Stat of the Month – Christians in Saudi Arabia

This month’s stat that should change your life comes from researched compiled by Patrick Johnstone (creator of Operation World) and Duane Miller.  Here it is:

There are, right now, more than 60,000 Saudi (Arabs living in Saudi Arabia) men and women who are active followers of Jesus.

What do you think about that?  We are talking about a country where conversion from Islam is a capital offense.  If you are not a Muslim, you can’t even enter some cities in this country.  They have actively worked to block/limit any sort of Christian presence and proclamation, and yet…AND YET the Gospel is going forth!

So, what’s the take away?  First, I hope we understand the power of prayer that is evidenced in this stat.  Since 9/11, prayers for the Muslim world have increased dramatically, and those prayers are having a significant impact.  Second, many of these believers have encountered Christian truth through technology.  We have to continue to ask, “how can we use technology to see the Gospel advanced in countries that are hostile to Christ’s message?”  Finally, it shows that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.  Johnstone and Miller share that the increase of missionaries in the Muslim world since 1960 has been significant.  Should we be surprised that more laborers and more sowing of the Gospel results in more conversions?!  What if we had sent twice as many laborers over the last 5 decades?

What do you think about this stat?  Share your thoughts!

To see the numbers for other countries and to hear how the research has been conducted, be sure to read the entire article.

Local Church – Global Impact 5: Mission Tightly Defined

This is a continuation of the last post about Biblical Convictions about mission.  What I’m trying to do in that post and this is to lay a foundation from which to build our mission engagement as a church.  And this is where the foundation must come from – the Word of God.

So, what I’m going to do is a little dangerous.

I’m going to give 5 Biblical reasons why the “mission of the Church” should be tightly defined as proclamation based.*  There are certainly folks out there that would disagree.  They may disagree with my reading of the Scriptures.  They may point to other passages that I won’t be engaging.  I am aware of their arguments and positions, but I still believe that as we look at the major thrust of Scripture, we’ll land where Scrivener and DeYoung and others landed in the previous post.  Namely, we’ll see that the mission of the Church is evangelism that leads to discipleship that leads to church planting.

Point 1: The Blessing from Abraham for the Nations (ETHNE) is the Gospel

And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” -Galatians 3.8

The choosing of Abraham and therefore Israel is a choosing that places them in a unique role between God and the nations/gentiles.  The Lord has promised to BLESS Abraham and his seed in such a way that all the nations will be blessed.  And that blessing for the nations, according to Paul, is the Gospel.  It’s good news!  It’s news of rescue that must be preached!

Now some will say that the blessing Abraham received was land, offspring, finances, and a great name.  But those things were given SO THAT Yahweh might provide a Savior for the world.  Those circumstantial blessings (name, land, money, offspring) were simply to create a scenario in which the Messiah could come.  With no offspring, the promise breaks down.  With no land, it would be difficult to create a people through whom God might redeem all the other peoples.

Point 2: The Great Commission Fulfills Restoration Promises

Often folks will say, God’s mission is the redemption of the cosmos, not just humanity.  That’s true, but what they fail to see is that the redemption of the cosmos depends on redemption of humanity.  I want to show this in 2 ways.  First, I want to show that Matthew sees the fulfillment of the Great Commission as the fulfillment of land and restoration promises.

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matt 28.16-20

The entirety of Matthew’s Gospel is to show how Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises of Yahweh.  That is true all the way until the end.  Here’s the difference, part of Christ’s fulfillment of OT promises comes through the ministry of the Church, particularly as she goes and proclaims the Gospel to all nations, making disciples of all people groups.

It is interested to read Matthew 28.16-20 next to two key OT passages – Joshua 1.6-9 and 2 Chronicles 36.22-23, here:

Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” 22 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: 23 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him. Let him go up.’

In both passages, you’ll see significant overlaps.  Look at the Septuagint, for me, makes this even more clear.  You’ll see doubt/fear on the part of those being commissioned with Matthew and Joshua.  You’ll see clear communication on what the goal is (all nations, all the land, a house at Jerusalem).  You’ll see authority being assigned.  You’ll see the expectation of obedience and completion.  You’ll see the expectation that those commissioned will GO and fulfill what they’ve been given.

