Category Archives: Missions

Tell the World Update

Last summer, the elders of Cityview Bible Church challenged our congregation to tell the world the good news that Jesus is alive.  In our current ministry year (2017-2018), our goal was to send 100 Cityview members on a short-term mission trip.  We knew that if we could get people to step out in faith and get involved in God’s work around the world, it would change their lives forever.

As the end of our ministry year approaches, where are we in hitting our goal?  We have three mission trips left to send out this summer (Haiti, Chicago, and New Mexico).  After those three teams complete their trips, we will have sent out 168 people from Cityview on a GO trip!  And here’s the amazing part: for 98 of them, it will have been their very first mission trip.  How cool is that?!  In addition, we have seen 2 more families commit to long-term missions.  Wow!

As men, women, students, and children from Cityview have participated in global outreach trips, what have we learned as a church?  A few key lessons stand out to me:

1- Anyone can go.  We have seen people of all ages and stages of life participate in missions this year.  God has used a variety of personalities and spiritual gifts on every single team.  Many that I have talked to about going this year have expressed insecurity about their ability to meaningfully contribute to a mission team.  What have seen over the last 12 months?  Anyone can go and make a significant contribution to their team.

2- Everyone deserves to hear.  On all of our trips, we have encountered people who have never heard the good news that God loves them and sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross and rise from the dead to forgive our sin and reconcile us to Himself forever.  Every team has returned asking the question, how can there still be people on this planet who have not heard what Jesus did for them?  But the truth is that many have not heard and will not hear unless we go to them and share the hope we have in Christ.

3- Prayer is powerful.  There is nothing like participating in global outreach to show you the limitations of your own abilities and the limitless power of God.  Every mission team comes back in AWE of God’s love and power.  Why?  Because they were forced to depend on God in prayer.  And God answered their prayers.  The Spirit of God moves in power when the people of God get involved in Jesus’ mission.  Again and again, we have seen God do the impossible in response to our desperate cries for help.

I know that my own involvement in missions over the years has radically changed my view of God and my perspective on the world.  The Lord has used His global work to give me a heart of compassion for all kinds of people from every kind of background.  If you have been involved in missions, how has the Lord used it to change your life?  I’d love to hear your perspective.

What I Learned in Athens

I just returned from 8 days in Athens, Greece with a team of 13 from Cityview.  We served the church in Greece and refugees from around the Arab world that have migrated to Athens.  In our 5 days of ministry, we talked to refugees from 10 different nations.  The Lord has truly brought people from all over the Muslim world to the west as their home countries are in turmoil.  I could write so many words about what we saw, heard, and felt, but I will limit myself to the top five lessons I learned.  Here we go:

1- God is sovereign over the movements of people and the boundaries of the nations.  He has determined where and when we are born, and He sets the course of our lives.  The apostle Paul actually made this point in Acts 17:26 when he preached in Athens 2000 years ago: “From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live.” The Scripture says that Paul was speaking to the local Greeks “and the foreigners that had gathered there.”  Not much has changed in 2000 years: God is still moving people around the world and determining the boundaries of where they live.  Why?  Paul tells us: “He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”  God puts us where we are so that we might have a personal relationship with Him.  To say it another way: you are not where you are by accident, and neither is your neighbor.

2- God loves Muslim people and wants them to know Him through His Son Jesus Christ.  The God of Islam can be merciful and good and generous in his actions, but the God of the Bible is love in his essential nature.  The Trinity (Father, Son, and Spirit) has existed in eternal self-giving, loving relationship forever, and for this reason, the Bible can say with complete integrity: God is love. (1 John 4:8) . The One True God sent His Son to live and die and rise again so that Muslim people can know Him as Father.  The Bible says that Jesus died for the world.  (1 John 2:2) This means that God loves people from every tribe and tongue and nation.  God reminded me in the most powerful of ways last week that He loves people and desires all men, women, and children to know Him through His Son.  He is a good, good Father.

