Archive for the ‘Missional living’ Category

Christian Posers?

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

At the risk of sounding anachronistic, I want to share something a friend, Jon McIntosh, posted to Twitter about 8 hours ago. I know, I know…in the world of Twitter 8 hours may as well be a year, but for me this article is telling and timely. Take time to read it and let me know what you think (my thoughts are below):

http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/23/we-pretend-we-are-christians/

It’s a sad state of affairs when a non-Christian family has to pretend to be Christian just to find friends and have play dates for their kids. What a commentary on the problem of the overreligious South when our Christianity permits us to shun someone because they don’t share our faith. Are we not called to love them, befriend them, and to pray for them?

Religiousity claims the hearts and minds of millions in our culture, and unfortunately we are often party to the problem. We miscommunicate so much about the gospel (often without even realizing it) because we make Christianity about everything but Christ and the gospel about everything but God. We make Christianity about “going to church” rather than “being the church.” Or we make it about not doing certain things on a list, rather than loving our neighbor through serving them. What would happen to our communities if the gospel came alive in our hearts and our hands?

I hope that families who do not share our faith will never feel shunned by the people in our church. I pray that we will have the courage and the conviction of the gospel to love them no matter what, to invite them into our homes, and to partake of their friendship with the hope that we will win them to God who loves them.

My Prayer

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Father, take away my religion and give me Jesus, for if my theology and doctrine do not terminate at your throne it is useless. Stip away my pride and my need for human approval and acceptance. Fill me with gospel courage and grant me an unshakable faith in Jesus’ sufficiency.

Missions or Preferences

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

“Missions makes this point: it is not about us and our preferences. It is about his mission and the fact that he sends us. We want to practice our preferences. We want things to be the way we like them. But God wants us to be on mission with him, to be sent to some group of people somewhere, and to minister in a way that meets their needs, not promotes our preferences. When we are functioning as God’s church sent on mission, we will go into different cultures, contexts, and communities. We will proclaim a faithful gospel there in a culturally relevant way, and we will worship in a way that connects in that setting. When the connection is made, the code is broken. God does not tell us that we will always like it. He does say that we will always need to function as his missionary church.” — Ed Stezter & David Putman, Breaking the Missional Code (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006), pg. 32

I read these words, yesterday, and I re-read them, today. I am convicted and concered. It is so easy to craft our churches in the ways that we prefer supposing our preferences will prove to be missional by default in our given context. Then we scratch our heads wondering what’s wrong when it doesn’t work. Stetzer and Putman are dead on.

We need to think missionally about all that we do and carefully consider how we are connecting with lost people around us. Are we guilty of imposing our preferences and waiting for lost people to submit to them, or are we actively engaging them where they live and work with a desire to lead them to Jesus?

The Spirituality of Children and Church Planting

Monday, July 13th, 2009

As a father and a church planter, one of my ongoing concerns are the needs and welfare of the children of our church. I’ve always struggled with the fact that at this point we cannot offer all of the programs and activities available at larger churches. It’s also distressing to see good families pass us by because we can’t offer the activities they want for their kids. So, with that bit of preface and full disclosure, I want to offer some thoughts on why I think participation in church planting is better for the spiritual growth and development of children than just being involved in the average children’s ministry programs churches offer.

Before I get too far, however, I had better offer a disclaimer: As you read these thoughts you may be tempted to believe that I am simply criticizing the efforts of other churches in order to justify our church, or that I am saying that our church will never offer similar ministries to other churches. I am not saying either. My goal is not to discredit well-intentioned, well-thought, and effective ministries of other churches. I wish only to offer some insights and observations about the benfits of church planting to children which I believe compensate if not acutally outweigh the benefits of the average children’s ministry. So, with that little caveat, here we go.

1. Children in church plants get to see missions first hand rather than just read about it in book or see it in a video. I’m a hands on kind of guy. I learn well and I learn fast through reading and observing, but I learn best by actually doing. I’m also naive enough to believe that most people learn best by actually doing. It’s one thing to read about an adventure; it’s a completely other thing to live one. When children are involved in a church plant they get to be a part of the mission adventure and live through the spiritual growth and development of a church that will inspire and influence them for the rest of their lives.

I’ve met several MK’s (Missionary Kids) over the years, and I have often found them to have a unique passion and perspective when it comes to the church and her missional work. They are often impatient and discouraged by the self-centeredness of many American Christians.¬† Having our children directly involved with misions will do more to protect them from spritural stagnancy and laziness than all of the Sunday School classess, VBS’s, missions programs ever developed. Don’t sell your children short; don’t merely entertain them and put them in places to make them “happy.” Labor for their eternal joy; be jealous and zealous for their spiritual happiness and ultimate satisfaction in God.

