Mission Leads to Life

When you preach or hear a sermon on mission, evangelism you should walk out of their feeling like you were just released and given the keys to life not burdened for a task.

Yesterday at Revolution we continue our series All In and I talked about sharing our faith through serving. This series though isn’t really about evangelism or sharing your faith, it is about the motivation to go all in, to change the world, to follow Jesus into the places he calls us. That motivation for changing the world, living our lives on mission, sharing the gospel all come from understanding the love God has for us.

The problem in many books and sermons on evangelism, missions or sharing your faith is that at the end, we feel overwhelmed, as if we don’t know where to start. But we also feel like we’ll never do enough.

I got a text after the sermon yesterday and someone said, “That’s exactly what we’ve been trying to do with our friends. We feel so freed up to reach them.”

When you preach on evangelism, people should walk out and feel empowered to do everything God has called them to do, because through the Spirit, they can.

Now, should your preaching challenge, help others to see how difficult this road ahead is? Yes. But it shouldn’t feel like a burden. Jesus took the burden and gives us his (Matthew 11:28).

Enhanced by Zemanta

2 “Random” Evidences of God’s Grace

Yesterday, July 4, was an awesome day. Not just for the reasons that it was a great day for most people. A day off, to spend with family and friends celebrating the freedoms we enjoy. It was all that, but more for me.

First, on our way to swim and grill out with some of our MC, we stopped at the store to grab a few things. As I was standing in line, a line that seemed to take longer than it should. I started to grow impatient and look at my phone, which is normal for me. But had a moment where I felt like I should stop looking at it and pay attention. So I did. The lady in front of me was close to 70 years old and after everything was rung up, her bill was $17 more than what she had. She was paying in cash. As she stood there, beginning to panic as she tried to figure out what to not buy. The people behind me were growing more and more restless and the cashier was getting frustrated as he kept asking her, “Do you want me to take this off? What about this?” For me, my normal is to get frustrated and impatient, but surprisingly, I felt none of those things. Instead, I found myself paying for the difference. When I told Katie after I got in the car, she seemed pretty stunned. Gavin in the back seat her heard the story asked, “Are we going to be on the news?”

No idea where that comes from.

The second was after we got home from our picnic with our MC. Our neighbors next door we have yet to really meet. They both work long hours and we rarely see them. I was unloading the car and the husband walked over and asked if we would mind him shooting off some fireworks around 8pm, if that would bother us. He assured me they would just light up the sky and make no noise. Which felt a little bit like something a teenager would tell their parents. As we talked he said, “if your kids are still up, come over.” This was a no brainer as we have been praying about how to build a relationship with this family and show them God’s love. You can see the adventures from the night here, here, here, here and here.

Quick lesson from the day: being open and available to what God might want to do takes your day on an adventure. Blown away by how God uses us in simple, everyday ways like paying for groceries and watching fireworks. Who knew the gospel can spread that way?

Saturday Afternoon Book Review: Creating a Missional Culture

I read JR Woodward’s book Creating a Missional Culture (kindle version) as I worked on my sermon for this Sunday at Revolution Church on Ephesians 4. He did a great job of talking through how a church creates a missional culture, and how the gifts described in Ephesians 4 help a church to move in this direction.

The reality of every church or organization is that culture always trumps their vision. Culture in a church, organization or family is simply how things get done. It is how decisions are made without thinking. This is why culture always trumps vision. 

Here are a few things that jumped out in my reading:

