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Thanks for visiting our website! This month’s picture is of a seminar in Guatemala at Ezell Clinic, December 2018. [Click picture to enlarge.]

Seminar in Guatemala

Ministry and mission work is a team effort -- Jan and I have shared the task of ministry and mission work for over 50 years! (We traveled together to preaching appointments during the year before we were married.) Countless people have encouraged us, supported us, loved us, and prayed for us. In addition to the customary "Brother Bob" or "Hermano Bob," I am also known as dad and papaw. One of my favorite breakfasts is huevos fritos, frijoles, and tortillas, with a good hot sauce and a cup of rich Colombian coffee! My greatest joy in life is being part of the kingdom; my #1 priority is to advance "kingdom things" and to help develop authentic "kingdom people." I seek to share the good news about Jesus everywhere I go, helping people find Jesus and helping people mature as disciples of Jesus. One of the greatest blessings of my life is to be loved by countless people around the world!


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Archive for the ‘Missional’ Category

God’s Mission in this World

Monday, August 19th, 2013

What is God’s mission in this world? While there are many ways to describe it, the concept of re-creation provides a continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the beginning God created (Genesis 1-2), and in Jesus Christ he re-creates (Ephesians 2, Broken relationships are restored in Christ. Re-creation is possible. God’s mission is a mission of re-creation. The sin problem in the garden was the result of and resulted in broken horizontal relationship. In Jesus Christ, solves the sin problem, but God also creates unity through meaningful, lasting relationships.
We can analyze the concept of creation and re-creation theologically with great benefit, but one eventually must ask what it means to experience the new creation–to live the adventurous and abundant life in Christ, to live in peace, to know firsthand restored relationships and reconciliation.
The contemporary church emphasizes love as the way to re-creation, restoration, and reconciliation. What does it mean to live in the new way of love? Since God is love, he is the one defines love. Love extended unconditionally in God’s grace does not guarantee acceptance. God loves the world but that does demand universalism and the salvation of every human being. That God chastens and disciplines those he loves as children must speak of a different aspect of love. Many Christians have adopted contemporary views of love that are popular in the secular world, but God ultimately defines love. Love excludes certain things, love disciplines and demands obedience. The extent of love is measured by sacrifice and service. To live the life of love according to God’s definition is to live courageously.
One’s personal salvation is only a first step in God’s plan to re-create, restore, and reconcile the world. Christians are committed to daily engagement with God’s mission of re-creation, restoration, and reconciliation. This engagement requires courage and compassion, for God’s mission is one of peace–resolving conflict and developing caring relationships. Salvation does not occur in isolation and is not maintained in isolation. Let us love God and one another enough to submit, sacrifice, and serve; let us love as Jesus loved. Any other definition of love, including the weak and superficial definitions popularized by contemporary culture, is inadequate to accomplish God’s mission in this world.

Doing what God put us here to do!

Monday, March 19th, 2012

We will Exalt the Lord. We worship him, we glorify him in word and deed. We seek to honor him and lift him up as worthy of praise and adoration.

We will Edify one another. We find spiritual life and meaning within the community of faith, and recognize the need for encouragement and strength.

We will Evangelize the lost. Knowing that the good news of Jesus has changed our lives, we will become like our King by seeking and saving the lost. We will live in the story, and live out the story in our own lives to attract others to Christ and share the message of salvation.

We will Equip the body. We will use our spiritual gifts for the good of our fellow Christians and fellowman. We will help others grow in faith and service.

We will Expand the kingdom. As disciples of Jesus the King, we will make his purpose our purpose and work to expand the kingdom in number, in spirit, in service, and in love.

Mission Deficit

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

I glanced at an article by James Nored yesterday, filed it, will go back to it. (Do you ever process your email that way? Some days there is too much to handle in detail.) The article concluded that we have a “mission deficit”. In the same way that our national government seems incapable of establishing sufficient priorities and making hard decisions to deal with an overwhelming deficit, the church has misaligned its priorities and failed to make hard decisions. Our resources are going to things that will not solve the long-term problem.

