Most ministry today focuses on crowds. Yet the most effective way to make disciples is up close and personal.
Last week I went to the nation of Colombia to preach in a conference sponsored by two churches in the city of Barranquilla. I could have gone alone, but I asked Jason, a young pastor from South Carolina, to accompany me on the seven-day trip.
When we boarded our first flight to Panama I said to Jason: "You are going to grow two feet during this adventure." He told me yesterday when we were preparing to come home: "I think I grew two-and-a-half feet." read more
Moral failure in our ranks has become an epidemic—and the only solution is a heaven-sent spiritual housecleaning.
I'm sure you felt as heartsick as I did when you heard about the nightmarish charges leveled against Atlanta preacher Eddie Long of New Birth Full Gospel Baptist Church. While I passed through two airports last Thursday, CNN was airing the sordid details of the lawsuits filed by two young men who are accusing Long of coercing them into sex. Two more men have since come forward with similar lawsuits.
Whether the charges are true or not (please pray for Long and his church during this ordeal), it was awkward to hear newscasters suggesting that a married Pentecostal bishop had abused his power and carried on secret gay affairs. What's really sad is that in our sexually desensitized culture people don't even blush when they hear such talk about a minister. read more
The strange foods I've eaten on the mission field remind me that Jesus crosses all cultural barriers.
Would you drink a frog smoothie? Would you eat a piping hot bowl of monkey stew with a side of fried ants? I didn't try these popular delicacies when I was in Peru last week. I stuck with the grilled cuy, better known as guinea pig. It is actually quite tasty, as long as you don't think about the fact that you are eating a rodent.
Ever since God showed the Apostle Peter it was OK to eat unclean meats (see Acts 10:9-16), Christian missionaries have faced amazing gastronomical challenges when venturing into new cultures. After a Peruvian friend promised to fix me some sopa de mono (monkey soup) when I return to the jungle city of Tarapoto, I asked friends on Facebook to list the strangest foods they'd eaten on the mission field. Here are some of the dishes mentioned, and where they are served: read more
A humble missionary couple in
Peru, Jaime and Telma Gomez, showed me this week what it means to be passionate
Peruvian schoolteacher Jaime Gomez and his
wife, Telma, gave their hearts to Jesus in 1969 through the influence of
Baptist missionaries who came from the United States to the Amazon town of
Yurimaguas. After Jaime's conversion, he felt a strong call to ministry, yet he
knew he did not have the power to be a witness. Without any exposure to
Pentecostals, he felt God showed him he would be baptized in the Holy Spirit.
A few days later, after seeing a vision
of God touching his mouth, Jaime was overcome by heavenly power. "He spoke in
tongues for six straight days," his wife told me this week in an interview in
Tarapoto, a city in north Peru where the Gomezes began their church planting
ministry. read more
Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who plans to burn copies of the Quran on 9/11, does not speak for charismatic Christians.
Most of us reacted with a collective groan when we learned that the pastor of a small charismatic church in Gainesville, Fla., said he plans to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11. I was especially disappointed because I lived in Gainesville in my 20s. This man's irresponsible plot has put a bustling college town in the crosshairs of a possible terrorist attack—and has made evangelical Christians look like intolerant goons.
I'd like to go on the record to say this: Rev. Terry Jones does not speak for charismatic Christians, and his brand of fire-breathing judgmentalism doesn't even remotely resemble the message of Jesus Christ. I am praying that he will repent and renounce his outrageous intentions before the time arrives to strike the first match. read more
In the oil country of western North Dakota I met a brave woman pastor who is blazing a spiritual trail.
Barb Becker is one tough lady. Raised by alcoholic parents in a mining camp in Wyoming, she lived a rough life that included drugs and promiscuity. People continually told her she was good for nothing. She hated herself and became suicidal.
But in 1985, on the same day she planned to kill herself, she bought a little book called Power for Living for 25 cents at a second-hand store, read the Christian testimonies in it and prayed to receive Jesus as her Savior. She became so hungry to know God that she read the Bible straight through four times in three months and ended up getting baptized in the Holy Spirit. read more
Last week one of
my best friends showed me what it really means to selflessly lay down your
Last week one of
my best friends, Chris Maxwell, organized a two-day prayer gathering for me in
north Georgia, where he serves as the pastor of a Christian college. Chris had
listened to me whine for months about how confused I was about my future. He
took it upon himself to contact a group of my friends, and they agreed to take
time off work to pray with me about some important decisions.
Chris not only
gathered nine men for this prayer retreat, but he also solicited counsel from
other friends who couldn't attend, and from my wife. When I sat down in that
living room on the first night, they put me under a microscope and proceeded to
meddle in all my business. It was 48 hours of probing questions, wise counsel,
sober warnings, gushing encouragement, brotherly affection and in-your-face
honesty. read more
We've dumbed down
the gospel for too long. Let's rediscover the Bible and become mature
I love words.
That's why I do a crossword puzzle every day—not just because it is the mental
equivalent of a three-mile bicycle ride, but also because I enjoy discovering
that a word such as "coulrophobia" means a fear of clowns, or that
"jobbernowl" means a stupid person.
especially important to us as Christians, not only because Jesus is the logos—the
word made flesh (see John 1:14)—but because our faith rests on the truth
revealed by God in the Bible. We can't really know Him apart from the
God-inspired words that describe who He is and what He has done for us. read more
Let's stop the
hypnotism, the guilt manipulation and the high-pressure gimmicks. It's time to
reclaim our lost credibility.
rather go to the dentist for a root canal than watch a telethon. But while
channel surfing a few nights ago I tuned into PBS and discovered that Aretha
Franklin, the legendary Queen of Soul, was hosting a fundraiser for the
network. Seated at a piano, she was offering a 5-CD collection of classic
rhythm and blues hits in exchange for a donation to public television.
It was simple.
There were no gimmicks, no games and no strings attached in Aretha's offer. If
you gave the suggested gift, she explained, PBS would mail you a big slice of
American pop culture—including songs by Gladys Knight and the Pips, Smokey
Robinson, the Four Tops, Al Green and Aretha herself, singing her classic
"Respect." read more
God is shaking His church and removing corruption. But we share the blame for giving charlatans a platform.
Al Capone once controlled all of Chicago. The notorious 1920s gangster bribed the city's mayor, bought the police and presided as king over an empire of casinos, speakeasies and smuggling operations. He dodged bullets for years and lived above the law—and earned the nickname "untouchable" because no one could bring him to justice.
Before Capone finally went to prison in 1932, he justified his crimes by saying: "All I do is satisfy a public demand." He didn't take responsibility for the pain he caused because he knew mayors, policemen, community leaders and bootleggers supported him the whole way. read more