Archive for November, 2009
When discipling, Jesus uses a pragmatic philosophy of education. Evident throughout the gospels, it is clear in his interaction with followers after his resurrection. One key example follows (quotes from The Message):
Ten guys: (many voices) We saw the Master.
Thomas: Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my fingers in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.
(8 days later)
Jesus: (to all 11 disciples) Peace to you.
Jesus: (to Thomas) Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.
Thomas: My Master! My God!
Jesus: So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.
Thomas needed to see it. His worldview was in disarray and conflict having received new information about the resurrection of Christ while lacking a personal experience of seeing and touching the risen Jesus. When graciously confronted by the Savior, he realized that touching was no longer an issue for him. Seeing him and hearing his voice was sufficient experience.
This event among others impacted all of the disciples. To make a gross understatement, their time with Christ changed their lives. But it did. It changed everything including how they made disciples. This became evident as they wrote down the gospels to tell the stories of the Savior. His divinity was made clear in contrast with their humanity in each account.
Keeping with the pragmatic model in the letters in the New Testament, it is fascinating to read John’s first letter where he repeatedly writes about what the disciples had seen, heard, and touched. He seeks to make clear that these are not simply facts that they learned. Being a follower of Christ is not, according to John, simply a creed to be memorized by others. It is a story about how their lives transformed because of their experience with the Savior. It is a story about his goodness and the desperate need of the disciples and others. The letter is a challenge to walk as Jesus did.
It is essential that we evaluate our discipleship methodology. We must move from a neo-scholastic to a pragmatic approach….
What resonates? Algebra lessons or Bunsen burners? Learning new vocabulary words or field trips? A history lesson or playing kickball in physical education? Achievement tests or recess?
Going out on a limb, I am going to assume that the latter of each comparison above is usually more appealing. While you may have had a wonderful teacher in some of these topics such as algebra or history, people generally respond better to participatory learning than a passive model. Movement is more desirable for a young person than being stationary.
Neo-scholasticism – Learning facts through the steady hand of a mental disciplinarian, the student will be able to share data and regurgitate large amounts of information. While it had its day as the prevalent philosophy of education, today neo-scholasticism—heavily influenced by Aristotle and Aquinas—lacks strong support in western education circles. But wait just a minute…it’s not out of favor in all realms of western life.
The chosen philosophy of education for adults in many churches is neo-scholastic in content and delivery. The students sit in some formation while the one with superior knowledge stands or sits in a prominent position. Going through a pre-determined curriculum or some systematic plan conceived months or more ago, the teacher trains the intellect of the pupils. During this scholastic exercise, listening is good, though taking notes is better. To maximize the learning experience study notes, books, and CDs can be available for further review at home or in some quiet place. At times the teacher may ask students to raise their hands to foster learning participation. Questions, often rhetorical in nature, may be interspersed to further stimulate thinking, ensure consciousness, or as a segue to the teacher’s next point.
Pragmatism – Educators today use a more pragmatic philosophy of education where the students and teacher are both seen as fellow travelers, though one has more experience in many areas (though probably not all—consider gaming, foreign languages, unique field of interest, etc.). The curriculum is relevant to the needs of the student at the current time. As a result, desire for learning increases. Learning is a hands-on experience. Today, educators employ a couple of popular methodologies–understanding by design and differentiated instruction. Both of these fit soundly in the pragmatic camp as commitments to doing whatever it takes to help each and every student learn the content. Some hallmarks of these methodologies include a high level of commitment to utilizing hands-on, interactive education and modifying the classroom experience for each child to facilitate learning through their preferred learning style. As a result, classroom environments are being set up with different stations and areas for learning through creative means, field trips are being planned as part of the learning process, etc.
Though much of the western church has kicked the flannel board aside, there is still a high level of commitment to hands-on learning for children. For adults, however, teaching is as neo-scholastic as ever. Attempts to increase interaction today consist of use of a Power Point display, video, or notes to be passed out. This is the methodology and these are the tools the church is using to “make disciples.” I contend that we must do better in the disciple-making process. Much, much better.
