Monday, 24 September 2012
Much of the emphasis of "Radical...Again!" has been on where the church has been falling short. But be encouraged by the fact that there are also a lot of good thing going on in the Lord's church. For instance, since the year 2000, Africa below the Sahara has become a predominantly Christian cntinent for the first time in history. In spite of persecution, or perhaps because of it, the church is growing like never before in places like Myanmar and India. Formerly Buddhist South Korea is now a predominantly Christian nation and second only to the U.S. in the sending of missionaries. On a per capita basis they far exceed the U.S. In China where the underground church greatly outnumbers the registered church, the number of practicing Christians may soon surpass the number in the United States. More Christians attended church last Sunday in China tha in all of Europe. And yes, those last two statements are both good news and bad.
There are something over 16,000 ethno-linguistic people groups in the world's population of 6.7 billion people. We can rejoice that people groups consisting of over 4 billion people have a significant Christian presence. However, there are over 6,000 such groups consisting of 2.7 billion people who are considered unreached; that is, they have less than 2% believers. We can rejoice that a majority of the people groups of the world have the Scriptures in their own language. But there are thousands of smaller groups that do not.
When we think about "unreached groups" most of us immediately think of primitive ones, mostly cut off from communication with the rest of the world. But the truth is that the largest unreached group is not some tribal group in a remote part of Africa or Asia. The largest unreached group is the Japanese. Secularism in places like Japan and all of Europe presents an even greater challenge than false religions and spiritism have in other mission field in the past. Secularism and Islam present challenges that will not respond to traditional missions methodologies that have been so effective in other circumstances. ICOM 2012 won't have all the answers but will surely engage the discussion.
There is one more related issue to be raised. I've pointed out that theare are over 6,000 people groups that are unreached (less than 2% Christian), but there are another 639 groups that are unengaged. That means there are no Christians, no Christian workers, and no Scriptures in their language.. That's why I'm praying that of the more than 300 I hope to see commit their lives to cross-cultural ministry at ICOM 2012, many will commit their lives to frontier missions -- going where other Christians have yet to go. The Lord is still asking, "Who will go?"
I'm very proud of my daughter and son-in-law, Jennifer and Darren, who just returned from working among the poorest of the poor in Kenya and then working with an amazing new ministry in Uganda. As for me, after a great Sunday at Chapel Rock Christian I'm off to Elizabeth City, North Carolina and Mid-Atlantic Christian University. Next weekend I'm at the Sherwood Oaks Christian Church in Bloomington, Indiana and the following weekend at Mt. Pleasant Christian Church in Greenwood, Indiana.
Tuesday, 18 September 2012
I'm posting this blog from Lansing, Michigan where I'm speaking for Missions Emphasis Week at Great Lakes Christian College. Each year a host college is chosen for NMC/ICOM and this year GLCC fills that role. They're bringing most of their students and faculty and will be serving in a number of capacities. Last week I spoke on the campus of St. Louis Christian College where they will be shutting down classes during ICOM and encouraging all their students to attend. Next week I'm with Mid-Atlantic Christian Univeristy in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. One of the side benefits of the ICOM presidency has been getting to meet so many committed, Christian college students through campus ministries, Bible colleges, and Christian college and universities. Thousands of those students will be in Indianapolis, including a number who are preparing vocationally to go where traditional missionaries cannot go. College students will enjoy "Off Campus," a special area of the convention center set aside exclusively for college students to hang out, network, or seek guidance in regard to mission opportunities.
While our conference theme is "Radical...Again!" it has become more and more obvious that there is a radical need in our world for the spread of the gospel. Rioting, physical violence and murder have erupted all over the Middle East and Northern Africa in recent days, with hostilities directed toward America and Christians in particular. The truth is that the church has largely ignored the Islamic world and what we are seeing today is part of the price of that neglect. However, there are some wonderful ministries now focused on the people of that part of the world. For instance, Safaa Fahmi's Christian Arabic Services now runs a full-fledged Bible college in Cairo with degrees granted by Hope International University. The first, accredited class of graduates will receive their diplomas this December. In Israel the Christian Holyland Foundation has established a number of congregations which are made up primarily of Arab Christians, many of whom are Israeli citizens. A number of other Christian organizations now operate covertly in countries where they cannot operate openly. You'll be able to meet and confer with the leaders of such organizations at ICOM 2012.
