Archive for October, 2009
It does not follow. I have only been back in the U.S. for a few months after living overseas for some time. Coming back there are a number of things that I continue to scratch my head about and try to reconcile how emphasis in these areas is consistent with the sending of God–Missio Dei. Aware of how prone church in some parts of the world is to take its cues from U.S. church, I feel it is important that the U.S. church at least be aware of these…. By way of disclaimer, I am not writing that each of the below items are bad things. However, I am writing….
Here are five things that may not serve as expressions of the “sending of God.” While the list these come from is longer, I thought it wise to pause here for the time being. And yes, the sequitur will follow. (smile)
- Naming of a church and the marketing mix – I am amazed to see several individuals, organizations, and churches spending so much energy and money seeking to determine what is the best name for a church. Is it marketable? Is it clever? How will the community receive the name? Does it appeal to our target audience? What logo can we design around it? What should our (corporate) colors be? While “a good name is more desirable than great riches,” I’m not entirely certain this Proverb refers to the church. Is the church name to be: 1) descriptive of the sending of God; 2) a tool to bring people to God; or 3) nomenclature of the people that are being sent out that bear the image of God?
- Style of worship – This seems to be one of the biggest debates over the past several years. Really I think the debate is about issues much bigger than just the style of music. I also think it is about bigger issues than the style of preaching. But is the debate as important as we have made it? How does this music or that music / this preaching or that preaching correspond to the sending of God? What place of preeminence should this topic hold in “as you go make disciples?”
- Buildings and campus(es) – As a pseudo-foreigner, the message I am receiving is: a (church) building is good; a campus is better; multiple campuses are the best. Does this follow with the sending of God? I’m not saying, I’m just saying. I do see an outlier effect here, but that is for another post on another day.
- Sermons for sale – Really? If that were to happen then I would think it would be time to be thinking about a Great Commission resurgence.
- Numbers – Is the staff office covered with numbers or names of those the staff is pleading for? If staff are hired or fired based on their output of numbers, what do we do with proven servants of God? Are we craving efficiency or an anointing? Would a church today hire Jeremiah?
Both simply straightforward and overwhelmingly complex, the nature of God is comprehensible to a child yet ever fascinating for an adult (an idea fleshed out in “The Ethics of Elfland” chapter in Chesterton’s Orthodoxy). A range of books on the topic illustrate this fact as you can see this in books such as the children’s book What is God Like or adult classics such as J.I. Packer’s Knowing God or Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy–all great reads. One aspect of the nature of God that profoundly impacts an evangelical’s understanding of Scripture, worldview, life, family, etc. is the missionary nature of God. The Missio Dei or “sending of God” is key for us, I firmly believe, to “think rightly about God.”
This is a key theme that will receive space in this blog. The “sending of God” impacts church past, present, and future. The creation and implementation of Sunday School reflects the church’s understanding and identifying with the Missio Dei when it was instituted a few generations ago. The Willow Creek seeker-sensitive model also is consistent with the Missio Dei for its time and place. The future is now in the making. How we move forward will be consistent with how we understand God and our willingness to be passionate about the things he is passionate about (aka obedience).
Continuing to be impacted by this, I have been reading the Bible with Missio Dei as a filter for some time now. Recently, I had the privilege of sharing “The Missio Dei Story” (MP3 download) with the wonderful people at Northstar Church in Blacksburg, VA. This is available through their website (10/13/09) as well as on the mission resource page on this blog as a tool to further thinking about the “sending of God.”
From time to time I will be posting original writings of guests from around the world. In this post, a strategist / practitioner in Florida shares his goals and strategy for engaging some of “the least of these” through a ministry to impact lives both inside and outside of the prison systems. Thanks friend!
The Vision is for the Matthew 25 Mandate to be obeyed and the Acts 1:8 Strategic Challenge followed and The Timothy Initiative of 2 Timothy 2:2 started in the correct missiology of Luke 10:1-3 prayer to the LORD of the Universe to send workers into HIS harvest because the harvest is truly great, but the workers are few! So therefore…
We are committed to recruit, train, and develop missionary individuals and couples who will learn to LOVE the “least” and go into the prisons (long term incarceration) on MISSION TEAMS to build relationships through Training for Trainers (T4T) and then to share their homes with former youthful offenders, adult inmates, and sex offenders that they already have relationships with.
