Grassroots

Yes, the Gospel spread by leaps and bounds through the pages of the New Testament. Thousands were added as the love of Christ changed the landscape of history. But I've been thinking lately about grassroots. Those are the stories we recount: Jesus healing a blind man who couldn't keep his mouth shut about "his miracle", a women so desperate for relief that she snuck underneath the crowd, conversations which led to conversions of influential sorcerers, and on the stories go. In the most sincere evaluation, the gospel always spread one person at a time. It is the grassroots movement to end all grassroots. Jesus interfaced with individuals. Paul and Peter stayed in people's homes presumably staying up into the wee-hours swapping stories of God's greatness, God transported Philip to the desert to talk to one man. 

So this leads to a key building block of Seven Soils: we anticipate thousands coming to Christ, but the reality is God always deals with individuals, one-on-one. Intrinsic in the DNA of Seven Soils' projects, plans, goals, and methodology is a grassroots style. We are building a network with significant mass, but the Gospel is not effective as a leaflet-drop from 30,000 feet. Seven Soils' mission is massive: Advance the Gospel to every place it has not yet reached; but our methods are infinitesimal. We are establishing a network of these grassroots movements that spread from person to person as their eternity is changed. The natural state of the Gospel is a conversation on a porch, a prayer whispered on a factory floor, or a discussion had while weeding the fields.

Speaking of fields, they are ready for harvest, but the workers are few. Pray that the Lord of the Harvest may send workers into the field...how about you? (Luke 10:2) One stalk at a time. Pray Give Go

The Engine of Life

Sunday afternoons in Texas during the fall hold magical memories for me. The pleasant weather extends an invitation to so many things to enjoy. One of my favorite activities as a kid was to jump on my motorcycle and toss my helmet to the side, allowing my hair to blow in the wind, and ride... just ride, until the sun set. It was a time of pure joy, freedom, and escape. 

I was around fifteen years old when I experienced painful consequences of being out of control. The neighborhood gang and I built a cart to be pulled behind one of our motorcycles. The steering was primitive but adequate if the speed remained reasonable. As in so many other areas of life, the limits had to be tested to know at what speed the steering best performed. As the only girl and the only one brave enough, I occupied the seat as test pilot when the sound barrier was broken, as well as the cart, tumbling end over end. I slid across the gravel road like a rag doll being slung around in the hands of a young girl. The point of destruction was discovered but to no good end or purpose. The cart was never useful again, and my entire right side displayed raspberries upon raspberries. I bear the scars to this day as a reminder to think before acting. 

The go-cart possessed inherent problems by design. The pleasant afternoon which held the excitement of adventure and tested the bravery of those involved could not change the faulty design. The design intended for the cart to be pushed, not pulled. When pulled, the steering was useless. Only the one driving the motorcycle controlled the direction of the cart, and that control was only by slinging it from side to side. 

I've thought about our faulty design many times over the years. I recall learning many life lessons through those brief moments of decision. The most impactful lesson I have learned is the awareness that there is an engine that powers this life. We live in a culture that likes to pull, resulting in chaos, accidents, and destruction. Our culture pulls toward misuse and abuse of what it means to be a "Christian." That term is no longer reserved for those who follow Jesus and His teachings. The church has seen the cultural pull toward redefining the meaning of love, faith, and the commands of God. The life of a typical "Christian" is mostly self-serving. We seek after the gift and not the Giver. We desire fame and fortune instead of desiring the Famous One. We chase the American dream as though, with the attainment of it, we will possess life. Our greatest fear has become discomfort, which has developed a craving for the comfortable. The church looks to the culture for approval and acceptance. This is clearly seen in the growing number of churches that preach an empty gospel. 

The problem with this is that few are reached with the Gospel when God's people do not know how to be God's people. God's people have become a people being pulled by the culture at a dangerous speed. Pump the brakes!

Let's idle here for a minute and talk about the word "faith." Faith is defined by most as a "belief system" - a list of things one believes. From God's point of view, faith is not an admission of His existence or accumulation of facts about Him but as a complete trust in His words and following them out of that trust. Faith is a gift from God and our response to His Word. It is not merely a recognition of His existence. The natural response of faith, to those watching us, looks like obedience to His commands. It is time we as the Church start doing the pulling. In light of God's call to action, it is time to partner with the Holy Spirit in pulling the lost away from the darkness and into His marvelous light. Will we allow our steering to be faulty? Or will we submit to God's perfect design for us as His disciples?

