The Race – Part 4

20 06 2017

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Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrew 12:1-2

It would be absolutely ridiculous if a runner got to the starting line and when the gun is fired, instead of running in his lane on the track, he begins to run in his own tight little circle. Unbelievably this is what many Christians do day in and day out. Instead of running the race that God has placed in front of them, they run in their own little circle. The Hebrews 12 passage says that we are to run the race that lies before us. There are two important implications in this short phrase that we each need to understand.

The first implication is that there is a path set up for us to follow and run. This is not a hidden path. God has revealed this path to us and it is very clearly marked. There seems to be an ongoing struggle among Christians to find the will of God for their lives, but there should be no difficulty. Scripture is crystal clear in a thousand instances that we are to be about redeeming lost people, particularly unreached people groups, back to God through Jesus. In 2 Corinthians 5:20 Paul says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: ‘Be reconciled to God.'” This is God’s will for our lives! This is the race set before us. The confusion in discerning God’s will comes when we are not running on this main path. For example, many high school students struggle with the decision on what college to attend, yet the decision becomes incredibly easy if they are running the race that lies before them. The questions change from personal, selfish questions that God will probably never answer to questions about where you can be the most effective for the kingdom and run the race more fully. These are questions that God will answer!

Since becoming a father myself, my understanding of the will of God has broadened. I am really not concerned with what my boys want to become, be it an astronaut, teacher, or trash collector, as long as they are running the race that lies before them. I simply want them to strive to be the best racer that they can be with this one, brief life that they are given. I certainly want to guide them in their decisions, and I believe God does that for us as well, but the most important thing I can do is to teach them about the race and allow them to run the best they can with the gifts and talents that God has given them. As parents and teachers, we ask the wrong questions of our children. We ask them what they want to be when they grow up, but the correct questions for Christians are, “What does God want you to be?” or, “What can you do to be the most effective for God’s Kingdom?”

The second implication of the phrase “the race that lies before us” is that this phrase is inclusive of everyone who is a follower of Jesus. The pronoun “us” includes you. Many people respond to this passage as if the pronoun is “them.” This phrase is for people who go as missionaries to another country, but not me. This phrase is for people who are radical Christians, but not for a normal Christian like me. This is how we respond. In his book Crazy Love, Francis Chan would say that this “normal Christian” is really no Christian at all. How can one say they are on the track team but refuse to run the race? It makes no sense, and yet this is how many people live their lives. We will even redefine running so as to justify our disobedience. We will say that running is going to church most every Sunday or reading our Bible or knowing a lot about the faith or giving money, but in the end we know these are empty without the giving of our lives for the gospel.

Will you have the courage to run the race that lies before you? It’s tempting to run our own little race where we are rewarded by this world, but it is difficult to disdain the blessings of this world for the greater blessing of a future glory.

“We will not wish we had made more money, acquired more stuff, lived more comfortably, taken more vacations, watched more television, pursued greater retirement, or been more successful in the eyes of this world. Instead, we will wish we had given more of ourselves to living for the day when every nation, tribe, people, and language will bow around the throne and sing the praises of the Savior who delights in radical obedience and the God who deserves eternal worship.”
― David Platt, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream





Christian Tourism

19 06 2017

christian_tourism

Every year, thousands of Christians go on “mission trips” to exotic locations all over the world. They love to come back touting big numbers of those that responded to a call to salvation, show off pictures of them loving on a kid in front of a mud hut, and bragging about the weird food they ate. The vast majority of these “mission teams” go to places that are already reached; that is, they have an indigenous church capable of making disciples of every person in the people group without the need for cross-cultural witnesses. For example, a number of years ago I flew to Honduras to go and work with a wonderful orphanage that our church has been partnered with for many years. The plane was full of mission teams! I could tell because everyone had team shirts on. According to the Joshua Project there is one people group in Honduras that is considered unreached, and that is a group of 1600 Muslim Turks. Now, I will clarify that our church continues to partner with the orphanage in Honduras, but it is our only partnership of its kind that is specifically not reaching an unreached people group.

