Monday, July 23, 2012

A Mark on Your Hand and a Band on Your Forehead

When I was a teenager, I liked wearing Christian tee-shirts. My cousin had the one I admired most. It said simply, “I’m a fool for Jesus. Whose fool are you?”

Most of my shirts were similar. They were bold, quickly evangelistic, and perhaps a bit offensive. They employed a billboard effect and used simple messages.

“Be cool. Meet Jesus,” said the front of one. “Or fry in hell,” on the back.

Going further back, there was another fashion trend that was popularized among the kids in vacation bible school. They were little bracelets with five colored beads which were reminders of the basic truths of the gospel. We called them power bands.

Their purpose was mostly to serve as evangelistic tools. To that end, the bands were probably better than the T-shirts. There are more poorly conceived Christian t-shirts in the world than effective ones.

Still, there is something deeply scriptural about wearing clothing items that point to Jesus. Consider the command in Deuteronomy 6.

Listen, Israel: The LORD is our God. The LORD is the only God. Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words that I give you today. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you're at home or away, when you lie down or get up. Write them down, and tie them around your wrist, and wear them as headbands as a reminder. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

The Biblical purpose is not so much to be a walking gospel billboard (Eat at Joe’s), but to create a daily reminder of our identity, both for ourselves and for others to see. We become targets for both seekers and antagonists. We also remind ourselves moment by moment the necessity of dying to self and living for Jesus.

One more thought. There are some who wear religious items, carry rosaries, or even get religious symbols tattooed on their skin, but neither as a commercial nor a personal reminder. They hope that by doing so, they will receive some mystical power or spiritual blessing or protection. There is nothing biblical about that at all.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Best Overlooked Posts on Beyond Outreach

On Blogger there is a tool that give statistics for how many times each post was viewed. I noticed that most posts have a number around 30 with some much higher and some much lower. There are some post with five views or less, so I thought I would highlight those today:

Net-Drawing Stories

There are a number of short little proverbs, parables, and sermons in the first five books of the New Testament. Each one takes less than two minutes to tell. They are great tools in the repertoire of a soul-winner. More than that they are broadly applicable and often serve as encouragement at the right time. Here are a few that are worth learning by heart in your own words and telling often… read more

Downward Mobility

I guess 8 years on the mission field gives a person a better perspective on the problems of clinging affluence while trying to effectively live out the gospel. It is very very hard to do, and probably more than 99% of the people that try to do both end up letting go of either a life fully lived for Jesus or the comforts and securities that affluence provides… read more

Bringing the Gospel through the Gates of Hell.

My cousin is working on the set of a new Nicholas Cage movie called Drive Angry. She forewarned us that this movie is a movie that contains gratuitous violence, sex, and nudity, has satanic spiritual themes and foul language. Obviously, these things dishonor God and are counter to his kingdom. So, why would she choose to work there if she is a professing follower of Jesus? Would Christ approve? read more

Out of sight, out of mind.

It was the Sabbath day and Jesus took his disciples to the synagogue in Capernaum, where he taught the people. All the people that heard him were amazed at his teaching. They were even more amazed when a man overcome by an evil spirit began to shout at Jesus, because just as soon as he started, Jesus silenced the demon and freed the man. The whole city began to talk… read more

Friday, June 29, 2012

The P-Scale

p-scaleThere are a couple of simple scales that help illustrate the cultural distances between the announcers and hearers of the gospel and what it requires of each.

In an earlier post I presented the E-Scale, which represents the cultural distance that Christians go, or need to go, when sharing the gospel. This post will look at the P-Scale.

The P-Scale represents the cultural distance potential believers must move in order to join a church. Though the scale is principally a missionary tool for describing unreached people groups, it can be applied to local communities as well.

P-0: People “at home” in a local church setting.
(no cultural barriers to belief)

These people have not repented and trusted Jesus for forgiveness and eternal life. They do, however, have a great portion of their social circles within the church and its culture. P-zeros would feel out of place without the church culture around them. The unfortunate TV show Good Christian Belles is probably a good example of p-zeros.

John the Baptist was reaching out to p-zeros (E-0 evangelism) when he said “Produce fruit in that shows your repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you, God can raise up children for Abraham from these rocks.” These people did not need to leave their culture, the needed to change their hearts.

P-1:  People who could “fit in” at a local church with some adjustment.(1 barrier to belief, the micro-culture of the churched )

These people are those who don’t know or use the church vocabulary. They are not generally familiar with the church life of local churches and what these churches do. They do, however fit within the same cultural framework of many of the local churches. They may have many common points of interest and concern. (In Louisiana for example, Community coffee, Saints football, Crawfish boils, fishing, hunting, weddings and funerals in churches, etc.) In general, p-ones are firmly established as unfamiliar with the church, and may even have some antagonistic feelings towards church culture.

P-2:  People who would have to sacrifice themselves culturally to belong to a local church, requiring a significant loss of friendships and family ties.
(2 barriers to belief; culture itself, and the specific church culture as well.)


People who must cross barriers of culture, race, and identity in order to join a local fellowship of believers are very unlikely to be able to do that. When a p-two hears of Jesus, he may even develop high regard for Him, but he cannot see a way to become His disciples and still remain within his natural community. Faith in Jesus can mean immediate, significant, and even life-threatening persecution.

P-3:  People for whom there is no local church they could understand or in which they could reasonably participate.
(3 barriers to belief; language and communication, culture itself, and the micro-culture of the local church.)


Probably the most obvious and immediate example of p-threes are indigenous tribes who speak a language, that has no Christian work and whose culture has not developed a way of doing church.

How is this important to obeying the Great Commission?

There is something significant to take away from this.

Simply doing evangelism across these barriers (E1, E2, E3,and E4), is not going to be effective in reaching more than the occasional one or two over a lifetime of work. The call is to make disciples within the framework of a church and that can not happen if the only kind of church that exists is linguistically, culturally, and socially distant from the potential believer.

The only way P-2 and P-3 peoples will be reached is through evangelism and discipleship that has as it primary strategy, the starting of new indigenous churches among those in each culture. (By the way, this is the distinction I was making between daughter churches (p-0), church plants (p-1), mission churches (p2, p3) and church planting (p1, p2, p3) in the earlier post.)

No one church is going to reach its town or city for Christ, especially in modern-day America. There are so many different backgrounds, languages, cultures, and tribes that any one church that attempts to reach them all will not only fail, it will probably break itself. Wise churches find the appropriate means of reaching people across each barrier, and they work together with other churches to get the job done.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"Don't ask, don't tell."

"Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) was the official United States policy on homosexuals serving in the military from December 21, 1993 to September 20, 2011. The policy prohibited military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual or bisexual service members or applicants, while barring openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from military service. --Wikipedia.org

Steve Addison, of Movements that Change the World, just posted a nice blog entry called “They don’t ask. We don’t tell.” He makes a very good point in a tongue-in-cheek way.

The truth is, many Christians have come to an unspoken agreement with the world, that they will simply live their lives as private Christians and share the gospel only when overtly approached. This is a popular misapplication of a quote misattributed to Francis of Assisi. “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.” The world responds to this truce with great enthusiasm by simply not asking any questions.

As you think about your relationships with your neighbors, co-workers, butchers, bakers, and baristas, have you been operating out of a don’t ask, don’t tell policy? How can you change that? What will change in your world if your Christianity were 100% overt? Are you willing to see that happen?

Monday, June 25, 2012

5 Priorities for a Healthy Church

1. Serious Prayer. 

The average church has so established itself organizationally and financially that God is simply not necessary to it. So entrenched is its authority and so stable are the religious habits of its members that God could withdraw Himself completely from it and it could run on for years on its own momentum.  --A.W. Tozer

Though we tend to judge the health of a church by its size, its financial stability, its busy-ness, its median age, its baptism numbers, or its unity, the true measure of a church’s health can best be seen in its prayer life.  A church that does not pray, that does not pray a lot, that does not pray seriously, and does not pray pervasively is sick.

2. Centrality of Scripture.

The Bible is our final authority for faith and practice -- Bob Utley

A church that does not constantly learn and return to Scripture, and teach its members to do the same is sick. A church that focuses on precepts and principals, but does not teach its people the Scripture itself is feeding its members microwave meals and junk food.

A healthy church is one full of members who constantly engage the Bible on their own, even outside outside of church meetings, learning it, reflecting on it, singing it and sharing it with others, daily.

3. Obedience to Christ.

One of the most misquoted and misunderstood passages of the Bible is Matthew 28:18-20. Ask people, sometime, what this passage tells us to teach. I think you will be surprised by the number of people who will not say, “to obey.” -- David Watson

Healthy churches teach obedience to Christ’s commands, with baptism as the non-negotiable first step. Healthy churches are full of members who model this by being consistently obedient to the commands of Christ in public and in private, in word and in thought, regardless of the consequences.

These believers don’t leave worship gatherings satisfied to simply be inspired by new insights, rather they are resolved and committed to action.

4. Abundant, Relentless Laborers.

The Lord Jesus had compassion on the lost of this world. He sent 42 teams and said, “The harvest is ready but there is an acute shortage of harvesters.” Jesus gave a specific strategy for world evangelism “pray to the Lord of harvest to send forth laborers into His harvest fields.” Harvest is not the problem. Despite the huge Christian manpower in the world, there is a critical shortage of grass-root level harvest workers. -- Victor Choudhrie

A church whose focus is on filling the pews is sick. This kind of church keeps its laborers in bondage with assignments to simply sit passively, listen to sermons, and give money to support the show. It builds its own kingdom on a pastor’s personality at the expense of building God’s Kingdom.

Healthy churches are constantly training their people and sending them out to the harvest. They disciple from day one, not in classrooms with Bible study booklets, but by modeling and mentoring. Healthy churches never stop developing and sending new workers to strengthen existing ministries, the  start new new ones, and to labor in new harvest fields. They are always releasing their disciples to do even greater works according to their calling and giftedness.

5. Vision

Vision gets you on God's program and off your own. -- J. David Schmidt

Churches that have no understood vision or purpose other than to meet and have a worship service are very sick. Even when things are going smoothly and the church seems to be growing, a church without vision comes to a grinding halt as soon as the person they are following (usually the pastor) stops leading.

Healthy churches know what they are all about. They know their purpose and know why they are doing what they are doing. They take the great commission and build their strategies and tactics on those marching orders. Churches that do that succeed.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Daughter Churches, Mission Churches, Church Plants, and Church Planting

When my sister and I were kids, our Sunday school classes moved from room to room and building to building each year. Our church was a large and growing church, and we were always being shuffled. I remember one particular Sunday my sister came up to me with her eyes wide open and a strange expression on her face. She explained that she had gone to where her class always met, only to find a large group of smiling adults speaking a different language.

Our church had sponsored the start of a Korean mission, and had given them the old church building to use as their own. Our Sunday school rooms had moved again, but we had not gotten the message. I still smile when I think of my dad laughing at Heather’s story.

Is there a difference?

Probably not, but when I hear these terms I have different images in my head.

When I think of daughter churches, I think of Bayou Rouge Baptist Church in Evergreen, Louisiana, having sent out some to start First Baptist Church, Bunkie Louisiana. There was a growing community with no church, so a daughter church was started in that area. Daughter churches are new churches of similar style to the ones that start them, but in a new geographic location.

When I think of mission churches, I think of my opening story. Mission churches are different than daughter churches, in my mind, in that they usually take on a form more appropriate for a different culture. Often they are started because of language barriers. Mission churches don’t look like the church that started them and aren’t expected to. The key is starting a new church in a new culture, rather than a new location.

When I think of church plants, I am probably further off than I should be, but the image I have is of a pastor or seminary graduate with an ideal of how church could or should be. He raises the funds and recruits people (from other churches) and starts a new church in a more contemporary flavor. Church plants are, in my admittedly unfair caricature, attempts to do church differently with hopes of appealing to people who don’t like stereotypical church culture.

When I think of church planting, I think of something that doesn’t look much like the other three. I think of bringing the gospel to households, discipling them to faith and baptizing them as a group. If the household is culturally distant from the nearest church or in a situation where aggressive gospel planting is needed, helping them covenant together to form a new church and continue doing evangelism and discipleship the same way, forming simple churches as needed and as led by God. (To get a better idea, see David Garrison’s Handy Guide)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

BAGBR Baptisms

The Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge is my home association. I am always interested in what is happening there evangelistically. Here are the statistics I mined out of the State convention reports from the past few years.

Year 2008 2009 2010 2011
Churches and Missions 103 104 100 97
Total Baptisms in Association 731 611 689 639
         
Churches Reporting 2 Baptisms or Less 34 35 32 30
Churches not Reporting Anything 12 19 14 16

Not too impressed.

