A Tribute to one of My Heroes: Chuck Holsinger

Chuck HolsingerOn September 13th, Cathy and I attended the memorial service for Chuck Holsinger, one of the early workers with our mission, OC International.  I don’t believe I’ve been at a memorial service where there has been more laughter as numerous people shared humorous anecdotes about Chuck. He had a great sense of humor; he also had great love for God and his country.

We first met Chuck in 1991 in California when we were checking out OC. I remember what he shared in the seminar about support raising “I don’t raise support. God lowers it.” This piece of wisdom has stuck with me ever since and on several occasions I have passed it on to others.

Chuck was the Europe Area Director who opened Romania as an OC field. The first time he visited Romania Chuck remarked, “Romania reminds me of Taiwan in the 1950s. We should have purchased an office then when property was inexpensive. But we didn’t. Then the economy took off, and we were never able to purchase an office. We aren’t going to make that same mistake again.”

Chuck shared this need with two of his friends in business and received gifts to purchase an apartment for our team to use as an office, which was a tremendous blessing not only to our team but to the many other Christian groups, including a church plant, which used the office for meetings and office space. And Chuck was right! The economy did take off in Romania, and if we had not purchased an office when we did, we would not have been able to so so latter on.  It was an especially lovely moment for us when we hosted a group from Taiwan at our office during a vision trip to Romania.  It was like the Taiwan-Romania connection had come full circle.

Chuck and his wife Betty visited Romania about a week after we first arrived in country. He had connections with a Pastor in a city on the Black Sea. So we all went to visit this Pastor in Braila. This was our first ministry trip, which involved a three hour train trip – cultural experience in itself. I was Chuck’s roommate. As we were getting to know each other, I mentioned that I began my education at Penn State. Chuck mentioned that he had a friend who was on the Board of Trustees at PSU back in the 1970s, who was praying for revival on the campus. Upon hearing this, I became excited to share with Chuck how God had answered his friend’s prayers.

During the 1970s and early 1980s, one of the largest Campus Crusade chapters was at Penn State with about a thousand students involved. Other Christian groups such as InterVarsity and Navigators were also strong on campus. Little known to me when I arrived on campus in the fall of 1979, there was a “revival” going on among the students with strong foreign missions spirit.  In the spring of 1980 Ralph Winter came to Penn State and held one of the early Perspectives Courses. The vision he cast took root among the students. I too caught the mission vision and left Penn State the following year to prepare for missionary service. Those who have closely followed the movement at PSU say that well over 100 students served overseas. One group of students went on to start Caleb Project, which mobilized a generation for missions. I am in touch with several who are still serving today, and I know many more that have a great heart for missions and are serving as senders. So it was a pleasure for me to share “the other half of the story” with Chuck.

In retirement Chuck and his wife Betty settled in Upland, Indiana. That town might sound familiar, because this is where our family also landed five years ago.  Chuck had quite a ministry in our little town. He regularly went to the Circle K gas station in the mornings to get a coffee and a donut – but his real motive was share a word of encouragement and the love of Christ with the people who came into the store. Chuck had a knack of turning fact conversations into faith conversations.

Chuck was also a decorated WWII veteran who served in the Philippines. He wrote a book about his experiences, Above the Cry of Battle. The book is really his testimony of how God protected him in battle and enabled him to forgive the Japanese for the atrocities which he witnessed. When he was at the Circle K, Chuck was known to go to his car, pull out his book from the box he kept in the trunk and give it to a veteran or any other person who needed encouragement.  I’ve heard many other stories of how Chuck was a light in our community.

The Pastor officiating Chuck’s memorial service shared Hebrews 13:7 “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.” This is so true in Chuck’s case. He left us a wonderful Christ-like example of generosity, faith and service that we would do well to emulate.

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Pursuing Jesus’ Vision for Ministry

It is well known that Jesus had an itinerant ministry.  A cursory reading of the Gospels reveals that he traveled extensively. As I pondered Jesus’ travels, the question occurred to me, “Was Jesus just wandering around in all these travels or was he pursuing a specific purpose?” Taking a closer look, I found several surprising answers, which I will point out here, as well as how these insights apply today.

