Home » Posts tagged 'Mission'
Tag Archives: Mission
“If you work the words into your life you are like a smart carpenter who dug deep and laid a foundation of his house on bedrock. When the river burst its banks and crashed against the house, nothing could shake it; it was built to last.” (Luke 6:48 Message)
Jesus said, “These words I speak to you are not merely additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on.” (Luke 6:47 Message)
Sounds pretty important to me
But what was Jesus referring to exactly? What are we building and why?
Jesus was wrapping up his Sermon on the Mount, including the Beatitudes, the DNA of the Kingdom of God, and the Lord’s Prayer, instruction on how to appeal to God for his help in fulfilling his mission in the earth. Jesus was a carpenter by trade; he used the metaphor of building to get his point across. His sermon was kind of like a builder’s “shop-talk” for the large crowd that gathered to listen to him in Galilee.
Do you find it interesting that the crowds that gathered around Jesus were often too big for the buildings of his day? On one occasion when Jesus did gather people in a house, a few determined men who sought healing for their paralytic friend “removed some tiles” from the roof, and “let him down in the middle of everyone.” (Luke 5:18 Message) Of course, Jesus healed the man because he and his friends had great faith.
The Building Process: Internal and External
Imagine walking through the trailer on the site of a major new building project. On the wall is a chart showing all the various tasks for each of the contractors. Jesus sermon was about all the tasks and tools used to build our lives, our families, our communities, and our nations. He was speaking of how to build a community which would soon be called the “Church.”
Jesus was teaching his audience about the tools of the kingdom, how to love enemies, how to be merciful, giving, forgiving, and not-judging. He said, “Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.” (v.42) He spoke of the organic nature of the kingdom when he spoke about fruit-bearing, “your true being brims over into true words and deeds.” (v.45) It appears the “building” Jesus is referring to is NOT a place of worship; it’s a people of worship.
Who is doing the building?
Neil Cole, in his book “Organic Church” asks: “Do you trust laymen on their own?”
Look again at what Jesus said: “If you work the words into your life you are like a smart carpenter …” Sounds like Jesus intends for “you” to be the builder.
Unfortunately down through the ages spiritual authorities, whether they are Pharisees or modern ministers, have too often failed to trust God’s people to “build”.
Roland Allen‘s important book focuses on the fact that Paul’s missionary activity was church planting and that he quickly turned over leadership to the “builders.” Without exception, all the churches that Paul planted in the gentile world were left alone; and, in every case, God’s people managed to survive and express Christ and His church. Certainly, Paul’s missionary work produced what we call “New Testament churches.”
Paul’s “New Testament churches” seem to be different than ours. Our concept of New Testament Church keeps coming up with a “senior” pastor and a passive and mute laity. Paul’s method was to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry” which is to proclaim Jesus is Lord in every family, every community, sphere of society and every nation.
A Changing World
Today’s world is very different than the Paul’s world, but let’s look at the similarities. The first century was dominated by a single world power, Rome. Today’s world also has a single world power. At the same time, the Roman world was culturally diverse, pluralist. And today, when you visit any major city, university, or shopping mall, you will see and hear people from many cultures. In fact, there has never been a time in history like the first century quite like there is today.
And yet, the world is vastly different from the first century and any other time in history. Within the past few years, the demographic center of the Christian world has shifted from the North and West to the South and East. The new Majority Church is in the Global South. The accessibility to information technologies is rapidly changing the world, including the Arab world and China. It appears the pressures caused by the flow of information among the people in the Arab world will effectively change Middle Eastern nations and their primary business models. OPEC will likely face pressures and break up, releasing a more market-based system. Those nations will likely shift from economies based on a single product, crude oil, to a market-based economy. That change will likely also open the way for alternative energy sources; a change that is too restrictive now due to our dependence on foreign oil.
The emerging generation has more access to information and connection with “friends” than any previous generation. Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat helped frame the significance of these changes. Friedman’s book was out before the emergence of FaceBook. If Facebook were a country, the number of people on that one social media tool would be one of the five most populated nations on earth. It is second nature for most people today to collaborate for social change. This change alone will affect every modern institution including churches. The effect of these major socio-political, economic, and demographic shifts is “like a flood.”
Like no other time in history is it necessary to build on a solid foundation in obedience to Jesus. Building the people of God to do the work of God everywhere. We must trust God’s people to be the priesthood to proclaim the good news by every means, inside the domain of church ministries and outside that domain. If we do follow Jesus’ instruction and Paul’s method, what is built will be “build to last.”
Looking into the hollow eyes of Paulo, I wondered what we could do. Paulo was emaciated and gaunt, but with a bloated belly. His parents asked us to come see him. They worried that he would no longer eat the corn tortillas they had been feeding him. Because he was weak, his mother kept Paulo hidden in the dark corner of the small mud brick house. She feared that the sun and the warm air in the mountains of Guatemala would harm him.
It was 1991 and our university student Field Ministry Internship teams visited this mountain village to serve the Rabinal Achi people, a poor community with little or no access to health care and education.
Bonnie, a nurse and our health care team leader said Paulo was dying; he was at the final stages of starvation.
With the mother’s permission and Bonnie’s recommendation, I picked up the frail boy and held him to pray. He was light as a feather. I carried him into the sun. A member of our team ran to get some 7Up and soda crackers to attempt to rehydrate him, but he would not eat. I fed him the liquid with a tea spoon, which appeared to help him. We prayed earnestly as tears welled up in our eyes for the boy and his family. “Jesus, please heal this one today.”
The clinical name for the condition is called Kwashiorkor. The belly swells due to the lack of protein. The parents did not understand that the diet of tortillas, the only food available for their little boy, was insufficient. Paulo was not getting the nutrients he needed to survive.
We learned the next day that Paulo died. Even as I write this today, I agonize over the loss of this small child that had so little hope of survival. Even now, I want to bring a good report; I want to say, “Jesus healed Paulo!” But that is not what happened.
Paulo’s family is among the poorest of the poor. He is not merely a statistic, but he is among three billion people, almost half the world’s population, who live on less than $2.50 USD a day. Approximately 24,000 children like Paulo die every day due to malnutrition and impure water. (See Facts on Global Poverty.)
That experience, and dozens of others like it in as many countries over the past two decades, shaped my vision and passion for mobilizing university students toward their calling in Christ’s mission to a needy world. I ache to see a generation of university students offer their lives, including their studies and their careers, as living sacrifices in worship of Jesus. I long to see communities of faith, churches, devote more of their resources to mission and less to the one hour event on a Sunday morning. I long to see Christian business leaders, educators, scientists, communicators, food growers, builders, health care specialists, and families connect, conspire and collaborate to serve the world’s poor, starting with one small boy or girl in one small village.
