Apr
21

Diet of Complexity

written by JD

Complexity is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be.

In the West, disciple making, church planting, and pastoral ministry are complex matters. But they do not have to remain in this state.

Whenever I speak to pastors, denominational leaders, academics, and agency leaders, they all share the desire to participate in the exponential multiplication of disciples and leaders. And while hearts are in the right place, culturally preferred ecclesiologies and long-standing structures often are not.

We have been raised on a diet of complexity and regularly consume it. And here is the great irony: We desire to see the production of something that complexity cannot produce. This is one of the reasons why we pastors must stand on the bridge.

I find it difficult to believe the first century church was able to turn the world upside down with complexity (Acts 17:6).

We must remember: We serve a complex King with simple ways.

How are we going to put our diet of complexity on a diet?

———

David Garrison was my guest on last Friday’s episode of Strike the Match. Check out our conversation about the amazing work of the Spirit in the Muslim world and subscribe at iTunes or through RSS.

Apr
20

Pastors Stand on the Bridge

written by JD

The call to be a pastor in the post-Christianized West is a call to stand on a bridge between two worlds.

The great need of the hour is to know the present, see the potential, and call church planters to move to a possible future.

The great need of the hour is to equip such teams to cross from our world and enter into that other world, one in which you and I are unable to enter due to our traditions, educations, giftings, and callings. And this is not necessarily a bad thing. It is one of the means by which the four billion will be reached.

The great need of the hour is for pastors to take a stand on the bridge and call their church members to this other world to multiply disciples and churches–across the globe and across the street among the upgs. The great need of the hour is not for them to do this in our world (where the shadow of the steeple is far and wide), for if they do they have not crossed the bridge.

Such pastors do not stand on the bridge because they are lazy or fearful (standing on the bridge is hard work), but because they are called. They know that standing on the bridge means that those who can’t, teach. And they are okay with this.

———

David Garrison was my guest on last Friday’s episode of Strike the Match. Check out our conversation about the amazing work of the Spirit in the Muslim world and subscribe at iTunes or through RSS.

Apr
19

Partnership

written by JD

Partnership does not mean doctrinal compromise. Know your boundaries.

Partnership does not mean that you compromise your vision, mission, or goal. Know your boundaries.

Twenty years ago partnership was not as in vogue as today. Now it is cool. However, do not participate in partnership because everyone is doing it.

We are different. We may be unable to partner together at certain levels of commitment, but that is okay.

Partnership is biblical (Phil 4:15). The world is too big to go alone (Ecc 4:9-12). You cannot do it all. I cannot do it all. Find a partner for the sake of the four billion.

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David Garrison was my guest on last Friday’s episode of Strike the Match. Check out our conversation about the amazing work of the Spirit in the Muslim world and subscribe at iTunes or through RSS.

Apr
16

Muslim Movements to Christ

written by JD

Strike the Match

We are living in a time when the greatest number of Muslims are coming to faith. Last year, David Garrison noted this reality in his book A Wind in the House of Islam: How God is Drawing Muslims around the World to Faith in Jesus Christ.

David traveled over 250,000 miles into every area of the Muslim world and collected interviews from 1,000 former Muslims to understand how they came to faith. We recently spoke about his work and these unprecedented movements across the Muslim world.

Check out our conversation. You will be encouraged to hear of the work of the Spirit across the Muslim world.

Here are the web sites David mentioned in the recording:

30 Days of Prayer

Wind in the House.org

A Wind in the House of Islam on Facebook

———-

This is episode 6 of Strike the Match. And I want to thank you listeners for these past six weeks and your encouraging words! I am very excited at the number of you who are listening to this resource! Lord willing, there is much more to come in future episodes. Please keep listening and sharing this resource with others you know. Also, ratings and comments are always very helpful. Please consider leaving them at iTunes and elsewhere. Appreciate you all!

Apr
15

5 Practices When Responding to Team Conflict

written by JD

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity” (Psalm 133:1, ESV).

No one enjoys conflict, especially the kind that comes with others on your team. That kind of conflict really hurts.

While we do not like it, it will come. No team is immune to conflict. Not all conflict is bad. And not all conflict means sin is present. Sometimes it may be necessary for you and your team to go in separate directions. The departure of John Mark from that early church planting team (Acts 13:13) later resulted in Paul and Barnabas going separate ways (Acts 15:39-40).

How we respond to conflict is critical to both the overall health of the team and the fulfillment of our mission. Here are a a few matters I address in The Barnabas Factors when it comes to responding appropriately to conflict:

Let Everything be Done out of Love: Before conflict gets out of hand and results in sinful acts, team members must remember that the things they say, the actions they take, and the decisions they make are to be done out of love for one another, God, and the unbelievers they seek to reach (Rom 12:10).