Faith is the engine of Life.

"Go make disciples...

of all Nations, baptizing them in the name of...

the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit...

teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded."

Paths to Progress

It has honestly been a struggle to discern how to get as many people as possible (people we know and love) to be involved in mobilization. Our motivation has been strong because we believe that God is raising up a massive mission force around the world, so why would we not want everybody we know to be involved? We know that people's minds are inundated with opportunities to give: help hungry people, fulfill someone's lifelong dream, provide for a student to go on a mission trip, a billion GoFundMe projects, etc. So what to do?

Here's what we have come up with:

1. We are establishing a team of partners who see the need and vision for meeting the need of training, connecting, and resourcing the global church to fulfill the Great Commission. This is comprised of people who pray consistently for the mission, give regularly (monthly or otherwise) to fulfill the vision, and/or take part in a hands-on way to train and equip the worldwide church.

2. Give toward a project. These may look similar to every other endeavor you see as you scroll through your Facebook feed, email, snail-mailbox, etc., however, this is what makes a Seven Soils project a Seven Soils project: 

So here's our project process:

  • Network with missionaries and other Believers to find Christians in the places which the Gospel has not gone.
  • Spend time developing relationships with Believers around the globe who are fulfilling the Great Commission.
  • Work with those Believers to discover ways to help get the Gospel out more effectively.
  • Develop a project that will help accomplish this goal.
  • Here's where you hear or read about the projects. 
  • You give toward the project

and then the best part of all

  • People around the globe hear the Gospel of Jesus and have that most privileged and awesome opportunity of a lifetime: the hearers respond to Jesus!

That very last step is the crux of the existence of Seven Soils. Jesus left us all with the responsibility to take the Gospel to all the world. You can be part of this greatest of commissions through Seven Soils. It's not complicated, but it is a sacrifice of your time, effort and/or finances. Commit to do your part.

Short Term Mission Trips: the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly. Solved!

Short-term mission trips are the staple of many church youth groups, denominational church calendars, and long-term missionaries' reception. However, there is also strong opposition to allocating resources for sending a group of semi-trained Christians to far-off countries to stay for a few days completing a variety of, often menial, tasks. Let's look honestly at both sides of the issue and several of the myriad factors in effectiveness.

The Good

If you ask missionaries who have settled on foreign soils many of them will tell you that short term missionaries from the US are the highlight of their ministry. They state several reasons for this:

  • there are important projects that can be completed quickly; basically many hand-make light work; 
  • the indigenous people of the country love to have visitors: the pastors are encouraged and people flock to church services to see the Americans;
  • short-term missions bring resources. Most short-term trips include fees that are used for doing projects which are part of the purpose of the trip. This can be a relatively substantial portion of the resources which flow into that particular mission.

Another substantial positive outcome is the transformative power of these trips. There are countless testimonies of US Christians who have been changed by God through their experiences on a short trip.

The Bad

There are changes, obstacles, and downright bad aspects of short-term missions. We recently heard about an orphanage in India that has stopped receiving short-term missionaries because of the stress the orphans were experiencing after the people left. Here are some problems with short-term missions:

  • building deep relationships is near impossible;
  • bringing a lot of resources can cause people to look at US missionaries as their saviors instead of Jesus;
  • it is expensive to get people to many locations.

Short-term missions can also shift the focus of missions away from the home-front. There are non-Christians in your workplace, school, neighborhood and probably even your family. The question is also asked, "Why should we be going so far away when there are so many opportunities to reach people right here?"

The Ugly

The issues surrounding short-term missions can be messy. Here are some of the messiest:

You'll almost always hear someone say something similar to this when debating the subject, "Instead of spending thousands of dollars on travel and expenses, why don't we just collect that money and send it to the missionaries to help with their work." This may sound reasonable, but have you ever tried this? "Hey friend, there's a trip that would cost $2000 for you to take and minister alongside a missionary in Bangladesh for a week. How about you just give me $2,000 and I'll send it to them to use in ministry?" That $2,000 never seems to make it to the field.

In my opinion, this is the worst of the ugly: we had a friend leading a trip of high schoolers; the group was in a children's home painting a room and our friend was talking to the director, who revealed it was the fifth time that room had been painted this year!!! What?! This is the tragedy of the evolution of short-term missions. Many groups do menial tasks which contribute little to accomplishing the mission of the trip, much the less the Great Commission of Christ. If this is abhorrent to you, you have permission to immediately skip to the bottom of the blog and read "The Solution."

