Friday, March 30, 2012

The Prophets' Story

This is a powerful video...especially appropriate to share with Muslim Brothers and Sisters.

Five Movement Killers

I dream about movements to Jesus.  I would give/am giving my life for them. I can't really define my dreams yet.  Well, I sort of can...but not here...not now....not yet. But this is a GREAT resource about church planting movements if you are interested: Click here.

Well, what we can be sure of is this...if there are things that feed and start movements, then there are also things that stop movements. I recently heard a speaker share 3 things that kill movements. I added two more. Here they are...

Five Movement Killers:

1. Big Budgets 
2. Big Programs 
3. Big Buildings 
4. Big Shots
5. Big Gatherings 


Jesus, help us to do all we can to point people to you and not do anything or be anything that would stop movements to you!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Guilt ≠ Change

Confession: After almost 10 years of marriage, I still fail at it plenty! 


Now that this is out of the way, let me share openly (with Tricia's blessing) something I've learned from the Lord through our marriage witin the last few months.


Guilt does not bring change! Condemnation will not breed transformation. Beating yourself up will not lift you out. Guilt may help you make a change for a day or a week, but it will be a cover up, not a real repair. Feelings of condemnation and failure can be inspiring-- for all the worng reasons-- and none of the changes you make will really last-- not if guilt was their motivation. 


Let me prove my point with some transparency about my own life. I cannot count how many times Tricia (my wife) has let me know that I was not making her feel like my priority. She has found many ways to say it through the years, but it always comes back to the same things-- I want to feel like the most important relationship in your life, Noah! I want you to SHOW me that what you SAY about me is true." If I have heard it once, I have heard it 300 times. 


My reaction almost every time: I feel like a loser and a terrible husband. I feel guilty...becuase I am.  She is right. And out of my feelings of regret and sorrow, I launch a campaign to DO better. 


It never lasted. Becuase guilt ≠ change. 


A few months ago, while laying in bed it was : "Noah, I want to feel like number one to you after Jesus AND I really want you to lead me more spiritualy. You seem to be able to lead everyone else spiritually.  What about me?"  Now, stop here!  This was the exact place where, for the last 10 years, guilt would enter the scene.  Not this time. There was some pain.  It would be hard for anyone to hear this from their spouse. But something wild happened....


I felt LOVE! I felt Jesus loving on me. I felt him accepting me.  I sensed him hugging me. I heard him speaking to my heart and saying..."I love you, Noah, and the best motivation for change is love for me. When you love your wife, you love me." It was a powerful moment!  And it was one my first real tastes of love-motivated change. 


Since that night, things are different.  God's love for me is inspiring me to love Tricia more. The love and acceptance of Jesus is the engine that is propelling me ahead these days.  Not guilt! And it has felt WAY different and WAY more lasting than anytime before.


Guilt ≠ Change! 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tickets to Church?

Recently, I have read about several churches in America that are so large that people need a ticket to enter for a service. Easter is fast approaching. And since they cannot fit the thousands of people into their multiple locations, people need to get their ticket if they expect to attend. 

Let's imagine that someone gets a ticket to church before they run out of available tickets...what is it that they receive? Basically...

1. They get to enter the building where a service is held. 
2. They get a seat - and will sit in it quietly for 90 minutes. 
3. They get awesome music by a talented band. 
4. They get an inspiring talk by the well known leader of the church. 
5. They may even get some type of spiritual nudge or food. 

I got to thinking...

Imagine a church of 2,500 people in a city of 250,000 people. Imagine that the church's desire is to reach every person in their city with the gospel. Now imagine that they all come to your church this Sunday. Imagine that they don't have a ticket. Where will you seat them? Nevermind seating, how on earth would you ever begin to disciple them? I guess they just go home. 

Ok, so they won't all come. What if only half come? 150,000 people. Same problem. Same questions. What do we do? What if only a shabby 10% come? 25,000 people! Same problem. Same questions. What if even just 1% come? 2,500 people show up on top of the 2,500 you already barely hold? We are still in a big jam! Are we ready? Where will they sit? How would we respond faithfully to disciple them? Is our "church" ready for this? 

The structure, strategy and function of many churches on earth today tell me two things:
1. They do NOT want to reach their whole city. 
2. They don't take the Jesus & the New Testament seriously. His commands are just suggestions. 

