The Church in Philadelphia

christchurch-paI live in a great city. God is on the move in Philadelphia and He is working in many different contexts. In Revelation 3, God speaking through the Apostle John writes the following to the church of Philadelphia,

“I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”

As it was then it is now in the city of brotherly love that I call home. When people think of God moving in America, it is easy to think about places like Colorado Springs, Grand Rapids, Orlando or Southern California where there are significant clusters of evangelical organizations and mega churches. This was not always the case. Many years ago, the hubs of evangelical activity and vitality were places like Chicago, New York and Philadelphia. Interestingly, God is once again doing a new work in these urban areas and it is exciting.

This week, we hosted a Clergy Appreciation Breakfast and had a record turnout. The hunger for a new move of God and the Clergy Appreciation Breakfast 2014experience of His manifest presence was palpable. While the attendees were from many different denominations and churches with widely varying theological perspectives, they were all able to agree on one thing. God’s tangible presence and power are the only things that are going to make real, lasting change take place in our city. People are tired of gimmicks, trendy tactics and attention getting stunts. The problems of the city are so gigantic and intractable that it is easy to get discouraged and to see the challenges as simply insurmountable. Despite this, the atmosphere at this breakfast was one of expectation and hope and it greatly encouraged my heart.

The face of the church in Philadelphia is multifaceted. There are store-front churches and mega churches, traditional and contemporary and everything in between. Each month, a select group of clergy meets in a gathering called Partners in Harvest. On Friday, I had the privilege of joining them for lunch and listening to what God is doing in their midst. Some of these churches have been doing ministry for decades and draw hundreds of people each week, others are relatively new and only draw a few dozen on any given Sunday. As I listened to their robust discussion, it quickly became apparent that they all had one thing in common – a commitment to the life changing power of the gospel as the only solution to all the problems facing any urban congregation. In a world where churches are more known for the celebrity status of their pastor or the quality of their worship team, this was refreshing.

Eric Mason ThrivingIn the midst of all the things going on with churches in our city, one of the most exciting is the work of Epiphany Fellowship, their pastor Eric Mason and his annual Thriving Conference. The conference has grown so big that it moved out of the church and onto the Temple University campus this week. To be clear, this is not the urban version of the Catalyst conference and it did not have thousands of attendees. Instead, several hundred urban ministry practitioners from around the country gathered together to learn from each other and to share stories of how God is moving in their cities. As always, it was capped off by powerful teaching from Pastor Eric Mason himself and his exhortation to focus on the person and work of Jesus Christ.

CLC has provided the conference book store for the last couple of years and this event is something that I always look forward to attending. The enthusiasm of seeing the next generation of urban church planters buying books and seeking to develop their spiritual reading habits is incredibly motivating. We were given a suggested list of books to bring and they were not light reading. Despite this, people flocked around the tables and spent a great deal of time making book choices. Reading is certainly not dead in this younger generation and even more encouraging, they are choosing to read books that will stretch them and their ministries.

As I think about the future, I am reminded of the past. All great moves of God have been preceded by times of prayer and repentance. It is no surprise that the College of Prayer is launching a site in Philadelphia this fall. Our ministry will be the host site for this catalytic event in November and we look forward to seeing who God will bring to this first weekend. Fred Hartley, who is the President of the College of Prayer and a CLC author, will be the keynote speaker. May this be the start of a revival in the city where America was founded.

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Sharing the Wealth

sharingIn January 2012, a momentous event occurred. Two long-standing mission associations merged to create a new organization called Missio Nexus. One was CrossGlobal Link (formerly the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association) and the other was The Mission Exchange (formerly the Evangelical Fellowship of Mission Agencies). Given their similar goals, this was not entirely surprising, but given their diverse constituencies this was not an easy process. Coming out of this merger, Missio Nexus has proven to be a very effective organization with a critical purpose summarized in a tag line that I love,

“The Great Commission is too big for anyone to accomplish alone and too important not to try to do together.”