Short-term mission trips most often focus on the easiest, safest, and cheapest places to take a group. This sounds reasonable, but the problem is simple: the places where the vast majority of the non-Christians in the world live are not easy to reach, cheap or perceived as safe. If short-term missions are going to be effective, the bar must be raised to accomplishing God's mission and not base missions on what is perceived as the best for us.

A large number of short-term mission trips are taken by teenagers. Most often the possible activities of such a trip is narrowed to painting, digging, playing with kids or, best-case, being part of a Vacation Bible School type event. This misses the mark of one of the greatest opportunities to transfer Biblical training to Christians around the world...see "The Solution." 

The Solution

To know the solution, we have to know the mission. The goal of the Body of Christ is not one we have to devise; it's a given. It was given by Jesus to His disciples and has been passed along to His current disciples, us: Matthew 28:18-20. The method may vary, but the goal is the Gospel. As a rule, we have gotten way off base on the majority of short-term mission trips. Most are focused on "keeping the kids busy", getting fences and walls painted, giving the American kids a "good experience", etc. To be right, good, and effective the primary, secondary and tertiary goal of all mission trips must be what Jesus gave: Make Disciples. 

Sound impossible? Is your response, "You don't know my kids, they are ___________." I don't care what is in that blank, here is the truth:

  • most American Christians have been educated beyond their level of obedience. 
  • the untapped (and mostly unrealized) amount of Biblical knowledge is vast, compared to most of the world. Many pastors around the world are illiterate and almost completely untrained. A teenager retelling Bible stories through an interpreter to an Ethiopian pastor is more attainable and useful for making disciples who are making disciples than most of us can fathom.

Money is not the issue. Yes, it is expensive, but it is absolutely a matter of priorities. Here's one of our favorite ridiculous stats: Americans spend more on Halloween costumes for their pets every year than we send to the field where 97% of non-Christians live. The western church accumulates $700 billion annually, therefore spending thousands to send Americans to the mission field would not be a financial burden if it were a financial priority. If this is your issue, here is my challenge to you: take the money you would spend on a family vacation this year and send it to a missionary in the 10-40 window. Contact us for the method to send the money. 

In response to the issue of needing to reach our home-front first I think David Platt has the best response: "I know the guy at your workplace isn't unreached, because you work with him. He has access to the Gospel; it's you." [my paraphrase]

The arguments on both sides of the issue have merit, but the worst possible outcome is paralysis. Here is the solution: Pray. Give. Go.  Pick one, two or all three.

Modern Mobilization

There is nothing new about mobilization. Where there is movement there is mobilization because mobilization is movement. Mobilization by definition is the action of a country or its government preparing and organizing its troops for active service; to mobilize is the action of making something movable or capable of movement. 

There has always existed a call of mobilization to the people of God. God mobilized Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, the Prophets and disciples. The action of mobilization extends to God's people today. You and I are part of something prepared out of the beginning for mobilization: REDEMPTION. The need of man is evident in our decisions, mindset, pride, anger, words, relationships, integrity, superiority, bias, weakness, lack of genuine understanding and wisdom. There is a way that seems right to man; it looks good and sounds good but in the end deceives. We all need REDEMPTION. Redemption declares the Gospel; it is this Gospel that we have been entrusted to mobilize to all people, every nation, on every soil; in order to make disciples prepared and organized for active service, capable of movement, the movement of a disciple. 

What does modern mobilization look like? It looks like you and me. God designed the Gospel to move through the hearts and minds of man. WE are both the conduit and recipient. The world needs a great mobilization movement. The church needs a great mobilization movement. In this movement, man will find what he needs most, REDEMPTION!

There is nothing new about mobilization.  Tethered to mobilization is God's ancient strategy, well-worn preparedness, venerable purpose, and timeless global cooperation. 

There is nothing new about mobilization. So why do most not mobilize? The simple answer is lack of vision and passion. Those who receive encouragement and practical world-Christian discipleship will maintain vision and passion for the world. Both WW I and WW II hold experiences to teach us effective mobilization. 1917 found the United States unprepared to join the allies in World War I.  We had no army, no equipment, no stockpiles. Yet, the need of the world, the actions of Germany, the desperation of war, demanded action. By war's end the United States had a formidable army, a military presence, and a clear vision of peace. During WW II, only 10% went to the war and out of that only 1% were on the front lines. However, the entire country was mobilized to ensure success. Men and women were called to sacrifice. The outcome of WW II relied upon effective mobilization of the country. 