Why does Matthew pattern the Great Commission after these passages?  It’s not just a commission formula.  It’s FULFILLMENT!  Matthew is saying, “all the promises regarding land, restoration, etc. in the Old Testament will be fulfilled in this way!”  The road to restoration of the cosmos runs through the fulfillment of the Great Commission.  This is particularly meaningful for the 2 Chronicles passage.  They were heading back to the land, back to build the Temple, back to Yahweh.  This was meant to be the restoration, but it wasn’t.  Matthew says, “the Great Commission is!”

Another reason I believe this is Paul’s argument in Chapter 8, namely that the redemption of the creation WAITS FOR THE REVEALING OF THE SONS OF GOD!  Or to sum up, creation will not be redeemed until God has finished redeeming His children.  Creation will grown, waiting in futility, until salvation is finalized.  The road to the redemption of the cosmos is paved with evangelism, discipleship, and church planting.

Part 3: The Early Church’s activity

How did the early church respond to the Great Commissions (Matt 28.16-20, Luke 24.44-49, Acts 1.8, John 20.21, and Mark 16.15)?  What did they do?  The preached the Gospel as they went out, discipled new believers, and planted churches.  That’s how they responded.  We see no example of them engaging politically (not that some of them weren’t active in politics because of their professions).  There is some care for the poor, the widow, etc. but those examples are all Christians taking care of Christians.  That’s not to say that there wasn’t wider care.  What I’m saying is that Luke is trying to tell us what the church on mission did.  Because they were simply Christians, they loved the poor, the widow, but this is Christian ethics, NOT missiology.  If you took the entirety of the book of Acts, you’d see a Church busy about proclaiming Christ to the lost.  So, how did they respond to Christ’s commission?  Evangelism, discipleship, and church planting.

Part 4: Paul Planted Churches

There were many missionaries, ordained and sent, in the New Testament time.  But, we only get to follow 1 of them around – Paul.  Which means that we should look closely at his activity to discern the work of mission.  Yes, he did collect funds for the suffering churches, but if we take the few references in the NT to that and then argue that it was central to Paul’s ministry, we’d be arguing that 3 or 4 verses are as important as hundreds of others that show Paul preaching, discipling, and raising up churches.  Look at Romans 15.19b-24

19b from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; 20 and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, 21 but as it is written,

“Those who have never been told of him will see,
    and those who have never heard will understand.”

22 This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. 23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.

He’s COMPLETED work from Jerusalem all the way to modern day Croatia and Albania.  What had he done in those regions?  Established churches.

Point 5: God Keeps His Promises

Genesis 12.1-13 says that the blessing through Abram’s seed, that is through Jesus (Gal 3.17), will go to all peoples.  It just makes sense that the end would wait for this promise to be kept.  Regardless of eschatology, passages like Matthew 24.14, Romans 11.25, and 2 Peter 3.8-13, should lead all of us to say, “Yes, God will keep His promise.  He is God of ALL nations.”  So, He is waiting and redeeming men and women from all nations.  He’s not waiting for poverty to be demolished (though we should want it to be) or political peace throughout the world (though we should pursue that).  This is the only mission that He’s promised to complete before the end.  And, we know He keeps His promise because we see them in Revelation 7:9 gathered before the throne of God, worshiping the Lamb of God.

OK, I tried to keep that short.  Each point, perhaps, should have had it’s own post.

Life Changing Stat of the Month – April 2017

Hello friends, before jumping back into my series on Local Church mission strategy, I wanted to start a new Monthly-ish series called “Life Changing Stat of the Month” where we simply share a stat and discuss it’s importance for the Church and her mission.

This month’s stat comes from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity.  I want you to read it at least 3 times before moving on.  Ready, here it is:

86% of all Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists do not personally know a Christian

What do you think about that?  That means that the largest blocks of people without the Gospel don’t even know someone that could tell it to them.  What should that mean for the Church?  This SHOULD have seismic shifts in our churches’ mission strategy (we’ll visit this soon), in our short-term mission practices, in our prayers, and in our day to day lives.

