Friday, December 24, 2010


This is the third blog of a five part series on the Rising New Breed of Church Planters in North America.  We are looking at some of the characteristics that seem to be common among this elite group.  The third characteristic is BOLDNESS.  As the Apostle Peter and John stood before the Jewish Counsel and were threatened to never again speak, teach, heal or preach in the name of Jesus, the members of the council were amazed by the boldness of these ordinary men despite their lack of special training in the scripture.

"Now when they (council) saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled ...."  Acts 4:13 (NKJ)

These religious leaders were amazed! Why? Because most ordinary and unschooled people, when ordered by the council to not do something would be intimidated. But here, Peter and John stood before them with such confidence and without fear that it was simply inconceivable.  They couldn't understand where such strength and boldness could come from. They did not tremble; their strength was uncompromised. They were at a point in their faith with God where compromise would be unthinkable and no amount of intimidation would change their resolve.

So why were Peter and John so bold?  Why would they not succumb to the intimidation of the Jewish leaders?  This story gives us a couple of clues into this mystery.

"And they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.  But Peter and John answered and said to them, 'Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.  For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."  Acts 4:18-19

Two things contributed to the boldness of these two ordinary and unschooled men!  The first was obedience.  To obey God no matter what the personal cost was more important to them than any earthly punishment.  The fear of disobeying God was more powerful than the fear of disobeying men.  Both Peter and John were very much aware of the reason for their existence.  Jesus, before he ascended into heaven, had given them what we have come to know as the Great Commission.  It was God's will for their lives to be a living and verbal testimony of his death, burial, and resurrection.  They had been commanded by Jesus to preach the Good News and it was foretold that many of them would die a martyrs death.  THEIR BOLDNESS CAME FROM A CONVICTION TO BE FOUND OBEDIENT TO THE ONE AND TRUE LIVING GOD!

The second cause for such boldness came not only from their conviction to be obedient but also from what they had seen and heard.  They had a vision that gripped their soul and consumed their imagination and no amount of intimidation would deter them.  They had seen Jesus heal the sick, make the blind to see, the lame to walk and the deaf to hear.  They had seen him raise a man from the dead who had been dead and buried for four days with only the shout of his voice.  They had witnessed Jesus walk on water, feed 5,000 men plus women and children, and make a fig tree wither instantly.  They had watched Jesus be tried, convicted, crucified, buried, raised from the dead and ascend to heaven in a cloud.  As if that was not enough, they had been taught by Jesus that he would return back to earth with his angels to judge both the living and the dead!  Peter and John did not simply think it was going to happen; they were wholly convinced and believed it would happen.  This vision of all that Christ had done and the vision of his return to judge the world is what gave them the strength to overcome the intimidation of Godless men. 

This kind of boldness did not die with Peter and John!  No, God is raising up a new breed of church planters throughout North America with that same kind of raw boldness.  Like Peter and John, these church planters cannot be intimidated to divert from their God given mission.  Their desire to be found faithful to Christ upon his return is as much a powerful motivator to them as it was to Peter and John.

While many denominational leaders would affirm the necessity of this Biblical boldness in accomplishing the mission that Christ has given us, many of them have never truly seen it in action.  They have glamorized it to the point where it is unrecognizable when being exhibited right in front of them, or it is often times confused with someone merely being obstinate or uncooperative.  The truth of the matter is that many of our dignified church leaders don't know how to control this new breed of church planters, and that scares them!  These church planters are not motivated by money, position, or power.  No, instead they are motivated by being found faithful to the one who has saved them, to the one who has called them and to the one who has given them a clear vision of what He wants them to do.  They are soley motivated by Jesus Christ and Him alone.

I know of a recent church planter who, one week after he had publicly launched a new church, was told by some denominational leaders that he needed to go to a commissioning service 6 hours away.  As a result he would not be able to be at the churches second public service and he would have to get a substitute preacher for that week.  This church planter apologized to the leaders as he told them that he would be unable to attend the commissioning service because he knew it would not be a good thing for the pastor to not be at the second public service.  These denominational leaders informed him that not attending was not an option and that he would have to attend.  After going around and around with these denominational leaders about this matter the church planter finally and respectfully shared with them that they could keep their money for monthly support, HE WOULD NOT LEAVE HIS NEW CHURCH AND WOULD NOT ATTEND!  If it wasn't for the pastor of one of his sponsoring churches and a couple of other people calling the denominational leaders, this church planter would have lost his support.  BUT THE POINT IS THAT THIS CHURCH PLANTER AND OTHERS FROM THE NEW BREED WILL NOT BE INTIMIDATED.  They would rather do without the support than to be found unfaithful to the vision God has entrusted to them.  They will be obedient to God even at the expense of losing support from men.

Many people wrongly characterized these church planter as being arrogant and  stubborn.  The reality is that they are not at all arrogant, they are actually extremely humbled by the God given vision they have received.  The vision they are pursuing is not man made but has come to them by God.  They are not pursuing their own desires but that which God has given them.  They don't have self-pride but God-pride.  Many of these church planters are very sick over their past life and choices, because of God's saving power demonstrated in their lives they are now extremely grateful for the forgiveness and new life they have received.  They are truly some of the most humbled people alive.

They may be stubborn, but only because they are totally unwilling to compromise this God given vision.  Being stubborn is not a bad thing when a person is stubborn for the right things.  These new church planters value faithfulness to the vision and to God above cooperation when it threatens the integrity of what God has called them to do.

Sometimes denominational leaders use worldly manipulations to get church planters to play by their rules.  They threaten them with removing their support, with spreading unflattering evaluations of them or with making sure they will never move up the denominational ladder.  But denominational leaders are discovering a very disturbing reality about this new breed of church planters, THEY DON'T CARE! and are not intimidated by their threats.  THEIR ONLY PRIORITY IS TO BE FOUND FAITHFUL TO GOD!

As the 21st Century continues to unfold more and more of this new breed of church planters will be raised up and I for one thank God for them.  They are a breath of fresh air and have the fire of obedience that the Church of North America desperately needs.  THANK YOU GOD!

This boldness is not tame or even dignified.  It is raw, powerful and uncompromising.  For those who have spent their lives working up the religious ladder it may even be disturbing!  OH THAT MORE OF US GET DISTURBED!

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Great Tool For Church Planters & Those Serious About Spreading The Gospel


Here is a new tool that can help you fulfill the mission of making disciples and reaching those in your community.  IT IS THE MAPPING OF AMERICA EVERY NEIGHBORHOOD EVERY BLOCK.

