Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Embrace Being an Everyday Missionary

The past six months I have been reading a lot about movements and paradigm shifts within the church that change the world and the one that has been mentioned the most in recent days is the resurgence of missional Christians. In short Christians who embrace their role as everyday missionaries. I also feel like part of my current role is to help others embrace this role as an everyday missionary and here is some of the questions that I have been presenting to others and wrestling through myself.
1. How are you best leveraging your opportunities for authentic gospel-centered community?

  • If Sunday is the only time that you meet with your faith community then you do not have true gospel-centered community.
  • In the New Testament the church is compared to a family (household) that depends on another as we depend on Christ, which is countercultural, but reveals a gospel-centered life.
  • It is our responsibility to show people that they are hungry for biblical community.
     2. How do we have affective gospel-centered community?

  • It requires us to start by getting out of our "holy huddles" and to start seeing ourselves as everyday missionaries.
    • Every follower of Christ must embrace this and not see missionaries as only those that move to another country.
  • One way to do this is by staying focused on our neighborhoods and workplaces.
    • This is why I prefer a model that meets in homes throughout a city instead of on a Sunday morning because it more affectively allows us to take the gospel to our neighborhood and city.
    • Inviting people to church is good, but it is not sharing the gospel with them and you are mistaken if you think it is your pastors job to share with those within your realm of influence.
  • 1 Peter 2:5-6 (House made of Stone)
    3. Challenges to embracing your role as an everyday missionary in gospel-centered community:

  • At a moments notice you must be available to gather together with those in your faith family.
  • You see your homes as ministry centers for those in your community, not a retreat from them.
  • You view every interaction with each other as an opportunity to bless unbelievers within your midst. 
*It must be noted that embracing your role as an everyday missionary will inevitably put you into relationships that you may not always be comfortable with.

   4. Do you know where the people in your city are gathering, what is their 3rd place?

  • Examples: Coffee shops, bars, clubs, etc.
  • Do you know what the people are discussing and what their interest are?
        What I am getting at here is that if you are to embrace your role as an everyday missionary that it will require you getting out in your community to build relationships with the people.

Each time I have discussed this idea I leave the discussion with a parting verse that is my prayer for those that embrace their role, which comes from 1 Thessalonians 2:8: "We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us." So let us stop gathering in our churches and take the church to the community we live in and embrace our roles as everyday missionaries!

Resource of the Day: For the City and Total Church

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Church has a Body Image Problem

I mentioned yesterday that I spent the weekend in Wilmington and one of the things that I really enjoy about visiting there is hanging out with a couple of my close friends. I enjoy this time and value these relationships because the conversation inevitably turns to one of spiritual nature. All three of us are from different backgrounds(Charismatic, Baptist, and Jewish), but we all have one crucial thing in common, our Lord and Savior is Jesus Christ! 

Our time together always allows us to open up with each other, be honest with each other, and often disagree with each other. But within our disagreement we do it in a respectful and open way as we have captured the essence of looking at the church as a whole instead of our particular camp (tribe).

Our conversation brought up some things that I may blog more specifically on later, but the essence of the conversation was that it is God who draws us, saves us, and gives us the hope that we long for in life. The book of Galatians was brought up as we discussed how so many churches  and denominations try to add things to salvation such as be baptized, speak in tongues, dress a certain way, etc. But the reality is that none of those things provide you with salvation. (For more see my post on Gal. 5 from May 17-20)

We discussed how critical the body of Christ is with each other because if someone is not from our particular camp (tribe) then they must be absolutely wrong. The reality that we discovered is that although there is room for disagreement a lot of the criticizing comes from the church having a body image problem, which is exactly what we as individuals often have. Think about how often you look in the mirror and how many of those times you are critical of what you see. The church is the same way and will only continue to look that way as we are not fully restored yet.

Luke 6:42 comes to mind as this verse is often ignored when it comes to the church as a whole, which says: How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

This verse is often forgotten and it needs to not only be heard, but applied in the life of those that truly follow Christ. The reality is that there are things that we all in the church need to work on and many local churches may look different then the one that you are part of, but we must remember that we all have areas that we need God to continually work on and that God can still use us and our church in spite of ourselves.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Commissioned and Sent Out

Spent some time in Wilmington, NC this weekend to visit with one of our partnering churches in church planting, Northside Church. By partnering church I mean a church that has committed to pray for us, walk along side of us, and assist us in the planting of churches in South Asia. It is key to bring along some of the foundational churches in your life when being sent out to church plant as it encourages them, blesses them, and allows them to take part in the larger mission of God.

We value their partnership dearly as this was the first church that Andrea and I were part of together. They gave me the opportunity to teach a class on Sunday morning where I was able to share about our vision of church planting and then lay before them some challenges for their own lives of embracing their roles as everyday missionaries in Wilmington and beyond.

