Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Discipleship and Ballroom Dancing

“Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Matthew 13:55

Disicpleship cannot be complicated. After all Jesus was a carpenter’s son and His disciples were fishermen. Sometimes we make discipleship more dificult than it really is. We overload people with information when what they really need is a relationship where they can learn to grow and mature. Having small groups is not about having a meeting. It is an excuse to meet so we can have relationships where we can engage, encourage and equip others to become disciples.

It’s the difference between the "twist" and the "boogie". The twist continues to thrive because anyone can do it. With a few twisting motions of your hip and legs and you are good to go. Lift one hand while twisting with one finger pointed up and you have the “pistol twist”. Move both arms from side to side and you have the “windshield twist”. Wave one hand and you have the “beauty queen move”. Both hands up and you have the 'surrender'. Different styles coming out of the same twist.

In short the twist can be done by anyone with added variations. That’s what discipleship is like. It is the simple task of engaging others with your own distinct style and personality in order to build relationships with them. The obvious goal is to one day introduce them to your God. Like Jesus, keep things simple in that way anyone can do it.

Now as far as the boogie is concerned there are only a limited number who can do it. It is not as simple and as such is hard to duplicate. When Jesus said “Go and make disciples of all nations” He did not mean some nations but all. He said all because He knew it can be done. Why is not being done yet? One of my suspicions is its too complicated its not duplicable.

The idea is to get everyone to do it and not just a handful of people. In order to do this we need to keep it simple.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Disicpleship and Starbucks

A few years ago while visiting Washington DC my host brought me to a Starbucks Coffee shop on a wintry Saturday morning. What I witnessed that day was something I would never forget. There was an initial line of 8 or 10 people when we got there. Then cars started showing up one after the other. In time there were at least 20 people in line.

It got me thinking, why would people inconvenience themselves to get dressed, transport themselves, park, line up, wait and spend more money for something they can conveniently do in the comfort of their own kitchens for less money. What was making them come back for more? The obvious answer is the coffee.

Starbucks' secret was they did not focus on building their brand. From its inception to its growing years Starbucks did not advertise and even today they do so minimally. They busied themselves brewing the best coffee they could make.

Sometimes churches are too busy building their brands rather than building their product. Others have relied on the brand – “The Church”, yet Jesus said - "I will build my church...." Matthew 16:18. Instead He challenges us to go and make disciples.

Churches need to stop focusing on building their brands instead they need to busy themselves with making the best product. Our product is people and their lives - lives that are full of light, joy, love, spirit, kindness, grace and victory. When they taste and see they will come back for more. The word of mouth about the church will be - “their coffee is good and I want more.” This is our product - changed lives.

Making good coffee is achieved through focus. Jesus was right then and now about what our true focus should be - go and make disciples.

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8

Friday, January 26, 2007

"I love Jesus, it's Christians I can't stand."

These words reflect the sentiments of people who have heard of Jesus and His teaching but cannot reconcile why His followers behave otherwise.

I realize that much of this is due to the hypocrisy found among “church people”. But there are other reasons that may not be quite as bad as hypocrisy but is simply a matter of adjusting the way we do ministry. Here’s one thought you may want to consider:

People are looking for relationship and not religion:

Our goal should not be to convert others rather it is to establish a relationship with them in the hope that one day we can introduce them to our God. Keep in mind that people don’t like being convinced. Neither do they want to be told that what they believe in is wrong and what you’re offering is right.

The truth is without God people will always be in need, they just haven’t realized it yet. In the meantime our job is to build a relationship where people can trust us. When the time comes that the Holy Spirit draws them we will be there to usher them into the ultimate relationship they should have – with God.

We become religious when we want people to believe what we believe. When we want them to join our church. When we want them to behave the way “Christians behave”. Fact is when people enter into a relationship with God they will believe (not in what we believe) but in Him. As their relationship deepens they will begin to behave differently. Eventually their genuine hunger for God and His Kingdom will draw them to a church.

This is the way we can reach people with the truth of Jesus without being disagreeable or obnoxious.

To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 1Corinthians 9:22

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Why I Love the Philippines

She is one rare girl. Of Japanese descent but was born and raised in Canada. She has traveled to as many as 26 nations and has lived in 4. A confessed disciple of Jesus Christ she insists that among all the nations she's been to the Philippines is her favorite.

