Reflections on Israel

We are finally back in Nashville. I am so glad to be back but battling the jetlag and coming down from a wonderful trip. We had a wonderful time in Israel. It was a truly memorable and special trip.

First of all our team was fantastic. I have never been a part of a more unified and uplifting team. Everyone pulled their weight and was for each other. There were no cliques or awkward mission trip romances. I can truly say that everyone was there for the right reasons. I am missing the team today. After spending 2 weeks together, sharing meals in community every day, its tough to wake up and go to work without them. I am blessed to have them in my life.

Secondly, we were able to experience some wonderful ministry on this trip. I was so impressed by the opportunities our team was able to take advantage of.  We were able to share the gospel on a daily basis while we were in Tel Aviv. The outreach we were able to do there will change the way our team sees the gospel. So often Christians in America are good at doing pre-evangelism, (talking about church, and living moral lives among non-believers) but are not good at actually sharing the gospel and their testimonies with unbelievers. I am so glad that our team got to experience the joy of sharing Jesus with others. They were fulfilling the great commission these past 2 weeks.

Lastly it was awesome to be able to see our team experience Israel from the perspective of a spiritual pilgrimage. When you are in Israel, the Bible comes to life. It is awesome to be able to experience the scriptures first hand. We were able to see what the sea of Galilee looks like. We were able to taste the Jordan River. We were able to baptize one of our own in the Sea of Galilee. We were able to smell what Jerusalem smells like. These sights, sounds and smells of the Holy Land will be with us forever.

I walked away with a deep love for Israel and its people after this trip. There are some really unique and wonderful people living there. My deep desire is for them to come to know Jesus as their personal savior. Thank you so much for journeying with us through this blog. Maybe the next time we go to Israel you can come along with us in person.

Here are some final pictures:

Our team in the Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee from where the Sermon on the Mount was Preached

Peter's house in Capernaum, where the story of the Paralytic took place.

