Missions / Evangelism

 

Oct

23

2013

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

Why Roland Allen’s 100-Year-Old Book Continues to Challenge

missionary_methodsIt is rare to find a book recommended more highly a century after its initial publication than when it was released. Roland Allen’s Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? first appeared in 1912 and has remained in print for more than a hundred years.

By appealing to the ministry of the Apostle Paul, Allen provides a strong critique of the colonial and paternalistic implementation of mission work in his day. His confidence in the eventual vindication of his views comes from his trust in the Holy Spirit to use the inspired Word of God to refashion and refocus our missionary activities until they are more in line with the Scriptures.

Paul’s missionary example

Roland Allen believed the methods and strategies of the Apostle Paul were being neglected in contemporary mission efforts. To counter this problem, Allen expounds on the activities of Paul in his day. He notes that Paul focused on strategic centers from which the work of church planting could continue to spread into other areas. Paul preached to Greeks and Jews, demonstrating his belief that the gospel was for all people and not only one social class or racial identity.

In response to those who might attribute Paul’s unusual success to the favorable moral and social conditions of his day, Allen argues that times were not better or easier in the past. In fact, we could make the case that Paul’s obstacles were more difficult than our own. So why did Paul’s presentation of the gospel prove to be so persuasive to people?

  • Was it the fact Paul performed miracles? Allen says they only served to corroborate the gospel similar to our acts of love and mercy that prepare for the reception of the gospel by embodying the compassion of Christ.
  • What about the way Paul dealt with finances? Allen notes how the apostle chose not to seek financial help or administer local church funds, but instead trusted the churches to deal wisely in their finances.
  • What about the content of Paul’s preaching? Allen surveys the sermons of Paul recorded in Acts as well as the emphases we find in Paul’s letters. He shows that Paul’s preaching focused on the history of the Jewish people, the saving events of Jesus Christ, and the extension of pardon to all who repent and believe.

Finally, Allen examines Paul’s method of training converts. The apostle did not have a set of special advantages unavailable to us. He trusted the Spirit enough to give the basic, foundational teaching of the gospel before moving on to other locations. “We look too much at our converts as they are by nature,” Allen writes. “St Paul looked at his converts as they were by grace.”

Allen’s literary explanation

One of the greatest strengths of Allen’s work is the way in which he popped the paternalistic bubble surrounding missions in his day. The missionary who understands the temporary nature of his task will be working with an eye to succession and replacement, effectively working himself out of a job.

Another great strength of Allen’s proposal is the consistent focus on the power inherent in the gospel itself. The hard edges of the gospel do not need to be softened in order to win a hearing; rather, the Word of God is powerful precisely because it offends and transcends the sensibilities of every culture with which it comes into contact.

One of the surprising aspects of Missionary Methods is Roland Allen’s strong affirmation of congregational polity. I confess I was taken aback as I read such a robust defense of local church autonomy from a committed Anglican.

A few caveats

No book is without its weaknesses, however, even when the book receives the well-deserved label of being a modern day “classic.” Allen’s work is no exception.

Despite his insistence on preaching the gospel in its splendor, there are times when Allen appears to separate missionary strategy from biblical doctrine. While it is certainly possible that people who agree on the basic doctrines of Christianity may come to different conclusions regarding ministry methodology, it is impossible to untether methodology from theology.

In fact, Allen’s book proves this to be so, as he regularly expounds Christian doctrine even as he focuses on missionary strategy. The history of the missions movement in the 20th century is a clear sign that downplaying doctrine leads to the fracturing of unity and the dissolution of evangelistic mission.

One other weakness in the book is the basic assumption that whatever we observe in Paul’s ministry should be normative for our own. It is generally true that the descriptions of Paul’s mission work are prescriptive for us today, not just descriptive. And yet, we should take care to appreciate the unique manner in which the Lord used the Apostle Paul, which means we are not required to see every element of his ministry as immediately applicable to us.

For example, Allen encourages missionaries to go wherever they are received, feeling no pressure to remain with those who have initially rejected the message. But we might wonder what would have happened to William Carey, for example, had he chosen not to labor among those who rejected his message for several years before they eventually turned to Christ.

