Apr
15

Stop Asking for a Sign

written by JD

We love signs.  We want signs.  Without a sign, we don’t move.

I recently heard of two pastors locked in conversation. One shared with the other his thoughts on multiplying disciples and churches.  His ideas were biblical and simple, but did not fit the traditional paradigm.  The other pastor replied, “You do it first and get a success story under your belt, then my church will do it.”

Signs.  Give me a sign, then I’ll move forward.  Tell me a story, then I’ll consider it.

Peter didn’t say, “Show me a model to reach the God-fearers, and I’ll try it.”  Sometimes you must be first to Cornelius’ house.

The unnamed men of Acts 11:19-21 didn’t say, “Tell us a success story of what works to reach the Gentiles, then we’ll preach the gospel in Antioch.”  Sometimes you must be the first to plant the Church in that city.

Stories. Give us a success story, then we’ll push in when we know it is safe.

Safety, and the American definition of success, is never guaranteed in the Kingdom.  Don’t expect it!

Is there a place for wisdom and stewardship in Kingdom advancement?  Absolutely!  But, that’s different from refraining to move in a more excellent way until you have a success story.

What if William Carey waited for a success story?

What if David Brainerd required a success story before going to the Native Americans?

What if Ralph Winter required a success story before talking about going to the hidden peoples (i.e., unreached peoples), and Luis Bush before emphasizing the 10/40 Window?

Stop asking for a sign, a story of success, before being willing to try something new.

Someone has to be the first. How about you and your church?

 

(image credit: Microsoft Office)

Apr
8

PeopleGroups.Info

written by JD

Recently, I attended the Southeast Regional Evangelical Missiological Society in Columbia, South Carolina.  It was here I presented a paper that Bryan Galloway and I coauthored: “More than Strangers Next Door. . . Our Neighbors: The PeopleGroups.info Initiative to Research the Nations within the United States.”

If you are not familiar with this initiative/resource from the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board, you should check it out HERE.  Then read the paper linked below.

You may find our work as a Word document HERE.

Bryan recently posted it as well HERE.

Mar
27

New Resource: Life as We Know It

written by JD

In this post, I want to share with you a new and innovative resource for getting to know other people in your circles of influence.  Life as We Know It is a very creative, relational approach to bringing people together to share their stories. I have never seen anything like it, and believe it has enormous outreach potential in our highly reclusive world.  I want to encourage you to check out the site and get a copy of the tool for your consideration. lifeasweknowitparticipantguide

Jerry McCorkle, of Spread Truth ministry, recently shared with me some of the details about this tool.  I have known Jerry for a few years.  In fact, you may watch an interview that I did with him back in the day when I wore ties.  Today, I have asked him to share briefly about Spread Truth (you may hear more in the video) and Life as We Know It.

Who is Spread Truth?

We are a ministry committed to partnering with local churches to provide gospel-centered training, resources, and experiences. We have been taking teams of believers to New York City for over 20 years, training them to share their faith to bring back to their own neighborhoods and communities. Our chief resource is The Story, a gospel booklet that presents the good news of scripture—from beginning to end—in a digestible and faithful story form. Our other training and resources expand on the idea of knowing, living, and sharing God’s Story. These resources include The Story, The Story ESV Bible, The Story Guide training material, and our newest, outside of the box, resource Life as We Know It.

What is Life as We Know It?

Life as We Know It is Spread Truth’s new community-building resource. It is designed to bring people into deep, meaningful, and organic relationships using the power of personal stories. Ultimately, it is a tool to help Christians love their neighbors both inside and outside of the church with “no strings attached”.  Life as We Know It takes you through your personal stories beginnings, obstacles, hope, and future and invites you to listen to the stories of others—with incredible, transformative results.

How do you use Life as We Know It?

You can use Life as We Know It in just about any context that you can think of. The “My Story” booklet—a “blank book”—guides you through your group’s beginnings, obstacles, hope, and future. We have designed this resource to let the stories guide the context. Any time you can gather to talk—over coffee, in a small group, at a youth retreat, in a business meeting—you can use Life as We Know It. We have provided some basic guides for leaders, but it is designed to adapt to where you are.

Life as We Know It can serve as a “what’s next” for evangelism training—encouraging long-term, relationship-driven evangelism and discipleship. It can be an effective outreach tool for your neighborhood. And it can even serve as an effective team building activity for businesses, organizations, or churches. The possibilities are limitless.

Why is this important?

We communicate in stories, not bullet points. Our stories make us who we are and direct our paths, but sadly we don’t know the stories of our friends, neighbors, and family. If we are to take the command of Jesus to “love our neighbors as ourselves” seriously, we must be serious about building relationships.

We live in a time where people are disconnected and isolated from God and one another. To share the good news of Jesus Christ we need to share our lives and our stories. We believe that Life as We Know It is a tool that has the potential to help many people do just that.

