Thursday, August 28, 2008

This week's article is from an interview with Dr. Ed Stetzer on "missional living". I hope you find it as challenging as I did. My hope is that God would shape us as a church of true missionaries to our community!

How would you define "missional living"?

Missional living is essentially living with our primary perspective as that of an ambassador for the Kingdom of God. It means making our lives not about us, but about Jesus and His Kingdom.

In an alliterated sense, missional living is an incarnational (being the presence of Christ in community), indigenous (of the people and culture) and intentional (planning our lives around God's agenda) focus on the power of the Gospel to bring the reign of God into people's lives.

What keeps people from missional living?

Believers do not live missionally for two primary reasons:

a) because they believe someone else is doing it; or worse,

b) they are selfish.

Too many Christians assume or deceive themselves into believing that someone else has explained the Gospel to our neighbors, co-workers and friends. Beyond that, believers choose their traditions over the mission. Entire congregations have decided that "the way we do things" is superior to the mission to go, be and tell the Gospel in understandable ways to the culture surrounding them.

Ten Tips for Missional Living

  1. Understand the Gospel. The mission of God is consumed with the person and work of Christ. As you understand Christ, you can accurately participate in God's work of redemption. So read the Gospels—a lot.
  2. Take an eternal view of people. The friends, neighbors and co-workers around you have an eternity in front of them. We need to see them as God does and care for them accordingly.
  3. Be friendly. A Christian should be the most trustworthy confidant another person has in the world. Believers should be the kind of people everyone else wants to be around.
  4. Watch for a chance to serve. People use up all of their energy on family, work and menial chores. Look for ways you can care for your neighbors—even if it is just cooking a simple dinner for them.
  5. Be truthful. Missional believers contend for the faith while speaking in a way understandable to the hearer. No matter what, be ready to talk about the truths in Scripture.
  6. Love like Jesus. He lived a robust life of caring for the lost. In elevating sacrificial love far beyond any previous thinking, He gave an example for us.
  7. Be on guard. As you work alongside the King to extend His Kingdom, our spiritual enemy will immediately attack. Guard your heart in holiness.
  8. Live missionally at home. Family is the first place for the mission of God in your life. When people see the impact it has on your home, they will be more willing to trust its veracity for their own lives.
  9. Show patience. People are farther away from understanding the Gospel than in previous generations. Do not hesitate to invite them to submit to Christ, but know that they have plenty of questions that might need answering first.
  10. Do it for one reason—the glory of God. The only reason to be missional is to make Christ more widely known. God is worthy of being honored by all of creation, and it should be the main reason why we participate in His mission.

Monday, August 18, 2008

life together

When you read the New Testament documents, how is the community life of the church pictured? What kind of relationships did the early Christians have? How does their relational life compare to ours?

We get a glimpse from texts like Hebrews 10:24-25:

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."

Here we see a community of believers who are committed to the spiritual success of one another. We see at least three aspects of their "life together":

1. They were thinking about one another ("let us consider…")

2. They were connecting with one another ("not neglecting to meet together")

3. They were encouraging one another to keep focused on Jesus ("encouraging one another")

And this was NOT the job of the leaders, but the role of every follower of Christ. True, the leaders should set the example in spiritual care. But the challenge is for every Christian.

We can take up this challenge in the same three ways.

1. Who are you thinking about? The best way to think about someone is to pray for them. Who is one your mind? Is it just the people with whom you have natural friendships or are others on your "radar" as well?

2. Who do you connect with? Connecting happens when we worship together. Do you greet others or just those in your "comfort zone"? When you miss someone, give them a call or write them a note. Ask yourself, "Who is missing that I can contact?" These are all great ways of connecting.

3. Who are you encouraging? That can be as simple as asking "how can I pray for you?" When you hear of a struggle or trial someone is going though ask yourself "I wonder how that is affecting them spiritually?" – then ask the person! It is a way to let them know you care about their soul's happiness!

Now, this may all be new to you. It will require that you do things differently this week. It will require you take actions that may be new to you. Yet, imagine what God would do through our church if each one of us took up the challenge in all three areas, together! May it be done, Lord, for your glory!

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,


P.S. #1 – As we see what "Fay" is going to do, let's make sure we reach out and check on one another!

