Staying on the Line

Church Leadership Training
We now have two weekly church leadership training courses with a total of 10 participants representing 4 different churches. The classes are deliberately kept small (ideally 4-5 men) to facilitate relational discipleship, open, transparent discussion, and more personalized training. The current focus of our studies is “Correctly Handling the Word of Truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). My burden is to teach these men how to interpret, expound, and apply God’s word to their own lives and the lives of those to whom they minister. Using an inductive Bible study approach, we work our way through different books of Scripture, seeking to understand each book’s meaning and message.  Our times of prayerful study are rich and edifying and full of exciting “aha” moments.

“Staying on the Line”
One of the teaching tools I use to emphasize the importance of sticking to the Bible’s text and message when preaching is the “staying on the line” illustration (not original with me).  The “line” represents the Bible, God’s word. Our task as preachers and teachers is to stay on the line—that is, making sure that what is being taught actually represents what the Bible says.

Two common errors in preaching are “going above the line” and “going below the line.” “Going above the line” means saying more than the text actually says. This mistake generally involves adding ideas and emphases to the message that aren’t in the text. Conversely, “going below the line” involves saying less than the text says. The error here involves leaving out significant parts of the passage’s message for whatever reason (fear, unbelief, etc.).

The task of the preacher, however, is to diligently seek to determine the actual message of the inspired text so that the sermon accurately reflects the message God intended for his people. Our job as preachers and teachers is to “let the Bible speak,” not adding our own ideas, traditions, or pet topics on the one hand, and not leaving out important elements of the text’s meaning and message on the other hand. A true “biblical” sermon is a sermon that “stays on the line.”

They follow the Lamb wherever he goes…

“It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes.”  (Revelation 14:4)

I can’t imagine a more beautiful and descriptive epithet for a disciple.  The image is captivating: pure, unstained believers, redeemed by the Lamb who humbly follow him wherever he goes. People don’t normally follow lambs; lambs don’t lead. And yet the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world has a multitude of loyal followers. There are a number of ways to describe a disciple, but perhaps the simplest is this: a disciple is someone who follows the Lamb wherever he goes. 

Would you pray for us? Pray [...]

A few prayer requests

We just wanted to share a few prayer requests for the upcoming weeks.

This past week our kids began their new school year. Please pray for Katelyn as she’s attending first grade at Oaxaca Christian School. The long school day is a little bit of an adjustment for her. Ruth is homeschooling Jonathan and Christian. Please pray for grace, strength, and wisdom for us and the boys. This week we’re starting up again with our church leader training program. I’ll have two groups of men—one on Monday and another on Thursday. Please pray for the powerful presence of the Holy [...]

Exciting Changes in Our Ministry (Part 2)

Click here for part 1.

New Mission Organization The last few months as we considered our change in ministry focus, we have sensed the need to be part of a mission organization with experience and expertise in this kind of ministry. Because the focus of To Every Tribe is on pioneer church planting rather than leadership training, we have decided to transition from To Every Tribe to a partner organization, Reaching & Teaching International Ministries. Reaching & Teaching (R&T) is an international training ministry dedicated to training indigenous pastors throughout Latin America. Our family’s relationship with R&T goes back several years. We became familiar with [...]

Exciting Changes in Our Ministry (Part 1)

AJ teaching Biblical Theology in Tlalixtac, Oaxaca

This past year, and especially the past few months we’ve sensed a growing burden to be involved in training national—and especially indigenous—church leaders. As you may know, we first moved to Mexico in 2004 to pursue a ministry of training national pastors.  My passion to train pastors in Mexico goes back to my early years in college and even my childhood. I grew up in a missionary family, and my dad was very involved in training nationals. In college God impressed upon me the incredible need to follow the Bible’s pattern in [...]

Aquaponics System

The four blue containers (growbeds) hold the gravel in which the vegetables and fruit are grown. The black tank on the left is the fish tank, and the red tank underneath is the sump tank where the water is drained off of the fish tank and growbeds and then pumped back up into the system. We plan to add several more growbeds in the near future.

We’ve recently been constructing an aquaponics system as a family and ministry project. Aquaponics is a food production system that combines raising fish alongside of fruit and vegetables in an environment that allows the fish and [...]

A Story of Persecution and Perseverance

Last month in my blog post on persecution in Mexico I mentioned that we had heard of believers in an area where we work who had been run out of their village for their faith.  We had heard this story in passing a few months ago, but weren’t given any more details.  Well, during a trip to that area later last month, God allowed me to meet the family whose story I had referred to. The encounter was entirely unexpected—a truly amazing providence.

To protect their identity, we’ll call them Martín and Rosa. In 2008 they, along with their seven children and his [...]

Mexico on List of 10 Most Violent Countries Toward Christians

The  ”World Watch List” team from Open Doors recently released a new list of the 10 most violent countries in the world toward Christians (HT: Radical.net). Here’s the list (based on the number of actual “persecution incidents” between Nov. 1, 2012, and March 31, 2014, rather than on a country’s general climate of intolerance and persecution):

Nigeria Syria Egypt Central African Republic Mexico Pakistan Colombia India Kenya Iraq Surprisingly, Mexico made it on the list at #5.  I say “surprisingly” because one wouldn’t expect to see Mexico on the list along with countries like Nigeria, Syria, and India—countries notorious for their violent [...]

Smoke from a Thousand Villages (Part 2)

This is part two of a two-part article. See part 1 here.

The Challenge of Reaching Indigenous Oaxaca

The fragmentation and isolation of Oaxaca’s indigenous population creates significant barriers to the spread of the Gospel. But besides these barriers, there are many other factors that make the task of church planting here extremely difficult.

The most obvious is the difficulty of the indigenous languages. Learning the indigenous language—the “heart language”—of the people we’re trying to reach is vital to accurately communicating the gospel to them.  This is especially true since the isolated, unreached villages that we target almost exclusively use [...]

Smoke from a Thousand Villages (Part 1)

Note: The following is an article I wrote last year for To Every Tribe’s EKBALLO magazine.

“I have seen, at different times, the smoke of a thousand villages— villages whose people are without Christ, without God, and without hope in this world.”

So wrote Robert Moffat, the 19th century Scottish pioneer missionary to Africa.  It was this reflection by Moffat that inspired David Livingston, who married Moffat’s oldest daughter, to give his life to missions.

I often think of Moffat’s words when I travel through the mountains of the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.  Oaxaca, Mexico’s most indigenous state, is home to [...]

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AJ, Ruth, Jonathan, Christian, Katelyn, Hudson & Sofia

Two ways to live: The choice we all face