Archive for communication
There is no message more powerful. None. It cannot be matched. Though sharper than a double-edged sword, the Bible is a relatively little-used force in modern worship and discipleship. Often, a speaker will refer to a brief passage or verse as a launch point to make their own argument or explanation. At times, a preacher will belabor a single word study. While this is not wrong, it does raise two questions. First, for whose glory is the message given and the study done? Second, is there possibly a more effective mode? I hope that this first question will be wrestled with by all who teach the Bible. As for the second…
Read it. Aloud. To the community. Quote it. Share it.
There are numerous examples where this is done in the Bible. A few examples include:
- Joshua reading the law to the people – Joshua 8
- Josiah, who is convicted by the law when it is read to him, then, in turn, he reads it to the people – 2 Kings 22-23
- Jesus reads from Isaiah in the temple – Luke 4
Promised that the Word of God will not return void, we are to proclaim it. This may be done simplest and best by letting the Word communicate for itself.
Last year I was in Germany when David Platt quoted the first 8 chapters of Romans to a group. Though I was unable to be in the meeting, I spoke with many afterward that were moved to tears and repentance because of the power of the Bible in context. Though presented as a different message and occasion, here is the essence of that time and an example of how powerfully the Word can communicate. It may be of value to note that he does not read this text, but rather quotes it. I encourage you to listen to the message in its entirety. It is really, really good…Scripture.
Note: This is the second post on the theme–A New, Old Form of Proclamation.
Some end of the year fun here. I am happy to note that I first saw this video on C. Holland’s site Missionary Confidential. I found the comment stream there interesting. Would be happy for you to leave thoughts on this video here or on Holland’s site.
Also, I recently posted an entry on The Upstream Collective blog. Throwing this out there just in case you are interested.
Aaron, a non-believer, said, “I’d like to say something about Christians trying to convert non-Christians.” This video provided by Jonathan McIntosh is VERY worthwhile.
Hmm. What do you think?
Some ponder the question, “If a tree fell in the forrest and no one was there to hear it, would it make a noise?” This raises a few questions. First, would it? Second, how would we know? Third, does it matter? Fourth, now what were we discussing again?
Often, the approach individuals, churches, and publishing houses take toward discipleship is as ethereal as the philosophical sophistry in the above paragraph. This is not, I believe, consistent with Christ’s approach. His teaching happens along the way in the midst of his travels and actions. As he goes, he is living out what he is teaching. As he is living it out, his disciples are observing, discussing, questioning, and at times even seeking to correct him. Ongoing, Jesus continues to live, model, and teach. Based on his model, it is all intertwined. Seamless. A life of integrity.
John wrote about Jesus turning water into wine. Through the disciples presence and participation at the event, they observed so many lessons that were key to their obedience and future faithfulness: Christ’s obedience to his mother, the miracle itself, willingness to use the sacred for meeting human needs, Jesus’ allusion to his purpose in the future, etc.
Skipping ahead a couple of chapters in the gospel of John, we read about Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. Once again, the disciples are there. Once again, the lessons are numerous and profound. Jesus is challenging the traditions and thoughts of man all the while explaining and living out the purpose and nature of God.
Sandwiched between these two stories is a conversation between the Savior and Nicodemus. This witty exchange provides an explanation of the gospel and is the background for the most popular sporting event poster in America–John 3:16. But how does John know this story? I propose that either some of the disciples are sitting in the room with Jesus during the exchange or Jesus later tells his disciples about the conversation. I can envision him talking with them over breakfast the next morning or during their journey out to the countryside retelling the story. Captured by the story, they will not forget the explanation of the gospel. Knowing the story, they will be looking to see what would transpire in Nicodemus’ life some short time later.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
A few weeks ago my wife and I were visiting a weekly Bible study group for the first time. Everyone was kind and welcoming of us and the lost friends accompanying us. The teacher was both humble and prepared. The group responded to a ministry opportunity that was presented. And then it happened….
