October 14th, 2014 by Tim
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)
- 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:
October 13th, 2014 by Tim
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.
What 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.
September 29th, 2014 by Tim
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?
September 19th, 2014 by Tim
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.
September 11th, 2014 by Tim
Tim Lubinus is the new Executive Director of the Baptist Convention of Iowa. His vision is to get the state convention to a 50/50 split of CP dollars even if that means sacrifice at the local level. We are grateful for Tim’s leadership in this area and pray that this mindset takes root across our conventions. Tim was kind enough to give us this interview.
- You wrote an article that might be considered a little controversial. What caused you to write what you wrote?
When I was with the IMB and on furlough in the States, I sometimes felt like people in churches were given the impression that most Cooperative Program funds went to the IMB. At that time in our state of Iowa, only about ten percent of Cooperative Program funds made it to the IMB. I later learned the percentage was only slightly better in other states. I’d like the Baptist Convention of Iowa to change from sending twenty percent to fifty percent to the Executive Committee as quickly as possible.
- You mention in your article that your state convention may have to decrease expenses, “even if that is uncomfortable.” Why would you willingly decrease your state’s own spending?
I’d answer this question like I would counsel someone who was learning to tithe. At times sacrifice is required for the greater good of the kingdom of God. I’d talk about ways to increase income and decrease expenses. Then I’d encourage him to give ten percent as quickly as possible, even if it means he has to decrease his own spending.
- You mention that state conventions should give half of their income away to the Executive Committee for ministry. Why is this so important to you?
I think that giving half is a good target for state conventions to adequately contribute to international and domestic missions, seminaries, and state convention ministries. I don’t have chapter and verse on this, but like the tithe, I think percentage giving is a good discipline for anyone. If conventions don’t have a fifty percent anchor, there will likely be a budget shortfall, special project, or other temptation to justify increasing the amount that stays in the state. I hope that when Iowa churches discover that more of their funds are going to national and international mission efforts, they will be excited about giving even more generously to the Cooperative Program. When state conventions give more generously to the executive committee this will also give less incentive for churches go around the state conventions to send funds directly to the Executive Committee or to designate extra funds to special missions offerings. If we believe that the Cooperative Program is the best system, let’s use it.
- Does your vision for a healthy state convention mandate a new state convention structure? If so, what might that look like? What do you think is the future for state conventions?
I don’t think we need a new structure, just a streamlined and focused one. I’d like to move from a “one-stop shop” for any church need and focus on fewer strategic ministries of higher intensity and quality. With the internet, state conventions have less need to be an information hub for churches than they did twenty years ago. Lifeway and NAMB are more user friendly and state conventions need fewer staff to accomplish their core missions. Also churches connect more relationally and less geographically than they used to; this is transforming the mission and structure of associations.
- Why should a state convention primarily exist?
I can’t speak for other conventions, but in Iowa the convention is needed to provide identity and connection for churches in the state. We learn in the New Testament that churches felt the need to connect to one another relationally and also to pool resources for cooperative ministry. In our context there are several key ministries that can be done best at the state convention level rather than the church, association, regional, or national level. These include partnering with churches to place and support church planters in priority cities, community center ministry in difficult neighborhoods, disaster relief, supporting and encouraging pastors, some types of training, and more. We are too big geographically to be an association and too small to financially support enough directors of missions without defunding our national missions agencies. More here.
- In their zeal to get as many resources to the unreached peoples of the world, many folks have aggressively critiqued state conventions and questioned their value. In light of that, there are 2 questions I’d like to hear your take on: a) What are some of the best things that state conventions have to offer that people who have been critical might not be aware of? b) what are some critiques of state conventions that state conventions might need to give a second look?
State conventions are uniquely positioned to connect churches with one another. State conventions also have distinctive opportunity to pool resources to identify, prioritize, and resource strategic needs and population segments in a state for evangelism and church planting.
