Questions Every Pastor Should Ask A Missionary Candidate

Every pastor knows the routine. Missionaries are seeking prayer and financial support to go where God has directed them. We first get mailings which will include testimonies, facts about where the particular place, and usually a letter of recommendation from the mission agency or sending pastor. It often followed up by a phone call.
Most of the time, the pastor has no idea who they are or how the missionary got the churches address. Often, the missionary is assuming they will get a meeting and some will even suggest a date for a possible presentation for support. Having been a missionary, missions pastor, and lead pastor, I am very familiar with the routine. Some say it is in need of repair and even perhaps a major overhaul of the system could make missions less difficult for the missionary. That is something for a different post.
The purpose here though is to suggest some questions that every pastor needs to ask a candidate long before a missionary ever gets to do a presentation. It is also a reminder for the missionary to perhaps have some things in his own thinking that he needs to consider as well.

1.   What is the Gospel? This is not a question you take for granted. I think in my early years had someone asked me this question, I would not have been able to articulate it well. If a missionary is supposed to be the spokesman for the Gospel he should be very adept to speaking the Gospel from several angles and use several Scriptures rather than recite the “Romans Road.” Their understanding of the smallest points of the Gospel should be clear and precise. Their ability to articulate it should be literally at the tip of their tongue. Their passion for the purity of it should show up in their delight to talk about it. They should have stories about people they have personally dealt with who have been forever changed by it. You should see their love for the Gospel in their eyes.

2.   What is your greatest priority as a follower of Jesus? If anyone should know the Great Commission, it should be a missionary. For the glory of God all believers should make disciples of Jesus. Church planting can certainly be one outcome of the priority of disciple making, but there must be a solid, vigorous, and clear zeal to be personally involved in the lives of people (from all cultures) helping them to become more like Christ and less like themselves. This is the Christian’s greatest priority!

3.  What is your strategy for living out #1 and #2? Many candidates have little to no answer for this. The Gospel and disciple making is often something that is merely “understood” and not strategically planned. Part of a strategy will be to know your immediate culture. However, even knowing your culture is not enough. My good friend and missionary David Hosaflook says his strategy is “Pray, meet people, and tell them about Jesus.”  I love it. However, one may pray and for a myriad of reasons will never make “meeting people” a genuine reality.  If you love people and you love God you will purposefully be with people.  However, talking to some candidates, loving people seems to come with great difficulty. There needs to be a well-thought-out strategy in place that is honed over time that intentionally makes meeting people a reality. Paul suggests a strategy to be in place in Romans 10:14 when he says “…how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” I call it a philosophy of ministry, but it is simply a way that one person lives in such a way that he strategically meets people for the purpose of discipling them with the Gospel. It can vary in methodology but it must be there!

4.   Who are you now discipling? If a candidate is not presently making disciples being in a different country won’t flip on the switch. If they truly believe it, they will be doing it presently. I am often surprised at the answers I get when I ask that question. Take a cursory look at Paul’s epistles and they are littered with names of people he has discipled. Take a quick look backward in your life and see if you can see faces of people who are more like Christ today and less like themselves because of your immediate impact in their lives. A missionary candidate should have many.

5.   What is your timeline for the first 5 years? Knowing how to begin is one thing, but knowing how to plan for the future is another. Having at least a 5 year plan is crucial. A plan is a map, a guide, or a path that you plan even though you know you will need to have adjustments. Even a young, inexperienced missionary should make a plan and outline a timeline that he wishes to pursue and at the same time leave it open for God to make His divine providence known. Set goals, give priorities, and place them in a reasonable time schedule. Then take each step humbly submitting to God’s final and ultimate plan.

6.   What is your exit strategy? This addresses the question of the end. Many start out with much zeal only to find out that there is no end plan. In the past it has been considered noble to promote no end at all–just a desire to be “faithful.” While faithful is indeed noble, God actually desires that we consider the end (see Luke 14:30). Is there a retirement savings plan? But more than that, is there a plan in place to grow up their own replacement from within their own existing ministry? It is important to prepare the next generation and raise up leadership/servants to do the work when one no longer can do the work. Each missionary should seriously consider and plan effectively for their exit.

