Ten Lessons Regarding Mission from Church History, #4

March 23rd, 2015 by

19th century religion mapI recently taught a mission’s class and summarized what I think are ten lessons that we can learn from mission’s history. I’ll briefly list and explain them.

Lesson 4: The Christian movement has fallen into the ditches of isolationism and triumphalism.

Isolationism occurs when the church tries to withdraw from the world. This comes from theological movements with dualistic tendencies that regard the world (either the physical world or human worldliness) as bad and something that should be escaped from or avoided. An antidote to isolationism is the instruction to be salt and light in the world (Matt. 5), and Paul’s reminder that the only way to avoid immoral people is to leave the world (1 Cor. 5:9-10).

Triumphalism occurs when the church grows through some other means than proclaiming the good news of Jesus to the world and leaving the results to God. At times, believers have used coercion to grow their numbers or added people for reasons other than faith, such as family connections, ethnic background, geographic location, political pressure, etc. An antidote to triumphalism is the biblical instruction to proclaim the gospel with gentleness and reverence (1 Pet. 3:15), thus growing the community by adding only those who receive the Word in faith (Acts 2:41).

I’ll post the other lessons soon.

Let me know if you have a correction or comment!

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Friday Book Review: Fairness Is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace by Tim Stevens, 4 Stars

March 20th, 2015 by

fairness is overrated

I enjoyed Tim Stevens’ fifty-two chapter book of leadership lessons that he learned as executive pastor at Granger Community Church near South Bend, Indiana.

The book is divided into four parts: 1) Be a leader worth following, 2) Find the right people, 3) Build a healthy culture, and 4) Lead confidently through a crisis.

Fairness is Overrated is filled with practical advice from an experienced church leader. I recommend it for all church leaders.


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Ten Lessons Regarding Mission in Church History #3

March 16th, 2015 by

19th century religion mapI recently taught a mission’s class and summarized what I think are ten lessons that we can learn from mission’s history. I’ll briefly list and explain them.

Lesson 3: Often, a person converts to Christianity when the benefits of joining a Christian community are greater than the costs of leaving his or her old community.

Yes, the content of the message of the gospel matters in evangelism. When someone puts his or her faith in Jesus Christ and begins a journey of following Him, it includes a radical change in belief. It is essential to understand and embrace the object of belief: Jesus Christ.

However, we can’t ignore that truly walking with Jesus also involves a social aspect; joining a new community of faith. When explaining the Good News of Jesus Christ, we need to recognize that when someone puts his faith in Jesus, it is much more than giving assent to a set of propositions. There is also a critical social or community aspect that each person must consider in his decision.

In many contexts, new believers experience a social high cost of this new community identification. The person’s family, friends, and community are often resistant and, in some cases, strongly object or even get violent. Often before someone begins to follow Christ, he or she needs confidence that the benefits of joining the new faith community is greater than the costs of leaving the old.

The social identification with the new community is, in many cases, more important than the cognitive factor in his or her coming to Christ. In other words, he or she joins the community of new friends who love, serve, have hope and purpose, forgiveness, and acceptance; then as time goes on, the new believer comes to understand more about the biblical details of who Jesus is. The normal pattern in history is for a person to first join the community and then grow in knowledge of Jesus. There are actually few who first give assent to certain propositions about Jesus and, after that’s settled, join the community of faith.

What are the implications of this for evangelism?

I’ll post the other lessons soon.

Let me know if you have a correction or comment!

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Friday Book Review: Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church-Growth Culture by Tim Suttle, 3 Stars

March 13th, 2015 by


Tim Suttle’s book Shrink turns the notion of church growth on its head and asks if the church should shrink instead.

Suttle worries that a large church may actually alter the biblical ideal of church because it prohibits deep relationships among members that exist in smaller churches.

While Suttle brings up some helpful warnings against undue competition, focus on numbers, and non biblical leadership practices in the church, he inadequately makes the case that larger churches are somehow inferior to smaller ones.

For example, several times Suttle uses some unconvincing logic to prove his points. More than once his reasoning went like this: From sports illustration A, I conclude lesson A’. Illustration A reminds me of church problem B. Therefore lesson A’ should be applied to church problem B.

Additionally from Shrink we learn that churches should avoid “techniques of business leadership” but Suttle did not carefully describe what he means by this. Should we not have financial accounting in churches? Should we not have employee job descriptions? Should we not have written plans?

Finally Suttle created a number of false choices.  For example, he implied that churches have to choose between quality worship and church growth. He doesn’t explain why a church can’t choose both.

In Shrink Tim Suttle brings up some helpful questions to admonish church leaders who obsess with numerical growth and competition. He also encourages church leaders to continue to seek God, faithfully minister, and leave the results to Him, especially when they are in the trenches of daily church life but are not seeing huge growth.

