Book Excerpts: Make Your Vision Go Viral

Make Your Vision Go Viral Excerpts

This book is a narration of history. I found myself so tied to the story of the dream of placing missionary teams in the great cities of the Portuguese – and Spanish-speaking world that I could not divorce my life from the narrative of the thirty-one college kids who first ignited a vision for a continent of great cities. (page xviii)

To be a world Christian adds a new dimension to discipleship. It is an attempt to fulfill the final spoken wishes of Jesus prior to His return to God the Father. This book will open avenues for the reader to understand how to reach people who may not speak our language and may not be within our sphere of influence. (page xx)

It was a time when commitment was serious business. Their word was important. All thirty-one students who committed to the team placed their trust in God and arrived in Brazil as they had promised their teammates. (page 18)

When I departed for Brazil at age twenty-two, I had no idea how difficult life could be. It never dawned on me that life would bring challenges I could not have imagined. Through the process of living life, while recruiting, training, and caring for missionaries who planted churches, I have many times encountered an unmovable wall.

Often, the obstacle was impossible to climb over, dig under, or go around. On my own steam, I was dead in the water. Sometimes, I encountered a dim light in the distance, revealing a long and encumbered trail. It was not a sure route but was the best hope I had at that moment. The one thing I learned early on was just how little control I had. (page 114)

Recruiting is more of a God thing than a human thing. It has the God component of the Creator at work in the lives of his children and seeing assignments where His people can meet human need with His provisions. It has the human component of presentation of the opportunity and the ultimate acceptance or rejection of the one asked to go on a mission for God.

Due to the evolving nature of culture, learning to be a recruiter for God’s mission is an ongoing process. Since culture is not static, yesterday’s presentation will not meet today’s need. Recruiting is an art rather than a science. Recruiting is primarily a spiritual endeavor that includes the execution of on-the-ground logistics. Most importantly, missionary recruiting depends on the Holy Spirit to urge and nudge. Success in recruiting the right person is, first and foremost, tied to identifying capable people. Those capable individuals need to be introspective, reflective, and prayerful in distinguishing between God’s call and a mistaken human response that could be their own unstable and wrongly motivated desires. (page 119-120)

Ministry to the poor is not the primary goal of the new mission team. Not even Jesus eradicated poverty as He pursued His primary mission on earth while purposefully moving toward the cross. It is conceivable that a mission team could go to a foreign country, minister to the poor, and fail to establish a church. The ultimate goal is to bring lost people into contact with the blood of Jesus and to unite the new believers together in an established church near the heart of the city.

Along the way to reaching this goal, the poor will be served. With each step toward the established church, the poor receive attention. As the church grows numerically and financially, it will increase in resources to provide loving concern for the poor. James, the brother of the Lord, sees ministry to the poor as validation of faith (James 2:14-17). Long after the missionary personnel leave an established church, the strong national Ephesians 4 congregation can continue ministry among the poor. (page 163)

One lesson I learned early on is that lighthouses do, in fact, compete with each other. Lighthouses compete for personnel. More often than not, lighthouses compete for the same pool of resources. Funding is not equal from lighthouse to lighthouse. I find this to be another of the areas when I do my best to acquire resources and trust God with the results. Lighthouses often supplement each another, but they do compete. (page 186)

On the staff, wanting to be fully open to cooperating with God in His mission, we often remind each other that it is God’s mission, not our own. That means when parts of the mission falter, the failure is ours, Satan is creating havoc, or, for reasons we may not understand, God may close a door. To help discern which of the three is taking place, prayer is a constant, in and out of the conference room. Everything gets a prayer bath. The Great Cities staff is a praying staff – we pray around the conference table, in each other’s offices, on the road, and on our own. The truth is though, we do not pray enough. Prayer is like living; it takes a lifetime to begin to unwrap its mysteries and power. As our trust in God grows, our prayer life increases. (page 186-87)

I am still learning to love the whole church. I am not there yet, but I am making progress. I do know that to “proclaim Jesus by planting churches in the great cities of the Latin world,” we cannot let any faction of the church set the agenda. I must learn to love the whole church and welcome to the table those who will join us to take the Jesus of Scripture to a lost world. (page 187)

