Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Is "the task" almost finished?

I've been posting blogs concerning Finishing the Task (FTT) which is an effort by some of the major missions organizations to see church planting work started among the least reached people groups of the world. When they started promoting groups that were unengaged by missionaries or Christian work, there were 639 people groups with more than 100,000 in population numbering over 535 million people total. I want to show you their most updated statistics as of Dec 1.

The FTT website states that now, of the original 639 unreached, unengaged people groups:
* 30 remain unengaged. No one is trying to reach them. (144 on June 1 and 95 on Sept 1)
* 196 are adopted but not engaged. (146 on June 1 and 169 on Sept 1)
* 371 are engaged with church planting. (308 on June 1 and 334 on Sept 1)
* 346 have known believers. (299 on June 1 and 339 on Sept 1)
* 159 have at least one known church. (69 on June 1 and 155 on Sept 1)

Keep praying and seeing how you or your church can get involved!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What is the meaning of ethnocentric?

Jesus was constantly trying to overcome prejudice. He was trying to help his group of twelve disciples realize that this world was not all about them (as individuals or as a group). The Jews had started thinking of themselves as God's favorites and possibly even his instruments of wrath as they awaited a Messiah to help them overthrow the Roman empire so that they could rule the world. Jesus talked about a different kind of kingdom where people loved their enemies, where there was no Jew or Gentile, where everyone was invited to the banquet, and where the peacemakers were blessed. He was trying to provide a completely different paradigm and worldview by which to live. Have we learned anything from his teachings?

Jesus, the "friend of sinners", enjoyed hanging out with people of many different ethnicities, social status, etc. He was trying to get his followers prepared for when he would tell them to go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. We are going to have to get past an us/them mentality if we are going to see this kingdom established that Jesus envisioned because it includes people from every people, tribe, class, education level, socio-economic status, and people group. What do you think needs to happen to see a whole kingdom of people from every nation on earth loving God and loving others?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What does the number 150 have to do with missions?

Seth Godin recently wrote a post about Dunbar's number being the law. The "theory" is that a human can only handle 150 meaningful relationships. Obviously, you can have a lot more acquaintances than that as many of us have several hundred friends on facebook. But the truth is that we can't physically, psychologically, or emotionally handle more than 150 significant friendships. Now, this causes a problem for the missionary because it is such a relational line of work and we need real friends to accomplish our task and not just twitter followers.

Think about how many personal friendships someone on the mission field needs to keep up with:
1) Supporters: The book Friend Raising basically teaches us that raising support is a relational activity. We're not just asking for money, we're looking for partners that can be a significant part of the work and that means intentional relationships with people back home including our family, home church, financial supporters, prayer partners, etc.
2) Co-workers: Most missionaries have a network of people in their organization (both home and field staff) and peers from other agencies that they stay in touch with. In order to have a strong team, it's essential to spend a significant amount of time building trust, praying, talking strategy, etc.
3) The Church: Christians must be plugged into some local body of believers. The church is to be a community of people living life together while focused on Christ rather than a one day per week event which takes time and being intentional. Many church planters also spend significant time discipling and raising up the national leaders. Truly investing in people's lives takes time and a church truly living out community takes effort.
4) The lost: Most Christians end up having only Christian friends because their 150 quota gets filled very quickly with church activities (small groups, awanas, softball team, choir, etc.) leaving little room for significant relationships with non-believers. Missionaries should have a room in their network for several folks that don't know Christ.

These are just some very broad strokes and I'm sure that there are many other categories as well. How can missionaries manage their time and relationships better to see all peoples on earth reached with the Gospel of Christ? Is it even possible for a missionary to juggle the many relationships that are required for successful ministry? Any ideas on simplifying

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What does worship have to do with missions?

John Piper writes in Let the Nations be glad that worship is both the fuel and goal of missions. What does that mean? Well, worship fuels missions because missions is essentially bringing God ultimate glory by seeing all tribes, tongues, people, and nations worshiping Him. If you remember the famous passage in Isaiah 6 where he says "Here I am, send me", the context is God in heaven being worshiped by angels. So, as we worship more we have more of a burden for those that don't know God or as Louie Giglio states, "as we get lost in wonder, we can't help but wonder about the lost". So, as we worship (attribute worth to) God, we realize that he really does deserve all praise which in turn makes us desire to proclaim his fame to the 1.7 billion people who have never heard His name.

The fact that worship is also the goal is missions is very intriguing. I love missions! I enjoy talking about strategy, networking, partnerships, contextualization, cross-cultural communication, etc. However, missions is a rather temporal thing in comparison to worship and Jesus Christ who is eternal. Once we go to heaven, evangelism, discipleship, church planting, ministry, missions, etc. will be a thing of the past. So, let's fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith. Let's run the race in such a way as to get the prize (Christ). Let's do ministry with joy and excellence, but with the understanding that it is really small in comparison to God. Worship is the fuel and the goal of missions!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sign up for your local Perspectives class

We have found that one of the most powerful missions mobilization tools is the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course. They are offered online and all over the U.S. A number of our missionary training school students have shared during their testimonies that the Perspectives class was instrumental in whetting their appetite for getting involved with long-term missions. I highly encourage everyone to take this course or to host one if it is not offered in your area. The course can also be used for college credit. Let us know if you have any other highly effective tools for getting people involved in praying, giving, going, and mobilizing others to get involved with the unreached people groups of the earth.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Does hell really exist?