As we start small faith communities GOD will grow them into Missional Church Plants. Each disciple disciples others AND each new believer is a church planter (missionary) AND each planted church is a church planting church (with GOD’s SENT and SENDING divine nature)!!
It is not all about making believers. It is about making disciples! The discipling process takes years and is a function of ReJesusing the missionary so they can ReIntroduce the LEAST of the brethren to GOD in obedience to His mission. This will add salt back into the Western church incidentally, in the process!
According to research (chart below and here), the U.S. is increasing in spirituality while religion wanes. This study and others like it are not consistent with the views of several contemporary atheists such as Harvard chaplain Greg Epstein. A USA Today article–Atheism 3.0 finds a little more room for religion–shares this trend.
How are we to reconcile that religion is increasing while religion is decreasing? While there are several possible explanations, I will offer one that I feel is plausible–besides the possibility that this iteration of an atheist view is just starting to be published and may have impact in future numbers. (The following is a hypothesis based on anecdotal experience, not research.)
Spirituality involving thoughts and ideas associated with God are increasing. This is evident in the increase in the number of “spiritual” shows and movies as well as research results. Also increasing are acts of kindness commonly referred to as social action, but this does not appear to be included in research. An increase in social action is evident by the increase in socially active organizations and ideas ranging from clean water for third-world countries, human trafficking awareness, micro loans, etc. When researchers ask most U.S. respondents about religion, I suspect that respondents are expressing their opinion or experience on consistent religious activities whether it be a Protestant, Catholic, Mormon, Islam, or other expression of ritualized church attendance. When this is an expression of anything–be it faith or process–that does not include action–making a positive difference in people’s lives–it is rejected as hollow by a growing number of people. The religion atheists are embracing according to the article is that of doing good and being good citizens. Epstein states that: “When our goal [as atheists] is erasing religion, rather than embracing human beings, we all lose.”
I would propose that future research include questions about belief in God or someone higher than ourselves; the importance of doing good for others; and frequency attending a religious ceremony. Both the research and the article point to a post-Christian reality. Both also point to the need for followers of Christ to incarnationally live out their faith in deeds.
I have had chances to speak and meet with a lot of people this week that are looking for opportunities to get involved. Below are some links that may be helpful to those that are looking for ways to get info. and to begin to make a difference.
Sure I enjoy a 3-point alliterative sermon almost as much as the next guy. What’s not to love in an extensive Greek word study message or the 16 ways to look at John 3:16 series? A month ago I posted an entry that was to be continued–”Seeking Context.” Here is some of that continuation.
Seemingly, there is universal belief in the power of story. This is evident in the use of stories for the purpose of amplification in virtually all forms and practices of preaching or teaching. However, telling the whole story is rarely done outside of the Jesus Film or other similar works. This is true even though some of the greatest preachers in history have utilized a contextual or comprehensive story message to great effect.
For example, “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” What was the result? As they reflected back they shared, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Peter uses a similar style in Acts 2 with a reasonably good effect. Stephen also used a comprehensive story message in Acts 7. While his personal end did not turn out very positive by some standards, he did get to see the glory of God just before leaving his life here on earth. The persecution and resulting diaspora that came on the day of this story-telling did serve to greatly advance the name of Christ and his church.
I had the privilege of helping launch Last Letter this past week at Catalyst. LL is an effort to start a movement that combines social action with sharing the eternal hope of Christ. Perhaps you could call this missional living with an attitude. It is a call to live James 2 both with integrity and abandon. Below is one of the pieces that are on the site. It is a remake of Revolution by the Beatles. The video features Rick Heil of SonicFlood, Drew Cline, Missi Hale (Women Of Faith), Stephanie Smith, Lucas Parry and Jason Eskridge. You can learn about the movement and download a free MP3 of Revolution on the Last Letter site.
Sacrifice. Action. Justice. Jesus. This is a call to reexamine how we are living our lives. Are we making our time count?
