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Dec
09

making a case

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Putting up a video today that has gotten some play time lately. It was brought to my attention by a tweet from an Upstream Collective buddy and posted on the Missional Church Network. In case you have not seen it, I encourage you to make the time to work through it. Participating in the Page Lecture series at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Christoper Wright does a great job of making a case for a missional reading of Scripture.

Categories : Bible, missiology, trends
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May
03

processing

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Since my time on the recent JetSet with Upstream, I have been reflecting on a number of things. One of those key things is the reign of God (a key theme of the second half of Isaiah) and the ways in which that is demonstrated. Frost shared three ways according to Wright in which the reign of God is visible here on earth and added a fourth. The four were:

  1. Frost facilitating discussion during a group session on '11 JetSet to Central EuropeThe presence of justice
  2. Reconciled relationships
  3. Beauty
  4. Presence of the supernatural

Now what? Because the gospel is Christ-centered, I have been working through the gospels over the last weeks with these four evidences of the reign of God here on earth as a filter. I have been asking the question where did Jesus effect justice; restore relationships; create or call attention to beauty; and/or display the presence of the supernatural?

A reflective exercise, this is something I need to continue. First because it is vital for me. Really! It is the gospel in me. Second, because it is the clearer formulation for me to “be prepared to give the reason for the hope that [I] have” to the world around me. This is the living story that is changing my life. It is the dynamic story I need to tell well to others. It is the story that is written for all time and is unfolding today in my community.

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Apr
28

fringe

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Following “my name is ____,” the very next sentence he shared was: “I am also a Christian on the edge.” Others shared, “I am on the fringe.” Still others did not even know how to describe their situation. I heard this repeatedly during our recent Upstream JetSet in Prague and Budapest. There was even concern that none of the “leaders” were at one of the Frost One Day events. What these on the edge were saying was that the leaders of the long-standing church were missing. We were gathered as the planters, the rebels, perhaps the misfits according to some.

Undoubtedly we worked with and took some fringe guys on the journey with us too. (And no, I am not trying to exclude myself from this group.) I heard multiple stories of metric discombobulation and concerns about missiology and ecclesiology and its outworkings. It is not uncommon for me to have conversations via various communication modes about this fringe issue–about us. But I’m not sure that makes it easier for those that are out there who feel alone and cut off.

Be encouraged, you are not alone. You have a leader. I don’t think it an accident that Christ’s first miracle recorded in the gospel of John was to turn water into wine using the ceremonial jars–all of them. Though His time had not yet come, He took the opportunity, while honoring His mama, to start conveying that things may not be as right as they seem in the religious realm. This was just the beginning of course. He still would be accused of being a drunkard and glutton. This accusation was believable by many as Jesus often spent time with those that were the unwashed eating and drinking in their homes. (e.g. Matthew, Zacchaeus, a band of Samaritans in John 4). Tragically ironic, it would be the religious leaders that crucified the Messiah who was so often on the edge.

Be encouraged, you are not alone. You have a tribe. There is a band across the globe of those that are seeking to walk as Jesus did whether that puts them in the mainstream or on the fringe. Partner with these around you and walk together. Continue to bless and encourage each other. Draw from each other’s passion, creativity, stories of triumph and stories of failure. Know that there are places and networks where these fringe are likely to gather. These networks are relationally based. Good luck climbing a social ladder here. This is about people walking together on mission in grace.

Being on the fringe is not about a fight to be won. There is not a position of leadership that needs to be sought and attained. Ours is to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling.” Ours is to “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ….” Ours is to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ours is to love deeply both the washed and the unwashed as we continue to experience the “breadth and length and height and depth” of His love.

Take courage. I am so thankful that you are who you are.

I hadn’t seen this clip in years, but it kept replaying in my mind. For some reason I heard Dreyfus’ voice when I typed the word “misfits.” Almost discarded the word, but thought it even better to include the clip here.

Categories : Bible, church, missiology
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Dec
15

ethnocentric gospel

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If God’s desire was only for a small, homogenous group to live in obedience to Him, the Old Testament would have been significantly different. For example, no mention or model would be found in Melchizedek. Neither Ruth nor Rahab would play a special role. The Ninevites would be left to their own devices and certain peril. Other altered stories would have included Balaam, Nebuchadnezzar and Darius.

ethnocentricIf His plan was for only a select number from one ethnolinguistic people group in one geographic area to walk in the transforming love of Christ, then the New Testament would be radically altered–even more so than the Old Testament. If God’s desire was not for the nations, then Jesus would have dismissed the woman at the well, the Syro-phoenician woman, the Roman centurion and the thief on the cross. He would not have pointed to a good Samaritan as the hero in the story. The day of Pentecost would not have included God-fearing Jews from every nation. Peter would have had to refuse the invitation of Cornelius. Philip would not have stepped into the chariot with the Egyptian official. Paul would not have written his letters to the churches, as none would be outside of Jerusalem. He never would have gone to the Philippian jailer’s home because he never would have traveled to Philippi as a missionary called and sent out by the church in Antioch. And the church in Antioch would have looked nothing like it did. Jesus would not have spoken to the seven churches in Asia Minor. There would be no record in Revelation of “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne and in front of the lamb” wearing white robes, worshipping God.

