Monday, September 27, 2010

I Had No Idea

“A person with a felony record can become an attorney, but is barred for life from becoming a security guard at a mall.”*

There is a joke in there somewhere, but knowing I might get sued by someone unqualified to be a mall security guard is preventing me from telling it.

*Miriam Aukerman, “Criminal Convictions as a Barrier to Employment” in Michigan Bar Journal, Nov 2008, p. 33; MCL 338.1056; MCL 338.1067.

Ethnicity, Belief about Jesus, and the Makeup of Churches

Consider the following two statements:
  1. Jesus died and came back to life.
  2. Believing in Jesus makes a positive difference in a person’s life.
Now, consider this:
[20-29 year old] African-Americans have stronger agreement with both statements about Jesus than any other racial or ethnic group. Almost all African-American young adults (98 percent) agree that Jesus died and came back to life, and eight out of nine agree that believing in Jesus makes a positive difference in a person’s life. [My note: That’s over 20 points higher than the average.] On the other hand, only 59 percent of Anglos believe in the resurrection. Hispanics were similar to the total group, as 70 percent agreed that Jesus returned to life. Agreement that believing in Jesus made a positive difference in a person’s life was 75 percent for each of the non-African-American groups (Ed Stetzer, Lost and Found, pp. 28-29).

Here’s my question: Since 98 percent of young African-Americans say that they agree with us on these two very basic and foundational premises of Christianity, why are churches so seemingly underrepresented by young African-Americans?

It would seem that these would be right “in our wheelhouse” so to speak because we do not have to convince them of the truth of the resurrection or the impact of Jesus on a person’s life.

I think there are several reasons for consideration (anecdotal and observational, rather than scientific).

First, there is the influence of culture. African-Americans are typically brought in a more religious setting than non-African-Americans. It is part of their culture. They know the religious terminology. Most of them have grandmothers who took them to church, and talked to them about God. It’s particularly interesting to me to think of the number of people that I have talked to personally who claim to go to church, but don’t know the name of it, or where it is (aside from “that church over there”).

In my experience in my community, most African-Americans that I talk to claim to go to church and can actually identify the church that they claim to go to. Non-African-Americans are less likely to claim to attend church, and much less likely to be able to identify the church that they attend. Nonetheless, African-American culture seems more religiously knowledgeable and inclined than other cultures. 

Second, there is the influence of education. Stetzer reports that among young adult with college experience, “belief in the resurrection drops from 92 percent among the less educated (high school or less) to 63 percent among those with some college or a degree” (p. 31).

If it is true that African-Americans are less likely to have some college experience, it stands to reason that fewer of them have been talked out their received traditions. That is to say that they claim belief, but perhaps only because no one has talked them out of it yet. That’s not intended as any kind of slight. Remember, the percentages of all ethnic groups go down after some college experience. So those who have attended college are more likely to abandon belief in the resurrection, no matter their ethnicity.

It would be interesting to know the numbers broken down by ethnicity and education.

Whatever the case, it strikes me that perhaps at least some of this is our church culture. Before the “progressives” cheer and the “conservatives” tune out, let me say, I am not sure how important that is to worry about.

I think our church culture needs to reflect the gospel in our community. We do not necessarily need to reflect the community in our gospel. We need to understand our community culture, and minister inside of that culture as much as possible.

Of course we should not adapt the sinful elements of culture. But we should remember that we have no cultural mandate. We have a gospel mandate. And therefore, our entire community is our mandate.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Race Maps

Here are some interesting maps of some US cities color-coded by race. I recognized the top one as Detroit as soon as I saw it. The north red-blue dividing line is probably the famed 8 Mile Road. The pocket of red in the middle of the picture is probably the New Center Area and Wayne State University area. The pocket of orange in the center, just below the middle of the picture is Mexicantown. Our church is located just to the right of the blue section at the bottom of the map.

The data used to make this map is ten years old, but it is interesting nonetheless, not just in terms of racial grouping but also in terms of population density. My suspicion is that 30-40 years ago, this map would be more similar to the NYC map in terms of population density.

Here's a page with some information about the various neighborhoods in Detroit.

