformation. The gospel gives us generous hearts that overflow into radical sacrifice for God’s eternal purposes. When God blesses us financially, He intends us to give to others.
James MacDonald warned that a distorted version of Platt’s teaching equates “poverty” and “spirituality.” Instead, MacDonald believes we need a full-orbed theology of joy in God that includes joy in the good gifts God has given us. Emphasizing radical sacrifice can lead to poverty theology that is all about the immediate divesting of money rather than the multiplication of money that will lead to greater involvement in mission.
The Points of Agreement
The MacDonald/Platt discussion was tense at times, perhaps because the practical ramifications of how we think about money always hit close to home. Still, there are three major points on which Platt and MacDonald agree:
  1. Money and possessions are a good gift from God.
  2. Money and possessions can become idolatrous.
  3. We are called to exercise stewardship of our finances in a way that pleases the Lord and furthers the spread of His name.
The Debate
Even though Platt and MacDonald would “Amen” each of these points, they have diverging views on the particulars of how these truths should be applied. MacDonald believes we need a theology of joy that reiterates point #1. Platt believes we are underestimating the idolatrous pull of point #2. Then, because MacDonald emphasizes #1 and Platt focuses on #2, they have radically different notions about how to apply #3.
I feel the tension of this discussion at a deeply personal level. When I lived in Romania, I wrestled daily with the tension of being one of the “haves” in a world of “have-nots.” Over the course of my years overseas, all my categories were shattered, so that I was confused, challenged, content, frustrated, joyful, and well-meaning at different moments and in different ways. Here are the cycles of my personal journey:
1. Culture Shock at Poverty
When I first began ministry overseas, I was deeply moved by the poverty I noticed. Early on, I wrote an email to family and friends:
You know I am not one to dwell on the bad things or poverty, but sometimes, the situations here can really get to me… Every now and then I wish to be home to just have a good long cry about all the things that happen here. Here, it’s impossible, because it’s almost like you’re in a bubble, and you have to separate your heart from your mind somewhat, just to make it through emotionally. Your mind can see something, but you have to keep it from getting to your heart until you have time to really process what you’ve seen and carry with you the emotional baggage that comes with it.
The longer I was in Romania, the more I realized that even poor Romanian villages would be considered “rich” by the standards of third-world countries. Poverty is defined in so many different ways, and the way we define poverty impinges on how we spread the gospel. Many times, I have asked David Platt’s question: “How do we proclaim the gospel in a world in which utter poverty (no drinking water, starving people, enormous economic needs) is so prevalent?”
2. Culture Shock at Wealth
Upon returning to the U.S. after spending a year away, I was surprised by our wealth. I remember arriving back in Nashville, and asking – in the fog of jet lag – “When did they put a new car lot near the airport?” Dad answered: “That’s just the parking lot, Trevin.” Strange, but after so much time away, my mind couldn’t conceive of the fact that all the new, shiny cars were owned by average citizens. Even now, I remember the feeling I had when I noticed how easy it was to walk downstairs and get a glass of water. After having lived in a village with no indoor plumbing, water from the refrigerator seemed like a luxury.
3. Frustration with Materialism
The longer I looked at the U.S. from the outside in, the more I noticed our excess wealth. Closets stuffed full of junk… credit card debt racked up on frivolities… churches budgeting thousands of dollars to activities that seemed designed more for the comfort of church members than God’s mission in the world… Our priorities seemed so out of line!
And then there was the day I received an email invitation to take a pastor-led cruise with a number of famous preachers. I remember the odd feeling of walking from the computer to the window where I could see homeless Gypsies scavenging through the dumpster outside our apartment complex. The jarring juxtaposition of wealth and poverty frustrated me.
4. Repentance for my Patronizing Attitude