As for critiques of state conventions, I think it is essential for state convention leadership to constantly evaluate staff to make sure they have the right staff person in the right ministry. Sometimes organizations compromise their mission to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. This compromise tends to lower morale of other staff members and hurt the convention’s reputation for effective leadership. See B21 blog here.
August 25th, 2014 by Tim
In developing a ministry strategy, remember that it is as important to identify ministries that you’ll avoid as well as ministries that you’ll develop. Too often the good is a distraction for the best. Below is some food for thought for missions pastors and missions committees:
- We recognize differences in access to the Gospel and prefer working among unreached people groups rather than focusing generally on sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, or the Caribbean.
- We recognize a comprehensive strategy to reach a community through churches and prefer working through ministries that emphasize church planting rather than para-church ministries, ministries that have little connection with local churches, or impersonal, project-oriented ministry.
- We recognize issues of cultural distances and prioritize church planters and other ministers who are culturally close to the UPG culturally rather than culturally distant.
- We recognize the importance of cultural understanding and prefer doing the hard work of finding and partnering with local ministers who have solid language and cultural skills rather than through ministries that have key decision makers, ministry leaders, or teachers who don’t know any of the language nor have ever lived among the UPG. We don’t expect to impact a UPG by sending volunteers for a few days each year even though this may make people feel more involved.
- We recognize the importance of longevity and prefer organizations with years of solid experience rather than start-ups that are still untested and in the learning process. This is especially true of start-ups led by people with no experience in that context or in that ministry.
- We recognize the importance of the local church leadership and prefer working with and through local churches for ministry rather than working independently of local churches.
- We recognize the importance of financial stewardship and prefer clear financial accountability rather than sending money to people or organizations because their leadership seems trustworthy and because the need is so great.
- We recognize the risk of financial based relationships and prefer to connect with people relationally with local believer involvement rather than through primarily focusing on meeting their physical needs.
- We recognize issues of dependence and prefer working with partners who also contribute to the project financially.
- We recognize the importance of extending and multiplying ministry through partnerships with other churches and prefer doing all we can to extend the ministry through partnership with other similar churches rather than working independently.
Have anything to add or modify?
August 21st, 2014 by Tim
Below is the video that we prepared to promote the Week of Prayer for Missions in Iowa, September 7-15. More information here.
October 20th, 2013 by Tim
Rejoicing that since 2008 we’ve invested some of our best staff members, lots of time, and about a million dollars; God has given six new churches with around 2000 worshippers!
August 28th, 2013 by Tim
Map: More than half of humanity lives within this circle
See full article here.
August 27th, 2013 by Tim
Places where we’ve started:
Ames, Story County
Waukee, Dallas County
Iowa City, Johnson County
Indianola, Warren County
Ankeny, Polk County
Cedar Rapids, Linn County
Cedar Falls, Blackhawk County
First steps toward picking next locations… other information like local church status, existing relationships, affinity of church planters, etc. needs to be investigated further.
Based on city population growth, new places to consider:
- North Liberty, Marion, or Coralville which are in the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids area may already have access to one of these two churches.
- Johnston, Altoona, Urbandale, West Des Moines, and Clive; suburbs of Des Moines may be a place for a new church or multi-site of Cornerstone of Ames/Ankeny, Westwind of Waukee, or New Heights in Indianola
Based on metro area population size, new places to consider:
Based on county population growth, new places to consider:
- Madison County (Winterset)
Based on County Size, new places to consider:
- Scott (Davenport)
- Woodbury (Sioux City)
Based on college student population above 10,000, new places to consider:
Data Tables: (more…)
August 26th, 2013 by Tim
Because want to encourage families who are adopting our church contributes financially to the family to offset adoption costs. In the last three years we have given more than $100,000 from our missions funds to support families from our church who have adopted more than twenty children. Below are the guidelines:
Cornerstone will offer up to $15,000 per child to qualified families to assist with adoption expenses for international adoption and $10,000 for domestic adoption in 2013. To get the full amount, families are expected to raise $10,000 for international adoptions ($7500 for domestic) of the funds from family, close friends, and their connection group. These funds will often come from outside of the Cornerstone family and should not replace regular contributions to Cornerstone’s general fund. The other half of the funds will come from Cornerstone’s missions account.
