Recontextualizing Church

Many churches do a good job of making converts, but if you were to listen to Gen Xers and Millennials you would hear the voice of those crying out for discipleship and authenticity in community.  People want relationship, and disciples are made through long term relationship.

The problem I see in many attractional-event and program-driven churches in the West is their system does a good job of producing converts, but not necessarily of producing disciples who are equipped to make disciples who make disciples (Matthew 28:19). Many churches in our country seem to have drifted from the biblical concept of “church” and have redefined it as the place, a building, where ministry happens. Hence, many evangelicals have built large centralized institutions using what seems like marketing as a formula for success: utilize attractional events to draw a crowd, and then develop programs and depend on professional clergy to keep people coming back. While this may have worked to build large communities of worship in the mid-to-late twentieth century, it has also consumed many of the smaller churches like a Wal-Mart monopoly putting out of business the mom-and-pop shops. And often when the pastor of a program-driven church leaves the ministry, that church tends to lose sight of the vision as it struggles to pull together in unity, and the congregation shrinks as people transfer to the new, next, and better program-driven church that meets their family’s needs. I would argue this doesn’t build biblical community; this fractures community among local churches as the competitive mindset takes over and as church leadership begins to use marketing techniques to promote their brand to attract church shoppers, and thus congregants shuffle from church to church.

This book explores the challenges church leaders and congregants face in shepherding a program-driven church to begin to reach out to the community outside of the four walls of a church building. Take this journey with me as I evaluate Jesus’ and the Apostles’ method of outreach and discipleship and seek to find ways to apply their methodology in today’s context. We will explore various small group models throughout history and in today’s contemporary Western context. We will look at the necessity of corporate worship and small groups to stimulate spiritual growth. I have interviewed Jeff Vanderstelt, Steve Timmis, Joel Comiskey, and Dan Braga to glean wisdom from these leaders in how to successfully shepherded churches through this kind of recontexualization of the local church. In the end I have mapped out a strategy for how church leaders can lead their churches through this transition from attractional events and programs to the missional home community and cell-driven model, which resonates with this generation disenfranchised with church.

I believe there are many methods of ministry that can work to make converts, but in order to make disciples that multiply requires an authentic faith community. This is what an unbelieving world is longing to see, a church that has closed the gap between their rhetoric and reality.

For a large print copy, order here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1521385904/ref=rdr_ext_tmb

For a smaller handheld version, order here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/152138293X/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_.eZmzb4A2CRW7

This book is a result of a Thesis Project for Gordon-Conwell Seminary Doctorate Program in Outreach and Discipleship.

GODSPEED

Christians are the silent minority

You have perhaps heard in the news about North Carolina, Target, Alabama, the DOJ, etc. What are we to make of all this? Especially if we are Christian? Or if we are considering becoming a Christian? What are we to do as the Church? Or as individual local churches?

Many have assumed for years that this is a Christian nation, and therefore the morals would continue based on Judaeo-Christian values.  As Michael Medved said on the radio last week, “This has always been a Christian nation, but with a secular government.” Jefferson, a writer and signer of the Constitution and non-Christian deistic former President once said, “This is a government that will work only so long as the people are moral.”  This was his motivation for affirming that Congress print and distribute family Bibles.  But no longer is this the view of our nation.  Why?

We live in a country where majority is supposed to rule – 50.01% wins when put to a vote. And so the silent majority, being Christian and assuming this country would never turn from a Judaeo-Christian worldview, laid down and went to sleep.  We are beginning to wake from our slumber and we are discovering, if anything, we are a small minority (or at least that those in power through the courts, government, media, and schools are actively proselytizing everyone, let alone our children).

We live in a culture with the mantra, “Don’t bother me and I won’t bother you.”  But now that the silent majority is a minority and is realizing it doesn’t have a voice, people are beginning to speak up and realizing we are being bullied into silence.  So what is the solution? Remain in our slumber? Go with the flow? Act like our adversaries and speak out of turn with a viperous tongue of political incorrectness?

My questions are meant to make you ponder.

