December 6, 2013
by floyd
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Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa and Nobel Peace Prize winner, has died. South Africa has lost its greatest son, the people have lost a father.

During his long life, Mandela inspired countless individuals. Here is a collection of quotes that personify his spirit from USA Today:

1) “Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.”

2) “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

3) “If I had my time over I would do the same again. So would any man who dares call himself a man.”

4) “I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles.”

5) “Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.”

6) “A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.”

7) “Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.”

8) “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

9) “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

10) “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

11) “Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front.”

12) “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

13) “I hate race discrimination most intensely and in all its manifestations. I have fought it all during my life; I fight it now, and will do so until the end of my days.”

14) “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

November 21, 2013
by floyd
1 Comment

10 Simple Discipleship Truths

Hello, the following article is lifted straight off Steve Murrell’s blog, found at http://stevemurrell.com/home/    Steve is the founding pastor of Victory Church in Manila with 105,000 members and still growing. His blog and regular entries are excellent! I highly recommend them for all pastors, church planters and fellow leaders in the upside-down kingdom.   Warmly,  Floyd McClung 

Posted by:  Posted date: November 20, 2013 | comment : 0 Comments

Last month Deborah and I were in Indonesia, Singapore, and Taiwan teaching Asian pastors, church-planters, and missionaries about discipleship and leadership. Same ole boring strokes, again. After our Sunday night session a young Indonesian leader asked, “how do you define discipleship?” Good question. Here’s my answer, and more.

1. A disciple is a person who follows Jesus.

2. Every Christian should be a disciple.

3. Every disciple should make disciples.

4. Discipleship is the process of helping others follow Jesus.

5. Discipleship is a life-long journey not a six-week class.

6. Discipleship happens best in community (small groups).

7. Men disciple men; women disciple women.

8. Evangelism and discipleship should not be separated.

9. Discipleship is relationship.

10. Jesus wants all nations to be discipled.

Making disciples is the job of every Christian every day.

Cultivating a relational discipleship culture, creating discipleship systems, and over-communicating discipleship principles was the core of my job description for over two decades as the pastor of Victory Manila. And I recommend that all of the above should be in every pastor’s job description.

Discipleship is not supposed to be complicated or confusing. In fact, it is so simple that a fisherman explained it to uneducated fishermen in two words: “Follow me.”

Are you following Him? Are you helping others follow Him? In other words, are you a disciple and are you making disciples?

 

My top 5 recommended books on discipleship:

Making Disciples by Ralph Moore

The Master Plan of Discipleship by Coleman

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoffer

The Lego Principle by Joey Bonifacio

WikiChurch by Steve Murrell


November 14, 2013
by floyd
2 Comments

5 Ways the Prosperity Gospel Is Hurting Africa

This article is from Charisma Magazine. I did not write this article but I agree with it 100%. I have traveled in Africa for 43 years in 30 countries. I have lived in South Africa since 2006. What is written in this article is one of the most needed messages in Africa Today. 

Sad African Child
The prosperity gospel isn’t really helping the people of Africa. (greg westfall/Flickr/Creative Commons)

I’m not an African, but in 2008 some Nigerian friends gave me a Yoruba name (“Akinwale”) because I have been to that country so often. My visits there, along with trips to Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa and Egypt, planted a deep love for Africa in my heart. My first grandson’s arrival this year from Ethiopia made the connection even stronger.

I’m often asked to describe how God is moving in Africa today. Since I’m an optimist, I usually tell of the large churches, the passionate praise and the intense spiritual hunger that characterizes African Christianity. But there is also a dark side, and I think it’s time we addressed one of the most serious threats to faith on the continent.

I’m talking about the prosperity gospel. Of course, I know a slick version of this message is preached in the United States—and I know we are the ones who exported it overseas. I am not minimizing the damage that prosperity preaching has done in my own country. But I have witnessed how some African Christians are taking this money-focused message to new and even more dangerous extremes.

Here are five reasons the prosperity message is damaging the continent of Africa today:

1. It is mixed with occultism. Before Christianity came to Nigeria, people visited witch doctors and sacrificed goats or cows to get prosperity. They poured libations on the ground so the gods would hear their prayers. Today similar practices continue, only the juju priest has been replaced by a pastor who drives a Mercedes-Benz. I am aware of a pastor who buried a live animal under the floor of his church to win God’s favor. Another pastor asked his congregants to bring bottles of sand to church so he could anoint them; he then told the people to sprinkle the sand in their houses to bring blessings. The people who follow these charlatans are reminded that their promised windfall won’t materialize unless they give large donations.

2. It fuels greed. Any person who knows Christ will learn the joy of giving to others. But the prosperity gospel teaches people to focus on getting, not giving. At its core it is a selfish and materialistic faith with a thin Christian veneer. Church members are continually urged to sow financial seeds to reap bigger and bigger rewards. In Africa, entire conferences are dedicated to collecting offerings in order to achieve wealth. Preachers boast about how much they paid for suits, shoes, necklaces and watches. They tell their followers that spirituality is measured by whether they have a big house or a first-class ticket. When greed is preached from the pulpit, it spreads like a cancer in God’s house.

3. It feeds pride. This greedy atmosphere in prosperity churches has produced a warped style of leadership. My Kenyan friend Gideon Thuranira, editor of Christian Professional magazine, calls these men “churchpreneurs.” They plant churches not because they have a burden to reach lost souls but because they see dollar signs when they fill an auditorium with chairs. A selfish message produces bigheadedopportunists who need position, applause and plenty of perks to keep them happy. The most successful prosperity preacher is the most dangerous because he can convince a crowd that Jesus died to give you and me a Lexus.