Let Everything be Done for the Sake of the Kingdom: Kingdom citizens are called to live according to a Kingdom Ethic. Conflict should be settled quickly so that disciple making and church planting do not cease. Barnabas and Paul may go separate ways, but they both go preaching the gospel.

Let Everything be Done as a Witness for the Lord: Teams must be cautious in the decisions they make when handling conflict because the world is watching them. How they respond in their days of conflict will be a witness for the Lord they serve.

Let Everything be Done out of a Spirit of Humility and Servanthood: Team members should think more highly of the other person than of themselves. If they approach conflict with a servant’s heart and with a spirit of humility and prayer, the decisions made in an attempt to resolve the conflict are more likely to be godly decisions.

Let Everything be Done to Seek the Best for the Other Members: If team members understand their ministries in light of the fact that they must desire the best for their other brothers or sisters, then the decisions they make are likely to be healthy and wise decisions. Rather than seeking to put their own desires first, they seek to put the best result for the other people above their own inclinations. Sometimes this “best result” means expecting confession and repentance from an erring individual.

———-

Phillip Connor was my guest on last Friday’s episode of Strike the Match. We had a great conversation about the new Pew study on the 2010-2050 growth projections of the world’s major living religions. Check out our conversation and subscribe at iTunes or through RSS.

Apr
14

Move when the Window is Open

written by JD

This post is not a critique of either Kenya, her government, her churches, or refugee camps. It is a reminder that windows for gospel advancement may only remain open for a season.

According to the 7th edition of Operation World, Kenya has the highest percentage of evangelicals in the world (49%). As a comparison, the United States is around 28%. As far as Kenya’s total Christian population, she comes in at number 22 with 34,000,000.

Of the 22 people groups who call Somalia home, all of them are considered unreached. Kenya has the largest refugee camp in the world. It is the home to at least 500,000 Somalis.

I want to be very careful in this post. I write as an outsider and from a degree of ignorance. I have never been to Kenya. I do not know the contextual issues in Kenya or Somalia. We do not have a refugee camp in my country. However, this refugee camp appears to be a great opportunity for the churches to share the good news of Jesus with some of the world’s unreached peoples.

Yet, the window of opportunity may be closing. The Kenyan government has given the United Nations three months to relocate this camp.

Whether or not this relocation occurs is not my point.

If the Divine Maestro, working through the evils of mankind, orchestrated the movement of the Somalis into the world’s most evangelical country (percentage-wise), has the Church there been faithful in preaching the gospel (Acts 17:26-27)? I hope she has.

The United States has the third largest number of unreached people groups for any nation in the world. We also have a large evangelical percentage.

This window may be closing in Kenya. Could today’s open window in the U. S. start to close tomorrow?

Will someone one day blog about us asking, “Did the Church labor to make disciples of the unreached peoples who moved into her backyard?”

———-

I spent today in Virginia at the Empowered Conference hosted by the SBC of Virginia. I promised the participants I would post my presentation on my blog. So, here you go guys! I am so thankful for you and all that the Lord is doing through you. It was an honor to be with you.

Apr
13

Apostolic Structures in a Post-Christianized Context

written by JD

Evangelicals in the West, and North America in particular, generally agree that they live in a mission field. Cultural shifts and immigration have moved the boat of the Church into post-Christianized waters.

Lesslie Newbigin argued this.

David Bosch argued this.

The Gospel and Our Culture Network argued this.

The academy got it.

Evangelical church and denominational leaders got it.

People in the pews got it.

But “getting it” is not sufficient for Kingdom citizens. We are called to be a people who move.

The drift into post-Christianized waters occurred in the context of mature Church structures. The result? Ministry was (and is) to be filtered through a pastoral lens. There was no allowance for the Church sending the apostolic into her backyard. We left that behind a long time ago and assigned it to the missionary category for Majority World contexts.

Even when we said, “We must be missional,” or “Think like a missionary,” our thoughts and field practices remained pastoral in orientation.

Today, we may speak the language of the apostolic, but we only know how to fit it into the box of pastoral ministry. While there are biblical similarities between the two, they are apples and oranges in practice.

Our nineteenth century support structures, networks, and policies were not designed or developed for a mission field in our backyard. They were for “overseas” where pastoral structures did not exist.

We know we live in a mission field. We have been talking about this for a while.

We have never seen the co-existence of collaborative pastoral and apostolic structures in North America–a must for the post-Christianized West.

