Revival in Cuba

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The Guardian reports:

Raúl Castro was a Jesuit schoolboy before turning to communism, and after a lengthy meeting with Pope Francis last month, he told Vatican reporters he was so impressed he was considering a return to the church. They laughed. “I’m serious,” said Castro, 84. If so, he would not be the first Cuban in recent years to find his way back to Jesus.

The island has experienced a religious revival of sorts in the past 25 years, as the demise of Soviet totalitarianism has made room for a tropical Marxism that is less than total but still highly controlling.

Today, Christmas and Good Friday are national holidays once more. Churchgoers no longer face official discrimination. For the first time in five decades, the government has given the Catholic church permission to build a cathedral.

Cuban authorities and the Catholic church both look warily on the rapid spread of evangelical denominations across the island, as hundreds if not thousands of tiny churches have popped up in Cubans’ living rooms. There is often no hierarchical structure for the Cuban government to relate to, and many smaller Christian groups have resisted the government’s attempt to organise them.


A case study:

“Cuba’s Great Awakening: Church Planting Movement in Cuba” (Dr. Kurt Urbanek)

How to track the health of a multiplying movement

Tracking Church Health  Shank

Nathan Shank sees a lot of new churches started. Here’s what his team uses to track the health of those churches. Use it combination with his article on mapping the generational growth of churches in a movement and his new guide on church formation.

Paul and the Mission of the Seventy

Argyle shows how Paul knew and applied Jesus’ instructions to the Seventy on mission. He shows the links between Jesus’ instructions in Luke 10 and Paul’s writings and Acts.

When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you.

Luke 10:8a
If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience.

1 Corinthians 10:27
Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

Luke 10:7
In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

I Corinthians 9:14
Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

Luke 10:16
Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.

I Thessalonians 4:8
Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.

Luke 10:3
I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.

Acts 20:29
21 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

22 "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Luke 10:21-22
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

1 Corinthians 1:18-21

St Paul and the Mission of the Seventy – WA Argyle

There are also parallels between Jesus’ instructions to the Seventy (Luke 10) and how he entered the house of Zacchaeus (Luke 19). Parallels between the instructions (Luke 10) and how Peter entered the house of Cornelius (Acts 10).


Understanding Social Networks – $2.99 on US Kindle

Technical but worth the effort if you’re the bookish type.

“Understanding Social Networks: Theories, Concepts, and Findings” (Charles Kadushin)

Two fathers, two sons

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A dream came true last week when I watched Australia play England at the The Oval in London.

We went for the first day of the Fifth Test. Each day begins at 11am and finishes around 6pm. It’s a long day. A Test Match runs five days and there’s a chance it will end in a draw. In a series there are five Test Matches. That’s up to 25 days of cricket and a series could end in a draw. If you’re an American don’t even try and understand.

Down the row from us was a father and his young son. When I saw how young the son was, I thought he’s not going to last the day. I was right. No doubt dad had convinced himself that this was a great idea for some father-son bonding. But no child wants to sit still for hours watching adults play.

The dad could have saved his money and popped down to a local club game with his son. He could have shown him how adults play and then pull out a cricket bat and tennis ball and have some fun.

The next day I went for a walk in our local park. There are some asphalt tennis courts open to the public. One of the courts was occupied by a dad and his young son. They were playing tennis with a soccer ball. Instead of hitting the ball over with a racket they were using their feet. Dad was shouting encoureagment and instructions to his son as the boy bobbed and weaved around the court returning each shot with skill. That boy was learning to play the game. He wasn’t bored. He was having fun with dad. He was leaning to love the game by playing it. All this cost his dad nothing, except some time.

What a contrast between two dads and their sons. Sit and watch vs come and play.

I wonder if there are any parallels between those two sets of fathers and sons and how we make disciples?

Southern Baptists: More churches, fewer people

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The number of churches within the Southern Baptist Convention rose for the 15th consecutive year, but the churches lost more than 200,000 members, the biggest one-year decline since 1881. Average attendance, giving and baptisms also declined.


