Support: 7 Ways To Send Well

13 02 2020

support

In most churches, when missions is talked about, 3 things are asked of you: Pray, Give, & Go. It is no surprise, then, that most individuals and churches are not good senders. Praying and giving are very important and a part of sending, but not the only part.

Romans 10:15a says, “And how can they preach unless they are sent?” This is asked rhetorically by Paul to emphasize the importance of sending. It also legitimizes sending. Many people mistakenly think that the ones who go on the mission field are the super saints, while those left behind are second-class Christians. This could not be further from the truth!

Sending is just as important as going. And, if this is the case, our senders need to be given just as much priority in training and resourcing as our missionaries. Too often, though, our missionaries are sent to the field with an inadequately trained and small sending team.

7 Ways To Send Well


  1. Pray: Ephesians 6 talks about how we are engaged in spiritual warfare. Our missionaries and church planters happen to be the ones in different geographical locations, but, if this is truly a spiritual event, senders can literally engage in the battle from home. A sender can fight the spiritual battle on behalf of the person on the field. How awesome is this! We can not only fight, but, as a result, share in the harvest celebration knowing that we played a part.
  2. Give: Planting churches and cross-cultural missions are expensive endeavors. Christians are needed to give to help fund these things. However, donating a little extra money is not the only way a sender can resource our missionaries and church planters. You could restructure your life and budget to be able to give sacrificially. You could use your gifts and talents to start a business to fund missions. You could use your resources to invest in opportunities that yield dividends that go to fund missions. The point is that we are pretty good at creatively thinking of ways to get the gospel to an unreached people group, but we tend to stop thinking creatively when it comes to funding the venture.
  3. Communicate: Speaking from experience, there is nothing quite like opening your email or, especially, your post office box in a distant country and finding a note of encouragement. As a sender, we ought to be writing our missionaries and church planters continually. Write them Scripture. Write them what you are praying. Write them about what God is doing in your life. Of course, we need to be sensitive to security issues when sending written communication, but a good sender simply figures that out and gets on with writing. You can also jump on FaceTime or Skype or any of a number of conferencing apps and talk face-to-face with them.
  4. Respond: I know that a response is communication and could have gone in the above category. But I felt like this one deserves its own. Many of our church planters and missionaries spend a lot of time each month preparing an e-newsletter. I believe that most people receive that email, give it a cursory glance, and forget about it. We can do better! Commit now with me that when you open that newsletter you will read every word and immediately hit the reply button to send them a response. When you respond, be sure to use their secure language. For instance, if they write “lift up” in the place of “pray,” use the wording they use. Don’t just respond with a thanks for sending the newsletter. That’s better than nothing, but instead write them back concerning the things they are concerned with in their newsletter. I remember spending hours putting together a newsletter, sending it to hundreds of people, and not hearing a word from anyone. I didn’t even know if people were getting it. It was very discouraging.
  5. Advocate: To advocate for something is to publicly support and recommend a cause. What better cause is there than to support our missionaries and church planters?! A great way to think about your role as a sender is that you are the go-between for missionaries and their sending churches. Take every opportunity that you can to advocate for your sent ones. There are a million different ways to do this. Here are a few ideas to get you started… set up an informational booth in your church to educate people about the partnership, host a dinner and prayer meeting at your home to specifically pray for your sent one, moderate a private Facebook page dedicated to supporting your partners, take your pastor to lunch and inform him about the partnership, pass out your partnership’s prayer cards like they are candy, etc.
  6. Visit: Go visit your missionary or church planter. When we lived in Tanzania, we loved it when people came for a visit. Our boys could not wait until our volunteer teams arrived. Don’t go expecting the missionary or church planter to prepare a ton of ministry opportunities for you. There is a time and place for that kind of trip. On this trip, your job is to go and be an encouragement for your sent ones. Take them stuff they need. Play board games with their kids. Watch the kids so mom and dad can go on a date. Take the ladies to get their nails done. Take them to a favorite restaurant. In short, love on them! That’s it! I promise that a trip like this will give your missionary or church planter a boost that will keep them on the field longer, and, in turn, that will increase the work!
  7. Send: Send other folks to go, both short-term and long-term. Be a travel agent for your missionary or church planter to get other people to go and serve on their team. Take some time and pray about who to ask. Make a list of names. Then invite these individuals to a personal meeting, buy them a cup of coffee, and ask them if they ever considered going. You will be surprised! I have found that God is still in the business of working in people. Sometimes all it takes is the ask.




