Churches partnering with churches

For the last four years, the University Church of Christ in Abilene has been partnering with a congregation in Cuba to aid them in the outreach efforts. It’s something I’m very proud of, largely because I think it’s the type of mission effort that we need to see more of going forward.

We’re used to a model where a church in the United States supports an individual, typically a preacher. At one time, these were mainly missionaries from the United States. Now I’d guess that more locals are supported than foreigners. I think that, as we come to recognize the maturation of churches outside the United States, in many cases the best course of action will be supporting a congregation rather than an individual.

In this case, UCC partners with the Versalles Church of Christ in Matanzas. This congregation was started by Tony Fernández and his parents, and Tony continues to lead the church today. Over the last 10 years, the Versalles church has planted over 40 other congregations. They also have their own missionaries working in other provinces.

They have the know how. They have the manpower. They lack the material resources to continue to expand this church-planting ministry. UCC has the funds (thanks to a generous donor) and shares them with the Versalles church, no strings attached. We visit them, participate with them, listen to reports about what they are doing, but do not control their efforts. The church leadership makes the decisions about how to best use the funds they receive, and they’ve done a much better job of that than any outside church could have done.

Tony works fulltime for Hope For Life, a ministry of Herald of Truth. All of his funds, personal and work funds, come from this ministry. I’m in a funny middle position. Sometimes I carry funds to him from Hope For Life. Sometimes I carry funds to him from UCC. Sometimes I have both.

Tony makes a clear distinction between the funds. Those that are brought for the church are given directly to the church leadership. If possible, Tony doesn’t even touch them. The funds from Hope For Life go to Tony, for he has directed the Hope For Life efforts in Cuba since 1991. He, like me, responds to the board of directors of Hope For Life for the use of those funds. But in Cuba, he is responsible for the administration of those funds.

A lot of people at UCC have the mistaken idea that we somehow support Tony. I hate that, because I think they are missing out on the fact that we are part of something unusual and highly significant. Direct partnership between two congregations is an exciting prospect not only in Cuba but around the world. Our experiences over the last four years lead me to encourage other churches to do the same. In places where the church has already been established, don’t fund an individual; fund a church. Come alongside your brothers in Christ and say, “Here are the resources you need. Go do God’s work.” And put no other strings on the money.

I think you’ll be amazed at what God can do.

Hope For Life ministries presidential search

HOT Logo-BWI wanted to mention that Hope For Life, a Herald of Truth ministry, is looking for a new president and CEO. Our current head, Bill Brant, will be stepping down at the end of 2017. A national (international?) search is now underway to find his successor.

I’m not directly involved with the search in any way. It is being conducted by our board of directors. If you’d like to know more about what the job is about, you may look at the Presidential Search page on the website.

Feel free to pass this on to others who might be interested and qualified for the job.

Equip Conference in Orlando

equip logoThe Equip Conference takes place in Orlando this coming weekend. Formerly the Spiritual Growth Workshop, the Equip Conference is a gathering of members of the churches of Christ with a focus on practical application of Scripture. This year’s focus is on “Harvest.” looking particularly at evangelism. That makes it fitting for someone to be there from Hope For Life, a Herald of Truth ministry. I’m privileged to be that someone.

Besides the sessions in English, there is also a strong Spanish track. I was very pleased to be invited to speak both in English and Spanish. As is often the case, there are numerous excellent offerings in English at the same time as my two classes; I have no illusions about drawing a large audience. In Spanish, mine is the only class where there is a separate ladies class going simultaneously; though I’ve got a better shot at speaking to a good-sized group, I know that my audience will only be half as large as it would be otherwise. But I don’t go to such events so that hundreds can hear me speak; I go to meet with other Christians and be mutually encouraged.

It’s been eight years since I’ve been to this workshop, but I remember it as a vibrant gathering. I’m really looking forward to being back there.

Ten years at Herald of Truth

hflThis month makes ten years that I’ve been working with Herald of Truth. (We’re now using the name Hope For Life, a Herald of Truth ministry) During that time, I’ve gotten to do some amazing things as part of my work here. Here are a few:

  • I’ve been blessed to work with lots of amazing people, from fellow ministers to office staff to board members.
  • I’ve gotten to see firsthand the work of local churches around the U.S. and around the world.
  • I’ve co-authored four books and been the sole author of another. I write regularly for Heartlight and less frequently on other sites.
  • I’ve spoken on lectureships at Lipscomb University, Harding University, Pepperdine University, Faulkner University, and Abilene Christian University. I’ve also spoken at the Tulsa Workshop and the Orlando Spiritual Growth Workshop.
  • I’ve done men’s retreats, family retreats, areawide church gatherings, gospel meetings, and church seminars around the U.S.
  • I’ve been blessed to preach in campaigns in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Spain.

None of that’s to my credit; it’s all been what God has done through the ministry of Herald of Truth. I hope there’s at least another ten years of ministry ahead for me here. Thanks to all of you who give generously to keep this ministry functioning! In a way, you too have done all of the things I’ve listed above through your support.

Equip Conference in Orlando

equip logoI’ve been invited to speak at the Equip Conference in Orlando, Florida, this year. It’s been 8 years since I’ve been to this conference (formally known as Spiritual Growth Workshop), so I’m really looking forward to being back. Hope For Life, a Herald of Truth ministry, is paying my way, for which I’m very grateful.

The theme of the conference is “Harvest.” I’ll be doing two classes in English and one in Spanish, all covering material from Church Inside Out. The English classes are labeled as being in the missions track; hoping no one will be disappointed, because I won’t be addressing missions in the traditional sense. I’ll be discussing churches engaging their communities, as the book focuses on. In Spanish I’ve been given the theme “Cultivating Relationships,” which will have an evangelistic overtone based on the overall theme of the conference.

If you’re going to be at the conference, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments section so I can be looking for you. I’d love to have you come to one, two, or even all three of my classes.

The conference is June 30-July 3. It will be held at the Rosen Centre, in Orlando. All of the information you need can be found on the conference website or by contacting the Orange Avenue Church of Christ in Orlando:

Equip Conference
c/o Orange Avenue Church of Christ
1511 East Orange Avenue
Eustis, Florida 32726
Phone: 352-357-6616
Fax: 352-357-5335