The following gives us a glimpse of history, for a wise man once said:

History

So how did our culture get to where it is today? Because Christians laid down and let someone else speak.  The following is an explanation of “how” by Francis Schaeffer.  (Warning, the following is for those desiring to really understand – it requires deep thinking and contemplation, but it is worth it to spend the time it takes to read it carefully and thoroughly, and then determine how this should affect us [Christians] concerning today’s issues):

“The attempt to make nature the basis of morals was also taken into the area of civil law, where it was called the Natural Law School of jurisprudence…It was an attempt in this eighteenth-century period to have principles of law, ‘even if there is not God.’  These jurists thought that a complete and perfect system of law could be constructed upon principles of natural law.  But there was a serious problem in trying to construct a system of law upon nature.  Nature is cruel as well as noncruel.” (P. 159)

“Alfred Charles Kinsey (1894-1956), a biologist-sociologist at the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University produced his influential Sexual Behavior of the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior of the Human Female (1953).  These were based on 18,500 interviews.  Kinsey made that which is “right” in sex a matter of statistics.  Many people read his books because at that date they were far more titillating than other books accepted as respectable.  However, their real impact was the underlying conception that sexual right and wrong depend only on what most people are doing sexually at a given moment of history.  This has become the generally accepted sexual standard in the years since.  Modern man has done the same thing in law.”

[Concerning decision making and democracy] “If there are no absolutes, and if we do not like either the chaos of hedonism or the absoluteness of the 51-percent vote, only one other alternative is left: one man or an elite, giving authoritative arbitrary absolutes.”

“Here is a simple but profound rule: If there are no absolutes by which to judge society, then society is absolute.  Society is left with one man or an elite filling the vacuum left by the loss of the Christian consensus which originally gave us form and freedom in northern Europe and in the West.” (p. 224)

“In our era, sociologically, man destroyed the base which gave him the possibility of freedoms without chaos.  Humanists have been determined to beat to death the knowledge of God and the knowledge that God has not been silent, but has spoken in the Bible and through Christ – and they have been determined to do this even though the death of values has come with the death of that knowledge.”

“We see two effects of our loss of meaning and values.  The first is degeneracy… “

“But we must notice that there is a second result of modern man’s loss of meaning and values which is more ominous, and which many people do not see.  This second result is that the elite will exist.  Society cannot stand chaos.  Some group or some person will fill the vacuum.  An elite will offer us arbitrary absolutes, and who will stand in its way?”

“Will the silent majority (which at one time we heard so much about) help? The so-called silent majority was, and is, divided into a minority and a majority.  The minority are either Christians who have a real basis for values or those who at least have a memory of the days when the values were real.  The majority are left with only their two poor values of personal peace and affluence.”

“With such values, will men stand for their liberties? Will they not give up their liberties step by step, inch by inch, as long as their own personal peace and prosperity is sustained and not challenged, and as long as the goods are delivered? The life-styles of the young and the old generations are different… But they support each other sociologically, for both embrace the values of personal peace and affluence.  Much of the church is no help here either, because for so long a large section of the church has only been teaching a relativistic humanism using religious terminology.”

“I believe the majority of the silent majority, young and old, will sustain the loss of liberties without raising their voices as long as their own life-styles are not threatened.  And since personal peace and affluence are so often the only values that count with the majority, politicians know that to be elected they must promise these things.  Politics has largely become not a matter of ideals – increasingly men and women are not stirred by values of liberty and truth – but of supplying a constituency with a frosting of personal peace and affluence.  They know that voices will not be raised as long as people have these things, or at least and illusion of them.”

“Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1794) said that the following five attributes marked Rome at its end: first, a mounting love of show and luxury (that is, affluence); second, a widening gap between the very rich and the very poor (this could be among countries in the family of nations as well as in a single nation); third, an obsession with sex; fourth, freakishness in the arts, masquerading as originality, and enthusiasms pretending to be creativity; fifth, an increased desire to live off the state.  It all sounds so familiar.  We have come a long road since our first chapter, and we are back in Rome.” (Pp. 226-227).

