What One Church Can Do by Phil Kesler

What One Church Can Do

Early in the morning one Saturday, as the stores were starting to open, a group from First Baptist Sidney, Ohio, gathers to wash cars. This is no ordinary fundraising effort; this is a team of volunteer missionaries, led by their Pastor, John Butts (Missionary Emeritus, IMB) – and with the participation of Pastor and Missionary Flavio Augusto Rezende Machado from Foz do Iguaçu, Paraná, Brazil. Under a hot sun and with the cooperation of many town residents needing their cars cleaned, this team of hard workers raised 700 dollars to help pay the costs of their trip overseas in December, 2018 – ministering alongside Pr. Flavio in his city of Foz do Iguaçu.

 

First Baptist Church, Sidney, Ohio is a Southern Baptist Church in a rural town that runs between 110 to 150 in attendance each week. They do not let size stop them from being involved in overseas missions.

In fact, this is the second trip they are going on as a church to Brazil. They first went to Brazil in November 2016. During this trip, they did evangelism, prayer walks, ministering to children and adults, and held a special Thanksgiving dinner for the community that was supposed to be for 300 people – but ended up serving 500! They ministered especially in two poor communities – using an appropriate balance between Gospel presentations and compassionate acts. Pastor Flavio shared during training that “although we may never know the full effects of that trip until we reach eternity, people we run into regularly still talk about how much those Americans and their ministry meant to us!”

 

This next trip, to be held during the week following Christmas into the first few days of the new year, will be an intensive period of work in multiple communities in support of church planting efforts in the region of the Three Frontiers (the border area between Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina). They will only have one day for tourism and for most of the young people, a huge hardship – they will leave their cell phones in the hotel safe – so as not to be distracted as they go and minister where the Spirit leads them.

They will work in small teams – mixed with Americans and Brazilians and their translators – to maximize their ability to plant seeds of the Gospel wherever they go. They will use singing Christmas carols in public places to get a crowd, and Pr. Flavio and others will then preach messages of encouragement to those that stop to listen. In these areas, they will encounter Brazilians, Paraguayans, Argentineans, Arabs, Chinese, Japanese, Guarani, and many tourists from around the world.

 

Having served with my wife and family in this beloved city of Foz do Iguaçu for seven years – including some overlap with Pr. John and his family, it pleases this author greatly to see how God continues to strengthen the partnership between Americans and Brazilians. The light of Christ continues to shine as brothers and sisters from one small US town join forces with brothers and sisters in a city of over 300,000 to spread the light of Christ to those that have still heard or responded to God’s free gift of salvation. What an appropriate Christmas present to give; what an appropriate New Year’s Resolution but to go and share Jesus this holiday season.

 

If this is what one small church can do for God, what can YOUR church do?

 

When a Duck May Not Be a Duck by Jim Spikes

When a Duck May Not Be a Duck.

 

Most of us know what a duck looks like when we see it.  In fact, there is a common saying that states: If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.  In our culture, the reasoning behind this saying holds that the best explanation for a set of observations is usually the simplest and most obvious.

 

Along these same lines, most Evangelical Christians today probably feel they have a clear idea of what “Cross-Cultural Ministry” means. This term creates visions of faraway lands and of people who look and speak differently from us.  Many would say confidently that going to different cultures for ministry means going to a different place, learning a different language, and finding ways to introduce the Gospel to these new peoples.  This task is just as valid today as it ever was. Going to different places and to different peoples around the world with the Gospel is still a clear, inescapable mandate from God.  In our changing world, however, this understanding of Cross-cultural ministry is only the tip of the iceberg regarding the implications facing us as the Church in North America. I believe there are two additional aspects of cross-cultural ministry that are crucial for us to grasp.

