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Before You Attempt to Do Ministry…

July 10, 2017

Preparation

NASHVILLE—Last week, I had the honor of speaking to a group of Every Nation North America Life Year missionaries who are being sent to Ukraine, Scotland, Spain, and New Zealand. Here’s what I told them to do in order to be successful and faithful missionaries.

1. LEARN. Teaching is part of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), but we must learn before we teach. Don’t be that guy with all the answers, especially if you are in a foreign country or an unfamiliar culture. Be a learner first. If we want to learn, we must first study. Successful cross-cultural missionaries study the culture, context, and communications styles of their new world. Then they teach.

2. LEAD. But, what is leadership and and what is the best way to lead in my new context? Too many missionaries (and pastors, church planters, and volunteer ministry leaders) think that serving is a stepping stone to a leadership—that we are supposed to serve so that one day we can lead. That’s exactly the opposite of what Jesus taught. When James and John asked to sit on the right and left of Jesus, they were asking for leadership position and authority. Jesus said they were thinking about leadership like Gentiles (aka people far from God). He then described his view of leadership with two words that James and John would never use to describe leadership: servant and slave. Many are wrongly taught that service is the biblical pathway to leadership. Jesus taught the exact opposite. He taught that leadership is a platform for serving (Mark 10:35-45).  The best missionaries think and act like servants.

3. LOVE. It is common for good people to gradually get to the point where they love the fruit, adventure, and rewards of ministry more than they love God. It never starts that way, but it happens. Some find their way back to their first love, others spend their lives working for God or running from God. Peter denied Jesus three times, then went back to fishing for fish rather than fishing for men. Jesus restored Peter. But notice that Peter’s relationship with Jesus was restored before his ministry was restored. Jesus asked Peter relational questions, then restored his ministry. “Do you love me?… Do you love me?… Do you love me?” Three denials and three chances to express his love. If Peter had denied four times, I think Jesus would have given him four chances to affirm his love. Once the relationship was restored, only then did Jesus recommission Peter to ministry. “Feed my lambs… Tend my sheep… Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-19). All ministry should flow out of relationship. Here’s the order: love Jesus, do ministry.

I can’t wait to hear from these missionaries once they are on the field. I know God will do great things for them, in them, and through them. Probably in that order.

Blog / Discipleship / Missions

How to Pray in a Time of Global Terror

June 14, 2017

Terrorism

MANILA—Since I landed in the Philippines last week, the nation has been gripped with the ongoing crisis in the southern island of Mindanao. Islamic militants have taken the city of Marawi and declared allegiance to ISIS. Hundreds have been killed and thousands displaced since the violence began on May 23.

Over the last few weeks, terror attacks have seemed ubiquitous around the world.

The day before Marawi, the Manchester bombing took the lives of twenty-three young people attending a concert. Last week, the London Bridge attack took the lives of eight people and injured another forty-eight when terrorists drove a van into a crowded area and began stabbing random people.

Though less publicized, the Middle East has seen the worst terror attacks of all over the last few weeks, with suicide bombings in Kabul (May 3), Tehran (June 7), and Karbala (June 9), each claiming the lives of dozens of civilians and injuring hundreds more.

How should we as Christians respond to such tragic events, to such evil? How should we pray in a time of global terror?

I have begun praying Psalm 83.

O God, do not keep silence;
do not hold your peace or be still, O God!
For behold, your enemies make an uproar;
those who hate you have raised their heads.
They lay crafty plans against your people;
they consult together against your treasured ones.

These are the first few verses of one of a handful of imprecatory psalms in the Bible—psalms that lament human evil and suffering and ask God to judge the wicked. If, like me, much of your Christian life has been one of relative comfort and safety, imprecatory psalms can be very weird to read, much less pray.

But for Christians who have lived in a war-torn region or who face real persecution, then imprecatory psalms speak directly to their experience in a way that nothing else can. I used to assume that imprecatory psalms were exclusively useful for those in extreme, life-threatening situations. But now, I’m beginning to realize that they are useful for all Christians who are confronted (even secondhand) with the depths of human evil and suffering.

Why? Because imprecatory psalms give us a healthy way to voice our anger, fear, terror, and sense of helplessness in the face of human evil. They give us a way to talk to God—to appeal to His justice, His sovereignty, His mercy—when we have no words of our own. They teach us how to think—and more importantly how to feel—about something like a suicide bombing in Manchester or children being shot by snipers in Marawi.

