Dunkin’ Donuts and Planting Pastors

26 04 2010

I have come to Okinawa every year now for over ten years, and I think I know almost every pastor on the island.

Right now, I’m eating sushi, looking out over the Pacific Ocean, and pondering the challenge of developing future spiritual leadership on this island.  I’ve spoken every night and several times a day for a week, spending almost every waking hour with these gracious, caring, pastors—eating, sipping tea, laughing and sharing our hearts and lives.

Last night I spoke at one of our network churches.  Liz and I stayed up until midnight with the pastor and his wife, sharing pictures, and talking about old times.  Together with my friend and fellow pastor, we reminisced of the days of trouble.  You see, he and I got into trouble together – big trouble in 1989—in ways that would change the direction of our lives as pastors.

It all began with a conversation at Dunkin’ Donuts when I was a missionary in Okinawa.  Yes, Okinawa has Dunkin’ Donuts. And the Japanese like donuts almost as much as sushi.  If you tasted their version of Dunkin’ Donuts, you would understand why.  Anyway, one morning we were sitting around drinking coffee and stuffing our faces with cream-filled when he asked me, “Steve, what do you think my church needs?”  After thinking for about three minutes (which is deep meditation for me), I said, “Your church needs to learn how to worship Jesus.”

Thus began a journey that got both of us in a heap of trouble! 

He asked me to teach his church how to worship, so that is what I did every Wednesday night. But more than just a sermon, back then my style was to teach for a little while and then to demonstrate how to worship.  The demonstration time involved closing our eyes and worshipping to music playing over my stereo.  On one fateful night, the Holy Spirit showed up in a dramatic way, and my pastor friend experienced a baptism of the Spirit that quite literally rocked his world.

The Holy Spirit came that night during worship as the power of God hit my friend with such peace and joy that he didn’t sleep for the next 48 hours!  In fact, on this one evening his baptism into the Spirit would initiate his journey on  a road that would change the direction of his life forever.

In the days and weeks to follow, he shared excitedly about the new things God was doing in his life.  To say his Southern Baptist church was not quite as pumped up about his new-found intimacy with God is an under-the-sea, really-deep-under-the-sea-level statement.  In a short time, he was kicked out of his fellowship, and found himself on the streets wondering what had happened.

At about the same time, I was teaching my staff about more expressive worship like raising our hands, about casting out demons, and in general, getting myself into some deep theological doodoo of my own.   I could see the wagons circling, and I knew that my days were numbered.  And like my pastor friend’s experience, it wasn’t long after our Dunkin’ Donuts meeting that my life was profoundly changed – I resigned from my position with a para-church organization and joined my friend as we freshly sought God about our futures.

What an exciting time it was!  Both of us out of a job, but loving Jesus!  Both of us unsure of the direction of our future, but confident in the Director of our future.

And so last night, after all of these years, we were reunited.  We shared of our journey and the adventure.  For my Okinawan friend, God had planted him back on the island to found and pastor Agape Community Church where he continues to minister today.  God led me to Colorado Springs to plant Mountain Springs Church. 

Once again, just like we had done 21 years ago, we worshipped together on a Wednesday night.  However, on this night we were joined by a group of men and women, many of whom hadn’t even been born or saved in 1989.  Together, we were again worshipping the same Jesus that had rocked our world—the same Savior and Lord who continues to rock our world today.  Only now, there’s a church that didn’t exist back then.  All because God powerfully visited a pastor one night during worship, then planted him to shepherd His people.

I have learned that God plants pastors.  He doesn’t plant churches; He plants pastors.  Pastors are God’s methodology, His missiology. Jesus planted pastors.  Jesus is still planting pastors. I think pastors were what Jesus had in mind with His twelve men.  And it’s what He had in mind for these two pastors, one Okinawan, one American. 

Tonight, I count it an honor to be one of His pastors, grateful to be helping to plant more pastors on the tiny island of Okinawa.


6 04 2010

Easter 2010 

What a powerful weekend we had at Mountain Springs!  Almost 6000 people came out for our 6 services and over 125 people got baptized!  All the glory goes to Jesus!

