Monthly Archives: February 2012

The pillars of short-term ministry trips

During my early short-term ministry trips while at Crossroads Bible Church, I had three key concepts drilled into my head by Dan Hollingsworth and Tim Jack. They were the principles of servanthood, flexibility, and leaving the fragrance of Jesus behind.

Servanthood is the idea that each team and person aims to serve the people we are going to and the missionaries we are working with. Rather than say, “Here’s what we are going to do?” we ask, “How can we help you? What do you need?”

Flexibility is the idea that we hold our agenda and schedule with an open hand rather than a clenched fist. If God wants to change things up, we will adjust accordingly. Semper Gumby – Always Flexible is our motto.

Leaving the fragrance of Jesus behind is the principle of seeking to be a blessing wherever we go. We want people to be sad we are leaving rather than wishing we had left sooner.

Those lessons have become ingrained into my thinking and color my approach every time I set out on another trip.

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Posted by on February 15, 2012 in Ministry, Missions, Personal growth


Halfway point in Tsibanobalka

It’s Wednesday morning, February 15, in Tsibanobalka, the halfway point of this trip.

Yesterday, the leadership team from the church in Krasnodar wrapped up their retreat. During their last session, John Musgrave taught on the topic of biblical leadership.He used several passages in the New Testament (Acts 20; 1 Peter 5) to teach on the five roles of a biblical elder/pastor—preach & teach, lead, guard & protect, care, and shared leadership. (See yesterday’s post for details.)

After the group left, we started the cleaning process. House of Grace gets cleaned from top to bottom. Part of the job was completed and the laundry was started. With 14 guests, there are piles of bedding and towels to be washed.

We relaxed in the evening with a meal of smoked salmon, crackers, cheese, sausage, guacamole, and champagne, while we watched Back to the Future. We celebrated Valentine’s Day and the end of a successful retreat.

Today, the beds will be made and the cleaning finished as we prepare for the next group to arrive tomorrow. This is the group I will be teaching. There will be 12 men in the class. 10 of the men are coming from Kalmykia, a region near the Caspian Sea. They will be driving 12-14 hours and arrive sometime after midnight tonight. Two of the men are coming from a rehabilitation center in the region. My translator, Misha, is coming from Krasnodar, about three hours away.

The weather here is just like at home in Seattle—gray, cloudy, temperature in the upper 30’s. We are having snow/rain showers at the moment. Wearing very cool slippers from Kyrgyzstan helps keep my feet warm.

The temp in Tsibanobalka feels downright balmy compared to what I experienced in Moscow when we landed Monday morning. The pilot announced it was -30. Needless to say, I camped inside the airport during my 8-hour layover.

For the most part, I have adjusted to the time change—12 hour difference. My body still feels like it is standing on its head, but that’s ok. Sleep aids—Tylenol PM & Melatonin—help speed up the adjustment process and make me feel somewhat human. For that, I am grateful.

Thanks for praying.

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Posted by on February 14, 2012 in House of Grace, Photos, Russia


A model of biblical leadership

Tuesday morning, John Musgrave closed the Krasnodar church leaders retreat by teaching on the topic of biblical leadership. He used several passages in the New Testament (Acts 20; 1 Peter 5) to teach on the five roles of a biblical elder/pastor—preach & teach, lead, guard & protect, care, and shared leadership. He illustrated his points with a visible demonstration using eggs.

A Russian model of church leadership is a dictator. The one egg is on top of all the others.

An American model of church leadership is democracy. Everyone is equal.

A business model of leadership is a hierarchy.

A biblical model of church leadership is where the church rests on the elders and pastors. The leaders serve the church.

Some churches rest on the pastor all by himself. When that happens, he winds up burned out and crushed by the weight. But the church functions best when a team of leaders–pastors & elders–serve together to feed, lead, guard, protect, and care for the church.

While the principles are solid and biblical, the illustration was creative and worth the price of admission. When the men understood what John was saying and showing, the cameras came out and everyone wanted to preserve the concept. It was teaching at its creative best.

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Posted by on February 14, 2012 in Church, House of Grace, Leadership, Photos, Scripture, Theology


Growing a backbone

I’ve been reading Lance Witt’s encouraging volume, Replenish: Leading from a healthy soul. The most recent chapter I read was entitled, “Does your soul have a backbone?” The author writes of his own struggle to develop spiritual courage. He points out that fear of people leaving, fear of criticism, etc., can keep us from making courageous leadership decisions. The key is not our DNA or genetic makeup. Rather the key is abiding in Christ.

Looking back I realize there’s a correlation between my communion with God and my courage for God. The deeper my intimacy, the greater my tenacity to stand courageously. The more Christ is my life, the less I need to find life in others’ opinions.

