A Missions Organization Focused on the Church: The Story of Leadership Resources (Part 2 of 3)

This is Part Two of a series. Read Part One that shares Bill Mills testimony and about the early years of Leadership Resources’ ministry or listen to the complete interview below. Listen to interview on YouTube.

Bill: [Following how God was moving] led to some drastic changes in the nature and direction of our work. We were doing one-to-one discipleship. People were coming to us from all over the place—students from seminaries and Bible schools, housewives, business guys. It was a rich and rewarding ministry.

But the more we studied the Scriptures, the more we realized that we were taking people out of their church to this organization to disciple them. The more we understood the centrality of the church in ministry as it’s revealed in the Scriptures, the more we were convicted that we shouldn’t do that. The church is the center of ministry. It’s in the local church where we have shepherds who oversee the people of God with authority, where we have the consistent ministry of the Word, where we have real-life relationships in which the gospel can be lived out in reality. We began to realize that everything outside of the church is—to some degree—a make-believe world.

Any mission only has the validity to exist to the degree that it builds up pastors and churches.

I remember being in a far-off place and a pastor who had worked with us some in Southeast Asia talked with us about the possibility of leading our staff. He’s a wonderful leader and teacher, but I think he had had a bad board meeting that week. I said to him, “Matt, missions is a cheap high. That’s all it is. A make-believe world. We are going to people who are hungry and responsive, they are mature, they want to learn. It’s fun, it’s easy. In the church, in the trenches of life is where you have real ministry. Where there’s hurting people, broken marriages, broken dreams, financial pressures, sickness, failures, broken relationships—that’s where real-life ministry happens.” That’s why I’m still on staff at our church—I want to stay in the real world of ministry.

Any mission only has the validity to exist to the degree that it builds up pastors and churches. The church is the center of God’s purposes.

Kevin: Ephesians 3:10 comes to mind about how the church is the instrument God uses to put His manifold wisdom on display to the rulers and principalities. He doesn’t say parachurch ministries—although they can be excellent.

Bill: It’s in the church that we can stand with a husband and wife who are thinking of leaving each other and say to them, “Do you realize that the angels are learning about God while they’re watching your marriage? He’s fulfilling His purposes through you.”

Kevin: So we transitioned from a one-to-one discipleship ministry to a ministry that better supports the church.

Bill: That’s when we made our studies available to churches—we taught Bible conferences to churches. The first big transition was from one-to-one discipleship to churches. We were teaching conferences in churches throughout the States and in many places in the world.

“Bill, you’ve got to make your ministry available to missions. Missionaries are always in great need of encouragement, and your ministry is very encouraging.”

Another transition came when we were invited to Ecuador to minister to the staff of HCJB. That developed a partnership with them that lasted for decades. They had a new president when we started working with them named Ron Cline. Ron became a very close friend and a great encourager. He said to me one day, “Bill, you’ve got to make your ministry available to missions. Missionaries are always in great need of encouragement, and your ministry is very encouraging.”

One Scripture we have taken to heart is when Paul says to the church at Rome that the encouragement of the Scriptures brings hope (Romans 15:4). People who are in pressure-filled, hard-working situations where so many things cry out saying “This is hopeless!”—they need encouragement. Through this, many mission centers around the world became part of our work.

Breaking ground for LRI’s Global Ministry Center in Palos Heights, IL.

Kevin: That shows again how you follow the Lord’s leading.

Bill: It was part of watching to see what He’s doing and what He wanted us to do as we walked with Him.

Kevin: You said that in 1981 you started doing an international conference ministry. How long did that season of LRI’s life last?

Bill: One interesting comment about that is that I had become so committed to the church in America that after I came home from my first trip to Ecuador, one of the staff members said, “How was it, Bill?” I said, “It was beautiful, but I don’t think I’ll ever go overseas again. God’s called me to minister to the church in America.” That’s just an indicator of how good I am at discerning God’s leading and how unimportant that is in the process—God will do what He pleases whether we perceive one thing or not.

That did begin a new season and we began to focus more and more on pastors. We learned that it’s quite easy to get a group of 50 or 100 pastors together anywhere in the world. You can have a very enthusiastic response and a wonderful time, but we always walked away feeling, “What really happened here?”

With the need for pastoral training so great around the world, and with us and all other missions being so limited, we decided as we prayed to go smaller and deeper. That’s really when our TNT (Training National Trainers) ministry began. We needed to work with smaller groups of pastors in more depth over a longer period of time—going back to 2 Timothy 2:2 and equipping them to do the work of ministry. That was a turning point of ministry—to equip nationals to train nationals in preaching and shepherding. That’s how we got to TNT.

Part Three wraps up our interview and shares how God has greatly expanded the impact of the Training National Trainers program since its inception in 2001.

From Training Pastors to Indigenous-Led Movements of the Word (Part 3 of 3)

This is Part Three of an interview with Bill Mills on the history of Leadership Resources. Listen to the interview or read the transcript.

Kevin: As you realized you wanted to go deeper with fewer people, what were some of the influences that pushed you to focus on biblical exposition?

Bill: That’s a great question. TNT started with our staff in Latin America. They began to go to groups of pastors and ask them, “How can we help you? What are your needs? How can God use us to strengthen your ministry?” Part of it was helping them with preaching and leadership, but it was much broader than that in terms of helping with family ministry or youth ministry or worship ministry or whatever. At the same time, God was focusing on our hearts on the ministry of His Word. This was a big turning point.

