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Posts from July 2013

Leading Your Church To Be a Launching Pad

At the SEND>>North America Conference today in Dallas, I was asked to share briefly with pastors and ministy leaders considering partnering and planting in Toronto. The Toronto gathering attracted a good number of church leaders. The Toronto team shared the vision for their city briefly and then planters and advocates shared a little of their passion, vision and partnership reasoning.

To close out our meeting, I was asked to speak to pastors directly regarding partnering and planting. As a pastor of an established church (i.e. an old church with much tradition) I was to share basics and challenge pastors to lead their congregations beyond just agreeing that church planting was biblical and a good idea, but into doing something about it.

I shared about the "3 P's" needed from sponsoring and advocate churches. These are. . .

  • Prayer - This is first, strategic and essential.
  • People - Teams of short-term missionaries are always needed. However, sending teams to a city to "do church" for a planter without knowing the needs of the planter and the contextualization of the area is a recipe for failure. In other words, when an established church sends their mission team to "do mission work" as they define it, without consulting the planter, the planter often ends up having to "fix" that which the mission team did.
  • Provision - In other words, money and resources are needed. This is beyond an Annie Armstrong Offering (though that is vital) and becomes resources specific for the planter, the plant and the community being served.

ShuttleEvery church can offer these three things, but there is another subject that must be covered. The default mode for most churches is to build leadership teams, equip saints and make disciples. . .who will stay at the local church and serve. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but over time, the local church can fall into the trap of being "hoarders." While hoarding may make for an interesting reality show for some (not me,) it is deadly when it comes to Kingdom growth.

Over the last few years, God has shown me that we have a choice as a church. We can be a launching pad or a landing pad. A launching pad, much like the ones at Cape Canaveral, are designed to get an object out of orbit, for work to be done elsewhere.

This is the role of the local church as well as related to leaders.

For the church, could it be that God is calling us to gather the best, high-capacity leaders and disciples of Christ within our church fellowship for the purpose of sending them out to serve? What we most often do is hoard the very best within the walls. The local church will have wonderful ministries and, honestly, some of those leaders are called to stay and serve. However, there are many who are simply called to serve for a short amount of time in the home church, only to be sent out into the fields.

I'm reminded of Christ's statement about the "fields being white unto harvest" and the "workers being few." Too often the workers are gathering in the barn talking about how great it would be if someone would go harvest the field while no one steps outside to do the work. Talk is cheap.

My question is simply this, "What if God is preparing leaders within the local church so they may be launched into ministry elsewhere?" Does that sound like a Kingdom-focus to you?

It is my contention that this is our calling.

It's one thing to say "We support church planters."

It's another to say "We're sending our own to plant or to help plant."

That is our calling. It's a challenging step. Yet, it is the only corrrect one.

Is your church a launching pad or landing pad?

The New Welsh Revival - The Mission is a Man

In the opening moments of the film "Saving Private Ryan" the tagline was. . .

"In the Last Great Invasion of the Last Great War, The Greatest Danger for Eight Men was Saving... One. The Mission is a Man."

As we have been meeting with Christ-followers in Wales, the inevitable discussion of century old revivalists such as Evan Roberts and Christmas Evans occurs.

The 19th Century saw Christmas Evans the one eyed preacher of Anglesey, John Elias, Thomas Charles and hundreds more – Heroes who under God transformed and changed a whole nation into one of the most Christian countries in the world by the end of the Century – so much so that the little nation became known as ‘The Land of Revival’ – Land of Song.

A century ago Wales experienced the last National Religious Revival, a revival that brought in an extra 100,000 new converts according to the estimates of the time, and a movement that quickly spread to the 4 corners of the World. Yet that great move of the Spirit had very small beginnings. Beginnings that didn’t always involve the great preachers of the day – erudite and educated as they were, but instead included, for instance a young teenager from New Quay, Cardigan – Florrie Evans – who in a youth meeting in February 1904 declared publicly that she loved the Lord Jesus with all her heart. With these words the Spirit seemed to fall on the meeting and the fire quickly spread to other young people in the Cardiganshire area.

Wales-flag-wallpaperIn September of the same year, an Evangelist Seth Joshua was addressing a Convention which included young people at Blaenanerch just 5 miles north of Cardigan. Seth himself had been praying for years that God would raise up a young man from the pits to revive the churches – little did he know that on Thursday September 29th 1904 his prayer was to be answered in a life changing experience for one 26 year old student, Evan Roberts.

