Switching Fish Bowls

For all but one year of my ministry life I’ve served in an area [North San Diego County, CA] that is blessed with an abundance of solid, biblically sound, evangelical churches. Southern California truly is a “Christian Disneyland.” At present the website for our ‘denomination’ lists 329 affiliate churches in California. Our administrative pastor at CCEsco has often joked, “You can’t swing a dead cat in San Diego without hitting a Calvary.”

All kidding aside, I think it is a good thing we have so many [good] churches in this area. Would to God that we had twice as many (or more) bible believing/teaching churches in California, and an exponential increase nationwide. In Escondido there are three Calvary’s (one of them Spanish speaking), which have a combined weekly adult attendance of about 1,000, in a city of 140,000+. There is certainly no lack of opportunity and no room for territorialism. The push for church planting and church revitalization is [to me] greatly encouraging. But I’m bothered by an observation I’m sure many pastors could identify with.

Week after week we have new faces in our fellowship. Rarely does a service go by where no one raises their hand to identify there self as a guest, or does not drop a visitor card in our offering or agape box for more information about the fellowship. The irritation comes when you interact with the newcomer and find that they’re attending your church, having left another solidly biblical church to do so. So, church growth does not always mean CHURCH growth, especially when Barna has, in recent years shown a > 90% increase of unchurched adults in America (approaching 100 million in 2007). (1) (2)

The landscape is filled with a multiplicity of varying sized fishbowls, in which the Christian [fish] swim. They were once caught in the sea of humanity by fishers of men, but now much of the [apparent] growth comes through fishbowl switching and not drawing in the net. Furthermore, much of church growth initiatives I see come across my desk are aimed at casting the net in other fishbowls. When a mailer goes out from a church with words like “rapture,” “sanctification,” or an advertisement for Phil Wickham leading worship, it’s not exactly aimed at non-believers. The fact is, spiritual inbreeding is twisted.

“Less than 20% of Americans regularly attend church” said Outreach Magazine in 2006. There’s an awfully big sea of people out there needing to be caught. Jesus’ word’s to (the fisherman who never caught a fish apart from Jesus’ help) Peter, are appropriate…

“Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.”

Luke 5:4

The simplicity of Jesus’ command is striking; it surely went against everything that Peter’s expertise as a fishermen would have said. With all the writing out there on church growth, we sure seem to have a lot of expertise in our day too. Perhaps it’s time to seek the Lord for direction from the shore as to where to go for fish. His ways always seem to yield a draught.



“John answered, saying to all, ‘I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’”[1]John the Baptizer speaking of Jesus

“We believe that there is an experience of the empowering of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer that is distinct and separate from the indwelling of the Spirit that takes place at conversion.”[2] – Chuck Smith

“The baptism with the Spirit was not optional for the apostles nor should it be for us.  Jesus had commissioned them to go into all the world with the gospel, but commanded them to wait in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from heaven.  Jesus saw this as absolutely essential to fulfilling their calling.  And I believe it is essential for us in the twenty-first century as well.  The Lord wants to empower us for ministry.”[3]Brian Brodersen

Discerning whether or not Jesus has called you to church planting is essential if you’re thinking about becoming a church planter.  There is more to have than a clear sense of calling though before you step out into the adventure of church planting.  The mission of church planting is a spiritual offensive on the kingdom of darkness.  You come against powers beyond yourself on the mission field.  That reality makes it necessary for the church planter to access a power beyond himself that is even greater than that of the kingdom of darkness if he wants to survive the mission.  He needs the very power of God through the reception of the baptism with the Holy Spirit (or Spirit-filling if you like).  Only then will he even be able to begin to be truly effective in the mission of Jesus.


The Personal War

Jesus conveyed this message to me in a very interesting way shortly after I arrived with my family in Utah to plant Refuge Church.  Early on in the life of the church I began to experience intense opposition.  I went through a season where I dealt with a lot of physical affliction.  I came down with swine flu, shingles, successive intense and unusual chest colds, culminating with an episode of stomach flu which left me puking my guts out all day, every day, for a week.

