FollowThePeace 1

Faith or Foolishness?

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV)

“When I read this verse, I understand that God’s first answer to prayer is peace.”  I heard this statement in a sermon from Pastor Alan Johnson of Rogers, AR First Church of the Nazarene.  I will never forget, and it has provided a background for a core belief and foundation that has sustained me and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.  In the last 30 months or so, I have come to understand more and more what God’s peace is, why it is needed in the life of a Christian, and how its’ absence is an indication that we nee to do some serious self-evaluation.

I have come to learn that there is a fine line between foolishness and faith.  The way to determine the difference is the absence or existence of God’s peace.

For example, learning about Extreme Nazarene Ministries in late July and two months later, moving my family to Arequipa, Peru, was viewed by some (possible many) as crazy, at least if you think of it through the eyes of the world.  I sold my belongings, quit my job at Walmart Corporate Headquarters, left a comfortable environment with my family nearby, to go to a place I didn’t know, to work with people I didn’t know, and to do a job I was far from fully understanding.  The differentiating factor between the two was the constant, assuring peace of God that gave us the faith needed to truly believe that God was calling us and that in our obedience, he would execute his divine plan for provision and purpose that we needed.

Anndee and I were talking the other day about whether we would want to change our blog name one day.  The current name is “Follow the Peace.”  She asked that because it is a recent theme for us, and maybe we would have a different theme that we want to highlight.  I ademantly disagreed, insisting that is it only God’s peace that will continue to lead and sustain us as we move forward withe the next chapter of this fantastic adventure called life.

Is the Lord calling you do to something that seems crazy in the eyes of the world?  I hope so.  That means that he is calling you to do something that will require faith in and dependence upon him.  When we obey, and force ourselves into that level of trust and dependence, the Lord can really begin to work in us and do “more than we could ever ask or imagine.”




FollowThePeace 3

Finishing Well

Those of us who have enjoyed the challenges and privileges of employment have (most likely) encountered the “short-timer” (not to be confused with the short-termer, that is another subject all together). This “short-timer” knows that their time in their current employment situation is limited, and that their decreasing level of productivity is often greatly effected by their level of concentration on their next step – whatever that may be. Or they may be thinking that what they do doesn’t matter (be it nothing, or doing something and not doing it with excellence, efficiency, etc.) because, what is the worst that would happen, they would be fired? I experienced this first-hand, with professing Christians and non-believers alike. In one instance, I took on the work load of this “short-timer” and found an inadequate quality of work that was sloppy and/or incomplete. The temptation is great to coast to the end, to do the bare minimum necessary to keep in reasonably good-standing with your current employer. It is understandable that, to some extent, a level of attention has to be given to the next step. However, that can become an excuse to ditch current responsibilities and arrive at the end of the time just barely doing enough to get by.

What kind of witness is this? Is this a way to distinguish a Christian from the world? Or is it one more example of how the life of the average Christian is looking more and more like those who do not profess Christ?
Does this exhibit integrity, character, or a Christ-like dedication to and respect for our employing company, managers, and co-workers? Is it Extreme? Is it a way to help expand God’s Kingdom here on earth?

The Cercado team is encountering this face-to-face right now. As we inaugurate the new temple this coming Sunday, the goal is that everything has been handed off to our national leaders (everything primarily being fixed roles of ministry in the church and the leading of our in-home Bible Studies). This is completely healthy, appropriate, and necessary for the long-term sustainability of the Puerta Abierta Church. However, this means a great adjustment for our 40/40s. Those who are used to having control, to being involved in every event and in making key decisions are retreating to an extent to allow space for the voice and leadership of the national leaders.
In that, their job roles are changing and becoming less structured. Their weeks used to be filled with preparing for and leading Bible Studies, attending various church leadership meetings, visiting new contacts, and initiating all the steps necessary to accomplish these tasks. Now, the goal is to be in charge of nothing. To work themselves out of a job. Their job now is to come alongside a national leaders and take a secondary role, supporting and encouraging the national leader. The goal is that, in a very short time, they aren’t “in charge” of anything.
We are now two months out from our finishing date here in Arequipa. “Normal” is for people to begin checking out and coasting to the end.
Part of my job is the lead them strong to the end. The 40/40s need to work 100% until the end. That means that I need to do the same.

I have been reminded more and more lately that we are always teaching others, and everyone has something to teach us. We can’t deny our constant influence over others, and we can’t assume that someone doesn’t have something to teach us just by their personality, personal appearance, history, etc.

