Church Strengthens Us in Our Weak Areas

I was thinking about how I was spiritually challenged and strengthened when we were in Louisville, KY from ’13-’14 as I studied my MDiv at Southern Seminary, and we went to Clifton Baptist Church. As I was a pastoral intern at the church for that year, I was blessed to be able to get a closer look at the church and the leaders of the church than I probably otherwise would have been.

Three of the elders in the church had particular strengths that were exactly spiritual gifts that I am very weak on. One elder was Tom Schreiner. He was such a humble guy, though he had written many well-known books at the seminary. But every week he would get up out of his seat and help old ladies in our Sunday school class as they would get into their seats. He never seemed to be self-promoting about himself, but soft-spoken and unassuming. I am a proud guy and feel incredibly challenged when I think about Tom’s example of living out humility. Another elder was David Dykes. He is willing to serve others, and would often be the one to go way out of his way to help people out when they were in need. I am not too strong in serving others, and so I could see his model of service and learn from it, to try to be more like him in that regard. The last elder I want to mention is Shawn Wright. Shawn has an amazing spirit of gentleness about him. He is approachable and has a soft and gentle spirit to him, and in how he interacts with those around him. Again, gentleness is not something that I feel very strong in. So Shawn’s model of gentleness is something I can strive to pray to have more of for myself.

Praise God that He puts people around us in the church to strengthen the church as a whole. And He also desires that when we see godly traits in others that we don’t necessarily have, we may strive to pray that the Lord may grow us in those areas.

Urgency of Gospel

Originally in my July 30th, 2007 Journal [summer after 2nd year in China]

I was with God: listening to Piper sermon, singing praises, prayer, memorizing verses, writing, listening to Andrew Murray’s Ministry of Intercession. I’ve been really getting lots of satisfaction in God’s presence. The Spirit is teaching me some good stuff.

Our first priority is to preach the gospel. If I truly believe that people around me are going to hell if they don’t believe in Christ as Savior, how am I loving them by not telling them how to be saved? I know it’s disruptive at this school & it disrupts the peace here. But just because millions of people in China are content with their lives, does not mean that they’re NOT going to hell. They’re still going to hell whether they know it or not.

My Book on Missio Nexus

On June 27th, the large missions network Missio Nexus put my book Becoming Native to Win the Natives on their website:

I was thankful Missio Nexus could choose my book for their monthly author interview on their Leaders Edge resources page. I did the interview with the VP Marv a few weeks ago. It was a great opportunity for me.

If you are a member of Missio Nexus, I suggest you to read what has been posted on that website about my book, and you can listen to the interview with me about my book.

working on book #2

I’m in the process of writing my 2nd book. I’m now looking for a publisher for it.

It’ll be about suffering and God’s sovereignty in our sufferings. Much of the book will be about a biblical understanding of suffering. Then the 2nd half of the book will be about some of my particular sufferings & how the Lord has carried me through them.

I started writing the book about two years ago. And I am nearing completion of the book.

I could use prayers for guidance & strength from the Lord in all this.

I think about Paul’s words: “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17)

Review of my book in EMQ

Last weekend I came across another review of my book Becoming Native to Win the Natives. It was written in the January 2017 edition of the missions journal Evangelical Missions Quarterly (EMQ).

You can read the review below, written by Dr. Ed Scheuerman, professor at Lancaster Bible College:


—Reviewed by Ed Scheuerman, professor of intercultural studies, Lancaster Bible College

Living among nationals is not enough to accomplish the goal of gaining acceptance in order to share the gospel. The missionary needs to seek to ‘become native.’ Drawing upon his ten years of living in China, Tabor Laughlin’s primer highlights the challenge of crossing the line from being among to living with those God calls the missionary to serve. He additionally calls the reader to “build deep relationships with them and to be intentional to share with them the gospel” (p. 8).

This short book (just 71 pages) is in three sections: (1) principles, (2) practices, and (3) take away. Each of the seven chapters ends with a few practical questions. The primary benefit of this book is its practical suggestions in such areas as language learning, food, dress, and identity among the local community. Laughlin wisely stresses the need for integrity in areas such as one’s visa.

The author seeks a level of acceptance where, “They will no longer see us as an outsider” (p. 37). But I don’t know that this will be entirely possible. Personally, one of the best days of my life in China was when I was told that I was “just like a Chinese.” I knew that this was a statement of acceptance but that I would never truly be Chinese.

Another slight concern is when Laughlin writes, “In such instances, when we realize that it’s actually our home culture that does things weird, not the new culture, maybe we should consider adopting the local custom” (p. 42). Neither needs to be “weird,” just different. We need to guard against making value statements (in either cultural direction) when customs are simply different. But the main point of adopting local customs is advisable.

