Friday, October 30, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

IMB, NAMB and the impending smackdown

Why do we enjoy a good church fight so much?  I have been watching my stats in analytics lately.  Any time I use the labels NAMB and merger, my hits double what they normally are when I post something more generic.  I will always be one pushing for change and adaptation.  The world is a dynamic place.  We cannot remain a static denomination.  But some people are just going bug-eyed over this. 

This reminds me of a recent post by Grady Bauer.  He says that there was a mass reaction against the fact that a few IMB personnel used a private prayer language. He relates this to the present financial crisis at the IMB.  Where are those churches who were voracious about "purity"?  Where is their cry that the lost are going without the gospel because we are living the American dream rather than the great commission?

Perhaps if we spent more time on the great commission we will have less time to fight.  The only reason I ever posted about NAMB in the first place is because I realized, in so far as it concerns my area, that it is unclear, at best, what their influence as a mission board is on impacting lostness.  The politics wherein churches and individual power brokers are concerned with who gets what with regime changes at NAMB is purely carnal.  We should have one concern, and only one concern, to impact lostness. 

I doubt this will be a small issue in upcoming SBC events.  This is unfortunate.
ps, and yes, I tagged this post with NAMB and merger in a shameless ploy to get more hits...

Monday, October 26, 2009

hedge of protection

Is this what the devil sees in our "hedge of protection"?

fail owned pwned pictures

Here is Tim Hawkins on praying for a hedge

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I have finished the series on extraction.  You can click the links to read them in order.

Christian Mugging

A personal journey of feeling out of place

What Independent Baptists and Muslims have in Common

Closer to Home

The History of Revelation

Water Balloon Evangelism

water balloon evangelism

Sadly, I know people in real life who are like Mr shorty-shorts in the video.  Whats worse, is that many of us come across like this to the world without even knowing it.

This will probably be my last post in the extraction series.  I am tired of writing on it.  It only ticks me off to think about how out of touch we are with reality.  And, I am sure you are tired of reading about it.

I was walking through the parking lot on my way to get groceries and saw that there was a Starbucks inside Krogers.  My initial reaction was one of disgust, "what are they going to put them in next?!"  The more I think about it, it is clear that they have the right idea.  I personally am not big coffee drinker.  I have only been to a coffee shop one time.  If they are going to get me to try a cup of coffee, it is not going to be by making me drive out of my way, and going somewhere I would never naturally go.  They would have to put it in the normal pattern of my everyday life in order to get me to try it.  This is exactly what they have done.

I think part of the problem with most churches (and why they aren't growing) is because they are extracted from the normal patters of people's everyday lives.  Unless it is Christmas or Easter, or someone is getting married or dying, church just isn't the place where people go.  The people in church aren't the group of people with whom they normally associate.  People are interested in Jesus; they just aren't willing to go to church to find out about him. After 9-11, when you wanted to know more about Islam, did you go to mosque or read a book?  Most people read books rather than visited with Muslims face to face because we want the leisure or reading over the pressure of what we view to be an immanent hard sell.  Do you think our post/pre christian culture views us differently?

This is the problem which both the contemporary church--which is typically only a hip traditional church--and the traditional church have in common.  Both models expect people to "come and see."  The traditional church expects people to come because they operate under the cultural presupposition that it is Sunday and people will come to church.  The contemporary church expects people to come because they are so much cooler than traditional church.  To an unregenerate mind, neither is attractive.  The unregenerate would rather be elsewhere than church on Sunday, and if they are going to pick a place based on vibe, the church cannot compete with "vanity fair."

We need to model what Jesus modeled: Incarnation.  Evangelism is not so much of an event as it is a process.  We need to quit giving flip answers so we can move on to point 3 in our outline.  Rather, we need to take the long sell and model christian life and theology for them.  If we can't.won't do that, we need to just pack it up.

It is said that we shape the building and then the building shapes us.  I am not against buildings, but in spite of our affirmations to the contrary, when we think of church, too often, we are really thinking about buildings and programs.  The post/pre christian culture needs Jesus brought to them.  If we quit thinking buildings then we will no longer be limited by geography and environment.  Why don't we take Jesus to the pub?  The sports team?  The work place?  Our street? Because we do ministry at our church building...  we are probably too busy there to ever think about these other places.  After all, that would just put our work in competition with our home church, and we don't want to trump on their turf.

We need to be mindful of which kingdom we are supposed to be building.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I was reminded today that our call is one of endurance and perseverance.  A friend of mine posted this on his blog.  It is the chronicle of events from when he started down the missions path to when he actually started his formal ministry.

