Category Archives: World-Changers

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.

Self-Leadership

Lagos 034Self-leadership is my most significant challenge of any sort of leadership. In order to be effective at family, team or organizational leadership, adequate self-leadership is a non-negotiable.

There are many facets to self-leadership—always being a learner, constantly acquiring skills and practices for increased effectiveness, understanding people better, and developing as a strategist and implementer. However, before all of those—foundational to everything else you are and will ever do—is the daily practice of walking with God in authentic intimacy. Quite frankly, I have found this to be the greatest challenge of self-leadership.

We can fake things for a while. We can run on spiritual fumes for a season. We can be quite adept at putting on a mask of spiritual respectability. But, we are only on borrowed time if we do not feed our soul, allow God to challenge and transform us, and daily walk the life of risk-taking crazy faith. King David learned this the hard way. After his wayward escapade with Bathsheba and eventually coming face-to-face with the ugliness of his sin, he recognized what he was missing. It is delineated in Psalm 51. Remember verse 10? “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” David finally understood that fallen people inadvertently slip away from God where intentional intimacy is overlooked.

I have been in the role of leading Converge missions for five years. I’m deeply privileged to do this. I would be untruthful, however, if I told you it was easy. And it’s not easy spiritually, either. As a pastor (and I loved being a pastor), I would spend two hours a day in the Word seeking God for spiritual truths I could pass along. As I did this, I was changed and transformed weekly. I met God again and again in astounding ways. Besides this, I would see the fruit of my work all the time—people changed, families renewed, new births weekly, kudos and warm fuzzies from congregants. Not anymore. I rarely see what my work produces and will need to wait until eternity to have even a close idea. I also find it extremely challenging to find time to bask in the Word and let God speak to me deeply. So much has changed. It is stretching me.

This may be a little of a confession time. I have not figured out a good rhythm of self-leadership in this unique role I’m in. I’m working on it and I’m committed to it, though, because I know that it is essential. I will never become who God intends for me without exercising this dimension of self-leadership. I will never accomplish what God intends for me to accomplish without living with an ongoing spiritual vitality. Neither will you.

Gary Thomas has written a book called “Sacred Pathways” in which he presents nine primary ways that people significantly connect with God. Those pathways are described as the Naturalist, Sensate, Traditionalist, Ascetic, Activist, Caregiver, Enthusiast, Contemplative, and Intellectual. We each have at least one primary and one secondary way that we worship and are transformed by God.

I have learned that if I regularly engage in my two primary sacred pathways as an Intellectual and Naturalist, it elevates the quality of my self-leadership significantly. I find myself regularly transformed by my interactions with God. It changes my life, always for the better. Knowing this, it then becomes a matter of personal discipline to be sure I regularly engage in these types of experiences with the Lord.

I encourage you to discover your sacred pathways and engage regularly in those. Lead yourself well. It sets you up for raving success in every other arena of life.

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!

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.

Dynamite!

One day when I was a little boy growing up on the farm in southwestern Minnesota, my father took me along on a dynamite expedition . You know how excited little boys get about firecrackers? Now multiply that excitement umpteen times and you get a feel for what this day was like for me. My father had a massive rock in the middle of a sprouting corn field that needed to be removed. There was only one way to do it. Dynamite!

dynomiteI remember standing near the boulder as my father dug an arm-width tunnel below it and then gently inserted the stick of explosive. He told me to go sit in a grassy ditch some distance away as he made the final exciting preparations for the big show. Soon, my father was running for cover right next to me–he evidently lit the fuse. There we lay with shallow breathing, eyes fixed on the spot where all chaos would soon burst forth. And we waited…and waited…and waited. Something was amiss. Finally, my dad decided he better check it out. He stood up and KABOOM! Rocks, dirt, and smoke flew everywhere. It was magnificent! The power was almost terrifying…and exhilarating for sure.

Acts 1:8 states, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you….” Of course, the Greek word for “power” there is boy-fireworks-hands-Favim_com-320401dunamis from which we get our word dynamite. Appropriately, this Greek word does not intend to portray a small surge of power like sparklers, but a radical obvious release of power that transforms whatever it’s unleashed upon–like dynamite. This is the kind of power that God intends his followers to experience daily. It will affect us in undeniable ways. His presence and power cannot be overlooked.

The Holy Spirit, as mentioned in this passage, is meant to move (empower) us to be His witnesses–which we will delve into a little deeper very soon. The Spirit is not given to necessarily make our lives better or easier, or to make us smarter or more clever. He is given to make us effective in the calling God has placed before us. And He does this in undeniable ways.

Are you experiencing God’s dunamis? Do you want to?

 

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!

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.

 

 

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…

 

 

The Mark of the Believer

“…In your faith supply…brotherly kindness…” 2 Peter 1:5,7

brothery kindnessThe Greek word used in this passage is “philadelphia”. This compound word comes from “phileo”, meaning affection or fondness and “adelphos”, meaning brother, kinsman, or relative. Considering the male-dominated society to which this letter was addressed long ago, it is no surprise that non-inclusive language was used. Despite the words used, the intention of this word has always been the idea of loving fellow believers, male and female. These fellow believers are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are spiritual siblings! We’re supposed to treat one another in this way…and maybe even better than some of us actually do treat our blood brothers and sisters.

My only sister was hospitalized a couple years ago with a dangerous and potentially lethal infection in her internal organs. It was so bad that the doctors actually told her that she may die from this – she needed to get her affairs in order. My sister is younger than me…way too young to die, it seemed. When I heard about her situation, my concerns were directed toward her…and so were my energies. I took a day to drive a couple hundred miles to see her in the hospital, hold her hand, cry with her a little, encourage her, help her bear the pain and fear, and spend some time praying and ministering to her spirit. This is what brothers do with sick sisters. We go out of our way, change our plans, and make comparatively insignificant sacrifices to care for our siblings. She was family and needed to be treated as such. By the way…it seems God intervened. The day after I was there, she turned a corner in her condition and was home in week!

The characteristic that needs to be added to our faith is a fondness or affection for fellow believers. This may seem like a no-brainer until we step back a little and take inventory. I’m occasionally stunned at the inappropriate ways fellow believers treat one another. We can unintentionally begin to view our spiritual siblings as enemies rather than comrades. Instead, the behavior of believers, one to another, is to be radically different than what we find in the non-believing world. The letter to the Ephesians describes a clear contrast between what was and what should be.

“And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:30-32)

Affection, by its very nature, is a motivating reality that comes from within. When we think of philadelphia, we are referring to BOTH outer actions AND inner feelings. When you are fond of someone or something, you are excessively tender, even overindulgent — you strongly like and cherish with unreasoning feelings.

So people, let’s be sure we love one another, because Jesus said, “By this will all people know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another.”