Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Right Here Right Now

Right Here Right Now: Everyday Mission for Everyday People

By Alan Hirsch & Lance Ford

Apostolic Mission (e.g. Church Planting) + Mission of the People of God (MPOG, Agents in Every Sphere = Transformational Jesus Movement. 32

Church is not simply a building or a formal community meeting, it is who we are—a people who have been formed out of a direct encounter with God in Jesus Christ. If this is true, then general practice in church planting, which simply amounts to “service planting,” actually activates only once side of the movement equation—namely, apostolic mission—but it leaves the MPOG (Mission of the People of God) undervalued and almost totally passive and unengaged. This is a fatal error. 33

Embodiment (the capacity to actually integrate and live out the teachings and message of Jesus) is critical to transmission (the capacity to transfer the message through relationships). 34

In order to take missionality seriously, you have to take culture seriously…You simply have to assume that, in Western contexts, all communication of the gospel, let alone church planting and mission, is now cross-cultural. 39

One of the most basic assumptions of the incarnational missionary is to assume God is already involved in every person’s life and is calling them to himself through his Son. Out mindset should not be the prevalent one of taking God with us wherever we go. It must be, instead, that we join God in his mission. 42

We live as if there is an insurmountable difference between the “sacred” and the “secular.” But if Jesus is Lord of all life, there is no such distinction. 47

Just like a local gang, we should have a “turf”…You should live where you want to serve. You should be able to bump into the tribe in the local shops and supermarket. This allows for what I call three practices of incarnational engagement: proximity, frequency, and spontaneity. 49-50

It is impossible to be a missional church if we fail to be a missional people. Otherwise, missionality is reduced to sponsored programs that centralize the life of the body of Christ, institutionalizing and containing it in church systems and programs that view mission as something that happens “over there” or at special events. 65

The reality of our situation is that Christendom has been in decline for the last 250 years. This is what the term post-Christendom means. Society…is “over” Christendom. The problem for man Christians and church leaders is that we have not come to grips with this fact. We fight for prayers and the Ten Commandments…because we think Christianity is the dominant civil religion and ought to be so. In other words, we still think of the church and its mission in terms of Christendom, while in reality we are in a post-Christendom context. 74

When I hear someone say, “Five people gave their lives to the Lord in our meeting last night,” I bristle. I want to ask, “How do you know they gave their lives to the Lord?” You can’t know that until some degree of time goes by. 77

Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out. Colossians 4:5-6, Message

John Wimber was known for holding a Bible up and saying, “This is the menu, folks…it ain’t the meal.”…When we mix the Word of God with real feet-to-the-pavement living, we can experience a kingdom feast every day and invite others to join us at that table. Until we let that happen, the words of the Bible remain as dormant as garden seeds left in their original envelope. The words just languish as possibilities, ideas, and options. 102 Again, the menu isn’t the meal. Studyin the menu will not provide nourishment nor curb hunger. 117

The pursuit of happiness has left a trail of tears on many fronts. 127

For too long, church culture has steamed down the channel of self-centeredness and away from community building and societal transformation. We need a radical reformation of leadership that preaches, models, and leads with a message that stirs us away from the trending ascendance of personal ambition. 129

When at all costs we hold the nuclear family and middle-class concepts at the pinnacle of our priorities, we become dull and blind to the injustices around us. Family ideals and the American Dream hold loyalty over and above the initiative of the kingdom of God and the justice and mercy it calls for. The presumptive “if you believe it, you can become it” notion causes many in the middle class to dismiss their obligation to those who are homeless or to interpret the plight of the poor as reaping a harvest from their own lazy lack of initiative. That is, at least, until the middle class themselves become the unemployed as has occurred in the recent economic crash—then it’s someone else’s fault. 132

Individualism and our desire for comfort and privacy choke out the Word and our missional imagination along with it, nullifying our effectiveness as agents of the kingdom of God. 132

We must make up our minds that we will disentangle ourselves from the suffocating weight that comes with living and overly consumptive lifestyle. We make a choice to break free in order to live redemptively.  144

We need both a radically lean way of living by some disciples and an elaborate abundance shared by others…We need people who are called to a radical simplicity of lifestyle, to remind the rest of us that we don’t need what we think…We need communities of Christians willing to commit themselves to support each other in risky, venturesome ways, to goad the rest of us out of our autonomy. We need Christians willing to resist the many ways in which the dominant in our world crush the weak. We need Christians who find  thousand joyful ways to take the screwed-up values of this world and turn them upside down. 147