What Is Missions?

We really need to understand what missions is in order to understand what a mission trip is and to differentiate it from Christian tourism. Missions is birthed out of Jesus’ commissioning statements, most popularly out of Matthew 28:19-20 where Jesus said that we are to go and make disciples of all ethne (people groups). Later we see the apostles, most notably Paul, flesh this out by going to people groups that had never heard the gospel and establishing indigenous, reproducing churches among them. Once the church was established, he would move on to the next people group knowing and trusting that the church, through the power of the Holy Spirit, was capable of reaching their own people. This is missions, pure and simple. If we do anything other than that, it may be good, but it is not missions. Caring for orphans is good and Biblical, but it is not strictly or technically missions. Going to a people group that is reached and doing VBS, sharing your testimony door-to-door, encouraging the existing church, discipling pastors, etc. is a lot of things good and Biblical, including ministry, evangelism, and discipleship, but not strictly missions.

Categorizing Our Trips

Every believer and every church ought to take time and evaluate what partnerships and trips they participate in by categorizing them by purpose. For instance, our trip to Honduras to work with the orphanage is called a mission trip, but in my mind, as a mission pastor, I know that this is a “ministry trip.” I might go to Kenya to train pastors as a mission trip, but I categorize that in my mind as a “discipleship trip.” This is an important exercise to work through because the priority should always be missions. Yes, other things are important, but the most critical thing is to make disciples of unreached people groups. If I only led my church to work with orphans, I would be leading my church to do good ministry but not missions. If I only went on one trip per year to train pastors in Kenya, I would still need to ask how I am making missions a priority in my life.

At this point, many people that are passionate about a particular ministry get upset because of the challenge that their ministry is not the critical priority. I am personally passionate about orphan and foster care. I have led our church to continue our work at and support of the orphanage in Honduras. We support foster care in our area and celebrate it publicly. We have an adoption fund at our church to help members offset the cost of adoptions. My family has personally adopted an orphan! I am passionate about this ministry, but I understand it is not the most important thing on planet earth. Getting the gospel to people groups that have no access to the gospel and seeing indigenous, reproducing churches planted among them is God’s priority, Jesus’ final command to us, and should be my burning desire.

The reason that I categorize what I do personally and what we do as a church is to make sure that my and our church’s priorities match up to God’s. As a church we certainly participate in orphan care, disaster relief, training pastors, etc. but these things come second to the mission of God.

The Tricky Part

You may be already thinking this, but can these good things like pastor training, disaster relief, or construction projects be one and the same with missions? The answer, of course, is yes. The key is long-term strategy. If the goal is indigenous, reproducing churches among unreached people groups, there are thousands of good, strategic ways to get there. A key thing to remember about long-term strategy, though, is that it should be generated from the field. This means that a cross-cultural missionary or a trustworthy national partner that has spent the time to research the people, learn the language and culture, and understands good missiology has developed the strategy. Problems come when well-intentioned churches and/or short-term teams dictate the strategy.

With all of this in mind, if I am leading a short-term team to do missions, I want know that whatever we do it is moving the cross-cultural missionary further down the road toward an indigenous, reproducing church. If the long-term, cross-cultural missionary or national partner determines that it would help them to have a team put a new roof on a church, I will bring a construction team. I should, as a caring Christian and mission pastor, question any strategy for accountability reasons, but in the end it is the call of those that will be there in the long run.

When determining mission trips versus just tourism or good works trips, the first thing that I am looking for is a long-term strategy to get to an indigenous, reproducing church. If a trip is not a part of that strategy, then it is not a mission trip.

