Hobbies and other pursuits…

Since taking on my role with Missio Nexus I have avoided posting here. It seems like the president of an organization having a separate blog could become a conflict.

However… no reason to keep my hobbies to myself.

Here is my first Lytro picture. I picked up a Lytro light field camera for dirt cheap.If you click on the picture, you can change the focal point!

Voice Crying in the Wilderness

A recent conversation got me thinking about this tongue-in-cheek post that I wrote a few years back. It’s still a good one! Take it in the spirit of humor, please!


To: Isaiah

From: The Jerusalem Temple
100 East Gate

715 BC

Dear Isaiah:

Greetings in the name of our Messiah (whom we haven’t actually seen yet, but we take it by faith that He’s coming).  On behalf of the missions committee here at the Jerusalem Temple it’s my honor to greet you – we only wish it were with a holy kiss.

Isaiah, it’s that time of year when we re-evaluate our priorities regarding the distribution of funds to various temple-supported prophets.  As you know, our temple has a substantial commitment to the preaching of the Law.  We have developed a five point system of evaluation that includes the following: teaching the Pentateuch, apostasy return, royalty succession, Baal shaming, and war counseling.

We noticed on your recent evaluation form you indicated that the primary purpose of your ministry was “voice crying in the wilderness.”  You need to know that this is not one of the priorities that we have set for the prophets that we support.  While “crying in the wilderness” is certainly an important ministry, it is simply not one which we feel called to give toward.

We also have some questions about this particular assignment for you.  We noticed that you have been “crying in the wilderness” for sometime now, but there is little sign of fruit.  This makes us wonder if this particular ministry is a match for your particular gifting.  Furthermore, some of our member are concerned that your recent newsletter reported that you are, at times, running around bare-naked.  Unfortunately, we suspect that your sending agency, Propheteers, is not adequately holding you accountable to a reasonable ministry plan.

We did write them and they have indicated that they are unable to remove you from ministry, because that is the role of field leadership.  This is unacceptable to us, and we have, therefore decided to suspend our support for your ministry.

We will continue to send you fatty parts from the sacrifices for another three months, at which time our support will end.

With Love,


The Missions Committee

The Jerusalem Temple

New Role

Well, the news it out! I am moving from my role at Pioneers into a new one: President of Missio Nexus.

You can see the official announcement my clicking here.

Missiology’s Dark Side

Yak, yak, yak… so went the meeting into the wee hours of the night. It actually was the middle of the day, but for me, suffering from jet lag on a 12 hour time zone change, it felt like 3 AM in this Asian city. The topic was about how to best go about the task of reaching people in the midst of disasters: how to help refugees, how to provide immediate relief in an organization that isn’t a relief organization, how to work in a culturally appropriate way, etc. It was a good, robust discussion about doing ministry that serves felt needs while simultaneously being a witness for the Kingdom.

And there was no actionable outcome. Why? Because for every good idea there was a reason why that idea was bad. It almost doesn’t matter what the suggestion might be:

  • Provide food? No-no (that might create dependence).
  • Organize? Don’t go there (you don’t understand the local leadership style).
  • Strategize? Oh, that’s too managerial (ala Escobar).
  • Teach? No way! (that elevates the missionary and not the national).
  • Hire the nationals to teach? Bad idea (creates dependence).
  • Don’t hire the national? Terrible idea (nationals are the most effective).
  • Use media? Uh-uh (too shallow).

Yak, yak, yak.

William Carey wrote “An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens.” It seems that for every “means” there are a lot of “moans.”

Herein lies the dark side of missiology: it’s essentially a rebuttal and critique of everything. No good thing is left good on the other side of the missiological debate. That’s a strength, of course, but also a liability. If we allow our questions to become immobilizing then this strength becomes a weakness.

Let us not fear strategy or the use of means. Robust debate is our friend but not if it eclipses action.

To be read in the spirit of CS Lewis’ Screwtape Letters

My Dearest Wormwood:

I understand that you’ve allowed the Enemy’s soldiers to live amongst the people you’ve been set to guard. No doubt it’s nothing at this point and there is time to countermand this advance, but I am truly sorry for it on your behalf.