4. It works against the formation of Christian character. The prosperity message is a poor imitation of the gospel because it leaves no room for brokenness, suffering, humility or delay. It offers an illegal shortcut. Prosperity preachers promise instant results and overnight success; if you don’t get your breakthrough, it’s because you didn’t give enough money in the offering. Jesus calls us to deny ourselves and follow Him; prosperity preaching calls us to deny Jesus and follow our materialistic lusts. There is a leadership crisis in the African church because many pastors are so set on getting rich, they can’t go through the process of discipleship that requires self-denial.

5. It actually keeps people in poverty. The government of Malawi is currently under international scrutiny because of fraud carried out by top leaders. The saddest thing about the so-called “Cashgate” scandal is that professing Christians in the administration of President Joyce Banda have been implicated. One of these people stole millions of kwacha from the government and hid the cash in a teddy bear! Most people today in Malawi live on less than $1 a day, yet their leaders have been known to buy fleets of cars and huge plots of land with money that was not theirs. Sadly, the prosperity gospel preached in Malawi has encouraged pastors and leaders to follow the same corrupt pattern. As a result, God’s people have been financially exploited.

When Jesus described false prophets as wolves in sheep’s clothing, He warned us to examine their fruit. Matthew 7:17 says, “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit” (NASB). What is the fruit of prosperity preaching?

Churches have been growing rapidly in many parts of Africa today, yet sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in the world where poverty has increased in the past 25 years. So according to the statistics, the prosperity gospel is not bringing prosperity! It is a flawed message, but I believe God will use selfless, broken African leaders to correct it.

J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma and the director of the Mordecai Project. You can follow him on Twitter at @leegrady. He is preaching in Kenya this week.

 

November 11, 2013
by floyd
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Syria Refugee Crisis

More news from Syria refugees crisis. This article is taken from the website of Christian Aid.

You can give to All Nations Serve Syria project:

√ To donate in the USA, send a check made out to All Nations, and send it All Nations Support PO Box 55, Grandview, Missouri, 64030. Please attach a note that says it is for the Serve Syria project. 

√ To donate in South Africa:

Standard Bank
Fish Hoek Branch
Swift Code: SBZAZA JJ
Branch Code: 036009
Account number: 073880310
Ref: Serve Syria

An Insider’s Glimpse into the Syrian Refugee Crisis

October 24, 2013

Many Syrian refugees who escape across the border into Lebanon end up living in ramshackle camps like this one in the Bekaa Valley.

Much has been reported about the plight of Syrian Muslims who are fleeing their country, but how has the war impacted Christian refugees? In an emotional interview with Christian Aid Mission staff, the leader of a Lebanon-based ministry shares refugee accounts that broke his heart—and gave him hope for a brighter future.

Q: How do you minister to the refugees given their very difficult circumstances and challenges?

A: Most of the time we sit and talk and we pray with them. It’s really hard. I know we can’t save the world, but we do as much as we can. We just do whatever we can. People come knocking on the door and say “Please, let us in. It’s okay; we will sit on the floor. Give us just a roof. We don’t want anything else.” Or people will say, “Do you have any clothing for us because we left Syria with nothing.” As we are able to serve meals, we do it. We try to do it weekly. If we are able to offer more food, we do it. We never provide meals according to a schedule. We never store food on the shelf. Whatever we have, we cook, and the refugees help us.

Q: What is the current situation inside Syria and with the refugees in Lebanon?

A: What’s happening now is the persecution that the Christian people are experiencing, especially in the areas of Maaloula and Aleppo. It’s a huge problem now. So they leave Syria with whatever they have on them. They just leave. A country like Lebanon is very small and there’s nothing that the government is doing to help the refugees. Where we work in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, there are no more empty spots available. The fields are full. It’s overwhelming with all the children and families. A huge disaster.

I visited one of the families. There were about 25 to 30 people. When I came in the room, I literally thought they were having the Lord’s Supper, the way they were eating. They were handing each other a slice of bread and each one was taking a piece. This is how bad off they are. In Beirut too, any house that already had one or two refugee families living there, now they have more people in the same house.

I have lived through war, I’ve lived with disasters, but I have never seen it this bad. The main thing now is to stand with believers that we know are being persecuted.

Q: How are Christians in Syria coping?

A: The hardest thing is communication. They don’t go out much. There is a big loneliness; they feel that they are alone and nobody thinks of them. They are scared and they think they are alone in this whole situation. One man said, “Someone burned the Koran and they [the media] made a big story out of it. We have people we bury every day who are Christians. Why can’t we do something about that?” It’s true we are not the kind of people who are an “eye for an eye” and a “tooth for a tooth.” No. The encouraging thing is we are seeing God working, even though things are hard.

Q: Can you share with us the personal stories of some of the families?

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the war is its effect on Syria’s children.

A: This is a very conservative number I’m saying, but I met at least 15 to 20 kids with no mom and no dad left for them. Their parents died when they were in Syria, and the children were taken out by others who were fleeing. One Christian brother in Lebanon mentioned his mom didn’t want to leave Syria because she told him, “If we leave, they’re going to take everything.” He tried to convince her and other family members to leave. He couldn’t. By the time they were talking about leaving, men came into the house and killed them all, just because they are Christians. They were wonderful believers, a wonderful family. This man lost his whole family. His mom, his dad, his grandma, and all his brothers. Nine people were killed that day.

