Vision Changes the Future

The last night of the 2016 Baptist Bible Fellowship Fall Meeting in Cape Cod included two great speakers.

One speaker was a leading professor at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). The other a Kentucky born preacher who started and stayed in his church in Rhode Island for 40 years.

Vision That Changes World Learning

Near the turn of the new millennium, Dick Yue was given the task of leading MIT into online course study. Several other schools had already started using the internet to enroll new students. His Christian ethics and the vision of MIT, to advance knowledge and educate students, led him to suggest ‘Open Course Study.’ This would mean that courses would be offered free to anyone who could access them on the internet. Everyone was in favor and this started a revolution.

There are over 2,500 courses offered from MIT. This includes class lectures and notes, exams, online textbooks, and many other resources. It’s all free. It has been translated into many other languages. Today there are over 200 million unique visitors who use Open Course. Eventually, 400 other institutions followed their lead. There are over 20,000 courses offered from premier institutions at no charge to anyone who can access them. The hope is that one day the education of the best schools in the world will be available to anyone in the world.

You can learn more about MIT Open Course at https://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm.

In 1993, the internet began to be used socially. Now 46% of the world has access to the internet. These ideas presented by Dick Yue have dynamic implications for the church. 86% of the people in unreached regions don’t know a Christian. The internet could be the tool to reach the world with the Gospel.

Vision That Changes People

In 1975 Archie Emerson went to Rhode Island and had a meeting with three people. This became Ocean State Baptist Church. Today, 40 years later, 1,000 people worship weekly. Archie challenged us with being ‘People of Vision.’

The nation of Israel had suffered defeat and their Temple was ruined. One man had vision to turn things around. Nehemiah was a man of vision. From Nehemiah 1 we discover three things about ‘People of Vision.’

1 – People of Vision are Needed.

Nehemiah had a great job. As the king’s cupbearer he was doing great. But when he heard about his people and his homeland, he was grieved. Calamity came into the calmness of his life. It caused him heartache. He could have just sat there. But he knew he must do something. He used his position to create change.

2 – People of Vision Purpose to Pray.

Before he could approach the king, Nehemiah would approach God. His prayer involved praise, perseverance (day & night), repentance (for his nation and himself), God’s promises, partners, and petitions.

3 – People of Vision Embrace Providence.

Nehemiah believed God’s promises. He knew God cared and God was in control. All of this was no accident. He trusted God and moved forward at the right opportunity. As he prayed for grace in the eyes of the king, he trusted in the ‘unseen hand.’

What vision from God do you have for your life?

You can about the other sessions: BBFI in Cape Cod 2016.

New BBFI Missionaries

The unique strength of the Baptist Bible Fellowship International is Missions. If you are not familiar with the how and why of BBFI missions, I encourage you to check out the Missions Office Website.

BBFI Missions Success

The Wednesday morning session of the 2016 BBFI Fall Meeting in Cape Cod was all about Missions. Here are some statistics of BBFI missions:

  • In 2015 117,000 were saved as a result of the direct ministry of BBFI missionaries. This number does not include national missionaries.
  • In 2015 96 churches were started outside the United States.
  • 12,733 leaders have been trained by BBFI missionaries.
  • As of May 2016, 61,000 have been saved and 17 new churches have been started by BBFI missionaries.
  • All this is done with about 740 missionaries in 84 countries.

Keith and Marietta Mills have served in Scotland for 30 years.

Missionary Approvals

TEAM missionaries were approved. A TEAM missionary raises personal finances (not ministry finances) and goes to the country to gain actual experience. Most continue as a career missionary. Three TEAM missionaries were approved:

  1. Eric & Ashley Woodworth in Honduras.
  2. Jeremy & Andi Eulberg in Bolivia.
  3. Justin Anderson in the Philippines.

In addition, 5 career missionaries were approved:

  1. Greg & Mary Albert in Wales.
  2. Kaitlynne Dixon in Guatamala.
  3. Nathan & Tiffany Foltz in Tanzania.
  4. Blake & Megan Hunter in South Africa.
  5. Daniel & Luz Palavicinis in Nicaragua.

