A Cruise Ship or a Battleship?

Which image better describes a church? Your church?  I know, I know… it’s a metaphor.  All metaphors break down at some point.  Work with me.

CRUISE SHIP: hassle-free, entertaining, self-indulgent, relatively pointless tour with no objective beyond your own pleasure. Relationships exist for mutual satisfaction… tend to be shallow.

BATTLESHIP: mission-oriented, spartan, focused, self-sacrificing journey to achieve a victory for what is good, right, and true. Relationships exist for the sake of the mission… tend to be deep, forged in the heat of battle.

Battleship_003God left us in this world to be a light to the nations. To be witnesses of a coming King, who, when he comes, takes over. We are soldiers in a battle.

  • You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. (2 Timothy 2:3, 4, NKJV).
  • Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Ephesians 6:11-13, NKJV).

Our natural inclination is to choose the cruise ship over the battleship any day. Even when we pay lip service to the battleship mentality, our actions and our words pressure church leadership into creating a cruise ship. The operative words become “I, me, my.” What I like, what I don’t like, what I want… comfort me, make me feel good, make me happy.  MY PREFERENCES.

But when we love the mission, when we’ve sold out for the cause of Christ, the operative words become “Reporting for duty… what’s our objective?” Our concern is less for ourselves, and more for a lost world that so desperately needs a Savior. DEFERRING MY PREFERENCES TO WIN THE LOST.

The cool thing is that a good battleship offers:

  • An infirmary to mend the wounded
  • Shore leave for a much needed sabbath rest
  • Social activities to make the mission bearable

It’s not all battle all the time, even on a battleship. But the mission always calls the shots.

I want to pastor a church where the people say: I love this church, because we have great people on a great mission to show forth a GREAT SAVIOR’S LOVE to a world that urgently needs Him.

Instead of asking ourselves, “Do I like this?” we ask “Will this further our mission, and help people who are far from God come closer to him?” “Will this give us the room to minister to the people God wants to send us?”

Here are the mathematics of the church of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah:

Relationships – mission = cruise ship / country club / hedonism / narcissism / Jesus is my chaplain = BORING

Relationships + mission = battleship / on mission / sacrificial / oriented for others / self-giving / Jesus is my Commander = ADVENTURE

Which kind of church do you want?

Which kind of church do you pray for?

Which kind of church do you pressure your leaders to create?

Announcing CureAfrica.org

guinea_kids3In Guinea, a nation in West Africa, the average life expectancy is under 50 years. Major infectious diseases (hepatitis A, typhoid, malaria, yellow fever and tuberculosis) combine with parasitic diseases, dehydration and HIV/AIDS to rob millions of longer life.


I’m excited to be part of CureAfrica.org, and I’d like you to spread the word. CureAfrica.org supports two medical teams in one of the poorest nations on earth For every book you buy, our authors donate $5.00, divided equally between these teams:


Hope Clinic is a dental & medical clinic in Guinea, West Africa.  The clinic lives out God’s love to the people of Guinea by meeting their medical and dental needs while giving a verbal witness of the Gospel. They work in conjunction with Guinea Medical Teams, providing care to the Mano and Malinke tribal groups of Guinea through short-term outreaches since 1993.

hopeclinicsurgeryIn 2008, Hope Clinic saw more than 18,000 patients and 600 professions of faith.


The average cost for a patient at Hope Clinic:

a.. Patient visit ($4.00)
b.. Patient surgery ($50.00)
c.. For every book you buy, you make it possible for ONE West Guinean to receive much needed medical treatment.
d.. For every case you buy (10 books), you pay for a SURGERY!



A mobile medical clinic that brings healing, medical, and dental procedures, eyeglasses, and spiritual hope to the underserved province of Timbi. Timbi Mobile Medical Outreach brings healing to people living in some of the most remote areas of Africa.


Here are the average costs for Timbi Mobile Medical Outreach:

a.. $5 pays for one medical visit or vaccinations for a sick child or adult (buy 1 book)
b.. $10 pays for 3 dental fillings or one extraction (buy 2 books)
c.. $2 pays for eyeglasses (provided by the Lions Club)
d.. $50 pays for medical care for two families (buy 10 books)

healnation“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: ‘for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; ‘I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.'” Matthew 25:34-36, NKJV.


guineaschoolkidsAuthors will donate $5 for each book purchased. Proceeds will be split equally between Hope Medical Clinic and Timbi Mobile Medical Outreach. 100% of donations will be directed to these organizations. no overhead will be changed by the authors or CureAfrica.org.  Buyer pays applicable sales taxes plus shipping.