When I have time, I will count out the median baptisms.  The PDFs can’t be processed by a spreadsheet program so I will have to enter it all in manually. My guess is that it will be around 4 baptisms per church.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Why Growing Your Church and Reaching Your Community are not the Same Thing

"Growing your church" and "Reaching your community" are the most queried search terms leading people to this blog. Sometimes these phrases are separate, but more often than not they appear together, “How can I grow my church and reach my community.”

Growing a church and reaching a community are both great goals, but they are not the same goal. They seek two different ends and require two different strategies.

When one thinks about growing a church, they usually think in terms of numerical growth, attendance, or the oft cited B’s: baptisms, budget, and buildings. However, when one thinks of reaching the community, they are thinking of how to communicate the gospel to those in the area that are outside the church. The two ideas can work hand in hand, but the second one is much larger in scope than the first.

Imagine a couple of fishermen on the lake in a fishing boat. They have a goal of catching as many fish as they can. What they can fish, however is limited by the size of their ice chest. Whatever technique they use, whatever part of the lake they fish in, their work is done when the ice chest is full.

Whether or not we want to admit it, churches operate much like those fishermen, concerned with outreach until the building is full. Then they turn to maintenance or expansion (a more expensive option). Churches that choose to expand, continue the outreach until the new building is full, then they turn must make the decision again, expansion or maintenance.

Even the largest mega churches are unable to reach an entire city. At best they reach 1-2%. In my opinion, the question that needs to be asked is not, how can we grow our church, but rather how can we reach our community? What is it going to take? What needs to change about the way we are doing things? Those are harder questions to answer.

Thinking of the fishermen might help when thinking of the task of the Great Commission. What would they need to change? What is our parallel?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Dr. Kelly’s Observations on Evangelism in the SBC

Kelley Dr. Chuck Kelley, the president and professor of evangelism at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote an article called “The New Methodists,” highlighting the decades of stagnancy and decline in the Southern Baptist Convention. I met Dr Kelley a few times and he has always impressed me as a man in love with God. I always want to read what he has to share.

Below is a brief summary and some some quotables from the article. You can read the whole article here:

My Summary

In 1945 Southern Baptists baptized approximately 257,000 people into their churches. In 1955, only ten years later, they baptized approximately 417,000 people, almost doubling in just ten years.  How did we do it?
  • from their earliest beginnings they emphasized church planting.
  • [they] continually affirmed for the congregation the importance of sharing Christ with the lost.
  • [they] used decisional preaching… preaching which calls for an immediate and public response.
  • personal evangelism throughout the community.
  • Sunday School became the cultivation strategy for SBC churches.
  • [they] used revival meetings as their primary harvest tool.
It was not the individual methods used that produced such an incredible harvest. Rather, the interaction of those methods with each other created an integrated process described in the New Testament as sowing and reaping.

[Southern Baptists have] reduced planting, neglected cultivation, and not surprisingly have found the harvest coming up short.

Money [for evangelism] is not the crucial issue reducing our fruitfulness. Having more money will not turn things around.

The gospel’s power is not the crucial issue. Our message has the same power to transform any human life today that it had in the first century of the church.

Discipleship is the crucial issue. 

We are not anointed – that “we” would be you, me and all of us at work in places with little evidence of the activity of the Holy Spirit. We are so not anointed we have come to accept not being anointed as normal.
[We] have become so focused on discovering a method that works; [we] fail to realize an integrated process is far more important than any one method that is a part of that process.

More importantly, Southern Baptists are becoming the new Methodists.
  • Universalism is settling into our pews as more and more Southern Baptists believe and behave as though they believe a personal relationship with Christ is not necessary for one to be right with God.
  • Tolerance is beginning to overtake conviction as growing numbers, particularly of younger Southern Baptists, are less comfortable with taking a firm stance on moral or doctrinal issues.
  • More importantly, our behavior, the way we live our lives, is blending more and more with our culture. We are growing ever less distinct and recognizable in the crowd of our nation’s population.
When our baptismal numbers started to weaken, we intensified our focus on evangelistic strategies and methods. Hear this from one who is an evangelist by calling. We should have paid more attention to our discipleship process.

We are blending in more than we are standing out.

Our problem is not that more of us don’t witness to our neighbors. Our problem is that more of us do not look like and live like Jesus.

Here is what we know stated as simply as I know how to state it:
In times past God has worked through our Southern Baptist churches in a mighty way. In times present God is not working in a mighty way through our churches. How are you going to respond to this?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Platform Ministries Part 1 - Benefits

Platform ministries are what I call the regular, programmed ministries of a church.   They are usually done on the church property and with a certain amount of regularity. These ministries go a long way in establishing a church’s identity and personality. They are so called, because the church itself is, or provides, the platform for the ministry. To that end, these ministries also do a good job of assimilating people into the existing church culture.

Platform Ministries Include:

  • Regular Worship Services
  • Sunday Schools, Youth Ministry Programs, and Children’s Church
  • Choir, Awana, RAs &GAs, Women’s Ministries, Etc.
  • Grief and Addiction Recovery Ministries
  • Follow-up Visitation and Homebound Ministries.
  • Church Events, Fellowship Meals, and Concerts
  • Vacation Bible Schools and Revivals
  • Mother’s day out, Day Camp, etc.

Platform ministries usually have a steady structure and leadership and have their schedules printed in the bulletins and on church websites. They have a specific scope, purpose, reach, and expectation. Because of their nature, platform ministries are usually consistent in reaching people within their target audience.

Platform Ministries can Lead to Consistent Baptisms.

Strong platform ministries are characteristic of my home church. The late 70s and early 80s had been a period of staggering growth. (I was baptized in 1982). As our part of the city developed, the church expanded proportionally. Throughout the early 90s my church was among the state leaders in baptisms. During this time, new ministries were being developed left and right.

As we approached the millennium, with no new neighborhoods springing up, church growth became predictable and plateaued. By the time I came on staff in 2000, however, the church had already established a good number of platform ministries. Each one could be counted on for a certain number of baptisms each cycle. We were baptizing between 30 and 60 each year while I served there. The church continues to baptize in this range every year.

Interestingly enough, when the church went through a split a few years ago, attendance dropped by more than half, but something peculiar and particularly good happened. The platform ministries of the church continued regular operation during this time and they continued to reach the same steady number of people as they always had. In fact, many of the church’s platform ministries go back several pastors deep, and even after a full generation in operation, they continue.

