Is the church building the house of God?

Growing up we were told that the church was the house of God. Adults would call out to the children, “No running! Remember you are in the house of God.” We dressed in our “Sunday best,” the term used to describe our holiest of outfits because we were going to God’s house. Loud talking and noise-making by the children were prohibited because God’s house was a solemn place. No fun was to be had, only reverence.

The question needs to be asked. Is it true that the church building is the house of God? Is our church meeting place the place where God’s presence literally dwells? These questions deserve an answer, not from us, or our parents, or grandparents, but from God. Thankfully, we have His answer in the scriptures if we have the humility to ask honestly.

The first time God commissioned His people to build a dwelling to for Him was in Exodus 25. He commanded Moses to build a tent known as the “Tabernacle” or “the tent of meeting.” This tent was an elaborate setup with two chambers and an outer courtyard. The altar for burnt offerings was erected in the courtyard. The holiest place was located in the innermost chamber where the Ark of the Covenant rested. Atop the Ark were two golden cherubim whose wings met in the center of the top of the ark. The place where the wings met was known as “the mercy seat.” The mercy seat was to be the throne of God, the place where His presence literally dwelt.

Much later, once the Hebrews settled in the promise land, the Tabernacle was replaced with a more permanent dwelling. The new building, built by King Solomon, was known as the temple or “the house of God.” The temple was built after the plans of the Tabernacle. It also had two main chambers and an outer courtyard. The temple was larger and more ornate than the Tabernacle, and it was attached to the ground.

Only the priests and Levites were allowed in the house of God. There were strict laws governing the type of clothing the priests were to wear and how often they were allowed into the sanctuary. A violation of these laws most often led to the instant death of the offender. The house of God was a solemn and most holy place; the holiest place on the planet because it was the place where God dwelt.

The temple was destroyed after Israel fell to Babylon. It was rebuilt upon the return of the Exiles to the promise land. It was renovated once more under the reign of Herod the Great.

Two things happened that led to the demise of the temple. First, when Jesus died on the cross, the veil that separated the innermost chamber was ripped in two from top to bottom making the holy of holies just an ordinary room in an ordinary building. Then, in 70 A.D., the Romans invaded to put down a Jewish rebellion and the temple was totally destroyed in the battle.

The careful reader of Scripture will discover that this was always God’s plan. His plan has always been to make His home, not in a building, but in the hearts of His people. In Hebrews 8-10, the author explained that just as the Tabernacle gave way to something more permanent, so also the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem gave way to a dwelling place for God that is even more permanent. The ultimate house of God is not a building made with hands but in the transformed heart of a believer. 1 Corinthians 3:16 says, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” Ephesians 2:22 says, “In him, you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

When a group of believers gathers together for worship and ministry, a local church is born. The place where they meet, whether it is beautiful Victorian building, or a shady spot under a tree becomes holy when the people of God gather there. But the meeting place is not holy in itself like a temple or a house of God; it is holy because the body of Christ comes together as one in that place.

There is nothing wrong with calling church facilities “holy.” Holy means set apart. Church buildings are holy because they are set apart for corporate worship and ministry. However, the church building is not God’s house. God has made His earthly home in our hearts.


How to Honor Our Heroes of the Faith

We all have memories of certain spiritual giants… heroes of our faith who have crossed the river into the promised land of rest. In the time that the Lord gave them on this earth, they poured into us. They taught us about Jesus and what it was to walk in faith. Much of who we are today is owed to what God accomplished in our lives through them.

How can we pay back the debt we owe to our spiritual heroes who have passed on? Is there a way for us to honor their memories? Will seeking to honor them bring honor to God? Will our efforts to honor them be of any benefit to us or others? From Hebrews 11:39-12:2, we learn that it is possible to honor their memories in a Christ-exalting way.

First, you can recognize that even though they have received the promised rest and dwell in paradise, there is something missing in the life that they now enjoy. Hebrews 11:39-40 says of the spiritual giants of the Old Testament “all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”

I hope you caught that. Those who have gone on before us have received the commendation of their faith. They are at home in a better country. They want for nothing, physically speaking, in the presence of their Savior. However, they have not yet reached the promised perfection. Meaning, they have yet to receive their new bodies. Those promised and perfected resurrection bodies will not be received before the whole world is reached with the gospel. This was by God’s design so that we could be a part of them being made perfect. God has given us the opportunity to honor them by the way we share Christ with others.

