Ministry Philosophy 101

This came from a discussion I had with a teammate today about next steps in ministry. This is our basic philosophy of ministry. Of course making much of the name of Jesus in as many places as possible is the overall goal, this is just the how to.

The Missional Manifesto ➙

Because we believe these things, we are compelled to action. We urge God’s people to align around the lordship of Jesus, the missional nature of His church, and the reality of His kingdom. We invite the body of Christ everywhere to see people and the world through the lens of God’s kingdom, to live holy lives as Jesus’ disciples, and to intentionally represent Him together as the church. We affirm that Jesus was sent to fulfill God’s purposes in the world through His perfect life, substitutionary death, and physical resurrection so that redemption could be made available to us. With Christ as our focal point, His kingdom as our destiny, and His Spirit as our empowerment, we accept the privilege and joy of His mission.
via Ed Stetzer

Cartoon - You just really suck at praying. ➙

I've nothing to add. This is spectacular.

We Are All Missionaries - Tom Wells

In this sense — the deepest and truest sense — we are all missionaries. You must not suppose, and I must not imply, that the impulses and inspirations that move our missionaries are at all different from the motives that ought to move every Christian. That must be the furthest thing from our minds. Perhaps we have no thought of going abroad. It may not be the thing for us to do. But that will make no difference. We too must have the highest and best inducements for what we do. And they will turn out to be the same motives that the missionary ought to have, no more, and no less.

"Worship is a Response to Greatness" - Tom Wells

A man does not become a worshipper merely by saying, 'Now I shall become a worshipper.' That is impossible. That cannot be done. A man becomes a worshipper when he sees something great that calls forth his admiration or his worship. - Tom Wells

Missions Methodology, Messy Masses, and the Minister

I've been reading a book called "Reaching and Teaching" on the practice and theory of missions, how church planting should be done, and what the role is of the missionary in the field. The book deals largely with the issue of the missionary staying long enough in the culture to which he goes in order to provide education for the people there. The hope being that eventually the locals will be well enough educated to educate other locals in theology etc...

The book is fascinating because it's written largely in response to another book I'm very fond of, "Church Planting Movements", frequently known as CPM. Both are written by men in the baptist tradition (not something I come from, but also not something I have large disagreements with). The CPM book swings the 'method pendulum' in the direction of speed. This is something I appreciate as my general feeling of people in the field (certainly not all of them) is their penchant for slowness.

There is nothing inherently wrong with going slow. In fact it would be easy to argue that the Lord is not in a hurry. But my personality, and my desire to see things happen, has caused me to tend towards speed. The first time I read the CPM book I was pumped up at the thought of people out there wired like me and working with speed in mind. While I agree their motivations are not always correct ("we'll define people groups and reach them as fast as we can so that Jesus will come back"), I do appreciate their methodology.

But then, "Reaching and Teaching," has swung the pendulum in the opposite direction arguing for a slow and calculated approach to missions. Primarily arguing that people shouldn't be put into leadership before they're ready, or qualified, and also that the missionary should stick around for the sake of education. That is to say, the missionary should both "reach" and "teach," hence the title.

Part of this is rather impertinent to me as a person who feels called to this place. I'm not here because it's filled with the least reached, or even because it's the most strategic place on earth, but rather, I'm here because I feel called here. I'm not leaving anytime soon either (if I have anything to say about it). So I have every intention of sticking around to help out the locals and make sure they're well equipped before I move on to another project — which will probably just be in the same place anyway. But while I'm here and actively doing ministry I personally intend to put people in leadership before they feel ready. This has a lot to do with the fact that no leader who actually is ready ever feels ready (if you have leaders who feel ready to lead you might want to be weary).

Actually, all of this is besides the point. The way I process both of these books is the way I process all missiology. There are great ideas out there, and great thinkers coming up with new and more effective ways to do missions all the time. There are also time-tested methods from hundreds or thousands of years ago which are still incredibly effective. These ideas should be considered carefully in your own context and utilized appropriately. But at the end of the day all of it is just methodology. There are not silver bullets. There cannot be. Because unlike werewolves, people are messy (yes, I just said that). And messy people require messy approaches.

The conclusion I've come to is the only thing you can really feel good about is being in the Lord's will. Like I said, I tend towards speed. However I have a teammate who would inherently be slower than me. We line up on ministry philosophy very closely, but his tendency towards slow, and mine towards fast probably produces a good balance. Interestingly, in everything we're doing, the pace we're moving at has been set by the locals with whom we're working, and not us. I'm uncertain about whether or not what we're doing is the absolute best thing we can be doing, but I do know everything we're doing has been handed to us by the Lord. We should have no business working with the the caliber of people we're working with or training the people we're training. But this is exactly where the Lord has put us, and this is exactly the lot he has given us. And knowing this is the Lord's will helps me to step out and boldly teach, encourage, and minister.

