Leading Your Church To Have Kingdom Vision

Acts 13:1–3 (ESV)

1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

1. Be Intentional about it.

The first missionary team was intentionally sent by a local church to extend the gospel and advance God’s kingdom throughout the Gentile world. Kingdom vision will follow a leader's intentionality, it will not happen through wishful thinking. How are you intentionally leading your church to have kingdom vision?   

If the church is the outpost of Gods kingdom...then church planting is Gods means to advance His kingdom to the ends of the earth. The church at Antioch was an example of a multiplying church with a kingdom vision for intentionally making disciples.

2. Budget for it.

You are not serious about kingdom vision if your not willing to have a line item in your budget for church planting. If you want to find out what is important to your church, look at your budget. What you spend the most money and time on, reflect your priorities. Allocating resources for church planting is a testimony of kingdom leadership and a serious commitment to advance the gospel across the street and around the world.

3. Build His kingdom.

Our propensity is to grow our ministry, pastor our church, and build our kingdom. Kingdom vision will require dying to your hopes and dreams in exchange for seek first the kingdom of God. Building God’s kingdom means a radical commitment to His mission for making disciples and planting churches. A church with kingdom vision recognizes discipleship as the program of the church, not a program of the church. You will never lead a church with a kingdom vision if you are more concerned with building your kingdom, than making disciples who make disciples to advance His kingdom. 

No matter how large or small, every church can take the next steps in cultivating a kingdom vision for church planting. Being intentional, addressing your budget, and prioritizing disciple-making are small steps churches can take to create a kingdom culture for the glory of God and the advancement of the gospel. 

Want more information about leading your church to have kingdom vision? Check out these resources for Supporting and Sending churches. 

Supporting Church Resources

Sending Church Resources

Too Busy To Pray For Your Children?

Some months ago I read, Setting Their Hope in God, Biblical Intercession for Your Children, by Andrew Case. It is a practical prayer book written to challenge parents to pray consistently and biblically for their children. Intentional prayer is certainly one of the greatest challenges of a busy life, but if we believe the scriptures, we must cultivate this discipline.

Praying for your children has to be one of the greatest privileges God gives us as parents. I am so grateful that at 43 years of age God is still gracious and patient as he sanctifies me in the discipline of prayer. This was a great short read that I highly recommend. 

Here are some takeaways:

From Ephesians 6:4, the work to be done by parents includes:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
— Ephesians 6:1–4

 1. Instructing them in the faith.

2. Setting them a holy example.

3. Restraining them.

4. Praying for them. 

 

You should pray for your children's conversion because:

  1. Their salvation is so great a prize that it is worth all the pains which your prayer to secure it for them may cost you.
  2. Few will pray for them if you do not. 
  3. No one else can pray for them as you do.
  4. Your omitting to do so will be perilous to them and to you.
  5. You will find it easier to perform other parental duties, which God has ordained as means to their salvation. 
  6. Prayer alone can call into exercise that divine power on their behalf, which is absolutely necessary in order that the prayers, which you may employ for their salvation, may not be used in vain.
  7. By their salvation, granted in answer to your prayers, your savior will be glorified. 
It is possible to move men, through God, by prayer alone.
— Hudson Taylor

You should pray for your children's welfare because:

  1. You may expect, as a result of your prayers, that the power of God will counteract the times you have failed in your parenting.
  2. Their will be critical periods in their lives when, without your incessant prayers, they may act most unwisely, if not disastrously. 
  3. It will lead you to a better understanding of them.
  4. It will increase your holy desires for them.
  5. No other means will be so effectual in enabling you to overcome the difficulty you experience in talking with them on religious subjects.
  6. You will thereby secure for them God's aid in efforts they may make to yield to you in obedience.
  7. Other parents seeing you example, may be led to imitate you.
  8. The will often, should they continue in the world, have their times of need when the power of God alone can avail to help them.  
Prayer lays hold of God’s plan and becomes the link between His will and its accomplishment on earth. Amazing things happen, and we are given the privilege of being the channels of the Holy Spirit’s prayer.
— Elisabeth Elliot


Why You Need A SENDING Church

Churches plant churches... On many occasions as a Pastor of a SENDING church and now a Missionary in New Orleans, I have encountered planters who want to plant, but they have no church that has sent them out.