For authentic community to marinate, we need a mix of people with various skills and interests coming together and rubbing off on one another. Silo living breeds social disintegration. It fosters a life that segregates our relationships with others and limits intermingling among the people in our differing silos. 164

A sanctified imagination is a powerful missional tool. 191

Shared adventures are like glue to relationships, and there really is adventure to be had, if we will open our eyes and ears to see the needs right under our noses. 193

People should be able to experience a foretaste of heaven from our families and our homes…Missional hospitality is a tremendous opportunity to extend the kingdom of God. We can literally eat our way into the kingdom of God. 203

Too often, the largest portions of our time, resources, finances, and manpower go into one basket—weekend services…In short, our actions say that what we do inside the building is more important than what we do outside the building. 217
Contrary to what we might think, Jesus shows us that meeting needs is not the starting point for incarnational mission. 225

Truth is, we have all drunk so deeply from the institutional wells of Christianity that it is hard to think of ourselves differently. 236

We certainly need to think of the church more as an exponential people movement involving all of God’s people and not an institution run by religious professionals offering different brands of religious goods and services. 238

The traditional marks of the church that stemmed from the reformation are woefully inadequate to equip the contemporary Western church to deal with the bewildering missionary challenge we face. 239

We are all deeply scripted to believe that we must bring people to our church, and so we seldom take into account the cultural dynamics inherent in that equation. But it’s all about culture. Our church has a distinct culture, as do the people we are hoping to reach! …all mission in Western settings now should be considered a cross-cultural enterprise. 251

Attractional evangelism in missionary contexts results in extracting them from their previous relationships and cultural context. 251

Attractional forms of church in missionary contexts eventually are self-defeating because the church quickly exhausts its suppy of relationships and because the new converts quickly become a cultural clique or religious ghetto increasingly marginalized from the original culture. 252

Planting Missional Churches

Planting Missional Churches: Planting a Church That’s Biblically Sound and Reaching People in Culture by Ed Stetzer

I read Planting Missional Churches way back in February – actually on the plane on the way to and from Bangladesh. It’s 372 pages and I have never read a book of that length in literally two sittings. It is an excellent expose on church planting as a whole by one of the church planting godfather gurus. I recommend this book as a basic primer for church planting, though I might add others to that same list as ‘required reading’ for church planting, maybe even a little bit higher up on the list. The funny thing is how fast things change in culture and church culture to be specific, though, in a lot of contexts you wouldn’t know it. This book was written in 2006 and the trends are already changing so much.

The one biggest thing I take a way from Planting Missional Churches is the call for church planting to take a missiological posture. I believe this is what is missing from most attempts at ‘outreach’ – an ignorance or obliviousness to the context. Just like we would do on the “to the ends of the earth” mission fields, like learning the language, culture, customs, etc., we must have a posture of entering into a culture and speaking the language to allow our message to be truly understood and embraced. This books help to not only establish the need for contextualization but helps to set the stage for emerging culture 101 of North America.

Some of my favorite quotes from the text:

Establishing a missional church means that you plant a church that’s part of the culture you’re seeking to reach. 1

Today’s church planters should be: missional, incarnational, theological, ecclesiological, and spiritual. 3

Church planters are by nature entrepreneurs, mavericks, free spirits, sometimes even misfits… 3

In 2004, the latest year available, there are 11 churches for every 10,000 Americans. 9

With the increased professionalization (education) of the clergy, church planting has suffered. 9

The U.S. is the fifth largest mission field on earth. 13

Eighty to 85 percent of American churches are on the downside of their life cycle. 13

Our churches are dying, and our culture is changing. We know new churches can make a difference. Church planting is not easy, but without it the church will continue to decline in North America. 14

The end of Christendom allows the church to recognize that the gospel is distinct from Western culture. So the gospel must be addressed in fresh ways to the ever-changing population that’s disassociated itself from the “pseudo-Christian” roots…The new challenge is to bring the gospel to Western culture, including right here in North America, since it’s become so resistant to the gospel. 19

High content (being biblically sound) and high culture (being culturally relevant) aren’t mutually exclusive. 21

If anything, the church should err on the side of becoming futurists (rather than historians) in regard to culture. 23

The reformers expressed that as eccelsia simper reformada, the church always reforming. It would never arrive. That remains true today. As the culture changes, the church is compelled to change. 31

