Category Archives: Guest Blogs

Seeing Through the Eyes of Jesus

As planters, perspective is the key to everything. In this guest post, John Burke speaks about the essence of his new book.The scripture makes it abundantly clear: “God saved you by his grace…[Why? Because] We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:8-10) Paul makes it clear that it was a gift from God, not something you did for yourself. God did this because He still sees that work of art He created us to be.


So why do we struggle to treat people like the immensely valuable, one-of-a-kind masterpiece God created with his own hand? As I study the life and interactions of Jesus with very sin-stained, muddied people, it becomes evident that Jesus could see something worth dying for in all people he encountered. Jesus could see past the mud of sin to the masterpiece God wanted to restore.


What do you see most when you encounter sin-stained people? What do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you see the mud? Or do you see the masterpiece God wants to restore? What you focus on determines who you become and the impact you have on people around you! That’s the heart of the book I just finished, Mud and the Masterpiece: Seeing Yourself and Others through the Eyes of Jesus.


The Pharisees primarily focused on the mud of sin that covered the lives of the irreligious. They prided themselves in mud-avoidance. They fixated on mud. They tried to clean the mud off others with their own dirt—it didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now!


Jesus was different. Jesus demonstrated a spiritual vision that he wants to impart to us—to see the masterpiece he sees in us, and to renovate us to become people whose hearts reflect what God sees, even in the muddiest, sin-stained life.  Jesus saw God’s masterpiece, waiting to be revealed by his grace, and as a result, many people actually became what he envisioned. What do you envision, even for the muddiest human you encounter?


Mud and the Masterpiece is available now on preorder Here and Here.

3 Keys to Developing Others

This week we have some great insights from pastor John Burke on how to be an effective people developer. You can read more of John’s thoughts at

“You have a teaching gift, bro.”  “If I do, God made a mistake because I don’t do public speaking.”  That was my exact response to Dave White as a 24-year-old working in the marketplace. Dave was a people developer. He intentionally looked to see how people around him were gifted, or where they needed growth, and then he encouraged them to develop in that area.  If they were willing, he got involved coaching them along the way.

Dave did three things every people-developer does well:

  • Listen – He listened to determine what areas a person could grow in. What gifts need developing? What places does this person seem stuck? Dave listened to me talk about things I was learning, and noticed how excited I got about the thingsI learned.
  • Assess – He assessed and prayed for what God appeared to be doing in that person’s life. What might next steps be to help this person develop? Dave assessed that I had a dormant teaching gift, because I loved to learn and give away what I was learning (often a sign of a teaching gift). But that gift was undeveloped because of my fear of public speaking. He assessed correctly that God wanted it developed.
  • Prescribe – This is the bold step of challenging a person to grow. It must come with lots of prayer to make sure this is God’s agenda and not your agenda, then lots of encouragement, then a few, clear, simple steps to take.

So Dave prescribed a first step of development, “Teach a college workshop on spiritual growth with me. We’ll do it together.” “No, I don’t do public speaking,” was my persistent reply for about a month. That’s where encouragement, prayer, and persistence come in.  Sometimes spiritual strongholds like fear or busyness or self-centeredness require prayer and persistence. Dave kept encouraging me even as I kept saying, “No.”

One day while praying about something totally unrelated, I had a clear thought crash into my head, “When you resist Dave, you resist Me.” Realizing God was using Dave to challenge me to trust Him, I changed my mind and taught the college group.

Dave followed a simple developmental paradigm. We prepared together, and he gave me a small part that I could succeed at doing. I felt like I failed nonetheless, but he gave lots of encouragement. He also challenged me to do it again, and gave me one thing to work on. This continued for about a semester until he finally said, “You’re ready. I want you to speak to 200 people in my place.”  I was horribly terrified, but actually gaining some confidence that if I kept growing, maybe this was a gift God could use.

You might never know the multiplied impact of taking time to spiritually develop another person, but one day God will show you how His Kingdom came life-by-life to earth.  Don’t miss the opportunity to partner with Him in His great people-development enterprise.

Defining “Home” for a Missional Family


, what is our address?”


That was me asking the question after four years of living out of a station-wagon prior to moving to Brazil at age five.


Dad said, “If anyone asks you for your address just say you live on 4 firestones.”


And that’s what I did say, to the amusement of many, (only I misquoted my dad, saying, “our address is 4 styrophomes”) as I experienced the series of transitions common to missionary kid life. After four years at three different addresses in Brazil, at age nine, home became Atlanta, then French Lick, Indiana, Minneapolis, a Ford Granada on the road, and finally Southern Brazil. In all that movement, the stability we found as a family was in relationships and memories, pictures and stories. Christmas 2011, dad digitalized his thousands of family slides and gave them to us kids as a present.



These memories became our home even more than the many roofs we slept under while growing up.  And this is a legacy Erin and I hope to continue with our family. Although we have had only one home in Brazil over the past sixteen years, we have stayed in many places across the USA during furloughs and we have learned what it means to have important moments that create home-defining memories.