Having a SENDING church is not only critical it is very biblical

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.
— Acts 13:1–4, ESV

Here are 3 thoughts on the importance of a SENDING church:

1. A SENDING church provides affirmation.

Every church planter knows about assessments. These tools are excellent and needed for healthy church planting. But who knows you better than your SENDING church? The church at Antioch affirmed the calling of Paul and Barnabas, and sent them out. Who has affirmed your calling and leadership at the current church you are serving?

2. A SENDING church provides encouragement.

Being sent out by a church that knows you and loves you provides real encouragement for the long tough days of church planting. I have always found it interesting that God called Barnabas, the son of encouragement, to be on the team. What a testimony of the church at Antioch sending out their greatest encourager on the First Missionary Journey.

3. A SENDING church provides resources.

Resources will always be a need in church planting. A SENDING church is making an investment in you and the kingdom. Prayer, participation, and provision are some of the ways a SENDING church provides church planters with the needed resources to make a kingdom impact. 

William Carey, who upon his trip to India, looked at the Baptist Missionary Society leadership and said, "Well, I will go down, if you will hold the rope." Carey would go as a missionary into the unknown and the BMS would provide him with the needed resources and support. Andrew Fuller, as secretary of the BMS, did just that, raising resources to send missionaries so the gospel could advance to the ends of the earth. A SENDING church holds the rope as planters take the gospel to cities and people who have no hope apart from the good news of Jesus Christ. 

Church planting without a SENDING church is a disaster waiting to happen. Before you publicly declare God’s call for you to plant a church ask yourselves a few questions: Has your local church affirmed your calling and giftedness to plant? Does your local church have a kingdom vision to send out and give away? If you are unable to secure a SENDING church what does that say about your leadership? Statistically, church plants with SENDING churches have a higher success rate… but most importantly having a SENDING church is just really biblical.

Check out these NAMB resources for SENDING Churches

3 Reasons Coaching Is Essential

lightstock_140003_medium_george_.jpg

There is much talk these days about “Christian Coaching” and from my perspective, rightfully so. Coaching can be a valuable resource for any pastor/planter to grow personally, spiritually, and missionally.

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
— Acts 20:28

Here are three reasons I believe coaching is essential:

1. Discovery. A pastor friend said it best; “There is a criminal lack of self-awareness in pastoral ministry.” Although there has been much written on self-awareness, the reality remains, we see ourselves better than we really are. Coaching provides insight and input into how others see us. It is difficult to lead effectively when those you lead perceive you differently, than you perceive yourself. Who has permission to adjust your self-perception?

2. Development. Years ago while living in Helena, MT., I met a cowboy who said  profoundly, “If you are not green and growing, you are dead and rotten.” Simple and ever so true! We are all in one of three places: We are growing and moving forward, we are losing ground and going backwards, or the most dangerous, we are stagnant and don’t even realize it. Coaching is not magic, only you can be responsible for you, but more often than not coaching is a catalyst for development and growth in the life of the leader.

3. Discernment. Impulsive decisions were one of my greatest leadership deficiencies during my first four years as a lead pastor. I am convinced that had I been coached, the experience would have enabled me to be a far more effective leader and decision maker. Coaching provides a listening ear and sounding board during critical times of ministry and life. Good coaching helps the leader by asking questions, listening, and giving input.

Entering into a coaching relationship is one of the most strategic decisions a leader will make. Through self-discovery, leadership development, and godly discernment a leader begins a journey of lasting and fruitful ministry. Stop lamenting your current circumstances; enlist a coach for your good and God’s glory. 

Celebrating Church Planting- LST Fall Meeting

One of the blessings of my job is celebrating what God is doing through church planting in New Orleans at our Local Strategy Team Meetings. We have two LST Meetings each year, where our team of pastors, planters, and denominational leaders (NAMB, NOBA, LBC) come to hear and see how God is working to bring gospel transformation and multiplication to our city.

Here is the SEND New Orleans vision statement and below are some pictures and contact links for our newest planters. Take a moment and pray for these gospel warriors who have stepped out on faith to start a new work here in one of the most unreached areas of North America.