For more information or to order Life as We Know It go to http://spreadtruth.com/life.

 

Mar
23

The Stewardship of Rockin’ to an 8-Track in an iPod World

written by JD

As a younger Gen Xer, I am old enough to remember the 8-track tape.  With my formative years being in the 80s and early 90s, I later spent a small fortune on cassettes. Yes, I even had a few albums and 45s, but could never figure out why I would want to spend my money on something so bulky and easily scratched. I was slow to move into the world of CDs, but quickly adapted when I saw their advantage over my well-worn cassettes and records.

The music remained the same–the mediums changed.  The times changed.  We all changed along the way.  And, wow, how thankful we are for such a shift!

Only the collector now invests in 8-tracks.  Foolish is the company that continues to operate from a cassette culture in an iPod world.

Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Mark 13:31, ESV).  So true!  But, we often take this statement to mean that the Christian cultures of the world will also remain as constants. We assume that while Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8), the Christian economies and the structures and organizations supported by those economies will remain till the end.

We assume that what was for our forefathers will be for us.  So wrong!

It is an exercise in poor Kingdom stewardship when the Church constructs and becomes dependent on creations that should shift and even pass away.  When our vitality is found in the temporal, we have missed the mark.  Though we know this matter to be the case, we all still say together:

  • I can’t start making iPods, for my denomination only has 8-track players.
  • I can’t start selling iPods, for my income depends on the 45 record.
  • I can’t start developing iPods, for I have a B.A., M.Div., and Ph.D. in Cassette Tapes.
  • I can’t point others to iPods, for I will have no one left to listen to me.

Are we too dependent on blessings that were to exist for a season for gospel advancement?  In the Kingdom, the music remains the same–but often the mediums are divinely designed to change.

If the iPod world is our reality, how now shall we live with warehouses full of 8-track tapes and new cassettes rolling off of the assembly line each week?  Let’s not take too long to figure it out–the four billion remain.

 

(image credit: Microsoft Office)

Mar
6

Two Steps Few Leaders Take

written by JD

We’re no longer going to believe that if God wants the heathen saved, then He’ll do it without us.  We’re going to use means.

We’re no longer going to work only along the coastlines; we’re moving to the interiors of these countries.

We’re no longer going to build mission stations; we’re going to focus on indigenous (later, contextualized) church planting.

We’re no longer going to think of the nations as geo-political states; we’re going to recognize that they are ethno-linguistic groups–unreached peoples (and even unengaged).

It takes a wise, bold, Kingdom Ethic-guided, Spirit-filled, leader to question the present reality and ask if there is a more excellent way allowed by the Word.  This is wise stewardship.  This is a major step toward Kingdom innovation.  Few leaders take the step to think differently about their realities.  Culture, tradition, and systems are powerful forces.  To think differently is unthinkable.

A second major step involves not just thinking about the unthinkable, but actually acting upon such thoughts.  Even fewer leaders are willing to walk this path.  Too much is at stake; stability is often king.  However, those that do are the ones convinced He “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph 3:20, ESV).

Few leaders take these steps.  But, five to ten years after they do, we’re often thankful they did.

Five to ten years from now (Lord willing), will others be thankful you took the two steps that few leaders take?

 

(image credit: Microsoft Office)

Mar
3

Free Ebook: Unreached Peoples, Least Reached Places

written by JD

I am delighted to share that Unreached Peoples, Least Reached Places: An Untold Story of Lostness in America is now available to download as a pdf.  It’s brief, about fifty pages. That is intentional.  You can read it quickly.Unreached Peoples, Least Reached Areas

The pastors with The Church at Brook Hills are always asking how we can best equip our faith family for the work of the ministry (Eph 4:11-12).  Part of shepherding others to reach the nations requires painting a picture of the realities of lostness.  Therefore, I wrote this short ebook for our people.

Unreached Peoples, Least Reached Places is written to cast a vision of reality in the United States, and to offer some practical steps to move us along in disciple making and church multiplication.  We know much about lostness in other parts of the world; we know little about it in our backyard.

One of the convictions that we hold as a faith family is to give away many of our resources for Kingdom advancement.  With this in mind, I am releasing this book to you.  I pray that it will be a blessing to you and your ministry.

So…

Download your copy.

If you do, tell others to get a copy.  Spread the word, far and wide.

Take it. Give it away.

Use it for leading your church to the nations in this nation and beyond.

Feb
28

Sincerity is not Sufficiency

written by JD

Sincerity is not sufficiency.

We have a heart for the lost.

We want to reach the unreached peoples living in North America–and the rest of the world.

We need to be students of the Word.

We need to walk in step with the Spirit.

We have a heart for the poor.

Great!  Sincerity is a start, but only a start.  It is not sufficient to carry you through the race and across the finish line.