God followers ought to be the ones who are most prone to take risks. When we attempt to join God in His mission, we can be courageous risk takers. I’m not talking about being stupid. Rather, there are times when our best intuition and counsel tells us we need to make a decision beyond our foreseeable resources. It is time to trust God for a result that seems consistent with His nature and His will. As the one in charge, I had no choice but to accept risk to get from broke to viable progress. (page 189)

While building with zeal, I have realized the valuable lesson that it is possible to learn from all great leaders. Through the years, I have become a fanatic connoisseur of books, articles, and lectures across the spectrum of world leaders in business, government, nonprofit management, fundraising, theology, education, and world missions. It saddens me to see leaders who never get beyond the limited circle of their self-created small orbit. (page 190)

Once the mission is clear, difficult decisions must be faced to avoid mission drift. Management writings are replete with examples of mission drift in the corporate world. And sadly, many churches are examples of mission drift. Nonprofit entities constantly face the devastation of mission drift as flirtation begins with funding sources that do not match the mission. To chase fads is to kill the mission. (page 194)

On December 31, 2010, the process of building with zeal was complete. From my darkest hour of ministry setback in June 1991, when faced with a fifteen-year-old team-recruiting ministry and the immediate evaporation of all sources of funding; through the process of renewing the strong relation with the Amarillo Central church; to the formation of the board of trustees; to laying a growing financial base; to building a staff; to seeing various pilot projects turn to reality; to moving ministry offices from Abilene to North Dallas; and finally to the transition of executive leadership; a great sense of humble satisfaction settled over my soul. God is good. (page 200)

God blesses the long-term tenure of the team families. The continuity of a ministry that unfolds over decades blesses multiple generations. At least sixty-eight of the Great Cities missionaries who arrived as members of the first eighteen teams spent ten to thirty years on the field. That number does not include the last eleven teams that started church plants less than ten years ago. Team churches in Belo Horizonte, Campo Grande, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Recife, Salvador, and Sao Paulo are strong in part due to the long tenure of missionary personnel. (page 246)

Beware of Competency Extrapolation. It took me awhile to identify the vocabulary to describe a phenomenon that caused team breakups prior to field arrival and undermined team strategy. Just because people might be brain surgeons, astronauts, missionaries in an unrelated part of the world, or theologians does not make them the brightest bulbs in the room. Bright people can undermine the mission through competency extrapolation.

Experts in their discipline are not necessarily experts in church planting or in designing mission strategy. Be it an academic missiologist, an experienced African missionary, or a competent business executive, expertise in one’s own area of experience does not translate into church planting in the great cities of South America. (page 247)

The lessons taught to me as a child return to memory. Just as God provided manna for the Israelites, He can still be trusted to provide for me now. Just as He stood by His prophets, He can stand by me now. Just as the God of Scripture could be trusted to move obstacles beyond the comprehension of those facing impossible odds, He can move obstacles that rise up to challenge my trust in Him. (page 261)

It’s difficult to wrap our minds around the eternal God. God is not bound by time. He was present before Creation, during Creation, and at the fall of man. He was present as He began to recreate man through Noah and through Abraham. His grace and patience stood by the children of Israel, from Egypt until their deportation to Babylonian captivity. Still, His presence was with a remnant He would use to place Jesus upon the earth. He witnessed the crucifixion and the resurrection of his Son. He was with the early church as they started to move the redemptive mission toward eternity. God is still present. He is God of our present and God of our future. (page 263)

The storyline of the Old Testament is God with His people. In the New Testament, after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, the storyline becomes God in His people. (page 266)

When I reflect on the challenge of planting churches across the face of the Latin world in an effort to proclaim Jesus among Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking people, I must conclude that God stands ready. He stands ready to work through specific, redeemed people. The church planting needs of the great cities of the Latin world will go unmet until individual Christians who possess the Holy Spirit of God at the heart of their souls step forward and accept the Lord’s offer of a working partnership. (page 268)

What if two or three business types have already made all the money the family could possibly use, but the thrill of the game is still present because of God-given wiring? Would it be possible for two or three entrepreneurs to form a business for the sole purpose of working with Great Cities Missions to fund church planting in the great cities of the Latin world? These people could collaborate in a major way with God by recognizing once again their God-given gift. As a working partnership with God, their spiritual gift and expertise of a lifetime could build a financial engine that would supply millions of dollars to reach the great cities of the Latin world. (page 269-70)