Archives For Missions

Every adoption story is unique, but the tale of how pastor and author Tony Merida came to see he should adopt — essentially, through his own sermon — likely is quite rare.

When Merida was asked to preach at a youth camp on the subject of poverty, he began studying the subject in-depth, looking at the issue from a worldwide perspective.

He started to see, he said later, that “the poorest of the poor are the fatherless.” He then examined what the Bible had to say about adoption.

“Basically, I got convicted by my own preaching,” Merida told Baptist Press.

Merida and his wife adopted four Ukrainian children — all siblings — in 2009 and then a year later adopted a fifth child from Ethiopia. Within a span of two years, their house went from having no children to five children. And he says he wouldn’t change anything.

Merida is part of a growing movement within the evangelical community that is giving a new look at adoption from a theological perspective, comparing earthly adoption to spiritual adoption. In his book “Orphanology” (New Hope) coauthored with Rick Morton, Merida makes the case…

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Denominations don’t plant churches.  Churches plant churches. This is why churches should be proactive about church planting rather than waiting for denominational boards and agencies to get the job done.

Having said that, most churches don’t have the resources to plant another church on their own, so they need to partner together with other multiplication-minded churches to expand the kingdom. Denominations can and do serve a vital place in the grand scheme of church planting, such as

  • Connecting churches together in partnerships
  • Assessing potential church planters
  • Equipping and training planters and sending churches
  • Directing funds appropriately for better stewardship

So if my church shouldn’t leave the task of planting a new church to my denomination, but we’re not prepared to oversee a planter or project on our own, what should we do? Form a strategic partnership with a few other leaders and churches to multiply.

I love the idea of four or five Pastors and church leaders getting together to discuss regional church planting needs, pooling their resources, and providing people, money, and mentoring to see a new church get started. Imagine this scenario…

Five churches, small to medium in size, come…

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I Am a Foreigner

By Brandon Cox

I don’t like that word. I don’t like to hear people called “foreigners” on American soil. And frankly, I just don’t care that much about the politics of immigration. I’m a Christian, a stranger and a foreigner in this culture. My citizenship is in another kingdom, so I’m odd and strange because of my beliefs and values.

Right now, I’m a foreigner in a more real sense. I’m writing this in my hotel room in the Dominican Republic. I’m on a mission trip, visiting Pastor Aridio Garcia and his church, Iglesia Bautista Nueve Espenaza. My task tonight was to take a Haitian translator (he’s tri-lingual) door-to-door and invite people to a Bible study, which I would later lead at a local family’s home.

At one door, the man of the house was a little upset that my Haitian friend had brought these “Americano’s” by and another group of guys around the corner felt the same. I’m not entirely sure about the source of…

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I’ve known Shawn Lovejoy for several years. He planted and has pastored Mountain Lake Church for the past 11 years, and leads the ChurchPlanters.Com conference, which I’ve been pleased to speak at a few times. Shawn is one of the good guys– he loves his church, he loves his wife, and he loves pastors. As such, I was excited about his new book, The Measure of Our Success, and wanted to share the interview below with you.


How has the definition of success in ministry changed over the years, and what should be our measuring stick for success?

I actually believe the pendulum has begun to swing back in a healthy direction. Twenty years ago, one of the first questions asked among two pastors in a conversation, was: “What are you running now?” In other words, “Is your church bigger than mine?” These days, I don’t hear that conversation as much among my peers. I believe that’s a good thing. I’m not saying church growth is not a measurement we need. It just simply cannot be the only measurement. I really believe…

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Abandoned ChurchSeveral weeks ago I started a series of posts called Your Church Will Die in which I outlined the natural life-cycle of a church. Since then I’ve shared the concept with several individuals and groups which has clarified and expanded my thinking on this idea of natural progression of growth in a local church congregation. What I’d like to do today is roll out what I’m thinking and get your feedback.

First let me define my terms. When I say YOUR CHURCH I’m not implying that the church belongs to anyone but God, or that the Church universal will die. I am referring to the local faith community you lead or belong to. My premise is that your church, the local body of believers you are attached to, has a natural life-cycle that ends in some form of death.

Stages

As I outlined last time, there are seven (I’ve added one) identifiable stages in a church’s life-cycle:

Birth: This is where the church begins. Some are plants, some are splits and some are spontaneous uprisings.

Child: The early years of a church plant when the congregation and leaders are discovering who they are…

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By Mark Coppenger, professor of Christian apologetics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

When planting a church on Chicago’s North Shore, we hosted a variety of short-term mission teams who joined us in a range of outreach efforts, all with a Gospel witness — from door-to-door surveys to concerts in the park to bottled water handouts along pedestrian and bike paths.

One approach we used repeatedly involved cash handouts to the volunteers. We’d give them $5 or $10 and send them into the community to buy things and to strike up spiritual conversations in the process. They wouldn’t be interrupting business but, rather, piggybacking on it.

