It may be helpful to clarify some terms. “Mission,” simply put, is everything the church is sent to be and do in the world. This definition assumes that God initiated the mission of the church and continues to direct it. Likewise, this definition affirms that churches are sent, since the very word “mission” implies being dispatched or sent to perform a task or service.
As Jesus was sent by God, so Jesus sent the disciples and followers who formed the church. As living embodiments of the living work of Christ, churches are to continue what Jesus began. The church, therefore, is by nature a sign and an agent of the kingdom of God here and now. Everything God rules is kingdom property. That includes everything the church is and does….
Mission involves everything the church does in response to God’s creative and redemptive mandates. Evangelism and mission are not synonymous. Social action is not the same as mission. Discipleship, stewardship, and fellowship, like evangelism and social responsibility, deal with specific and concrete actions. Together these functions become the mission of the church.–Ray Bakke and Sam Roberts, “The Expanded Mission of City Center Churches”?(International Urban Associates, 1998), p. 85.
In several posts at onmovements.com, I discussed Edwin Friedman’s concern about the Failure of Nerve in today’s leaders. He uses the example of Christopher Columbus and other Renaissance explorers, who broke the imaginative gridlock of his generation by going beyond the “contemporary maps” of their age. Columbus went east past the “dragons” as other explorers went south past the end of the earth.
Today’s movements are no different, argues Jim Henderson.
It was only a little over 500 years ago that the most popular maps showed an earth that ended at the Equator. The Equator was a boundary no one crossed and lived to tell about. We know that isn’t true now and wasn’t true then but it “felt” true to them.
Here’s the lesson: Maps make people feel and if we want people to change we need to give them alternate feelings – a new map. Only then will they walk out the door and see that the world is much bigger, more interesting and more receptive than they had come to believe.
As Brian McLaren says “If you have a new world you need a new map – you have a new world”
Henderson suggests that one of the new maps creating a new evangelical world is the church’s discovery that getting people to heaven and serving the community are not mutually exclusive. He argues:
The Missional movement is calling the church to serve the culture, to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth. This movement was forced in part by the increased awareness people have of suffering all around them. Not just “over there” but right next door. What used to be derisively called the Social Gospel has become business as usual for even the most conservative evangelical churches…Today, due to a general disillusionment with much of the traditional church, more young people are voting with their feet and saying if you aren’t serving your community you aren’t going to see me in church.
In this regard, Henderson argues that missional movements should look to the Black Church because it has what we need. The Black Church, being marginalized for so long, discovered this new map long ago. Here Henderson breaks out his thinking:
The White church is slowly being pushed toward the margins of a culture it once dominated.
- Cell phone towers are replacing church steeples as key geographic (and cultural) markers
- For all its political effort, the religious right has come up largely empty handed
- The fastest growing faith segment in America is the “nones” those who claim no religion
The Good News: The Black church has been operating from the margins from its inception
- They’ve never had power or influence over the majority culture
- They’ve always had to do more with less
- They have experience with being ignored
- They’ve developed practical gospel that brings heaven to humans (as well as humans to heaven)
- They produced the most significant Christian leader of the 20th Century Martin Luther King Jr.
The Bad News: We’ve rarely asked them for help
- We have largely ignored their accomplishments
- We have been suspicious of their version of the gospel
The Best News: If we ask, they’re willing to help us
- Create a more practical gospel
- Become more about others and less about ourselves
Jonathan Pennington sent me a link to the following mp3, in which he summarizes his understanding of the Gospel. It’s another helpful contribution to our discussion about the Gospel’s embrace of both justice and justification. While honoring the 4 Laws’ role in his own conversion, Jonathan suggests helpful ways to improve our gospel proclamation based on the larger Biblical narrative. I especially appreciated his description of the gospel as both:
- cruciform and creational
- personal and panoramic.