Evan Roberts was born in 1878 in the small town of Loughor in Glamorgan, just 7 miles away from Swansea. For years Evan had been a faithful member of Moriah Calvinistic Methodist church at Loughor, he was a Sunday School Superintendent, a consciencious reader of the main theological works of his day, and more than that he had been praying for revival for over 11 years. Having been converted as a young teenager, he continued to pray regularly that God would visit again the nation in Revival Power. Determined to do his part, he felt compelled to go into the Calvinistic Methodist Ministry and on September 13th 1904 he became a pupil of the Newcastle Emlyn Grammar School to prepare for Trefecca Theological College.

It was only 2½ weeks after arriving that he found himself at Blaenanerch – and at a crossroads in his spiritual experience. A spiritual experience which would lead him back to the young people of his own church Moriah Loughor where he shared his experience and encouraged them to be open to God’s Spirit. Within two weeks the Welsh Revival was national news and before long, Evan Roberts and his brother Dan and his best friend Sidney were travelling the country conducting Revival Meetings and they were meetings with a difference. Meetings which broke the conventional and bi-passed the traditional – often the ministers just sat down unable to preach or even to understand what storm had arrived in their usually sedate temples.

The revival impacted the entire globe and for at least two years was covered extensively by the media. (Read more here.) Wales is now far from being ninety percent Christian, as it was following this revival movement. The team serving here and Christ-followers in this nation are praying for another movement of the Spirit of God.

It's been said that once a nation or people has entered into post-Christendom, it never returns. Of course, just because something has been said by humans, doesn't necessarily make it so. Consequently, many are praying for another revival among the Welsh people.

Some of the seniors living in Wales will tell you the revival never ended. They will share that it stays active within their hearts. Yet, the fact remains that churches and chapels that were once filled with people, now are empty for the most part, if not closed down completely.

As we have been serving here, a thought continues to come to my mind, "Is there another Evan Roberts here?"

I believe there is.

Just as in "Saving Private Ryan," the mission is a man.

Christ-followers here are speaking of the sense of being on the edge of another movement of God. Who will God use? We don't know, but we are praying for this person.

Could it be that one of the young people in the city where we are staying is that person? Could it be that Daniel, Jordan, Kim, Cameron, Diane, or another teenager is being prepared now for God's great story?

I believe so.

The "Land of Revival" is going to experience a rebirth.

There are many spiritual strongholds here.

There is a sense of "We've tried Christianity and it didn't work" by the people.

This is a spiritual battle here. In fact, it's a war. In this "great invasion, the mission is a man" just as in "Saving Private Ryan." Join me as God raises up this man (or woman) whom He will use as a catalyst for revival in this land. God is not finished with this part of the story.

Missional Hair Cuts & Narrative Mapping

Currently, I am a part of a team of six spending a week in Northern Wales for the purpose of prayerwalking and narrative mapping. We are just one team of many who have come throughout the summer. Each team is led by the summer staff (who, by the way, are an incredible team of college students from throughout the States) as a part of a multi-year strategy to see this community and nation come back to Christ.

Wales is known as the "land of revival" but that tag is more historic than descriptive nowadays. A nation that one hundred years ago was ninety percent Christian is now less than five percent.

What is Narrative Mapping?

The purpose of narrative mapping is not about marking an "X" on the map where you have discovered key sites. Narrative mapping is a process of recounting and telling stories and insights gathered through intentional conversations with people. In our case, the mapping is taking place in this northern Wales city as we walk the streets, step into storefronts, drink coffee at the open air markets and intentionally engage people.

HaircutSome may struggle with seeing the validity of such work on a mission trip. This is due, most likely, to the fact that most mission trips over the years have involved construction projects, children's activities, medical help, crusades and mass evangelism events. These are all valid expressions of missions as well.

Perhaps the reason many had difficulty with narrative mapping is due to the fact that there's no where on the "mission trip scorecard" of the past to put one's grade. An entire team may spend a week in a city and never see anyone come to Christ. The enemy then uses that as an accusation and attack. Nevertheless, the importance of this step of mission is not diminished. In a sense, narrative mapping is "pre-evangelism."

In a land such as Wales where most of the residents see church as nothing but a symbol of corruption or at best, a good place for children and senior adults, traditional mission trips fall flat on their faces. How do we know this? Because recent history has proven it to be true.