Our world is suffering from a serious crisis: a Jesus crisis! (See an article on this topic, and several other new articles that focus on missions at the “recent posts” section of my Articles Index. The church in many places does not want to hear that there is a problem. We are happy in our ignorance–head in sand syndrome. We need to renew mission, and missions. We must live our lives with the world in view. The church is not reservoir but conduit. In many places our conduit is blocked, and the gospel is dripping rather than gushing.

A Missional Christmas Idea

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

One of the things I miss about being the “primary” presence in the pulpit is the opportunity to take relatively small, insignificant ideas and present them as short-term, weekly challenges to the church as we strive to live out the reality of Jesus in our world. Most of our folks are not missing the desire, they are missing the method. They need ideas about how they can make a difference. It is almost as though (putting on my academic hat for a moment) they need “homework.”

In reviewing some of my recent sermons, I have challenged us to….

  • put in a good word for Jesus during the next week
  • ask as many people as possible a list of 2-3 questions (which I provided), and then we gave opportunity for feedback reports
  • ask people if you can pray for them until you get a list of at least 2-3 people, then pray for them the rest of the week, and follow up if they will give you information for future contact. (But the praying is not dependent on receiving contact information, so assure those who accept your prayer offer that you will pray for them regardless.)
  • adopt a “be a blessing” strategy for one week
  • invest a sum of money in helping someone else
  • With the holiday season upon us, I suggest another possibility. On the Wednesday before Christmas, we are having a congregational devotional. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we encouraged families to go out after that devotional (and during the next two days before Christmas) to spread a little “Joy to the World” by making a visit or taking a card, care basket, small gift, donuts, etc. to someone whom we would not otherwise contact. Maybe we could take something to someone who is working the holidays–hospital or nursing home workers, police or fire fighters, etc. Perhaps we could touch our families in new and fresh ways–both our physical family and our spiritual family–by going the extra mile. Perhaps we could say something significant to our friends and neighbors. Wouldn’t it be great if families and small groups of Christians did this together?

    In a world where many believe that the primary interest of the churches is focused inwardly, could it make a difference if we attempted to show that we have a genuine interest in others? Could it make a difference if we took the spirit of Jesus outside our four walls? A Starbucks employee recently observed, “It seems like a lot of churches are just inward focused and don’t get out in the community.” In most places, the church has a huge PR problem. The unchurched think that the church ought to exist for others, to serve the hurting and broken, and to be involved in the community. We need to do things in the name of Jesus and to make clear that we are doing them because we are Christians. Doing good things causes others to praise God (reread Matthew 5 and 1 Peter 2.)

    I applaud outreach ministries that focus on evangelism. But sometimes our outreach effort needs to be as simple as serving others in very specific, individualized ways that go beyond hosting spectacular community events. The personal touch is essential–whether it be in a food pantry, food baskets or food backpacks, serving in a housing development, or whatever. The key is that the church acts only as its members act. The problem with too many programs and ministries is that we are outsourcing ministry and leaving to the professionals those things that the church should be doing at the grassroots level.

    So my idea is that we come together briefly on that Wednesday, and that we encourage and equip people to go out and do mission and serve. Maybe the church could arrange to have on hand the things necessary to make up small care packages, fruit, cards, food items, etc. depending on the needs to be met. Perhaps the church could enjoy preparing their gifts together and praying together.

    Little by little, with efforts such as these, we could communicate to our community the heart of this church, so that we live out the message on our sign: “touching hearts, transforming lives.” What would happen if some of your family, friends, neighbors, or acquaintances knew that this is a church that cares? Would that help overcome any negative stereotypes? Most people need to encounter an authentic church in order to come to faith in Jesus. Are we such a church?

    It’s Sunday Again: Church without Covenant?