3- God hurts at seeing young refugees being taken advantage of by those with money and power.  The Bible says that God is a father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5).  I met the fatherless last week – those who fathers were killed or left behind in a distant land.  And they were vulnerable beyond comprehension.  CNN released this article while we were serving in Athens – it recounts what was happening to many of the young refugees we were ministering to.   My heart broke while I was praying over these young men one day.  I couldn’t process what I would if one of my sons found themselves in this helpless situation.  And the Lord spoke to me in the midst of my tears, “these are my kids.”  God was showing me His Father’s heart for those who are hurting and lost and brutalized by this world.  He truly is a father to the fatherless.  They are his kids.

4- God is mighty to save anyone who calls on His name.  The power to change the human heart and bring hope from hopelessness is only found in the cross of Jesus Christ.  1 Corinthians 2:1-5 was my personal battle cry all week: asking God to demonstrate His power so that the faith of those who believed in Jesus would rest not on our influence as Americans or our creative words, but on the power of God.  This was Paul’s testimony: he came to Athens and Corinth and Ephesus in weakness, not in strength.  He came in humility, not in power.  But God came in power!  In the same way, when we ministered in Athens, we saw the power of God on display.  He reveals Himself to people in dreams and visions, through miraculous circumstances, kind strangers, missionaries from other nations.  His gospel, revealed by the Spirit, is the only power that can break the human heart and change the soul.

5- God answers prayer.  I believe in prayer.  I have always believed in prayer. But there is something unique that happens when desperate prayer is combined with intentional evangelism.  The Lord moves. 17 years ago, when I did my first ministry assignment, I was scared to death.  I felt completely inadequate for the work and found myself daily on my knees in prayer.  I remember saying, “God, if you don’t move and show up in power, I’m sunk.  This isn’t going to work.”  And you know what?  The Lord moved.  In power.  He was faithful to answer prayer.  As we served in Athens last week, I again found myself in a place beyond my personal gifting, a place where I was desperate for God to move.  And I wasn’t alone.  Our whole team cried out to God to help us – how were the 13 of us going to connect in meaningful ways with refugees that we shared nothing in common with? The Lord heard our prayers, our countless prayers, and He answered them.  Because He hears those who cry out to Him and rely on His strength.

This only scratches the surface of what I learned in Athens, but I have to stop here.  As I conclude, let me leave you with this thought: God used this trip to change the lives of many people in Athens.  But He also used it to change the lives of 12 people from Round Rock, Texas.  Won’t you consider participating in what God is doing around the world?  He is moving in power and wants you to join Him.

Eleven Reasons CP Movements Plateau & Decline

I’m pleased to be able to share part of my sabbatical research with all of you.  I have spent many hours in the last month reading and thinking about WHY once-thriving church-planting movements plateau and decline.  I have put my thoughts done in a fifteen page paper called Why Movements Die.  I hope and pray that this challenges you as much as it has challenged me.

Until All Treasure Him-
Keith

Why Movements Die v1 by KPF (Aug2013)

A Call to Prayer

How does spiritual awakening come to a city?

There are many answers to this question, many commands from Scripture placed on us as believers who hunger for God to move powerfully in our midst.  We know that Christians must get busy loving their neighbor, sharing the gospel, repenting of sin, and unifying under the name of Jesus.

However, we also know that nothing of eternal significance will happen in our city if God isn’t in it.  The greatest requirement for spiritual awakening in our city is the supernatural move of the Holy Spirit of God.

How do we tap into the supernatural power available to us in Jesus Christ?  The answer to that question is simple: we humble ourselves before the Lord and pray.  Our prayers don’t dismiss our responsibility to repent and serve and preach and share and strategize.  But all of our repenting and serving and preaching and sharing and strategizing will amount to nothing unless we pray.

I am spending this week at the Billy Graham Training Center in Asheville, NC.  I have come here for personal spiritual renewal, to simply sit at the feet of the Master and listen to His voice.  I have been reminded of this powerful truth while reading and praying this week (and learning more about the ministry of Billy Graham): we need to work, to plan, to advertise, and to make combined efforts to share the gospel with the people in our city.  But our greatest need is for prayer.