Rather than going to a group of pastors and asking their needs, we began to say, “We want to help you by bringing to you what you really need: strengthening in studying the Bible, teaching it, and preaching it faithfully.”

Kevin: If the Word is sufficient for life and ministry and everything flows from that, why not start at the fountain of life: God’s Word?

Bill: Our deep commitment is that God’s Word brings life. Understanding that in the face of huge needs in the churches and in the ministry, there’s nothing that we can say to make a difference in anyone’s life or ministry. That drove us to the Word of God that is sufficient for life, godliness, ministry.

Kevin: The success of our leadership in the church or the ministry structures we build really are directly correlated to how the Word of God flows through each of those conduits to God’s people. We can be great leaders, but if we’re not leading people the direction God wants them in life and the church, what are we really doing?

Bill: Amen.

Kevin: The Training National Trainers program started in 2001 and has had a few transitions. Can you share about TNT’s development?

How do you preach the message of the author? That’s what we’re challenged by.

Bill: We have found that around the world (it’s true here in the US; it’s true in most places in the world), preachers will use the Bible to preach a message that he wants to preach. He’ll have an idea and then think about what Scriptures he can use to support his idea. We are confronting this mindset of using the Bible to preach our message rather than starting with the text and asking, “What is the message of the author?” That is still one step removed from the pastor reading the text and standing before his people and saying whatever comes into his mind about that text. So those are two battles we are dealing with. How do you preach the message of the author? That’s what we’re challenged by.

Kevin: That’s really the overarching question for all of TNT.

“Bill, I’m finally learning the difference between using the Bible to preach my message and learning to preach the message of the author!”

Bill: I was just with a pastor from Central Asia. We are two years into our training, and during a break, he came up to me and said, “Bill, I’m finally learning the difference between using the Bible to preach my message and learning to preach the message of the author!” The amazing thing is the freedom and joy that brought to him.

Kevin: As one author puts it, finding the author’s intent is the “mother” of all hermeneutical principles—everything falls under that. Are you communicating what God, through the human author, is trying to communicate?

Bill: That is another reality that helps free up our pastors. Studying the text, preaching the text, the message of the author, then coming to the place of applying the sermon to their people. How do we want to do that? It is so helpful and freeing to look at the shepherding intent of the author. Why did the Holy Spirit put that text in the Bible where it is, the way it is? What does God want us to learn? Where does the author want to carry the reader? To match their application with the shepherding intent of the author sets them free from the creative use of stories or to make up an application. Make it the same as the author’s intent!

Kevin: Really as we go deeper in our study, the applications jump out at us and we don’t need guesswork or to be a master communicator or storyteller.

Bill: It takes time to look, look, look, and study, but the intent of the author will flow out of the main idea of the text and he shapes his message.

Kevin: Our hermeneutical principles have transitioned from sixteen originally to eight core principles that give you everything you need to dig into the text. That was one of TNT’s major transitions. When did that happen? 2014? That has strengthened the TNT program and made it much more transferable.

Bill: One of the ways that it helps us is that it is not only more simple and transferable but in each of our trainings we can go over those eight again and again and again until it becomes a part of the way we handle the Scriptures.

Kevin: It becomes a reflex as we read Scripture, forming the right instincts for Bible readers and preachers.

Bill: One of the things that helped strengthened our training along the way in the minds of our pastor-trainers, is they know the goal isn’t to be able to handle these hermeneutical tools more effectively. The big goal is not to have skills that are natural for us and present the Word more eloquently—the goal is transformation. We want God to get at our hearts and change our thoughts, our ways, our relationships, our attitudes, and the way we bring the heart of God in ministry. The goal is transformation.

Whenever we are teaching a lesson or preaching a sermon we want the hearts of our hearers to burn within them in awe and wonder and worship at the beauty of our God.

I remember sitting with one of our pastoral trainers in Central Asia— a wonderful, warm brother. He said, “Every time I come to TNT, it is the same. Nothing changes. It’s Do sessions, Dig and Discover sessions, Demo sessions—it’s the same; nothing changes. But I keep changing.”

It’s a wonderful reminder of the power of the Word through the work of the Holy Spirit that transforms hearts. We always have that before our pastor-trainers as the goal.

We were reading with the staff this morning from Luke 24 where Jesus is walking with the brothers on the Emmaus road and telling about how all the Law and the Prophets and the Writings were about Him. Later on, when Jesus departed after He had opened their eyes with the breaking of the bread, they said, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as He was opening up the Scriptures?” We want to keep reminding our preachers and teachers that that’s what we’re aiming for. It’s not just better study skills. Whenever we are teaching a lesson or preaching a sermon, we want the hearts of our hearers to burn within them in awe and wonder and worship at the beauty of our God. That’s what we’re aiming for.

“Every time I come to TNT it is the same. Nothing changes. It’s Do sessions, Dig and Discover sessions, Demo sessions—it’s the same, nothing changes. But I keep changing.”

Kevin: The way I think of TNT is as if we were standing outside of a mine with buckets of tools and handing tools to the guys we’re training and saying, “Hey use these tools well and you can find gold, something of extreme value. Use the hermeneutical principles, pick away at the rock and discover the Word of God—the written Word that points us to the living Word, Christ. He’s the giver of life.”

I have a couple more questions for you. One of them is about the growth of TNT numerically (which is astounding, especially with the Mentor Trainers in place). Can you speak of God’s grace of growing our training from a group of ten leaders in Asia to being in now more than 35 countries?

Bill: Yes, and what would the number be now?