A Well-Oiled Machine

Wise pastors work for decades building up their churches and their respective platform ministries. They know that these ministries are good vehicles for discipling both workers and seekers. They know that they are good vehicles for developing community and comradery, as well. They see how platform ministries build a sense of obligation, responsibility, and ownership within the church. Most of all, they know that every platform ministry can be an outreach machine in its own right, and consistently bring new people into the fold.

Platform ministries are not automatically evangelistic, however. They tend to be nurturing and communal by nature. So, if a church is evangelistically passive, its platform ministries will not lead to many baptisms. I have mentioned before in this blog that highly evangelistic churches do not attribute their success to having unique ministries. Rather they intentionally connect their platform ministries to evangelism.

Next Post: Platform Ministries Part 2 - Drawbacks and Limitations

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lessons from Methodists – Part 3 of 3

John Wesley’s disciples, called Methodists, methodically sought to obey the Lord in all areas of their lives by observing three main rules:

1. Do no harm.
2. Do as much good possible.
3. Use every means of grace that God has given.

This simple, small-group discipleship saved souls, transformed families, and changed British society.

The first post in this series looked at the outcome of the first area of change in the lifestyle of Wesley’s disciples: “Do no harm.” The second post focused on the second area change: “Do as much good as possible.” This final post in the series will look at the third area: “Use every means of grace that God has given.”

They Lived up to Their God Given Potential.

Rules one and two are relatively straightforward. Rule number three doesn’t communicate well nowadays. We just don’t call things a means of God’s grace anymore. For me “means of grace” brings up the image of sacraments. Simplified, however, a means of grace is just a way God has made it possible for us to experience Him. Reading God’s Word might be an example.

For the Methodists, this was one means of God’s grace that was identified as neglected among many Britons, because of their inability to read. Reading is a learned skill, but it is something that God has given us the capacity to learn to do. God’s word had been made available in print and so, it was means of grace. A means which was unavailable to the illiterate.

In their small group meetings, besides encouraging one another to abandon sinful habits and do good works, Methodists read the Bible together and sang hymns. John Wesley’s brother Charles had written thousands of hymns. They were taught line by line, by rote, singing them and having them sung back. The hymns were published sold cheaply. When Methodists sang with their hymn books, they were teaching themselves to read by matching the written words with the ones they knew and sang by heart. It was a very effective method.

This new-found literacy gave Methodists the ability to do more than they ever could before, they communicated better, found better jobs, did business transactions for themselves and more. What they learned from reading scripture gave them the wisdom to live well. Combined with the changes in character of doing no harm and doing much good, seeking God through reading made the lives of Methodists much better. They were no longer living in poverty, but attained for themselves a dignified life. As a group, they created Britain's middle class.

Man’s Accomplishments or God’s Grace?

The Methodist motive for embracing literacy provides a good lens through which to view technology in general. Advancements in travel, communication, health, and the like can all provide better opportunities to both proclaim God’s glory and to seek it. While the world would use technology as a modern day Babble tower, Christians and churches should be proactive in utilizing all available technologies as a means of grace, helping others to know God worship him.

For a long time I followed a podcast called Geeks and God, which focused on how computer and internet technology can be used to benefit the church and spread the gospel. I have a friend, a son of a missionary, who dedicated a couple of years of his life to exploring how to create gospel communities through online social networks and massively multiplayer roleplaying games. Michael Card worked with a number of others to create Godly expressions of Art available on the Internet, seeking to call others to go and do likewise.

Can you think of a dozen ways your church is either embracing technology as a possible means of grace? Can you think of a dozen ways it is missing an opportunity? What needs to change? Following the example of the Methodists, there is a lot at stake.

I hope you enjoyed this small series.

Notes

This series of posts and the information with respect to Wesley’s revival contained therein is mostly a summary of an excellent piece written by Charles White and Robby Butler for Mission Frontiers outlining the impact of Charles Wesley’s ministry. The full article is available for download as a PDF file by clicking the picture below. I highly recommend it.

john-wesley-cpm

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The E-Scale

the e scale

Ralph Winter was one of the best when it came to explaining the missionary task of world evangelism. One of the simple ways he helped categorize the situation was by the use of the E-Scale and P-Scale.  These graphs simply showed the cultural distances between the announcers and hearers of the gospel and what it requires of each.

I want to look specifically at the E-Scale in this post, and the P-Scale in another.

The E-Scale represents the cultural distance that Christians go, or need to go, when sharing the gospel.

E-0 Evangelism

E-0 evangelism is evangelism that takes place within the church. This is reaching out to those who already attend or participate in local church activities. Examples of this kind of evangelism in local church practice would be Sunday school evangelism, Christmas cantatas, and perhaps follow-up visitation.

There is no need for the Christian to move outside of his own culture or cultural boundary, as the one he is seeking to reach is already a part of it. It’s greatest focus is renewing wayward Christians and bringing those who participate, but haven’t yet believed to the point of a personal decision.

E-1 Evangelism

E-1 evangelism is evangelism that takes places outside of the church, but to the same culture. This is reaching out to those who do not participate in any local church activities, but otherwise have mostly similarities with respect to cultural views and practices. A good example of this in local church practice is personal evangelism.

There is very little need for the Christian to move outside of his own culture, as the one he is seeking will already fits in pretty well with the church culture. It’s greatest focus is on reaching lost family members of Christians, their co-workers, and others with whom they may already associate outside of church.

E-2 Evangelism

E-2 evangelism is cross-cultural evangelism into a similar, but different culture. This is reaching out to those who may or may not speak the same language, but certainly have different backgrounds. The best example of this in local church practice is probably church sponsored short-term mission trips.

Here there is a need for the Christian to stretch himself and become aware of his own cultures additions to biblical practices, as the one he is seeking will often find them to be hindrances to faith. It’s greatest focus is not on bringing people into the church, but rather bringing the church to a new place.

E-3 Evangelism

E-3 evangelism is cross-cultural evangelism that takes the message of Christ to cultures very different from that of the messenger. This is reaching out to those who have never heard of Jesus or who have a culturally instated resistance to Christianity. There are usually no examples of this in local church practice, except in the commissioning of career missionaries.

Here there is a need for the Christian to radically strip off his own culture from the gospel message and identify the barriers, gaps, and bridges to faith that exist in the unreached person’s culture. It’s focus is exclusively on bringing the church to a new place.

Most churches today never go beyond E-Zero evangelism.