Find out the number of different ethnic groups living in America neighborhood by neighbordhood and block by block.  You can find it at:

Let's us this tool and go make Disciples of Christ.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Getting The Power To Pursue Christ's Mission: 2nd Update

This is the second update about how God's power came upon us at Valley Baptist Church after a week of intense and intentional prayer.  This is a continuation of the salvation story of Chris and Sylvia Moore.  There's an old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words.  So with that in mind let me introduce to you our new sister in Christ: Sylvia. These are the pictures of her baptism this last Sunday, December 12, 2010

Our participation in Sylvia's salvation along with her husband, father-in-law and sister-in-law is a direct result from our church daring to pray for God's power and for God to show us where he was working.  When the prayers go up the power comes down to be effective witnesses of Christ.  Actually it is God through us being the effective witness.

Come on church and come on Christians let's get serious about being devoted to prayer so we can be the effective witnesses God wants us to be.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


In the first blog of this series, The Rising New Breed of Church Planter, I wanted to make the point that God absolutely delights in using the things this world considers common, foolish or just ordinary to do his greatest work like starting new churches.  God doesn't need superstars, God doesn't need anybody, but He has chosen to work through the foolish things of this world and those this world considers to be ordinary to do amazing things and He does it this way to bring glory and honor to Himself.

In this second blog I want to demolish another major misconception about church planters that the church has allowed to creep into its way of thinking.  From one perspective this misconception can actually sound very reasonable and as such go unchallenged until a bottleneck forms and constricts the flow of the rapid and spontaneous expansion of the church.  This major misconception implies that:

Church planters need to have a formal theological education from a college or seminary before they are unleashed to spread the Kingdom of God through planting new churches.  

You might be wondering why this is a misconception.  Isn't it important to have people who are starting churches know and understand the Bible?  Shouldn't a pastor understand what the Bible says so he can explain it to his flock?  And the answer would be a resounding, "yes"!  But I would submit to you that a follower of Christ does not need a degree from a Bible college or theological seminary as a prerequisite to being a church planter. I come to this conclusion by looking, once again, at Peter and John as they were standing before the Jewish Council being sternly threatened and warned to no longer preach or teach in the name of Jesus.  As they stood there with confidence before this council of religiously trained professionals they declared that they would stay faithful to Christ and continue to preach the gospel.  This council noticed not only that they were ORDINARY MEN, but also noticed another important trait about them.  They noticed that they had no formal instruction in the Bible.  It says,

"The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the scriptures.  They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus."  Acts 4:13

Peter and John were men with no special training in the scriptures.  At least they had no special training from a worldly perspective in scripture.  What did the council mean that they had no special training in scripture?  It meant that Peter and John along with the rest of the other apostles had never attended or graduated from one of their certified rabbinical schools.   The members of the council had spent many years in theological study and training to earn their position of honor in both the synagogue and temple.  They had dedicated their lives working up the religious ladder and gaining the respect from the religious leaders and they felt that these uneducated men should learn from them and not try to instruct them in the purposes of God. Now some of you might be screaming at this point saying,

"But Peter and John along with the rest of the other apostles did have special training in the scripture!  They had spent 3 1/2 years learning from the Son of God, Jesus Himself." 
And you are absolutely right and I want to thank you for making my point.  A person who has spent time learning  from Jesus and being instructed by the Holy Spirit to understand spiritual truth is qualified to teach others the things of God.  There is no need for a person to first graduate from a Bible school or seminary before they are qualified to plant a new church. However,  it is essential that they know the Word of God and have a vibrant, growing and personal relationship with the Lord Jesus.  An ordinary Christian is more than capable of learning the Bible and learning to recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit instructing them in the scripture without the help of a college or seminary.  Please don't misunderstand me!  I am not saying that theological education is not important!  That's not my point at all. I personally have a theological education on both a bachelor's and master's level.  What I am saying is that it should never be a prerequisite for church planting.

There are lots of examples of people whom God used powerfully that did not have a theological education before starting the ministry. Of course the same description given to Peter and John by the council could also be said of all 12 of the apostles.  None of them had the special training in scripture that the council thought was so important.  Philip was another First Century Christian who went to Samaria  and through the power of the Holy Spirit initiated a spiritual awakening that resulted in a church forming.  Both the churches in Damascus and Rome were started by some unknown ordinary and unprofessionally trained person or persons.  Of course there were the professional church planters like the apostles but there were also the ordinary and uneducated church believers who started churches as they moved into new areas as the church was scattered.

Even in our contemporary era we see God using men to start churches who never attended a seminary or Bible college.  One such man was my wife's grandfather, Ernest Barnes.  Ernest came to know Christ later in life.  It was on the night he witnessed the baptism of his eldest son and daughter.  Almost three years later and after spending many hours of discipleship with his pastor Ernest started his first church, The First Baptist Church in Marina, California.  This year of 2010 that church celebrated its 60th anniversary.  A 60 year old church with a fruitful ministry, started by a man who never attended Bible college or seminary is what I call A GOD THING!  Ernest went on to start several other churches throughout California's Central Coast.  Even though Ernest never attended a seminary Ernest did know the Bible.  He studied it, he devoured it and he soaked it into every fiber of his life.  He was qualified to start churches.

The same thing is happening in this rising new breed of church planters all over North America.  These men are getting saved and through the teaching of their churches, pastors and their own personal Bible study time God is calling them out and setting them apart to start some of the most dynamic churches that we have ever seen.  Some of these church planters begin to take Bible classes after their churches have been started  as a way to continue to sharpen their sword while others never take a single class from a college or seminary.  But one thing is for certain all of these new church planters are devouring the Word of God daily.  They love the Bible.  They read it, meditate on it, memorize it, apply it and listen to it daily.  Understand this:  THESE CHURCH PLANTERS ARE NOT BIBLE ILLITERATE.  They know the Word of God and their lives show it. 

If the North American Church is going to be serious about seeing a church planting movement get started, we have to leave this notion that a person must first be a seminary or Bible school graduate and begin to view our existing churches as the new Bible institutes which are preparing God's people to do the work of ministry, including church planting. 