The Judean Wilderness/ Where the parable of the Good Samaritan takes place

The Jordan River in Tel Dan, Mt. Hermon

Calla getting Baptized in the Sea of Galilee


The Spirit is Moving

Hello everybody!
This is Bobby McDonald, and I’ll be your Israel Mission trip ambassador for today. First and foremost all thanks be to God! Today has been a miraculous day with God working through us in great ways. First, I have to share the testimony that my mission partner for the day, Rebecca, and I experienced.  Again, many of the events of the day were miraculous, but I’ll let you be the judge.  We started off the morning going door to door in apartment buildings.  We went to five buildings over the span of about 2 hours and of all of those units only one person answered and she did not want to speak with us.  So our first few hours were pretty discouraging.  However, the sixth building is the one that God had planned for us.  At this particular complex we walked to the top floor and knocked on the doors, working our way downstairs.
Finally we make it to the 1st floor (which was the last floor floor since we started from the top) and there was only one apartment left. Due to our lack of success we were just about to leave, but then the owner of that last apartment was coming into the building as we were walking out.  We told him who were were and what we were about and he invited us into his home.  It was the home of a young bachelor, charming and decorated for the social night-life with pictures of friends having a good time all around.  His name was Nimrod (not quite good for America but a strong name here in Israel). Nimrod and I connected a lot because I’ve been in his situation. He was a nice young man who loves to have fun, loves to have a good time and was not thinking about God much because life was good thus far.  I mean, why think about God when you have a career path, friends, and get to enjoy life so much?  Sadly, that story is far too similar to countless people, and they have a veil of comfort to hide them from reaching the truth.  There are many times though when that veil will be lifted by God, and the truth will be exposed.  I strongly believe that this happend to Nimrod, and others that the members of our team reached out to today.
Anyways, we were inside Nimrod’s home and after learning basic information about his life we started to share the gospel.  We were talking about who Jesus was and then all of sudden I felt urged to share my testimony.  When I started sharing the story of how I prayed one Saturday night almost 2 1/2 years ago and asked that Christ would reveal Himself to me if He was real, and then He did, I had a confidence greater than any other point on this trip.  The words just kept coming.  There was no hesitation, no delay, but just a flow of words.  I don’t remember a lot of it, but Rebecca told me that Nimrod all of a sudden leaned in with great interest and was totally absorbing everyting God was saying through me.  It was as if God answered our constant prayers, that He would open the hearts of those whom we meet so that they would listen.  When I was finished, I couldn’t believe what just happend, and you could tell Nimrod almost couldn’t believe my testimony either.  I mean, how cool is it that you could pray to God that He would reveal Himself to you, and then He does in ways that go beyond what we could fathom.  Then Rebecca shared her testimony, and he was just so moved that he accepted a New Testament in Hebrew, allowed us to pray over him, and gave us his information so that Aaron could mail him a book about the Messian and the prophecies He fulfilled.  We were able to leave our first “door-to-door” meeting of the day with knowledge that God came before us, put someone in our path, and opened their hearts to hear His message.  It was very powerful.
It is even more rejuvenating to our faith to hear other stories similar to Rebecca’s and mine that happend to our peers while they were out today.  Kelsey experienced the same thing that I did, being overtaken by the Holy Spirit and God preaching through her.  Her partener for the day, Nick, said it was astounding what he witnessed.  All of a sudden Kelsey just started preaching, and didn’t skip a beat.  Jeff met an Israeli woman that spoke fluent Hebrew obviously, but extremely little English.  He, having a very meager background in Spanish, asked if she spoke Spanish and she did fluently.  He was able to share the gospel with her, but used spanish words and grammar that in his own description said that he should not have even remembered at all.  The level of spanish he spoke was far higher than his current knowledge of the language, and the same goes for his understanding of it as well.  Another amazing aspect is that it is not only God moving in us as we share the Word, but also in those who hear it.  When the group got together over dinner tonight to share our experiences of the day, everyone gave witness that the people all of a sudden leaned forward, and were paying attention with amazing interest.  God saved us from death, God brought us to the Holy Land, and God used us to preach.  I implore those who read this blog to reach out and ask God with all your heart how can you do His will, in old ways or new.  He will use you.
Now, there is another important aspect of the experience that Rebecca and I had.  After we left Nimrod’s home we walked and found a wallet in the middle of the sidewalk just a few dozen steps from his building.  We picked it up and asked passerbys where a police station was, but didnt really get much help.  Finally, we asked one lady and she told us that we could take a bus to the nearest station.  We being foreigners said that would could not do that because  our knowledge of the city was too limited.  So she decided that she would take the wallet, and call its owner to inform them that we found it.  It was lunch time and we were all on our way to lunch, so we invited her to join us.  She did and we had such a delightful conversation with this Israeli woman.  She had been here for quite some time after living in Chicago and New York due to her husband’s accounting career.  We spent a good hour together and had a wonderful time at one of the best falafel spots in Tel Aviv (falafel is fried hummus, quite the arabic delicacy). This experience was extremely familiar because the testimony that I had just shared with Nimrod was how God brought an older woman across my path and revealed Himself to me through her.  And now here we were, after sharing the gospel with him, we find a wallet, meet a lady through that event and then are having a wonderful time getting to know eachother.  However, whilst at this same Falafel restaurant someone taps me on the shoulder, and its my new friend David.  David is a 90 year old Israeli man that looks 70.  Calla and I met him yesterday when going door to door.  We were with him for about an hour and shared with gospel.  He too filled out a card to receive the book on how the Messiah fulfilled the prophecies in the Old Testament.  Anyways, he invited us to meet him in his home after Rebecca and I left the falafel restaurant.  So we went there and had great conversation for 30 minutes.
After that we went to a tent city that I had visited last night.  For a quick background, there is a protest going on here in Tel Aviv.  People have left their apartment homes and condos to live on the streets in tents together to protest the high cost of living and low average salaries.  There I had met two individuals, Mayan and another David, both students in college. We talked last night for over an hour.  So today, Rebecca and I cross their paths and were able to meet with them for about 45 minutes.  At each of these meetings we were able to reinforce an observation that Mayan had shared with me last night.  She said that although she is not religious, and does not believe in religion, Christians seem to have a peace about them that is unsurpassable.  They seem to really know God.  So us sharing the words of the gospel is not only how we reach people, but through our witness.  Through our day to day interactions with others and letting them know that we are Christians, God uses us to share the way Jesus lived because we strive to live by it.  I love you all and thank you for letting me share our testimonies with you.  Good night.
– Bobby

Life on the Biblical “Times Square”

Hello all. So we just finished our second full day here in Jerusalem. What an amazing place. One thing that really took me back was the number of different people groups that are here. This is truly a melting pot – Northern, Southern, and Central Europeans are all over this city too along with the Jews and Arabs. We have met some Americans here as well. There’s such a bond when you see people in a foreign land that you have something in common with. I can only imagine how Jesus felt when he was here. He was so relational to the people that he interacted with. I guess I’d have to say that’s one (of the many) things that God has been putting on this teams’ heart – to be relational with the people we encounter so that we may be Jesus to those that don’t know Him.