So what can Christians do to get back to being able to positively influence society? Two thoughts: first, become a biblical and attractional community.  How? If you are a Christian, intentionally devote your entire life and family to four things found in Acts 2:42.  The following is a contemporary summary of that verse: devote yourself to the authority of Scripture, especially the New Testament teachings; devote yourself to a Christian community called a church, where you find Christian “fellowship” (Christ-centered community); devote yourself to a smaller community like a small group in which you share with each other spiritually and materially.  When Christians live this way, they influence non-Christians (this is a contemporary summary of Acts 2:43-47).  This is the grassroots movement we need to be part of if we are every going to turn everything around.  For a major reason we (Christians in America) are less than the 50.01% majority is because of a lack of being a true, genuine, biblical community.  Christians have primarily been Sunday Christians.  But we are called to be everyday Christians and an everyday community, which requires that you (if you are a Christian) try to band with others to pick up the pieces and follow Jesus and His teachings in community with others.

The above must be the norm for every Christian, or we will become spiritually weak-minded have no influence, which is precisely what happened in the 4th and 5th centuries of the Church:

“When Christianity was made the official religion in Rome in the fourth century, the church became socially and politically acceptable. People with halfhearted faith flocked to churches that could no longer disciple them.  Soon the word ‘Christian’ became meaningless.  And when the empire that sanctioned it collapsed, the church nearly went down too.

“And in our own day, one of the most inglorious examples [of Christians being spiritually weak and without influence] can be found in the church’s failure to stand solidly against Hitler in Germany during the 1930s.

“The church must stand apart from the state.  Independence from culture is what gives the church its reforming capacity and enables it to point society toward the truth.  The church must be free to address issues biblically across the spectrum and to speak prophetically, regardless of who is in power. [i.e., when your pastor is speaking about issues today that seem political, he is not preaching politics but rather showing you how the Bible relates to what is going on in this world – he is trying to help you develop a biblical lens to filter the news.]

“Ironically, political flirtations and alliances have threatened the church’s independence in the West even more than the direct oppression of the Communists in the East.” – Chuck Colson, The Body, p. 239

This is a great quote that gives us insight into history and politics in our modern era, especially during an election year.  Regardless of your political views I want to remind you that we, as Christians, are called to stand for Christ and His gospel, first and foremost.  We are also called to stand for Jesus’ values, which should inform how we engage culture.  This leads to the second quote:

“It’s time for lambs to roar.

“What I am calling for is a radically different way of thinking about our world. Instead of running from it, we need to rush into it. And instead of just hanging around the fringes of our culture, we need to be right smack dab in the middle of it.

“Why not believe that one day the most critically acclaimed director in Hollywood could be an active Christian layman in his church? Why not hope that a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting could go to a Christian journalist on staff at a major daily newspaper? Is it really too much of a stretch to think that a major exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art could feature the works of an artist on staff at one of our fine Christian colleges? Am I out of my mind to suggest that our son or daughter could be the principle [sic] dancer for the Joffrey Ballet Company, leading weekly Bible study for other dancers in what was once considered a profession that was morally bankrupt?

“The best way to testimony is through credible engagement from within our vocational call.” – Bob Briner, Roaring Lambs. P. 31

May we Christians live like this so that we will have influence, and that the world will be made a better place to the glory of God Almighty.

GODSPEED

Beer & Hymns

I was on my way to church last Sunday listening to the radio.  On NPR they had a piece about “Mainline Denominations experiencing a significant drop-off in attendance in recent years” and what certain churches are doing about it to try to gain new members.  They talked about a Lutheran church that meets in a pub on Sunday evenings in Fort Worth Texas and about a Disciples of Christ church in Portland, OR that has Sunday evenings “Beer and Hymns”. 

The first church in Texas meets for worship, hears a sermon, and partakes in communion all while non-church members walk through the doors shocked at what they are seeing.  They ask the bartender, “What’s going on, I thought it was trivia night?”  Then the bartender says, “Oh, they’re having a church service, don’t worry, trivia night is still happening after the service.”  The ELCA has decided to sanction this church as an official congregation.

The other church in Portland has a monthly gathering of about 100 people, mostly younger people, who gather for beer (2 beer limit) and to sing hymns.  They have an open mic time during which anyone can stand up and say anything they want.  The person they recorded speaking was a transgender person who stood up to talk about their frustration with church doctrine teaching that animals don’t have a soul.  He emphasized his dog must have a soul because the dog acts with real emotions.

