Tuesday, 26 June 2012
Let me begin this week with two reminders. First, the hotels nearest to the convention center in Indianapolis are full and others in the downtown are filling up. Check out the available hotels on the website and make your reservations soon. Second, we're still looking for Radical Mission Churches. If you know of a church of any size that is doing something worthy of recognition in regard to missions, please take the time to tell us about that church. The deadline for submissions is drawing near.
From Genesis through Revelation we have the heart of God revealed. No sooner had man fallen into sin and separation from God than God promised to send a Savior, the Messiah. God revealed that He would redeem the nations through His Messiah and that through Him God's glory would cover the earth. Yet two thousand years after the Messiah came there are still two billion people who know nothing about Him. There are many areas of the earth where there are no churches, no Bibles in the local language, and no Christians to tell the people about the Messiah. But that Messiah, Jesus, gave His church the radical command to go into ALL the world and make disciples of ALL people groups.
It would be unthinkable to have a conference on the theme "Radical...Again!" without devoting at least one session to "A Radical Command: Go and Make Disciples." That all people without Christ are lost is undeniable if you take God's Word seriously. And we have a man who takes both God's Word and God's command very seriously in the person of Denford Chizanga. He is God's man to address this "radical command" on Saturday night, November 17, during ICOM 2012. Denford is a native of Zimbabwe where he attended Zimbabwe Christian College in Harare. He then came to the U.S. where he received his B.S. in Biblical Studies from Cincinnati Christian University and his M.A. and M.Div. from Cincinnati Bible Seminary. After graduation he returned to his native land where he founded Africa Development Mission and serves there as Executive Director. Before I met Denford personally someone described him to me as the Ajai Lall of Africa. That in itself is high praise. But like Ajai, he not only has a heart for his people, but is a creative visionary intent on finding every effective means of reaching the lost, not only in Zimbabwe but around the world. He is a dynamic preacher and you will be blessed and impacted by his message.
The church's task in each generation is to take the message of salvation to that generation. And while Satan will do his best to hinder our efforts, the ultimate triumph of the church is assured as the Lord has promised to draw people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation to Himself. Denford will challenge us in an unforgettable way to join the Lord in that work.
Have you made your plans to attend ICOM 2012? Has your church done church-wide registration? Have you made lodging arrangements? Have you considered a financial gift for the conference? Are you praying daily for God's anointing upon it? Thousands upon thousands of people are going to be dramatically impacted by this conference. Be sure that you're among them.
Monday, 18 June 2012
The start of ICOM 2012 is now less than five months away. I couldn't be more pleased with the way everything is falling into place for "Radical...Again!" which will be a disturbing conference that will demand a response. The program has been in place for quite some time. The "Sneak Peek," a 16 page, full color magazine giving everyone a preview of all the conference holds in store is even now being mailed out by the tens of thousands. The closest hotels to the convention center are almost full (although plenty of rooms remain in other downtown hotels). A great SICOM (teen program) is in place. Campus ministries and Bible colleges are excited about bringing thousands of college students to Indy. We're trusting God for 300 new missionary recruits and a powerful move of His Spirit among the twelve to fifteen thousand attendees, resulting in a powerful new surge in cross cultural ministry at home and abroad.
What is fueling all this? Oh, yes, there are talented and gifted people. There's been a lot of hard work. Indianapolis is a great convention city. But the primary fuel for this conference is the power of prayer in accessing the blessings of God. Everything that has been done in preparation for this year's conference has been bathed in prayer. Indeed the plans themselves have come from seeking God's direction in prayer.
Knowing how essential prayer would be to the success of this year's conference, David Empson and I prayed early on for God to guide us in the selection of the right person to lead the prayer effort for ICOM 2012. God led us to David's own pastor, Steve Ranson, who has been the preacher of the Hazelwood Christian Church for over 30 years. Steve isn't just an excellent preacher, pastor, and leader. He isn't just a preacher who is sold out to missions. But Steve is a godly man, a man of prayer.
Let me tell you a little bit about the prayer effort he has led already. He has enlisted fourteen foundational prayer warriors from across the country that he calls Upper Room Prayer Partners. The fifteenth of each month (corresponding to the beginning of the conference) he sends out specific themes and requests for prayer. All fourteen men are known for being men of prayer and they both pray and fast. Among other things, this month they are praying specifically for the ICOM staff.
In addition to the fourteen Upper Room Prayer Partners, Steve has networked with a number of groups that he has enlisted for prayer, but with a little different emphais. Among those groups are CMFL, PBT, NMSI, Team Expansion, TCMI, IDES, FAME, and GNPI. Doug Lucas is helping to facilitate this effort and it involves hundreds in prayer for the conference.
Steve has even communicated with every Christian Service Camp, Campus Ministry, Bible college and seminary associated with our fellowship of churches, asking them to pray and share monthly prayer updates with their staff and leadership teams. There is much more. But this gives you a little glimpse of the scope of this organized prayer effort. Furthermore, prayer will be at the center of everything we do during the conference itself. But now it's time to ask you to join all of us in prayer. This conference has to be more than business as usual. The church must become radical again. That won't happen in the power of the flesh, but only by the power of the Holy Spirit of God. Please join us in praying that God shows up at ICOM 2012 in a way that is so powerful that it is unmistakable that He is at work...and therefore, that He gets all the glory!