One thing you can pray for us about is that God helps us do just that. We need to find common ground with the people we’ll encounter so that they’ll be more receptive to our message – that Jesus is the Son of God and that He saves! Being in Jerusalem can be overwhelming in many aspects: cultural, religious, and even the heat. Despite these things, we definitely know that God brought us here for a reason.

As you’ve probably already read, we’re staying in an incredible place on the Via Dolorosa where Jesus walked on His way to be crucified. Also close to us is the Dome of the Rock, which is an absolutely gorgeous building, but is also a spiritually dark place. By seeing such a building, I can’t help but think of what a stronghold this place is for the devil. We’ve been to some “significant” spiritual places while we’ve been here, but honestly, the spirit of some of those places was pretty dark. I can’t think of a better way for the enemy to take ahold of people than by disguising himself in “holy” places and leading people astray in false beliefs under the guise of “religion.” Please pray against this.

On a lighter note, we went to the Garden of Gethsemane and once again up the Mount of Olives. The garden was truly peaceful and had olive trees that were 2000 years old. I could see why Jesus would go to such a place when going through so much mental and emotional torment before being crucified. Praying there was truly an amazing experience.

Tomorrow – Tel Aviv! And we start doing street evangelism. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers, and we’ll keep you all updated on how the evangelism goes.

– Jeff

How to Practically do Missions

As Christians we know certain truths. God loves the world. God loves people. Jesus commissioned his followers to go to the ends of the world right before he went to heaven.

Although we know these truths intellectually we often struggle on how to accomplish them practically. How do we do missions well? How do we practically go on mission? What pitfalls are out there that we may fall into if we are journeying through the morass of modern missions unaware of our surroundings? Today I am going to lay out an easy step by step plan of how to prepare a mission team in hopes that it will help you go on mission with a game plan that is achievable and reproducible.

Step 1: Pray.

I know this step may seem really intuitive but it is a lot harder than it seems. You need to bathe your mission trip with prayer. You are going on the front lines of the conflict between God and his enemy Satan. You need to make sure you are hearing from God concerning where you should go and what you should do. Start by praying for a burden for a people group and a country. Often we approach missions by trying to do what others have done. That is a poor way to start the process of following God. Every great missionary movement has started by people asking God what they should do and then having the courage to follow God’s calling.

Step 2: Partner

Missions can be a daunting task. If you try to do missions alone you can find yourself  trying to pull off a huge vision with minimal resources. You need to find 2 different types of partners. First you need to find companion partners. That means finding people who will take the task on of going and doing the mission with you. I think it is helpful to have several churches taking on a project or mission together than one church or individual taking on a mission by themselves. Choosing to be a part of a denominational missions organization, church network like Acts 29, or the Impact Church Network allows you to do more in less time. Our church has partnered with the Impact Church Network and the IMB and has allowed us to do church planting and missions at a level far beyond our financial ability as a church plant.

The second type of partner you need to have are your “on the ground” partners. You need to have trusted people that you can serve. Usually these people handle most of the logistics for your team and handle the tasks that you will do. I think a key mentality you need to have concerning missions is that you serve your missionaries and help them. Often churches bring their own vision to a project and try to shoehorn missionaries into that vision. A church will have an idea that they become infatuated with but has nothing to do with what the missionary is already accomplishing. Although the missionary may accommodate their partner church, most mission trips like this are a waste of time and money.

It is really important when selecting a mission partner to know them well enough to trust their character. Unfortunately there are many unsavory characters out there that operate under the guise of being social workers and missionaries. It takes time to really distinguish if someone is trustworthy.

Step 3: Plan

It is really important to have a plan for your trip. If you have no objectives for your team you will likely be doing nothing but wasting your people’s time. It is my personal belief that mission trips should be focused on one of two objectives. A mission trip should be focused on either church planting or ministry to the least of these. You may ask what about evangelism. I believe evangelism should be done in both contexts. Evangelism is the reason for any trip.  If you are on a mission trip that does not share the gospel you seriously evaluate if this trip is worth doing.