Then NPR interviewed an older gentleman about the changes in his church and what they are doing to attract new members.  He basically said the church really struggled with this at first because of the traditional American church’s stance on alcohol, but he and many others are also struggling with the drop-off in attendance so if this works to attract people, then hey, whatever works, right?

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christianpiatt/2013/10/fcc-portlands-beer-and-hymns-on-national-public-radio/

The above raises the question of how the church is to reach the next generation, which seemingly is walking away from the church.  But is the next gen walking away?

In the book “EVERYDAY Church” Timmis and Chester point out in America that the vast majority of Americans claim to have a connection with a church.  And even more Americans claim to be Christian.  In the Northwest we have the least amount of people claiming to belong to a church and the percentage is still around 46% (pp. 14-17).  As the book says:

“Pointing to a survey that named India as the world’s most religious country and Sweden as the world’s most secular country, Berger quips that the United States is a nation of Indians ruled over by Swedes.  In other words, it is a highly religious nation, but its elites are deeply secular, even antireligious.” (EVERYDAY Church, p. 14)

Let me put this in different terms and relate this to the NPR piece on Beer and Hymns – there are many Americans who are Christian and who love Jesus, but our news organizations like NPR and our media subtly say things that make it seem like Christianity is dying and that it is unpopular to be associated with Christ.  For example, in the NPR piece, notice it said, “Mainline Denominations [are] experiencing a significant drop-off in attendance in recent years” – this, for the most part is true.  But does this mean all denominations are experiencing a drop-off in attendance? Or just Mainline Denominations? (There is a difference) Does this mean non-denominational churches are experiencing a drop-off as well? Does this mean there are no new church plants in America? Does this mean there are a significant amount of young people that want nothing to do with the church? Does this mean churches should compromise doctrine in order to attract people?

The more I learn about non-traditional churches like Imago Dei in Portland, OR., or Mars Hill in Seattle, WA., or Soma in Tacoma, or the ACTS 29 Network of Church Planters I find that there is a tremendous amount of interest in three things: (1) Jesus; (2) being a part of a church community; and (3) holding to the orthodox teachings of the gospel without compromise.

So why is it these Mainline Denominations are experiencing a significant drop-off in membership and attendance?  

I have two illustrations, which I think explain what is going on:

First, the church that George Washington attended had about 3,000 members in early 2012.  They were a solidly evangelical and conservative Episcopalian church.  The church decided in May of 2012 to break away from TEC (The Episcopal Church) because of liberal stances on certain issues such as gay marriage and ordaining openly homosexual priests.  When the congregation broke away, the TEC gave them two weeks to move and find a new home (i.e., the Denomination owned the property and so the people were kicked out of their church building because they didn’t want to remain Episcopalian).  So the church moved to a different facility on a temporary basis and the TEC confiscated the church building and had 29 worshippers the following Sunday.  Since there was such a dramatic drop off, the TEC was talking about selling the building to Muslims to use as a mosque (ironic).

Second, a have a friend who just got back from California.  She was visiting her father who is moving into an assisted living situation.  He was talking about funeral arrangements and would like his previous pastor to do the service and for it to be in his home church (which is ELCA – a Mainline Denomination).  There is only one problem; the former pastor was attending that church until the church hired an openly gay youth pastor who is living with his boyfriend.  Now the former senior pastor will not step foot back in his old church and many congregants are leaving right and left.

What is the common theme, which the media will likely not address properly? The common theme is that many Mainline Denominations are going with the flow of culture and the people who used to be solidly vested in those churches are frustrated with the direction of the new leadership and new denominational policies, which compromise the values and morals of Scripture.

In short, from what I am gathering and reading about, there are likely not less Christians in America, but there are less churches Christians want to be associated with.  In Scripture, as leadership goes so go the churches.  It seems God is removing his blessing from churches that are compromising God’s truth.  But my experience here at Grace is as that as we have stuck to the principles of Scripture, we have experienced about a 25% increase in membership in the last 3 ½ years.  In 2013 alone we have baptized 25 new believers, 18 of which have been adults.