Pursuing a God-given Purpose

In the early days of Jesus’ ministry in Capernaum, Mark records a saying of Jesus that gives us great insight into his ministry vision.  But to grasp full significance of his statement, we will need to examine Jesus’ saying in context.

When evening came, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city had gathered at the door. And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was.

In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left {the house,} and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. Simon and his companions searched for Him; they found Him, and said to Him, “Everyone is looking for you.” He said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.” And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons. (Mark 1:32-39 NASB)

I’m initially shocked that Jesus would leave the interested and needy crowds to preach in places that had not yet heard the Gospel. That seems counter-intuitional.  Would it not make sense to stay and follow up on those who are open and interested? A closer reading of verse 38, though, reveals that Jesus had a clear vision of what he should do.

“Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.” (Mark 1:38).

Luke provides a complementary perspective on the same event. There Jesus says:

“I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.” (Luke 4:43)

This passage is even clearer in showing that Jesus was pursuing a God-given purpose.

Both Mark’s and Luke’s passages taken together give us additional insight into how Jesus’s vision directed his actions. In both passages, Jesus justifies his surprising action by referencing his purpose. So we can conclude Jesus was not just wandering around aimlessly. He was pursuing a clear, God-given purpose.

A further examination of the Gospel accounts of Jesus ministry provides further insight into Jesus’ ministry vision.

A Saturation Vision

Jesus’ Early Ministry in Galilee

Mark 1:39 shows how Jesus acted upon his God-given vision. “And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons.”

Galilee in the Time of JesusMatthew’s Gospel also accentuates the scope of Jesus’ itinerant ministry. Matthew observes, “Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.” (Matt. 4:23). Latter Matthew in chapter 9 repeats the phrase “Jesus was going through” and then adds additional detail: “Jesus was going through all the cities and villages… proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom.” (Matthew 9:35).

In the time of Jesus, Galilee was an area roughly 40 by 70 kilometers (25 by 44 miles), similar in size to a county.  Josephus, writing during the time of the Jewish revolt against Rome noted that “There are two hundred and forty cities and villages in Galilee…” (Life of Josephus, 45). Estimates for the population of Galilee in Jesus time range, on the low end, from 200,000 – 700,000 upward to 2-3 million inhabitants. If indeed Jesus’ purpose was to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom in each location in Galilee, he had a significant task ahead of him.

Note that in the second reference (9:35) Matthew adds the phrase “all the cities and villages.” This is significant.  Jesus could have established himself in one location, perhaps a major urban center like Jerusalem or Capernaum, and expected people to come to him.  But he did not.  Jesus’ approach was to take the good news of the Kingdom to people where they lived, not to expect them to come to him.

Jesus’ Later Ministry

Jesus’ saturation vision is also evident in the last phase of his ministry and his post resurrection appearances, but here we will see it applied at a new level. Earlier we saw how Jesus pursued his saturation vision regionally in Galilee. In the later phases of Jesus’ ministry we will see how the saturation vision is applied universally. We will start with three passages in Matthew that indicate how Jesus intended his vision for geographical saturation to be carried out universally.

“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)

“Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.” (Matthew 26:13)

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Other post resurrection accounts also show Jesus describing the end goal of his saturation vision:

“”Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15). 

Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. “You are witnesses of these things. “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:45-49)

He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8)

Note prior to the resurrection, Jesus’ spoke descriptively about the Gospel of the Kingdom being preached in the whole world. It is only after the resurrection that Jesus speaks prescriptively, that is to say, he gives commands about communicating the good news to the whole world. Contemplate: prior to the resurrection Jesus shared the good news of the kingdom; post resurrection there is the Great News of salvation.

To summarize, early in Jesus’ ministry we see his saturation vision applied regionally. At the end of his ministry we see it applied universally.

