Archives For Missions

Scaffolding

I had a dream of having friends I started the church with go the distance with me serving as ministry partners for forty years and then riding together off into the sunset much like Billy Graham has done with Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea. It didn’t happen.

Here’s what I know: Those who start the journey with you seldom finish with you. In the church planting world I call this principle THE LAW OF SCAFFOLDING. The people you start the church with are not the people you grow the church with. This is one of the hardest lessons I had to learn as a church planter. I am a highly relational person – a people person. I enjoy people and working together as a team to see changed lives. It was emotionally painful for me anytime somebody left the church. However, part of the process of growth was learning the law of scaffolding.

In the late 1800’s Missiologist John Nevius once referred to missionaries to China as “scaffolds” to be removed when the building was established. Scaffolding is a temporary structure used to support people and material in the construction or repair…

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Charles Arn Surgery

Date: October 18, 2013  (Friday)
Time: 02:35 p.m.
Place: California Urology Medical Clinic, Pomona California 

“Dr. Arn…your biopsy came back positive.  I’m afraid you have prostate cancer.”

I thought he must have been talking to someone else in the room.  But we were alone…and the doctor was looking straight at me.

“Are you sure?” was all I could think of to say.

“Well, you are certainly welcome to get another opinion. But these biopsies are seldom wrong.”

“So, now what?” I asked, which led to a 20-minute conversation about what this newly discovered disease was…how far advanced it might be…and what were the options.

To make a long story short, three months after the biopsy report I had an IV in my arm and was being wheeled down the hallway at the City of Hope Medical Center to what would be a 3-hour surgery. (Robotic-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy to be exact.) For those of you (men) who have been there and done that, I won’t remind you. For those who haven’t, I won’t bore you. But as I think back on the events of the past three months, I’d like to share with you what I learned from hospital staff, doctors, nurses, and even…

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Sales Pitch

Because of my undiagnosed allergy to the inside of an office I spend a lot of time hanging out at coffee shops and restaurants. Most of my fellow nomads are people conducting business, and every day I see “the turn” executed at tables around me. For the uninitiated let me explain the turn. You invite a potential customer to meet you for coffee. When they arrive you engage them in small talk feigning interest in their stories about work, family and life in general. After an appropriate amount of time passes you steer the conversation toward what you actually want to take about; an amazing opportunity, a business proposition or potential investment. This is “the turn”, the moment when the real purpose of the meeting comes out. I see the disappointment on faces as they realize the salesman doesn’t really care about them, he just wants to pitch. There’s  a turn in process at the next table as I type. (Read more about Ron Popeil, the master of the turn here)

Now that my wife is the CEO of a large non-profit we get turned a lot. People invite us to…

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illusion

Growing up there were many superstitions, wives’ tales, and myths that as you got older you realized, as much as you believed it then, they were not true.  Some were harmless and innocent but others caused fear because if you broke a mirror you believed you would have seven years bad luck.  Even intelligent people will knock on wood, wish on a falling star, and become visibly upset if a black cat crosses their path.  As a child, I remember carefully walking down a sidewalk and avoiding every crack because, “step on a crack break your mother’s back.”

There are many church “myths” today that are spoken as if they are factual.  A myth is defined as, “an idea or story that is believed by many people but that is not true.”  Remember, a myth is called a myth because it has not been proven true.  The problem is that we hear myths, believe them, and then allow them to control our thinking and our behavior.  When churches believe myths rather than the truth it causes fear and can paralyze their ministries.  Things like, “If we build it they will come!” or…

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Hard WorkI have been leading a ministry called “Dare 2 Share” for the last twenty years or so. During that timeframe we’ve had the privilege of inspiring and equipping a half million teenagers to share their faith. We truly believe that, because 85% of those who trust in Jesus do so by 18 years of age, a student-led movement of teenagers reaching teenagers with the gospel can transform this nation for Christ.

But, over the course of the last two decades, I’ve also encountered the reality that getting Christian teenagers to consistently share their faith is a challenge…a serious one. Yes, teenagers share the gospel when they’re at our training conferences but six months later the majority of them are back to their old non-faith sharing habits. Again and again we have seen that it takes youth leaders to, well, lead their own youth in this area. We can give them the basic faith-sharing tools they need to get started but youth leaders must use them and continue to use them throughout the year if evangelism is going to be a lifestyle for their teenagers.

What’s true of teenagers is especially true of…

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Church health is dependent upon the health of the pastor and its leadership.  If leaders are going to help people follow Jesus more closely and deeper then they must be setting the example for them to follow.  In Leading on Empty Wayne Cordeiro says, “Wisdom and understanding are not built in a day, however they are built daily.”  Your daily walk with God must be consistent to show others how to develop an intimacy with God.  Cordeiro goes on to say, “We don’t forget that we are Christians.  We forget that we are human, and that one oversight can debilitate the potential for our future.”

The ministry is not easy!  It is a calling, a privilege, very rewarding and a blessing beyond description but it is not easy.  When consulting with pastors and training church planters I always remind them, “you are in trouble if you are in the ministry.”  C. H. Spurgeon said, “The ministry is a matter which wears the brain and strains the heart, and drains out the life of a man if he attends to it a he should.”  The devil…

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“Turf wars” can be brutal –especially within ministry.