Encouragement

If we can increase the longevity of our missionaries on the field, then we can increase the work to get to indigenous, reproducing churches. Another often neglected form of mission trips is “encouragement trips.” I certainly categorize these as mission trips! As stated before, to reach unreached people groups we have to have cross-cultural missionaries. The job of a missionary is difficult in the best of circumstances. The turnover rate is huge. These are people that are the vanguard of the greatest fight in history, and the front lines always have the highest casualty rates.

If we believe that we need these cross-cultural missionaries, we need to be willing to support them. One of the greatest ways that we can support our missionaries is to go visit them. These encouragement mission trips are difficult for churches that like to dictate the strategy themselves or like to boast about big results, because most of these trips do not have visible, short-term fruit. Churches that are able to do these types of trips are churches that know how to take the long-term, more healthy approach of making disciples.

Partnerships

The long-term, more healthy approach to making disciples as missions happens within partnerships, not one-shot trips to an exotic locale. Many churches participate in 3-5 year partnerships, but there have been very few unreached people groups reached within that time frame. As a matter of fact, statistics show that the vast majority of missionaries to pioneer areas do not even see their first converts until after seven years!

I have been a mission pastor long enough to know that interest in a mission partnership lasts about 3-5 years. That length of time is about the amount of time that it takes to get everyone interested in that locale the opportunity to go. Once interest in the partnership wanes, it is time to move on to the next opportunity. This is Christian tourism! The purpose of the partnership is not reaching the unreached people group or supporting the missionaries. It is getting your congregation interested enough to go, and everything else is second. This is the consumerism that we must be fighting in our churches, but instead we buy into it and call it missions.

Our church does not do 3-5 year partnerships. All of our partnerships are open-ended and evaluated continually. We have one partnership with an unreached people group that has gone for more than 15 years and multiple long-term missionaries. Most of our 16 partnerships are going on 7 years now. It is difficult to maintain interest and get people on trips, but that is not the primary focus. The priority is to see an unreached people group redeemed.

Conclusion

We, both corporately as a church and personally, need to look hard at our motives for going where we are going and why we are going. Long-term, open-ended partnerships with indigenous, reproducing churches among unreached people groups as the end goal with strategy dictated from the field is the ideal. Anything less than that is simply Christian tourism at best and could potentially do long-term harm to future mission efforts. Of course, God can use a random short-term trip to an exotic location, but that gives us no excuse to not work towards the best.





The Race – Part 3

24 05 2017

therace03Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrew 12:1-2

When I was in high school, my race in track was the 800m run. My goal was to get under 2 minutes, but my best time ever ended up being 2:01. My coach trained me extremely hard, even to the point that I could tell you what pace I was running without looking at a stopwatch. Most people don’t realize how much strategy plays into running a race. It would be one thing if it was just you on the track running, but in the 800m run it was normally 20 or more competitive racers jostling for position on the same narrow lane. I was always quick, but I didn’t have the best endurance or kick at the end. Therefore my strategy was to sprint out of the starting line around the first curve in order to be well ahead and in first place. I then would fight to keep that position by spreading my elbows out and running as far outside the lane as possible without letting someone slip by me on the inside. All of this would make the other runners have to work harder to pass me. Sometimes this strategy worked, and sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes I just didn’t have enough at the end to hold off the top runners.

The type of race that the author of Hebrews was writing about here was not an 800m run. The author is talking about running with endurance, which means this is a very long distance race. Over the last 7 or 8 years my wife and I have gotten into running endurance races like regular marathons, trail marathons, obstacle races, etc. (There are worse things that one could do for their mid-life crisis!) My goal is to soon be able to run an ultra-marathon starting with a 50K (31 miles). Since beginning to run these races, I have learned a ton! I have learned what food is good to eat the night before and the morning of the race. I have learned what nutrition I respond best to while running. I have my favorite pair of shorts. I have my favorite brand and model of shoe depending on what surface I will be running on. I know what cold weather gear I need depending on what the temperature will be. I know, depending on the temperature and humidity, how far I can run on a liter of water without getting dehydrated. I could go on and on, but the point I am trying to make is that it takes a lot of training and preparation to run an endurance race.

