One of the frequent questions that we are asked, and for good reason, is “what do you do on Sundays?”
Here is the reasoning behind the question:
If we are trying to plant churches, that probably means there isn’t one that we are part of right now.
This absence of a church leaves us with a few options.
1. We could ignore the idea of regularly meeting together with believers. Bad idea.
2. We could go to the Brethren church, or the Pentecostal church. We have attended services before, but this could cause confusion on various levels.
3. We could rent a building and start hosting services, inviting people to come to church. There are several problems with this approach.
A building isn’t a church, it can only house the gathered body of believers which is the local church.
We would just be duplicating our own little style of services that could be very unlike what a church gathering would end up looking like in our context, and nearly impossible to reduplicate without another person just like us.
Inviting people to “church” in our context means, “would you like to go to Mass with us?” Not exactly the message we are trying to get across.
Here is the option we have chosen:
Sunday mornings we meet at alternating homes (between our home and the Templetons). Our desire is to feed our souls, encourage other believers in the gospel, and proclaim the gospel to those who have yet to believe it. In order to do that we:
Our normal gathering begins with prayer and a couple songs geared toward teaching verses and biblical truths to our girls. Then one of us walks through the chapter we are all studying (currently we are working through the book of Luke) in a way that the little girls can understand. After a few more songs (and handing out snacks to keep he little ones happy!) we read through the same chapter together. The discussion is led by either Jon or I, depending on whose home we are in that given Sunday. The main questions we discuss revolve around the context, observation, meaning, and application of that chapter. We end our time of study with more singing and prayer. This is done in both English and Spanish, depending on who is in attendance. We finish our morning by sharing a meal together, seeking to bridge the conversation over into our time around the table.
It may sound fairly static, but we are adapting as we go. Nearly each Sunday we change something, or ask the question, “How should we adjust our time?” As more people join us, the decoration will change, but the structure will not. We will continue to read Scripture, sing Scripture, and pray Scripture.
We have had the opportunity to visit many churches around the Midwest over the past 1.5 years. We have been blessed in ways we never imagined, and each church has been unique. This post is a way for us to praise God for these churches, encourage churches for how they are blessing us, and give ideas for individuals who are looking for ways to be creative in loving disheveled wanderers like ourselves.
Best practices to help the missionary wife:
The week before, pastors have shown a photo of the missionary family (us) and shared our names, status (are they on deputation, furlough, etc?), country of service, and even prayed for us.
Having someone to show us around the church has been so helpful! It can be daunting at times when it is a new church. Where are the bathrooms? Where is the nursery or the Sunday School classrooms? The missionary may prefer to have their children (if they have them) sit with them, but it is nice to have the knowledge. This same person can be the one that the missionary can go to if they have any questions throughout their time spent at the church.
They gave us an order of service and a bulletin.
Informed us with whom we will be eating (if there is a meal involved), introduced us to that family, and made sure we have very clear directions as to how to get where we needed to go.
Asked us questions, checked out our display table. Showed interest and tried to get informed about us and the ministry opportunities.
**Bonus- Missionary cupboards are nice in certain circumstances, but we have found that the most helpful thing (to us) is when the church has a binder full of gift cards and they let us know that we can pick out X amount of cards (or dollar amount). This has been wonderful as it helps with gas, meals out, a drink from a coffee shop, or groceries. Many missionaries don’t want more material things that they have to pack and lug around in their vehicles, but gift cards can be a great help!
Those were my initial reactions to the courses we were required to take to complete our clearance process with BMM. Every missionary is required to take two classes on Prevention of Sexual Abuse. One is an in-house seminar on problems and procedures, and the other is an online course.
It is hard to hear statistics like “One in four women and one in six men have been or will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime” (Holcomb & Holcomb, God Made All of Me).
But there is hope. There is hope for those who have been abused and there is hope for those who seek to eliminate the abuse. There is hope because of Jesus Christ. With that hope I encourage everyone to investigate these resources:
Darkness to Light – www.d2l.org
A website devoted to ending child sexual abuse. They offer articles, statistics, and a 2 hour course which helps to “raise awareness of the prevalence and consequences of child sexual abuse by educating adults about the steps they can take to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to the reality of child sexual abuse.” While it is not a specifically Christian organization, they are doing a good job at informing us of the dangers of abuse and opportunities to eliminate it.
God Made All of Me by Holcomb & Holcomb
A children’s book which helps parents talk with their 2-8 year old children about their bodies and how to protect them.
On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church by Reju
A book dedicated to examine“ why child predators target churches and offers eleven straightforward strategies to protect children from abuse and to help young victims recover if it does happen.”