GODSPEED

The Priesthood of the Believer

I was reading in the book EVERYDAY Church by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester this past week and I was learning about the idea of the “Priesthood of the Believer” and how this is applied within the Church.

When you think of a “Priest” what comes to mind? The Catholic Church? Mass? The Eucharist? The Confession Booth? I grew up going to Catholic Mass until I was about 13 or 14 years old.  My interaction with the Priests was seen through the lens of my father.  There was a Priest (whom I will not name) who struggled with alcoholism.  I know this because my dad worked as a Social Worker and rented office space from the Catholic Church in the basement and he would often go upstairs after work to socialize with the priests and this one Priest in particular would always be drinking and sometimes be drunk by 6:00pm.  My dad tried to work with him and help him overcome his drinking problem, but the priest refused and my father felt he could not sit under the priest’s authority and teaching.  So he left the Catholic Church.

It was around this time my dad was introduced to a new philosophy that he learned in a Lutheran Church called “The Priesthood of the Believer” – the idea being that every Christian can have direct access to God through Jesus Christ and therefore one does not need to go through a human priest to have communion with or forgiveness from God.

This is a great philosophy and is actually found in Scripture (1 Peter 2:4-10), but at the same time when this philosophy is not fully understood it can lead to problems.

Problems: Some people think that “The Priesthood of the Believer” means that “I, as a Christian ‘Priest’, do not need the church. “ They think, “Because I can go directly to God at any place at any time, therefore I don’t need to go to a church building on Sundays and I don’t need to be a part of a church community.”  The problem with this philosophy is it is just that, a philosophy based on a misinterpretation and misapplication of 1 Peter 2:4-10.  Let me explain…

Explanation: You see, Peter is saying in 1 Peter 2:4-5 that we, Christians (people who have trusted in Jesus as Lord and Savior), are being built together by God on top of the foundation stone / the “Cornerstone”, which is Jesus Christ.  In other words God is building together a community of priests who are “living stones” (v. 4) that are being built into one body with Christ as the Head.  Peter does not say we are individual stones scattered in a field that need to remain there.

No, Peter is saying we are being “built up as a spiritual house” (v. 5).  In other words, church is not about going into a building on Sundays, taking communion from a Priest, and then walking out and going about your business until the next time you sin and feel the need to go back to church or mass for the Eucharist to absolve your sins.  That kind of theology is based in the Old Covenant, it is works based, it is dependent upon human priests and ritual.

The New Covenant is about Jesus being our perpetual High Priest who constantly is interceding on our behalf and who is for eternity our sacrifice through faith in Jesus (Hebrews 9), therefore as priests we, Christians, can come to God through Jesus Christ the High Priest and Sacrifice anytime and anyplace…AND…as we are coming to Him as living stones being built together as a spiritual household of priests (1 Peter 2:4-5) we are being built together as a community under the authority and blessing of God with a new and higher calling, a missionary calling to worship together, shepherd one another, and work together to as a missional community to tell the story of God, the great and might deeds of our Savior and Lord, and to see great things happen as we tell the story (1 Peter 2:9-10).

So how do we do this?

First, believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior and that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10).  If you don’t believe in Jesus, you will not have direct access to God the Father and therefore will not be a priest.

Second, believe God is Sovereign and so “I” don’t have to be in control.  If you struggle to believe God is Sovereign, you will be overbearing, inflexible, and impatient with people and therefore be a poor priest.

Third, fear the Lord and not people.  It says in Proverbs 1:7 that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and understanding, but if you fear people more than God you will not do what God wants you to do, you will avoid confrontation when it is necessary, you will crave approval, and you will behave differently around different people as you are always trying to please them and therefore you will be a poor priest.

Fourth, find contentment in God.  If your contentment is not in God, then you will not feel like doing ministry and you will always be pursuing joy or pleasure in other things; you will complain a lot and feel that the Christian life is a burden or a duty and you will be inconsistent as a priest, a Christian, a father, or a mother, a husband, or a wife, etc.

Fifth, believe that God is gracious and forgiving and so you don’t always have to prove yourself.  If you don’t believe God is gracious you will take criticism and failure badly, you will find it hard to relax, you will be proud and envy others, and you will strive to make people around you feel guilty and therefore be a poor priest.

