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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 October, 2011

An Open Door

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Many churches in our nation have an unrecognized, unused opportunity for evangelism not far from their front door. There is a place where the gospel can be preached regularly to a captive audience. That place is the prisons and jails of our nation. There are more people in prison in our nation than ever before. Church leaders who follow Jesus’ instructions will see the fields white unto harvest and pray for workers for the harvest (Matt. 9:35-38). Souls are being won behind bars. Lives and families are being changed. That should be motivation enough for our churches to walk through the open doors God is providing for us.

But there is another motivation. Jesus included visiting those in prison in his list of “judgment criteria” (Matthew 25). I realize that not every Christian can visit those in prison; I know from personal experience that some prisons have complex requirements for visitors. Nevertheless, there are some things that we can do in every local congregation. Every Christian can pray for those in prison. Every congregation can provide financial support for prison ministry. Every Christian can pray for the harvest and for workers.

I hear the public prayers of our assemblies every week—opening prayers, closing prayers, shepherds’ prayers. I very seldom (almost never) hear prayers for the harvest, for more workers, or for those in prison. Shame on us!

Stars to Steer By: Strong Spiritual Leadership

Friday, October 28th, 2011

A major factor in the decline of U.S. churches is the lack of strong spiritual leadership. –George Barna

What can local churches do to address this problem? What is strong spiritual leadership? How can the church develop strong spiritual leaders?

When We Pray….

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

[Note: Today I share some reflections that were generated by a recent posting on MinEmergent Daily Thoughts.]

I believe that I do not pray out loud often enough in my private prayers. Thinking (rather than audibly saying) the words I share with God is powerful. I am confident God knows and “hears” my thoughts, meditations, and communication. I know that the Spirit intercedes when I am hesitant and incapable of expressing my spiritual wrestling. In quiet, internal meditation I have known what it is to be aware of God’s presence and to relax and relish our relationship without words. But there is also a value in audible private prayer.
In our audible prayers during Christian gatherings, we speak to God and we speak to another and on behalf of others. There is another communication taking place as we speak to ourselves. I believe we need to experience audible prayer also in private prayer times because we are a little dense, even in some sense deaf, in the words of Peter Rollins. In prayer we can verbalize and hear in our own words some of our deepest fears, longings, joys and hopes. As we express these, we hear them and gain insight into our feelings.
I have for several years maintained that one advantage we preachers have is that we are weekly given the opportunity to verbalize our faith and we get to hear our bold affirmations of what we believe. (Of course it is possible to preach so as to never affirm personal faith and belief. In my judgment, preachers who so preach miss one of the great blessings and joys of ministry.)
In preaching, the preacher can have two or three simultaneous conversations—preaching and speaking so that the congregants hear, God hears, and the preacher himself also hears. In audible private prayer, the Christian has the blessing of two conversations. We speak to God; we also speak to ourselves in an effort to overcome our spiritual deafness. In audible prayer, we may hear for the first time feelings that were previously a mystery to us.
Perhaps you have heard the claim: “in Scripture, God speaks to us; in prayer, we speak to God.” The statement is true, but I suggest an addition. In prayer we speak to God–revealing ourselves to God, revealing our inner world to the God of heaven. In prayer we also reveal this inner world to ourselves.

What a Spiritual Family!

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Our visit with a different part of our “forever family” yesterday did not disappoint. The opening scripture and prayer led by a young teenager, songs of praise and adoration, a thoughtful and challenging meditation as we surrounded the Lord’s Table, prayers for special needs including a special time of assembled prayer to send a member to work on a special project in Africa, in-depth spiritual conversations around the coffee table, a lively Bible class that challenged us to walk in the way of the Spirit.

As Christians assemble with the local family each week, it is easy to forget how special the fellowship and faith we share really is. It is easy to forget the deep, spiritual longings that bind us and bring us together each week. Our visit reminded us that week after week, around the world, God’s people assemble and touch one another’s hearts and lives to provide strength for the coming week. The love within the family was evident as overheard foyer fellowship asks about special situations in the members’ lives. Here are people who know one another and deeply care. We were inspired and encouraged.

It’s Sunday Again: Are You Part of My New Family?

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

The little girl, only six years old, was in awe at the number of people who attended the ceremony as her mother remarried. Since the accidental death of her father three years earlier, the little girl and her mother had struggled. Her mother’s family was quite small, her mother an only child. Few relatives lived close by and the emotional support system was limited. Her new father’s family was quite large–lots of brothers and sisters who were now her uncles and aunts (as it was explained to her). She could not quite believe the good fortune of having such a large family with so many people to whom she was now connected as family. As a result, she spent most of the evening going from person to person asking, “Are you part of my new family?” Family gives identity; she was seeking identity.

Today, Jan and I will worship with a part of God’s family we have never met. They will help us know who we are. They will give us a fresh perspective on our identity. They will in small unseen ways mold us and make us. In a world where many Christians choose not to assemble with the church when they are on vacation, traveling, or away from home, we are looking forward to meeting new people who are part of our spiritual family. Perhaps this is something of what Jesus had in mind when he said, “Except you become as little children, you cannot be part of the kingdom.” The innocence of children, the joy at new experiences, the willingness and excitement at meeting new people–how refreshing! A favorite song says it: We’re part of the family. That family does not stop at the borders of the local congregation–that family extends around the world. Why would anyone not want to meet and know and spend time with the members of that family?

One of the things I see frequently in mission travels is the joy that our brothers and sisters in small congregations in isolated parts of Latin America feel as they thrill to hear the stories and know the reality of a grand spiritual family that exists around the world. We rejoice to be with our “forever family.” I hope you get to be with your “forever family” in worship today. Even though I do not know many of my readers personally, I hope you are not intentionally absent from your “forever family” today. Why? Because you are part of the family!

“Missioning”

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Today has already been a busy and productive day–lots of birthday greetings sent, prayers for special people in my life, meditation and reflection, an online “chat” with a brother who lives in Central America, a review of upcoming activities…. In one of the birthday greetings, I used the word “missioning” to describe my activities for the upcoming weekend. As I reread what I had written, the word caught my attention. I wondered about it, but I did not change it. This weekend I am “missioning.”

Isn’t the English language wonderful? Take whatever noun you wish and turn it into a verb. The possibilities are almost endless (and at times discordant to the trained ear!). “Missioning.” I do not know if I coined a new verb or if I perhaps used something I had already heard. For Jan and me, missioning means that we are making contacts with the purpose of advancing mission work. Missioning is our involvement in activities which are designed to advance God’s mission in the world.

It strikes me that this may be a good word–one that should describe our lives as Christians every day. Are we not called every day to participation in God’s mission? Are we not called daily to join him in his work in this world? Would not a Christian desire to be “on mission” every day, and never to be “off mission”? God has a purpose in the life of every person–may he help you and me find our specific roles and niches this day, so that we might fully share his mission!

“Here we go a-missioning….”

Stars to Steer By: Leadership and Change

Friday, October 21st, 2011

Leadership is a many-faceted jewel. Leadership occurs in many different arenas of life, is not the same in every setting. Today’s quote addresses one essential aspect of leadership. It is not the whole story. That is good, because we can only digest the challenge before us in small bites. Read and grow!

Leaders are fascinated by future. You are a leader if and only if, you are restless for change, impatient for progress and deeply dissatisfied with status quo. Because in your head, you can see a better future. The friction between ‘what is’ and ‘what could be’ burns you, stirs you up, propels you. This is leadership. –Marcus Buckingham

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