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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 January, 2013

Honduras Update: First Day of Classes at Baxter

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

I returned to campus yesterday in preparation for today’s activities. It will be my privilege to present Steve Teel as the new president of Baxter. The entire campus community will be assembled and I look forward to a very special time.
Yesterday evening I visited with several of the students and spirits are high as the new school year begins. Of course, the fourth year students who are doing their Missionary Internships are missed, but it is an opportunity to introduce the new students to Baxter and for the student body to bond.
I ask you to pray today for Baxter as we begin our 50th year and as Steve begins his service.

Olancho Summary

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Today is travel day as I return to Tegucigalpa by bus in preparation for First Day Ceremonies at Baxter tomorrow. It seems incredible that the bus trip to Tegucigalpa takes more time than the air trip from Tulsa to Tegucigalpa!

The four days in Olancho have been filled with activities–leader and preacher training each morning (except Sunday) along with daily teaching and preaching. The churches are generally small. Yesterday morning we traveled about 20 minutes by car outside of Catacamas where I preached at Colonia Agricola. We met under a newly constructed shelter–four posts and a roof. On the third Sunday in the new location, we had about 80 present–45 adults and 35 children. A new brother in Christ, baptized during the week, was present with his family. The vision is to establish a chain or network of churches so that new churches have the support of established congregations fairly near. In the case of Colonia Agricola, the church will meet one month in the new location, then a month in the location of the “sister” church. In this way, the gospel spreads rapidly in two locations, and the new church quickly gets a foothold in the community.
Yesterday afternoon, I preached at Hormiguero (ant hill). On the way, about a 30 minute trip by car, I noticed a sign that gave us the option of going to “ant hill” or to “snake pit.” What interesting names! At Hormiguero we had about 30 adults and 10 children present. During the return trip we stopped to visit a brother who is ill with heart problems and unable to attend church. Not long after we completed the visit, we received a phone call from his aged mother asking if the church could have its midweek Bible class at her house. She had been cold and unreceptive previously–our prayer is gratitude that doors are opening and for God’s guidance and power as the relationships strengthen and the gospel is shared.

These churches are growing in number and in spirit. There were leaders present from six congregations during the morning teaching sessions and I spoke in five congregations. Soft hearts are ready to hear the gospel, and a great need is to encourage the members to help in that process. It is always a joy to sow the seed and to see the fields ripening unto the harvest.
I am grateful to Dwight and Joanne Tomkins for opening their home. I am grateful to David and Suyapa Chacon for their encouragement and for maintaining the vision for planting and strengthening churches.

It’s Sunday Again: Preaching the Gospel

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

As the church assembles each week across much of the United States, largely in its own self-awareness with few visitors who could be described as prospective Christians, our sermons become more and more directed to the church and focused on the needs of the body. A recent article bemoaning the decrease and virtual non-existence of “seekers” points to the problem.

A refreshing aspect of visiting with churches in other countries is the opportunity to see present in the assemblies of the church numbers of people who are not Christians but are interested in the Bible, in understanding its message, and in developing the spiritual life. Preaching in such settings is challenging. One wants to say something helpful to the Christians present–some with years of Christian experience and some recently baptized and just beginning their Christian walk. One wants to say something helpful to the seekers who are present, sharing the Good News and encouraging decisions to follow Jesus.

Today I will preach in two different congregations, both relatively new churches with lots of new Christians, both relatively small (at least by U.S. standards) and ready to reach out with the gospel to bring others to Jesus. Pray for the message to find receptive hearts, that God’s people might take it forth to their friends and neighbors and family, and that the Lord will be glorified through the words spoken.

Hungering and Thirsting

Friday, January 25th, 2013

A lot has been written about the physical needs that exist in the Honduran population. Indeed, there are a lot of problems and a lot of needs. There is also a great spiritual need which surpasses the physical needs.

For two days, I have met with a group of Christians who are hungering and thirsting for the Word of God. The questions keep coming, even after we have officially ended our study. These Christians are leaders in area churches and they are excited to be able to share what they are learning. I saw that same hunger and thirst for a word from God in the congregation where I preached and taught yesterday late afternoon. I expect to see the same thing this afternoon when I teach and preach at another congregation.

