Category Archives: Herald of Truth

Pepperdine Lectures 2017

Teaching on Church Inside Out

I was out in Malibu last week, speaking at the Pepperdine Lectures. Included in that “speaking” were two sessions where I served as translator for Tony Fernández from Cuba.

Tony arrives in Los Angeles

Tony flew direct from Havana to Los Angeles, a first for him. Much easier than having to stop in Miami to do customs and immigration. He was only in the States for a few days, but it was a needed break from him from the fast-paced life of ministry that he normally leads.

Church Inside Out had good placement in the Pepperdine Bookstore

The class I taught was based on my “Church Inside Out” book and the seminar I lead based on that material. Tony talked about church-planting in Cuba and the power of prayer in the Christian family. I was sorry that more people didn’t make it to Tony’s classes. I think I should have included “Cuba” in the titles of his classes, just to generate more interest. He has such good information to share.

Buena Park Church of Christ auditorium

On Sunday, I got to speak to the Buena Park Church of Christ. The congregation is made up of English speakers and Spanish speakers, so I did a bilingual class and sermon, talking about what the Hope For Life ministry is doing around the world. Lovely group of people.

I have 3 more lectureship-type events coming up later this year. I’ll be at the Red River Family Encampment in late June, followed by the Lipscomb Summer Celebration that same week. Then in September I’ll be speaking at the Harding lectures. If any readers expect to be at any of those events, I’d love to meet up!

Pepperdine has put recordings of the classes and keynotes on iTunes; you can find them here. You can listen to my class, Tony’s classes, and lots of other good presentations from this lectureship.

Teaching on Church Inside Out

Church Inside Out seminars

I believe that the material in Church Inside Out is important for our churches. I have no illusions of getting rich off selling books. I do have dreams of the contents helping some churches become more effective in reaching out to their communities.

It was gratifying to hear that 21st Century Christian has already had to do a second run on the workbooks. I guess some churches are buying the book for their teachers and the workbooks for the class members. That works.

I’ll be presenting this material in four large events this year: the Pepperdine Lectures in May, the Red River Family Encampment in June, the Lipscomb Summer Celebration in June, and the Harding Lectureship in September. I also have several seminars planned at churches in the U.S., plus a request from the Dominican Republic!

I’d love to present this material at your congregation. The Church Inside Out seminar is a practical workshop for the congregation that wants to increase its impact on the community around it. The four sessions of the seminar are:

  • Session 1: The Church Inside
    Christians face new challenges when trying to reach today’s changing society: hostility toward religion, skepticism toward the Bible, apathy toward church membership. Yet the biggest hurdles we face are often inside our own congregations.
    In this first session, we will look at attitudes in our churches that distance us from the communities around us. We will also examine the role of Christians as ambassadors of the Kingdom.
  • Session 2: The World Outside
    In this session, we will look at how to analyze the make-up of our community and how to purposefully serve that community. We will also discuss the need to develop relationships with non-Christians to be able to share Christ with them.
  • Session 3: The Church Goes Out
    Conversion is a process, and church members need to know how to actively participate in every stage of that process. The third session will look at how to treat people who are at different points in their spiritual journey towards God. We’ll learn how to recognize when people are ready to hear the good news and how to share it with them.
  • Session 4: Outsiders No More
    When foreigners come to a new country, they go through something called acculturation. This is the process of learning the appropriate ways of doing things in their new culture. When new Christians begin meeting with the church, they go through a similar process. The final session deals with how to help new Christians become active members of the church.

Our seminars page on the Hope For Life website explains the costs:

The only cost to the hosting congregation is transportation, hotel, meals, and an opportunity to tell the Hope For Life story to the congregation, elders, or Mission Committee. Contact Bill Brant, bbrant@heraldoftruth.org or call 1-800-234-7995, for more information.

I hope to see you soon at a Church Inside Out seminar

Baptisms in Bogotá

Speaking at the rehabilitation group home

Several weeks ago I wrote about a campaign in Bogotá, Colombia, that I participated in as part of my work with Hope For Life, a Herald of Truth ministry. I briefly mentioned a visit that Bruno Valle and I made to a rehabilitation center, spending some time leading the young men there in Bible study.

Yesterday I found out that 13 of those young men were baptized. That’s exciting news!