The person I am talking about is Lynn Nawata. She was at one point the country manager for Harris Corporation in the Philippines. Lynn resigned from her job to work for a missions/ministry organization.

Here is an excerpt from her recent blog on the Philippines:

“I have visited 26 countries and have lived in four, but most people are surprised when I tell them that my favorite country in the world to live in -- is the Philippines.”

Picture shows Lynn in her parent’s home in Canada with her nephews. If you want to read the rest of her blog click:

Monday, January 22, 2007

Appreciation Night

Last Saturday we held our first ever “Appreciation Night”. Over the years our church showed its appreciation to the people who served in separate Christmas parties.

For instance the Kid’s Church volunteers, Worship Teams (singers and musicians), Ushers and others held separate parties. This year we decided it was time for a change.

We gathered all the volunteer groups into one “Filipiniana Evening” in January, after all Decembers are busy. The pastors and staff were dressed in aprons wearing chefs
and waiters hats each assigned 3 tables to serve the volunteers who have selflessly been doing this month in month out. Our way of saying:

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve... Mark 10:45

At the VCF Fort church there are over 1,000 volunteers, 850 of them showed up for the
party. They were served with “binalot meals” rice and viands wrapped in banana leaves. Family plates of “pancit” the Philippine version of spaghetti and “lechon” the famous roasted pig were also served with “buko juice” bottled coconut juice and “turon” banana wrapped in crispy shells with a swirl of caramel for dessert.

For entertainment each group presented a special number:

The Youth Group – Had a musical multi-media (live/video) of the “Back Space Boys”

The Worship Team – Had an elaborate musical number through time and eras. Complete with Jose Rizal and Maria Clara attires.

The Ushering Team – Did a dance number from the early 80’s, I think.

Kid’s Church – Had a series of skits in multi-versions: same script but set in drama, action, comedy, musical and others (can’t remember it was too many).

Hospitality Team – Did a brief introduction of themselves and then left a lone guy to do some magic tricks and on occasion invited 2 lady members as

Technical Team – Brought the house down. From costumes, make up, music, props, script, performers, sound, lights, everything. It was an elaborate array of impersonated Filipino musicians through the years. I think that’s because these guys have been involved in production back stage for years. All the pent up desires of being on stage manifested. The crowd went ballistic.

We ended the evening with a short announcement about 2 new ministries we are starting: Administrative Services and Communications. A time of prayer of thanksgiving and the evening was over.

See pictures:

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Compartments in My Life

In my home I have a cabinet of tin boxes which form some of the compartments in my life: one is labled Travel (it contains my passport, travel gear, foreign currencies, travel tripod, inflatable neck rest etc.) another is for Audio (iPod accessories, earphones, jacks etc.) then Health (roller blade parts, swim goggles, basketball pins, knee pads, sweat bands, stop watch and would you believe it: a personal fat caliper, etc.), Electronics (includes cell phone stuff, manuals, headsets, batteries, various parts), then there's Tools, Stationery, Video, Mac, Photo and finally Hodge Podge (things I can't categorize: a shark tooth, a knife from Kabul, key chains, unique pebbles-stones, drift woods, shells I picked up in my trips, my floating kaleidoscope - hodge podge).

All this to say that like most men I have a strong tendency to compartmentalize. Compartments make life simpler for me. When I get back from a trip I can stick all my stuff in that box and I know where to find them when its time to use them again. And so on and so forth. You'll never know when you will need fresh batteries, an audio jack or a basketball pin, right?

I have also realized that my knack for compartamentalizing does not end with tools, electronics and travel gear....but extends to blogging. Instead of having one site I now have 3. This one you are reading right now which deals with stuff pertaining to discipleship - a major driving force in my life. A second site that deals with things I like, hold dear and enjoy. And now, today I just started my third site. One that is dedicated to PRAYER. Probably the one thing I attribute to why I can say life has been good. It deserves a compartment of its own.

The new site is the compartment where I focus on nothing but prayer. Visit me from time to time in this new site:

Friday, January 19, 2007

Reading Between the Lines

In the Book of Acts, chapter 4:1-2 we read the account of Luke about Peter and John’s exploits:
The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.