Lonely Christmas

23 12 2019

lonelychristmas

I still remember back in 2009 during Christmas how my family and I were stuck in Nairobi, Kenya, getting some medical stuff done. We were in the Baptist Guest House there, and although it is very nice accommodations, we had none of our Christmas decorations. We were living out of our bags. We were worried about our son who was having difficulty speaking. We were a long ways away from our home in Tanzania, and we were a long ways away from our family.

We certainly made the most of the time. We had wonderful friends there. Our two older boys made a construction paper Christmas tree that we hung on the wall and decorated. In all of the fun that we had, though, there was still a sense of loneliness.

This experience has made me more sensitive to the needs of our missionaries living overseas. We have families serving in some of the hardest places on earth, and even though they will make the most of the holiday season, they will still miss their family and friends. They will still miss the “stuff” that surrounds Christmas.

I remember missing the food that my mom makes. I remember missing getting to see all of my cousins and grandparents. I remember missing watching The Christmas Story over and over again and laughing at the same places.

This season for our missionaries is a time of conflicting emotions. They feel very called to be where they are, and at the same time many of them long for home. They have chosen to leave their home, friends, and family to follow where God has led them, but during this season, especially, they are keenly aware that leaving everything has consequences.

It can be very difficult for our missionaries to celebrate Christmas while living among a people group where very few, if any, even believe in Jesus.

As a result of all these things put together, many of our missionaries experience a real sense of loneliness during this season.


5 Things That You Can Do To Love Our Missionaries Well During The Christmas Season

  1. Pray for them – This may seem like the pat answer to everything, but it is only that to those who don’t believe in the power of prayer. Pray that our missionaries will experience a wonderful Christmas sensing God’s presence in everything they do.
  2. Email them – Send a missionary you know an email on Christmas morning. If they live on the other side of the globe, this will mean they will still get it on Christmas. Write some encouraging words. Let them know that you are praying for them. Give them a short update on what you are doing for Christmas and ask them what they did.
  3. Skype them – Most of our missionaries have the ability to Skype. Skype them in for a few minutes on Christmas morning just to say, “Merry Christmas!” You might even gather a group up and sing a Christmas carol for them!
  4. Remember their families still at home – Reach out to their families that are not with them to let them know that you are praying for their loved ones who are serving God in another country. Encourage them that you are praying for them as well.
  5. Send them something – Most missionaries can receive at least small things in the mail. Find out their mailing address and send them something. Anything is appreciated! You might send them a new movie or some hot cocoa packets or just some handwritten notes. Make sure you ask them about sending something. Sometimes customs charges our missionaries to pick up a package. This is fine as long as you cover that expense, too.

Don’t forget our missionaries this Christmas season. Have an incredible time with your family, but know that you can really make someone else’s Christmas special by doing one or two simple things.

 





Don’t Be A Hirpler

16 12 2019

hirpler

I was reading Oswald Chamber’s “My Utmost For His Highest” this morning, and I learned a new word: hirpler.

hirpler \ hirˈ plər \: one who walks with a limp or hobbles

Chambers wrote, “Always distinguish between God’s order and His permissive will… God’s order is unchangeable; His permissive will is that with which we must wrestle before Him.

Hebrews 11:21 speaks of Jacob… By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and he worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.

Jacob seems to be best known as the guy who wrestled with God. The story is told in Genesis 32 that Jacob was about to meet his brother, whom he had deceived in the past, and he was terrified that Esau was going to kill him.

Jacob decides to spend the night alone and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. This man decides that Jacob is not going to stop, so he strikes his hip and dislocates it. I believe that at this point Jacob realizes that this is not just a mere man, but he still refuses to let go until this “man” blesses him.

The “man,” who Jacob now recognizes is God, changes his name to Israel, which means “he who struggles with God.”

I have always heard people teach that Jacob wrestling with God was a good thing. Certainly, good came out of it! God did bless Jacob for at least holding on, but I don’t think it was God’s perfect will (order) that he had to dislocate his hip to get to that point.

It is not God’s desire that we wrestle with Him. We are called to immediately submit to Him.

Jacob’s leaning on the top of his staff was not a badge of honor as some may think, but a sign that he had struggled with God’s plan for His life and not submitted to His will.

There are definitely times that we have to learn the hard way, but it is not God’s desire that we become a hirpler because of Him. We may end up limping spiritually because of things that have happened to us as a result of this fallen world, however we should never have to hobble around because we chose not to submit to God.