  • More than a strategy, vision or plan, the unseen culture of a church powerfully shapes her ability to grow, mature and live mission ally.
  • The unstated assumptions embedded in a congregation’s culture either aids or hinders it in its mission.
  • In this passage the apostle Paul makes a direct link between the spiritual maturity of the church and the five kinds of equippers operating in the church: apostles (what I nickname dream awakeners), prophets (heart revealers), evangelists (story tellers), pastors (soul healers) and teachers (light givers). As the equippers incarnate their lives and ministries within the body, the whole body will be aroused and awakened to live in the world, for the sake of the world, in the way of Christ.
  • Creating a missional culture is more than just adding some outward programs to the church structure. Creating a missional culture goes to the heart and identity of God, to who we are and who we are becoming.
  • When the church is a foretaste, it demonstrates what life is like when men and women live under the rule and reign of God, when the people of God love one another, exhort one another, encourage one another, forgive one another and live in harmony with one another.
  • The idea of “culture” shapes everything we do as humans, from our thoughts while alone to how we develop family systems, to our interactions at the workplace, to the ways a specific country does its politics.
  • When someone says, “Let’s go to church,” it reveals ignorance of the nature of the church. The people of God are the church. Church is not something we go to, it is something we are. We go to a weekly gathering, we attend a worship service, but we are the church.
  • Paul tells us that when each of the equippers are equipping well, the whole body will grow up to the full stature of Christ.
  • The apostolic gifting carries with it an ability to create culture; therefore, apostles develop a keen awareness of the creation and maintenance of the cultural web of a congregation. Apostles help us remember that the mission of the church is grounded in the mission of God and is to be proclaimed visually and verbally.
  • In making disciples, apostles take an orient, involve and equip approach to training. They recognize that making disciples is a process, not a program, and it takes place within the context of engaging in God’s mission. Discipleship takes place when we are “with people,” like Jesus was with the Twelve, and it becomes personal and powerful in the informal daily rhythms of life.
  • Discipleship means inviting people to become whole again, which is partly about overcoming destructive habits, but also about building life-giving habits.
  • Apostles help disciples of Christ to reflect and refocus on their life by asking them meaningful questions and helping them to pay attention to what God is doing in and through them. They walk beside those they are working with, giving them practical assignments (with deadlines) for further growth, based on what God is doing. They recognize that training involves resourcing people theologically and practically so they can embody the good news contextually in every area of their lives. Dream awakeners understand that discipleship is ultimately about helping people follow Jesus in the concrete realities of life.
  • Apostles are catalysts who get things started.
  • I call prophets heart revealers because they reveal the heart of God and the hearts of those in the congregation. Prophets call the church to God’s new social order and help the congregation to stand with the poor and oppressed.
  • Prophets have the ability to perceive reality when others are lost in a world of illusion. When prophets come on the scene, reality invades illusion and hearts are laid bare before the living God.
  • Prophets help communities of faith to be attentive to the work of the Spirit in their midst, helping people recognize that the Holy Spirit tugs on those who are apart from Christ, assures us when we are doubtful, comforts us when we are down and guides us when we are confused.
  • Prophets help us to be filled with the Spirit and thus sensitive to the Spirit. They help us recognize the Spirit’s work in our lives so we don’t miss out on his benefits. The Holy Spirit was given as a foretaste of what is to come. The Spirit allows us to participate in God’s new age now.
  • I’ve given evangelists the nickname of story tellers, because they help the congregation share God’s story in such a way that when those apart from Christ hear the good news and accept it, their life story is transformed for the glory of God and the good of the world.
  • Evangelists equip the church to proclaim the gospel by being witnesses, and they help the congregation to be redemptive agents, turning their “secular” jobs into sacred vocations.
  • Pastors, or soul healers, help us work through past hurts and pursue wholeness, not just individually but in the context of community.
  • Soul healers seek to create an environment that facilitates healing, growth and transformation. They seek to create rhythms of life for the community which enables people to be spiritually renewed, emotionally recharged and physically refreshed.
  • Gifted teachers, whom I call light givers, shed light on the text and help us understand it in a life-giving and liberating way.[1] Teachers help the congregation to actively inhabit the sacred text by immersing ourselves in Scripture and dwelling faithfully in God’s story. Teachers understand the importance of the Word of God in transforming lives. They help God’s people remember that the Bible is a voice to be heard, not just a book to read.

If you are preaching on Ephesians 4, you should definitely reading this book. If you are looking for a book that will help you gauge the culture of your church and if it is one that is really set up to reach out to the world around you, this is definitely a book worth reading.

The Environments of Your Church

In his book Creating a missional cultureJR Woodward lays out that a church should have a culture that is learning, healing, welcoming, liberating and thriving. I found this section of the book to be particularly helpful, especially the questions he asks to evaluate your culture.

Learning Environment

  • In what ways does Scripture shape the community you serve?
  • Is the community listening to God through the Scriptures and practicing in their everyday lives what they are learning? How?
  • In what ways are people actively reflecting on what they are practicing?
  • What percentage of the congregation is immersed in God’s story and teaching the Scriptures to others?
  • How many are actively interacting with God’s story as it relates to their local context and mission?

Healing Environment

  • Do the rhythms of the church make space for people to have down time and just hang with each other?
  • Are their regular times for people to be genuine with one another – with no masks?
  • How well do people know each other and share life with each other?
  • What percentage of the congregation considers the church as family?
  • How many are experiencing healing from past hurts and moving toward wholeness spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally?