The words greatly disturbed could be because they were jealous, agitated, vexed or threatened. There are 2 reasons why: Peter and John were teaching the people and proclaiming Jesus as the resurrection from the dead.

As Christians there are 2 simple things we should be doing: teach people God's ways and proclaim to them that Jesus alone is their eternal hope and destiny. That simple! This is discipleship in its most basic form.

The next verses are also quite revealing: Acts 4:3-4
They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.

For reasons stated above they arrested them. Here is a question for you. Were Peter and John the only people responsible for bringing the 5,000? I don’t think so. Without the internet, cell phones and modern transport this kind of growth was only possible through the means that God has planned all along. People, disciples making disciples.

Discipleship is the simple teaching and proclamation of the truth of Jesus Christ, first in our lives and then to others. Then it is the empowering of each and every disciple to go and make disciples that can bring about this kind of growth.

The idea that a handful of professional ministers doing all the work does not trace its origins from the New Testament. The wisdom of God is so simple oftentimes men think it is foolish. It is actually the other way around.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. 1 Corinthians 1:25

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Every Nation's World Conference in Manila

Well the buzz has begun - Every Nation's World Conference in Manila will open its doors for registration starting January 22 and that's just 4 days away. Register as soon as you can and here's why: There are now approx. 24,000 people who atend the Metro Manila church and another 9-10K from the provincial churches. Araneta Colesium can only seat 14K. Do your math. Register early. If you want to know more visit the newly uploaded behind the scenes blog on the EN '07 Conference: Now you can't say you were not told.

What's Your Story?

The first book I finished reading this year is “What’s Your Story?” by Craig Wortmann. Wortmann explains why story telling is so vital in teaching, encouraging and igniting performance. The book is full of nuggets and quotes from leading authorities on story telling. He explores various ways to find, gather, store and use stories.

He further explains how stories connect people and have a natural way of drawing them closer to each other. He also makes the case that one of the most revered books ever published is because it is full of stories – you guessed it – the Bible. The book is totally secular. Mr. Wortmann makes no claim of being a Christian. Yet he makes his point.

My take away -no wonder Christians become close to one another. They share the same stories that are close to their hearts. Wortmann also says that stories are powerful in that while people share the same stories their applications may be different thereby producing even more stories. Think Job, David, Joseph, Abraham, then think Exodus, Kings, Paul, Acts - stories. Wortmann only confirms what God knew all along.

He says stories are everywhere if we are just conscious about them. The idea is we are gold miners and the whole day is silt, mud and sand. Every moment of the day we pan the sand and stuff and then a nugget will most likely come out. Take it (write it down) and store it and throw the rest away. Everyday stories are powerful because they are part of real life. Great read. There’s lots more - Read!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Singapore Visit

Visiting Singapore is always a treat. It is a beautiful city with wonderful people. But the greatest treat is the Every Nation church here. A thriving multi-ethnic church led by Pastor Larry (and Elaine) Matsuwaki. I can no longer count the number of times I have visited this church. But every visit has been a memorable time of hospitality, generosity, faith and kindness. (see link below)

We were invited to visit primarily for VictoryBiz (our ministry to the business community which I founded) and to help launch the church’s annual 7 days of prayer and fasting which starts on Monday (January 15).

We were met at the airport by brothers Shawn and Kern Lee. The twins as they are fondly referred were mentored by Pastor Larry and his team. These 2 men are very promising as far as reaching the business community is concerned.

Undoubtedly Singapore is a paradise for business people. With the opportunities and infrastructure that are available a lot is possible. As such it is home to many international companies and entrepreneurs. The church wanted to be trained on how to integrate VicotryBiz into its current life.

The leadership also wanted me to speak on fasting based on the book I wrote (The Mystery of the Empty Stomach). I have known Pastor Larry and Elaine for the last 11 years and have found them to be a deeply spiritual people of prayer. His goal is to make sure that this year’s fast was a success. That too is my prayer.

See pictures of the trip:

Find out more about the church:

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

HAPPY "Whew" Year!

