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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 June, 2009

Stars to Steer By: Church

Friday, June 26th, 2009

A quote which my friend Grady King uses to close his emails:

 “The church is only the church when it exists for others.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A Jesus Manifesto: Frank Viola and Len Sweet

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

If you have not seen the buzz about the Monday posting by Len Sweet and Frank Viola, you need to read what they have written. The church must get back to what the church is about in the mind and plan of God. This is the glory of the church, and the power and future of the church.

Here is the website: A Jesus Manifesto. We must join this discussion and talk about how the challenge is met.

Stars to Steer By: What Will You Give Up?

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Are you willing to give up what you are for what you can become?

Ministry Matters

Monday, June 15th, 2009

The title is purposefully ambiguous. It says two things. First, it is a complete sentence, with subject and verb. It says that ministry is important. That service makes a difference. That what we ministers do has significance and value. We need to hear such a message, because the world is not always certain that “ministry matters”, nor are we who ministers. Second, it could be a subject line which suggests that what will follow are various aspects (matters) of ministry. The intent of this article is more the first than the second.

We talked about grace yesterday. It made a difference. A sister who recently began attending church again after several years away asked that I pray for her son. A man that sometimes seems to wear an outer shell confided after our evening worship (theme: Grateful for Grace) that grace is what helped him get through the challenge of losing a daughter to cancer. At times it seems we ministers are talking and no one is listening. What we are called to do is minister the presence of God to the world we touch. Ministry matters because God matters.

Opportunities to serve are everywhere around us. This week I will spend some time in the office (it’s Monday, but Sunday is coming). I will work on the bulletin. I will also spend a few days in an office in Honduras. It’s not much different than my office at the church building (except it is not air conditioned!). I can pick up the phone and call the same people. I study and write and answer emails. Alongside the normal routines and rhythms of ministry, I will be available to answer a lot of questions, solve a few problems, provide some insight and wisdom (I hope), and make a difference in the training of preachers/ministers.

Ministers quit because hope fades. When I cannot see that what I am doing is making any difference, I am tempted to quit. But not today, not this week. Because ministry matters.

Stars to Steer By: Weariness

Friday, June 12th, 2009

Men weary as much of not doing the things they want to do, as they do of doing the things they do not want to do.

Small Groups, House Churches, Simple Churches

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

The Barna report released this week (“Americans Open to Exploring New Ways of Experiencing God”) suggests that Americans are more and more inclined to find and practice faith outside the structures and context of traditional churches. The report verifies what many churches have already suspected and experienced. The report can be understood better by surveying some things that are already happening in our society and in our world. [The report is available at www.barna.org.]

The report includes a final section entitled “Changes are Already Happening.” Barna cites several statistics in suggesting that we are seeing a spiritual makeover taking place in America. About 7% of adults attend a house church in a typical month, seven times more than a decade ago. The number of people who rely upon marketplace ministries for spiritual experiences is about half of the number who attend a conventional church service during a given month. Millions of adults rely on faith-based media for religious experience and expression and the number is growing. These things represent a major realignment of religious behavior in the last decade. The rapid growth of the house church or simple church movement is especially significant.

A new book, co-authored by Barna and simple church pioneers Tony and Felicity Dale (The Rabbit and the Elephant), discusses the growth of the simple church movement and describes home-based churches as one place people are seeking faith experiences that are dynamic and genuine. The book describes the experience of the Dales in initiating a house church and explains what they have experienced and learned in the process. Barna’s summary of the major points in the book includes the following.

  • how simple churches and conventional churches grow in different ways and with different methods
  • the forms of accountability which help simple churches function
  • facilitating and measuring success in a living, organic environment
  • the different types of leadership required in conventional and simple churches
  • the outreach and reproducibility models that characterize simple churches

Barna: Americans Open to Exploring New Faith Approaches

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

A new Barna report out this week documents and explains what many churches already know and are experiencing. Finding and practicing religion through traditional churches is less and less popular in our country. Our society and culture is in a time of individual personal exploration, with “new approaches to marriage, communications, sexuality, education, and more”, including how people pursue their faith and how they relate to God and other people of faith.
[The entire report is available at www.barna.org]

Survey Results: What People Are Saying about Their Faith

  • 88% of American adults say that “my religious faith is very important in my life.”
    Any significant decline in spirituality or religiosity is overstated. Faith is not going away (or even diminishing significantly) despite media releases which suggest the demise of traditional faith practices and beliefs. Nine out of ten adults say that their faith plays a meaningful role in their life. Nothing on the horizon suggests this is likely to change in the foreseeable future.
  • 75% say they sense that “God is motivating people to stay connected with Him, but in different ways and through different types of experiences than in the past.”
    There is a growing sense of release from traditional religious practices in this country. People are suggesting that they want more of God and less of the stuff that gets between them and their relationship with God. This “stuff” often includes traditional church experiences.
  • 45% say they are “willing to try a new church.”
    Almost half of Americans are open to changing their church home, demonstrating their lack of connection with their present faith community and their desire for a more significant connection. This may reflect an increasing lack of loyalty to both organizations and personal relationships and a growing sense that there is always something better available if one can simply find it.
  • 64% say they are “completely open to carrying out and pursuing your faith in an environment or structure different from a typical church.”
    Two out of three adults contend that they are not tied to a conventional church setting as they seek to experience and express their faith, but are willing to explore new contexts, processes and structures.
  • 50% say “a number of people I know are tired of the usual type of church experience.”
    Survey respondents not only indicated their willingness to change churches or to consider different forms of church experience. Half of all adults said they are aware of a willingness to experiment on the part of others who are tired of the common church experience.
  • 71% say they are “more likely to develop my religious beliefs on my own, rather than to accept an entire set of beliefs that a particular church teaches.”
    Levels of distrust toward churches, church leaders and organized Christianity have been growing over the past two decades. Such distrust, along with a heightened independence of Americans and the increased access to information that has characterized the past decade, may have contributed to the current situation where a large majority of adults feeling responsible for their own theological and spiritual development. Other studies have shown an inclination for people to view a local church as a supplier of useful guidance and support, but not necessarily a reliable source of a slate of beliefs that they must adopt.

Let me suggest some of what this may mean for traditional churches. (These are merely observations and possibilities which come to my mind as I contemplate the survey results.)

    Churches are not attracting many new adherents.
    Churches that are growing usually do so by attracting new members from other churches.
    Churches may need to face the fact that loyalty is no longer a major reason people attend a certain church.
    Few churches are having a significant impact on the unchurched segment of society.
    Churches are not going to grow significantly by doing church better.
    Churches may be able to grow by simplifying church life.
    Churches may have to consider parallel structures that are non-building focused, such as house churches, cell churches, and SIMPLE church structures.
    Churches may have to give up on integrating the parallel structures into the building-centered model.
    Churches may need to evaluate their typical church experience to see what is biblical and what is traditional.
    Churches may need to demand personal faith and faith development (personal responsibility for faith) rather than pushing dogmatic belief systems on unthinking folks.
    Churches may need to renew their emphasis on spirituality lived out in daily life.

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