Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What is the Biggest Road Block for Effective Ministry Today?

Recently I was reading a new book Exploring Church History by James P. Eckman. In writing about John Calvin, he says the following:

“Because Geneva was so strategically located, Protestant refugees from all over Catholic Europe flooded into the city. They sat under Calvin’s teaching, and when they returned home, they took his theology with them. This pattern explains the remarkable spread of Calvinism throughout the Western world.

In addition to his amazing preaching and teaching schedule, Calvin also wrote prolifically. He wrote lectures, theological treatises, and commentaries on thirty-three books of the Old Testament and the entire New Testament except Revelation. As Philip Schaff has written, ‘Calvin was the founder of the modern historical-grammatical exegeses of God’s Word' (Schaff, 8:118-119). The reformer likewise carried on a massive correspondence with people all over Europe.

Calvin is often pictured as a disciplined, authoritarian fanatic. This idea is quite inaccurate. He loved life. He loved to play games and frequently visited the homes of his followers. He also spent many hours giving premarital counseling in his church. But it was his participation in the execution of Michael Servetus that contributed most to the image of Calvin as an extremist. (James P. Eckman, Exploring Church History,55).”

You will notice the last phrase in the second paragraph, “The reformer likewise carried on a massive correspondence with people all over Europe.” Here was a man who was writing commentaries, pastoring full time and counseling, He was known for discipling many, caring for the poor, leading a mission movement worldwide, and yet still had time for massive correspondence.

The lack of disciplined personal correspondence may be one of the biggest road blocks in effective ministry in the church and missions today! The majority of pastors, church leaders, mission leaders, missionaries, and executives simply will not and do not answer their personal correspondence whether it is letters, faxes, telephone calls or emails. We all receive massive amounts of general emails and newsletters. It is impossible to read all of these, but there needs to be some discipline and courtesy in responding to personal correspondence that is addressed directly to that person.

Just today I was praying about the situation of not hearing from various organizations, leaders, pastors, and missionaries to help us complete several tasks of purchasing and shipping Study Bibles overseas for ministry, to schedule a conference for needy pastors in the Philippines, answers as to how much is needed for a certain project, and no response from one of seven executives to complete a network of agencies dealing with crisis intervention for the poor and needy. I could go on and on.

Does anyone have thoughts on why there is such a lack of response to personal and important correspondence these days? It seems so strange. It is almost like God’s people have a serious blind spot or there is a ploy of Satan to hold back the effectiveness of the ministry of evangelism, discipleship, and development to the glory of God through such a simple but such an important matter such as disciplined communication. What do you think?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Rudeness in Seattle (Do you take lessons in being rude?)

On one occasion friends of ours arrived at the Minneapolis airport from the Philippines and even though they had their visas, papers and everything in order, they were treated very rudely by immigration.

Government officials can still do their job without being rude, especially with a sign hanging on the wall (for the immigration and custom officers) stating, “You are the face of the USA”, and then the statement “We pledge to treat you with courtesy, dignity and respect.”

When some of our missionaries from India arrived in Seattle, rudeness in immigration was also the order of the day! So much so, that our team member (a very gracious and dignified Indian Doctor) asked the immigration officer very politely as she was leaving, “May I ask you a question? Do you and the other government workers here take lessons in being rude?”

Why is it that so many government officials are so rude and why doesn’t government leadership deal with this?

Is it because an immigration and custom officer has absolute power? People are afraid to complain, because if they do, their name may be flagged in the computer and the next time they travel into the USA, they will have difficulty.

When I go through immigration and customs, I try to be polite, kind, and gracious, but continue to face and witness rudeness, especially among immigration officers in Canada, the USA, and the UK (but surprisingly not in other countries).

What is sad about this is that Canada, the USA, and the UK all have a Christian heritage.

So, yes, I am wondering; do immigration and custom officers take lessons in rudeness?