The author’s insight is a good and timely reminder for me, especially in this season of my life.

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Posted by on February 14, 2012 in Books, Leadership, Personal growth


Tuesday morning in Tsibanobalka

Reflections on the journey thus far

Going global – I flew on British Airways from Seattle to Moscow and then on S7 from Moscow to Anapa. On the Seattle – London leg, BA showed a commercial for HSBC bank before every one of their movies. The background music is “Thank heaven for little girls.” The commercial portrays a young girl setting up a lemonade stand while her father helps her in the background.

The girl paints a sign that reads, “Lemonade – $.50.” Her first customer is a Chinese woman and her preschool son. She looks in her wallet and only has foreign currency. The lemonade stand girl responds, “I take Hong Kong dollars.” She then greets the woman in Chinese and speaks to the boy in the same language. They smile in appreciation. The dad comes out of the house, drinks a glass of lemonade and the girl holds out her hand for payment. A tour bus with foreign speakers pulls up and the dad runs back to the kitchen to make more lemonade. The commercial closes with a view of her new sign that includes the price in US Dollars, Hong Kong Dollars, British Pounds, and German Marks. The announcer closes, “In the future, HSBC believes that all business will be international.”

It caused me to reflect; shouldn’t the same be true of ministry? Isn’t the gospel intended to be international as well? Doesn’t the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) say that we are to make disciples of all nations?

Thankfully, I am part of a church that believes the gospel is to be proclaimed locally AND internationally. Which is why I found myself on a plane heading for Russia to train pastors and leaders.

Commitment to train and equip John & Naomi Musgrave operate the House of Grace, a guest house for pastors in Tsibanobalka, Russia, near Anapa on the Black Sea. They are also involved in Holy Trinity Church in Anapa where John serves as one of the elders.

Shortly after arriving, John invited to join him for an elders meeting. The church is currently without a “formal” pastor, so the three elders plus an elder in training serve as the leadership team. (One of the men, Victor, is “pastor elect” and is taking classes at a Bible college in Krasnodar, where my translator, Misha, serves as Academic Dean. It is a six-year course with three two-week courses per year.)

The elders meet on a weekly basis to pray, evaluate, plan, and shepherd the church. The meeting began by discussing how the various home groups were going and if there were any issues, needs, or people to pray for. The men then prayed for the church. Following that, they debriefed the previous Sunday worship service and gave feedback on John’s sermon.

The four men are preaching a seven-week series on the life of Joseph. John preaches 1, 4, and 7 of the series. Victor preaches two of the sermons, and the other two men one sermon each. It demonstrates a commitment to making sure all elders are “able to teach” as well as spreads out the leadership responsibilities. In addition, one of John’s convictions is that Russian churches should be led by Russian pastors. Thus, John is training and equipping these men to lead and shepherd the congregation. Over time, Victor and the other men will preach more and John less.

Attending a meeting in another language is not the easiest thing to do when suffering from jet lag. For the most part I was able to stay awake and track with the discussions. But I did find myself fading and nodding at various times.

Leadership retreat – Part of the ministry of House of Grace is serving as a retreat center. Various groups rent the facility and John & Naomi provide the meals. When I arrived, a church from Krasnodar (about three hours away) was holding a leadership retreat. The pastor, elders, deacons, and small group leaders were present (about 14 men). While I could not understand the content, I was impressed by the seriousness of their discussions, the passion of their prayers and worship, and the commitment to using their time well. The retreat began on Sunday and wraps up with lunch today.

Cleaning – After the Krasnodar group leaves, the house will be cleaned from top to bottom and laundry done in preparation for the next group arriving on Thursday This is the class I will be teaching. Helping clean will be a good way for me to serve as well as getting over jet lag.

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Posted by on February 14, 2012 in House of Grace, Leadership, Photos, Russia


Traveling on my knees

Perhaps it stems from preaching through the gospel of Mark and seeing how many times Jesus left the crowds to go to a mountain and pray. Maybe it comes from reading The Prayer Saturated Church by Cheryl Sacks. Then again it could come from being in an intense season of ministry. Of course, it could also be from recognizing where I am headed.

Whatever the reason, I am reminded yet again of how much I need to pray and how much I need others to pray for me.

I am waiting for my flight from Seattle to London, the first leg of the journey to the Black Sea. Next week I will be teaching a three-day class on the life of David at the House of Grace. A dozen men have registered for the class. 10 of them come from Kalmykia, a region near the Caspian Sea, or a 14+ hour drive to the Black Sea.

