Seeing the Sea-Dwellers and the Rat Tribe

written by JD

The Badjao live on the sea. We don’t see them because we live on the land.

The Rat Tribe lives underground. We’re not going to see them either, unless we are ready to go spelunking.

I live in Birmingham, Alabama, population 1.5 million. But I don’t believe we have that many people. I only see a few thousand. My lifestyle and routine keeps me on the southeastern side of the city. My traffic patterns have been the same for almost three years. I shop at the same stores, frequent the same restaurants, and get gas as the same gas pumps. I hang out with the same people. Only a few thousand people live in Birmingham, with very little ethnic diversity.

Out of sight. Out of mind.

It is no wonder we don’t believe there are at least 360 unreached people groups in this country and at least 180 in Canada. It just can’t be true that the United States has the third largest number of unreached peoples in the world and Canada has the fifth largest number.  And, there’s no way 3,000 people groups in the world really exist in an unengaged-unreached state.

I don’t see them. They don’t exist.  We should remember we also used to say this about microscopic organisms.


Learn to Pan for Gold

written by JD

During the gold rush of yesteryear, treasure seekers had to sift through a great amount of riverbed sediment for the desired golden nuggets. No one would ever consider hauling a ton of silt and rock to the bank–even if it contained the gold. That extra stuff was unnecessary and unhelpful.

Life comes at us much faster than the flow of a river. Change is everywhere. There are many pressure points shaping the face of the Church.

As we examine books, attend conferences, listen to podcasts, and read blogs, we must learn to pan for gold. Such is the way of the wise Kingdom steward. Too many people believe they must collect every piece of sediment that comes their way. We need the golden nuggets that will apply to our contexts.

This means we not only expose ourselves to the right resources, but we understand our contexts–not the context of the presenter, not the context we would like to have.

Sometimes you have to sift through a great deal of unnecessary and unhelpful stuff to find the gold. Grab a pan!


We have the Most…Per Capita

written by JD

I have discovered that every community in the United States has the most:

Unchurched per capita
Lost per capita
Homosexuals per capita
Atheists per capita
Muslims per capita
Agnostics per capita
Income per capita
Poverty per capita
New Age book stores per capita
Satan worshipers per capita
Witches per capita
Pot smokers per capita
Foreign-born per capita
Elementary school kids per capita
High school kids per capita
Stay-at-home moms per capita
Divorce rates per capita
Meth users per capita
Depression diagnoses per capita
Strip clubs per capita

In the past fifteen years of talking with other pastors, denominational leaders, and definitely church planters, I have encountered we have the most…per capita a gazillion times.

I am sure some of these statements were based on actual community facts.


What does it mean, if you tell me you have the most per capita and a month later someone in another location tells me the same thing, only to be followed by a similar statement by someone else in another location?

Answer: We evangelicals have the most members per capita who use the words, “per capita”.


Strike the Match Podcast Announcement

written by JD

Next month, I plan to launch “Strike the Match.” Each episode of this podcast will address matters related to missions, innovation, and leadership issues. I recorded this video for you, providing some details. Check it out! Please share with others!


Books I’m Writing this Year

written by JD

If you caught my most recent interview with the guys at Salty Believer or my recent tweets, then this post will not come as a surprise.

I am working on three books for this year–two are already written, one I am presently editing.  I am incredibly excited about each of these books.

Strike the Match: Reflections on Mission, Innovation, and Leadership is scheduled to be published in May. Check out the cover HERE. This self-published work is a collection of my thoughts over the past five years. It is written in a very informal style, divided into three sections (mission, innovation, leadership), and unlike any of my previous books. If you enjoy what I write at Missiologically Thinking, then you will like this book.

Apostolic Church Planting: Birthing New Churches from New Believers is scheduled to be published in October with InterVarsity Press. Building upon my other two church planting books (Discovering Church Planting and The Barnabas Factors), this book makes a strong appeal for doing evangelism among unreached peoples that results in new churches. Judge this book by its title and subtitle.  It is a concise work, containing a great deal of material (including visuals) not found in my other writings. While it is written to compliment my other church planting books, I believe it is my most important church planting work to date.