As a young minister in the Eighteenth Century, John Wesley was chided by the Anglican Church for preaching across parish lines (invading another pastor’s turf).

When approached, Wesley famously explained, “The world is my parish.” In other words, Wesley did not draw boundaries for his ministry. He saw a world full of opportunities.

Usually when we think of ministry “turf wars,” we think about boundary disputes between two churches. However, I think we should be more worried about the boundary disputes pastors place upon their own churches!

Wesley was right –the world is (your church’s) parish. I can say that confidently, because the Bible states is clearly.

In the beginning, God gave Adam and Eve the task of multiplying and filling the earth (Genesis 1:28) with the people made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). This was the first call to discipleship in history.

In the very same sentence, God gives Adam and Eve every resource they need to fulfill the task when he says, “fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the…

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MegachurchAs the saying goes, “The world is going to hell in a hand basket.”There’s never been a greater challenge for world evangelism, there are plenty of social problems like hunger and homelessness we face here in the United States, Christians are being marginalized more than ever, religious persecution is rampant on a global basis, and that’s just the beginning. But what are we still debating in the Church today?

Megachurches.

Hard to believe but I sometimes think we Christians spend more time criticizing large churches than anything else. Are there problems in 2,000+ member churches? Of course. But I work with churches of all sizes for a living, and I can tell you that for every case of shallow teaching, bad theology, leadership failures, financial improprieties, or whatever the criticism du jour happens to be, I can point to a long list of 50+ member churches guilty of the same things.

From the perspective of a person passionately interested in how Christians engage today’s culture, here’s some reasons I think it’s time for a moratorium on megachurch criticism:

1. You had a bad experience at a megachurch? Grow up. There are plenty of bad experiences to…

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There are so many beliefs and religions out there it’s not even funny. It’s probably extremely confusing to read about so many different beliefs, talk to others about what religion they believe in, or even live within a family that has certain traditions or practices that you’re not even sure where they came from. So why are there so many different beliefs anyway? What makes Christianity any different from all the other religions and why is it important?

“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” -2 Peter 1:16

Peter states that following Christ has nothing to do with a following a myth, but how following Christ can be built from facts. Especially because he and the Church were eyewitnesses the whole time Jesus was here. Jesus is not just a made up story that we tell people so we can live good moral lives. Jesus is real. It’s a fact.

What happened when Jesus was here really happened. There’s evidence all over the place…

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A seismic shift is taking place in American church facilities, a shift that will become even more noticeable in the years to come. Church worship centers or sanctuaries will become smaller than they were the past 40 years. As church leaders decide to build, a large number of them will decide to build smaller than most of their predecessors have in previous years.

The trend for the past four decades has been to build increasingly larger worship centers. And while the large worship center will not disappear, you will notice more intentionality to build or buy smaller. Why? As I look at the church landscape in America, I see seven reasons, and only two of them are related to declining attendance. I will note those two first.

  1. Decreasing frequency of attendance among church members.  I noted this trend in a previous article. The informal definition of an “active” church member a decade ago was a member who attended worship services an average of three to four times a…

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1. It’s like sharing with a person who is broke that they just won the Lotto (only better!)

2. You enter a struggle with the forces of darkness in a battle over a soul’s eternal destination (Epic!)

3. When you share the gospel you are put in a position where you are forced to rely on the Holy Spirit for wisdom (James 1:5,6), courage (Ephesians 6:19,20), and clarity (Colossians 4:4.)

4. It’s like sharing with a cancer victim that you just discovered the cure for cancer (only better!)

5. Evangelism is the communication of the greatest love story in the history of the world (sorry Romeo!)

6. It’s like telling an orphan that they’ve been adopted into the family of the richest person in the universe (well, that’s exactly what it is.)

7. The pressure is not on you to convert them but to share the gospel clearly. wisely and lovingly. The Holy Spirit does the rest!

By the way if you don’t know how to share the gospel download the amazing Dare 2 Share app, watch the videos and you’ll be…

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In 1964 Bob Dylan released his third studio album “The Times, They Are a-Changin’.” As was typical of the music from the 1960s, political and cultural statements and protests were the norm. The times were changing. Some for the better (i.e. the Civil Rights Movement.) Others, maybe not (i.e. the sexual revolution.) Nevertheless, songs such as this and others that gained popularity became themes for a generation in flux.

Churches changed as well over time. Some for the better. Others. . .well maybe not. Over the last few decades we have seen the advent of the church growth movement, the growth of para-church organizations, the birth and subsequent death (well, basically) of the emergent church, the focus on being seeker-sensitive, the development of labels such as “traditional” and “contemporary” when it comes to worship styles (which by their nature are labels that mean different things to differnt people) and categorical shifts in emphases in areas such as youth ministry, family ministry, men’s and women’s ministries, and the like.

There are always those voices that speak of needed adjustments in church practice as culture changes. Some have wrongly attributed these changes to keeping the message “relevant.” That’s a misnomer. The Gospel is…

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