After the period of frustration, the Lord convicted my heart for my superior attitude toward my Romanian brothers and sisters. My initial mindset had been: “I’m the rich American here to help the poor Romanians.” That attitude was unhealthy, anti-gospel, and ultimately untrue.
God opened my eyes to see the problem of dividing people into categories of “rich and poor.” I had the opportunity to serve alongside “poor” Romanians who were doing mercy ministry to poorer people. We prayed as Romanian missionaries went to third-world countries to spread the gospel. Over time, my categories were shattered. Christians are poor in spirit, called to be generous. Forget the categories. Quit patronizing our brothers and sisters, many of whom are richer spiritually than we’ll ever be. We’re united in our service by the cross, not the size of our wallets.
5. Repentance for my Judgmental Attitude
Then, God started in on me from another angle. He exposed my judgmental attitude toward “wealthy Americans.” Though I had looked with disgust at the idea of a “pastor’s cruise,” I eventually realized that this type of vacation was attractive to many pastors – not because they were idolatrous materialists, but because being “inaccessible” on a cruise is one of the only ways they can feel truly “off”. A pastor-led cruise may, for some, lead to rest and spiritual renewal in a way I had not considered. Whatever the reasons, I needed to repent of my patronizing attitude to the poor and my superior attitude to the rich.
Where Do We Go from Here?
One of the most helpful books I have read on the subject of wealth is Neither Poverty nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions by Craig Blomberg. The points that Platt and MacDonald agree on are declared loudly and clearly in Blomberg’s work. We can gratefully enjoy God’s gifts. We must beware of the idolization of wealth. We must give where we want our heart to be.
I don’t claim to have figured out the debate about radical generosity and stewardship. But there are places where I think both emphases could lead to unhealthy extremes.
MacDonald is right that there is nothing inherently spiritual about poverty. But I’m cautious about his statement that financial blessing flows to fruitfulness. Sometimes. Maybe often. But not all the time. I’ve served alongside many pastors who didn’t reap financial rewards, even though they had very fruitful ministries. Conflating financial blessing with fruitfulness can lead to unwarranted appreciation of prosperity-gospel teachers who confuse the two (just as the ancient world did). Christ has set us free from the shackles of “success” defined by the world.
Platt is right that we live in a culture that seeks joy in more and more things. His focus on “radical sacrifice” as the outworking of gospel generosity should be commended. But I’m cautious that Platt’s teaching could be turned into a legalistic, obligatory exercise that leaves little room for the full-orbed theology of joy that MacDonald talks about.
A couple months ago, Platt tweeted: About to coach my first T-ball practice. Scared. Really scared. The next tweet was: Exhausted. Stressed. Filthy. Sore. Glad to be coach. Grateful to be dad. I chuckled when I read those tweets, and I was glad to see them. Why? Because that image of joy-filled leisure and recreation can easily get lost in the “radical” image that comes through Platt’s books, conference messages, and the branding machine of the publishing industry.
The more I think about those three points, the more I am convinced that it’s not a “balance between the three” that is necessary, but a radical, unshakeable commitment to all three.
  • We need to pursue joy in the God who gives us good gifts, intentionally basking in His goodness to us, growing in gratitude for His provision, and enjoying His gifts as the good things they are.
  • We also need to be radical in our realization of how idolatrous good things can become when they take the throne of our lives. Our commitment to enjoying the good things of life should be matched by our ruthless efforts to root out idols from our lives, to find our satisfaction in God alone, and not just the gifts He gives us.
  • In the end, radical stewardship will look different from person to person, from church to church, – but we are all called to be good stewards, to prioritize rightly, to sacrifice for the King out of gospel-soaked generous hearts. Radical sacrifice must always overflow from a heart that is gripped by the gospel; otherwise, it becomes a joyless and fruitless effort of self-righteousness.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Rethink Homelessness