I will be posting several entries following up on this in the weeks and months to come. Along with missio dei and mission, this will be a major theme for discussion—though in fact these topics are practically impossible to extricate from one another. This post is intended to lay out a framework for beginning the discussion. In conclusion, it is important to note that learners remember only 10% of what they read and only 20% of what they hear. But if a learner says and does something himself, then the retention goes up to 90%. This leads me to believe that a re-think is in order if we are going to make disciples that obey.
Conveying what is arguably the best metaphor for missional, incarnational living, “Live Sent: you are a letter” is a healthy, needed read for followers of Christ. Jason Dukes, who I am proud to call a friend, uses an extended metaphor or conceit throughout the book to share the ever-present reality that as disciples and disciple-makers we are the image of Christ to the lost. Like the snail mail or an email that is sent to be read, our lives are the content that communicates who Christ is. The reading of a letter or email can happen anywhere, but it must be close and personal. It is real. The book is a call to examine the way we live our lives. It is a call to live sent. Constantly. Consistently. Christ-like. Living sent.
Jason poses the question, “What’s my part in this epic called humanity?’ His answer is that each of us is to live our lives just as we are sent by God–because we are. In the book he communicates four main points.
First, he suggests that “there may be some things we need to rethink.” These things include life, church, relationships, and our intentions. He encourages the reader to ask if the way we are doing each of these is consistent with our call to live sent?
Second, he states that “living sent is all about trusting your value.” Made in the image of God, we can move forward in confidence that our life or our “live” (short “i” there) is worthwhile because of him.
Third, he shares that to live sent, we must do life together. He writes that the “epic of humanity…should be seen most beautifully within the movement Jesus started that he called His ‘church.’”
Fourth, we are to be consistently “giving ourselves away intentionally.” There is a really good example for that. Enough said.
Pick the book up and read it–to the end. Don’t miss out on the stories and the post scripts. They are important to make this both a “construct shift” and provide some practical, non-sequential handles to put this in motion. Because after all, living sent is about making disciples as we go.
One final note here that is important. It is the unwritten but very read post script. Jason is one humble guy. Borrow or steal his stuff and he’ll be fine. Just live and share it is his hope. Jason is unique in that he is not reacting to something that he grew up with that he needs to fix or improve. He has seen this sentness lived out in his family as he grew up in inner-city New Orleans doing life there. Watching his parents live sent there. He is blessed as he is part of a network of other humble leaders and followers and learners. He walks through life with some great guys that are also humble leaders: Jim Collins (no, not that Jim Collins the other one), Hal Haller, Robert Beckman, Adam Mayfield, Billy Mitchell, and others. These men along with their wives and children make up a great cloud of witnesses that are making disciples as they live sent. This is a tribe that has encouraged their brother Jason to write down the way that he has lived and shared and modeled and lived…so that others may see the realness of it. So that others may be challenged and encouraged to live sent. These are guys that are a blessing to me though we have been together only for a spot of time so far. Thank you Jason and crew.
Aglow from time spent recently in Cuba, a dear friend shared with me about some of the exciting things continuing to happen there in the midst of hunger, oppression, and persecution. Having just returned from his latest trip to the island, he shared about the abandon with which the believers are living their lives for the glory of the Most High. He had just concluded teaching a series of theological training modules in a Cuban city. He shared that 75 pastors and lay leaders from this city completed the extended course. These 75 pastors and lay leaders completed the theological training to continue providing leadership and to continue fulfilling their responsibilities. The work that had already begun in and through each one was to carry on to final completion some day in the future. My friend contrasted this with the completion of his theological training in the U.S. some years prior, where a large percentage of the graduates were hoping to find a place to serve, a position from which to lead. These were works that were to be started on some day in the future to then begin working toward a day of completion. I think there are lessons to be had here, but I am going to leave this fruit hanging on the tree for the reader to pick and sort.
Years ago I read a book that I referred to as the 29th chapter of Acts–that was before I was aware of the Acts 29 network. A friend of mine reviewed The Heavenly Man recently. I gladly recommend the review and heartily recommend the book. So much in the book is unbelievable that I have asked some that I know who have lived and are networked in China about the book’s veracity. I have been told that not only is the book credible, but it is only a partial story of the innumerable things that God has done and is doing there today. There are so many things to learn here. One thing that I am reminded of connected with the theological education aspect (as referenced above) is a distinct curriculum. Mornings were spent memorizing the book of Matthew. The afternoons were spent learning how to escape including jumping out of 2 and 3-story windows.