The funny thing about this endurance race that God has placed us on is that we are to learn as we go. When we made the decision to follow Jesus, the starting gun went off. We might initially be excited about being in the race sprinting out of the blocks, but we eventually find a good pace to settle into and keep moving forward. There are times that we may have to walk as we do some training, and there are other times when it seems as though we could sprint forever. The problem with the church in the West is that the vast majority of racers have simply stopped. We are content to let the “professionals” run. We might invite someone to watch the race with us on Easter, but other than that it’s just too hard to run that race, especially with all of the distractions.

We must keep moving forward by making disciples with the long vision in mind. Making disciples is not a sprint; it’s an endurance race. We will mess up and stumble and so will those that we are discipling, but we fall forward. We keep our legs moving.

I tell people all the time that at my age I am not about winning; I’m about finishing. The funny thing is that as I build up endurance, I find myself getting more competitive. I believe that as we mature in our Christian faith and build up more endurance to run better, we become like-minded with Paul when he said, “Run in such a way to win the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24b CSB) In this context, Paul was talking about the gospel and sharing in the blessing of seeing others come to faith and be made disciples who make disciples.

How awesome would it be to be apart of a church that competed with each other for making disciples!? One of the things that I really enjoy about the running community is that although they are a competitive bunch, they are hugely encouraging. What would it look like if our churches were full of believers that fought hard for every disciple made and spurred each other on knowing it’s all for God’s glory?





8 Ways To Encourage Your Missionaries

23 05 2017

encouragement2

The problems and struggles that missionaries and church planters face are always amplified on the field. It is just plain difficult to live and minister in a different culture and language. Add to that cooking from scratch, dealing with outages of electricity and water, homeschooling, and no Peter Pan extra crunchy peanut butter, and you have a recipe for disaster just waiting to happen. Unfortunately that is not all, though. We have to understand that pioneer missionaries are the troops on the front lines. They are advancing into enemy territory, and our enemy is not just going to hand it over to them. He plays dirty and will do anything to thwart the expansion of the Kingdom of God. With this in mind, our home bases need to do a better job of supporting those that have given up so much to reach the unreached.

I have a saying that I use all of the time at our church: “If we can increase the longevity of our missionaries on the field, we can increase the work.” There is only so much a short-term team can do. It is essential that we have cross-cultural, long-term missionaries on the field. The longer they stay, the more effective they are. Our enemy knows this, so he does everything he can do to get our missionaries off the field. There are a number of things that our churches can do to help prevent this. The most important is prayer, but the second is very important as well. We must be an encouragement to our missionaries. Typically, we forget to do both. Someone moves out of the home base, and it is so easy to forget. Here are some things that you can do to be an encouragement to your missionaries…