A presentation was made by a missionary going to a restricted access area to displaced people. Because of the current climate in many countries, families are forced to leave and become refugees with nothing. Because of the nature of this ministry, all names and details are not included here. But I encourage you to pray for missionaries, churches, ministries, and people involved in this whole process.

You can about the other sessions: BBFI in Cape Cod 2016.

The Power of a Single Prayer

The second evening at the 2016 Fall Meeting of the Baptist Bible Fellowship in Cape Cod was a personal highlight for me. One of my favorite authors, Mark Batterson, spoke. I have read all his books. My two favorites are: In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day & Circle Maker. Mark is the founding pastor of National Community Church in Washington D.C. This year they celebrate 20 years of ministry.

His opening challenge was: “When you let fear stop you from doing the God-sized goal of your heart, you rob God of the glory due Him.”

The Power of a Single Prayer

In Acts 10:1-25, we find the story of two men praying: Cornelius and Peter.

Cornelius prayed regularly. When you pray regularly God will do irregular things for you on a regular basis. Prayer enables us to see the opportunities around us for God to work. It sanctifies our expectations as we anticipate God to work. Our prayers are a ‘memorial sacrifice’ to God. Prayers don’t die when we die. They keep going.

Cornelius acted. If you want God to do something new, you need to take a step of faith beyond where you are. Faith is taking the first step before God reveals the second step. Cornelius acted on faith and took the first step.

“Prayer is the difference between you doing your best for God and God doing His best for you.”

Peter prayed on the roof. When are where do you pray? If you don’t know the answer, you probably are not faithful in your prayer. When and where is critical to meeting someone.

“Don’t let what you can’t do keep you from doing what you can do.”

Cornelius and Peter were praying. Peter walked in the house. This is the moment that changed everything in the kingdom. Previous to this ‘The Way of Christ’ was simply a sect of Judaism. When he walked in, it changed everything. Peter risked his reputation for God’s reputation.

God answered the prayer of Cornelius by sending Peter. God answered this prayer when we got saved. And still answers this prayer every time someone gets saved.

Will you pray for God to do something that seems impossible?

You can about the other sessions: BBFI in Cape Cod 2016.

Children in Crisis

At the 2016 BBFI National Meeting in Cape Cod, I heard from Jen Merryman, CEO of Children in Christ (CIC). She is a Harvard graduate, who through a definite call of God, is now leading a ministry touching lives of children in unreached areas.

Working in a major corporation, the Holy Spirit challenged her with this question, ‘Do you love me more than your work?’ Her honest answer of ‘No’ resulted in resigning her vocation, and spending time investing spiritually into her children. The second question she needed to answer from the Lord was, ‘Do you trust me, enough to submit to your husband?’ Her honest answer was ‘No’, but she was willing. Then her husband quit his job on Wall Street to follow a call God gave him at age 11 to serve the poor. They soon left for Africa.

Green Dots = Reached; Red Dots = Unreached

Children in Africa

Children are a systemic result of poverty. 1 of 2 people in Africa is a child.Africa is the fastest continent in the world. In 2050 1 out of 3 children in the world will be African.

Africa is a spiritual diverse continent. The southern area has a gospel witness. However, the northern half of Africa is filled with unreached people groups. It is a battle ground for children. Radical Muslims are targeting children. It is an incredible ministry opportunity.

CIC is specifically to children. It empowers the reached churches to reach the unreached groups. They teach children the stories of the Bible so they can tell other children. They offer training, encouragement, and resources.

The DNA of CIC is:

  1. Sow to the small but sow deeply. Sow small and humble.
  2. Sow to replace yourself.
  3. Sow with faith and no fear. Sow with hope and courage.
  4. Sow with simplicity. Key ideas: volunteerism, light footprint (no buildings, etc.), no give aways, even candy.
  5. Sow in partnership. Help churches reach the unreached.

CIC has logged 16 million hours in discipleship of children.

You can about the other sessions: BBFI in Cape Cod 2016.

Ministry in a Secular Culture

A special luncheon was held at the 2016 BBFI Conference in Cape Cod. Mark Batterson, pastor of National Community Church in Washington D.C. was the speaker. What a visionary! He challenged us with reaching our community effectively. Below are some of the highlights I jotted down. They may appear random, but I couldn’t catch everything.