How does all this relate to “The Priesthood of the Believer”?

“Most poor pastoral care comes down to either over-pastoring or under-pastoring.  Over-pastoring is a tendency to dominate or manipulate or to be overbearing and too intense when we speak.  Under-pastoring is a failure to challenge when we should or an avoidance of difficult people and conversations.” – EVERYDAY Church, Chester & Timmis, pp. 82-83.

  • A failure to believe that God is Sovereign leads to over-pastoring.
  • A failure to believe that God is whom we should fear leads under-pastoring.
  • A failure to believe we find contentment in god leads to under-pastoring.
  • A failure to believe God is gracious leads to over-pastoring.  (EVERYDAY Church, p. 83.

May we learn to become better priests starting with those we are around EVERYDAY (children, wife, husband, boss, co-workers, etc.)

GODSPEED

EVERYDAY Church

What is church?

Is it a building? Is it an event on Sunday mornings? Is it a group of people who gather to listen to some guy talk about the bible and then for us to sing songs we don’t know that well and then for us to go our separate ways without thinking about what we have learned?

There was a lady who grew up in England in the early 1900s and church was a part of her everyday life.  There were only about a hundred people who attended the church and about fifty of those people were children.  The church building was the center of community activity.  There were essentially two options in town for places to hang out with friends – the church or the pub.  As this dear woman grew older and the culture began to change, less and less children came through the front doors.  Eventually the church was only filled with a dozen or so people who were all over the age of fifty.

So begins the book “EVERYDAY CHURCH” by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester.

These two authors go on to talk about the cultural shift resulting in people finding other things to do and ultimately the church became irrelevant to them.

The solution of the Baby Boomers was to create big events with entertainment and programs done with excellence.  The result has been many large mega churches being built, which depend on the personality of the pastor or the attractional / entertainment value of the program.  But most churches can’t afford to hire enough quality pastors, musicians, artists, etc. to create a church with this kind of excellence.  And so the average church finds itself competing against Xbox, NFL Sunday football, sleep, a weekend away, or the mega church down the street.

The problem with the above is that the point of church is lost.  When church becomes about the attractional event, then discipleship on a person-to-person level doesn’t happen like it should; and so people learn more from the world and their friends about how to live and deal with problems than they do from Scripture or the pastor or a godly mentor.

Everyday church points us to be just that – a community committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, living it out, and working together within a community of committed believers who are committed to Christ and committed to one another in such a way:

  1. That they are willing to serve one another.
  2. That they are willing to lay down personal preferences.
  3. That they are willing to sacrifice for one another.
  4. That they are willing to spend time praying with one another.
  5. That they are willing to spend time confessing sins to one another.
  6. That they are willing to call each other to obey Scripture.
  7. That they are willing together to be on mission, sharing the gospel with the world.

These seven points (and many more) are what it means to be a church.  You can’t do these seven things without committing to one another and seeing each other more than one day a week.  And it is near impossible to do this with more than about a dozen people.

The early church in the time of the Apostles meet in homes.  Each house church had a leader called an elder who was responsible for shepherding the people.  As each church grew, the elders would reproduce and grow up new elders who would take on shepherding responsibilities and multiple the church.

The early church also had deacons, men and women who had the time and would serve and care for the needs of those who needed nurturing care.  They also assisted the elders by doing what the elders didn’t have time to do so that the elders could focus their time on prayer and preaching.

The early church also was a communal affair.  Everyone in each house church daily cared for each others needs, daily were involved together in prayer, daily were involved in evangelism.  Daily had a deep love for one another like a family.

As the church became institutionalized, this daily care stopped.  The professionals took over (in the Roman Catholic Church) and started making lots of money off the people manipulating them into giving money for forgiveness of sins.  The average person became an attendee rather than a participate in the life of the church.  And so the average person was turned off and many stopped coming to church.

Throughout this time there were different leaders who turned people back to the way of the early church as we read in Scripture.  St. Patrick developed a missional community, which worked together to reach the Celtic people of Ireland.  John Wesley learned from him and used his method to create congregations (societies), home communities (classes), and accountability groups (bands).  The Celtic way and the Methodist way is a biblical way because it does not focus on creating attractional events, but rather attractional and biblical communities.