A Multicultural Vision

There is another aspect of Jesus’ ministry that is often overlooked: the cross-cultural aspect. A careful reading of the Gospels shows that Jesus came to be the Messiah, not only of the Jews, but also of the Gentiles. The prophets foretold that the Messiah would be for both Israel and the Gentiles (see for example Isaiah 42:6; 49:6; Luke 2:32; Acts 13:47; 26:23). Is it not surprising, then, to find Jesus ministering not only to Jews, but to Samaritans and Gentiles? Matthew points out that Jesus began his ministry in “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Matthew 4:15). Then Matthew shows Jesus ministering simultaneously to both Jews and Gentiles that came to him in Galilea from Syria, Decapolis and beyond the Jordan (Matthew 4:24-25). On other occasions we see Jesus ministering to non-Jews, for example, a Samaritan, who was one of one of ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19) and the Roman Centurion’s servant (Luke 7:1-10).

Palestine in the Time of JesusJesus did not just minister to non-Jews that occasionally crossed his path (that is to say, people who sought him out), but he also intentionally traveled across geographical barriers to minister to non-Jews.  In John 4 Jesus went to Samaria. (Note John’s interesting comment that Jesus in John 4:4 that “He had to pass through Samaria”.) His ministry to the woman at the well affected the entire village, who exclaimed, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world” (John 4:42). Jesus also traveled to the Gentile regions of Decapolis, Tyre and Sidon and ministered there. Here are a few other examples of Jesus’ ministry among the Gentiles:

  • The exorcism of demoniac in Gerasenes who then preached in Decapolis (Mark 5:1-20);
  • The healing Canaanite woman’s daughter from Tyre and Sidon (Mark 7:24-30);
  • The healing of a deaf man in Decapolis (Mark 7:31-37);
  • The feeding of the 4,000 took place in Decapolis (Mark 8:1-9 cf. 7:31).

Jesus ministered to the Gentiles because he understood that he was the Messiah for all peoples.  Jesus shows this understanding when he declares, “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd” (John 10:16). Jesus came to be the Messiah of all peoples.  Should it not be surprising, then, that he intentionally ministered to both Jew and Gentile?

A Multiplication Vision

Jesus’ vision was larger than he himself could fulfill.  So from the beginning of his ministry he intentionally called others to follow him and sent them forth to preach (Mark 3:13-15– Even earlier See Mk. 1:16-20). These Jesus equipped, empowered and sent forth in ministry (Matthew 10:1,5ff). Jesus did this first with the twelve and then with the 70 (Luke 9:2; 10:1). Finally he charged his apostles to make disciples, following his example (Matthew 28:18-20; John 20:21; 13:15). Comparing our ministry to Jesus’, let us ask: are we trying to do everything ourselves, or are we mobilizing, equipping and sending forth others, multiplying workers for the harvest field? Also, as we follow how Jesus selected, trained, empowered and released the Twelve, there is a process or strategy that we can also follow. (I intend to write more about this Jesus Multiplication Vision in the near future).

Applying Jesus’ Vision for Ministry

Jesus vision for “saturation” and reaching the nations has inspired and guided many kingdom workers. For example in 1836 Robert Moffat, pioneer missionary to South Africa, shared in a meeting in England:

“Many a morning have I stood on the porch of my house, and looking northward, have seen the smoke arise from villages that have never heard of Jesus Christ. I have seen, at different times, the smoke of a thousand villages—villages whose people are without Christ, without God, and without hope in the world.”

I have seen, at different times, the smoke of a thousand villages—villages whose people are without Christ, without God, and without hope in the world." Robert Moffat

In the audience was young David Livingston, whose heart was captured by the vision of taking the Gospel into the interior of Africa.  Moffat’s words “the smoke of a thousand villages… the smoke of a thousand villages…” weighed upon his heart. Livingston would later marry Robert Moffat’s daughter and devote his life to opening the interior of Africa to the Gospel.  Livingston’s God-given vision drove him on. “I determined never to stop until I had come to the end and achieved my purpose.” “I’ll go anywhere as long as it’s forward.” In recognition of his accomplishments, Livingston is buried in Westminster Abby and it is said that his grave is one of the most visited in the Abby. (For other inspiring quotes by David Livingston see: http://www.azquotes.com/author/8949-David_Livingstone).