Do you see it…the lost are, in many ways, because Christians choose to not live anywhere near them.  Even some residual evangelism might take place if we just lived among them.  Some people ask me why God is allowing the refugee crisis today…I think a major reason is this stat.  I think Paul would agree.  Read Acts 17.26-27

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.

God has, as my friend Cody Lorance says, taken the 10/40 Window and started shaking it upside down over places where Christians do live and churches do exist.  WHY?  So that these poor, lost, miserable masses might seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him!!!!

Well then, besides welcoming the unreached that come to us, what are we to do?  What if we started allowing the Biblical priority that the Gospel should move from where it is to where it is not (see Genesis 12.1-3, Luke 4.43, and Romans 15:18-24 for instance) affect where we send workers.  It may not be enough simply to say, “we’ll send you anywhere God has laid on your heart.”  Maybe we need to help them see God’s heart on this matter.

What if, too, we encouraged our marketplace professionals to find out if their company (or a company like it) might consider transferring them to Unreached places.  I have friends that have been transferred (along with very healthy pay raises) to some of the most unreached Muslim countries in the world.  We must be in contact with the lost.  Even those of us stuck in the West or the “bible belt” need to be asking whether many lost people know us.

I know some of you out their have even better ideas.  Let’s hear them!

A Model for Biblical Masculinity

At our church, we are about to begin a new quarterly time for men to get together and pursue God’s vision for Biblical masculinity, so I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic.  I wanted to share a little “model” with you that is my attempt to capture, in visual form what Biblical masculinity looks like, as well as some description (as short as I could bring myself to it) of how it all functions together.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

A MODEL OF MASCULINITY

I’m a visual learner. I love charts, graphs, maps, and funny cartoon clippings. I also am a big-picture person. I struggle with details, but if you can give me a compelling overview, then I can begin to dig into the details in a way that keeps me from getting overwhelmed. So, when I began to ask, “what makes a good man” I quickly found myself trying to create some type of visual aid that would help me understand the big picture. Out of that, came the above Model.

While we could say much about the different pieces of this Model, I want to show how they all fit together here.

CORE IDENTITY OF WORSHIP

The Model consists of a core identity; namely, living in a loving relationship with the one, true God as a worshipper – one who delights in, who enjoys fellowship with the Triune God.

At the heart of every real man must be a heart of worship towards God. Not just any god will do, however, because we will become like what we worship. So, if the god I worship created mankind because he needed them (ancient Greek gods for instance), then I will become a needy, self-serving man who demands that others exist to fulfill me. If I worship a god who created mankind, but now keeps his distance (the god of Islam, deism), I will be a detached man who produces something (perhaps work, a child, a family) but then stands apart from it as if it must now continue without me. If I believe creation comes from an accident (new-age spiritualism, most forms of evolutionary theory, Gnosticism), then it doesn’t matter how I live. In this view, the fact that I’m a man is an accident any way. Finally, if I believe that creation isn’t a reality (Buddhism, Hinduism), but is a mirage, a façade, then my life isn’t real either, so the best thing I can do is ignore reality and spend my days seeking nirvana – whatever self-actualization plan I prefer. I will check out on my responsibilities because I don’t really believe in reality.

However, if I believe in the God of Christianity, the Triune God, who is real, who created with intentionality, who created not out of need but out of love, who created and then didn’t run away but remains active in the world, who takes all responsibility for what has been, what is, and what will be, and if I’ve been made in His image – to do his works, think his thoughts, and represent Him in the world – that makes all the difference. At the heart of every real man is a delight in the God who made him and all things. If that is missing, nothing else in the Model will work.

3 SECONDARY ROLES FLOW OUT OF WORSHIP

There are 3 other roles that every man must fulfill, represented by the outer circles of the Model. Every man must be a Shepherd, Soldier, and Sage. The core characteristics for these roles are Love, Courage, and Wisdom respectively. Certainly, each man will gravitate towards one of these roles more than another, but he is called to develop in and live out of all three.