Accountability Questions for Groups

  1. Here is an outline with the DNA elements in parenthesis:
    • Ask: What are you thankful for this week?  (Prayer/Worship)
    • Ask:  What has stressed you out this week?  What do you need for things to be better?  (Intercession)
    • Ask:  What are the needs of the people in your community? (Ministry)
    • Ask:  How can we help each other with the needs we expressed? (Ministry)
    • Ask:  What did we talk about last week? (Review/Accountability)
    • Ask:  Did you change anything in your life as a result of last week’s story? (Accountability/Obedience)
    • Ask:  Did you get a chance to share the story with [the person they identified]? (Accountability/Evangelism)
    • Ask:  We identified several needs last week and planned to meet those needs.  How did it go? (Accountability/Ministry)
    • Say:  Let’s see what the Bible teaches us this week. Read this week’s passage. (Scripture)
    • Ask for someone to retell the passage in his or her own words.  Like they were telling a friend who wasn’t there. (Understanding/Evangelism)
    • Ask the Group: Do you agree with their retelling?  Is there something they added or left out that they shouldn’t have?  As long as the group doesn’t miss a key component of the passage, continue.  If they miss something, read the passage again.  If someone states something that isn’t in the passage, ask, “Where did you find [what they said] in this passage?”  Reread the passage, if necessary. (Priesthood of Believers/Group Correction/Understanding)
    • Ask:  What does this passage teach us about God? (Discovery/Scripture/Priesthood of Believers)
    • Ask:  What does this passage teach us about humanity? (Discovery/Scripture/Priesthood of Believers)
    • Ask:  If we believe this passage is from God, how must we change? (Discovery/Scripture/Obedience/Priesthood of Believers)
    • Ask:  Who are you going to share this passage with before we meet again? (Evangelism/Replication)
    • Ask:  When do you want to meet again? This is a practical question.  You will never get someone to commit to a 26-week study.  But, you can give them the option to meet again next week.  If they are really seeking and if the meeting is filling a need, they will tell you they want to meet again.

Gospel Definitions

Ed Stetzer's article

NOV 16, 2009

Gospel Definitions

There is a lot of talk about the gospel these day. Yes, it's all gospel and gospel-centeredness, and yet many are still fuzzy when it comes to defining the good news of Jesus Christ.
In my Missional Church class at ReTrain this week, I share some thoughts on the gospel. Why? Well, I believe that what you believe about the gospel will be the foundation for your understanding of the mission.
To do that, I first reviewed some gospel definitions assembled by Trevin Wax at his blogKingdom People. You can find a PDF and lists by names by clicking this link. Then, I shared a few of them (at first I did not identify the source). You can download a PowerPoint of the ones I shared here: Gospel Definitions.ppt. I took some pleasure in watching the students agree (at times) with the definitions from people with whom they disagree.
As I explain in this post, whenever I teach on the missional church, it is always an opportunity to talk about the Gospel since I tend to present the ideas around:
What is the Gospel?
What is the mission?
What is the church?
What is the Kingdom?
So, we began our definitions at ReTrain by having the cohorts make a definition and report back. Here are those gospel definitions...
The Gospel is the good news that God has sent his son Jesus Christ into the world in order to reconcile Creator to creation, which will renew all things and he has done all this through Jesus' perfect sinless life, bloody atoning death on the cross and subsequent resurrection from the dead.
- Admin Cohort's Definition
Our glorious God created everything we know. We, his creation, rebelled seeking our own glory and deserving the full wrath of God. The gospel is the good news that Jesus lived the life we should have lived to the glory of the Father. He died in our place, for all our sinful, false worship. Through Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, we live a new life to His glory. As we behold the glory of Jesus we are transformed to look more like Him, united in the Church as His body through which his kingdom is advanced making all things new.
- Worship Cohort
God created man in His image to glorify Him
Mankind rebelled against God in sin
The gospel is the good news of Godʼs provision of redemption
Through the atoning work of Jesus the Christ
Who died in our place for our sin on the cross
Rising from the grave to conquer Satan, sin and death
Giving new life to all who by grace
turn to Him in repentance and faith
Calling them to a life empowered by His Spirit
To accomplish the mission of His kingdom
To the glory of His name
- Campus Pastor Cohort
The gospel is the power of God for salvation of everyone who believes. Through Jesus' life, death, and resurrection God overcomes sin, sin's consequences, Satan, and death and subjects all things under his feet. And, in Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, God is reconciling the world to himself.
- Biblical Living, Family and Community Group Cohort
God redeems fallen mankind through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus which regenerates individuals through the Holy Spirit and renews all of His creation as He establishes His Kingdom.
- Church Planting Cohort
The Gospel is the truth that Jesus Christ, God the Son sent from the God the Father, empowered by God the Spirit, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for the atonement of sinners, and rose from the dead triumphing over satan, sin, and death in accordance with the Scriptures.
- Acts 29 Church Planting Cohort
One of the key issues is this question: Is the gospel only God-Man-Christ-Response or does it include elements of Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration. I think it is interesting how the worship leaders cohort differed from the Acts 29 church planting cohort (and, I should add, there was a "minority report" from the Acts 29 church planting cohort that wanted to include a Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration focus).
In class, I shared this article, on the difference between the gospel and the effects of the gospel, with the class. D.A. Carson and I discussed it recently while I was teaching at Trinity and I like it. Carson explains:
If the gospel is the (good) news about what God has done in Christ Jesus, there is ample place for including under "the gospel" the ways in which the kingdom has dawned and is coming, for tying this kingdom to Jesus' death and resurrection, for demonstrating that the purpose of what God has done is to reconcile sinners to himself and finally to bring under one head a renovated and transformed new heaven and new earth, for talking about God's gift of the Holy Spirit, consequent upon Christ's resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Majesty on high, and above all for focusing attention on what Paul (and others--though the language I'm using here reflects Paul) sees as the matter "of first importance": Christ crucified. All of this is what God has done; it is what we proclaim; it is the news, the great news, the good news.
For another view, see Scott McKnight in Christianity Today's Out of Ur blog. Also, Matt Chandler makes a case for including both God-Man-Christ-Response and Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration in his SBTS chapel message (including mentioning some helpful warnings about how we speak of others "tribes" in the church).
Below is the definition I am using. I am still tweaking and revising it (but trying NOT to make it longer). If Packer can define the gospel as, "God saves sinners," I figure we should be able to do it in a paragraph!
Anyway, here is what I am using today:
The gospel is the good news that God, who is more holy than we can imagine, looked upon with compassion, people, who are more sinful than we would possibly admit, and sent Jesus into history to establish His Kingdom and reconcile people and the world to himself. Jesus, whose love is more extravagant than we can measure, came to sacrificially die for us so that, by His death and resurrection, we might gain through His grace what the Bible defines as new and eternal life.
I chose not to include the response to the gospel ("repentance by grace through faith alone," for example), but just tried to focus on what the gospel actually is. I edit it regularly as I try to grasp and preach the gospel to myself.
What are your thoughts? Feel free to share your own definitions or interact with the ones listed here. Then, I will learn and edit mine!
To read the comments, click HERE.

