Sunday, April 29, 2007

Spontaneous Expansion and the Individual

It's not thermodynamics. Some 80 years after Roland Allen first penned his work on "The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church", his ideas still push the boundaries of church-planting strategies and apostolic thinking. Talk about a forward-thinker. Here is what Allen records in his second chapter:
This then is what I mean by spontaneous expansion. I mean the expansion which follows the unexhorted and unorganized activity of individual members of the Church explaining to others the Gospel which they have found for themselves; I mean the expansion which follows the irresistible attraction of the Christian Church for men who see its ordered life, and are drawn to it by desire to discover the secret of a life which they instinctively desire to share; I mean also the expansion of the Church by the addition of new churches.

I know not how it may appear to others, but to me this unexhorted, unorganized, spontaneous expansion has a charm far beyond that of our modern highly organized missions.
A few pages later he writes this about the individual:
Spontaneous expansion begins with the individual effort of the individual Christian to assist his fellow, when common experience, common difficulties, common toil have first brought the two together.
I'll highlight two things from this last statement - shared experience and individual effort. Those ingredients form an explosive combination. That's one thing I love about the Life Transformation Group strategy. You ask three friends to begin to look seriously at the Word of God and follow His commands. You bring three or four people together who already have shared experience and invite them to make an effort to follow Christ.

Jesus must capture the heart of the individual in order for spontaneous expansion to have fertile soil. Those taken by the majesty of Christ are compelled to tell others. Archytas of Tarentum captured this sentiment when he said, "If a man ascended to Heaven and saw the beautiful nature of the world and of the stars his feeling of wonder, in itself most delightful, would lose its sweetness if he had not someone to whom he could tell it."

Pain and Forgiveness

I won't forget where I was when the worst shooting in the history of our country occurred. The tragedy stirred up feelings in my own heart...pain for those who lost, anger at the shooter, confusion from the event, longing for justice. My heart swelled with so many emotions.

In the following days, an event in my own life caused me to turn to the beatitudes that I love so much.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."

My own understanding of this verse comes from Dallas Willard's enlightening take on the beatitudes (a show-and-tell of the current situation of the people rather than a list of traits to aspire to). Blessed are those who long for things to be made right. They ache for the day when every tear will disappear and injustice will no longer prevail. How I long for that day when suffering ends and tragedy turns to triumph!

I'm posting here a video made as a tribute to those who lost their lives in the Virginia Tech massacre.

However, while we experience the injustices brought on by the enemy of our souls and the fallen state of this world, we live as though not part of it. We live in the upside down value system that Jesus upholds - to love our enemies and forgive those who sin against us. Darrell Scott, who lost his daughter in the Columbine tragedy, gives an apropos and Christ-centered testimony of forgiveness.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Liberals Shake Mexico City, Vote to Legalize Abortion

Washington Post - After months of furious debate and threats of excommunication by the Catholic Church, Mexico City's legislative assembly on Tuesday overwhelmingly voted to legalize abortion for the first time in the capital's history.

Riot police held back thousands of protesters, some hoisting coffins and others waving plastic fetuses, as lawmakers wrangled over a measure that would allow abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and abolish a seven-decade-old law that levied criminal penalties against women who have abortions.

The bill, which was approved 46 to 19 and which Mayor Marcelo Ebrard has promised to sign into law, would make Mexico City the largest city in Latin America to legalize abortion and could give momentum to efforts to legalize the procedure nationwide in this predominantly Catholic country. Currently, abortion is allowed in limited cases, including rape and when the mother's life is in danger.

Abortion opponents vowed to appeal the law to the Mexican Supreme Court.

Inside the old stone legislative building in downtown Mexico City, some lawmakers opposed to the bill slipped into black T-shirts that read "Yes to Life" and placed placards next to their gold-filigreed chairs that said "Adoption is another option." Backers of the bill propped signs on their desks that read "Legal abortion so women don't die."

Antiabortion lobbyists poured into the white-columned chambers to apply last-minute pressure, even though the bill was expected to sail through with the backing of a coalition led by the left-leaning Democratic Revolutionary Party, or PRD, which has a large majority.

At the entrance to the chambers, an antiabortion activist cut off Assemblyman Jorge Schiaffino, a vocal backer of legalizing abortion.

"What about all those people in the streets?" Beatriz Rodríguez demanded.

"We don't vote in the streets, we vote in here," Schiaffino responded before sliding away.