This is especially a good question for Christians. As God’s people, do we act like Christians? Are we kind, gracious, humble, and considerate of others (Colossians 3:12-14), or just as rude as the world, especially like the immigration and custom officials in Minneapolis and Seattle.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

How Does the Church Grow Into Maturity

How does the church grow into maturity? Paul gives his answer in Ephesians 4. It grows by truth and love. To allow ourselves to be hurled hither and thither by the fierce blasts of false teaching is to condemn ourselves and the church to perpetual immaturity (verse 14). Instead, what we need is 'the truth', provided we speak it 'in love' (verse 15). For it is 'in love' that the church grows and builds itself up (verse 16). What Paul calls for is a balanced combination of the two. 'Speaking the truth in love' is not the best rendering of his expression, for the Greek verb makes no reference to our speech. Literally, it means, ‘truthing (aletheuontes) in love', and includes the notions of ‘maintaining', ‘living' and ‘doing' the truth.

Thank God there are those in the contemporary church who are determined at all costs to defend and uphold God's revealed truth. But sometimes they are conspicuously lacking in love. When they think they smell heresy, their nose begins to twitch, their muscles ripple, and the light of battle enters their eye. They seem to enjoy nothing more than a fight. Others make the opposite mistake. They are determined at all costs to maintain and exhibit brotherly love, but in order to do so are prepared even to sacrifice the central truths of revelation.

Both these tendencies are unbalanced and unbiblical. Truth becomes hard if it is not softened by love; love becomes soft if is not strengthened by truth. The apostle calls us to hold the two together, which should not be difficult for Spirit-filled believers, since the Holy Spirit is himself ‘the Spirit of truth', and his firstfruit is ‘love'. There is no other route than this to a fully mature Christian unity.

From God’s New Society (The Message of Ephesians)
By R.W. Stott, InterVarsity Press (Pages 171-172)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Quality, not Quantity, When Reading Books

Charles Spurgeon counseled his students to be discriminating about what they read, and to bathe in good books "until they saturate you." He said, "A student will find that his mental constitution is more affected by one book thoroughly mastered than by twenty books merely skimmed." But which books to choose? Each year in ministry, leaders find there are more books to read and less time to read them. (, The Golden Canon, Friday December 26, 2008)

Let me list 14 of the 49 books I have read over the last fourteen months which I consider quality books which will encourage you to grow in your walk with God and ministry of the glorious Gospel to others.

From time to time, I will read books that I wish I would not have read. I must admit, I did start reading some of The Shack and Wild at Heart but became so discourage with the misuse of the Word of God that I had to set them aside for my own sake, rather than fill my mind with such untruth.

I trust you will read and enjoy these 14 books and learn much of history, the Word of God and growth in Christ to the glory of God.

The 14 books are as follows:

A Godward Life by John Piper
Bitesize Theology by Peter Jeffry
The Courage to be Protestant by David Welss
The Expository Genius of John Calvin by Dr. Steven Lawson
Heaven by Randy Alcorn
The Law of Kindness by Mary Beeke
Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever
On Being Black and Reformed (The New Perspective on the African American Christian Experience ) by Anthony J. Carter
The Prayer of Our Lord by Philip Ryken
Slavery and Christianity (Paul’s Letter to Philemon) by James Robbins
The Truth War by John MacArthur
Voices Against Slavery (Ten Christians Who Spoke Out For Freedom) by Catherine House
War of Words by Paul David Tripp
Why We’re Not Emergent by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Healthy Church Member Knows the Gospel

by Thabiti Anyabwile

The first order of business for a healthy church member is to know the gospel. This seems too obvious that stating it can feel silly. But, in point of fact, many professing and believing Christian possess a shallow understanding of the gospel as a result of years of hearing short “gospel presentations” tacked onto the ends of sermons. Still others who know the message of Christ find themselves feeling awkward and incapable of sharing the good news clearly with family and friends. Taking steps to be sure we know the gospel with some clarity and depth, then, is necessary.

It’s helpful to rule out some ideas frequently presented as the gospel. The gospel is not simply that (a) we are okay, (b) that God is love, (c) that Jesus wants to be our friends, or (d) that we should live right. Neither is the gospel simply that all our problems will be fixed if we follow Jesus, or that God wants us to be healthy, wealthy, and wise. All of these ideas may be true in some sense, but only in a partial sense and never as a solely sufficient statement of what the gospel is.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is literally “good news.” As news it contains statements of fact and truths derived from those facts. As good news the gospel holds our hope based upon promises of God and grounded in the historical facts and truths that vindicate those promises.

