Does the Cuban government inhibit the spread of the gospel?

Q: Does the Cuban government inhibit the spread of the gospel?

A: Not like before. For 30 years the Cuban church was marginalized, pastors were put in re-education camps, all Christians were suspected enemies and spied upon. But in ’91 after the USSR fell, things changed. Officially Cuba changed its constitution from ‘atheist’ to ‘secular’ and people were permitted to believe in God. Mistrust has been slow to overcome among church leaders and the gospel can still seem suspicious to the average Cuban.

Miguel is the son of one of those faithful pastors. He has lived his whole life with hardships. Now a pastor and movement leader, the government allows him much that was unheard of 5, 10, 20 years ago – public events, church-funded hospice and churches in homes. And God is teaching church leaders like him to trust each other in light of the truth of the gospel. Vital to sustain a movement. And what a movement of God right now!

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Gospel coaching is a catalyst to show church leaders how to trust each other in ways they never have. Ever. It’s changing people. Marriages. Churches. Systems. I love to see how God is changing Miguel. Amazing.

We are committing to go to language school Jan-Aug 2016 and then spend 3-5 years developing gospel coaches for 40,000 Cuban house church leaders.

Would you pray and ask Jesus if he wants you to support us with a one-time gift? Click here for more info.

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Can’t Not Go to Language School!

Elizabeth and I are going to language school! Why?

Planning for January through August 2016. You may have heard hints but I’ve been waiting to write about details. Here is a four-part general overview and a request for prayer about supporting us with a special one-time support gift and/or helping us raise funds.

1. The opportunity in Cuba gets bigger. Aren’t you too old for this? Maybe! Ha! But Cuba is Too Big not to go learn more better Spanish. Elizabeth needs to learn too. In Latin America, people need to know me with my wife. And we may travel more. A lot more. She’s prepared to make the sacrifice.

Cuban house church leaders are asking for us to help them! In a country with so many hardships, poverty and struggle, Cuban church leaders want coaching training? Yes. It’s helping them apply the gospel to the challenges in their lives and helping them multiply the gospel to their families, neighbors and cities. They travel far and at great expense to learn. Twenty people in this one group paid more than the average Cuban monthly salary to get to our training.

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Leadership of the Cuban training organization CENCAP came here from Havana to Atlanta to ask for a longer commitment from us. They now have asked us to make a 3-5 year commitment to train, certify and multiply Cuban trainers so the 40,000 leaders currently in training can all have a coach! They want us to implement coaching in all churches, house churches, their seminary and arts ministry!

Why?

The coaching training you sent me to lead is already making a vast impact! And they want more! The CENCAP leaders said coaching may be the most vital aspect of their training in the gospel. Wow. We really need to improve our language skills!

2. So language school here we come, Lord willing! This opportunity requires that we raise extra funds by October 30. Would you ask Jesus about making an extra one-time gift to get us through language school and on to train Cuban leaders?

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40,000 house churches like this one in a barrio of Havana could reach hundreds of thousands more Cubans in the next few years.

Pastor Magdiel (top left corner) and his wife (Arlenis in purple shirt) and kids (clowning in front) lead four different house churches. He and other house church leaders in Cuba need a Cuban gospel coach that will help them thrive under the stresses of poverty, injustice, spiritual attack on the front lines of the battlefield.

So, will you please pray about helping us gain the language skills we need to train Cuban leaders to train Cuban gospel coaches?

Another way you could help would be to ask Jesus also if you ought to help us raise support among your family and friends by sending emails or messages on our behalf. Who do you know that might help? Sign up on the webpage to ‘help raise funds’ on the support page. Or simply forward this email with a paragraph or two of your own. Every bit helps!