What Do Your Legs Look Like?

The best question isn't "Do I have good theology, bad theology, strong theology or weak theology?"
I know many (thankfully very, very few personally) who hold to certain doctrines who proudly pound drums with great zeal regarding the greatness of their theology, yet who have very weak legs in which to carry that theology as a messenger of Good News in their everyday lives.
I also know many who are weak(er) in their faith and are not (yet) mature in their theology who shine bright because they better reflect their Savior. And though their ability to proclaim their message is not well developed, their legs are legs of marathoners and they run strong, they run proud and they run fearlessly as they allow the Message they carry to change lives.
So the better question isn't "Do I have good theology or bad theology?" but, "Am I obeying what I understand of God's Word and am I being changed by it and is that change causing others to see Jesus in me?"
Maybe we should also start to ask ourselves these two questions, "Do I look more like Jesus or the Pharisees?" And, "Am I worshiping a theology or the God who that theology points to?"

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pizza Shop by Disturb Reality


The following article may be found HERE.

Chuck Colson’s book, Being the Bodytells the story with an eye to the role of the Church. It all began with a Hungarian Reformed congregation that would rather bring down the government than part with their pastor…
The following is an abbreviated excerpt from Colson’s Being the BodyI hope you will pick up the book and read the whole story.
Communism and the Rise of Nicolae Ceausescu
Nicolae_CeausescuIn the 1940′s and 50′s, under young leaders like Nicolae Ceausescu, Romania’s nightmare began. Multiplying like cockroaches, the Communists eliminated the light of opposition any way they could. Students and peasants, pastors and priests – over the years, millions were thrown into prison. Many died there...
Waiting to Be Exiled
...the secret police must have concluded that killing Tokes (a pastor or the Hungarian Reformed Church who would not bow to Communism) would simply make him a martyr. Instead, they would render him ineffective by exiling him to a small, remote village outside of Timisoara. A court ordered his eviction from his home and church, setting the date for December 15, 1989.
On Sunday, December 10, Laszlo Tokes looked out over the upturned faces of his congregation. ”Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,” Tokes announced, “I have been issued a summons of eviction. I will not accept it, so I will be taken from you by force next Friday. They want to do this in secret because they have no right to do it. Please, come next Friday and be witnesses of what will happen. Come, be peaceful, but be witnesses.”
Click HERE to continue reading this fascinating article. See what God did and how Communism was toppled.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