These stories and others similar in nature are still with us. They are recorded in the Bible. The reason for this is simple. These stories are key to the plan of God. Removing the above stories would cause the loss of some incredible tales–a huge fish swallowing a man, a talking donkey, a sheet coming out of heaven filled with animals of all kinds, potential jail breaks and so much more. But if these stories were to be removed, it would alter history and eternity forever. The story of redemption would be incomplete. Stories such as that of Rahab and Ruth are more than interesting. The love of God demonstrated to these two ladies from other nations is key to the genealogy of Christ. Following His birth, the Messiah is visited and worshipped by humble, pungent shepherds from nearby and by wealthy dignitaries from the East, possibly from modern day countries like Iraq, Iran or Jordan. Even in the Christmas story God makes clear that He sent Jesus for the entire range of the socioeconomic scale and for the nations. The vast, far-reaching plan of God begins to unfold both prior to and following the coming of the Savior.

(This is an excerpt from beyond myself and even our own city on the Reproducing Churches site.)

Categories : Bible, church, missiology
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Jun
01

God save the Queen!

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After helping host last week’s JetSet trip with The Upstream Collective, I had some additional meetings in Spain before returning back to London for a return flight home. With all of the conversations and things to do while in London last week, I never had a chance to break away and see Buckingham Palace. But today I took that opportunity on the way from the airport to the hotel. And….

Upon arriving there in the constant dreary rain, I walked past the front of Buckingham wanting to take pictures, but not wanting to ruin a SLR camera. Then I decided to come back to the entrance and try to snap a couple quick picks with the iPhone. That’s when the guards moved from inside the fence to the outside and began stopping all passers-by. Then just moments later, out rolled the Queen of England and Prince Philip.

Then I remembered that: He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. (Daniel 2:21)

Note: In the upcoming weeks I plan to spend more time debriefing some aspects of the trip and the conversation. I am still processing, and still trying to get back home. Some themes I am still thinking about and praying through include global cities, contextualization, presence vs. proclamation, working in a post-Christian context, etc.

Categories : Bible, story
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May
19

G2g: Professionalization

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Key principle #9 to move discipleship from great to good: Implement and promote the professionalization of discipleship.

good
It is both good and comforting to know that someone is responsible to ensure that the church is open at set times, that everything will be prepared for every meeting, that the worship service or outreach program will run smoothly. It is seemingly ideal if the person that will tend to these tasks is also seminary trained so that they will be qualified and able to pass out food to the hungry on behalf of the congregation and answer the complex questions of a child that is seeking to walk with Christ so a parent will not get tripped up.

Seeing how effective and eloquent professional ministers can be may lead lesser disciples bring the lost to the expert so that he can explain the love of God without error. Surely this is good. Surely he knows how to communicate with your co-workers, friends, and neighbors better than you do. Perhaps the shared community and history are irrelevant when sharing a contextualized gospel message.

Great
As the son of a carpenter, Jesus would have been taught in this trade throughout his formative years. From the tribe of Judah, Jesus should have left the priestly activities to the Levites. But He didn’t. Neither personally or in tasking others. Jesus took a ragamuffin group of men that were completely untrained and unqualified except for having spent time with Him out to declare that “the Kingdom of God is near you.” Multiple times. And the results? They were great. Really great. Upon hearing of what God the Father did through the lives of these very normal disciples, Jesus said: “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure” (Luke 10:21).

In the early church, the use of regular, everyday people had great impact. Early in the book of Acts the religious leaders “saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men. The author of Acts continued to say that the religious leaders “took note that [Peter and John] had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13) “Being with Jesus” was the requisite, transforming qualification for one to be able to impact the lives of others for His glory. That was the requirement to lead. That was what it took to function in the realm of the great. In this regard, not much has changed.

(In the excerpts from my non-book, Great to Good (G2g), truth or satire may be employed. At times, the two may even meet.)

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May
07

Psalm 96

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(Emphasis is mine.)

Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts.
Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.”
The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fileds be jubilant, and everything in them.
Then all the trees of the forrest will sing for joy; they will sing before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth.