One of the most important books I have read on the subject of ministry to the poor is God of the Empty-Handed: Poverty, Power, and the Kingdom of God by Jayakumar Christian. (Amazingly, this book is not available for less than $200.00. Therefore, I will provide a brief synopsis for my next four blog posts.)
As I read this book I was challenged to understand several keys to ministry among the poor. I’m convinced these key principles are important for any ministry, any Christian desiring to serve Christ’s mission. Additional posts with stories of our ministry among the poor will follow soon.
(Note: The name “Paulo” may not be accurate, but the story is true. I may have confused this boy’s name with another we ministered to some time later.)
Setting the stage for the historic prayer meeting with the five students who gathered under that haystack to find refuge from a storm in August 1806 was a little booklet written only a decade or so earlier by William Carey. The booklet was entitled:
“An Enquiry Into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen.”
Carey was a cobbler and lover of maps. He was homeschooled and he made several world maps out of leather which hung in his shop where he made shoes. In that little booklet, Carey asks:
“Are Christians under an obligation to help transform societies that live in intellectual, moral, social, political, and spiritual darkness?”
This profound question provoked at least one elder in his church while listening to Carey’s presentation. The elder said:
“Young man, if God had wanted to save the poor heathen, he would do it himself and he would not need your help.”
Ruth and Vishal Mangalwadi have written an excellent little book about William Carey entitled: “The Legacy of William Carey: A Model for the Transformation of Culture” (formerly: “Carey, Christ, and Cultural Transformation: The Life and Influence of William Carey”). I am referring here to what I have learned from the Mangalwadi book.
Carey was known as the Father of Modern Missions because of his work in India and his written appeal to the institutional Protestant church of his day to respond to the Great Commission. Carey is mostly known for his commitment as a missionary to India, but few have understood that commitment or his understanding of the gospel and its power to reform society, Hindu Indian society as well as the powerful East India Company (a precursor to multi-national corporations). Though largely still unreached today, Carey had an incredible impact on India.
William Carey began his life work as a cobbler in England. Educated by his parents and a life-long learner, Carey developed a true concern for the calling of the Church to obey the commandment of Christ to preach the gospel to every creature. His understanding of that calling became personal as he endured the opposition of Church leaders and his own wife and set sail to serve God’s purposes in India for over 30 years.
What most do not know about William Carey is the extent of his work and vision for Christian missions. Mangawadi writes:
“He was a pioneer of the modern Western Christian missionary movement, reaching out to all parts of the world; a pioneer of the Protestant church in India; and a translator and/or publisher of the Bible in forty different Indian languages. Carey was an evangelist who used every available medium to illuminate every dark facet of Indian life with the light of truth. As such, he is the central character in the story of India’s modernization.”
Today India is the largest democracy in the world. What most do not know is that this simple cobbler from England was much more than a clergyman. His vision for the church and his understanding of the gospel to transform culture included nearly every arena of society, every sphere of influence.
Carey was not only a preacher and translator; he was a botanist who published one of the first books on science and natural history in India. He was an industrialist who developed the first indigenous paper for the publishing industry in India. He was an economist who introduced the idea of savings banks in India. He was a medical humanitarian who campaigned for humane treatment of lepers. He was a media pioneer who built the then largest press in India. He was an agriculturist who founded India’s Agri-Horticultural Society in the 1820′s, thirty years before the Royal Agricultural Society was established in England.
Carey was a translator and educator, a professor of Indian languages at Fort William College in Calcutta. He was an astronomer, introducing India to the scientific culture of astronomy, which made it possible for India to devise calendars, study geography and history, and plan their work and social order.
Carey was a library pioneer who started lending libraries. He was a forest conservationist who wrote essays on forestry and said that as the gospel flourishes in India, “the wilderness will, in every respect, become a fruitful field.” Carey was a crusader for women’s rights who was the first man to fight against the ruthless murders and widespread oppression of women, which was virtually “synonymous with Hinduism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.”
Carey lived the life of a missionary, not hidden behind the confines of a church structure busying himself with merely religious duties. Carey was a public servant and moral reformer; Carey was a cultural transformer.
This man, his writings, witness, and work, is what inspired five students in a new nation, the United States of America, to pray and fervently seek the Lord for the people of Asia and for their own fellow students. And history continued to unfold…
BTW- Do you know what happened to that church in England where one of the elders told Carey to sit down?
That church is a Hindu temple today.
Did I get a “Blue Letter Bible” for Christmas? Well no. I
don’t think there is such a thing. Instead, I’ll be highlighting
portions of my bible this year in blue. The red letters in our
bibles are used to indicate the words of Jesus. I like seeing the
words of Jesus highlighted, but could it be I’m missing something
when I read my bible? Recently I re-read David Bosch’s classic
Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in
Theology of Mission. Bosch writes: ”I realize
that my theological approach is a ‘map’, and that a map is never
the actual ‘territory’.” (p.187) Bosch’s ‘map’ had me thinking
about those red letters. Maps are not all cartography with
mountains, rivers, cities and roads. Maps are any tools we use to
refer to and navigate our reality. The bible is read as a map, but
each of us ‘sees’ the landscape of reality differently, depending
on our theological, cultural, and historical perspective. The Bible
is a collection of sacred and ancient texts written over the course
of centuries at the hands of many authors, many of whom risked
everything to respond to God’s call to participate in his mission
to extend his grace to their world and beyond. It’s difficult for
me to truly grasp the words of the writers of the bible because I
have difficulty understanding their experience, where they were
living and what they were doing. I have not lived in any other time
or culture than my own. However, I have traveled and studied and
listened with the posture of a disciple. The more I learn and
listen, the more I realize I cannot speak with objective authority
about what the writers of the bible were saying. My own life
experience is a frame of reference for my understanding. As I read
my English bible and worship in my cultural context, I am aware
that there are millions of others reading and worshipping Jesus
from their own frame of reference. In addition to English, there
are 45o other translations of the bible into different languages
and 1185 New Testament translations. (And there are currently 1300
additional translations to new languages in progress.) It’s quite
possible that billions of people from many cultures, speaking many
different languages, have searched the scriptures for clues to find
their way in life. And each has a different human context out of
which they are seeking to be faithful followers of Christ. Of
course, that appears to be God’s intention for everyone in every
nation, community, and family. For me, the call to follow Jesus is
the call to discipleship. It is the call to be a student, or rather
an apprentice to Jesus. If you wish to become a bible scholar, you
will be expected to study the original texts written in Hebrew and
Greek. Interestingly, the red letters in my bible used to indicate
the words of Jesus are also highlighting words that were actually
spoken in Aramaic. Very few bible scholars are expected to learn
Jesus’ original language. I’m not suggesting we should all learn
Aramaic. Instead, I’m suggesting that we may be missing something,
perhaps we need to learn how to be apprentices and not merely
students. Our “map”, though useful for much of our life as
disciples, may be insufficient to help us see the full reality. Our
“map” may show us in part how to live, how to be faithful as
followers of Jesus. However, there are cultural blind spots we all
experience as we read the scriptures. For example, our “map” of
higher education (good as it may be) is designed to help
individuals. Our universities are borne out of a Western context.