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My list when a friend asked me for tips on returning to the USA after serving on the mission field

March 11th, 2015 by

1. People in the USA have very little interest in the Portuguese word for something or expression for something or the Brazilian way of doing things. Avoid starting sentences with, “The way the Brazilians handle this…” or “The way we did this in Brazil…”

2. People will regard you as an expert in missions, even in cultures that you don’t know much about. Conversely, many American pastors who have spent more than a week overseas think they know much more about cross cultural ministry than they actually do.

3. You have a unique experience to shepherd people who are considering missions. Analyze the qualities of the good and weak personnel that you saw on the field, then compare these qualities with the perceptions that Americans have. An example of an American perception is that the best quality in a missionary is a fervent evangelist, or that missionaries need to be quite independent to survive, therefore it doesn’t matter that much how well they can work with others, etc.

4. Housing and transportation costs in the USA where higher than my expectations.

5. American multi-staff church climate is more intense than the climate experienced by most American missionaries. There is less free time, longer days, and higher accountability. Also, since church staff work is more of a job than a compressive life, wives aren’t expected to be nearly as involved in the ministry as they were overseas.

6. Americans have many more choices for friends and entertainment… they bond less and more slowly than a missionary team with fewer choices and higher interaction.

7. It is really strange at first to hear English on a car radio or spoken in a restaurant and at church.

8. Be careful of the initial temptation to indulge in American restaurants and comfort foods.

9. Family members may have some resentment that you’ve missed so much family history while overseas. Actively try to earn these relationships back since they are some of the most important.

10. Celebrate the work of God that you saw while on the field and embrace the life ahead. Don’t live in regret over what you couldn’t get accomplished, or that you sensed God’s leadership to resign.

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Ten Lessons Regarding Mission from Church History, #2

March 9th, 2015 by

19th century religion mapI recently taught a mission’s class and summarized what I think are ten lessons that we can learn from mission’s history. I’ll briefly list and explain them.

Lesson 2: When identity with Christ creates social tension, higher commitment is required.

In a climate of moderate or even serious persecution, the social tension caused by identifying with Christ chases off people who have a low commitment to Him. However, the group remaining will be composed of people with a higher commitment than previously. This purified community of Christians demonstrating love, forgiveness, truth and hope, creates an even greater contrast to the surrounding community  thereby attracting new adherents.

There is a counterintuitive lesson here. Often church leaders are tempted to lower this tension by compromising biblical standards. Instead of people joining the church because of lessened social tension, potential church members calculate that if no difference exists between being a member of the church or not, why bother joining at all? The result is not that more people join, but that they stay away. This is a helpful message for our mainline church friends to consider.

I’ll post the other lessons soon.

Let me know if you have a correction or comment!

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Friday Book Review: The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber, 5 Stars

March 6th, 2015 by

downloadI really enjoyed reading this 2014 update of Michael E. Gerber’s 1986 classic. Though the audience is small business owners, I gained many insights for leading a small non-profit organization.

In his book Gerber tells of consulting with someone who has a love for baking pies and started her own pie baking business. Later she was frustrated because running the business actually took her away from making pies. Gerber helped her to see that she now needs to not just work “in” her business but “on” her business.

The lesson for pastors is that as equippers (Eph. 4: 1-14) our love for directly serving people may have brought us into the ministry, but for our churches to grow, we also need to see ourselves as leaders in an organization. We need to not just work “in” our churches; we need to work “on” our churches.

I recommend this book to anyone who is either leading a small business or organization or is considering starting one.


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Restructuring the International Mission Board (IMB)

March 4th, 2015 by

I’m a fan of David Platt and grateful that he is reorganizing the IMB, see Baptist Press article here.

I would like add to this conversation. I believe the IMB would NOT be better off streamlined, unified, and focused in its approach to reaching the world. We all know there isn’t  only one way to accomplish this, and the last thing an organization the size of the IMB needs is to cram everyone into one particular method. If the good guys in IMB leadership were always right in their reorganizations, uniformity would be ok, but everyone on the field knows they are too often wrong. The IMB should embrace this fact.

I think the IMB should create groups within the organization that have a variety of approaches, styles, and structures. This would allow it to better reach today’s complex world and create a more dynamic learning organization. New approaches would be more easily beta tested before agency-wide implementation.