The blessings of God complicate your life. Like the parable of the talents, making good use of talents leads to more work.

It is not about the name above the door of your church. It’s about the name above every name.

If you stay humble and hungry there is nothing God can’t do through you.

In Joshua 14:6-12, Caleb wanted the mountain Moses promised him. He wanted the highest and hardest peak in Israel. He had a sanctified stubborn steak to wait long to get it. It was all “according to my convictions.”

Convictions are what you would die for! Convictions are more important than predictions (vision). Show me your convictions and I’ll show you your future.

Mark Batterson’s 3 Core Convictions:

  1. The church ought to be the most creative place on the planet. There are ways to do church that no one has thought of. We may get an A or B in Biblical exegesis but often a D or F in cultural exegesis. As we get older we shift from left brain (creativity) to right brain (cognitive) We stop creating the future while repeating the past. Some of the worst critics of what God is doing now is from those who were on the cutting edge of what God was doing then.
  2. The church belongs in the middle of the marketplace. Their small groups are free to come up with ways to reach into the community. The Apostle Paul didn’t stand outside the Areopagas and protest, he went inside and fought with truth.
  3. God will bless the church in proportion to our helping the poor and give to missions. My heart can’t be in the right place if my treasure isn’t in the right place. God’s not a slot machine. You can’t play God, but you can’t out give God either.

Life Hacks from Mark

  1. Success is that those who know me best respect me most. Spend time with family cultivating relationships. Ministry, like sports, we need rest to repair usage. We need rest and margin.
  2. Prevent burn out by meeting with other pastor couples, guard your Sabbath, use every vacation day you’re given.
  3. Leaders are readers. Read across all genres. Study the great communicators. Listen to others, even different from yourself.
  4. Say old things in new ways.
  5. Communicate in the medium the people are using.
  6. Have a Pray & Play staff retreat with spouses and kids.

My favorite thought of the day is to commit to treating people in a balance of two words: Grace – I’m going to love you no matter what. Truth – I’m going to be honest with you no matter what.

You can about the other sessions: BBFI in Cape Cod 2016.

 

 

Generation Z – The Coming Generation

At the 2016 BBFI Conference in Cape Cod, I attended a unique break-out session about Generation Z. Not sure what I should post because this was internal market research shared by some major companies. But I will share some stats and trends. The research looked forward to the next major generation – those age 0-24. They are called Generation Z.

Who is Gen Z?

Gen Z, children born after 1996, is a pragmatic and driven group that wants to succeed in a chaotic world while strongly expressing their individuality. Their core values include: success, happiness, equality, authenticity, loyalty, curiosity, courtesy, ambition, and passion.

69% say interracial couples are good for society. 57% say gay marriage is good for society.

Some startling statistics about this generation and technology. 68% of today’s teens will have jobs that don’t exist today with technology that is not invented. More teens have accessibility to cell phones than drinking water. Technology, data, and mobility drive all this.

Gen Z and Marketing

Many marketers try to capture market share by age 18 because most people make brand decisions by age 18. This becomes their brand preference for life. This should drive the church to reach these young people. Gen Z has $46 billion purchasing power while making average of $16 weekly allowance. Money comes from parents. More parents (64%) consider their kids first in every decision they make. And they are financially savvy and plugged into family finances. 64% are involved in family spending discussions. 59% are aware of household budget. Only 27% have no idea how much things cost.

Gen Z are very visual, in the moment, skeptical of advertising, more into friends perception of reality, love story telling rather than traditional advertising. It will be the most diverse generation in U.S. history. Truth, for them, is relevant, at the moment, and transient. They are a very vertical generation. Grace is either forgiveness or don’t judge me.

Gen Z and Technology

Key technology usage for Gen Z is iphone & youtube. 13-24 year olds have average of 5 devices per person. They check their iphone 46 times a day. For every second of delay in accessing a sight, 20% move on. Soon will be drone delivery & driverless car (an ethics knob to make decisions in case of an accident). They less into traditional sports, more into virtual sports. Facebook is out (average user is 39 year old woman). Snapchat, Tumbler, and Instagram or Vine are in. Youtube is king of information. Everything is visual – they use emoji’s.

