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Top 10 Highlights of 2013

I guess the last day of the year is as good as any other day to start blogging again. Another year has ended, and another is about to start. Now is the time to look back and thank God for a great year. In my  opinion 2013 was one of the best years ever! Of course, I say that every year. And I mean it every year. Here are my top 10 highlights.

10. Discipleship 2013. What could be a better way to start a  year than talking about “Funnel Vision Discipleship” to 8000 Filipino small group leaders at our annual Discipleship convergence? (above)

9. Ignite2013: Every Nation Campus Ministries Asia Conference.  Nothing quite as loud or as exciting as a few days in a basketball arena with 7000+ students. Change the campus, change the world, and don’t forget to bring your earplugs. Seriously, Deborah and I always bring earplugs to Every Nation Campus Ministry conferences.

8. Asian Pastors Equipping Conference. Hosted by Every Nation Indonesia this year. APEC is always one of our favorite conferences of the year. We get to do life and ministry with amazing leaders who have become life-long friends.

7. Finished 100 Years From Now book. The best part of writing a book is when the final edited manuscript is in your hands. The final edit does not mean all the mistakes are corrected, it just means you don’t have any more time or energy for the project. (above)

6. No More Tuition Payments! In May Jonathan graduated from Belmont University. In June we received our first fund-raising letter from Belmont. Did they really think I would send them a donation after all the money I paid them the past four years?

5. Father, Son (& Friends) Motorcycle trips. Every mile on two wheels is an adventure, but my best ride of 2013 was  Manila to Banaue to Sagada to Baguio to Manila. Get your motor runnin, Head out on the highway, Lookin’ for adventure, And whatever comes our way…

4. EN2013: Every Nation World Conference.  If you have never experienced an Every Nation World Conference, think big family reunion meets mission conference. Special guests included Wayne Alcorn and Mickey Mouse (below).

3. Traveling the world with my best friend. Six trans-Pacific Nashville to Manila trips, plus Taipei,  Singapore, Denpasar, Jakarta, Orlando, Jacksonville, Calgary, Toronto,… I average over 150,000 miles a year on Delta Airlines. I am glad I get to do most of those miles with Deborah. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to do this job alone.

2. MoJo wedding. Do you believe in love at second sight? They didn’t exactly like each other when Moriah’s parents were missionaries in the Philippines and they carpooled together to Faith Academy. Then her family moved back to Detroit. We stayed in Manila. They met again in Nashville ten years later when 18-year-old Moriah was checking out Belmont University. It was love at second sight. Three semesters later, in February Jonathan proposed. Moriah said yes. In June I had the honor of officiating their wedding. Welcome to the family, Moriah!

1. Best Christmas gift ever! Josephine Kate Murrell, our first grandchild. Life does not get any better than this.

(Note: Jo is the daughter of William and Rachel who have been married for 18 months, not Jonathan and Moriah who have been married six months.)

10 Simple Discipleship Truths

Last month Deborah and I were in Indonesia, Singapore, and Taiwan teaching Asian pastors, church-planters, and missionaries about discipleship and leadership. Same ole boring strokes, again. After our Sunday night session a young Indonesian leader asked, “how do you define discipleship?” Good question. Here’s my answer, and more.

1. A disciple is a person who follows Jesus.

2. Every Christian should be a disciple.

3. Every disciple should make disciples.

4. Discipleship is the process of helping others follow Jesus.

5. Discipleship is a life-long journey not a six-week class.

6. Discipleship happens best in community (small groups).

7. Men disciple men; women disciple women.

8. Evangelism and discipleship should not be separated.

9. Discipleship is relationship.

10. Jesus wants all nations to be discipled.

Making disciples is the job of every Christian every day.

Cultivating a relational discipleship culture, creating discipleship systems, and over-communicating discipleship principles was the core of my job description for over two decades as the pastor of Victory Manila. And I recommend that all of the above should be in every pastor’s job description.

Discipleship is not supposed to be complicated or confusing. In fact, it is so simple that a fisherman explained it to uneducated fishermen in two words: “Follow me.”

Are you following Him? Are you helping others follow Him? In other words, are you a disciple and are you making disciples?

 

My top 5 recommended books on discipleship:

Making Disciples by Ralph Moore

The Master Plan of Discipleship by Coleman

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoffer

The Lego Principle by Joey Bonifacio

WikiChurch by Steve Murrell

 

How You Can Help Typhoon Victims in the Philippines

TOKYO AIRPORT. It has been five days since the strongest storm to hit land in recorded history wreaked havoc in the central Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Typhoon Yolanda, produced wind speeds up to 315 km (195 mph) and storm surges (tsunami-like waves) up to 17 feet high.

Damage estimates change by the hour, but the latest say over 11 million people were affected by the storm, and as many as 10,000 are dead. Around 500,000 are now homeless. Ninety-five percent of the homes and buildings in Tacloban were destroyed or damaged.

I am now sitting in the Tokyo airport on my way to Nashville, but my heart is still in the Philippines where our Every Nation and Victory staff and volunteers are working around the clock receiving, processing, and delivering relief goods. So far, we have received, packaged, and sent 10 tons of relief goods from Victory centers in Metro Manila.

THANK YOU to all who have given, volunteered, and prayed. Much more is needed. Many friends from all over the world have asked how they can help. Here’s some info:

Info about how to give, volunteer, or donate relief goods is available on the Victory Philippines website.

Financial contributions can also be given through Every Nation North America.