Some Answers to Frequently Asked Questions:

1.We will return to Atlanta. It’s our home base. The eight-month move is temporary. While we’re gone, Erica and Austin, daughter and son-in-law will move into the house.
2. After language learning, we’ll take extensive visits to Cuba but not move. That’s an unnecessary challenge. Once trained, Cuban leaders will provide much better training at a fraction of the cost of a non-Cuban.
3. Elysia will join us after her 2nd semester at UGA and take classes for her Spanish minor at the nearby university through a UGA cooperative program.
4. I’ll still work and coach church planters while in school. The internet makes it easy.
5. Elizabeth will study full-time. She’s started working on Spanish basics.
6. We are applying to the Spanish Language Institute where I took an intensive course in 2013. It’s in downtown San Jose Costa Rica. And yes, you can visit!
7. And the answer to most common FAQ? No, language school in Costa Rica is not a vacation. Haha!

3. Ask for practical help and support. Extra expenses for language school include travel, tuition, extra tutoring, room and board, extra insurance, books and all that goes into re-locating for eight months.

So would you pray and ask Jesus if he wants you to be part of the team who will support us through language school?

If yes, click here to make a donation.

And/or click here to help raise funds in your circle of friends? Click on the last sentence if you want to learn more. Or email me and I can explain help

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Costs should be about $27,000. We have $10,500 of that pledged already (as of October 11, $14,100). This is a new thing for CMM so in order to get clearance to go in January 2016, we need to demonstrate to our board of directors that we have the support base to take this risk by October 30.

CMM has made it easier to give online with a new system that takes debit or credit cards through end of October. Paper checks are great too.

Please send any checks to this address:

CMM – Language School
PO Box 3284
Alpharetta GA 30023-3284

4.This is WAY beyond us! We need your prayers and financial support more now than ever! We are nervous. I am nervous about more work in Cuba, learning Spanish better (can I do it?), raising more support and even using new online giving and asking you to help raise funds on top of already supporting us without calling everyone! Pray for us, we’re nervous about what you’ll think and if we’ll be able to raise the money in time! I’m not in control and don’t know if any of it is going to work! This is beyond my typical risk-taking, make-it-happen comfort level!

We have to trust Jesus in a big way! Wow do we need your prayers!!

Honored and overwhelmed by your support for God’s call,
Jim and Elizabeth

Multiplying Gospel-Sharing Disciples

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Picture of one church’s short-term mission trip. But it’s different.

Last night our local church started its annual Short-term Mission Trip to our city. In a park behind the school where we meet. It’s a nightly Fútbol Camp for kids and families. No long trips, no plane rides, no exotic locale. Just right here where we live with our neighbors.

26 kids registered. Their moms, siblings and a few dads came and watched. Relationships started building. I wonder how many will receive Christ?

How will God use this ordinary group of Christians to reach ordinary people in an ordinary city on a very ordinary mission ‘trip’? We’ve been praying and reaching out here for years. I can’t wait to see what God does!

My role in this outreach is prayer. I’m not the leader – Pastor or Coach Héctor leads us now. But as I sat and prayed with Daniel, our Church Planter in Residence who will start another cross-cultural church nearby, holding the registration cards in our hands like I was taught, I had flashbacks to the first person to train me. My youth pastor, Mr. Mike, trained me to share my faith and lead outreaches in my parents’ basement when I was a sophomore at Marshall High School in northern VA. And now others have been or are being trained to multiply. This is where the action is. Multiplication.

Many, including my parents, modeled to me the importance of sharing the gospel as a disciple of Jesus through years of everyday life training. For over 10 years of Jr Hi ministry in the 90’s, our group held ‘Outrages’ where we did outrageous events kids could bring their friends to and present the gospel. And yes, Jr Hi kids shared the gospel, not just the grown ups. Our Sr Hi ministry outreaches, mission trips and training brought many to Christ but more importantly, trained a generation of youth (now in their 30’s) to share the gospel. (Side note: Mr. Mike and I teamed up at the same church for years. What a joy to work with him as a colleague!)

Now what Mike, my parents and others reproduced and multiplied into me is transferring into disciples from many nations in our city through people who were not Christians a few years ago. One mom who attended last year is now helping run the outreach.

The Best News Ever. This short-term mission trip may not go far away or host big, outrageous games. Soccer draws a crowd and the beginner evangelists show up, make friends and the gospel gets shared. Bigger though, is the impact of training others to share the gospel as part of making disciples. It’s God working in His power!

