Leaving the Easy Mission Field

The favorite part of my walk every morning is going past the two elementary schools in Barrouaille.  Usually before making the turn off the main road children already notice me coming and start calling out “Mr. John!” to get my attention.

Since coming two years ago the Lord has opened a great door of ministry with children.

  1. Through bible stories
  2. Computer tutoring in the afternoon
  3. Daily Bible Club (we are working through the book of Mark)
  4. Weekends playing frisbee or football
  5. And sharing the Gospel

While no mission field could be called easy, my personality and spritual gifts, along with a love for working with children makes it easier for me to reach the children of Barrouaillie.

I personally believe the Lord in His Sovereignty puts us in places where we can be used effectively for him….the important thing is to make sure we don’t spend all of our time in that easier mission field.

For a few months, the Lord has been challenging me to move on from children’s ministry and begin reaching adults as well as teenagers (secondary school students).  Children’s ministry is obviously important, but it’s incredibly easy to only become involved in ministries where we are gifted. Over time this can create a works-based view of ministry (“look what I did”) instead of humble reliance upon God.

So I began moving away from the “Mr. John” ministry opportunities and prayed God would open the door to new fields.  That prayer was answered yesterday as I met with a principal about volunteering at his secondary school in the Fall.

After the meeting I stood outside and watched the high-school students interact with each other during their lunch break.  To be honest part of me didnt want to give up my “rock star” status of Mr. John for a mission field of teens who would definitely be harder to reach.  It would be easier to just stay in the ministry area where I’ve spent two years developing relationships and people know me instead of basically starting all over  (the school is fifteen minutes away)

Standing there in the school parking lot I said “Lord why have you called me to this place?  I don’t have a clue how to reach these teenagers, and am not skilled to do it!”  The response was “that’s exactly why I’ve called you here John.”

The thing about missions is it’s meant to glorify God instead of ourselves.  Which is why the Lord takes great pleasure in opening the new door of ministry.  It’s in those moments of weakness, anxiety, and social awkwardness that all praise goes to Him.

I may be wrong but I’m pretty certain I won’t be greeted by shouts of “Mr. John!” at the secondary school.  But that’s okay because my weakness gives a great opportunity for God’s glory.

Why We Need a Three-Minute Gospel

taken from http://centrikid.com/2013/02/04/gospel-with-kids-poster/

One of the most heartbreaking experiences in Barrouallie is working with children who know they are going to Hell, but don’t clearly understand the gospel.

Yesterday a boy named Renerick came to visit and I asked him “if God asked you why he should let you into Heaven what would you say?”  His response was to “say please” and “promise that he would be good.”  After hearing the Gospel Renerick said he was ready to accept Jesus, but didn’t quite understand it yet.

The problem is children like Renerick have a head knowledge of the Gospel but it hasn’t impacted their hearts.

One of the best ways move from the head to the heart is a “three-minute Gospel

  1. This is a Gospel presentation that focuses on major Bible themes
  2. Is linked to Bible stories you tell
  3. Can be explained very quickly (under three minutes)
  4. Is easy to memorize
  5. And uses pictures

The goal of a three-minute Gospel is for the child (or adult) to memorize the Gospel, which then allows the Holy Spirit to bring conviction

The best three-minute Gospel presentation I’ve found comes from Centri-kid camps and uses five major points

  1. God Rules:  The Bible tells us God created everything, including you and me, and He is in
    charge of everything. Genesis 1:1; Revelation 4:11; Colossians 1:16-17
  2. We sinned :  We all choose to disobey God. The Bible calls this sin. Sin separates us from God and deserves God’s punishment of death. Romans 3:23; 6:23
  3. God Provided:  God sent Jesus, the perfect solution to our sin problem, to rescue us from the punishment we deserve. It’s something we, as sinners, could never earn on our own. Jesus alone saves us. John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9
  4. Jesus Gives:  He lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again. Because Jesus gave up His life for us, we can be welcomed into God’s family for eternity.  This is the best gift ever! Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 2:8-9
  5. We respond:   Believe in your heart that Jesus alone saves you through what He’s already done on the cross. Repent, turning from self and sin to Jesus. Tell God and others that your faith is in Jesus. John 14:6; Romans 10:9-10,13

It is true that this Gospel presentations a bit “basic” but we as Christians need both a three-minute Gospel, and a 30 minute Gospel.

  •  The three-minute Gospel is shared repeatedly until a person understands the Gospel
  • The thirty-minute Gospel explains God’s truth to those who understand God’s plan, but reject it, or have lots of questions.

I live for the moment when Renericks eyes will light up because he fully grasps the Gospel. But until that day my job is to repeatedly share God’s plan and allow the Holy Spirit to do the work.


Reading for Understanding not Entertainment

“The Majority of us are addicted to non-active reading” Mortimer Adler

Last week I felt pretty  good about myself after creating a reading list with thirteen books, only to find out I didn’t really know how to read.

In 1940 Mortimer Adler wrote “How to Read A Book” and it’s still a classic textbook on literature  seventy-six later.  The strength of the book is his description of the four different kinds of readings we should be capable of.

