Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Leaving Catholicism... For Christ (Part 2)

In the second part of his post on the changes happening in the church, Ken Macharg explains why many contemporary churches are not satisfying people's deeper needs, and what God is doing to change that.

In an online blog, ( Bill Muehlenberg writes:
-Many believers are growing tired of the celebrity culture in our churches.
-Many believers are fed up with the incessant entertainment and worldly amusements found in the churches.
-Many believers are not being fed from the Word of God.
Another article I read not too long ago indicated that numerous evangelicals are leaving contemporary, loosely structured churches that entertain for more liturgical congregations such as Presbyterian, Methodist or Episcopalian. There they find a structure to worship and a perceived depth of worship that is focused and directed at a goal of being challenged, deepening their faith and worshiping God.
I remember the woman who was active in the church I pastored temporarily in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. She had come to the Lord in a “seeker-friendly” church, but within a year found herself hungry for something deeper and more challenging. So, after giving thanks for the outreach of the seeker congregation, she sought out a church which focused on Bible study, theological reflection and a challenge to serve—which was what had led her to Honduras.
Muehlenberg closes his blog with insights from some of Christianity’s deepest and most-relevant thinkers:
“Oh for radically Bible-saturated, God-centered, Christ-exalting, self-sacrificing, mission-mobilizing, soul-saving, culture-confronting pastors!” John Piper
“When the church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones
“The church has lost her testimony. She has no longer anything to say to the world. Her once robust shout of assurance has faded away to an apologetic whisper. She who one time went out to declare now goes out to inquire. Her dogmatic declaration has become a respectful suggestion, a word of religious advice, given with the understanding that it is after all only an opinion and not meant to sound bigoted.” A.W. Tozer
“The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men…Men of prayer.” E. M. Bounds
We don’t have to go back to all hymns or King James English or stained glass windows to deepen ourselves, our worship, our evangelistic outreach, our teaching. We can keep the power-points and the soft lights and the rock music. But, let us look to what’s happening in some Latin American churches and remind ourselves that people in our own communities are also searching for the answers that offer a meaningful life. Let us remain faithful to preaching the absolute truth of God’s forgiveness of our sins and His overwhelming love for us in Jesus Christ.
Ken MacHarg's hobbies include model trains, travel, hiking, and yard work. He has served as the pastor or interim pastor or supply pastor of English-language international churches in Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Kyrgyzstan, and Czech Republic - most of those since retirement. He blogs at
Photo by Mike Lehmann on Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Leaving Catholicism... For Christ (Part 1)

By Kenneth D. MacHarg
A recent article about the growth in the Evangelical church in Latin America is exciting—but not, perhaps, for the reason one might think.