Here at Grace Church we (the elders and staff) are intentionally trying to become a missional, biblical, gospel community.  The sermon series beginning this Sunday is based off of 1 Peter and the book “EVERYDAY CHURCH” by Chester and Timmis.

We (the church) on Sundays are purposing to come together to learn how to become an everyday church.

We (Home Communities) are purposing to come together in a more intimate way to actually live out everyday church principles.

Please join us this fall to learn how to do this will us onto the glory of God.

GODSPEED

Jesus’ Plan of Evangelism / Discipleship – #3 Association

In the last few weeks I have been summarizing from Robert Coleman’s book and lectures about Jesus’ “Master Plan of Evangelism.” 

The first week we covered the Incarnation.  Jesus has always been God’s Son, the second person of the Trinity.  When Jesus became a man He went from a glorious position to a humble position.  He did this to love and serve people and to point them to GOD and His ways.  Likewise, we as Christians should emulate the incarnation by becoming humble, loving and serving people, and pointing them to GOD and His ways. 

The second week we covered Selection – Jesus called people to Himself; He called people who gravitated toward Him, who wanted to follow Him, and then He trained these disciples to reproduce disciples.  Likewise, we as Christians should be disciples of Jesus, learning as much as we can, putting it into practice, and then looking for people who are eager to grow in Christ and walk with us doing ministry together.  If people push back, don’t try to force it; rather role with those who want to role with you.

This week we are covering a third topic, Association.  Jesus taught us by example that we are to minister to and serve those we already have an association with.  But we are to build a relationship with these people so that it becomes more than just an association.  If all we ever do is make people feel like a number or a notch in our belts, then people will be put off.  We need to build relationships with people in our church, in our neighborhoods, at work, school, sports teams, etc.  The goal is to build personal relationships with people.  Those who will ask you to disciple them, it will be because they like you and want to learn from you.  Those who want to learn about the gospel from you, it will be because you built a bridge and were there for them even if they never wanted to hear anything about Christ from you.  

One of the down sides of mass evangelistic crusades and revival meetings or outreach events is there is a lack of a personal touch, and thus people might respond to the message of Christ crucified for their sins, but they will not know what to do with their new found faith unless a personal relationship with a Christian is made with the intention of helping the person grow in faith and get involved in the mission of the gospel.  We need to have a personal touch when reaching out, and we need to call for a personal response.  The long term effect of accepting Christ without discipleship will be that the church to them will become a building or will be about what happens on Sunday mornings rather than about everyday church lived out in community on mission.

Large group discipleship classes are okay, small group discipleship groups are better, and one-on-one discipleship is best.  The smaller the group the better because the goal is not just to teach doctrine, but to show people how doctrine applies to everyday life. 

Some examples of everyday discipleship:

  • Bring disciples into the routine of daily life.  Those you know, minister to them or with them in everyday life.
  • Seek ways for casual fellowship (e.g., coffee, fishing, meals together, working out together, working with one another on projects, etc.)
  • Arrange times for prayer and study of the Bible.
  • Occasionally have extended periods of reflection with those your are discipling.

Our goal at Grace Church is not to emphasize a program or schemes to draw people in.  Our goal at Grace is to love each other in practical ways in community with one another and to extend that love beyond those who regularly attend Grace Church.  This is what it means to live on mission together, to live the Great Commission lifestyle.

GODSPEED

Jesus’ Plan of Evangelism / Discipleship – Selection

Jesus’ method of ministry is all about influence.  Jesus came to earth and didn’t have a public ministry for the first thirty some years of His life, and then after His baptism He started to call to Himself disciples who would make disciples who would impact the world in Jesus’ name.

In John 1 we read that John the Baptist said of his cousin Jesus when He was walking by, “Look, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36).  Essentially John was prophesying Jesus’ death as a sacrifice of atonement for the world to bring the world into fellowship with God.  When two of John’s disciples heard this they began to follow Jesus and they spent the day with him.  Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two and after spending time with Jesus he was influenced enough by Jesus’ character to go grab his brother and say, “We have found the Messiah (the Christ).  And then he brought him to Jesus.” (John 1:41-42).  Jesus influenced people by His teaching and ethos enough to excite people to grab friends and family bringing them to Jesus to become His followers (John 1:43-51).