As I pray, I’m grateful. Grateful to God for His salvation offered by faith alone. Grateful for those people who discipled me. Grateful for the chance to disciple others who will disciple others too.

Keep having fun, praying for sinners to repent, sharing the gospel, inviting people to receive Christ and multiplying disciples who will disciple others too.

Pro Tip: Stay Married

I’ve got two goals for every church planting couple that I coach: Stay Married.

Do we really have to state that goal? Yes. Yes we do.

  • 80% of ministry spouses report that ministry is hazardous to their family.
  • 1500 pastors leave the ministry every month. Planters included.

Church planter types are awesome. Bold, risk-takers, full of faith in God, ready to storm the gates of hell with a super soaker! We are like the Marines of the church. We go first into harm’s way to fight the good fight and see God’s Kingdom advance!

Only you know what? We aren’t Marines. We are, for the vast majority, married and Marines don’t re-locate their families to the front lines of a battle! We do. And it’s dangerous up here. There is a real enemy and he’s mean, he cheats and he wants to destroy you, your family and that church you dreamed up at the coffee shop when you were amped up on your third doppio espresso of the day.

The church planting battle field is not friendly to marriages. So you need a gospel coach that is going to keep you focused on your marriage amidst all the other demands. Twice in one week this month, I heard of two planters I know personally in different states whose wives had affairs. They were successful. They were ‘too busy’ to get a coach. Part of big name ministries, writing and speaking. But they neglected their marriages. How incredibly sad.

Listen, I know planting is a demanding call. There are no distinct time or space boundaries between work, home, marriage and friendship. It’s easy to get busy! It’s easy to forget about your spouse and your marriage. I got busy serving God, winning the lost, starting Bible studies, gathering, networking, marketing, speaking, raising money and planning (and this was 12 years ago before social media and the cloud!) The kind and firm questions of my church planter coach steered me away from the dangers I see so clearly now but couldn’t during the fog of the start up battlefield.

Church planter, you are different. And it’s not because you are better. It’s because you are a marked man on our enemy’s hit list. If you or your wife fail morally, then you and your family will need to step off the front lines for a long time. Neglecting your first ministry to your family is very easy to slip into but its wrong.

According to 1 Timothy 3, a qualification of leading a church is that you are to be the husband of one wife and manage your household well. The reality is, you lose in marriage? You take a seat. Or at least you should.

My wife and I at the CMM booth at an annual church event. We’ve been married 28 years. As cheesy as it may sound, I hope every church planter couple ends up like us – more in love during and after the hard work of planting a church.

So what should you do? Stay married.

That is a moralist statement. There is no power in that advice. You need to put your faith in the power of who God is and what Christ Jesus as done and will do. And you’ll need a coach who will point you to Jesus – not his great advice or expertise.

What should you look for in a church planting coach?

1. Get a coach who will remind you to whom you are married. As a member of the Body of Christ, we who put our faith in Christ are His Bride. You can’t lose your marriage to Him. He’s the best husband you can trust to protect you and yours.

2. Worship God, not your spouse or your kids if you have them. Worship Christ and ask Him about everything. Everything. You’ll want a coach that prompts you to pray. A lot.

3. Work less not simply more or harder. Minute-by-minute dialogue with God requires much more listening and less hustle than you probably tend toward as a church planter. Most of what I did racing around making it happen was my own willful self-effort. Not good. I needed a coach who’d been close enough to burn out that he warned me of the signs he saw in my own life. I had to learn to Sabbath. To cease. To stop. To be human.

4. Depend on the Holy Spirit. There are mountains of great church planting resources and wonderful subject matter experts, mentors, trainers and coaches available. Not one of us will be better for you as a planter than deep, old-school, radical humility and dependence on the Holy Spirit.

If you are stuck or struggling, get a gospel coach. One of our team can and will help you find out why you’re stuck and help you follow Jesus and stay married as you plant a church for the glory and by the power of God.