Kevin: We currently have over 100 Mentor Trainers, about 140 TNT groups in 37 countries, and in addition, over two-hundred second-generation TNT groups led by men we have trained.

Leadership Resources trains in over 35 countries. Red dots designate training venues past and present.

Bill: We talked a little bit earlier about key transitions in the history of this work. Just about everyone on staff assumed we’d be working with groups of 20 pastors over 4 years, taking them through this training that is first aimed at transformation and flowing out of that multiplication, which we’re seeing abundantly around the world.

But then, God just opened our eyes. I don’t think there’s anyone on staff who saw it or brought it to us or creatively dreamed of it. It didn’t come out of a vision retreat. All of a sudden we realized we have all these graduates of TNT. Our next step is to work with them as key trainers in our work around the world.

Our Mentor Trainer program is about taking key graduates from our basic training through another level of training, continuing to encourage them, disciple them, walk with them in ministry, but at the same time using them as teachers with us. All of the work now that I’m involved with in Russia/Central Asia/Eastern Europe [involves Mentor Trainers in] all of our teaching and training. In many places in the world, we are a step further, and much of our time is just spent with these key Mentor Trainers, and they do the work of the TNT training. This is what is going to lead us to the huge numbers in multiplication that we are seeing—taking us from being able to train hundreds to being able to train many thousands and lay that foundation through the work of the Word in the hands of the Holy Spirit for a movement of the Word to develop in a nation.

Kevin: Bill, that reminds me of one of LRI’s key verses you shared earlier, which is Habakkuk 2:14 (ESV): “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” It’s amazing as we’ve traced LRI’s history from 1970 to 2017 seeing the 2 Timothy 2:2 multiplication model and your faithfulness, Karen’s faithfulness and support of you, and how God has worked through so many other people and LRI staff over the decades. The glory of the Lord is being expanded over the face of the earth as the waters cover the sea. 

I know that prayer has been a foundational aspect of the ministry since the beginning. Can you quickly speak to how prayer has fueled the ministry of LRI?

Bill: I can quickly speak to it, first by saying that prayer is one of my great weaknesses. I am driven to my knees by my own inadequacy, and that’s a constant thing. I wish I could say I was a prayer warrior: consistently spending large amounts of time for God to show us more clearly what He’s doing, to open to us in a better way how we can walk with Him in the work that He’s doing. But it remains one of my great weaknesses. I think the reason we were able to walk with the Lord in our transition is because we were praying. The reason we pray is because God has built into us a large level of humility.

We know that we are not adequate for what God has called us to do. We know that ministry has to be what He’s doing, not what we’re doing. Ministry flows from His Words that bring life which are in the Scriptures. It’s not our words, our eloquence, our arguments, our persuasiveness. But that same humility drives us to our knees in prayer. We need God to show us what to do and how to walk with Him in what He’s doing. We are constantly in the situation where we have so many requests and opportunities to expand our ministry. We are limited by finances, staff—of course, those aren’t limitations to God, but we are constantly asking, “What’s next? Show us, Lord.” We are like children—we can’t figure this out. In the midst of our inadequacy in this area, humility drives us to our knees. We are very dependent on the Lord.

Kevin: Bill, would you mind closing our time in prayer?

Bill: Father, we are amazed at You. We are amazed at Your ability to fulfill every purpose of Your heart. You do that by using very weak men and women in the process. God, we are in awe of the reality that nothing can distract from Your great purpose of filling the earth with the knowledge of Your glory. No kingdom in this world, no political system, no military power, the forces of materialism and selfishness, individualism with which we struggle so in these places—not one of them can distract in any way from any purpose in Your heart. We know that at the end of time every purpose will be fulfilled. And You will be the only explanation for it and Your glory will fill the earth and the throne room will be filled with those from every tribe and tongue and people and nation who will worship the Lord Jesus, the exalted Lamb of God, the reigning Son forever and ever.

Father, with all of our hearts, we want to be a part of that process. We pray that You would lead us step by step as we continue to walk with You as to how we can be a part of those great eternal glorious goals. Lord, be our protection and be our wisdom. Would You provide the staff, the finances that we need so that You can use us to ignite movements of the Word in every nation in the world? We are in so few nations in the world now—thirty some; there are hundreds of nations. We need more workers. Would You raise up laborers in the harvest to join with us, would You continue to bring us staff who know You, not only Your Word, but Your heart, and who would lay down their lives for the glory of Your name? We lay this before you with great confidence and hope in the days ahead.

In Jesus name, Amen.

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Free Bible Overview Video Course: God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts

God's Big Picture - Bible Overview Course

One of the books we recommend on biblical theology is God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible by Vaughan Roberts.

Our friends at Clayton.TV have released a free video study tool that walks through each of the nine units of the book. Each unit features a video of 10-12 minutes and a study guide. This is an ideal resource for churches and any Christian wanting to dig deeper in understanding the Bible’s overarching story.

Click to download the whole course (all videos and printable material). At average download speed (10Mbps) this could take up to half an hour.

Click to download a short printable ‘How To Use God’s Big Picture’ guide.

Watch the series trailer:

Summary of God’s Big Picture Video Study (via Clayton.TV)


The Bible isn’t just a random collection of books but one connected story and it is vital to understand it in that context. This first video explains that the Bible has one author: God, one subject: Jesus Christ and one overarching theme: God’s plan to save the world through his son Jesus Christ.