This article by Trevin Wax can be found HERE at the Gospel Coalition.
It’s a good sign when people in a local congregation see needs and want to meet them, see injustice and want to stop it, or see a good cause and want to support it. It’s a sign that their eyes are open to the world around them. They’re not simply going through the motions of life and school and work and church; they see themselves as agents of change in a world that is broken and fallen.

Think of it this way: When a church does a good job equipping people to think and live as Christians in a fallen world, the people become like rivers overflowing the banks of the church gathered (the lake). The landscape changes when there are lakes and rivers. But not all lakes need to be rivers.
So what do you do when one person wants their passion to be the primary passion for the whole church? 
This is the tricky part. You want to encourage and bless these efforts in the world without allowing your congregation’s primary focus be diverted to other activities. You don’t want church members passing out voter guides or hijacking every small group experience so that politics reign supreme.
There are no easy answers to this question because every church and every community and every activist is a different mix of personalities and passions. But here are some principles to keep in mind:
1. Be aware of how quickly the uniting factor of a congregation can become a cause rather than the cross. 
I hesitate to begin with a word of caution because it could give the impression that I am discouraging political or social activism. Far from it. The reason I begin with caution is because of how easy it is for the unifying factor of a church to become what we do for others instead of what Christ has done for us.
A church’s unity for a cause can eventually displace the cross. The gospel is still there, but it’s no longer in the center. Something else is uniting the church – a political cause, social work, a community ministry.
Put the gospel at the center, and various ministry opportunities will come alongside as demonstrations of the power of Christ’s work on the cross. But put a cause at the center, and various ministry opportunities may flourish for a time but then wither away, because they are no longer connected to the source of life that can sustain such activism.
2. Promote unity of goal, not uniformity in method.
Recognize the difference between unity regarding a cause and unity regarding methodologies. A church should be united in support of human rights for the unborn, but Christians may disagree as to how to best protect those rights. Some may picket abortion clinics; some may want to show graphic pictures; others may work in crisis pregnancy centers, etc.
On another note, all Christians should have open hearts and open hands toward disadvantaged people who need health care. But some may think charities and churches should fill the gap. Others may think universal health coverage from the government is valid. Still others may provide different solutions.
Christians can agree on the goal without agreeing on the specifics of how to get there.
3. Guard the platform of your church.
The pastor is constantly bombarded with self-invitations to take “just a few minutes” of precious platform time to give a report or make a congregation aware of a need.
Whether it’s people spreading Bibles around the world, missionaries coming home from furlough, medical missionaries providing essential healthcare or pro-life opportunities… everyone wants just a few minutes. Except for the congregation. They expect you to say “no” and protect them from the countless ministry opportunities that could be presented every week.
Do your congregation a favor and guard the platform of your church. Only put activities in the bulletin that correspond to your church’s mission and presence in the community. You can’t be a megaphone for every single thing people in your church want to promote.
One of the best ways to encourage community involvement without giving up your platform is to host a missions fair once a year or so. Invite everyone to come to potluck, set up their booths in the foyer, and make brief presentations after dinner. You’ll want to choose wisely which ministries you want to expose your congregation to, of course, but this kind of event provides an opportunity to show people you care, without sacrificing time in the worship service.
4. Observe your church’s particular gifts and passions, and provide opportunities for community involvement.
Right now, our church is involved with tutoring elementary school students down the street. Occasionally, we see reports of this activity via video in the worship service.
We’re helping plant a church in Cincinnati, so we’ve Skyped in the planter on Sunday morning during worship.
We’ve celebrated when families have adopted children from overseas, and we’ve hosted fundraisers to help them offset the cost.
We are currently opening up the church to homeless women and children in need of emergency shelter, with different groups hosting these women on different nights on different months.
These are ways that our church is ministering to the community. Enough people in the congregation were involved in the need for the church to realize it could help facilitate some of this good ministry.
J. D. Greear lays out three approaches to individual ministries – Own, Catalyze, and Bless:
To “own” a ministry means we staff and resource it directly.
Those we “bless” are those we know our members are engaged in, but as an institution we have little interaction with them other than the occasional encouragement. 
But the third category, “catalyze,” is where we put most of our energy. When we catalyze something, we identify members with ideas and ask them to lead us. We come alongside them, adding our resources, networking power, etc. We serve them. And that means sometimes they don’t do things exactly the way I would prefer. But in the long run, an empowered church catalyzed to do ministry will do more gospel-good in the community than if the church owns and staffs all its own ministries.
5. Publicly affirm and bless the kind of activism you want to see.
This is perhaps the most important thing you can do. Lift up examples of people who are the kind of activists you want to see.
When you hear of people in your congregation doing good in the community, don’t be shy in letting the rest of the church know. What you celebrate, you become.
What do you say? How do you encourage your church members to pursue various passions without losing your church’s primary focus?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Do Church Planting Movements Hinder Disciple Making Movements?

