Come and See

It’s been about a year and a half since we started our ‘Come and See’ bible study on Thursday nights. It has been a great evangelistic tool. Every week we meet at the church, sit in a circle, and study the gospel of John. Amazingly the attendance is sometimes greater on Thursday night than it is on Sunday because in addition to our regular church members we have several ‘seekers’ that come to the mid-week Bible study.

Why did we start ‘Come and see’? We wanted to give people the opportunity to study biblical Christianity directly from the source (the Scriptures). So many people in Spain think they know all there is to know about Christianity and Jesus but are shocked when they discover that Christ’s testimony of himself and their idea of Christ aren’t the same. That is why we are going verse by verse through the gospel of John and letting the Scriptures speak for themselves. However, I always give preference to their questions. Many weeks I don’t have time to finish the lesson because they have so many questions.

I am thrilled to say that since we started the ‘Come and See’ Bible study we have had five of our regular attenders get saved and baptized. All of them are still with us. Another blessing is that we have always had ‘seekers’ with us. Right now we have two unbelievers that faithfully attend and another that attends sporadically. What is exciting is that those that have been transformed by the power of the gospel are able to share their testimony with these ‘seekers’ and say to them, “I’ve been where you are; I know what you’re thinking.”

‘Come and See’ has also been a great tool for discipleship and training men. It is a great time for new believers to have their questions answered and for mature believers to answer their questions. When we started ‘Come and See’ only Eduardo and I knew enough bible to answer questions. Now I have two other men that are explaining the gospel and patiently helping our ‘seekers’. Last Thursday was especially a blessing. We have a new lady that is attending the Bible study. She is friends with Angie (Eduardo’s wife). She asked these questions: “What is the difference between this church and the Catholic church and why did you start this church?” Instead of answering the questions myself I let the believers in the group answer them. I must say, it was a special moment for me. I saw people that had asked me the same questions in the past answer her questions very clearly and from the Scriptures. Please continue to pray for ‘Ven y Ve’ (Come and see).

 

An Exciting Weekend!

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We had an exciting weekend at the church in Colmenar! It all started with the baptism of Javier and Harold. Both of these men came to know Christ through the testimony of believers from the Colmenar church. Javier is Eduardo’s friend. For several years Eduardo shared the gospel with him. Last year I started meeting up with him once a week to answer his Bible questions. One of those days he confessed to me that he had believed the gospel!  Saturday was the culmination of more than two years of  praying for Javier and patiently teaching him the gospel.

Harold is sixteen. He was invited to church by Mayra. Very soon after he started attending the church services he shared with me that he had placed his faith and trust in Jesus for his salvation. The Lord used a gospel film to show him his need of Christ. I immediately started discipling him. It has been wonderful to see the change in his life. We spend lots of time together during the week studying the Bible.

Then to top things off Flavius preached his first full-length message on Sunday. In the message he clearly expounded the gospel of Christ! It’s weekends like these that I am reminded of why we came to Spain as missionaries. Thank you for your prayers.

 

 

 

New Disciple of Christ

Last week we had a men’s meeting in Colmenar Viejo and it was a great success. After the meal we had a time for Bible questions and discussion. During that time I asked those that attend the “Come and See” Bible study and those that have personal Bible studies with us to share a testimony of what they have learned so far. When it was Javier’s turn he said the following, “The more I learn about God, the more I want to know. I feel that I am attached to Jesus. I can’t get away from him.”

The following week I asked him about his testimony and he confirmed to me that he has decided to place his faith and trust in Jesus Christ for his salvation and become a disciple of Christ. God has been working in his heart for a long time. He is Eduardo’s friend and was invited to church by him. Eduardo has shared the gospel with him numerous times. I have personally spent hours sharing the gospel with him. He has faithfully attended the come and see bible study. His testimony is a reminder to me that it takes time. We are commanded to teach the gospel. We cannot get impatient because God is doing the work. Please continue to pray for his spiritual growth.

Dialoguing with teens

It has been two months since we started a free English class for teens in Colmenar Viejo. We now have a core group of ten students that attend the class faithfully. Most of these teens were invited by people from the Colmenar church. From the beginning our goals for the class have been the following:

– Make contacts with young people.

– Teach them the gospel.

– Make disciples.

We thank the Lord for what he has already done through this ministry! Through the class we have met thirteen young people. Not all of them have stayed but we now have new contacts. We have been able to share the gospel with all of them through the “Come and See” youth bible study that we have immediately following the English class. Not everyone stays for that but every week several attend. We have even been able to meet some of their parents. One mother has started attending church services recently.

