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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, 2013

Being Church in the World in Which we Live

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Today I share some random thoughts concerning the challenges of our contemporary world. How should the church live out the faith of Jesus in the present world?

We live in a religiously divided world; we live in a non-Christian world, we live in a post-modern world.
Some days it seems that everything that was nailed down is coming loose.
That we can be objective is a great myth.
The new paradigm is lack of predictability. With the development of quantum physics, we discovered a world that does not behave the way Newton said it should. It is impossible to pin down, with waves turning into particles and particles into waves. What has mass one moment is pure energy the next, and none of it is predictable. The very act of observing a particle changes its behavior, which destroys the concept of scientific objectivity. A scientist cannot stand outside the world to observe it. The same particles that are busy responding to each other respond to the observer as well, revealing a world that is not made up of manageable things but of constantly changing relationships. It is no longer possible to think of the world as a machine.
The great challenge before humanity is the quest for community. The great challenge before the church is the quest for community. The church that exists in genuine community will touch the world.

It’s Sunday Again: Preparing for Ministry

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

What was it like to assemble with the church in the first century? What were the attitudes of the Christians as they came together on the Lord’s Day? What did they talk about? What did they think about? Some of the places of assembly may have been public buildings; more often the church assembled in the homes of members.
Did some came early and spent time together before those with work obligations arrived? (Thus the practice in Corinth to partake of the Supper early and separately before the body was totally assembled.) How did they integrate the Lord’s Supper and the agape feast? How much time did they spend together? Did the early church take note of those who were not present? (The Hebrew writer reflects the awareness that some are not assembling regularly.)
Was it during the Sunday assemblies that the letters from Paul and other missionaries were read? How much did the church at Rome think about and pray about Paul’s ministry (Romans 15:14-33)? Did they consider his ministry as their ministry? How did they fulfill the request of Paul for their prayers? Paul obviously hoped that his plans would become the plans of the Roman church.
As I read the text in Romans 15, it occurs to me that Sunday is a great time to prepare ourselves for the ministry or ministries God will present to us in coming days. As we pray about the doors God is opening and will open, we depend on God’s power for his work and prepare ourselves.

Today I am thinking of several things that the church and each individual Christian can accomplish during the praise and reflection of this day, in the assembly and in the way we use the Lord’s Day.

  • First, we can use this day to prepare our hearts for service in the kingdom. We can be reminded of the priorities of life and refreshed in spirit.
  • Second, we can use this day to plan our own kingdom service. We can identify specific actions that we want to do in the coming week; we can plan how we will be involved in God’s eternal plan and purpose.
  • Third, we can use this day to pray about the ministry and mission work God enables through us. The church assembled corporately can pray about its mission and ministry, and individual Christians can pray about their personal mission and ministry. Both the church and individuals can pray about the work others are accomplishing as colaborers.
  • Fourth, we can use this day to establish priorities in our ministry. We can identify those things are most important and bring those before God’s throne in special ways.
  • Fifth, we can use this day to purpose or recommit anew. At times the dream becomes dim, the energy flags, the commitment wavers. This is a good to day to renew faith and hope.
  • Finally, we use this day to praise God for what he has done for us and in us and through us in the past. We remember the cross, we rejoice in the changes Christ has brought to our lives, and we celebrate how God has used us to his glory.
  • Sunday is a day to look back, but it is also a day of preparation. The first day of the week–what will the week ahead hold? How will our future be devoted to kingdom things? Sunday is a good day to seek fresh preparations for the ministry God wants to accomplish through us.

    Stars to Steer By: Criticizing

    Friday, September 27th, 2013

    “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain… and most fools do.” –Benjamin Franklin

    Understanding Missions through the Lens of Responsibility

    Thursday, September 26th, 2013

    One of the conversations that I shared this week focused on how we can best describe the task of missionaries in the development of strong local churches in the mission field. An oft-quoted development model identifies four steps: self-governance, self-sustainability or becoming self-supporting, self-theologizing, and self-duplication through planting additional churches. While the steps in the model provide a helpful understanding of what is to occur, they say little about how such occurs and are not particularly helpful in working with mission churches. (I cannot remember ever explaining or using these steps in seminars with local churches on the mission field.)

    Ben Langford, director of the Center for Global Missions at Oklahoma Christian University, suggested that a more helpful model might be to think of shared responsibility. His comment suggests to me another progression, one that can guide mission work and challenge newly established congregations. It occurs to me that the beginning of a new congregation occurs with all (or almost all) of the responsibility on the shoulders of the missionary or mission team. Only in unusual circumstances will there be a national or indigenous church member immediately available to help bear the responsibility. The task moving forward is to share responsibility, with more and more responsibility assumed by the members of the local church, and less and less responsibility borne by the inserted individuals. The timetable for the complete transfer of responsibility varies according to numerous factors, but many missionary church-planting teams begin with a seven-year plan.

    Understanding mission or church planting through the lens of responsibility can help identify what are appropriate tasks for the missionary or mission team and how those tasks change over time. Obviously, a primary role of the inserted group is to share the good news and bring people to Christ. But from the first day, the task is to model Christianity, to mentor and develop spiritually mature Christians. The goal is not merely baptisms. The goal is spiritual maturity, both for those who accept Christ and for the church as it learns to function as the body of Christ in healthy ways.

    This is merely conversation starter with the hope of encouraging thoughtful response which will be helpful in future blogs or articles.
    What are some of the “steps” in the transfer of responsibility? How does this “play” cross-culturally? What are the strengths and weaknesses of this view of the mission task? When and how have you seen this model or concept used successfully?

    It’s Sunday Again: God lives among his people

    Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

    Matthew 25 is usually quoted to remind us of the importance of “benevolent work” or prison ministry. The text says, “Insomuch as you did it unto one of the least of these, you did it unto me.”

    Today I am thinking about a different application of this text. How do I treat my brothers and sisters in Christ? Am I sensitive? Do I recognize their needs, their frustrations and hurts, their challenges and doubts? Do I barge ahead in the name of ‘principle’ or do I in the name of compassion resist the temptation to get everything right?
    God lives among his people. The Bible says that Jesus inhabits our hearts and that the Holy Spirit lives within us. How we treat one another is how we treat God. How can we say we love the unseen God when we mistreat our spiritual family whom we see each week? How can we have open hearts to God when we have closed and restricted hearts toward those around us?

    Many of us (myself included) are good at process over people, transaction over transformation, developing projects more than developing people. Matthew 25 serves as a reminder that becoming like Jesus includes how we treat other people.

    More People are Reading the Bible

    Saturday, September 21st, 2013

    The Bible is no longer only a book. The Bible is an ap. On Sunday, I carry my Bible–a hardback book. A friend frequently reminds me that he has hundreds of Bibles (versions) on his computer. He follows up with the observation that he cannot read many of them because they are in other languages. Many read Scripture in the public assemblies from a smartphone or tablet.

    A news report (NBC Evening News, September 19, 2013) mentioned that Bible usage is on the increase (based on statistics available concerning aps and use of electronic Bibles). According to the report, more and more people are reading and consulting the Bible. In one sense, more people are “carrying” a Bible and more people have ready access to what the Bible says. The technological revolution has also given us immediate access to concordances, comparative Bibles, and other Bible study tools.

    I am grateful that people find in Scripture comfort and advice concerning life matters. I am equally or more concerned that people find in Scripture the will of God and that they obey it in Christian practice.

    Not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the Father’s will. –Jesus

    Stars to Steer By: Leadership and Hope

    Thursday, September 19th, 2013

    A prime function of a leader is to keep hope alive.
    –John William Gardner

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