The physical pressure I was under at that time gave way to spiritual pressure.  As things intensified bit-by-bit the enemy began to tempt me to doubt God’s call and favor on our lives as we endeavored to start a new church in enemy territory.  I was getting really frustrated and insecure in some ways.  In the heat of all this, the Lord gave me what I now know was my first truly prophetic dream.   In the dream my wife Jen and I came to a large open field that was over-run with people participating in demonic worship.  They were dancing in worship in an absolutely chaotic frenzy.  There was an intense sense of darkness in the atmosphere around us.  It was freaky!

As the dream shifted gears, suddenly Jen and I were standing before a fence overlooking the field where we had before witnessed the satanic gathering.  Now it was broad daylight and we could see the narrow cliffs lining both sides of the field stretching far out into the horizon.  Jen and I were passionately praying over the field.  We were crying out to God to take that land from the power and kingdom of darkness and possess it for the kingdom of Jesus Christ.  We prayed for Him to use us as He took the enemy’s territory for Jesus!

And then it came.  As we prayed a giant and seriously intimidating red horse emerged from the field.  The horse came charging out of the field through an open gate a few yards from where we were praying.  I braced myself as the horse reared up to trample me down and kill me.  Then perhaps the craziest thing happened; As the beast lifted up to stomp me, I grabbed it’s front legs and twisted them until the horse was forced to the ground in submission.  After it was defeated the horse vanished and we were safe.  At that moment I woke up feeling really spiritually affected as I’m sure you can imagine.

As I prayed over the vision during the next few days the Holy Spirit granted the interpretation of the dream to us.  He reminded us that the picture of a field is often symbolic in the Bible of places in the world where He intends to bring His Kingdom.[4]  He showed me that in my dream the field represented Utah, the place He had called us to be some of the instruments through which He would bring His Kingdom.  In the dream He was confirming to us that as we work and pray for the coming of the kingdom of Christ in Utah, we would experience opposition that was too great for us to overcome on our own.  The opposition we would face as we served Jesus in Utah was represented by the horse coming out of the field to stop us as we prayed.  The ending of the dream in which I twisted the horse’s arms until it was forced into submission was a word of encouragement.  It was a declaration that even though the opposition would be great, we would ultimately overcome it through a power greater than our own, the power of God the Holy Spirit!  Even in the dream I was amazed that I was overpowering this fierce animal, and knew that something had to be working with me to accomplish this.  It was the power of God.

Where the Power’s at

The word of God given to the prophet Zechariah summarizes what the Lord was telling me through that dream in regard to what would make us successful as we fought on the front lines in spiritual battle as church planters.  Our ability to be successful and push back the gates of hell in Utah would come, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.”[5]

We’ve made relying on the leading and power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the mission of Jesus through Refuge Church our relentless pursuit from the first moments we sensed Jesus was calling us to plant.  The Lord was reminding us through this dream to continue on in that mindset as we served Him in Utah.  As we’ve sought to obey Him in this we’ve seen the Holy Spirit continue to move through our local assembly of believers in powerful and undeniable ways.  It’s so exciting to watch the Spirit of God work through the people of God, for the glory of the Son of God, Jesus Christ!


The Need

Jesus spoke of the need for His missionaries to access the power of the Holy Spirit for their mission as much as anyone else did in the New Testament.  Consider a couple texts and their implications for the call to missionary church planting:


“And being assembled together with them He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘Which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now…you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’”[6]


These verses describe the last interaction that Jesus had with the apostles before He ascended into heaven.  This is what He wanted to leave fresh in their minds as He was sending them out into the world to continue the ministry He had started during His time on earth.  They were about to go preaching the gospel, discipling believers, healing the hurting, and church planting as the kingdom came on earth.  They were to start in Jerusalem and not stop until Jesus had a witness in every nation, even to the ends of the earth.  But they were to attempt none of this until they received the empowerment of the Holy Spirit!  Without the Holy Spirit leading and empowering every aspect of their missionary lives they would be absolutely helpless to successfully accomplish the work to which Jesus had called them.