In more recent times, Jim Montgomery, when he was a missionary with OC International in the Philippines, received from God a vision of how to reach the entire nation by planting an evangelical church in every barangay (roughly translated village). In the 1970s, it was estimated that 50,000 new churches would be needed in the Philippines by the year 2000 to complete this goal. The Philippine Church leaders committed themselves to this process and by the year 2000, they exceeded their church planting goal. (The first part of this story is told in Montgomery’s book, DAWN 2000.) However they did not succeed in planting a church in every barangay. So the process continues on, but now with the vision to also send Filipinos out as workers to other nations and peoples who are least reached.

Montgomery’s vision led to a strategy called DAWN – Discipling A Whole Nation. It has also been called Saturation Church Planting (SCP). Montgomery left OC International to start DAWN Ministries in the 1980s, as there was great interest in establishing national church planting processes in outer countries. The DAWN strategy was also championed by the World Evangelical Alliance and the AD 2000 Movement in the 1990s. As a result National Church Planting Initiatives were birthed in over 100 countries.

With the opening of Eastern Europe after the Fall of Communism in 1989, the Alliance for Saturation Church Planting formed and began works to catalyze Saturation Church Planting Processes in the Post-Communist countries of Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union. This is where I got involved on the ground in Romania, when the Romanian Evangelical Alliance invited OC International to assist them in planting churches in more than 10,000 villages. We developed a strong partnership with the Romanian led Alliance for Saturation Church Planting team and many others as we pursued Jesus’ ministry vision.

Although DAWN Ministries and the Alliance for Saturation Church Planting closed their respective ministries about a decade ago, others continue to promote Jesus’ vision, the Global Church Planting Network being one example (www.GCPN.info).  We are encouraged to see a new generation of leaders catching Jesus’ vision for reaching their nation – and beyond.

Currently I am surveying those who have been involved in DAWN, SCP or national initiatives over the last 30 years or so to in order to gathering insights from leaders who have made significant contributions to national church planting processes around the globe. The insights from this survey will be incorporated into in Dr. Murray Moerman’s forthcoming book, National Church Planting Processes: The Next Generation and will be shared in various venues in 2018 and 2019.

From Jesus’ ministry in the Gospels we can conclude that his aim would be to see that the Gospel proclaimed in every city, town and village and to every people. Consider your own area.  How many people within a 10 mile radius of your church have not heard the Good News? How many locations within, say, 10 miles of your church do not have an evangelical church? What might God want your church to do about this?

Jesus would also minister to those outside his own people group. Here lies a great need. In the world today approximately 2 billion people, or 30% of the world’s population, have no opportunity to hear the Gospel because there is neither missionary activity nor a viable church among them. These too need the Gospel. What is your church doing to make disciples of all the nations?

When Jesus commissioned his disciples to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel”, or to “make disciples of all nations”, or to be his “witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, unto the ends of the earth,” Jesus never asked his disciples – or us – to do anything he himself did not do. Jesus was on the go. He made disciples of the Gentiles. He went to all cities and villages in his region to preach the gospel and went beyond his own cultural and geographical boundaries to preach the gospel to other peoples. Thus Jesus left us an example to follow.

How, then, will you and your church follow in Jesus’ footsteps beginning today?

 

Os Guinness presents stirring address at Taylor University

GuinnessDr. Os Guinness received an honorary doctorate at Taylor University today. His speech was one of the most engaging that I’ve ever heard.  So I’m sharing the link for his address at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUBWwVURjY4

Dr. Guinness began by focusing out attention on some of the great questions of our age:

  1. Will Islam modernize peacefully?
  2. What faith (world view) will replace Marxism in China?
  3. Will the West sever or recover its roots?

Then he challenged us to play our part in addressing the challenges of the 21st century. He spoke briefly about three:

  1. Preparing the Global South where the Church is growing at an unprecedented pace.
  2. Wining back the western world.
  3. Contribute to the future of humanity at this transitional time of major shifts.
    • The shift from pyro (fire based) technology to biotechnology
    • The shift from the industrial era to the information era
    • The shift from a supernatural to a secular perception of reality

He also encouraged us to wrestle with some of the grand distortions of faith such as:

  • The shift from authority to preference (and the resulting lack of commitment)
  • The shift from integration to fragmentation.

