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Thanks for visiting the website! This month’s picture was taken in Ecuador in August 2019, during a seminar I presented over the book fo Hebrews. [Click picture to enlarge.]

a seminar in Ecuador

Ministry and mission work is a team effort -- Jan and I have shared the task of ministry and mission work for over 50 years! Countless people have encouraged us, supported us, loved us, and prayed for us. In addition to the customary "Brother Bob" or "Hermano Bob," I am also known as dad and papaw in my family. One of my favorite breakfasts is huevos fritos, frijoles, and tortillas, with a good hot sauce and a cup of rich Colombian coffee! The greatest joy of my life is being part of the kingdom; my #1 priority is to advance "kingdom things" and to help develop authentic "kingdom people." I seek to share the good news about Jesus everywhere I go, helping people find Jesus and helping people mature as disciples of 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, 2012

It’s Sunday Again: Anticipation

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

I have been thinking about and anticipating today since last Wednesday evening’s Bible class. The conversation during the class and afterward, and the sweet fellowship we enjoyed as we lingered together to laugh and love, whetted my appetite for sharing time with the spiritual family.
Today is the day we meet. Together we will come before God’s throne again, we will listen and love and share. We will eat together because eating together is a sign of fellowship–both of our vertical fellowship with Christ and God as he eats the spiritual feast with us as he promised, and also of our horizontal fellowship as we accept one another in our weaknesses, inadequacies, and failures. We will remember Jesus’ sacrifice–not morbidly but robustly–as we seek power for the week ahead.
Tonight we will sing our hearts out. God will listen, and we will be changed.
Because all of this will be a part of this day, I have been looking forward to another Lord’s Day, Sunday, first day of the week. My prayer is that my heart is ready to receive what God will do. Getting ready is a part of worship–heart preparation, hearts open, pliable, anticipating.

Saturday “Newness”

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

My word for today: New!

Life is new today! Each day is a new gift from God, a day never before seen or experienced, with new opportunities, new challenges, new abundance, and new evidences of God’s presence and power.
Today life is new because Jan and I are in our new house in Tulsa. Our few personal possessions have also made the move, but many of those things are still in boxes. The unpacking process is part of the newness.

Life is renewed today! God renews us day by day internally, even as our outward physical body wears and weakens. Life is fresh and vibrant. The calendar says it is fall, and the lower temperatures suggest summer may be near its last hurrah for this year. Fall gives opportunities to celebrate the abundance of life and the bounty of the harvest.

The possibility of life renewal is always present. The newness that matters most of all is the newness that is possible in Christ Jesus. This newness comes through Christ as we are raised to walk in newness of life following our baptism. This newness continues in the daily walk of a Christian with God.

2012 Reflections–9 months and counting!

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

This past Sunday evening, I had the privilege of presenting a mission report, a summary my 2012 mission and ministry activity, at the Main and Oklahoma church. It was a special blessing to return to this church that has been so much a part of our lives and our work in ministry and missions over the past 10 years. The reception was warm and the words of encouragement were especially meaningful. It was also good to have the opportunity to share, in part because it gave me the opportunity to put some numbers and summaries to the work God has placed before us thus far this year.

Thus far in 2012 through nine months, I have spent 128 days teaching and preaching, including a few travel days for seminars and mission work in distant locations. (Although September is not quite over, there are no more events scheduled for this month.) The average is just over 14 teaching and preaching days each month.
There have been 15 baptisms on the mission trips, although that is not the primary focus on the seminars. Nonetheless, when a church asks for a gospel focus in the seminar, we gladly assist, and have opportunities along the way to teach evangelistic Bible studies and participate in small group studies.
Stateside, I worked with five different congregations in leadership and training seminars. I made four extended foreign tours of about three weeks each–to Guatemala, Honduras, Chile-Uruguay, and Ecuador-Colombia. A couple of other overseas trips and additional stateside work kept the schedule filled to almost overflowing. I have found that this level of travel for teaching and preaching is very near the limit, both in terms of personal energy and strength, and in terms of balancing preparations for seminars and the other mission and ministry work I am involved with.
Many of the locations where I present seminars or teach and preach ask for special lessons or topics. Preparing these materials requires additional study and time. Not only is there the seminar and training work that is done through EVO and through my own personal contacts, I am also actively involved in the work at Baxter Institute and in my work as board chairman. The work of updating evangelism materials in Spanish for the use of ordinary members is progressing. Teaching an adult Bible class at Park Plaza is a joy. The opportunity to be involved with Iglesia de Cristo–Park Plaza is a work in progress and will accelerate in coming weeks, especially with the upcoming leadership development seminar November 1-4.
These activities and more, along with various writing projects, keeps the plate filled and overflowing! I consider that the opportunity to be busy and blessed by God so that I can pass forward the blessing is a gift from God. Thank you, Lord, for blessing our lives with fruitful, productive busyness.

