Hope for Senior Citizens in Cuba

“Why would you want to open a home for senior citizens?” asked the government official.

Years ago the Cuban government closed all church-run orphanages and senior assisted living homes. Recently the churches we work with have been granted permission to start the first assisted living home in one major city in more than 50 years. It’s called “La Casa de Esperanza” – The House of Hope and serves 7 full-time residents and adult day-care for more. Uncommon.

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We attended the grand opening on the veranda. There is Miguel, one of my co-trainers, leading the program.

Surprisingly, three government officials also attended, took the tour, heard the testimonies, the hymns we sang and listened to the speakers talk about Christianity. It was almost a church service!

 

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They later spent 30 minutes quizzing a key church leader about why Christians would want to do such a thing. The churches barely have enough, why take on others’ burdens? The answer: Christians are taught to love others and care for their neighbors. Even if it costs them.

 

In a country where the average salary is $20-25 per month, caring for the weak and aged is especially hard. But the gospel is being proclaimed in word and deed in Cuba and the church there is growing in surprising ways.

https://app.mobilecause.com/vf/CUBA

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Multiplying Gospel-Sharing Disciples

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Picture of one church’s short-term mission trip. But it’s different.

Last night our local church started its annual Short-term Mission Trip to our city. In a park behind the school where we meet. It’s a nightly Fútbol Camp for kids and families. No long trips, no plane rides, no exotic locale. Just right here where we live with our neighbors.

26 kids registered. Their moms, siblings and a few dads came and watched. Relationships started building. I wonder how many will receive Christ?

How will God use this ordinary group of Christians to reach ordinary people in an ordinary city on a very ordinary mission ‘trip’? We’ve been praying and reaching out here for years. I can’t wait to see what God does!

My role in this outreach is prayer. I’m not the leader – Pastor or Coach Héctor leads us now. But as I sat and prayed with Daniel, our Church Planter in Residence who will start another cross-cultural church nearby, holding the registration cards in our hands like I was taught, I had flashbacks to the first person to train me. My youth pastor, Mr. Mike, trained me to share my faith and lead outreaches in my parents’ basement when I was a sophomore at Marshall High School in northern VA. And now others have been or are being trained to multiply. This is where the action is. Multiplication.

Many, including my parents, modeled to me the importance of sharing the gospel as a disciple of Jesus through years of everyday life training. For over 10 years of Jr Hi ministry in the 90’s, our group held ‘Outrages’ where we did outrageous events kids could bring their friends to and present the gospel. And yes, Jr Hi kids shared the gospel, not just the grown ups. Our Sr Hi ministry outreaches, mission trips and training brought many to Christ but more importantly, trained a generation of youth (now in their 30’s) to share the gospel. (Side note: Mr. Mike and I teamed up at the same church for years. What a joy to work with him as a colleague!)

Now what Mike, my parents and others reproduced and multiplied into me is transferring into disciples from many nations in our city through people who were not Christians a few years ago. One mom who attended last year is now helping run the outreach.

The Best News Ever. This short-term mission trip may not go far away or host big, outrageous games. Soccer draws a crowd and the beginner evangelists show up, make friends and the gospel gets shared. Bigger though, is the impact of training others to share the gospel as part of making disciples. It’s God working in His power!

As I pray, I’m grateful. Grateful to God for His salvation offered by faith alone. Grateful for those people who discipled me. Grateful for the chance to disciple others who will disciple others too.

Keep having fun, praying for sinners to repent, sharing the gospel, inviting people to receive Christ and multiplying disciples who will disciple others too.

Jesus’ Simple Strategy for Planting The Church

I’m a curious person. Constantly synthesizing everything I learn to try to make sense of the big picture so we can find ways to reach the nations. My family and church staff have accused me of having too many great ideas for everyone, including myself. 

Underneath the driven curiosity is this burning desire that we have got to tell more people about Jesus.I’m often tempted to search for new insights, programs, training secrets, methods, books or ideas so I can be a better coach to church planters. 

So Jesus shocks me in his simplicity. In the quest to see God start a movement of church planting and disciple-making in the US and other parts of the world, Jesus’ strategy is so simple. 

As a follower of Jesus, planter, gospel coach of coaches and trainer of church planters, I need to remember to focus on Jesus’ simple strategy more than curricula and program. I’ve studied Jesus strategy off and on since 1992. I know this. But I get distracted. Many of Jesus’ principles of His Master Plan (Robert Coleman’s classic) we find extremely challenging to church planters.

Jesus didn’t have a ‘Plan B’ for planting The church. His plan was this:

  • Select average men who are loyal, teachable with big hearts.
  • Take the long view of the process.
  • Be with them in their lives. A lot.
  • Patiently hand off people ministry responsibility.
  • Quickly give tasks to disciples.
  • Expect and challenge followers to bring others along.

Church planters should ask potential disciples to follow Jesus the person, not me or you or the program. Over time, (12-18 months after starting) Jesus challenged his followers to his high-cost terms for disciple-making. We can’t change them or substitute our own. Evangelism and suffering can’t be left out. There’s no ‘Plan B’ for disciple-making.