If you want to honor your departed heroes of the faith, then go tell the word about Jesus. Your labor with Christ in the ministry of reconciliation speeds along the advance of the gospel and hastens His return and the promised resurrection. You have the opportunity to do your part so that all the heroes of the faith might receive what was promised.

Second, you can recognize that they are looking down upon you. If we know they are watching, then we can live our lives in such a way that will bring them honor and joy. Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

Your spiritual heroes were your heroes because they ran their race well. They walked with the Lord in daily repentance and endured every hill and valley encountered along their course. Their desire, now, is to see you do the same in your own life. While they only watch across a great divide unable to affect the outcome of your race, they still have a front-row seat. They rejoice every time you repent of sin and endure a hardship in the faith.

Third, you can make Jesus the singular focus of your life. The last thing your departed loved one would want you to do is to make them the focus of your life. The author of Hebrews wrote that being “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” we should run our race while, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

It would be so easy for us, knowing that our heroes watch from above, to stand and gaze up into the heavens wondering what they must be thinking. Our focus, however, should be set on Christ. Our heroes are our heroes because they ran their races well, but no one ever ran the race better than Christ. No one has ever been better at casting off sin. No one has ever done a better job at enduring the cross and the shame. He ran so well because He made “the joy that was set before Him” the singular focus of His running. We honor our spiritual giants when we seek to do the same.


Is Slavery in the Bible?

My seminary professor once divided the classroom up into groups and assigned each the task of constructing a biblical argument against slavery. It seemed easy enough. We all knew that slavery was wrong. The buying and selling of human beings could not be anything that God condoned. Right? But we quickly ran into problems. In Exodus 21 and Leviticus 25 we saw that God issued laws to govern the slave trade.

Then, in the New Testament, slaves are told to obey their masters (Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22). In 1 Peter 2:28, slaves were instructed to “be subject to your master with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.” Really? Were slaves to be obediently submissive even to the harshest of masters? In Titus 2:9 it says, “Slaves are to be subject to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative.”

Our class’ task was more difficult than we expected, to say the least. Let us take a deep breath and then a closer look. There are actually a couple of different kinds of slavery in the Bible. The first is the form of slavery that we often think about; the kind where human beings are captured and then bought and sold in a slave trade market. This kind of slavery is expressly forbidden among God’s people on the grounds that His people belong to Him. He bought them with a price, thus no one could buy them out of His hand (Leviticus 25:39-40, 55).

This first type of slavery was only permitted in regards to the enemies of God who would be driven out by the promise land (Leviticus 25:44-46). The people of Israel were permitted to own the Canaanites as slaves. They were permitted to buy and sell them and bequeath them to their heirs in their wills. This was only because God had spoken this as a judgment against the people of the land due to their Baal worship and other sins. God would go even farther than permitting them to be enslaved. There were occasions when He ordered His people to kill whole nations including men, women, children, and livestock (1 Samuel 15:1-3).

If you think God is being unfair or partial here, just remember that God did the same thing to His own people whenever they turned their backs on Him and worshipped other gods. The whole Northern Kingdom of Israel was decimated. Later, the whole Southern Kingdom was carried off into captivity and made slaves of the Babylonians.

The second kind of slavery is quite different than what we think what we think of as slavery. Poor people were often forced to sell themselves into servitude after falling on hard times. In some cases, they would sell a daughter to another wealthier person in order to save the family. This was a matter of survival, not enterprise (Leviticus 25:39-43; Exodus 21:7-11). In these cases, the bondage was never meant to be permanent. Every seven years these slaves were set free if they so desired, and there was always an option for the person who was sold into bondage to be redeemed (Leviticus 25:47-51). Their poverty was not to be exploited, and they were not to be treated ruthlessly.

Even though slavery is not uniformly forbidden in the Bible, the harsh treatment of slaves is expressly forbidden. I would be willing to wager that the slavers in the 17th and 18th centuries who used Ephesians 6 to rule over their slaves never expounded past verse 5. Ephesians 6:9 says, “Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with Him.” Also, Colossians 4:1 says, “Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.”

We can count on this: those masters who trapped slaves, put them on boats, shipped them across the ocean, sold them on auction blocks, ripped families apart, beat and raped them will have a Master to answer to in the judgment. Those today, who kidnap and enslave young men and women to profit from the exploitation of their bodies will answer to the Master. He will not show partiality. He will render a swift and right judgment. They will spend eternity paying for their transgressions. His vengeance will be executed, and their victims will receive vindication.