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Apr
22

The death of a Hero

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Slipping from this life earlier this year at 100 years of age, Miep Gies was truly a hero. Along with her husband and some friends, she had provided food for the Frank family and others as they hid from the German Gestapo above the Frank’s family business for two years. On the day that the authorities arrived to take away all eight people who had been in hiding, Gies was sitting at her desk in the Frank’s office. While this alone was sufficient to put her in great danger, she chose later to go to the Gestapo headquarters to try to purchase the prisoners’ release. She was unsuccessful in this attempt.

Miep Gies would not see Anne Frank again, but she was able to present her diary to Otto–Anne’s father upon his return from Auschwitz. She presented it to him on the occasion when he learned of his daughters’ deaths. She shared, “here is your daughter Anne’s legacy to you.” After the second printing, Gies finally was able to read the diary. She was not reading a story about someone’s life, she was reading about this little girl that she had known, identified with, and protected. (HT)

Gies was a hero for a some very basic reasons. She cared deeply. She acted courageously. Eloquent writing or speech would have done nothing to aid the Frank family in hiding for two years. But putting her life in danger on a daily basis to find, buy, and at times barter for food, she was a constant, faithful hero.

I am reminded of the heroes that are mentioned in Hebrews 11. Yes, several are named with brief accounts of their story shared. But for so, so many they are listed as the faithful–the heroes. Some of these were tortured; some “were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword…the world was not worthy of them.” These were people of action. Talking about being faithful was not enough. They lived it out daily through to the end.

May we be a generation of heroes….

Categories : Bible, story
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Apr
19

“Am I crazy?”

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“Am I crazy?” she asked with tears filling both eyes.

Following a breakout session this past week at the Sent Conference in Houston, Sandra shared with a friend and me that she had become discontent sitting inside her church when she saw so much lostness in her community. So many that would not come into the church. So many that were not able to find their own way to the Savior. Her disorientation was evident.

Seeking to find her purpose in taking Christ to the community, Sandra has prayed throughout her community, spoken with her pastor, and currently is meeting with a group of university students in her home. The conversation with this beautiful, gray-haired lady was the highlight of my conference experience. She is seeking to find ways that she can make her Savior known to those that need so desperately to know Him.

For her and others that can identify with her, I am thankful to share that “hope has two beautiful daughters” according to St. Augustine and Michael Frost.

Press on Sandra, I am cheering for you, praying for you, and ready to help in any way I can. To others like her, I encourage the same. May we join His purpose “to seek and to save what was lost.”

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Mar
01

G2g: Event-oriented

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Key principle #6 for moving discipleship from great to good: When considering evangelism, go big or go home.

good
A disciple communicates the hope he or she has in Christ to those who are without. In the realm of good discipleship, efforts to share the gospel often center around big events that attract the community to a church or group-hosted event. These events, designed for creating an opportunity to make a gospel presentation, take many forms. These include, but are not limited to: concerts, carnivals, circuses, living nativities, block parties, etc. These good events serve as spots in time that allow for a precision sharing of the plan of salvation. Ongoing opportunities to share the love of Christ and live transformed lives may happen in subsequent big events.

Great
The writers of the gospels did not record any big-event evangelism in the gospels. While there were some gatherings of large crowds, these were not used as opportunities to share the 3 key steps to accepting Christ or the 4 spiritual laws. Instead, Jesus shared about his audience’s incorrect understanding of the law as well as the practical ramifications of a life placed in His trust during the Sermon on the Mount. Other key events included the trial of Jesus. He was silent. A third big event was His crucifixion. His words were few.

In the realm of great discipleship, we see Jesus interacting personally with a Samaritan woman at a well; in the cover of night with Nicodemus; meeting often with his disciples; visiting at someone else’s home along with his disciples or in the midst of a social gathering; and being a visitor at another’s home during a time of grief. In many of these cases, these were the beginning or continuation of an ongoing relationship.

Go BIG or go home
In what is usually referred to as the Great Commission, Matthew 28:19-20 is Christ’s charge to His followers. Translated usually as “Go…make disciples,” I wonder if this promotes a big event, big production mentality. A command that often is viewed as being of primary importance–Go! What does it look like if we follow a closer translation? If we seek to “As [we] go, make disciples.” It is a process that is lived throughout the duration of our lives. It is daily. Constant. Ongoing. It is relationships. And context. Perhaps instead of “go big or go home,” our thinking should mirror the Energizer bunny. We are to “keep going, and going, and going….”

(In the excerpts from my non-book, Great to Good (G2g), truth or satire may be employed. At times, the two may even meet.)

Categories : Bible, discipleship
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