One of the coolest things for me is that all of these authors are my friends. We’re all part of the same church.

In fact, we’ll have a CureAfrica.org book signing on the last weekend of September at church.  You can do your Christmas shopping there, and help some of the world’s poorest people get the care they need.



1. Link to http://www.CureAfrica.org or put us on your blogroll.

2. Give CureAfrica.org regular Twitter and Facebook mentions, just copy and paste:

Some authors have banded together to bring healing to Africa’s poorest tribes. Please make a difference. http://bit.ly/EAr2N Please RT.

3. Sponsorship: would you be willing to help pay for banner ads? In exchange you or your company can place your own banner ad on the CureAfrica.org sponsors page. Please click here for CureAfrica.org sponsorship information.

4. Post a blog about this huge need and opportunity.  Let me know about your blog, and I’ll link to it from here AND from the CureAfrica.org sponsors page!

5. Buy a bunch of books!  Do your Christmas shopping at www.CureAfrica.org!


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No Reserves. No Retreat. No Regrets.


I didn’t write this story of William Borden.  It’s used with permission… and I hope it challenges you.

In 1904 William Borden graduated from a Chicago high school. As heir to the Borden family fortune, he was already a millionaire. For his high school graduation present, his parents gave 16-year-old Borden a trip around the world. As the young man traveled through Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, he felt a growing burden for the world’s hurting people. Finally, Bill Borden wrote home about his “desire to be a missionary.”1

One friend expressed surprise that he was “throwing himself away as a missionary.”

In response, Bill wrote two words in the back of his Bible: “No reserves.”
Even though young Borden was wealthy, he arrived on the campus of Yale University in 1905 trying to look like just one more freshman. Very quickly, however, Borden’s classmates noticed something unusual about him and it wasn’t his money. One of them wrote: “He came to college far ahead, spiritually, of any of us. He had already given his heart in full surrender to Christ and had really done it. We who were his classmates learned to lean on him and find in him a strength that was solid as a rock, just because of this settled purpose and consecration.”2

During his college years, Bill Borden made one entry in his personal journal that defined what his classmates were seeing in him. That entry said simply: “Say ‘no’ to self and ‘yes’ to Jesus every time.”3

Borden’s first disappointment at Yale came when the university president spoke on the students’ need of “having a fixed purpose.” After hearing that speech, Borden wrote: “He neglected to say what our purpose should be, and where we should get the ability to persevere and the strength to resist temptations.”4 Surveying the Yale faculty and much of the student body, Borden lamented what he saw as the end result of this empty philosophy: moral weakness and sin-ruined lives.

During his first semester at Yale, Borden started something that would transform campus life. One of his friends described how it happened: “It was well on in the first term when Bill and I began to pray together in the morning before breakfast. I cannot say positively whose suggestion it was, but I feel sure it must have originated with Bill. We had been meeting only a short time when a third student joined us and soon after a fourth. The time was spent in prayer after a brief reading of Scripture. Bill’s handling of Scripture was helpful. . . . He would read to us from the Bible, show us something that God had promised and then proceed to claim the promise with assurance.”5

Borden’s small morning prayer group gave birth to a movement that spread across the campus. By the end of his first year, 150 freshman were meeting for weekly Bible study and prayer. By the time Bill Borden was a senior, one thousand of Yale’s 1,300 students were meeting in such groups.

Borden made it his habit to seek out the most “incorrigible” students and try to bring them to salvation. “In his sophomore year we organized Bible study groups and divided up the class of 300 or more, each man interested taking a certain number, so that all might, if possible, be reached. The names were gone over one by one, and the question asked, ‘Who will take this person?’ When it came to someone thought to be a hard proposition, there would be an ominous pause. Nobody wanted the responsibility. Then Bill’s voice would be heard, ‘Put him down to me.'”6

Borden’s outreach ministry was not confined to the Yale campus. He cared about widows and orphans and cripples. He rescued drunks from the streets of New Haven. To rehabilitate them, he founded the Yale Hope Mission. One of his friends wrote that he “might often be found in the lower parts of the city at night, on the street, in a cheap lodging house or some restaurant to which he had taken a poor hungry fellow to feed him, seeking to lead men to Christ.”7

Borden’s missionary call narrowed to the Muslim Kansu people in China. Once that goal was in sight, Borden never wavered. He also inspired his classmates to consider missionary service. One of them said: “He certainly was one of the strongest characters I have ever known, and he put backbone into the rest of us at college. There was real iron in him, and I always felt he was of the stuff martyrs were made of, and heroic missionaries of more modern times.”8

Although he was a millionaire, Bill seemed to “realize always that he must be about his Father’s business, and not wasting time in the pursuit of amusement.”9 Although Borden refused to join a fraternity, “he did more with his classmates in his senior year than ever before.” He presided over the huge student missionary conference held at Yale and served as president of the honor society Phi Beta Kappa.