We should wrestle against sin in our life. We should wrestle in prayer for the lost. We should wrestle over our specific calling. We should never wrestle with God.

Jesus has commanded us to go and make disciples. That is His perfect will or order. As a follower of Jesus, we don’t wrestle against that command. We might wrestle in prayer over how and where we should complete this command, but we should not struggle against actually doing it.

God will dislocate my hip if I continue to wrestle with Him because He loves me. He will get His way and His glory with or without me, but His desire is to use me, as unworthy as I am. My prayer is that I can just simply follow him with open hands of submission without having to become a hirpler!

 





Speak

9 12 2019

speak


And since we have the same spirit of faith in keeping with what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke, we also believe, and therefore speak.
2 Corinthians 4:13


Many churches and even many Christians do a good job of serving their communities. They host floats in the annual Christmas parade. They provide canned foods at Thanksgiving. They serve food at homeless shelters. Etc. Etc. Etc.

All of these things are good things! We should not stop doing these very worthy events to serve and better our communities.

But (you knew there was a “but” coming) in the absence of a declaration of the Gospel, our churches are no different than any other philanthropic organization.

There is a reason the Church in America continues to decline. There is a reason that my denomination (Southern Baptist) continues to see a decrease in baptisms and an increase in churches closing their doors. That reason is simply that we are not seeing new people choose to follow Jesus. God’s plan to get the Gospel to others is for us to share that good news with others, and it is painfully obvious that the sharing is not happening.

Now, I am not saying that we only provide canned foods to someone if they will listen to a Gospel presentation. Or, we pass out Gospel tracts while we walk in the parade.

What I am saying is that we, as Believers, are, or at least should be, compelled to get to the Gospel at some point.

I see it as a very simple step-by-step formula…

  1. Good works
  2. Relationship
  3. Spiritual Conversation
  4. Gospel
  5. Holistic Ministry
  6. Effective Teaching

This formula equals disciple-making disciples!

Let me give you an example… While out serving at a community homeless shelter doing a good work, John, who is a Believer, meets Mike. Mike is not a Believer, but he sees a need to help the homeless community out. As they serve food together, John and Mike discover they work for the same large company, so they already have a lot in common. A friendship is built, and over the course of months John is able to talk about spiritual things with Mike. Mike even begins to ask his own questions as he sees how John works and treats his family with love and respect. Mike even starts to come to some of the church events! Eventually Mike asks what it means to be saved, and John is able to share the Gospel with him. He accepts Christ and begins attending John’s church where he and his family are ministered to and receive great teaching through sermons and John’s discipleship group. As a result, now Mike feels the need to begin sharing the Gospel with others.

I realize that it is never this cut and dry, but I hope this shows you how the formula is intended to work.

We tend to get messed up in three different ways.

  1. Picking One – This is what we talked about in the beginning. Most Christians might just choose to do good works and never move on to the other steps. Some churches say that they are just going to teach the Word. Some individuals have the spiritual gift of evangelism, and all they do is share the Gospel to get converts.
  2. Stopping – This is where we might do a good work and build a relationship with someone, but we never get to spiritual conversations or the Gospel. Or, we see someone come to faith in Christ, and we leave them be with no ministry or teaching.
  3. Lack of Training – This is where in any of these steps we mess up because we don’t fully understand it. For instance, standing up and lecturing a group is one way to teach, but is it effective? How many Believers can articulate a clear Gospel message?

If I were to pick where the US Church is weakest, I would say that the majority of Christians simply don’t share the Gospel. There is little passion for getting the Gospel to unbelievers, and there is little understanding of even how to share the Gospel if the heart was willing.

Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:13 that he believes so he speaks. It’s that simple. If we truly believe that sharing the Gospel could save someone from an eternity in Hell, then we speak.

Later in 2 Corinthians 5:14 Paul says that the love of Christ compels him to share the Gospel. In light of what Jesus did for me, I have no other choice but to share it with others.

In 2 Corinthians 5:20 Paul says that we are ambassadors of reconciliation. It is simply our duty, and, if our Lord commands us, we do it. We are now, as a Believer, a new creation created with the one and only purpose to bring God glory by sharing the Gospel with those who are lost.

My prayer is that the Church will recapture its heart to see disciples made through the sharing of the Gospel message.





Busy. Busy. Busy.

2 12 2019

busy

Normally, when someone would ask how I was doing, I would reply, “Busy.” I have recently been convicted of that. Maybe God could use my conviction to influence you towards a different stance as well.