Here’s the schedule if you’d like to pray:

  • Saturday – Monday—Travel Seattle – London – Moscow – Anapa
  • Tuesday & Wednesday – recover & prepare
  • Thursday – Saturday – Class
  • Sunday – Monday – Travel home

Here’s some things you can pray for:

  • Safe travel
  • Good health
  • Protection for Carol while I’m gone
  • Good relationship with the men in the class. I want to tailor my lessons to meet their needs.

Thanks for praying.

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Posted by on February 12, 2012 in Books, House of Grace, Prayer, Russia


Character in the Crucible

“These are the times that try men’s souls.” Thomas Paine penned those words on December 23, 1776 during the height of the Revolutionary War. The same words could be spoken of any trial or crisis.

A crucible is a container used in a laboratory process. It is made up of material designed to withstand very high temperatures which will melt or alter the contents within the container. The Scriptures indicate that God often uses the crucible of trials to shape and develop our character.

Job 23:10 – “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.”

Romans 5:3–4 – “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”

James 1:2–4 – “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

As the process of refining gold in a crucible or firing pottery in a kiln illustrates, the heat can refine, purify, reveal, or crack the item being tested. Gold is refined in the fire. The process purifies the gold as the dross comes to the top and is removed. The beauty of pottery is often revealed in the fire of the kiln. The pattern and color comes to light as the fire intensifies. On the other hand, some vases or jars may crumble as a hidden crack or flaw is revealed.

The same thing can happen in our lives through time spent in the crucible. Our character can be refined as God uses a trial to purify us. Our abilities can be revealed as we discover hidden qualities about ourselves. The pressure of the trial can harden and confirm our convictions. But we can also crumble if we bail out too soon or don’t submit and stay quiet during the process.

When trials come, when the crucible heats up, we need to trust that God has the end is mind. He wants to produce golden, refined character in our lives. We must submit to the process and let him work, no matter how hot the crucible becomes.

God reminded me of these principles after a recent visit to the crucible.

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Posted by on February 9, 2012 in Bible Study, Character, Quotes, Scripture


The deep breath before the plunge

It’s been an intense season of ministry. My last break was in September when Carol and I attended SonScape. Since then, my calendar has been filled with preaching, teaching, administrivia, staff issues, budget planning, nominating committees, elders meetings, social events, phone calls, hospital visits, funerals, and more of the above repeated again.

On Sunday, I preached my last sermon for three weeks. The elders laid hands on me and prayed for my upcoming trip to Russia. I have a few days of silence before I pack, board the plane, and wing my way towards the Black Sea.

It is the deep breath before the plunge.

The phrase comes from a scene in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Pippin and Gandalf made their way to Gondor. They are standing on a balcony outside their apartment, gazing at the mountains of Mordor.

PIPPIN:  It’s so quiet.
GANDALF: It’s the deep breath before the plunge.
PIPPIN: I don’t want to be in a battle.  But waiting on the edge of one I can’t escape is even worse.

Their dialogue sums up how I am feeling this week. I have stepped away one battle (local church ministry in the USA). I am standing on the edge of another (training emerging leaders in Russia). I have just enough time to catch my breath before I plunge headlong into another adventure.

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Posted by on February 8, 2012 in Movies, Quotes, Russia


Spirit-led worship

In his book, Worship Matters: Leading others to encounter the greatness of God, author Bob Kauflin includes one chapter which reminds us of the importance of depending on the power of the Holy Spirit. He closes the chapter with the convicting question:

Next Sunday, if the Spirit stopped empowering your worship, would anyone notice?

Would you?

I pray the answer to both questions is an emphatic, “Yes!” By God’s grace, may people recognize that God’s Spirit is really among us–actively working, empowering, encouraging, convicting–for the good of the church and the glory of the Savior.

I say “Amen” to that.

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Posted by on February 7, 2012 in Books, Quotes, Worship


Glimpses of grace

Occasionally network television weaves a redemptive message into the fabric of its dramas. One such message is found in the CBS drama, Blue Bloods, the story of a New York City family of police officers.

In the most recent episode, “The Job,” Frank, played by Tom Selleck, and his father, Henry, played by Len Cariou, are having a late night/early morning discussion about survivor’s guilt. “Where you were on 9/11?” and “Why him and not me?” are two questions Frank is wrestling with. His former partner got sick from breathing the air at Ground Zero while Frank did not.

In his response, Henry makes a profoundly redemptive statement when he affirms the sovereignty of God. He said, “I see God’s light in this family every day. While I may not understand it, I trust in his plan for us all.”

God does have a plan and a purpose. And he can be trusted.

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Posted by on February 6, 2012 in Theology, TV