The gospel or good news of Jesus Christ is that God the Father, who is holy and righteous in all his ways, is angry with sinners and will punish sin. Man, who disobeys the rule of God, is alienated from the love of God and is in danger of an eternal and agonizing condemnation at the hands of God. But God, who is also rich in mercy, because of his great love, sent his eternal Son born by the Virgin Mary, to die as a ransom and substitute for the sins of rebellious people. And now, through the perfect obedience of the Son of God and his willing death on the cross as payment for our sins, all who repent and believe in Jesus Christ, following him as Savior and Lord, will be saved from the wrath of God to come, be declared just in his sight, have eternal life, and receive the Spirit of God as a foretaste of the glories of heaven with God himself.

It is this message – briefly stated here – that we must imbibe and delight in if we are to be healthy church members.

The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me (Psalm 16:5-6).

What is a Healthy Church Member?
by Thabiti M. Anyabwile
(pages 40-41)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Even with Corrupt Leaders, We Can Trust God!

Daniel was written to encourage God's people in the sovereign plan of God. God's people can always trust Him even in the midst of oppression and corrupt world leaders and events. As we trust God, however, we are to move forward in faith as God's Word in Daniel states "...but the people who know their God will display strength and take action" (Daniel 11:32b, nasb).

Monday, April 6, 2009

A One-horse Operation

Recently my wife and I heard a well-known (and yes, famous) elderly missionary speak. God has certainly used this wonderful man of God.

As he shared his testimony, he spoke of writing several missions in his early days as he checked on which one to join for missionary service. It was interesting to hear his comments about several missions which he considered to be only “one-horse operations.”

I felt sad at this statement and what it conveyed to the hearers. It is so bad to be small? Does not any ministry start small? All missions started with only one or two people.

Even Jesus began by calling only twelve disciples, He began with the first one.

There are over 440 missionary-sending agencies in the USA and Canada, and the majority are small missions of 15 people or less. Most have very effective ministries to the glory of God!

I am sure the missionary statesman did not intend to criticize or judge small missions. We should all praise God for small faithful churches and missions worldwide who sacrificially minister the Gospel and compassionate care to millions daily.

For who has despised the day of small things?(Zechariah 4:10, nasb).

Praise God for “one-horse operations,” that may be small but alive and doing the job for Christ’s sake!

Friday, April 3, 2009


By George Verwer

We are in contact with church and mission agencies all over the world and the one thing they all have in common is that they need WORKERS. Most are even praying for those who will come short-term and help in the task. The bigger demand is for long-term workers of some level of maturity.

We are especially in touch with those working in the 10/40 Window and it is clear that thousands of workers are needed there, including those who will go as tentmakers. MOST PEOPLE EXPECTED MANY MORE TO BE THERE BY NOW. I am sometimes asked the question, "Why are there not more workers, especially among the more unreached peoples?"

As we have attempted to work with people around the world, we have discovered many reasons why we are not seeing more workers, especially long-term workers. In my new book Vision, Grace, Action, I speak more extensively about this subject, but I want to briefly list some of the obstacles in this letter. I believe this will help us better to "count the cost" as we are told in Luke 14:25-33, and it will enable us to act and pray more intelligently.

1. Lack of Vision.
Only a few seem to actually have the vision in the first place, both of the need as well as the amazing opportunities. Others don't have a vision to send out workers, especially from their own church.

2. Lack of Prayer.
Matt. 9:35-38 makes the command about prayer very clear. Despite all the talk and statistics about prayer and some wonderful prayer events and movements, we have to admit that the average church is not a praying church. They may boast of a prayer meeting, but usually only a few people attend and there is often very little prayer for workers and the Unreached. It seems that few leaders and believers, and even missionaries, have a disciplined prayer life and ministry. Praise God for every exception and I hope you are one of them, but I am referring to the overall average.