Mobilization of the gospel and  evangelization of this generation is similar to WW I and WW II mobilization. It is the greatest and most significant battlecry in our lifetime. Modern mobilization will recruit, train, and connect each believer to their most strategic and effective role in the great co-mission of going into the world. 

 

 

 

 

What is this Mobilization you speak of?

Mobilization is the movement of God expanding His Kingdom around the world. What once was the mission field is becoming the mission force. 

For many decades Christian missions has been primarily done through "frontier missions", where a Christian is trained as a career missionary and sent to a far-away land to assimilate into a new culture. These missionaries would spend years, if not decades, learning the language, culture, and societal norms of the people they were trying to reach with the Gospel. After much effort these missionaries were sometimes able to establish enough credibility to witness the conversion of people to faith in Jesus. This also became the church-planting movement, where after several people became followers of Christ, a leader would begin to develop this body. Although the inefficiency of this can easily be recognized, God often works powerfully in a seemingly inefficient system. Thankfully He has: there are thousands upon thousands of Christians scattered around the world where these missionaries established their work. 

Now the next phase in the Great Commission is rising. These pockets of believers around the world are thriving under adversity, growing in depth, and spreading the love of Christ beyond the reach of the frontier missionaries. This is the Mobilization of the worldwide church. 

The mission of Seven Soils is to help train, equip, and resource this new force of missionaries around the world to reach their neighbors, friends, and family with the Gospel of Jesus. God has blessed many with Biblical training (think of the countless Bible studies, small groups, and teaching sermons in which you have partaken), with financial resources, and with a heart to encourage and equip other believers. Connect with Seven Soils to connect with the body of Christ around the world which is taking the Gospel to those who have not heard.

What an incredible God, and what an incredible plan. Be a part: Pray, Give, Go.

#praygivego

Want more info: http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/02/10/christian-missions-in-the-third-millennium-3/

T +1 Month-ish

If you're facsinated by space exploration you probably have listened to mission control call out over the intercom "T minus 30 seconds and counting." ....... "T Minus 20 seconds." ....... "10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 Ignition, Liftoff" Woah, I kindof got carried away as I envisioned giant plumes of gasses exhaling from the bottom of the rocket followed by a massive fireball sending an important payload outside of the earth's atmosphere. Woah, I got carried away again. Sorry.

Here's the point: "T+" is the designation for the timeframe after the mission has begun. That's where Seven Soils is! We have launched!

So the work has begun in earnest. We are in the support-raising stage. Tammy & Jeff are meeting with people daily to spread the vision of Seven Soils as broadly and deeply as possible. There is a team assembling for the great work of the Gospel that is the heart of Seven Soils. 

If you haven't yet met with anyone from Seven Soils, or if you know someone who might be willing to Pray, Give or Go, send them to the website or have them contact Jeff at jeff@sevensoils.org.

Real Life Paper

Today we finally sent the printing artwork off! We soon will have a flyer and business cards to help as we start casting the vision. It always seems like those design projects take twice as long as they should. However, it's important to have good tools, so no regrets, but we are SO thankful it's done. 

We also have gotten many logistics nailed down this week: bank account, contact management system, website and social media launched! 

The foundational things are happening!!!

Please pray for Seven Soils.

Suppport-Raising Conference

It's not as boring as that title sounds! When raising funds is the means to fulfill God's mission it is exciting! And it's in Orlando. Jeff, Tammy, and Kristian will be headed to the Support Raising Solutions (SRS) Bootcamp on December 4-5 in Orlando. This is one of the premier training opportunities in Christian fundraising. SRS trains thousands of missionaries and ministers around the country every year. They have a great Kingdom perspective and understand that money is a needed, useful and important tool for fulfilling God's call on Christian organizations.

Launching!

After several weeks of paperwork, paperwork, paperwork Seven Soils is on the verge of liftoff! The 501(c)3 application has arrived at the IRS. Bank accounts and websites are linked. The state of Texas has approved all the incorporation forms. Promotional material will be headed to the retro printing press next week (Yes some of us still prefer to hold something in our analog hands!).

Jeff & Tammy will spend the next several months raising funds to transition from full-time ministry with Cross Stone Church to full time missions support and resourcing. If you want to join the Seven Soils team through financial giving click here.