I wonder how this type of data might be useful for church planting. It seems that certain types of people are often best able to reach certain types of people. It seems to me that willingness is important, but it is not the sum total of a call to a particular location. I think there is a place for churches to steer people into places of ministry that they might best be suited for.

Obviously, there are some dangers with that. We don't have a heirarchy of bishops that assigns men to places of ministry. But we do have churches, knowledgeable pastors, and community residents who should be able to assess background, gifts, desires, and abilities to help guide young men (or older men) into ministry situations that best fit his ministry skills and heart.

The fact that someone feels called to a particular area is a start, but it is not the end. I have seen some good men fail at church planting because they were doing something that they apparently were not gifted to do, or perhaps doing it in an area to which they were not well-suited. This leads to great frustration, wasted money and effort, and sometimes abandonment of ministry altogether.

I think the local church's role in ordaining and commissioning pastors should be taken very seriously. How all that works out in a particular local church is obviously up to that church. But I would call us to consider the idea.

Friday, September 24, 2010

No Half-Jesus

Jesus will not be divided. People have tried. Even those closest to him.

In Mark 8:27-33, Peter tried to divide Jesus. After Peter proclaimed Jesus to be the Christ—the Messiah, the King—Jesus prophesied of his own death that would make him the Savior.

Peter’s immediate response is to divide Jesus by trying to prevent Jesus from going to the cross. You see, Peter liked a King Jesus, one with great miracles, great teaching, and great power; he didn’t like a Savior Jesus, one who would be rejected and die.

Jesus called him Satan for this division because Jesus will not be divided. Peter, by trying to have a half-Jesus, was acting as a tool of Satan.

Interestingly, in the very next verses, Jesus now calls the crowd to him. He is no longer speaking only to his disciples, the already committed. He is now speaking to everyone. 

To this crowd, he warns them against accepting him as Savior but not as Lord. These are people who want the Savior Jesus but do not want the King Jesus. They want to live as their own master, while pretending to trust in someone else as Jesus. They want Jesus on the cross, but they do not want to pick up their own cross.

To these, Jesus says, “If you are going to follow me, then you are going to have to follow me. To fail to deny yourself and take up the cross is to lose your existence—your life, your soul, the very thing you are trying to save.” And that life is lost at the return of Christ when Jesus is ashamed of you.

I think it very difficult to make the case that Jesus is saying merely that he will be embarrassed by one of his children at his second coming. I think he is saying what he says in Matthew 7 and other places: “Depart from me. I never knew you.” Or Matthew 10:33 where Jesus says, “I will deny him before my Father in heaven.”

You can pretend that Jesus is calling on those already committed to take some extra step of commitment to discipleship. But I think it hard to reconcile that with the fact that Jesus is speaking to the crowd, not the core. And I think it hard to reconcile that with the fact that Jesus ties eternity to it. And I think it hard to reconcile with the fact that the Bible, the New Testament which is our final rule of faith and practice, has no apparent use for a distinction between salvation and discipleship, between the saved and the disciples. And if Jesus had no room for that, either in his own ministry or in his early church, then we must question why there are some who pretend to know more than Jesus did.

You see, Jesus will not be divided. He will not be a King without being a Savior. And he will not be a Savior without being a King.

Yes, it’s a hard saying.

But it’s Jesus’ saying.

And we have no right to say anything else.

Rainer on Millennials and Leaders

No, this isn’t about eschatology. It is about those who were born between 1980 and 2000. They are called the Millennials.

Thom Rainer at Lifeway recently gave four characteristics that Millennials desire in leaders, and he didn’t just make them up like many people who talk about this generation do. These are the results of surveys that ask questions. Here are the four:

  1. Mentoring
  2. Gentle spirit
  3. Transparency and authenticity
  4. Integrity

If you want to influence the younger generation, this is what they (the people you are trying to influence) say you need to be and do in order to get them to listen to you.

I think this list is not just true of Millennials in general. I think this list is true of the so-called “young fundamentalists,” many of whom are Millennials raised in “fundamentalism” (in quotes because much of what they are departing from bears no resemblance to biblical fundamentalism).

I think the this list demonstrates why the tactics of some who are desperately trying to influence these young people won’t work.

