An Encouraging Start
So much of my work at Upstream involves equipping local churches to be "sending churches," and this month I had the opportunity to do that in numerous ways. First of all, Upstream hosted a Sending Church Gathering here in Louisville which included 45 leaders from 15 different churches. My role was to lead liturgy and teach two sessions: "Why the Local Church Matters in Global Missions" and "Cultivating a Passion for Missions in the Heart of Your Senior Pastor".
In connection with the gathering was a Pre-Field Orientation for missionaries that Upstream is coming alongside churches to send. It was a joy to spend some time with these four couples from four different churches, especially as I taught on one of my favorite topics: "Maintaining a Vibrant Spiritual Life: The Value of the Abiding Life and How to Do it on the Field".
Another way that Upstream invests in sending church leaders is through cohorts. This month we kicked off a new cohort that guides participants through our "Sending Church Elements" (see graphic below). These leaders travelled to Louisville for a retreat that I helped facilitate. In addition to teaching a session on "Understanding the Sending Church," I also simply got to spend meaningful time with these brothers and sisters in Christ.
An Exciting Release
When I was a missions pastor at Sojourn Church Midtown in 2015 I co-authored a missions-focused devotional for the church during the season of Lent. (If you're not familiar with it, Lent is the forty days that Christians have historically set aside to prepare for Easter through repentance and renewal.) Last year Nathan Sloan and myself took that devotional and turned it into an Upstream book so that other churches could utilize it. That book, titled Lent and Missions: A 40-Day Devotional, was released in print just a couple weeks ago. To our surprise and delight, it has already sold over 1,000 copies, primarily to pastors who are distributing them to their churches. A few testimonials:
"I found Lent and Missions not only kept my eyes on the gospel of Jesus but on my calling to join him in seeing the good news spread to the nations. It is definitely a resource I would recommend to churches, small groups and individuals." —Dr. Chris Hatch, Assistant Professor of Practical Theology at Thirdmill Seminary
"For me, Lent has typically been an internally-focused season. Lent and Missions shook that foundation with a powerful taste of God's truth. It led me onto a prayerful path so that Lent became a time to passionately hunger for the joy of Easter to be known among all nations!" —Lori Rogers, Executive Director of MomentumYes
"Preparing my heart for Easter is a vital annual rhythm for me. Lent and Missions is rich with Scripture and prayer, bringing a missional heart to bear on the Lenten season. I highly recommend you read with me this year." —Jeff Walters, Pastor, Emmanuel International Church Rueil
If you'd like a copy they are available in print and Kindle on Amazon. If you'd like 10 or more let me know and I can get you a bulk rate.
Join Us in Prayer
You can be part of what God is doing in and through us by praying in the following ways:
Continued progress in raising support. In addition to all the wonderful ministry from this month, I'm excited to shared that we are currently at 40% funded! Join us in praising the Lord for his provision, and also ask him to give me the strength to continue building this support team.
The impact of Lent and Missions. The season of Lent begins on February 14th (Ash Wednesday) and leads up to Easter on March 31st. During that time hundreds of people will be reading through the devotional. Pray that God would use it to draw people closer to him and to shape their hearts for global missions.
Navigating transition as a family. Big change can be hard on little hearts. Pray for our girls as they continue adjusting to this new season. Pray for Katie and I to be present and sensitive to them, while also caring for our own needs. And finally, pray for our continued search for the next church home to which God is calling us.