I will be returning to Russia in April 2018 to continue training young pastors and emerging leaders. On this trip, I will be teaching the book of Revelation. Click on the newsletter below to download a pdf copy and learn more about the trip.
Category Archives: Missions
September is an anniversary month for me. It’s a time when I look back and celebrate the grace of God in my life. It’s a time when I look forward and recommit myself to following God. It’s a time when I once again declare how much I need his grace and strength in my life.
September is a milestone month for me because it is when I began my first full-time, paid position in ministry. I’ve been doing ministry for almost 45 years. But I started getting paid for it in September 1986, 31 years ago.
I began serving in ministry during my freshman year in college in 1973. From 1973-86, I taught Sunday School for kids, served as a youth sponsor, discipled high school students, led ministry trips, sang in choirs, coached sports teams, chaired committees, did a summer internship, participated in evangelism outreaches, and other ministries I have long since forgotten.
I taught one class in each of two semesters in Dallas Theological Seminary’s Lay Institute from 1983-84, and even got paid for the privilege. I also served one year as a part-time intern at Nutwood St. Baptist Church in Garden Grove, CA, in the mid-80’s.
In September 1986, I was called as the Pastor of Christian Education at College Church in Wheaton, IL, and began my full-time career in ministry. I served the first 18 years as an Associate Pastor. I served three years at College Church, Wheaton, IL – Pastor of Christian Education (9/86-7/89), and over 14 years at Crossroads Bible Church, Bellevue, WA – Associate Pastor—Singles, Adults, Missions, Senior Associate (2/90-6/04).
In September 2004, I was called as a Senior Pastor and have now served 13 years in that role. I served almost 8 years at United Evangelical Free Church, Seattle, WA (9/04-3/12), and the past five years at First Central Bible Church, Chicopee, MA (9/12-Present). If God should tarry, I would like to keep going and reach the goal of serving as many years as a senior pastor as I did as an associate pastor.
In addition, I have served as an instructor for Walk Thru the Bible Ministries for 30 years (1987-Present). I also led or participated in 18 ministry trips (13 to Russia, 2 to Ukraine, 2 to Spain, and 1 to Nigeria). I also have the privilege of mentoring students as an adjunct professor at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA.
Somewhere along the line, I developed the following purpose statement for my life.
My Mission is to serve the purpose of God in my generation, thus bringing glory to his name. My Life Vision to train and equip others through preaching, teaching, writing, and leadership development. I want to bring all to maturity and many into leadership.
To be starting my 32nd year in ministry says more about God’s grace than my ability. I am not the sharpest tool in the shed nor the smartest person in the room. I am a plodder who strives to run the race God called me to run (Hebrews 12:1-4). I want to serve God faithfully and use all of my gifts for his glory (Matthew 25:14-30).
As I reflect on another ministry milestone, I thank God that he called me to be one of his children. I thank God that he called me into his service. I thank him for the privilege of serving him at First Central. I thank God for grace.
May God grant me the grace and strength to continue serving him for many more years to come.
Book Review: Dragon Ride: True Stories of Adventure, Miracles, and Evangelism from China, by Grace Jacob
When the Iron Curtain fell in the early 90’s, one of my mentors with Walk Thru the Bible Ministries lived in Moscow for several months. He was there to help set up the infrastructure for an outreach known as the CoMission. He commented that living in Russia was a full-time job. Whatever ministry you accomplished was gravy because it took all your time and efforts just to live there.
I was reminded of this comment after reading the book, Dragon Ride: True Stories of Adventure, Miracles, and Evangelism from China. Grace Jacob and her husband, Justin (not their real names) were missionaries in Hong Kong and China for 29 years. The book gives insight into the challenges of daily life and the persecution, sometimes subtle and sometimes overt, that missionaries face in a closed access country.
The first half to two-thirds of the book describes the challenges of daily life—securing jobs, finding apartments, dealing with unreasonable landlords, finding adequate health care. The remainder of the book describes some of Grace’s evangelistic discussions, Bible studies, and outreaches to university students.
Towards the end of the book, Grace explains how her ministry in China shaped her.
I was so blessed to have been able to spend 29 years of my life in Hong Kong and Mainland China, making Chinese friends, and speaking the dialects of their hearts. They opened up to me, and I opened my heart to them.
My Chinese friends taught me about love and committed friendship. They taught me the graciousness of gift-giving, lavish hospitality, and the importance of properly saying goodbye to the ones you love.
My Chinese Christian friends showed me how to suffer for my faith.
I came to their land, which is now my land, as fully American—I left as part Chinese.
In the great land of China, I came to know my God. Seeing him through the eyes of Buddhists, idol worshippers, atheists, Muslims, and an animist gave me an awe for the beauty of the God I worship. Living in the crucible of China, I came to know his great love for us and the power he uses on our behalf. Being stripped of the safety zones in live, I learned to pray and to trust the Lord; being stripped of pat answer, I came to know his Word.
The book is written in a simple, straightforward manner. It struck me as a cross between a newspaper article reporting the facts and reading someone’s journal. While perhaps not the best written book, I found the stories interesting. They dovetailed with what I have heard from other missionaries over the years.
I received an e-copy of the book from the author for the purpose of review. The opinions I share are my own.
I have been invited to return to Russia in 2018 to continue the process of helping train and equip pastors and young leaders. When I was there in March, several asked me to return to teach the book of Revelation. That is the plan for the upcoming trip. Click on the image below to open a pdf file of the trip proposal and details. Please pray that God provides all we need and more besides for the trip.
I am a firm believer in the value of short-term ministry trips. Every member of my family has gone on and benefited from participating in one or more trips. My personal conviction is that every adult should go on at least one trip. In a post entitled, “Are short-term mission trips valuable?” author Randy Alcorn shares his perspective. It is worth the read. Perhaps it will convince you to sign up for one.
Here are the pictures from the week in Elista, Russia. I had 12 people in my class on Romans and John Musgrave had 6 men in his class on church leadership. We were staying at City Chess, a complex built in 1998 and the host of the World Chess Championships in 2006. It was a great week. Thanks for praying.