“Our church is only interested in unreached people groups”

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Contacting and communicating with churches about their vision and missions policies is part of our daily work during our pre-field ministry. We contact hundreds of churches across the country every week. The large majority of the time, we are turned down for an opportunity to present our ministry. It’s just a fact of life. For every 100 churches we contact, only about 2-3 will schedule a time for us to visit their church.

Most of the time, these rejections are fairly reasonable. “I’m sorry Brother Freeman, we don’t have any room in our budget this year.” “We are a young church plant and cannot afford to have you come.” “We are fully booked for this year.” “We do not agree with your mission board” or sending church, or whatever other reason they might give.

The Issue

But every now and again we get responses that just baffle me. I shared one of those responses a few months ago (“Our church doesn’t support interracial marriages”). More recently, we’ve been receiving the response “We are only interested in unreached people groups.”

This response can come in a variety of ways. They might only be targeting one specific country, religion, people group, or region of the world. At first glance, that might sound reasonable. What’s wrong with having a goal of reaching, say, India or China? Nothing is wrong with that goal. What confuses is me is their singular dedication to reaching that country that they fail to consider actually reaching the people from that country.

Quote1Is not the goal of missions to reach people? If these people are moving to different countries in droves, is it really out of the scope of their goal to reach these same people wherever they are living? If the intention is to really reach these people, then considering missions to places like Sydney should be open for discussion, yet they are not.

If I am trying to reach the Chinese, does it really matter where I am, so long as I am reaching the Chinese? If indeed the point isn’t to reach Chinese people, but, instead, to get missionaries into China, then their goal seems to be misplaced. What is more important, gaining access to a country or reaching the people?

The Reality

The fact of the matter is that Australia is a wonderful place for sharing the gospel with unreached people groups. 25% of the population of Australia were born in a different country. That means they are first generation immigrants. Did you know that the national average of immigrants in America is only about 14%? But in Sydney, that number is a staggering 45%!

Some of the largest pockets of people groups are actually Chinese, Indian, and Vietnamese. All three of these being closed or hostile countries. That means it’s dangerous for a missionary either because of the oppressive government or animosity from the people/religious groups.

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Yet in Australia, we will have religious freedom and the wonderful opportunity to reach these people without the threat to our lives. I’m not saying that closed countries don’t need missionaries, or that any missionaries currently there are risking their lives unnecessarily. I’m simply saying that we have a tremendous opportunity in Sydney that is largely untapped and underappreciated.

The Goal

Shouldn’t, then, Australia be considered in the various policies and plans of churches seeking to reach unreached peoples? Yes! But sadly it is not.

I was recently introduced to a relatively new (to me anyway) mission agency called Global Gates. I know very little about the organization, so this is not necessarily an endorsement. The premise of the organization is reaching unreached people groups in gateway cities around the world. Sydney being one of those gateway cities and New York City being another.

GlobeThese cities are the places where immigrants are moving, and then they tend to settle in groups and create areas of town that are distinctly Chinese, Indian, etc. Global Gates is focused on reaching those unreached people in their home away from home.

That’s the attitude and approach our churches need to keep in mind. It’s not just about reaching a country specifically, but finding where the people from these countries are living and reaching them wherever they are.

What Can You Do?

You can help by sharing this article on Facebook and telling your friends about it. If you think they’d rather watch a video over reading an article, feel free to share this short video (1 min) I created instead.

The more people who understand the value of gateway cities, the greater potential we have to changing the faulty line of reasoning present in our churches today.

If you have a position of leadership within your church, whether you’re a pastor, deacon, or missions committee member, I encourage you to bring up this subject in future planning meetings and seek to be the change in your church today.

Why I abandoned the sinner’s prayer

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A missionary friend of mine and I were recently talking about the “sinner’s prayer.” Even before discussing it with him, I realized some time ago that I don’t like the sinner’s prayer. Basically, I’ve come to the conclusion that I will no longer use the sinner’s prayer in my ministry and I’d like to tell you why.

