For many followers of Jesus, life in missional community can often seem like an add on.  “Why do I need to live in missional community?  I’m already being discipled and discipling other believers.”  Its a common question, and one who’s legitimacy I totally understand.

There is at least one thing the above question nails about missional community: missional community is about making disciples.   It was God’s original intention (Genesis 1:27-28), furthered in Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3) and renewed by Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20); humanity’s commission has always been to fill the earth with people who reflect the character and life of God in all things.  So, yes, life is meant to be about disciple making.

Still, I am left with a few cautious questions about our discipleship.  For myself much of the discipleship I have participated and perpetuated has been of a very specific type: once a week, curriculum oriented, usually weighted toward accountability and Bible study.  Not that these things are bad, but I have a couple questions:

  • How are you discipling the nations?  Jesus’ commission to his followers was to “go and make disciples of all nations”.  Obviously at that point “the nations” means people who aren’t following Jesus, right?  So who are you discipling who doesn’t know Jesus yet?
  • What is the point of purity?  Don’t get me wrong: I’m not questioning whether we should pursue holiness.  I’m questioning our motivation for it.  Is there a reason God has called you to holiness (even though we’re bound to fail)?  Why should we desire holiness?
  • Why do you need to be discipled?  Is it solely because Jesus says so?  Ephesians 1:19-20 says that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us.  So why has God invested this great power in you?  What is the purpose for which he has equipped, empowered and commissioned us?

Discipleship is good–very good even!  We need to be discipled and to disciple others.  But at times our discipleship can lose its way.  We become isolated, we lose our purpose and sometimes our “gains” in the spiritual disciplines for example can become little more than spiritual merit badges, disappointing victories over an unclear enemy.

So, as the title suggests, how is discipleship on mission different?

More to come…

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Alright, it is time for us to start looking at Christmas as we’ve done with Halloween to see what God would have for us this season. Before we jump in to specifics for Christmas, let’s review some of the groundwork…
As we’ve talked about before, one of the major battles in pursuing Jesus is in continually working to believe the Gospel. We don’t want to merely know the Gospel. We want to believe it, and believing means doing. Why? Because faith works. We’re not justified by works, but faith (belief) always demonstrates itself in action. Okay, let’s not belabor the point (I’m sure we’ll return to it again later).
Just for a refresher, what is it that we believe?
We believe that God is at work in the world, that he is the God of mission, and we want to join him on this mission. From our reading of the Bible as both good theologians and good readers of story, we know that the point of God’s story is the restoration of all things through the Spirit-filled person and work of Jesus and that this restoration continues presently powered by the work of the Spirit (yes, I know; that was quite a mouthful).
So, how do we join with God through the power of the Spirit in this restorative work?
In much the same way that Adam and Eve were commissioned to be fruitful and multiply that the whole earth would be filled with the image of God, so we have been commissioned by Jesus to “Go…and make disciples of the nations” (notice disciple-making starts before conversion). The restoration of God is set to happen as the world is reconciled back to God and humanity returns to faithfully bearing the image of God in all our various contexts and lives. Put simply, engaging in God mission of restoring all things means discipling people like Jesus discipled people (in all of life).
As we move on to the specifics I want to hear from you: what can we be doing to proactively join with God in making disciples of the nations this Christmas season? More to come tomorrow…

So begins a series of bite-size forays in to the world of missional church–her nature, identity, presence, practice and so much more in the world.  My hope is that these posts would clarify more of what the Lord has been stirring in us and continue to lead us deeper in.  I would love to see these posts address questions that you may have about the missional church as well.  Please feel free to contact/converse with me through the comments, Contact Us page, email or Facebook with issues/questions you’d like to hear more of.

Missional Church

One needs little training in philology or word parsing to spot the “mission” in “missional”.  And so it should be, because the missional church is one for who the mission of God is integral.  For this reason, I find it is necessary for any discussion of the missional church to begin with the missional God.

The Bible speaks of this God and his mission from Genesis to Revelation.  Whether it is the self-communication of God through creation, the recurring promises of restoration, the Exodus event, the establishment of David as King, the judgement that came on rebellious Israel or the sending of the Son by the Father, every page is saturated with the God of mission at work in his world.

He is not begrudgingly involved in the world, he is driven in to it.  He does not stand far off as a neglectful parent, he is imminently near as a loving father at work for the betterment of his children.

In order to talk about the missional church, we must first understand that the one who has birthed this church, is himself

missional.  As others have said, “It is not the church of God that has a mission, but the God of mission who has a church.”

Beginning with the God of mission, it is hardly surprising that his Church should be missionally oriented in all of her parts.  Or as John Houghton has said, “If mission is at the heart of God’s will for his people, it follows that the only way to glorify God is to make [mission] the heart of our churches.”

Let me encourage as many of you as are interested to head over to gcmcollective.com to connect with some great people serving on mission all over the world!