One regular in the group shared that she had brought a friend of hers to the group several weeks ago. This friend, she relayed, was someone that she had been praying would come to Christ for a long time. So excited to have her coming for the first time, the group participant conveyed that she could barely wait to find out what her friend thought. In the debrief between friends, the visitor shared that she did not feel that she could be a part of the group because she did not know enough about the Bible. She was convinced, probably accurately, that the other participants knew so much more about their Bibles. Sadly, she has not been with the group again, nor does it seem that she plans to do so.
Challenged with a charge of being too heady in the disciple-making process, the group shared their surprise and disbelief for maybe a full 60 seconds. Then it was back to trying to mine truths out of the passage being studied that day.
This seems to be in stark contrast with the gospel narratives. “Come and see” is an invitation to encounter the Savior. I can only think of one time where Jesus questions how much the disciples know–though this examination is more a challenge to their beliefs rather than their academic acumen. “Who do men say that I am…Who do you say that I am?” (Mt. 16:13-20) Even at this point, Jesus provides grace in deficiency. Just before Jesus returns to heaven, we read that “they worshipped him; but some doubted” (Mt. 28:17). In response, Jesus commissions them to make disciples as they go. He does not mention or encourage academic emphasis or testing. Jesus’ instructions are to teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. Sounds like it could be turning academic, maybe. Perhaps this would be a good time to review how Jesus teaches, or better yet how he models, obedience to his disciples.
Whether in the book or the movie, to learn that “Aslan is on the move” is rousing both to the characters and the observer. Something is going to happen. It may not be easy or safe. Things may get messy. There is probably a good amount of pain involved. But it will be exciting…and, ultimately, it will be good.
I have been so encouraged this past couple of weeks to learn of some places in the U.S.–yes in the U.S.–where God is moving. Some of these movements are exciting works in progress. Others are in the incubation stage. Each is very real. Each is concerned with impacting lostness. Each spreads the glory and fame of God, not of man. Some of these may become “movements” that we would want to try to count and dissect. Others may not. However, this connotation of the word movement is less important to me than knowing that the Holy Spirit is stirring the hearts of faithful servants to impact the lives of future disciple-makers.
Participating in the Live Sent Conversation this week was a blessing for me for so many reasons. One key reason is that I was able to meet some serial church planters. Some of these churches have already planted multiple churches. These are some normal guys being used by God to do some great things. Several of these guys readily admitted that they don’t claim to know what they are doing, but they are simply seeking to be faithful. The humility and faithfulness of the Reproducing Churches Network is an encouragement to me.
In addition to what is happening in Florida, I have recently been encouraged to learn that the Spirit is moving in a number of urban centers including Los Angeles, Nashville, Detroit, and Atlanta. Also, there are exciting things happening in Dallas, Houston, and Birmingham. I trust that there will be more posts of this nature in the future, but that is His to do and share. Together, let’s wait and pray expectantly and see what our great God will do.
This week I will be posting a number of times regarding some key points in doing mission. This will correspond with a Jet Set Tour being hosted by The Upstream Collective with Ed Stetzer. It should be an interesting and rewarding conversation. Thank you for participating in this journey. Here are some other bloggers that will be following along on the trip.
Andrew Jones (Tall Skinny Kiwi)
David Putman (DavidPutmanLive)
David Phillips (Integrating Missionally)
Michael Carpenter (Dining with Sinners)
Derek Webster (re:frame)
Grady Bauer (Missional Space)
C. Holland (Missionary Confidential)
Kevin Mullins (Life.Outpoured)
Guy Muse (The M Blog)
Ray Short (Cultural Dichotomy)
Todd Littleton (The Edge of the Inside)
Paul Chambers Cox (OMS International)
Tim Patterson (Travel Light)
Justin Powell (Urban Idealist)
David Jackson (Moving at the Speed of God)
Ernest Goodman (Missions Misunderstood)