First, let’s clarify what I mean.

What I’m not talking about

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I am not talking about Luke 18:13b when the publican says “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Or any variation of a prayer a “sinner” might pray to God.

I am also not referring to the actual prayer a man may pray to God shortly following His conversion. This is not to be confused with what I do mean, and that is the use of said prayer as the means of salvation.

What is it and why is it so bad?

The so-called “sinner’s prayer” is an evangelism tool used in modern churches to get a “sinner” to accept Christ. It goes something like this:

“God, I know that I have sinned and I know that because of that sin I deserve to die. I believe Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sin and that He rose again. I am now trusting you for salvation. Amen.”

quote1There is nothing inherently wrong with a sinner praying to God asking for salvation. And let me be clear, just because you or anyone you know “prayed the sinner’s prayer” does not mean you aren’t saved. The problem comes when that prayer is used as the means of salvation.

I’m sure you’ve heard someone (or possibly yourself) use this prayer to “lead someone to the Lord.” I don’t like it, and here’s why:

  1. This prayer tends to be all that people rely on to confirm they have “accepted Christ.” The emphasis, then, is that it is the prayer that saved them.
  2. It is usually followed up with “if you really meant that, then you’re saved,” which devalues the doctrine of the Assurance of Salvation.

The major problem with this is that salvation is not based on a prayer, but very clearly based on belief in Scripture. Jesus never once “led a person” to Himself by asking them to recite some rote prayer.

Jesus specifically told Nicomedus in John 3 that eternal life is given to anyone who believes. He told the lame man his sins were forgiven based on his belief. He told the thief of the cross he would be in paradise because he believed.

No one doubts the salvation of the disciples (besides Judas), yet none of them are seen quoting some verbatim phrase to receive salvation.

canstockphoto5098821The problem becomes more obvious overseas. In many countries, it is a grievous sin to offend someone. Because of this, lying is common and culturally acceptable. People in those countries will lie to you so they don’t offend you. They tell you what they think you want to hear.

They may “pray the prayer” because they know the missionary wants them to and they don’t want to offend him. Then he begins treating that person like they’re saved and expecting them to act like it, and they aren’t. It leads to frustrations for the missionary and a misunderstanding of the gospel to the individual.

Again, just to be clear, I abandoned the sinner’s prayer because it can cause confusion. It is belief that saves, not the prayer. Why then does the modern church use the sinner’s prayer?

So why do we use the sinner’s prayer?

We use it because we feel some need in a substantial way to “know for sure” the person we witnessed to accepted Jesus Christ. Another reason might be because it seems more appropriate to end the conversation rather than saying “okay, that’s it.”

In some instances, people are using the sinner’s prayer to get someone saved to mark it down in their resume, to claim another soul for their reports, to boast about the great numbers of people they’ve led to the Lord without much care for that person’s soul or emotional well-being.

quote2Yes, I said emotional well-being, because when you tell a person that that prayer saved them if they “really meant it” then you set them up to wonder and doubt in their heart for the rest of their life whether they really meant it. “I remember praying that prayer, am I really saved? Did I really mean it? Maybe I didn’t mean it, I’ll pray it again, maybe it will mean more this time.”

A book I read in Bible college as part of our assigned reading for a class about being a “successful preacher” said something I’ll never forget. I’ve changed the quote to protect the author’s identity, but you can message me privately if you’d like to know. It said this:  “An effective evangelist taught me the best way is to get them to pray and ask God to save them right away, then afterwards, explain what they did and give them a few verses on assurance.”

What!?! Really? Is that what we’re doing? Are we so consumed about our “numbers” and our “reports” that we just want to shove some prayer on a person, slap a couple of Bible verses on it after the fact and call them saved?

I know this is probably an extreme scenario, but I would imagine it’s more common than we might think.

