Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My Mission Trip

Did you ever go to church and hear the stories of church members who recently return from a mission trip. Their testimonies are great and wonderful. Often many church members are excited and want to go on the next trip. Well I would like to tell you about my mission trip with the hopes that you will want to go where I went to share the gospel.

My trip started out like most trips; travel, nervousness and excitement. Once our team got to our place, our local missionary, who I cannot name to protect them, showed us one of the places of worship. I have to admit that the place was very ornate and beautiful yet I sensed a presence of evil.

As our team went into this place, we saw many worshiping one of the many idols or gods in the place. They were chanting, bowing and praying to these pieces of wood and stone. It saddened me that this was what they considered "god."

One of the priest recognizing I was a westerner asked if I would like for him to give me a blessing. Curious of what this might entail, I decided to participate. After the priest had given me some holy water to drink (water with some spices) and holy fruit to eat (nuts, dates and raisins), he rang a bell to wake up the "god." Then the priest looked at me and said I will pray for you after you give an offering. So I gave the only thing I had: cash. Once I gave the priest some cash, he prayed for me and lit some incense for me. At the end of the ritual, the priest handed me a banana and said I had been blessed.

The saddest part about this visit was a lady that I saw in the corner of the room. She was sitting on the floor, chanting and weeping. I asked the priest what was happening with the lady. Through an interpreter, he told my friends and I that the lady had suffer 3 miscarriages and that she was praying to her "god" for 24 hours straight that she would not miscarry her current child.

My heart was broken. Here were people having to ring a bell to wake up their "gods." Here were people having to beg and plead for miracles by chanting and here were people having to pay for blessings by bringing gifts. These were people who need to hear about the Grace of God. These were people who needed missionaries to reach out to them.

If you are reading this, please pray for these people and this place. You see this was only one place of many in this place without the Gospel. In this one city where we were 80% of the people are lost without Christ, Please consider how you could reach out to this dark place that has at least 35 unreached/under engaged people groups who do not know the gospel.

As I left that place, I wondered why this was happening. I was wondering where were the Christian believers in this place. Why were they not trying to reach these people who needed hope?

If you are wondering where this place is: I will tell you. It is Nashville, Tennessee. Home of the SouthernBaptist Convention. Home of the Grand Ole Opry and home to 1000's who do not know Christ and worship many "gods". Will you do a mission trip here?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Listen Up

When I served with C Co. 1-244th Assault Helicopter Battalion, THE PRIVATEERS, I had the privilege of sitting in on some of the leadership training for the staff, even though I was a Chaplain serving with that unit. As I was going through some materials today, I found the following leadership notes from my Chaplain days. So as our commander use to say: "Listen Up!" Meaning this is important. I thought I would pass along those important thoughts.

1. Lead by example from the front of the formation. Take your performance personally—if you are proud to be average, so too will be your troops.

2. A leader must provide a vision—clear and achievable “big ideas” combined in a strategic concept—and communicate those ideas throughout the entire organi­zation and to all other stakeholders.

3. A leader needs to give energy; don’t be an oxygen thief.

4. There is an exception to every rule, standard operating procedure, and poli­cy; it is up to leaders to determine when exceptions should be made and to ex­plain why they made them.

5. We all will make mistakes. The key is to recognize them and admit them, to learn from them, and to take off the rear­ view mirrors—drive on and avoid making them again.

6. Be humble. The people you’ll be lead­ing already have on-the-ground conflict experience. “Listen and learn.”

7. Be a team player. “Your team’s triumphs and failures will, obviously, be yours.” Take ownership of both.

8. Don’t rely on rank. If you rely on rank, rather than on the persuasiveness of your logic, the problem could be you and either your thinking or your com­munication skills. Likewise, sometimes the best ideas come from bottom-up information sharing (i.e., “Need to share” not “Need to know”). 

9. Leaders should be thoughtful but deci­sive. Listen to subordinates’ input, evaluate courses of action and second- and third-order effects, but be OK with an “80 per­cent solution.” “There will be many moments when all eyes turn to you for a decision. Be prepared for them. Don’t shrink from them. Embrace them.” Some­times the best move is the bold move.

10. Stay fit to fight. Your body is your ulti­mate weapons system. Physical fitness for your body is essential for mental fitness.

11. The only thing better than a little com­petition is a lot of competition. Set    chal­lenges for your team to encourage them to excel.

12. Everyone on the team is mission criti­cal. Instill in your team members a sense of great self-worth—that each, at any given time, can be the most important on the battlefield.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Fishy Story: Lesson About Competition

When my wife Pam and I lived in South Carolina, our home was near Lake Murray. This was a huge lake where one could fish, swim, ski and boating. Often the two of us would go out to the lake which was behind our house and fish.

