Saturday, June 24, 2006

Top 10 Reasons Why House Church is Better Than Traditional Church

In line with the mission's desire that we work with simple, house churches, I've compiled my own "top 10 list" on the advantages of house churches:

10. You can watch the world cup at church without a projector and big screen.
9. No obligation to wear panty hose or high heels - instead, on cold nights you can wear your fuzzy bunny slippers to church!
8. No pews.
7. No requirement that you use the same Sunday School literature that you've used for the last 30 years.
6. No 30 minute "dominate the mike" announcement time - or if so, at least it's participatory!
5. No fights over carpet color in the sanctuary - after all, who's going to criticize your living room floor?
4. No special baptism committee - after all, how hard is it to fill up the bathtub?
3. You don't have to worry about whether the roast in the oven at home will burn before you get home from church - you are home!
2. Nobody minds if you change a dirty diaper in the "sanctuary" during the middle of the service.
1. Bigger portions of juice and bread during the Lord's Supper.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Eleven Wonderful Years

Eleven years ago yesterday, I married the most wonderful woman in the world. In retrospect, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, nor how fortunate I really was.

Cam has been a patient, supportive, loving wife. She has put up with me being a police officer, a seminary student, a security guard, a church intern, an associate pastor, an interim pastor and a missionary.

In the last six years of our missionary service, she has endured hardships that few can even relate to, much less support - all with a minimum of complaining. She has offered me tremendous support even when I have not deserved it. During my extensive travel while we were NE Brazil, she carried the banner for our family and made our apartment a safe place of refuge for me when I was home. Now that we are in South Brazil, she has thrown herself into helping us settle in and into the lives of our boys.

Cam has truly been a Proverbs 31 woman, and I join the husband from that chapter in praising my wife and saying that "many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned and let her works bring her praise at the city gate" (and in the blogosphere)!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Praise and BIG Prayer Requests

Praise God with us! Last night, our church planting team had our first decision for Jesus Christ. Lina, a lady with whom we have been doing a Bible study for three weeks now in a seamstress shop in a slum prayed to receive Christ. It was a wonderful moment, and will serve as a great encouragement to our team.

However, it is also abundantly apparent that a major spiritual battle is being joined. I showed up to our house church worship service on Friday night to discover that Simão, the husband of the couple in whom's house we meet, had a ladder slide out from under him on Monday and fell, breaking his back. He was very nearly paralyzed and will be bedridden for a month and a half. Therefore, he will not only not be able to do evangelistic Bible studies, but also will probably loose his job as a security guard and his ability to feed his family. Please pray for Simão, that he will heal quickly and that he will not loose his job.


While all of this was happening, Lina's (the new believer as of last night) sister in law was being demon-possessed - I will not go into any details so as not to give Satan any press. Their father who is a spiritist medium came over and took the demon into himself, thereby gaining prestige in the eyes of the family. Lina was also spiritually attacked during the night. All of this happened on the very week that we saw that we were starting to make inroads into this family.

Our lesson last night "just happened" to spend a good bit of time on the power of Jesus over demons (we studied about Jesus sending the demons into the herd of pigs). Lina began to open up about everything that was happening and we shared extensively with her before she gave her life to Christ.

Two hours later, we shared the same lesson with the daughter of a voodoo witchdoctor. She started to open up about how she was raised in witchcraft and the effects that it had on her family. We also had a good opportunity to share with her about the power of Christ over evil spirits.

We are not intimidated or afraid because we know that Christ has all power and authority over Satan and his evil servants, and we know that we have been given this authority as well. However, we are also aware that we are dealing with major spiritual warfare issues. We ask for your prayers for our spiritual, physical, emotional and mental protection. We also ask that you would pray that God would give us his wisdom and power to deal appropriately with the issues, people, and spiritual beings involved.

The battle is joined -we need your prayers!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Meet our church planting team - Alexandre

Little by little, I want to introduce you to our church planting team.

This is Alexandre. He is originally from the city of Campinas, São Paulo (where we studied Portuguese when we first moved to Brazil). He works at a research facility where they identify the best materials to use in making shoes. Alexandre is married to Tatiane and has a four-year old son named Geovane.

He is thirty years old, and before moving to São Leopoldo, served as a church planter in the state of São Paulo. They attempted to start a church using a very traditional model, and after several years of frustration and disillusionment, left the ministry and moved to be close to Tatiane’s family.

About a year ago, Alexandre felt that God was calling him back into the ministry. Through his personal reading, God showed him that small groups can be an effective way of doing ministry. Not too long after that, God brought Alexandre into my life and we began to work together.

I have high hopes that Alexandre will one day soon be able to take the reins of the church plant in Vila Baum and allow me to go start work in another area. He has a great heart, but tends to be very quiet and shy –but with an absolutely hilarious laugh!

Please pray for Alexandre that:
1. He will be able to have the time to dedicate to the church plant (and that he will prioritize the church plant over other ministry opportunities!)
2. That he will grow in his abilities and confidence in ministry
3. That he and I will both know the best way to share leadership responsibilities in the early stages of the church plant.
4. That he will be able to take over the church plant and make it grow in a way that the tall American with the funny accent will never be able to!

Thank you for praying for Alexandre – both he and YOU are an important part of our team!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Witchdoctors, Dragons, and the Lion

The Bible studies on Saturday went well. The study with Iara (the voodoo witchdoctor's daughter), her boyfriend, and her teenage daughter was the last of the day. Interestingly enough, although she was the one who had requested the study, her boyfriend André was much more talkative and involved in the study. She said that she had read the story (on the birth of Christ) beforehand and just wanted to listen.

We held one of our other studies in a tiny seamstress shop in a slum. The woman with whom we were studying wanted to do it there so that her sister could participate while she sewed. Lina is not yet a Christian but is already inviting others to participate in studies! Praise God!

As we have gotten to know the people with whom we are studying the Bible better, we are finding a host of issues under the surface. A number have been baptized into and heavily involved in witchcraft and black magic, almost all of them are involved in illicit sexual relationships, and the ones that are not have marital problems (not to mention those who are!).

As I mulled over this today, I thought of the scene from C.S. Lewis' book "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" where the unpleasant boy Eustice is transformed into (or perhaps revealed as) an ugly dragon. He tries to strip away his dragon nature, but can't. Only Aslan (representing Christ) the Savior is capable of cutting through the tough dragon flesh to reveal the boy underneath. Please pray that God would use the sharp sword of His Word to cut through all of the layers of resistance, sin, and spiritual barriers that are keeping these people from recieving the truth and having lives that are truly transformed by Christ. Thank you so much for your prayers on behalf of our church planting team, the not-yet believers we are ministering to, and my family. Stay tuned for bios and pictures of our church planting team!