As spiritual leaders in Greater Austin, we long for the day when every man, woman, and child in our city would have a relationship with the One True God through His Son, Jesus Christ.  To that end, we have agreed to come together as churches in Greater Austin for the Explore God campaign, with the hope that thousands of spiritually mature Christians will have intentional gospel conversations with spiritually curious people in our city.

But we know that our strategies and efforts are empty if the Lord doesn’t move, don’t we?  He will not share His glory with us.  He will only move when we as a united people of God in our city commit to seek Him in prayer, to call on His name, to humble ourselves before Him and admit that we need Him.

This is why I am inviting you to join me in praying for the Explore God campaign every day between now and September 8th.  We are 60 days away today from the beginning of the Explore God campaign.  Can you commit to pray daily with me for the people in our city to experience the power of God in such a personal way that they can’t deny the reality of Jesus Christ?  Here is what I am praying for…

  1. That God would bring spiritual renewal to the believers in our churches.
  2. That Christians would repent of sin and grow in holiness.
  3. That Christians would grow in sensitivity to the Holy Spirit to guide them daily, especially in their evangelism.
  4. That Christians would love people sincerely and meet needs as they are able.
  5. That Christians would be clear when sharing the gospel of grace.
  6. That God would speak to the hearts of unbelievers and show them their need for Christ.
  7. That churches would be unified in their love for God, love for people, and proclamation of the gospel.
  8. That God would bring awakening to our city and region.
  9. That God would be glorified in all that we do so that no person can boast.
  10. That the Spirit would move through the Explore God campaign to bring many people to saving faith in Jesus.

Will you join me in prayer over the next 60 days?  More than we need air to breathe, we need God’s Spirit to move.

May His Kingdom come.

Book Notes: The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken

insanityofgod

Nik Ripken’s book is intended to change the way you think about God, persecution, and Christian maturity.  To that end, Ripken shares his powerful personal biography.  From the incredibly dark years in Somalia (during the height of famine and genocide) to the soul-refreshing interviews with persecuted Christians around the world, Ripken tells a harrowing story that is hard to put down.  After experiencing deep loss in Africa (losing his ministry and his son), Ripken returned with his wife to the States.  He had one question that was eating away at his soul: is God still good and sovereign and involved in the world in the midst of such overwhelming grief and suffering?  

The rest of the book tells the story of Ripken’s travels to the ends of the earth to interview Christians who had experienced extreme persecution and suffering for the cause of Christ.  He desired to learn from his brothers around the world how to process suffering from a biblical perspective because he felt like his experience growing up in the American church had not prepared him for the real world.  He tells story after story of meeting with persecuted Christians around the world and learning to trust God and read the Bible again for the first time.

Ripken’s book reminds us that God is present even in the darkest places in the world, and that He is working even when we can’t see Him.  His book also reminds us that the world is full of evil and suffering, and that while we wait for the Risen Christ to return, we will face that evil and suffering face to face.  I was personally thankful for Ripken’s charge that persecution is normative in the Bible and is a sign that we are doing exactly what God wants us to do, not a sign that we are somehow outside of God’s will.  I was thankful to read this challenging book and thankful that Ripken took the time to share his experiences with believers around the world.

Why should I go on a short-term mission trip?

Even if you are convinced of God’s heart for the nations (see Matthew 28:19, Acts 1:8, and Revelation 7:9), you can still wonder if it makes sense for you to take a week off of work and raise $3000 to go to another country in order to share the gospel and encourage the church.  Short-terms missions have exploded in popularity over the last several decades (as international travel has become cheaper and safer), but many still question the wisdom in going themselves.  Shouldn’t they just give $3000 to a long-term missionary who knows what they are doing contextually and speaks the language?  I would never discourage supporting full-time missionaries (Barie and I support three ourselves!), but I would argue that everyone needs to get on the field themselves.  Here’s three quick reasons why I think you should go on a short-term mission trip:

1- Your effort to go will make an impact on the people you meet.  Obviously, if you share the gospel, you are making the greatest impact on those in another country.  I just received word from a church-leader in another country that five people came to faith in Christ as the result of a trip that I went on last fall (and that two of them were getting baptized into the local church).  If you go overseas, you will have the chance to share the gospel with someone who might never hear it unless you go.  In addition, your effort to travel across national borders will encourage the believers you meet.  They will see and understand your passion to take the gospel to all people and will be challenged to think globally themselves.  In this way, if you go with a heart to serve and share, you will make an impact on the people in the country you visit.