72% prefer to communicate electronically. 46% are connected over 10 hours a day. 255 connect within 5 minutes of waking up. 46% say they don’t spend enough time with friends. 65% are concerned with privacy online.

Gen Z are self-empowered and self-confident because of instant access to answers. They are self-aware and driven. 83% believe they need to start preparing for the future. 72% of high school students want to start a business. Few risky behaviors (drinking, teen pregnancies, drugs, etc) due to instant access of consequences of these actions.

 

Some major take-aways

  1. Don’t condescend. Provide youth-oriented experiences but don’t talk to them like kids.
  2. Tell the whole story. Be transparent and complete.
  3. Speak their language. Embrace more visual communications & tap into the right influencers.

With all the change, what are Gen Z tethered to? Nothing. We should use all this information about this generation to attempt to make the bond between Christ and Gen Z. Like any quality company, the church should never change the product or who we are, but we need to change how we communicate.

What effective methods have you discovered to reach Gen Z?

You can about the other sessions: BBFI in Cape Cod 2016.

Do Something for God

The Tuesday morning session of the 2016 BBFI meeting in Cape Cod had 3 great young pastors (young in comparison to me). They were all different, but the unifying theme for me was to do something for God.

An Example of a Great Congregation

Jon Slayden is pastor of Second Baptist Church in Midland, Texas. In his church it is easy to keep our eyes focused on where we need to be and forget how far we’ve come. Sometimes you just need to get

From 1 Thessalonians 1:3 we find an example of a church that had 3 things going for it.

1 – Works of Faith – Working Faith. This is not teaching salvation by works but that faith does work. God changed them and it filtered out to everyone around them. They had big faith. Twice Jesus was amazed at faith – The centurion’s great faith and the towns’ people’s lack of faith. Do we lead or serve out of faith or fear (fear of criticism, failure, inadequacy, or success)

2 – Labor of Love – Impact up Close. they sincerely loved people. Loving others can be hard but that’s the only way to follow Jesus’ example.

3 – Steadfastness of Hope – Enduring Hope. They were not swerving from what should be done in spite of the difficulties. A Christless world is a hopeless world. Give them Jesus.

Leave the Mountain!

Kevin Whitacre is the pastor of the church where he was saved, Life Point Church in Chicopee, Massachusetts. He knew immediately that his life would never be the same. The ‘theology of change’ is that when you accept Jesus, nothing will ever be the same.

Deuteronomy 1:1-8 depict the challenge of the people of God to move from Mount Horeb to where God was leading them. 3 lessons we learn about this story…

1- Staying at Horeb was not the plan.

Horeb was a special place, a holy place. Are we comfortable where we’re at?

2 – Days turn to years when you wander.

When you decide to stay where you are you begin to wander. When you wander you’re confused and exhausted. What should have taken 11 days took 40 years because they lost sight of who God was (v. 27). They believed the wrong thing about God.

3 – The call is to move God-ward.

We need to keep moving forward and God-ward. When we don’t know which way to go – go toward God. If Satan can’t convince us to go back, He will convince us to stay where we’re at.

What God wants to do with us and the place He wants to take us is not far away (just 11 days).

When will it be your turn?

Paul Blue is the pastor of Family Fellowship Church in Greenville, Texas. Often we feel like others are getting all God’s blessings. Even as pastors, we sometimes feel like others are succeeding, and we are left behind. We ask, ‘When will it be my turn?’

The story of the lame man in John 5 is similar to this. He was by the pool waiting for the moving of the water so he could be healed. but others stepped in front of him every time. After 38 years I’m sure he asked, ‘When will it be my turn?’

Maybe you ask the same question. It will be your turn for God to step in and do something big when…

1 – You get tired of your handicap. A handicap is anything that makes progress or movement difficult.

2 – You get your eyes off the world and on to Jesus. His hope was in the water. He was watching the water to see if it moved. Jesus asked him what he wanted because He wanted to get his eyes off the water and on to Him.

3 – You quit blaming others. His answer to his dilemma was “I can’t” and “No one will help me.” We can blame others. But you will never be a victor if you keep being a victim.