With the psalmists we can pray of terror groups, like ISIS or Abu Sayyaf, like Psalm 83 shows here:

O my God, make them like the whirling dust,
like chaff before the wind.
As fire consumes the forest,
as the flame sets the mountains ablaze,
so may you pursue them with your tempest
and terrify them with your hurricane!

Yes, it’s biblical to pray that God would bring His terror to the very people who are inflicting terror on others. And it is biblical to pray that God would bring righteous judgement on a group like ISIS.

But as you begin to pray these kinds of prayers, don’t forget that we should hate evil but love sinners. We should hate ISIS and the demonic principalities and powers that animate such wickedness, but we should forgive terrorists and pray that God reveals himself to them.

Even Psalm 83, with all its righteous anger, ends with a redemptive tone:

Fill their faces with shame,
that they may seek your name, O Lord.
Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever;
let them perish in disgrace
that they may know that you alone,
whose name is the Lord,
are the Most High over all the earth.

But does this really happen? Can God’s justice (and eventual mercy) toward the wicked result in some turning to Him?

The short answer is yes. Think about the apostle Paul, who persecuted the church, then had a radical encounter with God on the road to Damascus. Think about the people in our Every Nation family in the Muslim world who were members of al-Qaeda before they met Jesus. Think about own your life before conversion, which was no less worthy of God’s judgment than that of a terrorist.

In his short time on earth, Jesus prayed both imprecatory psalms and prayers of forgiveness towards His enemies. And so should we.

Church / Discipleship / Missions

Racial Hypocrisy, Lunch, and the Gospel

May 16, 2017
Depiction of Paul writing his letters.

Depiction of Paul writing his letters.

NASHVILLE—This blog is the final installment of an impromptu series on ethnic diversity and racial reconciliation in the Church. The first blog was inspired by a trip to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa; the second blog was inspired by a Sunday worship service at Bethel in Nashville; and this final blog is inspired by an argument between Paul and Peter in first-century Antioch. That apostolic argument led to a very public apostolic rebuke.

The Story
We read about this confrontation and rebuke in Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia, a city in modern-day Turkey. But first, a little background to help us understand why the rebuke was necessary.

In the first chapter of Galatians, Paul pleads with the church to hold on to the gospel. Before describing the real gospel, he mentions four false versions of the gospel that had infiltrated the church: a different gospel (verse 6), a distorted gospel (verses  7), a contrary gospel (verses 8, 9), and man’s gospel (verse 11). Unfortunately all four of these “gospels” are still being preached in the church today.

After exposing these four false gospels, Paul turned his attention to the true gospel and its implications on race relations in the church.

Despite the teaching of some legalistic Jewish believers, Paul wanted to make it clear that Gentile believers did not have to become Jews (i.e. be circumcised and follow Jewish dietary laws) in order to follow Jesus. In short, Gentiles and Jews are saved by grace alone, not by following religious traditions.

After a long discussion about the gospel and its implications for Gentile believers, Paul recounts his confrontation with Peter:

But when Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy (Galatians 2:11-13).

Paul’s Response
Here’s my summary of the situation. When Peter visited the church in Antioch—the first church in the New Testament that had a significant number of non-Jews—he hung out with Gentiles and even ate with them, something a good Jew would never do. But when Peter’s Jewish friends from Jerusalem came to visit, he suddenly stopped eating with the Gentile believers and reverted to the old mode of segregation.

Paul was deeply troubled by this behavior, twice calling it hypocrisy (Galatians 2:13).

First, Paul did not remain silent. And he did not talk about Peter behind his back. He “opposed him to his face” (Galatians 2:11). Much more could be said here, but the fact is, there are some issues that demand confrontation. This is one of them.

Second, Paul treated racial reconciliation as a gospel issue. “But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas…” (Galatians 2:14). Paul did not treat the ethnic and cultural divisions in the church at Antioch as a minor issue. He did not treat it as a side issue. He did not treat is as a political, cultural, social, or economic issue, even though he could have. He treated it as a gospel issue. And gospel issues are always big issues.

Even though there was a history of political, cultural, social, and economic alienation that fed into and reinforced ethnic divisions between Jews and Gentiles, Paul chose to go straight to the heart of the issue—the gospel.

The Point
For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26).
For Paul, it was simple. Though there was a long history of division between Jews and Gentiles, the gospel had changed everything. In Christ, we have all been adopted into the family of God—and family members eat together.