Application

In the future, let’s purpose to be more intentional with our evangelism efforts. Let’s emphasize that it is belief that saves us, and not prayer or any other action on our part. We shouldn’t discourage a prayer, but neither should we force it on the individual.

Whatever you do, please do not tell them if they really meant it then they’re saved. Rather, show them clear Scripture verses. Doing this one simple thing removes assurance from the shaky shoulders of their feelings and places it on the rock that is God’s Word.

10 ways to save $10 this month

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Do you want to save money? Of course you do, you’re reading this article. Maybe the better question is: Who doesn’t want to save money?

When we moved to San Diego we had to make some budget cuts. San Diego is an expensive place to live. I was working two jobs and Amy had a part-time job and we were barely breaking even.

Moving to San Diego was excellent training for becoming a missionary to Australia. It’s expensive there. Recently, I saw an article that said the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Sydney was $645 a week (~$2,500/mo)!

Living in Australia will take some creative ideas for keeping the monthly expenses low. We’ll likely use many of the same techniques we’ve been using for the past few years in San Diego.

So how did we save money? Here are a few things we did, plus some extra tips, to help you shave a few dollars off your monthly bills.

Money Saving Tips

pexels-photo-620971. Pack a lunch. A large majority of workers order fast food for lunch. Most of my co-workers certainly did. If you order take-out everyday, it costs you $5-$10/day. If you make a sandwich or take leftovers, you’re lunch costs about $1-$2. Do this only 3 times a month and you’ll save at least $10. I never ordered out and probably saved about $100/month because of it. Depending on what you order, your savings might be higher.

2. Cancel your gym membership. 1 in 6 people own a gym membership, but did you know more than 60% of membership owners never use them more than once? The average gym membership in America is $41/month. That’s a huge savings.

3. Shop for new insurance rates. Whether we’re talking about car insurance, life insurance, or home owners insurance, you should be shopping for new rates about once a year. This is a great way to make sure you have the lowest rates on the market.

We switched our life insurance this month and went from $90/mo to $30/mo and for higher coverage at that. Last year, we reduced our car insurance from $126/mo to $104/mo.

Between those two, we are now saving $82/mo over what we were paying a year ago.

pexels-photo-1644974. Collect your change. Do you lose your change? Does it fall in the cracks of the couch, under the dresser, or on the floor of the car? If you’ll put just 50 cents a day in a jar or piggy bank, you’ll have $15 at the end of the month.

5. Use the library. I saved $300 last year when I started using my local library instead of buying every book I wanted to read. Most libraries will even let you download kindle books. Our library in San Diego has over 30,000 titles available for the kindle. And if they don’t have the book I want, I just suggest it and they’ll most likely buy it for me. Prefer audiobooks? They have those at the library too; CD and digital.

6. Buy a reusable water bottle. A pack of bottled water costs $10-$20. Filling up a reusable bottle from your Brita filter or buying a bottle that filters the water will save you a ton of money. I used this primarily at work and would fill it up at the water fountain. If you hate water, you can buy inexpensive flavoring at Walmart.

7. Cut back your cell phone and internet plans. Check with your provider, you may be paying for 10 GB of data on your phone and only use 3 GB. With your internet, did you know you only need about 12 MB/s to stream Netflix. We were paying for 50MB/s because the sales rep assured us it was necessary. It’s not. We’ve never had an issue with 12 MB/s. With our internet provider, Cox, the cost savings is $15/month.

Bonus Tip: Call up your internet service provider and threaten to cancel your service. They’ll lower your price on the spot to keep you. I do this every year when they increase their prices.

sacl_nflx_netflix_logo8. Stream your favorite shows. Cable is expensive. The average cable bill is $100/month. You can subscribe to both Netflix and Hulu for just $20/month combined. Hulu has most current shows and they appear the day after they air on TV. Netflix has countless seasons of some of your favorite shows. Watching two episodes of NCIS a night will take you 165 days to get through the whole series, and then you can watch NCIS: New Orleans! Not to mention the countless number of movies available.