They do not have a gentle spirit. They are combative, arrogant, and cross. They routinely and vitriolically attack those who disagree with them, even over minor matters. They use strong language. They have an abrasive attitude, and it’s not about ideas but about people. They are just plain rude at times. They claim they are standing for the truth, but the truth is that they are too often contradicting the truth by their attitude. To quote a friend of mine, it makes me glad to be a fundamentalist so I can separate from them.

They are not transparent and authentic. They speak boldly about others, littering the world with their dogmatic statements, even when they aren’t accurate. They just don’t tell the truth sometimes. And they won’t be honest about themselves, even when the truth is obvious to everyone else. They are a lot about show and a little about substance. They will quickly shut down conversations if it threatens them. They are about self-promotion and winning silly little battles and missing the big war.

They do not have integrity. They say things that are clearly not true, or they shade the truth in a particular way while not admitting that there is another side. They run to extremes, and stay there even when challenged. They complain about others while doing the very thing they complain about.

Few, if any, would say, “I want to be like that person.” And that’s why they have little to no influence. I believe that you will never have a positive influence on people who do not want to be like you.

And they will not like me saying this.

Finally, I think this list begins with what real ministry is all about—mentoring. It is why the cyber world and blogs are not the places that young fundamentalists (or young Christian leaders in general) will be created or held onto, or trained, or influenced. Because mentorship is face-to-face, person-to-person. It won’t take place on a blog defending this or attacking that. It won’t take place through demagoguery or intimidation.

Sure, today’s generation is more connected than ever before. They will read widely on the internet, but chances are they won’t read deeply. They live life in soundbytes—tweets and facebook status updates. Email is old to them. Texting is the way the communicate. The use blog readers and news readers in order to skim the first line or two to see if they are interested enough to read on (which is why many will never see the end of much that is written, including this).

But true leadership and mentorship will take place large through side-by-side ministry partnership (otherwise know as biblical fellowship).  It will be face-to-face exchanges across coffee with no holds barred and no comment unchallengeable.

Oh, to be sure, there will be a few select voices in cyberspace that will be heard by many. And most will probably agree to some degree and disagree to another.

And in young fundamentalism, that’s okay. There’s no need to be monolithic. There’s no compulsion to do what someone else does, or draw lines exactly where someone else draws them.

And in young fundamentalism, disagreement will be expressed, just like it is in “old fundamentalism” … with some rancor, some anger, some bad arguments, and some bad interpretation of arguments.

But I suppose we should expect a certain amount of immaturity from the younger crowd. It’s the old guys who should be past that. Too often they’re not. And they do not have the decency to shut up.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

In the Diner

It was a first this morning.

A purse-snatching. (Not my purse, mind you. I always keep that close to me.)

It was taken right off the counter.

Right in my line of sight.

And I missed it.

I saw the guy walk past out the door, and a few seconds later I hear, “Where’s your purse? … That guy took it.”

So we went after him.

Caught up with him in the alley a couple of blocks away.

He claimed he thought it was his mom’s. “She forgot it and sent me up there to get it.”

I said, “Don’t lie, man. You know that wasn’t your mom’s.”

I later told him, “We live here. Don’t ruin our neighborhood by doing this stupid stuff.”

I felt a bit like Barney Fife … and Rick Simon all in one. We caught the guy but couldn’t do anything with him.

He left before the police showed up because we didn’t call until he was actually walking away. The response time was actually pretty quick though … probably less than two minutes after the call was made.

I went after him for a few more blocks but too much time had passed so I didn’t see where he went. I have to admit the thought crossed my mind about whether or not he was packin’. When I saw someone in the distance, I slowed down and ducked a bit behind the corner of a building. It was a different guy though,

In the end, the purse was returned, and the keys also when they fell out of his pocket. He ended up with a new pack of cigarettes and an inhaler. (That’s a strange combination now that I think about it.)

Now to get some work done …

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Coral Ridge Ending Age-Segmented Worship

So proclaims Out of Ur, citing an unlinked article in The Christian Post.

What are they actually doing? They are actually ending their practice of having a traditional and a contemporary service, something that dates back to the days of D. James Kennedy. Now, Kennedy’s successor Tullian Tchividjian says it’s time to do away with that.

