Tag: Cambodia

LA Story – Vertical Limit Church Growth

On our recent trip to Asia, Gloria and I were privileged to be with disciples in both Singapore and Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Never have I visited two more contrasting countries. Singapore, in  just 50 years, has climbed out of the ravages of World War II and claimed a spot among the most wealthy on earth. Cambodia, on the other hand, is still reeling from the torture, death and destruction suffered under Pol Pot’s rule, which ended in 1979. Yet, in both places the challenge to make disciples is being successfully answered. This issue of LA Story is an up-to-date report on how well Jesus’ Great Commission is being accomplished around the world. First, it is imperative that we understand the process of making disciples. Paul explains it in 1 Corinthians 3:5-7, What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. Pride and arrogance will destroy us. God works through our humility. Amazing growth has taken place in the International Churches of Christ since our inception in 1979, but we must be careful to give God all of the credit. We are only servants through whom others come to believe.

LA Story – What Dreams May Come

The last month has been a third-world whirlwind. I am sitting in the crowded airport in Johannesburg, South Africa waiting to board a plane for home. A few hours ago I was walking down the main street of Harare, Zimbabwe listening to Christmas music coming from the many stores. There was even a Santa Claus with a tattered red outfit and a lopsided white cotton beard. Just  three weeks before, Gloria and I were among the sick, the poor and the wounded in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Dreams come in many forms in the third world. Right now I am dreaming of getting home to Gloria, since these last nine days are our longest time apart in 37 years of marriage. I am dreaming of having our kids and grandkids home for Christmas. While very important to me, this is insignificant compared to the desperate dreams of so many in Cambodia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Unemployment is rampant – over 40% in Harare. Real starvation faces 25% of Zimbabwe’s population. The AIDS epidemic is exploding in all three nations. Cambodia is the hardest hit in all of Asia. Thirty-two percent of Zimbabwe is HIV-positive. South Africa may lose a million people to the epidemic. I dream of a family reunited. Millions dream of a job, a full stomach and living to see another Christmas

LA Story – The Edge

I have a T-shirt that I like to wear; it is a T-shirt for disciples. On the back are these words: “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room!” Jesus lived his 33 years as far out on the edge as it is possible to get. And he calls each of us to follow him out there. “Normal” people do not want to get close to the edge. It is not safe there, and it certainly is not comfortable. But “normal” people don’t change things. They stay in the middle of the crowd, and they get pushed in whatever direction the crowd happens to be moving. They don’t have much impact on the world. Jesus had impact wherever he went, and his disciples do, too. That is what happens out on the edge. Jesus always has an incredible effect on the crowd when it stops long enough to listen to him. In Mark 4:1, Jesus drew the people to the edge of the water to hear him and be changed by him.

Aren’t you thankful to be out of the crowd and out on the edge? Aren’t you thankful to be in the Kingdom of God? Aren’t you glad that you are not “normal” by the world’s standards any
more? A few weeks ago Gloria and I, together with Bob and Pat Gempel, leaders of HOPE worldwide, were in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We were there to celebrate the first anniversary of the King
Sihanouk HOPE Hospital and to preach to the incredible Phnom Penh Church of Christ. It probably had the most personal impact of any trip we have ever taken. Cambodia is a beautiful country with beautiful people. But every citizen there has lived through unfathomable suffering. Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge army tortured, starved and killed nearly three million people, one third of the population, in the late 1970s.

LA Story – Contact ~ August 1997

Nearly all the reporters who talk to me about the International Churches of Christ assume that we are primarily a campus movement, made up largely of students. I inform them that the facts show a very different picture. For instance, college students made up only 18 percent of the church in Los Angeles at the end of 1996. While these reporters would like to present us as a student organization so that they can dismiss us as some odd religious group that is not making inroads into all segments of society, it is time to look at where our campus ministries are headed.

In recent years there has been less and less emphasis given to campus evangelism in our churches. This trend has not been from a conscious decision to neglect the campus works. However, the way that we now build churches has produced this result. We have used our most talented ministry people to lead sectors and have included campus ministries within larger sectors of marrieds and singles. The result has been that the trained and talented leadership needed to convert college students has not been available, and disciples who are students have not had opportunities to be trained in public speaking, teaching and leadership skills.

Disciples converted on campus have profoundly affected God’s modern-day movement. Of the ten World Sector Leaders, five of them were converted as students! Even Kip and Elena McKean were reached while on campus. The book of Proverbs was written by Solomon to his son. From the above quotation, he says, “I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.” Disciples reached as students can be helped to avoid many of the mistakes and sins that have permanently scarred and crippled so many older people.