I would encourage every individual to take the Darkness to Light 2 hour course.
I would encourage every family with young children to purchase Holcombs’ book and read through it.
I would encourage every church to purchase Reju’s book and teach a class for leaders, teachers, and families on the principles.
“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
Point: Evangelism is something the individual engages in along side of the rest of the body of Christ.
Path: Stiles addresses how the local church can “do evangelism” poorly, and then by clarifying terms, looking at the NT, and giving examples he shows how the church can cultivate a culture of evangelism.
Agreement: I really appreciated the focus on how the church works together to share the Gospel. We are not alone. As we share Christ with others, we can trust that God will use others along side of us to draw people to himself. It challenged me to think broader than handing out a tract and walking away.
It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:
is interested in sharing their faith.
is seeking to help their local church.
is a church member.
I have been convicted about how I use my words. The conviction is part of the reason I picked up this book, and more conviction came as I read this book.
I criticize because I think I know better.
I mock because I think I could do better.
I belittle because I think I am better.
These ought not to be so. They are symptoms of a sinful heart. In “Resisting Gossip,” Mitchell defines gossip in this way, “Gossip is bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart.” And while it is tempting, pervasive, and easy, there is hope in Christ for those who gossip and those who are hurt by it.
I would recommend “Resisting Gossip” to individuals and small groups in personal reading, Bible studies, or church groups. It will be a challenge whether you have been on the receiving end of gossip, or the carrier. It will help to define, spot, and deal with gossip in your own heart and in your circle of friends.
At the beginning of May a council was called to evaluate my doctrinal beliefs. Men from all over Minnesota came to read my doctrinal statement and ask me questions. There were pastors, teachers, missionaries, elementary school friends, college friends, seminary friends, and others. Upon their recommendation, Liberty Baptist ordained me on June 15th, 2014.
Three men spoke at the service, Jeff Straub, Don Odens, and David Grotzke. The reason each of them took part in the service was because they all have played a large role in my formation as a man and pastor (not to mention Crystal and I have lived in each of their basements for over a month at a time!) We thank God for the experience we have received over the years and the way he has shaped our lives.
We were able to spend last weekend with the Chinese Christian Church of Woodbury (3CW) for their annual retreat. Seth was invited to be the presenter for the English speakers. The retreat took place at Camp Victory near Zumbro Falls, MN.
The retreat was a lot of fun for various reasons, but we wanted to share a few of the ways we saw God’s grace evidenced through 3CW.
The church family was open and friendly
They were genuinely interested in our lives and asked good questions
The whole body acted as a family. I enjoyed hearing the teens and children address the adults as “Uncle” and “Auntie”
Smiling was the default facial expression
Their joy could be seen and heard
They were very generous in multiple ways
They went out of their way to include multiple language groups in their corporate worship time
They shared their snacks!
We thank God for 3CW and look forward to seeing how God uses this church family to minister to the world.
This is a guest post by Dave Mumford. He and his family have been ministering in France for many years, so I asked him to help us think through how we as churches can better encourage our missionaries.
Churches Encouraging their Supported missionaries
A biblical precedent?
Before we delve into this exciting topic (for supported missionaries, that is…) it might be good to consider whether churches have a particular responsibility to specifically encourage “their” missionaries, and to what extent. It is assumed that faithful churches, interested in reaching out to various parts of the world through a missions program, will send funds, and offer at least some prayer support. Do they necessarily have a responsibility besides that?
Paul and Barnabas were sent out from Antioch, and their report was heard (no doubt in some detail) in Acts 14. They were greatly encouraged by the interest of some in the congregation. Nothing tells us that the Christians in Antioch felt a special responsibility to buy the pair new sandals, provide them with some extra parchments, arrange for haircuts and beard trims, etc.
I suppose the pragmatic answer to the question “How much more involvement must churches have, in addition to financial and prayer support?” is: how effective do they want their missionaries to be? Do you want to be a real encouragement, or not (really)?
Here are some ways churches and individual supporters can have added impact:
1. At the risk of sounding a bit pious, one of the most helpful things churches and individuals can “do” to assist their missionaries is maintaining their walk with the Lord right there in the United States. It is always disheartening if the missionary perceives a church to be less concerned about spirituality and evangelism than in the past. If the pastoral staff and the core of the church members are walking with God, the support base is solid, no matter what the financial status. Spirituality does not necessarily produce ample funds, but at least the foundation of the sponsoring church will be stable.
