Dumb Decisions and Ministry Success

doh300pxIt is easy to think that success in ministry depends upon us making good decisions. If God’s plans for this church / ministry are going to succeed, we need to discern His will and follow it.  But what about when we make dumb decisions?  Can our failures ruin what God wants to accomplish?  Certainly, our decisions have a real impact in our lives and the lives of others.  We should pursue holiness and make the best choices we can. But at the same time, our missteps, miscalculations, and general failure to follow God in every way do not prevent God from accomplishing his plans.

We see this principle at work in the story of Abimelech and Abraham in Genesis 20.  Abraham and Sarah move into Gerar, the territory of King Abimelech.  Abraham has some inkling of the trouble that is ahead, so he tells Sarah to say that she is his sister instead of his wife.  Abimelech then takes Sarah as his wife, but before he gets to sleeping with her, God speaks to him in a dream and tells him that she has a husband already, and Abimelech will thus be punished.  Abimelech pleads his innocence, returns Sarah, and berates Abraham for lying to him.  At the end of the day, Abraham gets his wife back plus a lot of gifts from Abimelech who wants to clear his name and escape from divine wrath.  


Bad Language Day

After more than 8 years in Thailand, I would like to think that I speak and understand Thai at a fairly high level.  I can usually teach and preach in Thai, and carry on conversations without major problems.  My language is not perfect, of course, and I can’t speak or understand 100% of what I would like to.  But in general, my Thai language ability seems to function okay for what I need to do.

But sometimes it all falls apart.  I can’t find the right word.  I stumble over what I want to say.  Someone tells me something and I can only guess what they are trying to communicate.  And it always hits me by surprise.  Why is it that normally I do okay, but today my language ability has regressed about 5 years?  I’ve had this experience many times.  Seemingly out of nowhere, my language ability disintegrates before my eyes. But I’ve learned to not get too discouraged by my bad language days.  

Because that’s just what it is: a single day.  



Timeline: Thai Church History in Global Context

Embedded below is the English version of a timeline of "Thai Church History in Global Context."  The Thai version was developed as a study aid for my students at Bangkok Bible Seminary, and it is my hope that the English version will be useful for my fellow Thailand missionaries and interested Christians worldwide.

Click on each frame of the timeline (or use your left and right arrow buttons) to advance to the next frame or use the scroll bar on the bottom to travel back and forth through time.  In the top right corner you also have the option to view as a chart (default) or as a list (vertical listing of events).



  Download Timeline (text only) .doc  .pdf

Counting Heads, Counting Churches

It is not uncommon for evangelists to measure their success by counting the number of decisions made for Christ, or for pastors to measure their success by the number of people sitting in the pews on Sunday.  Both of these are inaccurate measures of success because they indicate little about genuine spiritual life.  But on the mission field another variation of the numbers game has developed: counting churches.

Among some advocates of church planting movements (CPM), it is not uncommon to hear reports about how many churches are planted here and there in such-and-such (short) period of time.  The rapid multiplication of churches is seen as evidence of the work of God in bringing many people to Christ.  Everyone is quick to shout their apparent successes from the rooftops, but neither missionaries, evangelists, nor pastors are as diligent in their reporting when new churches fold, new converts disappear, or attendees make for the back door of the church.  


Brief Survey of Thai Church History (Audio Lecture)

firstchurchchiangmai smlI recently took about 20 hours of lecture notes on Thai church history and condensed them into about 1.5 hours for a session on Thai church history at my mission organization's annual conference.  Embedded below you will find an audio version of this very brief overview of Thai church history which will give you a big picture view of the development of Protestant Christianity in Thailand. 

My lecture here is not as polished or fluid as I would like, but a number of listeners gave me positive feedback so I decided to post it for those who would like a quick overview of Thai church history in a short period of time. (Please excuse the fact that the recording starts abruptly and there is no mention early Roman Catholic mission work in Thailand - I forgot to hit the record button until 15 minutes after I began talking)

If you do not see an embedded audio player and/or download link above, you can click here for direct access to the audio file.

For more on Thai church history, please see my website


Should We Dump Foreign Missionaries in Favor of Native Missionaries?

chairs dumped in field 250pxIn recent years, there has been a trend for some missions supporters and churches in the West to move away from sending their own missionaries in favor of supporting “native missionaries.”   The logic goes something like this: “Why pay $60,000/year or more to support a family of American missionaries who will struggle to learn language and culture when you can support a native missionary who knows the language and culture already for $50/month?”  At first glance this seems like a great idea.  And in some places it might be.  But there are other factors at play when deciding to support a missionary from your home country or someone more “local.”  

The historical, cultural, religious, and economic situation varies greatly from country to county and not all non-Western nations can be lumped together when evaluating whether foreign missionaries are still need. In this post, I want to look at several questions that can help us evaluate whether missionaries are really needed (or wanted) in a given location. I will use Thailand as a case study since it is the context that I am most familiar with.