2- Your heart and life will be forever changed.  Not only will your involvement in short-term missions impact those that live in a foreign country.  It will change you.  You will get a bigger view of God – understanding that He is not just the God of your culture and ethnic group, but the God of every culture and ethnic group in the whole world.  You will grow in your passion for evangelism.  Most of the people who go on short-term trips come back more excited and equipped to share the gospel at home.  You will understand what it takes to be a full-time missionary.  This might lead you to join a church-plant team in the states or it might lead you to pack your bags and move permanently to another country.  Most full-time missionaries start out as short-term missionaries.  Finally, you will grow in your love for others.

3- You will have the chance to share with friend and family stateside about your trip.  Many people who want to go on a short-term mission trip get nervous when they think about raising money.  In my mind, however, this is one of the most important and strategic parts of short-term missions.  When you write letters and emails and make calls to friends and family before you go, you get to talk not just about your need for funds, but about why you are going.  This is even more true when you return.  Those that support your trip will want to see pictures of your trip and hear about what you did.  This opportunity expands even to peers at work who want to know why you took a week off of work for “church stuff.”  All of these conversations are open doors to the gospel at home when you return.  Many have been able to share Christ with friends and family at home when they return from a short-term trip.

I hope you will strongly consider giving up time to go on a short-term mission trip soon!

Contextualization & Syncretism

Good missionaries know that they must contextualize their ministry to their receiving culture.  Missionaries seek to present the eternal truth of the gospel in a way that a non-Christian culture can understand and respond to God’s voice.  The most obvious form of contextualization (though not always the most simple) happens when a missionary crosses a language barrier to communicate the truth.  For example, a missionary from Texas who travels to France to spread the gospel must first learn how to speak French before they do anything else.  This is called contextualization – learning how to communicate effectively in a different culture.

What is clear for missionaries in foreign cultures is not always clear for missionaries on their home turf.  In other words, learning to communicate the gospel to a people group that is foreign to you makes the contextualization steps abundantly clear.  The missionary sees quickly that he is an outsider and that he needs to adopt new styles of dress and speech and patterns of behavior in order to work in this new cultural context.  But what does contextualization mean in your own cultural context?  How do use the language and patterns of your native culture to effectively communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ?

One of the reasons that this is exceedingly difficult is because the line between contextualization and syncretism is thin.  Whereas contextualization is entering a cultural worldview for the sake of clearly communicating God’s eternal truth in an understandable way, syncretism is the merger of two worldviews into one new worldview.  In other words, if we are not careful in our missionary work (especially in our own culture but also in foreign cultures), we will enter the worldview of those around us not to challenge it but in order to adopt it and merge it with Christian theology.

When you travel overseas, syncretism is fairly easy to see.  If Christians in another context have adopted non-Christian beliefs from their culture, you are more likely to see them as an outsider to both cultures.  But discerning syncretism in your own culture is exceedingly difficult.  Let’s look at two biblical examples to further illustrate the difference between effective missionary contextualization and unhealthy theological syncretism.

First, let’s look at Paul’s missionary work in Athens in Acts 17:22-34.  In this passage, Paul goes to the place of religious practice for his receiving culture, the Areopagus, and intelligently engages the pagan culture.  He obviously had read their poets and knew their philosophers.  He spoke their language and knew their customs.  Paul identifies with them and speaks highly of their religiosity.  However, in the midst of entering the Athenean worldview, he also challenges it with biblical truth.  He enters the worldview to challenge the worldview – which is the key of missionary contextualization.  Please note in this passage that Paul goes to the people he is ministering to and does not critique their morality.  He gets below the surface of their activities to their idolatry.  He wants to speak to their foundational beliefs, not their outward behaviors.  He understands the worldview of those he is trying to reach (and explains it clearly) so that He can engage it intelligently and challenge it biblically (with the metanarrative of Scripture).