The church had a reputation for awhile of running around waving Bibles in the air telling everyone that they're going to hell. Jesus spent a lot of time talking about love, healing the sick, helping the poor, etc. so an overemphasis on hell and basically boiling down the Gospel to "say this simple prayer and you won't have to burn forever" was pretty simplistic. For that reason, I think there was a big pendulum swing in the last decade or so and now hell is rarely mentioned in churches anymore (with a few exceptions that still like the Bible-bashing paradigm). I think there are several reasons that hell isn't being talked about in church anymore:

1) Hell isn't very PC. In a pluralistic world where everyone is allowed to define truth, hell isn't something that people want to have as a part of their reality. So, if we choose to believe that hell doesn't exist, then it must not. Even branches of the emerging church and other groups are saying that hell was just figurative language that Jesus used to show how strongly he wanted us to live good lives here on earth. Mentioning hell is pretty offensive and Christians have been so abusive in the past that we have tried to correct the problem by doing everything that we can not offend. There must be a balance somewhere.

2) There has been a lot of emphasis in the body of Christ on the kingdom of God and everything being about His glory. This has been a very positive shift as historically there has been way to much emphasis on man in the church. Unfortunately, in swinging the pendulum away from a man-centered gospel to a completely God-centered message, there isn't much of a need to talk about hell because God has got it all under control and we don't need to worry about who is and isn't going to end up there. There must be a happy medium in there somewhere between God being completely in control while also not wanting anyone to perish.

3) This is the big one - IF hell exists, the conversations with my friends, family, and co-workers are probably going to change. IF hell exists, my priorities might have to shift a little bit. IF hell exists, I may need to get out of my comfort zone a little more. IF hell exists, I might need to tell some people about. IF hell exists, I'm probably going to be persecuted for mentioning it. IF hell exists, there should probably be more people out on the mission field. IF hell exists, it might be time for me to pull out the water hose. IF hell exists, people might have a lot of questions that I should be prepared to answer.

I think it might just be easier not to believe in hell. What do you think?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

We're gaining ground...let's keep digging in!

On June 1, I posted a blog concerning Finishing the Task (FTT) which is an effort by some of the major missions organizations of the world to see church planting work started among the least reached people groups of the world. When they started promoting groups that were unengaged by missionaries or Christian work, there were 639 people groups with more than 100,000 in population numbering over 535 million people total. I want to show you their most updated statistics just three months later (as of August 1).

The FTT website states that now, of the original 639 unreached, unengaged people groups:

* 95 remain unengaged. No one is trying to reach them. (144 on June 1)
* 169 are adopted but not engaged. (146 on June 1)
* 334 are engaged with church planting. (308 on June 1)
* 339 have known believers. (299 on June 1)
* 155 have at least one known church. (69 on June 1)

Keep praying and seeing how you or your church can get involved!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

What can we do about the nations coming to us?

Well, I just got back from a fruitful trip to Atlanta where we plan on starting a new missionary training school in January. We found a part of town that was very multi-ethnic. I drove out of the apartment complex where we are looking at housing our students and there were three Mexican grocery stores right across the street, two Thai restaurants within walking distance, a Pakistani/Indian place right next door, and the largest Hindu temple outside of India about a three minute drive down the road. What an opportunity to reach the nations that are coming to us!

I started talking to different pastors, missionaries, and churches in the area to ask what was being done to reach out to these people and kept hearing over and over "not very much". There are a few churches that are being intentional about teaching English classes, picking up international students from the airport, and doing kid's programs in apartment complexes, but they are few and far between. Our goal as we go to Atlanta will be to expose individuals and churches to the need around the world and how reaching out locally can be a huge part of seeing the gospel taken to all nations. Then, once they are exposed to the need and begin getting a heart and burden for the people, we want to equip them to be missional as a church body and to reach out cross-culturally.

Here is a rough, general description of the types of churches that we found:
1) Uninformed - this group is ignorant about God's heart for the nations and don't know about the need both globally and locally.
2) Uninterested - these churches know about the need but are pretty happy with "letting those people be". They like the way they have always done church because that is how it has been done since they were kids. They generally don't want to think about the changing demographics in their community.
3) Unequipped - this group sees the need and wants to do something about it but don't know how to go about doing anything.

What would you do with the churches that are in these three different boats?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

What Happened to People Group Thinking?

This post is a little bit more lengthy than mine usually are. However, this article from S. Kent Parks, Ph.D is very important and relevant and should be passed around in all churches and missions agencies.