 

In addition to the divine mandate to go to the nations, we are confronted by the undeniable fact that those who were once far away from us are now our neighbors, co-workers, and friends. Global economics, political upheaval, war, and other forces have produced migrations that have brought many of these different tribes and cultures to the USA.  In addition, there are groups and segments in our own society that were once separate but are now sharing common spaces together. These movements of people are changing our neighborhoods, cities and regions in a permanent, irrefutable fashion. As churches, not only must we remain committed to sending missionaries abroad, we must also think and strategize as cross-cultural missionaries in our own communities – often for the first time. The churches who are on the front lines of these changes in our cities and urban areas are confronting important questions. What does a congregation need to do when it finds itself in the middle of a city or a neighborhood that no longer looks like or speaks like most of its members?  How do churches respond with the Gospel to different cultures and peoples who may have come from a different part of the city or a different part of the world? The responses to these questions could determine whether a congregation thrives in its location, moves to a new, more comfortable location, or experiences decline and eventual death.

 

These are clearly very important questions. Yet, there is an even most important cross-cultural challenge facing every single American congregation today has nothing to do with language or ethnicity.  Many of those around our church buildings who are farthest from the Gospel are those who may look the most like us. Some in this group may even be part of our own families. To be honest, the term “generation gap” has been part of our social reality for decades. There have always been generational differences that had to be overcome in passing the Gospel from one generation to the next.  Yet, in spite of the differences, there were also shared cultural understandings as well as beliefs about truth, right versus wrong, and good versus bad that were similar enough to never call into question that these different generations were still part of the same “tribe”.  If these folks walk like us, look like us and speak like us, then they must be the same as us. Isn’t that the most logical conclusion?  That may not be the case in the coming years. A duck may not actually be a duck.

 

We need to recognize that we are beginning to deal with a different generational culture or “tribe,” Our children and grandchildren may speak the same language and be like us in many ways, but they also reflect the mindset, belief systems, and attitudes of a growing global community around them. That global community is very different in its orientation. It is fueled by almost instantaneous global communication, constant exposure to global news and anti-Christian agendas, and easy global social interactions. These younger generations think differently, they view truth differently, they judge worth differently, and they most certainly view right versus wrong/good versus bad very differently. In many ways, they have moved away from the basic Judeo-Christian heritage that characterized their parents and grandparents.  They are a different “culture” in spite of multiple similarities.  In essence, I am saying, If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, quacks like a duck, and runs on batteries, then it probably is not a duck.  This new tribe requires us to engage it with the same level of intensity and intentionality that we have traditionally reserved for the “mission field”. The first question is, can our churches engage this new tribe effectively? The more important question is, are we willing to do it?

 

Being “faithful” is not just holding on to the Truth, no matter the cost, when those around us condemn it or invalidate it. It is also doing whatever is needed to ensure that this Truth – without dilution – is ignited in the hearts and lives of those who follow us. Can we do what it takes to not only reach the different cultures around us, but also reach the “cultures” coming after us?

 

 

Multi Generational Disciple Making by Ron Roy

Making an eternal investment that keeps on giving

 

This is exactly what I think investing in multigenerational discipleship is, an eternal investment that keeps on giving. Discipleship is a life-style of obedience as we follow Christ completely and influence others to develop and impact others who are repeating the process.  Jesus saw the multiplication of disciples as His strategy for changing the world.

 

Over thirty years ago at the Baptist Camp in La Tuna, Uruguay I watched a fellow missionary, Dr. Jimmy Bartley plant pecan trees.  They were just sticks in my mind.  I wondered why he placed them so far apart.  Through the years I would see him prune, graft and nourish the trees.  Now they are giving harvests of pecans annually and provide awesome shade for the camp goers.  I thought many times, as I visited the camp through the years how important it is to have a vision for growth that looks to the future. This principle is even more important as we choose to invest in disciples who continue to pour themselves into others. We must see future generations of disciples being developed, nurtured and sent out to impact their world.

 

Do you have a spiritual family tree? How many branches? Barnabas knew the importance of nurturing in the discipleship process. He saw the potential in Saul, that others did not see. Saul later became Paul the missionary.  In Acts 9, and 11 we see how Barnabas invested in training and modeling for Paul, who later wrote to his disciple Timothy.   The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2”2  NASV.  This verse shows us that disciple making extends into on going generations of learners and followers of Jesus.