Tuesday, 12 June 2012
There will be many memories that participants in ICOM 2012 take away from Indianapolis this November. However, I'm sure that few if any will be more vivid than that of having heard the testimony of Mosab Hassan Yousef. He was born the son of one of the founders of Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist organization. From the time he was a young boy he had an inside view of this group as he assisted his father, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, in his political activities even while he was being groomed to follow in his father's footsteps.
However, the whole trajectory of his life would change when he was 21 and a man from Great Britain invited him to a Bible study at the Jerusalem YMCA. There he would be given a New Testament in English and Arabic, a New Testament that he began to read in secret. In his book, Son of Hamas he writes: "Every verse seemed to touch a deep wound in my life. It was a very simple message, but somehow it had the power to heal my soul and give me hope." He writes, "Everything Jesus said on the pages of this book made perfect sense to me. Overwhelemed, I started to cry."
I'm not going to tell the rest of his story here. However, his conversion and the way God used him to save thousands of lives are both very dramatic, and he's coming to share that story in Indianapolis. Mosab will be the speaker for the Saturday morning session, "A Radical Foe: The Spirit of Anti-Christ." You'll hear about the world's most dangerous terrorist organization, Mosab's agonizing separation form his family and homeland as he became a follower of Jesus, and his belief that the mandate to "love your enemies" is the only way to peace in the Middle East.
Following his testimony Mosab will be joined on stage by Fouad Masri, the founder and president of Crescent Project, an Indianapolis based ministry to reach Muslims all over the world. Fouad's interview of Mosab will focus on how we can effectively reach out to Muslims, including those who live just down the street.
Spread the word. There are many people who would want to hear Mosab and Fouad if they only knew about this powerful event. Don't miss out on this opportunity to hear an extraordinary story of God's providence, power, and grace.
It has been a great week of travel and ministry. Jan was able to go with me on two ICOM trips. Earlier last week I represented ICOM at a gathering of campus ministers from all over the United States. It was held at McCormick's Creek State Park here in Indiana and we took advantage of that event to hike those beautiful trails. Over the weekend we traveled to Wabash, Indiana where I spoke for the Bachelor Creek Church of Christ. This is a great, rural congregation that draws from several surrounding counties and has a wonderful focus on missions.
Just today I traveled to Louisville with ICOM Executive Director Dave Empson. We were there for meetings with the Director of Missions at Southeast Christian Church as well as with Doug Lucas of Team Expansion. I am continually encouraged by the interest and enthusiasm being expressed for this year's ICOM wherever we go.
Tuesday, 05 June 2012
One of the greatest tragedies in our world has been the rise of global sex trafficking, with young girls being sold into slavery by their own families. The church has been slow to respond while this scourge has impacted literally millions of girls, nowhere more than Southeast Asia and India. This is one of those "disturbing issues" that I've been talking about that we've going to take on at ICOM 2012. The theme of the first Saturday morning session is "A Radical Responsibility: Deliver the Captives."
No organization has been more actively involved in this fight than the International Justice Mission, founded by Gary Haugin. We are very blessed to have Jim Martin, Vice President of IJM, coming to address this theme. His message will steer us toward a deeper level of understanding of God's heart for justice and encourage us to act on behalf of the many victims of injustice around the world. Before joining IJM Jim served with The River Church Community of San Jose, California, coming there from a campus ministry at the University of Massachusetts.
Also speaking in that session with be Stephanie Freed, the founder and stateside director of Rapha House Ministries. Actually Rapha House works hand in hand with IJM in providing safe houses and care for the girls who are rescued from bondage. You'll hear exciting stories of what God is doing through that dynamic ministry.
One thing I've not even mentioned in these blogs is the subject of workshops. In regard to sex trafficking there will be a number of them. A few of the subjects include: "Coalition and Collabora-tion to Combat Sex Trafficking: God's People Working Together," "Ending the Demand for Sex Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation Through the Church," "Prevention: Identifying and Ministering to At-Rick Children and Educating Families Before Trafficking Takes Place," and "Modern Day Slavery: Why It Happens...As God's People What Is Our Responsibility?" Jesus said that He came to deliver the captives and there is a breadth of application that demands our response as His church.
I've mentioned before how I've been impacted by both the life and writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Yesterday I posted on facebook this Bohoeffer quote: "Silence in the face of evil is evil itself: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act." In response someone else posted this quote from Edmund Burke: "Nobody make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little." And that reminded me of Burke's most famous quote of all: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." There are so many different ways in which those quotes can be applied, not least of which is the subject at hand, "Deliver the Captives."
It is another busy week. I'm speaking to a group of campus ministers from across the country at a state park here in Indiana. Then I'll be preaching at the Bachelor Creek Christian Church in Wabash, Indiana this coming Sunday on the subject of "Radical Discipleship."