Cuba: No Advertising but a Greenhouse

Cuba: No Advertising but a Greenhouse. My first two impressions upon landing in Havana the first time. Old American cars and billboards like this one. (It says Socialist Revolution: of the lowly, by the lowly, for the lowly).


It took a day to sink in. There is almost no commercial advertising! A few billboards, no corporations names on buildings, no TV commercials, no radio spots. No marketing. And a people hungry to learn!

Many recognize a narrowing window of time for training Cuban church leaders before the world comes rushing in. Right now the limitations with freedom they face are like a greenhouse so the gospel grows rapidly. There are two major organized institutions with influence in the country – the government and the church!

Cuban movement leaders recognize it and have asked us to help them train 40K leaders to reach their nation in the next 3-5 years. Would you help us help them? Click here for more info.

Impacting Cuban Seminaries?

Seminaries in Cuba? Yes! While our work is church-based, one seminary in particular has been impacted by the coaching training and my co-trainers.

Two of my co-trainers for CMM gospel coaching have been recruited to the team that will help re-start and renew a seminary that had been practically shut down.

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Alfredo (pictured above teaching the Gospel Story) is the interim director of the Los Pinos Nuevos seminary in central Cuba. He is leading a team that is opening six satellite campuses in six key cities in 2015.

With over 20,000 house churches started in just the last five years, there is a huge need for training in Bible, theology and ministry. Coaching is a key means for personal change that effects spouses and children of men and women in leadership development. And then their church and city.

Because many of the seminary renewal team has experienced the power of gospel coaching for their lives, marriages, families and house churches, they have agreed that coaching simply will be required for all students and professors as an integral means to develop church-based ministry skills alongside academic learning.

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Yeremi (sounds like ‘Jeremy’) pictured above, will be directing one of those six satellite campuses in the city of Matanzas where 35+ house churches have been started in seven years. He teaches Greek and practical theology while overseeing nine house churches and leading one himself.

The leadership of this house church planting movement is very sharp, hard-working, motivated and sacrifices without question to expand the kingdom of God in Cuba.

Think of how the lives and families of these leaders will flourish in the power of the gospel! Imagine all the people these leaders will reach with the good news of Jesus!

Would you help us prepare more people like Alfredo and Yeremi to lead the way to the gospel spreading to all of Cuba? Click here to donate or help spread the word. Thanks so much!

Why so many house churches in Cuba?

Why so many house churches in Cuba? It was decided that no more church buildings would be permitted. But God’s work goes on unhindered!

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People are allowed to meet in their homes all they want. So 1000s of new churches sprout up in a home, grow, outgrow and multiply as hundreds of thousands are converted to Christ. Since 2011, one Bible-believing denomination as grown from 250 churches to more than 30,000 churches and house churches!

Elizabeth and I have been asked to commit to train key Cuban leaders for 3-5 years who will multiply other gospel driven leaders. But our Spanish skills are insufficient. So we’re planning to move to San Jose Costa Rica for 8 months for language school.

Would you invest in our training so we can invest in key Cuban leaders who will take the gospel to the whole island? And would you pray for us?

There’s a $10K matching pledge made and $1850 has been matched in one week. Please ask the Lord if He wants you to support us! Every bit helps. And if He says yes, click here to donate! Thanks!

If you want more of the backstory, check out my blog post on

Does the Cuban government inhibit the spread of the gospel?

Q: Does the Cuban government inhibit the spread of the gospel?

A: Not like before. For 30 years the Cuban church was marginalized, pastors were put in re-education camps, all Christians were suspected enemies and spied upon. But in ’91 after the USSR fell, things changed. Officially Cuba changed its constitution from ‘atheist’ to ‘secular’ and people were permitted to believe in God. Mistrust has been slow to overcome among church leaders and the gospel can still seem suspicious to the average Cuban.

Miguel is the son of one of those faithful pastors. He has lived his whole life with hardships. Now a pastor and movement leader, the government allows him much that was unheard of 5, 10, 20 years ago – public events, church-funded hospice and churches in homes. And God is teaching church leaders like him to trust each other in light of the truth of the gospel. Vital to sustain a movement. And what a movement of God right now!

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Gospel coaching is a catalyst to show church leaders how to trust each other in ways they never have. Ever. It’s changing people. Marriages. Churches. Systems. I love to see how God is changing Miguel. Amazing.

We are committing to go to language school Jan-Aug 2016 and then spend 3-5 years developing gospel coaches for 40,000 Cuban house church leaders.

Would you pray and ask Jesus if he wants you to support us with a one-time gift? Click here for more info.

Can’t Not Go to Language School!

Elizabeth and I are going to language school! Why?

Planning for January through August 2016. You may have heard hints but I’ve been waiting to write about details. Here is a four-part general overview and a request for prayer about supporting us with a special one-time support gift and/or helping us raise funds.