Churches plant churches, and if I can ever serve your church in a mission partnership here in New Orleans do not hesitate to contact me gross@namb.net

Mobilizing local churches to plant 120 multiplying churches in the greater New Orleans region over the next 10 years, believing the gospel has the power to transform a city that care forgot.
— SEND New Orleans

5 Reasons To Host A Global Impact Conference

Since joining NAMB I have been invited to preach and speak at several "Global Impact Conferences". What is a Global Impact Conference you may ask? A Global Impact Conference is a strategic and intentional calendared event in the local church for the purpose of exposing, engaging, and involving the body of Christ to local, regional, and international missions. My experience reflects a correlation between a defined missions strategy and churches that make hosting a Global Impact Conference a priority. Here are 5 reasons why I think every church should host a Global Impact Conference. 

1. It has never been a better time. We are in one of the most exciting periods of Southern Baptist missions history I have known. The North American Mission Board is having incredible kingdom impact in North America under the leadership of Dr. Ezell and with newly elected President of the International MIssion Board, David Platt, I for one am excited about the future! This a great time to educate your church about the mission agencies of the the Southern Baptist Convention. 

2. Millennials will GO! Millennials are the largest generation in history of America. If you have not heard, they want to be challenged with the impossible. What better way to challenge this current generation of young people who are saying "Here Am I, Send Me." A Global Impact Conference will expose millennials to unprecedented lostness and unbelievable opportunities to engage the world with the gospel. My prayer is that we will not look back on this willing generation of young people and regret not equipping them to go. 

3. It is an opportunity to clarify. Does your church "know" what is happening in your missions ministries? I often hear pastors struggling with "being all over the map" in their missions strategy, unable to communicate a clear vision for the church to embrace. When people do not understand or participate in your vision, there is usually a problem with communication and passion. A Global Impact Conference is a great opportunity to bring clarity to your entire church concerning your mission vision, strategy, and passion. 

4. We need everyday missionaries. A Global Impact Conference is not just about calling people to go somewhere to do missions. It should involve the challenge to be an "Everyday Missionary". We are living in an increasingly post christian culture, the time to recognize we are missionaries in our own country is now, the harvest is indeed plentiful. 

Everyday missionaries are those who practice life on mission where God has placed them, whether that be at an office complex, a developing country, or a college campus.
— Willis, Dustin; Coe, Aaron (2014-08-26). Life on Mission: Joining the Everyday Mission of God (Kindle Locations 268-269). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

5. It is an opportunity to host missionaries. Implementation of a Global Mission Conference varies, but hosting missionaries is a key component. As I sit here and type, I am humbled as I reflect on the missionaries God has used to shape my life. At the joint IMB and NAMB Missionary Commissioning this past June, I heard numerous appointees share how God used a missionary's story to confirm their call. What a blessing it is for a local church to share in God's global agenda through hosting local, regional, and international missionaries. 

6. The local church is God's agent to carry the gospel to the nations. Mission agencies like the IMB and NAMB are resources for the local church. God has called the local church to go and make disciples of all nations, this cannot be overstated. A Global Impact Conference reinforces and communicates that reaching the world is not something we pay or pray for someone else to do, it is what we are to do

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
— Matthew 28:19–20 (ESV)



Thank You For Giving To The Cooperative Program

ross-002sbw.jpg

Sunday (June 8th) our family will participate in the joint commissioning service with 100 NAMB and IMB Missionaries at the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Baltimore. (Your invited to watch this service live at 4pm EST) We are so grateful for this opportunity. Just over 6 months ago our family embraced God's call to be a kingdom family and join the North American Mission Board as SEND Missionaries in New Orleans, LA. We have never been more excited about the opportunity to glorify Christ and manifest His Kingdom. 

Without the Cooperative Program this would not be possible. Our ministry efforts and kingdom impact are because of faithful local churches across the SBC that believe we can do more together than alone. Having served in the pastorate for over 20 years, I recognize the sacrifice churches make when they give a portion of their budget to the cooperative program, and I am thankful for those that continue to make it a priority. 

There is much talk today about the decline of the Cooperative Program and the uncertainty of its future. Local Church Cooperation has been the catalyst to create the greatest missions sending agency in the history of Christianity, and although our resources have been in steady decline, I for one find reason for optimism. Never before has there been such a passionate generation of young christians who are zealous to advance the gospel. This certainly is not the time to give up on a proven means to support and send missionaries across the street and around the world. 

Over the last six months, I have been able to preach in many different Southern Baptist Churches, my first sentence is the same on every occasion, "Thank you for giving to the Cooperative Program, I am your missionary in New Orleans, LA." No doubt there needs to be discussions about how to stem the tide of decreased giving, but for today my family and I just want to say, "Thank You." 