And all three need to be tethered to Worship. Because God’s Wisdom, God’s Courage, and God’s Love are completely different from the world’s wisdom, courage, and love. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:25, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” If we start from any point other than the God of Scripture, we are hopeless. Our best love, courage, and wisdom, conjured up somewhere other than from the power of God, are faulty, weak, and foolish. And so to move out from that place spells doom. Soldiers will become dictators, Shepherds will love sporadically or with sappy sentimentality, and Sages will use their wisdom for their own good or for no one’s.

FIDELITY TO GOD’S COMMUNAL LOVE, KINGDOM MISSION, AND DIVINE TRUTH

In fact, these three roles are really responses to God. They exist because God exists and is who he says he is. God is love. That is the core of who he is, and so as those made in his image, we too are called to love (Shepherd). He is community, the Trinity, and so we were created to love in community. The Shepherd role reflects the appropriate response (relational fidelity) to God’s communal love.

So too, God is King of a Kingdom, and he is on a mission to establish that Kingdom. As citizens of that Kingdom and co-heirs with Christ, we are drafted into the Kingdom mission. We are His vice-regents. The Soldier role reflects the appropriate response (missional fidelity) to God’s Kingdom mandate.

Finally, God is true. Though every man be found a liar, he will be found true. And he not only knows the truth, but knows what to do with it, so he is also all-wise. His wisdom makes even the wisest man look like a fool. And so, He has given the Spirit of God to each of us, in short, he has given us the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:12-16). The Sage role reflects the appropriate response (theological fidelity) to the truth of God.

THE BALANCE OF THE 3 SECONDARY ROLES

Not only must they flow out of the heart of a worship, but these three roles also help balance each other. For instance, a Soldier who doesn’t use wisdom (Sage) will lose the battle, and one who doesn’t love (Shepherd) might win the wrong battle or win the right battle wrongly, believing that the ends justify the means. Similarly, a Shepherd who allows love to trump truth (Sage) has actually departed from real love. And a Shepherd, busy loving, who forgets his mission (Soldier) leads the sheep into danger or away from true blessing. Finally, a Sage who loves knowledge and wisdom, but forgets to employ that wisdom for the good of God’s people (Shepherd) and for his Kingdom (Soldier), fails. All three need each other.

THE INTERWOVEN BEAUTY OF THE 3 SECONDARY ROLES

And when they are working together, we see beautiful and critical activities flowing out, illustrated by the 3 outer rectangles. When courage (Soldier) and love (Shepherd) combine, the result is service – sacrificial, humble service to God, His Church, and humanity. When love (Shepherd) and wisdom (Sage) combine, the result is cultivation – that is, space for the things that make life beautiful and bountiful, from poetry to farming to government that is just. Finally, when courage (Solider) and wisdom (Sage) combine, the result is Christ-like leadership, resulting in the people of God wisely and boldly fulfilling their purpose.

This is just an overview. We could dive much deeper into each role and activity.  Thoughts?

Local Church – Global Impact 4: Biblical Convictions

OK, remember, Mission is not my idea.  It’s not John Piper’s idea or Billy Graham’s or the Apostle Paul’s idea.  IT’S GOD’S IDEA!  Which means that He alone has the right to determine what the mission is, how it should be done, who should do it, etc.  And this is SOOO crucial.  Much of mission today is accomplishing a lot of the wrong things.  It’s not only doing damage in many parts of the world, but it’s sapping resources that could have gone towards the Biblical mission we’ve been given.