Guinness pointed out that progress in these areas will depend upon our

  • Practice Supernatural warfare
  • Having a deep grasp of the history of ideas
  • Engaging in cultural analysis

Can the church be revived again? Guinness firmly believes that the future of humanity depends on the answer.

I was struck by how many of the questions Dr. Guinness raised and the trends that he identified relate to the discipling of nations.  His address brings to mind the Old Testament words about the Sons of Issachar, “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.”  Unless we understand the times in which we live, we will be ill prepared to deal with the challenges before us.  May Dr. Guinness’ address also  inspire you to critically contemplate what is happening in our world today and your response.

Want to see God at work? Start by praying the Lord’s Prayer today

praySince 2015 I’ve been on a quest to discover how God is at work. You see, I serve with a mission organization, One Challenge. In 2015, we adopted a new strategy statement, which says: “We ask how God is at work, then assist the Body of Christ to bring God’s transformation to individuals, communities and nations.” It seemed logical, then, to ask how is God at work? So the Global Research Team, on which I serve, then spent the better part of a year and a half searching the scriptures to discover how God is at work in the world and applying those insights to our work.

When it was time for us to organize a gathering for all the mission information workers in our organization back in September 2016, we came to the consensus that “Asking how God is at work” should be our conference theme. There I shared a brief presentation on the biblical basis of how God is at work in the world.

Upon returning home from the conference, our pastor asked me to share a twenty minute message on Mission Sunday.  It seemed fitting to share something about God at work.  But my great challenge was to identify one passage that touched upon the many ways that God is at work in the world. After some reflection I was surprised to conclude that the Lord’s Prayer touched on many of these themes. Thus the Lord’s Prayer became the text of my sermon.

A few weeks later I was visiting with a friend at church who is a Bible professor at Taylor University. He remarked:  “I teach a class on the Lord’s Prayer, and  I’ve read a lot of books on the Lord’s Prayer.  So when you said you were speaking on the Lord’s Prayer, I was attent to see if you had any new insights into the Lord’s Prayer. My friend, you did not disappoint.”

I thought I might write a blog series about the Lord’s Prayer, coming at it from the angle of what we discover about how God is at work in the world and how he invites us to join him in what he is doing.  Writing a series is a lot of work, beyond what I have time to do. So here is a summary of seven ways God is at work in the world based on the Lord’s Prayer.

Seven ways we discover God at work in the Lord’s Prayer

  1. “Our Father in Heaven” – God is at work building his Family here on earth
  2. “Hallowed by Your Name” – God is at work bringing glory to his name on earth
  3. “Your Kingdom Come” – God is at work establishing his kingdom on earth
  4. “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” – God is at work bringing the perfections of heaven to earth
  5. “Give us today our daily bread” – God provides us with all we need for living & so much more
  6. “Forgive us our debts” – God is at work restoring relationships
  7. “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.” – God is at work delivering us from temptation and the wile s of the Devil, aka Satan, the Evil One.

The breadth God’s work described in the Lord’s Prayer is quite mind boggling!

I’ve come to view each phrase of the Lord’s Prayer as an iceberg. As we know, the proverbial “tip of the iceberg” points to a huge mass of ice below the water’s surface. So it is with the Lord’s Prayer.  Each phrase points to a greater reality found in the biblical narrative.  This point really struck me back in 2012. As I was reading through the Bible, I started to jot down passages that were related to the seven parts of the Lord’s Prayer in a section in my journal. To date, my list covers 56 hand written pages! Each phrase of the Lord’s Prayer points us to a greater reality of how God is at work in the world. There is much more going on “below the surface” than is immediately apparent.

So what does all this mean for us?

Do you see that God invites us to join him in what he is doing in the world? Simply put, there are many things that God calls us to do, but the first and greatest thing God invites us to do is to pray. That is the whole intent of the Lord’s Prayer, to pray, isn’t it? We pray. God works. So if you want to see God at work, start by praying the Lord’s Prayer today.