I wanted to be a famous pastor

crowd at conference

I used to want to be more famous. I didn’t say it that way, but that is what I wanted. Honestly, I still want it, but less so. Maybe I’m getting wiser. I’m certainly older. And honestly, I’m afraid. For myself and the men, women and their families who lead churches.

Is this the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom? These days I coach several planters and pastors. I’m involved with many church planting networks where we talk about and expect churches to grow. And always to get as big as they possibly can. And we are always sad and devastated when someone takes a fall.

I’m beginning to wonder if wanting to be more famous, have a bigger reach or growing our numbers is a good expectation. Or if we should be a little more suspicious of celebrity. Even small-time celebrity I (still) want.

This may be an emperor’s new clothes set of questions, but I’m going to ask anyway:

  1. As a planter or pastor, is getting more people to follow you better? Is more influence or power, money, buildings necessarily healthy?
  2. Should we planters and pastors produce media content (i.e. blogs, podcasts, tweets, posts, videos, books) or focus mostly on sermons, prayer, disciplemaking and shepherding? (Yeah, that is a leading question and this is a blog. Forgive my mixed signals. I can see my agenda is showing.)
  3. Is the pursuit of becoming a larger church with big followings a biblical or wise way for God’s Kingdom to expand? Or are there unseen, inherent risks to those who lead them?
  4. Should ‘successful’ planters and pastors speak at conferences, author books that require them to travel to speak at more conferences and be away from their family and flock?
  5. Should we ask some hard questions about our role in attending, promoting or supporting conferences that promote celebrity?

And more importantly, what should we learn by how Jesus handled celebrity?

Planting and pastoring a church is already a dangerous calling. I hear far too often of burnout, moral failures, depression, family struggles and even suicide among pastors. That is not the way it is supposed to be!

Are we, in part, hurting ourselves? Are we playing into a scheme of our enemy? Maybe we should examine Scripture and talk about a better way.

Perhaps we should aim lower.

Lord, have mercy.

More of Less for Church Planters: Part 2

(Second half of this post.) 
I love throwing Frisbee. Nothing beats a good game of Ultimate or just tossing the 175g across a field with someone who has skills on par with mine. I’m not the best, but I do well and I enjoy it. 
Nobody is born knowing how to throw well. It’s weird and takes no small amount of practice, even for naturally athletic people. Same for grace-directed spiritual disciplines.
More of less should be a normal skill for every Christian. Not considered newsworthy or radical or cool if you have nothing better to do with your time. It’s motivated by this: wanting to be with Jesus, no matter what it takes.
Even if it threatens the idol that you might not get as much done, potentially being less successful, potentially feeling like you are wasting your time. Especially if it reveals idolatry!
What We Need
Our churches in the West need more power of the Holy Spirit. More prayer and intercession. More trust in God than trust in human skill and effort. What we need more grace-filled discipline to spend time with our Father.
When I parachuted in to do a scratch, multi-ethnic church plant, there were a million things to do, but I taped a quote from Eugene Peterson to my computer monitor. It says, ‘Busyness is laziness.’ What? I’ll spare you reading his whole book and summarize his point: Busyness is substituting many good things for the highest, most excellent thing. Meeting with Jesus ought to be our most excellent task. 
Do I get too busy? Yes. Am I not getting enough done? I don’t think so. Am I closer to Jesus after working hard to plant a church? Yes. I’m more dependent on Him. I’m less hurried and harried than I used to me. Because of His grace worked into me through resting more, accomplishing less myself and the discipline of less.
Pastors, fathers, mothers, your church and your family need Less. You need Less – to turn off the 24/7 distractions and meet with Jesus – regularly, purposefully, intentionally. Replace the good things with excellent. You need More – quiet, solitude, simplicity, fasting – it will deepen your experience of Jesus’ grace. 
More of Less is experiencing the transformation Jesus’ wrought by His salvation. Disciplines of Less are not earning your salvation. The message of the gospel is that Jesus has completed everything in his life, death, burial and resurrection and granted it to us to live out. He is The Evangelist, Minister, Networker, Do-It-All Leader of your church plant. He’s The Senior Pastor of your church, The Leader of your network. Less of our work is needed and more of Him is needed.