One of the greatest blessings has been the salvation of Harold, one of the teens from the English class. He is fifteen years old. I meet up with him every week and teach him the Bible. He is now faithfully attending church services as well. Lord willing, he will be baptized soon.

I write this to compel you to pray for the youth of Colmenar Viejo and Spain. It has been wonderful to share the gospel with these teens and answer their questions but at the same time it has been heartbreaking. It is evident that some of them have never heard the gospel in any way before. Before the bible study I ask them to write down on a piece of paper a question about God or the Bible. We then answer the questions one by one. Here is a sample of some of the questions they have asked:

What are your reasons for believing that God exists?

If God exists, why doesn’t he manifest himself?

Is it necessary to believe in God?

Since the dawn of civilization, human beings have attributed things that they could not explain to a superior being, but that did not make their beliefs real. Why should we believe that God is real?

If God exists, why doesn’t he stop natural disasters like tsunamis and earthquakes?

Why did Jesus die? How could he rise again on the third day?

If Jesus did rise from the dead, how can I connect with him?

If you commit lots of sins, are you definitely going to Hell? Does Hell even exist?

Will you pray for these teens? Will you pray that God would give us wisdom in answering their questions? Will you pray that they would become disciples of Christ? Will you consider becoming a missionary to Spain?

Evaluate your strategies

A while back I wrote a couple of posts on the subject, “What do you do when nobody shows up?” You can read them here: Part 1, Part 2. I had originally planned on writing a third article but forgot about it. Recent events have reminded and motivated me to complete the series.

The reason I wrote the original post was because of a special evangelistic campaign that we had realized in Parla and Colmenar Viejo. We had distributed thirty thousand invitations to a month-long sermon series geared towards the unsaved. The result was zero visitors. As you can imagine it was a discouraging time for us and the churches. This led me to ask myself the question that is the subject of this series.

So what happened recently in our ministry that motivated me to write the third and final blog post? We decided to start English classes for young people between the ages of thirteen and twenty. The goal was to distribute three thousand invitations to all the high-schoolers in Colmenar Viejo. The flyer was two-sided. On one side was an invitation to free English classes; on the other an invitation to a youth “Come and see” Bible study. The idea was to meet young people and share the gospel with them in order to start a youth ministry. As I shared in an earlier post that is an impossible dream. Thankfully, we serve the God of the impossible.

This was not something that we planned quickly or poorly. We worked the details out with Eduardo Sedoski and Flavius. In fact, everyone in the Colmenar church was involved. For instance, we decided to schedule the youth “Come and see” Bible study immediately after the English class; that way we could encourage the students to stay for an extra hour and discuss Biblical Christianity with us in a dynamic, participative environment. They would not have to make an extra trip. We also debated whether to simply invite them to the English class and then talk to them about the Bible study once they signed up or to make it very clear in the invitation that we also offer the “Come and See” class and that we would love for them to be a part of it. In the end, we opted for including the Bible study in the flyer, thus making our intentions clear from the outset. That way they wouldn’t be able to accuse us of pulling a bait-and-switch on them. Why do I include all these details? So that you understand that we thought it through diligentely.

The invitation clearly stated that the classes were free and that there were only thirty available slots. We put two dates down for the registration. On the first day of the registration we waited at the church with sign-up sheets in hand. Only one kid showed up. Three thousand invitations for free English classes and only one guy signs up.

So what do you do in these type of situations? I believe the answer is to evaluate your strategy. The wrong conclusion would be to automatically assume that free English classes don’t work in Spain. Thankfully I had prepared the Colmenar church for any outcome. I told them that this was an experiment for us. We had no clue what would happen. The only thing we knew for sure was that if we tried nothing we would get just that. We knew that young people would never get saved if we didn’t proactively go after them.

Here is an idea of how we evaluated our strategy:

– Maybe getting the invitations in the hands of the teenagers wasn’t the best approach. Most kids don’t want to take on any more classes even if they are free. Maybe it would have been better to distribute the invitations in all the mailboxes. The parents would probably be more interested in the classes and encourage their children to sign-up.

– Maybe we shouldn’t have included an invitation to the Bible study in the flyer. This was probably the number one reason we had only one sign up. Spaniards are very private about religious matters and it probably scared them off.

Instead of dismissing the idea altogether we immediately began to think of a better strategy. None of us were discouraged. We were thrilled about the kid that did sign up! Everybody worked really hard. We are attempting great things for God! This is reason to rejoice.