The Ministry of Expansion by Roland Allen (title to be determined) is being published by William Carey Library. Last summer, Hubert Allen (grandson of the late Roland Allen) contacted me about an unpublished manuscript written by his grandfather in the 1930s. The manuscript has been resting in a dusty box at Oxford. Roland Allen, best known for Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? and The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, had a great deal to say about the non-ordained and the administration of the Lord’s Supper on the mission field.  He put many of his ideas into The Ministry of Expansion. If you are an Allen fan, interested in missions and ecclesiology, then you will want to check out this work that few people have read. I am editing this project. It will include some outstanding contributions by Hubert Allen and other international Roland Allen scholars.

In addition to these projects, I am hoping to release another free ebook. If so, it will be out this summer and written to pastors about leading their churches into a world where they themselves cannot go. If you caught my presentation in New Orleans last year, then remember when I spoke of standing on the bridge–to give you the idea behind this project.

Please pray for me as I work on these projects. Once they are published, my desire is that you would read them and help spread the word about these books. I am not just filling space when I write: I deeply appreciate you reading my books, sharing your reviews at Amazon, et. al., and telling others about them. It is truly an honor. You could be reading other material and doing other things. You could be talking to others in your social networks about other resources. Thank you for your support and encouragement; it means more than you realize.


Your Best History Tomorrow Syndrome

written by JD

I’ve addressed the Uncle Rico Syndrome and the Kelvin Syndrome this week. There is one other related syndrome that should be avoided: Your Best History Tomorrow.

Your Best History Tomorrow is similar to Uncle Rico but sees no fault in the past.

The past was the best. Those were the good old days. Let’s bring them back.

The past was safe, secure, romantic. Nothing was wrong with it; it was pure.

The challenge to gospel advancement is that we become so consumed with the past that we attempt to re-create it in the present, even if it means failing to be wise Kingdom Stewards. This passion for the past locks us into a channel that forces us to visionize a future reality like the past–only updated a little.  Our strategic plans become filled with steps to bring back the past.

The pull of the past is so strong we end up working to sculpt the future into the image of the past.  Such desire for the old ways may keep us, our church, our institution, or our agency from making wise decisions about the present and possible future.  The craving for our best history now can override wisdom.

We are sojourners on our way to a City (Heb 11:13). We are not to be entangled with the things that distract (Heb 12:1). We must be able to sculpt the possible future, but willing to drop what we create–if necessary–for the sanctification of the saints and the advancement of the gospel among the nations.


Kelvin Syndrome

written by JD

This is the best possible scenario. There is no better way. Never has been. Never will be.

Lord Kelvin (a physicist) once stated there was nothing new to be discovered in physics. Any future endeavors would only produce more specific measurements. After this declaration, Einstein set forth his theory of relativity.

The Kelvin Syndrome is not the same as the Uncle Rico Syndrome, but it is just as problematic.

We’re going to keep leading like this.
We’re going to keep raising support like this.
We’re going to keep reaching people like this.
We’re going to keep recruiting people like this.
We’re going to keep administrating the organization like this.
Because we’ve figured it out. There is no better way today or tomorrow.

Once we have entered into this line of thinking, we have departed the realm of wise Kingdom stewards.

We’ve ruled out sanctification.

We’ve ruled out the gospel reaching the Gentiles (Acts 10, 13-14).

We’ve ruled out future gospel breakthroughs.

We’re ruled out the Spirit preventing us from entering Asia or Bithynia that He might lead us to Philippi (Acts 16:6-15).

We’ve forgotten our predecessors made the same statements–then we came along and showed everyone otherwise.

It may be true. What we presently have may be the best option for now. And this option may be the best for the next 2, 5, 10, or 75 years. However, wise Kingdom stewards always put everything on the table. They aggressively evaluate everything, even the boundaries of the box.


Uncle Rico Syndrome

written by JD

The past is always better. It just got messed up along the way. If this or that would not have happened, then everything would be okay. I got a bad deal. [REPEAT FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE]

This is the Uncle Rico Syndrome. It freezes us to a moment past, and hinders us from movement. Maybe life just happened. Maybe we messed up. Maybe someone else made the wrong decision. Coach did not put us in the game; now we are selling plastic bowls and not playing in the NFL.  If you’ve got 45 seconds, then you can watch the Uncle Rico Syndrome HERE.

