FEBA Forever!

Insights from the Forward Edge of the Battle Area

My old blog site is back up here. My first ever blog was May 28, 2008. I called my site “FEBA Forever” because I was using a military metaphor to help launch our college ministry at University State. FEBA stands for “Forward Edge of the Battle Area.” The writers of the New Testament sometimes used such military language, and it’s a helpful way to illustrate the idea of moving forward. In the military, it is not unusual for special reconnaissance assets to operate significantly forward of FEBA. They often operate deep behind enemy lines, but not always in uniform.

Over 4 or 5 years the old blogosphere atrophied from neglect, and I hadn’t posted in years. Now that it’s resurrected, I am reminiscing about how we started with about 8 college students and had a total attendance of 17 at our first open-air meeting on campus. Now we have 3 home churches and well over 100 people involved in the college ministry. The old FEBA site was part of my church’s web, so a disclaimer is in order. Some of the content in the early days was directed to my church (e.g., I name names, use “insider” terms), so it may not always make sense. Nonetheless, I think I’ll repost some of the blogs here for old times’ sake.

Speaking Jesus’ Words

After Israel received the Law at Mt. Saini, after they marched to the Promised Land but refused to enter, after 40 more years of wandering, after an entire generation died in the desert, they stood on the edge of the Jordan River ready to enter the land. The LORD spoke to Joshua before the river crossing for instructions, a pep talk, and a warning. The warning was:

“Never stop reciting these teachings. You must think about them night and day so that you will faithfully do everything written in them. Only then will you prosper and succeed.” (Joshua 1:8)

This lasted awhile. For the next 300 years, the primary leaders of Israel were “Judges.” Now that the people were independent in their own land, they needed oversight. However, they were without powerful prophets like Moses, and they had no king. After Joshua, the Judges reminded them of God’s word but the people often ignored them. By the time of the end of the Judges, people appeared to have forgotten God’s word to Joshua, and they turned to false gods. People forgot the Law and everyone did whatever they wanted. Moral chaos ensued. Civic and family life deteriorated. Everyone did what they thought was right, but nothing worked out. It all stemmed from not taking God seriously—not remembering or living out the words He had given them.

Now, 3000 years later, we have so much more revelation from God. In particular, we have the teachings of Jesus recorded in the gospels. At the last supper, Jesus had a talk with his disciples which sounds similar to what God had told Joshua 1000 years earlier:

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (John 15:7-10; emphasis mine)

Have you ever tried to do the right thing but it went terribly wrong? People don’t do what’s obviously wrong in their opinion; they do what they think is right. But our ways are naïve and misguided. After 3000 years of progress we’re not any better than the people of Israel who did whatever they wanted when they forgot God’s words. Jesus point was to stick with his teaching—that’s where things work. But how do Jesus’ “words remain in us?” I think it means knowing what they are and taking them seriously. Like God telling Joshua, Jesus here combines the ideas of staying focused on the word of God and obeying the word of God. Know them, do them. Stay in that space. This is where people are fruitful, God’s love is found, and life works.

Are You a Sending Church?

Pastor Benny's Sermon Now Online at Exponential


Kyle, Benny, Joel, Mark, and Sam at Salem, India in January 2015 (sorry Adam you got cropped out due to a photo composition problem)

Remember my trip to India in January 2015? After we returned, Pastor Benjamin Chellapandian (“Pastor Benny”), of India Gospel League (IGL) came to America during February, 2015 to visit several churches. We invited him to speak at our fellowship. Benny is the Director of Training and Leadership Development for IGL, overseeing about 7,000 church planting pastors in rural India and Sri Lanka, who have collectively planted roughly 70,000 churches over the past 25 years.

Recognizing the value of the vision he was laying out from the book of Acts, we transcribed his sermon and submitted it to Exponential.org to share his wisdom with one of the largest community of leaders committed to the multiplication of faith communities. Today it went live on their site, so rush over to Exponential at http://www.exponential.org/planting-a-sending-church/ and read an excerpt from Benny’s sermon delivered at Xenos Christian Fellowship of Northeast Ohio in February, 2015.