  1. Read and respond to their updates – If you don’t get updates, get signed up today. Find an email address and send them a note that you want to be added to their update list. Once you receive their update, actually open it up and “prayer read” it (kind of like prayer walking). But don’t stop there. Respond back to it, so they know you read it. Most every missionary works extremely hard to put together their update, and many of them use some kind of email service that gives them the stats. It is always very discouraging to look at the stats and see that only 40% of your emails were even opened. It only takes a few minutes to read them. Find a praise report or a prayer request and write the missionary back about that specific thing so they know you read it.
  2. Video chat – Make an appointment with your missionary to video chat with them. Most missionaries have the capabilities to do this through Skype, Facebook, or FaceTime. Just ask them questions and talk. Ask about their work. Ask them how the family is doing. Ask if they have any prayer requests. Just before getting off the video chat with them, pray for them right there. This is a great way to involve your whole family as well. Involve your children in the video chat. You might even prepare with your children some questions that they could ask beforehand.
  3. Send real mail or, even better, a package – Find out your missionary’s physical address and send them some real mail. You might even have your small group all write notes of encouragement and send it to them. Another thing you can do is send a small package, like a small padded envelope. It is not very expensive to send these, and they usually don’t have to go through customs to get these. You could send a DVD of a new movie, some packets of seasoning like chili, tacos, or ranch dressing, or even the small Velvetta packages will fit! If you send anything bigger than this, be sure and ask the missionary first. I served in a place where it just wasn’t worth it to receive a bigger box.
  4. Send them updates about you – Email them about how you are doing personally and how your church is doing. Missionaries deal with loneliness, and they get out of touch very quickly. You need to be careful about forwarding them church newsletters if they work in a secure location, but a simple, personal email will work wonders. Let them know about new music that is personally ministering to you and purchase them an iTunes credit so they can get it, too. Let them know how you are praying for them and how God is speaking to you in general.
  5. Send them a financial gift – You might be supporting them financially as a church planter or missionary, which is a HUGE blessing, but don’t forget smaller, extra gifts throughout the year. When we served overseas, we wanted to get our kids gifts for Christmas just like everyone else, but the toys overseas are triple the price or more than in the United States. Send your missionaries a “Christmas Bonus.” You might send them a little extra for an anniversary or birthday or just for fun as a blessing. iTunes gift cards or credits are always appreciated.
  6. Ask them how you can pray for them personally – Many people want to hear how they can pray for a missionary’s work but neglect the missionary themselves. Periodically email your missionary and ask how you can personally pray for them. Missionaries are not immune to periods of spiritual struggle and doubt. When they send you a personal prayer request, obviously, pray, but also write them back a prayer. This helps them to know that you really are praying for them, and it might just be the thing they needed to hear to get them through the spiritual struggle.
  7. Remember their birthdays – Don’t forget birthdays! Facebook is great for this. Write something personal on their Facebook wall or, better yet, mail them a card to get in time for their birthday. This is especially important for the missionary children. Children here in the United States can have a party with all their friends at the swimming pool, the trampoline park, the arcade, the theme park, etc. This is not always the case for children living overseas where their friends live far away. Just like we try to make our kid’s birthdays special, we could be a huge encouragement by helping our missionaries make their children’s birthdays special. Ask if you can send them anything or how you can help.
  8. Go visit them – So many times we only think of mission trips in terms of what kind of ministry we are going to perform, but have you ever thought of just going to love on your missionaries? We do this at our church all the time. It took our congregation time to understand the importance and value of this, but it has become a huge blessing to our church to be able to send a team with the only purpose of being an encouragement to our missionaries. You have to be able to understand that your short-term trip might have little impact with regards to reaching an unreached people group, but going to boost your missionaries’ spirits might be just the ticket to keep them on the field longer and see exponential fruit. I have another saying at our church for our mission teams going out: “Our first priority is to come under the strategy of the church planter or missionary. Our second, and very close to the first, priority is to encourage our missionaries.”

We need to start defining our success for our mission ministry and trips differently than just “souls won.” I have heard of many short-term mission trips that reported they saw hundreds saved, but they left with no long-term strategy to continue the work. Our mandate is not to save souls, but to make disciples. Disciple-making happens within long-term relationships, which on the field might be only provided by the cross-cultural missionary throughout the first or second generation of believers. This is why it is imperative to keep our missionaries on the field! We, personally and corporately as a church, can help keep missionaries on the field by the simple act of encouragement.





The Race – Part 2

17 05 2017

therace02Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrew 12:1-2

Last fall I was able to take a shot at the Spartan Beast. This is a 13-mile obstacle course. Every obstacle is difficult, and if you fail an obstacle after one try, you earn 30 burpees. Running 13 miles on level pavement is difficult enough, but this was running up and down hills and cliffs on dirt single tracks. It was definitely the hardest event that I have competed in to date. There was one obstacle that was the hardest for me and many others. We ran around a bend in the trail and were confronted by a volunteer who gave us a 5-gallon bucket. We had to take that bucket to a pile of pea gravel and fill it to the top. We then proceeded to carry that bucket straight up a steep hill for half a mile and straight down the back half. Most, me included, could only carry the bucket 10 steps or so before we had to lower it down to catch our breath and shake our hands out. I even saw a couple of people break down crying. My wife always reminds me at this point in the story that I chose to do this and even paid money to carry that bucket.