1998-2003 We went through NTM trianing program (and took a semester off to get married).
2004 Deputation. That is we raised financial support for doing what we do now.
Aug. 2004 - May 2005 French study in Quebec, Canada.
July 2005 - Nov. 2005 Orientation to the country of Senegal under the direction of NTM.
Dec. 2005 - Sept. 2007 Jalunga language and culture study in Madina Bafe.
Sept. 2007 - April 2008 Prepared written Bible lessons and taught publicly.

Look at the start date, and the "finish" date... ten years.  I am at 9 years since I started and I am still hung up stateside {complications with the board and finances/disorganization}.  Nevertheless, I am being productive in the mean time.  And that is the take away.  Don't wait till you get there.  Start today.    ...and have perseverance.

So how long has it been for you?

mission or worship: the condrum of the chicken and egg revisited

funny-3.jpg image by tahtimbo"Missions exist because worship does not" ~John Piper

"The chief end of man is to glorify God" ~Westminster Catechism
Recently Derek Webster has taken on that first statement. {follow up post, exegesis 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9}  It is a good series of articles.  Webster challenges Piper's statement on many levels.  I have no desire to recreate that here.  I do want to challenge the logic of the first statement on two levels.

First, many who take the glory argument promote their belief with this logic: when we think about what is ultimate, what is ultimate must be that which we can do forever and never cease from doing.  This means, that since missions and all other facets of church will cease when we reach heaven but worship will not, that worship is the ultimate goal of man.  The problem is that we do not live life in an ultimate sense.  We live life in time and space; we live in the here and now.  What makes up our lives ultimately is the accumulation of a series of smaller parts.  These smaller parts make up life as we know it. 

While this all appears a bit metaphysical, Jesus put this in practical terms.  In John 12, when Mary used the extravagant ointment, Judas chided her for her lack of stewardship citing the need of the poor.  Jesus' response is telling.  He tells him that the poor will always be there with them, but He would only be there for a short time.  The point: perhaps we should shift away from the "ultimate" view of life to a temporal view of life.  That is to say, that which can only be done in the here and now SHOULD be done with priority over things that will always be around.  Jesus instructed them to put their concern for the poor {a good and biblical concern} on the back burner on the basis that it was more important to be with Him since he was only going to be there a little while.  

The opportunity to partake in missions is a temporal pursuit.  It can only be done for a short while.  This does not mean that it is less important, rather, it is more important.  

The second challenge I want to bring is against the shallow view of worship and glory which typifies modern evangelicalism.  Ask someone what worship is and they will typically reduce it to music.  1 Corinthians 10:31, however, expands worship to every facet of our lives regardless of how menial it many appear.  Our view of Jesus is typically so "porcelain" that he only invokes our worship {where worship equals music or some other kind of worship experience} but not our obedience and followship.  The problem with our understanding of "Glory" and "Worship" is that we often view these as exclusive terms unto themselves.  That is, worship and glory exclude mission, service, etc.  This is a false dichotomy.  When we ask which comes first, When Paul instructs his readers in Romans 12 as to their "reasonable worship" he calls them to transformation.  Paul takes the next several chapters to flesh out what that transformation looks like in the here and now.

I believe we move into dangerous territory to posit worship against mission in an either or because it simply reduces worship to a Sunday experience.  We only truly experience worship when we follow Jesus, do the things he does, and love the people he loves.  It is possible, in a shallow view, to worship without missions, it is impossible to do missions without worship.