Conclusion

Overall, Missionary Methods is a classic in the field of missiology that deserves its place of prominence on pastors’ shelves today. Roland Allen’s reminder to trust the Holy Spirit in the work of mission is an ever-helpful reminder of the source of power in Christian ministry.

 
 

Sep

30

2013

Trevin Wax|3:54 am CT

Learning from a Lesbian Visitor to Your Church

A few weeks ago, I had lunch with a church planter from New England. On a regular basis, people call the church and ask him if they are “welcoming.” He told me the conversation usually goes like this:

Pastor: We welcome everyone to join us in worship.

Caller: Are you welcoming to gays and lesbians?

Pastor: Yes, anyone and everyone is welcome.

Caller: What I mean is, are you welcoming and affirming? I’m a lesbian and I want to know if I will be expected to change in order to come to your church.

Pastor: Anyone is welcome to come to our church. But when we meet Jesus—really experience him—we change. No one gets an opt-out of that. No one comes to Jesus and gets to stay the same.

Caller: Would I have to change my sexuality?

Pastor: Jesus is in the business of changing everything about us – our sexuality, our relationship to others, our money, our desires, and just about any aspect you can think of. So yes, coming to Jesus means change – not just for you, but for all of us.

Caller: Well, then this church isn’t for me.

My friend said the conversation is usually over once the caller realizes the church holds to traditional teaching regarding sexuality. He told me he always shakes his head and thinks, Who do we think we are, that we can come to God and tell Him what we will and will not change? 

You and I are like the lesbian caller.

Thinking about that phone call and the demands that were made before she would come to church led me to reflect on the nature of repentance and the ways – even if we don’t want to admit it – we are all like the lesbian caller. We want to be affirmed as we are.

If I join your church, will I be expected to change my prejudice and bigotry toward those of different races? I want a church where people look and think like me.

If I join your church, will I be expected to change my living arrangements? I know cohabitation isn’t best, but I don’t want the church prying into my personal life.

If I join your church, will I be expected to reach out to lost people with the gospel? I don’t want a church that’s always harping on evangelism.

If I join your church, will I be expected to give generously? I don’t want a church that talks about money too much.

If I join your church, will I be expected to serve? I’ve got a lot going on, and aside from a few hours a week, my schedule is off limits.

The list could go on. At the heart of this conversation is repentance. Can I come to Jesus on my own terms? Or will I have to change?

So many of us think of the lesbian caller and unknowingly respond like the Pharisee going to the temple to pray: “I thank you, God, that I’m not like that.” Meanwhile, we cling tenaciously to the sinful attitudes and actions that characterize our lives. And then we go home unjustified… and unchanged.

 
 

Sep

02

2013

Trevin Wax|3:04 am CT

2 Recent Sermons on Engaging the Lost

Last month, I was invited to speak twice at The Fellowship of Two Rivers, a church in Nashville. The sermons were part of a series about developing a posture of openness toward those who need Christ.

I like it when churches ask me to preach on a specific text because it causes me to dig deep into passages I may not be inclined to go to otherwise. These two sermons were from Luke 19:1-10 (Zacchaeus – please no “little man” jokes about my lack of height) and Mark 5:1-20 (the Gadarene Demoniac). Special thanks to the teaching pastor there, Philip Nation, for the invitation.

I rarely post audio or video of my sermons, but the Lord really challenged me in a special way through the preparation and delivery of these two messages, and I hope they may be an encouragement to you.

Seeking the Seeker from The Fellowship on Vimeo.

Loving the Outcast from The Fellowship on Vimeo.

 
 

Aug

27

2013

Trevin Wax|3:09 am CT

The Brainy Benefits of Being Bilingual

I remember the first time I read an entire book in one afternoon.

It was a few months after I’d moved to Romania. My experience of being totally immersed in Romanian culture and my daily exercises in learning Romanian grammar and vocabulary had begun to pay off. I was growing more conversational, though I was still a few months away from fluency.

One afternoon, I checked out Loving God by Chuck Colson from the library on campus, went back to my dorm room, and read 320 pages within the span of a few hours. Afterwards, when I put the book down, I remember thinking to myself, What just happened here? I just finished this book and I can recall what I read. I don’t ever remember being able to read this fast.

I tried it a few days later, with an English book that chronicled the Romanian Revolution. Same experience. Then again, with a novel. I probably read more that week than I had read in several months put together.