Do we have the character and persona to draw people to ourselves to point people to Jesus?

If not, what aspect of my character to I need to lay before the Lord and pray that the Spirit of God would change in myself so that I become more like Jesus and less like the world?

People of this world like to cut each other down and one-up one another in most conversations so that we can prop ourselves up as someone to be admired.  But the negative tone that goes with this way of being causes pain in others and even in ourselves when we sit alone and really think about how we engage people.  With this type of communication comes manipulative behavior and soon we can find ourselves driving people or being driven by the more powerful.  This is not the way of Christ.

Dr. Robert E. Coleman, who walked with Billy Graham, said this about ministry influence:

“Sheep, they wander without a shepherd.  The difference between sheep and cattle is you don’t drive sheep…you drive cattle.  You lead sheep.”

Robert Coleman is talking about influence.  Jesus earned the right to lead by His character influence and people wanted to be around Him so much so that when He called Peter and Andrew, James and John to “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men” they dropped their nets and left everything behind to be disciples of Jesus (Matthew 4).

Notice the number of disciples Jesus called to Himself – twelve.  There were many other people who wanted to follow Jesus and who would for a time, but Jesus focused on “the Twelve.”  Within this group of men He focused His leadership influence primarily on three men – James, John, and Peter.  These are the three men who essentially led the Church soon after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension.

Jesus’ method needs to be our method.  Pastors should focus on influencing 8, 10, or 12 guys and after these potential leaders have been trained they should focus on 8, 10, or 12 people in the church replicating what they have learned from the Pastor.  If leadership of churches focused on leading churches this way, it might start out slowly but within 5 years or so the majority of the church will be shepherded and influenced to minister to one another and to new comers within the church.

I was reading a book a couple nights ago called “Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission.”  The authors, Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, state that the church should break down into smaller, manageable groups called “gospel” or “missional” communities.  Within these groups every Christian should realize we are called to be priests and shepherd one another.  No individual is above another.  Pastors, even, need to be shepherded.  In other words, “We should encourage 360-degree pastoring rather than top-down pastoring.  We should be ready for mess and indeed welcome it… The message of grace in the cross must be at the heart of our pastoral care… Our aim is for people to experience joy in Christ.” (pp. 72-73).

Living out of the grace and the joy of Christ will increase our influence.  Speaking truth with grace and forgiveness will draw people to Christ and to a tight-knit community in which the love of God is the glue that binds.  This way of living needs to begin with leadership and as the leaders live this way, more people will be drawn into this Christ-centered community called “the Church.”

When people don’t want to be influenced by you, one of two things might be going on: (1) the person might see flaws in you and might feel like you are beginning to drive them; or (2) the person might not want to be influenced.  In these situations take a step back and ask someone close to you, “Am I legalistic or domineering? Is there some aspect of my character that needs to be refined? Do I try to over-pastor people?” And then go seek the Lord in the Scriptures to cleanse your soul and pray the Spirit of God helps you overcome this character flaw.

When people don’t want to be influenced by you, sometimes it is just them.  Let it go, move on to the next person (I don’t mean don’t be friends or don’t love the previous person who rejected you.  Still love them and reach out to them – but if they don’t want you to influence them then it is okay to stop or you might burn a bridge).  Don’t take it personally, but look for someone who connects with you and wants to learn from you.  Role with those who want to role with you and together seek the Lord and how to honor Him.

May God work in you this week to seek to be pastored and to learn to pastor others.  Pastoring a church is the role of every Christian in the Church, this is a calling of laymen and women, not of professionals only (see 1 Peter 2:9-10).  This is something we all should be doing, so turn to the Holy Spirit and to Scripture and to your pastor to equip you to learn how to shepherd each other in community.  The more we do this, the healthier the church will become and the watching world will look in and see our tight-knit-deep-love for one another and desire what we have and they will start asking questions (1 Peter 3:15).

GODSPEED