In Case You Missed It

At  the International Mission Board, Phil Bartuska shared four ways missionaries can leave well for the field.

For those planning to go overseas as missionaries, there will come a day when they and their families board a plane with one-way tickets in hand. They’ll be nervous but confident that God is making a way for them to take the gospel to the unreached.

 

Every missionary has this experience in common. Whether single or married with children, this experience bonds all missionaries together. They have left behind family, friends, jobs, security, comfort, and normalcy for the sake of the gospel among the unreached. I have been thinking about that moment for years, and soon, my family and I will be stepping onto that plane.

 

Having said that, there is a lot to do here before we get to our destination. You see, we pray, plan, and prepare for the time when we land, but if we are only thinking of our future ministry, we may be missing some key opportunities to point our family and friends to Christ. The truth of the gospel should impact the way we leave home. Here are four things you can do to both leave well and prepare for your future ministry overseas.

 

Marty Duren posted an article at the Lifeway Pastors blog discussing mentoring relationships that make sense.

Over the last decade or so the concept of mentoring has taken a deep hold in leadership theory, including the church. The idea is leaders need someone with more experience than they to provide insight and counsel. In a perfect world, one’s mentor would prepare you for each and every eventuality you could face. We all know this is not probable.

 

As an older-teen and young man, my primary mentor was a truck-driver and deacon named Al Autry. When Al died, his funeral was attended by dozens of men my age and younger, all of whom counted Al as a primary mentor—if not the primary mentor—in their younger days. Al mentored me spiritually during a time when my own father was not yet a follower of Jesus.

 

In my early ministry, I didn’t need to talk to Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, or John Piper. But I did need to talk to someone who had more pastoral experience than I did. Two of my former pastors, an denominational employee, and a couple of pastors in my new locale fit that bill. While only one of them would I consider a mentor in the traditional sense, all of them filled the role in the aggregate.

 

When I moved to serve on a church staff, all the other staff members had more experience that I did, and at churches requiring greater responsibility. Every staff meeting was a mentoring session as was ministry together.

 

As I’ve grown older in ministry, younger pastors sometimes ask if I can mentor them, even if for a limited period of time. These relationships are always a blessing. But, there are mistakes pastors make when seeking a mentor. Three such mistakes are 1) thinking your mentor has to be a celebrity pastor, 2) that mentoring is always one person teaching the other, and 3) that only young pastors need mentors.

 

Not. True.

 

At the Intersect Project, Nathaniel Williams discussed embracing a smartphone-free life.

I sat around a table with a group of fellow pastors, many of whom were older than me. As our meeting concluded, one of the men planned how he would follow up with us.

 

“Does everyone have a smartphone?” he asked. The others nodded in agreement; some of them had been taking notes on their phones as he spoke.

 

I sheepishly shook my head no. I pulled out my circa-2007 basic phone and waved it in the air.

 

“How is it that the youngest person here doesn’t have a smartphone?” he asked. I laughed, admitted that I was behind the times and shared my email address instead.

 

I am used to these surprised reactions. I get them all the time. I am one of a dying breed — a millennial without a smartphone. Since more than 97 percent of my peers use a smartphone, people like me are almost extinct.

 

To be clear, my reasons for not having a smartphone aren’t remarkable. I’m not engaged in some anti-technology crusade. (I manage a website.) Nor am I interested in getting off the grid. (I still use my basic cell phone for calls and texts.) My tardiness in adopting a smartphone involves a combination of budget, stubbornness and the fact that I get along fine without one.

 

In this piece, I won’t try to convince you to become a smartphone curmudgeon. I simply want to offer a portrait of what it’s like to carry a technological relic in my pocket. To be 10 years behind the trend. To be a millennial without a smartphone.

 

At his personal blog, Southeastern President, Dr. Danny Akin shared why we need to stop and listen when it comes to Kingdom Diversity in the SBC.

I’ve been a Southern Baptist for as long as I have been a Christian. I came to know Jesus in a Southern Baptist church. I was baptized in a Southern Baptist church. I was called to ministry in a Southern Baptist church. I was educated at Southern Baptist institutions, and I have given my life to helping others on their path to ministry. In good times and bad, I love the SBC and I thank our Lord for its investment in my life.

 

When I read Lawrence Ware’s New York Times article after the 2017 SBC Annual Meeting, I was grieved. I don’t know Mr. Ware, and he and I don’t see eye to eye on every issue, particularly some of the parallels that he drew in his argument. But that didn’t change my reaction. When someone suggests that the experience of African Americans in my denomination is such that the best option may be to leave, I only feel sadness. I wish with all my heart this was not the case.