The next few posts are going to try and help us look at the Word and understand what it is that God is calling us to.  We need clarity.  I’m going to call in a lot of help in these particular posts because we are treading on very hotly debated issues.  So, why don’t we start with this question: what is mission?  I’m going to share a few resources with you that I believe BEST answer this question.  The following posts will show, further, why I think this is the case.  So without further ado, I want to point you to:

What we will see is that the mission of God is a Gospel mission.  And since the Gospel is news (really, really good news!), it must be heralded.  So, proclamation is central.  We will also see that the Church is central.  She, under the leading of the Spirit, commissions the “sent ones” (literally: missionaries), and those who are sent are to plant Kingdom outposts, that is local expressions of the body of Christ, i.e. local churches.  The activities of mission therefore are those that share the Good News, that disciple believers deeper into the Gospel, and that plant Gospel churches among every Ethnicity/People Group (Greek: ETHNE).  I’ll unpack each of these core concepts in posts to come.

What is God’s Glory and Why does it Matter?

Last year, I read Michael Reeves’ wonderful little book Delighting in the Trinity. In it, he spends just a few pages showing how the Trinity, particularly the love between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, shapes our doctrine of God, including the attributes of God like Holiness, Wrath, and Glory.  I want to focus some thoughts, reflections on the last one: GLORY.  Very briefly, he declares that God’s glory is His outgoing love. THAT is what God’s glory IS.

This was new to me. To my shame, I must admit that I’ve never taken on God’s glory as an object of study.  Nor was it covered in any particularly way during my time in seminary.  Like many younger reformed evangelicals, I’ve always looked to John Piper for an explanation of God’s glory and why it matters, but what Reeves was saying was a departure, at least in part, from Piper’s approach.  I wanted to know more.  But, where to turn?

I’ve listened to many of Reeves’ sermons since then.  I have found several where he introduces this idea again, but in most of them, he doesn’t cover much more ground on this issue.  There is one workshop called Matters of the Heart: How to Enjoy God where Reeves unpacks it further, with the assistance of Jonathan Edwards.  It may be a good place to get a first look at what I’m talking about.

That brings me to the real point of this post.  Glen Scrivener has taken up the idea (I don’t know if he got it from Reeves or vice versa or some other way) and helpfully interacted with it quite a bit.  So, the rest of this post will be a bit of an annotated Bibliography of Scrivener’s Doctrine of God’s Glory.

GOD’S GLORY ALONE

The first place to start is his post entitled “God’s Glory Alone Sermon.” This is a sermon from a series on the 5 Solas of the Reformation. The first half of the sermon reviews the first 4 Solas and introduces the 5th through the story of David and Goliath. About 2/3 through the sermon, Scrivener says:

“The living God is Giver.  And it’s this very grace that is His glory. But what does that word mean really?  Glory.  It’s a big bible word. What is God’s glory?”

The rest of the sermon answers that question, primarily through John’s Gospel (click here for more John’s Gospel and God’s glory). In short, Scrivener answers the question thusly:

Wind the clock back all the way through time, before creation, back and back and back into the depths of eternity and you will find Jesus with His Father loving and serving each other in the power of the Spirit.  That’s what the trinity has ALWAYS been up to.  That IS the eternal life of God.  So on the cross, when we see Jesus giving Himself up to the Father we see the eternal glory of God.  At the cross when we see the Father GIVING His Son to the world, we see the eternal glory of God.

The cross IS God’s glory.  And it’s the glory of infinite SELF-GIVING love.  God’s glory is His grace.  It is His very “Godness” to give Himself away to us and for us.

You really should read/listen to the whole thing though. OK, so that brings us to a definition, but I wanted to interact more with this understanding of God’s glory, and there’s (thankfully) no shortage of this on Scrivener’s blog, including his posts and quite a bit of good interaction in the comments. So, the rest of this post is an attempt to give you an idea of how to explore this treasure.

SERIES: WE DID IT ALL FOR THE GLORY OF LOVE

Well, Scrivener put together a little series of posts to wrestle through “what is God’s glory?”  Not only is this little series named after a great song from the greatest decade of music, it’s also a great next step in the journey of discovering what God’s glory is all about.