"And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry ..." Eph. 4:11,12a

Every pastor should begin view that one of their major responsibility as a pastor is to raise up, train up and then unleash people from within thier congregations new church planters.  Can you imagine what would happen if only half of the churches and pastors of North America would simply mentor and unleash one new church planter every year and taught them to do the same?  I'll tell you!  We would see a church planting movement of epic porportions and unlike the history of Christianity has ever seen.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Getting The Power To Pursue Christ's Mission: UPDATE

A few blogs ago I shared what was happening as a result of Valley Baptist Church spending an entire week in a focused time of prayer as a church.  We started on a Sunday night with a SOLEMN ASSEMBLY, then Monday - Friday we had three a day prayer meetings (6:00 a.m.; 12 noon; and 6:30 p.m.) on Saturday we held a 24 Hour Prayer Vigil and then Sunday we concluded with a community prayer walk.  THE TIME TOGETHER WAS POWERFUL.  We were praying for God's power and presence to fill our lives as individual but also as a church body.  We were praying for God to show us where he was already at work so we could join him in that activity.  AND GOD DID JUST THAT.

In that first blog I shared how a member of our church, Henry, had a clear word from God that he was to go visit in jail a young fellow co-worker arrested for attempted murder.  Now I want to share with you what God has done since that initial revelation to Henry.  Henry was obedient.  He immediately went over to his co-workers house and asked his wife if it was possible for him to visit her husband in jail.  This wife was so excited to hear that someone was interested in visiting her husband and she gladly told him how he could indeed visit him.  Henry went to the jail on a Saturday, the day when people can visit family and friends, and got a chance to talk with Chris, his co-worker in jail.  As they talked Chris indicated that he had accepted Christ into his heart since he came to jail but was concerned for his wife, father, mother and sister because they had not experienced Christ personally.  Henry asked if he would like to have a visit from me as a pastor.  Chris was very excited about that.  I then went to visit Chris that following Tuesday, mainly I wanted to see if his "JAIL HOUSE SALVATION" was sincere and real.  As we talked I was very much convinced about his salvation but was a little confused why God had laid it on Henry's heart to visit him.  As we talked he shared how deeply concern he was about his family not knowing Jesus personally.  I asked him if he would like for me to go and visit his wife and share with her about his salvation and tell her how she could also be saved.  Chris started crying in join when I offered to go visit his wife.  He was so appreciative and excited that I would take the time to visit her. 

The next day I called Chris' wife, Silvia, and introduced myself but she had already talked with Chris and heard that I would be calling.  She was so excited to know that I and Henry had visited her husband.  I asked if she understood why Henry wanted to visit her husband.  She said she was confused about that and wanted to know if I could tell her.  I told her it was because God had told Henry to visit him because God was wanting them to know that He knows them, loves them and is wanting to help them as well as have a personal relationship with them.  Silvia began to cry over the phone when she heard that God loved her and would be with her.  I asked if I could come by and visit her and with her consent we set up to visit the following week.  However, that next Sunday, before we could meet, Silvia came to church and when we offered the invitation for people to receive Christ she came forward and wholeheartedly gave her life over to the Lordship of Christ as she repented from her lifestyle of sin.  After the service I shared with her how excited I was about her decision and about our upcoming visit.  Silvia also share how excited she was about the visit and that she was inviting her family to come over as well. 

That following Wednesday Henry and I went over to visit Silvia and her family.  As we got there it seemed as though it was only Silvia there but short afterward I noticed her sister-in-law coming in and out of where we were talking.  She finally just came in and started to listen.  We were talking about God's love and how through Jesus God made a way for all our sins to be forgiven.  Shortly afterward her father-in-law came in and also began to listen.  I asked him if he knew why we were there and why we went to visit his son.  The father answered that was something he just couldn't figure out.  Why would a couple of people who really didn't know his son or them would take the time to visit him in jail.  I shared with him that it was because God had told Henry to go visit him and them because God wanted them to know he loves them and knows the struggle they are going through and want them to have a personal relationship him.  As I shared this I could see a look of amazement in his face.  I asked what he felt about what I said.  He said that down deep in his heart he knew it was true but that he always felt that it would be him coming to God first and then bringing his son and family to God but he was glad that his son came first.  I asked both the father and sister if they would also to receive Christ as the boss of their life and their response was an overwhelming yes.  They both gave their heart over to Christ.  We now are beginning Bible Study with this family and with Chris in jail to build a strong foundation.

Is it any wonder that four of the thing that the early church devoted themselves to was to PRAYER.  Come on church let's pray and when God reveals his activity join him in obedience.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Unlike the church planters of the 80's and 90's who were well educated with earned bachelor and master degrees, well dressed, nicely groomed, with the ability to speak well and quite possibly could have had successful careers on Wall Street or in a Fortune 500 Company,  this new breed of church planter, from a worldly perspective, is unsophisticated, raw and in many ways intimidating. For the most part the church planters of the 80's and 90's were trying to reach the upwardly mobile, career minded, white collar workers who were buying up new houses in newly formed planned communities with the hope of getting away from all the crime and violence.  Their target groups were the respectable, hardworking and law abiding citizens trying to carve a nice life for their family and kids.  They had the nice homes, good schools and fancy cars.  Their kids were involved in baseball leagues, soccer leagues and cheer leading, and as a result the churches that these church planters started were the spiritual alternatives to  the world, by providing multiple ministries for each age group in nice new facilities with a pastor for every age.  While there has been a measure of success with these church plants a whole larger segment of the nations population has gone virtually untouched.  A majority of the people groups in North America did not relate to these corporate style churches.  This is partly because some just did not live in the areas where these churches were started.  They live in the city and not in the suburbs.  For others they just couldn't relate to the ministries that were being offered or their lifestyles were so radically different that they just didn't feel they could fit in.

As a result God is raising up many new unsophisticated and raw church planters to reach those untouched mission fields in North America.  This new breed of church planter is the answer to our prayers for God to send more laborers into the fields.  They are radically different from those of the past and have left many scratching their heads in bewilderment over their successes.  These new church planters are breaking all the acceptable rules about church planting while still managing to experience tremendous success.  Churches like The Sober Project, Set Free Ministries and most recently His House Christian Fellowship have been started by this new breed of church planter.  This is the kind of person that God is raising up and training up and  unleashing all over North America to reach those that have been ignored.  As the body of Christ we need to recognize this activity of God, adjust our strategies and join him in what he is doing.

