Month: September 2015

3 Reasons You Should Be Incarnational

Is friendship a necessary component of evangelism? I would say no. We see plenty of instances in Scripture where Jesus spoke to the masses and many believed.

However, Jesus also developed deep friendships with his 12 disciples, and the impact on their lives was profound. Although not always a means for conversion, I would argue deep friendships should be a necessary component of your ministry.

Jesus included friendship in his ministry. Below are 3 reasons why you should too:

1.) Jesus was incarnational. To be incarnational means to become like someone else. This is exactly what Jesus did for us. He had all the blessings of Heaven, yet he chose to forsake it and become like one of us, so we might be saved.

If the all-knowing and all-wise God saved us by coming to share his life, why should we seek to see others saved in a different way?

Paul tells the Corinthians, “I have become all things to all people that by all means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). Being incarnational is one piece of living a missional life.

That means spending time after work with your unbelieving co-worker, doing what he likes to do. It means going over to the apartment of your unbelieving classmate, and spending time with his friends.

Jesus became like one of us, therefore we should become like our friends, so that we may reach them for Christ.

2.) Jesus Stayed. When Jesus was friends with people on Earth, he did something we have a hard time doing. When we rejected him, he stayed.

In full-time ministry, we can be prone to only spend time with those who show an interest in Jesus from the start.  When ministry becomes your job, pressure can build for you to have friends trust in Christ. Therefore, we seek to find those who will most help us to accomplish this goal.

It is great if our friends trust in Christ, but if we refuse to befriend those who at first reject Jesus, we are not following his lead. Jesus seeks to befriend everyone, even those who have rejected him for many years.

In the Old Testament, Israel abandoned God many times over, yet God didn’t abandon them. Our friends might reject Jesus at first, but that doesn’t mean we should reject them, because Jesus didn’t reject us.

3.) It is hard to preach to strangers. It is not difficult to go through the motions of sharing the good news of Christ with someone for the first time. It is, however, difficult to use the gospel to speak into someone’s life in a way that deeply touches him or her.

To apply the gospel to someone’s life, you need to know him or her well.

I can tell someone Jesus wants to forgive their sins, but that becomes more real when I know specific sins my friend is feeling guilty about. I can tell my friend God is his Heavenly Father, but I will have little understanding of the impact until I know about my friend’s earthly father.

In his ministry, Jesus knew all things without needing to ask. We may not be all-knowing like Jesus, but we can learn about others just as much from asking.

Jesus knows all of us completely, which is why he is the best lover of our souls. We should take the time to get to know our friends deeply as well, so we can share Christ with them in the most intimate way possible.

Jesus became our friend. We need to follow his example.

6 Ways Short-Term Trips Can Be Helpful

Short-term trips sometimes receive criticism for being an inefficient use of resources and placing additional burden on long term workers. When done poorly, these criticisms are well deserved. However, they do not necessitate counting all short-term trips as useless and ineffective.

Here are 5 reasons why short-term trips can be helpful to the mission:

1.) They catalyze spiritual growth. Nothing teaches you dependence on Christ like being thrust out of your comfort zone. In our home culture, we often get along without a felt need for Jesus.

This is not a true reflection of reality and can even be dangerous. Being brought to the end of your rope from travel and adapting to a new culture is a fast wake-up call.

2.) They help you figure out your future. If you’re trying to determine your next position in life or thinking of serving long-term overseas, visiting different teams in different places can bring clarity.

You have the opportunity to see different models of service and experience different cultures. You may be visiting a specific team to consider joining it or you may just be interested in surveying the different work available.

Even if you end up not moving at all, it may help you be more effective where you are.

3.) They assist long-term projects. This is the classic short-term ‘project trip’. The key to making these successful is that the need be field-driven, not trip-driven.

There are many examples of projects where short-term trips have provided a surge of manpower or expertise to quickly complete a long-term team’s project.

Ask where you can be effective and be ready to serve, even if it’s not what you expect or want to do.

4.) They do things the long-termers can’t (or won’t).
The original purpose of The Sowers Project was to utilize a strategy that wasn’t suited well for the long-term team. It was more outgoing and risky, a much better fit for teams not planning on staying for the long haul.

Different strategies necessitate different time frames, not the other way around. We try all strategies to all people that we might reach some.

5.) They encourage long-termers.
Having been a long-termer on two different fields, there are few things as encouraging as seeing a familiar face from your support base in a foreign context. Spending the money and effort to visit and encourage your long-termers cannot be quantified.