We begin to look at this unfolding story in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, which sets up the pattern of God’s kingdom that we will trace through the rest of the units. We see that in God’s perfect created order, God’s People, Adam and Eve, live in God’s Place, the Garden of Eden, and enjoy his Rule and Blessing. In this creation the relationships between God & man, man & woman and mankind & creation are perfect, just as they were supposed to be. But it doesn’t last long…


God’s perfect creation is all too quickly ruined. In this episode we consider the question of evil, the tactics of the Devil who wants people to distrust and disobey God and the sinfulness of human hearts.

As we read more of Genesis we see that God’s people, Adam and Eve, disobey God, reject his rule and suffer the dire consequences. Once they have turned their back on God he must turn his back on them. Relationships are broken and God’s people suffer the just curses of a fallen world. Sin and death infect the whole of creation. God’s people deserve judgment but in God’s grace this isn’t where the story ends…


It looks like it’s all gone wrong but in unit 3 we learn that God has an eternal plan to save his people and restore his perfect creation. Reading on in Genesis we see that God, in his amazing grace, is going to send a saviour to rescue his fallen people. He then makes a foundational covenant or promise with one man, Abraham, which has implications for the rest of history. God promises to make himself a people through Abraham, to bring his people to a place and to bless them. As we see more of human sin and weakness we also see more and more of God’s grace and we realise God’s people cannot save themselves. Only God can save.

But questions abound… How will he make a people from an elderly, barren couple? Where is this land? And how can he restore the perfect relationships of creation?

UNIT 4: THE PARTIAL KINGDOM- People, Rule, and Blessing

God’s covenant promises of unit 3 are beginning to be worked out. In Genesis 12 – Exodus 18 we see how God begins to make a people for himself by miraculously granting Abraham and Sarah children and then many descendants. We see again and again that evil, unworthy persons become God’s people and it becomes clear that it is God who saves and that no man can boast.

We see how God rescues his people from slavery in Egypt by substitution, by conquest and by defeating their enemies. Once freed from slavery God begins to bless his people by giving them his law and by living amongst them. Things are beginning to look up, but there is much more to be fulfilled.


Having seen the ‘people’ and ‘blessing’ promises partially fulfilled we’re now looking out for the promise of ‘land’ to be fulfilled. But, because of further disobedience, we read in the book of Numbers that God’s people are delayed forty years in getting into the land he has promised them. Once in the land things don’t get much better: the nation descends into a cycle of sin, judgment and grace. God provides judges to rule his people.

Perhaps God’s people would do better if they had a king to rule over them? In 1 Samuel – 2 Chronicles God’s promise of a king is seemingly fulfilled by Saul, David and then Solomon. The last two kings bring great periods of peace and prosperity to Israel, but ultimately each one fails to bring the everlasting peace and kingdom that God has promised. We conclude that these partially fulfilled promises must be pointing to something greater.


Israel’s history takes a downward turn as the people continue to disobey. They are exiled from the promised land, they become a scattered fragmented people and are left facing God’s judgment rather than blessing. But in his grace God sends prophets to speak his word to his people and enforce his covenant.

This unit maps the various prophets found in the Old Testament, all bringing a message of judgment and hope. Speaking God’s words and not their own, the prophets stress that God’s people will face judgment if they continue to disobey, but the prophets also bring a wonderful message of hope: God will keep his promise to bless his people. Most excitingly they prophesy of a new hope and a glorious, perfect King who will rule God’s people forever – that is of course, Jesus Christ. We’re left at the end of this unit eagerly looking for the arrival of true God’s King.


Finally all of God’s promises are fulfilled! Here we truly see how the whole of the Bible fits together. God’s promised king arrives to save God’s people – Jesus is born. This unit shows how each of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) give complementary accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings, each concluding that Jesus is the Messiah, the saviour of God’s people and the fulfillment of all the Old Testament promises. We see how Jesus is God’s people, place, rule and blessing and what each of these promises means for the believer.

Most importantly this unit describes the way in which Jesus saves God’s people through substitution, by taking the punishment they deserve, so that God’s people can be restored to perfect relationship with him. There is a tension that remains however because the presence of sin remains…


Jesus’ kingdom is both ‘now’ and ‘not yet’. This unit explains that we live in the ‘last days’ between Jesus’ first and second comings. God is patiently waiting for more people to come into his kingdom before he sends Jesus back to wrap everything up. As we move on to the book of Acts we see that to accomplish the task of making a great people for himself God sends his Holy Spirit into Christians so they can tell others of Jesus.

We learn that the Holy Spirit brings about new birth, he equips believers to serve Christ and he produces holiness. Though believers have been wonderfully saved God does not promise an easy life now, rather suffering is to be expected. Believers are to persevere in holiness and in spreading the gospel, by looking forward to the glorious, eternal future when sin and death will be no more.


The end of evil and the beginning of eternity: the final book of the Bible, Revelation, is a series of visions given to the apostle John which conveys a message through symbols to strengthen believers.

There is a vision of a lamb on a throne in Heaven which encourages believers to know that though this world is full of evil there is someone in charge, Jesus, who gave his life for his people. Next there is a series of visions of seals, trumpets, and bowls which depict the warmongering, economic instability and death that will mark every age until Christ returns. Then there is the final judgment when all evil and opposition to God will be totally and finally destroyed. And finally, there is the glorious picture of the new creation; God’s perfect kingdom where there will be no sin, or sadness or death.

We see how God’s promise to Abraham is fully and finally fulfilled: God’s people from all nations will live in God’s place, the new creation, and enjoy his rule and the blessing of his presence eternally. So we pray ‘Come Lord Jesus’ and while we wait ask for ‘the grace of the Lord be with God’s people Amen’.

