Announcing Spoken

by Jonathan Towell

Announcing Spoken

Written on June 21, 2017

In late April, we quietly launched our first iPhone app. “Spoken” allows people to learn English by reading Bible and receiving free coaching from a native English speaker. Students record their scripture readings and Christian coaches record responses.

Experience from partner ministries like WEI and Let’s Start Talking has, for many years, shown that there is incredible global demand for English. This demand is fertile soil for finding seekers.

When a person signs up for World Bible School, it is usually because they already had some interest in the Bible. This is not always true when a person signs up to learn English. Instead, they are exposed to God’s word, sometimes for the first time. Of course, we know the power of the word of God:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

The approach for Spoken is simple. Adopt a student. Listen to scripture readings (on your own time). Record a response that gives encouragement, pronunciation advice, and a thought about the scripture. Invite your student to study the WBS material with you. And when your student decides to put on Christ, let us know and we’ll help with follow up.

Each response takes 30-60 seconds. This tool is very simple to use.

Shortly after launch, we began global advertising to people searching for things like “English coaching” or “English pronunciation help.” Some of the top responding countries are Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Philippines, Myanmar, Egypt, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Morocco, Nepal, and Algeria. Do you note a pattern? This is an excellent opportunity to connect with and teach Muslim and Hindu seekers.

Today, we have hundreds of students ready for a coach. Will you help us and adopt a student?

How to sign up as a coach?

If you are already signed up as an online WBS study helper, you can sign up to coach by emailing us at

Note: To be a Spoken coach, you must speak English as a first language and have an iPhone.

What makes a church work? Five traits to consider.

Minister Steve Cloer surveyed leaders of 25 ‘Churches That Work,’ looking for trends to help Christians live missionally.


Steve Cloer | For The Christian Chronicle

May 2015


What does an elder need to be doing to help his church be outwardly focused? What about the minister? How should elders and ministers work together to help their congregation be on mission?

Views | Steve Cloer

In the past three years, I have researched these questions, with assistance from The Christian Chronicle’s “Churches That Work.”

Since 2005, the Chronicle has highlighted Churches of Christ that — while not perfect — are examples of “evangelistic, biblical, united and visible” congregations.

I surveyed the elders and ministers of 25 of these congregations, asking them about their personal background, individual leadership practices, what the elders and ministers did together at their congregation and how they understood their roles. I also asked them to rate their congregation on certain missional behaviors such as hospitality, risk-taking, service and evangelism. More than 100 elders and ministers responded.

I then ranked the congregations based on how the leaders responded and visited the four congregations with the highest rank. I sat down with the preacher, the elders and the other ministers on staff. I observed their worship assembly and, when possible, their elders’ meetings.

I gathered my notes from my visits and analyzed the survey to see if there were any common themes that emerged. Were there certain patterns that the elders and ministers exhibit that foster a missional focus in their congregations?

I found five.

1. The elders functioned as nurturing pastors. Elders focused their attention on people. Rather than dwelling on budgets, buildings and programs, they spent the majority of their time with people. They prayed often for people. They encouraged people. They were available.

The net effect was a nurturing, stable environment where the church felt empowered — instead of controlled — to step out in faith as disciples of Christ.

2. The ministers functioned as missional catalysts. The elders’ focus on pastoring creates space for the minister to gently push the congregation to live God’s missional vision. This happens in a variety of ways.

One minister consistently described to the congregation what God is doing among them and their neighborhood in hopes of inviting the congregation to participate.

Another concentrated on mentoring, teaching and equipping members to be missionaries where God places them.

There are other avenues, but all the ministers consistently kept the idea in front of the church that God calls them to something bigger than just taking care of themselves.

3. The ministers and elders functioned as a team. They developed a high level of trust and respect for one another. They understood one another’s roles and giftedness. They were not envious or power-hungry. Rather, they relied on each other.

This teamwork develops through longevity. The ministers at the four churches I visited had been at their congregations for at least 20 years.

Also, they spent plenty of informal time together — in recreation or fellowship. In fact, one minister described his elders as if they were his family. This teamwork produced a harmony as the elders pastored and the ministers led toward God’s missional vision.

4. Leaders walked through the wilderness. Maybe the most surprising result was that all four churches that I visited had moments of wilderness, or spiritual difficulty. They shared with me about church splits, elder resignations, staff moral failures and theological controversies that created difficult moments in the past.

But what set these churches apart was how they handled the wilderness. They did not react by making surface-level changes or knee-jerk decisions. Rather, they continued to trust God’s leadership. They looked to God to see what he was teaching them. As a result, the wilderness actually became preparatory and formative for the future doors that God opened for their congregation.

5. The church cultivated a missional identity. In many ways, this is the result of the other four trends. Because of the pastoring, missional leadership, teamwork and time in the wilderness, the four congregations found unique ways to engage their local context.