Last week, I discussed the reality that the vast majority of evangelical Christian publishing originates in the United States and is now controlled by secular publishing companies. The consequences of this are already being felt around the world as both the best and worst of American evangelical publishing are normally the quickest books to be translated and sold. Far too often, the latest theological debates and cultural trends happening in the American evangelical church are the basis for best sellers. These are then repackaged for sale in countries all over the world with little to no consideration of their cultural relevance or necessity in those countries. How else could you explain Amish fiction showing up in various languages and the story of a little American boy with visions of heaven spurring an entire new publishing genre?

This trend will not change any time soon especially as more consolidation continues to take place in the industry and more and more money is spent to grow the brands of leading American evangelical authors. In a great irony, it is now clear that the center of evangelicalism has moved from North America to the global south. There is much hand wringing in America these days about the decline of certain denominations and the mass defection of an entire generation of young adults from the local church. At the very same time, the church is growing so fast in Latin America, Africa and Asia that trained leaders are in very short supply. Despite this, very few voices from the global south have been published by American publishing houses. This is a challenge that must be addressed as these voices are vital to the growth of the church in the years ahead. Here are some thoughts on what could be done:

1. Acquisition editors need to pursue authors that have global platforms and not just an American audience. There are many authors that are traveling, preaching and teaching in various nations and creating a worldwide interest in their content. International sales potential needs to play a larger role in acquisition decisions.

2. American evangelical gatekeepers need to invite more international leaders to the party. The leaders of the Gospel Coalition, Catalyst and other major conferences need to be more intentional about asking leaders from other countries to be plenary speakers at their events. Giving this type of exposure will jump start the platform development of new and emerging authors.

3. Key American evangelical bloggers need to invite international authors to guest blog for them on a more regular basis. This will help to expose new issues to their audience and provide platform development opportunities for great writers from other cultures. It might also help to change the tone of so much of the vitriol and disputing that seem to be the most popular items in the blogosphere.

4. Major American authors need to intentionally mentor international authors and find ways to help them grow their audience. Why not co-write a book together or simply endorse and promote some of these exciting new voices. They could introduce these same authors to literary agents and publicists that could open doors for them as well.

5. Publishers (who are not controlled by secular parent entities) could choose to invest some of their limited budgets in emerging voices from the global south and commit to helping them develop an American audience for their writing. They could also partner with publishers from other nations that have already spent time developing these new authors.

When I attend global gatherings of CLC leaders these days, I am always thrilled to see how God is providing high quality leaders from all the nations where we serve. I look forward to the day when we can celebrate authors from their nations who are impacting the world through their writing and the books that are being published.

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To Whom Much is Given …

treasureAs any dutiful American should :), I was watching 60 Minutes recently when Steve Kroft was interviewing President Obama. They discussed many things that are going on in our world these days and then Steve asked our President why the United States was taking the lead in responding to the ISIS threat. President Obama leaned forward in his seat, got quite animated in his response and basically said that the world expects us to lead and that our country had a unique role to play in responding to crises. This got me thinking.

I have traveled quite a bit as an adult and lived overseas until I was fifteen. There is no question that America plays a unique role in this world. For better or worse, we are admired and reviled, emulated and despised. It is pretty rare to come across someone who has a neutral opinion of the United States or Americans in general. Some have even referred to us as “the last true superpower”. While there is certainly a case to be made that we have not always wielded that power carefully, it is also true that our nation has engaged in remarkable humanitarian efforts around the world. The 4,000 troops on the way to Liberia are just the latest example.

In the world of Christian book publishing, the reality of American dominance is even starker. Some researchers have estimated that as much as 80% of all evangelical Christian literature being made available around the world today had its origins in the United States. An article just published in Christianity Today reported on a new study that has been completed on reading habits in Africa. Interestingly, those polled in the Central African Republic listed Billy Graham as their favorite author, in Kenya, Ben Carson took the top spot and in Angola, John Maxwell headed the list. This information correlates well with data from with the CLC ministry that I serve as Rick Warren and other prominent American authors are best sellers around the globe in many different languages.

