Times are tough for many people today. Economies are bad all over the world, especially for many of our brothers and sisters serving God in countries hostile to the gospel. This is why we try to provide as many free or low cost resources as we can. This month alone, we have given away 725 copies of A Heart Hungry to Worship both in print and electronic form. We mean it when we say we are not in it for the money. All of us here at Ta Ethne volunteer and all profits are redistributed to national leaders in churches across the globe. Each month we will continue to provide free resources, as well as posting new podcasts and bible study materials on our site. Let others build up their ministries, we will continue building up the Kingdom of God. Looking forward into March, we have some new ideas to help us do just that. Keep us in your prayers as we seek out new ways to help resource God’s church.
The audiobook version of A Heart Hungry to Worship” is now available. It is out on Amazon now, and should be available on Itunes by the weekend.
This is a great resource, courtesy of BrookHills Church in Birmingham, Alabama. David Platt is the pastor there, and they have developed a re-teaching guide to help their members take a sermon and use it to teach others. This is a 7-day intensive exercise to expand the sermon from one hour a day into a week long discipleship course. The end goal is to allow each person to then re-teach the sermon to someone else. I have used a modified version of this for years with great results. Enjoy!
I wanted to share some numbers this morning that has me thinking. According to Christianity Today, the United States sent 127,000 missionaries to other countries (making us the largest sending nation) while receiving over 32,400 missionaries from other countries (making us the largest receiving country). On February 29th of this year, USA Today reported that during the last ten years (2000-2010) Islam increased 74% and Time reported on March 12th that 16% of the US population consider themselves unattached to any religion.
While many conclusions from these numbers can be drawn, here is my take. America is definitely a post-Christian nation where the churches have failed to even keep up with the population growth. While we have championed going out into the “lost world”, we have lost our own country. Perhaps we should treat the US as a foreign country and adopt the same strategies here to reach our own lost. We also must repent of the arrogance of believing that we have the answers for everyone else when we are losing our own people. Maybe, just maybe, we need to look at other countries where Christianity is growing, not shrinking, and ask them to teach us how to reach our own people. While I am grateful for those 32,400 missionaries coming here to help us, I am ashamed that we are losing so much ground.
Perhaps its time to admit that Christianity in America is cultural and not transformational. Until we repent of that and the churches get busy making disciples, we will continue to see us losing ground. We have the truth, the training, the resources – what I question is if we have the commitment, the desire, the love for Christ that will compel us to reaching the lost for Him.
What about you? When is the last time you were involved in bringing a person to faith in Jesus Christ and discipling them in the faith?
A new resource from Ta Ethne – How to get the most from a Sermon. This 4-part lesson will help you to maximize learning from sermons. Great for a small group resource also. Pastors, help your congregation learn how to effectively listen to your sermons.
So many times I hear people telling me that they are waiting on the Lord, and what they mean by that is, they are sitting still, waiting for some move on God’s part to give them a clear direction. I would argue that the better understanding of waiting on the Lord is that of a waitress or waiter at a fancy restaurant. A good waitress or waiter is very attentive to the customer. They are there, asking is everything is okay, seeking to be there when the customer is ready to order and seeking to be there when they are ready to leave, seeking to be there when the customer has a need.
I would say that we are to wait on the Lord this way. Hovering, anticipating, ready at a moments notice to spring to His side when summoned. Willing to serve, knowing that there are things we are to do that is common to all His children: serving the poor, ministering to others, edifying the body, witnessing to the lost, discipling the brethren. Just as a waiter has jobs that he does for each customer – filling drinks, taking orders, etc. There is never a time when they are not busy working, even if a particular customer hasn’t summoned them yet.
Instead of sitting and doing nothing until we hear a specific call or direction, maybe we should be actively waiting – doing those things already commanded for us to do by our boss, the Lord Jesus.
You see, the two definitions of the word wait that show two completely different ideas. The first is to be in a state of repose or to remain inactive until something expected happens. That is how most Christians define waiting on the Lord. The second is considered archaic, to attend upon or escort, especially as a sign of respect. I would argue that it is this archaic definition that is the more biblical one.
How are you waiting on the Lord?
Vast stretches of farmland roll into the horizon, broken by silos and the occasional herd of mule deer. Welcome to the southern edge of Alberta and Saskatchewan. From Lethbridge to Swift Current, we have been able to meet with people starting churches in cities both large and small. As one travels along the highways, one realizes that there are many smaller towns without an evangelical witness, some without a witness at all, evangelical or otherwise. Southern Canada is far from the Bible belt and a different culture from America altogether. Although very similar in lifestyle to Montana, where we are based at, there are enough differences for one to realize very quickly that approaches to starting churches in Canada must be different than they are in the States.
The believers in Canada are doing a wonderful job – they just are small in number compared to the overall population. There are a large number of immigrants arriving annually, a great number from Asia. These immigrants are seeking a better life filled with opportunity. How wonderful it would be if mature Asian Christians were in place to meet them and introduce them not only to Canadian life, but to Jesus Christ?