Matt Chandler on Philippians: free on US and UK Kindle

“To Live Is Christ to Die Is Gain” (Matt Chandler, Jared C. Wilson)

The Middle East in Crisis

Middle East in Crisis Mission Frontiers

The latest edition of Mission Frontiers focuses on the Middle East.

In addition Steve Smith has some good material on a Biblical foundation for movements.

While you’re there check out my article on How the West was Won.

097-From church to movement: Jimmy Scroggins [podcast]


Jimmy Scroggins, a local church pastor, leads by example and casts vision for church planting movements.

Jimmy developed the 3Circles tool for sharing the gospel.

This podcast is the latest in the Church to Movement series


Can good management save the Church of England?

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A report from the Spectator 

A new mood has taken hold of Lambeth Palace. Officials call it urgency; critics say it is panic. The Church of England, the thinking goes, is about to shrink rapidly, even vanish in some areas, unless urgent action is taken. This action, laid out in a flurry of high-level reports, amounts to the biggest institutional shake-up since the 1990s. Red tape is to be cut, processes streamlined, resources optimised. Targets have been set. The Church is ill — and business management is going to cure it.

Reformers say they are only removing obstacles that hinder the Church from growing. Opponents, appalled by the business-speak of some of the reports, object to what they see as a ruthless focus on filling pews.

According to the report two reforms in particular have generated headlines.

One is the plan to swipe £100 million from the Church’s investments to pay for more priests (target: a 50 per cent increase in trainee clergy by 2020).

The other is to give business-school training to bishops and deans and, more controversially, to identify a ‘talent pool’ of future leaders — in the official language, people ‘with exceptional strategic leadership potential for Gospel, Kingdom and Church impact’.

What can we say about all this from a movements perspective? 

The Anglican church is right to be worried. All the signs are evident of institutional decline and decay.  Even worse, they are lagging indicators of a  demise that has been going on for a long time and there are no signs that it is going away.

On the not necessarily brighter side, religious institutions are incredibly resilient. Even if the trends show a terminal decline, life is more complicated than statistical predictions. The Anglican church is likely to be around for a very long time.

The Anglican church in Britain is not a movement. Movements risk what they have for a cause beyond themselves. Institutions protect what they have for their own survival.

By all means, cut red tape and rationalise resources. Sure this is good business practice, it’s also good family practice, good sporting club practice, good local school practice. Nothing wrong with that. 

What about spending £100 million for a 50% increase trainee clergy by 2020?

More paid clergy does not equate to more and better leadership for the church of England. Dynamic movements are led by “lay” people unencumbered by traditional constrains. Yes, John Wesley was an ordained Anglican clergyman, but overwhelmingly the Methodist movement was led by ordinary people who did extraordinary things. They signed up for a cause, not a career.

The plan is to identify a talent pool of future leaders and develop people ‘with exceptional strategic leadership potential for Gospel, Kingdom and Church impact’. But what on earth does that mean? 

So Jesus walks up to a bunch of ordinary fishermen mending their nets and says, ‘Lads, I’m looking for some people with exceptional strategic leadership potential for Gospel, Kingdom and Church impact.’ And they left everything and followed him. 

Jesus didn’t commission any reports on the decline of God’s people. He didn’t have access to £100 million pounds to invest in future leaders. He wasn’t trying to save an institution. If there is any hope for new life in a declining institution it is by making an innovative return to tradition. Get back to first things—what did Jesus do? What did he train the Twelve to do? What did the risen Lord empower Paul and the early church to do in Acts and the Epistles? Get back to that heritage and ask, What does that look like today? 

Mission is not about us, or saving our institutions. It is about God revealed in Jesus Christ. God’s mission is always advanced when his people obey his call and put their hope in the power of the Gospel — his dynamic Word, and the Spirit — his dynamic presence. Obedience to the Great Commission is just the beginning. God has not given up on Britain.

UPDATE: Church of England defends sale of assets for recruitment plan