The primary strength of formal university training is its strong
emphasis on a Cartesian epistemology, an individual-centered focus
on knowing and developing new thought. That perspective places a
major focus on words and the notion that a subject studying an
object can be objective, not influenced by personal feelings,
tastes, or opinions. Much of the fruit of this impartial, detached,
and impassive scientific inquiry and analysis through higher
education has been good. It has produced an extraordinary period of
development. However, the modern Western Cartesian mindset has also
produced a sacred/secular divide and a hermeneutic of suspicion (an
essential mistrust) where truth is always moving and changes. If
you are still with me, you may argue that life in Christ only
requires the faith of a child. True. But isn’t it also true what
the Psalmist writes: “The word is lamp to my feet, and a light to
my path” (Ps. 119:105). The bible is intended to help us find our
way, even through fearful places, such as the “valley of the shadow
of death” (Ps. 23:4). The bible can help us in our context, but
without careful study, careful appreciation for the context out of
which each of the books of the bible were written, we can misread
the map. The meaning of words evolve and change over time and
across cultural barriers. Consider the word “source”, for example.
Even in the English language the word has multiple meanings
relating to waters, to locations, to history, to time, to people,
and to authority. Understanding the meaning of a word and how it is
used in its original context is vitally important to understanding
what the author intended. The bible is a “lamp” and it will shine
more light onto our path if we will allow it to shine beyond our
theological, cultural, and historical perspective. Discipleship is
not a twelve-week mini-course. Discipleship is life-long, a journey
to the “high countries” of C.S. Lewis’ classic book The Great
Divorce, an allegory of a bus ride from heaven
to hell. The passengers are met by inhabitants of heaven as escorts
for those who would follow them on the journey to the high
countries, to meet with God. Lewis writes: “There are only two
kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be
done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’
All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there
could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy
will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is
opened.” So in 2011, I will be highlighting my bible with blue
letters. The blue will highlight the actions of God the Father,
Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. The blue will highlight what Jesus DID
alongside the red letters that highlight what Jesus SAID. Paying
attention to what he did may change my map just enough to change my
behavior, to more faithfully follow God’s ways in 2011. Blue
highlights will provide a better map to help me see, shining light
on something that I have not seen. Notice, for example, what Jesus
did when he taught: “At dawn he appeared again in the temple
courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down
to teach.” (John 8:2
NIV) “That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat
by the lake.” (Matt
13:1 NIV) It seems Jesus sat when he taught, while others
stood. What does scripture say he is doing now? “He was taken up
into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.” (Mark 16:19 NIV)
He sits now too. But when does it say Jesus stands up? “I see
heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
(Acts 7:56 NIV) He stands for Stephen, the martyr. The questions
this blue highlighting raises for me: If Jesus stands for Stephen,
will he stand for me? When he looks at my life and witness, will he
stand in applause? How about you?
Reading the Gospel of Matthew is a journey into creative tension experienced by the author who understood the heart of a predominantly Jewish exiled community of the early church. In fact Matthew held out this tension, between the pastoral and the prophetic, “in the way in which he portrays the call to a mission to both Jews and Gentiles.” (see Transforming Mission, by David J. Bosch, p. 82)
The embattled and refugee community of Jewish followers of Jesus Christ mid-80 AD, probably living in Syria, were faced with internal and external pressures, a struggle for their identity and purpose. Pressure from Jews who did not believe the message that changed everything and that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah culminated in the extremely conservative Jewish 12th Benediction read aloud in synagogues (Temple worship had ended with its complete destruction) at the end of the first century: “Let the Nazarenes (Christians) and the heretics be destroyed in a moment…Let their names be expurgated from the Book of Life and not be entered with those of the just.” Pressures from within the Jewish Christian community involved questions of adherence to the Law and table fellowship with the growing numbers of Gentiles that had come to faith in Christ.
Matthew wades into this arena of controversy to communicate with pastoral encouragement to a community facing a serious identity crisis. Central to his message, however, is an over-arching missionary identity. Matthew encourages his fellow believers to see the opportunities for missionary witness and service in their context.
This first Gospel is written to a primarily Jewish audience. But Matthew instructs his community to no longer think of themselves as an isolated separate group of Jews; he tells them in no uncertain terms that they are the Church of Christ. (This is the only gospel in which we find the word ecclesia, “church.”) To communicate this identity however, Matthew again holds together a dynamic tension, presenting both a pastoral concern and a missionary outreach. Matthew employs Old Testament scriptures to redefine their community as the “true Israel” and to prove that Jesus is the Messiah, the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel.
Matthew combats the rabbinical teachings of the day with Jesus’ parables, such as the “Tenants”, declaring: “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.” It appears, according to Bosch, that it is Matthew who first took up the “theme of the substitution of Israel by a new covenant people.” (62)
Though this approach may contribute to anti-Semite views, it’s clear Matthew is no anti-Semite. Instead, he is navigating tragic circumstances of his community, including Israel’s failure to be a light to the Gentiles, with his belief that God has and will continue to act in history.
Readers will notice the tension, especially how Matthew portrays Jesus’ repeated words of commitment go only “to the lost children of Israel” and his repeated actions reaching out to the Gentiles, such as the Centurian, the Syrophenecian, and the Samaritan. Matthew is a master at showing how to live amid the tension of historic change taking place in Christian community.
Matthew does not direct his people to cease their identity, either inwardly or outwardly, as children of Israel. However, Matthew’s gospel is infused with the missionary call of his community, and every believer, to make disciples of all nations.
