Our Mission Statement

As a family of servants of God, we seek to Glorify Him by offering our lives as living sacrifices, being intentional about engaging people with Christ and the Gospel, and using the talents and training He has given us through grace to proclaim the Gospel of Grace to those near and far.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Flow of Reflections

As we approach the 11-month mark since our move to Peterhead, there are many directions this post can go. But I’ll let the mind and heart guide what will flow out of my fingers.

It has been an amazing ride so far; with challenges expected and challenges unforeseen; joys had and disappointments clear. I (Jr) have grown in my patience and pastoral abilities; as God has chosen to gift each. I love teaching the Word of God. The more I do it the more I love not only doing it, but the more I grow closer to God. As a missionary (and we as a missionary family); it often seems that at times we’re on God’s team but we fail to stay connected to the Head Coach as often as possible. So many ideas; so many ways to move forward; so many people we care about here; the mind is always racing 100kph. Get out of the head! Oh… and then there is my own precious family.

It has become increasingly clear that my “niche” of giftedness is in preparation for teaching and preaching; the act of teaching and preaching; and with discipleship training in small groups and one-on-ones. I also love the pastoral work of counseling; reconciliation-guiding; encouraging; listening… and as it turns out the way I do these things also fits nicely into discipleship.

How do we follow Jesus in this increasingly wicked and twisted generation? The West is dark. Europe; UK; America. So very, very dark. Hard as rocks. But God can turn rocks into children of Abraham.

We have been able to see some amazing spiritual growth in a group of people. Oh to see God at work is such a joy! I baptized my son early last fall. He is now my brother. We fist pump and everything. I also baptized another new brother into Christ in December, and the growth I have seen in Him is nothing short of divinely inspired. It was, among other influences, the Gospel of Mark. Thirty-two lessons to walk through the text. And go figure, the Word did its work. The Holy Spirit is moving; shining and blowing into the darkness of this world.

Never doubt God is working. Ever. Never doubt His Word. Ever.

The desire that has increased among those we are involved with is so inspiring. People crave the Word. People crave the Christ. I need to stay focused on that, and on them.

Jesus. How did He do it? When He exasperatingly asked, “how long am I to put up with you?” – what was He feeling? And Paul. He was in Corinth for just 3 months and wanted to get out of town. It took a dream from God to tell Him to stay.

Jesus. The way He did ministry. I’m growing increasingly inspired by the way He did things. A series of concentric circles of relationships and connections. He would teach the big crowds filled with onlookers and disciples concerning the Kingdom of God and following Him; realizing that many simply wanted their fill of bread. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Then He had His Twelve. His closest Twelve. The ones He called to follow Him, and they did. He would be more intimate with them; and even though they didn’t fully understand; the desire was there to stay and follow and listen and grow.

Then He had the three; Peter, James, and John. He took them to special places the other nine were not invited to. Healing people; and climbing mountains to see the confirmation from the Father that Jesus was greater than Moses (the Law) and Elijah (all the prophets).

And of course, he would leave those who needed Him most just to have time with the One. In the Spirit with the Father. The Trinity, alone together. Imagine the peace and glory in moments like those.

I love these circles. It works.

He would walk among the sinners; eat and dine with them. I love this. Isn’t this what we are supposed to do? And so we do here. Those who maybe had a little experience with “church” back in the day (30 years ago) but rejected it outright before they were ten. And those who have no clue or record about Jesus and the Gospel. We have increasingly engaged with couples in the “middle-stage” of life; which is our own (30s/40s). We meet a lot through our children and it doesn’t take long for the inevitable question to be asked: “Why are you here?”

It’s because of our accent. We’re the ones who sound different here.

And so without hiding, we say why we are here and what for; and it strikes many as very odd. “Why?” They will ask. “Because we want to introduce people to Jesus,” we think to say. Though admittedly, it doesn’t always come out that way.

In these places of contact is where we are most encouraged and see the greatest opportunity. Watching young adults in their late teens and 20s really start to “get it” about what it is to follow Jesus. Middle-aged adults increasingly aware of their own emptiness; and they seek the peace. Home Bible-studies beginning. Older-generations and their growth in grace. It’s all happening.