Things have worked out great since then. We now have eight kids signed up for the English classes, all invited by people from our church. This turns out to be a much better strategy because follow up will be easier. The one kid that did sign up was not only interested in the English class but the Bible study as well. This showed us that it was a good idea after all to be upfront about our intentions for the class.  We believe the class will grow even more through word of mouth.

I think sometimes we consider it unspiritual to evaluate our strategies. As if we are somehow questioning God’s plan. But we need to realize that God is a God of order and design. He gave us our rational faculties for a reason. It isn’t a sin to think and plan. I believe it glorifies our maker. God does the work, but He has sovereignly chosen to use us. Instead of giving up when things don’t go as planned maybe it would be better to learn from our mistakes and make the necessary changes. We can’t continue doing the same things in the same way and call it faithfulness to God. We must be willing to evaluate and change. Certainly not our doctrine or message, but our strategies.  I am certain that we will learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t as we deal with these young people. We may have to change our strategy again, but what will never change is our relentless effort to make disciples of Christ.

Four Baptisms

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This past Sunday I had the privilege of baptizing four believers. Two from Colmenar (First picture) and two from Parla (Second picture). One of them was my son. It was a very special day.

Ian: Since he was born we have whispered the gospel in his ears. As he grew up he began to ask a lot of questions about sin, salvation, hell and heaven. I am amazed by some of the questions he asks. I believe that it’s healthy for him to ask those questions because it shows that he is thinking about these things instead of simply borrowing his parent’s faith. He was saved last year during children’s camp. I am so proud of him. I pray that God would use him for His honor and glory.

Mayra: She began visiting the church in Colmenar last year. She had been influenced by her Christian best friend and came with lots of questions. From the beginning she was faithful to every service. She would bring good questions to our Thursday night “Come and See” Bible study and always wanted to talk after the Sunday message. God was working in her life. Last year during our furlough we got news that Mayra had finally believed the gospel. It has been amazing to see the change in her life. She is sharing the gospel with her friends and is involved in everything.

Lucas and Romina: We had been praying for young people for a long time and little by little they began to come. The only problem was that our entire youth group was lost. They didn’t seem very interested in the lessons and it was hard to have conversations with them about spiritual things. First Jefferson was saved. He was serving faithfully in the church but moved back to his home country (Peru) last year. Then Flavius was saved. He is currently preparing to go into full-time ministry. Then Lucas and Romina were saved. They are siblings. My sister, Deborah, had the opportunity to lead Romina to Christ and then Lucas was lead to Christ by his dad. Please continue praying for the youth in Spain. We rejoice with these baptisms.

An Impossible Dream

In March we will be starting English classes for young people in Colmenar Viejo. Immediately after the classes we will have a short Bible study. We will be distributing a two-sided flyer inviting them to the English classes as well as the Bible study. There are five high-schools in Colmenar with over two thousand students enrolled. We will be hitting every one of them with invitations next week.

I am nervous and excited as I prepare for this. Many thoughts cross my mind. What if nobody shows up? Will the church get discouraged? How will I help them believe that God is still working in Spain? Will I get discouraged? What if several young people do show up and stay for the bible study? Will they think I’m boring and never return? Will they disagree with everything I say? Will I have the answers to their questions? Will they have any questions?

Why am I sharing this with you? So that you can better pray for us. So that you can understand the challenges we face. So that you can rejoice with us in the victories and defeats knowing that God is ultimately in control. You see, I have an impossible dream. In my dream I see young people from Spain loving and serving God. I see pastors, missionaries, Sunday School teachers and music leaders in their teens and twenties. I see young people staying up all night studying the bible and praying for the souls of their fellow Spaniards instead of partying and doing drugs. The only problem with my dream is that it’s impossible.

I can’t offer them entertainment. Hollywood and their friends do a better job. I can’t offer them money. Serving Jesus isn’t going to fill their pockets with cash. I can’t offer them power and prestige. If they follow Christ they will be weirdos and outcasts. All I have to offer them is the gospel, which according to 1 Corinthians 1:18 is foolishness to them. As I said, it’s impossible. Even Jesus said so, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24)

The disciples’ reaction is logical, “When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?” Then came the divine answer, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” Please pray for this new project. I’m thankful to be serving in Spain. Very few people believe that the work can be done here. That can only mean one thing: God will get the glory for everything that takes place because only God can accomplish the impossible.