Here’s a quote of interest:

The megachurch pastor also said he doesn't view separate worship services by style or age as any different from racial segregation, except that it's more subtle.

Allowing for the fact that Tchividjian may not have actually said this (there is no link and it’s not a direct quote), this is an interesting ploy that, to me, smacks of silliness.

It seems these days, that whenever someone wants to make a really strong statement on something, they often connected it to race because almost everyone cares about race and virtually no one wants to come down on the wrong side of that.

But how, in the name of anything rational, is having multiple services of different styles similar to racial segregation?

Simple answer: It’s not.

People choose which church they want to attend, and which service they want to attend. They are welcome to sit where they like (unless they get there late and the back seats are already filled). No one looks at their appearance and then funnels them into certain places. I was at Coral Ridge one Sunday, as a relatively young man, and went to the traditional service. No one tried to get me to go somewhere else. It was completely voluntary.

Racial segregation was not. It was enforced, both legally and culturally.

In other words, this argument by Tchividjian is, quite frankly, just a dumb argument. It sounds pious, but it makes no sense. It does injustice to real racial problems, and it doesn’t solve anything.

I am all for having one type of service, and one service rather than multiple services. I think young people should be in at least part of the service with older people because “One generation shall praise your works to another,” which is hard to do when the generations are separate (Psalm 145:4).

But whatever a church does with its services, let’s see through cheap ploys to appeal to people’s sensibilities by playing the race card.

We have enough race problems and worship problems in our churches without confusing the two.

Monday, September 20, 2010

In the Diner

I was sitting in the diner this morning in my customary seat by the door, having a conversation, when I saw the shadow of a customer leaving and speaking loudly enough for almost everyone to hear. I didn’t catch the exact comment, but it was something along the lines of the service “driving off all the loyal customers.”

Now, truth be told, I don’t see this guy in there very much. And I find the service very good. Too good, in fact, most often. The coffee cups are never empty, and rarely get to half empty. Only once have I waited some lengthy amount of time for my food to come.

Here’s the funny part: A few minutes later this disgruntled customer came back in the door, walked back to his table, picked up something he forgot, and then left again.

I thought, It must be a little embarrassing to make a big show in leaving and then have to come back and get something you forgot.

It reminds me how easy it is to speak without thinking fully about what we are saying. And how embarrassing it is (or at least should be) to go back and try to undo something we should have though twice about to begin with. Of course some never bother to go back and try to undo it.

Several years ago, on a particular blog, I saw a post about something the late Jerry Falwell had said. (He wasn’t late then.) A few seconds later, Google had informed me what Falwell had actually said, and it wasn’t what he was accused of saying.

Several people commented on the inaccuracy, and the post mysteriously disappeared without a word. Never an apology. No correction. Just silence. The post had been out for several hours, been seen many times no doubt, and yet there was no “I got it wrong.” Those who never googled it were left believing it was true.

But it wasn’t.

I have seen in on other sites as well, often times repeated multiple times. These are things that are demonstrably false, and easily discovered. But some adoring saps will read the blog and praise the author, not having the discernment (and apparently not having google either) to recognize that some things simply aren’t true. And other things have another side.

Here’s my advice: Think carefully before you speak. Because your words don’t taste good when you have to eat them.

Saying dumb things about something or someone merely makes you look like a buffoon. On sure, you will have a few people who hang on every word, and congratulate you.

But most will just roll their eyes at you. And a lot will have a chuckle, just like I did this morning.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Around the Horn – 9/14/10

Here’s a good word from Ken Pierpont on finding out before you  jump off. And it applies to so many more things than the story itself.

Old people were once young, but young people have not yet been old. For that reason younger people should make an effort to understand what it’s like to be older. I’m getting older every day and I and growing in my sympathy for things I didn’t understand when I was young.

Most of us can stand to take a little more time in learning prior to getting mad. It will ease the difficulty of trying to fix it after we get over being mad.

And here’s a good word from Kevin DeYoung on twenty things he wish he had known. Many of them resonate with me very strongly, especially #4, 9, and 15.