P.S. #2 – This Wednesday and Thursday evening Grace Church is hosting Dr. Sam Storms (a favorite author and speaker of mine) of Enjoying God Ministries at Church of the Messiah's fellowship hall (did you get all that?!). The meetings are at 7:00 PM. I am hoping to attend. If you'd like to join me let me know!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Christ Our Sanctifier

One of the distinctives of the Christian & Missionary Alliance (our “tribe”), is honor Christ as our sanctifier. “Sanctifier” is a big word for the one who makes us holy. So let’s consider one practical aspect of what that means.

When we think about growing in our relationship with God and personal holiness, we can look one of two directions. We can look inward and chart the progress of our souls. Or we can look outward at Christ. A preoccupation with the inward gaze can lead to frustration, guilt, and spiritual paralysis. The outward gaze leads to something absolutely paradoxical. Listen to how A.W. Tozer (a C&MA pastor of the last century) puts it:

“While we are looking at God we do not see ourselves - blessed riddance. The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very thing he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him.”

- A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, Inc., 1993), 85.

As we look away from ourselves and look to Christ – who he is and what he has done, we discover that the Spirit is busy at work forming Christ within us! As we trust in him, his perfect righteousness is imputed to our account even as our sins are taken by him on the cross. That’s what followers of Christ can be called “perfect” even though we have a long way to go on the journey! As the writer of the book of Hebrews puts it:

“For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”

(Hebrews 10:14)

That’s where justification (declared righteous in Christ) meets sanctification (having a heart set apart to delight in doing God’s will). Because Christ does this work, we honor him as our “Sanctifier”. The Scottish pastor, Robert Murray M’Cheyne give us some insight in this proper perspective:

“I must not only wash in Christ’s blood, but clothe me in Christ’s obedience. For every sin of omission in self, I may find a divinely perfect obedience ready for me in Christ. For every sin of commission in self, I may find not only a stripe or a wound in Christ, but also a perfect rendering of the opposite obedience in my place, so that the law is magnified, its curse more than carried, its demand more than answered.”

—Robert Murray M’Cheyne, quoted by Andrew Bonar, Robert Murray M’Cheyne (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1960), 176

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

p.s. Do yourself a big favor and check out the blog “Of First Importance”, your soul will thank you for it and you’ll see where I get all my cool quotes!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Feedback Time...

Okay, now it's time for your input. I am considering which class to take next and am asking "what would give the greatest benefit to me and to the ministry of the church I pastor?" Though the classes don't begin until January '09, I have to complete 2000+ pages of reading beforehand - so I will need to get on it pretty soon.

I am planning to take one class during the winter session and one or two during the summer session. I am thinking that fall/advent/Christmas season will be busy and spring/summer will afford more time for preparation.

Anyway - I'd be interested in your feedback on some of my class options. Check out the syllabi below and let me know your thoughts.


Monday, August 4, 2008

From Ed Stetzer's blog...

Post-Sabbatical Thoughts...

Well, I suppose I should sign-off this "Sabbatical Journal" blog, my Sabbatical having come to a close last week. I really did have a wonderful experience, for which I am so very grateful. As I shared with our church on Sunday my goals were threefold:
  1. Personal Spiritual Renewal
  2. Pastoral Ministry Renewal
  3. Family/Relationship Building
I feel very good about each area, though I did not get through my to-do list on any of them! But here's what I did:

1. Personal Spiritual Renewal:
  • A week of solitude and prayer at Mepkin Abbey
  • Personal soul-feeding through worshiping at other churches
  • Reading books for personal renewal (Eugene Peterson's "The Contemplative Pastor" being one)
2. Pastoral Ministry Renewal
  • Beginning the Doctor of Ministry program at Reformed Theological Seminary with the class "Church Growth and Renewal"
  • Reading 2000+ pages in preparation for the class.
  • Becoming certified in the "Prepare and Enrich" marital strengthening program.
3. Family/Relationship Strengthening
  • Jonathan and I got our open water scuba certification.
  • Nancy and I had a weekend away at Sanibel Island.
  • Our family spent four days in South Carolina with friends for the 4th of July.
  • A vacation with my extended family in NE GA (Flowery Branch, to be specific).
I could (should and probably will) add to the list. It was really a wonderful sabbatical.

My next move is to collate all my impressions, thoughts, and ideas into a coherent plan for ministry, family, and me! Because I have found journaling to be a helpful way to crystallize my thoughts I will be blogging under the heading "Missional Monasticism". I'll be forwarding the web address as soon as it is up and running.

In the meantime check back in a few days, I've got a couple items on which I could use some feedback. Thanks for tracking with me!