7.   What is the real level of commitment of your wife and children? I cannot tell you how many missionaries I have met who when speaking to the husband/father really had little to no real understanding of what they were asking of their wife and children. Often, you can see it the eyes of the wife. The family has such a powerful impact on the overall effectiveness of ministry–especially in countries where the family culture is so devastated with the ravages of a self-serving environment and broken relationships are the norm. The missionary’s family should be strong, unified, committed, and joy filled not only around each other, but their love for each other should resonate throughout the ministry.  The bond between the husband and wife should be obvious and unwavering. It will not be perfect and kids will always wrestle with the things of God, but there should be a grace-filled unity that gives space for each other in each step of life.

I am sure there are more questions to ask, but these questions address things that are often assumed and I don’t think we should assume these key elements. Anyone who is seeking to serve the Gospel should have a healthy transparency that welcomes the questions and they should even have reasonable answers for them.

 

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A life…now a legacy.

You know that’s how it goes, don’t you? God gives you your life, you live, and then all is left is your legacy.  A legacy is what you hand down to the next generation.

Last night, our world lost a life, but certainly not a legacy.  Major Ron Brooks passed away due to a stroke he suffered earlier in the day. God took him home. thumb_12417920_10205776196781100_4652109840460545980_n_1024

He was my high school principal and a man I had the privilege of serving along side a church plant in Heidelberg, Germany. The generation he served and the impact of his life is today still being felt.  Thousands of teens sat under his preaching/teaching and many, many were rescued out of the grasp of sin and turned to Christ because of his influence. Countless numbers of men today stand in pulpits across the world because of his faithful influence.  Many today sit at home or at work and quietly live their lives for Christ because Ron at one point in their lives courageously risked his own relationship with them to enter their world and speak the Word of God into it. Many many more young people even today are continuing to be influenced because they are being reared by parents who sat under his influence for Christ and the Gospel.  The legacy is real. The legacy cannot be missed.

His time in the military had an indellible influence upon him.  It showed up in his preaching. There was always a sense of urgency that worked its way out of the text. There was a commanding way to him that spoke with authority.  It was what that generation needed.  There was clarity in his preaching that very often found its way to the heart where like it or not, he addressed your need. His time with his Savior had an indelible influence perhaps even more. It too came out in his preaching. You knew you were loved. You knew you were served with truth. Your life was greatly affected, even changed. Christ was exalted and God was glorified.

He was God’s chosen servant for a particular generation. Good servants of God are like that. They are “wired” and placed in an environment to do a specific task for a specific purpose.  He tended to his purpose with great zeal and tireless effort to bring the truths of God’s Word to bear in lives. It was his passion.  It was his delight.  It was his heart.  Lives were changed. My life was changed.

Thank you, sir!  Thank you principal!  Thank you co-worker and mentor. Thank you servant! Thank you lover of Jesus.

Your legacy is real. Your legacy continues and will do so to the 1000th generation (Deut 5:10).

May God’s sweet grace rest on you, Barbara, Ron Jr., Jeff, Leslie, and Stephen and may in the days ahead you find Christ as rich and satisfying as Ron taught us all that He is!

A life…now a legacy.

“Only one life.  Twill soon be passed.  Only what is done for Christ will last.”

5 Reasons why the Great Commission is, well, great!

Many people know the passage in Matthew 28:19,20 as the Great Commission. It is Christ’s final words to his own disciples to make disciples of Christ by going, teaching, and baptizing. That was their one job! He had chosen these men, trained them, and now he was sending them out to repeat the process.

But what is meant by “great?” The word great denotes the element of something that is the most important or the most worthy of consideration. By using the word “most” one implies there would be other considerations, but this consideration is great because it is so important, it deserves the highest priority.

Here are 5 reasons I think it is the “Great” Commission.