A strange thing happened on the way to bringing the Gospel to every “people group.” A growing number of Christian voices around the world begin to suggest that the focus on people groups was overemphasized. These questions seemed to arise as the “AD2000 and Beyond” movement phased out. Further, the concept of “people group” began to be applied to other “groupings” which do not fit the category.

Admittedly, no universally accepted definition exists. Yet while the main terms Unreached People Group (UPG) and Least Evangelized People Group have some technical differences, they essentially define the same 25-28% of the world which has little access to the Gospel. A more popularized phrase – Least Reached Peoples – is sometimes used. One UPG-focused country network in an Asian country uses a term which places the responsibility squarely on the Church – the “Ignored” People Groups. (Note: the terms Least Evangelized and UPGs will be used interchangeable below).

So, what happened to the momentum to reach those who have little or no access to the Gospel? Some key misconceptions have emerged and seem to impede movement forward. These include:

1) Great publicity is confused with real progress: The great emphasis in many parts of the world, especially during the last 20 years, on reaching the unreached has led church leaders in many continents to believe that great progress has been made. Yes, some progress has been made. Yet, 25-28% of the world still has little access to the Gospel.

Christians still give only about 1% of our money to Christian causes. Of this money given to Christian causes, 95% is spent on the Church. Less than 1% is used to reach 28% of the world. Only 2-4% of Christian cross-cultural witnesses serve this 28%. Projections show that the percentage of the least evangelized peoples will not diminish significantly in the next several decades. The world percentage of Christians is also not projected to grow if ministry and mission continue to follow current patterns.

2) “Balance” is sought: Key “unreached peoples” advocates and mission strategists from several continents have discovered they share a common experience. Each had been challenged by key national and/or international Christian leaders to have a more “balanced” view in their advocacy by not emphasizing the “unreached” too much.

Again, emphasis on UPGs seems to have resulted in “boredom” among some church leaders – and they seem to want to find the next idea. One Asian mission leader shared that just about the time the Western Christians have succeeded in raising awareness for the UPGs around the world, some seem to have developed “attention deficit disorder” and want to move on to something new.

To answer simply, “Yes, we want balance” so that at least one-fourth of workers, money, and other resources are spent on this “one-fourth” world! When the “Body of Christ” quits spending over 90% of its resources on itself, balance might be achieved!

3) Everyone is a people group: The power of “people group” imagery to focus people’s strategic thinking began to be used to re-define all kinds of strata of society as a “people group.” So, young people, the disabled, prostitutes, or taxi drivers in certain cities (which are actually segments or a strata of society) began to be defined as a “people group.”

Factually, a “people group” is a collection of inextricably linked strata. For instance, a large ethnolinguistic/ethno-cultural people group will have youth, urban, rural, rich, poor, disabled, etc. At the end of the day, however, a young person or a taxi driver or a disabled person is in familial and societal relationships with other kinds of people from other strata of the society.

Admittedly, a variety of strategies are needed to reach the variety of strata in a people group. Different ministries are needed for the young, for the disabled, for the urban, for the poor, for the rich. Yet, when a movement begins among such a people group, it will spread more easily across “strata” lines within a people group than across ethnic lines. For example, a real movement might occur among the youth of a certain people group but may have a more difficult time “jumping” the ethnic barrier to the youth of a neighboring but hated ethnic group.

So, a “people group” may have a variety of defining factors which might include ethno-linguistic or ethnocultural/religious elements, and may legitimately have unique elements (such as caste factors in India) but it will consist of various strata.

4) Unreached people are “remote”, only “tribal,” or only “illiterate” peoples: A globally recognized Christian leader recently said that while emphasis on the Unreached was still needed, the major challenge for finishing the task of world missions was the major religious blocks. He inadvertently exposed a common mis-conception about what “unreached” or “least evangelized” means.

In fact, the majority of the UPGs are in the three major religious blocks -- and make up vast sections of major urban centers. Sometimes, they are the majority peoples of the country. In one Asian country, one-half of the Christians live in one-fourth of the country – and are mainly tribal (who are more easily reached?) while the majority people of this Buddhist country is still less than 1% Christian. In another Asian country known for very dynamic and mission minded churches, the majority people which is well over 50% of the population remains largely unserved.

5) The goal to engage each UPG is misunderstood as an end goal rather than a first step: Some have caricatured plans to make sure every people group is engaged as a simplistic plan to start a few churches so that that people group can be “checked” off the list. This simplistic goal is certainly not the intent of most UPG strategists. Most would emphasize that “engagement” is merely the first step toward the end goal of true Gospel transformation (and not just a few congregations which meet on Sunday) to the people group. Yet, how can they be transformed when few or no workers have taken those first steps?

One aspect of the debate revolves around the interpretation of Matthew 24.14. Some stress that this verse is merely a promise and prediction – not an imperative verse from which specific and detailed strategies must be developed. A clue to the intent of this verse can be found in Abram’s covenant (Genesis 12.1-3). The phrase “You will be a blessing” is not merely a prediction. It is also a command! Matthew 24.14 seems to have the same thrust. This idea does not even include the several “Great Commissions” Jesus gave which are even more specific. The fact remains that Christ-followers are commanded to speak and act out the Gospel in the whole world to all ethne. Specific strategies and specific goals are required.