 

Chuck Lawless shared a post at his blog listing ten reasons Satan attacks families.

It’s no secret that Satan aims his arrows at families. In the Garden of Eden, he disrupted the marriage of Adam and Eve. In the very next chapter of the Bible, his influence was so great that a brother killed a brother. From that time, our homes have been in his sights. Here’s why.

In Case You Missed It

At The Intersect Project, Diane Ellis explained why she and her husband decided to homeschool as a missionary couple.

Back in seminary, my husband and I began to think about options for educating our children. In the forefront of our minds was our desire to serve the Lord in overseas missions. We knew at least for the foreseeable future that we would be moving around quite a bit before settling at the place where God would lead us.

 

At that time, homeschooling was just beginning to become popular, and there were limited options for curriculum. But after doing some research and spending time in prayer, we decided to give it a try for one year. Not only did we want to be intimately involved in the spiritual and academic formation of our children, we also wanted to give them a stable learning environment that would not change every few months. My husband was pastoring a church during those days, and homeschooling was perfect for our lifestyle. We had flexibility to schedule the children’s education around his ministry and travels, and could take full advantage of opportunities for field trips, homeschool co-op meetings, park days, music lessons and sports activities in the community. Our children were able to actively participate in our ministry, whether visiting the nursing home, accompanying dad on visits, or spending time at the park with a family needing encouragement during the week.

 

Each year for several years, we re-evaluated our decision to homeschool. We wanted to make sure our children were getting a great education, that we were adequately involved in the community and church, that we had a balance of relationships with believers and unbelievers, and that we were not missing some key components in our children’s development. What started out as a one-year probationary period turned into 25 years of teaching and supervising our children through their formative years.

 

We eventually moved our family to Brazil, where we have served as missionaries for 22 years. We never did find that place to “settle,” as we have moved nearly every five years to new locations, not including our furloughs back to the US for sharing our ministry. But homeschooling was a constant in our children’s lives, which prepared them for college and life after college.

 

Aaron Earls posted an article at his personal blog The Wardrobe Door discussing how C. S. Lewis warned us about non-denominationalism. Aaron writes:

While most branches of American Christianity are shrinking, one strand continues to grow—non-denominationalism. But is that the most healthy situation for the faith?

 

According to a newly released Gallup poll, the percentage of Americans who identify with a Protestant denomination has fallen 20 percentage points in just 16 years, from 50 percent in 2000 to 30 percent in 2016.

 

Meanwhile, those who claim to be a non-denominational Christian have almost doubled in the same time frame, from 9 percent to 17 percent.

 

The future continues to look less and less tied to denominational affiliation. Among college freshmen, “other Christian” has jumped 10 points in the past 20 years—the only affiliation to see significant growth.

 

Today, 15 percent of college freshman identify that way, second only to Catholic at 23 percent, which fell 13 points.

 

Dr. Benjamin Quinn posted an article at The Intersect Project reminding seminary students not to waste the jobs they have right now.

As a professor at the College at Southeastern and Southeastern Seminary, I have the privilege of working with students, many of whom are preparing for a future in vocational ministry.

 

Many of my students work during their time here in Wake Forest. They serve as janitors, waitresses, store clerks, IT — anything to pay the bills and support their families.

 

I like to ask them about their work. Occasionally, students will say something like, “I’m just doing this job until I can get a ministry position.” They view their work now as nothing more than a means to a paycheck. They’re biding their time until they get a job with a church.

 

Sometimes, the implications are more severe. “If I just had a job in the church or an easy position,” they think, “I wouldn’t have to put up with all these knuckleheads I have to work with.”

 

Do you resonate with these statements? Are you, too, biding your time until you get a ministry job? Do you grow weary of working with difficult people? If so, I want to urge you to reconsider.

 

At his personal blog, Sam Rainer discussed why sermon preparation is not devotional time.

Every Monday morning, I swivel in my desk chair—praying, pondering. Yellow legal pads fill with chicken scratch in a language only I understand. About fifty Mondays a year, around 3:00 p.m., I start to wonder if I’ll have anything worthwhile to say the following Sunday. The other two Mondays I’m on vacation.

 

I know it’s the Holy Spirit, but many weeks it feels like sheer luck. My sermon comes together, and cogent points begin to form. I’ve heard of some pastors using their sermon preparation as a devotional time. For me, that could never happen. I sweat too much when I write sermons. I’d get dehydrated.

 

Sermon preparation is not—and should not—be used as devotion time. Sermon writing is devotional to an extent. Both involve prayer. Both elevate Scripture. Both require the work of the Holy Spirit. But they are different.

