3 Needs in Church Planting

3 Needs in Church Planting

I love to read about missiology and study church planting movements throughout the world. It is amazing to see how God is redeeming people from every nation, tribe, and tongue. He is doing it by His power, according to His will, for His glory and good of the nations. As someone who is living in a cross cultural context, I get to hear the encouraging testimonies of pastors and missionaries from almost every continent. They also share their needs and difficulties of ministering in their native contexts. What I hear most often is the need for 3 things: expository preaching, systematic theology, and the training up of leaders. Now there is a lot that can be said about these things, but today I’ll discuss them briefly.

Expository Preaching

Mark Dever defines expository preaching as “preaching in which the main point of the biblical text being considered becomes the main point of the sermon being preached.” An expository preacher who be someone who keeps his sermon grounded in the text at hand. Please understand that I am not a stickler when it comes to expository preaching. In fact, I believe that topical sermons and even biblical storytelling have their place within the local church. But the majority of our time spent preaching should be devoted to expository preaching, preaching verse-by-verse through every book of the Bible. It is the responsibility of the pastor/teacher to preach/teach the whole counsel of God to his congregation. It is especially important in church planting to explain and teach how all of Scripture fits together in order to provide the local church with a strong, biblical foundation. Yes, the Bible consists of 66 books, but it is telling 1 story. The goal of expository preaching is to help people understand what any given text means and how it applies to us today.

Systematic Theology

Systematic theology involves “organizing the teachings of the Bible into categorical systems.” Let’s say, for example, that you are leading a Bible study on the subject of angels. If you only talked about what Revelation said about angels, you would have a rather lopsided view. Furthermore, if you only taught from the New Testament much of what the Bible teaches about angels in the NT can only be understood with some background of the Old Testament. Systematic theology is the response to the problem of doing theology in the vacuum of one book or testament. It is important that we look to all of Scripture gain a fuller understanding of what it teaches. It is my personal opinion that the teaching of systematic theology is effective for making mature disciples.

In our context, there are few systematic theology resources in Thai. There are some theology books that have been translated from English to Thai. And now we are beginning to see some Thai theologians take on the challenge. Yet, the number of options is still relatively small. As an American, I feel spoiled with the amount of resources available to me in English. It is my desire to see more godly Thai men devote their time and efforts to developing a systematic theology that is wholly biblical and distinctively Thai.

Leadership Training

I think sometimes we assume that future church leaders are going to make themselves, as if people will become prepared by some sort of osmosis. Not only is this foolish; it isn’t the example set in Scripture which is far more intentional (see the relationship between Paul and Timothy). To be clear, I am referring to the training of young men to become pastors, teachers, elders, and deacons. It is imperative that we train them how to preach, teach, and serve. Frankly, this responsibility shouldn’t fall to the Bible colleges and seminaries; it is the job of the local church.

In addition, pastors should always be on the lookout for future church planters and missionaries within their own congregation, starting with the children’s/youth ministry. It is never too early to get people thinking about how they can participate in reaching the nations for Christ. This is just as true overseas. One of our hopes as missionaries is to see more Thais sent out to reach the nations for Christ as well. The Great Commission is the task of the Church, not the responsibility of a select few. Training qualified leaders involves helping them to come to understand the mission of God.

Certainly this list is not exhaustive. There are plenty of other things that are important when planting churches; however, if these 3 things a neglected, the churches we plant won’t be healthy. There are plenty of church plants in the world. The problem is that few of them are rooted in the Word of God. Please be praying for the church planters and missionaries all around the world who diligently devoting themselves to these 3 things.

3 Tips for Sharing Your Faith

3 Tips for Sharing Your Faith

This morning I am praying for the Lord to give us more opportunities to share the Gospel where we live. In this current season of our lives, we could make many excuses not to share it with others. “We don’t speak the language well enough yet. What if it damages a relationship we have been building? What if they get angry, or worse, laugh at us?” These are the questions we ask in fear of man, not in reverential fear of God.