What had changed? I wasn’t sure, but I started to wonder if my ability to read quickly in English had something to do with my acquiring of another language.

The Bilingual Brain

I haven’t seen any data that links speed of reading in one’s native tongue with knowledge of another language. Last month, however, TIME featured an article by Jeffrey Kluger titled “The Power of the Bilingual Brain” that seeks to demonstrate how fluency in a second language produces a nimbler mind.

The article piqued my interest, particularly since my wife and I speak only in Romanian at home, and are raising our kids to be bilingual. Aside from the benefits of our kids being able to talk to their grandmother and aunts and uncles in Romanian, I’ve long suspected that there are other benefits to knowing more than one language. The article in TIME describes the most recent science and some surprising results:

Research is increasingly showing that the brains of people who know two or more languages are different from those who know just one – and those differences are all for the better. Multilingual people, studies show, are better at reasoning, at multitasking, at grasping and reconciling conflicting ideas. They work faster and expend less energy doing so, and as they age, they retain their cognitive faculties longer, delaying the onset of dementia and even full-blown Alzheimer’s disease.

Lest you think that it is simple a matter of bilingual people being smarter, the article goes on to point out that the issue is not related to intelligence, but the brain’s speed and agility:

A bilingual brain is not necessarily a smarter brain, but it is proving to be a more flexible, more resourceful one… It is the knock-on effects – not how the brain looks but how it functions – that argue most for learning additional languages, and it appears that the bilingual brain is simply more efficient.

The Bilingual Preacher

Charles Spurgeon, in Lectures to My Students, claimed that learning another language brought benefits in speaking:

The acquisition of another language affords a fine drilling for the practice of extempore speech. Brought into connection with the roots of words, and the rules of speech, and being compelled to note the differentia of the two languages, a man grows by degrees to be much at home with parts of speech, moods, tenses, and inflections; like a workman he becomes familiar with his tools, and handles them as everday companions.

Spurgeon then applies this insight to sermon preparation, not just sermon delivery:

Who does not see that the perpetual comparison of the terms and idioms of two languages must aid facility of expression? Who does not see, moreover, that by this exercise the mind becomes able to appreciate refinements and subtleties of meaning, and so acquires the power of distinguishing between things that differ – a power essential to an expositor of the Word of God, and an extempore declarer of His truth.

So, according to Spurgeon, the mastering of the biblical languages or the ability to speak another language fluently isn’t in translation work alone. Instead, the benefit is becoming more at ease with your own language the more you know how it works, and nothing shows you how your own language works better than learning another one.

Learn, gentlemen, to put together, and unscrew all the machinery of language, mark every cog, and wheel, and bolt, and rod, and you will feel the more free to drive the engine, even at an express speed should emergencies demand it.

Your Thoughts?

I’m sure there are readers of Kingdom People who know the biblical languages or who can speak Spanish, German, French, etc.

Has anyone else noticed a correlation between learning a new language and efficiency in reading or writing?

Those of you who have learned English as a second language, do you find your agility in your native tongue to improve as you get better at English?

 
 

Aug

22

2013

Trevin Wax|3:21 am CT

Why the Global Church Should Impact Your Theology: A Conversation with Timothy Tennent

Not long ago, I read a helpful book called Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. The book is from Dr. Timothy Tennent, and it is intended to be a supplement to systematic theology textbooks.

Dr. Tennent serves as the president of Asbury Theological Seminary and is the author of numerous books on Christianity in a global context. You can read more from him on his personal blog. Dr. Tennent graciously agreed to answer some questions about this volume.

Trevin Wax: Missiology and systematic theology are often seen as two distinct areas of study. In this book, you recommend we bring the two together and incorporate insights and perspectives from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Why is it important to hold these two disciplines together, and why is there a need to engage theologians and church leaders in the Majority World?

Dr. Timothy Tennent: I do not necessarily think that missiology and systematics need to be held together as much as I think that missiology and theology need to be held together. I do think that systematics might be useful at times, but my deeper project has always been to see missiology undergirded with more theological reflection.

This is important because theology is the native language of the church. It is the way we understand and interpret to ourselves and others the significance of God’s self-revelation. Social sciences are valuable, but they must always serve the deeper task of our own speech as the church. Anthropology, linguistics and so forth are important disciplines, but they are not our core discipline. Theology is our core discipline. So, we must keep the “helping” disciplines in their right place.