6) An over-balanced “returning mission to the church” concept: A great deal has been said in recent years that the local institutional church is the supreme engine of mission. Much of this emphasis apparently emerges from large churches in both Eastern and Western countries. Some crucial problems, however, have emerged from this mindset.

This prioritizing of only the local church organization sometimes ignores or diminishes biblical teaching on the universal Church. True, each person should be a member of a local church – but God often calls key leaders to have roles across local and organizational lines. Clearly, in Acts 13, the Holy Spirit asked the Antioch church to set apart Paul and Barnabas and to send them off. Little if any indication is found that they “maintained” local membership in Antioch after that point.

Is the local church the one in the missionary’s sending country – or the local congregation which he/she has helped create in his/her host culture? Many expat missionaries never become a member of local congregations in their host cultures, claiming a need to maintain their membership in an organization (club?) in their sending culture. Consistency is lacking in such a call for local church membership.

Many churches do not seem to believe the concept of “dying to self” applies not only to the individual but also to the congregation. An oft-quoted idea is that local churches are “tired of losing their best people” to mission organizations. In fact, sometimes churches do not allow some of their best leaders to go into full-time mission, arguing that the local congregation needs them more. Are local congregations not also called by our Lord to great sacrifice? What needs to be asked is not “What is best for our local church?” but “What needs to be done to reach this UPG?”

Some local churches find “missions” as a way to help their members be discipled and be fulfilled. As a result, the main mission strategy seems to be mainly short-term workers. Yet these same churches would not try to run their church with rotating short-term teams. How then, can Christ-followers think that whole societies can be transformed from the Kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of light through quick, easy, surface efforts?

Many churches will only send short or long term people to “safe” places. The least evangelized of the world will not be reached in such a manner.

7) It is now time for the “Majority” World or the “Global South” to finish the job: This heresy continues to gain ground. Since when did God remove the Great Commission from any believer – North, South, East or West? When did God say, “Now you can just pay for others to go since it is more cost effective?”

Have we lost the sense of amazement that humanity’s unity, which was shattered at Babel due to pride and arrogance, is now in the process of being reunited into Christ? The greatest proof of our belief in this theology will be that Christians from various races, countries and continents intentionally collaborate as a visible witness that the Kingdom of God truly and visibly unites humanity – not in theory, but in actual work among the remaining peoples.

This last 28% of the world will only be truly reached as representatives from all “reached” peoples join together to speak and act out the Gospel among these least served peoples. The amazing thing about the Gospel is that the new believers from among these formerly unreached peoples will then join us in reaching the others who have little or no access to Gospel in all its forms – word, deed and miracle.

Steps Forward: All of these issues combined create a powerful deterrent to steps forward. A renewed energy, and call for sacrificial, long-term work among these who continue to be ignored by the global body of Christ is critical for avoiding the projections of little progress in reaching the Least Evangelized Peoples.

May Christ’s Body be truly faithful.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Who wants to join us at Urbana 09?

We're getting excited about heading to Urbana in December as it is an opportunity that only comes around every three years. Urbana is a conference in St. Louis, Missouri where about 20,000 collage students from across the US and the world will be coming to worship the Lord and hear about his heart for the nations. We'll be setting up a booth and praying with students and trying to help them get oriented as they pursue a possible career in missions. I'm hoping that the unreached will be front and center at the conference. The last two Urbana conferences seemed to have a large focus on injustice and the international students that are coming to our campuses. I hope the 27% of the world's population that have never heard the name of Jesus will be represented and have a voice. Pray that many people would be mobilized to pray, give, and go to the unreached peoples of the world. Most of the major and many smaller organizations will be represented at Urbana, so we are all praying for more laborers to be sent out into the neediest harvest fields.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Is Michael Jackson more popular than Jesus?

I know that John Lennon got in a bit of trouble for saying the same thing about the Beatles, but MJ has definitely been getting a lot of secular media attention since his death. They say that approximately one billion people tuned into his funeral on TV. That's almost one in six people on planet earth which is pretty astounding since there are approximately 2.4 billion (or one in three people in the world) that have no access to Christ. I didn't watch the procession myself but heard that Jesus was actually mentioned quite a bit during the tribute due to Jackson's Jehovah's Witness roots. At least His name is being mentioned, I guess.

I watched a sermon by Louie Giglio where he was trying to prove that we don't need to be taught to worship. He actually showed a clip of a Michael Jackson concert where people were crying, falling down, raising hands, kneeling, and doing anything to touch him. There is something inside of us that enjoys beauty and causes us to awe and wonder. No one on earth needs to learn how to attribute value to or to give worth to something. So, we are naturally worshipers. Some day, hopefully it will be to the King of Kings rather than the King of Pop.