On Church Conflicts

Anyone who has been a part of any church for any amount of time has a story about a church conflict. They have a story about that business meeting where there was standing room only because the people who had been inactive in the church for years decided that they needed to be there to vote. They can tell you of the experience of being hurt when people that they loved and respected undermined their desire to follow the Lord and minister in the church.

These types of church conflicts have been around since the very beginning of the church. In Acts 5, the sin of Ananias and Sapphira threatened the integrity of the early church. In Acts 6:1-7, a misunderstanding between two parties in the church threatened to divide the fellowship and pull the Apostles away from their duty to preach and lead. There is much for us to learn from these conflicts.

1. Sin must be dealt with. Ananias and Sapphira’s sin could not be covered up. It had to be called out and disciplined so that both the people of the church and the world whom they hoped to reach would know that sin is not okay.

In church conflicts that arise out of sin, the sin which causes the turmoil must be decisively dealt with. Sexual misbehavior, whether among the ministerial staff or the lay membership is not okay. Gossip and backbiting is not okay. Care must be taken to get to the root of the problem and the person(s) responsible. Then, the sin must be exposed and called out in a gracious and loving way lest their sin bring shame on the church and on Christ.

The thought of directly confronting sin scares the living daylights out of most people. We fear how they will react. We are tempted to just stay quiet and let God deal with it on His own. However, in the story of Ananias and Sapphira, we see the horror of what happens when God deals with sin in the church. If we learn of the sin, then we have the opportunity to spare them from God’s judgment. The most loving thing that a Christian can do for their fellow brother or sister who is caught in sin is to go to them and gently correct them. In this way, God may perhaps grant them repentance that leads to knowledge of the truth so that they escape the snare of the devil (2 Timothy 2:25-26).

2. When there is a dispute arising from a misunderstanding, other servants are needed to ensure an equitable solution. In Acts 6, the Apostles stated that it would not be right for them to neglect their duty in preaching and teaching the word of God in order to fix the issue at hand. They called on the church to appoint other servants for this duty, “men who were of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3). This motion was passed unanimously and the conflict was handled.

Most of the time the church leans on the pastor to handle a conflict. That is not always the best course of action, particularly when the problem is not sin but a misunderstanding. The pastor and ministerial staff, like the Apostles of the first-century, need to be able to devote themselves to the ministry of the word and prayer. The only thing worse than a church split is to have your ministerial staff burn out from having to consistently handle polemic situations where misunderstandings run rampant.

Just be careful how you chose these servants. As the Apostles requested, they need to be of a good reputation. They need to be the most devoted Christians in the church. They need to be wise in their handling of sensitive issues and someone that everyone, and I mean everyone, can trust.

3. Healthy handling of church conflicts leads to a stronger and healthier fellowship. In Acts 5:14 we see that the decisive handling of the sin of Ananias and Sapphira only led to the church growing more than ever. We see in Acts 6:7 that the handling of the misunderstanding led to many believers being added to the fellowship. Even some of the Jewish priests believed. We can conclude then, that as ugly as church fights can be, they can turn out for the best if we will handle them biblically. We should strive for these ends.


Why is the church not growing faster?

Several years ago, I listened to a challenging sermon from a leading pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). He was lamenting that the makers of Coca-Cola have been more successful in spreading their soda to the ends of the known world than Christians have been at spreading the life-changing gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. His challenge was that Jesus is better than Coca-Cola, and Christians should be at least as successful at marketing Jesus as Coca-Cola is at selling their product. 

Every year, the SBC baptizes fewer and fewer converts. These depressing statistics are always marched out at our convention meetings. Church leaders like myself feel a constant pressure push harder and do more of whatever it takes to get the numbers up to where they were in the 1950’s, but the global Church still is not growing as fast as we hoped. 

Our convention leaders are correct in some aspects of their reasoning. Fewer and fewer people answer God’s call to go a take the gospel to the ends of the earth.  Fewer disciples are being made because there is a shortage of laborers for the harvest. Also, many local churches have grown cold in the area of evangelism. There is a constant battle with complacency in which complacency wins out much of the time. 