They were killed in a part of Syria that was supposed to be safe. Any area where Christians are, they are being targeted. They [rebels] come in, they massacre people, and they leave. The same thing they did in Maaloula. They came in for two days, they massacred people, and then they left. Maaloula is an area where there are Catholic and Orthodox believers. There’s no fighting there. I don’t know. It’s hard to say where there is a safe area for Christians in Syria any more.

Q: Are the rebels targeting Christians differently than they would Alawite or Shiite?

A: Yes, because they slaughter Christians. They don’t shoot them. That’s how you know the difference.

Q: Do you recommend Christians just leave Syria?

A: In situations like this, you cannot recommend anyone leave or stay. For two reasons. When you leave, you lose everything. I remember every time we left our house during the war in Lebanon, it was broken into and people took everything. That’s really what the rebels want people to do. They want to scare people out, and when families are out, the rebels steal. That’s why they kill families, to scare the neighborhood. They want to make people leave. And at the same time if they don’t leave, they are jeopardizing their lives. And what do you do when you have two kids, three kids, babies? You don’t want to go to a place where you can’t find work, where you’re not welcome, where nobody’s doing anything to help you.

Q: What are you and your ministry doing to help the refugees? What are some specific ways that you are providing assistance to them?

A ministry in Lebanon is reaching out to both Muslim and Christian refugees to provide food packages, medicine, bedding materials, and other essentials.

A: We are opening now several camps that I know of but the only thing is we cannot open them too much to the public because we will be suddenly overwhelmed. But some of the places we are keeping for believers. So far we have more than 6,000 people who are Christians that have tents and small places to stay where they are sharing bathrooms and such. This is in the mountains in Lebanon. We are trying to help them as much as possible with food and medical assistance. The other area where we are working is in the Bekaa Valley. We have some Christians there—around 2,000 people. There are no places left in Beirut. It’s horrible there. Refugees that went to Tripoli in northern Lebanon are fleeing now because of what’s happening there between the Sunnis and the Shiites. So they are either going to Beirut or into the mountains.

Q: In your mind, do you see the refugee situation as something that is bringing many thousands, even hundreds of thousands of Muslims to Christ?

A: I wouldn’t say hundreds of thousands, but I have seen thousands personally. On a recent trip I prayed and I cried with so many people—more than in my entire life, my entire ministry. That’s for sure I can tell you. We have meetings in several churches. You see Muslims coming on Wednesdays, on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. They want to be a part of it.

One Sunday when I was there we had 200 people in a room. We said, “Okay, you know that we are Christians and we believe in Jesus and we would like to pray for you.” We shared the gospel with them. I’ve never seen so many people praying at the same time in my life, ever. All of them were Muslims. We said, “Do you want to give your life to Jesus?” They said, “Yes,” and they prayed. I don’t know if it’s because we were there, but I know they need Jesus. That’s all I know. That’s the maximum we can give them.

Q: Do they tell other Muslims they are Christians, or do they keep it to themselves?

Christians face intense persecution as the war rages on in Syria.

A: It depends where, with whom. I was in Beirut visiting with one of the Syrian families. There were about 35 to 40 people in that small house. A guy came in and said, “You are the one who is converting them to Christianity.” He was angry with me and he was looking at everybody and shouting at them. That gives you an example of how they share with others what they have seen and what they have prayed. That’s how it is happening. Some people share their faith, some don’t. But a lot of them come back to us and help us out.

Q: How do you share your faith with the refugees?

A: We definitely share the gospel with them. We offer them a New Testament. If they say no, we don’t give it. Some are saying, “We don’t read.” This is when audio materials are useful. Sometimes we visit carrying nothing and say, “Hi, I’m just here to see you.” One Muslim man said to me, “Can you come and pray with my wife. I think she is going into labor.” I didn’t know what to pray for. She was in labor. I said, “We will have to take your wife to the hospital.” Of course they cannot afford it. I said, “No problem, let’s go.” So I was praying with her on the way. We got her to the hospital. She had a boy. Guess what they named him? Yes, my name.

Can you imagine? And this was a Muslim family. (choking back tears) All of this is really too much [to handle]. But God is good. We should focus on that. God is good. We need to stand next to the believers. We are there for them. We are there.

How you can help Syrian refugees:

Pray

  • For refugee families, as they have experienced the horrors of war and face immense challenges in the countries where they have relocated. Pray that their hearts will be open to hear and receive the love of Jesus Christ.
  • For encouragement and strength for the Lebanese ministry workers who feel emotionally overwhelmed.
  • For Christians who have chosen to remain in Syria—for their safety, for God’s provision to meet their physical and emotional needs, and that they will be lights for Christ in the midst of the darkness that surrounds them.

Give

Material Needs

  • Food package for one family for a week ($80)
  • Mattress, blanket, pillow ($50)
  • Shoes and clothing ($10)
  • Medicine ($5)

Shelter

  • Plastic tarp ($300-$500). Families use this covering to waterproof their tents, which are made of wood and scrap metal.
  • Heaters ($30-$40) depending on whether the appliance uses diesel fuel or wood. Cold weather will be setting in soon. The ministry is requesting at least 200 heaters, one per family.