Consider downloading the free eBook Dan Jarvis wrote to describe the church planting efforts of India Gospel League; Commissioned: How God is Changing Lives, Transforming Nations and Involving You.


Living in the Future of College Ministry

Review of Stephen Lutz’ new ebook


Go read Stephen Lutz’ new ebook The Future of College Ministry. It’s short (10,000 words and 30 pages), free, and insightful. The first third is an update of his 2010 book College Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture, in which he re-examines his earlier predictions. The next section presents competing metaphors for understanding how college ministry will respond to the challenges and threats developing and anticipated. The final section is a list of the 7 points of greatest vulnerability for college ministries, with corresponding suggestions for becoming “antifragile”—which he defines. I’m not going to give away any of the content at all. I’ll restrict myself to this cursory glance at the structure, because you should read the book yourself. What part of short and free didn’t you understand? The last section is the most valuable because Lutz pretty much nails it (except for #5, but my critique is too long a discussion for this post). What makes it remarkable is that he’s describing how my church has been working in the college ministry sphere for decades. I wonder if Lutz understands the implications of what he is saying.

The Red White and Blue, the Black, and the Grey


Religious Tension

An Iranian pastor arrested in 2009 was convicted of “apostasy” for turning from Islam to Christianity. He was sentenced to death because he would not recant his faith. In Afghanistan, NATO forces burned some library books from a detention center that contained hand written extremist notes. They were trying to prevent Taliban extremists from communicating to incite violence during their detention, but unfortunately some of the burned books were copies of the Quran. This mistake so offended the Afghan people that 4 Americans were killed, despite an official apology by the president of the United States. Recently, 21 Coptic Christians were killed by ISIS.

Meeting Sheela

In January 2015 I went to India with India Gospel League as part of a team to teach some “young pastors” conferences. I was able to meet my sponsored child, and was able to get the story onto the IGL website here. However, word limites necessitated cutting a couple details for brevity. I’m reposting the full story here in case you’re interested.

Sheela KaruppaiyaIMG_2738

India Blog days 7 & 8

01-23-2015 Friday Day 7

Last day of the second conference. Adam, Joel, Benny, Adam, Joel, Benny. Divided by tea breaks and lunch. At one break we captured a 15 minute interview with Pastor Rao, our IGL partner in Sariki. When asked about current needs, he said that he needs a motorcycle because there is no transportation in his area. To walk to each of the villages he serves is about a 15 kilometer journey, and a motorcycle would make this much more practical. He also said that getting a bored well is an emergency, as there is no drinking water in Sariki so women have long distances to walk for daily water. Finally, he is hoping for electricity in the church. We told him that we had raised the funds for that project a few months back and would check the project plan to find out when some progress will be made. He also told us his testimony—stay tuned for that video.

After the conference we headed out to the beach, by which I mean a huge Vizag arts festival with performances, bright lights, vendors, traffic, and about 100 million people along the beach. I exaggerate, but wait till you see the pictures! Why did we think it would be a leisurely stroll along the shore? So after awhile we went to dinner at a very nice hotel restaurant. Dinner for 9 was about $90. At dinner we were introduced to Ajay’s wife of two months and took turns swapping stories on how each of us “met” (or were arranged to marry) our wives. I’ll leave these out for now.

Now that the conference is concluded, my blog feels somehow disingenuous because I’m intentionally leaving out so many of the stories, people, lessons learned, and other content of a more spiritual  nature. I just can’t do it justice right now. It has to filter through my mind and reappear later; there’s far too many anecdotes, observations, themes, insights, and questions to process all at once. I think that everyone else who’s been on an IGL trip understands what I am saying. Anyone around me in the next 6 weeks will probably hear a lot of “that reminds me of something in India…”  I hope you don’t get sick of it.

Back to the hotel to sleep before our 6:30 departure for the flight to Bangalore. We decided to get some pictures from the roof. There was a sign that said “Roof: Starlight” and a door to a roof patio. So we went out and clowned around for awhile, taking really long exposure shots of Vizag. Unfortunately, someone dead bolted the only door back in from the roof while we were out there. Adam was able to get the attention of last night’s chef from the 4th floor patio restaurant below, who send a security guard to let us back in. Panic averted.