4. Establish your priorities at the church early and clearly. I suggest: preach, pray, and people.

9. Be personal instead of academic. A conversation is usually better than a paper.

15. Spend more time getting to know your people and less time trying to figure out the culture of your city.

And #10 is a corollary because “Facebook” doesn’t count as people time, no matter how many friends you have. Most of us, myself included, are way too connected (although if you have my cell phone number, you are one of a very few. And if I answer it when you call me, you are one of even fewer). The idea of a technology fast is a good one. I plan on taking one before I die. Perhaps next year, but today I have to make sure that no one has emailed me in the last three minutes and check the news to make sure the world didn’t blow up yet.

And lastly (for today), here’s a good word from Mark Farnham on the value of systematic theology in the reading of the pastor.

Pastors who study theology do their congregation a great service. Generally their preaching has more substance, and their ideas are drawn from a larger pool of knowledge and exposure than one who does not read. Pastors who do not study theology tend to preach atheological sermons. They may be able to atomistically expound a text, but they will have difficulty connecting the text to the grand redemptive truths that give the texts weighty significance.

Monday, September 13, 2010

In the News

This is a good reminder not to build your life on shifting sands:

A decade ago, boomers felt they had the map to early, cushy retirement. Then they watched their fortunes die along the side of the road.

We would do well to remember this:

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,  storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed (1 Timothy 6:17-19).

And this:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;  for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Joyced Again

Wow!!! What to say? That’s bizarre beyond any level of rationality.

It’s far worse than the Galarraga perfect game call because the officials had a chance to get it right and still missed it. At least Joyce had no recourse. He would have fixed it if he could have.

This group had that chance, and still missed it.

And unlike Joyce’s blown call, this affected the outcome of the game.

They actually looked at the play, probably several times, and still missed it.

The “process” was over when he came down  in control of the ball, with two feet in bounds, then a third foot down, then fell down on his backside, then rolled over, and then put the ball on the ground.

Anywhere else on the field, that’s a catch.

In fact, if the receiver catches the ball short of the end zone, simply reaches out and breaks the plane of the line, and then has the ball knocked out of his hands, it is a touchdown.

But this isn’t?

That’s simply bizarre.

The Lions don’t need any help to lose.

And they don’t deserve any help to win.

But this one was stolen from them.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

What is Missional?

This article, and some to follow, includes excerpts from my paper “Missional Worship in the Gathered Church.” This was originally posted on 9/7/2010 as a prelude to this post on the missional idea, but it disappeared into cyberspace somewhere.

A common buzzword in ecclesiology today is “missional.” You don’t have to read very much to realize that there is a lot packed into this word, but not all agree on what should be packed into it, or more precisely, how it should be played out in the church. Missional involves varying views of the Kingdom of God and varying views of how the church is related to the kingdom. It talks about how God is at work in the world, what God is doing, and how people should be involved in that work.

There is a tendency among some to judge the value of a word or idea by looking at who predominantly uses the word or idea. Some are hesitant to use the word because of who else uses it. In this case, missional is a word frequently used among the emerging type churches and ministries. It is frequently connected with a lack of orthodoxy and a heavy emphasis on social justice. It is also frequently connected to what is known as “incarnational ministry,” that is, that we as believers are to “incarnate” the gospel, just as Jesus did when he came to earth. This makes some wary of the word.

Yet I think that the idea is pretty simple and useful, even if we don’t like the word missional, and even if we do not agree with the doctrinal aberrancies and the social emphases of some who use it.

The idea of missional is based on the idea that God is a missionary God. This incorporates a number of facets that center on the fact that God is active in the world through both his incarnation and his people. Missional thinker Alan Hirsch says “By his very nature God is a ‘sent one’ who takes the initiative to redeem his creation.”[1] Gibbs and Bolger say “God is a God who redeems, a God who seeks and saves … there is only one mission—God’s mission.”[2]

Mission embraces an even larger point. It is not simply that God sends, but that God is at work (on mission) accomplishing his purpose which is to bring glory to himself through the redemption of sinners, the building of his kingdom, and the restoration of creation. In his mission, God has taken the initiative to come to man to reconcile him, and now God calls man to join Him on His mission. “Fundamentally, our mission (if it is biblically informed and validated) means our committed participation as God’s people, at God’s invitation and command, in God’s own mission within the history of God’s word for the redemption of God’s creation.”[3] To be missional means to participate with God in God’s mission.