“The Kingdom of God is God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule and blessing.”

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Does Passing On TNT Training Work in the Real World? An Answer from the Jungles of Brazil

Dear Friends and Partners,

You’ve probably played the Telephone Game where a message is whispered from one person to the next. By the end, the final message has morphed into something entirely different, often hilariously so.

I think about the Telephone Game when I’m asked: how much gets lost as your training is passed on to other generations of pastors?

Travel with me to an Amazon village where a TNT (Training National Trainers) graduation took place two years ago. Your mental image is probably pretty accurate: The church has a tin roof—hardly any sides to the building—sitting right along the river. An alligator actually came out of the river during the training. David Merkh, with a twinkle in his eye, told us, “And now he’s starting TNT among the alligators!”

The pastor of the host church was 3rd generation TNT—in other words, he was trained by a pastor, who was trained by a pastor, who was trained by our LRI team. This 3rd generation pastor, who belonged to a remote tribe accessible only by boat, was chosen to give the final message.

David Merkh (see video below)

David Merkh, one of our 1st TNT graduates, told us the story. David is now the leader of TNT in Brazil and so was invited to the graduation. When he first saw the pastor, he wasn’t impressed, thinking: “Hmm, so they chose this guy? I wonder did he really get it after these 4 years???”

The pastor then began to preach from the book of Acts and David was blown away! He told us the pastor “powerfully and boldly preached, explaining the text within it’s context—getting to the heart of God in the passage, and applying it directly to our hearts. He did not mince words.”

This barely-educated pastor, a young man, wasn’t intimated by David and the other leaders coming all the way from São Paulo. Said David, “No, he just said ‘this is God’s Word, it’s God’s authority.’ It was very, very powerful.”

David confessed to us how embarrassed he was by own his lack of faith. He told us, “I guess I wasn’t trusting the training.”

The explanation for the powerful transformation in this young tribal pastor is God’s Word. God’s Word has come to us across many generations and has never lost its power. Thank you for partnering with us to launch Movements of this powerful Word!

With gratitude in Christ,

Craig Parro


PS: We have TNT training on-going in 40 countries. Some are significantly under-funded. Please, would you send a gift today so that we might impact remote tribal pastors as well as church leaders serving in the largest, most densely populated cities of the world?

#PreachingTip: Echo the Bible’s Tone

Echo the Bible's Tone

When studying a text, part of Asking Good Questions is discovering the tone of the passage. (Understanding the genre also helps us understand tone.)

David Jackman of The Proclamation Trust recommends that we Echo the Bible’s Tone in the video below. If you like this video, you will enjoy the whole Equipped Series from the Proclamation Trust.

Also watch: Staying on the Line



Three Surprising Ways Bible Reading with My Kids Has Changed Me

The following article is by Jon Nielson, author of Bible Reading with Your Kids: A Simple Guide for Every Father.

Bible Reading with Your Kids - Jon Nielson - Book CoverI’m sure I’m not the only one who finds regular time with my family in the Bible a challenge. There are plenty of distractions and reasons why reading the Bible with my three young kids is hard. But I’m convinced that the best thing I can do for my children is expose them to the Word of God (and ask the Holy Spirit to change their lives). In fact, I was so convinced that I wrote a book on the subject, called Bible Reading With Your Kids.

And as I’ve persevered and tried to make Bible reading with my children a regular habit, I’ve been surprised that God has been using this to change me. While I was convinced it would be beneficial for my children, I never imagined how God would also shape me through this. Here are three ways God is changing me.

I am growing in my understanding of the Bible.

Any good teacher, in any subject, will tell you that one good test of true comprehension of a complex concept is whether or not you can explain it with clarity to a young child. While it’s challenging to read the Bible and explain it simply to young children, it has forced me to work hard at comprehending biblical stories, ideas and teachings with pinpoint clarity. By God’s grace, this has forced me to work even harder in my own understanding of God’s word, which has been good for my heart and mind.

I am developing as a teacher of God’s word.

Some of us might never be public preachers of the Bible, but all of us are to be involved in word ministry in the context of the body of Christ, the local church (Colossians 3:16). As I’ve committed to reading the Bible with my children, and explaining it to them clearly along the way, I’ve found this has grown my confidence and ability to do word ministry with adults too. As I engage in ‘God talk’ with my kids and articulate gospel truths to them, this has helped me to have ‘God talk’ with other adults more naturally. When it comes to personal evangelism, I am more confident and at ease.

I am constantly being encouraged by my children in ways I never imagined.

I have found that since reading the Bible regularly with my children, I am finding deep delight in discipling them. I am loving the sweet conversations with them about the the things of God, as they form questions and wrestle through theological thoughts. I love watching them discover new and beautiful things about God, his grace, and his glorious redemption of sinners. There is a new dimension of friendship opening up, a spiritual friendship between my kids and I, and I pray this will continue to grow and flourish as they get older.

Let me encourage you, if you’re someone who also struggles with reading the Bible regularly with your children, to go for it! Now is the time to begin. Recalibrate your expectations and allow yourself grace. There will be some tough times; young kids can have trouble focusing, and we’ve certainly had our nights when Bible reading times have been rough! But keep persevering. It’s worth it. Expose your kids to God’s word daily, and commit them to him in prayer, trusting him to open their hearts to his gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit, and you might be surprised at how God uses this to change you too.

