Category Archives: World-Changers

A Ripe Harvest Requires Action!

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest,” Luke 10:2 ESV

rooftop teaching
Teaching church planters on a rooftop.

I saw a ripe harvest field in Nepal recently. Susan and I had the privilege of meeting with 1100 Nepalese church planters in Kathmandu early in February — most are intending to plant their churches in villages that have never had a Christian witness before! Of all the countries in the world, Christianity is growing the fastest in Nepal.

Susan washing feet.
Susan washing feet.

We could feel God’s presence in this place.

We saw God’s hand at work.

We witnessed the hunger of these leaders intent on helping others know about salvation through Christ.

We are soberly aware of how big the harvest field is in Nepal.

In the last few years, Christianity has grown from 0.1% Christian to about 3% right now. That’s impressive, but it also compels us to reach the 97% who are still unreached. With Converge Worldwide’s close partner in ministry, The Timothy Initiative (TTI), a goal of 100,000 new churches in the next ten years has been stated. It’s a huge field that’s very ripe. We just need harvesters.

Jesus’ statement reminds me of a few important biblical principles:

  • Jesus sees the harvest and longs for the harvest to be brought in.
  • Jesus tells us to pray that He would send workers into the harvest. It’s not our primary job to send, but it is our primary job to pray. This comes first.
  • Jesus tells us to pray earnestly. This is not an afterthought type of praying that Jesus compels us to engage in.
  • Jesus compares this situation to a harvest. In the agricultural world, everyone knows that a harvest season is always frighteningly finite in time. You work as hard and as fast as possible to bring the harvest in while the harvest is still available. Urgency is stressed for the task at hand.

What action can be taken to be an integral part of reaping the harvest in Nepal?

  1. Pray for workers and pray about your part.
  2. Contact us about adopting a people group in Nepal or about helping to plant a church or churches. A $300 one-time investment will plant an indigenous led self-sustaining church in this part of the world. That’s an out-of-this-world investment! Write to us at missions@convergeww.org

 

 

 

Multiplication or Addition?

I preached to this crowd of 20,000 Boros. Twice.
A crowd of 20,000 Boro believers in India–all started through a few faithful Converge missionaries 100 years ago. That’s multiplication!

Addition is not bad, but multiplication is better.

Many of our U.S. churches would be thrilled with addition rather than status quo or subtraction. So addition is not bad. Multiplication, however, is better whenever that is possible.

The third of our eight values in Converge International Ministries is that we pursue multiplication in all places and ways possible. This is what Jesus modeled through his disciples. It’s what Scripture declares in 2 Timothy 2:2, “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” It’s what we see working brilliantly in the successful church planting movements around the world right now — leaders reproducing leaders who reproduce leaders. In the first few months of 2014, we are helping to plant 2000 churches among unreached people groups in Asia through this strategy of multiplication.

Addition will never fulfill the great commission. Only multiplication will accomplish the task.

At times, addition is needed. For our deeply committed missionaries among African unreached peoples, for instance, there are no believers to begin a movement of multiplication. In this situation, incarnational ministry is critical–that is, people are needed, whether Westerners, those from the global south, or converts from neighboring people groups, who are willing to give up their lives to be the presence of Jesus living among them. They live like they live, eat what they eat, speak their language, learn their customs, and love them unconditionally. They become God incarnate in their midst in order to gather a few disciples (like Jesus did) to begin a strategy of multiplication. In so many ways, those who are sentenced to addition have the most difficult of ministries. They ought to be applauded, supported, prayed for, and celebrated. Unfortunately, these are so often the missionaries whose support is withdrawn because there is so little fruit. At times, addition is desperately needed.

What Jesus has called us to do on the mission fields of the world is also what God has called us to do in our American churches. Multiplication must be pursued in all places and ways possible.

The Priority of Missions

A common trend in evangelical Christianity today is the movement toward holistic ministry. This orientation has a few noticeable characteristics:

  • The commitment to the lost and the poor are of equal standing–and may even favor the poor over the lost.
  • This theological view includes what we can do for others as “gospel” also, clouding the clarity of the gospel as being what Jesus has done for us.
  • It sees holistic social work as valid in and of itself apart from the responsibility of disciple making.

Yes–it is important that we are the face, hands, and presence of Jesus around the world. We must often meet the urgent needs in order to address the greatest need. We cannot ignore the human condition. But what a temptation we face in going with the flow of a trendy mission focus that reduces us to doing good things at the expense of the right thing. Only the church can offer the ultimate solution to mankind’s greatest problem of separation from God.