Evangelistic Outreach

  • New Testaments/CDs ($5 each). Believers still living in Syria would like to use these materials for evangelism among the rebels.
  • Monthly living expenses for gospel workers in Syria

November 8, 2013
by floyd
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One Third of Syrian Christians Gone From Syria

One Third of Syrian Christians are gone, says cleric.

Oct 24 2013Oct 24 2013
Patriarch claims more than 450,000 have fled, but opinions vary
Christians have fled on mass from their homes in places such as the historic city of Maaloula.
Almost a third of Syria’s Christians have left since the start of the civil war, according to one of the country’s senior clerics.
Syria’s most senior Catholic leader Gregorios III Laham, the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch, told the BBC that more than 450,000 of Syria’s estimated 1.75 million Christians have gone.
However, he said he remained sure that Syria’s Christian community would survive. The precise number of Christians in Syria is open to debate, as is the number of those who have left the country.
A spokesperson for Open Doors International, an organisation which supports Christians under pressure for their faith, says he thinks the figure for those who’ve left may be significantly lower.
There is some debate about the number of Christians in Syria at the beginning of the civil war. Suggestions that Christians amounted to around 8 per cent of the population are thought optimistic by some. And of those Syrians known to have left the country – whether to refugee camps in neighbouring countries, or further afield – the percentage of Christians is believed to be lower than 8 per cent.
Patriarch Gregorios spoke at the London launch of a new report on Thursday (October 17), which claimed that the persecution of Christians is worsening globally.
Catholic international aid agency Aid to the Church in Need’s 2013 Persecuted and Forgotten? claims that an exodus of Christians from many countries threatens Christianity’s status as a worldwide religion. The worst problems, according to the report, are found in North Korea and Eritrea.
“The principal finding of the report is that in two-thirds of the countries where persecution of Christians is most severe, the problems have become arguably even worse,” said John Pontifex, one of the report’s authors. “In fact the Church’s very survival in some parts – notably the Middle East – is now at stake.”
The report suggests that the Arab Spring has turned into the ‘Christian Winter’, with political upheavals proving particularly costly for the Christian minority in the Middle East.
“From all accounts, the incidents of persecution are now apparently relentless and worsening; churches being burnt, Christians under pressure to convert, mob violence against Christian homes, abduction and rape of Christian girls, anti-Christian propaganda in the media and from Government, discrimination in schools and the workplace… The list goes on,” said Pontifex.

October 2, 2013
by floyd
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How Not to Respond to the Syrian Crisis

I just returned from a two-week visit to some of the Syrian refugee camps in the Middle East. Before I describe seven ways not to respond to the Syrian crisis, allow me to share a few impressions from my visits with the refugees themselves.  

I am working though some deep emotions from the heart-rending stories of tragedy and loss I heard as I met with the refugee families.

I visited refugee camps in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, and home visits in Mafraq and Amman, Jordan, as well as a visit to Zaatari, the second largest refugee camp in the world.

I met men who fought with the Free Syria Army and were recovering from wounds inflicted in the fighting. I “talked” with one man who survived a bullet wound to the head. The bullet entered his forehead and exited the back of his head. He is paralyzed, cannot speak, and yet he can understand everything. His wife sat beside him holding his hand. In that moment I did not see “a Muslim” but another human being, a man with a family he cannot feed and wounds he cannot get medical attention for.

In the same crowded apartment building of 14 flats, all occupied by refugee families, I met two brothers, both of whom had recently escaped from prison in Syria. Both brothers had bullet scars and shrapnel wounds. One of the brothers could not lift his left arm because he was tortured in prison – Syrian soldiers cut the tendons and nerves in his arm and wrist while he was held captive.

I sat with refugee families in tents – they did know where the next meal is coming from. I listened as one man said he wants to work but cannot because of his refugee status. That is true for several hundred thousand Syrian men, many from middle-class backgrounds, who are now refugees in Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.  They are stateless, hopeless, and lost. And it is illegal for them to take a wage-earning job in their host country.

For every refugee the United Nations counts in their official statistics, there is at least one more refugee who is unregistered. Many of the refugees are afraid of registering for fear of spies turning over their identities to the Assad regime in Syria.

It is hard to assimilate all I witnessed and heard in those two weeks. I asked God to allow me to feel what He feels and to see what He sees. Perhaps no one outside Syria can really understand what the Syrian refugees have been through. But still, I asked God to touch my heart in a deep and lasting way. He is still doing that in me.

I am a man of action, so what I saw and felt is meaningless to me if I don’t do something with it. I will act. I have come back to Cape Town filled with passion and purpose. I feel called to mobilize as many as I can to get involved, and to give if they cannot go.

What was most striking to me in my talks with the refugees was their spiritual hunger and openness. They longed to know God has not abandoned them. They smiled with sincere appreciation when I spoke to them about His love for them, when I told them He spared their lives, and that He has a purpose for them. I reminded them that He is a creator, and He will create a new life and a new beginning for them. I compared it to being “born again.” No one objected when we spoke of the love of God revealed in Jesus.

Several million Syrian people have been forced from their homes, their land and their families because of the war. Some of the families told me about their houses being struck by bombs while they were in them. They lived to tell their story. Other families described the physical pain and horrible discomfort caused by chemical weapons. One mother asked for prayer for her baby boy named Sultan. Please pray for him, would you? And pray for Jesus to reveal Himself to Sultan’s family.