This particular focus will be very much a part of ICOM 2012. Mosab Hassan Yousef, the biological son of the founder of Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist organization, will tell his incredible story of finding Christ as he speaks for the Saturday morning session. He will be joined on stage by Fouad Masri, founder of Crescent Project, a ministry focused on training Christians in how to reach Muslims, as well as leading ministry trips to wherever concenrtations of Muslims are found. If you check out the list of workishops for this year's conference you will find listings for several, specific sessions on reaching Muslims, as well as international church planting in Muslim communities, and more general workshops on missions in closed coutries. Of course workshops on discipleship, spiritual formation, prayer, and people groups & cities, among others, will benefit anyone with a desire to reach the lost and build the kingdom no matter the geographical, political, or religious background.
It is time for the church to get serious about reaching every people group of the world. Some are unreached (less than 2% Christian). But there arre more than 600 of the world's 16,000 people groups that are yet unengaged. That is to say that they have no Christian presence whatsoever - no believers, no Bible translation, and no Christian workers. Jesus made it clear that not all would believe. But it is His will that people from every people group become His followers. So we have a lot of work yet to be done. ICOM 2012 will encourage, prepare, and recruit workers to get on with the job.
This coming weekend I'll be preaching at Chapel Rock Christian Church. Fred Rodkey who served alongside me at Kingsway for eleven years is pastor of this strong church with a heart for the lost all over the world.
Tuesday, 11 September 2012
Last week I began to answer the question, "What's the purpose of ICOM?" From my own personal point of view the conference has four primary purposes. First, there is inspiration and motivation for global outreach. Second, the conference serves the purpose of teaching us and equipping us for fulfilling our mission. As important as these first two purposes are, the remaining two are at least as important.
ICOM provides a unique opportunity for networking and exposure for your ministry and service for Christ. Much of the value of the conference is realized not in the formal sessions but in the informal conversations that take place all over the convention center and in the hotels and restaurants. Whether getting together with old friends and ministry associates or getting acquainted with people of like mind that you've just met, such interaction is not only enjoyable but invaluable. Much of the that interaction will take place in the huge exhibit hall where you can wander to your heart's content among the more than 600 exhibits. There you can visit with missionaries from every continent, pick up literature to help in your local church's missions emphasis, learn about mission service opportunities all over the world, be exposed to the latest and most effective missions ministry methods, and connect with most of our missions sending agencies. There's nothing quite like it at any conference or convention.
All three purposes that have thus far been discussed are tremendously important. But the purpose that has the longest lasting impact for the kingdom is the recruitment of missionary recruits that takes place. Now all the other purposes factor into this one -- the inspiration and motivation, the teaching and equipping, and the networking and exposure. However, that culminates each year in hundreds of new recruits for the mission field. An invitation for that purpose will be extended on Friday and Saturday nights as well as Sunday morning. I've been praying that we'll see at least 300 such commitments this year. Many will be college students. A number will be second career people, moving from success to even greater significance in the work of Christ. There will also be retirees choosing to use the resources, freedom, and health God has given them in order to serve. I personally know several folks who made such commitments last November in Atlanta who are already serving on the field.
So if you have any interest in missions at all, you need to participate in ICOM 2012. If you have no interest in missions at all, you also need to participate in ICOM 2012 so that God can do a work of conviction in your heart, for the Great Commission is not for a select few but for every disciple of Jesus.