Evangelism isn’t just going through the Romans Road or EE with people. There are many aspects of evangelism. I believe that a trip that creates contacts for a missionary or a church plant is a vital part of evangelism. We have had great success in gospel resistant countries by creating events that draw unchurched people into relationships with our church planters.

Mission projects that serve the underserved and do primarily humanitarian service opportunities are great first serve opportunities for people. Some of the projects our people have have done are construction, health clinics, well building, and orphan care. These trips are always really rewarding and usually our people walk away realizing how blessed they really are. I think the trick for leaders to is to make sure that people realize that humanitarian aid is not the end game. The gospel is what is most important. It is very important to teach your people that our good deeds should point people to Jesus. All the help we do for others is not because we are good people but because Jesus has changed our lives.  Matthew 5:16 says,In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Good works are not for our glory; instead they are signs that God has transformed us.

Step 4 Prepare

Preparing your team takes a lot more effort than most people realize. Here are some things you need to do to prepare your team.

  • Interest meeting: Have a couple of these meetings before you finalize your team. Its best to do them right after your church service.
  • Deposit: Sometimes people struggle with committing to a trip. I give people a deadline to sign up and I also ask for a deposit of $200 before they go.
  • Fundraising: your team likely has no idea how to fundraise. You are going to have to teach them how to do it well. A support letter followed by a phone call to close friend is a good way to start fund raising. I operate under the premise that if God wants people to go on a trip, he will provide the finances to go.
  • Deadlines: I like to give teams deadlines to get their money in. These are more of suggestions of when their money needs to be turned in. I like to get enough money to cover their plane ticket in by the end of the first month. That allows us to purchase the tickets at a group rate in advance.
  • Team Meetings: have 3-4 meetings before you go on your trip. Pray for your trip. Pray for the people that you will meet and share the gospel with. Teach your people how to share the gospel. Communicate what you are doing. Personally, when I am leading a trip, I like to host these meetings at my home. It allows me to invite my team members into my life and start bonding our team together.
  • Discipleship: you are discipling people on your trip. Give them stuff to lead. Make them lead a team devotional on the trip. It will allow them to learn how to lead a Bible study in a stress free environment. I also encourage you to give your team some books to read before they go on the trip. A great suggestion is the book “Brutchko” by Bruce Olsen.
  • Logistics:  Plan out your transportation, Plan your meals and lodging. Create budget for all your expenses. Make sure you have money for the airport taxes when you leave the country. Check on visas. Make copies of all the passports for your team. Check on security issues in your country and make sure your register your team with the state department before you leave.

Step 5 Play

Enjoy your trip. I think it is important to have fun on every trip that you go on. Make sure you plan 1 day to see the country that you are serving in. Many times people will fall in love with the country as they are enjoy the culture on the off day. If people fall in love with the country chances are they will return and serve again.

Step 6 Begin the process

Ok, I couldn’t come up with another word that came started with a P. I was on a roll there. The most important part of missions is doing it. It isn’t primarily a process or a plan. It is a lifestyle. I am so grateful to be at a church where God’s people are passionate for missions. A lot of what I do is just get out of the way and let God work in people’s lives. I find that when I serve as a cheerleader and champion for missions, people accomplish far more than I could ever imagine.


Making sure the Gospel is Clear

This is a great article on evangelism and how we must be careful to be clear on sharing the gospel.  Thought you might enjoy it.  It is a response to Shane Claiborne’s article in Esquire Magazine.  Shane is a great guy, who is big on pre-evangelism, but this is an insightful piece on being clear to not water down the good news.   I love pre-evangelism and try to not make obstacles to the gospel but was convicted when I read this.

Here is and excerpt from the article:

The New Gospel leads people to believe wrong things without explicitly stating those wrong things.  That is, Christians who espouse the New Gospel feel safe from criticism because they never actually said belief is unimportant, or there is no hell, or that Jesus isn’t the only way, or that God has no wrath, or that there is no need for repentance.  These distortions are not explicitly stated, but the New Gospel is presented in such a way that non-believers could, and by design should, come to these conclusions.  In other words, the New Gospel allows the non-Christian to hear what he wants, while still providing an out against criticism from other Christians.  The preacher of the New Gospel can always say when challenged, “But I never said I don’t believe those things.”


I found it on Justin Taylor’s blog:  if you haven’t read his stuff it is outstanding.  It is a clearing house for useful information.