Four of the characteristics of this new breed of church planter I have also observed as characteristics of Christ's apostles.  Peter and John had been arrested and brought before the very council that had accused Jesus of blasphemy and sought to have Him crucified. This was also the group that had intimidated Peter at Jesus' trial to the point that Peter denied knowing Jesus on three different occasions, but then a little over 50 days later Peter stands before them preaching and teaching in the name of Jesus with uncompromising conviction.  The council demanded, under threat of punishment, that Peter and John stop preaching in the name of Jesus but Peter and John were unwilling to do so.  This council of religious leaders did however express four of the five characteristics about Peter and John that I find to be true among the new breed of church planters today.  I guess, while these new church planters are a new breed from those of the 80's and 90's, they are really not new at all but just a breed coming back into fashion by the Spirit of God.   Listen to the description of Peter and John by the council,

"The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures.  They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus."  Acts 4:13

The first characteristic that I want to mention is that they were ORDINARY MEN.  Peter and John from a worldly perspective were no special men.  They were ordinary and hard working fishermen.  They didn't hold any special place of honor or recognition in the synagogues.  They were probably the type of person that most aspiring people would choose to avoid and not associate with.  They weren't part of the ruling group.  They were nobodies in their community.  Sure, they served a place in society, but not one of honor or respect.  They were the type of person you would hire to clean your house or wash your clothes.  But here they were, these ordinary men, with the ability and power to gather and inspire a crowd and make them into fully devoted disciples of Christ.  The council was amazed that such ordinary men could have such a tremendous impact on the community.

Today's new breed of church planters are just as ordinary as Peter or John.  From a worldly point of view they are nobodies, they are people who very likely had lost the respect of society, their family and friends.  These new church planters don't hold any special place of honor in the community and they sure wouldn't be caught sitting in our pristine churches.  They don't dress nice for success and could care less to do so.  As a matter of fact they probably don't even own a suit.  You will find them wearing blue jeans, shorts, leather coats, Tee-shirts and quite possibly sporting a few tattoos.  They look like the kind of guys you find working at a construction sight or attending a Raider's football game.  They are your typical blue collar worker.  THEY ARE ORDINARY. 

But God loves to use ordinary people to do some of his most extraordinary work.  God loves to use the things that this world considers foolish, unimportant, average and ordinary to accomplish his greatest miracles.  Listen how the Bible describes them:

"Brothers, think of what you were when you were called.  Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many of you were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things and the things that are not to nullify the things that are,  so that no one may boast before him.  It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God, that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written: 'Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."  1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (NIV) 

Did you catch what God is trying to tell us?  God likes to choose the foolish people of this world, those without much worldly influence, those who were not born into prominence to do his greatest and most powerful work!  Why? In order to shame the world.  In order to leave those who have chosen to follow the ways of this world scratching their heads and desperately trying to figure out how in the world  could somebody of such little significance now have such powerful influence over crowds of people!  CHRIST HAS CHOSEN THESE ORDINARY PEOPLE SO ALL THE WORLD WILL KNOW IT IS GOD DOING IT AND NOT MAN!

This is not unusual!  This is the normal activity of God throughout history.  Gideon was a nobody.  He was described as a man who was the least of his family, coming from the least clan of his tribe and hiding in a wine press out of fear.  But God took this coward and used to him to win a great victory over their enemy. Simply amazing.  James the half brother of Jesus describes Elijah in James 5:17-18,

"Elijah was a man just like us.  He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.  Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops."

There it is!  The Bible describes one of the most amazing prophets of the Old Testament as A MAN JUST LIKE US!  Elijah was no superstar in and of himself.  He was an ordinary man whom God used to do extraordinary things so that the world would know that there is a God in heaven and he rules the earth.  In my own denomination, Southern Baptist, during our height of growth when God was forming us into the largest Protestant Denomination of North America God was doing so through a Church Planting Movement of ordinary men starting churches.  They were farmers, ranchers and hired hands moving out west to the new frontier, with a desire to build a life for themselves and their families and with a vibrant and uncompromising faith in the Lord our God.  As they moved into these wild frontier lands to settle down and found no church they took it upon themselves and started forming congregations all over the place. ORDINARY MEN AND WOMEN BEING USED BY GOD TO BRING FAITH TO THE WILD WEST!

Do you see yet?  Using ordinary men with a strong faith in God is God's modus operandi to accomplish His Kingdom's work!  We need to stop busting our butts trying to find that 1 in a million church planter who is going to do great things for God.  That will only bring glory to man!   But instead we need to invest the majority of our time, energy and money in RAISING UP, TRAINING UP ORDINARY MEN WITH AN EXTRAORDINARY FAITH to be our new church planters.  NOW THAT WILL BRING GLORY TO GOD!

Monday, November 8, 2010

How In The World Could This Guy Be An Effective Church Planter?

I want to introduce you to a man that in no way would ever pass a Church Planters Assessment but is probably one of the best church planters I have ever had the privilege of knowing.  He is my very dear friend - no - he is my brother, Larry Munguia.  Larry is not a Bible School or seminary trained man but he does know, love and daily saturates his life in God's Word.  He is not refined but he has spent time with Jesus. He doesn't speak with a large vocabulary but he does pray powerfully and regularly.  And by the Grace of God, God has seen fit to start a church that reaches out to a group of people that most churches would shutter to have.  It is a church that average about 250 people in attendance and sees more people baptized in a year than most do in three years.  Take a few moment and read his story in his own words:

" In 1997 my life was changed. I had lived a life of self-will. I drank and drugged and thought I was Lord Larry until it all came crashing down on me. I lost my wife, my two daughters, my home, health, what little respect I had from my family and my job. Within two weeks my whole life came to a stop. I was lost without my family. I had no way out of my circumstances. Then one day my brother offered me a chance to go to a Promise Keepers convention Los Angeles. I had a little information on them. I knew it was a Christian men's group. I uttered those immortal words, "I'll try anything." So I went to L.A. in search of a new way and I found an old way; the way of Jesus Christ. I have known Jesus all my life. I just never became a friend to him. I never had a real relationship with him until 8:20 p.m. on May 2, 1997. That is the exact time I asked Jesus to come into my life and take over. I was sitting in the Coliseum with over sixty thousand men who witnessed my conversion but only a few would be able to see the outcome of that day.
My life was finally on the right track. I had been delivered from the drugs and alcohol and now I needed to prove to my wife that I was a changed man. I came home from Promise Keepers with a renewed spirit but the same old body. I didn't look any different but I knew I was. So, when I came home and told my wife that I was now a born-again Christian and that I needed to be the leader of my home, she was so excited. She said, "That's great! You don't live here; you can go be the leader of your apartment." My wife, Bobbi, has known me since we were in grade school at St Ambrose. She has seen every con, scam and lie I have ever tried; I should not have been surprised. I went to my apartment and began to pray for God's mercy on me. I prayed that God would reunite me with my family.

