The Most Pressing Need of the Global Church Today?

While praying through Operation World, I could not help but notice a need that always seems to come up no matter the country: Leadership Training.

There is a pressing need for the development and training of leaders and when you consider the many people who may depend on ill-equipped leaders for spiritual guidance, that does not bode well for the Global Church. In Operation World’s section on “the World”, one finds this:

Leadership development is the crucial bottleneck to Church growth. There is a worldwide lack of men and women truly called of God and deeply taught in the Scriptures to lead the churches, people willing to suffer the burdens and responsibilities of leadership for the sake of the Saviour who redeemed them; in many contexts this means deprivation, scorn and even risk of death. Those who accurately and effectively expound the Scriptures are few, especially in areas where the churches are growing rapidly. New methods and
means of multiplying well-trained, godly, effective leaders must be developed; traditional methods alone will not suffice to produce the number and quality required to meet the need. Ministers who are seminary graduates are often the least likely to have a biblical worldview. Pastors, ministers and elders all need constant upholding in prayer. -Operation World, pg. 17

This may be surprising to some. After all, were not Jesus’ disciples “uneducated” and “untrained” men? (Acts 4:13) Indeed they were, but that testifies to the fact that formal training is not a prerequisite for following Jesus, not that it is not needed when following Jesus.

If anything, the disciples had each other to consult and keep accountable in their teachings. Furthermore, the book of Acts speaks of a Jerusalem Council that determined theological issues, thus providing instruction and guidance to the early Church (Acts 15).

One need only to look at today’s nation to pray for, China, to see the need for leadership training. For all the excitement about the explosive growth of the Church in China, one needs to look closer to see that cults aggressively prey on unsuspecting people who are confused about the truth because of this lack of trained leaders (Operation World, pg 222).

Our response? Target this need of leadership training when exploring any missionary endeavors. But more urgently, pray, for “pastors, ministers and elders all need constant upholding in prayer.” (Operation World, pg. 17)


Passion Week -Jesus’ Call to the Nations?

15″And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” -Mark 11:15-17

As a staff, we were encouraged by our Senior Pastor to follow along in the Bible through the Passion Week. I could not help but notice that early on in the Passion Week, Jesus’ indictment against the religious leaders of the day appeared to reveal God’s call to the nations. Continue reading “Passion Week -Jesus’ Call to the Nations?”

What Kind of Knowledge Puffs Up?

“Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.”
-1 Corinthians 8:1 (ESV)

Among Evangelicals, 1 Corinthians 8:1 is commonly used to lash out against any form of intellectualism (theology), extensive study or formal education (seminary) within the Church. But is that the knowledge Paul refers to that “puffs up” or makes arrogant?

Given the context of the passage, it appears Paul is speaking more about a spiritual knowledge as it intersects with another culture. Because Christians knew there was no such thing as idols or other gods, that knowledge could have easily turned to arrogance towards people who came out of culture where they believed in such idols. Such disregard for these people by eating food sacrificed to idols was in direct contrast to the “love” that builds up (1 Cor. 8:1b).

Historically, this sort of “puffed up” knowledge has led to cultural insensitivity on the part of overseas missionaries. Imagine the horror as natives look on and see a missionary scarfing down on what’s left of the beloved cow they once worshipped!

We don’t have to look far to see examples of this “puffed up” knowledge in our own culture. The celebration of holidays (Christmas, Easter, birthdays and more recently Halloween) has been a point of contention among Evangelicals. One can easily take a stance whether to celebrate a holiday and cast judgment on the other side. But Paul calls us to the ultimate solution to our puffed up problem: love.

Our love for others should cause us to be sensitive in how we act towards others who do not share our conviction about Halloween. Our love for others should cause us to be wise with our words when speaking about one’s beloved Santa. Our love for others should effectively bridge our spiritual knowledge to another culture and allow God’s love in Christ Jesus to shine that much more brighter.

Here’s to the true Love that came down from God to meet us where we are and invite us to be who we were always created to be: children of God.

Merry Christmas.

Don’t Call it Reverse Culture Shock

Ever since I returned from my trips to Thailand and E. Asia, I have been feeling out of sync and just plain off. It wasn’t until I took a personal retreat last week that I was finally able to determine what was making me feel disconnected.

It would be easy to point out that I was experiencing “reverse culture shock”, which is commonly used to describe the shock missionaries experience when they reenter their home culture after having been away for so long. Sure enough, I was more sensitive to the materialistic, comfort-seeking and appearance-obsessive tendencies of our culture in Southern California. It didn’t take me long to experience the inflated sense of entitlement Americans champion while driving on the freeway, what with drivers weaving in and out and making sure you know you’re in their way (Does road rage even exist in other countries?).

Soon, I began to realize that although I had prepared myself for the sexual stronghold that holds Thailand captive and the oppressive regime that dominates E. Asia, I was blindsided by these spiritual strongholds that occupy Southern California. But the scary thing for me was feeling like I would eventually settle into this culture and accept materialism, comfort, appearance and entitlement as normal and nothing wrong (I can feel my impatience rise each time I drive here).

So what I finally realized was that this tension I was experiencing was not a result of readjusting to life back home, it was a result of not being satisfied that this was my home at all. Maybe I got a taste of what the pilgrims of old experienced when they longed for Home.

