The Most Important Person in the Operating Room

“The doctor just left the room. Van isn’t gonna make it.”

There was a lot more information, but his voice broke after that, choked back by a flood of emotion. Kirsten’s brother, Van, who also happens to be one of my closest friends (long story), had some chest pain he thought was heartburn a few days earlier. He’d had some spicy shrimp off a friend’s grill, and he assumed it wasn’t sitting quite right.

When he went to a walk-in clinic in search of an antacid, what he thought was heartburn turned out to be a torn aorta. His primary heart valve was gushing blood internally so fast they weren’t sure he’d even make it to the hospital. While the doctor was explaining all this to Van—just in his early thirties—an ambulance was speeding, sirens blaring, to the clinic to pick him up.

Forty-eight hours later, the leading surgeon at Vanderbilt, America’s top heart hospital by reputation, had just delivered the news: “He’s not gonna make it. Tell the family to get here as quickly as they can.”

We left the church right away. We rushed home and booked the next flight out. By the time we got to the hospital in Nashville the following morning, the medical team had more information. Van was scheduled for a surgery—a surgery that had a significantly greater chance of killing him than healing him. But he was dying, and this was quite literally the only option left.

I sat on the armrest of the chair at the foot of his bed and dropped my head into my hands, peering through my fingers at Van’s tattooed chest. They would slice his skin down the middle and peel open his rib cage in the next twenty-four hours. I was there to say goodbye to someone I was supposed to grow old next to. I brought all the crushing desperation and fear, all the measly hope I could muster, and talked to God about it. I prayed.

That was the beginning of the story. Here’s how it ended: a couple days later, Van woke up in that same hospital room after a successful surgery, the only patient in the hospital’s history to survive this particular combination of multiple open-heart surgeries.

The leading surgeon came in to speak to the family. He wept as he recounted the moment in the operating room when the surgical team gave up and informally declared Van deceased. Then a nursing student, whose only role was to hand the surgeon the scissors, began praying for him in the operating room. Immediately, the surgeon located the bleeding tear he had been unsuccessfully searching for over the last five hours, and Van survived.

Miraculous. That’s not my word. That’s what the non-Christian, non-praying doctor called it as he relayed the story, with tears threatening to overflow the banks of his eyelids.

Yes, prayer stills us, brings us peace, helps us come to terms with what is. Prayer changes the person praying from the inside out. But prayer also releases power. Prayer releases power to affect real change in the tangible world.

From Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools by Tyler Staton

How a 13 year old multiplies disciples

When I was thirteen years old, I wasn’t sure I was buying all the Jesus stuff. I was a curious kid, but I wasn’t an easy sell. Look, if this story is real, I want in. But if it’s a fairy tale, I’d prefer to find out sooner than later so I don’t waste so much time singing mediocre songs and sitting through all these meetings. That was my logic.

Naturally, when a mentor approached me with an experiment of sorts, it caught my attention.

“What do you think God would do in the lives of your unbelieving friends if you spent every day this summer walking a circle around your school in prayer for them?”

“I have no idea.”

“Why don’t you find out?”

I liked that idea. My older brother had just turned sixteen, meaning any reason to drive anywhere was a good one. Every single day that summer, he drove me to the one place I planned to avoid: school. I wore a dirt path into the thick summer grass walking the school grounds with a folded-up student directory in my right hand. This was back in the day when they gave everyone in the school everyone else’s phone number. What were they thinking? Never once did I use the school directory until that summer, when it became my personal “book of common prayer,” guiding the whispered words of my uncertain, pubescent voice while I paced around the outside of that familiar building, holding every last name in my soon-to-be eighth-grade class before the God I only half believed in.

Something happened to me that summer. I fell in love with the God I wasn’t sure was listening.

I discovered that I didn’t just “need” God in some ultimate sense; I liked God. I enjoyed his presence. I looked forward to his company. That’s all I knew for sure.

On the first day back to school, I asked to speak to the principal. I walked into the office I’d narrowly avoided the previous two years and came right out with it. I just asked him,

“Can I start a new extracurricular school program—one about Jesus?”

“Well, you’ll need a teacher to sponsor it. Every school club has to have a teacher sponsor.”

That’s how I ended up leading a Christian outreach meeting in a fluorescent-lit, white-tiled math classroom at Brentwood Middle School. We met at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday mornings, an obviously convenient time. What twelve- or thirteen-year-old doesn’t want to explore existential questions of origin and purpose before the sun comes up?