Random thought: Internationally, why is it easier to access a Thriller album than a Bible?

Monday, July 6, 2009

The most obeyed verse in the Bible

Many people claim that they don't want to follow Christ because the church is full of hypocrites. Well, I found a verse that is obeyed by about 97% of all Christians. Not bad, huh? Mt. 16:20 says, "Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ." Following in a close second is Mt. 10:5 which states "These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: 'Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans'." So, maybe we're not doing as bad as the world says we are. These two verses are being obeyed by almost every Christian and church that is out there! That's got to count for something.

Friday, June 26, 2009

What motivates people to get involved in world missions?

Obviously, the Holy Spirit is the one that puts callings on our lives, but he can do that through a lot of different methods and delivery systems. I've discovered three ways (and I'd love to hear any others that you come up with) to get people excited about praying, giving, and going. Which of the following stirs you the most to get involved in missions and makes you want to pray, give, and go to the unreached?

1) The Isaiah pathway - This is basically getting so caught up in God that you can't help but have a heart for the unreached. As we hang out with God, we become more like Him and we know that one of His characteristics is that he wants all to be saved. It was while Isaiah was in the presence of God with angels worshiping that he got to the point of saying "Here I am, send me". Louie Giglio always says that "as you get lost in wonder, you can't help but wander about the lost." His team has a huge heart for the nations and do large Passion Conferences to get people excited about God which in turn should lead to more people serving in missions.

2) The "open your eyes" pathway - This is basically making people aware of the needs around the world to spur people to involvement in missions. Jesus told the disciples to open their eyes and look at the harvest field and reminded them how few laborers are going. He told them to pray to the Lord of the harvest for more laborers and in the very next breath said "go". Hearing statistics about how many unreached people groups are left, how many missionaries are serving in those areas, and how much of our church money is sent to the unreached is a big motivator for many. Organizations like Joshua Project might be considered strong in this pathway.

3) The "the harvest is ripe" pathway - This is a little bit of a tweak on the second pathway in that this is focusing more on the positive things that are going on in the world rather than the remaining need. Don't you get excited when you hear about a supernatural healing overseas? Don't you love to hear stories about how many people are coming to know Christ in Africa each day? Hearing that God is moving in a certain area spurs many people into action. Joel News is a good example of a newsletter that tells about some of the exciting things that are going on in the missions world.

How about you? What have you found to be some of the most motivating things to make you want to go and make the name of Christ great among the nations?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Shouldn't we just support indigenous missionaries?

There are lots of great missions organizations out there such as Gospel for Asia and Christian Aid whose main ministry is to teach, train, and support indigenous missionaries. Many of those agencies talk about the cost of keeping an average Western missionary (about $40000/year) on the field vs. sending an indigenous missionary (about $4000) per year. If you look at the economics of it all, people and churches are asking, "why would we send this couple from our congregation when we could send 10 local people in their place?" Some of the advantages of local missionaries are that they already speak the local language, understand the worldview/culture of the people, can live on an economic level similar to the rest of the country, etc.

On the flip side, several missiologists point out the fact that there are still only 14,000 pioneer missionaries going to the unreached people groups of the world meaning that most missionaries (98% to be exact according to World Christian Trends), both Western and indigenous are going to places that are already within reach of the gospel. When we were in India last year, we heard "we'll take anyone that is willing to come, there are 1 billion lost souls and over 3000 unreached people groups in our country. The harvest in plentiful and the laborers are few, so we don't care where they come from or how much they cost." Other people point to the fact that Western money might cause indigenous churches to be dependent on the outside world and never be able to sustain their own full-time pastors and missionaries, buildings, evangelism efforts, etc.

What do you think? What is the best way to sow financially into the mission field? And more importantly, are you doing so? Some day, we'll all have to give an account of our talents.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Does every people group need a written Bible?

According to the ethnologue, there are 6912 living languages of which about 4400 have no Scripture available. About 3/4 of the world's population is considered non-literate, so how necessary is it for people to have a written Bible in their language? If you went into an unreached people group, would translating the Bible and literacy be your top priority like Wycliffe or would you use more of an oral approach to the Bible?

The International Orality Network as well as projects such as One Story focus on making sure that every people group has access to an oral Bible in their native tongue by the year 2020. An oral Bible is generally made up of 40 to 60 chronological Bible stories that are chosen based on the worldview of the people group being targeted. The stories are often recorded on audio devices and also passed around by word of mouth and oral tradition.

We read a book in our missionary training school called Making Disciples of Oral Learners which is a free download and a great introduction to orality and storytelling in the missions world. What do you think about sharing the gospel, making disciples, planting churches, and raising up leaders by telling stories from the Word rather than using a written Bible?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Finish this verse: Be still and....