Being the typical male, I was often competitive with Pam over who would catch the most fish. This one afternoon I had found a spot on the bank where a tree had fallen in the water. This was a great spot because every time I cast my line in the water, I caught a fish.

Not wanting to be outdone, Pam moved from her spot on the bank to right by me and my spot (she said that she wanted to be close to me, HA!). Soon, she was casting her line in the water and catching fish. At first, I was a little upset. She was in my spot and catching my fish. Then I started to realize that she was not my competition but my wife. Whatever she caught or I caught, they all were going on my table. A matter of fact, because she was fishing next to me, she was causing more fish to be lured to that spot because they knew there was food there.

It is the same with churches. I often have pastors and church members get upset when a new church plant starts or a church moves near them. They seem to say “Stay out of my fishing spot.” This is especially funny considering that here in the Nashville area there is 850,000 unchurched persons and we are considered "The Bible Belt!"

It seems that we all often forget that we all are “fishers of men”. We are not working on getting more “fish” for ourselves or our churches, but rather reaching more people for the KINGDOM of GOD! We are working together to see people become fully devoted followers of Christ.

This lesson is especially true because the spirit of competition in the church is not over souls but rather people and their pocketbooks. We often compete in our churches, conventions and denominations not for the souls of the lost but rather for the money and bragging rights of having large crowds.When this happens then we have quit doing ministry for the God's Kingdom and started doing ministry for our kingdom.
I believe that a lot of this mentality happens when a church, denomination or convention loses sight of their original mission: Making Disciples! Mission becomes survival and perpetuation of the organization. When Christ called us to His mission, He promised to provide for us to do that mission. Our focus should move from survival to the harvest field. The harvest is plentyful and there is no need for competition. To quote an old saying "There are plenty of fish in the sea."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Warrior

When I served as a chaplain assigned to the 53rd Infantry Brigade and the Company C 1-244th Assault Helicopter Battalion, I learned very quickly the Army values system (me being an Air Force guy) along with “The Warriors Ethos or Creed”. As a matter of fact I still carry with me the dog tag that I was given with that creed.  It goes like this:

I will always place the mission first
I will never accept defeat
I will never quit
I will never leave a fallen comrade

In the military everything centers on the mission. It is the essence of why everything is done from training to maintenance. Whatever the mission is, it will be carried out to its fullest. Not to do so is failure or defeat.

This got me thinking “What is our mission as Christians?” Very simply put: “To make disciples for Jesus here on earth?” Everything that we do centers on this simple mission. We are here to fulfill the Great “CO” MISSION of Christ.

There are three other statements in the ETHOS that relate back to the mission. “I will never accept defeat; I will never quit and I will never leave a fallen comrade.” We as Christians must remember that we are engaged in a Spiritual Battle. Satan wants us to admit defeat and quit. He wants us to focus on survival!

It is so easy to focus on our little corner of the mission field or our little corner of the church field that we forget to work together or support one another. This is Satan’s greatest deception and trick. Just like the military, if we do not partner together by helping and supporting one another then we will soon be over run by the enemy. In the last few weeks I have already seen some very good friends who have fallen under attack and have even fallen because of Satan’s attack.

As I served with the military I learned that all who served considered each other’s Brothers and Sisters in arms. If one was in trouble, we all were. It should be the same as we serve in Christ mission. We should help one another, pray for one another, encourage one another and most of all love one another. In essence, we are all Brothers and Sisters on a mission and in a battle until Christ returns. To shrink from that mission and from working with others is to be a coward.

Here is a Christian version of that ethos that I developed.

Christian Warrior

I will always place Christ Great Commission first and foremost

I will never accept defeat or an attitude of defeat for in Christ I have the victory

I will never quit for through Christ I can do all things for Him
I will never leave a fallen comrade to be destroyed by Satan, I will support my fellow Christians and churches always!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

You Can’t Baptize That Person: You’re Not Ordained

In the last few months, the Lord has opened doors for new Bible studies and Bible Storying groups to begin here in the Nashville area. Through this, there have been persons who have come to salvation in Christ and people being baptized.

This past week, one of the leaders involved in this effort was sharing with some local pastors about this and about baptisms happening in apartment complexes here in the city. There was concern raised about the “legitimacy” of these baptisms since they were not done by “ordained” ministers.

When I heard of this and heard the remarks of two of our others stating that only “ordained” ministers could do baptisms, I became concerned. It seems that our tradition has superseded the scripture.