9. Don’t shop hungry. I know everyone knows this rule, but it’s true. A study at the University of Minnesota showed that people spend 64% more on their groceries when they shop hungry. If you typically spend $300 on groceries a month, that means your bill could be as high as $500 if you shop hungry.

10. Eat out less. Eating out just once less a month will save you $10/month in tips alone, not to mention the amount you save by preparing your own meal. Dave Ramsey suggests, that if you’re trying to save money or get out of debt, you don’t see the inside of a restaurant unless you work there.

The $10 Challenge

I challenge you to pick at least one of these tips and try it out this month. At the very least almost everyone ought be doing the Bonus Tip under #7. It’s so easy you’d be crazy not to (unless you don’t have internet, and, yes, some people still don’t).

If these tips save you money, will you consider giving that money to support our ministry to Australia monthly? You can go to http://www.abwe.org/automatic-support-program to begin your support today.

 

“Our church doesn’t support interracial marriages”

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“Our church doesn’t support interracial marriages, therefore we cannot support your work.”

We received this response from a pastor earlier this week when I asked him if we could have the opportunity of sharing our ministry to Australia with the church congregation. The sad thing is, it’s not the first time we’ve heard this response. It prompted the question in me “why do churches believe interracial marriages are not biblical?”

So, is interracial marriage a sin? The short answer is “No,” but don’t take my word for it. Let’s look at what the Bible has to say.

Verses about interracial marriage

First, let’s look at Bible verses that talk specifically about two people marrying who are of different color skin.

All right, now that we’ve looked at those verses…”Wait, wait a minute” you say, “you didn’t list any verses.” That’s because there are none. Zip, nothing, nada, zilch. There is no, I repeat N-O, verses that specifically address the issue of two people of different color skin marrying.

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The word “skin” appears 83 times in the Bible. Never once is it used in relationship to marriage. It only has to do with color twice. Once in Jeremiah 13:23 and once in Lamentations 5:10. Neither even speak negatively about the color of one’s skin.

The word “interracial” appears 0 times in the Bible.

The word “marriage” appears 21 times in the Bible. The Bible certainly talks about marriage more often, but it does not use the word marriage. However, 2 verses in that number are the basis for this whole issue.

Supposed verses about interracial marriage

Here are some of the verses that people think have to do with interracial marriage.

Deuteronomy 7:2-3 “…thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: Neither shalt thou make marriages with them.”

If you look back at verse 1, you’ll see that the “them” referred to in these verses are the Hittities, Girgashites, Canaanites, etc. God forbade his people from intermarrying with people of other nations.

quote2The problem is, people stop reading there because it told them what they wanted to hear. You can make the Bible say whatever you want it to say when you take a verse out of context. We had a saying in Bible college, “context is king.” So what’s the context?

Look at verse 4, “for they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods.” The issue was not marrying someone of a different skin color, but rather marrying someone who served a different god. The same issue is present in Joshua 23:12.

II Corinthians 6:14 “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

That’s what the Bible says. This is what people see: “Be ye not unequally yoked…what communion hath light with darkness?” They then assume light and darkness refer to the color of one’s skin.

The problem is that marriage is not even the purpose of this passage. This is a biblical principle that can be applied to any partnership or relationship. But let’s look at it from the perspective of marriage. What I ask myself is, “How can they so plainly miss the ‘unequally yoked together with unbelievers.'”

With an emphasis on this phrase, this verse is no different than the Old Testament passage we’ve already discussed.

Neither of these verses have anything to do with the intermarriage of people of varying skin colors. In fact, I would go so far as to say the Bible approves interracial marriage.

A Biblical proof for interracial marriage

Here’s a strong verse in support of skin color being a non-issue with God.

I Samuel 16:7b “…for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”

While this verse is not about marriage, it is about how God views people. God doesn’t care what someone looks like. This reinforces what we’ve been saying so far. God is more concerned with your relationship with Him than with the color of your skin.

