Church Zero

I recently finished reading Church Zero written by my friend Peyton Jones.  Peyton is a seasoned church planter who has ministered in Wales and is currently planting a church in Long Beach, CA.  He offers very practical insights into the role of the “apostle” in planting churches.

Watch the video below and if interested pick up a copy of Church Zero.  You won’t regret it.

 

 

My Concern with the Adoption Movement

Since the title of this post is sure to lead to assumptions and possible misunderstandings let me begin with my affirmation of adoption.  Adoption is central to understanding the gospel.  Christ died, not simply to secure my ticket to heaven, but to reconcile me to God; that is to restore my relationship to God through adoption.  In Christ I am a son and as a son a co-heir with Christ.  The adoption of orphans is a beautiful picture of this, much like marriage is a picture of our relationship with Christ.

Furthermore, though I did not grow up in a Christian home my parents were foster parents and provided a safe home for many children over the years.  They eventually adopted both of my brothers out of foster care and provided them the same upbringing and opportunities they provided their biological children.  For this reason I have financially contributed to friends who are seeking to adopt.  As you can see, I am a fan of adoption.

After reading the above you may be thinking, “What possibly could this guy be concerned about rescuing orphans he’s seen the need and fruit first hand?”  This is true, but I have seen something else firsthand.  You see, I lead a ministry that plants churches among the global poor.  I’ve seen poverty up close and personal; desperate poverty.  The type of poverty that leads, primarily women, to do the unthinkable; to abandon or even sell their children.  Our immediate response to this is shock and horror because we’ve never been that desperate.  Rest assured, if you spend enough nights listening to the children you love so dearly crying from hunger and seeing other children die of hunger, as a mother, you might gain a different perspective.  You might begin to see this as the height of sacrificial love.

This brings us to my concern.  Maybe I have just missed it but I don’t hear enough talk from adoption advocates (primarily international adoption) regarding the building up of poor families among the global poor so that we can reduce the need for adoption.  I hear much about the need to make great sacrifices to rescue children, including the great financial cost, but I don’t hear much about making the same sacrifices, including financial, to aid poverty stricken mothers and families so they can raise their children.  I won’t speculate as to why.

Please don’t misunderstand, there is and will continue to be great need for the Western church to adopt children.  The AIDS epidemic and other diseases as well as wars and natural disasters will always create orphans.  I praise the efforts of those championing the cause of orphans globally.  I’m just asking the leaders of the movement to consider two things.

  1. Take a balanced approach and advocate for poor mothers and families to care for their children.  Call on the Western church to take this aspect of the orphan problem seriously and to demonstrate their seriousness with financial investment.
  2. Consider the importance of indigenous Christians in confronting this humanitarian tragedy.  The church is growing by leaps and bounds in the global south and they too care about orphans.  We have realized the significance of working with indigenous pastors as we seek to expand the kingdom of God globally.  We need to consider the potential of unleashing the church in the global south to care for the orphans among them.  It has been my experience that the willingness is there but what is often lacking is the financial resources.  We can help with that.  What if we began to equip indigenous Christians with the necessary discipleship and financial resources to care for the orphans among them.

After we have done these two things the numbers of children needing to be adopted by Westerners might be drastically reduced and, long term, far more children could be helped.  Maybe I’m out of touch and we are already doing what I have described above.  Do you think my concern is valid or am I just worrying for no reason?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Wrestling with God Interview

Below is an interview I did with Scott Blair from Grapplers Church.  We discuss church planting, missions, discipleship, getting punched in the face, and much more.  I hope you find it helpful as you seek to serve King Jesus.

To learn more check out Living Bread Ministries.

 

Why Worry? Luke 12:22-34

In a culture paralyzed by fear and worry the idea that we can live a life free from the bondage of worry is a foreign concept.  Yet, Jesus says we have no need to worry because our Father desires to give us the kingdom.

Why Worry? – Luke 12:22-34

(Due to a technical error the audio for the first few minutes is low so you will need to turn up the volume.)

Church Planting Among the Global Poor

In this video Barbara and I discuss Living Bread Ministries and our vision for missional church planting among the global poor.

To invest in missional church planting among the global poor, click here.

 

Interdependence Requires Vulnerability

At Living Bread Ministries (LBM) one of the values we hold dearly is interdependence.  In the world of global missions you hear a lot of talk about dependence and independence, but not so much about interdependence.  This a comprehensive issue but the discussion almost always boils down to money.  The basic premise is that for indigenous church plants to be considered “successful” they must be financially independent (not dependent on outside sources of financial support).

The problem with this long standing rationale is that it curbs generosity and has stifled church planting efforts among the global poor.  Since poor communities are not able to be financially independent and Western agencies are unwilling to invest financially for fear of creating dependence, church planting movements are rare among the global poor.  There are very effective house church movements in poor communities around the world.  However, in these areas the house churches are primarily only able to deal with spiritual needs while Western humanitarian groups deal with the physical.

The net result often is a divorce of social ministry from the local church, and to what end?Yes the house church may avoid “dependency” but only because the Westerners are funding the social ministry through other entities.  If the local church is “independent” in its worship centers, but very much “dependent” for social ministry, which is the responsibility of the church, then we have not avoided this issue.  We have only traded one problem for another.  As if Western led and executed humanitarian programs to provide food, healthcare, education and housing for the poor are perfectly acceptable, yet helping a local church with local leadership implement their own program as they see fit is wrong because some financial resources are given to them directly.

In reality, interdependence is the best solution to the difficult problem of dependency. Think of the body.  Each part of the body is interdependent on the other parts.  The foot needs the leg as much as the leg needs the foot.  It’s the same with the body of Christ.  All of the parts of the body must work together for it to function properly.  This is the case with church planting among the global poor.  When everyone brings what they have to the table and invests it, churches can be planted among the poor and they can minister in a comprehensive way as the local leadership sees fit.  Neither side is independent or dependent, rather they are interdependent.  They need each other.

This type of partnership is hard and risky.  It is often messy.  It requires a level of vulnerability that most are unwilling to accept.  As a practical example, this week I prepared a comprehensive monthly income and expense report for LBM and our partner ministry in Brazil.  Since we value interdependence we shared this report with the national leadership in Brazil giving them complete access to our monthly budget including individual salaries, benefits, etc.  In doing this we are seeking to foster interdependence.  We know their budget and it’s only right that they should know ours.  We hold them accountable and they hold us accountable.  There may be other Western organizations that do this, but I do not know of any.  However, I believe this is the best approach to a very complex issue.

 

Portrait of a Christian

What does a Christian look like?  This is a question all of us must answer as we seek to follow Christ.  The short answer of course is we are to look like Jesus.  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:29).  In Jesus, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us ( John 1:14).  He manifested himself to us and revealed his image, thus showing us what our lives as Christians should look like.

He made himself our model (John 13:34-35, 20:21).  However, it is often hard to translate the life of Christ into our context.  Recently I was reading a biography on John Wesley, who is one of my heroes in the faith.  While I disagree with him on some secondary issues of theology I greatly respect him as a practical theologian.  As such, he was very much concerned with living out what we believe.

In light of this, the book I was reading dedicated the entire first chapter to a tract that Wesley had written in the mid 1700s which I have found to be exceedingly relevant today.  It is entitled The Character of a Methodist.  The term Methodist was given to the group Wesley founded as a derogatory name mocking the methodical way in which they approached life and Bible study.  Thus Wesley is not writing a denominational statement, but is simply making it clear that a Methodist, indeed all Christians should look like Jesus.

I encourage you to read this tract and meditate on what it really means to be conformed to the image of Christ.