4 – You are willing to try the things you know God is telling you to try, even if you don’t see how it is possible. Quit lying in the same place. Do what God wants even though you’ll receive criticism.

5 – You are committed to picking up your mat. The man had his favorite spot marked by his mat. But when Jesus healed him, he didn’t need his mat anymore. Your mat represents where you are stuck. You aren’t coming back here again so get rid of it. We keep our mat just in case things don’t work out.

What got you where you are won’t get you where you want to go. Do you want a turn? Do you believe you can have a turn? Do you believe God can do anything? Then follow Him.

You can about the other sessions: BBFI in Cape Cod 2016.

Encouragement for the Discouraged

The first session at the 2016 Fall Meeting of the Baptist Bible Fellowship in Cape Cod was fantastic.

Great music! And the speakers started the week with a heartfelt message – ministry can be tough. You can read a short bio at the end of this post.

Even though this conference is geared toward pastors and those in church leadership, I think the messages tonight will help anyone dealing with discouragement, burnout, and self pity.

Great Perspective on Success & Failure

Steve Van Winkle was extremely personal about his ‘failures’ in ministry. The last national meeting he spoke at was in 2002 (14 years ago). Back then his church was growing and his family was young. But now, his children are older and his ministry has changed.

Today his church is smaller, he has no church building, he has had 3 church splits, and a fire. In 2002 he thought he was something. But in 2016 he is not the person he thought he was nor the person he thought he would be.

Psalm 37:4 says that if we delight in God, He will give us ‘the desires of our heart.’ Yet, Steve openly felt betrayed by God, almost mocked. Very little of the things he desired in ministry were accomplished. But as he unpacked his recent journey, it all became clearer.

Desires of the heart are deeper and more intentional than just generic desires. If a genie gave you three wishes, your wishes would reveal your heart’s desires.

This past summer his daughter was married. As he anticipated giving her away and performing the wedding, he was hit in the face with a realization. In the midst of resenting the Lord for not giving him the desires of his heart, he needed to realize that the Lord did give him the desires of his heart.

These were his 3 main heart desires in 2002 & 2016:

  1. My family will never experience the sight of their dad abandoning them.
  2. My desire was to effect people with the gospel.
  3. To be able to exhaust my life for something meaningful and eternal.

These have nothing to do with books, attendance, buildings, accolades or fame. In the things that matter most to, he is unbelievably successful.

“In resenting the things the Lord had not given me, I had not thanked Him for what He did give me.”

To “delight in the Lord” is to live a life that keeps going in the face of so many obstacles because it believes walking with god is better than anything else. Nothing this earth can give compares with walking with God. So. delighting in the Lord is the only place on earth where dreams really do come true.

55 Years of Wisdom

Gordon MacDonald has been in pastoral ministry for 55 years. Like Steve, he was very candid and open about what he learned throughout his ministry.

Gordon shared a time when he and some of his seminary colleagues were criticizing the church. A professor pointed out Acts 20:28, especially the idea that the church was ‘purchased by the blood of Christ.’ The church is precious. If it is so precious to Christ, to serve the church is the greatest privilege.

Throughout his ministry he has learned some valuable lessons:

  1. Learned from the rebuke of a mentor.
  2. Learned not to quit when discouraged.
  3. Learned that hatred and revenge are dangerous in personal conflict. Learn to forgive.
  4. Learned to take care of his soul, in spite of the busyness of ministry.
  5. Learned to keep trusting the Lord in spite of disappointments.
  6. Learned how to embrace pain from a terrible circumstance.

In John 3:27, we find some insights into the heart of John the Baptist as Christ’s ministry was overshadowing his own ministry:

  1. This was never my work to begin with. It is God’s work. It’s okay.
  2. No matter how successful I am, I’m not Christ.
  3. I simply introduce the bride and groom. The attention is not on me, but the Son of God.
  4. I know who I am. I know what I’m doing. I know who He is. So, I must decrease and He must increase. We must focus people’s attention on Christ.