Moving Day!

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Those who check by this blog regularly have probably noted that there have been fewer postings over the past few weeks. Sometimes changes in the number of postings is due to my travels for ministry and missions obligations. In the most recent few weeks, the explanation is that today is moving day.
August 15 to September 3 I spent in Ecuador and Colombia, and much of the last three weeks since my return to the U.S. has been spent in arranging details for the move, packing, transferring some household belongings to temporary storage, and other seemingly countless details. Today the long process of moving from McAlester to Tulsa reaches reality–the moving van is coming to pick up our household belongings, closing is scheduled for our house sale in McAlester, and we will be houseless for about 24 hours. On Wednesday, we will close on the new home in Tulsa–just a couple of hours before I teach my Wednesday night adult Bible class at Park Plaza.
I plan to “blog ahead’ with some 2012 reflections, and hopefully by the end of the week I will have internet connections set up at the new house and my blog schedule will become more regular–at least until I head for Peru for a couple of weeks next month.

Church Infrastructure

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Many churches fail to reach their full potential because of a lack of sufficient or workable infrastructure. Infrastructure is not a word used frequently to describe churches. Think we me about the applications. Infrastructure refers to the basic structures and facilities (generally physical or organizational) needed for operation of an enterprise or society. How does the concept apply to organizations such as a church? What does church infrastructure include?
An obvious first thought concerns buildings and facilities. Less frequently in view is the need for organizational structures that enable the church to function effectively. Organizational infrastructure includes such things as clarity of purpose, leadership, organizational relationships (both external and internal), and planning. The results of effective church infrastructure include leadership development, effective teaching programs, member involvement, evangelism, and spiritual growth.

My current work in Latin America is designed to help existing churches build effective infrastructure. The primary focus is on helping churches understand God’s plan for the church and the place and importance of each member. This focus leads to leadership and teacher development with the goal of establishing self-governing congregations. Self-governing congregations have a much greater probability of becoming self-sustaining or self-supporting. Self-governing congregations are also more likely to become self-propagating.

Church infrastructure can refer to buildings and facilities, but churches with effective organization infrastructure can grow and mature without the physical elements of infrastructure. More important in the development of healthy churches is an infrastructure that can assimilate new members and help new converts development faithful spiritual lives. Without this kind of infrastructure, many are baptized but few are taught discipleship and faithful living. Peter’s admonition must come to mind: the latter end of those who begin and then turn back is worse than if they had never begun.

Renewing Fellowship in Christ

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Yesterday was a special day because I spent much of the day of the campus of Oklahoma Christian University. The specific occasion was the resumption of the monthly ministry luncheons on campus, but I had also scheduled several appointments for the day. The opportunity to chat with colleagues, greet dear friends in ministry and in Christ, and catch up on the comings and goings of our lives was refreshing. I have always found great encouragement in such times. Bob Rowley is a special friend and I was honored to be asked to lead the opening prayer.
It was good to spend time with John deSteiguer, new president at Oklahoma Christian, and I enjoyed sitting with Mike O’Neal, now president emeritus at Oklahoma Christian, during the luncheon. Mike is also a board member-elect at Baxter Institute, and so our conversation naturally turned to mission work. Also seated at our table were Howard and Ted Norton. The opportunity to be with Howard Norton is always special, and he did a masterful job in his presentation of “Challenges and Solutions Before the 21st Century Church.” Howard and I also spent some time together afterward–heart to heart–which is for me enriching. Campus time also provided an opportunity to be with Dudley Chancey, to share ideas, to shoot a spontaneous video, and dream about the future.
More appointments on behalf of Baxter concluded a busy but fulfilling day, and it was nearing 8 PM when I pulled in the driveway at the house. The drive home also gave me opportunity to reflect on how special is the fellowship shared in Christ. Thank you, Lord, for yesterday. Thank you for today. May I use this day also to our glory!