Trevin Wax: You write: “We are now in the midst of one of the most dramatic shifts in Christianity since the Reformation.” What is this dramatic shift, and how should it impact our study of theology?

Dr. Timothy Tennent: We are in a shift from a Christendom church to a post-Christendom church – a shift from a Western dominated Christian movement to a movement dominated by voices outside the Western world. This is important because post-Christendom, post-Western people will inevitably ask new questions of the biblical text. This, in turn, influences theological development in positive ways. My chapter on anthropology which emphasizes shame is an example of how theology is deepened by the cultural encounters of the gospel outside the West.

Trevin WaxWhat are some issues that arise outside of the West that challenge our presuppositions and practices as we study and apply systematic theology?

Dr. Timothy Tennent: Any new question can challenge traditional systematic theology. The problem with Western theology is that we thought that all questions which could be asked had already been asked. But when the majority world Christians started asking new questions, it has rocked the theological boat. Most of the new questions arise in the context of other religions – ranging from the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, revelation outside the Bible, collectivistic vs. individualistic interpretations of certain texts, etc.

Trevin WaxIn the West, we tend to see the cross of Christ as resolving what is primarily a guilt problem. The East focuses on shame and honor. How can our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world enrich our understanding of Christ’s accomplishment on our behalf? How do these distinctions affect our evangelistic strategies?

Dr. Timothy Tennent: They can help us to go back and read the text more carefully and discover, perhaps to our own surprise, that the atonement is deeper and broader than we realized. Christ’s death covered fear, guilt and shame, not just guilt. It should influence how we preach the gospel. I have observed this quite a bit in India. Knowing the actual context makes a big difference in how we communicate the gospel.

My daughter is working in Africa and had a big breakthrough when she quit emphasizing “guilt” and started emphasizing how Jesus delivered them from the power of the evil one and of demons. They really responded to the latter, because that was where they felt their needs were.

Trevin WaxMissiologists have long said that indigenous churches should be not only self-supporting and self-propagating, but also self-theologizing. What is it about the last term that makes many of us nervous? Why should we embrace this term and what it represents?

Dr. Timothy Tennent: Self-theologizing just means that Christians in every culture must learn to articulate the gospel in their own way using their own thought forms. It probably makes us nervous because we think that we have exhausted every theological point already. However, the truth is that new Christians continue to discover new depths in the Scriptures. It is not enough to simply repeat what others have taught, we must own it for ourselves.

The great news is that a large section of theological reflection is the same around the world because we are all reading the same Bible. We do not need to fear that a new gospel will arise. Instead, we will see richer and deeper dimensions which will ring true with what we already know. However, their articulation will also expose ways in which we have domesticated the gospel and need another reformation in our own context.

 
 

Aug

13

2013

Trevin Wax|3:41 am CT

5 Ways People Manage Conflict

Relationships break down for a variety of reasons, but some feuds and fights could easily be prevented if, during the initial stages of conflict, disagreements were handled wisely. Relationships are more likely preserved when people on both sides recognize the different ways that people go about managing and resolving conflict.

In Cross-Cultural Conflict: Building Relationships for Effective MinistryDuane Elmer draws on the work of R. H. Thomas and K. W. Kilmann to summarize five ways those of us in the West handle conflict:

1. The Win-Lose Strategy

“Win-lose people assume that everything should be seen as right or wrong,” Elmer writes (34). For this reason, they see things in black and white and resist any notion of “gray.” Negotiation is a form of compromise. When differences of opinion arise, the win-lose person assumes that the one who disagrees is the one who is wrong.

Flexibility is a sign of weakness. Energy should be expended not in trying to find common ground, but in trying to convince the other person of the wrongness of their viewpoint. Elmer lists a variety of tactics used to convince others to change their minds: physical force, threats, intimidation, silence, verbiage and volume, pointing out past failures, pulling rank, rewarding or spiritual one-upmanship (35).

It is not surprising that a win-lose person is willing to sacrifice relationships in order to get their way and remain “right.” The way to confront a win-lose person is to avoid an argument and instead rely on a group to show the person where they are wrong and why it is important for them to resist being dogmatic or stubborn in areas of preference, not principle.