You may not get to see all the benefits it pays them, but letting them share their lives with you first-hand, their joys and struggles, provides support and strengthens their connection to their support base long after you have returned home.

6.) They experience the global Body of Christ.
We all have cultural blinders on. The problem is that we don’t know what they are. Visiting other cultures helps us to identify the good and bad in our culture, as well as theirs.

It also serves as a concrete reminder that the Body of Christ is global and multicultural. It is a privilege to worship with believers from different cultural contexts since this is a foreshadowing of heaven.


 

God works in many ways and we often only see a sliver of the big picture. Just because short-term trips have been ineffective in the past doesn’t mean they are hopelessly lost forever. Continue to think constructively about short-term teams serving long-termers, but know that they absolutely have a time and place.

5 Ways to Increase Your Productivity Now

I’ll admit it.  I love productivity.

It can definitely become idolatrous, but, if handled correctly, it can be a powerful asset in the work of making Christ known among the unreached.

Here are the top 5 “hacks” I use on the field.  Hopefully they help you right now.

1.) Learn how to use and then use Evernote. If you read productivity blogs, books or basically anything about organization, many people use Evernote as a storage solution.  There’s good reason for it.  Evernote offers a robust suite of tools to store basically any type of information. Lists, ideas, blog posts, receipts, pictures, virtually anything you could put in a file cabinet, Evernote stores it (and more).

So often, I get overwhelmed just trying to keep all the thoughts and lists and bits of information and bills and to-dos organized. In his productivity classic Getting Things Done, David Allen talks about how our minds aren’t built to do that – to keep track of all those things at once. He helpfully guides the reader through a process of emptying ideas out of our minds and then organizing them.

Evernote is a great tool for this.  I have found it to be extremely helpful in my daily life.

2.) Defeat the email demon. Learning how to do email without it tyrannizing you makes or breaks your productivity on the field.  I mean that.

From personal experience, I can tell you it’s much easier to sit behind a computer and pour over email all day than it is to get out the door and share the Gospel with people who’ve never heard.  For crying out loud, I’ve already moved to the other side of the world, and I won’t even just walk out the door to share the Good News?!  You better believe it.

Being intentional and wise about when you do email and when you don’t is critical.  Tim Challies describes a very helpful system I currently use in dealing with my emails.

3.) Take advantage of downtime. Podcasts.  I love podcasts.  Right now, so many people with wisdom to share are putting out top-notch podcasts for us to listen to for free.  Believe it or not, listening to these podcasts actually helps me consider new ideas and shape my work here.

And I consume this media while I’m “on the go” – whether walking to class, riding my bike to get groceries or even taking a shower.  I take advantage of unused time and redeem it.

Be on the lookout for future posts about recommended podcasts, but a quick list:

– Ask Pastor John
– The Briefing with Dr. Albert Mohler
– This Is Your Life with Michael Hyatt
– White Horse Inn (Michael Horton)
– Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast
– The EntreLeadership Podcast (huge believer in entrepreneurial podcasts for missionaries)

4.) Prioritize the essentials. I really enjoyed reading Essentialism by Greg McKeown.  The whole book is full of practical wisdom I’ve already implemented into my life.

Perhaps the most important takeaway I had from this book is identifying and building my schedule (and life) around my priorities.  McKeown takes you through the process of assigning values to your tasks and then eliminating everything except the most important.

This has freed me to focus whole-heartedly on what I know I should do, rather than be constantly pulled in various directions by any number of tasks that scream urgent, but actually aren’t.

5.) Pray. Nothing helps me be more productive in the work than praying. Nothing.
If I don’t take time to pray, to align my heart with the Lord, to confess my dependence on Him, to ask Him to bless my day, what do I do?  I work.  I work really hard.  Why?  Because I feel like all the work – the work of bringing the Gospel to the unreached and planting a church – its up to me.  I need to do it.

Do you see how dangerous this thinking is?

Here’s the truth:

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

Psalm 121:1-4

The Lord keeps me (and every person in this city where I live).  He never sleeps; I do because I am weak and have limitations.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.

Psalm 127:1

The LORD builds His church. He makes me productive or not.  I depend on Him for everything.

So when I start my day with the right posture, a posture of dependence and reliance on Him, then I will be truly productive, bearing fruit for eternity.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:5

What other ways do you increase your productivity? What can you add to the list? Start the conversation below!

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