Working as a pastor is a joy. Working as a pastor at Victory Christian Fellowship (VCF) is both a joy and a "thrill" that I always thank God for. (see blog: Top 10 Things to Thank God for in 2006 – item number 8:

January 2nd was my first day at work in 2007. Spent the morning with the local church staff of VCF Fort Bonifacio discussing our plans and goals for the first quarter. Here was the short list of the events and things that needed to be undertaken by the team:

7 days of prayer and fasting, Appreciation Night (for volunteers), Marriage Preparation Seminars (review and edit of new materials), Volunteer Weekend, preparation for 2 new preaching series (Winning in Life and Apostle’s Creed), Volunteers’ Orientation Meeting, Victory Weekend one for Men and one for Women complete with Baptisms, Spiritual Family Class, Making Disciples Class, Foundations for Marriage Seminars, Every Nation Leadership Institute Classes (1st and 2nd years), small group connection meetings every Saturday, weekly prayer meetings, 1st quarter small group leaders’ rally (Leaders’ Circle), VictoryBiz outreach events, Force Ministries outreach events, plans for a new church plant in Taguig, talents inC Summit at the EN building, Every Nation Youth and Campus outreaches.

January 3rd today was my second day at work. This time the meeting was with the administrative side of the ministry. When a church becomes this size where it has 12 locations, 52 services on weekends and literally thousands of volunteers and over one hundred staff, administrative functions take on a different picture. There’s human resource planning (people assignments), corporate planning (offices, equipment, org stuff), IT, finance, communication (videos, web sites, brochures, flyers etc), operations (building maintenance, lease contracts etc.) that are all necessary to ensure that the ministry side of things run smoothly.

When I got to my table I looked at my travel sked for the quarter, they include a 3 day trip to Singapore to train on VictoryBiz, a 3 day trip to Kuala Lumpur to meet with Every Nation’s Asian International Ministry Team and a trip to London to attend the International Policy Council meeting.

All these plus small group meetings, weekly preaching, School of World Missions teaching, occasional funerals, weddings and counseling and all you can say is : HAPPY “Whew” Year!

“Whew” is an exclamation used to express a feeling of relief, being tired or surprised. In this case surprised and tired. Before you get me wrong, I am not complaining but merely recounting the reality of ministry work. Where people get the idea that ministry is “for people who are not busy and don’t like hard work” beats me.

I also want you to notice that my title says HAPPY “Whew” Year! with emphasis on the happy and not the whew. Whew is important to realistically assess what needs to be done happy is more important to make sure things are done excellently and with great joy.

Let me give some reasons why we need to focus on HAPPY:

1. Focusing on whew focuses on our limited abilities which leads to burn out. Focusing on happy focuses on what God can do in and through us. He gives us the strength.

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

2. Focusing on whew takes the glory away from God to us. Focusing on happy deeply honors God. When we enjoy God He is glorified. The Westminster Catechism declares "Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." It did not say chief ends but end. Which means to glorify God results in enjoying Him and the more we enjoy Him the more He is glorified.

(see: comments on book the Dangerous Duty of Delight.

3. Focusing on whew leaves us unsatisfied. Focusing on happy means we find satisfaction daily in working for and with our God. The kind of satisfaction that renews us like the eagles.

“who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Psalms 103:5

So here’s to all my partners and friends in ministry: HAPPY Whew Year!

Person of the Year

This year Time Magazine took a different tack from their usual Person of the Year cover feature. The cover had a reflective Mylar that acted like a mirror. I thought that was pretty unique. The idea behind it was when you looked at the cover you would see your face - that's because this year's person of the year is - you. The sub-title: Yes you. You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world. The picture on the left does not quite capture it.

I'm halfway through the issue. If you haven't picked it up and you're a pastor or Christian leader in any capacity I recommend that you get it and read. We are in a pivotal time when we can engage a large population of leaders in cyberspace.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Top 10 Recommended Books in 2006

In my other site I wrote about the top 10 books I enjoyed last year - On this site I do a quick review of the top 10 books I read in 2006 that I recommend for pastors, leaders and disciple makers. These are not really in order of the best or most important, so here they are:

1. Church Planting Movements by David Garrison. Given to me by Rey Corpuz. As the title decalres this book is all about church planting movements. No frivolities or opinions here just a recounting of the experiences of church planters in various parts of the world. From third world, hostile locations, post modern, Western Europe, Middle East, North America, among the Gypsies etc. The best part of the book is the summary of the lessons learned by these movements and how the Bible validates these stories. Also includes the 7 deadly sins of church planting. Once again this book affirms that it is not about formulas or practices but proven principles that God has laid out for us.

2. Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels. Given to me by Manny Carlos. I could not stop reading this one. I read it so much the book literally fell apart. A must read for the serious leader who wants to impact multi-generations. Hybels is a firm believer in the power and value of the local church to change society. I love the chapter on developing your own leadership style. The biggest mistake people do is to try to copy someone. You can learn from the principles, character and life lessons of a man but you cannot be that man. You will have to find yourself.

3. Advanced Strategic Planning by Aubrey Malphurs. Given to me by Steve Murrell. Met Dr. Malphurs at the Every Nation World Leaders Conference in LA last June. His book is all about how to develop strategies, plans and processes which is so lacking in the church world. Oftentimes leaders think that if I just read my Bible and pray everything will take care of itself. Don't get me wrong I am a firm believer of reading the Bible and prayer. I do it everyday. Malphurs however, explains the importance of writing down your core values (and not just write them they better be true core), roles of the key players - the members of the church, the focus and desired results that we should have as leaders.

4. The Disney Way by Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson. Given to me by Dennis Sy. Some of you may be saying, what's this got to do with discipleship? Well Disney disciples its employees on the Disney Way. The book covers everything from how to build together as a team and is full of stories of how Disney welcomes millions of visitors and have them coming back for more. It discusses how this creative company tells its stories so well (makes you wonder why in some places Mickey Mouse is more popular than Jesus). It also touches on how to bring your mission to life by clearly defining it.

5. Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper. The recurring theme of the book is "better to lose your life than waste it". While the book focuses on casting your life to the things of God, inadvertently he ends up talking about enjoying God - "If we try to display the excellence of God without joy in it, we will display a shell of hypocrisy and create scorn or legalism. But if we claim to enjoy his excellence and do not display it for others to see and admire, we deceive ourselves, because the mark of God-enthralled joy is to overflow and expand by extending itself into the hearts of others."

6. Creating Community by Andy Stanley - 5 Keys to Building Small Group Culture. This book confirms many of the things I believe. I remember once I was speaking to a group of leaders in Tallahassee Florida and one of my friends (Chuck Hammett) gave me a comment in connection with something I said. He told me of Francis Schaeffer words: "Our relationship with each other is the critereon the world uses to judge whether our message is truthful- Christian community is the final apologetic." In my own words "discipleship is relatonship." Bullseye Chuck, Stanley repeats the same quote in light of building community.

7. The Volunteer Revolution by Bill Hybels. The book discusses the reality that churches are volunteer organizations with less than 2% on staff. It tells lots of stories about the variety of volunteers at Willow Creek. It also gives a check list on how to nurture, care for, inspire and avoid volunteer burn out. Very practical. I picked up some great ideas which we have successfully implemented at church from this book.

8. Fish! Omnibus by Stephen Lundin, Harry Paul and John Christensen. This bestseller has sold more than 2 million copies in a short span of time. The book revolves around the world famous Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle Washington. This everyday fish market has been the source of inspiration for creating an innovative yet accountable work environment where playful, attentive and engaging attiutudes lead to more energy, enthusiasm, productivity and creativity. The 396 page book ends with a dedication. A surprise of surprises. Very inspiring.

9. Cat and Dog Theology given to me also by Rey Corpuz. See Steve Murrell's review on the book:

10. The Corporate Blogging Book by Debbie Weil. The book that inspired me to blog. As you can tell she really did. Debbie gave me the scary reasons why I needed to do it. Over 50% of teenagers are blogging and less than 3% of my generation are doing it and most of them don't even know what it is. It reminds me of the Age of Enlightenment of 1700's when Christians (except for a few) abdicated and failed to speak up. The result was a handful of wordsmiths and philisophers eneded up exalting the god of reason. "We define god the way we want to."

I believe blogging is an opportunity to effectively engage the world if Christians would rise up and learn this new form of communication rather than be scared of it. Think of it as going to Afghanistan and learning their language. If we're willing to do that why aren't we willing to be so good at engaging the "blogsphere" and do what ever it takes to lead people to our God. They're all here anyway. Every ethnicity, color, creed, age group, profession and ideology. I say we be the best at this. Arise shine for your light has come!

" In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16