Lots of people are doing a lot of good things and meeting a lot of physical needs. But while many focus on meeting physical and emotional and social needs, the fields are ripe unto harvest. Many are waiting, receptive to God’s Word. Many are seeking God’s will and way. Many are waiting for someone to notice and minister to their spiritual needs. God instructs us to pray for workers. In the context it is obvious that the workers are reapers. Pray that God will send reapers for the harvest.

Evangelism and Prayer

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

I love memorable phrases. They stick in the mind, they are hard to let go of, they come back again and again effortlessly, with no conscious effort to remember them.

In Sunday’s sermon, Mitch reminded us that we must talk to Jesus about people AND talk to people about Jesus. Effective evangelism involves both. Evangelism does not depend totally on us. God’s word is powerful.

“Talk to Jesus about people; talk to people about Jesus.”

A New Morning in Honduras–Again

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Yesterday’s travel to Honduras was without incident, and the afternoon easily filled with greetings, conversations, and meetings. Some of the new students are already arriving. This is the first time I have been on campus at Baxter in January. Excitement is high, spirits refreshed in anticipation of the new school year. It reminds me of move-in day and first week activities in the university.
Last evening I was sitting in the mall (at Sarita’s, an ice cream store) waiting for others to finish WalMart shopping. I was contemplating how unusual that I was sitting in the mall and had not seen anyone I knew. Then I happened to see David Chacon coming my way. What a surprise! He was in Teguc in the midst of some other travels. We will reconnect at the end of the week, but our chance encounter was a pleasant surprise.

Today I travel to Catacamas. I will spend about a week in preaching, teaching, and meetings with church leaders and ministers. Then I will return to Baxter for first day of school, the inauguration of Steve Teel as the next president of Baxter, and a couple of days of interaction with the campus community. I especially look forward to meeting the new students.

I ask your prayers for these activities and opportunities to serve, but even more I encourage prayers for the people of Honduras, those who can be strengthened in the faith and those who have yet to hear the Good news of Jesus!

[I have more activities scheduled in Honduras in early February, but I will turn to those details later.]

Ministers! Are you doing the things that will grow the church?

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Today I share some thoughts from “Introduction to Ministry” class.

Churches of different sizes have different needs. Churches of different sizes organize themselves differently, with different centers and different challenges. Miinisters must recognize the dynamics of the churches with which they minister. Some smaller churches are organized like bigger churches, often because the church has diminished in size but has not changed its operational structures. Some larger churches are still organized and operate like small churches.
The minister must recognize the dynamics of the church and help the church do the things that matter. If the church is going to grow, the minister must either have or develop the skill sets for the next size of church. One skill set that is essential in every church is the minister’s commitment to evangelism.

Some ministers quit the ministry because they are unable to fulfill the dream that first called them to ministry–bringing the lost to Christ. Churches often develop expectations concerning internal ministry that make it almost impossible for the minister to serve and evangelize those outside the church. We are losing to ministry some who are most likely to help the church grow.

Some ministers are not committed to evangelism. It it easy to preach and teach and interact with church members without hearing or heeding the words of Jesus about white harvest fields and the urgent need for workers. Churches are retaining in ministry some who are least likely to help the church grow.

Almost 20 years ago, John Ellas’s research (Clear Choices, 1994) showed that the difference between a stagnated church and a numerically growing church was 3 baptisms of unchurched contacts per year per 100 members. In a world where the majority of churches have 200 or less in attendance, one minister intenseliy committed to evangelism can be the difference between a plateaued church and a growing church.

A recent book (Bill Easum and Bill Tenny-Brittian, Effective Staffing for Vital Churches) says that in a church of less than 200 members, the minister should spend 70-80% of his time contacting and following up with the unchurched and first time guests. (At the 200-500 member level, it is 40-50%, still nearly half of the minister’s time.) This means the minister must be present in the community, meeting people, making contacts, visits and phone calls. Of course, the effective minister does not do all of this himself, he equips others in these activities. But make no mistake about it, the minister’s example and commitment are the catalyst necessary to ignite the involvement of the church members in evangelism and contacts with non-members.

How is it at your church? How would the members describe you as a minister? Would the members describe the church as evangelistic and outward-looking? Is there a culture that seeks the lost, shares the good news, brings people to Christ and welcomes them into the church? Or is the culture inwardly turned? The attitude, example, and work of the minister can turn the church into a growing, vibrant body of Christ. Let’s pray about it!

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