Monday, November 21, 2016

Old ways become new ways to reach the world for Christ

Craig Hasselbach in Nepal
There is a sense of urgency that many mission agencies, ministries and denominations are feeling to go make disciples all over the world, and God seems to be calling a new breed of missionary to accomplish the task.  

Pastor Craig Hasselbach is one who is leaving the pastorate of a large successful Colorado church to take the gospel to places where the name of Jesus has never been heard. He explains here how God moved him to transition from the pastorate to more of an apostolic role in the Kingdom during a mission trip to Nepal. 

For centuries the church has responded to the Great Commission by sending missionaries to preach the good news. These missionaries' primary job was to win individuals to Christ. Some started churches in which they pastored. Others met one on one or in small groups to disciple in order to bring families into the Kingdom. For the most part, the indigenous people looked to the missionary for their spiritual nourishment.  

This model continues all around the world. However more mission sending agencies are going back to the first century missions model.  This method, modeled after the apostle Paul's strategy, focuses on intentionally training and equipping new believers to disciple others. Many mission organizations believe this is a more efficient method of multiplying believers and producing gospel-centered movements, especially in countries where the Gospel has never been heard. 

Craig is working with Nexus International and has formed a ministry called Pastors Without Borders. The mission is to reach the unreached by planting gospel-centered churches around the world through young indigenous Christ-centered believers. Check out his blog.  

What's different from the traditional method is that Craig will not be located full time in any one country. He will spend time discipling and training indigenous leaders in several countries to start churches that will plant more churches. Craig will stay until a leader is trained and a church launched and then will visit the new churches much like the Apostle Paul to encourage and offer training. But the indigenous pastor will be the leader of the Church in each country. His goal is to plant 14 churches that will plant a minimum of 3 churches each, which will plant at least 3 churches. 
There are other mission organizations with a similar vision and methods. East-West Ministries has been training and equipping indigenous leaders for several decades. In 2013, they set a goal of making one million disciples in 5 years by using this method in countries primarily in the 10/40 window.  Many others are using the T4T training method as they seek to rapidly train and equip disciples who will make more disciples.  It is an exciting time in history as we do kingdom work until Jesus comes.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Big and Small, God uses it all!

I experienced two amazing extreme versions of following God's vision to bring people to Christ in the past couple of weeks.  These two expressions of faith were as far removed from each other as possible, one as extravagant and immense as one could imagine, the other as humble and primative as could be here in the United States. But both incredibly moving and inspirational and both reminded me that God can use every person I whether rich or poor. 

The grand experience was visiting a life-sized replica of Noah's Ark. My wife and I vacationed in Kentucky for a week and decided to experience the Ark Encounter, which had opened this past summer.  This "theme park" was the dream of Ken Hamm whose vision was to educate the masses about the Genesis account of the ark and flood. So he decided to build the ark based on the dimensions from scripture. It is 510 feet long and 85 feet wide and 51 feet high, the largest wooden structure in the world. It has three decks which spam more than 120,000 square feet. 

It is a truly awesome structure out in the middle of nowhere, much like what it would have been during Noah's time. We spent a couple of hours with a few hundred visitors walking the three levels inside the ark, reading the educational material and seeing the exhibits. It is an impressive and massive undertaking, reportedly 33 million dollars to build and much more to operate. 

Within a few days of the Ark Encounter I spent a Sunday on a small mission project at a RV park, helping clean up and build some picnic tables for this very low income neighborhood. Our church chooses to do mission projects when there is a fifth Sunday instead of meeting for worship. This RV park was actually the permanent housing for about 300 people, all living in small RV's.

When I arrived, I was directed to the back of the park to help with another project, where there was this odd looking structure that had been built out of cedar branches. There I met a woman named Donna who explained what we were to work on. This woman said she was the park manager. She was probably in her fifties but you could tell had weathered a rough life and was wearing a tie-died shirt.  She was enthusiastic and animated as she told us all about this structure was similar to an Indian longhouse, how it could withstand a tornado. It stood next to a smaller version which had been used as a greenhouse. 

"Pastor" Donna on the right
Donna explained that they decided they needed a church building to house their Bible study during the winter and thought a bigger longhouse would be perfect. She said that she had given the idea to one of the residents and explained how this uneducated man who spoke little English, looked at the old structure and built a larger version just by sight without any drawings or plans. 

We were to help put the outside covering on the building which was rolls of heavy plastic.  She described in detail where to start and end leaving the bottom third uncovered for ventilation. Donna told us they would put a stove inside to heat the structure, running the stove pipe through the roof to carry the smoke out. 

When I asked her if they had a pastor she said "no, I guess I'm the pastor."  I was amazed at the excitement and passion this woman had as she talked about their small church.  They would meet here in this longhouse during the winter when the weather turned cold on Sundays and for Bible study during the week. Her enthusiasm for God inspired me. This middle aged lady with the smoker's voice living in an old weathered tiny RV took her job as manager to a higher level, one as a priest or pastor to her community.  I have a notion that she was not ordained or anointed by some church authority to do this. She just stepped into the void doing what God wanted her to do. 

Two visions, one grand the other incredibly primative, both expressions of faith you'd be very surprised to see in the United States.  And I'm not sure which I was more impressed with. All I know is God uses us all in amazing ways when we say yes to His dreams he gives us. 

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