Another evidence is found in Numbers 12. Here, Miriam is angry at Moses because he married an Ethiopian woman. Ethopians had dark skin. Miriam tried to use this a reason that Moses should not be accepted as leader any longer.

What happens is astonishing. God comes down just to address this issue. The Bible tells us that the anger of the Lord was kindled against Miriam and He made her a leper. If not for the pleading of Moses, she might have remained that way. The point, though, is that God tells Miriam that Moses is faithful and He has chosen to use Moses.

God could have used this as a time to rebuke Moses for his choice in a wife, but He does not. In fact, the Lord is silent in this matter entirely. So while God does not necessarily affirm the validity of this marriage, He does not condemn it either. The fact is, it was a non-issue for God, and it should be a non-issue for God’s people.

Application

Let’s admit it, the issue of interracial marriages in our churches today is a cultural one, not a biblical one. They may hide behind the smoke screen of what they believe the Bible says, but the truth is that they still haven’t dealt with the prejudice in their hearts.

This may be more of an issue in other countries where a couple might receive intense cultural persecution, but it has no place in 21st century American churches.

Would you share this article with your friends and help us promote the truth of the Bible?

3 Ways You Can Help Us Reach 50%

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A lot of work goes into getting a missionary fully supported and on the field. It’s no picnic, and many missionaries report that fundraising is their least favorite part about being a missionary.

The average missionary with ABWE takes 19 months to be fully supported. That means some finish faster, and some much longer. A missionary friend of ours told us that it took them 4 1/2 years to reach 100%!

Before an ABWE missionary can leave for the field, they have to complete 3 levels of training. The first is when you start out, the second is once you reach 50%, and the third is at 85%. In order to attend Essential Missions Components (EMC) this year, we need to be at 50% by July 1st or we’ll have to wait until July of 2018.

So, how can you help us reach 50% by July 1st?

Recommend us to your pastor

Have we visited your church to present our ministry? If the answer is no, you can help us out by giving us a recommendation to your pastor.

A large portion of fundraising is presenting our ministry in local church congregations around the country. Getting a meeting in churches is not always easy. Pastors want to know that you have a personal connection with their congregation. A recommendation from you can go a long way into getting us the opportunity to present.

Would you be willing to say something as simple as “Hey pastor, some friends of mine are missionaries to Australia and are interested in presenting their ministry here at our church. Would they be able to give you a call?” If so, please contact us, by Facebook or email.quote

Something that simple can mean the difference between receiving support or not.

Invite us to your Bible Study

The other side of fundraising is individual support.  Did you know that 13 individuals/families currently support our ministry? They make up about a third of our support. These individuals support us anywhere from $20/month to $150/month.

Bible Study CoupleIf you’re involved in a midweek Bible study, would the others in your group be interested in hearing from a special guest missionary one week? You know people that we don’t. Bible studies are a great way for us to meet new people and expand the number of people who are aware of our ministry.

Even if someone in your small group doesn’t choose to financially support us, they may like our Facebook page, join our email update list, or add our prayer card to their prayer wall/list.

Similar to a recommendation to a pastor, when you invite us to your small group it tells everyone that you know us and they can feel comfortable getting involved in our ministry.

You can financially support us

While both of the above suggestions can help our ministry, they don’t always result in support. In general, a missionary needs to visit three churches before one will take them on for support. Even then, sometimes it takes months for a decision to be made.

But you can help today by committing to support our ministry. You can make a difference. In the last two weeks we’ve received support from 4 new individuals. Will you consider helping start new churches in towns that have none? You can make it a reality.

In the next two weeks we’re praying for at least 4 more individuals or families to join our ministry team. Specifically, we’re asking that you will consider committing to one of four spots at $25, $50, $75,  or $100 a month.

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Visit http://www.abwe.org/automatic-support-program to join our ministry team today. Or you can send a check to ABWE Donor Services, PO Box 8585, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8585 with our account number 017025.