There are those who may rejoice at the explosive growth of the Protestant churches in Latin America over the past few decades, especially because much of that increase has come at the expense of the Roman Catholic Church.
But, the real joy expressed here is not the hemorrhaging of disillusioned believers from the largest denomination in the region, but is, instead, that those making the change are looking for a deeper faith, for “the truth that will set you free, (John 8:33)” that addresses their questions and concerns and helps them to grow in their spiritual and theological life.
A few quotes from Dr. Gregg’s article illustrate the thrust and strength of the growing evangelical churches in Latin America.
“60 percent of converts to Evangelicalism say that one reason they left the Catholic Church was that they were looking for more assertive teaching on moral questions”
“(M)any of the Catholic movements that focus on solid formation and foster greater commitment—Opus Dei, Communion and Liberation, Catholic Charismatics, etc.—are flourishing in many Latin American nations. They are the ones who open new churches, have vocations, build universities, and actively evangelize people.”
“Latin America’s Evangelicals…are far more willing to speak about Christ than Catholics.”
“The Pew survey reports that people’s number-one stated reason (81 percent) for becoming Evangelical in Latin America is that they wanted a personal relationship with God. Put another way, people can find social activism anywhere. But what makes Christianity distinct is Christ.”
What rings loud and clear to me here is the hunger that Latin Americans (and the rest of us for that matter) have for truth, depth, wisdom, the message of God’s love and His salvation for us through Jesus Christ.
That is what is so encouraging. That is what must be our motivation and our modus operandi.
Unfortunately, many of our Protestant (Evangelical) churches in North America and around the world have been scared away from focusing on that deep, life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ. Frightened by the alleged secularism of Millennials and the influence of new age spiritualism, too many of our churches and pastors have abandoned the exploration of how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:18). Instead, they mistakenly take away Christian symbols (including the cross) from worship centers, refuse to confront aimlessness and sin, steer away the dimension of service and sacrifice and avoid preaching those “difficult messages” that challenge and probe the depths of the universal human search for truth and meaning.
And, while so many well-intentioned churches and pastors have turned from profound worship and deep, biblical-centered preaching and teaching to entertainment and “having fun” in quasi-nightclub settings, many of those younger adults that they are trying to reach are reacting and, missing the answers they are seeking, leaving the "seeker church" to look elsewhere.
Kenneth MacHarg blogs at Though retired, he has been involved in the missions community for more than 25 years in a variety of roles. He and his wife Polly live in Carrollton, Georgia, where he enjoys doing model trains, travelling, hiking, and doing yard work.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Jehovah Jireh Lives Up To His Name

Lauren DeHays is just your average college grad. Having visited El Salvador several times, she knew God had something special for her there. A few months later, she was preparing to go on the mission field as a part of Christ For the City International. But sometimes, even getting there can be a challenging ordeal, especially when it comes to the area of finances...

I sent out my first letter in February to family, family friends, and close friends of mine.

This was the most “comfortable” form of fundraising for me and I was hoping that that would be enough. Although I had heard and read about how else to raise all your support, I honestly didn't want to do much more than that because my idea of “asking for money” made me feel extremely uncomfortable. I really disliked the idea of having to be intentional about it.

So, my account slowly grew with one-time donations. I continued to pray and talk to people about this next step that God has for me whenever the opportunity arose. However, I was passively waiting, hoping that the letters and prayers would be enough to get me fully funded. Over the next few months, as my target goal of a September departure date approached, I was nowhere near being fully funded and only had a handful of people who were committed to donating monthly. That’s when the anxiousness, frustration, and discouragement started to settle in.

I was pretty disappointed - even doubting if God would truly provide for me to go and serve in El Salvador. I sent out another letter, but only a few more people jumped on board to support. Through this process I really wrestled with trusting in God’s provision and also began to see that I wasn't necessarily putting “feet to my prayers.” I went back and forth, thinking that all I needed to do was trust God and wait on Him, or trust in God yet actively raise support - even though it was something I was uncomfortable about.

As September ended, I finally came to the point where I was willing to do whatever it took and opened my mind and heart to God to trust Him to guide me. Once I surrendered support raising to God, that’s when things started happening.

The Lord used lots of wonderful Godly people to speak wisdom into my life. He also gave me a boldness to ASK, pick up the phone,  meet face to face with people and churches, and to not cross anyone off of the list. Thanks to Facebook, I sent out messages to so many different people explaining God’s calling for me, my need, and asking for their support and being part of this ministry. I set up calls with quite a few people to explain more about what I would be doing in El Salvador and how they could help. I spoke with some that I could physically travel nearby and talk in person, but for most people the Facebook message was enough.

So praise God, that’s how it all came in at once and I was able to leave for El Salvador. You know, it’s so cool looking back because I know without a doubt that God’s timing was everything. Not only did He work in my heart to help me navigate through fundraising and show me what a blessing it is to partner with so many different people in ministry; but by not being in El Salvador when I wanted to I was able to really draw closer to God and be poured into by others through the work of the Holy Spirit. I wouldn't have traded that for anything! 