Matthew indeed takes the notion of discipleship beyond the traditional preparation to become a “Rabbi”. To be a disciple of Jesus means to become a life-long follower of Jesus Christ, identifying with the “Twelve” in all our weaknesses and lack of faith. This “teaching” for followers is not merely the modern intellectual enterprise either; it’s an appeal to the will of the follower and a call to submit to God’s will. This teaching does not take place in a classroom, bowing down to a human teacher, and certainly not in a church pew a few hours a week. This teaching takes place as we “worship” (fall prostrate) before Jesus as followers and obey the mission to take this message and life-transforming love of neighbors to all the world. In other words, orthopraxis becomes the critical yardstick for orthodoxy. This “theme of discipleship is central to Matthew’s gospel and to Matthew’s understanding of church and mission.” (73)
Again, Matthew is presenting a message that is both pastoral and missionary. Pastorally, he holds up the first disciples, with all their blunders (“little faith”, “afraid”) as models for us to follow. His missionary message is urging us to “make disciples” that will follow their example.
Matthew writes this first gospel story a generation after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in order to clarify his community’s identity as a community on mission to both the Jews and the Gentiles. Christians find their true identity in the creative tension between Law and Spirit, Church and Mission, pastoral and missionary; the place and posture in which we may truly follow Christ in mission, in communicating to others a new way of life, including a way of following Jesus in a full surrender individually and witness corporately.
Hi. I’m John Henry. Some say I have a contagious love and passion for Jesus. I say I have a passion to teach Christ’s call to make disciples of all nations. If invited to speak I will inform and challenge your group to re-align your vision and programs toward God’s plan and purposes. I offer high content and inspiration in my presentations. My focus is to help every participant in the sessions I teach to focus on what is really important in life, love, and learning.
Through carefully customized presentations designed to meet your group’s specific needs, I will emphasize God’s calling. I will help people of all ages to discern their gifts, strengths, and callings in the context of God’s purposes.
In addition to being a mission mobilizer, I have been a frequent guest speaker in churches, conferences, seminars and workshops around the world. I am the founder and international director of the University of the Nations’ Student Mobilization Centre. The Centre was first commissioned internationally at the UofN Workshop in Korea in 1997. I serve a growing network of over seventy YWAM university ministries in over thirty countries.
Following the Youth With A Mission foundational value of “first do, then teach,” I bring 25 years experience “doing” what I teach. Since 1985, I have been a faith-missionary with experience in many different aspects of church, missions, and leadership, especially among university students.
Since 1989, I have learned many essentials for spiritual formation and leadership emergence as I have coordinated, equipped, and mobilized seventy-five student teams from over 100 colleges and universities from nine nations to serve and learn alongside long term field projects on short-term internships in over thirty countries.
Through various lecture and activity presentations, I not only show people what to do, I teach and model how to think Christianly and listen to God’s heart. I can honestly say I am a tested witness of God’s faithfulness in Christian ministry and mission. I have personal experience in over 30 countries and I approach learning from an integrated relational perspective. I would be honored if you invited me to come share my life with your group.
My wife, Mary, and I have three children, two boys, and one girl adopted from China. As a Christian parents with active involvement in our family’s education and local congregation, we are also in touch with the daily challenges confronting families, young people, and churches. Mary and I have also taught together. We are able to share through experience what works, what doesn’t, and what makes the difference in your family, your Church, or ministry group.
Part of my experience includes serving on a Pastoral Search Team for a mid-sized evangelical church community. I offer insights from that experience for churches in transition.
My Education: MA Global Leadership, Fuller Theological Seminary. (Graduated: 2009)
Experience: Speaker (Since 1983) Short-term Outreach Leader/Trainer (Since 1987) Church/Mission Consultant (Since 1989).
Keywords of all my messages include: Faith, Calling, Mission, Learning, and Leadership
General Topics include: Careers, Ministerial Training, Education, Culture, and Leadership & Motivation.
Most Requested Topics:
1. Call to Relationship: Hearing and Responding to God
The heart of every relationship is found in four essential elements. Without a working familiarity with these elements, relationships eventually break down. Listening to God is urgently necessary if we are going to understand our value, our identity, and our purpose in life. Until we have that relationship with our Creator, we will struggle in virtually every other relationship. This most vital relationship is not merely for our own benefit, however. It is necessary to have a living relationship with God in order to have a living relationship with our families, our friends, our neighbors, our leaders, our teachers, our church community, and every aspect of our world, including our physical surroundings.
This message will penetrate through the non-essentials to help participants respond to God’s initiative of grace in relationships.
2. A Biblical Christian Worldview
Worldview is more than what we see; it’s how we see. I will surprise your group as I lead you into a worldview learning experience. I will help you discover how learning happens and how to understand worldview and how it influences every area of our lives. I lead my audience into a path of discovery, emphasizing the role of personal relationship in the learning experience. I will explore revelation, paradigms, and the four basic questions of worldview. However, this lecture is not a presentation of a simple reduction of philosophical concepts; it is an exposition of the breadth of worldviews, from materialism to spiritism, in contrast with a Christian worldview. Your group will discover together, through small group discussions, the relational nature of learning and the impact worldview has on every sphere of society.
3. Leadership and Collaboration: State of the Church in the 21st Century
The world has changed. Have you noticed? I bring my experience, travels and ministry in thirty countries in four continents over the past twenty-five years, to messages on Leadership and Collaboration. My studies of culture, theology, and the history of the church will be obvious as I lead your group into a thoroughly engaging discovery of the major waves of mission advance during the past 200 hundred years including global shifts which have occurred during the twentieth century. Your group will examine the implications of the significant shifts of the Western Church and the Church of the Global South. In so doing, I will present the need for a new kind of leadership for the Church, and the need for partnership and collaboration in the 21st century.
4. Being Sure about God’s Calling
Where do you fit in God’s unswerving plan to make disciples of all nations?
God is calling you to do kingdom works that he has planned and prepared for you and your community. The Creator of the universe desires you to work alongside him as he crafts his work on planet earth. In this lecture, I share about finding your place in fulfilling God’s plans for your community and for the nations.
Pope Innocent 12th, 1243 AD said, “Universities are rivers of knowledge that feed and fertilize the universal church.” The attitude of the church toward universities, including the UW – Madison, was at one time positive. “We do not want to repeat the errors that have come from not revisiting the theological and biblical underpinnings of our mission.” (Taylor 2001:7) The mission for the Church in Madison is to make disciples of all nations, including the powerful institution of the university.
“The way of the Christian leader,” Henri Nouwen writes, “is not the way of upward mobility in which our world has invested so much, but the way of downward mobility ending on the cross.” (Taylor 2001:9) The challenge of the cross today, is to enter the halls of the universities as reformers. Luther, a professor in a university, never intended to be a reformer. Christian professors at the UW may be unwilling, however these professors may be called to be the leaders in a reformation that is as significant for the university as Luther’s was for the church.