In Part 1, you are invited to look at a selection of verses/passages that will help frame the conversation.  Part 1

In Part 2, he begins to interact with John Piper’s classic understanding of God’s Glory and why it may not be the best way to think about/talk about it.  Part 2

Part 3 takes digs deeper into the differences between what Scrivener is proposing and Piper’s approach.  Part 3

Part 4 digs into more scripture so that we aren’t just looking at it from the Gospel of John, and then Part 5 digs into Ephesians 1 as a final study.  Part 4  //  Part 5

MORE INTERACTION WITH JOHN PIPER

Now, I want to be sure to highlight how much Scrivener spends genuinely praising John Piper for his life, his ministry, his influence, and theology. He even shares an embarrassing moment when he tells Piper that he’s his biggest fan and then realizes he’s just behaved like a fanboy (in first link below)! Even in the comments sections, it seems that any time Scrivener interacts with a commenter (and the topic involved Piper’s theology of God’s glory) who is new to the site, he makes sure to reiterate his appreciation for Piper. Not only that, but his comments on Piper are always respectful, so don’t get the sense from me that he’s just a Piper-hater. Those folks exist. Scrivener isn’t one of them. So, here are some links to explore:

Why I am a Trinitarian Hedonist

Theo-centric? (or “What does God-Centered mean?”)

Piper’s Theology of Glory (this is a shorter version of the next one)

God is not a Narcissist (He gets the Trinity involved here in a very helpful way, as you’ve probably seen already…and more to come below)

One of the questions that arises in this discussion is the nature of God’s love for us. Piper would say that God’s love for us is primarily seen in making it possible for us to love Him (therefore glorying Him). So there is a boomerang effect where the intention is that we would make much of God. Many have posited squirmy reactions to this, but it’s PIPER, so they don’t speak out for too long. But, I think this Reeves/Scrivener approach (“God’s glory is His grace” in the word of Jonathan Edwards) actually does greater service both to God’s fame and to his affection for his people. Scrivener interacts with this question in his God Loves God more than God Love Us? post. And just for fun, here’s a short, wonderful quote on Why God Love Us.

TRINITY SHAPES EVERYTHING

In his post called Beginning with the Creator? Scrivener is super-helpful to show why the TRINITY must be the starting point for understanding God’s glory.  And why starting anywhere else is detrimental/dangerous. Read it! You’ll thank me! For more on this topic, see his Oneness and Threeness post and his You and Me, We’re Not so Different Really post.

So, how do I wrap up this tour through Scrivener’s writings on the glory of the Triune God? Well, I guess by saying that you should spend more time over at Christ the Truth. I may eventually do a similar post looking at his writings on Mission. But, I’ll also say that this understanding of Glory; namely that it is the outgoing love of God, that it is His grace, His cross…that it is the Gospel, which Paul calls the “knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus,” changes things.  Look at the overflowing love of God!  Oh what a God we have! Oh, what a beautiful Father! Oh, what a glorious Son! Oh, what a majestic Spirit of overflowing love! Glory isn’t an abstract, glowing blob of awesomeness…it’s the love of God on the move! That changes everything!

Local Church – Global Impact 3: Church Mission Strategy Overview

Well, in part 1, we saw that your church’s culture will determine whether your church’s mission strategy will be accomplished.  We’ll talk more about shaping culture along the way.  We also have seen (part 2) that the key culture-shapers, those who get pulpit time essentially, are indispensable to seeing any church catch God’s heart for the nations and to engage it strategically in a sustained way.  That brings us to the question of Strategy.  Let’s pretend for a minute that our church is already passionate about seeing Jesus made know and cherished among every people group on the planet.  Let’s pretend that we have not only a missional culture, but missional behavior that is just waiting to be pointed in the best direction.  What then?

The process is quite simple.  That doesn’t mean it’s easy, just that it’s simple.  It looks like this: Biblical Convictions shape Biblical Priorities which dictate Biblically informed Policies.  I’ll unpack these in greater detail anon, but for now, let be gift a brief introduction.

BIBLICAL CONVICTIONS – Mission is God’s.  It belongs to the Father, Son, and Spirit.  It’s the Lord’s idea.  He is the only one with the right to define it and to dictate it’s practices and aims.  So, if we miss that, everything else we do is failure.  I don’t remember who said it (maybe Covey), but if you lean your ladder against the wrong building, every step you climb leads you further from your goal.  When’s the last time you wrestled over what a Biblical Missiology looks like?  There is a lot of confusion among Christians about what Mission actually is.  You need clarity, because this must shape all that you do.