More than one family had TVs on while we sat with them, blaring continually with live news reports from the fighting in Syria. Their TV’s are on night and day. They watch as the “rebels” fight against the Syrian army in their home towns. Places that were names on the news to me previously became more real when I met people from places like Homs, Damascus, Aleppo, and Daraa – where the revolution began.

Can you imagine sitting with a family, while in the background a TV showed violent, bloody scenes of gun battles, RPG’s being fired from wrecked buildings, and snipers killing unsuspecting enemy soldiers? It was disturbing. It hit me that they were watching news reports about their family members and hometowns.

Most of the refugees grieve without knowing how to grieve. Their culture does not allow them to mourn their losses. Except for the first few hours after death, they cannot acknowledge pain when they lose their fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons to the fighting. When waves of grief overcome them, they can only cry alone with no one to talk to.

The refugees struggle with feelings of abandonment by the rest of the world. They feel alone in their struggle against a ruthless regime. Hopelessness was tangible in every conversation.

At the same time, in every interaction with the refugees, they were incredibly generous and hospitable.

One thing is clear to me above everything else: there is great spiritual hunger and openness to the good news of Jesus. There are several million Syrian people suffering. They experience hunger, hopelessness, and confusion. I was overwhelmed with the desperate longing by the Syrian people I met to be listened to, to be helped, and to hear the good news of God’s love for them.

Their hospitality amazed me.

In every home, in every shop, and in every single contact with the refugees, I experienced warm hospitality and generosity. I witnessed amazing grace in the midst of huge tragedy and pain. Everyone we visited served us what food they had. They gave us coffee, tea, cakes, hot meals, and soft drinks – at great sacrifice to themselves. I was humbled and deeply touched by their kindness to me, a stranger.

No one turned down prayer. Everyone listened eagerly to the news that God had not forgotten them. They joined us respectfully as I prayed for them in Jesus name.

We have to respond while there is still time! This moment of opportunity and need will not last for long. When the immediate crisis is past, people will settle in new countries, or return to Syria to rebuild their homes, and then the opportunity to minister the love of Jesus will not be the same. Many of the refugees will melt into the local culture. Already thousands of them are doing their best to move out of the camps and into the towns and cities in their host countries, such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.

We have to respond while the people are open! There are hundreds of thousands of refugee children. The UN is overwhelmed by the crisis. UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) leaders describe the tragedy as beyond any other faced by the United Nations in recent memory.

What can be done? You can give financially to help us send teams and provide food for the refugees. We have more volunteers in All Nations lining up, willing to go. We have teams who already there, working with the refugees.

Short-term teams can go now to the camps. We can play with their children, listen to their stories, start schools, teach English, hire Arabic speaking translators, help them get medical assistance, and pray with them. We can share the good news of Jesus.

Every Syrian refugee has a name, a journey, and a story to tell. If nothing else, we can take a packet of food to a family, then sit and listen, and care for them. We can weep with them. And we can share the love of God with them.

Seven Conclusions: how to respond and how not to respond to the Syrian crisis:

1.    The conflict in Syria has created an urgent, unique moment of opportunity. This crisis has an expiry date!  It is urgent that we respond now, before the window of opportunity closes. Perhaps we only have 6-12 months to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis. Our response must not be a political response, though we all have our political convictions, but a spiritual and practical one. We, as followers of Christ, offer something no government or UN agency can offer. We must provide aid to those suffering, and we must do so in the name of Jesus, with prayer and the good news of Jesus.

2.    Syria as a nation will most likely open to outside help for rebuilding their country once the war ends. We should plan now to be part of that response. There will most likely be ongoing tensions and fighting between various Islamic factions within Syria for many years to come, but the danger involved must not stop us from being involved. Danger is normal for those who get involved in crisis situations.

3.    When we respond to the Syrian refugees, we have accepted an invitation by God to be part of him “shaking all nations, that they might seek after the desire of all nations.” Haggai 2

4.    I learned on this trip that the Arab Spring began in Indonesia in 1996, not two years ago in Tunisia. The Arab Spring is bigger and has been going on longer than I realizedIt began with the fall of Suharto, the world’s longest serving dictator in the world’s largest Muslim country. It was students demonstrating on the streets of Jakarta in massive numbers that forced his resignation.  The “Arab Spring” continues to break out around the Muslim world. The Arab Spring is a spiritual shaking from God. It has shaken Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Malaysia, Somalia, Lebanon, Jordan, Sudan/South Sudan, Iran, and now Syria. It is as significant as the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.

5.    The Arab Spring is a spiritual movement and radical terrorism is political response to a spiritual phenomenon. If we see the Middle East through the grid of politics, of what America or the United Nations should or should not do, we will miss what God is up to. We must not think in terms of “radical terrorists” or “extremists” or the “threat to the West…” Much of the Islamic terrorism in the world today is a false-spiritual response to a massive turning of millions of Muslims to Jesus. It is Satan’s way of distracting us, of filling our hearts with fear, anger, and unbelief. We are living in the time of the greatest harvest ever among Muslims coming to faith in Jesus. Of course, Satan is not happy about that – so he is stirring up anger and hatred in the hearts of extremists to act violently, and thus to cause a polarization, a temptation to people in the West to respond in the same spirit. Dont fall for it!  This is a moment in history catalyzed by God to create deep hunger and spiritual crisis in the hearts of people in the Muslim world. It represents a historical turning point in the history of Islam. Respond with prayer, love, and faith, not fear, retaliation or suspicion. See and be impressed with what God is up to, not what the enemy is doing.