Of course we want to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves, but we should never be fearful. God is with us. He goes before us. And He is always there to fall back on. Our speech should be seasoned with the salt, but not watered down (Colossians 4:6). Here are three tips that I have learned over the years from sharing my faith with others from around the world:

1. Preach the simple Gospel

It is so easy to get carried away while sharing with a non-believer. You had every intention to tell that Jesus loves them and that He died for their sins. But, now you are in an unfruitful debate about who the Nephilim were. This happened to me just the other day. Christians, know and study every word in the Bible. I’ll say it again. KNOW AND STUDY EVERY WORD IN THE BIBLE. However, when sharing your faith with a non-believer, you don’t have to defend every word of Scripture or try to answer every last question they ask you. In fact, you likely will not have all of the answers. That’s okay! You have all of the Gospel, so preach that. Explain the depths of mankind’s sin and then, explain the great lengths that God went to, in order to, save us from it.  Tell them that He sent His only begotten Son to the earth to be crucified on a cross for our sins. Then, share with them the glorious Good News of the Resurrection! Jesus is alive; He is risen from the dead and He is coming again! Make sure they know that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. Of course, there is always more that can be said and explained, but this is the crux of the Gospel. Don’t get distracted by things that take you away from preaching this. Tell them how this Good News has changed your life.

2. Don’t wait 

People are dying every minute and are going to hell. It is not a truth we like to talk about, but it is the truth nonetheless. I read the other day that there at still around 2 billion people in the world who are considered unreached with the Gospel. Our message is urgent. Our mission is non-negotiable. Our task is still unfinished. If you feel burdened to share with a friend, co-worker, or even a stranger, do it today. Don’t wait. Pray for God to give you the courage, strength, and words to speak. No one knows when he or she will breathe their last breath. Likewise, no one knows the day or the hour when Jesus will return. Today is the day for sharing. Today is the day of salvation.

3. Rest in the grace of God

I have had wonderful evangelism encounters and I have had not so wonderful evangelism encounters in the past. I have seen people respond in faith and I have seen people respond in anger. I have had times when I felt like the Lord was speaking through me and other times where I felt like was stumbling over my words and thoughts. Can I give you a word of advice? Don’t beat yourself up when you don’t see the desired outcome. I would love for every person I share with to become a believer right there on the spot. But if I am honest, that is rarely the case. You may spend your entire life watering and watering without ever seeing much harvest. Even so, do not compromise. Do not try to manufacture results or coerce people into making decisions. Rest in His grace at all times. In the end, sharing your faith isn’t about you. It is about Him. He will do the heavy lifting. You just stay faithful.

Will you join me in praying for the people of Thailand to come to know Jesus? Will you pray for us as we seek opportunities to share this wonderful Good News with others? Let us cling tightly to the truth of Romans 1:16 today. And may God bless you as you share with others wherever you are today.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.


small group outside

This Will Change the World

This Sunday, I will be teaching on the role of small groups in discipleship at our church here in Chiang Mai. Small groups (life groups, house churches, etc.) have become increasingly more popular in the West. In recent days, many Western Christians have looked to the tremendous growth seen in the Eastern Church as an argument for implementing them in their local congregations. In fact, I believe that Francis Chan recently published a new book about this very thing.

We know that discipling in small groups is biblical for two reasons. First, this is model Jesus chose for discipleship (Mark 3). He could have chosen to disciple hundreds of people, but instead He chose to focus on 12 men. Second, the early Church often grew from house to house, family to family, small group to small group (Acts 2:42-47). Evangelistic crusades and worship conferences have been used mightily of God in the past, but nothing can compare to living in community with people you know and love, personally.

I am not arguing that “big Church,” as we sometimes called it back home in Georgia, is wrong in any way, shape, or form. I love meeting together to worship with my church family; it is a truly a foretaste of what heaven will be like. I just know from personal experience, and from what I hear from some of my closest friends, that the turning point in their lives with Jesus was having a small group to be a part of. I know one guy, in particular, whose life changed dramatically as the result of being discipled in a small group setting. I should note that one-on-one discipleship has been proven successful for some. However, if the long term goal in our discipling methods is not to plant healthy churches, to live in community with others, what is the goal?

Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35).” If we want the world to know the love of Christ for themselves, we have to show them it is real first. We show them by the way that we love one another. I don’t know about you, but I am terrible at remembering peoples’ names. If I can hardly do this, how can I effectively love people? The answer is simple: I must be intentional. Maybe I cannot remember everyone’s name at church, but I can remember everyone’s name in my small group. Maybe I don’t know how to pray for everyone’s needs at church, but I do know how to pray for everyone’s needs in our small group. And maybe I can’t realistically love everyone at my church with as much zeal as I would like, but I can love the eight or so people God has given me to love in our small group. No Christian can do everything, but we can do something.

I believe that this type of intentional love for others is what changes the world, not political policy or social revolution. It is just people loving people the way that Jesus demonstrated and commanded us to do, as well.

wet road with trees

Tears: A Pilgrim’s Marker

This year marks 12 years since I became a Christian. I still remember the day I got saved so vividly. For many weeks I had gripped the backs of the pews, trying to resist the drawing of the Father. But, He would not let me go. I remember being asked if I wanted to go forward. I couldn’t speak; all I could do was nod my head. And there at the altar, as the pastor prayed with me, I repented of my sins and was forgiven of them by my Savior, Jesus Christ. In that little church, the Holy Spirit came to live in me and He ministered to me. I began to weep like never before, not out of embarrassment, but with newfound joy in my heart, spilling over. These tears marked the first day of my new life in Christ.

The second time I wept this way happened during high school. My church’s youth group went to a Summer conference in Daytona Beach. If you have ever been to a youth conference you know that it is typical to see many people crying during the worship times. I am sure that many of the students are just caught up in the moment, which can extremely emotional, if nothing more. But, as I can testify, this is not always the case. I remember that the entire stadium was singing Revelation Song, a beautiful worship song about the throne room of God. In that moment, the Spirit of God fell on me. I began to weep with my face in my hands. All of my youth group thought something was seriously wrong with me and were concerned. I am thankful for my youth pastor who told them I was fine and that God was ministering to me. And minister He did. It was that night that I had encountered the holiness of God in a real, tangible way. It changed me; it changed the way I approached Him.

The third time the Spirit of God fell was more recent. In fact, it was within the last year. It was just me at home, so I decided to watch a quick sermon as I was cleaning the house. The preacher was talking about unbelief in our lives and ministries. I was enjoying it, but I wouldn’t say that it was “stirring my emotions.” Then the preacher quoted the word of God. He said, “Help my unbelief!” It was at that moment that the weeping came once again as I began to feel the weight of the unbelief in my heart. I knew it was God doing a work in me because it felt like a dam of tears had just been released. It was a tremendous time of repentance and healing for me.

I share all of this because tears, for me, are not typical. During some of the most difficult and sad times of my life, I have struggled to find even one tear to cry. My wife could count on one hand how many times she has seen me cry. In my life, God has used tears in my sanctification process. They are the outward expression of what is taking place in my soul. I don’t believe everyone will have the same experience, but if you are anything like me, you probably have some similar stories. These times of weeping are like markers on our way to heaven. God uses them often to remind me of who He is, what He has done, and what He is going to do. Though these tears can be uncomfortable at times, because they are over my own sin, God does not leave me in despair. Instead, He brings me comfort and joy.

Psalm 30:5 “His anger lasts only a moment. His favor lasts a lifetime. Weeping may last for the night, but there is a song of joy in the morning.” God’s Word Translation

Have you ever experienced this in your life? What are some ways God has ministered to you in the past?

beautiful wedding bouquet

The Glory of a Godly Woman

Yesterday, my wife and I were essentially incapacitated. Both of us were suffering with some sort of food poisoning. I won’t go into the graphic details, but just know that it was absolutely awful. Praise God that we are feeling much better today. Also, we would like to thank everyone who prayed for us and offered to help us yesterday. We felt very loved.

