Ten Lessons Regarding Mission from Church History, #10

May 11th, 2015 by

19th century religion map

I 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 10: The faith spreads more quickly in environments when ideas can spread rapidly using advances in roads, sea travel, air travel, common language, and internet technologies.

Sometimes huge advances in the church correspond with strong leaders like John Wesley or new methods like the establishment of missionary societies. However, it is also no coincidence that major missionary expansion in history also corresponded to the development of Roman roads and the widespread use of Greek in first and second centuries, the printing press and advances in sea travel in the fifteenth century (corresponding with the Reformation), railway travel in  the nineteenth century, radio and TV in the twentieth century, and finally the internet in the last two decades.

Transportation and communication technologies have been a huge force of good (and evil e.g. pornography slavery, and sex trafficking). Let’s continue to use these tools for the expansion of the kingdom and God’s glory!

This is the last post in this series.

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Ten Lessons Regarding Mission from Church History, #9

April 27th, 2015 by

19th century religion map

I 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 9: Christians have increased their influence through service.

This lesson is really an advertisement for one of my favorite books of the last few years: The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries Paperback – May 9, 1997 by Rodney Stark

This book shows how in the first four centuries after the life of Christ, the Christian movement grew to reach nearly half of the known world through day to day practical and sacrificial service in their local communities. It’s great to have a strategy to reach the world, but the world is reached through serving one person at a time.

Jesus teaches that the way to have high impact is through serving: But He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles dominate them, and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors. ’ But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and whoever leads, like the one serving. (Luke 22:25-26 HCSBFree)

I’ll post the other lessons soon.

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Leadership: Sine Qua Non of church planting

April 21st, 2015 by

I’m really encouraged that church planting has become more of a priority for churches. With this emphasis, some ministries may be tempted to launch a new church before carefully having all the pieces of a healthy church start in place. The element that can have no compromise in church planting is leadership. It is surprising to me that with clear instruction and examples from letters like 1 Timothy and Titus, ministries would rush to compromise on leadership.

Here are some strategies (excuses) for church planting without qualified leadership that I’ve heard:

  1. Let’s just get started and see what God will do.
  2. This is a priority because this is the most populous city in the state without a Southern Baptist church.
  3. Let’s start with this leader, he’s: a) down on his luck, b) close to retirement, c) his wife has health issues and he really needs something now).
  4. He happens to be my friend, and I’m can’t talk about whether he is qualified or not.
  5. Well, it’s only NAMB money anyway, so let’s just give it a try and see what happens.
  6. He’s qualified because he’s been through a church planter training program.
  7. We have some money raised, volunteer teams in place, and a place to meet; let’s start with these and see if we can find a leader later.
  8. He has a real passion for his strategy, and maybe it will work this time. What will it hurt for him to give it another try?
  9. A leader’s spiritual maturity needs to be only one step ahead of others in the group. Maybe he’ll grow into the position.

Advice: don’t launch until there is a qualified leader who has agreed to start. Once he is identified, he will see that the other elements will fall into place.

 

 

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Ten Lessons Regarding Mission from Church History, #8

April 18th, 2015 by

19th century religion map

I 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 8: The growth of the Christian movement is slowed by requiring non-biblical hurdles for people to jump over prior to joining or starting a church.

Some barriers to joining a church are cultural, not biblical: walking the aisle, praying a specific prayer, sharing public testimony, mandatory classes prior to baptism, and requirements to stop or start specific behaviors.

Some cultural barriers to starting churches are also not biblical: requiring the pastor to graduate from seminary, approval by area pastors, the church must be “registered” or have its own legal status along with owning a building.

These barriers have slowed the growth of the church down, and I believe by eliminating or modifying them, the church will be unleashed.

I’ll post the other lessons soon.

Let me know if you have a correction or comment!

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Ten Lessons Regarding Mission from Church History, #7

April 13th, 2015 by

19th century religion map

I 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 7: The speed of spreading the faith increases with decentralized organizations.

It seems odd to me when mission agencies specializing in the unique nuances of cross-cultural communication create a unified, top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to mission strategy. This unhealthy trend of centralization is accelerated if the agency places missionaries on the field that they can not fully trust as leaders. Distrust leads to increased control, policies, and attendance at vision alignment conferences. As I mentioned before in Lesson 6, the key to gospel progress is often through quality leaders; mission agencies that don’t attract and release innovative leaders to lead will be left behind.

See also Why an Organization with Tight Policies Usually has Weak Leaders

See also Ideas for Restructuring the International Mission Board (IMB).

I’ll post the other lessons soon.

Let me know if you have a correction or comment!