Like learning to throw a Frisbee, more of less is awkward at first. But worth it.

 

Prayer for Immigrant Families

Participating in the Day of Prayer for Immigrant Families today.  

A few years ago our church had grapple with the immigration issue. People without legal status were receiving Christ and wanted to join our church. I could find no biblical reason for them not to join. And some dads of families in our church were being deported.

Up till that point, I’d tried to stay blind to the plight of people around me. Not take a ‘political stance’ on immigration. But the study of Scripture brought our elders to a point where we couldn’t not say anything anymore. So I wrote this resolution that reviews what Scripture teaches and what we recognized God was calling us to do:

May 25, 2011

A Resolution from Concerned Pastors and Elders of Crosspoint Encuentro Church Regarding Welcoming Immigrants into our Church

Whereas

God is the Sovereign King over all the earth and all governmental authority is subject to His authority and rule,

  1. God, after the Fall, subjected Adam and Eve to an immigrant status upon removal from Eden, (Genesis 3:23),
  2. God sent Abram to be an immigrant with his family (Gen. 12:2) sojourning in a strange land, then made His covenant with Abraham while he was an alien (Genesis 17:9),
  3. the children of Israel, through God’s divine providence, were immigrants in Egypt for generations (Gen. 50:22-26), were led out of Egypt by Moses, an immigrant (Ex. 2:22) and celebrated the first Passover in Egypt with converted strangers and sojourners (Ex. 12:43ff) who were led out of Egypt with Israel.
  4. God audibly and repeatedly commanded His people to give aliens/sojourners with them Sabbath rest (Ex. 20:10; 23:9, 12), identified them as former aliens and commanded His people to not mistreat or oppress sojourners/aliens among them (Ex. 23:9),
  5. God commanded His people to maintain the same regulations for non-native born people as native-born (Num. 9:14 and Num. 15) and required equanimity in temple worship (Lev. 17 and 19),
  6. God charged the courts of His people to judge righteously between fellow countrymen and aliens living among them (Deut. 1:16) and promises to defend aliens along with the fatherless and widow because He loves the alien and provides for them through the generosity of His people both directly and through the tithes of His people (Deut. 10:18ff, 24:14-21, 26:12-13),
  7. God curses the man who withholds justice from the sojourner, as well as the fatherless and widow (Deut. 27:19),
  8. Christ Jesus immigrated to earth from heaven,
  9. in His humanity Christ was an immigrant, persecuted by his fellow countrymen,
  10. we were all alienated from God and strangers to the covenants of promise without hope except through God’s grace by faith alone (Eph. 2:12)
  11. through Christ’s sacrifice in our place, He became our peace, made all believers one, broke down the dividing wall of hostility, created in Himself one new man, and by His reconciling work on the cross will make all things new in heaven and on earth by His blood (Eph 2: 14ff, Col. 1:20-22)
  12. his people are and will be from every nation, tribe, tongue and people united in Him, heirs and sons – neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female (Gal. 3:26-29),
  13. all of God’s people are citizens of heaven first and citizens of a nation on earth second (Phil. 3:20)
  14. there is no human governmental authority outside of God’s sovereign will and all government is established by God (Rom. 13:1-7) but does not supersede the government of God,
  15. legal status is not a requirement for salvation or church membership,
  16. ministers and elders of God’s church have a moral duty to speak against injustice.