Mission is closely connected to the biblical theology movement which emphasizes the storyline of the Bible: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration (or sometimes consummation). Since God’s mission is redemption with a view to restoration, the disciple’s mission is to participate in God’s work of redemption in anticipation of the ultimate restoration. In this sense, mission emphasizes the Kingdom of God and is consequently inseparable from eschatology.

Yet at the same time, missional thinking does not demand a particular eschatological view. Though most missional thinkers embrace some form of the “already/not yet,” virtually all agree that the church is living in and speaking to the “not yet.”

This is seen in the common theme that exists in missional writing of living in a post-Christian era—a time and culture in which the Christian worldview is no longer dominant. This is often traced to Leslie Newbigen who returned to England after years of missionary work in India to find that British culture had changed drastically. This change meant that now Christians must be missionaries to their own cultures, just as “foreign missionaries” who went to a new country, learned a new language, new customs, and a new culture, and then preached the gospel into that culture in a way that it could be understood.

Christians are therefore to live in their culture as a missionary redeemed by God and sent by God to that particular historical and geographical context to be used by God in his work of redeeming and restoring his fallen creation to himself. In this, everything that the Christian does is a part of mission. For the believer, to live is to live on mission for God and the gospel. The church is to equip and encourage believers to live on mission, doing life together in the mission of God for the sake of the “not yet” by which they are surrounded.

[1]Alan Hirsch, “Defining Missional,” Leadership Journal (Fall 2008), le/2007/winter/2.34.html?start=1, accessed 6 June 2010.

[2]Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger, Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005), p. 50.

[3]Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God (Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006), p. 23.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Key Ideas about Missional - Mission

Note: This post actually follows this introductory post.

One of the key issues in the missional conversation is the idea of mission itself. In fact, it is probably the key idea. And simply put, it means “going out.”

The problem is that missional means different things to different people. Missiologist Ed Stetzer likens it to a Rorshach test (you know, the one where they show you a random inkblot image and ask what you see in it). As Stetzer says, what you see in missional depends on your theological commitments. It is, in some strange irony, the hermeneutical union of authorial intention with postmodernity. When someone says, “I’m missional,” I ask “What does that mean to you?” or “What do you mean by that?”

Stetzer divides the idea into high missional, mid missional, and low missional. These divisions have to do, primarily as I understand them, with the relationship of the church to the Kingdom of God (KoG). Is the KoG coextensive with the church in this age? Does it overlap with the church in this age? Is it completely outside the church in this age? Evangelicals tend towards the first (low), while mainliners tends towards the last (high).

Almost all who use the word missional use it with reference to the missio Dei, the mission of God. (I say “almost all” because there are probably some who just see certain big names using it and jump on the bandwagon with no clue of what it actually means; but it sounds cool.) Some see the missio Dei as predominantly social in nature—the reformation of societal structures of injustice, oppression, and poverty. For them, this is largely unconnected to the church and the “word of the gospel” (as opposed to the supposed living out of the gospel through working for societal change). For them, this is the working out of the KoG apart from the church. They emphasize the horizontal relationships. They see salvation as more corporate than personal , the redemption of societal structures that reconcile people to each other rather than the redemption and reconciliation of lost sinners to God through Jesus (e.g., Brian McLaren).

Others see this as primarily (or at least equally) proclamational in nature, that the gospel must be proclaimed, not just lived. They would reject the saying, “Preach the gospel; use words if necessary.” They would say, “If you haven’t preached the gospel, then you haven’t preached the gospel.” Words, the message of salvation in Jesus alone, is inseparable from the mission. Most would quickly add that words alone are insufficient for the gospel, by which they would point to hypocrisy—that preaching the love of Jesus to the lost without living the love of Jesus around the lost is hypocritical and is not missional living (e.g., Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller). Such living ultimately hampers the proclamation.

For all, mission is a way of life. It is not something we do so much as something we are.