Though I go off topic from time to time, the reason I started this blog and named it “Beyond Outreach” is for this very reason. The outreach of most churches is E-0 evangelism, with occasional forays into E-1 evangelism.

Churches need to go beyond this kind of outreach.

In a future post I will break down the P-Scale as I have done here with the E-Scale. Then, in subsequent posts I will look at the reasons churches get stuck at E-1 and delegate the rest to “the missionaries.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

“I’m Thinking ‘I’d Rather not Talk to You.’”

Andrew Makes a Good Point Regarding Evangelism.

In American culture today many see Christians as bad. To them, they are hypocrites. They are self-righteous. They are prejudiced. They are closed-minded. They are naive. They are out of touch. They are mean. The list goes on.

True followers of Jesus are none of those things. Even so, American cultural Christianity has produced a number of people that fit that description. Unfortunately, this has become the cultural stereotype of the Christian. Many people today just don’t like self-proclaimed Christians.

To that end, proclaiming oneself a Christian on the outset of a conversation can quickly end the possibility of meaningful dialog. It is like announcing you are a Republican or Democrat to someone who holds some degree of disdain for your political persuasion. They’ve got you labeled and assume that you’ve got them labeled from the get-go. Both sides will either dig in their feet to defend their position or just avoid meaningful conversation.

I think this is what Andrew was touching on in his comments on my earlier post “That awkward discomfort of sharing faith.” I wrote in my suggestions for making evangelism a daily habit, that people ought to mention something they got out of their daily devotional to five people each day. Andrew advised that this idea needed some rethinking to apply in the US context.

He said that this approach would more than likely come across as arrogant, and would not appeal to people in this day and age.

Trying to come at people here with "well, the Bible says" is a sure way to have them stop listening, no matter what the context is. If you can't demonstrate actual changes in your life, tangible effects, people in the US just don't care.

Andy is right.*

Religion is usually bound up with cultural identity.

The gospel often expands within a community but does not normally “jump” across cultural boundaries between peoples, especially if boundaries are created by hate or prejudice (from either side). In other words, religious beliefs do not easily transfer from one group to another. So, a Christian declaring a truth held dearly by his own culture does not make it heard-as-true by members of another.

Traditional western Christian culture has identifiable and predictable boundaries and behaviors. It tends to be a somewhat insulated culture. What I mean by that is that the great majority of those who are a part of it do not have many, if any, meaningful relationships outside of it. More so, they can’t visualize how one can even be a disciple of Jesus outside of this culture.

This cultural baggage that is placed on the gospel, while useful to those within the culture, is a hindrance to those who aren’t. It is a barrier to faith. The gospel preached isn’t, “Jesus is the way.” Rather it is “Jesus, and the way we do things here, are the way.” 

People should not have to adopt your culture to believe.

The Bible records the dispute between Paul and Peter on this very issue. Jewish believers were insisting that non-Jewish believers adopt Jewish culture and custom. Paul called it “another gospel.” See Galatians 2.

Here is where I really differ in approach from traditional pastors. For me, disciple making should not be irrevocably tied to joining a new culture. This is what can happen when discipleship is bound to the platform ministries of the local church.

Often a church will reach others from within their community with the gospel and these people will fit into the church quite easily. Sometimes, however, there is enough of a cultural barrier, that neither side knows how to proceed. The new believer (or seeker) just doesn’t “fit” the church. The solution is to release discipleship from the established structure and start a new work more appropriate to the situation of the new believer.

As Vincent Donovan put it:

Evangelization is a process of bringing the gospel to people where they are, not where you would like them to be… When the gospel reaches a people where they are, their response to the gospel is the church in a new place.

This is getting away from the topic at hand, and I will write about establishing the church in a new place in future posts. For now, let’s get back to the initial evangelism suggestion.

Searching for an opening.

I did not communicate the point of sharing with five people a day very well. The key is not to just indiscriminately proclaim a Bible promise to five people a day. Spamming the gospel can do more harm than good. The key is to watch for openness.

Saying “I learned something interesting about God today,” is just one approach. The point is to take something of your spiritual walk verbalize it in a way that gives people a way to ask for more. Discernment and practice will guide the your method and technique. What you’re doing is watching for interest, not lecturing. Watch for permission to share. When it is there. Share.

I suggested this putting out of a trial balloon five times a day, because I believe Christians need to be methodical in sharing Jesus. This doesn’t require haphazard, indiscriminate preaching, but certainly requires consistent proclamation. There occasional situations where sharing Jesus is a perfect fit, but Christians should not be limited to sharing only during those times. We must also find ways to create those appropriate opportunities.

Churches in America are only baptizing an average of two people a year, with the exception of the occasional highly evangelistic church. If everyday Christians do not become intentional and methodical about sharing their faith, there will be no revival.

Notes

*Full disclosure:  Andrew is a friend of mine from my college days. That’s why the nickname “Andy” popped out in this post. It’s worth noting that that time, he was working hard to reach youth in a church that was not. He has seen, first hand, the damage done when people wear the Christian label, but act  like the stereotype in my opening paragraph.

    Thursday, March 15, 2012

    Lessons from the Methodists–Part 2 of 3

    wesley_thumb14John Wesley’s disciples, called Methodists, methodically sought to obey the Lord in all areas of their lives by observing three main rules:

    1. Do no harm.
    2. Do as much good possible.
    3. Use every means of grace that God has given.

    This simple, small-group discipleship saved souls, transformed families, and changed British society.

    The first post in this series looked at the outcome of the first area of change in the lifestyle of Wesley’s disciples: “Do no harm.” Today’s  post will focus on the second area of change: “Do as much good as possible.”

    They Left off Doing Evil, and Learned to Do Well.

    In small discipleship groups, Methodist believers held one another responsible for renouncing self-destructive behaviors such as drunkenness, violence, and sexual immorality. These participative gatherings also provided the vehicle for helping one another to do good and develop good habits.

    In their discipleship, everyone was encouraged to give what they could to whomever among them had need.  Methodists used what they earned judiciously and frugally, so that they would have more to give. Whether it be a set of clothes and shoes so a brother could work, or simply meal to give him his strength, they supported one another. They also gave generously to the fatherless and the widow.

    Their doing of good was not limited to alms for the poor, however. There was little of that comparatively. In a society where everyone was a beggar, giving out bread was not going to change things. Methodists became wise to see when handouts led to dependency or enabled people to continue in their destructive addictions. The idle were admonished to work to support themselves, rather than beg or steal. Whoever possessed a certain skill would mentor another disciple in the trade.