Unfortunately there is another reality that is also affecting the reading habits of Christians around the world. Platform matters as much in other countries as it does in America. These authors are not just popular because of where their books were first produced, but also because of the power of these authors and their publishers to get the word out. In many cases this has meant that some of the most problematic books and teaching on the prosperity gospel have massive audiences because of their publicity on TBN and The God Channel. The lowest common denominator, “Christianity Lite” is increasingly the first thing to be translated and published because it was initially a block buster in the USA and is now being marketed heavily overseas.

Added to this is the continued consolidation of the American publishing marketplace and the recent purchases of several Christian publishing houses by major secular publishers. Today, it is fair to say that as much as 60% of all Christian books are published by companies that have a non-Christian parent organization. While the full results of this trend are still unfolding, one thing is becoming clear, more and more books are being produced for “itchy ears” and sales potential is clearly becoming the primary reason to publish a Christian book.

Luke 12:48 says, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” Evangelical Christian publishers in America today have a unique obligation and responsibility to use their power wisely. Certainly, all publishers have to make money to survive and that is an increasingly challenging proposition in the rapidly changing world we live in. Despite this, Jesus also said, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” I for one do not have any desire to drown with a millstone around my neck. Next week, I will share some thoughts on how we can “share the wealth” more effectively. We have much to learn from our brothers and sisters around the world.

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The Authorprenuer

authorprenuerSeveral hands were in the air and the students were eager to ask questions. I was teaching a class on publishing and book marketing at Rosemont College. This particular evening I was the guest speaker and was revealing one of the little known secrets of the book publishing business – how few books actually sell. Statistically, the average nonfiction book will only sell 250 copies in its first year and no more than 3000 in its lifetime. For new authors looking to impact the world with their words, these can seem like daunting odds. Will anyone actually read what they have toiled for years to write?

It is certainly true that we live in a time when it has never been easier to get a book published. Many of the requisite tools are available on line. Getting the book made available on Amazon.com, especially as an e-book is a matter of effort and following instructions. Each year hundreds of thousands of books are being written and published and yet so few actually make it into people’s hands or ever get read. There is now startling new information on the number of “free” e-books that are downloaded and never read. It seems like the old truism that people value what they pay for is still true.

This reality is informing a new generation of authors who are part writer, part entrepreneur. They recognize that writing a good book is only the first half of the book selling equation. The other part involves networking, relationship building, creating a brand and spending lots of time working on that dreaded word – a platform. It really is true that those take the time to do this well can experience the joy of seeing their books reach audiences they never dreamed about. Every once in a while, all of this hard work and a little bit of serendipity will combine to create that perfect storm that publishers love – the hot new book that is getting a lot of buzz.

Last year, I met one of these new “authorprenuers” (yes I just made that word up-or at least I thought I had until I Googled it). Matt Mitchell is affectionately known in our offices as “the gossip guy” and he has done an amazing job of writing a great book and developing a significant platform. He is one of those rare people who can write a highly accessible book and find a way to connect deeply with his audience. Last year, his book Resisting Gossip, took off like a rocket and became our best-selling new book of the past year. It was recognized by several key bloggers (that regularly review books) as one of the most important new books of 2013.

Not satisfied to have simply written a great new book, Matt spent a good part of this past year working on a companion study guide called, Resisting Gossip Together. As he was working on it, he hit upon an idea that we got really excited about. He wanted to create a series of teaching videos that could be used alongside this new resource. There was only one catch – they had to be made available for FREE on the internet. After thinking about it for a few moments, we agreed that this might just be the best idea we had heard in a long time. As Matt describes them – “They are our gift to the world”. Check out the trailer for this video series

Matt’s teaching videos are available now on line for FREE. The new study guide, Resisting Gossip Together and the DVD with his teaching videos on them will be available for purchase on Tuesday, October 7th.