They look like nothing to fear right now: a husband, wife, two small children and a couple of single adults. They can’t speak the tongue of your witless charges and they know nothing of the deep seated hatred we’ve instilled into native hearts. I warn you, though, my dear Wormwood, that this is not the beginning, but the continuance of the Enemy’s plans.

These interlopers were most likely trained by special forces the Enemy has put together, called missionary agencies. They prepare them for their singular task of establishing a beachhead amongst people that belong to us! Imagine the arrogance. We have owned these creatures for hundreds of years and have tread thousands of miles over their souls. It takes an admirable fearlessness to think that this can be easily overturned. We have attacked these agencies’ leaders and their families. We are working to set their own government against them. They struggle to finance their work, act like beggars for prayer, and we seek to discourage them at every juncture. Yet they continue on. It’s a horrible business but now you must deal with the fall out.

So what to do? There are number of strategies that have worked well. I suggest you start by focusing on the family. Attack their children. Make them homesick, lonely, and generally unruly for the hapless mother. Use the Internet against them if at all possible and destroy their moral purity. Distract their language learning. Most devils are trying a new strategy to sideline the single adults. They will gladly spend hour upon hour watching Netflix movies and surfing for potential romances on dating websites. It’s like they never moved overseas. This little group has no idea yet how difficult we can make the relationships between them be – pitting them against each other is something delightful for any young under-demon.

Alas, all of these approaches have yielded limited success. These people are usually backed by a powerful army of prayer warriors. This must be your most important point of attack. Go after their ability to directly beseech the Enemy for reinforcements. Build strong alliances with your colleagues “back home” to ensure that their little missionary newsletters are unsubscribed from, their appeals are trite, non-specific and ignored, such that their daily struggles are never highlighted to the Enemy. Prayer is, above all else, the thing to be feared.

Wormwood, all is not lost. But you had better get out in front of this before they establish a community of people worshipping the Enemy. Once that starts you will be dealing with it forever and you will have to answer to me.

Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape

Managing Contacts

Since giving my “Death by Email” seminar a few years back I have been asked the question, “How do you manage contacts?” many times.

If you look at most of our phones, we have a mess of contacts. If we sync our phones with GMail (or Outlook or Yahoo… take your pick) AND a work email server AND an app or two AND the device’s local contacts… well, you get the idea. There are duplicates and out-of-date entries. So I have been working hard to come up with a solution to how to keep my contacts all in sync and I have a suggesting.

This suggestion hurts a bit at first, but in the long run you will not be sorry:: Use 1 and only 1 contact management source. Turn the rest all “off.”

What I do, for example, is store all of my contacts on a gmail account. I set my email clients (on all my computers) and on my phone to only point to this one account for contacts. By doing so I can manage one data source and it’s a master data source. When I edit contacts on my computer, they update this one source. When I add a contact on my phone, I add it to this one source. Everything in a single database. Back it up on a schedule and you are good to go.

Interesting Infographic on the Megachurch

Read the whole thing… the “mega benevolence” section is interesting…

Megachurch Megabusiness
Image source: www.onlinechristiancolleges.com

Too Funny

I don’t know the source of this, but I sure think it captures the Christmas quandary.

Cuban Mysticism

With the “opening” of Cuban/American relations I anticipate a large number of Evangelicals wanting to get involved with the country. Truth be told, there was an avenue to work in Cuba doing ministry beforehand, but the gates are now open wider.

Cuba, as most readers will know, is mostly Catholic. However, a growing Evangelical movement has been on the rise over the past few decades. Many American Evangelicals might be surprised to know that Cuba is not Catholic in the same sense that their Catholic neighbors might be. Cuba is really dominated by Santeria/Lucima. This is a religion which infuses the tribal spirituality and religious systems of Africa (Lukumi culture, in particular) with Catholicism. Is it a syncretistic mix of the two. Evangelicals clearly view Santeria as a form of witchcraft. This religion has secret leadership rites (organized around a priest called an Orisha – aka “saint” or Santeria) and the worship of nature is at the core.