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
-Hebrews 11:13-16

It’s no coincidence that on this personal retreat I fell in love with John Bunyan’s classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress. My soul resonated with each word as I inserted myself in the story as a pilgrim on a journey to the Celestial City.

So don’t call it reverse culture shock.

Call it a bad case of being Homesick.

Comparing the Two “Great’s” in the Bible

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” -Matthew 22:37-39

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. God therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” -Matthew 28:18-20

Too often in the Church today, the “Great Commandment” (Matthew 22:37-39) is pitted against the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:18-20). Some question why they should venture cross-culturally overseas when there are people to love in their own backyard. Others emphasis our call to “go” the nations seemingly at the cost of our ministry locally. Who is correct?

Steve Hawthorne in the Perspectives Reader (pg. 128-129) points out that both are of equal priority but are not equal in nature:

-The Great Commandment is ongoing
-The Great Commission is a task to be completed

Both are commanded but one will completed at some point in history and the other will be ongoing throughout eternity. That means that we cannot approach each the same nor can we neglect one over the other.

However, both are similar in that both should be focused on God. The Great Commandment is loving God first and the Great Commission results in people following God as disciples. Pitting the two together can lead us to focus on human needs rather than God.

Hawthorne concludes by pointing out that both work together. We cannot effectively make disciples without love for others and ultimately we desire to make disciples who love God and love others.

May both “Great’s” continue to further the glory of our “Great” God.

A “Radical” perspective

To continue in our discussion of the long-term benefits of short-term missions, I’d like to quote a portion of the book “Radical” by David Platt. (Although I have questions about certain things in this book, as a whole I am encouraged by the message of the book in calling us to evaluate our church culture in light of God’s calling to the nations. I would highly recommend reading chapter 4 for a good overall argument for our responsibility in impacting the world for Christ.)

In the last chapter, Platt wrestles with what appears to be the common question among American churches in regards to short-term missions: Why spend so much money sending somebody overseas short-term when you could just use that money to send directly to that country?

Financially, that makes a lot of sense. Time-wise, it sounds more efficient. Strategically, it seems like the way to go.

But in relation to God, it may just fly in the face of the gospel.

Platt shares about a conversation he has with a person in Sudan who mentions his gratefulness for the many groups that provided supplies to his people during times of war, suffering and persecution.

But then he looked at me and asked, “Even in light of all these things that people have given us, do you want to know how you can tell who a true brother is?

I leaned forward and asked, “How?”

He responded, “A true brother comes to be with you in your time of need.” Then he looked me in the eye and said, “David, you are a true brother. Thank you for coming to be with us.”

Tears welled up in my eyes as the reality of the gospel hit home with me in an entirely new way. I was immediately reminded that when God chose to bring salvation to you and me, he did not send gold or silver, cash or check. He sent himself -the Son. I was convicted for even considering that I should give money instead of actually coming to Sudan. How will I ever show the gospel to the world if all I send is my money? Was I really so shallow as to think that my money is the answer to the needs in the world?”

If we are going to accomplish the global purpose of God, it will not be primarily through giving our money, as important as that is. It will happen primarily through giving ourselves. This is what the gospel represents, and it’s what the gospel requires.
-Platt, “Radical”, pg. 197-198

I believe it was Os Guiness at the recent Lausanne multiplex session on Globalization that said that by all accounts, the Incarnation appeared costly, wasteful and not time efficient. But God came in the flesh as one person, in one place, at one time and the world has never been the same. Jesus’ method was not to reach the masses but invest in the lives of 12 men who then turned the world upside down. And He commissions us to do the same (Matt. 28:18-20).

So when it comes to missions or church for that matter, don’t look for the most cost-effective, time-effective or logically strategic method. Look to God’s method and start following Him.

When something short-term goes a long way

When you think about overseas short-term missions trips, the numbers do not seem to add up.

A group of ten or so goes for about two weeks at a cost of roughly $30,000. A day is lost in travel with a few more needed to get over jet lag. Finally, just when members get adjusted to the time, culture and language, it is time to go home back to the normal daily grind of life.

What that all adds up to does not seem to amount to much. However as with all things in the Lord, the impact of something short-term can go a long way. And that is particularly true in regards to short-term missions trips. Here then are three ways short-term missions trips can have a long-term impact:

1) A missions trip can impact you for the rest of your life

Stepping outside of your culture allows you to evaluate your life in light of what God is doing around the world. Many long-term missionaries first recognized their calling to missions after going on a short-term missions trip, and people who go on missions trips are often lifelong supporters of missions.

2) We have something to offer that is otherwise not readily available

Our teams have been asked to construct custom fitted furniture for children, equip a church in the area of prayer and provide English teaching. Locals often ask why our teams would travel all the way from America just to serve them, which provides a great opportunity to share the gospel.

3) We can encourage, minister to and pray for Christian staff and workers

Our teams try to take the time to minister to and pray for our brothers and sisters in hopes of encouraging them to continue the awesome work of proclaiming the gospel and making disciples long after we’re gone.

4) We can bring back here what God showed us there

I say this because I received my calling into pastoral ministry while on a missions trip, had a heart for children’s ministry soon after returning and am writing this article as the missions pastor having gone through the experience. But don’t take my word for it …

*Taken from latest issue of Evergreen SGV Online newsletter