Jesus came to the earth as a liberator!  This is the message of Easter.  Jesus came as a kingdom warrior engaging Satan and his demonic hordes in an eternal conflict.  He came as an outlaw to the religious establishment in order to break the old legal manmade systems that hindered people from experiencing freedom, forgiveness, and grace.  The scriptures say that “the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”(John 1:17).

JesusLiberator came to change our lives.  Jesus announced his mission on the earth this way:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,

      Because He has anointed Me

      To preach the gospel to the poor;

      He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,

      To proclaim liberty to the captives

      And recovery of sight to the blind,

      To set at liberty those who are oppressed;

       To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” [1]

When John the Baptist sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the “Chosen One,” the Messiah, Jesus responded,

“Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.  [2]

Jesus came to the earth to give His life as a ransom-replacing our sin with His righteousness.  Jesus came to set us free from the bondages, chains, and addictions of sin.  As a result, Jesus is the ultimate liberator; Jesus is the ultimate freedom fighter.  What a joy to know Him and be chosen to experience His grace in our lives.

Recently it has been my great privilege to receive letters, emails, and to personally talk to so many people at Mountain Springs who are experiencing the newfound freedom and power of JesusLiberator in their lives:

  • One young woman, Susan, upon learning of her husband’s infidelity and multiple affairs, despaired of even life itself.  In the midst of her crumbling life, she began attending Mountain Springs through an invitation of a friend. At a recent service, she gave her life to Christ.  Since that time, her son and daughter have started coming and just a few weeks ago, her daughter came to the front, weeping, committing her life to Jesus.


  • Recently a woman shared with me her story of trying to commit suicide in high school due to despair and loss of all hope, she sent me this email last week:

After high school, I became pregnant and the man I was with wanted me to have an abortion. I never could make up my mind to do it, so I never did it. I married my daughter’s dad so she could have her dad. I soon found out that that was the worst thing I could do. I never loved him and he was an alcoholic. We were married for only 2 years and I did cheat on him to find love somewhere else. During this time I continued to find men and sleep with them just to feel loved. I would go out at night to party and I wouldn’t come home ‘til 4 am. My dad took care of my daughter while I was out. One afternoon, I was sleeping from a night of partying, I heard a voice saying,” You need to go to church.” I looked around my room and I didn’t see anyone. I immediately felt a hunger to go to church and get as much as I could of God. I accepted God as my lord and savior. I stopped drinking and partying and I have been free from pornography. I am currently remarried to a man I met in church and we have been married for going on 6 years now and still going strong. To this day I have found love in Jesus and I don’t have this emptiness that I once was. It is a miracle!

  • I received an email recently from Trish:

December 2008 found us suddenly giving a home to my brother’s 3 kids, ages 11, 5 and 3.  Prior to coming to live with us, they had never been to church, never prayed, never even heard the Lord’s name except in vain.  I had been praying for my brother for years.  He’d been baptized at age 10, but hadn’t walked with the Lord since.  I wasn’t sure he was really saved.  When the kids came, Mimi and Steve made sure they had a place in AWANA for us so we both could continue to serve.  Church, Sunday School, AWANA–it was all new to them, but they all seemed to really enjoy it.  I started praying for the salvation of the 11 year old.  He threw himself into his AWANA book.  He’d work on the sections at home with me every week.  One of his sections asked him if he’d ever asked Christ into his heart.  He answered yes, but then I started talking to him and explaining what that meant and he realized that he hadn’t.  He asked me right then if I would pray with him.  We saw a change in his life after that.  When the kids returned to my brother, he decided that he wanted to continue what I had begun in the lives of his kids and started taking them to church himself.  Two months later, he called me to ask about the sermon his pastor had preached that morning.  During the course of that conversation, I asked him if he knew he was saved and he said no.  He prayed to accept Christ on the phone with me that day.  Two lives were changed in the space of 6 months. 

This is why we celebrate Easter!  Jesus died on Friday, becoming a captive to sin, in order to come back to life on Sunday as a liberator from sin!  Jesus has risen!  Jesus has risen in our lives!  JesusLiberator has come to change lives.  That is the message of Easter.

[1] The New King James Version. 1982 (Lk 4:18–19L). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] The New King James Version. 1982 (Lk 7:22–23L). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.