Here is a great book on the Lord’s Prayer

I’ve just finished reading  Darrell W. Johnson’s book on the Lord’s Prayer,  Fifty-Seven Words that Change the World: A Journey Through the Lord’s Prayer.   This short book (119 pages) is full of insights into the Lord’s Prayer. I heartily recommend it.

Click here to go to Amazon to take a look inside.

Seven Habits of People who Accomplish Great Things for God

Who does not want to be successful? My tenth grade Bible class is beginning to study the Old Testament book of Joshua. In the first nine verses, we were surprised to discover seven habits that lead to prosperity and success. Considering that these may interest a broader audience, I will outline seven habits, which enable anyone who practices them to be successful. But first, an important perspective on what constitutes success.

A Biblical Perspective on Success

A biblical perspective on success differs significantly from the popular understanding of success, which seems to be associated with fame, fortune and a large social media following. In contrast, let us consider Jesus, the New Testament Joshua. In John 17:4 Jesus prays to his Father, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.” Having this in mind, Jesus may have defined success as accomplishing the work that God has given a person to do. This perspective certainly contrasted with how people in Jesus’ day viewed success. In eyes of his generation, Jesus had no fortune; he was infamous – a liar or worse, and most of his followers abandoned him. They would have given Jesus a big “F” for failure. But this is not what God thought. God exalted him and gave him a name above every other name (Philippians 2:9). Why? Because Jesus accomplished the work God gave him to do.  This understanding of success, defined as accomplishing the work God has given a person to do, frames the practice of the seven habits of people who accomplish great things for God.

With this biblical understanding of success in mind, let’s return to Joshua 1:1-9 and look at the first habit of people who accomplish great things for God.

1. Hear what God says. The Book of Joshua begins, “After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant…”, and the next eight verses continue God’s message to Joshua. So we will start our seven habits of people who accomplish great things for God with the observation that anyone who accomplishes great things for God must first hear what God says.

2. Go where God sends you. Verses 2-5 record God’s first instruction to Joshua.

 “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.  Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.  From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life.” (ESV)

God’s command to Joshua was “arise, go….”  Reading on we see that God was sending Joshua and the people into the Promised Land, which God was giving to them.  God promised Abraham that he would give this land to his descendants (Genesis 12:7). The time had now come. God was at work fulfilling his promise. We too can accomplish great things for God when we go where God is at work and join Him in what he is doing.

3. Be strong and courageous. Three times in this passage God commands Joshua to be strong and courageous. However this command was preceded by a great promise (v. 5) “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.“ God’s presence was secret of Joshua’s success and it continues to be the secret of the Church’s success (Matthew 28:18-19). Today we might say that God had Joshua’s back. And he continues to be with those who follow his call to make disciples of all nations. We might think of courage as “holy boldness”, inspired by God’s presence and commission. Courage is the choice to act boldly in the face of great risk. Without a doubt, courage is needed to accomplish great things for God.

4. Be careful to obey all God’s Word. Habit Nr. 4 is at the heart of our list and is probably the most essential of them all: “Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you” (v.7a NIV). This same phrase is repeated in verse 8, and I also hear an echo of this verse in the Great Commission. “Make disciples of all nations….teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). People who accomplish great things for God must be careful to obey all of God’s word.

5. Do not turn to the right or left. “Do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go” (v. 7b NIV).  Joshua was to have a singular focus on his mission. Tuning to the right or the left would simply involve pursuing other things outside his calling. Jesus shares a similar comment in the parable of the sower. He notes that some “hear the word, but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:18b,19 NASB). Reflecting on both examples, we learn that maintaining a singular focus leads to success.

6. Memorize God’s word. 8 “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips.” The only way to keep God’s word on your lips is to first memorize it. This sets the stage for the final habit, which is…

7. Meditate on God’s word. Joshua 1:8 is considered the golden verse of the entire book and highlights the final key to success: Meditating on God’s word.

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (v. 8 NIV)

People who accomplish great things for God memorize and meditate on God’s Word.  This is not an end in itself as the intended outcome is to “be careful to do everything written in it.” This leads to success.