Missions: Time for a Changing Role

Monday, September 17th, 2012

For at least 10 years, I have been writing about the changing role of the U.S. church in missions. Dan Bouchelle, president of Missions Resource Network, echoed this reality in a summer 2012 newsletter, “…we have been convinced for some time that the era of American dominance of global kingdom work is drawing down, and it is time for the American church to reposition itself in global missions.”

The reality is this: it is quite unlikely that U.S. churches will continue to fund mission work at the levels seen during the last half-century of intense mission work. A partial list of some of the factors at work includes at least the following: (1) U.S. economic realities suggest that future generations might not be as well off financially as recent past generations, (2) future generations will have less ability and less willingness than recent past generations to fund missions at current levels, (3) increasing global equalization of wealth and lessened U.S. influence, (4) an inward turn in many U.S. churches so that money is spent “strengthening the base” rather than for missions, and (5) the development and maturing of mission churches in other parts of our world. This is not a new reality–this is a reality that has been developing for at least the last two decades, a reality that has been recognized in many religious groups since at least the 1990s.

In the face of this new reality, it is time to rethink how we do mission work. Is the day of sending missionary teams or individual missionaries over? Certainly some teams will continue to go forth, but sending a team of five U.S. families to a foreign mission field can easily cost up to $250,000 per year. With an initial year of training, preparation, and language school, plus transition costs both for going and returning, it is not difficult to invest $1,000,000 in a 4-5 year program, which may or may not result in a mature indigenous church when the missionaries withdraw. The cost of training and sending indigenous teams trained at schools in Africa or Latin America is less, but it is still easy to invest $500,000 in a 5-7 year missions effort, not counting the training costs which are usually paid by someone else.

The new reality is this. There are churches all over Latin America with mature, godly leaders who understand far more about how to evangelize their part of the world than do we in the United States. There are ministers, evangelists, and missionaries across Latin America with hearts set on the things of the kingdom, willing to serve for almost nothing in terms of this world’s goods. Our task is to mentor, support, encourage, teach, train, model, and strengthen.
This is the the work Jan and I have been developing for about 15 years, a work we eventually called “Esperanza Eterna.” Believing that “Christ is the hope of the world,” we have tried to understand how we can assist local churches and local Christians in accomplishing the work God is placing before them. Early on, much time was spent in research and study, and the research continues. What works? What doesn’t work? Why have some churches succeeded? Why have some churches failed to grow? What is the role of local, indigenous leaders? What factors help a church to become self-sustaining? What factors cause a church to become self-duplicating? We continue this work through the Main and Oklahoma congregation in McAlester, Oklahoma, with the financial support of various congregations and individuals.
This is also how I understand the work at Baxter Institute in Tegucigalpa, Honduras where I have served on the board of directors for almost 10 years. The results are evident in the ministries and work of multiplied graduates who go forth to train others for the work of the kingdom.
More recently, I have partnered with Roberto Miranda in EVO (Educacion Vocacional para Obreros, Vocational Education for Workers) because this is also the goal of that work, overseen by the Memorial church in Houston.
Finally, this is my motivation for my involvement with Quest for Truth to develop a Spanish version of basic Bible studies that can be used to share the gospel message. Both in the U.S. and in other nations, it is essential in the growth of the kingdom that every Christian become involved in evangelism. The church cannot mature and grow as long as evangelism remains the task of the few missionaries or ministers who may be present in the local church. The Bible study series, En Pos de la Verdad, is designed to provide a tool to encourage more Christians to share the gospel.

The role of the U.S. churches is to mentor, encourage, train and teach, model, and mature. The role of the U.S. churches is to send mature Christians who can assist the local church in the development of teachers and leaders, maturing the local congregation. This is very much like the New Testament model when Paul and others returned again and again to the churches they had established. In my case, the only need is for travel funds (which often includes helping local Christians travel to take advantage of the teaching and training).
The result of these efforts is that more and more churches have elders, that the churches become self-sustaining and develop the ability to reach out more effectively, and that the churches become self-duplicating. Continuing regular visits help the church become self-teaching as leaders develop the ability to apply the gospel in their own cultural context. This is the power of the gospel; this is the confidence we must have in the gospel.

[In future articles, I will share success stories that demonstrate how this changing role of the U.S. churches is already at work in advancing the work of the local churches.]

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