Convictions, passions, interests, and feelings are important.  But, what is your church, agency, or network doing to act upon these desires (assuming they are desires and not lip service)?  The psalmist writes, “The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip” (Psalm 37:31, ESV), leading us to know that the righteous person (v. 30) is a man of both right desire and right action.

If we sat down and had a conversation with your strategy, calendar, budget, and weekly activities what would they say?

Sufficiency needs sincerity.  Just don’t be fooled into thinking that sincerity is sufficiency.  The four billion remain. The Day approaches.

Feb
27

Where the Buck Stops in the Kingdom

written by JD

The math teacher who offers students a model for doing basic arithmetic prepares his or her class for algebra and geometry to come.  But, woe to that teacher who fails to teach that which is to be carried with a generation into high school and college; he stops the advancement of learning, progress, and hinders the development of everyone in the class.  That teacher is creating an impotent society.  The buck is not to stop with her, but to be passed on to others. stop?

We often feel that the buck stops with us.  After all, if you want something done right, then do it yourself.  Who can do the best job? I can, of course!

However, we must understand that effective ministry is about equipping, empowerment, releasing others to possibly bigger and greater Kingdom endeavors.

Remember the words of our Lord, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12, ESV).  Wow!  That’s amazing!

One of my favorite quotes from Charles Brock comes from his book Indigenous Church Planting.  Charles claims, “One man who is able to plant a church so modeled that very few ever could approximate his success is not thinking world evangelization.  He is near- sighted.  There may be room for unique models which are not reproducible, but if the world is to be reached, it will be by multiplication and not by addition.”  True in church planting. True in all of ministry.

Does the buck stop with you?  In the Kingdom’s economy, the buck only stops on that Day.

And since that Day has not arrived yet, we better make sure we are passing it along.

 

(image credit: Microsoft Office)

Feb
24

Most Critical Issue in Church Planting

written by JD

Reality #1

Hello.  I’m J. D., and I’m a pastor in your community.

Really? Where is your church?

Oh? Um. Our church has not started yet…

 

Reality #2

Hello. I’m J. D., and this is my family.  We’re with a new church in town.

Really? Where is your church?

Oh? Um. Our church has not started yet, but we will soon…

I thought you said you were with a new church.

 

Reality #3

Hey J. D.! I loved your web site, announcing the new church in our city, and your Grand Opening!

Yeah! I’m excited. The church is going to start on February 29!

And what will you be selling at your Grand Opening? The new Target store just had a Grand Opening last week.

 

Biblical Reality

In the New Testament…

we don’t read about wandering pastors without a flock to shepherd.

we don’t read about apostolic teams announcing they are with a new church.

we don’t read about anyone declaring a local church’s existence before she is birthed from the harvest fields.

 

The most critical issue facing North American church planters is an ecclesiological identity crisis.

What is the local church?  Where does she come from?

Who is a church planter?  Who is a pastor?  What do they do?

The way to overcome the identity crisis is to return to the Book that provides our definitions.  But, be warned.  Once you start down that path, culturally preferred definitions, tribal expectations, personal comforts, and organizational infrastructure will push back with a great force.

Feb
19

To Save the Crowds, Get Away from Them

written by JD

“But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray” (Luke 5:16, ESV).

Shocking words! Unbelievable words!  I mean, how could He?  He only had a ministry span of three years.  Time was ticking. He knew this.

He just healed a man with leprosy (v. 12-13).  Word about Him started to spread like wildfire. The crowds, great crowds were coming, coming, coming, gathering around Him.

And for what reason?  For hearing and for healing (v. 15).  They wanted to hear what this miracle man had to say.  Could He be a prophet? Is this the promised Messiah?

They wanted to be healed of “their infirmities.”

And what was Jesus’ response?

He would get alone with God.

Here was a great opportunity to share the gospel.  Didn’t he realize that? He said that was why He came (Luke 4:18).  Here was a great opportunity to give sight to the blind. He said He came to do that too (Luke 4:18).

Yes, He realized the importance of being there with the people.  However, He realized there was a place of even greater importance.  He would return to the crowds, having compassion on them. But now, even with the pressing crowds, it was more important to be in the desolate place.

If you are going to save the crowds, then you must leave them for the One.

Lord willing, there will always be another opportunity to share the gospel, another sermon to preach.  You will have another chance to heal people. There will always be another crowd to listen to you.

We will never be able to bear the fruit that our Father desires if we forget the source of our strength.  It is out of relationship, not routine ministry, that we are able to do the works of Him who sent us while it is still day.

In your heart of hearts, would you rather be with the crowds or be in a desolate place alone with your Father?  If our answer is the former, then we need get to a desolate place today and talk with Him about our heart’s desire.

(image credit: Microsoft Office)

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