Food for thought….
Yesterday’s post had part 1 of this conversation. It is really good video. Part 2 here is worthwhile, but part 3 is essential. For 3 to make sense, best to do 2 first. After the second portion, it appears that Stetzer & Fitch agreed (even requested) to have the camera turned back on in order to communicate some things very important to both of them. Very worthwhile.
Above Ed and Dave provide their perspectives on whether mega churches can be missional. A lively and fun discussion.
After a few minute break whilst shooting the conversation (see end of Part II “…you’re wearing us out” then laughter), Dave and Ed came back with some final thoughts on the importance of the church telling a new missional story.
This missional conversation between Ed Stetzer and David Fitch treats the meaning (and growing lack of meaning) of the term missional and what that means for church. Many thanks to Bill Kinnon for making this and other quality videos available.
Produced by Toronto’s mkpl.tv for the blog kinnon.tv and the new social network, Missional Tribe, this video features Ed and Dave in conversation about what missional is, missional vs attractional and missional church & converts. Engaging, funny and yet serious, these two well known writers and missional commentators help expand our understanding of missional.
In Shakespeare’s famous balcony scene, Juliet shares that the name of an object is not what’s important, but the object itself.
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
Romeo and Juliet Act II, Scene II
This is evident in Antioch where the people of the church were first called Christians. Today, these people refer to themselves by another name. This name, not stated here for security reasons, also identifies them with Christ. Why the change? The connotation for the word Christian has morphed into representing religion or an assortment of religions that have Christ as part of the story. In the view of the believers there, this is not representative of identifying with Christ as Savior and Lord in their culture. Being called by a name that represents religion as an activity is not, based on their actions, worthy of living for. While identifying with Christ as their Lord is worth dying for.
Similar in some ways, re-naming is occurring across the U.S. Some existing churches that have a long history continue to hold onto the existing name. Others have re-branded themselves. New church plants are discontinuing the use of “First (denominational name) Church of (city)” or “(community description) (denominational name) Church.” Whether or not this shift in names is made depends on a few key aspects including the church members’ cultural understanding of their community. Does the current name identify the church in a way that allows the community to relate well with them? Or by changing the name would more goodwill result among the unchurched in the area?
In a previous post, Non Sequitur, I posed the question: “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?” I believe that selecting a name that is well-received by the community is important and worthwhile. However, I firmly believe that the name by which a group of believers identify their local meeting of church cannot replace the Missio Dei and what he calls his disciples to be about. To choose a name that is not offensive is a good thing. If it appeals, even better. The stumbling block to which we point, however, must be the cross of Christ, not a name that we select and promote.
Name changes can be good. Selecting a good name for future church plants is a good thing as well. But embracing the idea that we can be attractive enough for people to want to come to us so they can pick up their cross daily to follow Christ is a bit optimistic at best. The majority of our time and energies will be well-spent in prayer as well as encouraging and challenging each other to be about making disciples as we go. Having relationship with the lost so that they can see the glory of Christ in how he has transformed our lives, our families, our relationships is of far greater worth than working with consultants to re-brand a building or location.
One final note is that this post is an elaboration of some ideas from two previous posts: Sequitur and Non Sequitur. Based on these and a post on Erik Reed’s Savage Generation, I hope that this is helpful to clarify some thoughts. It is my intent that this post not reflect negatively on either the Relevants or Reconstructionists, but would instead place emphasis on the focus that is to be the passion and call of every disciple and every church.
There is a prosperity gospel and then there is an on your way to prosperity gospel. While, in my opinion, there may not be a big distinction between the two, I offer that we allow for one. A statement such as “God wants to bless you with lots of money” sets off warning bells for a significant percentage of followers of Christ. While a talk on “God’s plan for your success” is a bit more palatable. However, if this is THE message–the only message–then it is not the message of the gospel.
