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May 18, 2015


This sponsored post was prepared by Dr. George Scipione, Director of the Biblical Counseling Institute at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

DiscipleshipPastoral work is a lot like combat. You are never truly prepared for battle just by theory or classroom instruction. In combat, physical and spiritual, you need hands-on training in the field. Training for pastoral work must include hands-on training in the art of discipleship.

Jesus gave His church the job of making disciples of the nations (Matt 28:10-18). This starts by evangelism resulting in baptized members of the Church. Then it is completed by teaching these disciples everything that Jesus taught so that they will be like Jesus and the Father through the Spirit’s resurrection power. Jesus did this with the twelve Apostles. Jesus did this with Paul. Paul did this with Timothy, Titus and others. Timothy did this with faithful men as Paul instructed him to do. This is the true apostolic succession. This is mandated for officers (2 Tim 2:2) and others in the body (Eph 4:1-16) (Titus 2:3-5). 

Pastoral work includes public preaching, private instruction, and personal pastoral contact. Today, the third aspect is what most would call counseling. The apostle Paul models this for us. In his address to the Ephesian elders at Miletus (Acts 20), Paul summarized his three years in Asia Minor as a pastor of that church. The gospel of repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ was central to each of these three pastoral tasks. The Word of God is the tool for each of these tasks (2 Tim 3:15-17). Paul’s personal pastoral contact was poignantly filled with tears. His was a ministry of passionate personal care, not a corporate or medical model. Paul did not dwell in his study, only leaving to make small steps into the pulpit and back. In this, Paul was like His Master. You will do well to follow in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd and His special under-shepherd, Paul. You need personal skills in working with the flock and much wisdom in applying God’s Word to their lives, especially their struggles. How will you gain these skills?

Most seminaries emphasize preaching as the primary task of the pastor. Preaching must never be neglected. However, expository preaching in the pulpit was only one small aspect of Christ’s and the apostles’ preaching ministries. Expository preaching was in the synagogues. The bulk of their preaching was done outside of buildings and formal worship. The private teaching was from house to house and was interactive. The personal pastoral care most likely happened in homes and other private places. Many seminaries only tip their hats at this private pastoral care and this is a major mistake. New pastors are confronted with serious sin and barely comprehend what to do. Many new shepherds have not developed abilities in working with people, preferring to stay in the comfort and safety of their study. Don’t do this and don’t call a pastor to minister in your church who does this.

Praise God there are many fine options to get training now rather than the paucity that existed in the late 1960’s when I went to seminary. The Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (RPTS) is one of your best options. I was on the ground floor at the beginning of the Biblical counseling movement and have had the honor of helping to train counselors in the first three generations of Biblical counseling both domestically and on five continents. RPTS has small class sizes and personal pastoral training that is on a par with any institution in the English speaking world. We have a global student population and a diverse American student body. The pastoral atmosphere at RPTS will expose you to the best of the past in Biblical counseling, the best of the present Biblical counseling movement, and prepare you practically and theologically for the future. Our professors are pastors and academicians committed to the infallible, inerrant, and all sufficient Word. Visit our website, www.rpts.edu. Come visit us. Better yet, come and study with us. Study under pastors and become more like your Master who is the Wonderful Counselor (Isa 9:6).


May 11, 2015


Dear Church Leader, 


Your site is your new front door and church lobby. Newcomers will visit website before showing up in person in order to help them feel oriented to your congregation. They will form a first impression that will cause them to visit, or to move on. 

What impression are you sending about your church community through your current site? 

Your church has a great opportunity to send a clear message and accurate first impression about your community to potential guests around the clock. 


Do you have the time and expertise necessary? Unless a congregation is blessed with a great Web strategist and designer who also has development talent and the ability to donate their time (that confluence is exceedingly rare), a small church ends up missing out on this great opportunity by having a counter-productive Web site. 

Most church websites are counterproductive.

Through lack of design and communications expertise, or lack of acknowledgement of a need for help, you will drive potential guests away by failing to accurately communicate who your congregation is, and the welcoming community that you are. 

It might be hard to hear, but it’s usually pride that fails to admit this lack of expertise and need at the root of many counterproductive church Web sites. 


We know your world.