Luke records the concern Jesus had that his men understand their need for Holy Spirit empowerment at the end of the gospel He wrote as well:

“Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  And you are witnesses of these things.  Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”[7]

The importance of experiencing the empowerment of the Holy Spirit for the work of church planting is clearly something that Jesus wants us to thoroughly understand.  If we think that we can be clever enough, cool enough, strong enough, strategic enough, or inspiring enough to bring people from spiritual death to life and beat back the gates of hell, we are at best naïve, biblically uniformed, prideful, and far from the heart of Jesus.  The work of God requires the power of God.  It is that simple.

As we venture out to the front lines where the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light meet in battle, which is exactly what we do when we enter into the work of church planting, we must consciously, prayerfully, dependently, and daily receive and rely on the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to make our mission fruitful.  If you don’t believe that, or aren’t prepared to walk in the power of the Spirit by God’s grace, DON’T PLANT A CHURCH!

Horses Vs Tanks

          I once heard a story of a cavalry unit that charged into battle against an armored tank division.  The cavalry unit was the last resort of defense for a country not as advanced militaristically as their invaders.  I’m sure it goes without saying that the cavalry unit was utterly destroyed!  Why? They didn’t have the adequate fire-power or equipment to even come close to overpowering the enemy they faced.  I would submit to you based on the words of Jesus Christ that if we try to be victorious in church planting over the opposition we face in the demonic realm without relying on the power of the Holy Spirit, we are a billion times more foolish, and will be far more fruitless than that cavalry unit ended up being as they challenged that armored tank division.  In the words of brilliant theologian, captain Kirk: “We just-don’t-have-the power![8]

Ten days after Jesus ascended back into heaven from where He came, the disciples did in fact experience the promised empowerment of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.  As they prayed in the upper room the Holy Spirit came upon them in power.  He manifested His power through them first by enabling them to worship God in languages unknown to them,[9] and later through the powerful preaching[10] of the gospel through which 3,000 people became born again.[11]  Since that time, all followers of the biblical Jesus have access to the empowerment and various gifts of the Holy Spirit[12] which He distributes according to His will as we seek and desire them.[13]

Summary and Exhortation

As believers, pastors, elders, and church planters, the empowerment of the Holy Spirit is an absolute must in our lives!  If you’re not seeking the power, don’t attempt the work.  If you want to experience the daily empowering of the Holy Spirit all you need to do is continually meet with Jesus in the word of God,[14] pray over the mission you’ve received from Jesus,[15] and ask to receive a fresh work of the Spirit in your life from the Father. [16]  It’s a gift.  We don’t have to beg for it; just receive it.  May we not have dead words!  May we have powerful biblical messages to share as we preach the Bible to the church and the gospel to the world because we depend upon the power of the Holy Spirit alone for our success, just like Jesus[17] and Paul did![18]

[1] Luke 3:16 NKJV

[2] Smith, Chuck. Calvary Chapel Distinctives. Page 31.

[3] Brodersen, Brian. Essentials in Ministry. Page 27.

[4] Matthew 13:38-44

[5] Zechariah 4:6

[6] Acts 1:4-5 & 8 NKJV

[7] Luke 24:46-49 NKJV

[8] Random Numerous Star Trek Episodes, Captain Kirk

[9] Acts 2:1-4

[10] Acts 2:14-39

[11] Acts 2:41

[12] Acts 2:39

[13] 1 Corinthians 12:11 & 14:1; Ephesians 5:17-18

[14] Colossians 3:16

[15] Acts 4:31

[16] Luke 11:9-13; 1 Corinthians 14:1; Acts 9:17

[17] Luke 4:1

[18] 1 Corinthians 2:4-5

Note- The above excerpt is taken from the book “The Spirit-led Mission” by Kellen Criswell

MOTROW by Trip Kimball

MOTROW— no, not Motrin, nor is this some phony, phonetic attempt at saying Montreal with a peculiar accent. It’s an acronym, a set of letters that stand for something, but more on that in a bit. I use acronyms, but don’t always like them. Acronyms are big in special fields of study and institutions, like government for example. They’re great shortcuts, especially when writing, so you don’t have to waste time and effort writing all those words. The problem is understanding what they mean. Unless there’s some familiarity with the acronym, it may look like a jumble of letters or something written in code—actually, it is code, it’s symbolic.