We have found very clearly that people are interested in the Jesus of the Gospels. They can see right through the other versions: The Jesus we make in our own image; the Jesus of Hollywood; the Jesus of the 21-century pseudo-intellectual liberal emotional zeitgeist. Those versions of Jesus are lame.

They really are lame. And weak. And fake. People want to know about Jesus. The one in the Bible. The rough, loving, brutal, true, uncomfortable Jesus.

Also: Christianity. Not Churchianity. We follow a man; a God-man --- not a “system” or subjective cultural construct. Church is a healing place for the sinner; not a rest home for the righteous. It is a place to worship the God of the Bible; not manufacture an idol of comfort in the mind.

We love the work here so far. We were taught about the bell-curve of cultural experience. I think I mentioned it in the last post or something. Two-years, they say, before one feels settled enough to really move forward in the work. I’m too impatient for that. Honestly. God might be too.

Our support (probably many of you reading this) is tremendous and Godly. Sometimes I shake thinking about the thousand-plus people who are engaged with us in one-way or another. The congregations supporting us and invested in this work are models, I believe, for how missionary works should be attempted. Growth needed? Sure. But my family is well taken care of. The genuine concern for our own spiritual health and the spiritual health of the work is top-notch. And the people are engaged. God’s people. What a family! --- and to all those friend and family who support and keep tabs on us. It’s very humbling, and frightening. In a good way.

As we approach the end of year one; we are excited for 2014. Some things are becoming clearer and we are growing increasingly desirous to see how God will work. He is Spirit. He blows wherever He wishes and we do not always know where He is going or when He is going to go. But man is it fun (and frustrating?) to be a part of!

Teaching, preaching, discipleship. So much wrapped up in each of those three areas; but there it is just now. People are entering the Kingdom. People are following Jesus. What will God do next?

The people for whom Christ died are here. We’ve seen it. May their number be added.

“… if only I might finish my course, and complete the work I was given to do to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God…”

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

August 2013: Finding Our Way. And Pray!

First, we apologize for the long delay in blogging. We know that we had a goal of once-a-month entries but that has not happened. A part of us feels like with all the social media contacts, the recent visit from FXCC, the video-chatting, and all the rest that we have been apart of, the blog can be kind of redundant. However, we know this is not the case and that many more wish to get caught up on everything. Here’s an attempt at that! :)

Recently, there has been a lot of recollection about how we are “finding our way” here. This is still being done. After looking through some notes I had, Daisha and I were blessed to be reminded how we learned from Dr. Stan Granberg (lifelong missionary in Africa and current Executive Director of Kairos Church Planting in Portland, Oregon). He taught us a few things while at grad school, including how it was shown that in such a work as this (though nothing is “fixed”), it can take up to 2 (two!) years (years!) to be enculturated enough re: language/socialization, social rhythms, message formulation, and on-the-ground ministry experience to actually get to any form of being “settled”. We’ve been here a total of 5-6 months now so we are well into our first year; and in this it becoming more and more true for us. So in this first year we know that we are to be concerned mostly with family issues, mission issues, and target-people issues. This is a huge step in “finding our way” in year one. Then after the first two years, it is usually not until years 3-7 that systematic evangelism is fully established, church-growth and planting is seen, some kind of stabilization occurs in life and ministry, and the fruits of maturity are recognized. Then there are the issues built in underneath each of those items: Leadership, communication, teaching, fellowship, planning, vision casting, relationships, counseling, family dynamics, education, structural and ministry diversification, base building, etc. Again, no times are fixed, but what is clear is that this is a long-term work.

Patience, Sheets. Patience.

This kind of knowledge of a Holy Spirit-led strategy is helpful as a reminder to us and to all involved in this work.