There are, of course, certain areas we should be dogmatically unchanging in (certain doctrinal commitments or moral standards). But to allow convictions on personal matters become all-encompassing, to the point where relationships break down due to unbending dogmatism, is to go beyond Scripture and fail to take into consideration the possible flaws in one’s own thinking. Elmer recommends we “be dogmatic and stubborn where God is, and flexible where He is” (36). This is good advice, but win-lose people too often assume that their position and God’s are the same!

2. Avoidance

On the opposite spectrum of the win-lose person, those who avoid disagreement assume that differences are always bad because they might lead to relational breakdown. Confrontational conflict may cause a rupture in the relationship; therefore, we ought to minimize the opportunities for confrontation and hope that the disagreements will resolve themselves.

There may be times when avoidance of conflict is the best approach. After all, we should not crave confrontation in our relationships. Wisdom may dictate a season of silence, in which heated emotions have time to cool off so that reason can prevail.

But those who tend to avoid conflict usually wind up with weak and superficial relationships that are unable to stand up under the strain of differing opinions. Important decisions are postponed. Issues bubbling up under the surface are never addressed, and as a result, relationships remain surface level. Avoiding conflict at all costs is often a sign of weakness and insecurity.

3. Giving In

Another approach to managing conflict is to give in to the stronger person. In order to accommodate another point of view or smooth over the differences, this person yields to others and maintains peace.

Like those who avoid conflict, relationships are seen as more important than “being right.” But unlike the “avoiders,” those who give in are more likely to yield so that the relationship can still be robust and disagreement be minimized.

Elmer calls this person a “people-pleaser.” They tend to minimize their difference of opinion to the point their own personal goals and values are forfeited. Occasionally, the one who gives in will be pushed to the limit and will adopt a win-lose posture on other issues. But for the most part, they are likely to give up their own viewpoint in order to keep the peace.

There are times when giving in is the wisest option. Elmer points out certain times when giving in is the preferred choice. For example, when the issue is of little consequence and the relationship is obviously more important than the disagreement, it is wise to admit you may be wrong.

Another example would be to give in at one point in order to win at a different point. Every relationship has a built-in amount of give-and-take.

Or perhaps you might give in so that others may have room to make their own mistakes, face the consequences, and grow as a result. The difficulty is in knowing when to give in and when to stand firm.

4. Compromise

For the win-lose person, compromise is the same as capitulation and should always be avoided. But there are many people who choose to view conflict from a “realistic” perspective in which it is already assumed that no one will get everything they want all the time. Because it is impossible for everyone to have everything, they believe all people should be willing to give a little in order to get a little. “Life is the art of negotiating to some happy middle ground,” Elmer writes (41).

Compromise is the best approach when both sides are pushing to extremes, asking for more than they want, so that in the end all are expected to meet in the middle and still walk away with most of their desires met. In theory, everyone should be happy with the end result.

But, as Elmer points out, this method means both parties must be willing to give up something important to them (42). The risk is that the “happy middle ground” will make both sides unsatisfied and unhappy. Compromise is also problematic if one of the negotiating parties has disproportionate power. At this point, it is likely that the powerful party will get more of its demands and the other party will walk away dissatisfied with the results.

5. Carefronting

According to Elmer, “carefronting means directly approaching the other person in a caring way so that achieving a win-win solution is most likely” (42). In order to accomplish this task, the two parties must agree to come together, commit to preserve the relationship, creatively find a solution that satisfies both sides, utilize reason over emotion, separate the person from the issue, and strive for a solution that will bring peace.

Many assume that carefronting is the biblical approach to resolving conflict. Indeed, there are similarities with Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 18:15-17 for confronting a wayward brother or sister in Christ.

But Elmer cautions us against thinking that carefronting is the only model of conflict resolution. Certain cultural tendencies may make this model more applicable in some settings as opposed to others.

What About You?

Which of these approaches do you tend toward? How have you resolved conflicts with people who manage conflict differently than you do?

 
 

Jul

24

2013

guest|3:03 am CT

6 Ways Small Churches Can Love Their Communities

Daniel Darling is the Senior Pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and is the author of Teen People of the BibleCrash CourseiFaith, Real, and Activist Faith: From Him and For Him. He blogs at DanielDarling.com.