Culture Shock

Make sure you watch it all the way to the traffic scene

Thursday, October 15, 2009

help wanted: bloggers needed

I need your help and I need it fast!  This is a blogging project for church planters, missiologists, strategists, sociologists, missionaries, and urban minded folk {any of those people can be actual, armchair, or wannabe status}.  I need your help getting the word out to and recruiting  imagethese people.  I am stealing Ed Stetzer's idea wherein he recently used a number of bloggers to cover his vision trip to Taiwan
Here is the project.  In the Oct 5, 2009 edition of TIME magazine, they are starting a special project in Detroit {you need to find that copy and read the entry article on Detroit}.  They have purchased a house and moved some of their staff to Detroit for a year to cover the city.  They will be analyzing what went wrong, and possible solutions for making it proper.  You can find their stuff on the web.  For those who agree to blog with me, I am asking you to subscribe to their blog, and provide theological and missiological interaction with their articles, data, and opinions.  I believe that other cities can learn much from the decline and, hopefully, rise of Detroit. 
Just to pique your interest, here are some sobering facts:
  • The city's population has plummeted from just over two million in 1950 to barely 900,000 in 2000.
  • Detroit was once the 4th largest city; now it is the 11th.
  • The median price of a house is now $8,000.
  • 25% of the available houses are from foreclosures.
  • Unemployment rate is almost 30%.
  • 20% of postal addresses city wide are unoccupied. 
  • There are 56 census tracts that are there are above 30% unoccupied.  Five of those tracts are 50% and greater unoccupied.
  • 7 in 10 murders go unsolved.
  • Check out this photo essay.
Here is the skinny: TIME attributes the fall to four things.  First there were the race riots and "white flight."  Second, Mayor Coleman Young practiced the politics of retribution and isolation.  Third and fourth, the economy collapsed at the triumvirate hands of stalled auto makers, unions, and pandering politicians.   
Some initial questions I have to get you started are {relate everything back to your context-what are the lessons and insights here?}:
  • What is the role of racism in the decline of Detroit?  How does this relate to wight flight in your city? 
  • How could the church have prevented wight flight?
  • As America "browns" and whites move into majority minority status in most urban centers, what should be their outlook on their place in the future?
  • What is the role of the church in restoring the city?
  • How has the church failed?
  • What role has greed played, both corporate and individual, if any, in the economic crash?  In what way is your city and church partaking in greed which is going to lead to their decline?
So here is what I need from you:
  • Read the Oct 5th article on Detroit.
  • Subscribe to TIME's Detroit blog.
  • Blog {please let me know if you are doing this}
  • Pray
  • Mobilize
If I get enough feedback and interest I will set up a group blog wherein we can syndicate our posts.  If someone out there can make us a logo, that would be great as well.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

revisiting the "merger"

Apologies to my readers for my tardiness.  I have been traveling a lot lately, and it hampers my ability for the real important things in life--blogging. ;)

I recently posted on some possible ways to merge NAMB and IMB, and Mike Ebert, Communications team leader at NAMB, was gracious to post a reply.  I am going to comment on his reply here, rather than in the comments section, because I believe my readers will gain something through our interaction.  If it happens in the comments, it will probably just be ignored.  I would encourage you to go to that page and read his complete comment in its context as I am going to pull out specific quotes.

I'm sorry you didn't get your questions answered properly, but don't give up on us just because someone wasn't able to clearly explain how we work!

For the record, I do view NAMB to be a valuable entity.  Like most SBC entities, however, I think that we need to make changes so that we continue to look outward.  My question to the gentleman at NAMB was specifically "Does NAMB have any cross cultural church planters working in my city?"  That is when he explained to me NAMBs connection through the state and association levels.  I am deeply concerned to find that we only have one person doing this kind of work through any SBC entity.  Our city is a "majority minority city.  It is the 4th largest hispanic city in the world.  We have the third largest Vietnamese population in the States and are home to over 100,000 Muslims.  One person just seems inadequate. 

I only really went looking for answers at NAMB because some people who heard about our project thought that we were putting ourselves in competition with NAMB.  There is no need to reinvent the wheel.  We certainly don't need just one more organization.  Turns out we are not. 

Because all of NAMB's mission field—North America—is on someone else's home turf—state conventions, associations, churches—we're very careful to work through SBC partnership. That means some missionaries who receive partial funding from us don't even receive a paycheck that says "NAMB" on it. It comes from the local state convention or the association or the church and those entities receive dollars from NAMB.
And isn't that the way we would want it?

This is the mentality that I keep running into--Turf.  I do realize that for the sake of the local church we don't necessarily want national resources being used to set up a church just down the road which "competes" with at existing church.  Why would the first church give to such an organization?  At the same time, this is exactly the problem we need to address--turf. 

Each level of SBC entities adopts the same mentality.  I currently am working at an association; and that is where I realized the problem.  We, as an association, have been doing people group research for our city.  Our mentality was that we would have the information ready (who the PGs where, where the are, a basic worldview document, and a few pointers on strategy for working in that context.).  Our SOP was to wait for the initiative of the churches to come to us with this burden.  We were poised to help them once they came to us (though we were beating this drum at every meeting).  The problem, is that when you look at our city in terms of "red dots" (think of the IMB world evangelization map), that we have many red dots just waiting for the gospel, and most churches are only thinking about themselves, their Sunday event, and their bottom line.  If reaching a red dot doesn't help them, then they aren't interested.  We, the association, needed to change and become more proactive.  When I went looking for partners, I looked to those organizations closest to us-state convention and NAMB-and realized that they were operating under our old paradigm.  They wait on the initiative of the churches.  The red dots can't wait.  This isn't really anyone's turf since most of these people are not candidates for the churches in our city, not to mention the fact that most of the churches are in the suburbs and most of the internationals are in town.  What is true of the world (that all of the resources and the green dots are in the west) is also true of our city.  The resources and believers are out of town and all of the major areas of lostness are in town.