Discipleship 101

Discipleship is one of the most talked about church planting topics. There is no shortage of strategies, methods, theories, and pronouncements on the subject. With so much written and talked about, we still have a glaring weakness when it comes to gospel multiplication through reproducible discipleship. 

There are three questions I am constantly asking church planters? 1. What is a disciple? 2. What is your reproducible strategy for making disciples? 3. How is your reproducible strategy working?

At the very least you should be able to answer these questions and evaluate to some degree the effectiveness of your strategy. Jim Putman in Real Life Discipleship defines a disciple as someone who is intentionally following Jesus with their head, heart, and hands. Some will find this too simplistic; personally I love it and use it with my family. All of my children can articulate what it means to be a disciple from this definition. 

Church planting is a result of making disciples in the New Testament. The gospel was proclaimed and demonstrated, people were converted and discipled, and churches were birthed. Which means if we are not making disciples, were not really planting New Testament churches. Here are four foundational principles for making disciples, or Discipleship 101.

1. Discipleship must be Intentional.

Jesus was intentional about who he called, how he taught, what he said and where he went. His ministry of discipleship had a strategic beginning and a missional ending. For three years Jesus prepared his disciples to carry on his ministry after he was gone. We cannot and will not make disciples that impact the world and fulfill the great commission without being intentional. Disciple making is deliberate and purposeful, someone must intend to do it. What is your long term vision and short term goals for disciple making? 

2. Discipleship will be Relational.

In the New Testament we overlook on the most obvious principles of discipleship, relationships.   The ministry of Jesus and ministry of the early church flourishes through relationships and hospitality. From the relationships of fisherman and families, to the hospitality of Martha and Mary; discipleship in the early church revolved around being relational. We see the impact of the gospel through relationships and hospitality when Peter the Jew, goes and dines with Cornelius the Gentile. Truths we preach from the pulpit find their greatest application in the context relationships. 

3. Discipleship must be Reproducible.

Are you making disciples who make disciples?  It is a question we must ask, even if we don't like the answer. I believe the most effective way to grow disciples is through regular systematic expositional preaching of the Bible. However, I have seen too many congregants who gush about the sermon and the preacher, but have never discipled one person. Is your preaching ministry growing a church of disciples who make disciples? If not, either your preaching and teaching is not as good as you think or your preaching and life are disconnected from an intentional reproducible strategy for making disciples. Pastors who model disciple making will have members who practice disciple making. 

4. Discipleship will be Fruitful. 

Paul writes in Colossians 1:5-6, 

Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth.
— Colossians 1:5–6 (ESV)

If we really believe the gospel is the power unto salvation, we can trust that it will be fruitful in the lives of those who are saved as they are discipled into maturity. The gospel will bear fruit, it will increase, that is the promise of the new birth. This is why we must begin all discipleship by teaching clearly on the gospel. A reproducible discipleship strategy that takes God at his word will rely and rest in the power of the gospel for fruitful discipleship. 

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
— Matthew 28:19–20 (ESV)


5 Lessons Learned By A Church Planter For Church Planters

lightstock_10120_small_user_2247598.jpg

I had the privilege to plant and pastor a multiplying, gospel-centered, and disciple making local church. The last nine years of my life were devoted to seeing a gospel-centered local church birth in the religious culture of of the bible belt south. Approximately half of our membership joined by baptism, which was a testimony of conversion growth and the power of the gospel at ground zero of churched culture.

I can honestly say it was the most difficult and rewarding experience I have ever undertaken. When I am asked by new planters to talk about what to do, I alway's respond by telling them, let me tell you what not to do firstAs with any journey, hindsight is always 20/20, we see clearly looking back. Here are 5 Lessons, in no particular order, I learned during my church planting journey:

1. Be Patient not Impulsive 

Most, not all:) church planters are naturally impatient. The last years of planting were the most enjoyable for me, just because I grew in patience. If you think you have to (fill in the blank with whatever scenario), it would probably be wise to wait. God is sovereign and your patience is a testimony to that reality. 

It is easy for a passionate leader to confuse impulsive leadership with spiritual leadership. 