Blog / Missions

Why Every Nation Music?

February 15, 2017
Doxology

Worship leaders from Every Nation churches around the world participate in Every Nation Music’s live recording, “Doxology.”

SINGAPORE —As the president and cofounder of a global movement of churches, I think a lot about the future of our young movement.

Where will we be one hundred years from now? Will we stay faithful to the mission of establishing Christ-centered, Spirit-empowered, and socially responsible churches and campus ministries in every nation? Will the churches and campus ministries we are planting in 2017 still be around (and thriving) in 2117?

I am hopeful, but I am also aware that many movements and denominations that started well did not end well.

So how do we keep our focus, not only in our lifetime, but across multiple generations?

There are many helpful strategies—investing in theological education, building a healthy organizational structure, equipping and empowering emerging leaders, etc. But I want to focus on one strategy that is often overlooked: Writing songs that remind us of who God is, who we are, and what we are called to do.

Songs have the remarkable capability to speak across generations and centuries. Think about the hymn “Amazing Grace.” It was written by John Newton in 1779, and over two hundred years later, God is still using that song to communicate to people all over the world about the amazing depths of God’s grace. Songs like “Amazing Grace” put the core truths of Scripture into a form that is easy to remember and easy to pass on the next generation. Songs like these serve as both a check on theological drifts and fads and a reminder of historic Christian doctrines.

About one hundred years after Newton wrote “Amazing Grace,” many Christian denominations in America began questioning the doctrine of original sin and humanity’s need to be saved from God’s wrath. I wonder how many pastors during that time were reminded (and convicted) of the orthodox doctrine of salvation when singing these words:

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

In a similar way, my hope is that the music we produce in Every Nation Music will serve as a reminder to future generations of who God is and what He has called us to do.

My prayer is that if Every Nation churches in 2117 begin to lose their focus on the world and become churches that exist for themselves (rather than for mission), then this song would bring conviction and remind those singing it who we are called to be and what we are called to do:

Fill us up, pour us out
For a broken world that is far from you
Fill us up, pour us out
To be your hands and feet, O Lord.

Holy Spirit draw me near
Holy Spirit we are here
To seek your face and know your ways.

With your power, your presence,
We will go to the ends of the earth.
With your power, your presence,
They will know you’re the light of the world.

Blog / Missions

Pro-Life & Pro-Refugee

January 31, 2017
March for Life 2017

Members of the pro-life movement attend the 2017 March for Life in Washington D.C.

HONOLULU, HAWAII—Today, I was planning on starting a multi-week blog series on leadership, but an interesting week in American and global politics changed my mind.

As most of you know, last week was President Trump’s first week in office as President of the United States. Some people praised Trump’s flurry of activity as he signed numerous executive orders, setting into motion many of his major campaign promises. Others criticized (and even demonized) the new president as he began do to many of the things they feared he would do.

My emotions were mixed on Trump’s first week.

Support for the Pro-Life Movement

On Monday, January 23, I was pleasantly surprised that one of his very first executive orders was the reinstatement of a pro-life policy, originally put in place by President Reagan, that bars US funding from global health NGOs that offer abortion services. Whether these actions came from sincere pro-life convictions or were a nod to his evangelical voters is unclear. But either way, I am hopeful that more policies like this will be signed into law under a Trump administration.

On Friday, January 27, we received more hopeful news from the White House. President Trump tweeted his support for the March for Life, a nod to thousands of pro-life advocates marching in Washington D.C. to advocate for the lives of the unborn.

The Immigration Ban

However, on the same day that Trump tweeted his support for the March for Life, he also signed an executive order on immigration that indefinitely banned Syrian refugees from coming to the United States and put a 120-day suspension on all refugee resettlement. In addition, the executive order put a 90-day suspension for any citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the United States.

Serving The Least of These

While I understand that most of immigration and travel bans are temporary, and while I appreciate the need for governments to properly vet incoming immigrants and refugees, I am deeply troubled by the unwillingness of many American voters (and politicians) to welcome refugees into their states and cities. Welcoming strangers and foreigners is always awkward and always risky. But this kind of hospitality is exactly what gives people on earth a glimpse of what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.

In the coming years, if certain American or European governments decide that welcoming refugees is too big of a risk, I hope that Christians break from a nationalistic sentiment and advocate for the lives of refugees with the same passion they advocate for the lives of the unborn.

As Christians, our stance on the rights of the unborn and the cause of the refugee should not be shaped primarily by political or national priorities but rather on biblical and theological priorities.

