Earp Takes Aim | Faith, Culture, Life

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A Manta Mantra

I’ve been on blog-cation for a couple of weeks.  On week #1 I was in Ecuador with Compassion International.  Last week I spent some time with my children and their families.  It has been a very enriching time.  But I’m back…!

First, I wanna tell you about Ecuador.  For quite some time, I’ve been praying that God would open a door for me to lead our young church into an amazing global impact.  Having sensed that our season as a mission {noun} was over, I began asking Him to give us a mission {verb} that would hold out the hope of the gospel through both the cross and the cup. 

What do I mean by that? 

Some missional advocates love to say, “preach the gospel; use words if necessary.”  Their point is – the gospel is “a way of life” and true gospel ministry is “making a better world.”  And while I get their point, the Bible teaches that the gospel must be proclaimed {with the cross at the center of that proclamation} and responded to {in repentance and faith}.  And since making disciples is the #1 priority of the church — believers must verbally declare the gospel by holding out the cross of Christ.  So my prayer has been that God would lead me to a globally-focused mission that would do exactly that.

However, although saving a lost soul is the church’s core mission [even over feeding a hungry stomach] – true faith is inseparably connected with good works.  Salvation by faith and mercy to the poor are fundamentally linked – since caring for the poor is a gateway into evangelism {i.e., offering a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name — see Mark 9:41}.  In Jesus’ ministry, He routinely healed the sick and fed the hungry in order to build a platform for evangelism. 

So true gospel ministry is both the cross and the cup.  They are inseparably linked.  And in many cases, ministry to the poor may even precede the sharing of the gospel.  But it cannot be either/or.  It must be both/and. 

That doesn’t mean that we give expecting conversions in return {Luke 6:32-35}.  We don’t give only because the person we help is receptive to the gospel, nor do we withdraw if he or she is no longer receptive.  But our motivation is to lovingly and sacrificially and generously offer the cup but do it in Jesus’ name.  That is, means according to His authority and power, which was purchased through the cross. 

Without question, the pinnacle of the gospel is the cross.  But a key way we get to share the cross is by extending the cup.  But please note…both require involvement.  Not talk, but action.  And not some sea-change of action, but a tribe [no matter how small] who is willing to test the waters and then return from their adventures telling their stories of life change. 

We are called to spread the gospel:  To serve Christ as His salt and light in our world –to do good to the city that He loves — and to save lost souls through His blood.  But we do that by getting out of our holy huddles and by engaging those we meet with the gospel.  A gospel that includes both exalting the cross and extending the cup. 

And that’s what I’ve been praying for…and why I went to Ecuador.  For 36 years, Compassion International has served children who are trapped in a cycle of extreme poverty.  It is an amazing missional agency, now serving over 1.1 million children across the globe. 

But here’s what drove me to want to visit Ecuador.  Compassion does its gospel work in partnership with the local church.  Which means, every Compassion project does what I believe a true gospel mission must do — by both exalting the cross AND extending the cup. 

Our team of 30 pastors visited a region of Ecuador {called Manta} that desperately needs both.  And having returned from this adventure, many on this trip believe that God is calling us to be His vessels to reclaim Manta with the gospel.  And we believe that He is calling us to both plant churches and start Compassion projects all across this region – and by do so, thus fulfill the law of Christ. 

And just so you know, I plan to lead our church into that mission. 

You need to know that every time I held a child or fed them a meal or watched their eyes sparkle at the mere mention of their sponsor’s name but even more at the mention of Jesus’ name – my heart leaped inside me.  I wept a lot during this trip – many times because of the sheer enormity of the need and many other times because I wished that Cindy had been with me.  You see, Cindy loved children with all her heart and served them her entire life.  {I’m not much of a kid person, whereas Cindy wasn’t much an adult person…which made us such a great team.}

But in a very real sense, Cindy WAS with me.  Cuz she became the fuel that will fire this new ministry.  Jesus is engine, but Cindy will be the fuel.  And so, in the name of Jesus and in honor of Cindy’s life– our tribe is going to hold out the cross and offer the cup — to some wonderful, deserving children in Manta. 

Exactly HOW remains to be unpacked.  The details are still to be finalized, but this IS gonna happen.  I’ve been trying for months to envision a fitting legacy to my bride’s amazing life.  And now, finally, I’ve found it.  Just imagine planting churches {after all Cindy was an unabashed fan of the church} and sponsoring dozens of children {because they were Cindy’s favorite kind of people} — in Jesus’ name {since He was her greatest love}. 


When I returned to the States and spent a few days with my own children, I became even more burdened by this need.  Cindy and I have six kids who are now adults.  And our kids are having kids.  In fact, Andrea announced that she is having another!!  And although Grammy and Papa’s two granddaughters [with a third yet-to-be-determined grandchild on the way] will have access to the cross and not much need for the cup — there’s another little baby also about to be born down in Manta who will not know either — unless we up here both tell and show them.  Both exalt and extend.  Both the cross and the cup.

Comments (2)

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Princess in Training
LOVE it, Dad! Can't wait to see the plan in action!
Andrea , November 09, 2010 | url
Right on, right on
Steve, I haven't visited the site in a while but you've got the writing juices flowing. Awesome! Keep it up. As you wrestle through the long healing and recovery keep broadcasting the learnings. (side note: you've got to someday put these writings in a book). I agree with one of your comments you can't get stuck! Case and point...when I was just out of college I learned a high school friend of mine had passed away tragically. She was the new mother of a beautiful baby, her husband the new pastor of his first church. They were traveling from town to town, she was breastfeeding the hungry baby in the back seat..when she finished she buckled the baby in but due to a tough night with the newborn the night prior her exhaustion resulted in her falling asleep before buckeling back-in. Her husband very tired too, dozed off at the wheel, just long enough to run off on the shoulder of the road...upon realizing this he over adjusted in order to regain control of the vehicle. Instead he lost control and my friend, his wife died leaving behind he and his daughter. All this to say, to my knowledge I hope he isn't but I think he is still stuck and I've got to believe that isn't God's plan. Although it isn't hard to see why a person could get stuck. How does a person recover from that and find the joy you write of? However, by faith I know he has great things still in store for you. I would love to see you get married again if it's in the "cards" and live out the rest of your days a neon Vegas-like

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