Category Archives: Missiology

Missions: Why It’s Important for Every Church Plant

The obvious reason for planting a church anywhere in the U.S. is to reach lost people for Christ in those communities. A desperate need exists for biblically sound relevant churches to reach lost people. I’ve been a church planter, as well as a pastor in two other turn-around churches through the years. I’ve seen that wise cross-cultural missions engagement is critical to the health of every church, including church plants.

Consider these seven big wins by engaging in missions from day one of your church plant:

1. You stamp a global DNA into the life of your church. While most church plants are driven by the Great Commission, many can overlook the “nations” element of Jesus’ Command. When Jesus told us to “make disciples of all nations”, he was telling us to be sure we reach and disciple all the ethnicities of the world. If we take the nations out of the Great Commission, we no-longer have a great commission. It’s something, but it is not great.

2. You live in alignment with the heart of God for the world and will be blessed for it. To really love God, we need to love who He loves. “For God so loved the world that He gave….” And then there is the undeniable thread throughout the Bible of God’s love for all lost people. Psalm 67:3 states, “Let the peoples praise you, O God, let all the peoples praise you!” In the Hebrew that word for “peoples” literally means “people group.” Way back then, God’s heart was already being poured out for the lost people groups of the world. When we love who God loves, His pleasure for us will not be restrained. We will experience and feel His favor as a church.

3. You choose to act selflessly and generously as a church. Engaging in missions creates a healthy other-oriented spiritual dynamic that is truly transformational for your congregation.

4. You stir the hearts and engage the giftings and passions of your church. Did you know that between 2-4% of those in every church have the unique gift-mix of missionary? Even more than that have the Spirit-given drive to help see the gospel reach every people, nation, tribe and tongue. Though it is common to be only community focused in church planting, we fail to develop a critical piece of spiritual health in our people if we overlook missions.

5. You develop well-versed, fully mature disciples of Jesus. When people experience the poverty, lostness and suffering of those in other places in the world, they are profoundly impacted deep in their souls. Your church will grow in awareness, gratitude, compassion and lessen the entitlement mentality that we naturally have as Americans.

6. You can holistically impact your neighborhood and city. The world has come to us! This is God’s doing and He wants His church to respond to this reality. We must do missions in our own backyards.

7. You increase your influence significantly. You will begin to bear fruit here, near and far. Your church will become more evangelistically oriented because they are captured by God’s heart for lost people. Every church I’ve led has become significantly more effective at reaching the lost around us because we also committed to reach the lost far from us.

How can we take some first steps into meaningful missions engagement as a church plant? Consider these five strategic actions:

1. Develop your own heart for the world. You already know this: Where your heart goes, your congregation’s heart will follow. You can’t fake a commitment to the nations either. You need to seek God’s heart for the lost peoples of the world and then follow your heart. Read some good books, like Gaining by Losing by J.D. Greear, Something Needs to Change by David Platt, or Miraculous Movements by Jerry Trousdale. Of course, there’s nothing like going on a trip into a least reached people group and let your heart be broken by people suffering in spiritual poverty.

2. Interweave stories of lost people groups throughout your teaching, leadership and conversations. Every time you insert a global illustration or story, you plant seeds of global awareness into the minds and hearts of your people. For yours I did this without even realizing it. When I accepted the role of leading missions for Converge, members of my congregation—one after another—said, “Of course, that makes perfect sense.” They had seen and heard my drive for the lost for years.

3. Do something cross-culturally from day one of your church plant. Invest in a church plant among a people group in need or adopt a missionary to build relationship with, pray for and support (even if it’s fifty dollars a month) or start praying regularly for a people group in your community asking God to show you what’s next. Go ahead, be creative! But do something from the start.

4. Identify your values as a church and set a plan to live them out. If you value missions, be sure you set a plan to engage in and develop your missions participation. Make sure missions is not an afterthought. If it is, it makes a statement about how you view God’s passion for lost people.

5. Let Converge International Ministries walk alongside. Don’t do missions alone. In Converge, we say. “We’re better together!” This is so true in the missions world, too. We have an entire team dedicated to help you discern how God has shaped and wired you as a church—and then help you engage in ways that will be transformational for your church and those who need Jesus.

As every church plant chooses to embrace the fullness of the Great Commission, we will see a God-honoring harvest of new believers here, near and far.

We Think of the Second Coming…

While we talk about the second coming of Jesus, much of the world has never heard of the first.