Trustworthy organizations we work with in the Philippines include: Operation Blessing Philippines, Samaritan’s Purse and Habitat for Humanity Philippines.

If you live in the Philippines and want to help, we are still receiving and processing relief goods at Victory centers nationwide. Click here to find the Victory center nearest you. If you live anywhere else in the world, the best way you can help is to pray and give money. One hundred per cent of the money will be used in our relief and rebuilding operations.

I heard yesterday that over sixty Victory church members in our Roxas City church have lost everything – homes, clothes, vehicles, computers,…  I am certain many of our Victory members in Tacloban also lost everything, but I have not seen the list of names yet. Anything you send would be a huge help for these families.

Gotta board my plane now. Please continue to pray, volunteer, and give. Thanks.

CNN: “Worse than Hell in Philippines”

MANILA, PHILIPPINES.  I’m sitting in my Manila office, teary-eyed, heavyhearted, and feeling powerless. Downstairs Pastor Paolo, and our Every Nation Philippines staff are collecting and sorting relief goods to be delivered to victims. We are doing all we can, but it is not nearly enough. And it is a frustratingly slow process.

Most of the world is now aware that the Philippines was once again pounded by a super-typhoon. The CNN headline this morning read:  “Worse than Hell in Philippines.” Some news sources have reported that this one was the strongest storm to hit ground in recorded history. It was 3.5 times stronger than Katrina. The storm pummeled 36 Philippine provinces, left 340,000 homeless, and affected more than 4.3million Filipinos.

No one really knows the death toll at this time. The International Red Cross is estimating that as many as 10,000 people may have died during the storm. My friend, Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez was quoted in the CNN article: “I have not spoken to anyone who has not lost someone, a relative close to them. We are looking for as many as we can.”

Here are some of the descriptions of the devastation from various CNN articles:

- The stories coming out of the Philippines are unimaginable. Rushing water and wind tearing children away from their parents’ arms. Tacloban, a city of 200,000 in which no buildings appear to have survived intact.

- Super Typhoon Haiyan roared into the central islands of the Philippines last week, wiping out entire neighborhoods, ripping children off their parents’ arms and leaving a trail of devastation.

- An estimated 1,000 bodies were seen floating in Tacloban as reported by Red Cross teams.

- Entire houses leveled. Bodies scattered on streets. In the aftermath of Haiyan, Filipinos are grappling with unimaginable devastation.

The Victory  and Every Nation Churches websites have info for those who want to help.

Spiritual Warfare, Between the Ears

TAIPEI, TAIWAN. I am sitting in the Taipei airport waiting for my flight back to Manila after a quick weekend visiting Every Nation Taipei and 101 Church. As is often the case when visiting nations in Asia, a visit to Taiwan gives one a heightened sense of the reality of spiritual forces, even for the not-so-spiritual like me.

The idea of spiritual warfare can be fascinating, scary, biblical, bizarre, supernatural, spooky, and practical all at the same time. The Apostle Paul often used war and weaponry imagery to communicate spiritual truth. Here’s a classic Pauline spiritual warfare passage.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NIV
[3] For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. [4] The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. [5] We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

While modern spiritual warriors tend to be obsessed with mystical unseen demonic beings in heavenly realms, the primary battlefield of Paul’s spiritual war seemed to be located between the ears – in the mind. Notice the words Paul used to describe the spiritual battle.

We demolish ARGUMENTS and every PRETENSION that sets itself up against the KNOWLEDGE of God, and we take captive every THOUGHT to make it obedient to Christ.

Arguments, pretensions, knowledge, and thoughts all happen between the ears, not in a mystical heavenly realm.

I am not saying that demons, fallen angels, principalities, and other strange spiritual entities mentioned in Scripture are not real. They are very real.

What I am saying is that the primary spiritual battle we need to fight every minute of every day is in our minds. And if we win the battle for the mind, then the demons, fallen angels, principalities, and other scary beings will have little chance to torment us.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2) In other words, READ YOUR BIBLE every day.

5 Leadership Lessons from Young Chinese Pastors

JAKARTA, INDONESIA. Four days ago I was hanging out with Every Nation pastors from China, Taiwan, and Malaysia. I’m supposed to be mentoring these men, but when I am with them, I think I learn more than I teach.

During lunch, a young Chinese pastor (in photo using EN high tech security mask) talked about the “Five Togethers” that serve as guidelines for pastors in our nine Every Nation China churches. We joked that since the official Chinese government sanctioned church is called the “Three Self Church” then the Every Nation Churches should be called the “Five Together” churches.

Here are the Five Togethers that have helped our churches in China grow strong and healthy. This list is not something the pastors printed on banners, rather they are commitments that guide their daily lives. I think the Five Togethers could upgrade any leadership team anywhere in the world.

1. STAY TOGETHER. Don’t quit or separate because of offense. Forgive, repent, and work it out. No matter what, stay together.

2. GROW TOGETHER. Stay as we are is not an option. We must grow in knowledge, character, and competency. The best growth happens together not alone.

3. DREAM TOGETHER. Every time I get around these Asian leaders my faith is stretched and my vision is expanded. Left to myself, I think and dream small. As a leader, I need peers to help me dream bigger.

4. WORK TOGETHER. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) In other words, two get more done than one. This is not rocket science. You want to accomplish more? Work together, not alone.

5. LEAD TOGETHER. The best leadership is done in concert as a team, not as a soloist. Insecure and ignorant leaders lead alone. Secure and wise leaders build leadership teams.

Are you leading alone, or are you building a strong leadership team?

© 2012 Steve Murrell

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