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.

 

 

repost from April 2010 — FOCUS

Susan has been all about one thing this week — putting on a gardening seminar this morning. She and her friend Pam have been talking, meeting and preparing to hit a “home run” at the Chocolate Oasis workshop at our church this morning. In fact, last night she apologized for being absent this week — meaning she wasn’t giving me much of herself since the workshop was getting it all. I assured her, “It’s OK, Babe. You need to do your best.” By the way, that’s all she knows how to do — her best. I like that about her.

While observing her this week, I was reminded of the power of focus. I saw it all week with Susan. And trust me — her passionate focus will pay off in an amazing seminar. I told her that I wish I could be in her workshop! Her attention to detail, the energy expended in covering all of the details, the thoughtfulness invested in making sure it is pleasing, artsy, and enjoyable will pay wonderful dividends to her attendees. Focus lends itself to excellence.

Jesus told us to have one primary focus — Love God. If you want to love God excellently, focus is essential. All other things, even workshops, somehow need to fit within that one driving passion of our lives. When zero in our focus on the ONE who loves us with an infinite love, we find something extraordinary happen in our lives — excitement, energy, and passion grow in our souls. This never happens when God is a mere slice of the pie, an afterthought, or an entity we fit in the cracks and crevices of our lives.

Another thing happens with focus: We see more than we ever thought was there! I’m guessing that Susan learned more about gardening this week than she ever anticipated. That’s because gardening was her primary focus for days! And when God becomes the ultimate focus for us, we begin to realize the absolute beauty of His character and qualities. It will blow our minds.

So make loving God your number one focus in life, just as scripture commands. Amazing things will happen in the pit of your soul.

Know what’s cool? My little wife did this workshop today in order to love God. This is her offering to Him! She believes that when people get their fingers dirty in God’s amazing creation, they’ll get to know the creator even better.

Good call, my Love!

The Power of One

One person can make a tremendous impact on the world. This can be really good, or it can be exceptionally bad.

Nigeria School Girls abductionI was reminded yesterday of how one evil person can affect millions of lives. The Boko Haram of Africa (their name literally means, “western education is a sin”) is one of the most brutal, twisted, evil terrorist groups on earth right now. Their most visible actions of late have been in Nigeria where they have killed hundreds in group bombings the last few weeks (1500 so far this year) and have kidnapped 276 young school girls that they intend to sell as sex slaves. “They should be home and getting married not learning in a school,” their leader, Abubakar Muhammad Shekau declared. “I enjoy killing anyone that God commands me to kill the way I enjoy killing chickens and rams.”

All of Nigeria and surrounding nations are deeply affected by this madman and his followers. The US military is now stepping in to lend assistance in dealing with the situation. And ministers of the gospel from all over the world are in danger because of this fanatical group. Most of my day yesterday was taken up dealing with the fallout on our global partners in this region of the world.

It’s a frightening demonstration of the power of one.

It also demonstrates how much one could positively influence the world. Our best example, of course, is Jesus. One man, global impact, eternal consequences for all of history. We are potentiated to do “even greater things.” We have been given the mind of Christ, the power of the Spirit, and the wisdom from above. Of course, we don’t decide that we’re going to be a global force of one, but simply live in faithfulness today. Our diligence in the small things increasingly lead us into opportunities in bigger things. But there is tremendous potential in each one of us for significant influence, whether locally, regionally, nationally, or globally. The point is to be faithful today, tomorrow, and the next day. And just keep doing that.

A few who left their marks on the world are the apostle Paul, Martin Luther, William Carey, and Billy Graham. Don’t be discouraged by this list. We’re not called to be any one of them, but we are called to have the greatest influence possible in our corner of the world.

It reminds us of the power of one. It can be for evil and destruction. It can also be for good and God’s glory. Let’s be powerful today.

 

Safety Nets and Swinging Partners

Trapeze ArtistsI’m always amazed when I see trapeze artists swinging from ropes, flying through the air with perfect timing to grab the arms or legs of the other artist in motion. So much is about team work, timing, and artistry. They take my breath away by what they accomplish together. But, they also have a safety net in case something goes terribly wrong.

Our 8th Converge International Ministries value is that “we deploy within local support networks.” We are committed to seeing our missionaries succeed. A crucial part of this includes not sending or leaving missionaries isolated on the field. We will help them identify support networks at the local level to provide valuable care for their personal and ministry lives.

We want to be sure that there are safety nets in place in case things go wrong. A worthy support system is essential in order to care for our team members and to hold high the honor of Christ.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ,” Galatians 6:2.

Even beyond the safety net issue, there is a tremendous opportunity to produce beautiful artistry in cross cultural settings as we collaborate together to get God’s work done. This can be done best with intimate partners that know the nuances of who we are.

We deploy global partners within local support networks because we love our team members and we’re committed to honoring Jesus.

 

 

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.

 

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.”        

A Little Pencil — repost

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.” Mother Teresa

Having seen the masses of destitute and suffering people in Kolkata, India — even so briefly — I am stricken by Mother Teresa’s statement here. This woman spent a good deal of her life selflessly ministering to the sick and forgotten of this strange city. She knows the pain, hardship, hopelessness, and despair of the slum-dwellers of Kolkata. Even with all of that, with the stench of rotting flesh still in her nostrils and the cries of dying hoards still echoing in her head, she declares the deep longing of relationship and significance in every human being. This need is greater than the food that keeps them alive.

Job made a similar declaration in his scriptural journal in chapter 23:12: “I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food!” Recognize that Job was not simply infatuated with words from his creator God, but rather, longed for interaction in a relationship that was life-giving. He valued this more than the physical food (“necessary”) that kept him alive!

We are surrounded every day by  people who are lonely, lacking significance, and feeling unwanted. What a tragedy! And this by people who are created in the image of God. They are deeply and profoundly loved by God, but often fail to be affected by that love. That’s why one of the pieces of loving God is also to love people. As Jesus said, after clarifying the greatest commandment, “The second is like it, you must love your neighbor as yourself.” We are the hands and feet and face of Jesus in our world. God loves people through His representatives! The people around us should not feel “unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody” as Mother Teresa described. We need to love those around us with a God-kind of love.

When we do this, we are loving God too!

Mother Teresa also said, “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.” This amazing lady wrote quite a few love letters, touched a mass number of lives, and loved God in an amazing way. She knew what she was talking about.

Today, be a little pencil in the hand of God…

Resourcing for Effectiveness

In Converge International Ministries, we are committed to effectiveness and excellence. We want to sure to develop high potential strategies, deploy carefully assessed and prepared missionaries, and then provide life-giving encouragement and support through all their years of service.

IMLT 2014Our 4th International Ministries Value is that we Resource for Effectiveness.

We strive to eliminate the barriers to success for all of our personnel. A lack of leadership, finances, tools, ministry partners, and more will keep us from reaching our greatest degree of influence. We are committed to developing and implementing systems of support that will enable us to reach our maximum degree of influence.

“If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously,” Romans 12:7-8. Most simply, the point is, for whatever God has gifted and called you to do, do it really well.

We are currently developing The Leadership Pipeline which will encourage and stimulate our global partners everywhere to continue developing as leaders in their personal life, professional/ministry life, and family life. If we are healthy and continue to grow in these areas, there is a high probability that we will become increasingly more effective in the calling that God has entrusted to us.

For the Glory of God and for the salvation of lost people, we resource for effectiveness.

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.

Ivan Veldhuizen