Prophetic engagement with the university is underway through various agencies, such as New College in Madison led by Vern Visick. The challenge is to allow that prophet call to stimulate apostolic response. The apostolic call to the Church in Madison is to engage global issues. With effective church partnership, for example, a challenge could go out to the Church in Madison in response to the global HIV/AIDS crisis: “If you adopt an HIV/AIDS orphan (of which there are over 10 million today), the church in Madison will sponsor that child’s education.” “If the Church of Jesus Christ rises to the challenge of HIV/AIDS it will be the greatest apologetic the world has ever seen,” writes Ravi Zacharias. The Church in Madison’s acceptance of a new apostolic call to engage the university with its influential role in the world, it will present a powerful apologetic of the love of God and the love of our global neighbor.
Why is it sixty-two percent of the churches in Madison, including ten congregations with one thousand or more weekly attenders, identified no missionaries serving on mission fields? (Jericho 1997:7) Perhaps the lack of significant cross-cultural engagement is the result of an insufficient biblical model of the church. Perhaps the weakness of the “modern” church is the preoccupation with growth and size as a measure of success. Many say that “bigger is better”, but this has no biblical foundation.
The church is a complex system, “a living organism.” The church is called to bear fruit. Jesus taught us the “mustard seed” principle, which like complexity theory “illuminates the long-range significance of small actions.” When individual decision is made the foundation of church identity, the fruit that is borne is a culture of individualism. Individual choice and personal need becomes ultimate, rather than the unswerving purpose of God to share his mercy with every person in every culture. To begin to overcome this culture of individualism, one must first deny self and then lead a community of believers to do the same. Only then will the church fulfill her mission.
Paul’s letter to the Romans may possibly his last letter. To ascertain the historical background, we must understand the purpose of the letter, the audience, and the apparent historical placement or time the letter was written.
Paul’s apparent purpose for writing the letter was to promote unity between the Jewish and Gentile Christians. In the letter, we read that Paul is praying and asking for prayer that Christians in Jerusalem would “accept” the collection, the gift from the churches in Asia. Those churches included, though not exclusively, Gentile Christians. Why was this collection so important? Perhaps in Paul’s mind it would legitimate his “mission” to the Gentiles? Perhaps he believed it would unite the church, if only the church in Jerusalem would acknowledge the Gentile church? Certainly this was part of Paul’s eschatological vision, the role of the Jews in history, fulfilling Israel’s destiny to be a “light to the nations” and be a “blessing” to every nation and people.
In addition, Paul’s purpose was to introduce himself, in anticipation of his pending visit. He also hopes they will support him on his journey to Spain. Mostly, however, he desires to bring reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles. Paul is not necessarily addressing Jews. His audience is primarily the Gentile Christians who had become leaders in the Roman church. He writes them in order to share his apologia on behalf of the Jews.
The Letter is written after Claudius, the Roman emperor, had expelled Jews from Rome. (Acts 18:2) Jews then returned to Rome after Claudius died in 54AD. During that time Gentiles became the leaders of the Church. Some acted superior. This raised questions in the minds of Jewish Christians of the legitimacy of the Gentile church.
Paul states his thesis in ch. 1:2-4, which is his theme throughout his ministry. Paul defends the universality of the gospel’s significance. He later restates this theme in ch. 11:32: “God has enclosed all people in disobedience, in order to have mercy on all.” The primary purpose and message of Romans is to state that the gospel of mercy is available to Gentiles as well as Jews. Paul apparently never visited that Roman church.
Two forlorn Jewish disciples met a stranger as they were leaving Jerusalem, the center of their world. After hearing them explain that their teacher, Jesus of Nazareth, had been crucified, the “uninformed” stranger responded, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26 NIV) The resurrected Jesus explained what was plainly written in the Scriptures concerning himself. Luke’s gospel concludes with Jesus’ statement that, “Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47 NIV)
How can this message of Jesus be pronounced “to all nations” if the Jewish people, centered within the context of a national expectation of the coming Messiah, failed to recognize him? If his disciples who walked with him and heard his teaching had failed to understand, what were the implications for the apostles who began to preach the gospel to different cultures? How do different contexts, and different centers of cultural understanding, effect the interpretation of the message? What must we therefore understand about the role of culture in the understanding of the New Testament? After feigning a continued journey, Jesus sat to break bread with his fellow travelers. In an instant his identity was revealed and he left those two disciples with hearts ablaze and compelled to go tell somebody.
In his book, Santa Biblia: The Bible through Hispanic Eyes, Justo González offers helpful insights for Biblical interpretation through cultural paradigms of marginality, poverty, mestizaje and mulatez, exile and aliens, and solidarity. Making use of these paradigms, I will argue that the reinterpretation of the apostle Paul’s identity, the misinterpretation of the gospel message across cultures over the centuries, and the challenge Paul presents to the Church to disarm principalities and powers over cultures are all necessary to overcome the temptation to confuse the message of the gospel. Understanding the role of culture is essential to understanding the New Testament and therefore the mission of the Church.
(This is the first of five posts on this topic. Look for the next in a few days.)
A Paper written in partial fulfillment of NE500 New Testament Gospels
Fuller Theological Seminary
March 11, 2009
Let Anyone With Ears To Hear Listen
The challenge for Youth With A Mission (YWAM), a twenty-first century international missionary community, is to examine what Jesus said and did in Palestine two thousand years ago, compare that to our contemporary picture of Jesus, and then to assess how the Jesus of history informs how we understand him here and now. Chaim Potok’s novel, The Promise, presents the comparable struggle of a Jewish Talmudic student who faces critical questions regarding the ancient texts relating to faith in the Orthodox and Hasidic communities Kelly Brown Douglas’s The Black Christ similarly describes the struggle of understanding a contemporary Jesus within the African-American community. In his book, The Challenge of Jesus, Bishop N.T. Wright offers a portrait of our struggle to know the Jesus of history, his life in first-century Palestine, in order that we may more faithfully follow the resurrected Christ of faith today.
Could the YWAM community misunderstand the biblical testimony and historical context of the Jesus of history? It is very possible. This study is an attempt to reconstruct the original historical setting of a selection of key passages that relate to YWAM’s understanding of Jesus’ practice and teaching of hearing his Father’s voice. Recognizing our personal knowledge of Jesus is not the same as a scientific certitude; we must avoid the extremes of the liberal quest for the historical Jesus and the conservative reaction against it. YWAM, an international mission committed to know God and to make Him known, follows the Christ of faith to the best of our understanding in our present day reality in every nation.