It took some time, but in just a few months I got my wife back, my children back, my home back, the respect of my family like I never had and a brand new career. As Bobbi and I got closer to God, he drew us closer to each other. The Lord brought us to a new Church, The Church in the Desert. Pastor Jay Moore welcomed us in and he saw something in me that only he could see. Jay began mentoring me to become a Youth Pastor. At the same time I started classes at Pima College. Within a short time we built a youth group of over forty kids and four adult leaders. In 2001 I graduated with a degree in Social Services. Jay taught me how to minister and gave me the opportunity to hone my craft. Then Jay was called to a church in northern California and I was looking at starting my own church. We now have The S.O.B.E.R. Project, Inc., a Bible-based church that offers weekly worship services, 12-step meetings and bible studies that focus on recovery; recovery from drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography, over-eating and all kinds of things that we have let control our lives. If you search your heart, I'm sure you can find something you need God to take care of for you. Please consider this as an open invitation to call me and discuss how God can do in your life as he has done in my life. Give us a chance to show God's love to you and your family.

When I started this project I had no idea that God would bring men and women into my life to show me his power. I have seen a man and woman who were divorced and, within a year, I remarried them. I have seen a man come off the streets, give his life over to Jesus, start his own business and a new relationship that's blooming into love. Lives are being changed for the better. Once you hand your life and your will over to God, he gives you his will for your life."

In addition to the characteristics of spending time with Jesus, a powerful prayer and an ordinary guy I believe there is one other characteristic that has made Larry a successful church planter and that is, he is INDIGENOUS to Tucson, AZ.  Larry was born and raised in Tucson.  He doesn't have to exegete the culture, HE EMBODIES THE CULTURE.  He not only understands his target group but he can empathize and sympathize with the target group.  He is the MAN OF PEACE that is the answer to our prayers. He is the additional laborer that we asked the Lord of the Harvest to send into the fields. 

If we in North America are going to truly see a Church Planting Movement develop then we must become more intentional in raising up, training up and unleashing ordinary believers who are indigenous to that mission field!  We must stop the unhealthy practice of always looking outside the mission field for a supposedly suitable church planter.  It is time to stop recruiting the Arkies, Oakies, and Texans to go to the North, East, West or even the Southwest to plant churches.  WE MUST DEVELOP INDIGENOUS CHURCH PLANTERS from our own mission fields so the work can ignite a wild fire of spontaneous Kingdom growth.

Did you notice what it was that gave Larry the confidence to be a church planter?  According to him it was a person who believed in him, encouraged him and mentored him.  It was man who could see the Hand of God on his life.  Pastors how much of a blessing could there be to both the Kingdom of God and an ordinary believers life if we would just look at these people through the eyes of Christ and dare to bless them with our words and challenge them to truly believe that our God can do anything and he is the God who can do anything through anybody, including them.  This is my hearts cry!  LET'S RAISE UP, TRAIN UP AND UNLEASH ORDINARY FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST WHO INDIGENOUS TO THE MISSION FIELD AS THE NEXT GENERATION OF CHURCH PLANTERS.  THEY WILL GET THE JOB DONE OF SEEING A CHURCH PLANTING MOVEMENT TAKE PLACE! 

If you would like to learn more about Larry and the The Sober Project you can find him online at:  htttp:// or call him at (520) 404-6237.  Take care and God bless.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


In our modern age of sophistication the church has not gone unaffected! Much of the modernization of the contemporary church is a positive thing that has helped the church become more effective in accomplishing its mission.  A perfect case in point is the fact that I am sitting in my living room, using a lap top computer, writing a blog that can be shared over the internet to encourage and stimulate God's people to be more intentional and effective in pursuing Christ's mission.  However, not all modernization and sophistication is beneficial to the church and in some cases could be down right a hindrance.

In the area of church planting one sophistication that has been almost universally adopted by every major denomination and church planting groups in North America is the practice of performing Church Planters Assessments.  A church planting assessment is a process to determine if a potential church planter has what it takes to successfully plant a new church.  It is a screening process to sort through people and separate those who have a good chance for success from those who have little chance of success for starting a new church.  The rationale for this practice is to be A GOOD STEWARD of the resources that will be invested in a potential church planter.  Knowing that financial resources are limited the need for greater success in a church being started is important and thereby the need to assess the church planter.  No one would disagree with the importance of being a GOOD STEWARD.  I surely would never disagree with that principle.  BUT IS THE MODERN DAY CHURCH PLANTING ASSESSMENT PROCESS HELPING OR HINDERING A CHURCH PLANTING MOVEMENT TAKE PLACE IN NORTH AMERICA? 

Before we can adequately answer that question we need to understand the kind of churches that we are looking for church planters to start here in North America.  That church is what I call The Corporate American Church.  It is a highly sophisticated church that offers a plethora of ministries, times and staff.  It is a church that has buildings, budgets and boards to manage and expand.  It is a church that is innovative, creative and adaptable to an ever changing culture.  This kind of church demands a church planter to be highly entrepreneurial, visionary and able to motivate a highly competent staff.  With this understanding of church and the kind of church planter needed to pull it off it is perfectly understandable why such a sophisticated church planter assessment would be advocated.  However, with the number of churches that are needed and the rate these church need to reproduce for a Church Planting Movement to take place there are not enough potential church planters available with the leadership skill level to create this church planting movement.  So it really doesn't matter how effective we become in assessing the potential of church planters to start these kind of churches, it will never produce a church planters movement for lack of available leadership. 

I suggest that instead of emphasizing the enlistment of people who need to have such high leadership skill level to start churches we enlist and train ordinary people who already have a job and don't need financial support to start churches that aren't so sophisticated.  IS IT POSSIBLE FOR GOD TO USE ORDINARY PEOPLE TO DO EXTRAORDINARY THINGS LIKE START A CHURCH?  Let's take a look at a couple of Bible verse to answer that question:

"The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures.  They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus."  Acts 4:13 NLT

Peter and John, two of the Apostles of Jesus and two of the authors of the New Testament were acturately described as ORDINARY WITH NO SPECIAL TRAINING IN SCRIPTURE.  As we read the book of Acts we can see what God was clearly able to accomplish through these two ordinary men.  The one qualification that these two men did have was that they had been with Jesus.

"... The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.  Elijah was a man just like us.  He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and half years.  Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops."  James 5:17,18 (NIV)

Did you pick up on the description given to one of the most famous prophets of all times?  Elijah was a man just like us!  WOW!  The great Elijah who challenged the Prophets of Baal was a man just like us!  He wasn't anything special that an ordinary person couldn't become under the power of God. The one qualification that we do see here was that he was a Powerful Prayer Warrior.

