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Thanks for visiting our website! Picture of the Month: sharing the word in Pilanqui, Ibarra, Ecuador; a view of part of the crowd, two baptisms. [Click picture to enlarge.]

Preaching in Pilanqui

Ministry is always a team effort--Jan and I have shared the work of ministry and missions for 48+ years! Countless others have encouraged us, supported us, loved us, and prayed for us. In addition to the customary "Brother Bob," I am also known as dad and papaw. My favorite breakfast is huevos fritos, frijoles, and tortillas, with a good hot sauce and a cup of quality coffee! My greatest joy in life is being part of the kingdom; my #1 priority is to advance "kingdom things" and help develop authentic "kingdom people." I seek to serve and share the good news about Jesus everywhere I go, helping people find Jesus and helping people mature in 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 ‘LatAmerLdrDev’ Category

Mission: What are we teaching national preachers?

Monday, November 18th, 2013

I received an email from preacher who was trained at a preacher training school in Latin America: “I want to preach but I cannot find a sponsoring church in the United States to pay me.”

What? What did this brother learn in preaching training school? Perhaps we need to restudy the New Testament. Does the call to preach depend on finding someone to pay us to preach? Paul supported himself while he preached. Have we developed a faulty view of the call to preach? I fear we have let ministry concepts replace preaching and evangelism. Especially in mission work, we need to rethink the difference between preaching and ministry.

What is the work of a preacher? Quickly—how would you respond? Do we answer with visions of church planting and church development, or do we focus on a pastoral concept of ministry? Isn’t the work of the preacher to preach, to evangelize? The work of Titus on Crete was to appoint leaders, first correcting that which was deficient; but it seems that was for a specific, unique situation, and that the goal was to develop leaders do the lion’s share of the pastoral work.

The church needs more preachers, ministers, and missionaries who are trying to work themselves out of a job by strengthening churches and establishing local leaders who will advance the cause, lead the congregation, and encourage the member to support the work of the local church with their time, activities, and money (which may include a local minister).

Few who have genuinely received the call to preach and evangelize are going to be happy if their work is primarily in the mold associated with “local ministry.” Paul’s words to Timothy provide a helpful reminder: do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your service (2 Timothy 4:5). For Timothy, preaching and evangelism was his ministry.

P.S. I wrote back to the brother and suggested that if he wanted to preach, he should preach. Find a congregation to work with, help build up the local church, volunteer to teach and preach at every opportunity and do it well. Do not worry if you have to work vocationally in order to preach: Preach the Word!

How would you have responded to this brother? How can the church more effectively train national preachers?

Progress in Guatemala Missions

Monday, November 11th, 2013

A week in Guatemala left me with many concepts floating in my mind….
The first missionaries of the churches of Christ arrived in Guatemala a little over 50 years ago.
There are likely somewhere near 40000 members of Iglesias de Cristo in Guatemala, in about 300 congregations (more or less).
There is a good level of receptivity in some places and many of the churches are growing and new churches are being planted.
An area-wide worship in the Guatemala City on the first Sunday of November had 3500-4000 present.
A few years ago, the Guatemala churches set a goal of planting 100 new churches in the northeastern part of the country–there are currently 49. In February 2014, I will have the privilege of working in a seminar with a group of these churches in the northeastern part of Guatemala.
The churches of Guatemala have an annual conference with an attendance of 4000-5000.
New churches are being planted without U.S. financial support.

Understanding Missions through the Lens of Responsibility

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

One of the conversations that I shared this week focused on how we can best describe the task of missionaries in the development of strong local churches in the mission field. An oft-quoted development model identifies four steps: self-governance, self-sustainability or becoming self-supporting, self-theologizing, and self-duplication through planting additional churches. While the steps in the model provide a helpful understanding of what is to occur, they say little about how such occurs and are not particularly helpful in working with mission churches. (I cannot remember ever explaining or using these steps in seminars with local churches on the mission field.)

Ben Langford, director of the Center for Global Missions at Oklahoma Christian University, suggested that a more helpful model might be to think of shared responsibility. His comment suggests to me another progression, one that can guide mission work and challenge newly established congregations. It occurs to me that the beginning of a new congregation occurs with all (or almost all) of the responsibility on the shoulders of the missionary or mission team. Only in unusual circumstances will there be a national or indigenous church member immediately available to help bear the responsibility. The task moving forward is to share responsibility, with more and more responsibility assumed by the members of the local church, and less and less responsibility borne by the inserted individuals. The timetable for the complete transfer of responsibility varies according to numerous factors, but many missionary church-planting teams begin with a seven-year plan.

Understanding mission or church planting through the lens of responsibility can help identify what are appropriate tasks for the missionary or mission team and how those tasks change over time. Obviously, a primary role of the inserted group is to share the good news and bring people to Christ. But from the first day, the task is to model Christianity, to mentor and develop spiritually mature Christians. The goal is not merely baptisms. The goal is spiritual maturity, both for those who accept Christ and for the church as it learns to function as the body of Christ in healthy ways.