YWAM leaders periodically gather from across the globe to listen to God’s voice for direction by studying the Scriptures, with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and through our communal sharing. The doctrine of hearing God’s voice is our understanding of the practice of listening to God, which takes place in virtually every YWAM community. Why do we have the expectation that Jesus will speak? Have the Scriptures informed us or have we created some other Jesus through the influence of our cultural context? I will argue here that Jesus speaks to anyone who will listen and obey. I will show that Jesus modeled the way, taught the importance, and interceded on behalf of all nations to know God through the practice of hearing his voice.
Jesus Modeled the Way for Us to Hear God’s Voice
YWAM is part of a long history of communities seeking to translate the Jesus of history into a contemporary and often changing cultural context. YWAM leaders encourage fearless and courteous conversation among Christian traditions by inviting those from many denominations to teach and participate in its various programs. This continuing conversation, including discussions of the lives and backgrounds of the Gospels’ authors and the literary relationships of the Gospels and other source materials, is appropriate for those seeking to hear God’s voice today. In this section, I will show that the Jesus of history has modeled the way for YWAM’s understanding and practice of hearing God’s voice.
The Gospel writers’ selection, arrangement, and adaptation of their source materials portray Jesus in his own discourse between ancient Hebrew traditions and his contemporary culture. The Gospel writers appear to follow Jesus’ example. Rather than remove themselves from the story as teachers, the Gospel writers have entered the story by interpreting Jesus to their cultural context. All appear to agree that Jesus’ followers were to hear and obey God’s voice, which commands all to make him known among every people. Jesus is portrayed in each Gospel as the fulfillment of all that God said he would do. N.T. Wright argues that Jesus’ announcement of a new kingdom was also a judgment against Israel coupled to his own representative fulfillment of Israel’s purpose to be a light to the Gentiles.
The story of Jesus’ baptism shows how Jesus modeled the way to hear the voice of God. The Gospel writers all agree regarding the historical importance and particulars of the event. In the synoptic Gospels we find the near word-for-word account of the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus and “a voice from heaven, saying ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” John’s Gospel adds the Baptist’s narrative, “he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit’” (Jn. 1:33). Matthew’s adaptation, likely on behalf of his primarily Jewish audience, includes the narrative of Jesus modeling the necessity “to fulfill all righteousness” (Jn. 1:15).
Three things should be noted regarding the Gospel writers’ accounts of this historic event. First, all the Gospel accounts agree that this event took place, including a sign of Holy Spirit’s appearance. Second, God’s voice is reportedly heard as an announcement from heaven, as well as privately to John the Baptist. And third, Matthew highlights Jesus’ demonstrated commitment to personally submit to all that is necessary to fulfill the requirements of the ancient Hebrew prophetic tradition. These ancient texts together affirm that God communicates in human history and that Jesus modeled the way for us to hear God’s voice. YWAM’s practice of listening to God’s voice corresponds with the Jesus of history who modeled a commitment to fulfill the purposes of God in his contemporary setting.
Jesus Taught the Importance of Hearing and Obeying God’s Word
Though often misunderstood, parables represent Jesus’ chief teaching method. The Gospels depict Jesus’ penchant for perplexing and mystifying his hearers with simple, ordinary, yet startling messages. Jesus’ parables were stories of fields, vineyards, yeast, houses, and a “high incidence of agrarian motifs.” Jesus parabolic teachings are more than an effective technique to teach the kingdom. In this section, I will show how Jesus taught the importance of hearing God’s voice through the parables, calling the hearers to obedience with resulting changed lives, which are the fruit of the kingdom of God.
Throughout the Mediterranean in the first century C.E., broadcasting seed, some of which would fall on a beaten path, or rocky ground, or among weeds, was common practice. Probably eighty to ninety percent of Jesus’ audience engaged in agricultural work. The people of Jesus’ day knew a good harvest would at best yield ten to fifteen times what was planted. Jesus taught his contemporaries the prominent Parable of the Sower, also found in all three synoptic Gospels , with the surprising conclusion that seed sown upon “good soil” would bring forth a phenomenal harvest of “thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” Certainly Jesus had the attention of his hearers! Jesus concludes this parable with the adage, “He who has ears, let him hear,” which presumes most anyone could and should.
The Gospel writers also select and arrange Jesus’ interpretation of the parable, including a triple-tradition explanation for speaking in parables. It appears the author of Mark’s Gospel had the help of an eyewitness who was one of Jesus’ twelve. All synoptic Gospel writers intentionally invite the reader into a more intimate understanding. Jesus tells the twelve with him, “To you has been given the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables” (Mark 4:11). N.T. Wright explains that, despite their rootedness in the prophetic language of return from exile, Jesus’ message to his contemporaries is that God is “sowing his people again in their own land ” The explanation Jesus offers is like a riddle. Quoting Isaiah, Jesus explains his use of parables, “so that they may indeed…hear but not understand.” (Mark 4:12) Jesus is in fact judging Israel while “simultaneously calling into being a new people, a renewed Israel.” While this background is not obvious to the twenty-first century YWAMer, the Gospel writers all suggest that this parable is to teach the importance of listening with a good heart and obeying by becoming a fruitful participant in God’s continuing story.
Jesus Interceded on Behalf of All to Hear His Father’s Voice
YWAM’s commitment to listen to God’s voice is not merely for the purpose of private guidance and individual fruitfulness. YWAM’s mission is not limited to one nation or group; we are an international family of ministries called to listen to God’s voice together for the purpose of knowing God’s plans and purposes to preach the Gospel to every person and disciple all nations in our generation and in our varied and particular cultural settings. In this section, I will show that YWAM’s practice of listening to God’s voice is congruent with Jesus historical example of interceding on behalf of all nations to communicate with God.
Appealing for every person, from every background, nationality, and economic status, Jesus said, “He who has ears, let him hear.” The political, economic, and religious systems of second-temple Judaism presented an insurmountable obstacle for the ordinary person of Jesus day to approach God freely. Jesus likely knew that religious protest movements of his day sought “to become ‘political’ by contesting elite control of religious institutions.” It is into this larger story that all four Gospel writers portray Jesus driving out all those selling animal sacrifices and moneychangers. Jesus was not merely driving out a few opportunists trying to profit off religious pilgrims, his subversive message and action was to single-handedly confront the Temple’s political establishment and redistributive economic system, which had become an obstacle to God’s plan for Israel to be a light to all nations.