Here are some reasons that I believe that this is not Biblical, but rather based on tradition:

1.       The Great Commission was not limited to just the 11 Apostles and Paul. The Great Commission states:  And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Now if we as Southern Baptist, or as Christians in general, want to say we are Great Commission Christians then we must hold to the commission GO, MAKE DISCIPLES, BAPTIZING, and TEACHING which given to all of us as believers. It’s not that we go, make disciples and the rest is up to ordained leaders. That is flawed thinking. That is like saying, go have a baby, birth that baby and then turn that baby over to an ordained person and let them raise it.

As believers and followers of Christ we are called to make disciples, baptize them (help them to testify and identify with the community of faith) and help teach them the essentials of the faith and how to follow it. The problem we have today is relying too much on letting others (professional clergy) follow the commands of Christ and not obeying them ourselves.

2.       Jesus demonstrated an empowering, “permission given” model for ministry. When Jesus’ disciples came upon someone who wasn’t “endorsed” by them casting out demons using Jesus’ name (His authority), they told him to stop. Jesus was clear in his correction to them:

“Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.” “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us.” (Mark 9:38-40)

When Jesus’ disciples began to try to limit people from following Jesus’ example, He emphatically corrected them. This temptation has hindered the church for 2,000 years whenever it rears its ugly head.

If Jesus told his disciples not to stop others outside their group from casting out demons, representing His name, why should we try to hinder people from baptizing others, using His name?

Now some would counter this point by saying, “What about the sons of Sceva who tried to use the name of Jesus and got beat up by a demon possessed guy?” (Acts 19) They’re missing the point. The sons of Sceva weren’t followers of Jesus. All disciples of Jesus are commanded to use Jesus’ name to call people to repentance, baptism, and freedom. If you’re not a follower of Jesus, yes, it’s silly to try to represent His authority. But even then, Jesus never once forbids people from trying. He says, “These signs will accompany those who believe,” not those who are ordained.

3.       In the New Testament, baptism was an immediate action that accompanied repentance and faith in Jesus. The Ethiopian Eunuch is just one. “So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus. As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?” He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.” (Acts 8:35-38)

If a similar story happened today many of us in the body of Christ might have responded to the Ethiopian’s question, “Why can’t I be baptized?” with, “Well, you can’t yet because you haven’t taken a baptism class and there’s not an ordained pastor present.” Thankfully, Phillip had never heard of such a policy. I’m confident Jesus would not be a huge fan of the policy, either.

There are some times to wait for baptism, like honoring the heads of a household when a minor begins following Jesus. But, if all people are commanded to preach the gospel, then all people are called to baptize others as well.

4.       Even Jesus didn’t baptize – His disciples did. “Jesus knew the Pharisees had heard that he was baptizing and making more disciples than John (though Jesus himself didn’t baptize them—his disciples did). So he left Judea and returned to Galilee.” (John 4:1-3)

Jesus didn’t say, “Only I have the authority to baptize, because you guys are young and inexperienced.” Jesus Himself modeled for us that He empowers others to baptize. We should do the same!

5.       The Apostle Paul didn’t make a big deal about who was doing the baptizing. In his letter to the Corinthians Paul says: “I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church…. I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, for now no one can say they were baptized in my name. (Oh yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas, but I don’t remember baptizing anyone else.) For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News—and not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power.” (I Corinthians 1:10-17)

There were a number of issues in the Corinthian church Paul addresses in this letter, but the point is the same: Paul states it doesn’t matter who does the baptizing. He warned them about bragging about having a certain leader or another as the one who baptized you. The important thing is whether the gospel of Jesus is being preached with power to transform people’s lives. It doesn’t really matter who baptizes you if you sincerely want to follow Jesus.

6.       It’s a sinful temptation to substitute our traditions for God’s clear commands. “For you ignore God’s commands and substitute your own tradition.” (Mark 7:8)

In the case of baptism, we have made the same error so many have made through history, we’ve substituted our own tradition for a command of God. This doesn’t invalidate our ministries. God is able to work powerfully through all sorts of churches and ministries who have done this. He is gracious! As followers of Jesus, we should never let policies rise above the authority of Jesus’ clear commands, the Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit.

Now I know that some ministers would say that they hold the right to baptize to the ordained because of wanting to make sure that those being baptize know the true meaning of baptism and that they are true converts to Christ. This reasoning should be an indictment against our discipleship process. If we are not discipling believers to recognize true fruit or true conversion and how to counsel new believers then we are doing a bad job of making disciples.

The bottom line in all of this is: If we are to truly fulfill the Great Commission in this age then we must empower and equip all believers to observe and do everything that Christ has commanded us to do.