The MereChurch team is led by Matt Heerema, a co-pastor at a very average local church (~300 in attendance). Matt understands the economic realities and needs of a small congregation. We have also done work for mega-churches and international ministries, so we understand the technical challenges and needs of ministry at every scale. 

We are an expert team who have handled many world-class projects. And we can work with you at a budget that is feasible for a small congregation. 

Let MereChurch build your new church website

Thank you for the opportunity.

-Matt Heerema
Pastor, Web Consultant, Musician, Husband, and Father of 4. 


April 27, 2015


This sponsored post was prepared by Dustin Willis

A solitary faith is not a Christian faith. 

Lose the Lone-Ranger Mentality

While our culture may place high value on independence and individualism, the truth of the matter is that we need one another to carry out the mission of God. A foundational truth for everyday missionaries is understanding their biblical calling to be anchored to group of believers to whom they confess, with whom they repent, celebrate, live in faith, and are daily sent out on mission. 

Often it’s difficult for some to understand the necessity of community. “Why can’t it just be me and Jesus?” we think, dreaming of toting our Bible and riding off into the sunset on some “lone-ranger” mission to save the world.

The problem is, we can’t choose Jesus and not choose the church. They’re a package deal. That’s because God never intended for us to live out the Christian life alone.

Church = A Family United in Heart and Purpose

The church is designed as a place for God’s children to function as a family, united in heart and purpose. 

For many, that means meeting once a week to sing songs and listen to a sermon surrounded by people they don’t really know. Yes, meeting as a body is certainly one of the valid expressions of church and one that we should be consistently involved in, but going to a service once a week is not walking in biblical community. 

Biblical community is the group of believers with whom we walk through the good, the bad, and the ugly of life while digging deeper into the gospel together. It is built upon committed, authentic, and caring relationships that urge one another toward Jesus and His mission. 

It’s where we can be honest and transparent about our struggles with sin. (see James 5:16)

It’s where we gracefully confront sin in other believers and humbly accept correction brought by others. (see Gal. 6:1-2)

It’s where we willingly sacrifice in order to help others carry their burdens. (see Gal. 6:2)

It’s where we celebrate and see the value of God’s unique giftedness and life experiences within each individual. (see Rom. 12: 6-8)

It’s where we practice hospitality that nurtures relationships. (see Heb. 13:2)

Making Room For Others 

Perhaps the best thing about biblical community is the way God designed it to stretch and increase, always making room for those seeking a place to join and grow alongside other believers. 

When my wife, Renie and I moved to Atlanta we soon realized what an incredible mission field our neighborhood represented. We began to regularly invite our neighbors, plus families in our church community group to cook-outs in our front yard. 

It’s turned out to be a blessing for several reasons. First, it encourages members of our biblical community to engage with their neighbors. Secondly, it facilitates connection between our neighbors and our community group that might not ordinarily happen. Finally—and most importantly, it gives our community group an opportunity to put the gospel on display. Our intentionality in loving one another through biblical community plays a vital part in living out our everyday mission.

Strengthening Your Commitment to Biblical Community

Walking in community together helps us grow in our understanding of the cross and that is where unity is made possible and where biblical community can truly flourish.

Take a few minutes to list the people you are or should be living out the gospel with. Then, spend some time praying about the next steps you should take in strengthening your commitment to biblical community.

Life on mission is simply an overflow of living a cross-centered (gospel-centered) life, and living in biblical community is foundational to growing in the gospel.

This article is adapted from Life on Mission: Joining the Everyday Mission of God, by Dustin Willis and Aaron Coe (Moody Publishers). Learn more about or purchase their book, Life on Mission.

Dustin Willis is the co-author of Life on Mission: Joining the Everyday Mission of God. A resident of metro Atlanta, he currently serves as the Coordinator of the Send Network and the Send North America Conference. A popular speaker across North America, Dustin is a regular contributor at sendnetwork.com, and blogs at dustinwillis.com. His new book, Life in Community: Joining Together to Display the Gospel (Moody Publishers) will be available on August 4, 2015. 


April 20, 2015



This sponsored post was prepared by C.J. Williams of Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

When Adam found that among the creatures there was not one suitable for him as a partner (Gen 2:20), it is not as though he (or God) first thought that there might indeed be an animal that would match him as a companion. The creation of Eve was not a “plan B” or a second attempt at finding partnership.  The point of this failed search for a partner for Adam in the animal kingdom was to demonstrate the lesser status of the non-spiritual creatures, and how they cannot provide true companionship for a man with a soul who is made in God’s image.  Only another human would do.  Adam was not to find partnership with the lesser creatures; he was to have dominion over them (Gen 1:26).  In spite of the old saying, a dog cannot be, nor were dogs designed to be, man’s best friend.