BIBLICAL PRIORITIES – Once you understand God’s plan for the world, that is, His Mission, then you’ll be able to have Biblical Priorities as you start to plan for engaging strategically in global mission.  We don’t form priorities by asking what other churches are doing, or what sounds fun or interesting, or even what a missionary we currently support is already doing.  NO!  Our priorities must flow out of our Biblical Convictions.

BIBLICALLY INFORMED POLICIES – most churches start here with their mission program.  They ask “who will we support,” “how much will we give,” “what short-term mission trip will we take,” all before actually understanding God’s Word on Mission.  And of course this leads to catastrophe.  That’s not an overstatement.  It leads to millions of kingdom dollars, hours, and prayers spent on things that are not what God is asking of His Church.  It means the Gospel isn’t getting to the people who most need it.  The Center for the Study of Global Christianity has shown that “Current strategy makes Christians 100 times more effective in splitting existing denominations where Christians already exist than in planting new churches where there are no Christians.”  That’s a catastrophe!

These must all happen.  And they must happen in this order.  Good news: It can be done.  We’ll see how in upcoming posts!

Local Church – Global Impact 2: Where there is no vision

God’s people need Vision.  They need to be called, reminded, exhorted, and cajoled towards God’s view, ways, purposes, and plans.  As we think about providing Vision for a local church, I wanted to share 2 short thoughts:

  1. Your church, no matter how big, is too small to complete the Great Commission on their own.  BUT, they can choose a piece of it, and say, “Lord, in Your grace, would You allow us to see THIS piece of your mission completed?!  Oh Father, have mercy, and give us THIS People Group, or THAT Country, or THIS Tribe.”  Like Rachel, we cry, “give us children (spiritual offspring for us) or we die!”  So, your church needs a Vision for who you are reaching and why.  You can’t reach them all, but you can strategically direct your prayers, efforts, labors, and finances towards reaching part of the remaining unreached world.  Many churches struggle with this, and find themselves supporting a lot of work in a lot of places.  You end up not really sure, after a few years, who all those people are in the pictures on the mission bulletin board.  Folks talk about the Smiths and THEIR mission in country x, y, or z.  They don’t talk about OUR mission…our congregation’s call from God to reach the nations has been lost.  They’ve scattered their efforts, and the results are often confusion, diffusion, and apathy.  There’s actually a really simple process for helping bring a strategic and powerful focus to your church’s mission engagement, and we’ll get there in a couple more posts!
  2. Dear Pastor, it’s been said that if you want your people to bleed, you have to hemorrhage (Hendricks).  Another forgotten sage say it this way: “it won’t burn in them if it doesn’t burn in you!”  So, brothers, if you don’t lead your people to embrace God’s heart for the Unreached, who will?  I’m not saying you have to lead the mission committee, or even be on it, but I am saying that if you don’t champion God’s global purposes in front of your people, they aren’t going to get it.  You are the lead culture shaper of your church!  It’s amazing how a congregation grows to be more and more like their lead teacher.  So, John MacArthur’s congregation all carry study bibles around, digging deep into the word.  Why?  Because their under-shepherd showed them how.  David Platt’s former church was sending missionary after missionary…why?  Because their under-shepherd burned with a burden for those that have never heard the name of Jesus.  The pews become like the pulpit!  You don’t have to do everything yourself, but you do have to lead the way in passion for the nations.  Need help?  Read Let the Nations be Glad (free here!) by John Piper, take the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement Course, and begin praying through Operation World.

A friend pastored a church for several years.  He caught a heart for mission.  He preached God’s heart for mission.  He had folks leave his church from time to time saying, “you preach too much about mission.”  He said, as they left, “you can put that on my tombstone!”  After preaching about our beautiful, global God for a decade, he moved to the Muslim world as a missionary, to practice what he’d been preaching.  There is amazing, global fruit that has come out of that little church in rural Oklahoma all because the under-shepherd helped his flock catch the vision!  If you need help, do not hesitate to let us know.  We are passionate about local churches finding their role in the Great Commission.