0709150402~22000 years after Jesus gave us the commission to disciple the nations, there are still over 6000 unreached people groups in the world. There are three primary reasons for this current reality:

    • The task is simply that big
    • We have been belligerently disobedient
    • We have been distracted and unfocused

Until a few years ago, we didn’t understand the size and complexity of the “every ethnos” task. The people groups are actually still being identified in their entirety, so for over 1950 years, the church didn’t really understand depth of God’s intention to reach every single people group in the world. But make no mistake, God intends that “every people, nation, tribe and tongue” is represented before the throne of God some day.

IMG_5987Belligerent disobedience has been a factor through the ages. The church has often decided to follow it’s own agenda rather than God’s. It has been guilty of building it’s own little kingdoms rather than God’s Kingdom. It has had seasons of carnality and lacked the Spirit’s leading and empowerment. This has kept the church from pushing the mission forward.

We have also been distracted and unfocused and is often the case in this current era. We can do lots of good things, but not the right things. We can even be involved in what we call missions, but it’s not actually a part of “discipling the nations.” It takes intense focus and intentionality to effectively engage in bringing the nations to Christ.

I’m so excited about the fresh initiatives in Converge International Ministries:

  • The Spice Island Initiative which will bring the gospel to dozens ofIMG_5783 people groups who have never heard a credible presentation of the gospel. We plan to send 100 missionaries there in the next ten years–each one working with nationals on the front lines who will do the critical work of  evangelism and church planting.
  • The fresh focus on Thailand (0.01% Christian) with the goal of starting 15 new English schools there in the next 15 years. This strategy has a greater goal of starting many churches among the least reached people of this country.
  • New leadership in Europe is setting the stage for an intense increase in so much of what we do there. We are confident that the years ahead will establish hundreds of new churches and thousands of new believers in some of the most godless regions of this continent.

Our priority in Converge is to reach the least reached. Come join us in this great cause. Write to us at missions@converge.org.

 

 

Bullseye!

Imagine never hearing the name of Jesus. In your whole life!

0707152319This was what Susan and I, and our team of “scouts” found in a remote region of Indonesia recently. Our group of six traveled two hours down the coast from a fair-sized city and then seven kilometers (five miles) from the beach into the mountains. Our target was a village which was the doorway to an unengaged people group. (Unengaged means that they have not heard the gospel in a credible way and no-one is intentionally trying to reach them.) What we found amazed us.

This small village of around 200 people was filled with warmconversations welcoming inhabitants. Inquisitive people kept coming out their homes to see something they had never seen before: foreigners. Even the oldest man in the village (maybe around 80 years old) said that a foreigner had never visited before. And they treated us like royalty. Two of our team were very fluent in Bahasa (Indonesian), so we learned so much about their lives, village, and demeanor. From the youngest child to the oldest woman, people loved on us and honored us. Completely Muslim in belief, they fed us fresh coconuts even though they couldn’t partake because of Ramadan.

0707152347b~2But here’s what grips me: They have never heard of Jesus. And they seem so open. And no-one is there to tell them.

This people group, like 10 others in that region, have absolutely no access to the gospel. They’re lost and they have no idea! And no-one is attempting to bring the gospel to these eleven unengaged people groups.

Until now.

Converge is taking on this region of Indonesia with the commitment to help these lost people groups know Jesus for the first time in history. This is the BULLSEYE of God’s passion for the lost. Jesus said, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world, as a testimony to all the nations (ethnic groups) and then the end will come,” Matthew 24:14. God has such a determination that all hear and respond that He is delaying His return until all the people groups know of Jesus.

  • Pray for this important mission.
  • Join us in this huge task. We ARE better together.
  • Write to me @ ivanv@converge.org
  • Check out our link at http://www.convergeworldwide.org/

 

 

The Degree that God Intends

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you,” Acts 1:8.

Jesus smiling #6Jesus smiling #6Thailand leadersAmong evangelical believers, the Holy Spirit has received little press. We tend to be strong on sin, justice, the Word, and the Great Commission, but our daily dependence upon the Spirit’s power has  been woefully overlooked.

The passage above reminds us that the Spirit’s presence and power in our lives is indispensable.

  • We cannot be who God intends for us without the Holy Spirit unleashed in our lives.
  • We cannot accomplish what God intends for us without Holy Spirit power surging through us.

It is, in actuality, impossible.

