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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, 2011

Taking the gospel where it is not….

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Almost every missionary has heard the question: Why are you going THERE when there are so many lost people right HERE? The answer is that we need to go where the gospel is not and where the workers are few.

I live in a city of about 18000 which is in a county with a population of slightly over 40000. Within my religious heritage, there are two major congregations in the city with a combined membership of 400-500 members. Thus, there are 400-500 missionaries in this city and 40-50 unsaved persons per missionary. Pretty good odds! In the county, there are five other smaller congregations in outlying areas. While there may be a need to motivate the workers in this place, there is no lack of workers available.

Last weekend, I spoke at a Latin American Leadership workshop attended by two brothers from Chile. Chile has a population of 17,000,000 with only 34 congregations scattered throughout the nation. The congregations tend to be small by U.S. standards, yet each congregation has a target group of about 500,000 souls, approximately 10,000 per church member. There is a great need in Chile.

Honduras is a country of 7,500,000 (7.5 million). While the church has grown marvelously in the last 30 years, there are only 250-300 congregations, most very small. The average membership per congregation is about 40, thus there are 10000-12000 members in Honduras. On average, each congregation has a target group of about 30000 souls and the ratio of members to non-members is 1 to 750.

Costa Rica is a nation of 4,500,000 with perhaps 2000 members of churches of Christ (a generous estimate). The ratio of members to non-members is 1 to 2000.

Consider the comparisons: 1/40; 1/10000; 1/750; 1/2000. Let us not continue the selfish mumbo-jumbo about how we need to take care of our own town. God has provided sufficient resources, missionary workers, and opportunities for us to do whatever we want to do in our own town. Such is often only an excuse to look inward and take care of ourselves and our own desires and needs. Let us not spend too much time worrying about “strengthening the base” by spending the money internally on ourselves. In my experience, there is little that can do more to strengthen the base than to get involved in something that is bigger than we are and is beyond our visible resources.

Every heart where Jesus reigns is a missionary; every heart where Jesus does not reign is a mission field! Let us wake up and recognize our responsibilities and roles. The fields are still white unto the harvest, and the workers are still few in major areas of our world that are relatively untouched by the gospel! Let us be diligent to take the gospel where it is not!

Developing Leadership for Latin American Churches

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

The “turn around” time between my return from the Honduras mission trip and my trip to Houston to speak on the Latin American Leadership Training Workshop was not much over 12 hours. The trip home from Honduras last Thursday finished with a midnight arrival at the house. Friday morning came early and Friday was filled with repacking, a little time to visit with Jan, a little catching up, and an afternoon drive to Tulsa to catch a flight to Houston.

Bob Miranda has been working in Latin American leadership training for a number of years. The Latin American leadership workshop was held at the Memorial church facility in Houston. Participants included elders, ministers, and mission committee members from supporting congregations in the U.S. along with Latin American leaders who are participating in training more leaders.
Latin American churches desperately need local, indigenous leadership. Such leadership is lacking in a majority of the churches of Christ in Latin America. In the process of church planting and development, churches seldom (almost never) become self-supporting until they are self-governing. (I recognize the exception–in the U.S. older churches nearing the end of the church life cycle may be self-supporting when no biblical leaders remain, but such churches are generally composed of mature Christians and are self-governing even though there are no elders.)

The work of church planting must from the beginning include plans to involve the local members–in leadership and direction, in sacrificial involvement and giving, and in sharing the good news so that more churches are planted. Churches generally go through a process which includes self-governance (autonomy), self-sustenance (supporting themselves and their work), and then self-propagation (establishing additional churches through churches on the field). This requires local ‘ownership’ of the work, including mutual accountability, taking care of their own needs financially, and encouraging healthy leadership development. Latin American churches must be helped to escape the “pastor” system (or perhaps more accurately, the “priest” system). A local church will seldom grow to its full potential as long as leadership is centered in one individual–the preacher or evangelist. Even though North American missionaries mean well, centering the responsibilities for leadership and church governance in a missionary does not improve the situation. Local preachers who receive their funding from a distant church have little accountability in the local church system, and are usually not anxious to fulfill the responsibility to help the church chose local leaders since such tends to upset the system by which they live and survive.

This is the reason I am encouraged and excited about the Latin American Leadership Project. The program seeks to develop mature Christians who can provide appropriate and necessary leadership. Discussions during the workshop centered on how the future of the effort can be sustained. The development of a “core curriculum” that is taught widely, either by U.S. workers or by local leaders who are training more leaders, was suggested. Presently, the project includes modules focused on biographical studies of Old Testament and New Testament leaders, study methods, teaching methods, in-depth study of books of the Bible, biblical teachings or doctrines, church organization, the work of the church, worship, and various applications including family enrichment and God’s plan for families.

My presentation challenged those present to think of leadership at multiple levels of influence: (1) being an example in all of our personal encounters, (2) teaching according to our abilities and opportunities, (3) equipping the church for ministry or service, (4) training additional leaders through personal mentoring, and (5) training leaders who can train more leaders, according to 2 Timothy 2:2. This expanded view of leadership at multiple levels involves every church member in the work, provides biblical leadership at the congregational level, and seeks to develop the kinds of leaders the church needs in every place.