Three great questions to reflect:

  1. Who am I?
  2. Who is Jesus?
  3. What am I supposed to do?

Steve Van Winkle is the pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Bozeman, Montana and has recently authored a book, Happy Endings to Hard Days. Website: www.fbc-mt.org

Gordon MacDonald has led congregations in New York City, Southern Illinois, Kansas and Massachusetts. He has authored 20 books and writes for Leadership Journal. His father was a Baptist preacher, he was ordained as a Baptist pastor, and went to a Baptist seminary.

You can about the other sessions: BBFI in Cape Cod 2016.

BBFI in Cape Cod 2016

The Baptist Bible Fellowship International met in Cape Cod, Massachusetts in September 2016. Cape Cod Church is a thriving church with a visionary pastor, Ben Feldott.

I attended several sessions. Below you will find my thoughts on those I attended.

Monday Evening: Encouragement for the Discouraged

Tuesday Morning: Generation ZDo Something for God, Ministry in a Secular Culture

Tuesday Evening: Children in Crisis, The Power of a Single Prayer

Wednesday Morning: New BBFI Missionaries

Wednesday Evening: Vision Changes the Future

 

Jesus Has Left the Building!

Back in the day when Elvis Presley was growing in popularity, he appeared in the middle of a musical lineup in 1956 in Shreveport, Louisiana. After he left the stage, the crowd continued to scream for Elvis. The remaining musicians had a hard time performing. Finally, promoter Horace Logan said, “All right, all right, Elvis has left the building.” With Elvis gone, the people lost their motivation and went home.

Now that Jesus is gone, what are we to do? What did the disciples do? I discovered 6 things that we ‘gotta do’ based on what the disciples after Jesus ascended into Heaven.

“And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” (Mark 16:20)

1 – We gotta GO!

“… they went forth…”  The word ‘Go’ is part of the Great Commission. Mark 16:15 says, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.’ After Jesus was gone, the disciples ‘went forth.’

The most difficult step is the first. As a runner, I know the hardest step to take is the first. The hardest weight to lift is the first. People do a lot of talk, but talk is cheap if there’s no action. We need to put our faith into action. We need to just go. We talk about it. We know we should. We just need to go.

2 – We gotta TALK!

“… preached…”  Once we go, where ever it is, we need to start talking. For some, that’s talking is not a problem. But there’s something different about talking about the gospel that closes the mouths of the most talkative Christian. The disciples pushed past the uncomfortable feeling and spoke out. And they changed the world.

3 – We gotta LOOK!

“…everywhere…”  The disciples went ‘everywhere’. Why? People are everywhere. It’s easy to get settled in our own safe world. We hang out with the same people. Jesus wants us to diversify our audience. Find people who haven’t been reached… people who are neglected and forgotten by most. Amazingly, they are often the easiest to reach.

Have you noticed people recently? Stop, look, listen, and engage. In the words of Billy Hybels, ‘just walk across the room.’

4 – We gotta WORK!

“… the Lord working with them…”  This job we have been given is a job. It’s work! But we are not working alone. Jesus works with us.

It’s a job. So treat it like a job. If you treated your employer like you treat your ministry for Jesus, how long would they keep you on the payroll. Tardiness, absenteeism, quality of work, teamwork, … these not only reflect on your character, they also reflect on your perception of Jesus. I need to do a great job in my ministry because I have a great Savior. In need to do a good job because I have a good Lord.

5 – We gotta CHOOSE!

“…confirming the Word…”  The disciples chose to use the Word and God blessed it. Today, we have many tools we can use to do our work for God. But our primary tool is the Word of God. The Bible is the only thing that can really change people’s lives. Use it and God will bless it, and you.

6 – We gotta TRUST!

“…confirming the Word with signs following…”  Notice that the disciples did the work and the Word was confirmed after their work. They had faith that God’s way of ministry was the best. There was no guarantee other than the lord’s Word that He would bless His Word. And He did. God will bless His Word with sous saved and believers strengthened.

When Jesus left, He gave His disciples a job – take the gospel to the world. That job has been passed on to us. One day, Jesus will return. We will all have to stand before God. I believe He will demand an answer to two questions:

  1. What have you done with my Son?
  2. What have you done with what I gave you?

What are you doing until Jesus comes back?

You can read some of my similar articles: Ready or Not… Here He Comes, What Does the Ascension Mean?