2. Missionaries are grateful for prayer and interest. The ”and” is because it is no doubt possible to pray for missionaries somewhat half-heartedly (I am guilty of this at times…). When folks from the US, despite their busy schedules, tell us they are praying and communicate interest in overseas ministry, it is very encouraging. Conversely, one of the more discouraging things about reporting to churches in the US is the many people that file right past you without hardly any acknowledgement. Perhaps there not sure what to say. There’s a possibility that they are quite busy, and do indeed have an important appointment awaiting them (note the optimism here; very un-French…) but in many cases I’m afraid folks aren’t very concerned about missions. Granted, you would do well to not waylay an unsuspecting missionary candidate in a 45 minute conversation. I did have one missionary friend who just could not escape the conversational grasp of a certain elderly lady. She seemed to be waiting for everyone to leave. After what seemed like hours, she whispered to him “you have bad breath…” By that time, there was no one left to care.
3. News: Most missionaries appreciate at least of semblance of news from their supporting churches. By “semblance of news”, I mean: a new pastor or any other major change in the church. Perhaps one capable, well-motivated individual could be responsible for updating all the missionaries on the happenings of the church twice a year or so. It is true that the missionary could consult the church website, but with 20 to 40 churches a piece, most missionaries simply don’t have the time.
4. Practical help is of course always welcome. Sending cards, letters or packages overseas is appreciated (it is not that useful to send a note or card to the mission board home office: they simply scan the greeting card and email to you. Somehow a scanned Hallmark card does not have the same effect). A magazine subscription is a great idea, particularly for the wives. Currently Cyndie is receiving Better Homes and Gardens via a friend, and churches have sometimes enabled other magazine subscriptions. You might possibly check with the missionary you are seeking to encourage to see if there is a magazine that would be of benefit to them. Mail and especially small packages are a special treat; and depending on what is sent, can greatly encourage the MKs, too. My all-time favorite missionary package story? As a boy of about 11-12, my parents received one from a church in the US. There were 5 of us kids and I’m sure we were a bit excited. The box was opened, revealing a fair amount of brand-new, and no doubt, hand-crafted potholders! We searched in vain for some American candy bar, etc. I’m sure the women’s missionary society of the said church (sure hope it wasn’t the men’s group!) really meant well, and no doubt worked hard. It’s just that we were expecting something more profitable (for our stomachs).
Use your imagination: think of what might be helpful to your missionary friends, or simply ask them. For example, one year some friends out west designed our prayer card, then had them printed up, all at their expense. Those same friends loaned us a vehicle for 3 weeks. (Vehicles are a “biggie” – often the bane of a missionary’s furlough.) A kind gentleman is western Minnesota has allowed us to use a vehicle free of charge free of charge for several short furloughs.
Any time a person actually goes out of their way to actually think: “How could I be of help to our missionaries?”, it is helpful and, presumably, glorifying to God.
5. Financial area: Missionaries know times are tough in the US. The “normal” ones appreciate all the help they receive, and are not under the impression that churches owe them anything. Some churches are able to do a bit more around Christmas time and designate a special offering. Many a present was bought here for our kids with funds that originally came from gracious churches. As we tell our girls when they receive some of these gifts: “thank the churches!!”.
If the pastoral staff is being adequately taken care of, and there are funds available, I don’t think too many missionaries would turn down a raise in support. Everybody appreciates a raise: it lets you know in a “tangible way” that you are appreciated, and presumably, doing a decent job.
Harris, Joshua. Stop Dating the Church! Sisters, Or.: Multnomah Publishers, 2004.
Hardcover: 140 pages
Point: Jesus Christ loves His Church, and so should we.
Path: Harris describes the life of a church dater, or church shopper, who refuses to commit to a real relationship with the Bride of Christ. He explains why we need the church, how to love the church, how to find a church, and how to get the most out of church.
Sources: Harris shares life experiences from confessing church daters. Writers such as J. I. Packer, Donald Whitney, Mark Dever, and C. J. Mahaney all have impacted the author.
Agreement: The central theme of this book is sorely needed. We must listen closely in a time when we can go to any church we want to get our “fix” of socialization, spirituality, positive thinking, “worship”, or entertainment.
Jesus Christ died for His Church. Settle down and love what He loves. Loving Her means planning, sacrificing, serving, and committing.
I appreciated his plan for making the most of Sunday.
Disagreement: This is a good book to put into a church dater’s hands. It isn’t comprehensive. With that said, I would have appreciated a little more depth in the various categories. I think that I would hand this book out first, then follow it up with some of the 9Marks books.
Personal App: Am I loving what Jesus loves?
Favorite Quote: “Because the local church is the key to spiritual health and growth for a Christian” (15).
Stars: 4 out of 5
It would be worth another read and I would recommend it.