If you’re finding Bible reading with your kids a challenge, or are even unsure how to start, here are eight tips from my book Bible Reading With Your Kids for Matthias Media, that will help.

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Finishing Well in Life and Ministry: God’s Battle Plan for Burnout | Interview with Bill Mills

“Burnout is largely a spiritual problem rooted in our theology, for the battles rage primarily in our hearts and minds. By theology, we are referring to more than our creedal orthodoxy. It is our practical theology in daily living which reveals what we really believe.”

“Burnout comes from the combination of an inadequate view of God and an inadequate view of ourselves.” —Bill Mills

Bill Mills has experienced burnout. He has experienced stress and ministry pressures overwhelming him to the point of feeling completely broken. He also knows the strength God provides to His children during difficult times.

In Finishing Well in Life and Ministry, Bill Mills and Craig Parro tackle the complex and often discouraging topic of burnout. In the audio interview below, Kevin Halloran chats with Bill Mills about the story behind the book, God’s provision in our weakness, and several biblical examples of servants who finished well after facing discouraging times in ministry.

Buy Finishing Well in Life and Ministry: God’s Protection from Burnout from our Webstore or on Amazon.

Listen to the interview on YouTube and subscribe to our YouTube channel for future interviews.

Ministry Burnout Statistics:

—1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches
—80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors
—50% are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could but have no other way of making a living
—70% said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons
—Almost 40% polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry
—80% of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years
—90% of pastors said their seminary or Bible school training did only a fair to poor job preparing them for ministry
—Pastors are 35% more likely to be terminated if they work less than 50 hours weekly
—80% of pastors believe their ministry negatively affects their families
—80% of pastors say they do not have sufficient time to spend with their spouse
—55% of pastors receive support and accountability from a small group
—45.5% of pastors have experienced burnout/depression and had to take a break from ministry
—57% of pastors do not have a regularly scheduled and implemented exercise routine

You may also enjoy the interview with Bill on Adequate! How God Empowers Ordinary People to Serve.

Like Father, Like Son: Planting Healthy Churches in Nepal

The son and grandson of Christian workers in Nepal had no desire to follow them into ministry. Besides seeing his father endure persecution and rejection, Lazarus Thulung experienced a great loss on the very day he was born. His mother died in childbirth.

The father, N.D. Thulung, with Hindu ancestry, became the first person to offer the gospel to his village in Nepal. But as N.D.’s wife lay dying, the pagan villagers offered no help, concluding the gods were judging him. They refused to even assist with her burial.

In his bitterness, N.D. questioned God for allowing his suffering. Yet he gave his son a hopeful name and persevered in ministry. Driven from his village, he moved to another region and successfully planted several churches. Over the years, N.D. witnessed God’s faithfulness to both change his son’s heart and draw the young man into ministry. And he has now seen the Lord raise up Lazarus to become a recognized leader in Nepal’s church-planting movement.

Lazarus Thulung with his father, N.D.

Training Indigenous Pastors

Leadership Resources International (LRI) exists “to equip and encourage pastors around the world to teach God’s word with God’s heart.” LRI’s Director of Asia oversees LRI’s efforts in five countries of the Himalayas, including Nepal, which he visits every six months to instruct national pastors in biblical exposition as part of their Training National Trainers (TNT) program.

In the fall of 2008—the same year Nepal’s Hindu monarchy yielded to demands that included more religious freedom—both Lazarus and his father began LRI’s training in their country. By this time, Lazarus had completed college and grown in his faith through the ministry of Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ). He had also attended a Filipino seminary and returned to Nepal with a big goal.

“I had [a] vision to plant churches in every village [sic] of Nepal by 2020,” Lazarus said.

To advance that goal, the younger Thulung partnered in 2006 with a church planting organization, ServLife International. In his 10 years as Director of Himalayan Development, Lazarus oversaw the planting of approximately 117 churches in 34 of Nepal’s 75 districts. He reported that more than 4,200 new believers were baptized through 2016.

Despite Difficulties

Nepal is a small country about the size of the state of Arkansas but with ten times the population—nearly thirty million people. And most Nepalis live in valleys along mountainous terrain or in other rural areas difficult to access. This country’s challenges include issues of illiteracy, health, and dire poverty that breeds child labor and human trafficking. It also struggles to recover from widespread devastation after a 2015 earthquake.

Besides the physical obstacles in reaching Nepal with the Gospel, a great religious and cultural divide separates East and West. In a 2014 article for The Gospel Coalition (TGC), Michael Heitland, president of ES4M (Equipping Saints for Ministry), stated that Westerners will fall short in reaching Nepalis, who “suffer from the spiritual darkness of either Hinduism, with millions of deities, or the self-deifying religion of Buddhism.”

ES4M works predominantly in Nepal and shares LRI’s focus of equipping leaders to handle God’s Word properly. The church in Nepal is “on the move… Christianity is exploding,” Heitland said.

According to current statistics by Operation World, a church has been planted in every district of Nepal. And at least some believers can be found in nearly all of this country’s 380 people groups and castes.

Working Together to Exalt God

The efforts of both LRI and ES4M are bearing fruit in Nepal by investing in indigenous pastors according to 2 Timothy 2:2, “entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (ESV). Both LRI’s Director of Asia and Heitland have also supplied church leaders with needed biblical support materials—Bibles and books provided without cost by TGC International Outreach (IO). Though mostly in English, the resources are useful to many Nepalese pastors who read and speak the language.