Some of the historic evangelism conferences of the 20th century addressed this issue of the relationship of the church and the KoG. Here is a brief summary of some of these conferences. Let me pick just one example from this chapter. At Madras in 1938, there was a strong emphasis that “church and mission are inseparable.” Missionary E. Stanley Jones objected to this on the grounds that it removed an “absolute conception” from which to live and serve in the world. For him, the KoG was absolute (perhaps ultimate) and the church was relative. The usefulness of this in understanding the issue is that most missional thinkers see the KoG as having priority over the church. The church is the sign or the instrument of the KoG (cf. Stetzer). It is not an end unto itself. It is a tool for something bigger.

I say that to say that a large part of “missional” deals with the conception of the KoG. In this sense, missional thinking is very similar to (though, IMO, not identical to) incarnational ministry: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

Missional thinkers typically look to Jesus as the model for ministry (an idea that IMO is significantly flawed, which I will argue for later). We are at work in the world with God (on mission with God) to bring about the KoG just like Jesus. The mission is to work with God to bring about the Kingdom in some limited or small way now, looking for the consummation when God finishes the job, so to speak.

Thus, we are to live in the world like Jesus did, “showing and sharing” the love of God like Jesus did in his ministry. This incarnational focus becomes one of the driving forces of missional for many people.

The difficulty that we will address later is in properly assessing the present nature of the KoG and its relationship to the church.

So let me go back to the beginning of this post. To be missional is to be sent. I think that is an entirely biblical concept—that the church has been sent into the world to preach the gospel so that the church is built of the people who Jesus purchased with his blood. The reason that the church must go to all nations is because Jesus purchased people from all nations (cf. Matt 28:18-20; Rev 5:9).

But let me just jump to the end for a moment: The irony is that missional thinking is “new,” but in some ways really isn’t all that different from what many believe the church is supposed to be: a group of believers that comes together for worship, instruction, fellowship and scatters for evangelism.

Missional thinkers typically reject seeker driven models of ministry. The contrast they draw is between attractional and missional. The church, they believe, should be missional—going out to them; not attractional—asking them to come to us.

Alan Hirsch says it this way:

Missional represents a significant shift in the way we think about the church. As the people of a missionary God, we ought to engage the world the same way he does—by going out rather than just reaching out.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Quick Hits From the Mail

From a flyer advertising a worship seminar:

The average person in our society laughs 7 times per day. The average person attending this seminar will laugh than 30 times.

I suppose that is one reason to attend a worship conference.

Perhaps that says more than it intends. Maybe the reason people take worship so lightly is because it is a laughing matter to them.

On another note, the recent Baptist Bible Tribune has its regular article by Charles Lyons, pastor of Armitage Baptist Church in Chicago. In it, he talks about how we have taken baptism—the public confession of Christ—and turned it into a private affair. He says,

We know baptism is to be the public declaration of Jesus’ lordship and attachment to His local body, but in reality we’ve taken the route of convenience. We schedule baptism in hidden, walled, sequestered pools, often in front of the smallest audience of the week.

So what did they do? They took their baptisms to a local park named the Humboldt Park Lagoon and they do it publicly—not like in front of the church public, but open air public. And baptismal candidates take the mic  and give their testimony of faith before being baptized. One lady recently baptized was, in her words “right over there, hiding behind that tree” at the previous year’s baptism. This particular year, because of that, she was the one publicly confessing her faith in Christ.

I like it. I am not sure how practical it is for some, including us. But it is worth giving some thought to, in my opinion.

As a related side note, this past January, on my trip to India I was sitting in the Mumbai airport during an overnight layover. My my friend Ken and I were chatting with an older couple who we had seen having a gospel conversation with another person. Turns out the gentleman was a retired British pastor who was a Sovereign Grace Baptist in England.

During that conversation I noticed a young lady sitting just to my right on the row that backed up to ours. She was clearly eavesdropping. So I started talking to her. Turns out she is a member of Armitage Baptist Church where Charles Lyons (the author of this article) pastors. She was in India for a wedding. I told her that her pastor’s regular article in the Baptist Bible Tribune was the only article I read in in the Tribune. We later boarded the same plane for our common destination.

Small world.