Welcoming Environment

  • How many people genuinely welcome others into their tight community?
  • How well does the faith community reflect the diversity of the neighborhood?
  • What ministries are in place to help orient people into the life of the congregation?
  • What percentage of people meaningfully connect with others in the neighborhood, at work or in other missional spaces?
  • How well does the community incarnate the good news within the various missional spaces?
  • How willing are people to sacrifice their own cultural comfort to meet people where they are?
  • How many people willingly initiate with people who are different than them?

Liberating Environment

  • What percentage of the congregation is pursuing God’s shalom in the power of the Holy Spirit?
  • How many people are actively using their spiritual gifts to build the body and serve the neighborhood?
  • Is the congregation walking alongside the poor and oppressed? In what ways?
  • How is the congregation speaking to the powers and subverting systems that perpetuate injustice?
  • How much of the congregation seeks to be good stewards of all creation for the sake of the whole world?

Thriving Environment

  • How many people are discovering their calling and living it out with great passion?
  • To what degree is the multiplication of disciples taking place?
  • What percentage of people are being mentored and are mentoring others?
  • Are there apprentices for each ministry?
  • What percentage of people has a sense of ownership in the congregation?
  • Are there ministries in the congregation that intentionally help match people’s passions with the needs of the church, the neighborhood, the missional spaces and social justice issues?
  • How many people see their work as a sacred vocation by which they are able to serve their neighbor and bring glory to God?

Great questions for leaders to think through.

Redeeming Halloween

I get asked each year at this time if I let my kids go trick or treating. Within the Christian community, there has always been a polarizing debate about halloween. Do we as Christians reject it, receive it or redeem it?

Rejecting it would mean we turn our porch light off, pretend October 31st, does not exist and shun those who participate in a day dedicated to eating too much candy. Receiving it would mean we simply go along with what our culture does, participating mindlessly. I think both of these fall short of what God calls us to as his followers.

While there is some history about the origins of Halloween that Christians should be aware of and Justin Holcomb has a great look at that history here.

Practically, the question remains what you’ll do on that day. For our family, we’ve chosen to participate with our neighbor and seek to redeem Halloween. Here are some things we’re doing:

  • Stand out in our driveway. Be out front to say hi to everyone, talk to them. This is a great opportunity to meet your neighbors. Everyone is out walking around. Not sure how often that happens in your neighborhood, but it isn’t an everyday occurrence. Being present in your neighborhood is a great step forward in being on mission in your neighborhood.
  • Build a fire in your fire pit  If you have one, do it. It makes people hang out longer when there is a fire. Put some chairs around it and invite people to sit down with you.
  • Have the best candy. Your house as a follower of Jesus should be the house kids want to go to 5 times because your candy rocks.
  • Have something great for the adults. We often have hot apple cider or some other treat that adults can take with them. Maybe bottle of water. Something they can take with them.
  • Include your missional community. Because the mission of our MC is our neighborhood, many from our MC will come and trick or treat with us and spend time helping to hand out candy.

[Image Credit]

Missional is not the Opposite of Attractional

When I finished reading Andy Stanley’s latest book Deep & Wide (kindle version), my first thought was, “This might be one of the best books I’ve ever read on church ministry or leadership.” It is chock full of wisdom, things churches can learn and ways staff’s can grow together to be effective. I’ll share a full review on September 25 when it releases, but over the coming week I wanted to share a few longer quotes from the book that pushed some thinking for me. Some I agreed with, others I didn’t, but ones I wanted to share with the My World community.

Missional is not the opposite of attractional. Stop trying to pick a side.

This was one of my favorite quotes in the book. Do you agree or disagree? Are missional and attractional really on opposite ends of the spectrum?

Does Homeschooling Deny the Missional Life?

Last week, Scot McKnight reposted some of Tony Jones’s thoughts on homeschooling and being missional on his blog. Tony believes homeschooling denies the missional life. Here’s what he had to say:

But it seems to me that if I am truly committed to living a missional life, then I must enroll my kids in the public school. That is, I am committed to living a life fully invested in what I might call the “Jesus Ethic” or the “Kingdom of God Ethic,” and also fully invested in the society — in fact, you might say that I live according to the Kingdom of God for the sake of society….

Similarly, formal education was formerly for the societal elite. But in a democracy, education is for all, with the understanding that the more educated we all become, the more humane we will be toward one another (this, of course, is open to debate).

So it seems to me that to withdraw my children from public education is to not play my (God-given) role as a missional member of society — like I can’t just choose to withhold my taxes. We give our children all those vaccinations when they’re young not necessarily to protect themfrom polio (since the chances of any one of my children getting it is exceedingly small) but because we live in a society, and part of the contract within the society is that we will never again let polio gain a foothold.