    The “doing good” of the Methodists really revealed itself in their use of money. They worked diligently, wasted little, and saved much. When there was opportunity, they invested to start new businesses, which employed workers and supported families.  Business owners were encouraged to do business with other believers, hiring from among them, and partnering with other Methodists. Likewise, all were encouraged to support the businesses of believers.

    Their businesses were good, too.  Each disciple was held accountable to neither run, nor support businesses that endangered the bodies or souls of men. No taverns, nothing requiring lying, nothing necessitating the use of dangerous substances or chemicals. They honored God in all things.

    By doing good one for another, the Methodists gave themselves upward mobility. Poverty was left behind by the employment of diligence in work, honesty in business, and caring for one another’s needs. Since all were working for the same Master, our Lord Jesus, they were able to trust one another and depend upon one another.

    So, it became true for the methodically obedient disciples of John Wesley, what was written of the early church. “And all who believed were together and had all things in common.” Acts 2:44 

    Not a Self-help Gospel

    It must be pointed out, that all of the good works of John Wesley’s disciples came in response to what God had done for them. These discipleship groups were not self-help groups of people seeking to find a better model for living life. They better resembled small churches. In these little communities, disciples were taught to observe all things Jesus has commanded.  Membership in one of these small groups was actually a requirement for believers to be members of the Methodist church.

    Methodists learned to see themselves as “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” They never claimed anything of God could be gotten a result of their own effort. Rather, they sought to live free from sin, because they had been forgiven of sin.

    Not Heaven on Earth, but Maybe a Glimpse of Heaven.

    Life improved, but it did not become easy for the Methodists. Over time, society changed for the better, but there were still the many challenges of death and disease to overcome. Even so, one can see how the life that Jesus came to give, and give abundantly, permeates every part of a society and blesses a socieitty.

    Here on earth, we will never find a Utopia. The curse of sin still stains everything in this world. The change in British society, however, from despair to hope, is a picture on a small scale of how God intended things to be. Only in the resurrection, and the new heaven and earth, will his people see it fully.

    Next

    In the third post in this series, we will look at what using every means of grace God has given meant for the disciples of John Wesley.

     

    Notes

    This series of posts and the information with respect to Wesley’s revival contained therein is mostly a summary of an excellent piece written by Charles White and Robby Butler for Mission Frontiers outlining the impact of John Wesley’s ministry. The full article is available for download as a PDF file by clicking the picture below. I highly recommend it.

    john-wesley-cpm

    Tuesday, March 13, 2012

    That awkward discomfort of sharing faith.

    “I don’t like it when you talk like that.”

    I had an eye-opening experience a year or so ago. I had taken my son with me to preach at a church we had never been to. Now, when speakers go to a church they do not know very well, they really try to gauge the formality of the church and make themselves fit. That’s what I did.

    I was wearing a suit and looked the part of a traditional pastor. After being called on to share the message from God’s word, I stood up in the pulpit and introduced myself and my family. I then slipped into that preachy rhythm of inflection and pause as I made my way through the text and the message. It was a good message, and I was as close to my radio voice as I could get.

    When the service was over, I went over to see my son. He had a somewhat sad, somewhat frightened look on his face. I asked him what was wrong.

    “I don’t like it when you talk like that,” came his reply.

    I had unconsciously changed my tone and style so much, my son didn’t recognize me. While it has seemed appropriate for the context, it was a big enough change that it made my son, who had just turned four, uncomfortable.

    They don’t like it when you talk like that either.

    This might be a good picture of why many feel such awkwardness in personal evangelism. People often change their tone when they bring up spiritual matters, especially when they are hoping to convert someone. It may be subtle or pronounced, but this change is often enough that the hearer doesn’t feel like he recognizes his friend anymore. Sometimes the would-be soul winner doesn’t recognize himself either. When this happens, faith sharing becomes and uncomfortable experience for all involved.

    One of the most effective things about Jesus was that He didn’t switch into another mode to talk about God. Whether standing in the synagogue or picking wheat along the path, his purpose was consistent, and so was his conversation and style.

    I mentioned in a previous post (daily evangelism), that the most effective soul winners are those whose daily speech is so full of God, that there is no distinguishing line between general conversation and “making a gospel presentation.” They don’t have to switch modes or change their tone.

    Awkwardness will happen for everyone who is just getting started (or just getting started again) sharing their faith. It should not be an excuse to remain quiet. It is something, however, we should be aware of and work towards eliminating.

    Daily Practices

    Here are three ways to help turn sharing Christ into a regular habit.

    • Give away Bibles. Invest in ten nice Bibles in the ten to twenty dollar range. Have them ready to give away at every appropriate opportunity. Keep a few in the trunk of your car. Wrap up a few as presents for any unexpected occasion. Put one or two in your office desk. Give them away as the Holy Spirit leads. Set a goal to give away at least one a week.
    • Mention your devotional. Take a key thought with you from your daily bible reading. Find at least five opportunities each day to say. “I learned something about God today.” If anyone asks what you learned, share the scripture and the insight. If they show more interest, set a time to talk more at their home.
    • Offer to pray. There are a thousand opportunities every day to commit things to the Father or to ask for help. Prayer doesn’t need to be a private personal practice. Anytime there is an opportunity offer to pray for that person and pray with that person. Show how your faith is not just “in theory.”

    Tuesday, March 6, 2012

    It’s Hard to be a Pastor

    In a post called Why I Won’t Call Myself a Preacher, former church of Christ pastor Dan Bouchelle talks about the difference in being an occasional speaker at a variety of churches and the hard work of being the vocational pastor at one church.
    He said:
    • It is easy to deliver a few engaging sermons for many churches around the country. It is hard to preach engagingly and meaningfully to the same people every week for years.
    • It is easy to fly in and sound like an expert for 30 minutes and fly out. It is hard to love people through their every-day journeys all week long for years.
    • It is easy to give advice between plane rides and wash your hands. It is hard to actually lead a church through a massive transition in vision and character.
    • It is easy to talk about discipleship to people who never see you outside of a church building. It is hard to be a disciple who makes disciples with people who see you at the grocery store, ballgames, and watch you drive on their streets.
    I know where Dan is coming from.

    I have to keep putting off my own “pastor” label.