Take some time to listen:
Mark Miller is an author and pastor at Life Church in Wheaton, Illinois. He recently spoke at a breakout sesssion at SHIFT on the topic of “Engaging Students in Global Justice.” In it, he discussed his own journey of discovering global justice being much more than a political issue; it’s a deeply spiritual one. He also discussed the excitement about a new generation of students who are passionate about following the way of Jesus by serving the needs of the world. Here’s a balanced interview with him that helps us understand what’s happening with students today.
Click here to get a link to the podcast.
The Back Story
The Passion movement recently released the album, God of This City. The title was taken from a song, sung on the album by Chris Tomlin, but originally written and released by the Irish band, Blue Tree. I love the whole song, but my favorite lines come from the chorus:
Greater things have yet to come
Great things are still to be done
In this city
Greater things are still to come
And greater things are still to be done here.
I love this lines because the capture the “fighting edge” of Christianity–a Christianity that, as C.S. Lewis says, believes “a great many things have gone wrong with this world that God made and that God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again.” The lines drive us to be a people who incarnate Jesus, declaring and bringing the rule and reign of Christ to every place, including the darkest of places — a truth illustrated in the back story of this song.When asked about the song, lead vox Aaron Boyd recalls:
“There’s a couple from Carrickfergus, Ian and Leslie, and they moved out to Thailand to a place called Pattaya. We got asked to go and be part of an event called Pattaya Praise. Pattaya is a seaside town/resort place, and physically, it looks to be like the darkest place you’ll ever go to. And spiritually, it is THE darkest place we have ever been to. You just feel the evil. You just feel the enemy all over that place. It’s a very small place. . . But in that small area in Thailand, there are 30,000 prostitutes and that figure excludes kids and excludes anything that’s outside of the range of, say 18-30, and who are female. . .
Part of what we were asked to do was to go out and be part of an event which runs for four or five days. It had things like 24/7 worship and prayer and social action going on helping the people who clean the streets every morning. We played in a school and ministered in an orphanage and tried to get a heart for that city. As a band we were getting cold feet because we had four days in Bangkok to start, and in those four days it was great. We’d be quite hyperactive, and it was flat-out, four days; not an hour was lost to sleep in those four days. On the Sunday we managed to play in one church and it was brilliant, but we wanted more. And then when we got to Pattaya . . . we said, ‘If you can get us anywhere else to play, anywhere, we want to play. We just want to do what we do in the middle of somewhere and just go head-on into it.”
“There was a bar called The Climax Bar – on a street that’s about 10 metres wide, it’s a kilometre long and it’s filled with everything you can physically imagine. And I promise you, as a red-blooded male, to keep your head in the right place you’ve got to look down at the ground and walk down that street and pray because it is just so in your face. People hit you with menus about everything, flashing lights, just everything you can imagine goes on in that place. You see kids as young as eight, nine, 10, just selling themselves, you know?! You see 60-year-old guys walking down the street with two 13 or 14-year-old girls. Forget about the Christian thing, you just get raging! You properly get raging when you see that happening, you know?!”
. . . We got the chance to play in this bar, a two-hour worship set in this bar. I don’t think the people in the bar spoke a word of English but we basically got to go in. The deal was that we play and we bring a following of people with us; so we’re there, set up, really good gear! So we all set up and there was like 20 Christians all standing in front of us, and the deal was we play, they buy lots of drinks, alright? I don’t think the place has ever sold so much Coke in its whole life in one night!
And we got to play for two hours. And just the way the band set up, we like using loops, and at one point I just started singing out. I started singing “Greater Things”, something along those lines, almost prophesying over the city. And without going into the band dynamics, slowly this groove emerged from this thing. And long story short; we walked out of that Climax Bar with pretty much a nailed song, as strange as that sounds. Then we were on the way home.
We were all. . .it was that tumbleweed silence, you know? It was like, ‘What actually just happened in that time?!’ It was one of the most powerful worship experiences we’ve ever had. I actually remember looking out, and you’re looking down a wee alleyway, into the street, and it was just 50 or 60 probably British tourists and they’re just sitting there listening going, ‘What is this all about?’ Coming from The Climax Bar which is pretty much a strip club. Just, here we are singing about Jesus in the middle of this. . . It was one of the most random experiences but it was a God thing, God was there.”