And what is the focal point of the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives? As first eight states clearly, to be His witnesses.

  • Would it be an overstatement to say that if we fail to be his witness, we lack the Spirit’s empowerment?
  • If this is the ultimate issue for which the Spirit was given (and it is in this passage), could we assume that failing to engage in this central mission as a disciple of Jesus reveals a distracted powerless believer?

It is so natural for me to choose disengagement from my neighbors and acquaintances in the spiritual realm of things. I have manufactured lots of good reasons for this (and I’m guessing you may have, too). But I’m quite certain that truth is this: My lack of witnessing about Jesus is an accurate reflection that the Holy Spirit is not upon me to the degree that God intends.

 

 

Perspective

Our paradigm of understanding is a box. We usually see things from our perspective with little or no thought about how others may understand the same thing.

Kolkata slum womanTake world events, for instance. So many well intentioned believers, seeing the evil and chaos everywhere, are sure that Christ must be returning soon. This “conviction” is often driven by a desire to avoid suffering rather than having been derived out of the pages of Scripture.

Jesus made it clear that “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations (ethne’), and then the end will come,” Matthew 24:14. J. Oswald Smith declared, “We talk of the Second Coming; half of the world has never heard of the first.” Yes,  there are still over six thousand unreached people groups (ethne’) in the world. The task has not been accomplished.

Don’t get me wrong. Jesus could come any day, but from the view of Scripture, it looks like we have some serious work still to do.

In the days ahead, I would like you to join me in a search to understand our part, beginning with a very familiar, but vaguely understood statement of Jesus: “It’s not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority, But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth,” Acts 1:7-8.

I’m convinced that every person and every church is to play an irreplaceable role in God’s big plan. Let’s go for it!

No Idle Observers Allowed

One of the frightening errors of American Christianity has been the rise of the vocationally driven church. When attendees and members are more observers than ministers, we’ve lost the very essence of Christ’s church. As a body is in need of every body part, so the church is in need of every member’s participation. It is vital to actually being The Body.

IMG_5820 (800x583)Now step back to see God’s larger picture–not the local church, but the church universal. It’s a little like a massive congregation made up of individual members–the local churches scattered all around the world. In the same way that God designs individuals to be involved in the local church, God intends for every congregation to be fully engaged in the mission of God. No idle observers allowed.

Of course, the local churches are placed where they are to be salt and light in their immediate contexts. But God intends this to only be the starting point. God’s full intention is for His church to be gripped by His passion of seeing people “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb,” Revelation 7:9. That’s why Jesus told his disciples–who made up the first local church of Jerusalem–to be his witnesses, “in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the remotest parts of the earth.”  He was telling His church to be fully in pursuit of God’s intention for all people.

Are you involved in your local church? Is your church engaged effectively in the mission of God? It is God’s essential design for His church and His people.

Need a little help in knowing next steps? Write me at missions@convergeww.org.

 

Leveraging Culture to Communicate the Gospel

“Missionaries who enter other cultures may be compared to actors who have spent their entire lives learning the script for a Shakespearean play only to find that the stage they’re on is presenting The Phantom of the Opera,” Charles H. Kraft in Anthropology for Christian Witness.

Thailand leadersOur sixth Converge International Ministries value is that “we are sensitive to other cultural points of view.”

Out of love and mutual respect for all people, recognizing that we are all created in the image of God, we value the diversity of other cultures, worldviews and belief systems. We do this in order to effectively communicate the Gospel and to have a more fully-orbed understanding of the Gospel through the culture’s impact on our own lives.

In many ways, cultural diversity can be transformational in our understandings of all of Scripture. A. Scott Moreau has said, “The Bible is so rich and multifaceted that we need insights from people who are different than us if we are to see truths more fully,” Discovering the Mission of God, page 410. Whether we realize it or not, we all understand the Bible through our cultural lenses. Consider how ludicrous it is to consistently interpret ancient Scripture of middle eastern culture through our 21st century western mindset. No wonder we have a plethora of fallacies and quirky understandings of the Word. Culture will always open our eyes to deeper realities of truth in the text.

Our value, however, goes beyond this, challenging us to actually understand the cultures we’re in so that our communication of the gospel can be many times more effective. The apostle Paul did this regularly as he planted churches across Asia minor. He declared, “I have become all things to all people that by all means I might save some,”  1 Corinthians 9:22.