The weekend gave multiple opportunities for discussion, both with U.S. leaders and workers, and also with Latin American leaders from several countries. Shared fellowship, meals, table conversations, and informal visits were a serendipity of the weekend. Sunday morning I translated for one of the adult Bible classes at Memorial and also translated the sermon in the 10:30 a.m. worship service. Sunday evening I attended the bi-lingual service at the Northwest church and enjoyed the continuation of the discussions about the work before us.

What are you experiences and observations in Latin American leadership development? What programs exist to facilitate this process in as many places as possible? Do you know of available curriculum? I would appreciate hearing from you and receiving your thoughts–especially as they relate to leadership development in multiple locations and countries.

Spiritual Leadership

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Christian leadership must be spiritual. The great need of God’s people in every place is leaders who are spiritually developed and spiritually mature. Christian leadership is more than knowing the Bible. A long line of Christian leaders who have fallen into Satan’s snare and the trap of sin demonstrate that one of the first (perhaps, THE first) characteristics of a capable, Christian leader is the spiritual development of the inner person. This comes from Christ being formed in us (Gal. 4:19), a theme and text which are the focus at Baxter Institute during 2011. This is lived out as Christ dwells in our hearts strengthening our inner being (Eph. 3:17). Too many leaders (and too many churches) are trying to do God’s work without God’s presence in their lives.

Spiritual leadership begins by choosing men of faith, full of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual leadership is lived out by God’s power and presence–not by human ability and success. The first challenge in spiritual leadership is to choose the right kind of person to lead. Choosing the right kind of person is more than choosing someone who is involved in the work, or someone who knows the Bible. Factors such as these cannot be ignored, but the beginning point is not activity and knowledge. The beginning point is the heart. Who has the heart of a leader? Who is already pastoring? Who is already equipping and healing the saints? Who is holding up God’s people in prayer?

Most contemporary churches measure success by activity and push for more, more, more of things that will not matter at all until the human heart is remade–perhaps replaced is a more accurate word. God said through the prophet Ezekiel, in a prophetic reference to the new covenant arrangement, “I will give you a new heart.” Church success is not in more service projects, hospitality, fellowship, devotion or devotionals, or caring. Church success is measured by changed hearts.

Spiritual leaders help God’s people grow into his image, so that the spiritual body (the church) ministers, supports, encourages, and speaks in love. May God give us a clearer vision of the kind of spiritual leaders the church needs. May God give us such leaders!

Helping Others Do God’s Work

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

The more I observe mission works in various places, the more I am convinced that we who wish to hold up the hands of the locals as they work in kingdom work must be careful to make certain we are helping and not hindering.

    We help when we work with the local brethren to accomplish the goals they set, since they are the ones who know the culture and see firsthand the most pressing needs.
    We help when we let them take the lead and decide what projects need to be done.
    We help when we do things for them that they cannot do for themselves.
    We help when include them in the doing and serve rather as supporters and encouragers who do not undertake the whole project ourselves.

Many more things could be observed. What are some of the items you see that ar a part of helping others do God’s work effectively?

Talanga Visit

Monday, June 20th, 2011

The time with the church in Talanga was better than anticipated. There were three baptisms to begin the worship assembly. The bilingual singing was special. I preached, and after the service we shared a meal with the brothers and sisters there. There were 40 adults present plus the children–probably totaling near 60.
Thank you for your prayers.

It’s Sunday Again: Talanga

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Today’s activities will take us to Talanga to visit the church plant which is a combined effort of the Park Plaza church in Tulsa and the Guanacaste church in Tegucigalpa. The church plant team has two members–one supported by Park Plaza and the other supported by Guanacaste. The work has begun in an exciting way with an average attendance of 25-30 after only a few months.
We hope our presence will be an encouragement both to the church with many new Christians who are babes in Christ, and also to the mission team. I have been invited to preach and will present God’s plan and hopes for the church based on the book of Ephesians.
I have found that one of the things most needful for God’s people is an understanding of the power of Scripture when it is studied in context rather than by a topical approach, which too often degenerates into a proof-texting approach. When Scripture addresses the topics of our lives naturally, God’s people are blessed, none feel that the sermon was chosen to address a problem or fault in their life, and the power of God’s word is seen.
[The same approach that works in preaching also works in our Bible classes, where the study of God’s word in context is more powerful than accumulating a number of topical sets. I am working on an article describing this process in more detail and suggesting a possible sequence which addresses basic needs and can be altered to meet special situational needs. I will try to remember to mention it in another blog when it is posted; alternatively, you can check out the articles on the site from time to time.]

This day will be a day of “rest” in a special sense for the group–not that we do not have a full day of activities, but in the sense that we will have a day away from the labor of construction. After worship this morning, we will spend a time of fellowship as we lunch at Talanga.

Stars to Steer By: An Older View of Leaders

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Received in the daily email from my friend, Bob Smith, elder at the Edmond church of Christ…

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.
–John Quincy Adams

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