And where does name Bluetree come from?
“Bluetree stands for standing out. The whole concept of that is that, if you’re walking through a forest, everything you look around at is pretty much going to be green; green trees, brown branches, brown bark: you know, that kind of thing? But if you saw this tree that was bright blue and everything about it – leaves, branches, bark – was blue, it would stand out and you would stand and look at it and take notice of it. As Christians, Jesus Christ has called us to be salt, be light, in this world and really make a difference.”
Here’s a great resource. Mike Metzger writes an ezine that’s worth subscribing to: The Clapham Commentary from The Clapham Institute. You can register here.
Below is an example:
Eyes Wide Shut
Written by Mike Metzger
Friday, 08 December 2006
On business trips, he would spend several hours praying and reading the Bible each morning, with another round of prayers at midday. As a ship captain, he enjoyed long spells of solitude on deck, keeping a diary and recording that he knew no “calling that… affords greater advantages to an awakened mind, for promoting the life of God in the soul.” His expensive cargo required extra officers and crew, reducing his onboard responsibilities. “I never knew sweeter or more frequent hours of divine communion, than in my last two voyages to Guinea, when I was either almost secluded from society on shipboard, or when on shore… I have wandered through the woods reflecting on the singular goodness of the Lord to me.”
John Newton recorded those words while transporting African slaves and having his savings invested in the slave ship business.1 For more than thirty years after he left the slave trade, during which time Newton preached thousands of sermons, published half a dozen books, and wrote Amazing Grace and 279 other hymns, he “seems never to have heard God say a word to him against slavery.”2
Like Billy Joel, I think Newton was an innocent man. A saying among management experts today goes like this: “Your system is perfectly designed to yield the result you are getting.”3 Newton was the product of a system that “was focused on changing not the social order of his world but its spiritual life.” He “was falling more and more under the influence of the Evangelical movement.”4
Andy McCullough sent the following letter to ministry partners and friends. We thought it was a great idea on many fronts — relationship with partners, getting partners engaged in planting movements, balancing good news and good deeds, etc.
Soon you should be receiving our January letter either by snail mail or email. In the letter, I share briefly about my trip last month to South Africa and about going back next summer.
Even before I went I started dreaming about returning this coming July and inviting you all to join me. Sort of a Ministry Partners Missions project. This summer marks the twentieth anniversary of my first international project. That summer I went to Kenya and the experience changed my life. I couldn’t think of who I’d love to go back to Africa with that those of who partner with Robin and I through your prayers and gifts.
Here’s some basic info of this opportunity…
· Tentatively, we would leave July 18th (a Friday) and return on the morning of July 28th (a Monday).
I would reserve tickets for our group and we would all meet up at Dulles Intl Airport in DC and fly together. (Those of us from CO we would fly to Dulles from Denver together.)
For the week of 21st we would serve Beam ministry as they ministry to orphans and the poor. I’d love to have…
1. People from medical community so we could set up either a medical clinic or dental clinic or both.
2. Anyone with computer skills that could teach basic skills in their computer lab.
3. Someone with small business skills to train some adults how to start up their own business.
4. Anyone who could help minister to kids whether through a program like VBS or just loving on them. So teachers or anyone who just loves kids.
5. Anyone willing to serve in any way. We will
We would spend some time too encouraging the Campus Crusade project that will be there that month.
We also would go on a safari one day and visit an African church too.
I am still working on the actual costs. I have found that plane tickets in July are rather expensive so it may cost somewhere between $2500 and 3000. Our Church here in Boulder is setting this up as one our mission trips so you can raise support and people can get a tax deduction.
So… would prayerfully consider going with me this summer for 10 days to South Africa? If I did this right, there should be voting options on the email. If you are at all interested please let me know.