An encouraging Sunday

Here are a few highlights from yesterday:

1. I learned something in Sunday School!

Yesterday I had the opportunity to go Paco’s Sundays School class. Normally I’m teaching the youth class and busy with that so it was nice to sit down and be a student for a change. Several things impressed me about his class. First, he spoke with clarity and confidence. It was evident that he had spent many hours preparing his lesson. Second, he displayed a clear understanding of the greater narrative of Scripture. In other words, he didn’t lose sight of the big picture, which is hard especially when you’re teaching through the Old Testament. He spoke of God’s great redemption plan. Finally, he answered everyone’s questions with the Bible.

The reason God is using Paco so much is because he has literally devoured the Word of God. If you cut him he bleeds Scripture. He doesn’t have hundreds of books (although we are trying to get him more resources) or Logos Bible Software, but he does have the Bible and he knows how to use it.

2. Flavius shared his testimony in Parla and Colmenar.

Flavius is a young man that was saved almost a year ago. He is currently preparing to go into full time ministry. He shared how God had used different people to bring him to church and that it was a message from the gospel of John that opened his eyes to his need of Christ. He mentioned that every week he goes to class with twenty-nine other young people. At first he dreaded going to school because since his conversion he had nothing in common with them, but now he sees it as an opportunity for the gospel. One of his friends, Luis, was in church yesterday.

3. Disciples making disciples.

We had two new visitors in Colmenar yesterday. The best part is that they were invited by other believers. Eduardo brought his friend Guillermo, a businessman from Argentina. What I love about Eduardo is that he not only invites people to church but follows up with them. Then Mayra brought her friend Cristina. Mayra was saved in Colmenar and the change in her life has been radical. The greatest evidence of that change is that she now is bringing others to Christ. Pray for these visitors and pray for the work in Spain.

The Urgency of Missions

“Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” (John 4:35) 

Jesus impressed upon the hearts of his disciples the urgency of the task before them. After Christ’s ascension they went into all the world and boldly proclaimed the gospel as if the return of Christ was imminent and as if their task was infinitely important. Paul set out to preach the gospel where no one had ever gone before and he trained men and started churches as if his days were counted. I wonder if we sense that urgency today. I’m ashamed to say that I often don’t grasp the immediate need of getting the gospel to the world. I work as if I had all the time in the world.

What is the difference between those first-century Christians and us? Well, they certainly took Christ’s command to go and make disciples seriously and we often take it more like a suggestion. They had a profound belief that Christ would soon return and they served God in anticipation for that day. But I believe there is another reason that we often overlook: They were persecuted for their faith.

They knew the tremendous risk of sharing their faith. They knew that they could face imprisonment or even death for proclaiming the gospel so they lived each day as if it were the last. Paul would go into a city and preach the gospel and quickly and thoroughly train the believers because he knew that his life would most likely be short and he had no time to lose. The gospel would have to continue in his absence.

I have seen this urgency in the life and ministry of my friends serving God in China. Last Sunday I got up to get ready for Easter Sunday and I checked my e-mail as I usually do in the morning. What I read shattered my heart. I read an e-mail from missionary John Walz saying that the police had interrupted the church service in Harbin, China and taken the Chinese pastors and the missionaries into the police station to interrogate them.  After a few days the verdict came. They had ten days to leave and they would be unable to return for another five years.

While that is horrible news, the Taube and Walz families were ready for that day. Jake Taube had started the work in Harbin seven years earlier and had worked with the knowledge that at any moment he could be kicked out of the country. The day they dreaded finally came but the work will continue. After only seven years of service in China they have trained several pastors and started four churches to the glory of God. They truly understood the urgency of the mission.

I want to follow their example. I want to live each day as if time is running out and the gospel must go forth, believers must be trained and churches started. May we understand the urgency of our task! Please pray for the work in China and for my friends Jake Taube and John Walz and their families. To God be the glory!

Keep updated with the ministry in China

Visit here to see how you can help the missionaries that were kicked out

Help new missionaries take their place

Youth Summit in Spain

Last week I had the privilege of attending the first Youth Summit for World Evangelism among our independent baptist churches here in Spain. The Summit was organized by my dear friends and fellow missionaries Alberto and Francisco Puente. For three days over one hundred teens, twenty faithful church leaders and thirty pastors and missionaries gathered to discuss the need for spreading the gospel in Spain and all around the world.

We were able to take two men from our church, Eduardo and Paco, and they came back with a great zeal and desire for missions. During the Summit I was able to spend time with my friend, AB, missionary to North Africa who challenged us about reaching the muslim world. Please pray for the young people that attended the summit that the decisions that they made would be real and that we would see missionaries sent out of Spain to the world!

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