  • Depend on the Holy Spirit as we do the work of evangelism.
  • “Show-how is better than know-how” especially while disciples watch.
  • Send out disciples in pairs to practice stating the gospel simply.
  • Always celebrate sharing the gospel and debrief for teachable moments (review and apply).
  • Expect hardship and learn to fight the spiritual battle together.

Here’s one I really don’t like. Jesus’ goal wasn’t popularity, masses of numbers (or even converts). By today’s standards of starting a new church, but the time of his death, Jesus was a failure. But it was all part of his Plan A.

Jesus said to our Father that he had ‘accomplished the work You gave me to do’ (John 17:4). His work goal to that point was preparing multiplying disciple-makers. Oh, too often I thought we needed better methods. We need better men. And more of Jesus.

If you’re interested in multiplying disciple-makers and want to join us in the learning, I’d love to chat more about what we do in Church Multiplication Ministries. 

Opportunity for Gospel Coaching a persecuted church

Spent last week on a strategic island nation near Florida that rhymes with ‘tuba’. And it’s changed me. Hope it will infect us all.

You may have heard God’s at work there. It’s true in the Los Pinos Nuevos (LPN) denomination. Thousands are turning to Christ through the faithful witness of this formerly inward, legalistic denomination that is now gospel-driven, missional, fruitful in evangelism and reproducing like crazy.

Big picture data from LPN. In 1978, according to their government reports, there were only 120,000 evangelical Christians on an island of 11 million. That doubled by 1993 then doubled again by 2001. By 2011, the number had more doubled again. Now if you are good with math (I’m not) then you’d realize there are over 1 million ‘evangelicals’ now. Wow.

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Church is different there. Resources more difficult to find. Hostility toward Christianity has slackened but there is still much government control. With no permission to build new church facilities, LPN took reproduction into ‘casa cultos’ (legally recognized house churches) and cell groups. It’s all legal and out in the open. In fact, switching to house churches and cell groups out of necessity has accelerated evangelism. It’s opened the door for many spiritually seeking neighbors (who would never be seen at a church for fear of losing their jobs) to just come over, be welcomed and investigate Christ. Is there something for us to learn here?

The LPN denomination has been working hard in the power of the Spirit and the truth of the gospel. In 2007 there were 187 churches. Same as before the troubles. Now there are 27 training centers, 3000 pastoral leaders learning the doctrines of grace in over 30,000 different house churches and cells. LPN can count over 300,000 people in their denomination now. Wow!

How did this happen? The need for and power of the gospel is spreading deep and wide in this movement.

Though pastor/leaders there have been raised in a culture of suspicion and mistrust, a small group of wise leaders there and stateside have been implementing a God-sized strategy of evangelism and training leaders in trust-building, gospel-centered workshops like CMM’s Gospel Coach. They transformed their seminary into a training center and have pushed out and pressed down training to indigenous leaders who are using tech tools like ThirdMill (Biblical education. For the world. For free.) for  training in systematic biblical grace-focused theology.  

Most importantly, the key leaders, from the president of LPN on down, have been blown away by God’s grace personally. I was honored to lead the top 13 key leaders from LPN through an adapted and extended Gospel Coach workshop to help them coach the hundreds of leaders they work with in the gospel. Then participated in another two days of strategic planning that was so clearly dependent upon God’s Spirit and His provision that it brought tears to our eyes. There God has to work and they have to depend on Him.

How I long for more of us to feel our need for the gospel, for more dependence on Christ and more urgency in our mission like these brothers and sisters!

That is a dangerous desire and prayer, but the opportunities are too big not to pray.

Why Church Plant? Why Start New Churches?

In Atlanta, I help lead a Church Planting Network (or CPN) that meets monthly with men who are starting new churches to encourage, train, coach and pray together. This past Tuesday, I posed this question to our church planters, ‘Why do we start new churches?’ To which I got a few snarky answers, ‘To build my kingdom.’ and ‘Because we’ll do it right.’ and ‘Because God doesn’t have spiritual grandchildren.’

After the laughter died down, we dove into the ‘spiritual grandchildren’ remark (nobody gets into heaven because of their parents or grandparents faith) which turned the corner on this basic motivation: more people need to hear about Jesus and His awesome work of salvation.

That is the reason we plant churches. So more people will hear about Jesus.

It’s our experience that unchurched people tend to visit new churches more readily than established churches. In the first two years of our church plant over 1,200 visitors attend one or more worship services and filled out a response card. And each one heard the gospel.

The USA has the third largest number of unchurched people in the world. Fact check it. So that means I live in the third largest mission field. In the world.

Justin Taylor posted this info filled blog about actual church attendance. What about where you live? What percentage of people do you think actually go to church? (I realize church attendance does not equal evangelism but they are related.)

C.S. Lewis puts the significance of evangelism in perspective for me so well:

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.

All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – These are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

― The Weight of Glory

There are no ordinary people. No mere mortals. Everlasting souls are at stake. That is why we church plant.