6.    To be fully understood, the Syrian refugee crisis must be seen in the greater context of the “Arab Spring” and what is happening all over the Muslim world. Though there is a terrible war in Syria with grave injustices on both sides of the conflict, it is happening because God has seen fit to allow the status quo to be unsettled in the Muslim world. Many Muslims are asking why Muslims are killing Muslims? The crisis in Syria is a severe spiritual blow to Islam that represents a split in the heart of Islam, a division between moderate and radical streams of belief. There is a major spiritual conflict/divide taking place within Islam, and this divide represents a unique moment to share the love of Jesus with Muslims.

7.    Finally, we must not buy into the dualistic, Western mindset that says we should not “take advantage” of people in crisis situations by offering to pray for them, or sharing the Gospel with them, or inviting them to faith in Jesus. Of course, we should not pressure people or manipulate them into “making decisions” based on what we do for them. But we must follow Jesus’ example and obey His command to announce the good news of the kingdom and to heal them. Sharing the love of Jesus, telling the good news of forgiveness and hope in Christ is not manipulation, but providing the spiritual hope people long for. Sadly, I have witnessed relief groups separating their good deeds from the good news of Jesus in my 46 years of serving Jesus among the poor. I am convinced that hopelessness and Christ-less ness go hand in hand, and the core of what we do as followers of Christ is discipling people to faith in Jesus, the hope of the world. There is a great opportunity to disciple people to faith who in turn start simple churches in the camps. The great commission and the great commandment go hand-in-hand – the Syrians are longing for those who can walk a road with them to faith and to reproduce that faith in many others.

 

August 31, 2013
by floyd
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Why I am against American intervention in Syria

1. We are not the world’s police. America cannot and should not seek to police the world’s moral and military problems. There are even more serious cases of oppression and cruelty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur, and North Korean – where does it stop?

2. Jesus’ command to be peacemakers applies to governments not just individuals.

3. Many more innocent people will die.

4. It will enlarge the war that is now spreading to other countries in the Middle East. It will draw Iran more deeply into the conflict, and could cause acts of violence against other nations.

5. It will hinder the spread of the good news of Jesus.

6. It will further endanger the lives of indigenous believers in Syria and other Middle Eastern countries.

7. It will disrupt and bring disrepute to thousands of missionaries, Christian aid workers, church planters and pastors who serve in the name of Jesus.

8. It will make America and it’s actions “the issue” rather than the atrocities committed by the Syrian government.

9. It will increase hate and fear instead of love and faith for Arabs and Palestinians; people will take sides against those we are called to reach with the good news.

10. Syrian refugees are suffering. The attention of the world should be upon those that can be helped In the refugee camps. There are 1.9 million Syrian refugees, and almost 1,000,000 of them are children!! While we debate about America’s actions the poor continue to suffer.

August 31, 2013
by floyd
1 Comment

What About Teaching and Preaching in Disciple-Making Movements?

Check out davidwatson.org for great resources on making disciples and church planting.

by DAVIDWATSON on AUGUST 27, 2013

“What about Teaching and Preaching?” is the number one question I receive when talking about Disciple-Making Movements, the Discovery Bible Study and Discovery Groups (which are inductive and self correcting through a coaching process); and to the uninitiated, do not appear to have teachers or preachers. There are several aspects to this question I want to explore with you in this post.

A certain percentage of those who ask this question are really saying, “I feel that teaching and preaching are my gifts, and I see no place for me in the Discovery process.” The problem with this response is that the question is focused on the teaching/preacher, not the students who need to know God. I call this the talking-head syndrome. People who have this syndrome think they are such good orators/teachers/preachers that the sound of their voices and the content of their messages will somehow miraculously become permanently imbedded in the minds of those who listen. They will proof text their position, somehow thinking that modern teaching and preaching were the norm in the First Century.

If they would take even a moment to look at the ministry of Jesus or Paul, they would realize that lecturing was a very small part of their ministries. From Scripture, it seems that they would spend days in direct contact with people making disciples for every few minutes of lecture. It is not that they didn’t lecture; it is that they didn’t just lecture. They prayed together, meet needs together, when on ministry trips together and separately, reported what was accomplished, dialogued with each other and the opposition, taught others what they were learning, and obeyed (put into practice) what they were learning. The idea that teaching and preaching were just talking did not even occur to them and certainly was not their usual practice.

The following diagram is from page 95 of How the Brain Learns by David Sousa, 2001. It is based on research done by the NLT Institute of Alexandria, Virginia.

Note, that if one just lectures, then there is only a 5% retention of information after 24 hours. This goes down even further as more days pass. On the same page, Dr. Sousa also writes, “Lecture continues to be the most prevalent teaching mode in secondary and higher education, despite overwhelming evidence that it produces the lowest degree of retention for most learners.”

Modern teaching and preaching are lecture styles that cannot and do not produce Disciples, regardless of how good the orator feels about his or her skills or content. There is certainly a place for lecture, but it is minor in the overall process of making a disciple.

Disciple-Makers cannot just be teachers and preachers. They must spend significant time with their potential disciples in dialogue, demonstration, encouragement to teach others what they are learning, and exhorting them to obey (do) what they are learning. This is how one effectively moves knowledge and practice from one person to another and one generation to another.

In the typical teaching/preaching setting, listeners are encouraged to do three things.