That bucket always reminds me of the hindrances and sin mentioned in Hebrews 12:1. It seems ridiculous to run with a 5-gallon bucket filled with pea gravel, but that is how many Christians try to run. We might even have Jesus in our sights, but we are struggling every step carrying all that weight that so easily ensnares us. Some believers knowingly choose to carry a full bucket of sin and hindrances, but for most it is a small accumulation over the years that results in a wearing down. We may not even notice until one day we come to a stop completely burned out surprised at the load in our arms and our ineffectiveness in producing fruit. This is a great reason why every believer needs to surround themselves with a community of friends that are willing to point out those unnecessary loads.

It is important to note that the author of Hebrews talks about two distinct things that can ensnare us: hindrances and sin. Sin is something we understand. We know that it starts small and progresses over time accumulating a weight that keeps us from running. The way to cast off that sin is to embrace the forgiveness that is available to you through Jesus and repent of those sins. Although sin is incredibly destructive, it is something that is easily recognized, if not by ourselves then others and especially through the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

This word “hindrance” is usually something that is not talked about and fully understood. In the world in which this was written, this word would have been used for any restrictive clothing that caused athletes not to do their best. As a longtime runner, I understand the need for proper clothing and equipment. It’s one thing to throw any old shorts on and run a few miles, but those same shorts might rub you raw at 20 miles. As we will see, we are running an endurance race, and we must evaluate everything in our lives. It is important to note that these hindrances are not necessarily sin. Running a marathon in high heels is not the best thing to do, but it is not wrong.

If our race is to complete the Great Commission as Jesus has commanded, then we must evaluate our lives to see if there are any hindrances that might keep us from finishing that task. I don’t think that debt is an outright sin in all cases (it certainly can be in some), but debt could easily hinder you from running the race. What if you were led by the Holy Spirit to be a pioneer missionary among an unreached people group, but you were up to your ears in debt and could not go because of that? Do you spend so much time on your hobbies that you forget the lostness of your neighbors? Hobbies are not sin and could be used for the glory of God, but they can also be a hindrance.

Every year we push our church members to take a class called Perspectives. One of my favorite speakers each year is Todd Ahrend. Todd talks about how God has blessed us so that we can be a blessing to others, but he says that, instead of being a channel of God’s blessing, too many are consumed with managing their own blessings first. Having a boat is not a sin, but once you purchase a boat you must take care of it, spend money on it, store it, use it, etc. It can become a hindrance to running the race God has laid out for us.

Each person must pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to them those things that are hindrances and sin so that they can be freed up to run the endurance race marked out for us.





Multiplication

16 05 2017

multiplication

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to go to Exponential Conference as a guest of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. This was an outstanding conference that focused on teaching how to plant a Level 5 church or move your church into a Level 5 church. Let me explain…

Most of you know that the majority of churches in the US are either plateaued or declining. Level 1 represents a church that is declining, and Level 2 a plateaued church. Level 3 is a church that is adding members. Most churches are trying to go from a Level 1 to a Level 3. One problem with this is that declining churches tend to continue to decline. Another problem is that the rate at which Level 3 churches add members is too slow to keep up with the population growth rate.

The techniques used by a Level 3 church are widely known, but are only actually successful in a small percentage of churches. Most Addition Churches have a dynamic preacher and an excellent Sunday worship experience, and its members are constantly encouraged to invite their friends, family, and co-workers to the service. The reason this only works in a small proportion of churches is because most churches cannot pull off the best worship service in town and they don’t have the best preacher. The other common addition techniques used are big programs, productions, or events. These are shown to have minimal to no results, and they are contingent upon a big budget if done correctly. If you find yourself in a Level 1-3 Church, you will find yourself spending the vast majority of your time talking about Sunday mornings and the next big events.