2. Be a Shepherd not a Driver. 

Shepherds know, feed, lead, and protect the sheep. Jesus call's us to shepherd the flock until he returns. Your personality can never be an excuse to not shepherd. I always see bedouin shepherds when leading trips to Israel. I have never seen a shepherd driving sheep, he is alway's leading them. If your shepherding doesn't look like Jesus, your following the wrong shepherd. 

Cattle are driven; sheep are led; and our Lord compares His people to sheep, not to cattle. - A.W. Tozer

3. Be Teachable, not a Know-It-All.

The older I get, I feel the less I know. I am so grateful for men who invested in me, even when I wasn't very teachable. I learned this 20 years ago from Howard Hendricks in"Teaching To Change Lives". He made a statement in that book I have always kept in front of me, "If you stop growing today, you stop teaching tomorrow", leaders will be learners. I am reminded daily, that my journey as a leader, husband, and father is a display of the gospel as I am teachable and grow in Christ.  John Maxwell, suggest 10 questions to determine, if you are really teachable:

  1. Am I open to other people’s ideas?
  2. Do I listen more than I talk?
  3. Am I open to changing my opinion based on new information?
  4. Do I readily admit when I am wrong?
  5. Do I observe before acting on a situation?
  6. Do I ask questions?
  7. Am I willing to ask a question that will expose my ignorance?
  8. Am I open to doing things in a way I haven’t done before?
  9. Am I willing to ask for directions?
  10. Do I act defensive when criticized, or do I listen openly for truth?

4. Be Accountable not An Authoritarian. 

As a called pastor, you have derived authority from the Lord Jesus Himself. In His sovereign pattern He has placed pastors in position's of authority to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. The danger happens when we misuse our derived authority and become passive aggressive authoratarians. The only way authority is not abused is when it submits to authentic accountability. Who has permission to tell you no or stop? Who has permission to adjust your self-perception?

“shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2–3, ESV)

5. Share the gospel personally, as much as you Talk about the gospel publicly. 

I have never been more convicted about my lack of of evangelism than right now. Yes, I shared my faith during my planting years; but more often than not it was circumstantial evangelism, not what I would call intentional evangelism. Moving to New Orleans has been an eye opener! The needs and lostness here are overwhelming and the only hope for New Orleans is the good news of Jesus. In truth there was great lostness where I planted and pastored, but my context made it easier to talk about evangelism than be an evangelist. Share the gospel personally as much as you talk about the gospel publicly. 

“Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.” -Charles H. Spurgeon

Under Authority Before In Authority

Authority.jpg

2014 will mark twenty one years of serving in a local church as a volunteer or vocational minister. I have been privileged to be under the authority of some of the greatest men in the world. Although every place of ministry had challenges, combined with the fact I made more than my share of immature leadership decisions, I am grateful for every experience. As one of my pastoral hero's plainly stated, "You will never be in authority, until you are under authority". Authority is God's idea and how we respond to authority is a reflection of gospel in our life. 

Submission to authority is absolutely a biblical idea that impacts everyone at some level. Everyone is called submit to worldly institutions (I Peter 2:13-17). Household servants are called to submit to the authority of their masters (I Peter 2:18-20). Wives are commanded to submit to the authority of their husbands (I Peter 3:1-6). Husbands are called to live in a understanding way with their wives which is the fruit of his submission to Christ (Ephesians 5:21-33). Christians are to submit to biblical leadership and to each other (Hebrews 13:7,17). It is a distinctly biblical concept to submit to authority. God's will of decree has established authority for our good and His glory, and as christians we are called to proclaim the gospel through voluntary submission. 

A person who understands submission to authority is someone who is humble, teachable, and personally responsible. Someone who does not understand submission to authority is a person who is prideful, full of criticism, and the victim of someone else's failure. We all to different degrees and at different times struggle with authority. Rejecting authority started in the garden and is our sinful inclination. Only the transforming power of the gospel can bring joyful submission to authority. The gospel reminds us that submission to authority is actually and act of worship that glorifies God. 