  1.  Making disciples is Christ’s only method left with us.  It’s pretty simple and he modeled it for everyone to see.  Find people who will believe in Christ (you could even be used by God to lead them to Jesus), walk with them and instruct them in all that Christ has taught you, and then see them identify with the body of believers called the church through baptism. It’s the perfect design!
  2. Making disciples fits best with the two Great Commandments.  Christ gave two great commandments (Matt 22:37-39) “Love God” and “Love People.” This identifies the heart of the true disciple.  He is one who passionately and purposefully loves God and this love for God spills out in a very intentional and relational love for people!  This pattern is reflected all through Scripture and Christ lived it out perfectly here on earth. We go because of our love for God; we teach because of our love for people; we identify with his church because we love God and his people. Our love for God shows up best in our love for people.  Our love for people is the main indicator of our love for God! John 13:35
  3. Making disciples is God’s tool for sanctification. God is good to bring people into our lives for the purpose of change in our lives. Often we think we are “helping” them, but in reality God’s design is to use their stubbornness, or their lack of self control as a mirror into our own lives. So often the issue we see in others is really our own problem which is why we see it. When was the last time you intentionally sat for coffee with someone who just annoys you?
  4. Making disciples is God’s cleansing agent for the church. Matthew 7:4,5 shows us just how important discipleship is. When we seek to help a brother take a tiny speck out of their eye, it is an opportunity to get a log out of our own eye.  Discipleship causes the church to get into the logging business. It’s very painful to remove anything from our eyes so helping someone else get a speck out will cause us to be very cautious, gracious, and full of mercy! This kind of caring church is a contagious church! Repentance takes on a whole new place within the body of believers.
  5. Making disciples is God’s method of growing leadership from within the church. In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas were among a number of men chosen to help start churches.These two were among a small number of men who were prophets and teachers who were fasting and worshipping together (Vv1-3). They were recognized by the Holy Spirit as men who were gifted and able to do the work of ministry and thus were sent out. The apex of any discipleship ministry is the privilege of singling out men who are gifted and prepared for ministry. This should be celebrated over and over in the life of a healthy church. Remember, you duplicate what you celebrate! A good barometer of the discipleship in your church is a list of people who are singled out and sent out to do ministry.

The Great Commission is just that–great! So, who in your world will be more like Christ and less like themselves because you invested Gospel filled time with them? Making disciples deserves our top priority in all of life.  It’s our one job and there really is nothing like it!

 

 

Questions for Discipleship

It’s a startling thing to grasp that the most important task God has given us, to make disciples, is perhaps the most ignored part of the Christian life. For many it is simply fear. They just do not know where to begin.

Love has to be the starting point.  Simply begin pursuing loving God with your whole heart.  Then, allow that love spill over on to people as you live your life. God loves people and when His love is in you, it is very natural for you to begin to just care for people.

A friend of mine asked me recently to give him some questions that help me begin conversations that can lead to discipling opportunities. Maybe these questions will stimulate your thinking and give you tools for this important task of making disciples. These are questions given to someone who is already a member of God’s family but is perhaps seeking to grow further.discipleship

  • What is God doing in your life and how is He changing you to become more like Christ and less like yourself?
  • What are some of the fruits of the Spirit that you are struggling to demonstrate in your life?
  • What areas of life is God’s grace becoming more important/more precious to you?
  • Tell me about what you pray when do pray.
  • How has your life demonstrated God’s glory more accurately today than last week at this time?
  • What three things have you repented of in the last 2 days?
  • What do you see are the steps toward spiritual maturity that you need to take? (I am constantly seeking to help them map out their own growth strategies.)

It’s not hard. Love God and then love people.

I Want To Be Your Friend

A friend sent this to me recently. Relationships are very difficult to maneuver through but with God’s grace at work in our hearts it should look a lot like this:
Martin Colborn writes,
“Can you criticize me without condemnation, ridicule or condescension? Can you express your convictions without expecting me to immediately adopt them as my own? Can you allow me time to test statements, in order to find out the truth (or error) of them for myself? Will you acknowledge that you, being human, friendship-daycould possibly be wrong, even in your dearest convictions and opinions, allowing me the same? And could we just talk, without cliche, without posturing or intimidating, without seeking to gain the upper hand or to win an argument? And when we must part, can we do so not to hurry to tell others each other’s faults, but to love and pray for one another instead, and look forward with delight to the time when God brings us together again? If you can answer “yes” to these questions, I want to be your friend.”

