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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 September, 2011

Marriage Matters

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Preachers, Church Leaders, Ministers, Family Ministers:
We just finished a four-day Marriage Matters conference with Jerry and Lynn Jones. This is a hard-hitting, enjoyable, relationship-building, faith-building conference. More information? www.marriagematters.ws. You’ll be glad you checked it out!

What is the Christian life about?

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

It is about God. It is about recognizing God for who he is, both in his creative power and his nature (character). It is about seeing God as he reveals himself to us.
It is about respect for God based on who he is–his nature and character.
It is about Jesus. It is about understanding God through the One who shows us the Father.
It is about responding to God’s love, aligning our lives with his. It is about relationship with God.
It is about healthy relationships on earth–it is about people. It is about our family and our friends, relationships that demonstrate God’s presence.
It is about becoming like God as his sons and daughters, people of God. It is about imitating him.
It is about reflecting him in our lives–bringing glory and honor and praise to him.

Random thoughts from this morning’s meditations–worthy goals for this day. What would you add? How would you summarize the Christian life? What are your goals for this day?

Missional Outreach: Evangelism in the Latin American Churches

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Yesterday I wrote about leadership development using the phrase: “missional inreach.” The phrase may sound strange to our ears, because it connects missional with internal church dynamics. I believe there is a sense in which missional outreach efforts begin with and are based on effective missional inreach efforts. The church which honors God’s purpose and plan, develops Christ-followers (Christians) and disciples based on biblical teaching, shares the word of God, is organized biblically, is led by spiritual leaders, with the ability to support and encourage one another in faith, fellowship and family….this kind of church characterized by effective missional inreach is the vessel through which God can work most effectively for missional outreach.

Latin American churches in most places are sharing the word of God in ways that put the US church to shame. Home Bible studies, studies with friends and family, entire denominational church groups taught the way of the Lord more perfectly, contacts with co-workers, meeting people on buses, in neighborhoods and in sometimes unimaginable ways. If there is a lack, it is the lack of evangelism skills by those in the pew (as also in the US). The Latin American preachers see their task as evangelism and share the word almost daily through the contacts and visitors made possible by the church members. The preachers preach evangelistically, and not merely pastorally (actually, their preaching addresses both dynamics!). Their preaching is fresh and vibrant, urgent and relevant, seeking to share the very essence and heart of the gospel.

A tool for helping members develop evangelistic teaching skills is available through the series: “En Busca de la Verdad.” These eight lessons can easily be used by any Christian to share the gospel. The materials are linked on my Spanish Index Page. More information, including information about training seminars, is available by contacting me.

Missional Inreach: Leadership for Latin American Churches

Monday, September 26th, 2011

For the last several years, my heart has been burdened by the need for biblical leadership and biblical church organization in Latin America. In 2002 when I taught an adjunct course at Baxter Institute on the subject of Church Development and Administration, effective biblical leadership was a key component. I presented a guest seminar at Baxter Institute in the summer of 2004 on the topic of correlating effective ministry and biblical leadership. This was shortly after I accepted a position as director of graduate Bible studies at Oklahoma Christian in the spring of 2004, and due to the nature of my work in the university, my mission trips were limited from 2004 to 2007. Nonetheless, I continued to develop additional materials on church leadership (including teaching graduate courses on Church Leadership) and to think about the need for effective church leadership models in Latin America. On mission trips in 2005 and 2006, I spoke to leaders at Escuela Biblica Honduras in Catacamas. My topics were leadership dynamics and family dynamics. In 2007, I accompanied a group from the Edmond church on a mission trip to Nicaragua and spoke on biblical leadership dynamics and developing strong “leader families.” In 2008, I began serving as chairman of the board of directors at Baxter Institute. Along the way in stateside activities, I also taught a Sunday afternoon Bible class at the Capitol Hill work in Oklahoma City and assisted the Edmond church in establishing a Spanish ministry.

Many needs that arise in mission work and in the process of establishing new, strong congregations. I see three basic tracks related to leadership–concepts that effective Latin American leadership training must address. First, there is a need for strong biblical teaching that is theologically grounded. Only this kind of teaching can address the issues and concerns of the local churches in the context of the culture, not merely transporting ideas (and problems) from the mission-sending context and culture. This I call teacher training, or general training for workers. This kind of training includes basic Bible knowledge, but also includes training that allows workers to analyze and apply the Bible in specific situations and circumstances.
Second, the churches must be helped and encouraged to understand and develop biblical leaders and biblical church organization. This involves teaching in the churches, but also involves teaching and training future church leaders with the purpose of developing leaders who can be identified and selected by the local churches. Such leader training must be biblically focused and culturally sensitive.
Third, teaching to strengthen families is imperative. An essential step in developing teachers and leaders is to provide instruction and support for strong families in the churches.

These three needs do not occur sequentially, but must be constantly focused and addressed. Future leadership in the Latin American churches depends on developing effective teaching and training models that can build strong Christian families and provide teacher training and leader training. At Baxter Institute, we provide support in these areas as we training future missionaries and ministers. But there is a need for more to occur in the local congregational contexts, sooner rather than later.