Currently as I serve as a Missionary for the North American Mission Board, I have two supervisors and I am under their authority. I have a job description, responsibilities, and evaluations. There is an expectation that I carry out the directives and vision my supervisors have given. I am not only grateful for this opportunity to be under authority, I am excited! Here are some principles that I have found helpful for being under authority:

1. You manifest the gospel when you are under authority. 

Each year when I teach at the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem, I am overwhelmed with the example of Jesus as he submits to authority,  “saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42, ESV) When we submit to authority we manifest the very character of Jesus. As Jesus is an example of submission to authority, Satan is an example of subversion to authority. Satan rebelled against the idea of being under authority. When we reject being under authority we become tools of Satan undermining what God has established. Submission manifests the message of the gospel. How can we truly proclaim the gospel and call people to submit to Christ, if we cannot model what this looks like in our own life? 

2. You should embrace the vision when you are under authority. 

The North American Mission Board has a vision to mobilize churches to plant churches, I did not come up with it and I had no input in its creation.  Are there things I would do differently? Maybe. But part of being under authority is running with the vision that has been given to me. My responsibility is to embrace the vision and carry out the directives and responsibilities that will fulfill the vision. That means I am in agreement with my authorities and work with a positive winsome attitude. Complaining, constant critiquing, and waiting for the failure of others, diminishes the vision and undermines authority. After high school I worked for five years at the shipping giant Fed Ex. Their motto then, "Federal Express: When it absolutely positively has to be there overnightI"  I could sum up my time there in one sentence: "Those who embraced the vision did well,  those who rejected the vision were miserable." Many people are miserable in life, because they cannot submit to authority. 

If I trust in a sovereign God, I can trust the leadership and embrace the vision of whomever's authority I am under. At the end of the day we will do well to model the example of the unworthy servant, “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty. ” (Luke 17:10, ESV)

3. You should be under authority, because if you are not, you are disqualified to be in authority. 

Are there times when you should question authority? Absolutely. Authority that is illegal, unethical, abusive, or immoral should always be questioned and confronted. Being under authority does not mean you should not voice your opinions and thought, any competent leader values discussion and the input of others. However, if a prejudice, personality, or preference are your reasons to resist authority, they have no merit. I had dinner with one of my supervisors a few weeks ago to give an update and get directives for a meeting I was facilitating. Arriving a few minutes early and thinking about my responsibilities, I wrote this down in my notes, "Your inability to be under authority, disqualifies you from leadership."  Sadly, many who desperately desire to be in authority, are disqualified because they refuse to be under authority. Those who are in authority usually have a track record of being under authority. In contrast those who have trouble being under authority usually have a track record of resisting authority.  It has been my experience that the more I embrace submission to authority, the greater my authority becomes. Be humble, teachable and take personal responsibility as you are under authority for the glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom. 

Those who rebel against authority and scorn self-discipline—who shirk the rigors and turn from the sacrifices—do not qualify to lead.
— Oswald Sanders

Hospitality Defined And Practiced

hospitality_door_knocker.png

Have you ever thought about how much hospitality is a part of God's grand story? From Abraham entertaining guests in Genesis 18 to Lazarus and Martha opening up their home to Jesus and his band of disciples in the Gospels, hospitality is a major theme in the Bible. In fact the Apostle Paul makes two significant mentions of hospitality. In Romans 12 he uses it as a mark of a true Christian, 

   “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Romans 12:13, ESV)  

and in Titus and Timothy it is a qualification of an elder in a local church,

 “but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” (Titus 1:8, ESV)

Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,” (1 Timothy 3:2, ESV)  

Clearly, hospitality should be the practice of Christians and most certainly pastors

Hospitality Defined

The practice of entertaining strangers graciously. Hospitality was a very important trait in Bible times. In the New Testament, the Greek word translated “hospitality” literally means “love of strangers.
— Ronald F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, and R. K. Harrison, Thomas Nelson Publishers, eds., Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1995).

This practice was a sacred duty in biblical times and extended to enemies and friends alike. While in Israel several years ago we spent the night in a Bedouin tent camp near Beer-Sheba. I loved the experience of nomadic hospitality, no doubt similar to what Abraham provided to his angelic guests. There was instrumental music, singing, dancing, discussion and food! You may have entered a stranger, but you left a friend. 

Hospitality Practiced

This past year, Joy and I became very convicted over our lack of hospitality. Our goal for 2013 was to have all of our deacons and their families, all of our widows, and random church members in our home for dinner. We organized monthly dinners with our deacon families in groups of two. Each family with all their children would come over to our house for dinner, fellowship, and family worship. Joy started a prayer journal for each family with specific requests. I took ten minutes at dinner to challenge families to love God, lead well, and live the gospel.