LRI’s Director of Asia views IO’s Packing Hope materials as supplemental to the LRI training. “They are God-exalting, Christ-honoring, and Scripturally centered,” he said.

Those resources for Nepal have included several books by John Piper, such as, A Sweet and Bitter Providence. Based on the story of Ruth, the book helped N.D. Thulung to see God’s hand in working all things for His glory and for the good of His people.

Another book by Piper, Life as a Vapor, encouraged Lazarus and his wife to live in light of eternity as they grieved the death of their adolescent son—born with cerebral palsy. This book helped Lazarus to better understand the trauma in his life and to help others who face sorrow and loss.

Beyond Nepal’s Borders

N.D. and Lazarus Thulung both graduated from LRI’s four-year TNT program, which qualifies them as “mentor trainers.” They have since passed on their training to more than two hundred other Nepalese church planters, according to LRI’s Director of Asia.

The father and son now serve as strategic partners in LRI’s work in expositional training in Nepal and neighboring countries. Their separate churches are under the umbrella of Jyoti Great Commission Church, a fellowship of churches in Nepal.

Since passing his leadership role with ServLife to another man in late 2016, Lazarus further helps with the training of Nepalese and other Asian pastors in the U.S. These pastors have established churches among the diaspora population in several large cities—Atlanta, Houston, and Columbus (Ohio).

Including N.D. and Lazarus, LRI currently has fourteen trainer-led groups in Nepal. Their efforts, along with the work of other faithful and courageous pastors and ministry partners in this country, are multiplying leaders and healthy churches well beyond this country’s border.

Kevin Halloran serves with Leadership Resources, an organization that equips pastors worldwide in expositional preaching. He’s a member at The Orchard EFC in Arlington Heights, Illinois, where he helps lead the Spanish ministry.

Patti Richter writes and edits International Outreach stories for The Gospel Coalition and contributes faith articles regularly to several publications. She lives near Dallas, Texas, and teaches children’s Bible study at Lake Pointe Church. 

[Lazarus Thulung photo provided by ServLife International.].

Learn more about partnering with Leadership Resources to equip national pastors in biblical exposition.

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Eight Reasons Why Consecutive Expository Preaching is Needed

Listen to our interview on consecutive expository preaching below and subscribe to our blog or YouTube channel for future interviews.

Kevin Halloran

Kevin Halloran

Leadership Resources International wholeheartedly recommends consecutive expository preaching (also known as sequential expository preaching).

Since there are differing definitions of consecutive expository preaching and several misconceptions, Tim Sattler (the International Training Director for LRI) recently talked with Kevin Halloran to clarify why consecutive exposition is LRI’s preferred and recommended method of preaching. What follows is an abridged transcript. Email subscribers can listen to the interview here.

What is consecutive expository preaching?

Tim Sattler

Tim Sattler

Tim Sattler: It is simply an approach to preaching that remembers each book of the Bible has a central message intended by the author. To understand what the message is, you need to understand the whole, not just parts. It’s not a definition that says, “You have to preach so many verses a week, this few or that many”—it’s really unfolding the whole book and communicating the author’s message, not ours. To do that, we have to see the book in its entirety.

That said, you might find yourself preaching smaller texts or longer texts depending on your gifting as a preacher in communicating. Consecutive exposition is mainly making sure that you’re preaching through an entire book because that’s the way the book was communicated by God. He didn’t give us just verses or segments, He gave us a message through an author to an audience. And we have to know what that entire message is.

Kevin: Just like watching a clip of a movie doesn’t tell you the whole story, sometimes by only seeing clips you don’t even understand what the clips or movie is about. You need the whole book for the whole picture. Now we will walk through eight reasons for consecutive expository preaching.

1. Consecutive exposition demonstrates a confidence in the authority of the Bible.

Tim: The Bible sits over us, not we over it. If we are not telling the story or message the way God gave it, we are actually putting ourselves above the Bible—picking and choosing. Exposition goes further to your view of inspiration. If we believe in a verbal, plenary inspiration of Scripture; and if we believe that the thoughts, the words, the very heart of the author and communication is from God; then we have to say what God says, not what we want to say about the text. The way a preacher handles the text reveals what his view of inspiration is.

The Bible is not an encyclopedia of history. I think many times preachers or people in the congregation view it that way—just as an encyclopedia of a lot of stuff like important doctrines. Very few people sit down and read an encyclopedia from beginning to end. Usually, we go to an encyclopedia to get some information that we add to the information we are conveying. That’s the way a lot of people look at the Bible.

The way a preacher handles the text reveals what his view of inspiration is.

From the very beginning with Moses, God wanted His spokesman to communicate what He said. He made it very clear that you have to say what God says. It’s the same way with Samuel: When God brings His Word back in the time of the judges in 1 Samuel 3, to this wicked priest Eli, Samuel said everything. And it says, “God did not let any of his words fall.” Which means there was a pleasure in God that His man said what He said. In order to do that, we need to preach through books and get to the message God is communicating.

This doesn’t mean you have to preach every word and comment on every word. You have to preach what the main thoughts of the author are. Because all of those words add up to that. If we preach too small of sections, we will wind up importing our own theological ideas into the text, instead of seeing how the full passage communicates. In preaching, the art is getting to what the intention of the author is.

2. Consecutive exposition through books of the Bible is the way that most accurately communicates God’s message to us.

Tim: God has communicated His Word in the way He wants it to be heard. The best way to communicate what God has given us is to preach the books God has given us and not just pick and choose passages here and there from other books. I think many people have a view that the Bible is just a collection of verses, and they don’t know how they all connect. They may know some stories, but they don’t know the full story of the Bible. We need to do our best to communicate what God has said in the way He has said it. The Bible is a marvelous piece of literature from beginning to end, but it’s all one story. When we communicate it rightly, we capture people’s hearts.