It is one of my greatest joys to work alongside a new generation of writers who work just as hard at making their books interesting to buy as they do in writing the book in the first place. Many of our new books have book trailers created by our in house team or the authors themselves. These video trailers tell a compelling story that words alone could never do. One of these exciting new authors is Ryan Lokkesmoe and his vital new book, Blurry releases this Tuesday. Check out his exceptional video book trailer.

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Life as We Know It

leaf rakingI traipsed outside and looked around. How could this be possible? Technically it is still summer in Pennsylvania and yet my back yard is already full of leaves that have fallen. It seems like fall arrived early with cooler than normal temperatures and trees already beginning to turn various shades of red, orange and yellow. While I love the beauty that the autumn season brings, I dread the leaf raking. Our house is on a hillside in the midst of a forest and leaf raking is a never ending job for several weeks each year. As I began looking for my rakes and tarps, it struck me that so many of the things I am quick to complain about are really first world problems.

Just this past week I received an e-mail from our team leader in Sierra Leone reminding us to pray for them this weekend as the country was being shut down for three days. In a place that was still recovering from a terrible civil war, Ebola has broken out and is devastating the country. Life was not easy before this disease began to take its toll, but things were improving. In nearby Liberia where CLC has just re-established a presence in downtown Monrovia things are just as bad. As I write this blog, over 2600 people in West Africa have been confirmed dead so far and many more deaths are suspected to have been related to Ebola that have not been reported.

In the Middle East, ISIS is on the move and Christians are being targeted for persecution, torture, rape and murder. Entire regions are being “depopulated” of Christians who have lived in those areas for centuries in places like Mosul which is the site of Nineveh in the Bible. In reports that are almost too horrific to believe, some Christians are even being beheaded. While the world struggles to respond to this outrage, many of us are simply oblivious to what is going on. If I am honest, I can find myself just as unaware of the realities of the struggles that so many on this planet live with every day.

This past March, I had the joy of visiting both Liberia and Sierra Leone and experiencing a little bit of life from someone else’s vantage point. As we sat in a traffic jam for several hours one evening trying to get from one side of Freetown to the other, I couldn’t help imagining how we in the West would respond to this typical daily reality in Sierra Leone. As I sat pondering this issue in the back of the car, I noticed how patient the other drivers were in the traffic around us. Some even rolled down their windows and began chatting with people that were passing by. Nobody seemed to be getting angry and there wasn’t even a hint of road rage.

There is a lot that we can learn from our brothers and sisters around the world. Crisis can actually deepen faith rather than destroy it. In places where deprivation and disease is the norm, God is real in ways that I may never fully understand.  As I worshiped with my Christian brothers and sisters in West Africa on a hot Sunday morning I could sense the depth of their sincerity and dependence on the one who suffered the agony of a death on a cross on their behalf. Belief was not just an intellectual exercise, but a daily life changing reality. Amazingly, this belief is most evident in the all surpassing joy that I observed on a regular basis. This was not an “easy believeism” that is so prevalent in America these days but a sincere trust in the one who made us for His glory.

Someone recently reminded me that the opposite of love is not hate, it is apathy. How often I am tempted not to care about those people and problems that are far away. I would rather ignore the suffering and brutality that appear on the nightly news so that I can pretend that it is not really happening. Is it possible that people are being enslaved, murdered and even crucified in 2014 simply because they are followers of Jesus Christ? As I contemplate the week ahead, I am committed to stop complaining about those things that are so small in comparison to what others suffer. More than that, I must lean into the bad news all around and pray for peace while learning to care enough to “weep with those who weep”.

