Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Jesus was clear and He gave a clarion call to those who would choose to follow Him. Here are but a few clarion points from the mouth and life of Jesus regarding His desire for His followers to be strongly missional. "I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves." Matthew 10:16 "Go and make disciples of all the nations." Matthew 28:19 "As the Father has sent me, so send I you." John 17:18-20 "He called them to Himself so that He could be with them and send them out." Mark 3:13-14 "He sent them ahead of Him into every city and village that He Himself was about to go." Luke 10:1 "Follow Me and I will make you become fishers of men." Matthew 4:19 It appears to me that many believers today are confused about the idea of being missional. For many, church has been demoted to a meeting, a sermon or an experience. This is completely opposite of being missional. Gathering together as followers of Jesus in meetings is important and necessary, but it is NOT the focus of being the church. The Apostle Paul strongly instructs us that "Christ is our life." (Col. 3:4). This can only include that everything we do should be focused on Jesus Christ. He is the Head of the Church, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe so it follows that our whole attitude should be focused upon Him and His clear focus for our lives on earth - to be missional. It is true that in the church there is confusion on this issue. I would say that much of the confusion comes from the enemy of souls, the Devil himself. Living for Christ is a battle for souls and a focused life upon Jesus. Our command by our King is to be on the offense. We are to storm the gates of Hell (Matthew 16:18) and we are told that those gates will not prevail in holding back our attack for the souls of people. On the other hand, the enemy of our souls is about killing, stealing and destroying people (John 10:10). The Devil is all about deceiving and confusing people to look elsewhere for their purpose and focus of life. There are many tactics used to distract us from a missional way of living and thinking. Some of His tactics include fear, discussion on gifts of the Spirit, leadership, the purpose of the church, busyness, the desire to be accepted and the list could go on. Let me briefly expand on each of these tactics used by the Devil and see if you have bought into any of them at one time or another. Fear: This is the belief that no matter what you say or how you share the truth of Jesus (words, deeds or a combination) that you will be a failure or not able to complete the task with success. Many people believe that it is better or easier to just keep our mouths and lives shut. Someone else will do it. Spiritual Gifts: Many have written that only a few folks have the gift of evangelism or are gifted Evangelists. Therefore the overwhelming majority of believers are 'off the hook' from having to share their faith in any strong way...whew! The Purpose of the Church: Often the purpose of the church is simply to bless and worship God which usually is interpreted that we do not need to be aggressive in sharing Jesus. We come together, get blessed, sing Jesus songs, hear a sometime good and sometimes boring talk and go home feeling good about our experience. We'll leave the missional part to missionaries, evangelists and pastors. Busyness: There are many very active believers in churches across the world. They are busy doing ministry for the Church and her people. So busy in fact that there is little time to think about being missional and charge the gates of hell. The busyness is actually a relief because they are no longer responsible to take ground and batter the gates of hell, they're busy. The Desire to be Accepted: There are also those who do not wish to share Christ because it may just muddy the waters of a good friendship. Better to have a friend who thinks I'm cool and than to offend him or her with the Gospel of Christ. Of course most folks don't want to be confused on things Jesus has taught us. Most, I believe would rather obey Christ than fight Him. However, the enemy has been powerful to distract and confuse the bride of Christ away from being missional for way too long. Being missional is the strong example of the believers focus right through all of the New Testament. We'll take a peak of some of those examples next time. So what do you think about the confusion around being missional? Jot a note, a question or leave a comment.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
It is a conversation at many events, prayer meetings or conventions that I attend. It is the topic of a growing number of books these days. Many conferences on the church today include a keynote speaker on the subject of being 'Missionally Minded'. Whenever I see a pattern like this in a sector of society, I start to wonder what God is up to; why does He have everyone talking about it. There must be a reason.
Most often when subjects like this come up on everyone's radar, Jesus is trying to get the attention of His bride. He wants her to pay attention to the message and adjust our course to align with His heart. Being on mission is certainly on the heart of Jesus - it always has been.
For a long while the church has focused on good things that mostly have to do with looking at herself. Things like worship, spiritual gifts, church growth and equipping people to do a better job when the church is gathered. When missions (different than being missional) is highlighted, it is still about us in our churches giving money and praying for new frontiers, but it is most often not common people doing the work, they are to support it. These are not bad things and we need to be reminded of them, but losing a missional perspective can quickly kill the momentum of the church and I believe we have been stalled for sometime, at least here in the West.
But what would happen if everyone were actually doing life missionally, right where they lived. I know Jesus is urging His bride to live in a reckless, missional manner as He did. Just think about how He lived and how He mentored His followers to live.
- He pushed the religious limits (calling leaders 'white washed tombs' won't win you friends in those circles).
- He sent young, immature, rookies into the fray of wolves (think about the Garasene Demoniac in Mark 5 or the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8)
- He pushed untested disciples to cities Jesus Himself had not yet traveled (cf Matt. 10 & Luke 10)
- He followed the Spirit of God and wasn't Politically Correct
The list could go on. Jesus certainly was wild in how He lived out His life in the presence of many witnesses.