What are some ways that a church could prepare itself to reach all 250,000 people in its city? Is there a structure or strategy that could make this happen? 

Jesus said he wants us all-- all nations-- not just those with tickets. 


Monday, March 26, 2012

Our Missionary Support Team!


Our family is sent and backed by Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) in Salunga, Pennsylvania of the USA.  We are very, very thankful for EMM and it's missions history and missions heart.  We consider it an honor to be EMM missionaries. One of the things that Tricia and I are most thankful for is that EMM requires all missionaries to form a Missionary Support Team when they begin the journey of responding to God's call. The Missionary Support Team (MST) is a group of people with an interest in and love for the missionary, and they serve as a vital link between the missionary, the supporting home community, and EMM. The MST led and walked with us through the discerning, fund-raising and sending process. In addition, they continue to encourage, support and advise us while we are serving overseas. They also lead the fundraising and administrative responsibilties that keep us on the feild.

We cannot begin to tell you what a peace of mind we have knowing that there is a team of people back home that have our best interest at heart and are walking with our family each step of the way. 

Here is our team. Note that each play a specific role:

  1. June- Chair
  2. Ruth- Treasurer
  3. Barbara- Prayer Coordinator 
  4. Lia- Child Advocate 
  5. Abiola & Jaye- Church Communicators
  6. Lacreshia- Small Group Representative
  7. Glenn- Pastoral Rep and CCF Missions Overseer
  8. Pam & Joe- Family Representatives
  9. Harmony & Selah- Sisters, Fundraising Planners
  10. Tracy Wenzel- Friend Rep
  11. Paul- Local Pastor and Strategic Connections

The idea with this group aligns with the Ecclesiastes 4 concept that a cord of 3 strands is not easily broken. Here are the strands in this missions sending:

1. The Missionary (Noah, Tricia, Davis and Lily)
2. EMM (Missions Organization)
3. CCF (Spiritual Community)

The team meets bimonthly or as needed and responds to any issues that arise. They are now assisting me in preparing for my trip home in May.

Anyway, they are a major blessing and I share this for 3 reasons:
1. To share how we are being cared for as a family.
2. To express again my great thanks to EMM and our MST.
3. To inspire other missionaries to go form a team like this!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Prayers of Faith

In the last four days, I have seen four major answers to prayer.  This is not normal for me (wish I could say it was). This has been supernatural. And it has me thinking. 

I am afraid that I have prayed many, many prayers of doubt in my life. A prayer of doubt is when I pray for something with my mouth while believing and questioning the feasability of what I am saying in my head and heart. When I ask God for something in a way that makes plenty of room for it not to happen, if he would so prefer. Those are prayers of doubt. When there is doubt on the inside, don't look for results on the outside. 

But, I want to pray prayers of faith! I want to believe what I am saying and believe what I am praying. I want to call upon the Lord with no excuses and no questions. Just faith. Faith that he will do what he has promised. Faith that He is always the greatest advocate for redemption, restoration, mircales and healing! 

Join me!  Pray in FAITH!

"This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of him" (1 John 5:14-15).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

For goodness sake, enough about church growth already!

I want to take a moment to tell you about one of the most major changes in my heart and views in the last year. I mean...MAJOR. 

Warning: this post is a tad hyper.  Please bear with me. I do this from time to time. ;-)

Most of you know that I was a Pastor for almost 7 years before moving to Africa where we now serve. What you may not know is that my sense of value, worth and ability as a Pastor rested mainly on how many total human bodies decided to get up and come to our "church building" on Sunday morning between 10:30am and Noon.  In addition to the number of heads, my week would feel high or low based on whether there was more or less than $8,000 in the offering that Sunday. Our planning sprouted from these two numbers.  Our board focussed on these two numbers. My eyes and heart lived for these two numbers. My emotions were linked to these two numbers.

Conference after conference, book after book focussed in one way or another on growing your church...because growth=health and bigger=better. (God help us and forgive us, please.)  And I am NOT saying that small is good and big is bad.  I AM saying that size is not to be our focus.

In the last year I have been on a journey of redefining what church really is anyway, and the reality I just expalined to you above has become totally embarassing and completely hilarious, in retrospect.