Most folks would say "Be still and know that I am God". That's a pretty good answer, but there is still more to that verse. Psalms 46:10 continues by saying, "I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth". Bob Sjogren wrote a book called Unveiled at Last where he teaches what he calls the top line and bottom line concerning the promises of God. Often times in Scripture, God gives a wonderful blessing for an individual or for a whole group of people. We would call that the top line. The bottom line would be the responsibility or the command that comes along with the promise or the reason that the blessing was given in the first place.

For example, 1Kings 8:59,60 says "And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the Lord, be near to the LORD our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel according to each day’s need, SO THAT all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other." Make sure that you look out for the SO THATs in Scripture. How have you been praying and reading your Bible....for the top line or the bottom?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Can people over 40 still do missions?

The American Dream is becoming less and less of a draw to many people that are questioning how they can use their life for greatest kingdom impact. There are organizations such as MissionNext who are focused on getting the 24-40 year mobilized for missions. Many mid-career people are realizing that a lot of the skills that they have learned in the secular world could actually be used to advance the cause of Christ among the nations. John Piper and many others have been writing books and preaching sermons about "Don't Waste Your Life" and people are starting to evaluate their lives based on what has been done for Christ. Maybe it's time for you to reevalute.

The Finishers Project focuses on helping the boomer generation find their niche in the mission field. Boomers are and will be the healthiest and best-educated generation of empty-nesters ever. Many of these folks would rather use the wisdom, skills, and life/ministry experience that God has given them to prepare the next generation and to pour their gifts, talents, and resources into the unreached people groups of the world. This generation still wants to make a difference and change our world.

All adult generations in North America are skilled and resourced with a multitude of talents. The question we must ask ourselves is how many of the ten talents we have been given, will we give back to Jesus and invest in the kingdom. Check out the two missions organizations mentioned above to find out more about getting involved.

Friday, June 12, 2009

College students: read The Blueprint by Jaeson Ma

This summer we will be taking our interns through a book called The Blueprint by Jaeson Ma. The reason that we enjoy using that resource as our discipleship manual is because the majority of them are college students and the subtitle of the book is "a revolutionary plan to plant missional communities on campus". The book starts out with a huge focus on prayer which we like because it is one of our foundational values and the first universal element of all church planting movements. The next section of the book focuses on the Holy Spirit and power evangelism. Jesus said not to leave Jerusalem but to wait and be clothed with power before going to be witnesses to the ends of the earth. So, we love giving our college interns some solid teaching about prayer and the Holy Spirit to help them be more equipped as they serve with us on the mission field, but also to have more tools in the bag as they go home to live missionally on their campuses.

The final section of the book focuses on simple church planting on college campuses. It talks about how college campuses can be divided into "people groups" since there are so many different little clusters at universities. Ma asks the question what would happen if instead of us inviting people to some of our larger campus gatherings such as Campus Crusade, Intervaristy, or Baptist Student Union group meetings, what if we Christians went out and lived incarnationally among those groups and took the church to the people. I really think that every campus minister, college/career pastor, and university student should grab a copy of this book and prayerfully read through it while applying the principles that are taught. Somehow the author was able to take the majority of the topics from our missionary training school and squeeze them into one book. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The role of the local church in missions?

Two thousand years ago, Jesus gave the mandate to make disciples of all nations. God's people, the church, were given the responsibility to take the good news of the kingdom to every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. These days the majority of missionaries get screened, trained, and deployed by missions agencies or organizations. Most churches have been working off of a pardigm that says "send off" rather than "send out". There has been a strong trend of "outsourcing" missions work to agencies and organizations, but there is a little bit of a rumbling in the Christian world and things may be changing...

Some friends of ours at LifePoint Church had a meeting with the International Mission Board (IMB) last week to cast their vision for the "sending church model". Basically, they are asking about a fundamental switch in missions strategy. What if instead of us sending our people to the IMB (or any other missions agency) to get equipped and sent out, the IMB (and other missions agencies) came alongside of the church by providing training and resources to help congregations send out their own church planting teams to serve among the nations.

The P.E.A.C.E. Plan out of Saddleback has a very simlar vision in that they want to send out small groups of people from local churches to help fulfill the Great Commission and tackle some of the giant problems in our world without the need for a missions organization to be "the middle man". How about you? What do you think is a healthy relationship between mission agencies and local churches? Are there any models that would work for house churches, traditional churches, and megachurches alike?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Technology and Missions

The internet is changing the way we do mission work by allowing more people to be involved, even when those people aren't on the front lines. For example, our church planting leader in Mexico is updating his Twitter and Facebook statuses several times a day, allowing people back home (and around the world) to know how to pray more effectively in real time for the church planting efforts here. He also recently wrote a blog post asking for ideas on how to get power into a little community with no electricity. Within a couple of days, ten different people had responded with some great ideas on how to meet this physical need. Can you imagine what could be done for the kingdom in our generation if we got creative and made better use of the tools and technology God has given us?

The internet allows us to connect people quickly and to rally around cause -- and is there any cause greater than seeing God worshiped and getting all the glory He deserves from people of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation?