Remember, when God calls us (the church) to serve the “least of these”—those who are forgotten, vulnerable, or who are victims of great injustice and oppression—it applies just as much to the Syrian refugee as it does to an unborn American baby.

Both are made in the image of God, and both need our help right now.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…”
(Matthew 25:34-35, ESV)

For more reading on the refugee situation, check out these blogs by Pastor Adam Mabry and by Ana Laffoon.

 

Blog / Leadership / Missions

Top 10 Books for Church Planters

October 26, 2016

Book Covers

MANILA, PHILIPPINES. I recently received an email from a pastor and friend of mine who asked me to recommend some books on church-planting. Here’s the list I sent him, in no particular order.

1. Starting a New Church by Ralph Moore (2002). Church-planting wisdom from one of the most prolific church planters of my generation.

2. Breaking the Missional Code by Ed Stetzer & David Putnam (2006). Thoughts on how to apply the missionary mind-set to church planting.

3. The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman (1963). The classic work on making disciples.

4. WikiChurch by Steve Murrell (2011). The story of Victory Manila and the case for the four E’s of discipleship.

5. The Lego Principle by Joey Bonifacio (2012). A book on the importance of connecting to God and connecting to others.

6. Simple Church by Thom Rainer & Eric Geiger (2006). The best practical how-to book on doing church.

7. Natural Church Development by Christian Schwarz (1996). A helpful check-list of “eight essential qualities of healthy churches.”

8. The Trellis and the Vine by A.S. Payne & Colin Marshall (2009). A biblical way of thinking about structure and systems.

9. The Multiplication Challenge by Steve Murrell (2016). A strategy to solve your leadership shortage.

10. Movements that Change the World by Steve Anderson (2011). A book that will remind church planters to focus on the big picture.

Whether you’re a young pastor planting your first church or you’re an experienced church planter who has planted many churches, I can’t stress enough the importance of reading. You will never outgrow the need to learn more; and you will probably never make it through all the good books on the topic of church planting.

If you invest the time (and money) into books like these, you will see an exponential return in your life and in the life of your church.

Blog / Discipleship / Missions

Why GO?

October 5, 2016

logo-graphic-2-01-2016-1

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA. Yesterday was the official start of our Every Nation GO Conference in Cape Town, South Africa. Over the next few days, thousands of people will be gathering from all over the Every Nation world to worship God, to connect with friends, and to remind ourselves of our mission: to make disciples of all nations.

You may be asking yourself — can’t I do all of those things from the comfort of my own home? Why take the time and money to travel half-way across the world for a conference?

Obviously, there are plenty of legitimate reason why people can’t come. But here are three reasons why conferences like these are important (which occur every three years):

1. WORSHIP: Though it’s true that you can worship God in your own local church (or anywhere for that matter), there is something powerful about worshipping God with people who don’t look like you, don’t think like you, and don’t speak (and sing) in the same language as you do. If you’ve ever been to a GO conference, you know that we make it a priority for our worship to give you a taste of the diversity of heaven — where God is being worshipped by every tribe, tongue, and nation.

2. FAMILY: Though you can (and should) experience Christian community in your local church setting, there is something eye-opening about connecting with our church family from around the world. Whether it’s hearing a testimony from a believer facing persecution in the Middle East or simply grabbing lunch with a local church member from the host country (in this case South Africa), you’ll be amazed to see that despite our many cultural differences, we share a bond of unity that transcends national, cultural, and linguistic differences.

3. MISSION: Though you can remind yourself of God’s mission wherever you are, throughout the Old and New Testaments, there is a distinct pattern of God calling His people to gather together to receive instructions and strategies from Him about the mission. Whether it was Moses and the Israelites meeting with God at Mount Sinai or Jesus and the disciples meeting at the Mount of Olives, God often chooses to impart mission and vision to his people when they are gathered together.

I can’t wait to see what God does in and through us in the next few days as we come into His presence and are equipped and empowered to go out into the world to make disciples.

Blog / Discipleship / Missions

Multi-ethnic Ministry and Ministry Flexibility

August 16, 2016

hands Brown Smaller ResMANILA, PHILIPPINES. Last week, following a sermon I had recently preached on Luke 24:46-49, I asked the question: What does Spirit-empowered, multi-ethnic ministry look like in practice?