My favorite part of spending Sunday with these brothers and sisters in Christ was seeing Acts 13:2-3 practical lived out. [2] While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” [3] Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

The entire congregation of Northside took time to recognize us as set apart for this task that we have been called to by God. They then corporately surrounded us, laid hands on us, and prayed for us as they sent us out to go and plant churches.

We were greatly encouraged by our weekend at Northside Church and look forward to our partnership with them in the calling of Church Planting. I love to see the church on mission and recognize when God is at work and joining Him in that work!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Exponential - Missional Church Movement

Many of you are aware that I will soon be a Church Planter in South Asia so much of my time in recent months has been spent on reading books on church planting, movements, and reproducibility. I have many for recommendations and many more that I am going to be reading over the summer.

This weekend I have been spending some time reading Exponential by Dave & Jon Ferguson and think that the five reproducing principles that they have learned in their own story of church planting are worth sharing, whether you are someone who wants to be involved with domestic or international church planting.  If you are someone who does not have church planting on their mind, it is important to remember that we all play a role in the Kingdom of God as the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 was given to all followers of Christ so there is part in a missional church planting movement for all of us.

In addition to the reproducing principles, I will add practical application to each one from my role as a missional community leader and some from my future role as a church planter.

Five Reproducing Principles 
1. Reproducing requires everyone to have an apprentice.
   -In my role as a small group leader I sought out at least one individual from the first week we started meeting as an apprentice that could later be planted out to form a new group of missional believers in another part of the city.

2. Reproducing is proactive, not reactive. 
   -Our missional community is going through many transitions including my family moving to South Asia, but we are still going to be proactive in planting a new missional community in another area of where we live instead of allowing fear of the unknown to set in that would cause us to be reactive.

3. Reproducing is not about size; it's about leadership readiness.
   -Leadership readiness can not be an overstated principle as without this you will not see a successful missional community or church plant. In South Asia we will desire to see elders appointed by the local body of believers before fully pulling out to plant elsewhere.

4. Reproducing isn't about our kingdom; it's about God's Kingdom.
   -In many ways it would be easier for my family to stay here and continue to lead our missional community because I believe God is stirring up some amazing things in and through this group, but I must remember that it is about His Kingdom, not mine.

5. Reproducing happens on the edge and at the centers. 
   -A reproducing movement is not going to happen through a single missional community or a single church plant in South Asia, but rather it is going to take missional communities and church plants everywhere that forms networks and continually reproduce themselves.

Purchase Exponential:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Communication, Clarity, and Chaos - Vision

The three C's: Communication, Clarity, and Chaos. The first two are things that you want to see in order to avoid the third. I recently experienced a mix or the lack thereof of all three of these as I was part of putting on an event as an outreach and a way to build relationships with a predominately spanish speaking community near where I live.

My missional community (small group) expressed interest in jumping on board with what they call "Project 58" (I am voting to change the Project part of the name) to see what it is all about. By the way, the 58 comes from Isaiah 58: I designated this role to one of the guys in my missional community who did a phenomenal job. But what unfolded was a lack of communication, clarity, and turned into a bit of chaos.

Our group quickly became the front runner throwing the event with a ten day notice as we partnered with four other groups. This was the first issue as we had expressed interest, but knew that for this particular event only a few of our people could be committed. In other words we should have never been in charge.

Next there was a lack of clarity as to what exactly we were doing collectively as a larger group, which is also a lack of communication. I sensed that all of this would be evident on the day of the event and I was... right. It is not that I wanted to see a bit of chaos, but it happened. People weren't sure why we were there, where they were supposed to be, and all of the necessary materials/items were not there.

Eventually we got our feet on the ground and made the event work, but we also got rained out in a sense. In some ways one could look at this event and consider it a failure, but we/I did not because of the relationship that my larger body of believers has with each other and our love to see our community reached.

We had a debrief on Project 58 last night and it went great as we were able to express some of the positives, negatives, frustrations, and lessons learned. This could have easily turned into a finger pointing meeting, but instead it turned into the people of God casting a vision and mission over this part of our city.

We now collectively understand that it is not about an event, but it is about building relationships with these people on a daily basis where we model the life of Jesus and live amongst the people, blessing the people, and making disciples amongst these people. We are now working on a mission statement and I do not know if this is what it will be, but in a sense it is that Project 58 exists to see every family and every household in these communities transformed by the gospel and discipled in the next five years.  

I would like to leave you with Jeremiah 29:5-7 as this is what I see capturing the vision for this community.

[5] Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. [6] Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. [7] But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
(Jeremiah 29:5-7 ESV) 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sunday School or Small Group? Neither

In many churches, specifically the denomination background that I grew up in (SBC), there is much debate as to whether to do Sunday school or Small groups as the best means of discipleship. I grew up with Sunday school and have been involved with small groups during my adult life and my conclusion is neither.