Let me say something clearly and boldy that will not make me very popular (I have read many Pastors blogs and tweets about why they proudly count and love numbers because God loves numbers because he loves people and people are numbers....not convinced of pure motivation...sorry):

For goodness sake, enough about church growth already!! More people coming to your church building on a Sunday morning is a pathetic and small minded goal to live for. We can do better.  We must do better. The Bible invites to a much larger dream! 

The Bible does not ask you to grow a church! HE builds His church (Matt. 16:18), GOD brings the increase (I Cor. 3:6), the LORD added daily to their numbers those who were being saved (Acts 2:47), and Jesus say that "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me (John 12:32).

Besides, when we count it, we are all the more tempted to take the credit for it. Being faithful is our task. Not being big! Faithful obedience is up to us. Size is up to God. 

I had this strong realization of the change in my own life about a month ago.  I went into Masi to have church with a group that usually numbers about 10 in size. We were supposed to start at about 10:30am.  By 11am, only 3 guys were present. So I thought (and said): "Hey, I kinda hope no one else comes this morning becuase this will be a sweet opportunity for us to go deep today into the scriptures and really work at personally applying them and holding each other acountable." Then I thought (but did not say): "Did you hear yourself just now? 2 years ago, if half of your 'church' did'nt show up, you would have been devestated. Now, you are rejoicing?!"

Look, I am not judging you.  I am just telling you that God has judged me, convicted me and changed me...and I hope that I never again measure success in numbers. I long to be a part of sometihng...

  • Too deep to count
  • Too broad to count
  • Too far to count 
  • Too big to count
  • Too chaotic to count
  • Too natural to count
  • Too organic to count
  • Too humble to count 
  • Too busy to count
  • Giving too many people away to count!!

Do I want big? You better believe it! Jesus wants big. And I want He wants. The Father wants the Son to be worshipped by all the people of the earth...every nation...and for his glory to cover the earth like the waters cover the sea.

How about we leave this size thing up to God and start radically loving Jesus, purley loving others and sacrificailly loving the lost so we can see the Father's dreams come true on earth?

Just an idea. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Our Cheesy House Church

Thruthfully, even though we moved across the world in part to explore simple/organic/house church stuff, I always had a bit of a skeptics eye. I mean, I spent 30 years in real church.  Ya know, the legitimate kind with all the bells a whistles a church should have. So, the idea of 5 or 10 people sitting in a living room being a church was a tad awkward to me.  A tad weird.  A little cheesy.

Well, off we went and here we are.  We are starting Discovery Bible Studies, planting simple churches and our family is a part of a house church with other staff and families at All Nations. 

Let me tell you a little about our cheesy house church:

  • There are about 7 adults, 7 kids. 
  • We meet weekly.
  • We change the time and location just about every week.  It is mobile and flexible. 
  • We talk and text almost daily.
  • We swim, play, eat, travel, shop and hike together.
  • We are in intentional discipling relationships with each other. 
  • We give each other rides and share our cars.
  • We confess and cry together. 
  • We wacth each other's kids. 
  • We pray for each other.
  • We are talking about doing a vacation together. 
  • We prohecy over each other.
  • We speak God's heart for each other over one another. 
  • We will spend two hours loving on one person if that is the Lord's agenda for the night.
  • No one is in charge.  No one is the leader.
  • But somehow every time, Jesus uses someone different to lead us.
  • Our kids are incolved in some special way every time we meet. 2 weeks back we acted out a story in the Bible. Last week we made prayer houses over each kid one by one and prayed and prophecied over them. They only last about 15 minutes. Then we release them to go "fellowship" kids style.
  • We talk, dream and live mission.
  • We warn and caution each other.
  • We worship together. 
  • We share the Lord's supper.  The kids too.
  • We anoint each other with oil.  The kids too. 
  • It is different every week.
  • Jesus is clearly and boldly the head.
  • We eat.
  • We eat.
  • And we eat. 

So, that is some of what our cheesy house church is all about. Our cheesy house church is one of the most meaninful community experiences I have ever had in my life. I am officially a fan of cheesy house churches. 

5 ways to discover the 5 equipping gifts

This week I taught at CPx on discovering the 5 equipping gifts of Ephesians 4. Over the last year, I have been become greatly passionate about seieng people discover who they are in the body.  I personally believe that everyone operates out of at least one of the 5 gifts...pastor, prophet, evangelist, teacher, apostle---and when people get it, they fly to new levels in faith and function.