What if you are the pastor of a small church but would like to do something to serve your community? What if you love the idea of adopting a school, but barely have enough resources to cover your nursery on Sunday?

Is it possible to do acts of mercy in your local Jerusalem with a tiny band of volunteers? Surprisingly, it is. Here are six tips for small church outreach:

1. Relieve yourself of false guilt.

If there is one thing that plagues small church pastors in a big metro area, it’s the constant guilt about what your church is “not doing.” Mostly this guilt comes as a result of comparing yourself to the other churches in town.

Instead, begin to look at the entire body of Christ in your community rather than your own specific congregation. You are just one of many God is using in that region to bring about His glory. When I finally realized that God wasn’t calling Gages Lake Bible Church to be the entire Church to our local region, it enabled me to focus on a few small areas of opportunity and giftedness.

2. Look for ways to partner with existing churches and organizations.

It’s important to build relationships with other Christian leaders in town to see what existing projects your church can join. They are always in need of manpower and money. You’d be surprised at how your little contribution can make a big difference.

Sometimes you can offer your building, even it is small, as a staging or training area. Every church has boundaries on their involvement with other churches, but I encourage you to partner in areas of agreement and get your people involved in worthy, God-honoring community endeavors.

3. Recognize what your people are already doing.

You might be surprised to know that your people are already involved in community projects.

For instance, I discovered that one of our new members was an active volunteer with a anti-poverty ministry. Another is part of a homeless outreach.

So when opportunities to serve come up, I publicize these in our bulletin to attract other likeminded volunteers to the efforts. I’m finding that not every endeavor has to be planned, coordinated, and arranged from the leadership on down. Sometimes the effort is a matter of empowering work already happening.

4. Mobilize people for opportunities.

As the pastor, I’m still the one who is most aware of opportunities for service. Most of my people are working long hours and busy raising their families. I’m the one meeting with other pastors, keeping up with various movements, and generally aware of the needs in the community.

I’ve realized how important it is to make it easy for my people to get involved, either financially for with their time. So when a partnering organization alerts me of an opportunity for service, I weigh whether or not it is doable and fits with our mission and then publicize it across our media (bulletin, Facebook, email newsletter, Sunday announcements) with clear instructions on the where, when, how.

5. Do a few things well.

During my first year of ministry, a wise pastor offered this simple advice: do a few things well rather than a lot of things poorly. That sage wisdom has served me well.

You cannot love your community well if you use a sort of scattershot approach. Instead, your leadership must pray and ask the Lord where he would have you concentrate your efforts. The fact is that you will have to turn down more worthy causes than you accept. But you can rest in the knowledge that God may raise up other churches in the community to fill that slack.

6. Celebrate small wins.

The truth is that you’re small church probably won’t make the evening news or Outreach Magazine. And yet that doesn’t diminish the worthiness of the efforts you give at loving your community.

Earlier this year Gages Lake raised $700 for our local crisis pregnancy center. Last Christmas we fed five needy families. We paid for homeless lady to get a pair of glasses. Several of our people regularly volunteer at local organizations. It doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but it’s more than zero.

Celebrate those efforts publicly, privately and to those who gave. Remember, it’s not the size of your effort that matters, but the heart behind it.

 
 

Jul

15

2013

guest|3:17 am CT

How to Pray for Your City

Bliss Spillar is assistant to the lead pastor at Portico Church in Charlottesville. He blogs at BlissSpillar.com.

When we think about the book of Acts, we usually think about the beginning of the church, the miracles performed by the Apostles, the work of the Holy Spirit, the conversion of Paul, and so on.

Too often, we overlook a wonderful thread that weaves its way throughout the entire book. The early church was made up of Christians that were dedicated not only to the gospel, to community, to mission but also to prayer (Acts 1:24, 2:42, 4:24-31 6:6, 16:25, 20:36  and many more).

It is easy to neglect praying for our cities I believe for three reasons.

First, if we were to be honest, many of us believe that the “heavy lifting” of ministering to our city comes in the form of our Sunday gatherings, community groups, missional events, etc. While these things are necessary, when it comes to prayer we are often times (as Jeff Vanderstelt puts it) “functional atheists.”