A curious trend in our culture wants to make them so, and go even beyond the old saying, by making dogs and other pets full-fledged kindred.  Dog and cat food commercials tout their brands as being the healthiest choice for our little “family members,” and not a few pet owners casually refer to their pets as children.  Some of this is lighthearted, and nobody denies that there is an enjoyment in pet ownership, but at what point are we supposed to suspect that our culture is purposefully turning the gift of dominion on its head by embracing the lesser creatures as equals?        

We read in the Bible and know from archaeological evidence that ancient people groups often worshipped certain animals or idols of animals, which is basically a role reversal from the Biblical idea of dominion.  Did you ever wonder why a golden calf, and not a golden … something else (Exodus 32)?  Many would regard this phenomenon as a primitive impulse of the ancient world, but there is a corresponding spirit to the modern animal rights movement, which places animal life on par with, or even above, the value of human life.  Extremists always stand out for what they are, just like those who worshipped the golden calf.  I am more alarmed by the subtle shift of mainstream cultural attitudes that increasingly embrace the non-spiritual creatures as family and friends.  One can only wonder where this is all headed, but it is not hard to track its progress.     

With the advent of Disney movies, a generation of impressionable minds has been left thinking that wild animals are just little people in fur coats.  When it first came out, the movie “Bambi” made it suddenly matter whether a hamburger was made from a deer or a cow, the latter animal garnering much less sympathy.  Now, the debate has become whether it is moral to eat meat at all.  When Mitt Romney strapped his dog carrier to the roof of his car to go on vacation in the 1970s, he was doing what every family did.  Today, it is scandalous.  The point is that the popular attitude toward human-animal relations has been shifting for some time.  Today, we regularly humanize animals for entertainment and companionship, and proponents of vegetarianism are now moralists rather than nutritionists.  While sexual bestiality is still taboo (for now), the current cultural norm can best be described as social bestiality.  It is increasingly common to accept animals as our social equals. 

Two things are at stake.  The first is the unique nature of people as spiritual beings created in the image of God.  Our relationships are the proving ground of faith and love, with our unity and companionship based on the high and holy purpose of glorifying God and enjoying Him.  These things cannot be shared with lesser creatures that have only brute instinct to guide them.  To blur the line between humans and animals is to allow the presupposition of evolution (which may be the root of social bestiality).

The second thing is the gift of dominion, and yes, it is a gift.  Our authority over the creatures, in which we are allowed to use them wisely and humanely for our benefit, is one way in which we bear the image of God.  Just as marriage reflects the love of Christ for His church (Ephesians 5), human dominion over the animals reflects the divine dominion over all.  These two creation ordinances, marriage and dominion, are simultaneously under attack in our culture, but they are both essential for the reflection of God’s wisdom in the created order.

Owning a pet is a small enjoyment that many people innocently indulge (including me), but the apostle warned that the idolatrous heart has the tendency to “worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25).  The trend of social bestiality may not amount to creature worship yet, but there is great reason for God’s people to faithfully bear witness to the Creator in the midst of this rising trend.

This sponsored post was prepared by C.J. Williams of Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary.


April 16, 2015


As many of my readers know, I worship and serve as a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario. What my readers may not know is that my local church has been served faithfully by Church Plant Media since March 2011. Our church doesn’t have a huge budget and we needed a website that would be excellent, beautiful, and cost-effective, and Church Plant Media was able to provide that for us. We are very pleased with their ongoing service. I also made the decision to partner with them for several months when I updated my blog design last year and set up my blog sponsor program.

Given our shared appreciation and support for The Gospel Coalition, we planned this interview and website giveaway in conjunction with this year’s TGC 2015 Conference that happened earlier this week in Orlando, Florida. My friendship with Church Plant Media grew at the last TGC Conference in 2013, when we spent some time praying together and discussing their desire to help churches grow and thrive. They are a TGC Sponsor and they provide websites for every TGC Regional Chapter in North America, including my local chapter: TGC Ontario. If you’ve met them at a TGC event or if you are considering a website purchase, we hope you enjoy this interview.