In 2011, I have begun field-testing some initial concepts and materials. In March and April in Guatemala, “theological” sermons were presented with opportunities for congregational response and analysis. A leadership dynamics seminar was presented to a group of ministry students. A Christian family seminar with special emphasis on “leadership families” was presented with about 150 present from 14 congregations.
These ideas were a topic of discussion in Honduras in May, especially focused on the nature of biblical leadership in the Latin American context. In June, I participated in a Latin American leadership seminar in Houston, where these ideas were brought into even sharper focus in my thinking.
In September in Colombia, Bob Miranda and I were in four congregations with the purpose of providing Bible instruction along with increased awareness of leadership dynamics and leadership development. Preachers from four additional congregations traveled to be with us to study the Bible and biblical leadership concepts. Two half-days were devoted to meeting with the leadership group from a congregation to help them address concerns related to the Christian family and healthy, exemplary mentor families.

I continue to write and think about how we can best address these three tracks: training effective teachers for the churches, training effective leaders for the churches, and training in Christian family.

What efforts are you aware of in these three tracks? What materials are you using for church development in these three areas? How can we accelerate the development of leaders? How can we train more teachers in a short period of time? How can we help the families develop in healthy ways–especially in the development of strong marriages that provide examples and mentoring for others?

A Big Step Toward Becoming a Missional Church–Congratulations!

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Last week, the Main and Oklahoma church was able to pay off their mortgage on the Family Life Annex, eliminating a major budget expense of the past almost 20 years. I remember that when I first worked with the church about 10 years ago, the church was paying about $1000/week (yes, week!) on the mortgage.

When I returned for a second tenure as minister with the church in 2007 (after spending a few years in Christian higher education), the mortgage represented a big challenge. Through a series of difficulties, the church had diminished in size, resources were fewer, and a much smaller congregation faced what on some days seemed a daunting challenge–a mortgage balance of almost $170,000. Monthly payments had been renegotiated, but the new, lower payments extended the length of the mortgage out over 15 years. With the bank balance generally low (and sometimes awaiting the next week’s contribution), the financial challenges seemed overwhelming.

A major part of ministering to help heal the church and to restore self-esteem and the capacity for meaningful work in the kingdom, including increased mission work, was to develop a plan for handling the mortgage–the albatross around our necks. A first step was to encourage confident and generous giving that provided a working balance in the checking account. By the fall of 2007, a proposal was in place for quarterly “Bonus Sundays” along with opportunities for other special contributions. Available resources were often funneled to paying the mortgage. The church (through a series of unintentional events) functioned with a one-minister system for a time. Ministry costs were pared to a minimum. Sacrifices were made, and several gave sacrificially again and again to assist with accelerating the mortgage payments. Now a little less than four years later the mortgage is paid off.

To the congregation, I say “congratulations.”
I am reminded that a group of committed Christians can do a lot together when they put their mind to something and make it their priority and purpose. This is true whether we are talking about building payments or evangelism and missions.
I encourage that the funds now available not be spent on numerous “wants and niceties” and that the original purpose in undertaking the accelerated payments schedule be honored–to significantly increase the capacity of the church to reach out both locally and in mission work around the world. Numerous donors gave generously so that more mission work could be done in the future–using the budget money now freed up and available for the purpose of outreach, evangelism and missions honors the motivation and intent of many who gave to make this day possible.
The elimination of the mortgage is indeed a big step toward becoming a missional church! Amen! (May it be so!)

On Leadership: A Quote from Stuart Briscoe

Monday, September 19th, 2011

“Leadership is largely a catalyst for what happens in a corporate body. Studies done in churches in different parts of the world have found that while many churches approach their ministry in different ways and have different emphases, a church that is vital and virile, and achieving that which it appears God has called it to achieve, has without exception a vital, virile leadership. I think it is also true to say that where you have a fellowship that is weak on leadership, you have a fellowship that is weak period. Now it doesn’t mean that leadership is everything but leadership is a massive part of the health and well-being, and the effectiveness and efficiency of a fellowship of believers.”
–Stuart Briscoe, Purifying the Church: What God Expects of You and Your Church

It’s Sunday Again: The Communion We Share….

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

For me, Sundays provide time for reflection. What is the nature of the fellowship Christians share? What does it mean that we assemble, that in fact the Greek word for church can also be translated assembly when referring to secular meetings? Is assembly something we do or something we are? How do the shared activities in our assembly communicate our shared lives?

Last Sunday I was in Latin America. I confess a growing appreciation for the practice of many Latin American churches for all who are present to participate in the Lord’s Supper both Sunday morning and again on Sunday evening. In shared feasting around the Table of the Lord, we declare that we share common faith and common forgiveness, thus common fellowship (which is the meaning of communion). [Interesting note: the Spanish word often used for fellowship is comunion.] This declaration of oneness and acceptance I shared last Sunday with brothers and sisters in Christ in two different congregations. We mutually declared also our anticipation of Christ’s return.

What a meaningful reflection of the nature of the communion is this practice of declaring fellowship at all Sunday assemblies. How much better this authentic participation and sharing in the horizontal realm than to treat the Supper as mere checklist and indication of vertical relationship. Already did that today–no more need for declaring fellowship today!

Worship today with the spiritual family I have known and loved for almost a decade will be special–not because of anything that will happen or not happen, but because of the communion we share–declared most clearly in the Supper. No wonder the weekly Supper was seen as a primary reason for the church’s assembly in the New Testament (Acts 20:7). It is true that we will share understandings, prayer, worship, and conversation. But at the Table, we declare unity, acceptance and hope, possible only because of the blood of Jesus.

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