The countries of Central America have large evangelical populations. Guatemala and El Salvador are 26% evangelical, Honduras is 23%, Nicaragua 22%. That’s nearly as high as the United States (26%, according to one study). So how does this affect our role?

Those countries don’t need pioneering missionaries from North America. They have plenty of Christians. Instead, our work really consists of church expansion. We want to provide resources and train leaders, and to help the Hondurans and Nicaraguans and others take the next step in becoming healthy, growing, viable congregations. That’s what they seem to look to us for.

Central America isn’t the 10/40 window, that area of the world stretching across Asia and northern Africa where 95% of the people haven’t heard the Gospel, and which is home to 87% of the world’s poorest of the poor.

Part of the Gospel ministry is compassion. But the other side is to reach the unreached. We must keep that balance. We will encounter compassionate needs everywhere we go, and we want to partner with people who are starting new churches. But we need to keep our eye on the unreached and the 10/40 window.

One of the stated priorities of Global Ministries is, “We focus our efforts and resources on lesser-reached people groups.” We don’t want to spend all our resources in heavily-churched countries, and not get around to countries where there is no opportunity to hear the gospel.

The Monkey and the Fish” is about leadership and church health. The Christian market has many such books. This one hits some different chords.

Dave Gibbons, an Asian American who founded Newsong, a multi-site megachurch in California, is a refreshing voice. Too many Christian writers seemingly think the American church, and our interpretation of what church should be, is God’s definitive word for the world. Gibbons takes a world view, and his words open up whole new possibilities. No, he’s not in the emergent crowd; many of them would view Gibbons as tame. But for me, a traditional evangelical from the United Brethren mold, his thoughts stretch me aplenty.

A theme Gibbons develops throughout the book builds on the question asked of Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responded by telling the story of the Good Samaritan, which is about two people who normally wouldn’t have anything to do with each other–a Samaritan and a Jew.

Gibbons writes, “Jesus was telling the religious leader that his neighbor, instead of being someone like him, was someone not like him at all, someone he would be uncomfortable with or even hate.”

He says churches need to seek out people who are different from them, not just like them. “There’s something truly divine about a movement of people who reach out to love others and be with others whom they find difficult to understand or love to be with.”

This is more than theory to Gibbons and Newsong Church. It’s a concept that permeates the church, as they intentionally pursue marginalized people, outsiders, people on the fringes of society. And he cautions, “It may very well mean that the church doesn’t grow numerically nearly as quickly as it otherwise might.” Imagine that–adopting a strategy which you know will slow your growth…just because you think it’s the way Jesus might do things.

Church growth exalts the “homogeneity” principle–that you attract people like you. United Brethren, for instance, are good at targeting other white, middle class folks. And that does, indeed, work. But that doesn’t mean it’s the way of Jesus. Gibbons illuminates another way to view our neighbors, and I find it engaging (partly, I’m sure, because it relates so well to me and my own church).

There’s a whole lot of great stuff in this book.


Nicaraguan superintendent Juan Pavon and Francisco Najera, superintendent of our churches in Guatemala, overlook new target area for church planting in Guatemala.

At one of our churches in Guatemala, I met a fellow who emerged from a life of adultery. He had a confirmed case of AIDS, came to Christ…and no longer has AIDS.

They have people who have come out of extreme alcoholism, homosexuality, addictions–all sorts of things–and God has set them free.

I’m glad we’re not just planting churches in some areas that are already saturated with churches, but going into areas of desperate need.

Adam Will, pastor of Eden UB in southern Ohio, included the following in a recent blog post on his blog.

If there is something in your life that causes you to either sin or weakens your faith, GET RID OF IT! I am dead serious about this! If you’re a recovering alcoholic, you’d be STUPID to live in an apartment over a bar.

The same logic applies to our walk with God. If you are addicted to your iPod, get rid of it. If you can’t read your Bible because you’re watching TV, cancel the cable or Dish! Why would we be so stupid to give up an incredible walk with Jesus simply because we love to watch a certain TV show?

John Christophel, pastor of Brooklyn Park, UB church (Baltimore, Md.) was interviewed by the Maryland Gazette regarding gang activity in the church’s neighborhood. The church runs an after-school program to reach at-risk children in the community; about 15% of the children who come have ties to neighborhood gangs.

The Global Ministries Leadership Team concludes its two-day spring meeting today. A lot of interesting stuff in the works, including the approval of several new missionaries. You’ll be hearing about some of this soon.

John Christophel, pastor of Brooklyn Park, UB church (Baltimore, Md.) was interviewed by the Maryland Gazette regarding gang activity in the church’s neighborhood. The article was prompted by a shooting incident near the church.

John said he’s seen an increase in gang activity in the last year. “It is a major issue for us. We built our youth program to have a safe place for the kids.”

The article continued:

In Brooklyn Park, several dozen area youth come daily to the United Brethren afterschool program, which Christophel founded to reach out to at-risk children in Brooklyn Park. He estimates that about 15 percent have ties to neighborhood gangs.

“We’re trying hard to do what we’re doing,” said Christophel, who’s in the middle of building an addition to the church to accommodate more youth. “We’re all trying to target these kids.”

insidetherevolution.jpgI have been reading a new book by Joel C. Rosenberg, Inside the Revolution. He divides the book into three sections.

  1. The radical element of Islam.
  2. Reformers within Islam.
  3. Revivalists within Islam.

This is a very fascinating and informative book. We hear mostly about the Radical element of Islam. They are the ones making the news on our TV, radio and newspapers. We hear less about the reformers–those who are Muslim but do not take the radical position of expanding by terror.

All of the sections were revealing and very informative. But the section on the revival that is taking place within the Muslim world gripped my heart. Joel reports that thousands responding to the message of faith in Jesus. I felt as though I were reading a new chapter in the book of Acts. Some of the stories of how people are coming to Christ literally gave me goosebumps and made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. We’re talking direct intervention by Jesus as he reveals himself to many people. We’re talking about New Testament stuff here.

I strongly recommend that you read Inside the Revolution. It is a large hardback book and is relatively expensive. Possibly you could check out a copy from a local library. If they don’t have it, encourage them to get it. Another possibility is that your local church could purchase a copy or two to loan out to members of that body. Or find a friend who has it and see if you can read theirs.

I believe this is a must read for United States Christians. We need to know the content of this book, which we will never get from our media. It would make you feel better to read the third section first, although I recommend reading the book as it is written. Also, you might want to re-read the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, Matthew 23 and 25, Acts, and Revelation.

And by the way, I’d read anything I can get my hands on from Joel C. Rosenberg. He has written a series of five works of fiction that is his interpretation of the “last days.” He also wrote a non-fiction work, Epicenter that contains all the information and research he did for the works of fiction.

Let me know what you think after your have read any of his books.

Mark Ralph, pastor of Sunfield UB church (Sunfield, Mich.), writes, “Recently we sent a team of 9 to Olanchito, Honduras, to help finish construction of their new church in Barimasa. Twelve-hour days helped toward finishing the church. Money was left to help in the completion of their beautiful new building. Bret Senters of Sunfield was the project leader and a lot of work was accomplished. Ninety pairs of flip-flop shoes were also handed out. We as a church hope to continue to partner with this church and a church in El Carril, Honduras, to bring the gospel of the Lord Jesus to these communities.”