So for now here are what you can be involved with in praying for God’s Kingdom here in this place:

An increased desire and heart for vision and mission within us and the congregation. Many servants of Peterhead have gone before us and are active today. We are blessed mightily to be a part of something like this at this time in history. But where do we go from here? An engaged and intentional look at what God’s work in this world is (through His Word); how we have seen God move and work most recently; and a recognition of the post-Christian realities around us; all melded together – shaken and stirred – and out comes a purpose, a direction, a vision, and working partners. Pray that the Holy Spirit will be our guide and that when He moves, we will move; even if it is risky, new, intense, or all the above. Pray for wisdom and discernment and a Spirit of unity, peace, love, desire, and commitment.

Pray that the fire that God is burning in the hearts of the young here who are craving the Word more and more will flame up all the more! To see the desire is so uplifting! To know the labor put in to these youth by Billy Strachan is humbling and encouraging as well. There is planting. There is watering. There is growth. We will fit in wherever on the line God so determines!

Thus, my days are loaded with teaching and discipleship time (preparation and/or engagement). There have been nights lasting until 2-3am in committed study or counsel. So pray for my mental health and stamina. I love (LOVE) doing this work, but at the same time our family must be of first importance in ministry. So pray also that we don’t neglect each other; and that our home will continue to be a home of laughter, togetherness, and love.

Pray for the non-believers who have continued to come in to the on-going work with Billy; and the new ones who I have had the wonderful opportunity to help guide already. God is moving in the hearts of unbelievers here. And this is a huge reason for us being here anyway (of course!). So pray that God moves to change hearts of stone into hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36).

Pray for the young families we are continuing to befriend; couples as well as single mothers. Brothers and sisters, there is so much darkness in the stories of many. Oh that they come to know the light of Christ and the fresh air of peace found in the gospel! Pray we are bold in our friendships, relationships, and witness.

Pray for our children. Oh how precious Gideon and Naomi are to the Lord. We know it. We see it. But they have already met resistance for being who they are; as Gideon especially is bold in his language about why we are here. This doesn’t fit in an ever-increasing God-ignoring culture. We love them so much. Pray for their strength and that God will keep them in His mighty arms as they interact with their friends.

Pray for the disciple-making. This work is built in-to all the other works, but it is a work that is not just about disciple-making, but in training new and old disciples to then become disciple-makers! In our day there is no more room or time for pew sitters. God wants disciples! “Follow me…” He said.

Pray for the other leaders here and their works. Those like the aforementioned Billy Strachan, and of course Michael Gaunt. Pray for their families, as the ministry has, can, and will take a toll on any man. Pray for their families – the spiritual health, mental health, and physical health. Pray for continued strength and the on going seeing of fruit from their decades of work here as faithful ambassadors of the Kingdom of God.

Pray for those here who are suffering physically. There are many who are struggling with various ailments.

Thank God for the FXCC campaign, and for leaders like Phil McKinney, Sammie Young, Andy Morris, the Millers, and many more. The teens at FXCC are something unique and special; and the fruit of their labor here is springing up. In many ways we are trying to keep up and decipher what exactly is happening! :)

Thank you, dear reader, for your support. Whether you support us in prayer or in prayer and finances, we thank you. We love you. We NEED YOU.

As I said a couple weeks ago, we must be a people of powerful intentional prayer. This world is at war; and we cannot treat prayer like it is some domestic intercom. We must treat prayer for what it is: Firepower from above. Alone we are hopeless and without strength. With God’s power nothing can stop us; any of us! So please pray specifically, and with intentionality, and with desire, and with forcefulness, and with love at the core. Be bold in your prayers! 

Love you all – The Sheets

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Johnny Coull and His Boats

This is John Coull (pronounced "cool"). He's a former fisherman and a lover of the Gospel. And well, he is a pretty cool guy too. He builds model boats from scratch, piece by piece, and either sells them or races them. You should see how detailed they are. I really enjoy getting up in his attic (I have to duck) and checking out his latest creations. And I'm looking forward to catching a race soon!




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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Physical vs. Spiritual Worldview and its Affect on Missions (Part 2 of 2)

See Part 1 of "Physical vs. Spiritual Worldview and its Affect on Missions" below this post (or, click here).