This is merely conversation starter with the hope of encouraging thoughtful response which will be helpful in future blogs or articles.
What are some of the “steps” in the transfer of responsibility? How does this “play” cross-culturally? What are the strengths and weaknesses of this view of the mission task? When and how have you seen this model or concept used successfully?

Vineyard Tending

Friday, August 30th, 2013

I sent out a summary of my Summer 2013 Mission Work this week. (The report is also linked on the website.) Some of those who receive reports send responses: “Are your mission trips always so intense? It makes me tired reading it. Can I go with you? I am jealous–except for the bus rides!”
This week one of the responses was especially encouraging. A good friend who is an elder and is actively involved in mission work referred to the results of my “vineyard tending.” I had not thought of that phrase to describe my mission efforts but it is fitting. In most of the places I go, planting has occurred in the past. There is an existing vineyard, but it needs to be tended. Sometimes it needs to be cultivated, sometimes it needs more planting, sometimes it needs pruning. My work is tending the vineyard to make it more productive. Without tending, weak vines multiply and strong vines do not become well established. The vineyard cannot be productive without strong plants in the vineyard.

The purpose of this effort is to strengthen and edify local churches and to establish biblical leaders. By developing model churches throughout Latin America, the influence and impact of the gospel is multiplied. Establishing strong, missionary churches gives the gospel a stronger and more permanent foothold. As local churches become mature, they are able to accept more and more of the responsibility for evangelizing and church planting in their own regions.

Honduras and Panama: Developing Leaders

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

After spending eighteen days in Honduras and Panama with visits, contacts and presentations in 37 churches, I am back home. For those who do not know the purpose of these mission trips, for the last four years I have traveled across Latin America (in most parts of Central America and South America from Guatemala to Chile) to encourage churches to think realistically about their past and to plan for the future. A good way to summarize the goal is to say that I am helping with church development and leader development. Many churches have been begun by missionary efforts, but the majority have failed to grow and have stagnated. Most of the churches in Latin America do not have elders, and those that do have often followed the lead of U.S. churches and have fallen into unhealthy (and unbiblical) patterns of leadership. The majority of the places I go do not have a North American presence. Often the church was established (weakly) and the missonaries left. The need is to strengthen churches and help them grow to accomplish God’s will in their unique places in the world.
I make about ten trips per year, averaging two weeks out of the U.S. per trip. The invitations continue to multiply as churches realize the need. Almost always in the churches where seminars are presented, there are also members present from surrounding churches. The number of churches receiving teaching each year is between 100 and 200. I speak to hundreds of Christians and have the opportunity to listen to the concerns and dreams of dozens of Christians–leaders, potential leaders, and members who care deeply about the church.
The challenge in Latin America accentuates the need in the U.S. that churches think carefully and biblically about the role of leaders and God’s plan for the biblical organization of the church. The problems in the U.S. are easily transported to mission fields where the leadership problems are often more severe.
A model Paul used for working with the churches he had established is set forth in Acts 14:21-23: strengthening, edifying, and naming elders. This same process I seek to use so that healthy, sustainable churches can develop to the glory of God, and so that these churches can become missionary churches able to help establish more churches.

Nos Vemos–We’ll see one another!

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Brother Florecio Molina is blind. Now in his mid-60s, he lost his sight about nine years ago due to an infection. Despite his blindness, he has a jovial spirit. Last night as we left the church building after Wednesday night Bible study, he laughed as he said to me, “Nos vemos.” We’ll see you! He added, “If not here on earth, then in heaven for sure.” He went on to say that he really would be able to see in heaven.
I laughed with him. Indeed, one day the disabilities of this life will be no more.

It is a blessing to have the opportunity to encourage the churches, help develop effective preachers and leaders, and train and lead others in outreach and evangelism. People like Brother Florencio make the time invested to encourage and strengthen the churches worthwhile. The phrase “nos vemos” is heard frequently in Latin America, but for Christians, it has a special meaning. Nos vemos. We’ll see you–if not here on earth, then in heaven!

Greetings in the Lord!

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

On a recent trip to Honduras, while I was with a group in the Tegucigalpa airport I saw and greeted about a dozen people I have known through my years of work and visits to Honduras. One of the group members expressed her surprise that I could be in an airport in a major city outside the US and know so many people!
Yesterday when I got off the plane in Tegucigalpa, I was greeted almost immediately by Christian brothers from Siguatepeque–I had no idea they would be at the airport. “Greetings in the Lord. Blessings in the Lord.” Eventually I found the group I was expecting to connect with, but as we shared greetings in the Lord, I thought of the wonderful nature of God’s family.

[Epilogue: I was also interested in hearing the “airport music” playing in the background at the Tegucigalpa airport–instrumental versions of “God’s Family” and “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder.” Perhaps I noticed it because it has been a long time since one heard instrumentals of Christian music playing as background elevator music in malls, stores, or airports in the US!]

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