Available statistics reveal that from 2001 to 2005, giving toward relief and development increased by 73.4%, while for evangelism and discipleship is was only 2.7%, (Christopher R. Little, Discovering the Mission of God, p.492).young woman Numbers speak. I also have personally seen this well-intended trend all across the nation, expressed through some of our most respected churches. In our pursuit of being relevant and “current”, we may have strayed from the one thing Jesus has told us to do in His absence — to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

 

 

 

The Church on Mission

Jesus said, “Go and make disciples…” Here we have the last words of Jesus summarizing as succinctly as possible what it means to be the church.  Let me remind you – there are a number of statements Jesus did not make, like “Go and develop creative programs,” or “Go and be comfortable,” or “Go and develop your own little culture.”  No, Jesus told us to make disciples – the daring adventure of helping people become whole-hearted followers of Jesus Christ.  Certainly this will take a strategy of programs brimming with creativity.  This commission often means that facilities and tools will be needed to accomplish the task.  However, the bottom line is changed lives.

Assam peopleWhat a great reminder, especially when pure and undefiled Christianity unsuspectingly becomes diluted to a mere shadow of Jesus’ design. We need to be sure we are still about helping people find the real Jesus.  We are not about buildings (even though we need them) or programs (even though they are a vital means to our mission) or niceties (the false assumption that Christianity should make life nice).  We are about mission – the daring task of treading into unknown territory for the cause of Christ!  That unknown territory may be that trying co-worker, mysterious neighbor, or long-time friend.  It’s becoming the presence of Christ to these people for the sake of making disciples!

104_3623A quick word about evangelism: You rarely need to force Christianity on someone.  Your task is to make people thirsty.  If people become genuinely thirsty, they will drink.  Of course, you must have the living water ready for their consumption, but enough of this pressure-type evangelism.  It has done a great disservice to the kingdom of God.  Listen to one atheist’s words about Christians:

“…as soon as people   find out I don’t believe in God, they tell me I am going to hell.  One woman said, ‘You cannot possibly have   good morals if you don’t believe.’    This is nonsense.  I know plenty   of ‘God-fearing church-going folk’ who have rotten moral standards. They   drink, smoke, do drugs, lie, steal and cheat on their   spouses.  How can I get these well-meaning people off my back?”  from Ann Landers, Star/Tribune, 2-22-02

I assure you, this is only one of thousands who will never submit to Christ, partially because well-meaning Christians forgot how appealing, gentle, and understanding Jesus was when He offered the “water of life.”

Now, let’s go back to Jesus’ Great Commission.  We are to make disciples “of all nations.”  This is a big job without limits.  It has a way of nixing the old statement, “numbers aren’t important.”  Let me tell you the truth: I hope Converge International Ministries will grow in numbers and influence to reach hundreds of thousands around the world who need a dynamic encounter with the living Christ.  I hope hundreds of Converge Worldwide churches will become vital partners with us in reaching the least reached people in the world. We have something revolutionary to offer! We can get it done together.

Physical and Spiritual Progressions

I’ve noticed that my spiritual progression often reflects my age progression. Here’s what I mean — as I grow older as an adult…

  • I tend to be more lethargic. As a young man, when evenings came, I was energized to do something fun or adventuresome. Today, I tend to be very happy to find a comfortable chair and chill.
  • I am more easily pleased. As a child, I would often look for the next adventure on a hillside, in a grove, or in an old barn hay-loft. Today, my first inclination is to say, “nah.”
  • I have become more rational. As a college student, I was the prankmeister any chance I got, simply because it was a chance to make a memory and have some fun. Today…it just doesn’t make sense to do those things any more.
  • I tend to be more sophisticated. Years ago, I didn’t care what others thought of what I did. Today, I lean towards protecting my “reputation” and making sure I don’t look too foolish in what I do.

As these realities pursue me physically and psychologically, they also influence on my spiritual condition.

  • I tend to be more lethargic by not being quite as hungry and thirsty for righteousness as I was when I was younger.
  • I am more easily pleased as I rest on where I’m at rather than where God wants to bring me.
  • I have become more rational as bold risk-taking adventures are more easily dismissed than they were in my more formative years.
  • I tend to be more sophisticated in my faith rather than living out a raw cutting edge lifestyle of pursuing Jesus no matter what I look like or what others think.

ivansusancruise2013But Jesus said, “Unless you become like children, you can not enter the Kingdom of Heaven at all.”

Childlike faith, enthusiasm, sense of adventure, and wholesome recklessness are still highly valued characteristics that God longs to see in us.