Looking at Peter’s first attempt at cross-cultural, multi-ethnic ministry (in Acts 10), we discovered that in order for Peter and the early apostles to reach every nation, they had to be willing to set aside their Jewish cultural (and culinary) preferences and eat every food. Peter’s willingness to accept Cornelius’ hospitality (and eat his non-Kosher food) was a crucial first step, but it was just the first step.

Peter didn’t stop there. He went on to preach the Gospel to Cornelius and his household. And that’s when things got really interesting…

Remember, Peter was preaching the Gospel to non-Jews for the first time. He had never seen a Gentile become a follower of Jesus, and he assumed that anyone who responded to the Gospel would probably need to convert to Judaism (and be circumcised) before they could follow the Jewish Messiah. In Peter’s mind, the discipleship process looked like this: repentance, circumcision, baptism in water, and eventually, baptism in the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit, it turns out, had other plans.

All those who heard Peter’s message were baptized in the Holy Spirit and immediately began speaking in tongues—before he even finished his sermon (see Acts 10:44-48)! The Jewish disciples who had traveled with Peter were shocked at what they saw. Not only had these brand new Gentile believers skipped the “crucial” step of circumcision, they had not even been baptized in water before they were baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Peter was also shocked. But he decided to abandon his own ministry expectations and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, saying, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10:47)

In short, if Spirit-empowered, multi-ethnic ministry requires us to be adventurous in our eating, it also requires us to be flexible in our ministry expectations.

Imagine if Peter had been unwilling to adjust his ministry expectations and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Imagine if he had silenced the new believers from speaking in tongues. Imagine if he had made everyone (well, all the males) be circumcised first, then baptized in water a few weeks later, and then baptized in the Holy Spirit only after they completed the process.

How would this story of cross-cultural, multi-ethnic ministry have played out differently if Peter had rigidly held to his own ministry expectations?

Perhaps it’s easy for us (Gentile) believers in the 21st century to see that Peter made the right decision when ministering to Cornelius and his family. But at the time, what Peter was doing was highly controversial and shocking to many Jewish believers.

Spirit-led, multi-ethnic ministry often requires that we be flexible with our ministry expectations in order to reach people who are very different from us.

Here are a few modern examples of this from around the Every Nation world:

Example 1: Friday worship services in the Middle East

  • Though most Christians throughout church history have gathered to worship on Sundays, most of our churches in the Middle East hold their weekly worship services on Friday. Why? Because Friday is the day of the week when most people in majority Muslim countries have off work. If our missionaries were rigid about worshipping on Sunday, then few people would be able to come since most people work and/or attend school on Sunday.

Example 2: Discipleship groups in the pub in Western Europe

  • Though many American evangelicals and Pentecostals choose to abstain from drinking alcohol (this includes me), our missionaries to Western Europe have found that one of the best settings to make disciples is in the pub. Why? Because pubs have a different function in European society than they do in American society. In the eyes of Western Europeans, pubs are less a space of drunkenness and partying than they are a space of conversation and community—kind of like a coffee shop. That’s why many of our Every Nation missionaries find pubs to be a perfect place for small group discipleship.

Example 3: One2One discipleship in Japan

  • Though the One2One discipleship material has been an effective tool for teaching new believers (and even pre-believers) the basics of the faith, our missionaries in Japan found that the material—originally intended for a Catholic Filipino audience—assumed too much background knowledge about the Bible and the life of Jesus. Our leaders decided that to make the tool more effective in their context, they needed to rewrite the One2One book with a Shinto/Buddhist/secularist Japanese audience in mind. Among other things, this involved adding a “Chapter 0” to lay the groundwork for Chapter 1 on Salvation.

These are just a few of many examples of how our cross-cultural missionaries have needed to be flexible with their ministry expectations in order to do effective Spirit-led, multi-ethnic ministry in every nation.

Remember, the truth of the Gospel does not change, but how we communicate and embody that message should change depending on our ministry context.

So let’s learn from Peter and remember to be flexible and, most importantly, to be led by the Holy Spirit as we go and make disciples of all nations.

 

Blog / Missions

Every Nation, Every Food

August 10, 2016

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NASHVILLE, TENNESSE. Last Sunday, I preached a sermon at Bethel World Outreach Church (in Brentwood, TN) that looked at Jesus’ answer to our current ethnic and cultural divides.

It’s the same answer whether you’re in 21st-century America or 1st-century Palestine.