Activists such as Rodríguez fear the vote in Mexico City, a federal district that functions much like a state, will create a domino effect, leading to similar laws elsewhere in Mexico. Last year, after the assembly passed the country's first gay civil unions law, the northern state of Coahuila passed its own civil union law, and a raft of similar proposals are now working their way through other state legislatures.

Outside the legislative building Tuesday, abortion opponents lamented what they had dubbed "Black Tuesday." Carlos Valencia, the bass player in a reggae band that entertained the demonstrators, said he worried about the effect of the laws.

"My wife had a spontaneous abortion and it caused us so much emotional pain," Valencia said. "I don't want others to have to go through the same."

Lawmakers prepared to vote amid increasing pressure from the Catholic Church and leading figures in President Felipe Calderón's National Action Party, or PAN, which opposes broadening access to abortion. First lady Margarita Zavala, who has kept a low profile since her husband took office in December, strongly denounced the measure in a speech on the eve of the vote.

"It's possible to see heart, lungs and head and arms after a boy or girl has been in the mother's womb for 12 weeks," Zavala, a mother of three, told a political gathering.

The Vatican issued a statement that was widely distributed in Mexico over the weekend describing abortion as "terrorism with a human face." Felipe Aguirre Franco, archbishop of Acapulco, said recently that it is a sin not to protest the procedure.

In the assembly, Schiaffino, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, argued with Rodríguez over statistics, a common point of dispute in an intense propaganda war. Schiaffino asserted that more than 8,000 women die each year because of dangerous, illegal abortions.

"That's ridiculous, it's less than 200," replied Rodríguez.

The Mexican press was engaged in a similar battle. A headline on the front page of Reforma, a right-leaning newspaper, said: "Abortion is a crime, but it is seldom punished." Left-leaning El Universal ran a major piece saying 524 women have been charged with having illegal abortions in the past six years. On its front page was a big picture: one of those women behind bars.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Shocking Family Stats

Some interesting stats regarding families in Mexico:
  • 90% of people in Mexico live in a family unit
  • 9 0f 10 claim their family is the most important thing in their lives
  • 2 out 3 get support from their extended family
  • 1 of 3 families have experienced violence
  • 65% of women who were abused in their families when growing up treat their kids in a similar manner
For evidence of that last statistic, check out this video put together by Australia's Child Friendly organization for a powerful portrayal of this generational affect.

The study continues:
  • 19.5% of families have economic problems
  • 18% have authority problems (deciding who is in charge)
  • 15.4% have problems finding time to be together and communicate
  • 10% have major conduct problems with their children
  • 51.4% try to solve problems by shouting
  • 22.5% of problems go unresolved
  • 13.3% of families have to have outside intervention
  • 5.2% of families experience internal physical violence (hitting each other)
  • 1 of 5 adults say that there are no displays of affection in their homes
Some final shocking stats:
  • every 3 days a baby is abandoned in Mexico City
  • Mexicans give their first bribe at the age of 12 (to a professor or some other authority figure)
  • 87% of Mexicans will have paid a bribe at least once before they die

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Large Movement Led by Students for 30 Years

Yesterday I had the privilege of traveling just outside of Mexico City to a university that boasts a movement of 200 students. That's not just how many come to a weekly meeting...that is the number of students IN Bible studies. That's pretty impressive for a campus of 7,000 students. Another impressive fact is that this movement is led completely by students and has been for the past 30 years!

One of the students was sharing with us how the movement originally began. He said it all began with two people who had a vision to reach the campus. Hmmm...sounds familiar.

The movement has a dynamic presence on campus and helps with many university-wide events. The university even gave them their own wing in a dorm for the students to live and have Bible studies. (I can't say I'm real excited about them all living together rather than with non-believers, but it's impressive nonetheless.)

The only outside influence comes from a local pastor that helps the students ensure the movement continues year after year. Hmmm...this too sounds familiar.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Mexico City, Acapulco, Jolted by Morning Quake

ACAPULCO, Mexico — A strong earthquake hit Mexico early Friday, knocking out power in parts of Mexico City and Acapulco and sending frightened residents into the streets.

Civil defense officials in Mexico and the Pacific coast state of Guerrero, where the quake was centered, said there were no reports of any deaths, serious injuries or major damage.

The magnitude-6 quake hit at 12:42 local time and lasted less than a minute, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The quake was strongly felt from the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco to the mountain capital of Mexico City, however, because it was centered inland, 40 miles northwest of Acapulco, and just 18 miles below the earth’s surface.

It was followed by at least one aftershock, the USGS said.