1. The opportunity in Cuba gets bigger. Aren’t you too old for this? Maybe! Ha! But Cuba is Too Big not to go learn more better Spanish. Elizabeth needs to learn too. In Latin America, people need to know me with my wife. And we may travel more. A lot more. She’s prepared to make the sacrifice.

Cuban house church leaders are asking for us to help them! In a country with so many hardships, poverty and struggle, Cuban church leaders want coaching training? Yes. It’s helping them apply the gospel to the challenges in their lives and helping them multiply the gospel to their families, neighbors and cities. They travel far and at great expense to learn. Twenty people in this one group paid more than the average Cuban monthly salary to get to our training.

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Leadership of the Cuban training organization CENCAP came here from Havana to Atlanta to ask for a longer commitment from us. They now have asked us to make a 3-5 year commitment to train, certify and multiply Cuban trainers so the 40,000 leaders currently in training can all have a coach! They want us to implement coaching in all churches, house churches, their seminary and arts ministry!


The coaching training you sent me to lead is already making a vast impact! And they want more! The CENCAP leaders said coaching may be the most vital aspect of their training in the gospel. Wow. We really need to improve our language skills!

2. So language school here we come, Lord willing! This opportunity requires that we raise extra funds by October 30. Would you ask Jesus about making an extra one-time gift to get us through language school and on to train Cuban leaders?

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40,000 house churches like this one in a barrio of Havana could reach hundreds of thousands more Cubans in the next few years.

Pastor Magdiel (top left corner) and his wife (Arlenis in purple shirt) and kids (clowning in front) lead four different house churches. He and other house church leaders in Cuba need a Cuban gospel coach that will help them thrive under the stresses of poverty, injustice, spiritual attack on the front lines of the battlefield.

So, will you please pray about helping us gain the language skills we need to train Cuban leaders to train Cuban gospel coaches?

Another way you could help would be to ask Jesus also if you ought to help us raise support among your family and friends by sending emails or messages on our behalf. Who do you know that might help? Sign up on the webpage to ‘help raise funds’ on the support page. Or simply forward this email with a paragraph or two of your own. Every bit helps!

Some Answers to Frequently Asked Questions:

1.We will return to Atlanta. It’s our home base. The eight-month move is temporary. While we’re gone, Erica and Austin, daughter and son-in-law will move into the house.
2. After language learning, we’ll take extensive visits to Cuba but not move. That’s an unnecessary challenge. Once trained, Cuban leaders will provide much better training at a fraction of the cost of a non-Cuban.
3. Elysia will join us after her 2nd semester at UGA and take classes for her Spanish minor at the nearby university through a UGA cooperative program.
4. I’ll still work and coach church planters while in school. The internet makes it easy.
5. Elizabeth will study full-time. She’s started working on Spanish basics.
6. We are applying to the Spanish Language Institute where I took an intensive course in 2013. It’s in downtown San Jose Costa Rica. And yes, you can visit!
7. And the answer to most common FAQ? No, language school in Costa Rica is not a vacation. Haha!

3. Ask for practical help and support. Extra expenses for language school include travel, tuition, extra tutoring, room and board, extra insurance, books and all that goes into re-locating for eight months.

So would you pray and ask Jesus if he wants you to be part of the team who will support us through language school?

If yes, click here to make a donation.

And/or click here to help raise funds in your circle of friends? Click on the last sentence if you want to learn more. Or email me and I can explain help

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Costs should be about $27,000. We have $10,500 of that pledged already (as of October 11, $14,100). This is a new thing for CMM so in order to get clearance to go in January 2016, we need to demonstrate to our board of directors that we have the support base to take this risk by October 30.

CMM has made it easier to give online with a new system that takes debit or credit cards through end of October. Paper checks are great too.

Please send any checks to this address:

CMM – Language School
PO Box 3284
Alpharetta GA 30023-3284

4.This is WAY beyond us! We need your prayers and financial support more now than ever! We are nervous. I am nervous about more work in Cuba, learning Spanish better (can I do it?), raising more support and even using new online giving and asking you to help raise funds on top of already supporting us without calling everyone! Pray for us, we’re nervous about what you’ll think and if we’ll be able to raise the money in time! I’m not in control and don’t know if any of it is going to work! This is beyond my typical risk-taking, make-it-happen comfort level!

We have to trust Jesus in a big way! Wow do we need your prayers!!

Honored and overwhelmed by your support for God’s call,
Jim and Elizabeth

The Very Personal Life of a Church Planter: Personal Money

The Very Personal Financial Life of a Church Planter is based on a series of short letters about money and sex that I sent to planters and visionary leaders at RENEW South Florida after I had the privilege to speak at their network meeting and spend some time with them. Love those guys.