The IMB should create three to five organizations within one to better reach today’s world. A suggestion for the sub-organizations accounting for the current deployment of ~4750 missionaries:

  1. Reaching One Hundred Priority Cities (1500 missionaries)
  2. Reaching One Hundred Priority Unreached People Groups (UPG’s) (1500 missionaries)
  3. Relief, Development, and Community Transformation (500 missionaries)
  4. Ministry Support for North American Christians Working Abroad (500 missionaries)
  5. Developing One Hundred Priority Church Movements in other countries to become a missionary sending force (500 missionaries)

These organizations will have freedom to develop their own ethos, organizational structure, approved strategies, and styles. New missionaries will be attracted to the best ones and the other sub-organizations will have the choice to improve or decline. I believe the sharpening that would come from intra-organizational learning and healthy competition will strengthen the IMB for years to come.

What do you think?

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Ten Lessons Regarding Mission from Church History, #1

March 2nd, 2015 by

19th century religion mapI recently taught a mission’s class and summarized what I think are ten lessons that we can learn from mission’s history. I’ll briefly list and explain them.

Lesson 1: Monotheism demands exclusivity and evangelism. The trend is for monotheistic world-views to push out others.

It’s no surprise that when a worldview claims to be right that the implication is that the others are wrong. Monotheism by its nature creates evangelists who testify to its truth at the cost of competing world-views. As time goes on, polytheistic religions are pushed to the background. The postmodern movement has popped up recently advocating a world-view with various subjective “truths,” but history will not be kind to a type of neo-polytheism.

Adherents of the two large monotheistic world-views, Christianity and Islam, will soon be the majority of world population. A third competing worldview is a non-religion, “none’s” or we used to say “secular humanism”. Though growing some in the West, this world-view is a rapidly declining worldwide. Adherents of this world-view try to escape the normal scrutiny of world-views by simply declaring that they aren’t one. People who believe this deception often decry that a Christians’ contribution to public discourse is out-of-bounds because it’s “religious” all the while using similar sounding talk of ethics, values, etc. That’s a nice trick for university professors, politicians, and some bloggers, but not for serious thinkers.

I’ll post the other lessons soon.

Let me know if you have a correction or comment!

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The “world is falling apart” narrative is big business, watch one-minute video for researched based response

December 1st, 2014 by

Let facts triumph: http://humanprogress.org

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Baptist Convention of Iowa Annual Meeting Six-Minute Video Update 2014

November 9th, 2014 by

Had a great time at the annual meeting in Des Moines on November 7-8! Check out the video for vision and values for 2015.

Also check out Dave Miller’s post, Iowa Baptists Enter a 50-50 Cooperative Program Split.

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The Cornerstone/Salt Company Church Planting Model

October 14th, 2014 by

Pastors Tim Lubinus and Paul Sabino from the Cornerstone Church network share the story of Cornerstone, the Salt Company, their method for reaching students and raising up leaders, and their big dream to continue planting churches that plant churches, in order to advance the gospel.


Chase Abner (Collegiate Evangelism Strategist – Illinois Baptist State Association)
Tim Lubinus (Missions Pastor – Cornerstone Church – Ames, IA)
Paul Sabino (Lead Pastor – Candeo Church – Cedar Falls, IA)

Key Points:

  • Cornerstone Church began as an on-campus college ministry which then planted a community church in 1994 with 200 students and 23 families. They currently reach over 2000 people weekly.
  • By identifying strategic cities based on demographic data, and partnering with a seminary to provide formal training on-site, Cornerstone has been able to plant 6 new churches in their region in the last decade.

Questions to consider:

  • In what ways does your ministry provide formal training opportunities for those students who desire to lead or plant? (3:20)
  • What factors do you consider when looking at new cities/campuses to potentially launch a ministry on? (5:10)
  • What’s next for your ministry? Are you dreaming big enough? (10:15)

Links and additional resources:





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How the church can help you stay sane overseas

October 13th, 2014 by

Below is an interview of me this week BY

This week are taking a new turn in our series on mental health for expats and asking, “How can the church help?” We are featuring two different pastors and leaders from within the American church who have had a lot of experience taking care of both missionaries and those within the marketplace that go overseas for the sake of the Gospel. Today we are sharing an interview we did with Tim Lubinus who is the Executive Director and Treasurer for the Baptist Convention of Iowa. He and his family spent time doing collegiate ministry in South Korea, and then he worked as a team leader in Turkey. After about 10 years in Turkey, they moved back to Iowa where Tim transitioned into the Director of Global Missions at a church. Keep reading to hear what he learned as they sent numerous teams and people out to the nations.

When you were the director of Global Missions at Cornerstone Church, how did you care for the people you sent out around the world? Skype calls? Care packages? Pastors counseling?

We had several dozen people to support; too many to support centrally. So what we did was ask each person or family to find one or more of our church’s small groups to connect with. We put the burden on them so they were part of the process rather than getting a group assigned to them. Our idea was that the small group could actively interact with their updates, do Skype calls, pray, and care for them and their families while back in the states. We also coordinated Christmas gifts for each family member by using Amazon wish lists.