Success follows practicing these seven habits

William Carey, the Father of the Modern Missions Movement (1761-1834), exhorted his generation to “Expect great things from God; Attempt great things for God!” Joshua was certainly a person who not only attempted great things for God but accomplished great things for God. The remainder of the book of Joshua tells how he led the people into the Promised Land and possessed it, fulfilling a promise God made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob centuries prior. Throughout his life Joshua practiced the seven habits outlined here, and the people of Israel served the Lord too (cf. Joshua 24:31).  It seems reasonable that those who faithfully practice all seven habits outlined here will accomplish great things for God too. What about you?

Questions for Further Reflection:

  1. How do you view success?
  2. What surprises you about these seven habits?
  3. What challenges you about these habits?
  4. What will you do to practice all seven of these habits?

Fabulous Quotes from the Mission Information Workers Conference

Last week I joined four other colleagues from One Challenge in Texas for the Mission Information Workers Conference. This gathering was sponsored by the Community of Mission Information Workers (CMIW), the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), Harvest Information System (HIS) and the Seed Company. The program included 14 TED Talks (Technology, Entertainment & Design). A number of the speakers punctuated their TED Talks with insightful quotes. Here are my favorite top five five.

Let’s start with two quotes attributed to Albert Einstein.

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

The point made by management expert, Peter F. Drucker, merits some thought.

“What gets measured, gets managed.”

The words of St. Bernard of Clairvaux highlight the motives for seeking knowledge.

Some seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge: that is curiosity; others seek knowledge that they may themselves be known: that is vanity; but there are still others who seek knowledge in order to serve and edify others, and that is charity.

Wow!

And here is a final quote by Lord Kelvin, who champions quantitative research.

“When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarely, in your thoughts advanced to the stage of science.”

So these are my top five quotes from the conference. Do you have any favorite quotes that guide your use of Mission Information? Feel free to share them here.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” – Isaac Newton

For 35 years I’ve intuitively been involved in mission research, first for a local church, then for a whole city, then a whole country, and now for a whole mission & the whole world. Over the years these are some of the questions that have come my way about mission research.

  • Why is research important to Christian missions?
  • Why should we make an effort to count the believers and number the churches?
  • What does a mission information worker do anyway?

Based on my limited experience and understanding, I’ve tried to explain how research is helpful to Christian missions. But in recent years, I’ve discovered that my mission organization, One Challenge, has numerous “research giants” who have greatly helped me understand and articulate the importance of research to Christian mission. In this article I wish to focus on the contribution of two of these research giants, whose complementary insights, though made a generation apart, have greatly shaped my understanding of missionary research and what a mission information worker does. Like Isaac Newton, I can see further by standing on the shoulders of these giants.

Four Categories of Mission Research

Back in 1988, Paul Yaggy, one of the early champions of mission research in our organization, described four categories of mission related research. The following descriptions come from his Position Paper on OC Research.

The first is those who are accumulating factual data only. This includes demographic information regarding both the context and the institutional church. Such information is published or maintained for access and use by others as they desire.

The second category is made up of those who do such analysis to show trends and to define potential places of ministry which are in need of pioneering effort.

The third category consists of those who not only do trend analysis, but seek to discover to a limited degree some of the factors which cause these trends. These organizations publish papers along with their statistical data and analysis to assist whoever is interested in such information.

A fourth category in which OC finds itself is organizations which do all of the above but carry the analysis of the factors to greater depth with the primary purpose of understanding both the institutional church and its context with regard to past and present ministry effectiveness as well as its potential for meeting identified needs in the future. The primary output of such research, as far as OC is concerned, is a basis for decision making for its own ministries in serving the church and for carrying out the other three categories of OC’s basic strategy of motivation, training, and mobilization.

For some time this writer has wrestled with a succinct way to describe Yaggy’s fourth level.  Technically speaking, what information workers do can be classified “applied research.” — but that does not seem to excite much passion nor effectively communicate with church people what we do.  I’m more enthusiastic about “decision making for disciple making” as a mission information worker’s goal is to provide the body of Christ with information to assist decision making for effective disciple making.

To summarize, we might also say that the task of mission information workers at levels one and two is to determine the facts. At level three, mission information workers seek to determine factors shaping the trends.  And the focus of level four can be called decision making for disciple making.