Sunday school is often good for kids, but if you look at most of the material put out by places like Lifeway then you quickly find yourself questioning why you are wasting your time on a Sunday morning. Yes, it can be a good form of a Bible study, but it most often stops there. It turns into an additional hour on Sunday mornings either before or after hearing the sermon. But what people need is not another hour of teaching because that usually results in overload and by Wednesday people do not remember much of either one. 

For most churches in the modern era the answer to Sunday school has been small groups. Small groups are much more laid back as they typically meet in homes, involve snacks, and people are more casual. I do think that small groups are a better form then Sunday school, but I have this sense that for many churches small groups have just turned into Sunday school at someone's house or another Bible study. That is the reason that I see neither as the answer. An interesting fact is that in the last two years I have been both a Sunday school teacher and small group leader, but with missional intentions,;).

Instead I am a proponent of being/living in a missional community where every disciple of Christ sees themselves as a missionary wherever it is that God has placed them. Typically a Sunday school or even small group turns into something that is on your list that you do once a week. Being/living in a missional community is your life, not something that you add to it. 

Currently I still lead a "small group", but we have focused a lot on seeing ourselves as missionaries in RDU and transitioning into a missional community. It must be said that this has not happened overnight and in many ways is still happening. So if you are in a group, whether it be Sunday school or a small group, do not get discouraged because it does not happen overnight, but eventually each group member will see themselves as a missionary and collectively you will start living your lives on mission with God's mission. 

Neil Cole presents The DNA of a missional community as:

1. Divine Truth—the presence of the Spirit of Jesus and His Word
2. Nurturing Relationships—the many one anothers found in the NT
3. Apostolic Mission—being sent ones, individually and as a community.

Resource of the Day:

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A "New Type" of Christian

Last night my wife and I had a couple over for dinner that consists of an American Buddhist and an ex-Catholic. He has explored many religions and has much respect for many of them, but identifies most with the teachings of Buddhism. She on the other hand is recently wounded from the Catholic church and leans more towards an agnostic now.

The man and I have been dialoguing for sometime now as we met first and quickly began to discuss matters of faith. Although we disagree a lot in regards to faith, we always have a respectful conversation with each other and continue our relationship. During our dinner last night he said something that struck me and gave me some encouragement.

He said, "I had pretty much blown Christianity off years ago, but when I met you it gave me a hope that there is more guys like you and that there is a new type of Christians on the rise."

A statement like this tells me a few things. First, what the world is looking for is a group of people who actually follow Jesus, his teachings, and lifestyle. Second, for far too long the church has portrayed something different then what we are called to be. Third, I believe that the world has a hope that the gospel message is true and that it is often us that get in the way of that.

For this particular couple some of their biggest drawbacks to Christianity is the intolerance that they see. Now, it must be said that some of that will not change because it is important that we call sin what it is, but we must remember to do it in a way that reflects the love and grace that Christ gave to us. But in addition to this, let us rise up and be the church that we are called to be. Instead of always being known for what we are against, let us be known for our brotherly love for each other and for the world so that we may display this "new type" of Christian. 

Here are some resources for today's post:

  • Radical; Radical Together by David Platt
  • For the City by Darrin Patrick and Matt Carter
  • The Church of Irresistible Influence by Robert Lewis

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Revolutionary Power of Christianity

My pastor, J.D. Greear, is coming out with a new book this coming fall simply titled Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary. I was able to get an advance copy of the first chapter of the book and let me tell you that I am excited about the release of this book because I believe it specifically speaks to myself and many of those that I grew up within the church.

Early in chapter one Greear says, "Recently, I discovered something that has changed everything.... The Gospel." Now, that sounds like a strange statement for a pastor to make, but I believe that many of us are at that same place right now. We understand and believe the Gospel to an extent, but are we allowing it to completely re-define our lives? 

A re-defined life is where the turning point comes for Greear and will come for all of us. He goes on to say, "The Gospel has done in my heart what religion never could." This statement hits at the core of what most all of us have experienced in trying to "do good" in order to be accepted only to learn the reality of the gospel that we are only accepted because of what Jesus has already done. 

Greear states early on that what he wants to do through this book is to help people simply abide in Jesus because abiding in Jesus will change everything in your life. He ends chapter one with a Gospel prayer that for several years now he has prayed as a way to saturate himself in the Gospel. I have already found this prayer to be helpful in my own life and it can be found on his own blog:

Although to some this book may seem extremely simple and in some ways it is, but at the core it allows one to take a step back to see if they are living a life center on themselves or centered on Christ. In many ways the church needs to get back to the "basics" of the Gospel so that we can recover the power that made Christianity revolutionary.