The results were gratifying. It gave our workers focus and accountability, knowing we’d all report back in short order. It planted Gospel seeds and surfaced prospects. And despite what you might think, it didn’t cost that much when compared to other projects, where we rented generators and sound systems, printed special T-shirts, and such.

A couple of weeks ago, I tried it with my personal evangelism class at Southern Seminary’s northwest Arkansas extension, and the guys came through. They’d submitted weekly witness reports throughout the semester (with,…

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A letter recently published on my local newspaper’s editorial page helpfully summarized the view of many secular folks when it comes to religious expression in public.

We “stand for separation of church and state,” the letter writer declared. “Pick your religion, believe what you want, pursue greater knowledge toward that end. Do it for yourself — and keep it out of public discourse. That’s where the  left stands.”

I appreciate his honesty, if not his all-too-common misunderstanding of church-state separation. Open hostility toward freedom of speech is better than paying lip service to it while working behind the scenes to silence it. Either approach, however, is wrong.

“Keep your views about God and His commandments to yourself,” society increasingly tells believers — particularly conservative evangelicals, traditional Roman Catholics and Orthodox Jews. “Socially accepted truths and morals have progressed beyond your antiquated theologies. If you can’t embrace the new normal, just keep your mouth shut. If you don’t, we’ll shame you, shut you down, call you a bigot. We might even take you to court and charge you with ‘hate speech.'”

Such responses to religious speech undercut the spirit of the First…

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I’ve planted several churches and I know how hard it can be. I’ve never “closed” a plant, but I’ve sat with several others that have. It is painful– but sometimes it is helpful.

I think that doing an “autopsy” is a helpful part of the learning experience, and something which is not done often enough. Here is one such reflection from John Thomas, a former planter.

As an aside, one of the more fascinating documents we references in Viral Churches was an autopsy report by Todd Hunter. At the time, Todd was director of church planting for the Vineyard… and later the head of the Vineyard. Now, he is an Anglican Bishop (and we shared a pulpit and some fellowship time last week with the Anglican Church in America). You can download that report– from 1986 (an eternity in church planting years) here.

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 A Guest Post from John Thomas

Of course, I had heard the stats about church planting failures. Regardless, I went for it knowing the Lord was leading me to start a new church for His…

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Any healthy church must have some level of inward focus. Those in the church should be discipled. Hurting members need genuine concern and ministry. Healthy fellowship among the members is a good sign for a congregation.

But churches can lose their outward focus and become preoccupied with the perceived needs and desires of the members. Dollars spent and time expended can quickly become focused on the demands of those inside the congregation. When that happens, the church has become inwardly obsessed. It is no longer a Great Commission congregation.

In my research of and consultation with churches, I have kept a checklist of potential signs that a church might be moving toward inward obsession. No church is perfect; most churches will demonstrate one or two of these signs for a season. But the real danger comes when a church begins to manifest three or more of these warning signs for an extended period.

1. Worship wars — One or more factions in the church want the music just the way they like it. Any deviation is met with anger and demands for change. The order of service must remain…

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Abandoned ChurchLast week I wrote that I think your church will die, and it stirred up quite a bit of conversation. Today I’d like to expand on that thought and say that I think your church should embrace death. (Not in the “wear sneakers and drink kool aid” creepy way). Embracing death could change the landscape of church in America. But before we get too far down that road let’s look at the life cycle of a church through the rose colored glasses of most church leaders.

Fantasy Land

Many church planters have an unrealistic picture of the life cycle of a church. It’s not their fault; most of have bought into a fantasy picture of church growth that looks like this:

Recently we have realized the importance of multiplication, so the idealized life cycle of a church plant has morphed to this:

Or, if we are super aggressive, we may believe that a truly healthy church will grow like this:

The realistic life cycle…

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BusyChurches are busy—and proud of it, aren’t we? We love to boast about all we’re doing: whether it be on the Web, in worship guides, or even billboards. We’re often proud of “all we offer” to our community. One church I know of has boasted “over 152 ministries for you and your family.”

Most of us don’t go to these lengths to be a “user-friendly” church. However, if we’re honest, we all feel the tension to seek to provide ministries and programs for all ages. Everyone wants to know about our Children’s Ministry, Student Ministry, our College ministry, our Singles Ministry, our Senior Adult Ministry, our Bible Studies, and of course, our Men’s and Women’s Ministries. Parents want to know about our VBS, Awanas programs,  camps, and youth activities we offer. Before you know it, if we’re not careful, to meet the needs, we have our calendars stuffed with dozens of programs offered  every day of the week.

Here are my challenges with this approach to ministry in our churches. First of all, when it comes to discipleship, busyness doesn’t equal effectiveness. Even pastors have bought into the myth that busyness = value. We love to feel…

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