Appealing with the ancient text of his own Jewish tradition, Jesus asks, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be…a house of prayer’? Interestingly, Mark’s Gospel, likely the source for Matthew and Luke, also includes “for all the nations.” The exclusion of this appeal for all nations in Matthew and Luke’s Gospels is a concern, however further examination will show that the act of turning over tables was clearly an appeal for all nations to come to his Father’s house. In John’s Gospel, Jesus told those who sold pigeons, which were offered to restore the “postpartum woman to normal life while acknowledging God’s sole authority to establish pure blood relations,” that they should not “make my Father’s house a house of trade.” This dramatic act overturning tables is coupled with his appeal for his Father’s family, which he indicates should not be a matter of “trade” or limited to an exclusive bloodline. Jesus appeal that day was within view of the inscription in the Court of the Gentiles, which restricted those outside the bloodline of Abraham. Jesus instituted a new Temple (himself), through whom purity and forgiveness is now available to all people everywhere. Jesus has made the way for all nations to pray to and communicate with his Father, fulfilling the covenant given to Abraham. (Gen. 12:1-3)
The calling and the mission of YWAM is to enter this continuing story fulfilling all that is required to reflect the life of Jesus in our multi-cultural and multi-national contexts. Just as Jesus taught the abundant fruitfulness resulting from hearing and obeying God’s voice, Jesus followers may expect the same abundance. And just as Jesus confronted political, economic, and religious systems that hindered people from coming into relationship, including the intimacy of hearing God’s voice, Jesus followers must also appeal for every person and every nation to enjoy the blessedness of intimate relationship with his Father.
The Gospels, especially John, have much more instruction about the importance of hearing God’s voice. This study has been limited to only a few events paralleled in the Gospels. In those events, the historical Jesus demonstrated the attitude and obedience required to hear God, as well as God’s inclination to speak. He modeled the way at his baptism, he taught the importance of hearing God through the bearing of fruit from a heart of faithfulness, and he overturned symbolically every hindrance to hearing God’s voice. Jesus instituted a new Temple worship, constituted in himself and wherever two or more gather in his name, through which all nations are welcomed to worship the Father in spirit and in truth. Youth With A Mission practices hearing God’s voice through the Christ of our faith in a multi-national and multi-denominational community. This Christ of faith can be properly understood to be the Jesus of history. Through YWAM communities around the world, Jesus’ words echo today: “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”
Aland, Kurt. 1982. Synopsis of the Four Gospels: Completely Revised on the Basis of the Greek Text of the Nestle-Aland 26th edition and Greek New Testament 3rd edition: The Text is the Second Edition of the Revised Standard Version. English ed. [New York]: United Bible Societies.
Douglas, Kelly Brown. 1994. The Black Christ, The Bishop Henry McNeal Turner Studies in North American Black Religion;. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis.
Hanson, K. C., and Douglas E. Oakman. 1998. Palestine in the Time of Jesus: Social Structures and Social Conflicts. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.
Potok, Chaim. 1969. The Promise. 1st ed. New York,: Knopf.
Powell, Mark Allan. 1998. Fortress Introduction to the Gospels. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
Wright, N. T. 1999. The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.
I just returned from six days of meetings in Hawaii where I met with leaders re-designing the core curriculum of the University of the Nations, Youth With A Mission’s global university. Members of the university’s International Leadership Team prayed over and discussed major projects around the globe. Among them is the new “Call2All” (see http://www.call2all.org), a series of gatherings around the world involving 300 of the largest missions organizations and denominations partnering to reach a billion people and plant 5 million new churches by the year 2020. Another project is the Hakani film, produced by David Cunningham (Loren Cunningham’s son), to help YWAMers in Brazil change the laws in the land to stop the practice of infanticide among the tribal Indians in the Amazon jungle. (Go to http://www.hakani.org to see the film and learn more.)
International Deans and Centre leaders presented developments on the over 800 courses in 149 countries in 88 languages around the world. (See http://www.uofn.edu) I reported on the developments of the Student Mobilization Centre I direct, which serves YWAM campus ministries in 71 cities in 31 countries through the School of University Ministries & Missions (SUMM). I will lead the next SUMM in Maryland this September. The SUMM will run four times on three continents in a 12 month period.
Pray for me and my family as we continue to trust God for our personal support and serve Jesus through Youth With A Mission.
I just read an article on leadership development in the church. The point of the article was that Jesus spent time with the few, as we read in Bob Coleman’s “Master Plan of Evangelism.” The important point I took away from the article is that developing leaders is done by modeling people to follow Christ’s example. The central act of Jesus is the cross; he modeled unrelenting surrender.
The “seed” Jesus refers to in John 12 is not only our willingness to die to our most favored activities; we must die to self, our egos. We must be willing to be of no reputation as we serve our pastor, Jesus.
The one thing to which leaders today need to die to is the image of the senior pastor. I am not a senior pastor. I am a missionary. Of course, Jesus is not only a pastor; he is also a missionary. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, I send you.” We, the Church, are not only the sheep of his pasture; we are a sent people with a mission. God’s Church does not have a mission; God’s mission has a church.
The willingness to die to our reputations of churches led by a single senior pastor leader, a Jesus figure in the community, may be the most important breakthrough in the church, as a seed breaks under the earth, which is necessary to produce many new seeds for growth and release of leaders. This is the “way of Jesus,” modeling the way to bear much fruit.
Looking for alternatives to church forms will always challenge the status quo. Alternatives collide with traditional ways of doing things. However, alternatives will also encourage vision of the Church as a people and a community on mission with God.
Jesus used terms like “wine skin” and “cloth” to explain this tension between the new and the old. The nomenclature we employ, the terms we use to name things, is one of the greatest gifts of God. Like Adam who named all the creatures in Eden, God created us with the amazing privilege of naming things. What kind of God is this who would create all things and give away the privilege of naming them? We name our children and celebrate the wonder of God’s good gifts as we do so.We create with God and ascribe names to those creations, songs, books, events, buildings, even communities and cities. The power to name things is the power to assign character and our values to them.
This privilege of naming things is not an exclusive task for just a few experts or elites. God never intended to separate people by class or caste, giving more power and privilege to the few. Some might argue that it creates confusion to have so many names for things. Allowing a few to assign names to things may avoid confusion, but there will be a cost. It will limit creativity. The privilege of participating in a community, naming things creatively, is a gift of God to every member of Christ’s body.
When we share the responsibility of naming things, shared creativity ensues. This is the process of creating culture, I believe. It’s happening all around us, and it can’t easily be contained or controlled to avoid confusion.
Confusion may occur temporarily; it is part of the process of change. The Church has always been emerging and always will. When it stops changing, it becomes an old wine skin. The few may enjoy the old wine for a season, but there is no place for the new wine for the new generation. As we step out into an unknown future, as Abram did, we may experience some temporary confusion about where we are going. However, by setting out on this journey of change, we are the people of faith God called us to be.
