Unreached Peoples and the Church

When we in the church think of evangelism and missions, the first thing that generally comes to mind is The Great Commission. Matthew 28:16-20 describes a resurrected Jesus, given all authority over all of creation, instructing His disciples to stand up and go make disciples where there are not disciples.

In Matthew 24:14, when Jesus is speaking on the end times, He tells His disciples, “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole inhabited earth, as a testimony to every Gentile, and then the end will come.”

In Acts 1:6-8, Luke tells the same story as Matthew 28, giving more detail. Jesus’s disciples ask the Risen Savior, “Are you going to restore the kingdom now?” Although the disciples were referring to the political kingdom of Israel (Isaiah 32:15-20; Ezekiel 39:28-29; Joel 2:28-3:1), Jesus does not correct their question. Instead, He gives them a new focus. The Holy Spirit will descend on them, so that they can move from emulating Jesus to continuing His work in the power of the Spirit.

In summing up Psalm 67 John Piper makes a great statement about God’s plan of salvation, saying, “The will of God in choosing Israel and creating the church is to be known, praised, enjoyed, and feared among all the nations.”

God has chosen to create a people for Himself that He will use to draw all peoples to Himself.

To put it a different way, “God’s people have been blessed so that they might be a blessing to everyone else.” This was the message given to Israel in Genesis 12:2-3, and it is the message for Jesus’s church, which Paul explains in Galatians 3:16.

But when I begin to think about the Great Commission, it honestly starts to stress me out. How could we possibly accomplish this task? Make disciples of all nations? Continue reading

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Dangerous Prayers

Janelle and I are in Austin! Well, we’ve been in Austin for a couple of weeks, actually. We’ve almost got the apartment set up, and I’ve reached the point where I have just come to accept the few boxes remaining in the bedroom can could probably function as some sort of modern decor. I’m pretty sure Janelle feels otherwise.

Austin and The Stone already feel like home. On Monday night, we gathered with other residents and interns on top of the Whole Foods building downtown and had a time of worship, fellowship, and prayer for the city and the different ministries we’ll each be a part of in the coming months. (“My church gathered on the roof of the downtown Whole Foods” might be the most Austin sentence I’ve ever said.)

I officially started on Tuesday, and that’s where the title of this entry comes from. I was accepted into this residency later than the other church-planting residents, and with that came the extra burden of trying to raise support in a very short amount of time. A little over two months to be exact. We filled out our budget, sent it in to the church and began to raise our support around that budget of $2800 per month.

I’m just going to be honest because I don’t know how else to say things. When this process started, I prayed one of those stupid prayers. It wasn’t stupid because it was wrong theologically or anything. It was stupid because it was dangerous and it is probably going to hurt. It’s like when you pray for patience and just dismiss that you’re praying to the God who calls Himself a refining fire to purge the Israelites of their iniquity, and who says through Paul that we develop perseverance in our faith through His testing. God answers those dangerous prayers. What I asked God for was that He would not only provide for us the financial support we needed, but through the process He would teach me to trust in His provision.

Some of you just slammed your head on your desk. “Provision is the hardest one!”

See, I thought He was teaching me this when a number of potential supporters from our church in Dallas just weren’t going to be able to help us like I had hoped. But funding began to come in from our friends who had just gotten married or just had babies, and family members who believed in us and wanted to invest in us, and we were overwhelmed at the generosity. When we moved down here, we were at 80% of our goal and were feeling pretty good about it.

But if I’m being honest, I don’t think I ever really started trusting God for His provision. I wanted to believe I did, and even told myself I did — “Hey, God really provided for us and it came from somewhere other than where we expected.” But I didn’t really believe it. We were just well prepared to send out enough letters and we knew enough people and a million little reasons why it worked out.

But then I started work on Tuesday. And by “started work” I mean I spent 9 1/2 hours doing HR paperwork. But as I sat down with one of the Stone’s number crunchers, we quickly realized that my budget was wrong. (Now would be a good time to mention that I don’t do numbers good.) I had accounted for all of our expenses, savings, school loan payments, and all of those sorts of things and totally forgot to take into account taxes, social security, and tithing. Where as I started the day off feigning trust in God’s provision and secure in that 80%, I suddenly found myself around $2100 below my actual budget needs.