I had always heard that support raising is a growth process with the Lord and a whole new level of trusting in Him; and I can attest that it’s certainly true. Although it was really difficult, I am gratefull because of the Spiritual growth and blessings that God gave me through that time.

For more stories and information about Lauren, check out her blog at Also, to check out the ministry of the CFCI base she is working at, check out their page:

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Attitude of the Suffering Saint

One of the dominating stories of the last year has been the rise of ebola in Africa. In the past few months, thousands have gotten infected and died, with some of the most notable cases being those of missionaries who went to the field to minister. Even surrounded by death and infectious diseases, these individuals have not abandoned their faith or the people they chose to minister to.

The obvious question is why. Why would somebody risk his or her life for a people group different from their own? Why would they stay in obvious danger, even with the possibility of leaving? A missionary friend, living in Africa, wanted to respond to some of those questions. Her answer is quoted below.

To those preparing for the field:

This is not the first time that those called to serve God have suffered.
We have buried our own children.
We have lost friends and coworkers to violence.
We have faced death, all around us, on a daily basis.
We have wept with those who weep, prayed, and wept again.  We have struggled.  We have burned out. 
This is not a Mary Poppins life you have chosen. 

But we want you to know that we would choose this life again.  We would choose obedience to Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, over a life of money, of family, of Western medicine.  We would choose to see Christ’s power made perfect in our weakness rather than be known for our own wisdom. 

You see, the person of Jesus Christ and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit are worth more than anything or anyone we have lost.  And there is nothing – NOTHING – that can separate us from HIs love; in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 

He is this:
The Beginning and the End.
The Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
There is no price that is too high. 

Welcome to the fellowship of suffering.
He is worth it. 

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, and so, somehow, to attain the resurrection of the dead. (Philippians 3:10)

Friday, January 2, 2015

God's "Moving" Me

by Rachel Tonhorai

Though for a while, Rachel was a fixture of the office, she has gotten married and moved to Dallas. We miss her, but are comforted by knowing that she is following God's Will for her life at this time. With that in mind, we thought it would be appropriate for her to write a little something about transition as we move from 2014 to 2015.

Wow! What a year 2014 was! It has been fun reflecting on all that God has done for me over the last 12 months. He has been faithful every step of the way! God has provided me the opportunity to travel to a handful of new places, He has given me new life-long friends, He has united my best friend and me in marriage last month, and He has moved us to a new state.

Although there have been a lot of life changes this year, God has provided. He has provided amazing friends and family to help us celebrate our new life commitment to each other. He provided movers to transport our items and car to the new city where we are starting married life. He has given us a spacious apartment to live in and start our new life together. He is so good!

While moving to a new city is exciting because everything is new, it is can also be rather frustrating not knowing where you are going! One of the first things I bought after moving here was a GPS. I bought this thinking I wouldn’t get lost. Wrong! I have gotten lost so many times with the GPS because I miss a “slight” turn. I then get frustrated because I don’t know where I am and how to get where I am going. I have to wait for the GPS to re-calculate the route.  I feel like it is here when God shows up. He has been there for me at my lowest point and when I have been frustrated the most. He continues to provide his love, grace, and guidance when I am at this point. He knows that moving is difficult, but wants, me to turn to Him and “pour my heart to Him, for God is my refuge” (Psalm 62:8). I am learning to let God be my guide in this new city. I know he has a plan for me here, and He is revealing it to me one day at a time.

 "It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed." Deuteronomy 31:8

God has given me a small victory. The other day I drove to the local grocery store. I went the way I knew, but decided to be adventurous and take a different way home. I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out and had my GPS handy just in case I got really lost. Luckily I didn’t need the GPS. I kept turning on streets that I knew and before I knew it, I was pulling into the entrance to the apartment complex. This is just one small victory that God has provided for me.

I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us in 2015, what He will provide for us, and what we will be singing praises for! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

Edited by: John Michael Den Hartog