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Lessons from Communist Countries

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Chinese FistAglow 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….

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iStock_000004312581XSmallIt 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.”

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
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Last Letter Life

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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?

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Aslan is on the move

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iStock_000006773109XSmallBWhether 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)
J.D. Greear
Matt Chandler
Ed Stetzer
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)

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