You’ve already heard me talk about and quote lots of the people you’ll find over at the GCM Collective: Jeff Vanderstelt, Tim Chester, Jonathan Dodson and Steve Timmis.  There’s also a thriving community section to the site that has been up for some time.

The Last Word: Definitely check out the Resources section of the site.  There you’ll find downloadable articles and trainings like “Engaging in Story”, “Gospel Fluency”,  a “Contextualization Assessment Starter”, as well as Soma’s great Soma School training audio.

Check it out!

Quotes and Videos…

March 8, 2010

Just a couple of great quotes, videos to pass on to you that have stoked my thoughts these last couple whirlwind days.

Genesis 1-3: This N.T. Wright video on Genesis 1-3 was originally spotted at belief.net in a short article by Scott McKnight.  Both are great, but here at least is the video for those who don’t follow the link over:

Facebook: Jonathan Dodson over at Creation Project highlighted research on how the United States is connected through Facebook (pretty map included!) that I thought some of you would find interesting.

Preaching in the Missional Church: Len Hjalmarson over at Nextreformation.com pulled these quotes from a preaching.org article by Erwin Stutzman I found pretty interesting on the subject of preaching in the missional church:

1. “We own our cultural-ness, our own culture.” We join with our secular neighbors in living within the particularities of the American culture.
2. “We have the habit of continuous conversion.”
3. “We are a living demonstration of the gospel.” More than rational proof, secularized people want to see whether it is possible to live by the mandates of Christian discipleship.
4. “We structure our lives around being a sent community instead of a vendor of services.” For many churches, this involves a fundamental shift in identity, pastoral leadership habits, community formation, and orientation to the church’s mission…

Some really good stuff (even if it is hardly functional these days)!

Coming Home

January 27, 2010

How do I start and where should I begin?  First of all, a huge thank you to everyone who has expressed their concern for us and committment to pray for us!

No doubt many of you have heard by now that Kate, Jude, baby girl and I will be leaving Holland in the next week (probably Wednesday).  If its a shock to you, perhaps it is good for you to know you are not alone in that sentiment; our church’s board informed us of our dismissal only 48 hours ago.

The short story–in a very long story of both many ups and downs, twists and turns–is that Monday evening the leadership of Cross Culture (the church we’ve been serving) has expressed their satisfaction with the job we were invited here to do.  Specifically the task we were charged with included freeing the lead pastor up and raising up a new youth pastor.

Over the course of the last fifteen months I have been able to assist the lead pastor here in handful of ways, from leading the youth and teaching on Sundays and during the week, to working with him to c0-create the current expression of our church’s mission and means for engaging that mission (displayed in the church’s mid-week meeting area).

On the other side, though we have perhaps had less time than we’d have liked to disciple the youth leader who will taking our place, we are very excited to see how the Lord will work through him.  God is just beginning to do some exciting things here in Holland (see here and here), and I hope you will join me praying for the growth and continuation of these new ways in which Christ is being named where he has not been so before!

Looking Back

Looking back this year has been as much about learning as it has been about ministering.  Personally I feel my love for and relationship with Jesus has deepened as he has lifted our eyes from the what of his church’s doing (Acts 2:42-47) to the why (Acts 1:8).  He is the God who sends, and because he has come himself, I know that he is also going before us now.

Looking Forward

So where is he going before us?  To be completely honest, I’m not sure.  Of course our primary focus right now, aside from packing, is in looking forward to the arrival of baby girl in early March.  Beyond This we’re not really sure where the Lord is leading us.  You can be sure we will keep you posted as things become clear and the Lord paves the way forward–whether that path leads us to Vancouver or beyond.

Again, a huge thank you to those who have so faithfully supported us through email, Skype or Facebook, or in prayer or finances this past year!  You have carried us many times!

As to specifics, the four of us plan on leaving Holland in seven days–just two days before Kate is no longer allowed to fly!

Lastly, for those of you who know the Youngers, keep an eye on their blog or Facebook accounts for more information on their plans to return to Vancouver. (also, a huge thank you to Nathan and Anna for taking care of things here so that Kate, Jude and I are able to return all together!)

Work and Mission

January 12, 2010

So many people I run in to have been trained to view their lives as being split between time spent “in the world” and “in the church”.  Jonathan Dodson of Austin City Life and the Creation Project blog has been posting some good stuff on work and mission that just might make you want to keep your job.  Great stuff!

Cities are comprised of anywhere from 5-10 city domains: Government, Arts, Education, Social Services, Health Services, Technology, Family, etc. Missional Churches must do the hard work of helping their people see their vocation in urban domains in terms of missional calling, not merely for evangelism but for whole gospel living. (taken from this post)

Also, check out some of his articles on the topic over at the High Calling:

Don’t quit your day job!

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