With that in mind, how our team finishes here has great ramifications.

1) This is the first team to use a single-church model within Extreme. No one before us has finished in the way that we need to finish. Pioneer work is always more difficult. We are teaching the clusters in Ambato, Ibarra, and beyond how to finish well and pass the church off to the national leaders.

2) Finishing well helps our 40/40s and the Cercado Cluster demonstrate integrity and character in how we spend these final two months.

3) We are teaching the national leaders in our church how to finish well, how to be different from the world. Hopefully, they can transfer these examples of integrity and character not only to their co-workers in their current jobs, but also to their disciples. One day, they need to pass their responsibilities off to someone, and will need to instill these same values, priorities, and processes.

Our Pastor told the team recently that, if they are not willing to give 100% to the end, then why not just go home? If we are not willing to go all-in, there is no reason to be here. That is a great challenge for me, and for any of you who are in the process of finishing something. Be comforted in the fact that you are not alone.

Follow the Peace 8

Long-Term Thoughts on Short-Term Missions: Our New Role

I am very excited to announce that Anndee and I have accepted new positions with Extreme that will officially begin January 1st.  My new role is Short-Term Volunteer Manager, and Anndee will work part-time as Short-Term Volunteer Assistant.  Our responsibilities include guiding a team of people whose jobs include leading the actual teams on the ground, as well as executing all of the pre-project communication, etc.  We also have the responsibility of policy, procedure, as well as missiology and long-term vision for what short-term mission is and how it fits in with Extreme.

Even though we don’t officially take on the roles until January, we’re working each week, revising policy and putting procedures in effect.  We begin communications with the May Project participants next month.  For the time being, we don’t have all of the staff for our team, so Anndee and I will be filling the logistics spots until we do.

When we joined Extreme, we didn’t have a specific passion for short-term missions.  Like many, Anndee and I had participated in short-term projects before (Youth In Mission during college, a trip to Macedonia in 2008).  Despite this, we didn’t come into Extreme with any plans to work with short-term as a full-time ministry role.  As Cluster Coordinators, part of our responsibility has been to do on-the-ground detail planning (lodging, food, transportation, plans for the evangelism events, etc.).  As our staff has phased out here in Peru, Anndee and I have had the honor of taking on more and more of the responsibility of short-term projects in our city.  During the September Build Project, I had the responsibility for every aspect of the project from the time the volunteers landed in Lima until they returned home.

We have hosted six teams here in Arequipa during our roughly 20 months of full-time ministry.  While that was almost too much for us to handle, the number of teams we have had, coupled with the levels of responsibility Anndee and I have had during projects have prepared us very well for our next role with Extreme. The Lord was preparing us for our next role even when we didn’t know we needed to be prepared.  After the May College Team, and after our application for another position similar to our current one (based in Chile), our director approached us about taking the Short-Term Manager position.  He noticed our passion and energy and natural giftedness and saw a great fit.  It was a surprise for us, but not a hard decision to make.

Build Day 18 - 07

One of my favorite parts of a project is getting to meet such fantastic people from all walks of life who answer to call to come alongside us to expand God’s Kingdom.  In my current role, I will get to work behind-the-scenes before and after a project, making sure that everything is getting accomplished in an efficient and timely manner.  Then, during projects, I can be on-the-ground support and spend my timeconnecting with the short-term volunteers and encouraging the missionaries in the field.  What an awesome opportunity.

As we help our current team through the transition of handing their ministry roles over to church members and finish our ministry in Arequipa well, we are also laying the groundwork for what it to come in Extreme Short Term Missions.  Our emphasis is in two places: 1) Revise every aspect of the short-term process (registration, communication, roles, responsibilities, etc.) and make necessary adjustments.  2) Really think about what short-term mission is (and isn’t), think about how to do it well, why we do it, how it fits within the over-arching goals of Extreme, etc.

Both of these are great challenges, but Anndee and I are very excited to see how the Lord uses us to expand his Kingdom through this short-term process.

The current time-frame for our family is to work part-time on our new roles as we complete our jobs as Cluster Coordinators for the Cercado Church Planting Team.  January, Chris will begin full time and Anndee will continue part-time from Rogers, Arkansas while we raise support.  Chris and Anndee will fill the logistics roles for the two College Momentum Teams in Ecuador in May.  We’ll return to Arkansas for the North Arkansas District Assembly and move the family to Quito, Ecuador in mid-June.


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