3. Apathy among God's People.
I think all would agree that this is the overwhelming hindrance to all we want do for the Kingdom. This is one of the reasons the prayer for revival movements have become such a major emphasis in some places. Some people have wondered why I sometimes get associated with some people or churches, which may seem extreme, and I can only say that I am trying to stay in fellowship with the whole body of Christ. As someone once said, (I think it was Brother Andrew) "It's easier to cool down a fanatic than to warm up 'a corpse! Someone trying t6 bring this into balance however said, "Yes, but at least a corpse will not jump up and stab you in the back. "I must confess I'm thrilled when I hear of people arid churches coming alive' and only hope and pray that the people will be disciplined and trained so that they go on as real marathon
runners for God! I'm still convinced that, "The crisis without the process will become an abscess."

4. Lack of Biblical Generosity.
Everyone knows that the lack of funds is hindering God's work and certainly hindering the sending out of missionaries. I have a tape on this subject, if you are interested. There are powerful exceptions, especially when a local church wants to put up a new building. I know that many generous people are reading this and I thank God for you. I know some people are extreme as I was (some would say I still am), as I want to live on the basic essentials and pour everything into world evangelization. By the way, many people believe that without this "extreme" Operation Mobilization might have died in the first couple of years when so little money was coming in. Who knows? All surveys show that only a tiny percentage of money goes outside one's own church and then their own nation. There are powerful exceptions especially for relief and development when there is a huge disaster somewhere. Some even think it is better to send money rather than workers, which again is foolish because it must be both. In the midst of this, let's stay grace-awakened and realize that the Lord does lead different people in different ways, and let's beware of legalistic judgmentalism.

5. Legalism.
God is using His Word and many great books about grace to set people free from this, but it is a long hard road and in many parts of the world, legalism reigns supreme not only in local churches, but in whole denominations. Many feel very threatened by this movement of grace that is taking place. It seems easier to hold God's people together (and we all need loyalty and unity) by the law and all the added "distinctives" which are often just man-made rules and regulations than by grace, love, reality and the freedom of the Holy Spirit. We are also learning the hard way that grace without discipline can often lead to disgrace. Grace does not lay aside basic biblical commandments, but rather brings them into balance and the right priority.

6. Negative Reports.
In anything as big as the modern missions movement, there will always be lots of bad news. We know that bad news travels faster than good news and we now have the Web to help. Old¬-fashioned gossip and misinformation still cause more harm than the Web. I personally have failed in this area and in recent decades have tried to put a greater emphasis on Spirit-controlled speech. Some churches, after sending out one worker, sometimes only short-term, have stopped sending people after their worker came back with a bad report or maybe defeated in their own life. It's clear to me that without discernment, grace and forgiveness, there is no way forward.

7. Biblical Compromise.
I'm reading a power book right now showing the drift even on the part of missionaries and leaders away from some of the basics of God's Word. Universalism used to be considered part of the package of liberal theologians who did not believe in any case that the Bible was God's Word. But now in various forms, it seems to have invaded our evangelical and biblical communities. Ignorance of the Bible in general seems to be on the increase and that doesn't help. That is one of the reasons we know that real unity in the years to come will be' in the midst of great diversity.

I hope my words here will drive all of us to our knees. Don't worry about some little thing I have said that you don't like or agree with, but rather be pro-active and ask God what He is trying to say to you personally. We especially pray that people who read this will become more active in reaching the world with the gospel as a go-er, ascender, or both. We hope you will link with us in networking with mission mobilizers around the globe.

It is harvest time and more churches and people on the field and home are involved in missions than ever before. Of course, Satan is attacking in vicious ways on every level. More than ever, let's take the shield of faith and stand against them in the power of the Holy Spirit.

-- George Verwer


ACTION works with 242 missionaries in 26 countries throughout the world. Many more missionaries are needed! We specifically work among the 160 million street children and 143 million orphans through our Children in Crisis ministry. We also have missionaries working in evangelism, discipleship and development to the 3.2 million untrained pastors throughout the world through our Pastoral Leadership Development ministry. Perhaps you are called to be a part of this exciting opportunity to serve those in need through one of ACTION’s ministries to the glory of God!

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