To see a clear illustration of crossing the line into syncretism, let’s look at the Israelites in Judges 2:11-15.  Instead of driving the foreign peoples out of the Promised Land like they hand been commanded, the Israelites assimilated the religious beliefs and practices of those around them into their own faith system.  This is essential to understand.  They did not abandon Yahweh completely.  They abandoned Yahweh uniquely.  In other words, they continued to worship Yahweh and bring sacrifices to Yahweh, but they also wanted to include the gods of the Canaanite religions in their worship.  This is called syncretism – adding the gods of another worldview into the Christian worldview to form a new melting-pot religion.  The result is a mixture of Christian language and theology with pagan language and theology.

You can see why the missionary has a difficult task – to study a worldview at the level of understanding it and being able to communicate within it without adopting the beliefs and values of that worldview.  In our current American culture, the dominant worldviews are materialism, hedonism, secularism, pluralism, naturalism, and moralism.  As we engage each one of these religious systems (which they are) with the gospel of Jesus Christ, we must be aware of the danger we face of uncritically adopting the idols associated with each.  Moving forward, the challenge for Christian missionaries is to effectively contextualize our work without falling into theological syncretism.  May God give us wisdom and insight into our tendencies as His servants so that we can avoid the traps that would hurt our witness for Christ.

End of Year Giving 2011

Today (12/31/11) is the last day to make a 2011 contribution to a non-profit organization.  Beyond our regular giving, Barie and I like to make some end-of-year gifts to ministries that we believe in and want to support.  I thought it might be instructive to share with you where our end-of-year giving went this year as you consider making a final gift of 2011:

1- Our local church, HCBC-RR.  We give regularly every month to support the work of our church, but we also wanted to give first to our church at year-end.  We believe so deeply in the work of our congregation (and our association) and the impact God is having through our movement that we want to support it financially.  I would encourage you to give to your local church first at the end of the year.

2- International Justice Mission.  We love the work of Gary Haugen and his team at IJM.  They work around the world to help the oppressed find justice and freedom.  Their team includes investigators and legal professionals who work tirelessly to defend those who have no defense.  Their labor is not just their passion -it is their ministry to the Lord.  An investment in their work is part of praying for God’s justice to be established on the earth.

3- Voice of the Martyrs.  The ministry of VOM exists to support the persecuted church around the world and to mobilize/educate the rest of the Christian church to intercede for our brothers & sisters in chains.  VOM has several great ways to give to persecuted Christians around the world – from care packages for families to Bible literature for kids to legal/practical support for those facing opposition.

4- Samaritan’s Purse.  Our kids really enjoy going through the SP Christmas catalog and seeing how our generosity as a family will help someone around the world in need.  This year, our kids chose to give to help build a church for those who were suffering for their faith (maybe our underground church service impacted their thinking).  This ministry helps those in need while keeping their focus on sharing Christ with every person.

5- Redeemer City to City.  This is a new one on our list this year.  Tim Keller’s ministry (both in writing and speaking) has impacted my preaching and philosophy of ministry so much over the last several years.  His church in NY has a similar passion for church-planting that our association has in Austin.  Redeemer City to City in the next step in their work help gospel-centered churches get started in urban areas all over the world.  I personally believe in this ministry and was excited to make a small gift to support them this year.

6- Compassion.  Our family supports a child monthly through Compassion International.  At Christmas time, they encourage sponsors to make a one-time gift so that the kids who are sponsored are able to receive a Christmas gift from the organization delivering the care.  It is our joy to do this.  Considering how much we spend on Christmas gifts for our children, this is nothing.  But it makes a big impact.

There you go.  These are the ministries we supported this year.  How about you?  Where did God lead you to give in 2011?  Why do those ministries mean so much to you?  I’d love to hear from you-

Keith

Update From East Asia Mission Trip

It has been a while since I blogged!  Part of the reason for the long gap is that I just returned last Saturday from a 10-day trip to equip leaders in the house church in East Asia.  What an experience.  This is my second year in a row to travel to the same country in East Asia to work with house church leaders in newly urban areas.  After our work last year, the leader of this church-planting movement (CPM) felt like our equipping was helpful enough that he invited us to join him again this year for a conference with his city-leaders.  It was a honor to be invited back to share what God has been teaching us as we participate in a church-planting movement in Greater Austin.