Another reason narrative mapping may be so challenging is that the mission team members learn straightaway (just thought I'd throw that British term in there for you. . .it means "immediately") that the type of mapping being done here could, and should, be done at home as well.

Jamieon haircutYesterday, my daughter Ashley and I were joined by Jamieon, one of the summer staff here, for our narrative mapping assignment. I looked to Jamieon and told him "I need to go by that barber we passed earlier and get a haircut." Why? Because I needed a haircut, but also because I felt that sitting in a barber chair for 20 minutes or so would put me in a place to converse with the barber about the city, spiritual things and beliefs.

We made our way to the "Snip & Clip" and I sat down in the barber chair and began conversing with Christy. Christy is English, from Kent, but has been in Wales for a few years. She knows the Welsh language and loves it. In fact, she really doesn't like the English (though she's English) and would prefer to be Welsh. This is interesting. This is a very, very proud Welsh city and to see how this pride has spread, even among some of the English transplants, is amazing.

Due to my accent, Christy asked if we were on holiday. We talked about that a bit and then she said, "You're from a church group, aren't you?" This caught us all by surprise. It's not a secret, but it's not something we ever say immediately straightaway. I asked why she'd ask such a thing. She said that Mormons and Witnesses (i.e. Jehovah's Witnesses) come to the city all the time. She just figured we must be one of those groups. I clarified we were not of those groups, but were with a church back home and that we were Christians. She asked what kind, so I said Baptist.

The conversation went well. She openly talked about her beliefs. They were not surprising. They echoed what we had previously learned, but there was a hint of hope in this. She, unlike many, stated she believed in heaven and hell, in God and Jesus and thought the church was good. She just could never attend because she felt that would make her a hypocrite.

She, like many, has bought into the lie that there is no absolute truth. She stated that things today are so different from when the Bible was written and therefore, much of what is in the book would be different if it were written today. Even Jesus, she said, would allow things that he previously would not.

It was an interesting discussion and I asked if she had ever heard the phrase "The more things change, the more they stay the same," alluding to the fact that the heart of man has not changed and that we still need a Savior.

It caused her pause, but that was it.

We talked a little more. It was light-hearted. She has a fun personality. Then, she was done.

Jamieon decided to get a haircut as well, though he was a little bit concerned. He kindly asked Christy "Have you ever cut hair like mine?" We all laughed because what he was really saying was "Have you ever cut a black man's hair before?"

He climbed into the chair and now it was his turn to talk with her.

We paid for our haircuts and left, knowing just a little more about the heart of the people of this city. This information was shared in our debriefing time last night.

Today, we enter another area of the city. Prayerwalking in the morning hours. Narrative mapping after lunch. Missional encounters in the evening. Seems simple, but it is not. The intentionality is challenging. It is so easy to lose focus.

Yet, the long-term strategy is clear. Nothing will occur here apart from God's Spirit. We stand as His ambassadors, listening to His voice, speaking His truth, loving people. We see every encounter as divinely appointed. Every conversation is tinged with the spiritual. This is the mission.

And. . .it should not be relegated to one week on a "mission trip."

When you're getting your haircut, talking to the cashier at the grocery store, speaking to the barista making your coffee, etc. are you being missionally intentional?

Communicating the Gospel Clearly

"The gospel will not be spread where it is not appropriately communicated. " - Caleb Crider in Tradecraft

As our mission team works this week in northern Wales, we are continually reminded of the need to communicate clearly the message of the Gospel. We have interacted with numerous Welsh speaking young people and adults. These "casual" conversations are intentional and strategic as we partner with those living and serving here for the sake of the Gospel. While just about everyone in the city we are staying speaks fluent English, there is a deep need to speak the message of the Gospel in the heart language of the residents.

Clear-communicationLearning Welsh is no easy task, for me at least. Though many here will say "It sounds just like it's spelled" when trying to help me learn a term, it becomes clear that it may very well sound like it's spelled, it's just that some of those sounds don't exist in the language folder in my brain.

There are letters in Welsh that are unique to the language. For instance, "LL" is one letter, different from the letter "L." This is the case for "DD" and some others.

One nearby village's name is Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

Yes, that's one word and it means, "St Marys Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel Near to the Rapid Whirlpool of Llantysilio of the Red Cave."