Introduce us to Church Plant Media. Who are you and what do you do?

We build user-friendly, responsive websites for Church & Mission. Our heart is for the Church and Christian organizations, so that’s who we serve. As a group of believers who love Jesus, we focus our efforts on developing web solutions that serve the mission of local churches and global ministries. Our passion is to provide gospel-people with websites that are easy to use and easy to maintain, all at an affordable price. The following lines from our Gospel Agreement say it best: “Simply put, we are first and foremost a gospel-centered company, and second, a web design company… we view the websites that we create as a stewarded partnership in the gospel.”

Do you deal only with church plants, or do you provide other kinds of sites?

Although we named our company “Church Plant Media” based on our shared affinity for church planters and their love for the gospel and local church ministry, for years we have been offering our services to a much broader audience than our name appears to define. With “plant” as our middle name, we are happy to help people “grow” their online ministry. We welcome any gospel-loving group that is defined by the words “Church & Mission” including (but not limited to) church plants, brand new churches, established churches, multi-campus churches, church networks, missionaries, non-profit ministries, Christian camps, Christian schools, Bible Colleges, etc.

Do you design sites for any church, or only for certain types of churches?

Our websites are promotional tools, so we want to make sure we’re promoting churches and organizations that are true to the gospel and have a high view of scripture. This means that we will work with any gospel-loving, humbly-orthodox organization who will affirm, endorse, and commit to uphold three basic creeds along with the biblical definition that is found on our Gospel Agreement. First, they must be Christians and adhere to the 2nd century Apostles’ Creed. Second, they must be Protestants* and uphold the 5 Solas of the 16th century Reformation. Third, they must be Evangelicals and fully agree with the National Association of Evangelicals’ Statement of Faith. Fourth, they must be Biblical and believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman.

People have asked us why we include the fourth point about marriage, and that’s a great question. We feel that it is the biggest social issue facing the church today, so that’s why we decided to include it, as it seems to be the litmus test for many churches and their stance on the inerrancy of God’s Word.

What sets apart Church Plant Media from other website solutions built for churches and ministries?

First, our church and ministry-specific features. We built our own Content Management System to meet the specific needs of churches and ministries. For example, our sermons module and events module have church-specific functionality that comes standard. We are in the process of releasing our brand new podcasts module, which will allow a church to have multiple podcasts in addition to the main sermons podcast. This will be useful for the church that wishes to have separate podcasts for their sermons, bible studies, youth group meetings, etc. These are all standard features that you won’t get with a generic website builder.

Second, our experience. Church Plant Media has been building websites for churches and ministries for over a decade, and we serve churches and ministries all over the globe. Many website companies are here today and gone tomorrow, but we’re in this for the long term.

Third, our radius protection. We want to truly partner with our churches and help them as they minister to their local community. If two churches in the same part of town have the same website, then that creates confusion among the very people the church is trying reach. So once a church gets a website from us, we draw a 10 mile radius around that church and no other church in that area can use the same design.

Fourth, our ease-of-use. Our Content Management System make it easy to update your website, and we take care of all the security and module updates for you. Our goal is that this will help you focus on ministry and not on technical work.

Why does it make sense to use a subscription service rather than paying a one-time fee for a site?

Just like ministry, church websites should be considered a work in progress. A one-time fee only makes sense if a gospel ministry never plans to grow, change, or update anything. Our subscription service includes much more than just hosting. We provide 24/7 usage of our Content Management System, regular upgrades and feature releases to core system modules, safe website hosting at Rackspace (a secure, industry-leading datacenter), fast and reliable media transfer from Amazon S3, daily backups of all website content, and toll-free telephone and online support from our knowledgeable support team. We take care of all security updates, feature releases, and system upgrades automatically, which saves our churches and ministries valuable time.

What is one common mistake many churches make with their web content?

One of the most common mistakes we see churches make is something that might seem obvious. Oddly enough, many churches do not include their Sunday service on their events calendar. They will include every other event that happens at the church throughout the week, but not the most important event of the week. We think this might be because churches see their Sunday event as a “given” that everyone knows about. However these churches do not realize that most newcomers will visit their website long before they step foot inside the doors of the church. So we encourage churches to make sure everything about the Sunday service is clearly marked on both the home and events pages in their website. A good rule of thumb is to always remember the big 4 W-questions: WHEN is it? WHERE is it? WHAT to expect? and WHY should they come?