When a church group invited me to come discuss church planting with them I showed up with a notebook and some ideas worth discussing. When they pulled out notebooks and then looked to me and said, "Okay, the time is yours," I was flabbergasted. I had no idea I was being invited to "tell them how it's done." Nor did I feel qualified to teach a church how to grow and plant new churches. However it's a topic I've spent a lot of time dwelling on and reading about, so I opened my notebook to some notes I had made on the topic and told them, "this is how it's done." The methodology I taught primarily concerned prayer, and dependance on the Lord, so I'm fairly confident they could succeed with such a method. But it was messy. Not what I had anticipated. And an absolute blast that the Lord put me in such a situation.

People are messy. And you can move fast, or you can move slow. I'd argue for speed because I'd like to see heaven full of people in my generation. But I know there are plausible arguments against this, and I know I am not the primary cause of people's salvation. I also know, speed cannot be done at the expense of health. At the end of the day, the only thing that truly matters matters is doing exactly what God has called you to do.

Time before Him in prayer is the biggest help to discerning exactly what that is.

p.s. Second best title ever.

The Seminary Bubble

If you graduate from seminary and become an Episcopal priest, the church almost certainly required that you get the degree, but there’s no guarantee that increasingly indifferent churchgoers won’t, at the drop of a hat, leave your church and move a few blocks down the street to attend a Pentecostal, charismatic or fundamentalist church led by a high school dropout with generous dollops of the gift of gab, no school loans and probably less overhead. Interestingly enough, statistics indicate that these less “professional” churches are growing and the top-heavy cousins are rapidly shrinking. (emphasis mine).
Worse, is there are a probably a number of seminaries where (in 90% or more of the classes) reading five well written books on the topic would do substantially more good than listening to the professor teach.

If you're called to seminary, please go. But by no means assume it's the default.

The Nine Billion Names of God ➙

“Well, they believe that when they have listed all His names — and they reckon that there are about nine billion of them — God’s purpose will be achieved. The human race will have finished what it was created to do, and there won’t be any point in carrying on. Indeed, the very idea is something like blasphemy.”
The way these guys express shock at this thinking, "Can they seriously think the world will end once man has done this thing?" is funny to me. Funny because of the great many Christians who believe the moment the last "unreached" people group hears the gospel (or accepts the gospel, or whatever), then "The human race will have finished what it was created to do, and there won’t be any point in carrying on."

God is not dependent upon us to complete something so that he can finally come back.

That said, this article is entertaining of its' own merit.

The Spirit of Devotion

The spirit of devotion puts God in all things. It puts God not merely in our praying and church-going, but in all the concerns of life. 'Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.' The spirit of devotion makes the common things of earth sacred and the little things great. With this spirit of devotion, we go to business on Monday directed by the very same influence and inspired by the same influences by which we went to church on Sunday. The spirit of devotion makes a Sabbath out of Saturday, and transforms the shop and the office into a temple of God. (emphasis mine).

The final draft of my masters thesis is due in about 24 hours. Attempting to maintain a spirit of devotion in what has become the most mundane of mundane tasks is going to be a challenge.

Man Time

In about an hour and half I leave for the airport along with 17 other men and we're headed to the mountains for a weekend men's retreat. This means rising before the sunrise to hear a devotion led by a good friend, then we hit the trails. Then it means hiking, sweating, eating terrible food, and generally having a blast with wonderful friends who have given their lives to this country.

I'm stoked.

I have to say there is something strange about the way the Lord made men. And the way we act when we're all together and the need to be polite in front of women disappears. The poop jokes, and the fart noises included. Our Lord knew what he was doing when created gas. I'm not sure we understand, but I think He knew farting was funny when he created it.

I always thought that as I grew older and became more involved in things like ministry that fart jokes would stop being funny. That's not true at all. They're still every bit as funny to me now as when I was 10. The only difference is I've learned the many many situations where it is both inappropriate to make such jokes, and to laugh at them.

This weekend is no such occasion. And putting our guard down and being crazy men for four days is going to be a blast. Thank you Lord for your beautiful creation. And thank you for wonderful fellowship with men who love you with their whole hearts.

Education Bubble? ➙

Instead, for Thiel, the bubble that has taken the place of housing is the higher education bubble. “A true bubble is when something is overvalued and intensely believed,” he says. “Education may be the only thing people still believe in in the United States. To question education is really dangerous. It is the absolute taboo. It’s like telling the world there’s no Santa Claus.”
This would be bummer news for me. Although, I'm pursuing further education because someday I'd like to teach at the higher education level. I suppose that's different than just assuming it's a good investment and more education would mean more money.

