• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

People watching

Have you ever caught yourself just ‘staring’ at people in a restaurant, on a flight, or at an open air market?  You know, engaging in ‘people watching’.  I can at times find myself looking at all the people around me and wondering how many of them know Christ.Crowded...

A sense of guilt can easily well up in our hearts as we think about the unfinished work of the Gospel and what we feel we ‘need’ to do.

Yes, our hearts need to be daily broken over the lost condition of those around us.  However, the ultimate work of the Gospel does not rest upon our efforts.  A friend used to say: “No one ever got saved by your testimony.”  His point was that God may use your testimony to bring another to Himself, but it is He that opens the hearts of men and women to Himself.

However, what if our initial response of brokenness gave way to a further response.  What if we chose to train another to pray along with us, to join with us in engaging lost people in spiritual conversation?  What if we saw the ‘mission’ God has given us to be a team effort rather than just an individual effort?

Last night, (let’s call him ‘P’) P was my waiter.  Each time, I come through this city, I usually run into P at this restaurant. P knows that I am a Christian. I met P through C, who is a local believer here.  P also knows M who is a worker in this city.  I haven’t necessarily ‘trained’ C and M, but my spiritual horizons expand when I realize that God is using many people to bring Christ’s hope to the one of those  among the lost.

I just wonder about the fruit that might come from training up others into this missional work of God, rather than ‘carrying’ it by ourselves.

Another take at unpacking the idea of ‘over-questioning’

I find so much good in the ‘sharing of ideas’; in that part of community where we can help each other ‘grow up in Christ’ as we ‘sharpen one another’ through robust dialogue.  Carolynfun-moving raised a question which led to some further ‘unpacking’ of an idea.

Then another person wrote back with what I felt were very insightful comments. In fact, I responded to this person by saying: “I think you did a way better job of expressing what I was trying to say in my original post.”

Here’s what that person in the World Team Global community wrote: “I appreciated Carolyn’s question, because it reminded me of my experiences as a critical/analytical thinker. Many people took my questions or critical comments, when all I felt I was doing was examining the issue. This happened more when I wrote than in face to face exchanges.  For me, there was no motivation to go after someone, no hidden agenda. The motivation was a questioning mind which wants see all possibilities, hindrances, watch for missing information etc. But this sometimes came across to those with other thinking styles as plain critical, or too perfectionist.

On the other hand, some people would realize what I was doing, and encourage others to listen, to hear me out. But when it comes to asking questions, there are ways to phrase and ask questions in an appropriate way. How we talk can sound like a know it all, arrogant and disrespectful.

One thing I know from myself, is that critical thinkers can come across as having all the questions and no solutions. I have had to learn to know the difference between tearing down and building up. Paul says knowledge puffs up; love builds up. That is the bottom line.”

What stood out to me, what ‘sharpened’ my thinking were three things.  First, the good reminder, said in another way, that asking lots of questions is not wrong.  Second, other people need to get involved in helping a group to receive well the input via questions of one member of the group. It’s a community project.  Finally, growth in self-awareness led this writer to ‘adapt’, to contextualize his questioning mind, in light of biblical principles to the need, growth and development of others.  Did he stop asking questions?  I don’t think so, but he obviously grew in knowing how to exercise
his ‘gift’ for the benefit of the group.

Unpacking the idea of ‘over-questioning’

If you didn’t see it, Carolyn commented on yesterday’s blog post by writing: “David, I enjoyed this thought. Can you “unpack” or expand on this idea: “First, at times ‘over-questioning’ is a smokescreen for our criticism, not our constructive, critical help. We simply want to prove that we are right about the theological or missiological standing behind our comments, rather than help the brother or sister move a new idea forward.unpackinggraphic

So here goes.  ‘Over-questioning’ is when we ask lots of questions where the primary focus is to ‘take apart others’ ideas’.  Our objective is not first to come alongside and assist the other to ‘improve’ the idea by our questions.

If we push back on the someone’s implied criticisms through their questions, we often get a response such as: “I’m just asking questions. I think there are some missiological and theological issues at stake here.

All those questions are just a ‘smokescreen’ as to our real intent in the discussion.  There is nothing wrong with asking lots of questions.  However, the Gospel searches out the motivation behind our questioning; seeking to separate out self-centeredness from other-centeredness.

Other-centeredness causes us to have a different view of others and their ideas.  Our questions become the means by which we can ‘develop others’.  And sometimes, ‘development’ means we just need to let people try and see what the Lord might do through their ideas.

I wonder what the Lord, and the disciples, thought when Peter asked to step out of that boat.

Why can’t we try it?