2. Children in church plants learn the joy of serving. Let’s face it. Selflessness is a learned behavior. We’re all naturally self-centered and want to be served. We have to train our children to be self-sacrificing and servant-hearted. If we are not careful we will cater to our children’s natural selfish desires all in the name of providing them the best opportunities to be ministered to. If “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28) should we not disciple our children to serve others? I’ve watched the children of our church get excited about serving. While they all love to go outside and play, they will also join in setting up for church and tearing down after church. They all seem to enjoy the oppourtunity and appreciate being a part of something big and important. They believe that what they are doing makes a difference because we as parents believe it makes a difference.

3. Children in church plants learn to believe in a big God. I have not encountered any better way to grow faith than to exercise faith. Planting a church requires faith in a big God to provide and empower so that lives will be transformed. Children who grow up in an environment where God is actively at work and lives are transformed grow to believe in a God who delivers and shows up. They learn to trust God as their church trusts and follows God. They learn to pray for their church and it’s misison and they participate in the celebration of the church when God answers prayer.

Now, granted, everyone of these things can be learned an any church that strives to be missional and endeavors to connect with its community. All I am suggesting here, is that a missional church plant offers the best opportunities for children to grow spiritually and learn about a big missional God who changes lives. Don’t discount churches that can’t or don’t cater to your kids. Be careful not to make your church decisions on the basis of the best programatic offerings. Instead, ask yourself, “Where will my kids best learn to be missional, serve others, and trust in a big God?” Get involved in a missional church and bring your kids along for the adventure. They will be forever grateful for the eternal investment in their lives that results.

Why do we make it so complicated?

Friday, March 27th, 2009

It’s amazing how complicated church gets when the gospel ceases to be central. I’m working my way through Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, a couple of guys from the UK who’ve thought a lot about church and practice what they preach. Steve spoke at the Acts 29 Boot Camp in Seattle a few weeks ago, and since I only got to hear a third of his talk I bought the book. These guys have some important things to say to those of us who care deeply about the church and her mission.

I’ve been struggling with the institutionalization of the church for some time due to an ever nagging feeling that we’re missing something important, something great, something radical and life-changing. By institutionalization I mean that tendency to view and conceive of the church in terms of its institutional structure and character so that we think of the church as a corporation¬† with a life of its own apart from its members. “Why is this a problem?” you may ask. Good question, because there is a positive sense to the church having it’s own identity distinct from it’s membership if it positions the church as prophetic organization within the life of the community enabling it to influence change and development for the sake of Jesus and the good of people. The legal standing of a church enables it to interact with other organizations in an officially recognized capacity and to own and maintain property. These are positive aspects to the church as an institution.

The negative aspects are manifest in they way we interact with the church. Over a period of time we can begin to see the church less as a vibrant growing community of God’s people and more as a thing that exists outside of ourselves to which we owe loyalty, sacrifice, and involvement. The distinction while maybe a bit nuanced is critical. The church is the body of Chirst (1 Cor. 12:12-31; Eph. 2:14-16), an organic, living body of which we are members. The church is not a place, a building, or an institution. It is a community, the bride of Christ, composed of lovers of Jesus who follow Him and serve Him. We do not serve the church; we serve Jesus through the church. The distinction between the church as institution vs. the church as body/community explains how the church can survive and even thrive in places and times of extreme persecution. Were the identity of the church bound to its status as an institution it could not exist where it is not officially recognized. But it does exist throughout the world without official goverment or community recognition. The undergound church in China has thrived despite goverment opposition.

I (along with many others) am convinced that recovering this basic identity of the church will lead to a radical transformation of our sense of mission and purpose in our generation. It’s not that this concept of church is new or has ever been completely lost for we find it in every revival, reformation, and movement of God throughout history. But it has been obscured by our pre-occupation with creating Christian sub-cultures that are divorced from missional engagement with other cultures around us. Our “bigger is better” mentality can insulate us from the cold harshness of missionary work by enabling us to feel pretty good about ourselves and our progress whether we are tranforming our communities or not. We need to push the church out of the nest and release her into the wild so that more people will come into contact with gospel saturated Christians who love Jesus and lead others to Him.

Further thoughts on contextualization and missional living

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Picking up from the sermon a few weeks ago, I wanted to add some additional thoughts regarding contextualizing the gospel and living a missional lifestyle. Not everyone is gifted in the same way and not everyone is comfortable with ministry in certain settings or circumstances. For instance, one may be completely at home chatting with strangers and acquaintances at Starbucks while another is more comfortable ministering to the needs of the sick. One may have the resources to underwrite a mission opportunity fincancially but be uncomfortable actually getting on the plane.

The secret to missional living is you opening your life up to God and yielding to Him in all that you do. How can you tansform your community by the power of God? Simply by engaging the people in your sphere of influence with the gospel of Jesus Christ as you use your gifts and abilities for the glory of God whether you are a firefighter, a homemaker, a teacher, a pool cleaner, a forklift driver, an insurance salesman, a farmer, a stock broker, a kid in school (homeschool, public school, or private school), a nurse, a manager, a truck driver, a college student, or a guy with no job at all. Whether your blue collar, white collar, no collar, whatever your status you can and should be a missionary right where you are.