 

Dr. Waylon Moore, a seasoned pastor and author on discipleship, as well as a former International Mission Board trustee asked me once, “Ron, what is the most important verse in the Bible?”  Naturally, I had never really thought of trying to drill down to one verse. John 3:16, the gospel in miniature was the first response. But he challenged me, again.  I thought some more and said 2 Timothy 2:2  “Why did you choose this verse?” was his response. I shared with him that, Paul’s challenge to his disciple Timothy, was a lifestyle principle that had become a core value in my life, family and ministry. I shared that “the multi-generational disciple making in this verse guarantees that future generations will have a chance to hear and multiply the Gospel because the Great Commission is being lived out.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

 

Ten Important Discoveries in my own disciple making journey are:

 

  • Seeing the potential in future generations while investing in the current one
  • Let the disciple begin to pass on what they are learning as they learn it,
  • Start where the disciple is, not where you think he/she should be.
  • Learning that multiplication means creating a culture of discipleship
  • Show the disciple how something is done, not just teach them how to do it
  • Disciple making is not a cookie cutter mentality or process. People are different and the pace and method of discipleship needs to be adapted to the disciple.
  • Cultivating reproducible relationships can be messy and meaningful at the same time
  • One of the best ways to grow as a disciple is learning to disciple someone else at the same time. You learn to seek out counsel from the one disciplining you, so you know best how to influence your own disciple.
  • Discipleship is not only about learning, it is about following Christ completely
  • Encourage disciples to have a Paul, (a mentor); a Barnabas (an encourager)

and a Timothy (Disciple)  in their lives

 

One of the challenges to multi-generational discipleship making was when I was shown an outline of someone’s discipleship chain of 44 individuals mentioned by name.  These were disciples who were continuing to multiply.  Wow, that is a vibrant, multiplying, fruitful Spiritual Family Tree!

 

One time in the Summer Olympics, the 440 USA relay team, dropped the baton, between the third and fourth runners. There was tremendous disappointment for the runners and the nation.  The runners had huge potential, they were awesome champions in other events, but by not passing the baton they were disqualified.  Our responsibility is to pass the baton of disciple making to future generations. We cannot fail, the consequences are too severe. Don’t drop the baton when it comes to making disciples.  The next generation is depending on us and waiting for our example of running a race that passes the discipleship “baton” off successfully.

Is Our Toolbox Big Enough by Jim Spikes

Is Our Toolbox Big Enough?

 

 

Having lived in a variety of locations around the world, I often faced more “do-it-yourself” challenges than I ever imagined. The hardware store became almost like a toy store for me. On one hand, if the repair involved something I knew about or had the tool for, the work went easy.  In some cases, however, I was faced with repair jobs that required a very unique set of tools or skills that I did not have.  I had to choose between trying to “make-do” with a tool I already owned or going out and getting the correct equipment. It goes without saying which option produced the best result. A great collection of automotive tools offers little help for most house repairs.  A great set of carpentry tools will not be of much use in giving your car a tune-up.

 

This is part of our human nature. In the Dictionary of Modern Proverbs, published in 2012 by Yale Press, the entry under “Generals” records a modern proverb that states, “Generals (soldiers) always fight the last war.” This proverb refers to our human tendency to view the world, the challenges in front of us, and the solutions to those challenges through the filter of our past experiences.  In almost every endeavor, we tend to use our past successes, failures, and the lessons learned to build up a “toolbox” of strategies, policies, techniques, and resources that have proven useful and effective. If the issue at hand is a familiar one, then the tools in the toolbox may work. Sometimes, though, the issues and challenges are so far outside of our framework, we cannot even see them until it is too late. And, even if we could see them, our tendency is to twist or re-define these issues to make them “fit” into our accepted paradigms. This temptation to redefine issues is the reason why business and cultural writers state that we often miss important “paradigm shifts” that change our reality completely. The classic example of a missed paradigm shift is the failure by Swiss watchmakers to recognize the significance of one of their own inventions – the quartz movement.  By refusing to see the potential of this new invention, these highly effective watch manufacturers lost revenue, and many went out of business as their competitors in Japan and other locations took advantage of the new technology.