What if every person who read this blog joined a movement`of people dedicated to seeing all the nations reached in our lifetime? Next, what if each of you joined Facebook and became a fan of Global Frontier Missions? This would allow a group of thousands of people to be in the "same room" to pray, find other mission-minded people in your area, talk strategy, share ideas on how to get our churches more involved, and ultimately have major kingdom impact among the least-reached people groups of the world.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Does short term missions produce long term missionaries?

I have been involved in hosting short-term teams for over twelve years. I got called to missions on a short-term mission trip with YWAM and have heard that 90% of long-term missionaries first got involved in missions because of a short-term trip. So, I have always been a big fan of short-term missions because I have seen the impact that they have had on people's lives and know that they have played a role in seeing people go long-term. Participants on our short term mission trips usually go home with a totally different worldview, gain a greater burden for the lost, see the poor in a new light, and catch a vision to live more missionally.

I have always worked on the assumption that the more people we have going on short-term mission trips, the more long-term laborers we would see going into the harvest field. However, the latest numbers in Mission Maker magazine say that the number of short-term missionaries increased from 140,000 in 1984 to over 1.6 million in 2005. MissionNext says that the number of long-term American missionaries sent out has dwindled from 55,000 in 1988 to 35,000 in 2006. So, while the short-term mission movement has multiplied almost ten times in the past twenty years, the long-term mission force has roughly been cut in half.

So, where is the long-term fruit from the short-term mission efforts. Some people say that it is coming and that it just takes awhile (average seven years) for missionaries to hit the field after getting the call. Some say that it will never happen due to the amount of debt and lack of finances to send Americans. Some say that less people are willing to go long-term now that they can see that they can get their "missions fix" on a short-term trip. What do you think?

Friday, June 5, 2009

A cold coke within walking distance by 2020

About a year ago, there was a bit of buzz about Coca-Cola and their business plan to try and have a cold coke within walking distance of every person on planet earth by the year 2020. I couldn't find many references to it on the internet except for an article in Mission Frontiers magazine. However, I would imagine that Walmart, Coca-Cola, McDonalds and any other for profit business have pretty aggressive goals when it comes to getting their products into the hands of the masses. Their! That brings up some pretty challenging questions for us so sent ones.

Why is that Christians who should be motivated by God's glory, obedience to his commands, and lost souls have less zeal about "our product" than the corporate executives do about their carbonated beverages and fast food? If I were given $1000 for each new consumer/convert or say $100,000 for each new population segment/people group that I reached, would I be any more motivated to go out. If I'm honest with myself, I think that I would have to say that I think money would be a pretty big motivating factor for being bold and taking more risk. How about you? What do you think it would take for the church to step up and see Jesus, the living water and best beverage out there, available within walking distance to every person on planet earth?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Interesting Muslim Demographic Predictions

I was sent this link by four different people last week, so I figured that there must be some buzz around it and that people would be interested in the video. It has some fascinating figures concerning Muslim biological growth, convert growth, and immigration patterns.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mourning one of Time magazine's 25 most influential evangelicals

We have lost a spiritual giant in the missions world. Dr. Winter has influenced thousands to live more simply, focus on the unreached and be well prepared when serving in missions.

Dr. Winter was the founder of the US Center for World Missions as well as the William Carey International University. He was editor of Missions Frontiers and International Journal of Frontier Missions. Dr. Winter was also the creator of the course “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement” which is taught around the world and has changed the direction of many from mediocre ministry to serving the Lord in areas of the world where the gospel is not known.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Can the house church movement reach the nations?

There are many popular simple church books that are have gained populairty in Christian circles such as Organic Church by Neil Cole, Revolution by George Barna, Reimagining Church by Frank Viola, and Simply Church by Tony and Felicity Dale. They all point to the statistics concerning the traditional church in the United States being in decline with the exception of some of the mega-churches. They claim that a lot of people are tired of church in general and looking for more organic expressions of the body of Christ meeting in homes and public places doing life together. One of the many pros of the house church model they say is its reproducbility and low cost. They point to the fact that there is no overhead for paid clergy and buildings which frees up finances to do missional kingdom work. Could the house church movement be one of the key players to seeing the nations reached in our generation?

A friend of mine, Don Davis, created a network called House2Harvest to help these house churches be more strategic in engaging unreached people groups. I think it would be awesome to see the house church networks in the U.S. adopting unreached people groups, consistently interceding for them, giving financially to the work being done among them, and hopefully sending many long-term laborers themselves.

Monday, June 1, 2009

It's time to finish the task!

Finishing the Task (FTT) is an effort by some of the major missions organizations of the world to see church planting work started among the least reached people groups of the world. When they started promoting groups that were unengaged by missionaries or Christian work, there were 639 people groups with more than 100,000.

The website states that now, of the original 639 unreached, unengaged people groups:

* 144 remain unengaged. No one is trying to reach them.
* 146 are adopted but not engaged.
* 308 are engaged with church planting.
* 299 have known believers.
* 69 have at least one known church.

Pray about how you or your church can get involved!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Is God an American?