In addition, we sent gifts from the church (often a book or other gift at each person’s birthday). We also send periodic news from the church so that missionaries could keep up with big church news.

how the church helps you stay saneWhat are some common things you saw people struggle with while living and working in another country?

Visa issues and the uncertainty of residence and local identity, national and political disasters that threatened Americans or missionaries, struggles with living as foreigners in countries where Christians and missionaries were not welcomed, discouragement over lack of progress in the ministry, discouragement over lack of progress in language learning, concern over elderly parents and other family members’ well being, concern over the development of children, unevenness of cultural adjustments of spouses, e.g. the husband or wife adjusts better than the other.

What are some ways the local church can help care for people as they deal with these issues?

We must have long term ongoing relationship so that ongoing issues don’t have to continually be reintroduced to caregivers. Try to eliminate systems of care as no one wants to be a project or cared for by a machine or a checklist. Relationships should be natural and mutual. Try to visit missionaries and others you send out in their home country.

What can people living abroad do to help their church better care for them?

Actively connect during time back in the states and develop real relationships. Don’t think you are communicating well because you periodically send a bulk newsletter. Take off the “all-is-well face” and be real. Don’t make everything all about you. People who aren’t missionaries or don’t live far away from home need friends too. Relationships should be mutual, not one-way. Shock church leadership by offering to serve based on their schedule not yours; sacrifice to serve and give to the church rather than only receive from the church.

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Does your church’s mission budget go toward missions or something else?

September 29th, 2014 by

Church members understand that a portion of their contributions go toward church staff and facility needs. However many people are highly motivated to give to the part of the church budget that goes toward mission efforts to expand Christ’s kingdom locally and internationally.

Some people are so motivated to give to mission projects outside their local church, that they go around their church, self-designating their tithe and giving directly to missionaries or mission agencies. Others go a step farther by designating some of their tithe to pay for their own family’s spiritual development using funds set aside from their tithe and to pay to attend mission conferences, take classes, or go on short-term mission trips.

Church mission leaders often are similarly tempted to stretch categories using mission funds for a variety of  their own ministries. When the church budget gets tight, it is tempting to use funds intended for missions and designate money toward other church projects that in one way or another can be categorized as missions.

For example, some church mission budgets allocate a high percentage of their funds for projects that may have mission content, but are really a discipleship or education focus more than a mission focus. Of course a key function of a church is discipleship and education, and each church should spend lavishly on these ministries. However, these items should not come out of the mission budget, but from the education budget. Examples of using mission budgets for education uses include hosting local mission conferences, short-term mission trip expenses, leadership and staff training, and vision trips. These may be great projects, but they primarily impact and develop local church members and often contribute little to unreached or needy people. Again, the point here isn’t whether these projects should be considered or not, but that church mission leadership should carefully monitor these funds to distinguish those designated for education and funds designated for missions.

Another category that gets mingled with mission projects is mission administration. Of course, any program needs administrative support, but sometimes this category can absorb excess funds, and without careful attention, become a larger portion of the budget than is intended. Examples in this category include local church mission staff salaries and expenses, mission and partnership conference travel expenses, expenses to visit missionaries on the field, vision trips, training materials and office expenses. These are helpful and sometimes necessary but should be confused with reaching unreached or needy people.

A final category to consider is local mission projects. When budgets are tight, it is very tempting for churches to categorize any local church ministry a “missions” and appropriate designated mission funds toward those needs. Here the point is not to defund local ministries, but to be careful to avoid using funds designated toward missions for ministries that should really come from other church ministry and staff budgets.

Just as individuals need to be careful to avoid categorizing their tithe in a manner that leaves little for their local church; churches need to avoid a similar temptation to categorize funds designated for missions into educational, administrative, or local ministry projects that leave little for mission projects. Churches expect their members’ tithes to go to their church and church members expect their church mission funds to get to ministries outside of their local church impacting unreached and needy people.

What percent of your church’s mission budget goes toward each category? Does this allocation reflect your church’s goals and values for missions? Have these allocations changed over the years?





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Check out the aging of your county in the last twenty years, implications?

September 19th, 2014 by

These two maps show the share of Iowa county population aged fifty and over (percent) in 1990 (left panel) and 2010 (right panel).

You can see a distinct aging of our population in the last twenty years. Now Story, Polk, Dallas, and Johnson counties are the only counties with less than thirty percent of their population of fifty and over. These counties along with Warren County make up our five fastest growing counties. Two of these counties are the home of our major universities.

For reaching the state for Christ, this data is helpful for church leaders as they develop their community ministry and their expansion.

To see the map of the full USA, click for Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University here.

Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 11.11.46 AM  Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 7.21.40 AMScreen Shot 2014-09-19 at 11.15.30 AM

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