Now, look, did God change the numbers on me? No. My inability to understand taxes is what messed up the numbers. But I asked Him to teach me to trust in His provision and here I am. If I had done the budget correctly, we would still be short the amount we need, but would I have moved to Austin? Well, that part I’m not too sure of. Here’s what I do know — I have two weeks to find 21 more partners to commit to supporting Janelle and I at $100 a month for 24 months.

Does God answer prayers? Yes. But too often I fall into this trap that if He answers my prayers then it’s going to be a comfortable thing. But our God sits as a refiner’s fire, to mold us and shape us into the image of Christ that we may come to know Him in fullness in glory. Every time I pray one of these dangerous prayers — prayers where I ask God to shape and mold me — He answers. And it hurts. Sometimes it hurts because your ankle gets broken (that’s another story entirely), and sometimes it hurts because you’ve just packed up your wife to move to a new city where, unless He raises up supporters in a very short amount of time, you’re going to be eating nothing but Ramen for a while. This isn’t because He’s some 9-year-old boy frying ants with a microscope, but because He purges sin from us like venom from a wound.

So, here we are, forced to rely on God’s provision. We have until September 20 to find 21 more supporters who want to see the gospel take root in Austin, TX. We need 21 supporters who will be coworkers in the truth by supporting us, just like Gaius in 3 John verses 5-8.

Will you support us? Check out the support page to find a link to the secure giving site. If you are already on our support team, please continue to pray for us, for Austin, and for the churches here and pass this blog on.

The Next Step

cropped-312275_10101447329921127_1704276666_n.jpgSeven years ago, I moved to Dallas. It’s almost hard to remember life before I got here. I came to Dallas in pursuit of training for the call to vocational ministry that God has placed on my heart. During my time here, I met and married my wife Janelle, graduated with a Masters of Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, got a dog, cleaned pools for 4 1/2 years, and had the opportunity to minister to people all over the city. Over the course of these 7 years, God has grown me as a follower of Christ, as a leader and as a man. At times, this growth has come to great excitement and rejoicing on my part. At other times, this growth has come as the result of His wonderful grace in breaking my legs when I refused to bow my knee, removing from me idols, pride and arrogance. He has been faithful always.

Now it’s time for the next step – for another opportunity to serve, to grow and witness as God shows Himself faithful. This fall, I will move to Austin, where I am joining the Pastoral Residency Program at The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX. The program is designed for those who have spent time in ministry and desire to be further equipped to lead in the Church. As part of a small cohort of other pastors and church-planters, I will have a unique opportunity to minister at Austin Stone’s West Campus while receiving specialized training and mentoring from the senior staff.

My heart is to plant a church that plants churches, reaching the unengaged, jaded and disillusioned in the states and over-seas, sharing the hope of salvation through faith in Christ, and building up believers so that they build up new believers. For two years, this residency will allow me the chance to minister full-time in the areas where God has gifted me, while also further developing the skills needed to plant and lead that church.

This opportunity to minister in Austin requires that we raise our own support, so Janelle and I are asking that you partner with us prayerfully and financially for 24 months, beginning in September of 2013. Through a unique set of circumstances, God opened up the doors for me to join the program that had seemed closed, making it clear that this is where He is leading us. I believe He will show Himself faithful again by raising up partners to prayerfully and financially support us in this ministry.

Will you become one of our partners? Doing so will help to spread the Gospel in the city of Austin and beyond! We are asking that you prayerfully consider committing to a monthly donation of any amount or making a one-time special gift donation. Check out the SUPPORT page to see the different ways in which you can partner with us.

Thank you so much for prayerfully considering this opportunity. God has blessed me with so many amazing friends and family members who have supported me in so many different ways over the years. Thank you in advance for continuing to do so. I’ll be using this blog, in part, to give updates about what is happening in our lives down in Austin and how exactly God is moving, so make sure to check back often!