Now, when I say “conference” don’t picture in your mind a large conference in the United States with video screens and lights and smoke and sound systems.  Imagine 15 leaders packed into a two-bedroom apartment living room that might have been 8 feet wide and 20 feet long (160 sq ft.) listening to one of our founding elders, Patrick, and I talk about a biblical vision for a city, and the work of multiplying disciples, multiplying churches, and multiplying movements.  We were taken directly to this apartment in City #1 once we arrived by train, and we were not allowed to leave that apartment for 72 hours, for fear that we would draw unnecessary attention to our training sessions.  There is a first time for everything, and this was the first time I had spend 72 hours in a small two-bedroom apartment on the 31st floor of an apartment building.  Let’s just say we were ready to go for a walk after those three days!

So what did we learn this year?  Or more accurately, what did God remind us of while we were overseas?  A few thoughts immediately come to mind:

1. We must continually ask God to soften our hearts toward people.  This planet is full of so many people.  The numbers can be staggering (the UN estimates we will exceed 7 billion this weekend), and the sight of densely populated urban areas can also be overwhelming.  How can I (or we) have an impact when there are so many people that need to be reached?  We must guard our hearts against growing callous toward people of different cultures and languages, but we must also guard our hearts against growing hard toward the masses of people who don’t know Jesus Christ.  The Bible teaches us that God loves every single person we meet.  God knows their name, and He is writing their story.  He desires for each one of them to know His Son, Jesus Christ.  Do you and I desire the same?  I think I prayed every day while I was away, “God, help me to see people the way you see people.”  Because my flesh wants to see the crowds and not the individuals, and my flesh feels like they are an inconvenience, not a gift from God.  So we must ask God to give us a soft heart for the people He created in His image, the ones that He sent His Son to rescue.

2. The world continues to shrink.  By this statement, I simply mean that it continues to amaze me how the global cities of our world are much more similar to each other than you might think.  While every people-group has unique characteristics, university-educated, internet-connected city-dwellers around the world are influenced by the same culture-makers that influence us.  In East Asia, half-way around the planet, people eat at McDonald’s and KFC, listen to Lady Gaga and Justin Beiber, watch Transformers 3 and Harry Potter.  They play and work on iPads, drive BMWs and Fords, and watch the stock-market.  My point is simply this: culture-makers don’t just influence their own culture anymore – they also impact the worldwide youth culture.  In this way, Western missionaries that understand global urban culture can really communicate with people in any global city around the world.

3.We must go to others as Jesus has come to us.  Jesus sends us into the world in the same way that the Father sent Him into the world (see John 20:21).  Jesus’ incarnation is the model for our missionary-work.  Jesus came from heaven to earth, stepping out of his culture to come into our culture – his perfection coming into our broken, sinful world.  If we are to be people of incarnation, we don’t wait for people to come to us.  We got to them.  Traveling to a different part of the world is challenging and learning to function in a different culture can be disorienting.  But Christians are called to go to others because God has come to us.  Our good news tells the story of a missionary God who comes to those without hope.  How can we be messengers of that story unless we do the same?

4. We have a lot to learn.  Mission work is life-changing not only for those who receive the message, but also life-changing for those who take the message.  I always learn so much from those I go to serve.  From our brothers and sisters, I learn about having strong faith in God in the midst of opposition, about maintaining a fervent prayer life, and about giving powerful witness to the work of Jesus Christ.  From doing evangelism in a different culture, I learn about doing evangelism in my own culture.  From helping other movement leaders think strategically about reaching their cities, I learn about thinking strategically about my own city.  My point is this: we need to do missions with boldness and humility – realizing that we have much to share and much to learn along the way.

I have many individual stories to share from the trip, but would rather do that in person for security reasons.