    Sunday, January 10th, 2010

    Our culture is filled with churches that are trying to be or do the work of God apart from “covenant relationship” with God.  As an increasing number of persons in our national culture seek the relationship of marriage without commitment or covenant, a similar situation has developed in many churches.

     What does it mean to be a covenant person?  Is it what you believe?  Is it your doctrinal statement? Are we covenant people because of the way we worship?

     How does one come to be a covenant person?  By accepting a system of teaching?  By accepting or accomplishing a prescribed activity checklist?

     How can one tell who is a covenant person?  At its heart, this is the question of church.  What is the church?  What is the result of covenant relationship with God? 

    It is not sinlessness; it is not perfection.  It is not adherence to doctrine or an order of worship.  It is the restoration of image.  It is the mind of Christ within us.  It shows up as we focus on others more than self, it shows us as we focus on people more than tasks, it shows up in leadership that develops and leads a cause or movement rather than an organization. 

    The DNA of a covenant person (disciple, follower of Jesus) is seen in response to the question, Do you love God?  Do you love your neighbor?  If we are restored to God-image, might it show up in our commitment to bless others more than in a commitment to evangelize others?  Is the goal a version of salvation that makes folks like us, or is the goal restoration of covenant relationship with God?

    The latter has tremendous power to really change (transform!) lives!

    2010: Renewing the Mission

    Thursday, December 31st, 2009

    The church where I minister does not have an official mission statement. Perhaps that is bad. A positive that comes is that I get to continually write possible mission statements that reflect who we are and what we are trying to become.
    As I think about 2010, I have developed a new mission statement. Perhaps it will help us move a bit closer to the task God has before us.

    We, a local body of Christ, part of the larger body of Christ, devote ourselves to doing the will of God as it is revealed in his infallible word, the Bible.
    We exist to glorify God in our collective worship, to reach out to the lost with the gospel, and to build up one another in love.
    Knowing that we are saved by grace through faith, every member is encouraged to use the talents given by God to serve others and to grow in faith toward God and his Son Jesus Christ.

    Missional: Christianity on the Fringes

    Saturday, May 9th, 2009

    We have been observing for at least two decades that Christianity is being pushed to the fringes of our society and culture. Beginning as early as the publication of Newbigin’s Foolishness to the Greeks, the removal of Christianity from the public sphere to the private has been observed and documented. One result of the privatization of religion has been the development of a subjective religion in which every person independently develops their own “religion” with little concern for what others think or what the Bible says.

    This week the continued efforts to push Christianity to the fringes have been emphasized by our President’s decision to eliminate a a formal observance of the National Day of Prayer from the White House agenda. Our nation is struggling with the difference between the separation of church and state and the elimination of religion from the state. In response to the statement from the President’s office that all presidents pray, one atheistic organization was quoted as saying they wish the President wouldn’t pray at all.

    At the beginning of the 21st century, the church goes outside its walls into a mission field that exists immediately around it. We live in a mission field. We must recognize that our nation is no longer a Christian nation (or at best, is minimally Christian). We are a nation where 80% or more of those who claim Christianity as their religion are casual Christians who irregularly or seldom attend worship assemblies. On any given Sunday, as few as 15% of the population is in church.

    Missional living requires that we rethink the shape of Christian faith. In 2003, I wrote about Philip Jenkins’ book, The New Christendom. The challenge is perhaps more obvious today than it was then.

    (1) We must preach the necessity of personal faith in Christianity, connecting personal experience and faith. (2) We must preach the demand for personal morality in Christianity. (3) We must preach personal responsibility in Christianity, understanding the autonomy of believers. (4) We must preach the power for personal change in Christianity, to save eternally and change lives here. (5) We must preach the necessity of personal application in Christianity in the context of culture, recognizing that Christianity is independent of culture.

    While some may see all of this as bad news, historically the church has been strongest when it had to function missionally, when the world around it was a challenge rather than a support, when it understood clearly its role as strangers and pilgrims in a hostile world.

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