My wife definitely had worse symptoms than I did. Despite this fact, she did not grumble or complain when I told her I needed to lie down. Never once did she get upset with me yesterday. Instead, she constantly checked in on me, made sure I was taking medicine, and wasn’t overexerting myself. She has done these things in the past when I was sick, but never have we both been this sick at the same time. I was overwhelmed by God’s glory and grace shining through her.

Proverbs 31:10-12 says this about my wife:

An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.

In some Christian circles, especially at Christian universities, the search for a godly wife is more of a joke than an earnest prayer before God. In fact, Proverbs 31 has become a source of banter among young Christian men and women. I don’t know if it is still popular, but I remember #P31Success being a popular hashtag when I was in school.

Young men in Christ, be serious in the search for a woman who fears the Lord. One day when you are sick as a dog and your mom and dad aren’t there to take care of you, you are going to wish you had married a Proverbs 31 woman. And because marrying a beautiful woman is such a top priority for many of you, let me just say this: I have never met a truly godly woman who was not exceedingly beautiful. If your main goal is to be with the “hottest” girl on campus, man, you’ve lost before the race has even begun.

And MacKenzie, if you are reading this, I want you to know how thankful I am to be your husband. I know full and well that I have done nothing to deserve you or the beautiful little girl you brought into this world. I love you with all of my heart.

Are you zealous or jealous?

For those of us in ministry, it is easy to compare ourselves and our ministries with others, especially in the age of Facebook and Instagram. Many times we become jealous of those who seem to be having more success in their ministry than we are. But, we know this is wrong, so what do we do? We mask it with zeal. Let me explain.

The word zeal involves having an eagerness or enthusiasm “in pursuit of something.” This sounds good at face value, but it is important to note that not all zeal is good zeal. Only zeal that produces the fruit of the Spirit in our lives is good. Remember that the Apostle Paul, before he came to know Christ, was “zealous” about terrorizing Christians (Philippians 3:6)! Paul, addressing Israel’s unbelief, describes this type of zeal in Romans 10:1-3.

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 

It is clear that zeal, in the life of the believer, needs to be grounded in the knowledge of the righteousness of God. Christians are to be zealous for good works (Titus 2:14). We should be zealous in our desire to preach the Gospel and love our neighbors as ourselves. And we should be zealous in our daily pursuit of God (Psalm 42:1).

With that being said, I am afraid that sometimes we pretend to be zealous when we are, in fact, harboring jealousy towards our brothers and sisters in Christ. This manifests itself quite often on social media. I, myself, have been guilty many times of posting things that make me look good knowing that I was doing it only as a response to hearing about how God is blessing the work of a friend. In one-on-one conversations, I have even exaggerated about personal ministry experiences to “keep up” with others who are simply reporting the amazing work of God in their lives.  We may write or say “praise the Lord” or “glory be to God,” but in our hearts we are saying, “PRAISE ME! GIVE ME THE GLORY!” This isn’t biblical zeal; it is worldliness. Biblical zeal aims to give God every ounce of glory for the growth, success, and fruit in our ministries not just with our mouths, but with pure hearts and clear consciences (Psalm 24:3-4).

Zeal is beautiful when it is pure and rooted in knowledge. Jesus demonstrated zeal for His Father’s house when He overturned the money changer’s tables inside the temple (John 2:13-17). This should go without saying, but brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t start chasing people around with whips, figurative or literal ones. We are not Jesus. However, know that true zeal for God may mean we lose popularity and suffer persecution for Christ’s namesake.

So, where do you stand? Are you often jealous of those around? Do you get tired of waiting on the Lord to produce visible fruit, so you try to fabricate some of your own? Is your zeal for God sometimes just a facade for your jealousy? If you have answered yes to any of these questions, welcome to the club. Thankfully, the Gospel isn’t just for those we are trying to reach, it is for us, too. Remember fellow ministers of the Gospel, we serve a holy and righteously jealous God, meaning that He will not share His glory with another, not even us (Isaiah 42:8). And when we choose unrighteous jealousy over holy zeal, we rob Him of the praise due His name.