Back in 2011, I was offered free fish and chips if I could pronounce it correctly on the first try.

I bought my fish and chips.

Every people group, every culture, every region, every community, has a heart language. It is imperative that we, as Christ-followers, learn to speak into the hearts of those we are called to reach.

This is true in Wales, Haiti, Cuba and Orange Park. It is not relegated just to language difference either. The gospel is best communicated when the communicator is living the gospel fully.

No One Is Too Far Gone

I have had conversations with numerous people over the years who, due to guilt and shame over personal sin, truly struggle with moving forward in life. I'm speaking of people who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. These are Christians who seem stuck.

ForgivenBy their own words, they just "Can't forgive themselves."

This is epidemic within the church. It's a common ploy of the Enemy. Remember, as I stated in a previous post, his greatest tools are guilt, shame and fear.

It is my experience that we, much like the Old Testament Israelites, are a forgetful people. We often forget the grace and mercy of our God. I fear that we may not even know what these words mean.Therefore, we struggle with accepting forgiveness (and consequently find ourselves stuck.)

Grace - receiving good that we do not deserve.

Mercy - not receiving the bad we deserve.

Our guilt and shame keep us living in the past and unable to receive the forgiveness God offers.

Here's a good reminder of truth.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (ESV)

In other words, no one is too far gone.

Years ago, when Christian music was being "contemporized" (I made that word up) new singers and songwriters were recording songs that weren't quite hymns and not really worship choruses. However, in many of these cases, the songs were sermons and stories put to music. One of my all time favorite singers is Wayne Watson. He's still touring and newer songs are great. However, it's often that some of the "classics" come back to my mind. As I was writing this, a song titled "New Lives for Old" kept running through my mind.



Guilt, Shame & Fear: The Enemy's Weapons

The reality of the battle often comes as a surprise to many.

Egyptian-swordsIn today's Daily Reading from Ransomed Heart Ministries, it says this. . .

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

Have you ever wondered why Jesus married those two statements? Did you even know he spoke them at the same time? I mean, he says them in one breath. And he has his reasons. By all means, God intends life for you. But right now that life is opposed. It doesn't just roll in on a tray. There is a thief. He comes to steal and kill and destroy. Why won't we face this? I know so few people who will face this. The offer is life, but you're going to have to fight for it, because there's an Enemy in your life with a different agenda.

There is something set against us.

We are at war.

I don't like that fact any more than you do, but the sooner we come to terms with it, the better hope we have of making it through to the life we do want. This is not Eden. You probably figured that out. This is not Mayberry, this is not Seinfeld's world, this is not Survivor. The world in which we live is a combat zone, a violent clash of kingdoms, a bitter struggle unto the death. I am sorry if I'm the one to break this news to you: you were born into a world at war, and you will live all your days in the midst of a great battle, involving all the forces of heaven and hell and played out here on earth.

Where did you think all this opposition was coming from?

It was a good reminder for me this morning.

I was talking to one of our church members last week about the battle and the tactics of our enemy. He shared some wise thoughts with me.

The enemy uses three primary tools when attacking God's children. These are guilt, shame and fear.


There is such a thing as healthy guilt. It occurs when we realize our failures. Healthy guilt is when the Holy Spirit convicts a person of sin that has been committed for the purpose of repentance and forgiveness.

However, there is unhealthy and false guilt that also exists and this is what the enemy uses extensively. It's a powerful weapon in his arsenal. This guilt occurs when the sin in question has been repented of and forgiven. Yet, the feelings and thoughts that continue to associate us with our past remain. You've probably heard someone say "God has forgiven me, but I cannot forgive myself." This is false guilt and it's debilitating.


What is the difference between shame and guilt? While guilt is seeing and acknowledging what has been done, shame is seeing oneself as a failure because of what has been done. Guilt is looking at the sin. Shame is looking at oneself.

Meditating on false guilt (already forgiven sin) will result in shame. It will become a stronghold.


There is healthy, biblical fear that we are to have. When we are to "fear the Lord" it is with a sense of awe at his holiness. However, there is also a debilitating fear that keeps us from moving forward in our faith. It may be a fear of the future or a fear of what others may say, or a host of other things. Regardless, it is deadly and results in worry, which is a sin.

Once we move through the guilt, shame and fear in life, the Enemy loses power. His constant attacks with these weapons are diffused.

Romans 8:1-2(ESV)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.