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.

Steven’s Study

Resources collected from my personal study, suggested for your personal study.

Every week I bring you a list of articles, podcasts, and sermons that I found helpful for my own edification. My hope is that you also will find these useful in your personal growth in the Christ.

Read Missionary Biographies

Biography is one of my favorite genres in literature. So when I saw this title I had to take a look. Beyond the Bible there are few things that speak so powerfully about the need for missions as the biographies of those who rolled up their sleeves and put their hands to the plow.

Building Blocks of Salvation Pt 1: The Plan

I believe that gospel fluency is a skill that every Christian should pursue. Both for the health of their own soul, and for the communication of that good news to others. To that end, I am following a series I came across this week on the building blocks of salvation. This week’s article is about election, and though you may not agree with this article, I think this series will be worth following.

Why the church doesn’t need anymore coffee bars

A powerful article that you may have come across on social media last week.  I don’t think the main point here is bashing the bells and whistles that accompany some church gatherings, but rather a hard reminder that those things are not the point. If we are attracting people to our churches (and keeping them) with trendy gimmicks, we could be failing to give them the only thing that matters. JESUS!

Suburban Sprawl and the Dying Dream of Community Churches

Articles like this are especially interesting to church planters like myself. I think that the research and conclusions reached in this article are mostly true when it comes to American churches and church attenders. However, one must always consider the context. For instance, in the area of Tulsa I serve in 60% of residents don’t own a car, so commuting is much more difficult. That being said, we should consider that the reach of our church is broader in our city that it may have been in decades past.

Should We Give Money to the Poor Even When There’s a Risk of Waste or Misuse?

I think the title of this article is pretty self-explanatory. We should be wise, and extremely generous people!

Good Churchmanship

An older article on a subject that isn’t spoken about much these days. What does it look like to be a good church member? I think this subject deserves more attention from members and leaders in the local church.

Complaining Never Wins the Culture

This article probably wins “best article of the week” in my book. Here is an excerpt to give you the flavor: “Furthermore, grumblers are neither persuasive nor appealing when they share their faith. In fact, they rarely share their faith at all. It’s hard to joyfully and consistently proclaim the gospel when all you do is complain about your mission field. Murmuring does not further God’s mission.”

As ever, may the Lord bless you and keep you! – Steven

 

 

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!

Steven’s Study

Resources collected from my personal study, suggested for your personal study.

Every week I bring you a list of articles, podcasts, and sermons that I found helpful for my own edification. My hope is that you also will find these useful in your personal growth in the Christ.

Gospel Motivations for Gospel Ministry

It is good to regularly check your motivations for the ministry(s) you lead or support. We are prone to wander if we don’t check in regularly.

The Eternal Glory of the Daily Grind

This quote is a great example of what you will find in this article: “Rather than being hell, such Christ-enabled labor makes visible a bit of the divine glory that is normally seen only in heaven. Instead of being futile and fleeting, in Christ’s hands, everyone’s daily job actually produces everlasting results.”

Hobbies to the Glory of God

This older article from Tim Challies takes a look at the role of hobbies in our lives, and why they can be done for the glory of God. I think it is a subject that should be discussed more often, and practiced with regularity.

What Christianity in China is Really Like

Often the perception and reality of missions or church in another part of the world are two different things. I have often been confused by different accounts of Christianity in China. I found this article helpful.

Unbelievable

This week I wanted to highlight another podcast that is a regular part of my week. Unbelievable is a debate podcast where Christians and Non-Christians engage in health debate. I love hearing both sides of each debate. It is a great way to learn about other cultures and worldviews. I highly recommend it!

As ever, may the Lord bless you and keep you! – Steven

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.

Steven’s Study

Resources collected from my personal study, suggested for your personal study.

Every week I bring you a list of articles, podcasts, and sermons that I found helpful for my own edification. My hope is that you also will find these useful in your personal growth in the Christ.

Don’t Go Until you’re Sent

Let me just say a huge, AMEN!, to this article! I have lived this to a certain extent and would beg my brothers and sisters in Christ to NEVER send yourself to do a new work (frontier missions, church planting, ect.). It is not biblical, increases the suffering, and wrecks individuals, families, and communities. I know that sounds dramatic, but as a man who was once very prideful about such things I am telling you, “Have a healthy church send you into the work!”

Three Lies We Might Easily Believe

READ THIS!!!! Seriously, if you have 1 minute and 23 seconds to spare you should read this super short article (1 minute and 22 second long). We are all tempted daily to believe the lies of our enemy Satan. Which means we must daily preach the gospel to ourselves and be reminded of who we are in Christ.

The End, As Best As We Can See It With Earth Encrusted Eyes

I’ve been exploring some new blog here lately and I ran across this blog and article. I don’t know the full story here, but I love this article. It feels wounded to me. Like someone who knows where I have been, and in the midst of it reminds me of the goodness of God. Makes me feel like less of an alien when that happens.

Gospel Worship: Holy Ambition for All the Peoples to Praise Christ

A grandview of the glory of God in missions as only John Piper can say it. This one is also super accessible. You can watch it, listen to it, or read it! DesiringGod.org, what a gift to the church!

How the Gospel Upsets Business as Usual

I actually listened to this week before last, but was having trouble finding the link since I was using iTunes. I can be a bit of a technology noob sometimes! Anyway…This is a great workshop talk on how the church (individually and corporately) should expect the gospel to change the way we live in our communities. I will warn you it is a bit long (55 mins), but do like I do and break it up. In a few 15 minute drives, walks, or sittings you can receive some great, hopefully life giving/changing, knowledge.

Ask Pastor John

Speaking of DesiringGod.org, have you hear of the podcast “Ask Pastor John”? If you have not let me encourage you to give it a try. Each episode is fairly short (usually under 10 mins). It is easy to listen to and can answer questions that you might have or perhaps cause you to think on subjects you have not yet considered. It is a mainstay of my personal study every week.

As ever, may the Lord bless you and keep you! – Steven

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

Steven’s Study

Resources collected from my personal study, suggested for your personal study.

Every week I will be bringing you a list of articles, podcasts, and sermons that I found helpful for my own edification. My hope is that you also will find these useful in your personal growth in the Christ.

The Many and the Few

An older article that I ran across on challies.com last week. It’s a great reminder of the importance of gospel clarity, and how we are prone to stray.

How to Defend the Gospel from Its Enemies – and Friends

Another great article by Ray Ortlund. It ends with a great observation, “Ugliness can’t defend beauty.”

How to Live in the Tension of Gospel and Social Justice

There have been many discussions about the tension between the message of the gospel and the acts of mercy that accompany the gospel. If you have the time (~45 min) this a great message by Matt Carter about that subject.

Be Patient, Missions Is Urgent

You may have heard that gospel ministry is a marathon, not a sprint. That is true! However, it is very urgent also. So how do these two fit together?

Then and Now: How our Perspectives Have Changed throughout our First Term

Always good to read about the lives of foreign missionaries. Especially when it can open our eyes to the reality of a life spent spreading the gospel. Since that is our goal!

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!