The temptation, of course, is to try and directly relate those baptisms to my ministry. There is a radio ministry that broadcasts into Cuba; they take credit for any church that is planted in Cuba.  That’s wrong.

The other extreme is to say, “They weren’t baptized while we were there, so it has nothing to do with us.” I don’t believe that, either.

In Church Inside Out, I talk about conversion occurring in several steps and evangelism being a work that many people play a part in:

Conversion is a process, not an event. We can be a part of the conversion process, even if we aren’t there when the person is baptized. If we help someone move from being an uncultivated field to being a cleared field, we’ve helped evangelize that person.
One problem with many of our evangelistic methods is that they are only focused on taking someone the last step to new birth. To continue the metaphor, we’re trying to sow the seed in a field that hasn’t been cleared or plowed. There was a time in the U.S. when most people were already several steps into this process. They believed in God. They accepted the Bible. They wanted to follow Jesus. They just needed to be “shown the way of the Lord more perfectly.”
That isn’t true today. We have to be willing to look at non-Christians and determine where they are in their journey toward God. And we need to deal with those people accordingly. Sometimes we’ll be the ones who get to rejoice as the harvest is brought in. Other times we’ll merely clear some stones so that others will one day be able to sow.
One man sows. Another waters. But God gives the growth.

Of course, the apostle Paul said it much more succinctly:

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow (1 Corinthians 3:6–7).

So I rejoice at the news that these young men were baptized. And I’m thankful that God let me play a part, even if it was only removing a stone or two from the uncultivated hearts of these young men.

Thinking about Christians in other countries

I spent this past weekend in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. On Saturday, I gathered with a group of leaders from different congregations to discuss some of the evangelistic work that Hope For Life / Herald of Truth has been doing there. I listened to their stories and marveled at the dedication of these men. They spoke not of church squabbles or parking lot paving needs; they spoke of the dangers presented by living in gang-controlled areas. They compared the risks and benefits of giving out a telephone number, whether that would lead to more extortion by criminals or more contacts by non-Christians.

One of the preachers told the group how he had sold his house to buy a large lot, big enough to build a church building and a small house. He doesn’t have the funds for the construction, but he stepped out in faith to meet the needs of his congregation.

On Sunday, a man gave his testimony about forgiving the people who had gunned down his wife six months earlier. Other members told me about the Sunday school teacher in another neighborhood who was killed in a shootout just a few blocks from the church building.

I thought of the things that Tony Fernández has shared with me about the difficulties of working in Cuba. I thought of the preacher in El Salvador who had to get an elderly woman from the congregation to accompany us on a visit; if he hadn’t done so, gang members would have “arrested” us. I thought of Christians around the world who face unbelievable hardships as they seek to serve God.

Then I think about the things that seem so important in so many of our churches here in the States. And I feel very ashamed.

Bogota campaign

Bruno and me

Wanted to write a quick account of last weekend’s campaign in Bogota, Colombia. I flew down to Bogota last Wednesday, meeting Bruno Valle just after midnight inside customs at the Bogota airport. Bruno, a preacher from Managua, Nicaragua, is the new Central American ministry coordinator for Hope for Life, a Herald of Truth ministry.

On Thursday, Bruno and I were involved in a couple of home Bible studies; we also spoke at a rehabilitation center for young men. On Friday, we got to study with Ivis, a young lady who chose to be baptized, and participated in a group Bible study on the south side of town.

On Saturday, we had the first public event of the campaign. Then on Sunday, we had a combined worship service with members from six different congregations, as well as a number of visitors. Bruno and I took turns speaking each day.

Church members in Bogota had been distributing literature and invitations for weeks. They had an ad that ran in one of the major newspapers for several weeks. (We had also run some ads on Facebook.) The Christians had put in a lot of work and were a bit disappointed when the turnout wasn’t what they hoped. (Personally, I was disappointed with the turnout from the churches in Bogotá; several congregations were only represented by their preachers)

I wasn’t disappointed with the overall results. There were two baptisms and two people who wanted to return to active membership in the church. There were also twenty-four visitors who signed up to continue studying the Bible. I’m also confident that some of the people who received literature during the campaign will contact the church in the future.

It was a great weekend. Let me share some pictures.