Continuing from the previous post... 
Our worldview: Why do second things become first and first things become second? Because we have exchanged a spiritual worldview for a different worldview; a cultural worldview that views life and the world through dollars and cents; through the physical, rather than through the Spirit of Jesus.  

Being a missionary in Scotland I can testify to the true nature of this issue...
Because we are such a materialistic people, the first question asked to us when we told others where we were going was usually: “Why Scotland?” And it is not hard to assume the underlying assumption behind that question: “They are first world; they have money and technology and cars and food; and aren’t they Christian anyway? I mean it’s not poor folk in Africa or SE Asia with buckets of mud. It’s Scotland.”

As much as we would deny it, the glasses of materialism have tainted our view of missions. It was difficult speaking to people at first. This, when so many missionaries that we personally know, love, and support are in or are going to places like Bolivia, South America; or Tanzania, Africa; or various places in China; or the Philippines; or Thailand; or Vietnam. Scotland, or anywhere in Europe, just doesn’t sound as “missionary” as those other places. And why? Well, for the most part it comes down to this: First world economy vs. third world/semi-third world economy. The question asked has little to do at first with the spiritual reality on the ground, but is filtered through, as Gary said, a “cultural worldview that views life and the world through dollars and cents; through the physical, rather than through the Spirit of Jesus.”

Yes, Scotland has a first-world economy (though it’s still a bit different from the US). But it also has the following spiritual realities:
1)According to a European Commission “Eurobarometer” study, in 2005 only 38% of the UK population believed in “a God” while 40% believed in a “life force” (whatever that means). In other words, 13 years ago, about 60% of the UK were more or less non-believers; and we cannot automatically assume that belief in “a God” equals biblical Christianity either.
2)According to a British Social Attitudes Survey by the National Centre for Social Research, in 2009 only about 43% would self-declare as “Christian” on a form (that is, check a box – not necessarily go to church or follow Jesus).
3)In 2009, a study showed that 66% (a full 2/3rds) of all teenagers would self-declare as either atheist or agnostic. This is the next generation.
4)With all this, trends are showing that by 2025 (that’s just 12 years from now), only about 25% of all people in the UK will even self-declare as “Christian” on a form. If we conservatively half that number for actual attendees of churches and practicing followers of Jesus, we can foresee perhaps only 10-15% of the UK population as regular church attendees and disciples of Jesus by the year 2025.
5)The fastest growing belief systems in the UK are atheism and Islam (the latter mostly by immigration, women marrying Muslim men, and the prison population).

If we look at other countries in Europe we see the following according to the same 2005 Eurobarometer study. Belief in “a [general] God”: Estonia (16%); Czech Republic (19%); Sweden (23%); Denmark (31%); Norway (32%); Netherlands (34%); United Kingdom (38%); etc.

What worldview do we have when we consider missions? May the Lord of the harvest send out laborers into His harvest in Estonia! In the Czech Republic! To Sweden, Denmark, and Norway!

Here’s another amazing reality to leave you with, and it deals directly with what Gary talked about. Consider this: For those who at least “attend services” in Scotland, the majority of those belong to the Church of Scotland. The Church of Scotland is Presbyterian by tradition. Now consider this: There were more Presbyterians worshipping last week in Ghana, Africa then there were in Scotland. 

Read that again. There were more Presbyterians worshiping in Ghana than there were worshiping in the highest attended Church of Scotland.

But I ask: Which would the US Church mobilize quicker for; or which mission-front do you believe would receive greater support? Scotland – or Ghana?

How about Maine? Vermont? Rhode Island? - or Ghana?

May we put on the glasses of the Spirit of Jesus and either go or support those who will to both first world and third world!

Grace be with you -
Jr

[I do want to close with this note: Fairfax Church of Christ (along with Falls Church Church of Christ and dozens of friends and family), was quick to hop on board with this mission and has become well aware of the reality on the ground in the UK. FXCC has supported work in the Czech Republic (as well as the Dominican Republic and China). And many in the congregation have lived all around Europe and have noted the drastic spiritual change and decline in just the last 15-20 years. I’m glad to say they “get it.” We are very blessed to be with them on this mission.]