 

As churches, we are facing challenges today with “toolboxes” that may be limited or inappropriate.  It is becoming clear through observation and research that we, as Evangelical Christians are facing a cultural shift in our country that is leading many to grow more hostile to our message and our identity. There is no shortage of effective analyses and evaluations as to why this may be taking place. The important question is, “What do we do about it?”  How do we carry the Gospel effectively to a culture that more and more sees us as extremist, closed-minded, intolerant, and irrelevant? This is only one example of the multiple challenges before us.  Even as we recognize these challenges, we also struggle with the temptation to bring out our trusted “toolbox” and continue to use solutions and strategies that were very effective in a different era. It is easy to see what does not work. The numbers make that clear. Yet, we struggle to identify and see what will work. Some congregations seem to opt for “more of the same” – only bigger and better. To those on the outside, it seems that these churches are unconsciously structuring their programs and activities to, in a sense, “compete” with other churches for a slice of an ever-shrinking pie. It appears to be easier to gather believers dissatisfied with their current congregations than to reach into a lost world that is growing more suspicious and hostile toward us. The good news is that this world is desperate for the Gospel.  The Kingdom is growing world-wide and men and women are coming to faith in parts for the world that we have often considered closed. In our own Western culture, there are reasons to believe that we are living in a time in history that is as close to the First Century reality as we have ever experienced.  The opportunities abound, but they may require adding “tools” to the toolbox. The way forward may be to look back at the “tools” our brothers and sisters used in the very beginning of the Church to change the world in a generation. Many of us are facing a dilemma. How can churches continue to fill weekly calendars with more and more activity and familiar program-based “tools” and, at the same time, during the same weeks, ask their members to have time to build relationships intentionally, love their neighbors, do good to those around them and reflect the love of Jesus in concrete ways.  The God who worked in Acts is the same God who desires to work now. His purposes and desires have not changed. The true challenge is not the cultural or societal issues before us. It is whether we have the trust and faith to step back and let God guide us and work in us as He wills. Are we open to letting God use people and experiences that are very different from our own to show us new tools? Do we have the patience and the spiritual will to let God expand our “toolbox” in ways that might be uncomfortable and new so that we can become the instruments in His hands to expand His Kingdom and multiply disciples? I hope we are. I would not like the Lord to find me trying to hammer a nail with a crescent wrench just because I did not recognize the hammer He had placed beside me.

 

 

Effective Discipleship Can Lead to Mission Sending by Phil Kesler

Effective Discipleship Can Lead to Mission Sending

For many years it has been said that the local church is responsible for sending mission workers into the field. So why is it that so few are going out?

 

The secret lies in the question of discipleship — something that few churches do, and fewer still do well.

 

For most churches, discipleship means a short course between the decision of salvation and the moment of baptism. This course usually focuses on giving tithes, participating in church meetings, reading the Bible, and prayer. After one graduates with a diploma in hand, it is assumed that the person knows all they need to know to be an effective disciple of the Lord. They are on their own to discover how to serve in the local church, and little if any long-term coaching happens after that. Is it any wonder that so many come into the church and go out the back door? Would it be a surprise to see that many of these churches never send out a single missionary in their history?

 

For missionaries and those involved in new fields, discipleship is so very much more. It involves three phases – the salvation phase, the initial discipleship phase, and the subsequent discipleship or sanctification phase. At the beginning, the new disciple is taught the concept of immediate obedience to whatever God reveals in His Word. Disciples are taught to share their faith, to teach others what they have learned, and to use their spiritual gifts to edify others and grow the church. More than that, disciples are coached in life skills besides just how to memorize scripture and become victorious in their Christian walk. Disciplers accompany the lives of their disciples for life. As soon as possible, disciplers begin encouraging their disciples to take on their own disciples and begin coaching them.

