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Launch Report

October 24-25 was Stephanie’s and my assessment retreat with the Launch Network in Atlanta. It was an intense two days of interviews followed by a couple “let’s see what you’re made of” challenges. I enjoyed it, but we got home exhausted late that Friday night.

Last Friday, November 1, we had our conference call to get our rating. The call was with Mac Lake from the Launch Network and George, The Cove’s Executive Pastor. Mac read the outline of my report and then gave me their recommendation. Launch’s recommendation is that I am “not ready at this time” to plant a church. The description of that recommendation is: “These are individuals we sense are early in their calling to plant. Also we sense there are developmental things that need to be focused on before entering our training or moving forward with a church plant.”

In short, they believe I’m a gifted communicator, but I need some development in my leadership skills – most specifically team building. They sent me a several page report that outlined their observations and recommendations for me. All in all it was very positive.

So what’s next? I’m not sure. I’ll be on staff with The Cove at least through the end of 2013 and I’ll start working with George on next steps. Launch made some great suggestions on what they believe is a good fit for me. Some of the suggestions were long term, and some were ways to get ready for where I’ll be long term.

I would definitely love for you guys to pray for Stephanie and me as we continue to pursue where God is leading us. Launch gave us some great clarity on what our next step is not, and some suggestions on what they may be. I firmly believe God has His hand on us, and we’re looking forward to seeing where He takes us.

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Reflecting on a Tragedy

Official seal of Newtown, Connecticut

Official seal of Newtown, Connecticut (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What happened at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut yesterday was a tragedy. Parents of a 5-year-old should never have to kiss their child goodbye for the last time. As a father, my heart and prayers go out to those who woke up grieving a lost child this morning.

Whenever violence of this nature occurs we always want to know why. Why does someone take innocent lives? Why would anyone want to hurt children? Why? There are some reasons that we will not understand, like Adam Lanza’s motivation.

There are other reasons that can be understood. The deepest reason is that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9a). Left to ourselves we are wicked to the core. Our hearts are not pure, they’re evil. We know that to be true, but we don’t like to face it. This doesn’t mean that we all want to be violent, but we all have desires in our heart that are wrong. Tragically, Adam Lanza had violent desires in his heart, and he followed his heart.

Poor Reasons

On the other hand, this did NOT happen because:

  • God is not sovereign or good: It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but God did allow this to happen. He is completely sovereign, so this did not surprise Him. This does not mean, however, that He caused it or was glad it happened. He is still good. Evil grieves Him, and it will not last forever. There will be a day that He eradicates all evil forever. David was anointed King of Israel approximately 30 years before he assumed the throne. Jesus is the true and better David. He clearly proved Himself to be King of kings through His death, burial, and resurrection. When we see events like yesterday’s, we simply have to believe that Jesus has not assumed His throne in fullness yet.
  • The mental health system failed him: Lanza probably was mentally ill. But mental healthcare, even at its best, cannot fix evil. Mental illness doesn’t cause someone to kill innocent people, evil does.
  • Prayer was taken out of the schools: God doesn’t have elementary age children killed (or even passively stop protecting them) to wake our nation up from a court decision in the 1960’s.

Comfort

Typically verses like Proverbs 11:21, “Be assured, an evil person will not go unpunished” don’t offer a lot of comfort. Usually we like to focus more on God’s love than on His justice. Yes, I am glad that God loves me. There is no better news than that.┬áBut after days like yesterday, I’m also glad that God is angry at sin and evil. It’s good news that He is just and does not let evil go unpunished.

I obviously don’t have all the answers. But I do know that God is good, God is in control, we don’t always understand why things happen, evil will not last forever, and hope can only be found by putting your trust in Jesus. Even though we don’t have all the answers, He does.

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Celebrating Zimbabwe

I spent September 24-October 4 in Zimbabwe on my first foreign mission trip. It was a small team. I went with Denny St. Clair, a man from The Cove Church who goes on mission trips regularly. We had a small team of national pastors and other leaders from Bulawayo who made the event happen. They served as interpreters, guides, technical support, worship leaders, and much more. None of what we accomplished would have been possible without them.

It was a very fruitful trip. We visited an area of the country called Binga, which is very rural. It’s so rural, in fact, that it’s usually just referred to as “the bush.”

The trip consisted of three major events. The first event was a two day “pastor’s conference” where we hosted about 60 church leaders from surrounding villages on Thursday and Friday. It was the most casual conference I’ve ever attended. We met under a tree beside a soccer field at Pashu High School where everyone sat on the dust. The content of our teachings were decided the night before we taught it. Nonetheless, it was a great opportunity to pour into some church leaders who don’t have much access to Biblical Training.

The second event was an evangelistic “crusade” on Wednesday through Saturday night. We don’t use that term much more in the US because it’s developed a negative connotation, but in the bush of Zimbabwe they know it’s a big exciting event. Every night we had more people show up than the night before. They would sing for hours. They would start singing in the mid afternoon and were still going after sunset. Only after it had been dark for almost an hour would Denny or I preach. Overall, we had 340 decisions for Christ at the crusade. On Sunday night we showed the Jesus film in Ndbele (think “in-da-belly”) at another nearby school. We had at least 45 decisions there, but since it was just one night and had less structure we weren’t able to get a completely accurate count.

The third and final major event was a soccer tournament. 4 high schools from the area came and played in a soccer tournament. Many players played barefoot because they don’t own shoes. Before the tournament Denny shared the gospel with the players and we had several more decisions there. Again, we weren’t able to get an accurate count of the decisions. However, we know that we had over 400 total decisions for Christ.

On Sunday we also baptized 38 people. In retrospect, we realized that we probably should have done it on Saturday. By Sunday many people had walked back to their homes that were several miles away. However, we celebrate the ones who followed through with their first step of obedience.

If you supported this trip with prayer, finances, or both: thank you so much. God was very faithful and we saw a lot of fruit. Please continue to pray that God continues to work in Binga. The names of the 340 people who made decisions at the crusade have been given to church leaders who served as counselors. They have a huge task of follow ups ahead of them, so please pray for them. We also want all of them to follow through and be baptized.

There’s much more to say about this trip, and there are many more posts to come. In the meantime, I wanted to give a brief overview of the trip, and what we saw God do. Stay tuned for more …

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Spoke too soon

The Christian blogger I referred to in the last post is Kevin DeYoung. I have a ton of respect for him and have learned from him through his blogs and the few sermons of his that I’ve heard. Now I’m pleased to say that I spoke a bit too soon. I still question the tone and method of his response to Bethke’s video, but he and Bethke have now spoken through email and on the phone. I now believe he has fulfilled the Acts 18:26 goal that he said he had all along. He explained this in a follow-up post that I didn’t realize he had already written. He admitted that he could have gone about it better, commended Bethke, and said that he has gained a friend. Since he admits that he could have handled it better, I’ll do the same. I should have been a bit more humble in yesterday’s post … after all, I didn’t talk to DeYoung personally either. Here’s to learning from experience.

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