There are other aspects that should be factored into the reasoning for the Church not growing faster. First, Jesus is not as attractive to the natural man as the brown carbonated sugar water we call Coca-Cola. When a man or woman at the ends of the known world purchases a Coca-Cola, they hand over their money, pop the top, and get an instant fizzy fix of sugar and caffeine.  When that same person comes to know Jesus, they die. That is the cost of following Him, you know? They must count all that they once held gain as loss in order to have Jesus in their lives. It is no wonder that Coca-Cola is more popular than Jesus.

Second, it is not fair to place all the blame for the lack of baptisms on the shoulders of church leaders who are striving to be faithful. While complacency is a real problem in the American church, there are countless church pastors who labor hard for the sake of the gospel and see very little fruit from their labors. Hearts have grown hard in these last days. Like Isaiah of the Old Testament, they consistently preach their guts out to no avail hoping to warm cold hearts. They should be encouraged to remain faithful on their difficult mission fields and not be pressured into using manipulation and trendy church growth models to get the baptism numbers up. 

Third, there are many faithful lay people who love the Lord and love lost people. They want to see their neighbors reached with the gospel. They go on mission trips. They give a significant portion of their income to support local and international mission efforts. These faithful lay people, like their faithful pastors, battle against a demographic of their peers who do not care to see the church grow. The only thing more discouraging for them than the lack of growth in the church is the fact that their friends see the same problems but do not feel led to do anything about it. Those faithful lay people need to be encouraged to stay the course and keep doing the work of an evangelist in spite of the complacency in their peers. 

Novelty is too often valued over faithfulness. We do not need new methods of making disciples. The method that Jesus used… life on life discipleship is sufficient. He personally poured into 12 ordinary men. One was a traitor and left them. The other 11 went on and poured into other men and women, baptized them, and taught them all that Jesus had commanded them. Those reached by the 11 poured into others who poured into others. This led to exponential growth, and that is how we have arrived where we are today. 

We are guaranteed results, but we are not guaranteed the results that we envision, therefore results should not be our aim. We must aim at faithfulness to Christ and His mission. The results do not depend on the ability of the evangelist, but his/her willingness to be faithful in the hard places and in the hard times.


One for the serious science nerds

Confession: I love science. It was always one of my favorite subjects in school. I took two levels of Physics in High School as electives. I also took Physics in college. I was a Forestry major so I was required to study life sciences like zoology, botany, and principles of silviculture (the study of how trees live and grow).

I always loved discovering new things about God’s creation. I loved testing hypotheses. I loved physics and how we could run very precise calculations to predict how objects would react to certain forces and determine the exact spot that a steel ball would hit when shot across the lab. I still enjoy watching science fiction movies as well as educational programs on the science channel.

A lot of my unbelieving friends would say that my love for the sciences is incompatible with my deep faith. I tell them that it all depends on where you start. As a person of faith, I believe everything begins and ends with God. He is “the alpha and the omega… the one who is and who was and who is to come… the beginning and the end” (Rev. 1:8; 21:6; 22:13). Additionally, Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, is the Word who was from the beginning (John 1:1). That He is the “Word” means the He is the guiding principle of all the universe. “All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17).

Because I start from a place of faith, all answers only serve to confirm the One in whom I believe. My unbelieving friends start from a different place… a place that denies the existence of God (Atheism) or the ability to know God (Agnosticism). Because they start from an Atheistic or Agnostic perspective, all the answers only confirm their starting beliefs.

I read Stephen Hawking’s book, The Grand Design, three times. It is one of those works that requires multiple readings in order to get a grasp on the material. Hawking, who recently passed away, was a brilliant man and an absolute genius. In The Grand Design, he wrote a beautiful explanation of the “apparent miracle” of the grand design of the universe and how everything fits perfectly together. He then gave every possible explanation of this miracle except the one that includes God as a grand designer.

Last week on the Science Channel, I watched several programs on the topic of theoretical physics. All the physicists featured on the program gave the same basic explanation of the creation of the universe. They all believed that the universe came into existence when a tiny particle, known as the singularity, containing all the matter and mass of the entire universe began expanding and suddenly exploded. Within the singularity, there were pockets of matter that were denser than others. As the matter was blasted out into space those dense pockets attracted less dense pockets by the force of gravity and that is how the planets and stars were formed. 