So I can’t think, “I’ll just pull my kids out of the public schools — what difference will one less follower of Jesus make in a school full of hundreds of kids?” I don’t, as a Christian, have the option to “opt out” of the societal contractInstead, I live under a mandate to be the most involved, missional societal participant that I can be.

Let me start off by saying, whatever you choose to do for schooling for your kids is completely your decision. I personally don’t think a family should put their kids in a Christian school, a charter school, a public school or homeschool them. I think each parent needs to make that choice, and it may even be different for different kids in your family. I knew a family that had 3 kids, one was home schooled, one was in a public school and the other was in a private school as it was the best for each child.

Here’s why I’m posting about this and why I took offense to it. We homeschool our kids. We made that choice after having our oldest in school for a quarter and saw what it did to our schedule, especially since I work on the weekend. We lost too much of our family time because of my work schedule. We’ve made the decision to evaluate each year what is best for our kids and our family and right now this is what is best for us.

Tony is right on one hand because many families homeschool their children to protect them from the world. I don’t think this is a good idea. At some point they will encounter the world around them. But to say that it denies the missional life it to say that every Christian who has their child in a public school is living on mission. If that were the case, our schools would be drastically different.

Living on mission and homeschooling simply means you have to be more intentional about how you life on mission, how you bring the culture into the life of your kids. You have to think through it.

Here are some things we do:

  • Our kids go to school 3 days a week for specials: gym, art and music. This helps them to meet other kids, be in a school, it allows us to meet the teachers and build a relationship with them.
  • Be outside. People walk around neighborhoods, they work in their yards, on their cars. Play out front instead of in the back. People walk around our neighborhood around 6pm, so we try to play out front then.
  • Invite your neighbors over, get to know them. Football started this week and that is an easy invite to a neighbor.
  • Get involved in the school. You can volunteer at the school, be a part of fairs or carnivals the school puts on that are open to the public.
  • Ask the principal how you could serve at the school and then follow through.

[Image Credit]

Mission Opportunities for Revolution Church’s Move

I shared this past week that Revolution Church is moving to Sunday morning on September 9 and we will be meeting at Magee Middle School. The response to this move from our church has been overwhelming. It is exciting to see the excitement that people have about this move. I am excited about this for a number of reasons, but one of them are the mission opportunities for us as a church and individuals.

Here are just a few:

  • Having your Saturday night free to hang out with friends. Let’s face it, a lot of things happen on Saturday’s. Either parties for kids, things downtown on 4th Ave., U of A football games, sports for kids, and a variety of other things. For the last 4 years, our family has had to say no to much of this because of church and we’ve missed some great opportunities to be with people who don’t know Jesus.
  • Unchurched people are more conservative about church attendance. I shared this when I talked about our move, but we have seen this personally in our own church and seen it through a variety of polls and studies. When it comes to church attendance, unchurched people are more conservative than churched people.
  • Blessing Magee. We’ve already had some opportunities to bless the faculty and students of Magee with some simple things they’ve asked for. I’m excited about the potential of an MC focused on serving and loving the school, and other ways we as a church will be able to be the gospel to them.

Top Post of 2011 – #10: Gospel Intentionality Everyday

Over the last 11 days of 2011, I’ll be posting the top 11 posts of 2011. Here is #10: Gospel Intentionality Everyday.

One of the reasons many people don’t live on mission as a follower of Jesus is time. Every Christian would agree, or should agree, that we are called to live on mission. That we are to reach the planet and disciple all people. Yet, most studies show that only 2% of Christians share their faith and live on mission.

Why? We have lost the idea of doing everyday, ordinary things with gospel intentionality. We see and often make living on mission an extra thing we do on top of everything else we do.

Here are some great questions taken from Missional Community Life by Tim Chester to think through how to do everyday, ordinary things with gospel intentionality and to live on mission in all of life:

List all the activities – including the mundane – that make up your normal:

  1. Daily routine (for example, travelling to work, eating meals, chores, walking the dog, playing with the children).
  2. Weekly routine (for example, grocery shopping, watching favorite TV programs, getting exercise).
  3. Monthly routine (for example, gardening, getting a haircut, going to the cinema).

For each activity, ask whether you could add a:

  1. Community component – involving another member of your faith community.
  2. Missional component – involving an unbeliever.
  3. Gospel component – talking about Jesus.