(I have written about the 5 equipping gifts here, though there are some updates I would make now.)

Then, this morning Floyd followed up today with something that I thought was profound. Many struggle to discover which of the 5 they are. Here are 5 ways to recognize who you are:

  1. Study.  Get to know Ephesians 4: 11-13. Study the scriptures in each place any of the five words/titles are used. Study the people with those gifts in the Bible. Read a book about the 5 fold gifts. 
  2. Anointing. Soveriegn Appointing. God has celarly given the gift to you and is always trying to let you know about it and see you live into it. Listen to Him. He wants you to get it because he gets most glory when you are fully operating as He made you to be!
  3. Confirmation. Listen when people tell you what they see in you. Ask people to share what they see. Others carry keys to God's heart for you. Let them speak to your heart and try to believe what you hear. It may be straight from God.
  4. Modeling. Watch when others operate in a way that stirs something in you. If you are prophetic, prophetic people will stir you!  If you are an evangelist, you may find yourself dreaming to be like Blly Graham. This is one way to know your gift. If it fires you up, it may be who you are. 
  5. Circumstances. Circumstances and experience will simply draw your equipping gift out.  Watch what flows out of you naturally. Pay attention to where you are flowing most freely--especially in difficult or emotional moments. 

In all of this, remember that you do not discover your gift as much by searching as you do by serving. Get on with serving the body of Christ and God will make things cleaer by the day. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Coming to America!

Last week we sent this news to our partners and supporters. I thought we would go ahead and tell the rest of the world too. Exciting things! Here are some excerpts of the letter we sent out:

After hearing from the Lord on it as a family, seeking counsel from our leaders and our Missionary Support Team, we have decided that Noah and Davis will make a trip to America together in May!


Purpose of the trip: FUNDRAISING, meeting with Pastors and churches, speaking and sharing what we are learning, and strengthening the realtionship with our partners in ministry. And of course, it will be precious to see family and friends. Oh, and did I mention Fundraising (priority time and energy will go to current and potential donors)?


Dates of Trip: May 15 through June 4.


Why Davis? 1) Daddy does not prefer to travel alone, 2) Mommy does not prefer to keep two kids by herself when one of them is an infant, 3) There are a few people in America that would like some quality time with a certain 5 year old, and 4) after much prayer and waiting, Jesus paid for Davis's plane ticket through some special gifts!


Already looking forward to being with our home congregation, Capital Christian Fellowsip on Sunday, May 20th! It will be neat to be back home after 17 months on the feild!


While Tricia and Lily would love to come, we believe that it is right that they do not. Lord willing, we will be in the USA as a family in November and December as was originally planned.


With anticipation, 

Noah, Tricia, Davis and Lily

Monday, March 5, 2012

Our Week...Filming

[[posterous-content:pid___0]]This is a pretty cool week.  We have guests visiting us from America.  Their names are Nathaniel and Aletheia Elliott. The crazy thing is that we actually never met this couple until they landed here Friday night. We have skyped and emailed in preparation for this trip, but never me tin person. Aletheia has a heart for justice, Nathaniel has major gifts and a degree in film making and they are both in love with Jesus and Africa. The Lord put a desire in their hearts to come here to South Africa to film our story and the stoires of others here in Masi. This is such a special gift to us. This morning we filmed five hours of footage in Masi. Soon, we will be releasing some videos and photos (pic above is from today). We are thanking God for this chance to share what the Lord is up to.

(Video below was their promo video for this trip.)

Our Week...Filming

This is a pretty cool week.  We have guests visiting us from America.  Their names are Nathaniel and Aletheia Elliott. The crazy thing is that we actually never met this couple until they landed here Friday night. We have skyped and emailed in preparation for this trip, but never me tin person. Aletheia has a heart for justice, Nathaniel has major gifts and a degree in film making and they are both in love with Jesus and Africa. The Lord put a desire in their hearts to come here to South Africa to film our story and the stoires of others here in Masi. This is such a special gift to us. This morning we filmed five hours of footage in Masi. Soon, we will be releasing some videos and photos (pic above is from today). We are thanking God for this chance to share what the Lord is up to.

(Video below was their promo video for this trip.)