5 Stories You Will Read about in 2015 Regarding North American Missions

I typically post a “top trends” article as the year begins to flip. This year I offer this list of stories I think we will be reading about next year.

1.  Continued debate over the definition of missions

Under the surface of Great Commission theology is the understanding of what “mission,” “missions,” and “missionary” means. For the past century or so, Mission Dei has been the favorite flavor of missiologists, particularly those from theological institutions. Missio Dei fits well with a modern / post-modern missiology and influential authors such as Leslie Newbiggen embraced it and made their mark on missiological thinking. I think much of this philosophy of missions culminated with Chris Wright’s book The Mission of God as taught at Lausanne a years back.

However, the Evangelical missionary movement globally has grown fastest and deepest when its proponents have not embraced a broad definition of mission. Particularly among Pentecostals and Baptists an alternative view of missions challenges the Mission Dei definition. This alternate view is conversionistic, focused on church planting, sees social action valid only when accompanied by proclamation of the gospel, and is quite theologically conservative. it is closer to fundamentalism than Western missiologists might like.

In 2015 I expect we will begin to see theologians (particularly from the non-Western world) begin to challenge the dominant Missio Dei definition of mission. The fall out will be felt in the North American missions movement as more narrow definitions of mission begin to take hold. This will not happen quickly, but it is ripe to start.

2.  Consolidation, mergers and “acquisitions”

It sounds so Wall Street to talk like this so forgive me. However, the “missions industry” is not immune to the process of growing and aging like any other “industry.” I would commend the book, How Industries Evolve for more information on this. The basic thesis is that mature industries end up with a handful of dominant players. Smaller, niche players will appear in the areas where the larger organizations aren’t interested in focusing. I see no reason why the missions agency sector would be immune from this and, in fact, see why it needs to happen. This has been going on for some years already but will probably accelerate in the next decade.

In 2015 I expect we will see at least a few missionary agencies “merge” into other agencies, increase cooperation substantially for some services, or altogether shut down. This will be encouraged in part by local churches who are not excited about support structures in missions and who are asking for greater efficiencies in the back room operations of organizations.

3.  Security Issues

The world is an increasingly dangerous place for missionaries. Despite the growing danger there is a sustained focus on the part of missionaries to work in the Islamic world where much of the danger exists.

While we have always had stories of missionary sacrifice and martyrdom, I expect that in 2015 there will be a new round of high profile cases that will get our attention.

4.  Growing Local Church Involvement in Missions

There have been a number of starts and stops when it comes to integrating the local church in missions. The exception to this would be in regard to the short-term missionary movement. When I talk with church leaders, they often characterize the short-term trip as necessary but disappointing. At the same time, most missionary agency executives long for deeper involvement by the local church.

I believe the maturing mega-church movement will, in 2015, begin to demand and exercise greater missiological sophistication. Another way to say this is that after decades of asking the question, “Who owns the Great Commission, the church or agency?” (which has setup a false and antagonistic dichotomy). This question is being replaced with, “How do we get this job done?” A good part of this is due to the emphasis on church planting that has taken place in the North American church. In 2015 this will be an encouraging and growing story.

5.  Church Planting Movement (CPM) Controversy

Within missionary agency circles the concepts surrounding CPM have taken a strong hold. I recently read an unpublished research paper in which over 30 agencies were questioned about their  use of CPM strategies. All but one had made strategic shifts to embrace a CPM oriented ministry philosophy.

Within the US there are few churches which embrace the CPM concepts (house churches, decentralization, lack of didactic preaching, etc.). There are also some church structures that are overtly hostile to the leadership paradigms being used globally. I anticipate that we will see a debate emerge over the theological underpinnings of CPM strategies. At the same time, the CPM outcomes are hard to argue with: they form a challenge to our traditional ecclesiology. In 2015 I would expect we see these issues debated and discussed in a healthy and necessary way.

So, there you have it: 5 stories I think you will read about in 2015. I would welcome any thoughts you might have about these items.