Referencing Romans 14, the author wisely exhorts the reader to consult local believers when seeking to decide what would be a potential stumbling block for both believers and unbelievers in the local culture. “May the Lord grant you his wisdom in such cases,” he writes (p. 43). Laughlin similarly makes strong value judgements about children’s education and a wife’s language learning. “For her, studying the language should never be a higher priority than taking care of her family” (p. 58). I understand his intent here, but I would caution against imposing a Western value—in this case, of how one prioritizes family life. While I would not advocate imitating the family life of William Carey, I also don’t want to impose my Western understanding of family uniformly on everyone. The concern here, as with attempting to follow presumed “biblical standards,” is the need to recognize that how we interpret the Bible is also done with a cultural lens.

This book will serve well as an introduction for those about to get on the airplane to go overseas. But it can also serve as a challenge for all Christians to increasingly and appropriately seek to be in the culture in which God has placed them, regardless of their here and now.

Western vs. Chinese Theology

In my “Teaching across Cultures” class this week with Dr. Craig Ott, he had us read a book by Richard Nisbett from 2003. The crux of the book is that Westerners and Asians think differently because of their different ancient roots. Westerners were most highly influenced by the ancient Greek mindset, which is to make laws and formations for everything around them. Whereas, the Asians were most influenced by the ideas of Confucius, which do not put so much emphasis on making laws or explaining everything with air-tight rules.

Within the realm of theology, Western theologians always need to have air-tight explanations and arguments to explain everything from the Bible. Whereas, most non-Westerners (Asians, Africans, Middle Easterners, Hispanics) are not as concerned to make air-tight theological laws, but are able to accept the mysterious and paradoxical parts of the Bible (i.e. Calvinism vs. Free Will).

Thinking about these factors interested me greatly. I think about my best Chinese pastor friend, who leads a small house church in NW China. He knows all parts of the Bible incredibly well, as well as any Chinese person I know. However, he has never been one who is interested to discuss more debated theological topics that may be normal for Westerners to discuss. These debates just are not important for him.

A New Semester Starting…

Tomorrow morning I begin my summer semester.

It will be a busy summer semester, as I take 3 classes. For the 12 weeks of summer, for 6 of the 12 weeks I’ll have 3-4 hour intensive classes from 8:30-12, from Monday through Friday. So it’s gonna be busy.

As goes with the beginning of any semester, I have mixed feelings. I’m anxious about having such a big load and weary from school in general. I’m anxious about how my classes will go and how I will interact with my classmates and professors. I wonder if I will be able to handle another busy semester.

At the same time, I’m excited for the friendships that I develop through my classes. I’ll become close with some people I have never met up to this point. And of course I will learn a lot from my classes. These things may be valuable for me in the future, whether it helps me as a missions organization leader in China, or it helps me in just having a greater understanding of God and His people.

This semester my classes are:

Teaching across Cultures – Craig Ott

History of the Expansion of Christianity – Alice Ott

Anthropology for Mission and Evangelism – Darrell Whiteman [visiting prof]


I think of Ezra’s words: “Because the hand of the Lord was on me, I took courage and…” (Ezra 7:28)

A Busy Semester now Finished

This semester has been incredibly busy.

I’ve taken a large load of classes at TEDS, as well as co-teaching a Master’s class at TEDS for almost 2 months.

And we started getting involved with our church here, which we committed to in January. The church is Holy Trinity Church, located in downtown Chicago. The lead pastor is Jon Dennis, who leads our downtown congregation. We’ve really enjoyed going to the church, though it’s a bit far away from where we are in Deerfield. But we love the church and also the weekly small group we’ve been involved with the past several months.

And most recently, our son Charles was born. He was born 7 weeks early, so he had to stay in the NICU at the hospital for 4 weeks. And then nearly 4 weeks ago, we were able to bring him home. Just this week he passed his due date and is no longer premature status. And he’s gaining weight and eating well.

Praise God for carrying us through such a busy time & giving us strength in what He has for us each day!

Birth of our Son this Week

The main update recently has been the birth of our son this week, Charles.

Praise God for this special gift! He was born March 30th around 2 am, weighing 4 lbs 10 ounces. A few days before then my wife’s water broke and she was put on bed rest at the hospital till the baby came, which ended up being a few days later. The name “Charles” is one that we liked the sound of it and I liked the name because of the connection to Charles Spurgeon.

Because Charles was born 7 weeks early, he needs to stay at the hospital in the NICU for another month or so before he can come home. They’re taking good care of him there & use an incubator or feeding tube if they need. Please pray the Lord may strengthen his body at this time and he’d be able to eat on his own & gain weight. My wife is feeling well & has come back home after a week in the hospital. She & I need prayer as we take many trips to the hospital throughout the week for Charles & feed him. My wife’s mom graciously drove here from Oklahoma earlier this week to help out in our time of need.

Chinese Students Bold in Evangelism

Originally in my March 12th, 2007 Journal [my 2nd year teaching at a univ. in eastern China]

This afternoon, a few students came over. We prayed together & gave them Bibles & then they headed out to the Education College [another university across the city]. They returned two hours later & again we met & prayed. They shared stories about the people they had talked to & given Bibles to. Good stuff.