Local Church – Global Impact : Culture

Hey all, I am starting a series called “Local Church – Global Impact,” in which I’ll tackle the issue of how a church can move from unengaged and on the sidelines to strategically and energetically on mission.  I’m in North America, so some of what I write will be most helpful in the Western context; however, I’ve seen these same principles play out around the world with wonderful fruit.

So, let me start with sharing something that I’ll reiterate again and again.  Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  That means that no matter how good your church’s mission plan may be, it will never be accomplished without your church embracing a missional culture.  We can plan to reach 5 Unreached People groups, but if we don’t delight in the sending God or care about the lost, then we will accomplish nothing.  Richard Sibbes, English Puritan pastor put it this way:

Does Christ come to us empty? Our duty is to accept of Christ’s inviting of us. What will we do for him, if we will not feast with him? We will not suffer with him, if we will not feast with him; if we will not joy with him, and in him…That which we should labour to bring with us is a taste of these dainties, and an appetite to them…The chief thing that Christ requires is a good stomach to these dainties…Let us open our mouth wide, since Christ is so ready to fill it.

Yes! We will talk more about motivations for mission, but this is the fountainhead; namely, delighting in the overflowing love of the Triune God!  Without that, we would be bad missionaries.  Without that, the church turns in on herself and atrophies.

Our hearts have to change before we can do anything.  We, also, have to be willing to let go of distractions and other pet projects if we want to move in new directions.  It’s hard for a ship to go anywhere when some of the rowers are rowing in the wrong direction.  We’ll find out that articulating a strategic mission focus is fairly simple.  But to see a church go from disinterested to passionate and engaged is a MIRACLE of God.  So, we start with prayer.  Who do you need to pray for daily in your church if you’re going to see mission gain traction there?

UP NEXT: Culture-Shapers at the Table

Resources to Help Understand the State of the World

One of the things I’m often called upon to do is to help Christians understand the “State of the World.”  Sometimes this includes talking about trends related to urbanization, globalization, technology, etc.  Always it includes helping people understand where the Gospel is available in the world and where it has never been made available.  I wanted to share some of my favorite resources to help people and churches be well educated on this.  If you know of great resources for this that I haven’t mentioned, please add them in the comments section (this is just a shortlist, but I hope to gather a more complete list).

  1. Operation World – This book (and the website based on it & the soon to be launched app) highlights every country on the planet, provides basic demographics of the country, and attempts to help you understand the progress of the Gospel in that country.  It does this so that you can begin to pray strategic prayers.  Such a great resource!
  2. State of the World – The current editors of Operation World, Jason Mandryk and Molly Wall, gave a wonderful presentation on the global trends that are affecting/will affect global mission in the years ahead at Lausanne’s Third Younger Leaders Gathering this year.  Prepare to be challenged, sobered, and encouraged!
  3. Justin Long’s Fine Print Friday Roundup (that’s a mouthful!) – No one does a better job than Justin at curating global news that could strategically inform our mission.  He does so much awesome heavy lifting for the global church, helping us understand the context in which we minister.  Subscribe to the Friday Roundup!
  4. The Future of the Global Church (book) by Patrick Johnstone, former editor of Operation World, is a beautiful book, unpacking the history, trends, and possibilities of global mission.  I just got mine in the mail and can’t wait to dig in deeper.
  5. Center for the Study of Global Christianity is perhaps the world’s leading research organization on religious demography, especially Christian demography.  They are regularly interviewed/consulted by diverse media groups like Christianity Today, World Economic Forum, Washington Times, NPR, BBC, the Guardian…you get the idea.

Well, this is not an exhaustive list, by any means, but it will get you going!  And remember why this is so important.  If the task given to us is to make disciples of all people groups, that means we need to know who they are, which ones have the Gospel and which ones don’t, what forces are shaping them, what barriers exist to reach them, etc.  This is crucial work!