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That day has arrived

April 10th, 2015 by

Not just religious freedom hysteria in Indiana, but now more in Iowa. First we had the injustice of using state power to close Dick and Betty Odgaard’s business in Grimes, IA not for mistreating anyone, but for politely declining a request to participate in a ceremony that violates their deeply held religious beliefs. The issue wasn’t serving gay clients, the issue was participating in a ceremony (by the way, there is a religious element in all ceremonies). Result: They were forced by the courts to decide between violating their beliefs or closing their business. They chose to stop providing all wedding services, a major blow to their business

This week, we’ve had protests of Dowling Catholic High School in Des Moines who refused to hire a gay teacher. In this case the issue isn’t whether a business should serve all customers for any service, but the ability of a church to have religious standards for staff hiring.

Please Iowans, let’s not respond in hysteria like they did in Indiana about RFRA law with threats toward pizza restaurant owners. Let’s please slow down and have an adult reasoned discussion about these issues and stop bullying tactics of economic threats, legal threats, and using slurs like homophobia to demonize the other side.

How can we get back to real conversation rather than threats and slander?

We are all for reasoned debate right? How about freedom of speech? Still ok with that one? Do you know that freedom of speech means that people can have opinions that are different than yours without resorting to threats, name-calling, and calls for using the courts to make someone’s speech a crime? How about freedom of religion? Ok for a Jewish butcher to not handle pork? Ok for Muslim web designer to refuse to publish cartoons of Mohammed? Still tracking? Ok for people to exercise these beliefs in their business and not just for one hour per week during a specific religious ceremony?

Can we have a reasoned conversation? Spoiler: politically incorrect language (though not yet illegal) below:

In the conversation, can we include the health damage and the public cost of treating STD’s and gender reassignment surgery?

In the conversation, can we include the high suicide rates among the gay community?

In the conversation, can we include the damage to children raised in households with single gender couples?

In the conversation, can we include the draconian limits proposed by President Obama this week to prohibit any kind of licensed health care providers from persuading young people who admit they are confused about their sexual identity toward a straight lifestyle.

In the conversation, can we include the damage to others’ freedom when we threaten them for not anything they’ve done participating in wedding ceremonies (hint: a ceremony isn’t a legal term, it is a religious term)?

In the conversation, can we include the violation of article six of the Constitution that prohibits excluding people from political office based on religious tests when Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran was fired not for treating anyone poorly, but because of his sincerely held religious beliefs?

In the conversation, can we include the inconsistency of company leaders like Tim Cook commenting on Indiana’s religious freedom law (nearly identical to the one Bill Clinton signed and nineteen other states have) while silently raking in millions of dollars in nations with poor human rights records?

Yes it is all that and plus that the Bible speaks about homosexuality in passages like Romans 1 and 1 Timothy 1.

Now back to love and acceptance… can we at least talk about “gay marriage” with all of these factors in mind rather than forcing a choice between complete acceptance or being demonized by some in the gay community?

To everyone who has been silently waiting until this frenzy gets to the church’s front door before speaking out on these issues, that day has come.

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Ten Lessons Regarding Mission from Church History, #6

April 6th, 2015 by

19th century religion map

I 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 6: The speed of spreading the faith is often a function of strong leaders who advocate a clear strategy AND have a sound organizational structure.

My observation from reading church history is that people join movements when they find leaders to follow that have both a clear strategy and have ability to put a structure in place to accomplish the strategy.

 

It is hard to find a case of significant advance in the church without also finding leaders who communicate a compelling strategy and have organizational structure to accomplish the strategy. Leaders and organizations without both elements rarely became movements. Consider William Carey, Count Zinzendorf, John Wesley, Hudson Taylor, and Ralph Winter.

I’ll post the other lessons soon.

Let me know if you have a correction or comment!

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Had a good time speaking at chapel at MBTS today

April 1st, 2015 by

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Ten Lessons Regarding Mission from Church History, #5

March 30th, 2015 by

19th century religion map

I 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 5: Christianity spreads when the church focuses on the goal to develop locally led, funded, governed, and connected communities of faith.

Service to Jesus Christ and his kingdom has been the motivation behind the start of many schools and universities, hospitals, orphanages, prison ministries, and much more to help the needy in communities around the world. These ministries have shown the mercy of Christ and have profoundly impacted the world for Christianity.

But the spread of Christianity has been most rapid when churches unite with other churches to send gifted men and women to intentionally start local churches in new contexts. New population segments are best reached through creating communities of faith that have a comprehensive approach of sharing the good news of Jesus, training believers to follow and obey him, and uniting together to reach their community for Christ. Focusing on mercy ministries, children’s ministries, evangelism events, and establishing schools can greatly aid in reaching a community for Christ.  However, the impact of the gospel is best sustained when a locally led and supported community of believers is established. Then as these new churches unite together, they will continue to reach their generation for Christ.

I’ll post the other lessons soon.

Let me know if you have a correction or comment!

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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.

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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

Shrink

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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