I have realized that old habits are hard to break, so I still find myself replying with the word busy. When I do this and catch myself, I usually follow it up with something like, “It keeps me out of trouble,” or, “I’m really not that busy.”

When you hear a particular saying over and over again, you tend to forget the meaning. I have always heard it said that you are only as busy as you want to be. This is true, but we tend to forget. Our busyness or lack thereof is a choice.

We, also, have the choice of what to be busy about. After being in the ministry for over 25 years, I have found that most people choose everything else first over ministry or mission. If there is any margin left, well, that can be given to God.

There are two reasons why the busyness leftovers are given to the church and not the first fruits…

  1. Church leadership has failed to give good training, a compelling vision, and proper placement for ministry and mission. (equipping the saints for ministry)
  2. Christian individuals have failed to rise up and follow the God-given commands to ministry and mission. (disciple-making)

My conviction has come through me doing a study called Deepen Discipleship with a group of guys at the church. We have been reading through a book of the New Testament each week. Through this reading, among other things, I have realized that…

  • I am not busy. Paul was busy.
  • If I am busy, I’m not busy with things of eternal consequence.
  • I complain WAY too much.
  • In light of what Christ did for me and continues to do, I have no right to be busy with anything other than the things He calls me to.

These lessons may sound really simple, but it has been my personal experience and my experience working in professional ministry that most people, including me, still need to work on these things.


5 Practical Steps You Can Take To Solve The Busyness Problem

  1. Stop saying and believing that you are busy. Understand that busyness, in most cases, is a state of mind and not an actual reality. Busyness is also relative. Always hold up your life choices to the standard of the Bible.
  2. Practice gratitude. Every morning write down one thing that you are grateful for.
  3. Read God’s Word. Read the Bible every single day. This is how the Holy Spirit convicts and speaks to us.
  4. Prioritize your time. Take a hard look at your calendar (and the things not on the calendar) and see if it is filled with temporal things or eternal things. Make changes where necessary.
  5. Make disciples. This is why we, as Christians, were left on Planet Earth. You will find your greatest fulfillment in doing what God created you to do.

 





Where Are The Young Men?

18 11 2019

youngmen

As a mission pastor, I get the incredible opportunity to speak to and spend time with many of our missionaries who serve with the International Mission Board. I just had coffee with an incredible man of God serving the Lord in a very difficult place in Southeast Asia.

Usually during any meeting that I have with a missionary, I try to ask them what their greatest needs are. I used to be surprised by the answer I received, but I have now gotten the same answer so many times that it now just saddens me.

When I asked this particular missionary from Southeast Asia what his greatest need is he answered that they need two young men to come and serve with them.

This is the same answer I get all the time now.

I know missionaries who have had open jobs for young men to fill for years now with absolutely no interest.

What is happening? Where are the young men? Why are we having such a difficult time finding young men who would be willing to go serve the Lord by being an international missionary?

This is not just happening internationally, but there is also a shortage of young men willing to plant churches here nationally or even being apart of a church planting team.

I certainly don’t know all of the reasons why young men are not answering the call to missions, but I am going to try list the ones I highly suspect.


6 REASONS WHY YOUNG MEN ARE NOT ANSWERING THE CALL TO MISSIONS

  1. Disobedience – This might seem ridiculously obvious, but I think it needs to be said. Young ladies seem to be answering the call to go, and so I would suspect that God is calling the same amount of young men. If He is, these men are just simply disobeying that call. I certainly don’t believe that every young man is called to go as a missionary or a church planter, but many are!
  2. Lack of Awareness – This is our fault! If we are not teaching the Biblical commands to go, we will not see that fruit. If we are not intentionally making disciples, we will not see obedient disciples made. Our churches need to get serious about intentional disciple making, maybe especially among our boys and young men.
  3. Hindrances – Hebrews 12:1 tells us to cast off any hindrances. These are not necessarily sins in and of themselves. For instance, watching Netflix is not necessarily a sin. Binge watching that gets in the way of impacting the Kingdom of God is sin! Playing video games is not necessarily a sin, but playing them all the time could be. This could apply to almost anything good. We, as humans, have an uncanny ability to take what is good and turn it into something bad.
  4. Sin – Hebrews 12:1 tells us to also cast off sin. I think this verse also implies that we should cast off the feeling of being unworthy as a result of sin as well. The sins that I see as being most prevalent among our young men today are lack of integrity, lack of commitment, and poor time management. There is a reason for the relatively new stereotype of the 30 year old single male living in his parent’s basement.
  5. Pornography – Yes, this is a sin, but I believe it deserves a separate category. The Bible seems to also separate sexual sin into a different category (1 Corinthians 6:18). I first heard this proposed as a reason young men are not going as missionaries at a Passion Conference about 13 years ago in a sermon given by John Piper. It made perfect sense. The actual sin of watching and the corresponding guilt keeps many men unable to walk in the footsteps of Jesus in a day-to-day way, much less going overseas as a missionary. The accessibility of pornography through our phones has given our enemy a great tool to keep many young men from doing anything significant for God.
  6. The American Dream – Our culture and even many, well-meaning Christian parents propagate the myth of the American Dream that is to settle down into a good job with a good home and a nice family. The problem with this is that it is not Biblical. In conservative Christian circles we vehemently oppose the “health & wealth gospel,” yet at the same time we seem to live it and teach it to our children. When the only thing our children are asked is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” why are we surprised when they grow up selfish and entitled? We should be asking them what they think God wants them to do and supporting them in the way God leads them, even if it means that we must say goodbye to them as they board a plane for long-term missionary service in another country.