E.M. Bounds on Humility and its Effect on Prayer

Prayer has no beginning, no ending, no being, without humility.
I have written extensively about pride, and will probably continue to do so until I'm free from it. However, I don't anticipate that happening in this life. So brace yourself for more.

Bounds' writing on humility focuses primarily on the parable of the the pharisee and the tax collector from Luke 18. The story, you probably know is that the pharisee goes up to the temple and prays a prayer to the effect of, "God thank you that I am good man who follows your statutes and doesn't really sin much like others do." The tax collector stands far off, and won't even raise his eyes. He merely beats his chest and prays, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" And we're told the tax collector leaves justified before the Lord and not the pharisee.

Bounds notes of the Pharisee:
Words are uttered by him, but words are not prayer. God hears his words only to condemn him.
But what is sad about this is the Pharisee of all people should have known where he stood before the Lord because of his knowledge of the law. Instead the tax collector merely is aware of his sin, his shame, and is rightfully fearful of the Lord.
Humility is just feeling little because we are little. Humility is realizing our unworthiness because we are unworthy, the feeling and declaring ourselves sinners because are sinners.
The problem we have with pride is our comparison of ourselves to others. We, like the pharisee look at others and measure ourselves up to them counting ourselves better. The truth is we may be better than others in some ways. But the analogy I think of is two homeless beggars in the street. One has a penny and the other has two pennies to his name. The one with two looks upon the one with one penny and thinks, "Ha! I'm wealthy compared to that guy." In fact it's true, he is wealthy compared to the other man. But both are overwhelmingly poor. A penny can't buy even the beginnings of food.

In the same way we measure ourselves up to others in sin. But we are both shamefully impoverished in sin. One slave may have more freedom than another slave, but both are slaves. And thus we are all slaves to sin, we are not in any way better than others by our own merit. We are impoverished before the Lord. The only one we should be comparing ourselves to is Christ, and compared to Him none of us come close to measuring up. And if we think otherwise, our prayers become merely words uttered, but not prayed.

If you're anything like me, when it comes time to confess sin before the Lord you sit and pray a prayer of thanks for not doing such and such one sin for a while, for making it a whole week without yelling at your kid, for not being as sinful as we used to be. Instead we should be lying shamefully on our faces repenting of our unworthiness and begging for mercy.

So how do we seek humility in prayer?
Humility flourishes in the soil of a true and deep sense of our sinfulness and our nothingness. Nowhere does humility grow so rankly and so rapidly and shine so brilliantly, as when it feels all guilty, confesses all sin, and trusts all grace. "I the chief of sinners am, but Jesus died for me." That is praying ground, the ground of humility, low down, far away seemingly, but in reality brought nigh by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Bounds then points out that in the Old Testament humility was expressed by putting dust and ashes on the head — by wearing sackcloth, and fasting.

Today, humility calls for the posture of kneeling in prayer.

I'm reminded of how the parable ends, "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

On Stetzer's blog: Charles Stone on 5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them ➙

In ancillary research I discovered that the number one reason why pastors leave the ministry is their wife's unhappiness.
Our team was invited by a local pastor about a year ago to head to his church and put on a day-long seminar about healthy, God-honoring, family relationships. The people in the church were blessed by the seminar, but the bigger impact was the pastor's wife came to him after the seminar and said, "This is what your priorities are supposed to be? Why aren't you treating me like this?"

She didn't leave him, but she nearly did. He's looking at probably having to step down from ministry. I'm sad for him because I know ministry is his passion, and I know he's ridiculously gifted at it. But I also am shocked that it was completely at the expense of his wife and family.

While it has been hard on him and his family, many more pastors have since re-evaluated their relationships with their wives and family as a result. I wish the quote above was more a surprise to me.

Beer. Glorious beer.

If you've come here via McArthur's blog post: Beer, Bohemianism, and True Christian Liberty, then please first read my post below and then consider reading my response — Judgement, Hubris, and True Christian Maturity.

A few weeks ago some friends and I finally decided to the pull the trigger. We would no longer settle for drinking the local piss-water beer and would brew on own. Now if we lived in America it would be easy enough to trot on down to our local homebrew shop (of which there are a surprising many) and purchase a starter kit. However we don't live in America.

Homebrewing in America (according to my understanding) actually usually consists of buying a pre-made syrup which you add to water and then pitch some yeast and get beer. The process for us was a little different. While we live in a third-world country, we do live in an age of globalization. In a time with a glorious thing called the internet. So on to said internet we hopped, and found there is a man in another city in this country who studied in America and learned to brew beer there. He actually teaches people in this country to brew beer, and he had most everything we could need right online.