I want to  stay hungry and thirsty for God in ways that drive me to true righteousness rather than settling for an acceptable respectability.

I want be energized for God-honoring adventures, to live out risk-taking faith, exuberant to see God-things happen because I stepped out of my predictable routine.

No matter how old I become, I want my spiritual progress to be unhindered by the plights of lethargy, comfort, rationalization, and sophistication.

 

 

For Those Who Will Never Read of Him

Many people will never read the Bible. They must listen to the stories of the Bible.

Did you know that two thirds of the world’s population either prefer or must hear the gospel through oral means? So many of the unreached people groups are illiterate. Currently, over two thousand languages have no translated Scripture.

Even in our American culture, there is a new need and opportunity associated with storytelling of the gospel. LaNette W. Thompson writes, “These young people reared on television and movies, are influenced by stories, especially stories of personal experience. They don’t have time to read, but they will listen to a person’s stories if that person is considered worthy to share.” (Discovering the Mission of God, p.403)

In Converge Worldwide, we prioritize unreached peoples. God expresses His longing that every nation (ethne’ or people group)be engaged in exuberant worship of Him (Psalm 67). We see the picture of people from “every nation, tribe, people and language” standing before the throne in worship of the Lamb (Revelation 7:9). God has determined that all peoples–illiterates included–will be a part of the great throng of worshippers in glory.

If this is God’s passion, then it must be our purpose to tell the truth of Jesus to those who will never read of Him.

 

I Want that to Be Me…

The apostle Paul was a crazy man! In fact, he once told his readers that “if it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God,” 2 Corinthians 5:13. He was a man on a mission, driven to do one thing — bring the gospel to lost people. One passage in Scripture reveals Paul’s deep feelings about the urgency of this. Consider Philippians 1:12-18:

12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

15  Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. ESV

In the above verses, Paul is actually celebrating his imprisonment. Think of it. He has totally lost his freedom because of his obedience to Jesus. He can no-longer visit friends, check up on family, run to the Antioch Starbucks on a whim, or go play a game of horseshoes. He is imprisoned and eager to see what God will do with it. No resentment, regrets, or self-pity. Pretty cool.

This suffering and bondage he is living is bringing forth several God-honoring results, according to Paul:

  1. The gospel is advanced (v.12)
  2. The truth is reaching influential places it has never gone before (v.13)
  3. Those believers who are not imprisoned are infused with courage to be even more bold in the proclamation of the gospel (v.14)

But the final verses of this passage truly intrigue me. I’m fascinated by them because they reveal something of the passion within Paul. While confined in his scope of ministry, he gazes on at what’s happening in the world he cannot reach. In fact, it sounds a little like the church of today — the “preachers” are out there, but they’re not all so holy. It’s actually quite ugly with envy (wanting another person’s success) and rivalry (unhealthy competition) making the top of the dirty list.  In fact, many of those that are “preaching ugly” are trying to out-do Paul. They may be defaming him, talking him down, lifting themselves over him, and trying to get a bigger name than him. And there are some who are spreading the gospel for all the right reasons.

If I were Paul, I think I would be pretty ticked. I would be saying things like, “Christ is dishonored by impure motives.” “What a shame that the gospel is polluted by sinful attitudes.” “The gospel will never succeed in the disastrous mess.” Now these may all be true statements — I don’t really know — but I would sure feel better after expressing my disgust for all of those lowlifes. But Paul does nothing of the sort. He humbly reveals his unrelenting passion that the gospel be delivered to lost people.

“Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

The gospel is being delivered and that’s what matter most.

In this statement, I see Paul’s dependence upon the sovereignty of God — let Him sort it out. Let Him build His church. Let Him deal with the envious rivals. Paul simply rejoices that this truth about Jesus is being heard and the Holy Spirit can then do as He pleases with it.

As I consider this passage, I am humbled by Paul’s single-minded pursuit to see the gospel delivered to those who have not heard.

It drives him.

It makes his hardships valuable.

It propels him to press on for the glory of God.

I want that to be me…

Choose…

How do we reach the world for Christ? On our recent trip to Senegal, Africa and India, we saw two very different fields.

Wolof people
Some of the beautiful Wolof people we met in Senegal.