Listen to the Scripture as it is read, which may or may not be heard
Listen to an explanation of the Scripture, which may or may not be understood
Listen to how they might apply the Scripture to their own lives or circumstances, which may or may not be obeyed
To enhance retention, the teacher/preacher will use lots of examples and stories, and sometimes, guilt. But the reality is that most listeners cannot tell anyone about what they heard, unless they took notes and refer to those notes. Within a few weeks no one remembers anything that was said, unless it was a good joke or story they told to others several times. There is zero accountability for the content or the behavior changes it may require. Even the teacher/preacher is hard pressed to tell us in any detail what they spoke about in the last few weeks.

Modern teaching and preaching has failed to produce obedient Disciples of Jesus.

The methodology of Disciple-Making Movements (DMM) was designed to produce the highest levels of understanding, retention, obedience, and reproduction of the process. It all starts with a committed and obedient Disciple of Jesus who is also a Disciple-maker. By the way, one cannot be a committed and obedient Disciple of Jesus and not make Disciples. A Disciple is one who knows and follows (obeys) the teachings of Jesus, which includes the command to “make Disciples”.

The DMM process is:

A well-trained Disciple is sent to a new area to start work. (Teaching and practice is involved)
The Disciple practices his/her life in the new community, being conspicuously spiritual while meeting felt needs in the community. (Felt needs may include business)
The spiritual life and ministry of the Disciple attracts those who may be spiritually seeking.
Casual Discover Bible Studies are introduced and the seeker is encouraged to share these with family, friends, neighbors, and workmates. For example: I verbally introduce a passage of Scripture and ask the seeker what he/she thinks. Then I ask them to share it with family/friends/neighbors/workmates to see what they think. The person who engages the process and introduces me to their family/friends/neighbors/workmates is called a Person of Peace. (These studies may be on a variety of topics of interest to the audience: family, parenting, debt, wealth, and etc.)
As interest in the topics increase, there comes a time when it is appropriate to move from an informal to a formal Discovery Bible Study within the context of a Discovery Group. By this point the Disciple-maker should know who the spiritual leader of the group is. It may or may not be the Person of Peace.
The Disciple-maker then approaches the spiritual leader of the family/group/neighbors/workmates, and suggests that he/she should lead the group in discovering more about God.
Upon acceptance, the Disciple-maker begins a relationship with the spiritual leader and coaches him/her to lead a Discovery Group. Coaching includes teaching and the practice of skills until they are perfected. At this point you may want to review Small Groups that have the DNA of a Gospel Planting Movement.
The Discovery Group takes people from not knowing God to falling in love with Jesus. Later, the same process is used to master any topic in the Bible. It establishes the DNA of the emerging church.
Here is an outline with the DNA elements in parenthesis:
Ask: What are you thankful for this week? (Prayer/Worship)
Ask: What has stressed you out this week? What do you need for things to be better? (Intercession)
Ask: What are the needs of the people in your community? (Ministry)
Ask: How can we help each other with the needs we expressed? (Ministry)
Ask: What did we talk about last week? (Review/Accountability)
Ask: Did you change anything in your life as a result of last week’s story? (Accountability/Obedience)
Ask: Did you get a chance to share the story with [the person they identified]? (Accountability/Evangelism)
Ask: We identified several needs last week and planned to meet those needs. How did it go? (Accountability/Ministry)
Say: Let’s see what the Bible teaches us this week. Read this week’s passage. (Scripture)
Ask for someone to retell the passage in his or her own words. Like they were telling a friend who wasn’t there. (Understanding/Evangelism)
Ask the Group: Do you agree with their retelling? Is there something they added or left out that they shouldn’t have? As long as the group doesn’t miss a key component of the passage, continue. If they miss something, read the passage again. If someone states something that isn’t in the passage, ask, “Where did you find [what they said] in this passage?” Reread the passage, if necessary. (Priesthood of Believers/Group Correction/Understanding)
Ask: What does this passage teach us about God? (Discovery/Scripture/Priesthood of Believers)
Ask: What does this passage teach us about humanity? (Discovery/Scripture/Priesthood of Believers)
Ask: If we believe this passage is from God, how must we change? (Discovery/Scripture/Obedience/Priesthood of Believers)
Ask: Who are you going to share this passage with before we meet again? (Evangelism/Replication)
Ask: When do you want to meet again? This is a practical question. You will never get someone to commit to a 26-week study. But, you can give them the option to meet again next week. If they are really seeking and if the meeting is filling a need, they will tell you they want to meet again.
This process is repeated every week until the group becomes Believers and then Disciples in obedience to the Word, which will include baptism and is when we consider a church to be established. Maturing of the church continues with new Bible studies designed to take the church to reproduction.
Now, let’s revisit the learning pyramid.

Lecture (teaching) takes place between the Disciple-maker and the seeker who will lead the group.
Reading the Scripture for the next lesson takes place between the Disciple-maker and the seeker who leads the group.
Reading to the group/listening to Scripture takes place in the group.
Demonstration of the process takes place between the Disciple-maker and the seeker who leads the group, and the group practices it weekly.
The group is led in discussion of the Word using the questions given by the Disciple-maker. Note that the group leader does not teach, but simply leads a discussion around the Word of God.
The seeker/leader and the group practice the process weekly. They also practice what they have learned with others inside and outside the group.
Every week the group members are encouraged to share/teach other what they are learning and to put into immediate practice (obey) what they are learning.
I hope you can see how every learning process is taken advantage of in the development of the Disciple-Making Movement methodology.

Now, let’s compare the traditional method of preaching/teaching to discipleship to Disciple-making.

