Journeying With Jesus

The Adventure of Faith

Risk Taking

My wife and I were at a dinner the other night and a friend asked me a very interesting question, “What was the most risky thing you have ever done in your life?” I think the answer I gave her was quite bland and unimpressive. My friend must have thought I was a toad. I’m sure she was thinking, “what a dud!” But the answer I gave her was true! I thought about my friend’s question in light of  my response and decided that is I could go back in time and elaborate more clearly, this is what I would have said.

I have traveled to Ethiopia and driven across miles of dirt and rocky roads far from civilization. I was going to places I have never been before in a vehicle that eventually had three flat tires before we returned home. But that remote and dangerous travel in a third-world country wasn’t the riskiest thing I had ever done.checkpoint charlie

In my early twenties, my wife and I traveled to Austria. We hooked up with a mission agency that took Bibles and Christian resources behind what was then called the Iron Curtain. We had to pass through national check points with guards armed with machine guns as they scrutinized our  passports and vehicle. With this group we traveled behind the Iron Curtain to East Berlin, Budapest, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. Some in our group were caught at the border going into Hungry, questioned for hours, searched, held and eventually expelled from the country. We were aware that the secret police had the technology to listen into conversations while you were driving in the car. Times were often quite tense and scary. But this wasn’t the riskiest thing I had ever done.


Kirkuk, Iraq

A few years ago I traveled to Iraq to attend a conference of Iraqi Christians who gathered from all over their country. The war was waging, Saddam was still at large, and we had armed guards with us wherever we went. To fly into Baghdad, we had to stay at a high altitude until we were directly over the airport and then steeply spiral down to a landing. This was the only way to avoid being shot down by a shoulder held surface-to-air missile. During the nights you could often hear gun fire. But being in Iraq during the middle of war wasn’t the riskiest thing I had ever done.

Traveling remote distances in Ethiopia, smuggling Bible into Eastern Block countries, and being in Iraq during times of intense warfare all involved risk and at times were extremely stressful. But those adventures, although dangerous, did not define what I would describe as my highest risk.

The answer I gave to my friend was “church planting.” CHURCH PLANTING! Why is that so risky you ask.  Church planting in Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Monterey counties is so similar to what God asked of Abram. “Leave your family, your people, and your country and go to the place I will show you.” In this type of faith response, there are no guaranteed finances, people support, or pathway. God shows you as you go. For people who like to have a plan in place before they start the journey, church planting is a killer. It is pioneering work. You are constantly going into new territory. You are doing things you have never done before.  Sure there are things you can learn from others, but the particular path God has for you is quite unique. It is not for the timid. Many times Laura and I have wanted to quit. We often wonder if we are whacked. On this road of faith there is no security apart from God.

The other three ventures I described were quite risky for a short period of time. But we are on this current road of church planting untll death. While parts of the church planting journey grow easier as we learn, there are always new unexpected challenges to face.  Most people would not think of church planting as being risky…but believe me, it is the riskies thing I have ever done.


June 8, 2009 Posted by | House Church, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Birthing the “Sidewalk Church”

The Sunday before Christmas, God put it on our hearts to serve the day workers in front of a local Home Depot instead of have a having a “traditional” Christmas service for our house churches. After all, the Son of God was born as a stranger, in a foreign land, in difficult circumstances so why shouldn’t we serve those that He would have felt very at home with?

Gathering our families together we took breakfast burritos and horchata, $15 gift cards from Home Depot, Billy Graham’s Peace with God pamphlet translated to Spanish and our Christmas greetings to the 55 men standing on the sidewalk around the complex. All appreciated the food and greetings; some hung around to talk and shared of their longings for their families back in Mexico during this season. We were able to pray for a few requests. What used to look like a bunch of strangers loitering around Home Depot took on faces and names and stories and personalities. We were blessed, they were blessed and “Christmas service” took on a whole new meaning.

Every Sunday morning after that, Brandon and Matthew and sometimes others would go down early to hang out with the guys on the sidewalk. Most times they would take some tangerines or food, open God’s Word, read it together,discuss what was read, pray together and go. Anywhere from six to sixteen guys might participate. Brandon and Matthew began to get to know the various men, and one of them would always be willing to translate for those who didn’t speak English.

This last Sunday the group decided to do something different. Reserving a room in a nearby pizza parlor, they invited as many of the guys who had not found work that day to meet for lunch for a deeper study. Nine guys showed up. Taking a DVD called, Esperanza (Hope), they showed 15 minutes of the video depicting God’s story from Creation and the Fall pointing to Jesus. The entire DVD is 80 minutes in length and it chronologically goes from Creation to Christ. Brandon asked the group how many had ever heard the story of the Creation and the Fall. Only two guys raised their hands! Brandon then shared his testimony while Hector, a Hispanic believer who was invited to help, translated. After translating for Brandon, Hector challenged the men, if you want to receive Christ, pray after me.  Amid many tears, nine men prayed out loud in the back room of the pizza parlor to have Jesus forgive them of their sins and take charge of their lives.

Months earlier, when the initial idea was raised to work with the day workers my initial reaction was “it won’t work.” We don’t know Spanish, we are not a part of their culture, it is a transient group, we have no place to meet, there will be no continuity, were all my concerns. All legitimate obstacles. I forgot that God is the one who says, “say to this mountain be cast into the sea” and it will be done for you. I am so proud of Brandon and Matthew and all who have lovingly labored in this field. Thank you Lord for this fruit. Thank you for these men and others who will come to know you through their testimony! Forgive us Lord for thinking “it will not work” without seeing you as the God who moves mountains. Thank you Lord for the birth of the “Sidewalk Church.”

March 11, 2008 Posted by | House Church | | 1 Comment