Monday, June 10, 2013

Physical vs. Spiritual Worldview and its Affect on Missions (Part 1 of 2)

A couple weekends ago I, along with Billy Strachan, had the opportunity to travel back to Fairfax, Virginia from my new home (Billy's long-time home) for mission in Peterhead, Scotland. The occasion was the Capital Forum on Global Missions and Discipleship being held at Fairfax Church of Christ. It was a packed time and I am still chewing on many things spoken either in keynote addresses, breakaway sessions, or conversation with other attendees.

The keynote speaker was Gary Green, former missionary in Venezuela, and currently Abilene Christian University’s Missions Coordinator for Latin America. He is also the coordinator for WorldWide Witness, a program through the Department of Bible, Missions, and Ministry that provides students with practical missions experience outside of the classroom.

In one of his keynote addresses, Gary said something profound and which immediately harkened a “that is so true” from deep within me. I will quote him here. [Though, if you want to hear this portion, you can listen to it at this link from time code 11:35-17:55]. He said:
Somewhere along the line we became much more North American, than Christian. Somewhere along the line we lost a spiritual worldview and we gained a materialistic one. Now think this through: When was the last time you can think of a congregation becoming totally mobilized and excited and moved to respond, to step up to the plate, to change schedules, and take out their checkbooks to respond with 100% of their being.

I’m from Louisiana. I keep thinking of Katrina…of the tsunami in Indonesia…of the earthquake in Chile…of New Jersey…of Oklahoma… - How quickly do our congregations jump on board to bring relief? [quickly!] 

Have you seen the same response when we talk about a spiritual drought in our country? Do we get as motivated when we talk about pornography on the internet and doing something about it? Do we become as moved when we talk about the shallowness of relationship in our congregations? Are we mobilized to do something when we realize the struggles our children are having in staying pure and honest?

We are [more] moved [it seems] because the eyes through which we view the world are wearing materialistic glasses. We are moved very often not by a spirit of wanting to bring people back to God; but we are moved when we see material loss. 

Tell me why is it; why is it, that I work with two different mission teams. One spent 4 years, 4 years[!] trying to raise enough money for a 2-year commitment to go to a country in which 97% of the population will not be worshiping on a Sunday morning. It took them 4 years to raise that funding. At the same time another couple needed less than 1 year to raise money to go to a country that has Christianity listed as an official religion in their constitution.

The answer? Family A was going to Australia, a first world country. Family B was going to Zambia, Africa. Poverty, one year. First world, four years.
Ninety-seven percent of Australia will not be in any household of evangelical faith in a given week. Ninety-seven percent. In Zambia, Christianity is one of the official religions in the country; in the constitution. Why did we move? Were we moved by 97% of a country not knowing Jesus? No. We were moved by seeing material loss. Material deficiency. 

I ran a test with my students the other day. I put up four different charts; four different pictures of the world on the wall. The first one was a map of literacy; countries colored by literacy rates. The second had to do with corruption index. The third had to do with poverty. The fourth, world religions.

Now these students are the cream of the crop. These are 70 students about to go overseas to work for two months, paying out of funds they raised or out of their own pockets. The cream of the crop. After showing them all the maps I told them to close their eyes then raise their hand corresponding to the map that moved them in their heart.

The map about literacy: About 20% of the students raised their hands.
The map about corruption: About 40% of the room raised their hands.
The map about poverty: Another 40% raised their hands.
The map about world religions: Five people – less than 10% in the room were moved by who knows Jesus and who doesn’t. 

Our worldview: Why do second things become first and first things become second? Because we have exchanged a spiritual worldview for a different worldview; a cultural worldview that views life and the world through dollars and cents; through the physical, rather than through the Spirit of Jesus. 
Being a missionary in Scotland I can testify to the true nature of this issue... [to be continued tomorrow]

Grace be with you -
Jr


Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Disciple-Making Equation

The Holy Spirit working in power + my ESV + a pencil + notes + people to spend time with and teach = Making Disciples