Traditional

Disciple-Making Movements
Scripture Scripture
Explanation Understanding
Application Obedience

Our purpose is not to just teach or preach. Our purpose is to teach and preach with our words, our lives, and our practices in such a way that others can do the same as they imitate us in their groups and among their family/friends/neighbors/work. More than explanation, we want understanding. More than application, we want obedience.

Teaching and preaching are much more than lectures that exhort people to change their behavior. Real teaching and preaching are part of a Disciple-making process that engages the lives of a community, and bring real hope and change to that community. Success is found when the community does the same thing again with others. The real teacher in this process is the Holy Spirit, as seekers are taught to listen and learn from God as they are guided in exploring Scripture.

Blessings!

David Watson
Irving, Texas
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August 26, 2013
by floyd
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5 Broken Views of Discipleship and How to Fix Them

I’m grateful for the great articles from Terry Moeller at Acts 29.  Terry consistently passes on the most consistently helpful articles on leadership, church and discipleship I have come across. The following article by Ed Stetzer is another winner. See  http://acts29-today.blogspot.com/

by Ed Stetzer 

There is a lot of talk about discipleship these days — and it is about time. Jesus seemed to think discipleship was a big deal, putting it as the heart — and the verb — of the Great Commission to “make disciples of all nations.” Yet, it seems discipleship has fallen on hard times in many churches in the West — for example, English-speaking places like the U.S., Canada, Australia, and England where there are Christians who are just not as desperate and committed as their sisters and brothers in the Two-Thirds World.

I would go so far as to say that our discipleship model is broken. I would like to suggest some areas where we are broken and hopefully provide some solutions about how to fix them.

1. We equate discipleship with religious knowledge.

While I don’t think one can appropriately grow without seeking more biblical knowledge, many times believers reduce the discipleship process to, “Read this. Study this. Memorize this. Good to go.” This is unfortunate.

“The point is not information, but Christ-like transformation.”

Instead, discipleship is to be more like Jesus. Christ-like transformation is the goal, as we are “to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29). The point is not information, but Christ-like transformation. And, that means it is not about knowledge in general, but about knowing Jesus better. Trying to be like Jesus, without the power of Jesus, dishonors Jesus.

2. We try to program discipleship.

Discipleship is not a six-week course. It requires both the pursuit of knowledge and intentional action. Too many offer a book or a class when what is needed is a life.

Instead, when Jesus made disciples, He brought them along as He ministered to people. I’m currently discipling a new believer, and we’re actually doing ministry together — instead of me just telling him about it. The good news is that the research tells us people want this. In fact, in a recent LifeWay Research study, we found that a large majority of those who have previously attended a small group of some kind, but who are not attending now, would consider attending a new group, but they want to meet with their group more often than just once a week for bible study. People are looking for meaningful, shared-life relationships, not just a discipleship class.

3. We equate discipleship with our preaching.

I’m just going to say it: Pastors, move beyond your arrogance and stop thinking your preaching is enough to be the church’s discipleship strategy. This is not just my opinion. Recent research done by LifeWay Research indicates that 56% of pastors surveyed believe that their weekly sermon, or another one of their teaching times such as Sunday evenings/Wednesday evenings, was the most important discipling ministry in the church. While it is great to see the recent renaissance of Bible-based preaching, along with it we have to jettison the idea that “If people just listen to my sermons, they will grow spiritually.”

“Discipleship is not a Sunday event, it is a daily commitment.”

Instead, discipleship is a daily process. Pastors, we have to develop more robust discipleship plans than just our weekly messages. Discipleship is not a Sunday event, it is a daily commitment.

4. We think that we will grow without effort.

For many, they think that God saved them and now they should just go to church and maybe stay away from the really big sins. They are unintentional in tending to their spiritual growth. Sadly we have not done much to change this.

Instead, we need to understand that the scripture teaches that each person is to not be a passive spectator, but rather to “work out your own salvation” (Phil. 2:12). Discipleship takes every believer’s intentional effort. Yes, effort. Believers must take steps to grow, and that is in line with grace.

Notice that this passage does not say “work on your own salvation” or “work toward” it. You cannot. It is by grace and through faith. However, as a believer, you do take effort to grow—but that does not earn you a relationship with God, it just puts you in the right place where God can grow you as a believer, saved by grace. As Dallas Willard has explained, “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.”

5. We don’t offer practical steps.

Changing a church’s consumer culture requires an intentional discipleship plan and strategy. We are often intentional about our preaching schedule; why, then, are we not intentional about a discipleship strategy?

Instead, be unapologetic that you want to encourage people to get 1) grounded in their faith, 2) consistent in the word, 3) in a small group with others, whether that looks like a weekly Bible study group, a missional community, a Sunday School class, or something else altogether. Give people steps and people with whom they can take those steps.
Conclusion

Assuming your discipleship plan is biblically grounded, the specifics of your plan are not nearly as important as implementing one and communicating it well. Heralding a strategy as the way to become a disciple would be arrogant, but each church should explain its discipleship strategy as “our church’s way of discipleship.”

Identifying the challenges of genuine discipleship and committing to a process that works through them are the first and necessary steps to cultivating a church filled with on-mission disciples.

(This article first appeared in the April/May 2013 issue of Outreach Magazine.)

By Ed Stetzer
http://www.edstetzer.com/

Ed Stetzer is President of LifeWay Research and LifeWay’s Missiologist in Residence.