A place to begin the necessary shifts? Apostolic missiology.

Apr
12

Expect Successful Failures

written by JD

April 11 was the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 13 launch. It has been called NASA’s most “successful failure.” Though the three men failed at their goal of landing on the moon, this aborted mission resulted in the application of a wealth of knowledge and skills no one could have anticipated using before liftoff. This successful failure inspired a generation of young people to enter into the science and engineering fields.

Reflecting on the NASA team overseeing Apollo 13, Francis French, of the San Diego Air and Space Museum, stated, “They were ready to think about things that were way outside of their procedures they practiced, to run through checklists, to use their imagination and come up with ways to very calmly work out the best way to bring three people back to Earth alive.”

And while our journey is not to the moon, there will be times when we are likely to “fail” at our goal of landing on Asia (Acts 16:6) and “fail” at our goal of landing on Bithynia (Acts 16:7).

If in God’s common grace mankind is able to make such adjustments to innovate and save the lives of three men, how much more should the Spirit-filled Church be willing to make necessary adjustments to innovate for the lives of the 4 billion? This is often necessary to allow for touchdown on Philippi (Acts 16:12).

Embrace the stewardship of innovation, recognize the reality of navigating change, and take the two-steps few leaders take.

———-

Phillip Connor was my guest on last Friday’s episode of Strike the Match. We had a great conversation about the new Pew study on the 2010-2050 growth projections of the world’s major living religions. Check out our conversation and subscribe at iTunes or through RSS.

Apr
9

World Religions Growth Projections 2010-2050

written by JD

Strike the Match

I greatly appreciate the work of the Pew Research Center. They recently released a very important study: “The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050.” This work is filled with a great deal of information. For example, by 2050, the global Muslim population will nearly equal the global Christian population and the global religiously unaffiliated will decline in number. The Hindu population in the United States is expected to double and the European Christian population is expected to decline by 100 million people. I recently had a conversation with one of the primary researchers on this project and wanted to share this discussion with you.

Phillip Connor, Ph.D., is the missions pastor at Great Commission Community Church in Arlington, Virginia and formerly worked as a researcher with Pew.  In addition to several research projects, he contributed to this recent study. He is the author of Immigrant Faith: Patterns of Immigrant Religion in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe and co-author (with Kandace Connor) of Who is My Neighbor? Reaching Internationals in North America.

Phillip and I discuss some of the demographic matters related to this project and the missiological implications for the Church today.

This report calls church leaders from around the globe to a sobering present reality and possible future. This is a podcast you should not miss as you lead your church, mission agency, seminary, or denomination into the days to come. All Kingdom citizens need to be aware of these trends as we pray, go, give, re-structure, re-organize, and cooperate for gospel advancement among the unreached peoples of the world.

I fear that many evangelicals will listen and will continue with business as usual. May it not be so! We stand at a strategic moment in history. Will we be wise stewards with what we have in view of this possible future?

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In light of this report, David Garrison, Ph.D., will be my next guest on Strike the Match. We will be discussing his latest book A Wind in the House of Islam: How God is Drawing Muslims around the World to Faith in Jesus Christ. David has some encouraging things to share with us. Subscribe to this podcast so you will not miss any future episode–RSS or iTunes.

Apr
8

Religious Liberty: The Stats Must be Wrong

written by JD

I know the Pew Research Center’s report notes that the U. S. Christian population is 78%. That would be 243,360,000 people.

I know 38% of the general population (That would be 118,560,000 people.) accept the label “Evangelical”–with Barna adding that 27% of those (That would be 32,011,200 people.) that do are not born again. So, 118,560,000 less Barna’s 32,011,200 leaves 86,548,800 U. S. Evangelical Christians– or 28% of the U. S. population.

The numbers must be wrong.

With all that is happening in the U. S. public square over religious liberty matters against Christians, how can there be 243,000,000 people in the United States who are Christians? How can 28% of the U. S. population be comprised of evangelicals? Religious liberty matters aside, what population that large would allow such treatment to their own?

What if the voices standing against the way of Jesus numbered 243,000,000, or even 28% of the population? Would they remain silent and unresponsive to verbal abuse, threats, discrimination, and double standards by a minority group trying to take away public rights?

Public actions have revealed the private beliefs of one of the world’s largest “Christian” populations. And those public actions do not reveal a Kingdom Ethic lived by 78% or even 28% of the population.

Maybe the U. S. is more of a mission field than we have believed it to be.

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Last week on Strike the Match, pastor and author, Jonathan Dodson was my guest. Check out our conversation and subscribe at iTunes or through RSS.

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