Here’s the SparkNotes summary of the sermon (based on Luke 24:46-49):

  • The Gospel is a message that we can’t keep for ourselves and for our own ethnic group; it’s a message that must be preached to “all nations”—the Greek word for “nations” being ethnos (Luke 24:46).
  • This task of cross-cultural, multi-ethnic ministry is not for someone else. As Jesus said to his original disciples (and, in effect, to us), “You are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:48).
  • The only way we will succeed in this difficult task is if we are “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49)—a promise that was fulfilled a few weeks later at Pentecost.

So here’s the question:

What does Spirit-empowered, multi-ethnic ministry look like in practice?

In Luke 24, Jesus gives his disciples the mission to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, but it’s only in Acts when we see how they do it.

So how did twelve Jewish disciples of a Jewish rabbi take the message to non-Jews? What practical problems did they have to overcome in order to engage in cross-cultural, multi-ethnic ministry?

Believe it or not, one of the disciples’ biggest obstacles to reaching every nation (ethnos) was their initial unwillingness to eat every food.

Jewish law had strict dietary codes (no pork, no shrimp, etc.), and as a result, most Jews (including Jesus’ disciples) had never eaten in the home of a non-Jew. Though the disciples didn’t realize it at the time, this profound cultural barrier between Jews and Gentiles would make reaching every nation difficult—if not impossible.

Everything changed in Acts 10 when Peter had a dream.

In Peter’s dream, he saw a large sheet filled with “unclean” food—stuff Jews were not allowed to eat. God told him to take and eat, but Peter—like any good Jew—refused, saying, “Surely not, Lord! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” Then God responded by saying, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (Luke 10:14-15, NIV)

The meaning of Peter’s dream became clear when men sent from a Roman soldier, named Cornelius, came to Peter’s house and requested that Peter come with them to speak to Cornelius and his family.

Peter knew that accepting this invitation to engage in cross-cultural, multi-ethnic ministry would mean two things. First, he would be staying in the home of a Gentile (probably for the first time ever). Second, he would be served food that was “unclean” according to Jewish dietary laws.

Going against his cultural and ethnic instincts and preferences, Peter decided to go to Cornelius’ home and preach to his family. Long story short, the entire household received the Gospel and they were all baptized in water and Holy Spirit. The book of Acts does not give us any detail about Peter’s first meal in a Gentile’s home, but I have no doubt that it was an uncomfortable, awkward, and maybe even troubling experience for Peter.

But if he had not chosen to set aside his own cultural preferences, if he had rejected Cornelius’ hospitality, and if he had held to his lifelong commitment to eating Kosher, Peter would have never reached Cornelius and his family.

What does this mean for us?

It means that doing cross-cultural, multi-ethnic ministry requires that we set aside our own cultural preferences. It requires that we accept the hospitality of those who are different from us. It requires us to open our hearts and our stomachs to other nations and cultures.

If we really want to reach every nation, we must we willing to eat every food.

Blog / Leadership / Missions

Asia Leaders Summit: Asians Reaching Asia

August 18, 2015

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA. I was surprised and honored to be invited to speak at the 2015 Asia Pastors Summit. Unfortunately, I was given the dreaded post-lunch 1:30 PM slot. For afternoon speakers, the standard for success is pretty low. I figure that if at least half of the conference people actually attend to the post-lunch afternoon session, it is a success, whether they pay attention or fall asleep. My talk ended four hours ago, and I am calling it a success.

The Asia Leaders Summit is an invitation-only conference for Asian mega-church pastors. The motto is “Asians Reaching Asia.” Apparently no one on the organizing committee googled my photo to discover that I’m an American reaching Asia. So, I am the only white dude in the room. And I feel at home.

The other people in the room are the pastors of some of the largest churches in the world. And, oddly enough, some of these pastors are the most humble leaders I have ever met. Could it be that  humility and church growth are somehow connected?

I have been particularly impressed with the humility of the organizer of the summit, Dr Younghoon Lee, who is also the senior pastor of the largest church in the world, Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul. He and his team humbly and graciously serve in a way that honors God.

I end this blog with a few random quotes from today’s seven sessions.

“We need missions with humility, not missions with imperialism.”

“We need to replace racism with grace-ism.”

“We should be grace-ists not racists.”

“So many are called to the UK, USA, and Australia. Why does no one feel called to Pakistan and Afghanistan?”

“We have too many churches that are led by CEOs. We need more senior pastors who know how to defeat and behead Goliath.”

“A well-managed church is not the same as a well-led church.”