Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Power of Prayer

D. E. Hoste, the man who took over the China Inland Mission from Hudson Taylor, wrote a book titled Behind the Ranges. He was trying to analyze why the people with whom he lived and worked were not doing very well. But the people in the other village across the ranges were doing great! He visited them only now and then, but they were always doing fine, so he began to ask the Lord what was going on. How could those across the ranges be doing better than those with whom he lived and worked? The Lord showed Hoste the answer. Although he was spending much time counseling, preaching. and teaching with those with whom he lived, he spent much more time in prayer for those across the ranges. He concluded that there are four basic elements in making disciples: 1) prayer, 2) prayer, 3) prayer, 4) and the Word - in that order and in about that proportion.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What Works in ministry to Children?

A lot of ministry to kids amounts to little more than child care and entertainment. This alone does not fulfill God’s heart for kids. What will help us really reach kids and disciple them?

Over the past several years, we have asked mission leaders, pastors and teachers to tell us about the most effective evangelism and outreach programs working in their regions. This has not been a formal study. However, we heard many common themes, emphasized over and over again.

Top ten most effective programs for reaching kids
1. Families
2. Mercy ministry (ongoing compassion in action)
3. Christian mission schools
4. Vibrant, relevant Sunday school or children’s church
5. Friends
6. Bible camps
7. Other club programs
8. Vacation Bible schools or other crusade-type events
9. Sports camps, programs
10. Vacation Bible schools or other crusade-type events

Look back over the list. Do you notice what is missing? We have not included curriculum, children’s tracts, children’s Bibles, videos, coloring books, or other literature. Why? Because children do not come to Christ as a result of a piece of paper, unless it come attached to a human being. Children (and adults, too) are reached through relationships.

In many developing regions of the world where we train children’s leaders, people request materials. They want curriculum and teaching supplies. We understand the desire. But we feel obligated to tell them about the great North American curriculum experiment. For the past 50 years, we have watched more and more curriculum become available to Christian teachers for Sunday School and other children’s programs. Most teachers have ample access to well-written curriculum. What is the result?

Researchers report that two-thirds of our students are leaving the church after high school. Our children struggle to describe their beliefs. Have they grown as disciples? Unfortunately, no.

One lesson we have learned: it’s about relationships. [Pages 180, 181]

Source: Sylvia Foth, Daddy Are We There Yet? (A global check-in on the world of mission and kids), Kidzana Ministries, Mukilteo, 2009

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Lessons from the Dungeon

The lesson from the dungeon is that if you are going to be the servant of God, you’re going to have to tell the truth ― the good, the bad, and the ugly ― no matter what. And you’re going to have to live with the blast furnace of criticism and opposition.

Witness the integrity of Joseph in this matter. Some people must have looked at him years later and said, “He became the prime minister of Egypt overnight.”

No, he didn’t. God was fashioning Joseph for leadership in the crucible of suffering, hammering out his convictions on the anvil of life. And one thing God was teaching Joseph was this: “Joseph, tell the truth. Do what is right, because it is always right to do right.” Joseph learned the lesson, and he stood out in the midst of the malaise around him.

Just before his death, Paul told his spiritual son and disciple, Timothy, “Preach the Word…. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears what to hear” (2 Timothy 4:2-3). Calvin says, “All love to be flattered. Hence the majority of teachers, in desiring to yield to the corrupt wishes of the world, adulterate the Word of God.”

Joseph told the truth in the dungeon even when it was hard. What a shame that our nation is led for the most part not by people of this commitment, but by politicians who wait to see what popular sentiment is at the moment, and then follow it.

Somebody has to stand up and tell the truth. If God’s people will not be strong and do exploits, then who shall?

Alistair Begg, The Hand of God (Finding His Care in All Circumstances), Moody Publishers, Chicago, 1999 (page 106)