Adler’s first level of reading (called the Elementary Level) refers to being literate and able to read almost anything.  There is nothing wrong with this of course…but his issue is most of us (myself included) stop at the elementary level.

“However he is no yet a ‘mature’ reader in the sense in which we want to employ in the terms of this book.  He has mastered the first level of reading that is all.  He does not know how to read beyond the elementary level.”  

Moving past the elementary reading involves:

  1. Inspecting the book to see if it deserves to be read
  2. Categorizing the book before reading it
  3. Creating a two-sentence summary of the books goal
  4. Outlining the book
  5. And stating the main question the book attempts to answer

In other words this kind of reading (what Adler calls active reading) is very hard work

Active reading  is actually founded on the principle that reading instead of being for entertainment is for a deeper understanding of the subject.

See my goal when reading on the porch most evenings isn’t to study the authors motives, but relax after dinner, and do some “fun reading.”  In other words reading is a form of entertainment

Of course there’s nothing wrong with reading a book for fun  however when 85% to 90% of my reading is on the elementary level, I’ll be totally unprepared when it needs to be for a deeper understanding.  

What Would You Add to my 2017 Reading Challenge?

Like many of you reading more is a new-years resolution every January, and like most of you I almost never follow-up. So I’m incredibly excited by the 2017 reading challenge created by Tim Challies.

The beautiful thing about this challenge is Challies has created a chart with book recommendations that eliminate three of the most common problems with reading.


  • Not knowing what books to read
  • And only reading a certain kind of book
  • And different stages of reading for different people-his chart goes from Light Reader (a book a month) to the Obsessed Reader (two books a week)

Armed with this chart (I’m starting as an Avid Reader suggestions underneath Light Reader) in less than 30 minutes I had 11 books set aside in an Amazon wish list!

  1. A book by a puritan:  Overcoming Sin and Temptation (John Owen)
  2. A book about a missionary:  Through Gates of Splendor (Elizabeth Elliot)
  3. A book about Christian Living: The Pursuit of God (AW Tozer)
  4. A book about the Reformation:  Here I Stand:  A Life of Martin Luther (Roland Baiton)
  5. A Book about Theology:  An Infinite Journey (Andrew Davis) (Second Reading)
  6. Book Recommended by a Family Member:  _______________
  7. Book Recommended by a Friend:  _____________________
  8. A New York Times Bestseller:  Hillbilly Elegy (JD Vance)
  9. A Book about Church History:  Church History in Plain Language (Dr. Bruce Shelley)
  10. Book that is less than 100 pages:  Animal Farm (Goerge Orwell)
  11. Book of your choice:  Living God’s Word:  Discovering your place in the Great Story of Scripture (Scott Duvall, Daniel Hays)
  12. A Biography :  Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy  (Eric Metaxas)

I’m incredibly grateful for this tool that helps me pursue reading in a purposefully organized way…but it also allows my friends to have input in my reading

So what would you add for number seven on my list?  The answer should fit nicely into the following blank:  Every Christian in the world should read __________________ before they die.

Never Have Another Boring Bible Club

Yesterday afternoon while I was getting ready for Bible Club a girl came by and jokingly told me “Mr. John I’m sorry but your Bible Club is so boring!”  Though she was kiddding it still felt like somebody had punched me in the stomach.  She was probably a little serious because I have a teaching Bible Club (emphasizes explaining Scripture) instead of a fun Bible Club (that emphasizes giving things away).

My first Bible Club in Saint Vincent was a fun one because I needed to develop relationships with children…the result was seventeen kids on my front porch.  However 85% of them were just there for free things, and they weren’t listening to the lesson, so I changed to a teaching Bible Club philosophy.

The thing is a Teaching Bible Club doesn’t have to be boring.  You just need to have a schedule in place that moves very quickly

I’ve learned to make my teaching Bible Club move quickly by instituting the three to five rule:  Other than the beginning game and Bible lesson, everything should be less than five-minutes.  We often don’t meet this rule exactly but having it in my mind makes me move quickly from one part of Bible Club to the next, proving that it won’t be boring.

For instance take my normal schedule:

  1. Children who come early are given one life on a tablet game
  2. If there is still time before Bible Club starts they can look through a teaching book, or story cards
  3. Every child is told the amount of good marks they have on the “tick sheet” when they enter and can check other peoples names
  4. Bible Club begins with prayer and a brief game (nothing too active)
  5. Everyone is reminded of the Bible Club rules (Sit Up, Listen Up, Hand Up, Look Up) and told two people will be given extra tablet time
  6. We follow with a Bible-Based song the kids like (they seem to prefer “Countdown”)
  7. Next we sing a fun song like “read your Bible pray every day”
  8. Review that weeks memory verse-first three children to say it get good ticks
  9. Read the Bible Story (I always use the “Jesus Storybook Bible” making sure to hold the book in front of me so kids can see the pictures, and read the words upside down)
  10. Review Questions asked directly to children who have been listening and obeying
  11. Closing Song
  12. Tablet time given out to two children, and giving of ticks to best behaved kids

If we don’t experience many interruptions or “drama” it’s possible to finish Bible Club in about twenty-minutes, definitely not boring!

I’m always looking for more tools so what games, songs, books, or websites have you found that helps teach children the Gospel?