 

A great example of discipleship and sending is that of the house church networks based in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Evangelism and discipleship takes place in the context of house church groups. Members study the Bible during meetings and with disciplers at other times. Through the consistent presentation of the Word of God and emphasis on immediate obedience, these house church groups recognized their responsibility to reach the world according to Acts 1.8 and a mission sending agency known as Impacto Mundial (World Impact) was born.

 

Effective discipleship means taking a person from where they are in their Christian walk, and nurturing them towards spiritual maturity through regular coaching and training. Each person is different and thus what they need may be different. All disciples need to be encouraged to pray, read and memorize Scripture, participate in church meetings, discover their spiritual gifting, evangelize, and become a discipler to disciples they will coach. The discipler / coach will also discover where their disciple is weak and encourage them to grow in those areas. For example, if a disciple has a problem dealing with fear, the discipler coach may encourage them to memorize Scriptures that touch upon that subject as well as help them step out into new areas of service with courage. A discipler / coach can also help the disciple learn how to behave properly in certain circumstances, learn to control their anger – any number of life skills that will help them become successful in Christian and daily living.  A good discipler /coach will help challenge their disciple to increase their involvement in the Kingdom with respect to telling Bible stories, planting house churches and other missional activities.

 

It should be obvious to see that THIS kind of discipleship – not a program or short course with a diploma – naturally leads disciples to more and more Kingdom focused work that is focused on reaching the nations in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth!

 

What kind of church do you have? What kind of church do you want to have?

Biblical Disciple-making by Jim Spikes

Biblical Disciple-making

 

“Getting from One to Two”

 

Foundational Concepts

  1. Prayerfully set realistic expectations

There are no “magic bullets”, short-cuts or “quick fixes”

  1. Effective Disciple-makers build authentic relationships. Discipleship begins with Relationship.

We enter into the life of others and allow them to enter ours – This means we need to be willing to invest. – time, energy, money, etc.  Biblical discipleship cannot be done at a distance and at no cost.

  1. Effective disciple-makers choose methods and practices with the next generation of believers in mind.

Effective disciple-makers plan their ministry and choose methods and practices, not based on what is comfortable for them, but on what new believers may need in order to grow spiritually and quickly pass the Gospel on to others.

  1. Effective disciple-making uses structures and approaches that are simple and easy to reproduce

The aim is to help new believers learn, assimilate and pass on truth in ways that are appropriate to their spiritual age and maturity.  As they grow, more complex approaches can be used.

  1. Effective disciple-making is intentional.

Disciples are not formed by accident nor through wishful thinking. The disciple-maker looks actively for 2 Tim 2:2 type of men or women in whom to invest time and energy. All they do, they do thinking of how it will help those they disciple grow and mature spiritually.

 

 

First Steps

  1. Start Small and develop correct DNA – Think in terms of Jesus’ parables of the mustard seed and the leaven. Select 3-4 faithful people to begin doing discipleship. Look for 2 Tim. 2:2 type of people.
  2. Modeling concepts has a higher priority than teaching concepts – set clear expectations and show people what each step looks like rather than teach a course and hoping they get it.
  3. Define clearly the characteristics and core values of the disciples you hope to produce – What will they look like? – The measure of success is not the completion of a plan, a curriculum or a series of activities. It is whether or not you are seeing men and women take on the desired characteristics and begin to reproduce them in others.
  4. Effective discipleship needs to have from the beginning a “drive to lostness” as a core value. – The goal is not to have all of the existing congregation involved in the process. The goal is to see men and women moving quickly outside of the church to engage and win their family, friends, neighbors and acquaintances with the Gospel.
  5. Effective discipleship will be “messy” – Newborns often create messes that will need discipline, patience, wisdom, love and consistence to help clean up or correct in the appropriate ways. Newborns do not think like or behave like mature adults.