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THE TEN – Highly Anticipated New Books for the Fall

nextNext:  Pastoral Succession that Works by William Vanderbloemen and Warrren Bird – 09/02/14
I am reading this new book with rapt attention as our church just announced that our senior pastor is beginning a three year succession plan. He is the founder of our church and it is hard to imagine our church without him at the helm. This book could not be more timely for me. As many senior pastors from the baby boomer generation are now reaching retirement age, this book will be helpful to many other churches as well. The authors hint at what is to come in their very helpful preface when they state, “Every Pastor is an Interim Pastor. Few Ministers consider that truth. Few are eager to admit that their time with their present church will one day end. But ultimately all pastors are “interim” because the day when a successor takes over will come for everyone in ministry.” While there is no simple, one-size-fits-all solution to the puzzle of planning for a seamless pastoral succession, Next offers church leaders and pastors a guide to asking the right questions in order to plan for the future.
vanishingVanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News by Philip Yancey – 10/31/14
I was fortunate enough to have been able to get an advance reader copy of this book at the International Christian Retail Show in June and could not put it down. Yancey is one of my favorite authors and he does not disappoint in this highly readable new book. Yancey aims this book at Christian readers, showing them how Christians have lost respect, influence, and reputation in a newly post-Christian culture. “Why do they hate us so much?” mystified Americans ask about the rest of the world. A similar question applies to evangelicals in America. Yancey explores what may have contributed to hostility toward Evangelicals, especially in their mixing of faith and politics instead of embracing more grace-filled ways of presenting the gospel. He offers illuminating stories of how faith can be expressed in ways that disarm even the most cynical critics. Then he explores what is Good News and what is worth preserving in a culture that thinks it has rejected Christian faith. This is a book that every Christian who is interested in engaging the culture should read.

Somewhere safeSomewhere Safe with Somebody Good by Jan Karon – 09/02/14
So I have never been a big reader of Christian fiction, but I loved the Mitford Series and this book is the latest installment. In this new book, after five hectic years of retirement from Lord’s Chapel, Father Tim Kavanagh returns with his wife, Cynthia, from a so-called pleasure trip to the land of his Irish ancestors. While glad to be at home in Mitford, something is definitely missing: a pulpit. But when he’s offered one, he decides he doesn’t want it. Maybe he’s lost his passion. His adopted son, Dooley, wrestles with his own passion—for the beautiful and gifted Lace Turner, and his vision to become a successful country vet. Dooley’s brother, Sammy, still enraged by his mother’s abandonment, destroys one of Father Tim’s prized possessions. Hope Murphy, owner of Happy Endings bookstore, struggles with the potential loss of her unborn child and her hard-won business. All this as Wanda’s Feel Good Café opens, a romance catches fire through an Internet word game, their former mayor hatches a reelection campaign to throw the bums out, and the weekly Muse poses a probing inquiry: Does Mitford still take care of its own?

prayerPrayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller – 11/04/14
With over a million copies of his books having been sold now in just the last ten years, Tim is one of the most important evangelical writers of our time and one of my favorite authors. Christians are taught in their churches and schools that prayer is the most powerful way to experience God. Few receive instruction or guidance in how to make prayer genuinely meaningful. In Prayer, renowned pastor Tim Keller delves into the many facets of this everyday act. With his trademark insights and energy, Keller offers biblical guidance as well as specific prayers for certain situations, such as dealing with grief, loss, love, and forgiveness. He discusses ways to make prayers more personal and powerful, and how to establish a practice of prayer that works for each reader. I have a feeling that this will be a book that will stand the test of time and will become a “go to” resource on this timeless and vital subject. Prayer has always been the basis for growth and revival in the church and I am hopeful that this book will spark a new fire in an American church that needs revival today.

david wilkersonDavid Wilkerson: The Cross, the Switchblade and the Man Who Believed by Gary Wilkerson 09/02/14
The story of the small town pastor from Pennsylvania moving to New York City to minister to gang members in the late 1950’s was first told in the best-selling book, The Cross and the Switchblade. That book, the comic book based on it and the movie that was made from it greatly impacted a generation of evangelicals including me. This new book is a definitive biography of David Wilkerson told through the eyes of his son Gary. After the initial publicity that brought him face to face with some of the most dangerous young men of the city, he largely flew under the radar of the media, using the Word of God and a bit of tough love to help men and women of the street escape the destructive spiral of drugs and violence. Wilkerson later founded the Times Square Church, now a non-denominational mega-church of 8,000 members, to this day a crossroads for those battling sin, drugs, and pornography, and a place where the message of Christ is discussed. He created the faith-based program Teen Challenge to wean addicts off drugs, and then World Challenge, dedicated since its beginning to promoting and spreading the Gospel throughout the world. David Wilkerson was the preacher of New York City.