Pray to the Lord of the Harvest to raise up workers to go into the fields of Western Canada and establish churches that will reach those coming to seek a new life with a new life in Christ. Pray for us, that as invitations come, we will be faithful to encourage, uplift, and resource the believers there with what they need to continue spreading the good news of the Kingdom of God.
Being a pastor in Montana means many different things to me. Since arriving in 1995, I have served churches in Red Lodge, Columbus and Havre. Being a pastor in Montana means unloading trucks outside at work at 4:30 in the morning in -40°F weather so that the church can still afford to have a pastor. It means reaching out to people who have never heard basic Bible stories such as Noah and the Ark, David and Goliath or the real Christmas story.
Pastoring in Montana means enduring weeks of loneliness, isolated by geography and finances from family, friends and even other pastors. It means driving hours to conferences for the fellowship with friends and the opportunity to sharpen ones skills. It means penetrating reclusive lives and investing time into communities. It means sharing your home with people from all walks of life and all kinds of backgrounds. It means being vulnerable and authentic and living a transformed life in front of a watching world.
Pastoring in Montana means that you start laying the foundation for future works to take place. Very quickly you learn that there is no prestige, no glory, no “bigger” church to aspire to. What there is, is plenty of is hard work, years of discipleship, mentoring, teaching and engaging. There is the joy of seeing a second generation come to know and serve the Lord. There is the joy of seeing families and marriages being put back together. There is the satisfaction of establishing stability and credibility in a community that is constantly watching to see if your Christianity is real. There is the awesome exhilaration that comes from seeing new believers mature and go out in service for the kingdom, taking the gospel to yet another place that needs to hear it.
Being a pastor in Montana is a tale of two extremes. It is a tale of hardships and frustration and of rapture and joy. It will cause you to grow closer to God than you thought possible because there is no one else around for you to turn to. It will drive you to your knees over and over seeking strength, guidance and wisdom. It will also lead you to give God all the credit because only He could possibly penetrate the darkness and hardened hearts of those who do not know Him.
Jeff Iorg, President of Golden Gate Seminary, sums up what I think being a pastor in Montana is all about when he says in his book, The Painful Side of Leadership, “Most leaders easily forget their primary reason for being placed in their leadership role. The primary reason isn’t for you to do things for God. It’s so God can use your leadership setting as a laboratory for shaping the image of Jesus in you.
I pray that the image that is being shaped in me, as I pastor in Montana, is that of Jesus Christ.
 Iorg, Jeff. The Painful Side of Leadership. P12. B&H Publishing Group 2009
Perhaps the most rewarding of all our overseas trips was to the wonderful country of Malaysia. Fantastic hospitality, great food and dedicated disciples made for a successful trip. We went, at the request of churches there, to hold discipleship training events and interactive question and answer sessions on any topic they picked. We met in three different cities (Penang, Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur) over 6 days. Presbyterians, Baptists, Assembly of God, Lutheran, Independents, and others all gathered together and shared with us and each other. Kudos to Canaanland Christian Book Store over there who made sure our teaching materials were in place and who provided us with a guide/translator who became a close friend with each of our teammates. Lifelong friendships, nay, eternal friendships were made as lives were shared with each other.
We learned so much that week – more, I’m sure, than we imparted to them. How inspiring it was to receive VCD’s of churches taking our training and showing us the ministries they came up with based on the training. Many ideas we have shared with churches in the states. I firmly believe that by working together and gaining insights from each other, churches around the globe can strengthen and edify each other. We have things we can teach, we have things we can be taught.
Please, pray for the Malaysian church. Great people ministering in a Muslim country, many facing increased persecution. They are strong in the faith, eager to share their witness, great examples for the worldwide church of God. Visit there, get to know the people, worship in a church with them. We did, and gained so much from it. How joyful it was to find such exuberant Christianity among the believers. God willing, we will be invited back to share with them once again.
Have you ever stopped and thought about the relationship between confession and testimony? In testimonies, people often talk about what God has done for them. This is good and appropriate, but it is not the only form of testimony. Another form of testimony, and one not shared a lot, is what we have done for God’s Kingdom. Part of being accountable to our fellow Christians is to regularly talk about what we have done for the cause of Christ. It is so easy to sit and talk about all the things God has done for us, and not do anything for Him in return.
Confession is our talking (admitting) what we have done wrong. It also is part of our accountability. So we have this coin. On one side is confession – an admittance of what we are doing that is wrong, and repenting of it. On the other side is testimony – an admittance of what we are doing that is right. For a church to grow in maturity, both of these must be regularly practiced by the group.
If we have nothing to share with our brothers and sisters about what we are doing for God, we may have more to confess than we realize. We need to practice testimonies of what we are doing as well as acknowledgment of what God is doing.
I realize that some will think it might come off as bragging, It could, depending on the way a person phrases it, or their attitude. But just because the practice can be abused doesn’t mean we should abandon it. Let God deal with the braggart, but let us not shrink back from boasting in the Lord as to what we do for Him. It just might inspire others to get involved with us and it will keep us accountable so we are not found to be pew-warmers instead of disciples.