It doesn't matter to me whose name is on the check or who gets credit {and I think it is positive that NAMB is funding stuff that doesn't bear its name-kudos}, but we need to get past respecting churches, associations, and states turf.  We need to be proactive in our mission--unilateral if necessary.  In our overseas operations we deal with many of the same issues.  What is the role of the local church in reaching the majority people group?  There are instances in which we work with and through the local church.  But in the 10/40 window, more often than not, the work must be done in spite of the local believers {there are significant cultural, religious, and even ethnic barriers which explain why the churches are reluctant, and at times resistant, to reaching out}.  All of this is particularly true in the Muslim world.  In the same way, we need to be willing to send missionary church planters to the international population in our major cities just like we do overseas.  Though our churches at home don't have the same soci-cultural issues, they are still reluctant to get into local internal work.

Most state conventions or local associations or local churches for that matter don't want (or need) a national entity coming in and telling them where they need a church. So we work in conjunction with them.

I agree.  We don't need a top down organization.  But at the same time, the local church is not equipped to look at their city as a strategy coordinator would.  That is to say, most churches think they are effective if their sanctuary is full and if their budget is met.  They only start asking questions when they see empty seats. 

Regarding restructuring our denomination, I personally am in favor of getting rid of the middle man (the state conventions).  I do realize that will never happen.  But while we are dreaming...  I think that NAMB can be a cooperative way for all of our churches to channel their money towards local missions.  NAMB can funnel money and provide guidance at the strategy level {Someone has to be keeping their eye on the red dots and funneling people and resources to them}.  The local association can provide local and regional strategy and guidance.  All of the other activities of the state conventions {since we just got rid of them} need to be carried out as an integral part of the strategy to impact lostness.  {this is actually a great way to evaluate church programs at the local level.  Leadership sets the focus and strategy and then evaluates programming in light of that.  Some things get cut.  Others get refocused.  Our ESL program might stay, but we tweak it so that we are using this as a part of our strategy to reach a particular branch of our community with the gospel}.  We need orphanages, hospitals, etc, but how do they fit in to our overall strategy?  I think they are important and useful, but, perhaps, there is a better way of structuring them so that they make more sense strategically {we still provide the same services, but in a format which better demonstrates our commitment to meeting needs and reaching people}.    

We provide research, training, strategy, experienced church planters, resources, etc. And, yes, funding.

All of this is great, but this is exactly what the state conventions and local associations provide.  There is one thing that each level needs to add to their list of services--Leadership.  I am not all negative concerning the local church.  There are a great many of them which are interested in reaching the internationals in their community, but they have no one to show them how.  Thus, they either do nothing, or strike out on their own.  You and I both know that there are resources available, but the churches don't know that.  I am with the IMB {its complicated} and have visited many churches that don't know that the IMB is the SBC mission board!  This is true at the local level as well.  Many of the rank and file at our churches don't know that they are part of our association or what our association does.  There is a disconnect between our entities and our churches and if the SBC will go forward effectively this needs to be remedied.  But what if an entity {be it NAMB the association or the state} were to use money to fund a missionary church planter who served as a networker to compel and lead churches to action?  I think a lot of church  which are sitting on the fence would jump on that.

As for MSC missionaries. They've been a part of what we do since the late 1970's. We don't appoint an MSC missionary unless the local state convention tells us they fit with their state mission strategy. True, they are not funded in the traditional SBC missions model way, but the origin of the paycheck is not what makes a missionary. Our state convention partners provide local oversight of MSC missionaries and hold them accountable to the missionary ministries they are performing.

I wasn't trying to say anything negative about MSC.  We have had MSCers at our church before and it was a real blessing and I assume that is the case wherever they go.  By definition, this couple who served in our church were not missionaries.  They did play a vital role in our church, they just weren't missionaries by definition or role.  When the average southern Baptist hears that we have 5,000 missionaries stateside, he is hearing that we have 5,000 people who are on the street, sharing the gospel and planting churches.  Truth be told, most rank and file Baptists, pastors included, probably don't know what NAMB does, and this is a problem {the same is true of the SBC, State conventions, local associations, IMB--and we wonder why we are in trouble...}.

Mike, I appreciate your time and interest.  I do understand the political restrictions on NAMB {which also apply to the associations and state conventions} but to me, that is the problem.  The goal of a missionary is to take the name of Christ where it is not known.  By definition, that is no one's turf.