Tell us about your website giveaway. How can people learn more?

During tomorrow’s Free Stuff Fridays post we will be doing the free website giveaway. We are doing it a bit differently than the usual Free Stuff Fridays giveaway. Instead of a random drawing, we are going to be asking pastors who regularly read Challies.com to share in the comments of tomorrow’s giveaway post why they need a website, and then we will select the church that seems to have the greatest need. The comments for that post will be open all weekend and a winner will be selected on Monday, April 20. Stay tuned for the instruction in the post tomorrow.

To learn more about Church Plant Media, you can visit: churchplantmedia.com or call: (800) 409-6631 x 1. When you connect with them, be sure to mention “Challies” to receive a $100 discount on the purchase of a new website.


April 07, 2015


by E. Ray Clendenen

In the 1970s many feminists saw androcentric language—the abundant use of man, he, him, and his for groups or individuals of both genders—as one of the influences keeping alive the subordination and even demeaning of women in society. Consequently, many organizations, including publishers and teacher associations, were quick to publicize their concerns in raising consciousness about this issue. The American Bible Society produced the first “inclusive language” Bible in 1976 with the Good News Bible (Today’s English Version or TEV, which appeared in the New Testament in 1966). Then the New Revised Standard Version and the Revised English Bible were published in 1989.

Prior to that, Bible translations overused masculine designations for people. For example, Exodus 30:32 speaks of anointing oil being poured on a person (‘adam), although the KJV, RSV (1952), NIV (1973), and NKJV (1982), unlike all later translations, have “man.” In John 11:25 ho pisteuon is translated “he who believes” in the KJV, RSV, NASB (1971), NIV, and NKJV; but later translations render as “whoever believes,” “the one who believes” or “those who believe.”  

The Greek word pas, which means “all, every,” was often rendered by the older translations as “every man” or “all men” (Heb 2:9 in KJV; Matt 10:22 in KJV and NIV; Matt 19:11 in KJV, RSV, and NASB; John 12:32 in KJV, RSV, NASB, and NIV; Rom 11:32 in RSV and NIV). Also, adjectives used as nouns, such as dikaios, “righteous, just,” in Romans 5:7, were sometimes rendered as “a righteous man” in the older translations, but “a righteous person” in later ones. 

When the NIV Committee on Bible Translation, however, produced an inclusive language edition of the NIV (the NIVI) in Britain in 1996, it ignited a firestorm of protest from many. Similar protest greeted the release of the TNIV in America in 2005. While retaining masculine language for God in opposition to many feminists, these early editions of a new NIV (and also some other translations) were believed by many to have stepped over a line into gender inaccuracy. For example, they often avoided the use of man, he, him, and his by pluralizing it or by changing it to the second person you. For example,

  • Proverbs 5:21 (NIV, “For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD”) became “For your ways are in full view of the LORD” (TNIV, NIV2011). “Blessed is the man” in Ps 1:1 and 40:4 became “blessed are those” in the TNIV (but “blessed is the one” in NIV2011). 
  • Revelation 3:20 (“If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me”) became “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and they with me” (TNIV) and “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” NIV2011). 

Another issue that caused trouble was the rendering of words for “father” and “son.” In Acts 7:20 “For three months he [Moses] was cared for in his father’s house” became “For three months he was cared for in his parents’ home” (TNIV) and “For three months he was cared for by his family” (NIV2011). Likewise in Malachi 4:6 “fathers” was changed to “parents” (TNIV, NIV2011). In Proverbs 13:1 “A wise son heeds his father’s instruction” became “A wise child heeds a parent’s instruction” (TNIV) but was changed back in NIV2011. Finally, in Revelation 21:7 “I will be his God and he will be my son” became “I will be their God and they will be my children” (TNIV, NIV2011). 

Despite the TNIV’s somewhat problematic renderings in such cases, the TEV, NRSV, and CEV (Contemporary English Version) are more inclusive, and the NIV2011 is also less inclusive than the New Living Translation, God’s Word, and the Message. 

Between those translations that are more masculine than the biblical text and the translations that often avoid the masculinity of the biblical text (to varying degrees) by changing singulars to plurals, third persons (he, him, his) to second persons (you)—or even changing the meaning of words (son to child, father to parent)—stand the ESV and the HCSB, which make the credible claim of being “gender accurate.”


