Thursday, July 30, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The missionary heart:
Cares more than some think is wise
Risks more than some think is safe
Dreams more than some think is practical
Expects more than some think is possible
I've come across these words in several places, but can't remember where I first heard them. As far as I know the original phrases are attributed to Howard Shultz, the businessman who heads up Starbucks. I don't think he had "the missionary heart" in mind when he first made these observations!
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
A pastor must be:1. Unique Qualificationsa. Trueb. Spiritual2. Unique Responsibilitiesa. Teach the Scripturesb. Lead the Churchc. Equip Believers
If pastors do for people what God calls them to do, they get the praise and the work of God gets hindered.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Here’s the premise: Everyone is somewhere on a spiritual journey. They might be going around in circles, they might be moving away from God or they might be moving towards him, but they are somewhere on a journey. I understand my call from God to be to help people take a step in the right direction, a step towards faith in Jesus Christ.
Recognising where a person may be on this faith trail is an important part of my outward focussed journey as I seek simply to be there and to be available for God to use however he chooses. I remember John Wimber saying, “I’m just small change in God’s pocket to use how he wants.” I feel like that too.
As an idea it affects outreach because I’m no longer responsible for just helping people cross the line of faith, but I’m open to any involvement in the process at any point along it’s path. I become an evangelisitic nudger and encourager, nudging people towards Jesus and encouraging them to explore the possibilities faith offers. Rather than looking for the opening to share the gospel, I look for any opening to do anything that would nudge or encourage.
It affects the way we do church too, because church needs to be a safe place where people can come and ask questions. A place where they can arrive incomplete and not feel bad about it. A place where they can feel that they belong even if the don’t beleive the right things yet or behave in the right way either.
That’s a frightening thought really. If people are just allowed to come to church and “be” how will they every realise that they’re a sinner in need of saving? Well, I’m trusting God to do what he promises to do. He said that his Spirit would do the convicting and convincing, I’m just going to try cooperating with him.
I think that to be a truly outwardly focussed church we’ll need to accept a little spiritual mess in church. After all we’ve known for a long time that we’re not perfect, so why should anyone joining us have to perfect before they come in?
Thursday, July 23, 2009
A missional interpretation of Scripture reads the Bible as a unified narrative that records God’s intention to reconcile the world to himself. This narrative reveals that God accomplishes this intention by commissioning the nation of Israel to reflect God’s image to the world; by sending God the Son to restore Israel and inaugurate God’s universal blessing to the Gentiles; by sending God the Spirit to form the church into a holy people who embody God’s coming kingdom; and by sending the church into the world to proclaim the gospel and engage the culture.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
In a 53-hour work week, megachurch senior pastors spend a full 19 hours in and preparing for preaching, teaching and worship, 9 hours in meetings--and 5 hours in intentional prayer and meditation.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
The Lord is slow to anger but great in power.
Monday, July 13, 2009
This post originally appeared on the Eyes Turned Outwards blog.
It hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. Just a little phrase, but a powerful one.
The world deserves a better church.
I’ve been tossing this over in my mind ever since it slipped out on Sunday as I was preaching about The Community. We’re currently thinking about four big themes for the church and The Community was all about how we relate to the wider community beyond the church. And this phrase just slipped out from somewhere.
Anyway, I’ve been turning it over in my mind and with at least one other person from church. And it seems to me that it’s a powerful phrase. It’s powerful because it’s a bit counter cultural to the way I see a lot of churches doing their thinking about the community.
If we’re honest, a lot of our churches don’t actually think the world deserves anything except judgement and punishment. That the church can be better is something we’re probably agreed upon, but that world deserves the church, well that’s another thing altogether. We look out from our safe structures and despair at the state of the world beyond our doors. But this is the world God made, the world he loves, the world over which he agonises, in fact the world for which he shed his own blood.
And if God loves the world so much that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to redeem it, then where should the church be? If we, the church, are God’s chosen mechanism for spreading his grace through our communities then what kind of church does the world deserve?
I think it deserves better than it’s getting.
I’m not criticising for the sake of it. I love the church, I believe in the church and I want to see the church be the church that the world deserves.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
- What kind of members/followers does God want us to produce in this place?
- What kind of experiences do we need to become those kind of followers/members?
- What would you put in a covenant style promise?
Friday, July 10, 2009
Thursday, July 09, 2009
I guess we all could be forgiven for thinking that an outward focused life is primarily about outreach, about the processes and programmes we personally employ in order to share our faith with others. But we’d be mistaken.