Here is the problem that the physicists admitted in the programs: If the “big bang” theory is true, then the universe should be contracting or at least slowing down in its expansion due to the force of gravity and the effect of space-time. But it is not. The universe is actually accelerating in its rate of expansion. Galaxies should be pulling together, but the gaps between the galaxies are growing larger and larger.

This accelerated expansion has puzzled physicists ever since it was first observed. To complicate matters even more, there is another energy that has been observed in the universe that competes with gravity. They have named it “dark energy.” Just like gravity is generated by the presence of matter, dark energy is generated by the presence of antimatter. This antimatter cannot be observed except through the sounds that it puts off in space. Scientists all over the world are working hard to try to understand how all this fits together in the grand scheme of things.

Okay now that I have totally “geeked out” on you, I would like to just say this… the universe is inexplicably amazing. It is amazing because the God who created it is inexplicably amazing. May we never stop seeking answers. May we never stop finding God in the things He has made (cf. Rom 1:19-20). 


Every Timothy Needs a Paul

And every Paul needs a Timothy. There is so much to be gleaned from the relationship between these two men. From it, we learn the Biblical principle of one on one, life on life discipleship. We need more of this in 2018.

The duo first met when Paul came to Timothy’s hometown of Lystra on his second missionary journey. Paul was a Hebrew of Hebrews. Timothy was the teenage son of a believing Jewish mother and a Greek father. The two were as opposite as could be, but Paul was immediately taken to Timothy and requested that he come alongside him on the rest of his journey. 

Timothy accompanied Paul on the journey through Asia. Then they set sail across the Aegean Sea for Macedonia. They traveled from Philippi all the way down to Thessalonica then crossed over into Achaia. They journeyed as far south as Corinth before crossing the Aegean Sea once again back into South Asia to the city of Ephesus. 

All along the journey, they established and strengthened churches. They suffered hardships together, and they rejoiced in triumph together. The cross of Christ and their common desire to see people come to know Jesus was the thread that knit their souls together as one.  Their affection for one another cannot be overstated as they came to be like father and son. 

Paul personally and intentionally invested in Timothy, whom he very much intended to be his successor. Timothy had heard every sermon. He had witnessed every beating. He had seen thousands of people saved. Many useful memories were established that would later sustain Timothy during a very difficult stint as pastor of the church in Ephesus. 

In Paul’s last letter of encouragement to Timothy, he instructed him: “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” This is what is beautiful to me… Paul was looking to the future. He saw the necessity of his successor having a successor as well. His desire was to see the whole world saved and knew that it was bigger than him and bigger than Timothy. The mission required that Timothy become a Paul who would invest in other Timothies.

What we need to understand is that this is the way the church has grown for the last two thousand years. Starting with Jesus, faithful men and women personally invested in other faithful men and women who invested in others. Many converts were made through the public proclamation of the gospel, but those converts did not become true disciples until someone took them in and personally invested in them. This is what is missing today in the way that we do church.

Making converts is easy. Wherever the gospel is preached, men and women respond. It is the power of God unto salvation. Discipleship is much more difficult. It requires openness and humility. It demands love that is moved to action and prayer. It requires a willingness to take responsibility for another person’s soul.

I am so grateful that shortly after I was saved, a youth minister named Richard Harvey called me to his side. He taught me. He prayed for me. He challenged me. The greatest thing he did was care for me. He was by my side during the most difficult season of my life. His love for me is the thing I remember the most. He was my Paul.

If you are a believer and follower of Christ today, then you must have a Paul. You believe because someone cared for and invested in you. They taught you. They prayed for you. They took responsibility for you. 

If you have a Paul, then you are duty bound to also have a Timothy. What has been invested in you was not for your own sake but for the sake of the kingdom and glory of God. For our faith to continue into the next generation and for God to get all the glory that is due Him, you must give away what you have been given. I strongly encourage you to find a disciple to personally invest in. Invite someone into your life. Take responsibility for their growth in the grace of God. Teach them. Challenge them. Love them. Do it all for the glory of God. 


When the Lord speaks through the sermon

It happens often that I hear from a worshipper, “your sermon really spoke to me today pastor.” It is by far the best compliment a pastor can receive. It is God’s affirmation that I was on the right track. It is evidence that the Holy Spirit was speaking in the message… that God’s word went out and did not return void.

