One of the columns I am working on in the District Survey is Festivals.

When a province or a district has a festival or a pilgrimage site that draws people from other places it represents several things. 

There is obviously a spiritual component at work. 

It’s also an enormous stamp of perceived credibility: all these people are coming on pilgrimage to where we live, so our belief just be right (this was the case with the Temple in Israel too). 

Third there are economic ramifications: people who come must stay somewhere, eat somewhere, maybe hire guides, and so on.

Fourth there can be political and cultural influence (as in a holy city). 

These factors can make the spread of the gospel difficult. But it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Those who come on pilgrimage are usually spiritual seekers, and those who live in the area can be more spiritually aware than in other places. Nevertheless there can be challenges. So knowing where the challenges are can be important.

If you know of a pilgrimage or festival important in your area that brings in a significant population (i.e. Over 100,000 say) I’d love to hear about it (justinlong@gmail.com). When I have the column finished it will be a map. 

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Sometimes it doesn’t pay to share

I’ve written a number of blog posts. Some I have shared too early. Fortunately it feels like these are a minority. One temptation we all have to fight is not to struggle so much for perfection that you never ship. 

On the other hand sometimes it doesn’t pay to share. And it’s worth keeping that in mind too.

I shouldn’t share when:

– the thought isn’t well formed yet (hard to know). 

– the thought is very controversial and not fully formed. (I don’t shrink from controversy but one shouldn’t be controversial just to gain attention obviously)

– there is no obvious benefit to anyone and I’m just talking to talk. 

I don’t know everything. No one does. It is always best to come at issues and questions and challenges from the perspective of a learner rather than one who knows everything.

Sometimes sharing what you are learning is valuable to others learning the same thing. 

But you have to know when you haven’t learned enough to share at all. This is especially true when sharing a limited and partial exploration could lead others down a bad path.

The main thing I try to ask these days is: will someone, even one person, be helped? And who will be hurt? If I can’t think of anyone, maybe it’s better to hold off on the publish button. 


“He must decrease, so I must increase.”

“He who saves his life will lose it, but he who loses…”

“The first shall be last, the last shall be first…”

“How you serve…”

We ought to learn how to do a task well.

We ought to train others to do it better than us.

If I do something well, it’s just me doing it.

If I train and lift up 10 others to do something as well as I can, the task now has 10 times the workers, and 10 times more can be done.

Movements that become bigger than one man, one church, always require voluntary, intentional decrease on their part.

I know at least student volunteer missionaries did that. Anyone have a source?

Coffins vs Exit Strategies

One mobilizer is often drawing the picture of early missionaries who “packed their belongings in a coffin.”

When ActBeyond and others train people in CPM/DMM methodologies, one of the things we talk about is “exit strategy.”

Who’s right?

A lot of this is “attitude.”

Early missionaries packed their belongings in a coffin knowing they weren’t going to last long. Disease, warfare, and other trials filled the region. It wasn’t a commitment to necessarily spend 40, 60, 80 years on the field  The SVM saw nearly 10,000 missionaries go out, many to areas with endemic tropical diseases where they lasted not more than 2 years.

When ActBeyond (and others like us) send people to a place, we are doing so knowing they aren’t likely to die of disease (and warfare is marginally more possible but still less likely). Instead, we are sending them to help catalyze a movement.

But a movement is by definition intended to be led by the local church. (E-3 evangelism is far more effective than E-1). If disciples are making disciples who make disciples who make disciples, as soon as you’re past the first generation you’re past the local missionary. And as soon as you reach 3rd generation, the missionary is far less necessary to the process (and may be a hindrance). If the movement is sustaining 4th generation, the missionary needs to help the movement but may not need to be locally placed.

Just because a missionary has an “exit strategy” doesn’t mean they don’t have a “coffin-committed mindset.”

Even people who only commit to 2 to 4 years can be play a strategic role, however: a point for a different post.

Churn vs disbursement

What helps a church grow” looks at the impact of churn (people move out, people move in) on a church.

Knowing your churn factor is important.

The one unfortunate thing about this article: it’s written from the perspective of growing your individual congregation. If you had 100 people, and 15 moved away, you need to add 15 to maintain the current size.

The implied goal is: “why hasn’t our church become a mega church yet?”

But becoming a mega church could actually keep you from the bigger goal, which is reaching all of an area (or a country or a people).

What if instead of counting “churn” people as “leaving” the church… we intentionally equip people to start new churches among non-Christians so that if they leave, they actually end up growing the church?

In other words – rather than view “churn” as a negative – how do we use it as a tactic?

Churn is, after all, in Matthew 28: “As you are going…”

Loving vs being in love

There is always a temptation to confuse these two ideas.

“I love you” = “I am in love with you.” It makes “I love you, man!” between two guys to be often an uncomfortable statement, usually delivered either quietly (as between two brothers) or over-the-top (I usually hear it done loudly with an affected surfer-accent).