Now if you take these two qualifications of having spent time with Jesus and a strong powerful prayer life and add to them the qualifications found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 you will quickly see that there is a far bigger pool of potential church planters available to us to raise up, train up and unleash into the church planting fields than what we are currently looking for through our modern day and sophisticated church planters assessment.

So are church planter assessments needed?  I would say, "YES" but not the kind we are presently using.  For the most part the modern day assessments only look for those people who are able to start The Corporate American Church and for the most part sorts out those who are only able to manage their own household well.  The assessments we need to employ are those that measure the spiritual maturity of a believer and whether he manages his own household well.  And if they meet that criteria train them on how to start a basic church family and unleash them to do it.  Don't pay them a salary but provide them some resources to do evangelism and allow that new church grow and develop as God's grace allows it to.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Paradigm Shift On Church Planting Movements In North America

In North America churches are being started way to slow for it to turn into a movement.  The rate in which churches need to be started need to grow exponentially in North America if we are going to see a true church planting movement take place.  In order for that to happen North American church planters and denominational leaders need to experience a church planting paradigm shift.

Over  the past several years there has been a lot of emphasis and expectations on starting churches that will grow into a mega church status with the ever expanding buildings, budgets and butts.  Those kinds of results have come to represent health and vitality of a church.  And it seems that everyone from seminary professors, to denominational leaders and even church planters have bought into that kind of view.  But with the limited time and resources available to us is that approach the best one for the North American church to follow?  Will that approach bring about the desired Church Planting Movement that we all feel is necessary to fulfill the mission of reaching North America for Christ?  I think not! And I feel it is time for a paradigm shift to take place on what is a healthy church and what is an effective church from a missional standpoint. 

Imagine and compare with me a church planter working hard and using lots of resources, both financial and physical, to start a church that will be averaging 3,000 people within a 10 year period.  At the end of 10 years this church has a large building complex, a large budget, multiple ministries, and multiple ministerial and support staff.  From all appearances this looks like a strong, vibrant and healthy church. And maybe it is! But has its stewardship of time been used wisely when it comes to fulfilling the Great Commission?  Or could those 10 years been used differently that would have had a greater impact on the number of lives that have been reached for Christ?

Now imagine with me a different church planter starting a church that will only average 50 people each Sunday.  In addition to starting this church the church planter also invests a large portion of his time training and mentor a future church planter who will go and start a new church the following year.  In addition to being trained in church planting this future church planter is also trained on how to mentor future church planters who will be able to teach other future church planters also.  Imagine this cycle continuing for the full 10 years.  What would happen during that same 10 year period if each new church planter annually trained a new church planter, that annually trained a new church planter and so on?  After 10 years the result would be 1,023 churches, averaging 50 people each, for a total of 102,300 people in attendance weekly.

WOW!  3,000 people in 10 years or 102,300 people in 10 years!  What approach do you think is a better stewardship of our time?  It's not hard to figure out!  So I have this question: Who are you mentoring to start a new church next year?  I'm working with Manny Acosta, last year we sent out Ed Villareal who started HIS HOUSE CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP and a few years back I mentor Larry Munguia who planted THE SOBER PROJECT of Tucson, AZ.  How about you?

Come on church let's make the shift and spend more time and energy raising up, training up and unleashing ordinary people into the church planting fields.  North America is depending on us to be wise stewards!

Getting The Power To Pursue Christ's Mission

This past week our church experienced a much needed time of extended and extensive time of prayer.  We started out on a Sunday night and had what we called a "Solemn Assembly".  This was a time of Confession of Sin and Consecration of our lives to God.  Then from Monday through Friday we had a three a day prayer meeting.  People could come at 6:00 a.m., 12:00 noon and 6:30 p.m.  On Saturday we held a 24 Hour Prayer Vigil starting from 9 a.m. Saturday til 9 a.m. Sunday.  We were praying for God to fill us with his Holy Spirit and to provide us with his power and presence.

It was amazing time!  The church really came together and as the week moved on the church noticed something about themselves.  We noticed that as we began to drink of the Living Water of God's Spirit we realized how thirsty we really had become.  Without even knowing it our church had become Spiritually Dehydrated and while we were still functioning we were not functioning effectively.  By the end of the week we God's Spirit was overflowing through us and all of the different functions of the church were flowing quite naturally.  One of those functions that we have seen a noticeable improvement was in the area of being a witness of Christ.

Acts 1:8 says, "And when the Holy Spirit comes you will receive power to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the to uttermost parts of the world."  A clear benefit of experiencing the Filling of the Holy Spirit is the power to be an effective witness.  It was on Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon them and 3000 people were saved and baptized.  Now that's what I call pretty powerful.  The Holy Spirit came as the disciples were in the upper room praying and waiting.  A very dear old pastoral mentor of mine, Dr. C.B. Hogue used to say,

"When the prayers go up the power comes down.  When the power comes down the church goes out.  When the church goes out the people get saved.  When the people get saved the saints give praise. And as the saints give praise the prayers go up."

How true that was for us at Valley Baptist Church.  As we prayed God began to open up opportunities for us to share our faith to others who needed to hear.  One of our church members, Henry, receive a clear word from the Lord to go visit a fellow worker of his who was in the county jail for attempted murder.  Another one of our church members while having a prayer time at the beach got an opportunity to share a word of testimony with a person who approached him.  One thing is for certain when God's people pray God provides power to share your faith.

How is your prayer life?  How much time do you spend in the presence of our Lord and Savior?  I have been challenged by a guy in the Old Testament named Daniel who had a daily practice of praying three times a day, every day.  What would happen in the church of North America if every person who claims to be a follower of Christ had that kind of prayer life?  How about if only half had that kind of prayer life?  I know lots and lots of power.  COME ON CHURCH LET'S GET ON OUR KNEES AND PRAYER.

Monday, August 16, 2010

An Essential Key To Unlocking A Church Planting Movement in North America

In searching for the keys to unlocking a Church Planting Movement here in North America I believe that the Lord has shown me at least one of those keys. While looking at scripture, especially the book of Acts, and at church history, especially my own denomination the Southern Baptist Convention, and in the contemporary Church Planting Movement happening all over the planet again and again I notice an important key to seeing the Kingdom of God spread and new churches rapidly being started and established. This IMPORTANT KEY is ordinary followers of Christ being raised up, trained up and unleash to establish new communities of faith (i.e. churches).