Fist of all, through this blog and other sources, we no longer understand (if we ever did) our faith in this way. We talk about a lifestyle of serving others, of seeking to reconnect people with God. The programmes are still there, but they have a new context of simplicity, honesty, integrity and integration. Our goal remains the same: to help others discover God’s deep and amazing love for them, but our approach has broadened.
The question then that had been buzzing around my head for a few days now comes from being a long-time leader in the local church. It’s a question about what we in church call pastoral care and the place of pastoral care in the context of an outwardly focused life and ministry.
The problem is this. More and more local pastors, me included, do not see themselves as either gifted or equipped to fulfil the pastoral role that we’ve inherited in local church life. We’re not sure where that model came from, and we’re not at all convinced that the model is particularly biblical either.
It isn’t that we think pastoral care doesn’t matter, it isn’t that we think it’s not our responsibility. It’s just that we are not sure where it fits in our 21st century leadership model. We’re concerned about being alone with members of the opposite sex, we’re bothered by the fact that the old model means we tend only to visit people who are at home in the afternoons, and wonder if that’s a root cause for the lack of men on the church. We’re constrained by having too many other things to do.
And yet, not one us I suspect would ever deny the importance of pastoral care to the life and health of the local church. Which brings me to my basic question. If we could ignite a pattern of pastoral care than engendered self-care and church family-care might that inspire us to outward care too? If we looked after ourselves properly, if we looked out for each other consistently, might we not then learn the value of simple caring and be able to apply that to the way we see those around us in our wider communities?
Pastoral care might then be rescued from the bottom of the teapot and biscuit barrel of inwardly focused visiting patterns and released to impact communities seemingly bereft of people who stop and look and act with kindness and compassion. Perhaps there’s a more biblical perspective on pastoral care that integrates it with a more biblical view of evangelism that brings it into the centre of an outwardly focused life and ministry. Perhaps.
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
An outward focused life in not an extraordinary life, it just makes room for the extraordinary.As we dream the dream of becoming a more outwardly focused church, we’re beginning to think about church in new ways. I meet with a great partner at church and talk about all sorts of stuff as we try to put flesh and bone on the dreams and visions, the aims and objectives of being the church in our changing setting. It’s great for me because I get to share my crazy ideas with someone who can make sense of them! I’m wired to dream, so it’s great to have an outlet for it. Here’s one of my crazy dreams. In the UK it’s not uncommon to see a thermometer outside a church representing the state of the appeal for funds to restore the roof of an ancient building. I’ve mentioned this before, but today, as I thought and dreamt, I suddenly came up with the idea of an upside down thermometer. A thermometer that would represent what we giveaway to our community, rather than what we ask our community to give to us. What if, instead of asking them for money, we gave money away? What if we took some of the money we give week by week or month-by-month and set up a small grant-making fund? Members of the community could come to us and tell us what they are doing in the community and we could offer some small level of funding. We might even get involved and work alongside them! Is that crazy? I just wonder if an outward focused church would be characterised more by what it gave to the community that by anything else. Characterised by its desire to be blessing rather than to be blessed, characterised by a Christianity that was focused on others much more than upon itself.
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
I recently read The Shadow of the Almighty,a biography of Jim Elliot. Along with four others, he gave his life to bring the gospel to a tribe of indiginous Indians in Ecuador known as the Auca. A second book Through the Gates of Splendour, follows the story from Jim Elliot and Pete Fleming’s departure for Ecuador. The following extract talks about their arrival at the mission station of Shandia.
In Shandia, Jim and Pete became full-fledged missionaries for the first time. They had come to reach the Quichuas with the Word of God, a task for which they were prepared but could accomplish only if the gained the Quichuas’ confidence and love. So by living among them, sharing in their lives and thus laying the foundations of mutual trust they hoped to open the minds and hearts of the Indians to the Christian message.
When I think about writing the narrative of the gospel in my time, I think this idea of living among the people, gaining their trust and love, building foundations of mutual trust and respect is so foundational. Most of the time I’ve been around church evangelism has been a bold declaration of truth, and I’m not decrying that at all. The problem was always that we were dashing out into the world, doing a bit of outreach, and then rushing back to the safety of the church. The world usually got the blame for the lack of response but maybe it was our failure to connect in any meaningful way that was the real problem.
To live among the people is far more difficult. Perhaps the reason overseas missionaries appear to have more success stories to tell us than we have to tell them is because of this simple truth-they live among the people.