Consider a few MARKERS we have identified to measure how well we are actually doing in this value:

  • Mutual trust is evident in all our relationships
  • We joyfully accommodate diverse cultures without violating Scripture
  • We leverage the distinctives of other cultures when communicating the gospel

We love the rich depth of the thousands of cultures around the world. We want to leverage those for even greater effectiveness in communicating the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are committed to “being sensitive to other cultural points of view.”        

Being Results Oriented

At Converge Worldwide, we believe that our mission efforts should result in individuals saved, leaders deployed, churches started and strengthened. Activity without effectiveness dishonors God. With grace, understanding the uniqueness of each ministry setting, we will hold one another accountable for what we said we would achieve.

IMG_2526 (800x600)Our fourth Converge International Ministries value is that we are results oriented.

The early church set the precedent of celebrating great results! They even recorded those results in Scripture for all to see throughout history. “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. Barnabas…exhorted them…and a great many people were added to the Lord. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people.” Acts 11:21-26 Why is this stated? Because results matter to God.

Two primary realities form this value:

  1. We are commanded to the specific task of making disciples and need to help one another to do this well. Activity is not productivity. I once had a youth pastor who was so busy all the time that he lived his daily life at a feverish pitch, but he produced very little. Upon inspecting his work habits, I discovered that he never identified the priority of activities that would push him toward his goals. He just thought that a good minister was a really busy minister. The last thing we want are busy, tired, stressed out, and ineffective missionaries. We are implementing systems and relationships that will help us constantly move toward greater effectiveness in the Great Cause appointed to us.
  2. We are expected to be good stewards of all that God entrusts to us. When a church or individual sacrifices to support a Converge missionary, we want to be sure that they have made a very good investment. Systematic encouragement and accountability for our global ministers will enable their talents, skills, experiences, and spiritual gifts to be leveraged toward their greatest influence.

We are results oriented because we don’t just want to do good things, but the right things.

Strategies of Multiplication

Addition will never accomplish the great commission. That’s why in Converge International Ministries, our #3 Value is to pursue strategies of multiplication.Bangkok group (2)

Addition is always needed to begin movements. Jesus added disciples in the early days of His ministry. In the first church, “the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved,” Acts 2:47.  For years, missionaries needed to focus on addition because multiplication was not possible on so many newly engaged fields. We still have numerous missionaries that live an incarnational ministry—to be like Jesus in cross-cultural settings, gathering a few disciples in order to eventually begin a strategy of multiplication. These ought to be applauded, supported, prayed for, and celebrated. Unfortunately, these are often the missionaries whose support is withdrawn because there is so little fruit. At times, addition is desperately needed.

Our International Ministries’ goal, however, is to pursue multiplication in all places and ways possible. Paul stated to Timothy, “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also,” 2 Timothy 2:2. Our missionaries are charged with implementing strategies of multiplication whenever and however they can. Our high priority is the raising up of indigenous leaders among least reached peoples who will do the work of ministry in their contexts much better than a Westerner could do. Our strategies of multiplication are producing hundreds of equipped leaders in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Multiplication is one of God’s best methods for impact and scope of transformation.

 

Prioritizing Least Reached Peoples

IMG_5820 (800x583)Our #2 value in Converge International Ministries is that we prioritize least reached peoples–those who, because of geographical, religious, or social isolation, have not heard a credible presentation of the good news of Jesus.  We prioritize these peoples because God desires that all people have an opportunity to hear and respond to the Gospel.

We believe that good missiology directs our attention, resources, and efforts at reaching those people groups who have still not embraced Jesus as Savior and Lord. We especially target those who do not presently have a significant church presence among them.  When a critical mass of believers is reached among an affinity group (often considered between 5% and 10%), they are more capable of evangelizing and growing the church than we outsiders can do. Of course, there are times when missionaries can still fill a nitch as the church matures, like providing leadership training, theological education, and equipping missionaries to go where westerners cannot. The general rule, however, is that the greatest need we can meet is to help bring the gospel to those who have no sustainable church presence to speak of.

This also resonates with the heart of God. Jesus declared that, “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come,” Matthew 24:14. This is Scripture’s clearest statement as to when Christ will return — when every ethne’ (people group) hears the good news of the kingdom. This is on God’s heart and mind. It is the focal point of what God is doing in all of history. I want to be a part of that! Do you?

Check out what we’re doing among least reached peoples these days. It’s really amazing! Global Church Multiplication Video

You can take a look at our web page on this…