March 30, 2015


Hidden in the Gospel

by William P. Farley

If someone polled your church with the question, “Which preacher do you listen to most frequently?” how would you respond? Some would point to the pastor. Others might suggest a minister they hear on the radio or by podcast. But if we are honest, none of these wins the contest. Believe it or not, the individual who has the greatest access to our hearts, the one who preaches to us most frequently, is not who we think.

It is the Devil.

Satan preaches a sophisticated, seductive, and manipulative message. His goal is to convince you either that the Lie is true or that the Truth is a lie, and we are usually unaware that he is speaking. He is the “prince of this world” (John 12:31). God has given him influence over the media, and through this megaphone he preaches persuasively, speaking to us through newspapers, television, blogs, e-mail, radio, popular music, movies, magazines, NFL commercials, and, yes, even at times through our consciences and friends.

How do we know we have been listening to the Devil’s lies? The fruits are ominous and varied. We become discouraged when life doesn’t go as we had planned. We wallow in guilt after a careless comment hurts someone we love. We compare ourselves to others and then feel worthless. We give into hopelessness or fear as we observe cultural change. Some even yield to the despair that this life is all there is. The Devil knows how to “preach it,” and we are often the victims.

But God has provided us with a mighty spiritual weapon: the gospel. As I explain in my book Hidden in the Gospel, “the gospel” is everything that God has done, and will do, to save us. The gospel stretches from eternity past to eternity future. It starts with election and ends with the new heavens and new earth. It includes the doctrines of election; Christ’s incarnation, active obedience, penal substitutionary death, resurrection, ascension, and return for final judgment; and the creation of new heavens and earth. Hidden in these wonderful doctrines are crucial truths. When applied, they shatter the Devil’s vicious deceits.

God does not want us to listen to ourselves or the Devil. Instead, he wants us to preach to ourselves. Listening is passive; preaching is active. For example, when I don’t feel loved by God, I preach the truth to myself. It transcends feelings. Before the foundation of the world God chose me and set his love upon me. He didn’t choose me because I performed, but despite the fact that I didn’t. He sent his Son to live a perfect life in my place and to bear the wrath that I deserve at Calvary. It is rare when this preaching exercise does not kindle feelings in my heart that reflect the truth that I am loved. This is what Paul has in mind when he tells us to “seek the things that are above” and “set your minds on things that are above” (Col. 3:1–2). As I write in my book:

“Maturing believers cultivate the discipline of preaching to themselves. In fact, they turn this into an art form. They read Scripture, internalize it, and then continually preach its truths back to themselves. When fears of death and dying arise, they speak to themselves about the world to come. When guilt grips their heart, they remind themselves that they have been united with Christ and that Christ’s righteousness is theirs. They don’t listen to self. They preach to self!”

So, which preacher do you listen to most? Hopefully, you’re not listening to the Devil. I wrote Hidden in the Gospel to help you to cultivate the discipline of preaching to yourself instead.

Hidden in the Gospel is available at Amazon and Westminster Books


March 23, 2015


By Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert

The below article is adapted from Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Missions, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert (Moody Publishers.)

The world has shrunk remarkably in the space of a few decades, creating new possibilities and questions for the body of Christ. The Apostle Paul spent his life sailing around the Mediterranean world visiting churches, sometimes arriving waterlogged or snake-bitten. Now we can fly halfway across the world in ten hours, rarely experiencing anything worse than a bit of turbulence. 

This is a gift. But what we do with this gift matters.

The rise of short-term missions (STMs) has left church leaders, missionaries, and organizations asking important questions about trips to low-income communities:

How well are we stewarding the billions of dollars invested in STMs each year? What are the potential positive and negative effects of STMs? 

Short-term trips to contexts of poverty, whether in the US or around the world, can be done in a way that blesses the communities they visit, avoids doing unintended harm, and leads to lasting change in team members’ lives. But doing so involves reframing the purpose of our trips, shifting away from an emphasis on directly engaging in poverty alleviation.

A Different Sort of Trip

Poverty alleviation is typically a long-term process, not something that can be broken down into ten-day pieces and projects. Poverty is rooted in systems, choices, and relationships that reach much deeper than a shortage of things like food, housing, or clothing. As a result, in the vast majority of cases, short-term trips are not appropriate or effective vehicles for engaging in poverty alleviation. 