In closing, I would ask you to pray for the worldwide mission of the church.  Our brothers and sisters in Christ are laboring in some very difficult situations and need our prayers.  May God strengthen His church by His Spirit to take the gospel to every person on the earth.


God’s Work in Round Rock

The city of Round Rock has been a great place to live and work for the last five years.  The elders of our church have always had a passion that goes beyond the health and strength of our church to the renewal of our whole city.  According to the latest census, Round Rock now has almost exactly 100,000 residents inside the city limits and 140,000 if you include everyone who lives inside Round Rock’s ETJ (extra-territorial jurisdiction).  As much as we have prayed and worked with the desire to see our church grow and expand, we have also prayed and worked with the desire that the big-c church in Round Rock grow and expand.  We are not foolish enough to believe that our one style of local church will reach every person who lives in our community.

With that in mind, the elders of our church set before me three city-wide goals during our ten-year strategic planning meetings last fall.  One, they asked me to pray and work toward the adoption of every elementary school in Round Rock by a church in our community (modeled on awesome benefits we’ve enjoyed at Berkman Elementary this year).  Two, they asked me to pray and work toward the continued unity of the churches in Round Rock for the purpose of gospel-saturation.  And three, they asked me to pray and work toward making sure that every church-plant that came to our area felt supported and connected (with the goal that they would succeed and make it long term).  As we have set our hands toward these goals and prayed for God’s Spirit to move, I have been amazed to see what He is doing.  Here’s a quick update.

1- God is mobilizing His people to serve the schools in our community.  First, God has sent a missionary to our community (recently returning from Europe) who has been hired by ABBA specifically for the purpose of partnering churches with schools.  David Lloyd works across the region but lives with his family in Round Rock and has taken a special interest in our community.  He has been a champion for these efforts.  Second, God has sent Gary Foran, a planting pastor with Gateway Community Church, to also spur on this effort.  Gary is mobilizing Gateway members who live in our community to work with CD Fulkes Middle School (next door to Berkman).  Gary has gladly taken up the charge to encourage other pastors and churches to work with our school district.  I am thankful for these men and the work that God is doing in moving His people to work with RRISD.  Pray for our continued efforts to serve the faculties and families in our school system.

2- God’s Spirit is bringing a new unity to His church in Round Rock.  Mark Westerfield, the pastor of Central Baptist Church, and I have been working together over the last two years to unite the pastors of Round Rock in prayer and mission.  We have hosted two large-group lunches at the Dell Diamond (spring of 2010 and spring of 2011) where 30+ pastors have joined to talk about our work in the city.  Beyond that, once a month, Mark hosts pastors at his church offices for early-morning prayer.  This prayer time consists of pastors sharing life together and praying for one another.  I am so excited to report that we had 20 pastors this last Thursday joining together to pray for our city!  I am so encouraged to see how these pastors encourage one another and pray for one another.  Just now, after praying with one another for over a year and building a high level of trust with one another, are we seeing the fruit of collaboration – guys sharing resources, challenging one another, and lifting up each others’ congregations.  Pray for unity, spiritual health among our spiritual leaders, and strategic collaboration in the city.

3- God is bringing new church-planters to our community.  With a churched population only around 12% and a growing city, we need every church to be strong, healthy, and growing, AND we need new churches started in our community.  The pastors in our city have grown to see that these two goals are complementary and not in competition.  And for that, I am exceedingly grateful to the Spirit of God.  This last week, I hosted the second lunch that we have had here in Round Rock for church-planters.  Though we had a number of guys out on vacation, we had a new group of pastors join us for lunch so that we still had a great turn-out.  After seeing one new church start this spring, God has sent us a team that will start a new church in January and another team that will start their meetings in 2012.  Pray for these planters, their families, and their core-groups.  Pray with me that God will sustain these planters and send more to our area!

I could say much more, but I’ll stop here.  I wanted to give everyone an update on all that God is doing in our community.  I am so thankful to work in this city and to serve a God who answers so much prayer.  May we stay humble and dependent on Him so that He gets all the credit and the glory.  Thanks for your prayers for our city.  I am praying for your city as well.