Having just returned a couple of days ago from a 16 day trip to S.E. Asia, this blog entry is more of a brain dump than a typical prayer update. God blessed me with the opportunity to meet both missionaries and national believers, preach at a local congregation, meet with two different house churches, get my hands dirty (literally) serving with a community development organization, spend some quality time with my youngest brother and his wife, and learn a lot from those who do amazing work in the arenas of community development and church planting. Due to security issues, I have to be purposely vague concerning specifics about where I went and who I met.
Here are a few personal reminders and lessons learned from my trip:
- Every time I spend significant time in another country, I return with a renewed thankfulness that I live in America. I recognize our nation, people, and government are far from perfect, but we do have a constitution guaranteeing us the freedom of religion and the right of free speech. It’s easy for me to take our freedoms and rights for granted until I see what it looks like to live without them
- I met people who have made some big sacrifices to take the good news of Jesus to unreached people groups. Many of us will never hear their names or the stories of how the gospel is spreading where they are working- these people care very little about personal glory or recognition. They do what they do simply because they love Jesus and care about people knowing Him. Living in a nation where we quickly turn Christian leaders into Christian celebrities, it was humbling to realize that we will probably not know who the true spiritual giants of our generation are until we get to heaven.
- In the West and specifically in America we tend to over complicate this thing called church. It’s so easy to forget that the early church in Acts was led by a group of unschooled ordinary guys who’s only qualification was having spent time with Jesus. If the way we do church only allows those with advanced theological education or complex strategic thinking to take ownership, then we’ve probably created an unnecessary barrier for many scripturally qualified people. The churches I saw being started were scriptural, simple, and reproducible- growing and multiplying in areas that are often referred to as “closed” to Christianity.
- I was reminded that in unreached unchurched areas, community development and church planting can and should go hand in hand. This is not a fast way to approach church planting- it requires great prayer, perseverance, persistence, and sacrificial, no string attached service. The results are undeniable- whole communities become “softened” to the gospel, people open up their hearts and homes, and you eventually see lasting fruit. There is something about sacrificially serving others that makes it easier for people to comprehend the good news of Jesus.
- From day 1 our new church in Burlington needs to “adopt” an unreached people group- meaning we need to support work with a specific people group through prayer, finances, and even sending people. This is not something we need to build up to. Our people will benefit with a bigger vision of God, a deeper understanding of the gospel, and the excitement of being a part of God’s activity in fulfilling the Great Commission at the ends of the earth.
I know as I continue to process my time in S.E. Asia that God will show me more. I can already see subtle yet significant changes in how I’m approaching church planting in Burlington.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and for your continued prayers.