My entire strategy for hosting these meetings was simple. I’d sit in my bedroom on Tuesday evenings, open the Bible at random to a page somewhere in the middle, pick a paragraph on that page, read it with absolutely no other context or hint of biblical literacy, jot a few thoughts of my own interpretation on a sheet of loose-leaf paper, and then read and explain that passage to whomever showed up the following Wednesday morning. It was a recipe for disaster, not revival.

But I had one thing going for me.
I prayed.

I went to school an hour early on Wednesdays to lead that group, so I went to school an hour early on Tuesdays and Thursdays to keep thumbing through that now pocket-creased, heavily frayed, and worn-out school directory, praying name by name for my classmates. My mom, the believer who led me to faith, actually sat me down and asked me to chill out with all the prayer because she was losing too much sleep taking me to school so early—true story.

A couple months into these meetings, so many students were coming that we had to move from a math classroom into the school’s theater. By the end of that school year, approximately one-third of my eighth-grade class had come into relationship with Jesus in the darkness of the early morning, with all the atmosphere of hospital lighting, through the potentially heretical sermons of a thirteen-year-old skeptic.

It’s either completely ludicrous or utterly breathtaking to think that in the midst of all the insecurity of a thirteen-year-old boy—the nervousness of going out for the basketball team, the awkward (and slightly late) arrival of puberty, the sweaty palms of school dances—there was also the Spirit of the living God bending history in loving response to the prayed mumblings of a kid. And not because he finds that kid particularly brilliant or his suggestions on how to run the world innovative, but simply because he finds this kid in all of his insecurity, awkwardness, and adolescent nervousness to be irresistibly lovable.

That’s ludicrous, or it’s breathtaking.

taken from Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools by Tyler Staton

Movements in the book of Acts

Vance Pitman is someone I only learned about recently. He has planted a church in Las Vegas that has grown rapidly and has led over one thousand people to Christ. He is not a movement pioneer as we understand it in missiology, but he “gets it” when it comes to God doing the amazing multiplication of the book of Acts all over again. This message titled “THEM” from Acts 11:19-26 is good stuff. Enjoy.



Two Thirds Prayer

In relation to the last post on the importance of prayer for small group health, I came across this interesting end note in the same book:

“The reality of keeping the Bible study central without letting it overwhelm the other components of the meeting was brought home to me by an insight that my friends David & Lois Gardner shared with me. The Gardners were visiting the world’s largest church, Yoido Full Gospel Church, in the early 1990’ s. The church has over twenty thousand small groups, and the modern small group movement was launched in this church in 1964. Pastor Yonggi Cho’s personal secretary, American missionary Lydia Swain, shared with the Gardners and other foreign guests visiting the church that Sunday, that when small groups were first launched at YFGC, their format was two-thirds Bible study and one-third prayer. Using this format the groups did not go very well. The groups’ growth took off, however, when they shifted to one-third Bible study and two-thirds prayer.”


Small Groups, Big Impact

by Jim Egli and Dwight Marable

you could miss out on….

“What I have seen over the last decade tells me that movements are not the mere work of men. They are the work of the Spirit. If God is actually in the middle of movements, then to ignore them means you could miss out on the most significant work of God since the Reformation. Why not take the risk, look over the horizon and ask the Lord to show you what He is about in the world?”

Robert Reach
Movements That Move

A history lesson – what killed a Church Planting Movement

The Baptists and Methodists flourished because they mobilized common people to preach the gospel and plant churches wherever there was a need. The Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Congregationalists languished because they were controlled by well-paid clergy who were recruited from the social and financial elite. Early growth was dramatic for the Methodists – from 2.5 percent of the church-going population in 1776 to 34 percent in 1850, with four thousand itinerant preachers, almost eight thousand local preachers and over one million members. This made them by far the largest religious body in the nation. There was only one national institution that was more extensive – the U.S. government. This achievement would have been impossible without the mobilization of ordinary people – white and black, young and old, men and women – and the removal of artificial barriers to their engagement in significant leadership as class leaders, local workers and itinerant preachers. Unfortunately, the Methodist rise was short-lived. Whereas before 1840 the Methodists had virtually no college-educated clergy among their circuit riders and local preachers, their amateur clergy were gradually replaced by seminary-educated professionals who claimed the authority of the church hierarchy over their congregations. Their relative slump began at the same time; by the end of the nineteenth century the Baptists had overtaken them in numbers.