pastors kidThe Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity by Barnabas Piper – 07/01/14
As a missionary kid myself I was interested in this book from the moment that I heard it was coming out this year. Barnabus is the son of renowned pastor and author John Piper and grew up in the fishbowl of public scrutiny that is common for most pastor’s kids. In this book we learn that Dad may be following God’s call, but the Pastor’s kids (PKs) are just following mom and dad, often to devastating results. With empathy, humor, and personal stories, he addresses the pervasive assumptions, identity issues and accelerated scrutiny PKs face. But more than just stating the problems – he shares the one thing a PK needs above all else (as do their pastor/father and church) is to live in true freedom and wholeness. One reviewer of this book said, “The tragic celebrity culture that shrouds pastors and their families is a bit like applauding the tallest miniature horse. God is supposed to be the only one we make much of, not the pastor or his children. And yet our need for idols has placed a crushing weight on PKs so that they are, in the words of Barnabas Piper, known of and not known.”

new morning merciesNew Morning Mercies: 365 Gospel-Centered Devotions for the Whole Year by Paul Tripp 10/31/14
I am always on the hunt for a good daily devotional. My Utmost for His Highest and Streams in the Desert have made significant impacts on my spiritual journey. In this new devotional Paul Tripp deals with the reality that mornings can be tough. Sometimes, a hearty breakfast and strong cup of coffee just aren’t enough. Offering more than a rush of caffeine, best-selling author Paul David Tripp wants to energize you with the most potent encouragement imaginable: the gospel. Forget “behavior modification” or feel-good aphorisms. Tripp knows that what we really need is an encounter with the living God. Then we’ll be prepared to trust in God’s goodness, rely on his grace, and live for his glory each and every day. I need this book and can’t wait to start my day with this kind of focus.

grave robberThe Grave Robber: How Jesus Can Make Your Impossible Possible by Mark Batterson 09/02/14
As an evangelical who is more likely to side with Thomas Jefferson on the subject of miracles than Benny Hinn, I need this book. “There are miracles all around us all the time,” says Mark Batterson, “but you won’t see them if you don’t know how to look for them.” Now the bestselling author of The Circle Maker reveals the incredible power of the seven miraculous signs of Jesus found in the Gospel of John. Batterson shows how they were not simply something Jesus did in the past, but something he wants to do now, in the present. He shares true stories of people today who are experiencing miracles in their lives. And he brings to light countless miracles, big and small, that we take for granted every day that point us toward the One who healed the sick, calmed the storm, and yes, even raised the dead. But this is more than a book about miracles. It’s a book about the only One who can perform them. Batterson cautions readers, “Don’t just seek miracles. Seek Jesus. And if you seek Jesus, miracles will find you.” Nothing has changed since Jesus called Lazarus out of his tomb four days after his funeral. Our impossible situations still double as God’s greatest opportunity to reveal his glory. No matter how big the problem is, God is bigger still.

killing lionsKilling Lions: A Guide through the Trials Young Men Face by John Eldridge – 09/09/14
As the father of two young men who have faced and continue to deal with lots of temptations and trials, this book is a must read for me. We want to be self-sufficient, to find our own direction as we pursue our dreams, to know it all and never ask for help. Isn’t this how most guys approach manhood? On our own, pretending we are doing better than we really are? But sooner or later the thrill of independence gets lost in the fog of isolation. It’s time to take the pressure off. We were never meant to figure life out on our own. This book was born out of a series of weekly phone calls between Sam Eldredge, a young writer in his twenties, and his dad, best-selling author John Eldredge. Join the conversation as a father and son talk about pursuing beauty, dealing with money, getting married, chasing dreams, knowing something real with God, and how to find a life you can call your own. Killing Lions is more than fatherly advice. It is an invitation into a journey: either to be the son who receives fathering or the father who learns what must be spoken. Most important, these conversations speak to a searching generation: “You are not alone. Its not all up to you. You are going to find your way.”

simplifySimplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul by Bill Hybels – 08/19/14
As a husband, father, writer, speaker, missionary, leader of a dynamic and growing ministry, and an elder at my local church, I need to stay focused on keeping things as simple and straight forward as I can. That is not an easy job and one that I have to pursue with all my energy. In Simplify, bestselling author Bill Hybels identifies the core issues that lure us into frenetic living—and offers searingly practical steps for sweeping the clutter from our souls. What if your life could be different? What if you could be certain you were living the life God called you to live—and building a legacy for those you love? If you crave a simpler life anchored by the priorities that matter most, roll up your sleeves: Simplified living requires more than just cleaning out your closets or reorganizing your desk drawer. It requires uncluttering your soul. By eradicating the stuff that leaves your spirit drained, you can stop doing what doesn’t matter—and start doing what does.

 

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Did You Feel the Earth Move?

earthquakeI saw it first on Facebook and could hardly believe what I was reading. On Wednesday, August 27th there was a seismic shift in the Great Commission Community when well-known pastor and author David Platt publically announced that he was taking the helm at the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Denomination. David is widely known for his best-selling book, Radical and his passion to share the gospel with the least reached people’s on earth. I had the great privilege of hearing him speak at Urbana 2012 and afterward described it as the first time that I had ever heard someone speak who was out of breath before he got started.

Check out this video to hear about this decision in David’s own words.

This is truly the dawning of a new day in the world of global missions as a hero of the millennial generation steps into this vital role. The IMB is one of the biggest missions organizations in the world but is not widely known outside of the Southern Baptist and Great Commission circles. This move by David Platt will shine a bright light on reaching the ends of the earth with the gospel in a way that very few others could have done. His platform was already quite significant and growing. I wish him well and look forward to seeing how God will use him in the days ahead.

In many parts of the evangelical church today, responding to the great commission not a big topic. Many churches are just struggling to be relevant in a world that is less and less tolerant of absolute truth. As young people are rushing out the back door in droves and baby boomers are growing older, a real crisis is occurring and churches are closing. Some see the needs all around them and can hardly fathom sending people out from their own congregation to meet needs that are thousands of miles away. Who could afford that these days anyway?

Fortunately, there are churches bucking that trend and radically reshaping their churches to put the great commission in the center of all that they do. That is certainly true at Calvary Church in Lancaster where Steve Beirn is a pastor. For many years now, this innovative church has pioneered a local church driven vision for global mission. Instead of shrinking, they have grown. They now have over 100 people deployed in countries all over the world that call Calvary their home church. Their budget for this part of their ministry is larger than the entire annual budget of many medium size evangelical churches.

One of the keys to their success is the commitment to training and preparation. They recruit constantly and make it clear that this is a high calling and worthy of significant time. A person must complete a three year training program at Calvary before they are commissioned to go overseas. It is important to the church that they demonstrate an ability to share the gospel and disciple people in the local context. Once a person has completed this training, they are encouraged to join one of twelve “preferred” missions agencies that have a similar commitment to excellence. The results speak for themselves in the hundreds of people that have gone to the mission field over the years from this one church and have had a significant impact on spreading the gospel and fulfilling great commission.

As David Platt begins his new season on ministry, I am encouraged to believe that there may be a few more churches like Calvary springing up around the country. It is amazing to see how God blesses a congregation that is outward focused and gives of their best. As they focus on the needs of others, they are seeing their own needs met as well. A Great Commission church will be a healthy, vibrant and growing church.

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