Upon graduation from Yale, Borden turned down some high paying job offers. In his Bible, he wrote two more words: “No retreats.”

William Borden went on to graduate work at Princeton Seminary in New Jersey. When he finished his studies at Princeton, he sailed for China. Because he was hoping to work with Muslims, he stopped first in Egypt to study Arabic. While there, he contracted spinal meningitis. Within a month, 25-year-old William Borden was dead.

When news William Whiting Borden’s death was cabled back to the U.S., the story was carried by nearly every American newspaper. “A wave of sorrow went round the world . . . Borden not only gave (away) his wealth, but himself, in a way so joyous and natural that it (seemed) a privilege rather than a sacrifice” wrote Mary Taylor in her introduction to his biography.10

Was Borden’s untimely death a waste? Not in God’s plan. Prior to his death, Borden had written two more words in his Bible. Underneath the words “No reserves” and “No retreats,” he had written: “No regrets.”


Portions reprinted from Daily Bread, December 31, 1988, and The Yale Standard, Fall 1970 edition.

You have permission to reprint what you just read. Use it in your ezine, at your web site or in your newsletter. Please include the following footer:
For more original content like this, visit: http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert

Africa Video 2

Here’s another video of our missions trip to Africa.  Josh Thompson, one of the pastors in our church, grew up in the Bongolo Hospital in Gabon.  His dad, David (a surgeon) and his mom, Becki (a nurse), founded the hospital 30+ years ago.  Today it’s a 120 bed hospital with an AIDS clinic, dental clinic, eye clinic, shot clinic… They teach surgerical students, nursing students, and midwife students.  It was a truly humbling and inspiring visit.  This video was my first experiment with this software, so be nice.  We did NOT show this video at church…  Enjoy…

Here’s how I introduced my sermon this past weekend…

Thirty two years ago Dave and Becki Thompson landed in the middle of an African jungle and did a miracle.  They left American comfort behind.  They gave up what could have been huge riches as a surgeon and nurse in America.  They gave up drinkable water, air conditioning, grocery stores, and nice restaurants.
What did they get instead?  Bugs.  Snakes.  Humidity.  Dirt.  Bumpy roads.  Endless hours.  Hard work.
They built a hospital, a surgical school, nursing school, midwife school.  An AIDS clinic, dental clinic, and eye clinic, pediatric care clinic, and shot clinic.
They’ve built churches with their own hands.  Evangelized young people who have become pastors and missionaries.
They raised a family in Africa…
They raised up a team of missionaries and surgeons and doctors and nurses in Africa.
And they raised up the name of Jesus Christ in a place that would have never heard.  Every person they treat, they pray for.  They share Christ with.  They serve and heal and love in Jesus’ name.
I can’t tell you how great it was to have spent time with Dave and Becki and Josh–who grew up there–and the whole team of missionaries in Gabon.
And, they’re happy.  They don’t drag around, moping about all they’ve give up for Jesus.  Because Dave and Becki and every missionary I met illustrate two principles that keep surfacing all throughout the history of Christianity, and all throughout the Bible:
1. The church’s prime directive is to do whatever it takes to share Jesus and his saving work with every person we can…
2. That you can’t outgive God… God returns any sacrifice that we make to share Christ… not in money, but in a deep-down satisfaction that money can’t buy.
Thank you for sending me.

[For more info, visit www.bongolohospital.org]

Africa Video 1

Scroll down a couple of posts for the first Africa Trip blog, if you haven’t read it.

I’ve tried for a week to upload some of my video from Africa to YouTube, but no success.  I keep getting a “communication error.”  It works for an hour or so, and quits!   Aaaaarghhh….  It says that I timed out and am not connected to the internet, even though I am.  I’ll keep working on it.