Monday, April 9, 2012


I have always loved cowboys and stories of the Old West. When I got to live in Arizona and especially when I got to start a cowboy church, I was especially happy and excited.

As I was looking through some old notes from my cowboy church days, I found the following advice notes titled " Advice from A Cowboy." I thought I would share it with you. Think about the saying as you read it!

Don't squat with your spurs on.
Don't interfere with something that ain't botherin' you none.
Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.
The easiest way to eat crow is while it's still warm. The colder it gets, the harder it is to swaller.
If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin'.
If it don't seem like it's worth the effort, it probably ain't.
It don't take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep.
The biggest troublemaker you'll probably ever have to deal with watches you shave his face in the mirror every morning.
Never ask a barber if you need a haircut.
If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try orderin' somebody else's dog around.
Don't worry about bitin' off more'n you can chew; your mouth is probably a whole lot bigger'n you think.
Always drink upstream from the herd.
Generally, you ain't learnin' nothing when your mouth's a-jawin'.
Tellin' a man to git lost and makin' him do it are two entirely different propositions.
If you're ridin' ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there with ya.
Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.
When you give a personal lesson in meanness to a critter or to a person, don't be surprised if they learn their lesson.
When you're throwin' your weight around, be ready to have it thrown around by somebody else.
Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin' it back.
Always take a good look at what you're about to eat. It's not so important to know what it is, but it's sure crucial to know what it was.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What Are You Reading?

Yesterday I had an interesting conversation with a potential church planter. I was asking him what items that he was reading currently. As he was speaking to me, I heard the all too familiar answer: "I am reading every book and blog I can find on church planting."

Being very familiar with church planting materials, I began to ask some questions about this particular persons reading. What I found out is that the potential planter had read about church planting from one perspective. He has certain blogs and certain authors that he read and that was  
This planter is not alone in his approach. More and more I see pastors, ministers and planters lock into one "train" of discussion on ministry, missions, leadership and church planting. They have their favorite blogs, authors and speakers and they listen or read nothing else. This is not education. This is indoctrination! Here are some ideas that I think are helpful in becoming educated instead of indoctrinated.
If you are planting a church, do not spend all your reading of church planting books and blogs. Why? The market is filled with various opinions and methodologies in books about church planting and after a while you will find yourself either being confused or trying a different technique or method every few weeks looking for the "silver bullet" solution. There is no one magic plan to starting a church except for what God wants you to do in that place in which he has placed you.

Read material you may not agree with. Why? Sometimes the best way to clarify your thoughts and plans is to have them challenged. Reading or even listening to only one way of thought soon causes narrow mindedness, elitist ism and finally stagnation. If you are not challenged then you will not grow.

Read some of the older classic materials on leadership, ministry and missions. One of the biggest things that I see today is that a number of planters and pastors only read current authors and materials. When I ask about this, many of them answer "The authors of yesterday do not understand our contexts and problems that we are facing today. I need something more contemporary because things have changed." Whoa! Does this mean that anything not written today is obsolete? If they truly believe this does it mean that The Bible doesn't apply anymore?

There are a lot of good insights in the works of yesterday. One of the best books that I have ever read on church planting was written in 1927 by Roland Allen. It is called Missionary Methods: St. Paul's or Ours? There are lesson in this book that still apply today. Don't rule out the authors and materials of yesterday because you feel its not contemporary enough.

Read to learn not to find easy solutions. We are an ADD society. I want it quick and easy. I believe the reason that we like some of today's contemporary materials and blogs is because it is quick to get information and run with it. Read. Think on it! Critique and analyze. What works in my context and what doesn't work.

We need to be like plants taking in fertilizer! Take what is helpful for growth and discard the rest. What you might need might not be what you thought. There are not quick routes to ministry and discipleship growth. It takes time and work. Don't rush it but rather enjoy the journey.

Read for Fun. I worked with a planter that all he ever read and listened to was stuff on church planting and ministry. Every time we got together all he could talk about was church planting (even swimming in the pool). I really wanted to scream and tell him to "get a life"!

Read and listen for enjoyment. Read to broaden your horizons. God created us to enjoy and to learn. There are things out there that will help us to learn and grow that don't necessarily come out of a Christian publishing house or from a church leader. Some of the best leadership lessons I learned came out of history books and western novels. Who would have thought?

Story is told about a movie start who ate nothing but carrots because she was worried about her figure. One day, she looked in the mirror and realized that she was thin like a carrot and that her skin was orange like a carrot. Its the same with us! What we listen too and read influences who we are. If we have just a steady diet of one view or one subject then we begin to think and act that way.

What are you reading?