We have just enjoyed one of the best of those. In Latin American countries, a girl’s fifteenth birthday is considered a wedding-sized-event. In the secular realm it’s the time the girl is presented to society as a woman, and in the Christian culture it becomes a celebration of all that God has done and is doing to prepare her for womanhood.

Camilla turned 15 on August 2nd and after a year of preparation (with Erin and my mom sewing, family friends helping with the dress, the food, the organization, Erin’s parents coming to Brazil to help with the cake and logistics) we invited one hundred and twenty close friends to my parents’ (redecorated/transformed) house for a night to remember.


Is it worth the work?

During all the setup and take down with the help of both sets of grandparents, our family discussed the implications of spending time and resources on a fifteenth birthday which few would invest on a wedding. Here are the main points we came up with:

  • In the highly transitional life of mission work, home is not where you hang your hat as much as it is the where you place your heart. Relationships are the cornerstones of the life worth living.
  • Moments of celebration are worth great investment when they become worship, as they reflect (dimly though it may be) the future eternal fellowship we long for.
  • These kind of important life moments should be full-on definitions of what we believe and celebrate most, not run parallel to our Christian testimony.

The individual speeches from the pastors’ wives, from fifteen of of her youth group friends, along with the video of testimonials from across America, together formed a montage of affirmation through which we were declaring to Camilla “you are loved”,  “God made you beautiful”, ”you have many gifts to be thankful for” and “you were created for a mission that is worth great effort and celebration.”



Becoming Resilient

Spend enough time talking with church planters and you’ll eventually hear them say, “This is not at all what we expected; this is not the way we thought it would unfold.”

Over the last 5 years, I have heard real planters say:

  • We expected ten families to move to the other side of the city, and only got one.
  • We didn’t expect to have twins during the first year of the plant.
  • We didn’t expect our family to move four times in the first six months.
  • We didn’t expect to change worship locations three times in the first year.
  • We didn’t expect to land in the neighborhood we landed in.
  • We didn’t expect it to be near to impossible to find a facility.
  • We didn’t expect to get national attention for allowing dogs into our services (Austin has more dogs than children!)
  • We didn’t expect it to be so hard to gather people far from God.
  • We didn’t expect our Missional Core to become “scaffolding” that fell away after the first year.
  • We didn’t expect an elder to fall into adultery in the first month.
  • We didn’t expect to have conflicts with close friends.

Church planting almost never goes as expected, which is why, when Dr. Charles Ridley studied church planters, he identified “resilience” as a characteristic of those who were effective. He described it as “the ability to stay the course in the face of major setbacks, disappointments and opposition.”

You can have the best training available, and be incredibly gifted, but you will inevitably face the unexpected and unpredictable in this start-up venture. Resilient leaders effectively manage their expectations and learn to make adjustments.  Without plenty of bounce, the expectations will kill you.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I have a behavioral pattern of great perseverance and overcoming obstacles?
  • Am I able to remain optimistic and determined in the face of resistance?
  • Am I a learner?

Effective church planters don’t just keep doing the same things while expecting different results! They learn quickly how to assess the unexpected, change course and overcome obstacles.


Missional Missteps: 3 Reasons No One Can Hear You

Our guest post is from Chris Morton, good friend of ELI. You can read more from Chris’ series on Missional Missteps here.

“…pray for the nations…”
“…family values….”
“…substitutionary atonement…”
“…God spoke to my heart…”
“…separate and apart from the Lord’s Supper…”
“…let your Spirit fill this place…”
“…four point, double predestination…”
“…racial reconciliation…”
“…false metanarrative…”


The list could go on and on. Every Sunday, in Churches across the world, we listen to professionals explain theology to us. With years of training, they are paid to be experts, which means precisely knowing the ins and outs of your topic. Doctors know latin words for diseases. Computer scientists know about code. Interior designers know names for colors that others can’t even differentiate. Professional Christians use theological terminology. It’s what makes them professionals.


Add to that the language created by 500 years of Christian tribalism. When Luther broke off the Catholic church he taught about justification by grace. When the Anabaptists broke off they started formulating their peace teachings. Calvin’s followers, in an attempt to differentiate themselves from Arminius, articulated the five points of Calvinism. The results today can be heard in people’s language. Neo-reformed types use the word “gospel” a lot. Charismatics love to talk about “the nations.” Social justice types have used phrases like “racial reconciliation.”


We use these terms because they’re important. Nuanced language is neccessary for discussing nuanced theology. Denominational phraseology helps express hard won, distinctive values. This is good and important, but for a missional practitioner, it is also dangerous. Here are three reasons why:


  • It means nothing to the secularist who has no theological training.
  • For the dechurched, it’s a path to bringing back old, painful memories.
  • It sends a message that you are only interested in talking to people who are already like you.


In a post Christian world, insider terminology is the equivalent of a street corner preacher in Mexico speaking in English. It tells your audience, “I have nothing to say to you.”


So how do you avoid this missional misstep? You do you what the gospel has always done. As Jesus was translated into flesh, the gospel was translated from Aramaic to Greek to Latin, to almost every language on earth. We have to do the same everyday: remember to whom we’ve been sent, and find new ways to translate the gospel for them every day.