To be a “qualified family”, you will have a conversation with the missions pastor before fundraising can begin, normally about six months before the adoption is complete. He will ask questions about your membership at Cornerstone and your current Celebration, Connection, and Contribution practices; these funds are for those who are fully engaged at Cornerstone. The funds from Cornerstone’s missions budget will be available either after the adoption process is finished or at a point near the end of the process where it is nearly certain that the adoption will be final. Additional funds raised by families will be available earlier, whenever needed.
Families can ask donors to make checks payable to Cornerstone Church and designate the funds to the adoption account. They can also suggest which family they would like the funds to be given to. If a family raises more than $10,000/$7500 per child, the excess funds will remain in the adoption account for other families. If a family doesn’t raise support, Cornerstone will still offer $2500 or (or $5000 for international) per child as a grant for the adoption expenses. If for some reason the adoption falls through, any unused funds will not be returned to the donor, but will remain in the account and used for other adoptions.
What would you change? Does your church have a different practice?
August 23rd, 2013 by Tim
You have a few more days to download the audio version of Basic Christianity by John Stott. I just finished listening to it and appreciated Stott’s ability to explain the essential themes of Christianity in a reasoned way that both a seasoned believer and a new explorer will gain in knowledge, understanding, and appreciation for the reality of Jesus Christ.
You can download the 4.75 hour book for free here from ChristianAudio.com or buy the book for yourself or a friend with the link below.
August 22nd, 2013 by Tim
A site commenter recently asked, “I would like to ask others how they involve parents in the sending out of their children, whether it be a short-term trip or a short internship? I’m sure I am not the only one who notices that the biggest thing that keeps students or young people from answering God’s call to missions, is their parents.”
This is a good observation. I am aware of more than one case when a parent canceled a trip for their adult (college student) child because of perceived danger. How can we help parents?
We let parents know that we are working with known and trusted field partners. Include a photo of the field partner and his children playing with nationals. This communicates that a family with little children feels safe and that for the most part, people of that country are people not terrorists. Let parents know that the field partner cares about the volunteers and will actively work to keep them safe.
We let them know that we are watching the situation and will cancel or shorten the trip if the situation warrants it. We also care for the people on the trip and are active in monitoring the situation and ready to act if necessary. We want parents to know that we know this isn’t a game, it is serious business. (more…)
August 21st, 2013 by Tim
Gina Bellofatto – The State of the World – Lausanne Global Leadership Forum
For the summary report go here. From the report:
Christianity in its Global Context, 1970–2020: Society, Religion, and Mission illustrates that fundamental shifts in the demographics of global Christianity and religion are continuing into the 21st century. Christianity is still growing rapidly in the global South, but in many places Christians still have little interaction with adherents of other world religions.
For the full report, “Christianity in Its Global Context” go here.
August 19th, 2013 by Tim
Someone asked me recently what our church did to fund missionaries. I started talking about qualifications and strategy when he stopped me and asked for specific help in determining the dollar amounts to give to missionaries.
Allocating church mission funds is one of the main jobs of mission committees in smaller churches. The first step in evaluating this process is to take the names of the missionaries that you are funding off the list and determine the church’s values in allocating these funds. If you were starting over, what types of missionaries would you fund and why? Then add the names back on the list and adjust the amounts given to better reflect your church’s values. Let’s assume that a church decided to regard 20% of a missionaries support of $5000 per month ($1000) as their “full” support goal for each person.
I think it is reasonable to give different amounts to each missionary. In nearly every business, organization, or even church the staff all make different salaries; it is acceptable to give different amounts to each missionary. The problem is that these decision are often made by committees that don’t like conflict so they look for ways to make these decisions as easily as possible. Resist the temptation to make missionary support one-size-fits-all because you don’t like uncomfortable conversations.
Here is what our church does: (more…)