So we bought a massive bag of barley, and a small bag of hops. We bought a bottler and caps, airlocks etc... It's actually a little surprising how much junk is necessary to get started when you cant buy it pre-made. My friend who headed up the process of getting everything we needed, even purchased a big cooler (the gatorade type you dump on a coach after a football game) and mounted an elevated screen in the bottom and fixed it up with a fancy industrial spout for making our wort (pronounced wert, it's the sugary liquid you get from steeping the grains).

We boiled massive amounts of water and soaked our malted barley according to instructions we found online. Unfortunately we had an equipment breakdown (already solved in time for our second batch) and had to hand sift the wort out of the malted barley. Then we boiled it, added hops, and put it in a carboy (fancy name for a big container to hold the fermenting wort), we aerated it, pitched an ale yeast, plugged in a rubber stopper with an air stopper, and crossed our fingers.

Last night three of the four of us sat down to open our first bottle of the heavenly concoction from our batch. One member of the brewing group was on a bus out in the middle of nowhere heading out to train minority church leaders. We got ahold of him on a cell phone and had him stand up in the bus (being the only white guy on the bus mind you), open his beer along with us, and give us a rating. He dropped his cell phone and ended up crawling around on the floor looking for it with beer in his hand. Meanwhile, we sat comfortably on couches and tasted the first of what is sure to be much more beer to come. And it was fantastic.

Apparently the stuff only gets better with time too.

I've been thinking for weeks about what kinds of parallels I can draw between brewing and my walk as a Christian. But I just cant find anything worth writing about. The truth is, the only thing I can think about when I'm brewing is how much fun I'm having brewing. I'm rejoicing over the community I have with my friends. I'm rejoicing over the complexity of the process and how we have to watch every detail from the color, to the time, to the temperature, to sanitation. And I praise the Lord for barley. For hops. For the first moron who happened to accidentally get them together in a liquid form and throw in yeast. For the millions of brilliant people who have followed that moron and perfected the process.

I thank God for the internet. Because without it we would not have beer. Drinkable beer that is. Technically this country does make it's own beer, but it's shockingly bad. Budweiser is the BEST option here. And that's sad. But now our own brand is the best option. And frankly, it's very good.

Praise the Lord for beer.

I think more missionaries should brew beer. And for no other reason than beer is delicious, and it's a blast to brew. Here's to hoping we glorify our Creator in enjoying His delicious creation.

Were Jonathan and David gay lovers? No. ➙

I recently stumbled upon this article on Jonathan and David and the nature of their relationship. I've been reading through the Samuels lately and I have to admit the language used throughout for their love for one another sounds strange in my context. This post does a pretty good analysis of the relationship and what it might mean. I love the intro where he says,
Anyway. How gay were David and Jonathan? Totally gay? Or just the normal gay? The vital importance of this question can *not* be overstated. If I can prove King David is gay, then all Christians will instantly stop being homophobic. True fact!
Ha! Even better is that the writer is an atheist, which makes his perspective that much more interesting. And his conclusion:
Jonathan and David: lovers? I reluctantly have to say that I don’t think that was the case. 
I sadly actually think this is a topic that probably needs to be addressed today because of the language used in the Bible for these two; and the fact that very few of us have any exposure to love between men that isn't sexual in nature. I wrote a story in college for a writing class I had about my friendship with several of my closest friends and our love for one another and all but one person in the class was convinced the story I was writing was about homosexual love — it wasn't. At all. But that's the world we live in, incapable of allowing men to express their appreciation and love for one another without an analysis like the one above.

At least I can agree with his conclusion.

On Whoring Ourselves out to Idols

This morning I spent time in Ezekiel 16 and I have to be honest the imagery of Israel prostituting herself out as a whore to other nations and idols and gods is a little much for me. But I know it's supposed to be. When Israel turns to other gods and worships them instead of the Lord it is an utter abomination - of the worst kind. God uses the imagery of His wife prostituting herself out to others because that is along the same lines, for us the worst thing we can imagine.

I've mentioned before that whenever I read about Israel's idolatry I actually get frustrated with their stupidity; when the hand of the Lord is so visible in their lives how can they turn aside? But I know the hand of the Lord has been incredibly visible in my life, and yet I turn aside. Not to golden idols made from the gold God gave (as was the case of Israel in Ez 16), but I worship myself and my own skills or gifting, which the Lord gave me. The parallels really are depressing.

But as awful as the whole of the chapter is, the final two verses are:

"I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord God.” - Ezekiel 16:62-63

The Lord is nonetheless going to establish his covenant with Israel. He will atone for us in a way that we look on our sins with utter shame.

And He has. The cross is that atonement. And the cross should cause shocking shame for our sin, and bring us before His throne trembling because in the cross He has atoned for all we have done.

Lord thank You for Your grace for even our most filthy sin. The things we have done are too horrifying to even mention, and yet Your grace is sufficient for us.