    I serve as a missionary. Even so, my family and I have a church home in Brazil, Igreja Batista da Vitória. I am not the pastor, nor am I considered staff at the church.  I am called pastor much more than I am called by my own name. I do shepherd, but I serve mostly outside the church. I keep telling people, just call me “Estive.” (It sounds like Steve and is easier for Portuguese speakers to say. )

    I am, however, the de-facto pulpit supply when the pastor is away. This means I get to preach a small series of three to four sermons every once in a while. My church always enjoys it and frequently asks me to preach more often. I am cautious about this. I always make it a point to affirm the pastor and direct the church toward his vision and leadership. I always share with the church how good it is to have him as my pastor.

    It is very easy to make a pastor look bad or feel bad by dazzling a group with a good message or dynamic workshop. That just isn’t profitable for anyone. (Except the person with bad motives.)

    Pastors need to be encouraged.

    I remember once when I was serving in a large multi-staff church, the senior pastor had just resigned. Though there were still seven of us associate pastors on staff, the church thought it a wise idea to bring in guest preachers for the first several weeks. This would fill the pulpit until the next business meeting, when the church would call one of our associates pastors to serve as the interim pastor.

    One of the supply preachers was a friendly man with a knack for telling a good story. He preached a simple and entertaining message with applications from the story of David and Goliath.  In the following weeks there was a bit of “talk” among a few of the church members that we should consider this guy to be our next pastor.

    The church personnel committee and future pastor search committee saw beyond this, of course, and the church eventually called one of our associates as senior pastor. What I remember from this episode, though, was how the heaping praises for a guest preacher caused some on our staff to feel undervalued.

    A common challenge.

    This probably happens more than you think. Pastors do not perform well when they are discouraged. (Neither did the old testament prophets.) On the other hand, when they are appreciated, they tend to go the extra mile and a half. You can make a difference in what kind of pastor you have by the way you treat him.

    This post is not the usual evangelism oriented material. It is just a reminder to encourage your pastor regularly. Pray for him. Pray with him. And, if you are brave enough and wise enough, become his friend. (I say wise enough, because some people foolishly think that the pastor is, or should be, on another level and separate from the rest. If you treat your pastor that way, both of you will suffer for it.)

    Sunday, March 4, 2012

    Lessons from Methodists – Part 1 of 3

    wesleyJohn Wesley is one of the names most connected with the Methodist church. Wesley’s disciples were called Methodists because they methodically sought to obey the Lord in all areas of their lives by observing three main rules:
    • Do no harm.
    • Do as much good possible.
    • Use every means of grace that God has given.

    The result of this simple form of discipleship is seen in the history books. This revival became widespread and affected society to such a degree that it is credited with creating England’s middle class. This in a time when poverty was the reality for four out of every five Britons. The transformation brought about is also said to have saved England from a bloody revolution.1

    Revivals that not only save souls, but transform families and change societies are acts of God that are worth studying and learning from. In this post we will look at the first area of change in the lifestyle of Wesley’s disciples: “Do no harm.”

    They Abandoned Sinful Habits.

    In teaching his disciples to do no harm, John Wesley led them to form small groups where they encouraged one another to abandon the sinful habits ruining their lives. These accountability groups, as we might call them today, provided a places where new followers of Jesus could confess their sins one to another and pray for one another. They prayed for self-control, something the Holy Spirit produces (Galatians 5:22-23).

    The three sinful habits these disciples were admonished to abandon were drunkenness, fighting, and sexual immorality. These three sins in particular had caused a devastating effect on the society.

    Widespread drunkenness caused a man-made famine. The demand for gin meant that half of the country’s grain crops went to making alcohol instead of bread. Drunkenness also led to fighting, of course. Violent crime was such a part of life that not even frequent, capital punishment in the forms of public hangings was an effective as a deterrent. Sexual immorality led to rampant illegitimacy, which continued the cycle of poverty.

    When new converts became dedicated followers of Jesus they repented of these self-destructive habits. “Believers stayed sober and quit doing the crazy and dangerous things intoxicated people do. They stopped fighting and thus avoided the injuries and feuds that destroy productivity. They abandoned promiscuity and started valuing their families and raising their children. Simply renouncing these three self-destructive behaviors greatly improved the economic lives of the Methodists.”2

    Outreach Means Calling People to Repentance 

    Every sinful behavior is destructive. That is its nature. In every temptation to sin there is a lie that something good will come, but it is a lie. What really comes is loss, brokenness and finally death.

    The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  - John 10:10

    Calling people to repentance is good news, when offered with the hope that Christ brings. To all who repent, there is forgiveness. To all who have bartered their souls, there is life. To all those who desire an escape, there is strength.

    Peter declared it plainly: "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself."

    An area in which we may have become weak in evangelism and discipleship is in helping people to see the consequences of sinful behavior and where it leads. For many, it is not enough to simply tell them “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We need to be able expose the lie behind each sin, and show clearly how that path leads to death.

    The gospel is not simply, “believe like me, and get a pass to heaven.” There is no real hope in that. The gospel is that God will not only forgive us of our past transgressions, when we repent and believe in Jesus, but that as we become his disciples, he gives each of us the power to escape the enslaving power of sin, and to walk away from it.

    What About Modern Day Hellholes?

    There are places so overcome by sin that they are as dangerous as a warzone. Here in Brazil the favelas, or slums, have that reputation. Escalating violence, poverty, illegitimacy, drug use, drunkenness, organized gang crime, and all kinds of abuse are the reality. In places like these, it is easy to see how sin leads to a culture of hopelessness and death.

    Who is willing to go into the dangerous places like these and proclaim the gospel that brings life, even if means laying down his own?

    (In a future post, we will look at biblical strategies for going into murderously dangerous places.)
    Notes

    1. This series of posts and the information with respect to Wesley’s revival contained therein is mostly a summary of an excellent piece written by Charles White and Robby Butler for Mission Frontiers outlining the impact of John Wesley’s ministry. The full article is available for download as a PDF file by clicking the picture below. I highly recommend it.
    2. Ibid.
    john wesley cpm

    Tuesday, February 28, 2012

    Who is Authorized to Baptize

    This is the article of mine that was recently published on SBC Voices. I have now formatted it and put a copy on Issuu as an e-booklet experiment. It is also downloadable as a pdf file.


    Wednesday, February 22, 2012

    Only 3% of Protestant churches start a new church.

    Ed Stetzer’s latest blog entry today had some interesting thoughts.

    According to a 2008 survey by Lifeway, 85% of Protestant churches are involved in some way or another in missions. However, when asked specifically about that involvement, only 3% directly planted a church or sponsored a plant financially.