Friedman told us years ago that the World is Flat. Having been overseas 10 of the last 15 years, I have repeatedly been made aware that this global flattening is being expressed in its totality in a city near you. This is true both in the U.S. as well as in urban centers throughout Europe. At its most basic and observable level, there are people from a host of countries with a palette of colors and a symphonic cacophony of languages making a global urban move. As an example, just yesterday I got my hair cut by a Moroccan lady while a Chinese lady waited for the next customer. After this I grabbed a sandwich at Subway where an Arab woman and African-American young man were making the sandwiches. Other stops for the day included Target, Best Buy, and the airport…lots more nations represented.
So what does your city look like? What does your church staff/leadership look like? What do your disciples look like?
Rob Thomas’ band included 3 caucasians (including Rob), 4 African-Americans, and a hispanic guitarist. Each thoroughly and uniquely gifted. Together, they form one tight band…and look like a slice of America.
Last night I took my lovely wife to the Rob Thomas concert. We have always been intrigued by the significant amounts of truth in his lyrics. As we were called to a “celebration of music and life” by each of the three acts, there were times where the logic just did not follow. For example, early on, Carolina Liar’s singer, Chad Wolf, spoke of this celebration that we had gathered for and then dedicated the song to all the people that hated their jobs and could barely stand to get out of bed. For some reason, I questioned whether or not I was ready to celebrate this particular angst. But all in all, it was an enjoyable night and a very good show.
Each of the three acts had songs that spoke of the search for something that was real and true and worthwhile. Also, themes of love, redemption, and forgiveness were addressed. A few songs that may be worth checking out include Carolina Liar’s Beautiful World and Show Me What I’m Looking For as well as One Republic’s Someone to Save You and Come Home.
My favorite song of the night was Thomas’ opening number–Fire on the Mountain. This is a song written in a post-Christian, immoral world where justice is crying out to be heard. His lyrics can speak, I believe, to the church. What it says to the church will depend on the church itself. For some it may be a call to action. For others it will be a call to change the music ASAP. The lyrics are here for consideration, but I encourage you to give it a listen to get the intensity of the problem and the emotion that the “eyes wide open” church might encounter (Frost, Seeing God in the Ordinary).
Fire on the Mountain by Rob Thomas
Fire on the mountain
Through the fields
There’s evil in the garden
But you don’t see it
I can tell
How do you sleep while the city’s burning
Where do you go when you can’t go home
How do you drink when there’s blood in the water
Where do you turn when the world moves on
When the world moves on
Fire on the mountain
You can feel it
Against your skin
You’re standing by the river
Let the river take you in
I see smoke out on the horizon
Mama get your baby
Take her down to the water
I feel the wind like a promise broken
I see the future but it’s getting farther
If you take the time to give it a listen, consider talking with other believers you walk life with and envision a video that depicts the world about which Thomas sings. Then have a re-listen and redo your story boards with the visual being the church on mission that is living like Christ.
According to data results released with an article–”How Spiritual Are We?“–from Parade Magazine this past weekend, the U.S. population has a strong belief in God, but we are not a religious people. Whether measured by “How important is religion in your life?” or “How often do you attend religious services?” the answer comes out roughly at some 30% or less. While there are many ways the information could be interpreted, this is taking the position that for those that have religion as the most important thing in their life or that attend religious services once or more times a week as being “religious” people.
Belief in God remains high, but the post-Christian surge continues as 38% are less religious than their parents. This move toward a post-Christian society reflects societies that are further along in this move in Australia and Europe according to other results and anecdotal observations (more on this in future posts).
Another key finding is the 71% that do not hold that their religion is exclusive or “closest to the truth.” Once again, signaling a post-Christian U.S. culture, this also is indicative of the relativistic, post-modern aspects of society. With the majority (59%) saying that all religions are equal in validity, it appears that most people in the U.S. would adhere to the tenet that all roads lead to heaven or some other place or state of being or some other closely held non-conviction or some other conviction that is loosely held…. (smile)
Parade Magazine does not provide information on gender, age, socio-economic status, ethnicity, etc. regarding survey respondents. Based on distribution methods for the magazine, I would venture a guess that the data results reflect a high number of middle to upper-middle income level families with more females completing the surveys than males. If this assumption is correct, then it is a reasonable guess that these numbers are possibly skewed toward a more religious sub-set of society than the whole of U.S. culture. My expectation would be that a broader group of respondents may cause the number of those that are religious to drop as well as those that are more religious than their parents, although belief in God would, I am willing to guess, remain constant.