Kevin: The way I think about consecutive exposition compared to picking and choosing your favorite verses or passages is like a puzzle. You don’t want to focus on just one piece, you want to focus on the big picture. You lose so much without the big picture. He has given us a whole book, and we need to understand that artificial frameworks (like chapter and verse numbers) are helpful for navigating the book, but they are not inspired.

Tim: You keep it in context. You keep it in the storyline. It keeps the preacher from his hobby horse and under control. It keeps him communicating what God has said.

3. Consecutive exposition helps the congregation read the Bible better.

Tim: This needs to be a goal in preaching every week. As you explain the text, one of your goals is to show the simplicity of reading the Bible for those in the pew. If it’s done well, it becomes a model of how one should approach and read the Bible. It’s not like you want people to walk away saying, “Wow, he’s so good, I think I’ll come back next week.” You want people walking away saying, “Wow, he’s helping me read the Bible.” Then, they can help others understand what the Bible is saying as well.

See: Preaching to Make the Bible User-Friendly

4. Consecutive exposition forces preachers to tackle tough topics that they might not choose on their own.

Tim: Some preachers don’t want to preach on sin, idolatry, immorality, or money; and this forces preachers to tackle the subject as it comes along. Also, when there are sensitive pastoral issues going on in your church, somebody might sit there and think, “Oh, he’s preaching that because I’m going through this.” They can’t say that if it’s the next thing in the text. They can’t say, “All he wants is money because he’s always talking about money.”

Kevin: This gives the pastor freedom where he doesn’t need to worry about potential accusations or confusion as to why certain things are coming up.

Tim: It helps a pastor learn how to shepherd people because you are preaching through it with the author’s intent. That’s going to give you the shepherding intent for the people of God. You don’t need to come up with a five-step principle on your own when the text gives it to you.

5. Consecutive exposition makes it easier to schedule preaching series and get the most out of prep time.

Tim: If you’re preaching one-off sermons every week and clearly communicating literary context to your people, those are the harder sermons to do. You really need to know how they fit into the whole message of the book.

Kevin: And thinking in terms of the whole book is extremely beneficial as you plan out your church’s preaching schedule. You can know for months and months what passage you will preach on what week. This allows for a more strategic prep time. For example, if you know all of your preaching topics for the next eight weeks, that gives you eight weeks to study the more difficult passages and think of helpful illustrations or applications. And, say four weeks into your series a major event or pastoral issue comes up in the congregation, you can hit the pause button and pick your series back up after a couple of weeks.

Tim: If a 9/11 happens, and everyone is thinking about that on Sunday, and you just keep on going through Proverbs because that’s where you were, you are probably not going to be shepherding your people well. Those sermons are harder because you need to make sure you’re doing your contextual work and know where what you’re bringing fits in.

I remember preaching through Matthew once, and I stopped when we got to the issue of hell. I had a man in my congregation that didn’t believe in an eternal hell; he believed in an annihilation. We took a week to explore what the Bible does say about hell. I adjusted my schedule because I knew there was a guy who needed to hear that. This can happen depending on the church calendar but is generally the exception.

6. Consecutive exposition helps people see the overall story of Scripture.

Tim: So much preaching is disconnected from the overall story of the Bible. There seems to be a resurgence to try and get back to that. It’s important to connect people to biblical history. It connects people to what God is doing in the world today.

We are self-centered and try to bring the Bible into our story instead of seeing how we fit into the Bible’s story.

Kevin: This is crucial for developing a biblical worldview in our people, seeing each book in Scripture in terms of the whole story, because it is the story of humanity, the story we are a part of today.

Tim: We are self-centered and try to bring the Bible into our story instead of seeing how we fit into the Bible’s story. I think as we are preaching through the Bible’s story, we still deal with the same issues. We are still fallen people in trouble and God is working through our lives. It does give us a settled confidence as we see what God is doing through the Scriptures and why He is doing it.

Related Resource: Free Bible Overview Video Course: God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts

7. Consecutive exposition preaches the full counsel of God, allowing preachers to have a clean conscience before God.

Kevin: When Paul gave his farewell speech to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, he said, “I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God….” Paul preached the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and it brought freedom for him and a clear conscience. He didn’t have to worry.

Paul preached the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and it brought freedom for him and a clear conscience.

Tim: Going back to the first point about inspiration, our conviction needs to be to proclaim what God has said, and all that God has said. This is a good way to do it without any personalized agenda, without any framework driving us, it’s a good way to stand before God and say, “I was faithful with what you commissioned me to do.”

Kevin: And knowing that James 3:1 says teachers will face greater judgment, it is crucial that we can have confidence in God’s Word and preach with a clean conscience. We’re not preaching our words, but His.

8. Consecutive exposition removes potential distractions.

Tim: We touched on this in #4 above. Someone says to you on a Sunday morning, “I feel like you were in my living room last night.” “I was in counseling with you on Thursday, and I became the illustration of your sermon on Sunday.” Consecutive preaching removes obstacles of people saying “He’s talking about me to them” rather than, “Oh, he’s talking directly to me because this passage was here for me today.”

Part two covers Three Ways to Keep Consecutive Exposition Preaching Fresh.

Related Links:

Why Consecutive Expository Preaching - Reasons

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