01-25-2015 Friday Day 8

Last day in India! Flight to Bangalore. On the way to the hotel, our driver decided to stop so Kyle and I could take a picture of the Parliament building. I wasn’t in the mood for a stroll while our car drove away, but he said he would wait 200 feet away so I trusted him. He was still there when we got back. At the hotel by 11:30. We leave in 13 hours (at midnight) for the airport. We encountered working internet and had a final buffet lunch at the hotel, then headed out shopping on the streets of Bangalore. An auto rickshaw driver saw us leaving the hotel and offered us a ride for 50 rupees to the shopping area. Less than a dollar for a 2 mile ride for four people! He dropped us off at a store where they whipped out a dozen amazing sari’s and scarves in 90 seconds. After that high-pressure sales session we were introduced to a thousand sandal wood elephants and other things I did not want. Then jewelry. Then perfume. I escaped with only minor damage, but I realize that they round off pretty liberally with rupees. The exchange rate today is 57-58 rupees to the dollar but in their fertile minds 3000 rupees is “only about $30 for this!” They stopped talking rupees and just said “dollars” after that. However, “only 10 dollars for this and 30 dollars for that” when added up across a few items becomes 6000 rupees, which is about $100. Ouch. Oh well. It’s only filthy lucre.

While they were ringing up my credit card the woman at the jewelry counter asked about our trip, just making polite conversation. I said we were teaching pastors in Salem and Vizag. She said “sometimes I think it’s important to put the money in the right hand.” By this she meant that a lot of people come to India to make a difference, and she worries about whether their efforts have lasting effects. A simple hand-out won’t change anything. I told her that we were with a reputable organization which practices holistic community development and she looked somewhat reassured.

Then we were taken to the real bazaar, which was overpowering. A woman with an infant was begging and followed us for about 5 minutes with outstretched hand, begging each of us in turn. We tried to be firm. We tried to pretend she was invisible. Eventually she moved on. We wandered around but I didn’t want to even begin to try to talk to a merchant or get any money out-the press of the crowd was constant and I wondered if dropping a 500 rupee note would evoke a swarm. Probably paranoid. We saw a few other white people (European? English?) wandering around, so clearly this was an attraction, but 1 hour was enough of hustle-bustle bazaar for me. On the way back we again crammed into one auto rickshaw. That was a sweaty ride. Kyle was able to touch the passing busses, they were so close. Now chillin’ in the room.

Friend Zone

There comes a time in every young man’s life when he looks over at the certain special someone that he’s had his eye on and begins to think about whether he can take things to the next level. He wants to be more than casual friends, so he wrestles together enough courage to text “R U my appendix? Cuz u give me a funny feeling that makes me want 2 take u out.” If things don’t go well, he ends up in the dreaded “friend zone,” rejected. But that’s not what I’m contemplating today. No, I’m going to bastardize the concept of the “friend zone” into a new context—the church.

Millennials Need a Sanctuary to Like Church

The American church is struggling to retain the millennial generation; you know, those “emerging adults” between 18 and 29. Seems everyone is writing about how to reach and retain the millennial generation, who are stampeding out of church as fast as their TOMS  shoes can carry them. Good news! There’s a new research study out by the Barna Group (apparently commissioned by the Cornerstone Knowledge Network aka church design and construction companies Aspen Group and Cogun).

Hype, Hypothesis, Have to

Note: Since my blog is new I am going to post a bunch of things real fast so it will be worthwhile to read. Then I intend to post something weekly. Here comes a series of posts that were previously published in Church Planter Magazine at churchplantermagazine.com. Lately I’ve been writing for Church Planter Magazine, which is an iPad-only eZine that you should have already subscribed to if you are a church planter. If you are not subscribed, do so now. I am not an “affiliate” and get nothing for referring people. Except that Peyton and Pete appreciate it.


An analogy: The weight loss industry

Americans have been gaining weight. Check the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Health, or the evening news. Or just look around you; it’s undeniable. The rise in body mass index in the last 30 years has been steep, and by 2050 we expect 100% of Americans to be obese. Actually that’s impossible, because obesity will asymptote out at maximum saturation in the population, and the only normal weight people will be those who are genetically and behavioral resilient to the causes of obesity.