Associate WSN Director
Great Plains Int’l
A Few Minutes with Andy <http://andymccullough.blogspot.com/>
STINT Leaders <http://stintleaders.blogspot.com/>
Here I am Send Me! <http://isaiahsixeight.blogspot.com/>
Facebook profile <http://www.facebook.com/p/Andy_McCullough/500699312>
“God’s part is to put forth power; our part is to put forth faith.”– Andrew Bonar, missionary to Palestine, 1810-1892.
Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16) Anytime believers engage in good deeds in the Name of Christ, the goal is always that people would see something of the glory of God and be stirred within to praise Him. But almost without exception, when believers do good things in Jesus’ Name, their motives, their source of strength and power, or the significance of the deeds are misunderstood, and observers do not praise the God of the Bible.
Therefore, when believers help the needy in the Name of Christ, their good deeds require an explanation that leads people to glorify God. Usually, the best way to explain our good deeds is to share the Gospel or some portion of Gospel truth.
For example, in Acts 3, Peter and John heal a man who had been lame from birth. When people who knew him saw him walking, they were amazed. But they misunderstood the good deed Peter had done. They thought that Peter and John had healed the lame man by their own power. So Peter responds, “…why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk?” Peter immediately explains the healing by explaining the Gospel. The flow of Peter’s explanation is, Jesus Christ is God’s Son and Servant, He died unjustly on a cross, He was raised from the dead, and it is faith in the resurrected Jesus that has healed this man. Peter’s explanation climaxes in an awesome invitation: “Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you …”
In Acts 14, the same thing happens. When Paul and Barnabus heal a lame man in Lystra, the crowds who saw what Paul did for this man totally misinterpreted the event and assumed that Paul and Barnabus must be gods. They actually thought Paul was Hermes and that Barnabus was Zeus, and the priest of Zeus brought oxen and garlands to sacrifice to them! Paul and Barnabus are understandably alarmed and begin shouting to the crowd that they are not gods but simply men who preach the gospel so that they may turn from the worship of false gods to the living God.
Good deeds are often misinterpreted in our time as well. While helping a Thai villager rebuild his home after the tsunami last year, he said to me, “Your god is going to give you a lot of merit.” Because he naturally interpreted my good deeds through his Buddhist world view, he assumed that my motive for helping him was to make merit with my god and build good karma. This opened a door of opportunity. I explained that God does not give merit but something better. The Thai villager was shocked – so shocked that he was primed to listen to me talk about the awesome grace of God in Christ Jesus.
So, as we engage in good deeds of any kind in the Name of Christ, we have to explain our motives, the source of our strength, and make connections to the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus. The best way to do this is to talk about Jesus and the Gospel of our salvation. Our prayer as we engage in good deeds is always that people see what a glorious Savior Jesus is, and glorify the Father who sent Him.
— Chip Scivicque
Do you have a burden for the poor or others in the margins of society and want to get students involved?
Here’s a list of potential partners – it’s from World Magazine’s “Profiles in Effective Compassion” (’06 & ’07). These groups are offering tangible help, seeing long-term results, and “soaking every activity with the gospel.” Most are local, but some national or international – check out their websites.