I could write an entire series of blogs about the fruit and impact of this simple act of hospitality. In my nine years of pastoring Lifepoint, this was the most fruitful ministry I experienced. At my transition from Pastor of Lifepoint to Missionary with NAMB, one of the deacons sent me a text saying, "You showed me the most important part of my spiritual leadership having me in your home; how to lead my family in worship and the courage to do it."  Wow! I had preached numerous sermons in nine years about leading your home and practicing family worship. I even gave out guides almost every week! But one dinner and ten minutes of family worship in our living room gave new meaning to application. 

I want to encourage you to model hospitality. Many of our greatest victories in making disciples is not taught but caught. Practicing hospitality gives you the unique opportunity to bring people into the reality of your walk with Christ. The question I would ask is, "Why would you not want people in your home?" Don't waste your home, practice hospitality. 

2014 Reading List

I remember reading a biography on Fredrick Douglass, the slave turned abolitionist, and learning about how he was taught to read. As a young boy he knew that his freedom and life hinged on being able to read. As a slave in Maryland, he would bribe white kids to teach him, and taught himself from a Webster's dictionary. Douglass would write in his autobiography, "he who does not improve himself by the motives and opportunities afforded by this world gives the best evidence that he would not improve in any other world." Fredrick Douglass would become one of the greatest orators and public readers of the 19th Century. He not only received his freedom, he was appointed United States Minister to Haiti before his death in 1895. His story has always been an inspiration for me to be a consistent reader, never taking for granted the wonderful privilege of reading.

I will be starting my Doctor of Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Seminary this year, so my reading list is certainly subject to change. This is the largest reading list I have set as a goal since seminary, this will be a real challenge for me in 2014! A major focus for reading reflects our transition to New Orleans and assuming the role as a NAMB Missionary. Although I am aware of most of these authors I have only read one of the books, Andrew Murray's The Prayer Life, which was over 10 years ago. The list is not an endorsement of content, but a goal to read through. The reading list is broken down by categories and you can click on any book to purchase it from Amazon. The Kindle versions are much less expensive than the hardcover or paperback. 

Missional Ministry

Preaching & Communication

Marriage & Family

Spiritual Formation

Church Planting, Church Growth, & Discipleship

History & Biography

Resources:

1. Douglass, Frederick. Autobiography. New York: Bonanza Books, 1962.

Greetings NOLA!

The church at Antioch in Acts 13 reminds us that there is no greater kingdom testimony than intentionally participating in church planting. Through the faithfulness of one church and a few individuals the Gospel was rapidly advanced, people redeemed, and culture was impacted. For the last 9 years I have been privileged to plant and pastor a multiplying church.  During this time I have experienced first hand what God can do when we are willing to advance His Kingdom through planting churches, making disciples, and sending out missionaries. I am prayerful my background in planting and directing a church planting network will be an asset to planters already here and those who have yet come.

My journey to New Orleans has been incredible. I first came to New Orleans on a mission trip in 2000 with Mission Lab at NOBTS. I was leading a group of 52 students and we worked all week in the Florida Housing Project teaching VBS. That trip along with several others stirred my heart and gave me a passion for this city. After our first visit this summer, Joy and I left overwhelmed with the vision, passion, and partnership the local pastors communicated and expressed about the opportunity for planting. There is no doubt that God used the people we met here in NOLA as part of the confirmation for our move and new season of ministry with the North American Mission Board as the Send City Missionary for New Orleans.

I have already had the privilege to meet and visit some of the outstanding planters here in the city. Many of these men with their families are stepping out on faith and following God’s call to make disciples in a very hard and demanding context.  Because of our own personal experience and hardship in the early years of planting Joy and I have a heart for planters and their families. There is always a need to coach, minister, pray for and serve the families laboring in church planting and we are privileged to make this investment. We are praying already that they would love God, lead their family, and live the gospel.

There is no doubt the church planting context and culture here in New Orleans create a formidable barrier, but there is no stopping God’s Kingdom and there is nothing more powerful than the Gospel. With the current group of planters, established pastors and a growing network of supporting churches, there is real potential to see a church planting movement.  Joy, Isaac, Hannah-Ruth, Abigail, Jeremiah and I are blessed to be here!

Expanding God’s Kingdom,

George Ross

NAMB Send Missionary New Orleans