Secondly, we forget how important prayer is to God. In Jeremiah, God instructs the prophet,

“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf…” (Jer. 29:7).

Jesus in the Gospels commands the disciples,

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38).

From beginning to end, the call to pray is commanded in scripture and not something to be abandoned. 

Finally, we are a prideful people. I am often reminding myself that I am a workman in a field that does not belong to me, using tools that do not belong to me, reaping a harvest that does not belong to me, and working for a glory that does not belong to me (1 Corinthians 3:5-9). By His grace, making prayer for my city a priority has allowed the Spirit to remind me that God alone saves and God alone deserves glory for redemption.

During a sermon on 1 Peter 2:7, Charles Spurgeon made the statement, “Every Christian here is either a missionary or an impostor.”

A disciple of Christ is a life on mission, one that I believe is marked deeply by prayer for the people God has sent them to. Our states, our cities, our neighborhoods desperately need the life-giving renewal and redemption that flow from Christ’s life, death and resurrection.

Praying for the mission of God in our cities is one of the beautiful ways we join God in His renewal and redemption of our city. Let us be people who are marked not just by lives on mission in the everyday, but people who intercede daily and earnestly on behalf of our cities.

Below I have listed out prayers that we have recently been utilizing to pray for our city. My prayer even now, is that the Lord would use these to glorify Himself in the redemption and renewal of your city.

  • Sunday - That the Gospel would be boldly and unashamedly proclaimed in our local churches. That our churches would be places for the broken, unwanted and hurting. That Christ will be offered as the only remedy for the very thing we cannot do, make our selves better or save ourselves.
  • Monday - Pray that Romans 8:35-39 would become a reality. Pray for yourself, for your family, for your pastors, for your church. That our hope would be found in Christ and in Christ alone and that his hope would produce Gospel boldness in our lives.
  • Tuesday - Pray Matthew 6:10 over your city. Spend this day replacing the word “earth” with the name of your city… for me it is “In Charlottesville as it is in heaven”.
  • Wednesday - Pray that the Spirit would weed out the sin in your life that has kept you from living a life on mission. That He would open up opportunities for you to be present and intentional with the gospel in your neighborhood. Pray for your neighbors by name.
  • Thursday - Pray boldly Psalms 33:8 over your city.  The the people would stand in awe before Him.
  • Friday - Pray Habakkuk 3:2 over your city. That the Lord’s love, wrath, justice and mercy would be made known in the City.
  • Saturday: Pray that the Lord would increase our burden for our city. That our love and growth in the Gospel would produce a desire to see others saved, and grow in their love and understanding of who God is, what He has done and what He is doing.
 
 

Jul

08

2013

guest|3:49 am CT

Living On Mission Takes Time

Michael Criner is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Bellville, TX and is currently pursuing a DMin in Christian Worldview and Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Seminary. Check out his blog here.

Some of us believe in “missions” or the act of being on mission, but we feel like we are complete failures at it.

One of the reasons is because we fail to give mission time to mature. We are too busy to be on mission for Jesus because we are on mission for ourselves. We live in a society that is impatient, and selfish, unwilling to invest in a place or city. We are more concerned about what is next that we miss the value of the now.

See, living on mission takes time. Living on mission is according to the Holy Spirit’s timetable, not your own. You never know when it’s going to occur. One of the errors the local church has experienced in recent generations is to confuse mission with an event you tack onto your already busy life. Instead, mission should be the way we live, not something we add onto life.

Look at two places the Bible speaks about this:

- As you go, make disciples. . . (Matthew 28:19)

- Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:2-6)

James Davidson Hunter speaks of Christian witness as being a “faithful presence.” Often, the key to living on mission is being present where God has planted you. As an aside, this may also be in your family. Just being in the same room is not the same as being present. Being present involves engagement wherever you are. 

So, in coming to Bellville, we set out to explore how we could serve and be present in this city. One of the ways was to make myself a “regular” at a local bakery/coffee shop where people in the city gather.

Here’s one of the easiest strategies to being on mission: Be a Regular.  

Being a regular is simply me trying to have a “Cheer’s Moment.” It’s frequenting a place until people know you by name.

The other day, I had my Cheer’s Moment at the bakery by way of a gift.

IMG_0371

This mug is from Newman’s Bakery. Not many people have a mug like this with their name on it. Few in fact.