We need a different definition of what “success” looks like for short-term trips to materially poor communities.

In fact, rather than focusing on the trip itself as the primary element of success, we need to deliberately situate short-term visits as one piece of a larger undertaking. When properly designed, short-term trips are an opportunity to learn from, encourage, and fellowship with believers in the context of long-term engagement with God’s work, focusing on understanding His body and our role in it more fully.

What would this type of trip look like? Consider the following video clip:

Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Missions: Haiti from The Chalmers Center on Vimeo.

As you reflect on what reforming short-term trips might mean in your context, consider the following principles:

  • Be Intentional with Training: The Holy Spirit is the ultimate author of change, and He has used short-term trips to change many participants’ lives. That is a beautiful thing. But we should be intentional about supporting the change process through our approaches. Quality pre- and post-trip training can guide participants as they craft healthy expectations for their visit, as they learn how to effectively bless the people they meet, and as they consider their role in God’s work in the world.
  • Prioritize Time for Learning, Fellowship, and Encouragement: We should live life alongside our brothers and sisters while on trips, learning from their experiences, worshipping with them, and spending time with local leaders. Instead of focusing on projects or tasks, we should explore how God is working and how the Church is already engaged in loving its neighbors. 
  • Engage for the Long Haul: What happens after participants return home is typically the biggest factor in whether a trip was “worth it.” We need to communicate to participants that they have a responsibility to steward the visit well, particularly in light of the financial resources invested in the trip. Debrief meetings provide time to reflect on the trip and set concrete, realistic goals for how participants can convert the experience into lasting engagement in their own communities and around the world. 

When done well, a short-term trip itself is just one piece of a broader, long-term journey of learning and action. Through this type of transformation, the local body of Christ—on both sides of the short-term trip equation—can share the hope of Jesus Christ’s work more effectively.

We have been given an enormous gift. What will we do with it? 

Learn more about or purchase Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Missions.

Steve Corbett is the co-author of When Helping Hurts and Community Development Specialist for the Chalmers Center at Covenant College. He is also an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics and Community Development at Covenant College. 

Brian Fikkert is the co-author of When Helping Hurts and Founder and President of the Chalmers Center at Covenant College. He is also a Professor of Economics and Community Development at Covenant College. 

Photo credit: Ryan Estes


March 16, 2015


This sponsored post was prepared by Dr. C.J. Williams, Professor, Old Testament Studies, Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary

To open the Bible is to step into a world in which shepherding, farming, swords, and plowshares were the stuff of everyday life.  The Gospel message is affixed to such images by way of parable and metaphor, but it is not fossilized in ancient culture.  If anything, the ancient imagery of the Bible serves as a reminder of how enduring God’s Word is.  I still look forward to the day when nations will beat their swords into plowshares, and I know this ancient promise remains, even if the ancient technology does not.

The exercise of dominion over the earth demands that we build, explore, create, and discover.  In a word, it demands technology.  Like most things, however, technology can be used for good or for evil, so we must always think carefully about the ends to which we apply it.  Ever since the Tower of Babel was built, technology has been both a source and expression of human pride.  On the other hand, Solomon’s Temple and Hezekiah’s Tunnel depended on the best technology of the day.  The same World Wide Web that opens up new vistas for the spread of the Gospel has also brought pornography into millions of homes.  Technology can be a dangerous force or a true blessing; the key (as with all things) is to bring it under the lordship of Jesus Christ.

In only twenty years or so, our everyday experience of technology has grown by leaps, so that computers, smart phones, social media, and email are standard parts of our daily routine.  Life is faster because of such things, but such speed has its downside.  For instance, we use many technologies in everyday life to save time, but we rarely ask ourselves – save time for what?  Is it so that we can redeem our time in some way for God’s glory (Eph. 5:15), or just waste it more creatively?  Still, I suspect that many of our time-saving technologies have only made us busier, sometimes to the detriment of our spiritual lives.  

