Sunday, December 11, 2011

How Do We Defend and Commend Our Faith?

I’ve always been concerned for people who are far from God. When I first engaged with the Christian faith as a pre-teen I was taught that it is every Christian’s responsibility to share their faith. Over time it became more than a duty, it became a deep concern for others.

Through the years this burden for others has not ceased but has become stronger, particularly as I’ve experienced friends and loved ones rejecting the truths of my faith.

I’ve attempted to think deeply about truth, life, relationships, and spirituality. I have been willing to step back from my cherished faith assumptions and re-evaluate, examine, and question. This has not moved me away from my Christian beliefs but has in fact solidified my convictions about God, Jesus, the Bible, and the Gospel.

Today I think I am more open than ever to critically examine what I believe. But honestly, the more I do, the more I discover what I have come to believe is enduring truth, that which I continue to find in my orthodox Christian beliefs.

Over the past 10 years I have been a serious student of culture, both in the West and around the world. Most of this research was in the context of missions and particularly church planting, and most of my work over the past 2 decades has been centered on church planting, both locally and globally. However, over the past year I have begun to think more about culture and how it relates to religion, politics, and economics. I hope to start a new journey in my blog now of reflecting on what I see and learn in culture.

I have become increasingly aware of the fact that my country, the United States of America, is decreasingly a Christendom culture influenced predominantly by Protestantism (like it was in the first 200 years of our nation.) But it is increasingly becoming a pluralistic culture influenced by many ideologies. In fact, the privileged place that Christianity once held is being attacked and replaced by not only secularism, but almost anything other than Christianity. This influence is becoming evident in legislation, politics, economics, education, as well as religious practices.

The question I ask myself today, more than ever, is this: “How do we, as members of the Christian faith community, properly offer what we take to be the blessings of our faith, to others? How can we both defend and commend our faith without needlessly offending our friends and loved ones and exacerbating the tensions now being posed by pluralism, and particularly secularism?”

Yes, the message of the cross will always be an offense to some, but how do we share it without us being the offense? If you have thoughts, I would love to hear your comments.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Convergence Event in Puebla, Mexico

Tom Basile, our NCI Team Leader in Puebla, Mexico, recently hosted a powerful event uniting multiple ministries. He called this event "Convergence." Enjoy the video.

Confluencia 2011 - ENGLISH from Rebecca Vanderwerf on Vimeo.

Tom reports:

"The BAM Center (business as missions) or Centro BAM sits on 1.1 acre of property in the center of the thriving metropolitan city of Puebla - the fastest growing and safest city in Mexico. It boosts the same low percentage of homicides equivalent to that of Vermont and Wisconsin. In the BAM Center (Phase 1) there are a host of different ministries who are committed to ministry resources and who pay rent for both office and storage space. These ministries range from New Church Initiatives (specializing in Church Planting) drilling wells and providing clean water (Living Water International), Puppet Praise, Community In Acts (pre-evangelistic activities), Beck Vanderwerf Audio/Visual Technologies, Ultra Modern Dentistry, Campus Crusade Jesus Film Project and the list goes on. I am happy to report that phase 1 is up and running.

Phase 2 will involve the build out of a medical facility whose purpose will be to first provide healthcare, secondly jobs and finally resources that will finance the above ministries. Using the venue of ministering physically to gain the opportunity to minister spiritually is our MO. We ask that you would prayerfully consider participating in Phase 2 as a donor who would be willing to adopt a project. All donations will go through NCI in Houston. Thank you for your willingness to be part of this BAM endeavor."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Are Church-Goers Too Fat?

Interesting report came out this week from ABC News in Austin, TX. Take a look and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Psalm 119 - Loving God's Word

Psalm 119 has been a deeply meaningful psalm to me my whole adult life.  I also love its sister psalms, Psalm 1 and Psalm 19.  All three of these psalms spur my passion for God's Word. 

This past week I've been reading 119.  First I read it in its entirety, yes, all 176 verses at one sitting.  Then I read sections.  This morning I read it in its entirety again.  It just seems so rich and full.  Every time I read it something stirs in my soul for God's Word.  I want to love and treasure God's Word more!

