Tag Archives: Hope For Life

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

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.

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 HeraldofTruth.org website.

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