    Could it be true that 97% don’t reproduce other churches?

    The churches I grew up in all had a rich history of starting other churches in nearby communities. None of those churches have done that again in the last 25 years.

    When was the last time the church you are a member of started a daughter church?

    Monday, February 13, 2012

    Remembering a Church Plant

    A Story

    A little over a decade ago, I was sitting in a lunch meeting of fellow ministers at my church. One of our associate pastors had been sharing with us over the past week that he would be moving on to a new ministry.

    He was to help re-launch a church that, for all practical purposes, had died. There were still a handful of people who maintained the legal charter and kept up the property, but that was it.

    Over some really good hamburgers, this brother shared his vision for what the church would become. “We are going to need some donations to get started. We need a video projector and a laptop computer, a sound system, and some chairs,” he confided. “We’re going to have a praise band and the whole thing is going to be contemporary.”

    I am not sure what the other ministers were thinking at this point,but I listened with fascination as he described what the worship service would be like. It sounded cool, for lack of a better word. (To be honest, it wasn’t the kind of church service that would have appealed to me personally, but it seemed like something that would get a crowd.)

    He then told us that there were several members from a number of different churches who would form a start-up team and become the charter members of the new church. The church would launch with services of nearly 100 in attendance.

    Observations

    I am not sure how long that church plant lasted, or if it is still there to this day. I do know that the presentation was enough to influence my missionary strategy when I first arrived here in Brazil. There were two very appealing things in that idea. One, was that by doing the same thing, I would be starting something unique and different. Two, I would have a pretty good level of control of what was going on.

    I never got anything like that off the ground here, and I am glad I didn’t. Today, I really think that this method of planting churches (though it has its appropriate place and usefulness), is often built on a couple of faulty assumptions.

    The first assumption is that if we have a better meeting space, more interesting programming, higher production-value media, a better band, and cooler websites, then we will better engage people and in turn disciple them better. (This applies both to traditional and contemporary styles. Just replace better bands with better choirs and orchestras.)

    I haven’s seen where excessive focus on delivery and production increases a church’s effectiveness in transforming people. In fact, there seems to be a correlation that increasing the quality of the performance decreases the level of meaningful participation of the congregation. Discipleship is not passive, and never will be.

    The second assumption is that new churches are best started with a core group of established Believers. These believers are perceived as offering a certain critical mass that gives credibility to the organization and stability to its structure. The problem is that most churches are no longer evangelistic as a defining characteristic once their meeting space is reasonably full and their budget is covered.

    Church Plant or Transplant?

    Recruiting a number of established Christians to leave their churches, even temporarily, to create a similar or improved version of what they are doing in another place is really a transplant rather than a plant, kind of like digging up an oak tree and moving it to another place. Nothing new is established.

    Starting a new church among newly evangelized Christians in a way that is size appropriate with a structure that matches the need is more like planting an acorn. It will grow as its DNA intends.

    An oak tree and an acorn are the same in their DNA, but much different in their appearance. I can pick up and acorn and put it in my pocket. I can’t do that with an oak tree. In fact, there is not much I can do to an oak tree. It’s too big.

    A single acorn can produce an immense oak. A single, growing oak tree can produce countless acorns, each with the potential to produce another oak tree. It makes no sense to “plant” churches in a way that is akin to transplanting an oak. It is expensive, task heavy, and in the end, produces nothing. (One might find a place where the tree can grow better, but it is still the same tree.) Instead, oak churches should be producing and planting acorn churches abundantly.

    Friday, February 3, 2012

    Seven Billion Souls - Considerations for Evangelism

    World Population: 7,000,000,000 and counting.

    world pop smA few months ago the newspapers and magazines here in Brazil were headlining the the 7,000,000,000th baby had been born somewhere in India. This, of course, just a guess based on the UN’s 2010 Revision of the World Population Prospects. According to the US Census Bureau we won’t reach that number until March 12th, 2012.

     

    The world population has increased by 4 billion since 1960.

    The amazing thing in these reports is not really that we’ve made it to seven billion as a planet, but that it has come so rapidly. Fifty years ago there were right at three billion people living on the planet, now there are seven. According to most predictions, in just fifteen years time, we will add yet another billion to our planet.

    Discipleship must outstrip the population growth rate. In the US, it doesn’t.

    In the US, our Southern Baptist Convention churches are discipling at this rate:

    • There are about 313 million people in the US, less than 5% of the world.
    • There are about 16 million SBC Christians, about 5% of the US population.
    • It takes 50 SBC Christians together a year’s time to baptize a single disciple.
    • Each baptism comes at an average cost of $35,000 in church spending.
    • It takes 65 SBC churches together a year’s time to start one new church.
    *Source: 2010 church growth indicators for the Southern Baptist Convention

    Now, to be fair, one must also consider that the SBC is the largest missions sending agency in the world, and these numbers do not reflect the foreign mission work these churches fund. On the other hand, delegating someone to “do the work for you” is not really full obedience.

    The bottom line is that disciple making and church planting are not in the DNA of the majority of SBC churches. These churches, by their fruit, show that they either do not know how to grow the kingdom, or do not care. Personally, I believe they do care, but just don’t know how to change.

    Questions for your church.

    • Is my church currently reproducing spiritual newborns at a higher rate than the population growth?
    • Is my church currently reproducing other churches at a higher rate than the population growth?
    • What is it going to take to be able to answer those questions affirmatively?

     

    *UPDATE

    I just started reading an article that is putting some perspective on this. The article “When Feelings Bend Statistics,” gives some good arguments against the unnecessary pessimism with respect to world evangelization. The article is over 2o years old, but gives a good reason for pause on the hand wringing.

    Here is an interesting graph from the article:

    Diminishing Task

    Monday, January 23, 2012

    Back to This Blog

    I started this blog, at least the concept of it and the first few posts, while I was sitting in the waiting room at the local oncological hospital. I would regularly take my mother-in-law for radiation therapy for months in 2009. Waiting rooms are the biggest time outs in life. Life goes on hold. It can be a good opportunity to read or write.

    I’ve just gone deaf again. Another time out.

    Today, I sent word to all my English students that I would be suspending classes for a while. I will continue to keep and build on my ministry schedule, but my teaching work is now on hold.

    I plan to use this quiet time (I do expect it to be temporary) to get back to posting on this blog. I have several others which have taken center stage lately. This is my favorite blog, though. I look forward to regularly posting  here starting in February.

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