Not the paid professionals, not the highly educated, not those who have the religious pedigree but ordinary, common, and many times over looked, people who love Jesus with all their heart, mind, soul and strength. In the book of Acts we do see the Apostles starting churches. That's what Paul did. But the Apostles didn't start nearly the number of churches that were established in those early years. For instance, who started the church in Damascus? It wasn't Paul because he wasn't even a believer yet but would come into a living encounter with Christ on the road leading to Damascus that would transform him from a Christian killer to fully devoted follower of Christ. It wasn't the other apostles. The scripture tells us that when the persecution started the apostles stayed in Jerusalem. So who started that church? I think it is pretty clear that it was those disciples who fled Jerusalem because of the persecution to Damascus and as they came they bore witness to Christ's death, burial and resurrection and to as many as believed those ordinary followers of Christ taught them what they had learned from the apostles while in Jerusalem. Again, let's consider the church in Rome. Who started it? Again, not Paul. When Paul writes the Roman letter he makes it clear that even though he has not yet come to them it has been his desire to come to them share with them his gift. So who started it? We don't know for sure. Quite possibly it was some people who were in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost when Peter preached and 3,000 people were baptized. Having received salvation and basic instruction in the faith from the apostles they then returned home and shared with others in Rome. Here's what is clear. Most of the church plants were started not from the professionals but by the ordinary followers of Christ.

In my own denomination Southern Baptist experienced its greatest growth as farmers and ranchers began to move out west to start a new life. As these ordinary people, who were also devout followers of Christ, moved out west they were confronted with a stark reality. That reality was that there were no Baptist churches out west. One of the long time flagship churches among Southern Baptist has been First Baptist Church of Dallas Texas and according to Wikipedia,

"Dallas was a wild and reckless frontier town in the 1800s; no Baptist church existed in downtown because they were repeatedly being run out of town. When W.L. Williams and his wife, Lucinda, moved to Dallas and
saw no Baptist church, they were moved with determination and a call
from God. Along with nine others, they met in the Masonic Lodge at
Lamar and Ross on July 30, 1868, and First Baptist Dallas was born."

Notice that it was a husband and wife, ordinary folks who loved Jesus, that started what later became a highly influential and powerful church for God's kingdom. All over the Southern Baptist Convention, during that time, churches were established by farmers, ranchers, and other ordinary, non-seminary trained folks who felt what W.L. and Lucinda felt, a call from God and determination to start a new church. They knew the Lord through saving grace, they had read, studied and meditated on the Bible and could share what they learned with others who didn't know as much.

In our contemporary age there is a church planting movement happening all over the world, accept North America. As missionaries and missiologist have studied these rapidly reproducing churches one common factor keeps coming up again and again and that is it is fueled and driven by non-professional followers of Christ. Ordinary people who have a personal relationship with Christ determined and called by God to reach new people and gather them into newly formed communities of faith (churches) are the ones driving these movements all over the world.

So what does this teach us about one of the essential keys to experiencing a Church Planting Movement here in North America? Just this: OUR FOCUS MUST BE IN RAISING UP, TRAINING UP AND UNLEASHING ORDINARY FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST INTO THE CHURCH PLANTING FIELDS.

While I do believe there is a place for those who are in professional vocational ministry I do not believe raising them up should be anywhere close to our primary focus. Our attention, focus and emphasis in training church planters should be on those ordinary believers who will work at a secular job during the day and go and work the church planting field at night. Our discipleship process should focus on moving people from being SEEKERS to FULLY DEVOTED FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST WHO START NEW CHURCHES. Everyone member a missionary who starts churches should be our theme. Methods for training in Church Planting should be developed with the non-professional church planter in mind.

Now while some of these ordinary and non-professional church planters maybe sitting in some of our pews today I would venture to say that most will come out of the harvest. Why? Why won't most of the church members sitting in our pews heed the call to become church planters? Simple because that is not what they bought into. This way of Christian living is so far off their radar that most will not be able to tune into the right frequency to make it become a reality. However, I pray that I am wrong about this but I don't believe I am to far off from the truth.

Attention all Pastors, Directors of Mission, Denominational Leaders and Church Planting Strategists it is time for us to put our full attention and devotion into:


Stop making it small side issue! Start making it the major issue and emphasis.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Lack of Resources For A Church Planting Movement In North America

Peter Wagner in his book CHURCH PLANTING FOR A GREATER HARVEST said that Church Planting is the single best evangelism strategy available to us. More people come to faith in Christ and grow in their faith through the planting of new churches than any other means. Armed with that information denominations and churches have made an intentional priority for new churches to get started. The North American church has become very sophisticated and professional in their church planting endeavors. Seminaries offer not only church planting classes but majors in church planting. Denominations require church planting assessments before potential church planters can be funded. Denominational leaders require church planters to attend church planting camps and/or training seminars to make sure that their is a viable strategy in place. With all this sophistication one would think that North America would be in the middle of one of the fastest growing church planting movements in the world. However, that is just not the case. Instead of a church planting movement that is over taking the general population of North America the North American church is in decline with the largest growing religious identification group being: 'NO RELIGIOUS PREFERENCE AT ALL". While the Christian church has declined the No Religious Preference Group has nearly doubled. Why? Why hasn't a CPM taken place in North America?

The answer to that question is simply this: THERE IS NOT ENOUGH RESOURCES TO START THE KIND OF CHURCH WE'VE BEEN TRYING TO START over the past 30 years. There's not enough FINANCIAL RESOURCES and not enough PERSONNEL RESOURCES. The kind of churches we've been trying to start with a full time paid pastor, in many cases staff, buildings, worship equipment, Bible study material etc... cost a whole lot of money. As a matter of fact it cost more money than we have available if we are to start the number of churches needed to impact North America. THERE'S JUST NOT ENOUGH MONEY!!

The second resource that we don't have enough of is PERSONNEL. To start the kind of churches we've been trying to start requires leadership that is skilled in administration, counseling, business, personnel and the list goes on. I jokingly but also seriously say, "That in order to be a church planter in North America you better have a Masters in Business Administration." And actually that's not very far from reality. But the sad part is that there's not enough people with that skill set to be church planters for us to start the number of churches needed in North America.

So what's the solution? The solution is to stop putting such an emphasis on starting Corporate Style Churches and start putting the major emphasis on RAISING UP, TRAINING UP and UNLEASHING ORDINARY PEOPLE AS CHURCH PLANTERS. North America is sick and tired of Organized Religion! Instead of these Corporate Churches with their big financial budgets and CEO leaders we need to start churches that resemble more of a family unit and led by spiritual parents. This kind of church won't don't cost much at all to start. There would be no need to pay salaries the church planters would have secular jobs and the money that is brought in can be used for evangelism and ministry. A few of these ordinary people may be sitting in the pews of our churches but most of them will be raised up from the harvest.