I like servant evangelism because it gives me the chance to live among the people. An opportunity to serve them, to share with them, to be an example of God’s love and generosity to them in the hope that this will eventually open a way for them to discover the full extent of God’s love for them. It’s one step into the world of an outward focused life, maybe the first step into writing the story of God’s love for my generation.
Perhaps we write the story best when we live the story among the people Jesus misses most.
Monday, July 06, 2009
Missional Renaissance is a book that sets out to describe the nature of the Missional Church and the need for change that the present church faces if it truly wants to become missional.
As McNeal says: Missional is not a place you arrive at but a direction in which you are moving.
Too often the church takes a term like missional and turns it into a new programme for outreach or ministry. Missional is clearly not a term with which we should take this kind of liberty. If we do we are in danger of adding yet more layers of church to the average Christian’s already heavy schedule. We will continue to measure success and commitment in terms of internal, church-focused standards.
Missional Renaissance calls us to make a shift in three key areas. First we need to shift from an internal to an external focus; second we need to shift from programme development to people development; thirdly we need to shift from church-based to kingdom-based leadership.
McNeal describes these three shifts as compass settings rather than destinations. He claims that by making these shifts:
They will move you from doing church as primarily a refuge, conservator, and institutional activity in a post-Christendom culture to being a risky, missionary, organic force in the increasingly pre-Christian world.
The book first introduces these three shifts and then discusses them in detail. The first 40 pages will let you know if this is a book that you really want to read in detail. Alongside the description of each shift there is an analysis of how such a shift also changes the way we measure success, the scorecard as McNeal calls it. In the typical church success is measured by how many are in church, how often they are attending and how much they give. The missional church will score things very differently. To quote the book:
The current scorecard rewards church activity and can be filled in without any reference to the church’s impact beyond itself.
The new scorecard will need to celebrate externally focused ministry, people development efforts and a kingdom oriented leadership agenda.
At the heart of this call to go missional and to see through the shifts that are needed is a desperate desire to see the church have the kind of kingdom impact that appears to be on God’s heart. Indeed the driving force for the need to change is the observation that God is on a mission and we ought to be involved in it. As the book says:
The missional church is the people of God partnering with God in his redemptive mission in the world.
I read this book more slowly that I read Present Future. Both have been really helpful in providing a background to much of the thinking I've been doing over all the years that I’ve been a Christian. I have always struggled with the heavy internal focus of the typical church. I’ve always carried this idea that the church exists as a missionary movement first and foremost. If you share some of that passion and perspective, this might well be a book worth putting on your summer reading list.
Saturday, July 04, 2009
The missional church believes it is God who is on a mission and that we are to join him in it....when the people of God act like the people of God we actually help people see God.People matter to God by virtue of their being created in his image. They are intentional acts of creation by a loving God. They therefore matter to the people of God. People deserve to be blessed simply because they are people, not just so we can "witness" to them.
I travel by plane almost every week. This means I get to visit a lot of airports. On a fairly routine basis, airports get confused about what they're there for–and for whom. They think that if a bunch of planes are on the ground, close to the hub, and the concourse is full of people, they are winning. They apparently think they are the destination! Of course, when this happens, it means a a bunch of people aren't getting where they want to go. They're stuck at the airport, like flies on flypaper.The airport is a place of connection, not a destination. Its job is to help people get somewhere else. An airport-centric world of travel would be dull and frustrating, no matter how nice the airport is.When the church thinks it's the destination, it also confuses the scorecard. It thinks that if people are hovering around and in the church, the church is winning. The truth is, when that's the case, the church is really keeping people from where they want to go, from their real destination. Lucky for us, it just so happens this is what Jesus promised to bring us. (He did not say, "I have come to give you church and give it to you more abundantly.") Abundant life is lived out with loved ones, friends, and acquaintances in the marketplace, in the home, in the neighbourhood, in the world.The church is a connector, linking people to the kingdom life that God has for them. Substituting church activity as the preferred life expression is as weird as believing that airports are more interesting than the destinations they serve.
Friday, July 03, 2009
Thursday, July 02, 2009
The most important thing is not that people know the truth [about you or why you've done what you have done]. The most important thing is that you are a person of integrity before God. When no one seems to understand why you have done something or when other question whether you have done all you should have done, you confidence should not be in the hope of vindication in the eyes of others. It should be in the knowledge that God keeps you in his sight.