Do Church Planting Movements Hinder Disciple Making Movements? by Miguel Labrador

38_people_climbing_berlin_wallDo CPM’s (Church Planting Movements) help or hinder DMM’s (Disciple Making Movements)?
Jesus said, “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; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.Matthew 28:19,20
I think, for the most part, that those who have a desire to plant churches and those that have a desire to make disciples, have equal convictions to see the message of the Kingdom spread, to see the nations (ethnic groups) transformed, and see many come to know Christ. But, what if one of them were to inadvertently get in the way of the other or even hinder the other?
The Apostles or first disciples of Jesus did not start with what is typically known today as a “church plant.”  They started by becoming mobile, moving, and mission.  They planted themselves and the Gospel into communities until the Lord directed otherwise and made disciples from which gatherings were formed.  The task remained the same throughout the New Testament era, namely to “make disciples.”  In fact, I fail to see anywhere in the New Testament where they had a desire to multiply churches in the sense of location based purveyors of religious goods and services.
If one of these two camps had a propensity to get in the other’s way, I believe it would have to be the church planters.  I am not a church planter, at least not in the way many church planters describe their task.  I like to think of myself as a disciple maker that leaves the method of gathering or fellowship up to the disciples being made.  If that equates to a building, weekly meeting, and bit more structure, then great!  If it means a simpler or more organic approach to fellowship, then again, great.  But when the gathering of disciples takes priority over the making of disciples, then something has gone very wrong.
What I have seen time and again, is that church planters, or at least the idea of church planting, has gotten in the way of disciple makers.  They misdirect resources, time, talent, and energy away from the main mission of disciple making and funnel it into things which are secondary or completely unrelated to that task.  They say that they investment into the facility and structure may draw away from the primary mission for a short time, but afterwards the impact will be greater.  I can’t recall ever having seen that actually happen.  In fact, one of the most successful church plants in history, Bill Hybels’ Willow Creek, confessed that all of their organization, power, influence, programs, teaching and structure, failed to produce disciples.
As a disciple maker, I’d like to proclaim the kingdom of God and teach others about the Lord Jesus Christ–with all boldness and without hindrance! (Acts 28:31)  I want to do that and teach others to do the same.  If you’re a church planter, who’s hindering disciple making, isn’t it time to say “pardon me,” make some room, and let the disciple makers pass?
Eugene H. Peterson (Author of The Message Bible) once said,
“There are monuments & footprints. A monument only says, `At least I got this far,’ while a footprint says, `This is where I was when I moved again.’”
My friend Mike Breen, (Author of “Building a Discipling Culture,” said;
“I’ve said it many times: If you make disciples, you will always get the church. But if you try to build the church, you will rarely get disciples.” 

I think Church Planting Movements hinder Disciple Making Movements.
 Am I wrong?