If the North American Church is going to be serious about reaching our mission field and seeing a church planting movement then we must become serious about developing this new church structure and using all of the people of God to start them.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Why Is Spiritual Light So Dim In North America?

As part of the Sermon On The Mount Jesus shared these words that give us an important insight into pursuing the mission Christ has given us. He said,

"You are the light of world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16

It's not hard to understand the point that Jesus is making from this imagery. The primary purpose of light is to illuminate an area and thereby dispel the darkness so that people are able to clearly see. At the very heart of our mission is for us to be those luminaries by which people can see clearly. Our lives are to be such a powerful force of light that people are able to clearly see Jesus and understand the gospel of Christ. It is God's responsibility, through the Holy Spirit, to convict people of their sin and draw people to Christ but it is the job of Christ's followers to the light that illuminates in the spiritual darkness.

But if the pollsters are correct the Christian luminaries of North America are doing a pretty horrible job. All reports indicate that the Christian faith is in decline and that the fastest growing religious group is those people who claim "NO RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION" at all. That group has more than doubled between surveys and is the third largest group overall. If present trends continue this group could easily become the largest Religious Identification Group of all throughout North America. Why? What has happened to the North American Church that has caused its light to not shine as brightly as it once did? These are the questions that haunt my mind and soul and for which I deliberately seek the scripture for answers.

I think the Apostle Peter might have an answer for us to this question. As I was reading 1 Peter 2:11,12 it became obviously clear to me that he was thinking of Jesus' words during the Sermon on the Mount about us being the light of the world. At one point Peter almost quotes Jesus. Read what it says,

"Dear Friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us."

There it is, "see our good deeds and glorify God..." That's almost exactly what Jesus said about being the light of the world! Our desire and ambition should be to live good lives and perform good deeds so that we bring honor and glory to God. But it's the first part of the verse that I feel is the key to making sure our light doesn't dim or flicker out! Peter pleads with and urges Christ's followers to abstain from the sinful desires of the world. Peter is warning Christians that failure to stay pure and live holy lives will result in lost people not seeing our good deeds (our light) and,thereby, not be able to glorify God. I truly believe that there is a direct correlation between Christians not living holy lives and lost people not seeing the light that can lead them to Jesus. Therefore, it doesn't surprise me when I hear that studies reveal that the morality of Christian's of North America is statistically no different from those in North America who don't claim to be Christians. We have done exactly what Peter begs Christians not to do. As followers of Christ we have failed to abstain and in some cases wholeheartedly embraced the sinful desires of the world.

If we are going to be serious about pursuing the mission that Christ has called us to, we have to be serious about living holy lives. While we are actively pursuing lost people, while we are hanging out with them, while we are going where they are, we must always remain pure and holy. Otherwise all will be for naught. What do we need to do in order to become effective and obedient in pursuing Christ's mission? We need to start with REPENTANCE! Listen to the words of God to his people:

"If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray, seek after my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land." 2 Chron. 7:14


Do You Need Encouragement In Being The Light of the World?

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010


"Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear him (Jesus). But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, 'This man welcomes sinners and eats with them. Then Jesus told them this parable: 'Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." Luke 15:1-7 (NIV)

The Pharisees had constructed a very sophisticated religious bubble to insulate themselves from those who lived in the outside world. They had very little contact with those people and considered them to be sinners and unclean. In one hand the Pharisees were afraid that having any contact with these kinds of people would contaminate them but on the other hand they were hypocrites and just as sinful as anyone else.

But Jesus, in contrast, being the only truly righteous person lived, ministered and befriended those who were part of the sinful outside world. He hung out with them, he ate with them, he laughed and cried with them. He was truly a friend to the sinners.

Jesus' actions and attitudes toward sinners was very disturbing to the Pharisees! So they began to mutter amongst themselves about it. The HCSB translations says they began to complain about it. Isn't that amazing? Here is a person doing good and then you have a group of people "complaining" about it. Why would they complain? The Bible doesn't say why but maybe it was because they felt that Jesus' actions challenged their acceptable way of doing religion. They had set up a whole system of being isolated from the outside world, giving the appearance that they had it all together with the intent of attracting others to their way of doing things. But the problem was that they were hypocrites and they didn't have it all together. Their lifestyle was a lie and therefore ineffective. But here comes Jesus and he does have it all together. He's perfect. There is no hypocrisy in Christ at all and he is not isolating himself from the sinners of the world. In fact he is enjoying their company far more than he enjoyed the company of the Pharisees. So from the Pharisees perspective everything they had built Jesus was now condemning and tearing down by his new approach.

Maybe they were complaining because they personally were not comfortable with people who lived and worked in the outside sinful world. Maybe they didn't know how to relate to them. Maybe their dress, smell, speech and lifestyle were so different from what the Pharisees had become accustom to that they felt totally out of place around them.

Or maybe, they were jealous of the success and attention that Jesus was getting from the outside world! The people were no longer, if they ever did, looking to the Pharisees for spiritual direction now that they had a man who walked and lived amongst them showing them the way. The message of grace that Christ brought verses the message of works that the Pharisees taught was so different that the teaching of Christ was like a breath of fresh air and attracted the masses like bee's to honey. And I am quite sure that the Pharisees became very jealous of his apparent success.

No one really knows the reasons for their complaining. We just know that they did and I think, for those of us who are intentionally trying to pursue the mission of Christ, we can learn a very important lesson. Not every person who claims to have a relationship with God will be excited or supportive of our mission endeavors. In many respects the church of North America has become filled with our own brand of Pharisees. Maybe not in theology but at least in attitude. We have built our own "spiritual bubbles" and spend our time meeting in building trying to outshine each other. We think that we have built a very attractive religious model that those on the outside looking in will want to have. But the reality is that no one is really looking and what they do see may not be very attractive at all. And when follower of Christ actually begins to go out where the people are who need salvation it just might upset others who are comfortable in their nice pretty church buildings.

The thought of pastors or church members going into bars, parties of "those" sinners or any function that the church classifies as worldly in order to build relationships with the unchurched will be appalling to many church goers. Yes, the Bible does say that Christians are not to "of the world" but it also does say that Christians are to be "in the world" and the light of the world. Many times the ones you would expect to receive the most encouragement from, as you pursue the mission of Christ, are the ones who cause you the most grief.

But don't lose heart! Remember that you are following Christ's example and obeying his commands in this search for his lost sheep. While the work may be hard, discouraging and even difficult it will also ultimately be worthwhile and fulfilling. SO PRESS ON MI AMIGO!


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