Biblical Basis of Church Planting: John 20:21; Luke 19:10; Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8; 1 Corinthians 1:23. 37-52

Churches need biblical eccesiology that enables them to function with efficiency and integrity. 90

Effective church planting is missionary work. 115

A key to ministry in the new era will be the creation of multiethnic faith communities that reflect the demographic makeup of their population. 123

Understanding postmodernity: denial of personal objectivity, uncertainty of knowledge, death of any all-inclusive explanation, the denial of the inherent goodness of knowledge, the rejection of progress, the surpremacy of community-based knowledge, and the disbelief in objective inquiry. 130

Church planters…embracing church planting as a way of life rather than a strategy…Rather than starting with a prescribed vision of what the church will look like (most good church planters spell this out in a vision prospectus or fund-raising proposal), proponents of this new way of planting churches (Missional/Incarnational) let their incarnation of Christ drive the mission in their community and beyond; and the church emerges out of that journey. 161

If church planting is missionary work, then the church planters and the planting team should think like missionaries in planning worship music. Leaders should choose the music based on the context. Music should be missiological (“like a missionary”) and serviceable in the context. 266

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Gilead, Marilynne Robinson

I haven't loved a book in quite some time as much as I loved Gilead, a Pulitzer-winning book written by Marilynne Robinson. It is the reflection of an elderly and dying father and small town preacher, written to a young son borne to him in his old age. He records the stories and insights that he would have shared with his son if he had been given the opportunity to know his son in his adulthood. The art of the book is outstanding and the tidbits of wisdom scattered through his stories are quite powerful. Some of these are shared below. - Sarah

"This is an important thing, which I have told many people, and which my father told me, and which his father told him. When you encounter another person, when you have dealings with anyone at all, it is as if a question is being put to you. So you must think, What is the Lord asking of me in this moment, in this situation? If you confront insult or antagonism your first impulse will be to respond in kind. But if you think, as it were, This is an emissary sent from the Lord, and some benefit is intended for me, first of all the occasion to demonstrate my faithfulness, the chance to show that if I do in some small degree participate in the grace that saved me, you are free to act otherwise than as circumstances would seem to dictate."

"I believe the Fifth Commandment belongs in the first tablet, among the laws that describe right worship, because right worship is right perception, and here the Scripture commands right perception of people you have a real and deep knowledge of."

"The article is called "God and the American People," and it says 95% of us say we believe in God. But our religion doesn't meet the writer's standards, not at all. To his mind, all those people in all those churches are the scribes and the Pharisees. He seems to me to be a bit of a scribe himself, scorning and rebuking the way he does. How do you tell a scribe from a prophet, which is what he clearly takes himself to be? The prophets love the people they chastise, a thing this writer does not appear to me to do."

"There are certain attributes our faith assigns to God: omniscience, omnipotence, justice and grace. We human beings have such a slight acquaintance with power and knowledge, so little conception of justice and so slight a capacity for grace, that the workings of these great attributes together is a mystery we cannot hope to penetrate."

"I have often felt that my failing the truth could have no bearing at all on the Truth itself, which could never conceivably be in any sense dependent on me or on anyone."

"I have had a certain amount of experience with skepticism and the conversation it generates, and there is an inevitable futility in it. It is even destructive. Young people from my own flock have come home with a copy of La Nausee or L'Immoraliste, flummoxed by the possibility of unbelief, when I must have told them a thousand times that unbelief is possible. And they are attracted to it by the very books that tell them what a misery it is. And they want me to defend religion, and they want me to give them "proofs." I just won't do it. It only confirms them in their skepticism. Because nothing true can be said about God from a posture of defense."

"There is no justice in love, no proportion in it, and there need not be, because in any specific instance it is only a glimpse or parable of an embracing, incomprehensible reality. It makes no sense at all because it is the eternal breaking in on the temporal."

"Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it. I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave - that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is great harm. And therefore, this courage allows us, as the old men said, to make ourselves useful."

"I believe that the old man did indeed have far too narrow an idea of what a vision might be. He may, so to speak, have been too dazzled by the great light of his experience to realize that an impressive sun shines on us all. Sometimes the visionary aspect of any particular day comes to you in the memory of it, or it opens to you over time. I believe there are visions that come to us only in memory, in retrospect."

Friday, June 3, 2011

Happiness Is...

...camping with my two sisters in the Adirondack Mountains for four days!