Mandji Church Kids, Gabon

But one of the nurses at the Bongolo Hospital, Lisa Nicky, whom I met at the Field Forum, posted this video.  It shows the hospital, the doctors and nurses, and one of the churches the hospital helped plant.  She created this video after Josh Thompson, the pastor of our church’s Weaverville Outpost (an extention campus of my church), taught a worship at the African retreat, to missionaries, about how to make videos!  He did an excellent job, and here’s Nicky’s first video. I was at most of the places she shows, except I went to a different church on Sunday… I’ve included some of those still pictures. For me, the church visit was the highlight of the trip.  Three years ago, two people from this remote village in Mandji, received Christ at the hospital while undergoing treatments.  Dave and Becki Thompson, the chief surgeon and nursing teacher of the hospital, planted a church with them.  The day we went, 120 people attended!  Wow!!!!   What an honor!  I’ll post more later.  The adult classroom, by the way, is part of the nurse-training

Mandji Church Kids, Gabon

school at the hospital!

Post-African Blues

What an amazing adventure!  I just returned from Africa… and have smacked into a huge reality that I never knew existed.

It is utterly impossible to describe life on the mission field.

So much happens every day, that words can’t communicate it.  You have to live it. Here’s a preliminary shot at describing it… I’ll give more in the coming days.  Thanks for your prayers and patience!

  • I visited the nation of Gabon, the cities of Libreville, Lambarene, and Bongolo.
  • Life is good, but life is HARD.
  • The missionaries I met are my heroes.
  • The outreach done in the name of Jesus is truly indescribable.
  • The TV show Survivor just filmed in Gabon.  They called it “the hardest place they’ve ever done Survivor.”
  • I had two main objectives on this trip:
  • Objective one:  speak at an annual gathering/retreat of missionaries.  Encourage them in the Word.  I spoke, from the Book of Ruth, on Overcoming Grace Deficit Disorder.  I taught 9 times in total, and the talks seemed to be well received.
  • Objective two:  visit our denomination’s jungle hospital called the Bongolo Hospital, and become familiar with their work.  The hospital is led by David & Becki Thompson, and launched a ministry called PAACS, training surgeons who will stay in Africa, and will  both heal bodies and share the gospel with patients.
  • The travel is very hard… long lines, long waits, tiny airline seats.  It took us 3 full days of travel to get home.
  • God is doing amazing things.
  • I’m depressed… call it Post African Blues… call it jet-lag.  Pray for me.
  • I’m super proud of my wife for holding down the fort and my precious kids for sharing Daddy with Africa…
  • Thank you to everybody who prayed for me and Josh on this amazing trip.  And thanks to the incredible team of missionaries in Gabon!  You guys are amazing!
  • More to come…

Who me?

I have some appointments for a series of vaccinations as I prepare to head to AFRICA. Yep, urban-boy, comfort-loving, air-conditioning-needing, bug-despising, soft mattress longing, meat eating, veggie-hating, pasta-loving, little old me will soon travel to Gabon, west Africa to encourage our church’s missionaries there and to visit the legendary Bongolo Hospital and the equally legendary missionaries, Dave and Becki Thompson. Pray for them. And for me. Here’s a snippet about Gabon… from SURVIVOR!

Yikes! Now will you pray for me? And my family? And my travels? And my shots? And most of all… my topic. What do you say, at a retreat, to a bunch of veteran missionaries? Any suggestions? HELLLLPPPPP!!!!

Sunday’s Sermon

This past Sunday, as part of our missionary conference, I preached a story about an African missionary named George Grenfell.  I find his story to be one of the most inspiring, amazing, humbling stories I’ve ever heard. You can hear the message by clicking here.

Here are some cool coincidences [Providences] surrounding this sermon: Continue reading

An Old/New Way of Ancient/Future Thinking

rader1a.jpgPostmodernism/emergentism loves paradoxical/slash thinking/reading so I thought I’d take a shot/stab at it.

Not really. Too many slashes would be annoying/unkind to you, my merciful/forgiving maxgrace.com reader/visitor. Really. I’ll stop. I’m done. Seriously.

Can I say that I’m alarmed by some trends in the church today? Mostly in terms of theology. The alarming trend bouncing in my brain this morning is the changing view of the church’s and Christian’s mission. Continue reading

Can You Feel It?

amazing-grace.jpegChallenging Some Worship Myths, 3rd & final part

7. The myth that repetitious worship music is bad. Understand where I’m coming from before you hurl rotten tomatoes. I grew up on a solid diet of hymns. I love them. To this day, my heart resonates with Stayed Upon Jehovah. Immortal, Invisible. Great Is Thy Faithfulness. Toss in some Thee’s, sprinkle on some Thy’s, and I’m there. Those songs had CONTENT; they were a Bible class set to music. How about this glorious classic for great content: Continue reading