The Mission Information Pyramid

Jumping ahead thirty years or so, our current director of research set Yaggy’s four categories of mission research in the context of an information model known as the “DIKW Pyramid” or the “Knowledge Hierarchy”.  (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DIKW_Pyramid for a general overview and further references.) This model further elaborates what mission information workers seek to discover at each level of research. The acrostic DIKW is short for Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom. These four words nicely describe what the mission information worker seeks at each level.  For our purposes we will call this the Mission Information Pyramid.

Mission Information Pyramid

Putting the Mission Information Pyramid into Practice

Let’s use the mission information pyramid to explain the importance of mission research and what a mission information worker does.

At level 1, the mission information workers gather factual data. This may involve collecting new data or finding usable data others have gathered. Because we don’t want to re-invent the wheel, library research will able be done to discover what others have already done in the area under study and to obtain correlative data. To gather new data, online surveys, questionnaires, censuses, participant observation, focus groups, interviews, and ethnographies are some for the various tools information workers may use. At this level, missionary research is not glamorous; it is just plain hard work.

At level 2, the data is organized and analyzed to get usable information.  At the level 2, the mission information workers seeks to answer who, what when and where type questions. As Yaggy said, analysis will show trends and places for potential ministry. The mission information worker’s analysis may show annual or ten year growth rates for conversions or church growth, the percentage of a population that is Christian, or the ratio of churches to population. Charts, graphs, data tables, infographics or maps along with written reports or oral presentations may be used to convey findings.  Aha! Here we have some information that may be useful.

At level 3, mission information workers seek knowledge, insight and understanding of the past and present. Yaggy also pointed out that here we want to discover the factors shaping the trends. I like to say that that at this level we seek answers to the how and why questions. At this level, interviews with insiders are essential. Case studies may be done to show models of effective disciple making, or the case studies may show what is hindering the process of making disciples. Focus groups and participant observation are also useful means to gain insight. The mission information workers will also consider contextual factors that are helping or hindering the disciple making process as factors outside of the institutional church often affect trends. These factors be rooted in historic, religious, or geographic realities or imply social, technological, economic, ethnic, political or environmental factors, to name a just a few. This is where an outsider may have an advantage, as a broader or fresh perspective may enable an outsider to see things that an insider takes for granted. Asking good questions and listening, along with critical reflection, will yield important insights. This is where mission research becomes exciting!

At level 4, the mission information worker seeks wisdom. Again this is a shift of focus. Whereas in the previous levels, we focused on the past and present, now we consider what to do in the future. Here we make applications.  Mission research is applied research after all. Here we need to make wise decisions. As we said earlier, this fourth level can be described as “decision making for disciple making”. This is where “the rubber hits the road.”

Informed Decision Making

There are three broad areas where mission research informs our decision making.

First of all, we will be better informed about how we should pray. This was, after all, Jesus first application of his mission research. (See Luke 10:2.)

Second, because we identified needs in the church and in the target communities, we will seek to send the right people to the right places doing the right things to meet those needs. Let’s draw upon the “five-fold ministry” found in Ephesians 4 as an example. We (hopefully) will make a case for sending evangelists to the areas that are “ripe for harvest” where God is at work or sending apostles (aka missionaries) to places and peoples that still have need of pioneer works where “Christ has not been named” (Romans 15:20). We will send pastors and teachers where the churches need strengthened. And perhaps prophets (or to draw upon an old term “exhorters”) will go and stir up the church to greater love and good deeds where sin, falsehood or love of this world has weakened the witness of the church.

Third, since our case studies likely identified out more and less fruitful approaches to ministry, we will need to evaluate our own ministries and sharpen our ministry practices, abandoning less fruitful or no longer relevant ministries and making fruitful ones evermore so. We need God’s wisdom for all of these (James 1:5). If the information itself has not driven you to your knees in prayer, the challenge of implementing change certainly will!

In conclusion I am indebted to Paul Yaggy and the current director of OC Research. By standing on the shoulders of these “research giants”, I’ve been able to see further. I hope that their insights, and maybe a few of my own, have helped you better understand the importance of research to Christian mission and what a mission information worker does.