I continue to enjoy a very fulfilling travel schedule. Last week I taught and spoke in chapel at Johnson University near Knoxville, Tennessee. They have a record enrollment and are doing some very innovative and exciting things cross-culturally. They expect to have well over 100 of their students at ICOM 2012. This past weekend I was privileged to speak at Greenwood Christian Church. They are one of many churches that have done Churchwide Registration and are expecting a large number of their people to make their way to downtown Indy. As soon as I post this blog I'll be off for St. Louis where I'm speaking for St. Louis Christian College's Infinite Influence in Missions conference. Next weekend I'll be back at The Church at Mt. Gilead near Mooresville, Indiana. The following week I'm at Great Lakes Christian College for their week of missions emphasis. We're down to nine weeks and counting before Jeff Vines brings the first message of the conference. PLEASE, don't forget to pray!
Tuesday, 04 September 2012
I've had a lot of one on one meetings this year with pastors, mission pastors, missionaries, agency and Bible college personnel, as well as many Christians who are simply heart-deep in the Great Commission. As I've encouraged their involvement and support a very significant question has been asked several times: "What is the purpose of ICOM?"
I've previously explained the reason the name was changed from National Missionary Convention to International Conference on Missions. The new name better describes what this event is all about. It is not national, it is international with the likelihood of people coming from as many as 80 nations this year. It is not primarily focused on missionaries but on missions. Oh, there'll be hundreds of missionaries there, but they will make up only a small fraction of the total attendance. And it is not a convention, it is a conference, as the word "convention" suggests delegates, resolutions, and voting - none of which have any part in ICOM. However, none of that explanation truly defines the purpose of ICOM.
While this reflects only my perspective, there are four major purposes that are fulfilled by ICOM. First, there is INSPIRATION AND MOTIVATION FOR GLOBAL OUTREACH. Attendees will go away recharged and excited about getting on with the job of fulfilling our Lord's Great Commission. The church is called to do so many things that it is easy to get distracted and cease to keep the main thing the main thing. This year's six main sessions with eight very focused sermons on the "Radical" theme and powerful testimonies from the field, all wrapped in exceptionaly inspirational music and worship, will positively impact the lives of thousands of followers of Jesus. There'll be a renewed commitment to get on with the work the Lord has given us to do.
The conference also serves the purpose of TEACHING HOW TO FULFILL OUR MISSION. The 2012 conference preview (ICOM Sneak-Peek) lists 148 different workshop topics. There are classes on Bible translation, campus ministry, local church missions, discipleship, church planting, missionary encouragement, fund-raising, business as mission (BAM), global youth ministry, the Jonathan Project, justice, life-coaching, missions in closed countries, missionary care, mobilizaiton, people groups and cities, prayer, reaching Muslims, dealing with sex trafficing, Spanish ministry, spiritual formation, transformational community health, unique missions endeavors, urban ministry, and women's ministry. There will be experienced veterans in just about every area you can imagine relating to global outreach who will not only present the latest insights in these areas, but be available to interact with you and answer your questions.
In order that this blog not get too lengthy, I'm going to wait until next week to give you purposes three and four. All four purposes are of tremendous importance and I don't want to slight any of them.Neither do I want to fail to comment on the wonderful weekend I experienced at Indian Creek Christian Church. Of course it was a special blessing to work with my son and his wonderful family. Both the Saturday night and Sunday morning services were well attended,especially for a holiday weekend. For the first time ever I ran out of "Sneak-Peeks" to distribute, having given out over 1,000. There were many decisions and I'm told that the counseling room was packed, especially at the final service. There was lots of interest demonstrated in the conference not only in the literature distributed but in the questions asked, and the conversations that ensued. All indicators point toward a record turnout from area churches.
Speaking of area churches, it is my privilege to preach for the Greenwood (IN) Christian Church this coming Saturday and Sunday. I hope to see many of you there. This week I'm preaching and teaching at Johnson University in Knoxville, Tennessee, and the following week I'm one of the speakers for the Infinite Influence in Missions week at St. Louis Christian College.