Anyway, back to MOTROW. It stands for Most Of The Rest Of the World—a phrase I’ve kept using as a catch-all expression. In some circles this was called the “two-thirds world.” World missions organizations use the term “majority world.” What nations does this include? It’s easier to say what it doesn’t include—the USA, Canada, Australia, England. Even that list is too broad for what I mean by MOTROW, so let me narrow it down.

First of all, nations, as the Bible describes them, are called people groups—people with a distinct culture and language (or dialect) regardless of their geographic location or political government. There are thousands and thousands (16,696 to be exact) scattered throughout the world, ranging in population from several thousand to a few million. You can see a list of people groups on the Joshua Project website for a complete index. Over 40% of these people groups are considered unreached with the Gospel, having no Christian witness or community among them.

A real distinction of MOTROW is how the world is seen, called a worldview. MOTROW consists of non-western cultures. By non-western I mean how people think, interact with others, and live out their lives. This has to do with priorities and values. Americans (and similar western cultures) focus on time and tasks—getting a job done and using time efficiently (“time is money!”). MOTROW is focused on people and events, and events are important because of the people involved or celebrated in the events.

For example—in America, a wedding is typically focused on the couple being married, the venue, the style or theme of the wedding, and so on. In MOTROW, the couple are important, but so are family and friends. My first glimpse of this was in the Philippines. On the wedding night following the ceremony and reception, many close friends hung around till late in the evening with the bride and groom in their bridal suite (cottage). Anniversaries, in a similar way, aren’t celebrated by the couple alone, but with family and friends. MOTROW is more about community than individuality.

Another distinction is thought process connected to living. In America, we tend to be more concerned with the destination than the journey itself, and with test scores than the usability of what is learned. We, along with most western-oriented cultures, tend to think in a straight line, analytically. This is both a great strength and weakness. Others from around the world (MOTROW) come to America, enrolling in our schools to learn this capacity. It is valuable. It’s a weakness when we become so focused and driven that important life realities are neglected—relationships, quality of life, creativity, inspiration, peace of mind and heart, spiritual needs, you get the idea.

So, how does this relate to anyone, especially in America? There’s a couple things that come to mind. MOTROW has been moving into the good ol’ US of A for the past few decades. There are many people groups living in communities (usually urban areas), often isolated and bewildered by American culture. Thankfully, there are some churches and communities reaching out to them, but not nearly enough to meet these needs. There are great opportunities for reaching the world with the Gospel right here in the US, and many people and ministries are doing so.

The second thing is, most Americans are oblivious to MOTROW—inside America or outside. Our news about the outside world is limited, edited, almost non-existent. The internet has helped, but only if you’re looking for world news. Even then, it’s still pretty limited. Reading and hearing the news outside the US is quite different. Political and cultural views of the world and America are from a different worldview. Stands to reason, and it gives anyone willing to consider it an opportunity to see things differently.

So, look around wherever you live. There’s likely a people group or two from MOTROW near you. Have you already recognized people from MOTROW around you? Have you had any interaction with them? If you’re not ready to reach out or help them in some direct way, start praying for them, learn about them (see the Joshua Project website), and eventually engage them. Your perspective on life and the world will change. Your world will expand!


Trip came to know the Lord after wandering through a maze of eastern religions and philosophies during the 60′s. He was baptized in water and the Holy Spirit during 1971 at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. In 1972, along with his wife, Susan, he was called into full-time ministry, serving in various capacities and ministries in the US and overseas since that time.

He planted and pastored a church in southern California in 1978 (Joshua Springs Calvary Chapel in Yucca Valley, CA), and began serving full-time in the Philippines and South East Asia in 1990. Susan and he established Rainbow Village Ministries in 1991, and Trip was the founding director of the Calvary Chapel Training Center in 1995. Trip also served with Calvary Chapel of Dumaguete City as an associate pastor and board member.

Presently, Trip and Susan live in Jacksonville Beach, FL and continue as directors of Rainbow Village Ministries in the Philippines.

Trip is currently involved with discipleship within a local church body, as well as traveling within the US and overseas to teach and train leaders.