SOLUTION

I believe the only solution is disciple making. Our parents need to do it first in the home. Our churches need to have intentional discipleship programs starting at an early age.

We need to get our young men into disciple making groups that hold each other accountable, teach them Biblical principles, and inspire them to charge the gates of Hell for the glory of God.

 

 





Missing Verses

30 10 2018

missingverses

I love gospel songs! These are the songs where the lyrics detail the gospel. There are many Christian songwriters that are coming out with fantastic gospel songs. Here are some of my favorite examples…

As much as I love these songs, think we ought to sing these in our churches, and teach them to our children, I am concerned that these and many of the worship songs that we sing today are missing a key piece.

In their fantastic book, The Discipleship Gospel, Bill Hull & Ben Sobels talk about how many of us have been seduced to follow a “forgiveness-only gospel.” I believe that many of our songs reflect this false gospel.

Most of these gospel songs and even many old hymns follow a particular pattern. They lead you to sing about our lostness without Christ, Christ’s death on the cross, Christ’s resurrection, and our resulting forgiveness and freedom. They usually end with a stirring verse about how we will be with Jesus in heaven one day.

You might be thinking that this particular pattern is the gospel and would make a pretty good song. The problem is that it leaves out a key component of the gospel: following Jesus in obedience.

Our churches and our songs teach us that we can simply believe the Christ-story, yet never do what our Lord commands. Jesus said in John 14:15 CSB, “If you love me, you will keep my commands.” This is just one of many scriptures that relate following Jesus to true salvation.

Our churches are full of people that “asked Jesus in their hearts” (not a Biblical phrase) as a child or teenager at a Vacation Bible School or summer camp but have never made a disciple (Matthew 28:19). They live their lives as if they bought Hell insurance from Jesus years ago, and when they die that’s their ticket to Heaven. They are good people, go to church, serve as volunteers, give money, etc. but in the end Jesus will announce to them, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!” (Matthew 7:23 CSB)

Jesus’ basis for judgement in Matthew 7 is our obedience after placing our faith in Him. Our obedience can never save us, but it does prove us. It’s as if we are saying that we are apple trees but are producing lemons or maybe nothing at all.

The full gospel says that in faith, through the power of God, we are born again into a Kingdom ruled by a King whose Word is law. This King has commanded us to follow Him in love to make disciples of all the nations. We actually get to be apart of His plan of redeeming more people!

Most gospel songs and gospel presentations leave out the part of our obedience to share this good news and our role as ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:20).

I would like to challenge our Church’s songwriters to start thinking about this. I’m not saying that every worship song should be a doctoral thesis on the gospel, but we should be cognizant of the false forgiveness-only gospel that has permeated our culture.

For a more thorough examination of this topic, I would refer you to a great book called Cat & Dog Theology by Bob Sjogren & Gerald Robison. I had the privilege of hearing Bob Sjogren speak at a Passion Conference years ago. During that time he introduced us to how he was changing songs our children would normally learn in church to reflect an obedience-based gospel.

There are some really good worship songs out there that present a full gospel…

It is also possible to add verses to really good songs! I recently wrote new verses to two songs: O Praise The Name and Living Hope. I was honored when our Worship Pastor, Keith Clutts, surprised me a few Sundays back by singing Living Hope, including my new verse…








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