The past does have a bearing on both the present and, Lord willing, the future. The past should not be forgotten or ignored. It should be remembered (1 Cor 10:6; Rom 15:4).

Yes, it is possible a mistake was made. Maybe sin occurred. However, we were not created to live or lead from the past. We must live and lead in the present. As followers of Jesus, we are moving toward an eschatological reality. We are not doomed to be stuck mentally in the past and never advance. The four billion remain.

When we own the Uncle Rico Syndrome, we walk in a miserable state. It robs us of joy, hinders gospel advancement, and interferes with our abilities as Kingdom stewards.

Remember the past. Repent, if necessary. Learn from the past. Move.

We have a Good Shepherd who leads us in the present (Ps 23:1-2), sanctifies us in the present (Lev 20:8), comforts us in the present (2 Cor 7:6) and has gone to prepare a place for us (John 14:3)–this is more wonderful than winning the state championship game!


When Generosity Hurts

written by JD

One of the coffee shops I frequent, because of its proximity to my office, has great customer service. The baristas are great! The service is fast. It is a place of much generosity.

But sometimes generosity results in problems.

99.9% of the time I drink my coffee black. However, I’ve learned that I need to start saying yes when asked, “Do you want any room for cream?” If I fail to say yes, then my generous barista fills my cup nearly to the brim. This causes the lid of my cup to leak as I drive to the church’s parking lot, and then walk from my car to my office. Unbeknownst to me, this slow leak ends up dribbling coffee on my pants and shirt.

Generosity sometimes leads to a dry cleaning bill.

Most of the time my coffee is served in two paper cups. My guess is this is simply a generous means of keeping one’s hand from being burned. I greatly appreciate that. However, my two cups often come with an 85% post-consumer-fiber cup sleeve, which “uses 34% less paper than our original.” The reason for this environmentally friendly resource is “because we care about our planet.” Again, while I greatly appreciate the added protection, it seems the extra cup is counterproductive to creation care.

Generosity sometimes leads to more in the landfill.

The culture of generosity is greatly needed today in all walks of life. Of course, the Church should be setting the example in this area (Acts 2:46, 2 Cor 9:11, 1 Tim 6:18). However, wise Kingdom stewards do not shift their minds into neutral when it comes to generosity. Prayerful discernment and vision are important.  Sincerity is not sufficiency. Sometimes our big hearts lead us to unintended consequences (For more on this idea, read Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert’s excellent book When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself.).

Be generous, very generous. Create a culture of generosity. But do not give up discernment in the process.


Stretch the Choir

written by JD

Leaders preach to the choir. They are members of our tribe.

We need it as preachers. The choir needs it. When we preach to the choir, we are reminding them what they already know, what they already believe. It is an extremely important aspect of tribal life. It is foundational to the Christian community (2 Pet 1:12; Titus 2:1).

However, there is another aspect to the Christian community beyond preaching to the choir–stretching the choir. It is not enough to agree. Leaders must lead (1 Cor 4:17).

Paul was not hesitant to preach to the choir, but he did not leave them there. It has been said about half of his epistles are comprised of doctrine, foundational matter. The other half is exhortation to action. Foundation then action. Agreement then movement.

However, if I’m only sharing with the choir what they already know, believe, and feel, then we are moving nowhere. We are caught in an eddy. This round-and-around experience may cause us to feel good and contribute to our encouragement, but it does not move us forward.

Jesus is the only Savior and explicit faith must be put in His name.
We must share the gospel with others.
Fifty Shades of Grey is bad.
Homosexual marriage is bad.
Pornography is bad.
Read your Bible.
Love others.

Thank you for stating this.  I agree with you 100%. You’re preaching to the choir. I’ve agreed 100% with these and a multitude of other matters since I encountered the Word of God years ago.  No advance degrees were necessary; the Word was sufficient to convince.

Leaders, tell us something we don’t know. Stretch us.

Oh, I’m not calling for some shock therapy or deviation from God’s standard. I’m just asking you to lead us to the what next. Seeing that we agree with these matters, tell us what to do next. Challenge us to think and act as wise Kingdom stewards who are already right there with you.

Too many good-hearted pundits only preach to the choir. We mistake this for good leadership. It’s not. It’s the eddy.

Preach to us and stretch us.  We don’t have time for life in the whirlpool. The 4 billion remain.

Look for It