The Two are Tied Together. One of the most common very personal concerns people have about planting a church is this: money. My money. Not so much how will the church start and survive. More, how will we survive. Good question. Important issue!

I’ve coached and advised more than one church planter who jumped in and started a church without a financial plan. All they needed were a few promises and a huge leap of faith. Some have since left the church plant. Lest you think planning solves all issues, let me say there are others who raise a lot of money but have little impact. There is no magic pill or short cuts. But God’s given us some wisdom and experience that I hope will help you thrive while you plant.

Financial issues are hard on all planters and their families. How you start a church impacts your family and what you do as a family impacts your plant. I hope this advice helps you live well in a sustainable reproducing church.

Consider your wife. As with sex and intimacy (future post), finances can be a significant but relatively hidden point of contention between planters and their wives (or if you’re not yet married, your future wife). You will face temptation to consider short-cuts or cheats that will provide the money for plans you just ‘have to have’ and gratification you think need. Like past sexual conduct, financial decisions made prior to starting a church plant or during a start-up can hinder intimacy, cut into resources for rest and limit flexibility to live and give generously. 

Consider your context and public persona. Financial decisions impact public opinion of you and your church. Whether we like it or not, most people outside the church form their initial opinion of every pastor through the lens of what they see with TV preachers, remember from past bad experiences or hear by way of gossip. The public persona of all clergy isn’t pretty. You are guilty by association until proven innocent by your faithfulness over time. So does the car you drive matter? Yes. What about your clothes? Yes. Vacations? And yes. Your values are exhibited by the spending choices you make.

One financial adviser told my wife and I, ‘Every spending decision is a spiritual decision.’ And if you recognize that it is all God’s money, then you see the point. So is that meant to scare you? To load up some guilt or manipulate? No. Well, only if it’s real guilt. And if you are guilty, then let me encourage you to repent to the Lord and humble yourself. 

Take pains to set up your family finances and church financial practices to be dependent on the Lord, above reproach, trustworthy and able to withstand scrutiny. Here are some specifics

Ask Jesus about spending. Is it too much to ask the Lord about your spending decisions? I don’t know what you should buy or not buy. I don’t know what would be wise in New York compared to Atlanta compared to a small town. But the Lord does. And you have access to Him all the time. Ask Him. Teach your family to ask Him too.

Avoid debt. It’d be wise to have a rigorous plan to pay off all consumer debt before hitting the field. There is a moral question about raising money to start a church plant that will be used to pay off your personal debts. You may need to wait to start and work longer.

If you are thinking about planting in the future, curtail student loan debt. The crisis of student loan debt may be the next systemic road block we face to getting church planters on the field. (See ‘I Owe U’ by Krstina Bell, TIME October 31, 2011) Church planting assessment centers factor in debt load when they considering readiness for planting.

If your wife will be required to work to make debt payments that will add stress to the work of planting a church. It will limit time and energy for your marriage, family and church priorities.

Budget within your family and church context. Live on a written budget. Depending on where God calls you to plant, you will likely need to alter your lifestyles. But remember He supplies all your needs (Philippians 4:19). Some planters have larger reserves and family resources than others. Be aware you can over-adjust to the expectations of your culture too.

When we moved to plant a church, we did adjust to fit in. I hate TV but we got cable. I tossed my youth pastor duds and bought different clothes. Even learned to play golf. (Not well, but I can play.) The temptation to get an upgraded car did pass through my mind, but I settled on a used Accord. It is wise to live on the humble side of your context.

Always tithe and give. Lead by example. If you don’t tithe, you lack moral authority to ask others to tithe. Key people will see how much you give. When my integrity was questioned, those people stood up for us. 

Save. You’ll need margin in your life and the flexibility to give to important projects. Can’t do that if you are scraping by month to month. Current wisdom is have three to six months expenses in reserve. 

Contributing to your retirement is important too. The church should consult standards to determine the contribution. Believe it or not, one day you will retire…

Raise your support before you move or start public worship. Experienced fund-raisers agree: people give to ‘anticipated vision.’ So your urgent need to get support in place goes away after you move to the field. Once you start public worship, it’s exponentially more difficult to raise funds. Until all support is pledged, it is your part-time job. Raise at least 80% prior to moving to the field. If you are stuck here, I’m a coach who can help you.

Who Bears Your Burdens? One temptation is to put your faith in your finances. But that won’t save you. Finances are a terrible savior, whether you have a lot or too little for your comfort. Christ Jesus has taken the full weight of all your debts on Himself on the cross and knowing everything about your finances, God the Father punished Christ in your place. Trust Him, not your financial support. Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness bought for you on the cross and he will provide everything you and your family need.

In the next post, we’ll look at corporate best practices for church plants.

If you need more information about the very personal life of a church planter, seek out a gospel coach. Contact me if I can be of help.