Having had two close relatives in the hospital over the past week, I can vouch for the reality of another aspect of the gospel–suffering. When one is close to death or with a loss of consciousness, what is one to do? Standing there watching while helpless in so many ways, often a person will cry out to God. Lying there on what may be a death bed thinking of the children and spouse that could be without a loved one weighs heavily and may lead one to cast all of their hope on God alone.
Jesus was the great communicator of the BOTH/AND. He shares that he came that we may have life and have it more abundantly. AND he also told his disciples to willingly pick up their crosses daily and carry them around…to carry a symbol and reality of suffering and sacrifice with them always. These two statements are shared on different occasions. Jesus did not leave this to complex hermeneutics to arrive at this conclusion though. He shares the both/and reality with his disciples.
29“I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Mark 10:29-31
Half of the gospel is not the gospel. The good news is both the abundance that God has for us through Christ and sharing in the suffering of Christ.
It follows. If the God we serve is the missionary God, then what follows? While my last post, Non Sequitor, had 5 things that did not follow the Missio Dei, here are 7 that do. While the non-sequitur list does not include examples for obvious reasons, there are a number of good examples here. Here are some positive expressions of church that reflect the “sending of God.”
- Just do it - Some slogans transcend time because they ring true for now and other times. In athletics, Nike’s advertisers hit a home run. Some church slogans that ring true in light of the Missio Dei include Northstar’s “Don’t go to church, be the church.” This is key for a church that is awakening to the lostness around them. Another great slogan (and book) is by author Jason Dukes. His church seeks to “Live Sent” 24/7/365.
- Healthy networks – Teaching the things one has learned to others is evident in a number of networks, not the least of which is some great guys that are the Reproducing Churches Network. Multiple expressions and strategies here. Humility abounds. The message of Christ is being spread through churches that are planting churches. Through disciples that are making disciples.
- Taking it downtown – There is a movement of churches going into the heart of inner-city areas, bars, and other places where people live. Where lostness dwells. Where an incarnational witness has previously been scarce. Some expressions of this include: Redemption Hill in Richmond, Branch Life Church in Birmingham, and Evergreen in Portland. Another encouraging expression of this includes Christ Presbyterian Church where several families sold their suburban homes to move their families into inner-city Nashville to live among those they are loving and serving through a school of the arts.
- Taking it to the streets - Some have moved the church or made other radical changes. Rodney Calfee converted the children’s area of the The Downtown Church into a halfway house. Seeing people from the suburbs coming into the city for church, he realized that the population segments of downtown were not being reached with the gospel. With radical changes attendance plummeted, but God began to do amazing things in transforming lives. Matthew’s Table is an experience in community in Lebanon, TN. They meet in a coffee shop, and in homes, and wherever else along the way as they live as the church among their community.
- Sending Churches – Churches are sending people out in teams to the nations to be a blessing to communities and to seek to plant churches there. One church, LifePoint, is preparing to send multiple units comprising two teams to two different continents.
- Acoustic church - Caleb Crider with The Upstream Collective presents the “sound system rule” where a church moves toward either an attractional or missional model. Acoustic church could refer to what some call simple, organic, or house churches as well as some larger gatherings which are currently happening in other countries where Church Planting Movments (CPM) are underway. This is church with both a little more and a lot less. Some additions may include food, increased emphasis on prayer, relational discipling while also taking out lots of bells and whistles. Acoustic church is not for the glory or material enrichment of man. For some it serves as a place for the burned as well as the burned-out to have fellowship with believers. For others, however, it is a missional force. Exciting things are in the works here as a number of mega, multi-site, well-known churches are saying enough of our satellite or campus additions. Enough of us reaching a small segment of our city. Let’s go out to where the lost are and be the church among them. This is the church participating in the “sending of God.” Thanks to Neil Cole and Church Multiplication Associates for being one of the leaders in this for some time already.
- Ethnic awareness - Across the U.S. there are churches being planted for people groups from languages and countries including hispanics, Asians, Muslims, Europeans, etc. Additionally, church for skaters, surfers, cowboys, and others are encouraging. When this can coexist in one group of believers it is encouraging as well. Kudos to Mosaic and others that follow their lead.