“We need to love Jesus” = “We need to be in love with Jesus” = bride/groom analogy = most/all the men in church uncomfortable.

“We need to love Muslims” (or Hindus or Buddhists or whatever) or “We need to love immigrants” = a bit of a shift. Obviously, in this case, our mind tells us it’s not “in love with,” but it also tries to sneak in the same “feelings” as being in love.

To “love” is to feel a certain way. When we feel disconnected from Jesus or God, a lot of our response becomes “re-connecting” or re-manufacturing the feelings.

But, of course, to love is not necessarily to be “in love,” and the presence or absence of romantic feelings has been the death of many a relationship.

1 Corinthians 13 tells us what “loving” someone is, and there is very little of “feeling” in it.

Can we be patient with Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists? Kind? Not jealous or boastful or proud or rude to them? Not demanding our own way, our own nation, our own country, our own…? Can we be not irritable with Muslims?

Can we keep no record of being wronged by Muslims? (or Hindus, or Buddhists)?

Can we not rejoice about an injustice, but rejoice whenever the truth wins out?

Can we always believe, always be hopeful, always endure with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists?

(and, by the same token–can we do the same with Jesus? and our spouse?)

Funding missions

There must be a balance between

“The worker is worthy of his hire” (1 Corinthians 9, 1 Timothy 5)


“How will they hear if no one goes, how will they go if no one sends” (Romans 10).

The idea of Tentmaking (and, to some degree, BAM) is in part that funding issues are resolved in the harvest. The idea of long-term deployment is that funding issues are resolved in the sending church. No answer is a silver bullet. This is part of where the entrepreneurial nature of the missionary comes into play – the same kind of entrepreneurial spirit that is found in a startup.

When you read literature about pioneering business startups, you find that the area the founder spends most of his/her time in is finding (1) funds, (2) co-founders, (3) staff. Some funding models call for investors; others call for sales (make the product, ship the product, live off the revenue). There’s a lot of discussion about which funding model works best, but as with missions, there is no silver bullet.

Funding the ministry (as in funding business startups) takes hard work. Many startups fail because they do not successfully navigate this. We can expect some missions (many? most?) to fail [to be sustained long-term] because they do not successfully navigate it, either.

If you fail, try, try again.

That will never happen

If China became fully Christian (>50%, >70%, >90%) its Christianity, its churches, its preachers, its Christian literature, its “Christian ghetto novels, films, paintings” and such, its giving, its mission force, would eclipse Christianity elsewhere – purely because of the size of its population. (Really, even 30% Christian would likely do it.) China’s overseas workers could be transformed into a mission force that would eclipse the Philippines and Korea (think tentmakers).

If India became fully Christian, the same thing. Except that India has a massive tech industry and film industry, and its global impact might be even greater.

We think, “That will never happen.”

Why? Possibly because we think the odds are long against it. Possibly because we don’t really want to be eclipsed.

Shouldn’t our nation be the greatest Christian nation on Earth? (be it America or the UK or some place in Africa or Russia or the Vatican or whatever)

And because, for whatever reason, we think “that will never happen” – we do not work to make it happen.

But following Christ means giving up ourselves, lifting others up.

The hardest parts about beginning

Beginning is hard.

  1. Knowing where to begin. This requires clear vision and defining the task.
  2. Knowing that when you begin, you’re going to do some terribly shoddy work at the very beginning. Mostly, you want to do quality work – but you don’t know how. Making all the initial stupid mistakes is what puts a lot of people off.
  3. Knowing there’s tons of things you don’t know. You don’t want to make a mistake, but you know you will, because you know there’s stuff to find out.
  4. Knowing there’s even more stuff you don’t know that you don’t know. (Sometimes, we can chart the edges of our knowledge–but of course there’s far more outside the fringes.)
  5. Trying to figure out who to get involved in the project with you. Trying to figure out how to get them involved.

I have only barely begun my District Survey. The first bit I did was one country. I found out later I had an outdated list of provinces. But at least, at that point, I had a structure for the table, and I could quickly replace it. Now I have every country and every province in the world, but many of the provinces lack districts. I’m still trying to figure out what data is most useful for each province and district. I’m still rueing how difficult it is to find the data in some cases. That first list has been left far behind: but it was still important, because it was the first list, and it got me going.

Beginnings are so hard, we shouldn’t “despise the day of small beginnings.” Any first step is a win. If you want to map your city, figure out where the diaspora are, as a first step to reaching them – the simplest step of getting out and walking a particular area (like your neighborhood) is crucial.

The first thing you do will probably not the best thing, the right thing, or even done well. That’s not important. The only important thing about “the first thing” is that it is the first thing, that you have begun. Then, you just keep putting one foot after the other.