We Resolve…

  1. We resolve to pray for immigrants and their families out of concern for their souls and well-being. We will pray as well for our US governing authorities – local, state & federal – who are responsible to God for their personal, legislative, executive (including enforcement) and judicial decisions in regard to justice and mercy for all people.  We will urge people to pray for the US electorate to consider immigration issues according to God’s Word so that His Word is exalted and obeyed as US immigration policy is debated and decided.  And equally important, we will pray for other nations’ governing authorities who will also one day answer to God.        
  2. We resolve to welcome all immigrants into our church for relief, assistance, development and the hearing of the gospel.
  3. We resolve to accept anyone who meets the requirements of faith in Christ alone by faith alone, they shall be welcomed into full membership in our church, regardless of legal status before the US government or any state in the Union.
  4. We resolve to disciple and train immigrants to ‘glorify God and enjoy Him forever’ and treat them with dignity as image bearers of God.
  5. We resolve to prepare all church members and attenders, whether immigrants with status or without, or citizens of the US, to live as missionaries wherever God may, in His divine providence, send them to live, work and worship Him.
  6. We resolve to protect and teach all children, regardless of status or citizenship, to love God, receive Christ by faith and follow the doctrines of our holy religion.
  7. We resolve to work for the protection of the weak, oppressed and alien during legal proceedings and to urge our political representatives to develop a just and equitable means for immigrants whose status has expired to be reconciled and/or acquire legal status according to the laws of the USA.
  8. We resolve to educate English-speakers in our church about the issues, challenges, problems and struggles for immigrants and to educate Spanish-speaking congregants about their rights and duties as a sojourner in the USA.
  9. We resolve to prepare any immigrants under our care who are not currently under proper status to comply with the laws of the US and if they are unable to rectify their status, prepare them for the potential return to their home nation and accept these consequences peaceably and with grace.

Under the Grace of God and to His Glory Among All Nations,

Jim Moon, Jr. – Founding Pastor, Crosspoint Encuentro Church Smyrna GA

Héctor Guzmán – Co-Pastor, Crosspoint  Encuentro Church Smyrna GA

Jim Payne – Co-Pastor, Crosspoint Encuentro Church Smyrna GA

Gordon Hwang – Elder, Crosspoint Encuentro Church Smyrna GA

 

More of Less for Church Planters: Part 1

Silence. Solitude. Meditation. Fasting. Simplicity.
These are as strange and alien concepts to the life of Christians in the West. At best such practices feel odd, optional or only for super-Christians. Or worse, they could be construed as punitive.

However our historic Christian faith grew in grace and power as everyday believers and leaders practiced spiritual disciplines. On purpose. With astonishing results.

Check Out Spiritual Disciplines
When I started in ministry as a 23-year-old Jr Hi Pastor just off the road with a Christian band, voice mail and pagers were cutting edge. We communicated only via phone and paper. As a church planter, we have social media, mobile phones and the internet that invades every spare corner of our lives.

My first boss in ministry encouraged me to read Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline and made me go on monthly prayer retreats. I did not like it at first. Now as a church planter, I am so glad someone showed me how and why spiritual disciplines are vital for ministry. It was not easy for me to do.

It showed me ministry is impossible to do. For me. I need Jesus to do it through me. In fact, Jesus said in  John 14:12-14 that we would do greater works than He did. By asking Him to do what He can do through us.

Disciplines are inconvenient, frustrating and seem counter-productive. But we managed to get ministry accomplished before cell phones, iPads and Wi-Fi. Apparently, even Jesus and the church ministered pretty well focusing on prayer, discipleship and a simple life.

It leads to this leading question: what kind of boundaries (if any) do you have now between the urgency of everything on your phone or tablet or laptop and your relationship with Christ? I fear our little space for Jesus makes me/us a mile wide and an inch deep. I’ll even say it may make us hypocrites on par with Pharisees.

Expect More of Less to be Normal?
A pastor friend of mine recently posted the following:

(Name) is going off the grid for a week for a silent retreat. Yup. No cell, not FB, no Angry Birds, no TV to numb or distract me. No agenda, not planning, no strategizing- just a whole week to meet with Jesus. I’ll either go completely crazy or meet Jesus. We’ll see.

I applaud his decision! And I say more of less! More of less should be normal. And not drive you crazy.

 

Jim Moon, Jr. serves CMM (Church Multiplication Ministries) as Coaching Catalyst and is Founding Pastor of Crosspoint Encuentro Church in Smyrna GA.