Have you ever been in the hunt for a new computer, electric generator, or some other item needed for ministry or home setup?  As cross cultural workers, we are pretty good at ferreting out the best possible price. It’s just our way of trying to use the Lord’s money wisely.  However, you know there have been times when all that work was for naught. Sometimes, taking too much time to think about the best option, caused you to miss the sale price which ended yesterday!

Sometimes the same process occurs when we launch a new ministry project or tool.  Someone comes up with a great idea. We’re excited about what might happen through this project or tool.  We begin to brainstorm how to make it happen.  Then we move to ‘launch’ and that’s when the questions start to come.too-many-questions

Now, there is nothing wrong with questions and analysis.  Yet, I’ve noticed two things about ‘over-questioning’.  First, at times ‘over-questioning’ is a smokescreen for our criticism, not our constructive, critical help.  We simply want to prove that we are right about the theological or missiological standing behind our comments, rather than help the brother or sister move a new idea forward.  Second, we underestimate the truth that we can learn an awful lot when things don’t go as we planned.  The Spirit of God has much to teach us from those moments of stepping out in ‘faith’ as well as those moments of stepping out in our own self sufficiency.

I don’t have an answer as to the best way to ‘work this process’, but I think it starts with a good deal of prayer, honesty with one another, and just plain old ‘give-it-a-try’ effort.


You skaking?

Just reading the news, as we know, can get one discouraged.  Here in Europe, the talk is of the exponential rise in migration, Brexit, and the internal strife in numerous countries.  There is a ‘shaking’ going on, and it can cause us to ‘shake’; to wonder what is really going on.

The daily grind of our lives as cross cultural workers can also cause us to despair, to ‘shake’, wondering what all this disruption has to do with life and ministry.

unshakeableI read this statement today which put order back into my heart and thinking: “This is why it is important to believe with an unshakeable trust that we have a kingdom that cannot be shaken.”

God builds the house (Psalm 127). God is building His Church (Matthew 16:18).  One day, God will right everything in this world (Revelation 21:4).  His kingdom is unshakeable (Hebrews 12:28).

At the end of another week, you may feel disrupted.  You may be ‘shaking in your boots’ because language learning is going badly or the person you’ve been spending time with in spiritual conversation dropped off the radar screen or family issues are causing sleep to be disturbed.

Then reach out in faith and repentance and grab hold of His hand.  Let Him overwhelm your ‘shaking’ heart with His assurance, with His ‘unshakableness’.

Not feeling like you can do that?  Then tell another, you’re having trouble even reaching out your hand.  Let them take your hand into His.

Community prayer snapshot

I don’t know what you did today, but I spent the morning praying for Asia with the France team.

The room was divided into seven (7) stations.  At each station, we prayed for 15-20 minutes, in small groups, for the prayer points at that station.  We ‘moved around’ the room throughout the morning and prayed with different groups of different people.  At two stations, the group watched a short video from two of our teams in Asia.  Prayers were offered in French. Prayers were offered in English.  Prayers may have been offered in other languages.20170209_105127

One person commented as we were leaving, “I’m really glad I came this morning. It was so encouraging.”  Another said how good it was to be praying for and learning about another area of the world which he had never visited.

We would love h20170209_105153ear about your ‘community prayer snapshot’. Feel free to post those in the comment section.

Prayer leads us to “see the world as God does, to recognize more and more the depth of His grace towards us, and allow our hearts to ‘overflow’ with joy, with passion, with the unstoppable desire to grab that rope cord and join together in a movement.”

Raise the sails!

This past Monday, I met with two young leaders from a small mission that is “re-building” itself.  I say ‘young’ because the two guys could have been my sons.  They asked me questions, almost nonstop, for 90 minutes.  Good questions; the kind that make you sit back and hesitate before you try to answer.  They were eager to learn from another.  They were passionate.  They were focused.

When I say that their mission is ‘small’, it does not do them justice.  Their numbers may be small, but their dream is huge and draws you in to want to know more abpelicanpnewall4out how they believe God will accomplish it.  Their vision caused me to want to help them, not criticize their efforts and strategies.

As I thought about all this later, I realized the dream was compelling, but it was their passion, their hunger to engage in the accomplishment of this vision that spoke to me.  It was as if, we were all on a sailboat together and these guys were screaming: “Raise the sails!  Get ready to ‘rock and roll’ because the wind is up!”  What would you do?  You would run to grab hold of one of those rope cords and start heaving to raise those sails.

God has laid on our hearts a dream, a vision of multiplying disciples and communities of believers among the unreached.  However, we ‘lack’ the passion at times to give our all for this missional endeavor.  When the call is heard to ‘raise the sails’, some of us prefer criticism and push back, rather than heart-y engagement.

As we begin to see the world as God does, as we recognize more and more the depth of His grace towards us, our hearts will ‘overflow’ with joy, with passion, with the unstoppable desire to grab that rope cord and join together in a movement.