God intends that his community of followers accept that there will always be change, transition, liminality, and a stepping into a future together. Certainly, the Children of Israel did not know all that was before them when they were delivered from Egypt. They entered into a transition in the wilderness. Nomenclature from the past carried meaning of the past and habits and sins of the past. The children of Israel needed to find terms for what God was wanting to do next. The Tent of Meeting was a new idea. Later came the Temple. But God would never dwell in a house made by human hands. Neither will he dwell, that is to stay permanently, in our contemporary idea of church. He has chosen to dwell in the hearts of his followers who are on a journey, on mission with him. This liminality is an exciting process; we are always following, always taking up our cross, always going in Jesus Name. You see, the Church, the community of Christ followers, is not a static central edifice in history. As a missionary, I’ve thought long and hard about this. Too many churches have relegated their understanding of the Great Commission to a department of the church, a line item in their budget. This formation, this attitude, has emasculated the Church. You see, the Church does not have a mission, God’s mission has a Church. We, the whole community of Christ followers, are called into his mission. This alternative view, this missional formation of church, will take us to new places, doing new things, in new ways, and assigning names to those things along the journey.
Those who have made the choice have within them Christ’s love compelling them to embrace and explore the new things God is wanting to do. When our hearts are full, we surrender our rights to the security of tradition. With faith and hope and love, we declare how majestic is the Name of Jesus in all the earth. This is the extraordinary “weight of glory” in naming things. Steven Hawthorne describes glory as “a relational beauty that every person’s heart yearns to behold and even to enter. The essential worth, beauty and value of people, created things and, of course, the Creator Himself.”
God told Moses, “Let my people go, that they may worship me.” As we set out through the wilderness of major transition, we’ll name things with the shared purpose of ascribing greatness to God. He’ll receive glory as we follow him in faith, so long as we don’t hold too tightly to the security of the ways we once knew.
We all want to change the world. Perhaps I’m just too old AND too young, but I’ve always disliked the word “revolution.” I was born in ’58, just old enough to really dislike the impact of the 60′s Revolution. That period was probably really from ’68 to ’74.
I can’t say for sure if it was due to the radical ideas of the ’60s, but it was during that time my family ripped apart with divorce. I lived in Madison, Wisconsin then. I witnessed the student riots (another excuse to skip class?) and the bombing of Sterling Hall (killing an innocent person). I saw the “peace” marchers turn violent. What do you think? Did those Sixties radicals, the ones who wanted to change the world for the better, have any core beliefs? Where are they now? Some are journalists, some in government, and some are teaching the next generation of university students. We’re hearing those voices more and more.
The word revolution has made a comeback in recent years. Today’s students, many of them, are wanting to change the world again. That’s good. We all want to change the world. But why are Christians using the word revolution? I’m all for social justice as part of God’s mission to the world, but I’ve felt a huge disconnect with those who call for revolution today, those who march, sign petitions, and claim by doing so they can end poverty. The way Jesus taught his disciples to turn the world upside down was by dying to self with open-handed surrender. Perhaps, if we are going to use the word “revolution,” we should be clear in our definition. We should not promote the closed fist posture, demanding of rights, with marches on Washington.
The dictionary definition of “revolution” includes “forcible overthrow of government,” “class struggle,” and “political change through uprising.” If instead, today’s revolutionaries could re-interpret the word to mean reorientation, making Jesus the center of our reality, both spiritual and physical reality, then I could join in the call for a revolution. I want to see every person, every family, community, people group, and nation find their hope in Jesus. Some argue that Jesus is too exclusive, that Christians are too narrow in their beliefs. My reply is that Jesus is the most inclusive personality in the universe. Christians are not exclusive, their particular; they want everyone to meet the One who created everything and everyone with good intention.
What the Church often gets wrong, I think, is that they set up a “missions department,” as if the Church were the center of all things. This posture communicates to church-goers and the surrounding world that the task of reaching every person for Christ is just one of the many things the Church must do, a line item in their budget, a committee, something to remember at the annual missions conference.
Reformation, not revolution, is needed. I propose a different attitude and posture for the Church. The Church does not have a mission. God has a mission. The Church must once again apprehend the Misseo Dei, that God is on a mission. We should reorient the Church to join Christ’s mission. The Church is not the center, Jesus is the center. God has a mission and his mission has a Church. Now that is a revolutionary idea!
The first of the nine patterns of emerging churches as outlined in the book, Emerging Churches, by Ryan Bolger and Eddie Gibbs, is “Identifying with Jesus.”
Many evangelicals have witnessed the “seeker-sensitive” approach to church. While this approach may have been justified at one time, many today recognize that it was inadequate. A seeker sensitive approach inadvertently teaches “people to be passive spectators, objects, receivers.” (Bolger & Gibbs 2005: 172)
When he spoke to the Samaritan woman, Jesus said the “Seeker” is the Father, implying that “we are His heart’s desire.” (Organic Churches, Cole 2005: 39) Jesus is our model for living and worship. He lived the Father’s mission. His supreme purpose was not measured in the number of his followers. He did not write a book. He did not create an organization or build a building. Jesus’ supreme purpose is to bring glory to his Father. In doing so, he lived in intimacy with his Father, seeking to do that which gives his Father pleasure.
Rather than leading seeker-sensitive churches, emerging churches are seeking to identify with Jesus. This new “seeker-generating” approach is not about a place, but a Person. Rather than ask people to, “Come to us,” emerging church groups emphasize a call to be like Jesus, moving around the neighborhood, engaging the community, and extending his family to the ends of the earth.
A great friend from over 20 years ago asked me this question: “Is the church to be a transformational community of believers or a reformational community of believers or both and if both which is to be first?” He writes: “Whatever is first will determine purpose, values, vision and mission.”
I think the Church will always have a core of thorough-going martyrs, who’ve carried their cross to their ultimate death to self. Others are following from a distance, like Peter after his denial of Christ. They are conflicted, knowing they need a savior and willing to make personal sacrifice, but too often out of self-righteous motives. The trick is telling the difference between the core and the cultural Christians. Jesus spoke to 500 when he ascended to heaven, but then only 120 actually obeyed and waited in the upper room.
So, transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit through the community of the atonement, those who have taken up their cross to follow Christ. Reformation may only be outer adjustments, priorities, and structures. Still, reformation is necessary. Consider Christ’s declaration that he is the “Bread of Life.” That was a sort of reformation, causing many to refocus their priorities and perhaps become core believers.