Senegal represents a field that is rough, unyielding to seed, pummeled hard over time. Very few “seeds” planted there ever take root. Most of the work there is unglamorous, uncelebrated, difficult, and unrewarding. It’s much like rock picking from my days on the farm — you work all day, get your mouth full of dirt, ache all over, see no measurable results, and have to go out and do it again tomorrow. Only the fittest and most determined can persevere in this kind of field. The pre-planting phase — that of removing the stones and tilling the soil — is carried out by missionaries who live by faith everyday. They do it because God has told them to and because God has given them a vision of what their work will some day achieve. I honor these faithful workers. Though it is not “sexy” missions, it is critical that we continue the faith-driven hard work of preparing the soil for the planting of seeds. Our churches need to support it in every way they can. Only  then will a harvest someday be gathered. Press on, faithful servants of the Lord!

Assam people
A three-month old church of all new believers in Assam, India.

India represents a field “white for harvest.” By the sovereignty of God, massive numbers of unreached peoples are ready to embrace Jesus if only they can hear the gospel message. Jesus said, “Pray to the Lord of the harvest that He will send workers into the harvest.” This is the kind of mission work that most everyone dreams of — even Jesus did! The white fields call us to urgent all-out action. During harvest season on the farm, we would work days and nights at a time without ceasing because the season for reaping is very short. In India — from north to south and east to west — among least reach peoples who have never heard the name of Jesus, massive numbers people are coming to faith in Christ. They only need to be told. They need messengers. They need churches (groups of Jesus-followers who gather for worship, fellowship, learning, and spreading) to build a movement that will bring Holy Spirit transformation to these ethnic groups. Susan and I visited at least fifteen churches, most between three and six months old, filled with converts from Hinduism, Buddhism, Animism, and ancestral worship who are now eager and hungry followers of Jesus. Their stories of hardship, persecution, and perseverance are humbling, to say the least. It only takes $300 to plant a church among an unreached people group — and each church will reach between 15 and 30 (or more) lost people for Christ. That’s not even figuring in the new leaders and churches that spring up from each one as a result of a multiplication/mentoring DNA implanted from the beginning. We need partners who will help us reap a great God-honoring harvest.

God is at work in marvelous ways. We GET to be a part of it. Go ahead — engage in a big way. We need you. God invites you. The lost are waiting…

Connect with us at missions@convergeww.org

 

Reaching the Unreached in Biblical Porportions

God placed a tremendous burden on me for the unreached peoples of the world. From day one in this role, I have asked God to help Converge Worldwide International Ministries to be a vital part of reaching the unreached in the world. Much to our dismay, there are still nearly 7000 unreached people groups in the world — those that have never heard that God sent His son, Jesus, into the world to redeem us. This is staggering.

NELMSD
David Nelms, Converge Worldwide’s new Director of Global Church Multiplication

That’s why I’m totally psyched that God has partnered us up with a dynamic leader who makes my passion for the lost look pale in comparison. David Nelms has founded and led The Timothy Initiative (www.ttionline.org) for the past six years. In those six years, TTI has helped start and establish over 21,000 house churches in 34 different countries — most of those to 0.1% people groups! [That would be 99.9% non-Christian.] God has given him a beautiful, biblically aligned strategy that emphasizes education and multiplication. This ministry is bringing hundreds of thousands to faith in Christ among unreached people groups all around the world.

David Nelms has become a part of our Converge Worldwide team! He is now our Director of Global Church Multiplication. I am confident that we can be a part of helping to bring about the fulfillment of the Great Commission as we diligently pursue our opportunities to bring the gospel to lost people.

What needs to happen to see success in biblical proportions?

  1. We need financial partners to help us plant churches for these lost people. $300 will plant a house church to people who have never heard of Jesus. If you or your church wants to plant 10 churches, it only takes $3000. If you want to plant a hundred, $30,000 will do it. Think of this — $30,000 is only seed money for a U.S. church plant. You can establish 100 churches for that investment among people who desperately need Jesus. By the way, this would translate into approximately 15oo to 2000 disciples of Christ…and that’s without considering the ongoing multiplication that will take place. Talk about a wise investment! If you’re interested, shoot me an email at ivanv@convergeww.org
  2. We need prayer warriors to unleash God’s power. We cannot plant one church in our own strength. We need committed people who will bathe these initiatives in prayer. Let me know if you’re on our prayer team and we’ll keep you posted on our ongoing developments.
  3. We need trainers/missionaries who will give a year or two or three to lead regional efforts of training and oversight. Want to be on the front lines of missions? Here you go. Don’t wimp out. If God’s calling, call us at Converge Worldwide (Steve Valentine is our Director of Mobilization — 407-563-6086).

Jesus said, “This gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached as a testimony to all the nations and then the end will come.” Let’s get it done.