A Level 4 Church is a Reproducing Church. Once a church beats the odds and becomes an Addition Church, they begin to talk about multiple services, or they begin to talk about multiple campuses, which is a common trend right now. They, also, might talk about church planting. These are all positive things as multiple venues, new campuses, and new churches all reach new people. The problem is still the same, though. We are using addition, instead of multiplication, and addition will never be enough to complete the Great Commission.

The mistake that is made is in thinking that we are to build the church, but that is not the case! Author, Neil Cole, said that we are called to make disciples; it’s Jesus’ job to build His church. This is a complete paradigm shift from what is taught and modeled. Author, Alan Hirsch, explains that what gets you to a Level 3 church will never get you to a Level 5 church. A Level 5 church is a Multiplying Church. It is more of a movement of churches. As a matter of fact, missionaries around the world in places like East Asia and South Asia describe a “church planting movement” that looks nothing like our typical churches in the West but which are exploding faster than anyone can keep up (see Garrison, Church Planting Movements). A Multiplying Church is described as a movement that has third or fourth generation churches that know nothing of the parent church.

In order for us to complete the Great Commission as commanded by Jesus, we have to start thinking multiplication and trusting that making disciples is the strategy.





The Race – Part 1

10 05 2017

therace01Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrew 12:1-2

 The very first word of this scripture, therefore, is hugely important. It means that in light of the previous passage and because of the previous passage, now do this. So whenever we see this word, it should sound an alarm for us to look at what was written before, so that what we are about to read is understood in the proper context. In regards to this particular therefore, it refers back to Hebrews 11. This is a chapter that many people have nicknamed the “Hall of Fame of Faith.” Beginning with Abel, it lists many individuals and included the multitude of unnamed people who kept their faith even through the worst hardships, torture, and persecution.

Our passage of scripture in Hebrews 12:1, referring back to all those listed in Hebrews 11, says that all of the faithful make up a large cloud of witnesses that surround us.

Not too long ago, I watched a documentary on Netflix called “Fittest On Earth.” This documentary followed some of the greatest athletes as they competed in the 2015 International CrossFit Games. On the second day of the games, they competed in a workout called “Murph.” This starts with a 1-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, and then ends with another 1-mile run all of this done with a weighted vest on. It happened to be very hot that morning of the competition, and most of the athletes were really struggling to even finish. They showed these competitors exhausted, taking ice baths, and some were even passed out. Although this was an extremely difficult workout, the day was just beginning! Following this workout, they were to do another very difficult workout called a “Snatch Speed Ladder.” This is basically throwing a bunch of progressively heavy barbells over your head in a controlled fashion. As the athletes waited to enter the field, you could see the trepidation on their faces, but something changed as they entered the playing field. The stands surrounding the field were completely packed with crazy, cheering fans! Of course the athletes were still tired, but the encouragement from the stands allowed them to pull from some deep reserves to do some incredibly difficult lifts.

This is what the author of Hebrews is talking about. Those faithful that went before us are sitting in the stands cheering us on to do incredibly difficult or even impossible things for God. Now, I am not sure if this means that those people are with us in spirit or if they can physically see us. On my good days I like to think that they can gaze from where they are and see us, but I have bad days, too, where I would just rather nobody sees.

The point, though, is we should be encouraged knowing that when we remain faithful we are just the latest of generations of faithful that have gone before us. In Hannah Hurnard’s famous allegorical book, “Hind’s Feet On High Places,” the main character named Much Afraid is led down into a desert of suffering. In the midst of that suffering she is encouraged when she sees a long line of people as far as the eye could see beginning with Abraham, and she is invited to join hands with the last in line making her a part of the faithful sufferers.

Because of knowing the fact that others have successfully gone before us and they now surround us with their encouragement, throw off every hindrance and sin, and run!








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