 

Dr. Bruce Ashford shared a post at his blog discussing how Lesslie Newbigin changed his way of thinking.

As a Christian citizen of the United States, it is clear to me that I am living in an increasingly post-Christian society. The majority of Americans no longer consider traditional Christian doctrine (e.g. original sin) or traditional Christian ethics (e.g. sexual morality) plausible in the modern world. Christians who do not abandon these beliefs are increasingly considered morally inferior or even hateful.

Given the fact that the United States is a democratic republic, the beliefs of citizens affect the lives of other citizens socially, culturally, and politically. This reality makes it increasingly important for us as Christians to figure out the best way to comport ourselves in the public square. I consider three thinkers especially helpful for this task: Richard John Neuhaus, Lesslie Newbigin, and Abraham Kuyper. In this post, I wish to articulate what it is about Newbigin’s life and writings that is helpful for us in our 21stcentury American context.

In Case You Missed It

At the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission website, Kara Bettis shared about how Donna Gaines is showing neighborly love through literacy.

Born and raised in the “birthplace of Rock ‘N Roll,” Donna Gaines returned 25 years later armed with a background in education and a heart for the county that claims one of the highest rates of childhood poverty.

 

Gaines is a women’s ministry leader and wife to Southern Baptist Convention president and Bellevue Baptist Church pastor Steve Gaines, where they minister together in Cordova, Tenn. Although she spends much of her time traveling with her husband, discipling women, and spending time with her 10—soon to be 11—grandchildren, Gaines is also the founder and president of a literacy program that targets at-risk children.

 

Five years ago, Gaines launched ARISE2Read, a faith-based literacy program for second graders in the greater Memphis and Jackson areas. Since starting the program, ARISE2Read has mobilized 822 volunteers who tutor 853 students in 19 schools—including in Gaines’s very own Georgian Hills Elementary, where she attended growing up.

 

At Christianity Today, Ed Stetzer interviewed Keith Getty about being awarded by the British Empire, modern hymns, and his new book. Ed writes:

My friend Keith Getty was recently honored as an “Officer of the Order of the British Empire” by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. I was able to talk with him about the award, his contribution to modern hymn writing, and his new book.

 

Topher Thomas posted an article at The Intersect Project titled: ‘Boy, Girl or Other: Do You Get to Choose?’

My wife and I were grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s with our baby daughter when an older woman stopped us and said, “What a cute little boy.” In her defense our daughter was wearing blue, and it’s hard to tell with babies. I responded with a smile and said, “She is a cutie, isn’t she?” The woman said to us, “Oh it’s a girl!” She then turned to our daughter and said, “You’re a girl now, but you don’t have to be. This state will see that one day.”

 

My wife and I were taken aback. I wanted to say, “Well, she really doesn’t have a choice. God made her a girl, and so she is.” However, I said nothing. The older lady continued her shopping, and so did we.

 

We live in a very “progressive” city. I work in a very “progressive” school. So such statements are almost commonplace. But these notions of gender fluidity are not unique to where I live. Our culture is in the midst of a sexual revolution, and countless workplaces, businesses, cities and states fully support pushing that revolution forward.

 

Though I did not respond in this specific situation, her comment made me stop and reflect. How do we respond to a world that interprets everything in a way that denies the supremacy of Christ and the sufficiency of Scripture? What exactly is the error in a statement like that, and how do we speak both truth and compassion into a divisive subject like gender fluidity and those like it? Fortunately, we have a God who did not leave us without an answer for these and all of life’s issues.

 

Chris Martin posted at his personal blog discussing three considerations while facing temptation.

This summer, I have been leading the guys in our youth group through a study of James. It’s been a while since I took a deep dive into James, so it has been refreshing to see so much in the text that I hadn’t caught before.

 

Alongside reading the text itself, I have been reading Warren Wiersbe’s Be Maturecommentary and it has been a delightful companion through the study.

 

His chapter on James 1:13-18 is called, “How to Handle Temptation.” What I love about Wiersbe’s chapter on handling temptation is that it isn’t just a pragmatic list of ways to prevent ourselves from sinning.

 

In instructing us about how to handle temptation and avoid falling into sin, Wiersbe doesn’t direct our thoughts inward—he directs our thoughts upward.

 

Below are Wiersbe’s three considerations while facing temptation with some of my own elaboration on his points.

 

In a guest post at J.D. Greear’s blog, Chris Pappalardo discussed laziness or overwork—for church staff, which is worse?

In his letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul said, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward” (Colossians 3:23-24a NIV). What does that look like when there’s such a close connection between your work for “human masters” and your work “for the Lord”? For those of us in ministry, what does it look like to follow Paul’s command?