- Bay Area Rescue Mission, Richmond, CA
- Jobs for Life, Raleigh, NC
- Rachel’s House, Columbus, OH
- CityTeam Ministries, Chester, PA
- Manoomin Project, Marquette, MI
- Earth Keeper Project, Livonia, MI
- Christian Women’s Job Corps, Nashville, TN
- (Google the Rest)
- A Hand Up for Women, Knoxville, TN
- Guiding Light Mission, Grand Rapids, MI
- Habitat for Humanity, Flint, MI
- Mission Solano, Fairfield, CA
- Urban Promise, Camden, NJ
- Truth Seekers, Memphis, TN
- A Way Out, Memphis, TN
- Crossroads Center Rescue Mission, Hastings, NE
- Citizens for Community Values, Memphis, TN
- Neighborhood Christian Center, Inc., Memphis, TN
- Mariner’s Church Lighthouse Community Center, Santa Ana, CA (50 programs focused on Minnie Street)
- St. Francis Center, Redwood, CA
- Mile High Ministries, Denver, CO
- Interfaith Housing Coalition, Dallas, TX
- Christian Women’s Job Corps of Middle Tennessee, Nashville, TN
- Victory Trade School, Springfield MO
- Arkansas Sheriff’s Youth Ranches, Little Rock, AR
- Happy Hands Education Center (Ministry to the deaf), Tulsa, OK
- Vision Youthz, San Francisco, CA
Look for service opportunities that:
- Connect students with people and where there’s potential for long-term relationships to develop
- Unbelievers can be invited to join you
- Students can be equipped to connect the story of Jesus with the stories of people they serve
These things lead to long-term solutions and impact, to transformed lives, and to people coming into the Kingdom.–Chip S.
We’re all trying to find ways of expressing clearly the notion of a holistic gospel. I ran across the following description of a division of books within NavPress. I thot the words helpful, as it expresses Jesus’ model of life and ministry–as the incarnate Son of God living life as we should. Of course, any 40 line summary will not also capture Jesus’ uniqueness as God and Savior, as atoning sacrifice for sins, as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, etc.
From the very beginning, God created humans to love him and each other. He intended for his people to be a blessing to everyone on earth so that everyone would know him (see Genesis 12:2). Jesus also taught this over and over and promised to give his people all they needed to make it happen—his resources, his power and his presence (see Matthew 28:20 and John 14:12-14). NavPress Deliberate takes him at his word and stirs its readers to do the same—to be the Children of God for whom creation is groaning to be revealed. We have only to glance through the Bible to discover what it looks like to be the blessing God has intended: caring for the poor, orphan, widow, prisoner, and foreigner (see Micah 6:8, Matthew 25:31-46, Isaiah 58); and redeeming the world—everyone and everything in it (Colossians 1:19-20, Romans 8:19-23 are examples).
Deliberate books explore the mystery of faith and how to actively live it out. As we plumb the mystery, we use Jesus as our guide—a man who, after spending 40 days of solitary contemplation in the desert, announced:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and the regaining of sight to the blind,
to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”— Luke 4:18-19
So began a career that is a study of profound faith in action, a perfect blend of orthodoxy and orthopraxy. He broke firm Jewish mores when he talked to the Samaritan woman alone at the well. He upset the unholy money making in the temple. He left everyone speechless when he defended the woman who slept around. He helped everyone he came across on his way to visit a dying friend. He taught through stories and riddles. He told his followers to love their enemies. He treated party-goers at a wedding reception to the best wine late in the evening.
Jesus told us to live like he did and to do even greater things. He told us to live deliberately, combining faith and action.
NavPress Deliberate encourages readers to embrace this holistic and vibrant Christian faith: it is both contemplative and active; it unites mystery-embracing faith with theological rootedness; it breaks down the sacred/secular divide, recognizing God’s sovereignty and redemptive work in every facet of life; it dialogues with other faiths and worldviews and embraces God’s truth found there; it creates culture and uses artistic ability to unflinchingly tell the truth about this life and God’s redemption of it; it fosters a faith bold enough to incarnate the gospel in a shrinking and diverse world. NavPress Deliberate is for everyone on a pilgrimage to become like Jesus and to continue his work of living and discipling among all people.
Deliberate is theologically grounded. While exploring the mystery, it is important to be mindful of the signposts God already has placed for us through biblical doctrine and church tradition. This grounding is not wholly limiting, however—it pulls from many traditions, readings, and expressions of Scripture, but it will also “test the spirits” to remain as faithful to God’s Word (both written and incarnated) as possible (1 John 4:1).
Deliberate follows Saint Augustine’s guiding principle:
In essentials, unity;
in non-essentials, liberty;
in all things, charity.