Many of Mexico’s earthquakes are centered out at sea. Gerard Fryer of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the quake was too small and too far inland to produce a tsunami.

Mexico City Civil Defense Secretary Miguel Moreno Brizuela said the quake knocked out power to about 20 percent of the homes in the city’s downtown district, and there were reports of blackouts in parts of Acapulco.

At the high-rise, beachside Fairmont Acapulco Princess Hotel, hundreds of guests rushed outside, huddling on deck chairs as security officials used megaphones to urge them to remain calm.

“We flew out of bed. The building was shaking,” said Marcy Olsen, 41, a manager of gas stations in Grand Marais, Minn. “I said, ’I think this has to be an earthquake.’ We looked out the door, and everyone was leaving.”

She was on vacation with her husband, Brian Olsen, 46, and their 13-year-old twin daughters.

“Where we are from, there’s no such thing,” Brian Olsen said. “Blizzards and colds, yes, but no earthquakes.”

In Mexico City, ambulances could be heard wailing through the streets amid reports of panic attacks. People waited outside their homes for fear of aftershocks, as police patrolled streets for damage.

reported by The Dalles Chronicle

Saturday, April 07, 2007

¡Movement Madness!

More than 110 college students and staff came to the world’s second-largest city during the month of March to believe God for launching movements at the more than 400 universities here. Highly mobile ministry teams traversed Mexico City showing up on 70 different universities. The results were amazing:

  • 333 spiritual conversations
  • 231 clear explanations of the Gospel
  • 56 new believers
  • 15 new university movements launched

One team of Colorado School of Mines students led by Denver Metro intern Caitlin Hutchins and I invaded an engineering campus. As we searched for a movement leader, the Holy Spirit led us to a group of girls that were spiritually interested. Caitlin took the opportunity to share the Gospel with the group of six girls, and four of them gave their lives to Christ.

Three days later, we returned for follow-up. One of the girls shared that she went home after receiving Christ and explained the Gospel to her immediate and extended family! The girls went through follow up and now participate in two Life Transformation Groups (that include their two friends who have not yet received Christ).

The story doesn’t end there. We also surfaced a solid movement leader who was ready to start a movement and connected him with another student we led to Christ on that campus.

Every Wednesday teams were sent out to serve people in the city. One team went to a home for neglected and abused boys. They spent time working on the home and having fun with the boys. The Lord used our team to help one boy talk to a stranger for the first time in six years.

Other teams went to a home for young women brought out of the sex industry, a home for single moms, as well as the city historic center to serve the poor. My team ventured to the outskirts of the city to take food and clothing to the hundreds of people living in the garbage dumps. My heart broke as I shared the Gospel with a man who sniffed a rag soaked with cleaning fluid. I encouraged him to attend a small church that just formed inside the dumps.

AMAZING”, was the word most students used at the end of each week when describing their adventure. They experienced all sides of Mexico City, from meeting Mel Gibson by the pool in our hotel to serving the poor in the trash dumps outside the city. Lives were transformed in this city, lives of Americans and Mexicans.

Become a Ministry Partner

I would like to personally invite you to join with me in putting the Gospel within arms-reach of 1,000,000 college students in Mexico City.

As co-director of Mexico Focus, I set the direction for this new strategy of Campus Crusade for Christ. My vision is to begin simple Christ-centered missional movements on the more than 400 university campuses around the city in a very short period of time (about 3 years). This may sound like "pie in the sky" thinking, but I can tell you that God is doing a work here that will change the face of the planet.

Every week we see movements begin and students receive Christ and join these movements. And because Mexico City sits as the seat of influence for all of Latin America, what God does here will affect the rest of the hemisphere.

Perhaps God has laid a burden on your heart to be a part of helping fulfill the Great Commission by reaching tomorrow's world leaders. Campus Crusade's founder, Bill Bright, said it so well when he stated, "Reach the campus today; reach the world tomorrow."

Partner with me in this historic movement-launching effort. Many of my partners contribute $100 a month, but I greatly appreciate any amount the Lord leads you to give. And your gift to Campus Crusade for Christ is always tax-deductible.

"Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God." (2 Cor. 9:10-11)


Take me to the Online Giving webpage.

Or send your gift by mail:

1. Make your check payable to "Campus Crusade for Christ".

2. Include a note that reads, "To Joseph Cross, Acct. #: 0551270".

3. Send note and check to:

Campus Crusade for Christ
PO Box 628222
Orlando, FL 32862-8222