Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Will the Church adapt?

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 1:8

Over the past 5 weeks in Boston, the “melting pot” effect has become so much more apparent.  In Boston, there are over 140 different countries represented.  Since starting 5 weeks ago, I have met and prayed with Nepalese, Brazilian, Russian, Haitian, Arabic, and Korean pastors.  When you hop on the subway or bus, you can hear several different languages being spoken.  The United States continues to change, but is the Church willing to adapt?  If you don’t think our culture is changing, try calling an 800 number and see if you don’t have to press 1 for English.  This wasn’t the case 10 years ago.  However if the Church chooses not to adapt with the culture, it will become ineffective!

Unfortunately the Church, in America, is still one of the most segregated hours of the week.  Sadly, Islam and Mormonism are two of the fastest growing religions in America.  I believe this is greatly due to the fact that they welcome everyone with open arms.  Please know that this isn’t an immigration issue for the Church, it’s a heart issue.  Jesus said we were supposed to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth.  However the “ends of the earth” are coming to our front door, but the Church is not reaching them. 

Jesus, as our example, adapted His strategy to reach His culture and context.  He never changed His message, but His strategy was so foreign to what the status quo was doing.   Jesus consistently stretched across cultural borders and included everyone.  It is time that the Church follow His lead!

It is time for the Church to wake-up!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Where are the workers???

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  Matthew 9:35-38

This week marks Lori and I’s halfway point of serving in Boston.  While serving over the past month these verses have continued to haunt me.  I have seen them literally jump off the page here in Boston.  Before the summer, I truly had no idea what Jesus meant by “the harvest was plentiful, but the workers were few.”  God has allowed Lori and I to meet some great church planters who are passionate about reaching their communities in Greater Boston.  However one of the greatest barriers they each face is not having enough workers.

However according recent studies, the Church is at its largest ever in the United States (by sheer volume), but is loosing its ground on effectiveness.  So if there are so many believers in the Church today, why are there still such few workers?  I have come up with a small list of varying reasons.  I would love for you to add to the list if I have left any off.

1    1.    People genuinely do not know.  There are many believers who are unaware of the great need and lostness around them, as well as ignorant of God’s mandate to every believer to be active in His church. 

2    2.    People feel ill-equipped.  Some feel that they have nothing to offer to the Church or can’t be used because they do not have certain gifts.  However it is important to realize that God has given us each different gifts and talents to help build His Kingdom.

3    3.    People do not have a passion to reach lost people.  They routinely go throughout their week without noticing those around them who do not know the Lord.  However God has called each of us to be a light to the world.  He has you exactly where He desires to use you within each of your realms of influence to reach those people.

4    4.    Too many American Christians are sitting on the sidelines.  In the early 1900’s, America used to be the leading country of sending out missionaries.  However, there are other countries that are now sending out more missionaries, including to the United States to reach the lost.  As American Christians continue to sit comfortably within the walls of the Church, Mormonism and Islam have taken over as the 2 fastest growing religions in America. 

5    5.    “The pastor is paid to do the work” mentality has run rampant within the Church.  Pastors are getting burned out at an all time rate with over 1,500 pastors leaving their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict or moral failure.  After preaching the Word, the number one duty of a pastor is to be an equipper of the saints, so that they may do the work. 

6    6.    Lastly, people are too busy.  I have come to learn that if Satan can’t make you fall into sin, he will keep you busy so that you will become ineffective.  The typical Christian has a full plate of juggling family, career, and recreation that there is no extra time to serve. 

If you are not digging in to help build God’s Kingdom, I ask why not?  What is keeping you from realizing that God has a bigger plan and purpose for your life?  I pray that you will seek the Lord and ask how He desires to use you.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

To Coddle or Not to Coddle? Working with Mission Teams

One of the main tasks that Lori and I are focusing on this summer is to work and direct mission teams that come to Boston.  We’ve been here for a little over 3 weeks and have had the opportunity to work with several mission teams. 
As we have worked with each of the teams, it has been a different experience with each.  Some teams have been a joy to work with, while others have been a nightmare.  Unfortunately not all mission teams that come to serve are totally prepared.  So I wanted to share with you some things to remember if you ever have the opportunity to serve on a mission trip.

Have a servant’s heart.  I’m thankful for the teams that have come to Boston and were ready to serve.  They didn’t go on a mission trip; they served on a mission trip.  There is a vital difference.  Servanthood is the key to the success of a mission trip.  Jesus serves as our example of what true servanthood looks like. 

 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:44-45

Know your cultural context.  I encourage you to do some research before you leave.   Also speak with the pastor or leader you will be working with to see if you fully understand the context in which you will be serving.  Many teams have come to Boston and have not been received very well by the local people because of their actions were considered offensive or weird.  What you consider permissible might not be acceptable in the specific area where you will be serving.  It’s really easy to get caught in the mind-set that everyone else thinks or acts the same way.  As you travel, you might even run into people from different countries who have a totally different background.

“To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”  1 Corinthians 9:22

Be flexible.  I am convinced that Jesus had a 10th beatitude that was not listed in Matthew 5 – “Blessed are the flexible, for they will not be snapped in half.”  When on a mission trip, it is critical that you are flexible.  There might be times that you may need to call an audible and go to “plan B.”  Inflexibility will cause you to miss out what God has in store for you and those you are serving.  How many times did God interrupt someone’s plan, in the Bible stories, where the person had one thing in mind, but God had another plan.

Remember you’re not a vacation.  Unfortunately we have seen teams come to Boston, not because they wanted to serve, but rather they wanted to come visit Boston.

You may be the only Bible someone ever reads or the only Jesus someone sees. 

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”  Hebrews 13:2

Don’t focus on numbers.  What God is doing in people’s lives and hearts is not quantitative.  As human beings, we tend to focus too much on numbers and how many people attended or were saved. 

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”  1 Corinthians 3:6-9

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Spiritual Temperature in Boston

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”   Revelation 3:14-18

When Jesus was speaking to the church of Laodicea, He was sick of their luke-warmness. However, if you took the spiritual temperature of Boston it would be ice cold.  The sad fact is that Boston was the birthplace for Christianity in America, but it has become a spiritual wasteland. Colleges which were started to train pastors, have now slipped so far away from their roots.  These same colleges now offer space for Wiccan and Satan-worship chapters and have disallowed evangelical Christian clubs. The education system here has taken tolerance to a whole new level.  Only 3% of the population in Boston, and all of New England, is considered evangelical.  With a quick survey of spiritual landscape, my response was much like that of Jesus in Matthew:

“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.”   Matthew 9:35-37

The Church is struggling in Boston!  Unfortunately there are very few churches preaching the Truth.  Many churches have either closed or are dying, while others are preaching a false, feel-good gospel.  Scandals have so rocked the Catholic Church here in Boston, that the bishop closed over 80 parishes.  It’s time for the Church to stand in the gap for New England. 

What would God have you do?    

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”  Romans 10:14-15