Category Archives: The Church and Missions

At the Top of the World

Church planters in training, all from one congregation.

Church planters in training, all from just one congregation.

The church is growing faster in Nepal than in any other country in the world right now. Don’t get me wrong, there is so much that still needs to be done. With approximately 2% Christian in the country, most have still never heard of Jesus. However, true multiplication is happening with astounding effectiveness among believers there. Three primary reasons account for this phenomenon:

  1. God has chosen to bless this nation and work in rare ways in these days.
  2. Believers are reading the Word and doing what it says. In contrast to a predominantly knowledge-based discipleship in the US, the churches in Nepal function under an obedience-based discipleship model. By the way, so did Jesus.
  3. Good and godly leaders are setting the pace. Apostolic-type leaders are committed, intentional and focused to get done what Jesus told us to get done–make disciples.

It’s a tremendous privilege for Converge to be deeply engaged in the movement among these amazing people. Within our network, 856 house churches have been started in the past 18 months. I’m confident the numbers will only get bigger and harvest greater. To God be the glory!

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/

 

 

Three BIG Fallacies About Church

Lagos 034There are numerous fallacies in the church at large that kill it, make believers ineffective, and disillusion them. I’ll give you three big ones today:

FALLACY #1: The church is for believers. This is like saying the fire department is for the firemen! In fact, if the firemen were there only to enjoy the fellowship in the fire hall, to learn how to fight fires and only do it when they felt like it, to build close relationships with eachother at the expense of doing their job, we would all be in trouble. Besides, the firemen would get very little fulfillment from their position. Christians are to be on a mission. That’s why Jesus said to His disciples, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Of course it’s nice to have good fellowship, make deep and significant friendships, and be caring and supportive of one another. We are supposed to be about these things. But to make these items the priority is like telling firemen to fight fires when it fits their schedule. NO! The church is NOT for believers, but the means by which God wants to save a lost world. Our ultimate objective, which must shape everything we do and everything we are, is to make disciples of all ethnic groups.

FALLACY #2: The best church for me is the church where I get my preferences met. This is like finding a doctor that tells you only what you want to hear. Personal preferences should be WAY down on the Christians list of priorities for their church. WAY DOWN…like non-existent. Here’s what you really need to look for in a church — whether or not this community of believers is doing everything they can to appeal to the lost people around them. The BEST church is the church that is reaching into the secular world in their neighborhood. This requires seismic shifts for most churches in their orientation, presentation, and application of Scripture. Church should have very little to do with what you personally want, but everything to do with becoming “fishers of people.” After all, Jesus still has us here on planet Earth to come, follow and fish.

FALLACY #3: A biblical church is where I learn as much as I can about the Word. This is like a shoe factory that gives seminars galore on making shoes, but never produces any. Don’t misunderstand me, learning the Word is REALLY important, but Christians have a habit of doing this at the expense of living it. I mean, ACTUALLY living it every day. We make learning such a high priority that we overlook living it. Churches sometimes keep their congregants so busy in Bible studies, small groups, serving in programs, and attending services that there is not time or energy left to actually live it out in the context of our world. Jesus had a balance in His approach that must be duplicated. Early on, long before the disciples were fully equipped, He sent them out two by two to engage in some pretty radical things — casting out demons, healing, and sowing seeds of the gospel among hostile recipients. He knew that the only way they would stay hungry to learn, and the only way they would fulfill their God-sized task, was to get them out there doing what they were meant to do. Churches often put such a priority on learning that we drastically fail at doing exactly what Jesus told us to do with it. Even Sunday preaching should not primarily be about learning, but challenging people to live out the gospel in Jesus-style ways.  PS–the best learning, even in the Word, is found through the joy of discovery in Bible study. When you read it, wrestle with it, and the Spirit teaches it, you will never ever forget it. It gets in you. There is no better way to learn.

Cultural Christianity and Biblical Christianity are worlds apart. Unfortunately, many churches think they’re living a Biblical Christianity, when in fact, it’s only cultural…they’re doing what they have learned to do from others before them. They overlook what the Bible REALLY teaches about following Jesus. In Jesus’ day, the people who led this “cultural movement” were the Pharisees. As Jesus said, they taught the traditions of men while disobeying the commands of God.

Good Things or Right Things?

wild flower bouquetOne of our children was exceptionally skilled at doing good things while overlooking the right things. We would leave for an evening, giving him the clear directive to have his room cleaned when we returned home. Sure enough, when we arrived at our front door later that night, there he would be with a beautiful wild flower bouquet for his mother with a grin a mile wide–and with a dirty room. It’s takes some skill to navigate disciplining a child in that scenario. He was doing something really good, but at the expense of what he was clearly told to do.

Christians throughout history have had the same problem when it comes to Jesus’ directives. We see an epidemic of that in our North American churches–churches doing lots of good things rather than the right things. Yes, there are those champion standout churches that are right on target, but the vast majority, even of evangelical congregations, fall short.

Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses…,” Acts 1:8.

Jesus directive for his disciples is that we are moved and empowered to tell what we have seen, heard and experienced about Jesus. This is to be the ultimate objective in our lives and congregations. Along with all of the other important pieces like fellowship, learning, compassion and care, nothing takes precedence over what Jesus told us to accomplish while He is away. It is of ultimate importance–Jesus gave His life for this purpose.

I’m thrilled at the Acts-type motif we are seeing in our church plants with the Timothy Initiative among least reached peoples. Churches pic1are started with all new converts and within months, new church planters are identified, mentored, trained and deployed to start the process all over again. Converge has helped start over 2000 of these churches in the past year–each one averaging 16 converts to Christ in the first 12 months. By the way, many of these churches are started where the name of Jesus has never been heard before. For more, go to this link on GLOBAL CHURCH MULTIPLICATION.

I’m thrilled at the skilled and strategic work our missionaries are engaged in from Europe to Asia, Africa and Latin America as they develop transformational leaders in order to multiply transformational churches. We are creating cultures of obedience-based discipleship where being Christian truly means being a witness first.

As I witness what it costs so many around the world to follow Jesus, and how eager they are to spread the word, I’m moved to do the right things, not just the good things.

 

Priority

Priorities slip. The things that we should always highly value have a way of getting lost in the fray.

ivansusancruise2013I recently looked at my wife’s calendar and was humbly reminded of how easily this happens. There in her calendar, on every Tuesday night, was a notation, “Date with Ivan.” Oh wow! This was a commitment I had made some time ago because my relationship with Susan needed time and commitment. Somewhere in the busy schedules and demanding responsibilities, I lost sight of that priority. It’s time for a recommitment.

When Jesus said, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority, but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses…”, He was giving us a clear priority.

  • Holy Spirit power trumps end times information.
  • Doing is more important than knowing.
  • Our curiosity must be held in check by Jesus command.
  • God does His part and we need to do ours.

In essence, Jesus was telling His disciples that nothing matters more than being His witnesses. Our active involvement in His plan of redemption for all mankind is to be an ultimate priority in our daily lives. Our love for Jesus is not best expressed by determining the time of His return, but by engaging in the command He has delivered.

Hold on–you may not be an eschatological wiz. You’re not enamored by end times puzzles. But, you may have let something else creep in and crop out God’s directive. It’s all the same. If we’re not doing what He desires, it doesn’t really matter why. The fact is, we’re missing in action. That’s what matters.

So here’s a important priority to embrace. Take Jesus’ words to heart. Are you involved in spreading the word about what Jesus has done for you? The priority is simply this–be His witness. Tell what you have seen heard and experienced. Again and again and again…

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.

 

Everybody!

“When disciples step into the light of God’s mission, the burden of the Great Commission returns to its rightful place: every disciple and every church.”  H. Al Gilbert

Disciples follow. Jesus kept it quite simple. Discipleship is not complicated, but it’s very challenging. Jesus told us to follow Him. He also told us where he intended to lead us: “Go and make disciples of all nations,” Matthew 28:19. It’s quite clear that Jesus intends for His disciples is to keep the world in clear focus of their life mission. Yes–our primary hands on work may be right where you live. Sure–not everyone is called to be sent as a missionary. Absolutely–we must let God’s heart for the world grip us, move us, shape us, and mobilize us to be vital participants in the great cause of seeing every nation, tribe, language and people become worshipers of Jesus.

The Lausanne Congress on World evangelization states it this way, “World evangelization requires the whole church to take the whole gospel to the whole world.” Every person and every church is needed to accomplish what God is passionately determined to see fulfilled–that “This gospel shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end shall come,” Matthew 24:14.

Are you engaged? Is your church mobilized? Do you need ideas, help, encouragement, a little assistance in taking some next steps? Let us know at missions@convergeww.org.

 

 

The Only Way…

Our seventh Converge International Value is that we are partnership driven. We value working together in relationships with individuals, churches, or groups who are like-minded in strategy and theology. As varying members of Christ’s body, we are better together than alone.  This includes working with local Christians, churches and mission agencies on our fields, as well as collaborating closely with districts and churches in the United States.

Collaboration is so critical to our effective ministry that we currently have 17 major partner organizations around the world and untold regional partners, countless movement leaders, and valued relationships with Converge districts, churches, and pastors.

CV joined us for dinner on Sunday and brought along some beautiful gifts from Amazing India!

CV Vadavana on a recent visit to our home.

As an example, I am traveling to Texas today to meet with our major partner in India. CV Vadavana leads Truth Ministries International, a ministry that is transforming lives and regions across India. We have been attempting to forge captivating and accessible doorways to engagement for our U.S. churches. It’s important enough to “move this forward” that we find two days to do just that. We ARE partnership driven.

“I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ,” Philemon 1:6.

 

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…