It also happens from time to time that people get offended by the sermon… sometimes even severely offended. Something is said in the message that brings conviction and the individual thinks I have singled them out on some issue. They believe that their wife or husband has spoken to me and told me about some issue in their lives and that I have chosen to air it out from the pulpit. Sometimes they accuse me of looking at them when I said a certain convicting statement and assume that I knew. This is never the case, but no amount of my assuring them that I was not singling them out, no one has talked to me, and I did not know is enough to convince them.

If you have listened to many sermons, you have probably had the experience of hearing the Lord speak personally to you. At times He speaks to you in a positive, reassuring, and comforting way. At times He speaks in a convicting and concerning way. Here are a few things to remember when you feel as though the Lord is speaking to you in the sermon.

First, be encouraged. Whether the message is encouraging or convicting, the Lord is speaking to you because He loves you. He is concerned with you. He values you as His child. What does a good loving father do? He guides his children in the truth. He encourages them. He disciplines them. And He does it all so that they are formed into the best person that they can be. Your Heavenly Father is no different, except that He is better than the best earthly father.

Second, the preacher does not speak on his own authority as long as he is speaking according to the inspired word. When you feel convicted by the sermon and wonder if the preacher is just being mean, look at the text he is preaching. Did he say anything that was not in the text? If the convicting word that he spoke in the sermon was first spoken by God in His word, then the pastor is simply saying what God has said. You have no reason to be angry at the messenger.

Jesus actually predicted that this sort of thing would happen in John 16:8. Speaking of the Holy Spirit who would come and speak through His disciples, Jesus said, “And when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” Just as Jesus’ preaching was offensive to the Pharisees, the preaching of His apostles would be offensive to the world. Jesus never spoke on His own authority but on the authority of the one who sent Him (cf. John 8:28), so also the apostles would not speak on their own authority but on the one who was sent.

Third, there are bad apples in every bunch, but preachers do not generally want to be mean. We are just like you. We want people to like us. We do not want to have to deal with conflict. It is in the nature of what we do, though. In order for people to understand their need for a Savior… their need for repentance, they have to see how exceedingly sinful they are, therefore we cannot shy away from speaking the hard truths. It is likely that he knew that thing he said in the sermon was going to make people mad, but he could not let it go unspoken. He was bound by his conscience, his responsibility, and his knowledge that he will be held accountable for your soul.

Fourth, growth in spiritual strength comes in much the same way as growth in physical strength. It requires stretching yourself. It requires subjecting yourself to intense pain at times. Your pastor, like any good trainer, is always challenging you to push a little harder and go a little further. He does not do it because he hates you. He does it because he wants to see you grow and because he will be held accountable by God.


14 Reasons why churches should send teams on short-term international mission trips and why you should join them

My church is a very missions-minded church. We send out several teams every year on short-term (1-2 weeks) international mission trips. The Lord has richly blessed us in our efforts to do the Great Commission. I believe every church should be involved in international mission work through short-term journeys. Here are 14 reasons why:

1. Jesus, who is the head of the church, called the church to go to the very ends of the earth and preach the gospel, and He promised to go with them and protect them until the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)