Christ-lovers and people who intentionally live for God’s glory should be the best at this.

Evidences of a Healthy Church

One of the most important jobs of the elder is monitor his spiritual health.  Paul counseled Timothy to “…watch thou in all things…making full proof of your ministry (1Timothy 4:5 KJV).  This same “watchfulness” is in the elders job description for the church.  Paul instructs the elders at Ephesus to “Take heed…to all the flock…” (Acts 20:28).

I love having a group of men that meet once a month to pray for the flock, plan for the flock, and protect the flock of God.  There are some very sneaky ways in which sin, wrong thinking, wrong philosophy, wrong theology, apathy, or indifference can come into an unsuspecting body of believers and wreak havoc over time.  There are some obvious and observable evidences of health that should quickly help us see if we are headed toward good health or is there a need for an adjustment.  Although not an exhaustible list, here is a list I look at to help me adjust.Perfect-church-2

1.  Is Christ seen preeminent in all areas of church life? (Col 1:18) Christ is the Head and in everything He IS preeminent. We don’t make Him this, He IS this. The question then becomes “Are we keeping in line with what is true?” This would include preaching. We can have a very well though out sermon with our Hebrew/Greek well developed and fully defined and have a profound exegetical outline and well articulated illustrations and never get to Jesus. Children’s ministry, teen ministry, college ministry, men and women’s ministries must all get to Christ and His preeminence.

2.  Is the Word central and authoritative? Pragmatism is slick. It dulls the senses and silently allows things that Scripture would never condone. The words “central” and “authoritative” are key. Central means it is in the middle of our thinking in all areas. Authoritative means we wrestle with our wills and emotions and seek to make sure our motives are submitted to God’s clear directives.

3.  Are there lives changing?  One of the joys of Scripture is to see just how God works His glory out in lives and the profound impact that has on a life.  People who are constantly pursuing God will always be changing from glory to glory (2Corinthians 3:18). Paul wanted His churches to continue to grow in their understanding of Christ and the aroma of Christ to permeate all of life (2Corinthians 2:14).  Growth in Christ is always seen by others and ultimate demonstrates itself in people becoming less like themselves and more like Christ.

4.  Is there ownership of sin? John is very clear, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves” (1John 1:8). The sad thing about aging in our organized churches is falling for this trap. Like the church in Sardis, there is a “reputation of being alive” but are really dead (Revelation 3:1). Much deadness can be traced to how the Laodiceans thought of themselves in full denial of what was true (Revelation 3:17). They didn’t own their sin. Let’s say it another way, “They didn’t treasure Christ and His magnificent grace.” Confession and repentance must be an intentional part of individuals and practiced corporately as well.

5.  Is there a growing care for “one-another?”  This spills over into so many areas of the church. People sacrificing themselves to give to each other was a key characteristic of the early church that made an indelible mark in the culture (Acts 2:42-46). We feel sometimes that we have to program our way into the surrounding culture when we should begin with genuine care, “one-another” each other in a way that is in direct contrast to the self-serving life-style of people without Christ.

Words of Truth

Every once in a while, we all need a re-boot! For PC people, that means you do the ol’ crtl-alt-delete that starts the computer over again. I’m a Mac guy and don’t do that kinda thing anymore 🙂
But today, spiritually, I needed to.sunrise
So here are 10 thoughts that I reminded myself.

1. Whatever happens today, by grace, I get to find my greatest satisfaction in Christ alone.
2. Make the Gospel sweet and filling through intentional confession and repentance.
3. By God’s grace, I get to serve Him and serve every person God brings into my life. I am but a servant and sacrificially give of myself to others.
4. I will be tested in every way imaginable. I get to take a breath and remember where it came from before I respond to every single step.
5. I will feel overwhelmed in an almost breath-taking way. Remember that God’s kindness is behind every pain, sorrow, and joy.
6. There is nothing in life like knowing God and being known by Him.
7. Life is rarely as it looks – I should not be deceived.
8. God’s grace is far greater than my evil, wicked heart.
9. God’s glory is the ultimate in every single part of life.
10. Everything I need is already mine by the kindness of Christ’s perfect righteousness. He is my Shepherd – I shall not want!