One congregation created a missional culture through short-term mission experiences and participation in local mission efforts.

Another congregation focused on equipping enlisted men and women from a nearby military base for ministry. As a result, this church sent out 500 disciples in 10 years.

One church had an “inside-out” strategy. They worked hard to be a sign and foretaste to the reign of God. So, when new people walked in, they would say, “God is present here!”

These five patterns are not ground-breaking or earth-shattering. But they do illuminate a path.

What should leaders be doing to help their church engage the mission of God in their neighborhood?

• If you are an elder, love the people of your church. Be a good pastor by creating an environment where the congregation feels free — not restricted — to follow God’s call and live as a missional disciple.

• If you are a minister, 
recognize your role as a witness of the Gospel. Spend time in the neighborhood and community to see what God is doing. Begin to cast God’s vision of redemption, and challenge the congregation to participate.

As both sets of leaders work together as a team following God’s lead — even through the wilderness — God’s spirit will form congregations into a missionary people.

Steve Cloer is preaching minister for the Southside Church of Christ in Fort Worth, Texas — featured in this month’s “Churches That Work.” He is completing his Doctor of Ministry in Congregational Mission and Leadership from Luther Seminary. He and his wife, Lindsay, have three children. Email him.


As we seek to make disciples, do we need to be discipled?

Melissa Anderson | The Christian Chronicle

February 2017

Melissa Anderson | What We’re Reading

I’m in the middle of two books: “Multiply” by Frances Chan and “Radical” by David Platt. Both focus on how Jesus called Christians to make disciples among the people.

Francis Chan. Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples. Colorado Springs, Colo: David C. Cook Publishing, 2012. 336 pages.

As I study, I’m somewhat convicted that there are more things I could — and should — be doing. But mostly, if I’m being honest, I feel pretty good about the work I’m doing. I spend time helping others. I set a good example. I’m vocal about my beliefs. My faith is strong. My prayer life is strong. I’m studying a good deal.

Really, I’m in a good place.

As I think about ways I can disciple others, it starts to hit me. All of these things I feel good about doing also are things that other people do for me. Others share their faith with me. They pray for me. They study with me. Are they discipling me? Do I need to be discipled? Yes, in fact, I do.

David Platt. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. Colorado Springs, Colo: Multnomah, 2010. 240 pages.

It’s extremely humbling, but all of us need someone to show us how to become even more like Christ. We will never reach a point where we don’t need to learn more about him and his ways.

My problem with this is my pride. I don’t want to be discipled. I don’t like the idea of people doing things for me out of a sense of obligation. I don’t like the idea that someone would look at me and see a sin or a flaw that needs work. I don’t like the idea of being someone’s project.

The truth is that I need those who are wiser in their faith than I am to guide me. I need someone to point out my sin when I can’t see it for myself. It’s tough to acknowledge that we are flawed, that we need each other. It’s tough to let others take care of us. It’s tough to be discipled.

As I read these books, my focus isn’t only on how I can apply them toward making disciples of others, but also how I can be more open to allowing others to make a stronger disciple out of me. It isn’t about me anyway. It’s about God and bringing him glory.

MELISSA ANDERSON is a military spouse of 18 years. She and her husband, Joshua, have three children and worship with the Gateway Church of Christ in Pensacola, Fla. She has a Master of Business Administration degree and is pursuing a master’s in marriage and family therapy.

WHAT ARE YOU READING? Share your thoughts on the books, music and films that inform, influence or impact your faith. Send your suggestions to


Be a Christian Anyway! Brett Petrillo

Has life been tough? Does it felt like the world is set against you? Be a Christian anyway (James 1:2-4).

Or, has life been full of sunshine? Have good things been lining up for you? Be a Christian anyway (Ecclesiastes 7:13-14).

Has sorrow been seeking you out? Has the heavy burden of poverty been placed on your shoulders? Be a Christian anyway (Matthew 11:28).

Or, perhaps it’s been a time of joy? Has prosperity been overflowing for you? Be a Christian anyway (Matthew 6:19-21).

Has someone gossiped, slandered or spoke evil against you? Has someone done you wrong or betrayed your trust? Be a Christian anyway (Matthew 5:11-12).

Or, have people been kind, tender and loving? Have they been paying compliments and giving encouragement? Be a Christian anyway (Ephesians 4:32; Hebrews 3:13).

Does it feel like you’re one of the few still following God? Does it seem like evil is winning? Be a Christian anyway (1 John 4:4).

Or, have you been encouraged with those working hard for the Lord? Are you seeing people standing out for Him like never before? Be a Christian anyway (Philippians 2:12-13).

Are you fearful or hopeful about the direction of our country? Are you mad or joyful, sad or happy with the election results? Be a Christian anyway (Romans 13:1-7).

Whether good or bad comes our way, whether poverty or prosperity, whether troubling times or tremendous times, no matter what comes, we know what to do. Be a Christian anyway!