2. There are people who need to hear the gospel. Faith comes by hearing. If they do not hear, then they cannot believe in Him. They cannot hear without someone preaching, and there is no preaching unless someone is sent. (Romans 10:14-17)
3. Short term teams are an encouragement to the full-time missionaries who receive them in the host country. Sending money helps, but a dollar bill cannot share the gospel to the people who need to hear. This requires “boots on the ground.” (Philippians 4:10; 2 Timothy 1:15-18, 4:9-11)
4. Short term teams are an encouragement to the churches in the host country. It helps them to know that they have brothers and sisters who care for them. Nothing encourages them more than to know that the churches overseas are praying for them. (Galatians 6:9-10)
5. Short term teams really can make a kingdom impact. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and wherever it is preached people are born again and rescued for all eternity. (Romans 1:16)
6. When international churches receive short-term teams, the local community becomes more connected with the local church. Whether you are doing medical ministry or handing out soccer balls through a host church, people in the community receive a blessing from that church’s ministry. The people you help may forget your name or face, but they will not forget the believers within that local church. (Acts 2:45-47)
7. It is easier to share the gospel on short-term international trips. Normally, you will have an opportunity to share just by being there. You will be interesting just because you are a foreigner. People will listen to what you have to say because they know you care about them enough to come and tell them. (Acts 17:18-21)
8. It will be easier to share the gospel with people in the United States upon your return. Having the easy opportunities to share overseas will give you the confidence you need to share the gospel with fellow Americans… sort of like hitting off a tee in practice prepares a little leaguer to hit harder pitches in the game.
9. The churches who send short-term mission teams grow. God loves it when His people obey His command to go. He adds special blessings to the churches who send laborers into the harvest. (Romans 10:15)
10. Going on short-term international trips gives you a broader understanding of the world. People in third world countries are different than us. You cannot really understand how different unless you go and see for yourself and live with them for a period of time.
11. You will have a chance to network with full-time missionaries and develop wonderful partnerships with them. It is one thing to read about missionaries in books, but nothing compares to being able to have them as close personal friends. (Philippians 2:25-30)
12. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, has sheep that are scattered about in dark and difficult places. He must bring them into His fold. The good news is that they will hear his voice and respond. Churches who send teams to these places are guaranteed results. They will hear His voice. (John 10:16)
13. The Lord has prepared you for such good works. The church is the equipping place for ministry. Your Jerusalem, your Judea, your Samaria, and all the nations are your mission field. (Ephesians 2:10, 4:11-12; Acts 1:8)
14. Jesus said that He would not return before the gospel is proclaimed “throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations.” There are 6,000 people groups who are unreached with the gospel. If we say we are ready for Jesus’ return, we have to get going to the unreached at the ends of the earth. (Matthew 24:14)


News that Did Not Make the Headlines

Last week, we were once again faced with some terribly destressing headlines. Another mass shooting… political commentary on the latest mass shooting… debates over security issues… opinions… all dominated the news. On social media, everybody felt obliged to state their opinion as if by telling Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram their opinions were going to change one jot or tittle in the future of our culture.
I have promised to stay away from political commentary in this section. Instead, I would love to share with you a few things that I saw happen over the last few weeks that never made it to any news desk.
I saw a husband put his arm around his wife. He kissed her on the cheek. She laid her head upon his shoulder. Their love for one another was obvious and abounding despite their individual shortcomings.
I saw a father hug his daughter after a basketball game. He beamed with pride. He will always be the first man to love her for who she is.
I saw a group of teenagers gathered in the hallway outside our youth room at FBC. They were actually visiting with one another face to face. They were talking about life and what was happening at school and with their friends.
I saw a group of deacons gathered together discussing the direction of the church, but most importantly, discussing the needs of the widows that they serve. That same group of deacons put on a special evening where they sat around tables and visited with the widows and widowers in their care.
I heard a missionary couple sharing with the church all that they were doing to get the gospel to the ends of the earth. They told of lives being changed, orphans being fed, and churches being planted by the grace of God.
I saw the people of God gathered together for worship of the One True God. His Spirit filled the room and the heart of every worshipper. His glory was made manifest in their presence through the preaching of the word. Hearts were turned to Him.
A little girl excitedly shared with me a verse of scripture that she had memorized and hidden in her heart. She is the generation that we are raising up, our legacy, that will endure for years to come with the Lord’s blessing. How many will be encouraged and find Jesus as He works in and through her to grow her in grace?
I received a young man, who came to me believing that the Lord had called him to vocational ministry. I worked with him for weeks helping him to write his first sermon. Last Sunday night he delivered it with passion and conviction. Many of the faithful were helped and encouraged. Outsiders were encouraged to believe on Jesus and be saved.
A middle-aged couple with the gift of hospitality invited my family into their home for dinner. They were genuinely interested in us. They genuinely cared for us and wanted to hear our stories. They shared with us their own story of how they had served the Lord as missionaries in Honduras (something we totally unaware of until that evening). My family was encouraged to be more diligent to get to know the people around us.
I visited a dear saint of the Lord who had been holed up in a hospital room for weeks and desperately desired to return home. The next morning, she went home alright… home to the house that Jesus had prepared for her. She is there today being lavished with the infinite love and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ.
A Christian forgave a brother who wronged him. A husband repented of sexual sin and was restored to his wife. God’s people prayed and a sick person was restored to health. There was great rejoicing in heaven and on earth when a sinner repented in tears. I could go on and on.
I do not mean to minimize the terrible news we received last week. I only mean to encourage you. We dwell on the bad news, but the good news is rarely told. It is not seen as interesting. But the Holy Spirit tells us to think on these things.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. –Philippians 4:8