Steve Addison

Movements That Change The World

Bible College / Seminary training hinders more than helps

The mode of training is also critical, particularly at the earlier levels of training. The problem with a Bible college or seminary-type training is that it uses a classroom-academic methodology that is inconsistent with the model of church that is being planted. The college – trained church planter may often feel uncomfortable with the informal atmosphere of the home gathering or the church under a tree. He or she wants to preach extensively rather than equip the people to discover the truth from God‘s Word for themselves so that they can become mature believers, not dependent on the church planter. The mode and tools of training should be consistent with the expected model of church.

Extractive training should also be avoided if possible. When emerging leaders are removed for significant periods of time from their local community they become an outsider to their own community. They often return from the training (if they return at all) with an outsider (and academic) view of church and ministry, with strange ideas and habits and are no longer able to relate naturally to their people.

On-the-job training is much more effective in terms of rapid church multiplication. This continuous training is done primarily through a discipling/mentoring relationship between the coordinator/trainer and the church planter. It reflects Jesus‘ model of training with the disciples. They were almost constantly with Him.

David Hunt

Church Multiplication in East Africa

There is a ready army of workers

Every believer, specially gifted by the Spirit of God, is to be a minister in the work of the Kingdom. Kingdom work is not the domain of the ―professional trained paid church planter/pastor/leader. In fact, the separation of clergy and laity has perhaps become one of the greatest barriers to the engagement of the believers in the ministry. This unbiblical class distinction leaves most believers with a secondary role in the work of the ministry. Classified as laity or volunteers they are generally expected to serve the professional leaders in secondary functions leaving the important roles to those who are trained, credentialed, and paid.

The criticality of discipling every believer, because every believer is to be a minister using the gifts assigned to them by the Spirit, leaves no one out. There are no spectators. Everyone must be empowered to do what God has ordained them to do.

This fundamentally changes the role of the church planters. They must resist the temptation of doing the work and focus on equipping the new believers to do the work of the ministry. From the very beginning nothing is done by the church planter that could be done by the local believers. It becomes part of the DNA of the new church. The ministry is done by the believers and unless the believers do the ministry it doesn‘t get done. It is an unhealthy church where the church planter or paid pastor is the minister and the people are the spectators, or are relegated to secondary roles of ministry.

When the people are the ministers there is a ready army of workers. The local believers win their neighbors to Christ. The local believers lead the newly formed church including all the functions of church. The local believers minister to the needs of the people in the community. The local believers go out and plant new churches. Rapid church multiplication simply cannot happen through a strategy of ―professional paid ministers. It will only happen when the believers are empowered and engaged in the work of the ministry.

David Hunt

Church Multiplication in East Africa

Muslim Sheikhs as Persons of Peace

Initially in the East Africa project the Muslim sheikhs were avoided. They were considered to be the enemy. As the principle of the person of peace began to take hold, some church planters started to focus on the sheikhs. They were indeed often the spiritually sensitive people in the community. They were influential with the people. Many sheikhs were discovered to be the person of peace to bring the gospel into the community. In one part of the Rift Valley the church planter began to seek out sheikhs with the gospel message. Within three months, five local sheikhs had become believers and were deeply engaged in a discipleship process with the church planter sometimes meeting together several times a week. These five then began to carefully share the newly discovered ―truth with other sheikhs in nearby communities. Within twelve months, seventy-two sheikhs became followers of Jesus. The goal in this area is to see one thousand sheikhs become Christ- followers and then to ―go public. The desire is that the entire community will be transformed through the power of the gospel.

David Hunt

Church Multiplication in East Africa

The Importance of the Person of Peace

“Perhaps no one principle in this strategy of church planting has had such a singularly powerful impact as the principle of finding the person of peace. From a strategic perspective it becomes one of the key elements in this overall process. Many church planters have been freed from the overwhelming burden of an institutional/traditional method of church planting by adopting the person of peace principle.”

“Nekarat is a diligent and committed church planter. For years he worked tirelessly succeeding in establishing thirteen churches throughout his region. By most accounts he was a very successful church planter. But for Nekarat it was not enough. Learning the principle of the person of peace he immediately changed his whole approach and began looking for that special person or family that God had already prepared in each community to receive the gospel message and to open their community to the gospel. Within the next two years seventy new churches emerged in his region.”

David Hunt

    Church Multiplication in East Africa