It is not too much to say that social media have become a cultural distraction from real life, even an obsession.  It is rare to go anywhere and not see someone furiously talking with their thumbs, or “Facebooking” with any free moment.  Staying in touch is easier than ever, which is a blessing, but have social media made us more social, or less? Have they made our relationships any deeper or more meaningful?  Spending hours on social media is a sure sign that a useful tool has been turned into a distracting master.  In light of all this modern communication technology, Henry David Thoreau’s nineteenth century critique of the post office brings a smile to my face: “For my part, I could easily do without the post office.  I think that there are very few important communications made through it.  I never received more than one or two letters in my life that were worth the postage.”  One can’t help but wonder how many of the seven trillion text messages sent last year alone were “worth the postage”.  Proverbs has something to say about a “multitude of words”, and it’s not good (Prov. 10:19).

In any case, one of the greatest daily challenges a Christian faces in the modern world is to think clearly about his or her use of any technology.  Does it help you achieve good ends in your heavenly calling and service to Christ, or is it an avenue of distraction and temptation?  Would Jesus look on and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”?

The word “technology” conjures images of what is complex and intricate; our lives reflect the same image in this technological era.  But the Bible, so steeped in the simplicity of another time, reminds us that living faith depends on something timeless and simple, namely, the grace of the living God.  And our fathers in the faith – shepherds, farmers and fishermen – remind us that a faithful life need not be a complicated one.  Along with them, we still rejoice in the promise, and look forward to the day, when we will beat our swords into plowshares.  Until then, it is good to embrace the Gospel message in all of its glorious simplicity, and live our lives accordingly.


March 09, 2015



Hi, my name is Matt. I’m a pastor, and I also run a small business called Mere Agency. You may have heard of MereChurch.

I know many other bi-vocational ministers, those who aren’t able to be paid enough by their congregation to meet the needs of their family, and so need to take a second job to make ends meet. Many of them wish things were otherwise. I’d like to offer three avenues to joy in bi-vocational ministry.

1. Embrace all your vocations as from and for God.

Vocation simply means “calling” and refers to all the things God calls us to do. Notice the plural “things.” This is crucial. In fact, most of us are at least bi-vocational. You probably have 4-5 callings. Husband, father, pastor, businessman, these are my main four.

Be comforted by one implication of God’s sovereignty: the roles you find yourself right now are your calling. Embrace that “second job” with the same reverent awe that you would the ministry work, because God has called you to it. Think Colossians 3:23.

2. Reject the oppression of dualism

The reason we find it difficult to think of our “secular” tasks (writing code, checking groceries, digging ditches, changing diapers, cleaning the house) as important as ministry work is not because of the teaching of the scriptures, but rather because of Aristotelean dualism. Aristotle taught that some activities in life (namely: mental / intellectual pursuits) were “more human” than others (physical labor). Aristocracy and slavery were the result.

This idea was pulled into the church by Eusebius, and the clergy/laity split was born. Today this dualism oppresses the consciences of many who desire to live a sold-out life for Jesus.

This split should be rejected. Every task can be a holy, kingdom building, God pleasing task. Ministry work does not occupy a categorically more important role in the Kingdom of God.

Yes, Gospel ministry is critical, and every Christian has Gospel ministry as part of their vocation. But only a vast minority are called to make their living from full-time engagement in it.

3. Learn make the best use of your time

A bi-vocational work life can be exceedingly stressful. The oppression of dualism, combined with physical strain on our time and energy, are huge sources of strain for a bi-vocational minister as we try to get all the good things done.  Thus, the Scriptures exhort us to make the best use of our time.

Most good business and productivity thinkers out there will clue you in to the 80-20 rule: 80% of our effect is produced by 20% of our effort.  Everyone must be aware of this, but for the bi-vocational minister, it is absolutely crucial.

You have heard that the enemy of the best is not the bad, but the good. We must carefully examine our life and our work and determine where our greatest effect comes from, and, in faith, learn to say “no” to the good things that get in the way of the best. You have been given a limited amount of time, and two domains to steward.  Because of this, you must learn to have a plan and a process for all of your tasks. Tim has some excellent posts along this line on this site.

Work relentlessly, restfully.

As I have pursued the above three disciplines, I have found an immense amount of vision and joy in running a business, designing, and writing code for many different kinds of businesses and organizations. It is possible to have peace and joy in the midst of the hustle of life as we understand and work in all of God’s callings on our life.

I’d like to close by sharing with you one of the products of these vocations: MereChurch: simple, powerful websites for The Church. Stop by and say hello.