I've decided this morning to just camp out in Psalm 119 for a while.  I want to savor every verse.  I'm looking for good resources (i.e. commentaries, sermons, etc.) that will take me deeper into the fullness of this Psalm.  So if you know some, please share them with me.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Church Planting Does Not Guarantee Missional Focus

New churches can become trapped in a routine of aimlessness and irrelevance just as easily as an existing church. 

This dynamic happens because every Christian leader has a mental model of church.  These mental models govern our behaviors, often on an unconscious level.  So while we talk the language of a new paradigm, we typically behave according to our old mental models which have been constructed over years in established churches. 

The power of these mental models cannot be over emphasized!

Quite frequently new ideas never get put into practice, or if they do, they do not sustain because they conflict with deeply held internal assumptions and images of how the world works.  These mental models determine not only how we make sense of the world, but how we take action (or fail to take action.)  They affect what we see.  Two people with different mental models can observe the same event and describe it differently, because they’ve looked at it through different “lenses” or different mental models.

Because of the influence of our mental models, every pastor and church leader (whether in a new or existing church) must be willing to prayerfully reflect on their governing assumptions and common practices.  The problems with mental models lie not in whether they are right or wrong.  The problems with mental models arise when they reside below the level of awareness.

The aim of Renovation is to help pastors and Christian leaders begin a dialogue about themselves, their churches, and their city.  It is to help them affirm one another around their mutual commitment to the purposes of God.  And it is to help them begin to explore existing mental models that might be limiting their impact in the world. 

We encourage you to reflect on assumption you may have held about:
  • Your church and your church's role in the city
  • Other churches and other pastors in your city
  • The power of the gospel and its impact in the city and the world
  • Your responsibility and accountability to the purposes of God

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Exploring God in the New Year: 5 Questions for Church Planters to Begin With

I've been fascinated recently by some research I have been doing for a ministry client. This research has significant bearing for church planters in the U.S. and around the world.

We have been trying to identify the spiritual questions that are most common among people. So far we've come up with about 70 questions. However, 5 questions seem to be the most common starting points for most people.

In researching these 5 questions it was interesting to note that all 5 of these have been trending up on Google Trends for the past 2-3 years. I hope you will encourage your friends to "explore God" in 2011! Here are 5 questions that will make a good starting point.
  1. What is Truth? There is a huge debate about absolute truth vs. relativism. Our culture embraces "tolerance" which typically means, "there is no absolute truth." But is there any absolute truth? And if there is, can you know it?
  2. Is There a God? This takes us back to the origin of man and the universe. Where did it all come from? And if there is a God, where is this all heading?
  3. What is My Relationship with God? If a person concludes that truly there is a God, then this is the next logical question! There is increasing interest in knowing how to have a meaningful relationship with God.
  4. What is My Purpose in Life? If there is an almighty, creator God, and if He wants a relationship with me, that leads me to the question "Why?" Why would this almighty God want a relationship with me? What's the purpose of this relationship & of my life?
  5. What Happens When I Die? As people face the threats and the fears of our day, they come to terms with their mortality. As we come to terms with our mortality, this is the big question!
Church Planters, as well as all Christians, should be looking for opportunities to have conversations around these questions. We need to know what we believe about them and why we believe it. I hope you will accept the challenge to explore God in 2011 and begin conversations around these 5 questions! Let me know what you think!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

2011 With No Regrets

I'm working on a message I'm going to be sharing at Crossbridge Church on January 2nd. My question is "How do we live with no regrets?"

Most people make some kind of New Year's Resolutions, but over 95% are them are never kept. This often leads to guilt or regrets. It's also not uncommon to look back over the year and wonder, "Did I accomplish all that I could have? Did I nurture and strengthen my important relationships as I would have liked to? Did I serve God's Kingdom purposes as He desired? Did I develop and use my talents/resources as well as I could have?"

Now guilt is rarely (if ever) productive, so don't let yourself go there right now! I'm just thinking about how to make 2011 a year of no regrets.

Three things come to my mind: Clarify your Priorities, Focus, and then Follow-Through.

I just wrote a blog for entrepreneurs on these 3 skills if you would like to read it. Now I'm wrestling with the question, "How Biblical is this advice?" What passages or characters from Scripture help us see this from God's perspective. I believe it is Biblical, but I would definitely like to know what you think. Please, give me a comment or some feedback. Thanks.