Category Archives: Kingdom Builders

So Many Good Things…

Encouraging/teaching church planters in Nepal.
Encouraging/teaching church planters in Nepal.

So many good things are happening in Converge International Ministries these days. Consider the following realities…

  • We are experiencing a noticeable spirit of positivity among our global partners all over the world. We know what God has called us to do, clarified that with specificity, and have a pathway to see us succeed in this Great Cause endeavor.
  • We are developing transformational leaders in foreign places to send trained pastors/missionaries to go places westerners cannot go. We are multiplying our influence, incorporating wise missiology, and are seeing significant impact through these strategies.
  • We are helping to plant thousands of indigenous led church plants among least reached people groups. Just in the first part of 2014, we are helping to start 2000 churches in some very difficult places in Asia.
  • Continue to assess, appoint, and send well qualified, clearly called, culturally prepared missionaries to strategic places in the world. Just last week, seven more were recommended after thorough assessment–all who hold great promise for God-honoring influence.
  • Engaging more and more churches to partner in our global initiatives. More churches than ever are recognizing God’s hand upon us and the strategic opportunities before us.
  • Church driven missions are happening very effectively by many of our Converge churches. International Ministries is coming alongside a number of these to see catalytic influence happen in big ways.
  • New opportunities stand before us — possible new ministries in Muldova, Poland, Nepal, Sierra Leone, and Indonesia.

I hope you get the idea that significant and good things are happening at Converge International Ministries. We are experiencing God’s leading, blessing, and power. To God be the glory!

 

Why “Multiplying Transformational Churches?”

A house church in Assam, India.
A house church in Assam, India.

On a recent trip to India, a team of us had the privilege of encouraging, equipping, and challenging leaders of tribes spread across the northeast portion of this nation. One of our goals was to get them interested–even engaged in–our church multiplication strategy in that part of the world. They listened with interest, but with reservations–until one of their own testified.

One of their pastors had been involved for two years with our close partner in church planting, TTI. He shared how he had tried to plant churches for years with very little success. Since aligning with TTI, he has helped start seven churches (in two years) and has personally baptized over 80 new believers. These were impressive results–far superior than anything any of the others had been a part of. Suddenly, interest was at a fever pitch.

Why is Converge International Ministries determined to “multiply transformational churches?” Why are we eager to be a catalyst for what we pray will become church planting movements?

An Indian from the state of Madhya Pradesh helps us understand better:

“I came to Jesus in the late 1980s. Not long afterwards, I experienced a large evanglsitic crusade in a city. Impressed, I returned to my village and organized similar crusades there and in the surrounding villages for years. Thousands came, and everyone liked it. The crusades were so successful that even the lame could walk again–and walk away never to return; the blind could see–and they never looked back.” (from India: 3,000 House Churches Planted in Madhya Predesh Since 1994, Victor Choudhrie, p.38)

This evangelist goes on to describe how he became committed to church planting because it was in the context of community that true disciples were developed.

David Garrison, author of Church Planting Movements, describes the need of the church well when he states that:

  • (A) salvation is preferable to lostness
  • (B) growth in Christlikeness is preferable to simple salvation
  • (C) so churches which foster and nurture growth in Christlikeness are preferable to individual or even mass evangelism.

Just a few more reasons that we’re committed to “multiplying transformational churches” through Converge Worldwide.

This One Thing

Wolof peopleJesus told us to “go and make disciples.” This is really clear. We know what we’re supposed to be doing while He’s away. Still, we sometimes get confused or distracted — or insert our own agendas.

He didn’t say make decisions. Sure, a decision is needed as the first step in becoming a disciple, but it must go way beyond that. As long as we embrace the fact that the decision is only the first step of many, we can press on in disciple-making.

He didn’t say plant churches. Planting churches is good–as long as the ultimate objective is that we’re making disciples. In Converge’s global efforts, we are planting lots of churches — actually, thousands of them. This is good, especially since we believe this is the best method of making disciples like Jesus told us. But, if we’re planting churches for the sake of planting churches , we’re just giving ourselves good opportunities to produce impressive videos, tell attention-getting stories, or enable us to brag about our “impact.”

Jesus didn’t say that we are to make people happy, give them a better life, teach them lots of information (He actually told us to teach them to “observe everything I have taught you”), have lots of programs, or impressive theological schools. None of these are bad in themselves, but any of these must never be our ultimate focus in life and ministry.

Jesus told us to “go and make disciples.”

Pretty simple, but we still have a lot of work to do. Let’s get back at it.

Stones or a Rock?

Tony Evans has some transformative insights from the Word in relation to the church. For instance, when Simon (pebble) is given a new name, Peter (stone), Jesus then states that he will build His church upon “this rock.” Through careful exegesis, Evans is convinced that, because the Greek work petra (rock) means many stones cemented/pressed together, this is about the disciples functioning in unity in order to build His church. It stresses unity and obliterates independence and isolation.

How easy it is, especially in a fellowship of churches to function like stones all independent of one another. Yet, in Converge Worldwide, we are many “stones” meant to form one formidable unmovable rock. Even though many, we are meant to be one. And if the truth of this passage captures us, we will look for ways to cease our independence and forge forward in oneness. We will never have the full blessing of God until we live and minister in true unity in His Spirit.

What does it mean to have oneness? Unity is characterized most by all of us being one in passion and purpose. It means that we are ALL in agreement about what we want God to do with us — what we’re really here for. Our ministries should never be just about you or your church. It cannot be about your likes, dislikes, preferences, or philosophical orientation. Our ministries MUST be about God’s two great commands: (1) Love God by loving people (2) make disciples of all nations. Nothing else. Are you about that?

This affects our global efforts big-time.  What would happen if our Converge missionaries were given preference by our Converge churches rather than simply being another equal choice among 200 other mission organizations? Yes–we need to earn your trust and partnership, but we shouldn’t be an equal among other options. This is about coming together to be one in Spirit and one in mission.

How I long for oneness. God does even more. Jesus prayed, “that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me,” John 17:21. Do you see how intricately unity is tied to success in reaching the world with the truth? Oneness is essential in order “that the world may believe” that Jesus is the Christ!

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 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.

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