Vincent Donovan in his book Rediscovering Christianity goes into a tribe as a missionary and tells the people there that "big G" God is much different that the "little g" gods that they had been worshiping. He tries to teach them that God does not show favorites and loves all of the other peoples and tribes equally. Donovan was rather humbled when the villagers asked him about his own home culture and whether they believed that God loved them more than the other tribes. He began reflecting on the ethnocentrism in his own culture and church.

I think we often times unintentionally think that God loves the United States more than the other nations of the earth. Sometimes we put our allegiance to our country before our dedication to the Lord which was never his intention. It probably would not go over very well to stand up in a church today and ask if we have prayed for the people of Afghanistan as much as we have for our troops serving over there. For some reason, I think that Christ's view of the world may look different than our perspective which gets filtered through a very Western lens. Did you know that nine of the ten largest unevangelized cities are in Afghanistan?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Fewer missionaries going due to lack of finances?

One of my favorite blogs to follow is Guy Muse, a church planter down in Ecuador that is always talking about reproducibility, dependency issues, and multiplying disciples. He is a missionary with the International Missions Board and has voiced his concerns regularly about the future of the southern baptist cooperative program. It seems that giving to the Lottie Moon offering and to the program in general has gone down in recent years and especially now that the country is in the midst of an economic crisis. Many have said that the future of some of the field missionaries might be in jeopardy at some point. I just received my newsletter from the IMB stating that "new appointments to the career, apprentice, associate, and journeyman programs also will be reduced, with only the most strategic assignments being filled". The Baptist are one of (if not the) top sending agency of missionaries in the world and to see them have to cut the number of people being sent on account of lack of funds is very disheartening.

Bill and Amy Stearns, who are some great missions mobilizers and recently came to speak at our school say that there are about 40,000 candidates ready to go out among the nations and that the biggest thing holding most of them back is debt and finances. A few stats from their website:

• It’s usually 7-10 years from a point of commitment to missions until actual deployment.
• 70% of North American missionaries must raise their own support. It now takes an average of 2-3 years for missionaries to raise support to go.
• Supporting missionaries is such a rare discipline in our churches today that even among those exploring mission service, only about 5% personally support a missionary!
• In the past few years, perhaps 40,000 North Americans have made a commitment to go. Yet, says missiologist Dr. Ralph Winter, “They will never make it to the field due to ignorance, indifference..., detachment, school debts, etc.”

I know I am biased, but I think missions giving (especially to the unreached) is maybe the best investment of kingdom resources for individuals and churches. I would love to see a higher percentage of our budgets going directly to reach those who have never heard. Any thoughts?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Is it worth the risk?

I'm in the process of writing up the risk management policy for our missions organization, Global Frontier Missions. We are about to open up a new location in Atlanta and Houston, and need to make sure that all of our ducks are in a row and that we are up to U.S. legal standards. A lot of the process I find very good as we look at doing all that we can to be accountable and transparent with how funds are used, high standards for your board of directors, background checks for students and staff, etc. It is also good to have policy in place in case some sort of emergency were to occur (earthquakes, terrorism, kidnapping, loss of data). However, some of the stuff that has to be done to make Americans feel safe seems a little over the top.

I have been living in Mexico for 12 years now and preparing to move stateside in October. As I have been trying to get our organization ready to minister in an American context, I am realizing how high of a value our culture puts on security and comfort. We must have insurance; we must try to make sure our organization is as risk free as possible; we have to make decisions based on not getting sued. We actually just had a summer session of our short-term mission trips go from 90 participants to 30 because of the swine fly scare. We have also had people drop out due to the drug cartel voilence along the border which is about 18 hours away from us. I've heard many sermons where the pastor says that "faith is spelled R-I-S-K". So, I'm just trying to figure out the balance between due diligence (we would never purposely put someone in harms way) and the risk that is always going to be a part of cross-cultural missions work. Jesus said that he was sending us out among wolves, that the world will hate us, that we will have troubles, and that we will be his witnesses (greek word martyrs) throughout the whole world. I'm just glad that Father didn't tell Jesus, "Son, you probably shouldn't go down there to planet earth because it is dangerous and you might get hurt or sick." If anyone has been able to reconcile being cautious and careful with the kingdom of heaven advancing with force, I would love to hear your comments.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

State of the World 2009

I just got my copy of the Mission Maker magazine put out by the fine people at STEM International. They include their annual state of the world statistics which we use in our summer missions program to teach people about the remaining task. The biggest thing that caught my eye is that worldwide, there are 13,444 frontier missionaries going to the unreached (0.0006% of all Christians). According to Joshua Project, there are 6,653 people groups that remain unreached with the gospel. I got inspired to begin blogging and start an online conversation about what the church both in North America and abroad can do about seeing the least reached people groups of the world reached with the love of Christ in our generation. I hope that many people from all over the body of Christ will join the discussion as it is going to take an army of individuals and churches across denominations to come together and take seriously the command to go and make disciples among all nations.