The New Testament tells us that the common everyday believer (that is you and me) are to be Jesus' witnesses everywhere they go (Acts 1:8). Every believer is an ambassador (2 Cor. 5:21ff). We are all part of the royal priesthood designed to proclaim just how great Jesus is (1 Peter 2:8-9). You and I are to go through life helping people to become more and more like Jesus, baptizing them once they come to Jesus and teaching them everything Jesus taught us about Himself and how to live out our faith (Matthew 28:16-20). These are the basic purposes that every believer is to excel in. These qualities are to be normative for followers of Jesus.
Unfortunately, these things have been reserved for the more elite saints. For those who are 'called' to do these things. But this wrong understanding of Scripture is quickly losing traction. We must stop being 'me' or 'us minded' and begin to be missionally minded, following the example of the Jesus Himself. Jesus' example of living was to imitated by everyone. Jesus was able to multiply fish and bread to feed multitudes and I don't know of anyone who has been able to do that, but we can be hospitable, looking to see the needs other people have and to have compassion on folks when they are in pain.
No matter what our vocation is in life we are to be on mission. The mission includes loving people well, treating them with respect, encouraging them in life, modeling a life that brings glory to God, and speaking to them with words that point them to Jesus. We need to become passionate again in our faith. We must begin to follow the example of living that Jesus gave us. He was always looking upon people with compassion. He constantly and patiently mentored His followers to see the needs in people and then meet then as you can. This was stretching to them, exhausting to them and painful for them - as it was for Jesus.
Being missional is who every believer is to be. Keeping our minds missional is and will always be a challenge. But why? I'll share some thoughts about that next time.
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Well that is not exactly what she said to me, but you get the idea. This person's life is scattered, tattered and battered. She knows that many of her decisions over the past few months have been poor. As I listened to the confession of this friend my heart and soul ached for her. In my mind I was wondering if this person was asking for answers or just wanting to get the dirt off of her chest. Should I probe deeper or let the aroma of her own pile of manure fill the air? There was silence in our conversation. I so wanted to help, but I so didn't want to get my head bit off for over extending counsel that wasn't being sought. Sometimes, listening is all that is needed before godly movement begins.
People often times confess their sinful choices because it does bring a sense of relief temporarily and because they are hoping to hear words that will give comfort. But when the counsel or advice isn't what they were hoping to hear they often walk away with sadness, anger or find a way to make you the source of their problem.
In Mark 10 we find the story of the Rich Young Ruler. This man came asking what he needed to do to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus' answer wasn't exactly what he wanted to hear. This rich young ruler wanted to hear that he was a good dude that was on the path of heaven. What he heard was "...go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come, follow Me." This young man was not willing to do that so he walked away sad. The very thing he wanted, eternal life, was there for the taking and he left it. The relief he sought would never be found by going his own direction.
After that moment of awkward silence between my friend and myself, I asked her if she was looking for me to listen or if she wanted my insight. Her answer was "Well you know I didn't mean to dump so much on you." That is code for keep the counsel to yourself in case you didn't get it :-) I responded by saying it sounded like she knew God was speaking to her and she should follow the Spirit's leading. Her response was that she knew her life was not being invested well. She was lamenting but not wanting to move. It may not surprise you that this was about the twelveth conversation on the exact same issue over the past 8 months.
There are so many people who want their lives to be different but don't want to do anything differently. They seem to love to complain about how bad things, how they are not close to God and how they long for the 'good 'ol days' but are not willing to take actual steps (like repentance, humility and commitment) towards recovering what was lost. This gets very tiring to me, hearing folks talk about what they are doing wrong, but do not want move towards doing what is right.
Repentance is a good word, not a bad word. When repentance happens, healing begins - immediately. It is God's kindness that leads us to repentance but we need to be willing to follow through. Following through from the spot God asks us to jump from is something He will not for us. So if your life is 'screwed up' and you know God is nudging you to jump, just do it (thanks Nike). You'll be glad you did.
Thursday, January 01, 2009
I'm in Southern California bringing in the New Year with family and friends. Southern California is my old 'stomping grounds'. This is where I grew up, went to grade school, to high school, met my wife, met Jesus, was baptized, where all of my children were born, raised and became Christ followers themselves. Southern California is where many 'firsts' happened for me.
Southern California is where I took my first breath, received my first spanking, was first sent to the principles office. It was here that I got into my first fist fight, where I first kissed a girl, where I received my first pay check, where I was first fired and where I first fired someone. It was here that I preached my first sermon, where I first officiated at a funeral and did my first wedding.
It is in Southern California that I surfed my first wave, got my first sunburn, bought my first car (a 1964 VW Bug), got my first traffic ticket, saw my first concert, bought my first TV, skied the first time and where I first broke a bone. We all have experienced many firsts in our lives. They are each significant and foundational. As I sit here in "It's A Grind" on Candlewood Blvd. in Lakewood California, many of my firsts flood my mind. But all of these firsts draw me a conclusion.
First experiences lay a foundation to be built upon. 2009 will also bring many firsts and I pray the firsts that I experience in the next 365 days will lay a foundation for myself and others. I pray that 2009 will bring in a greater focus on Christ in my life and a greater focus on being others centered and more generous. I pray that this will be the first year that I am last and that this attitude will last the whole year and beyond.
Be faithful, fruitful and finish well in 2009.