But the other day, the owner of the shop pulled me aside and with tears in his eyes said, ”Welcome to the group.”

I’m living on mission. People are welcoming me into this city… and I’m grateful. Being a regular is opening doors for me to share the gospel. The gospel matters very much to me, and it should to you too - but we cannot give the gospel until others see that we care enough to know them.

Where can you be a regular today? Living on mission takes time. So go, be a regular.

 
 

Jul

02

2013

guest|3:37 am CT

3 Ways the Gospel Changes How We Tip

Jared Totten is the worship pastor at Redeemer Church in Omaha, NE. He is a graduate of Grace University and one of the contributors for Christians In Context.

Put your money where your mouth is…

In my line of work, I’ve experienced good tippers and bad ones. But the most memorable ones were the Christians who tipped like legalists. I’ve worked in the service industry longer than I have in the church (at least according to my W-2s) and am currently bi-vocational, working part-time as a hotel shuttle driver. I am paid below minimum wage much like restaurant waitstaff, so tipping is an expected part of my income by my employers.

The most personally painful moments have come when the occasional Christian convention or retreat takes over the hotel and the entire group tips poorly. I’ve found myself apologizing to my fellow tipped employees—even trying to use the opportunity as a springboard into presenting the gospel. Believe me, that’s a tough sell! And I’m sure they’re thinking the same thing as you right about now:

“What does a tip have to do with the gospel?”

I’m glad you asked. I’ve had many hours behind the wheel to ponder this very thing. Here are three personal guidelines I’ve formed as the gospel relates to Christians and how we tip.

1. Your tip should reflect Christian generosity.

God’s generosity towards us should affect the bank account. Every Christian knows that. But there is perhaps no better test on how great a hold the idol of Mammon still has on us than how we tip.

“I disagree”, you’re thinking. “What about tithing and charitable giving?”

Yes, but we do both of those with our “Christian hat” on. When we give in such ways we are acting out of our Christian sensibilities.

When you tip, however, I bet you’re all business. Right down to the penny (or rounded down to the dollar if you’re lazy or bad at math). But when testing your heart against the idol of money, how you handle the last 90% matters as much as how you handle the first 10%.

2. Your tip should demonstrate grace—not law.

If there’s a problem with my meal, the last thing I do is take it out of the tip. I want to give the server every chance to make up what could be honest mistakes or problems out of their control. To begin subtracting from the tip before giving the server an opportunity to make it right reflects the heart of a hard-nosed legalist, not a heart stricken by grace.

But—and this is a huge “but”—nothing models gospel grace like a generous tip even after a server has blown it and failed to “make it right.” I know this is a hard pill to swallow for many of us (myself included), but why should the tip be the last thing to be impacted by the grace that has been poured out on us?

I’ve talked to Christians who will simply gush about the grace of Christ towards us… and then not think twice about leaving a terrible tip for terrible service. Why reinforce the system of law by which the whole world runs when we have the resources of grace to draw from?

3. Your tip should embody the gospel.

I know, I know. “Embody the gospel? In a tip?!”

But if the gospel really is the all-encompassing reality that it is, then it should affect every area of our lives and every area of our lives can reflect it. Your tip should be a tangible outgrowth of the grace and generosity you yourself have received as not just an undeserving but ill-deserving sinner. We have all performed below what was expected of us and even in direct rebellion against the one we were made to serve.

Yet the gospel is this: God gave out of his riches both generously beyond what we could have hoped for and graciously beyond what we ever could have earned. And if God has given out his endless and bottomless generosity on our behalf, we have that same treasury to draw from. The gospel allows us to release our vice-grip on earthly riches and instead use it to apply the gospel in our own lives in the most practical ways.

P.S. Don’t leave a gospel tract unless you’ve done points 1-3.

Okay, so maybe tracts aren’t your thing (if they’re still a thing at all). In my context, it’s church pens and invite cards. But if you have anything you like to leave in the name of outreach, don’t leave it unless you are tipping out of generosity, grace, and the gospel.

To leave a gospel tract with a poor tip is unattractive at best. To leave a tract instead of a tip is often downright detrimental (especially those ones that look like paper money at first glance). But a tract with a generous tip—especially after poor service—well, that might actually preach.