Towards Missional Effectiveness: The Mark of Missional Community – Part 4 of 7

By Ed Stetzer

Community is the vehicle of God’s mission. 

In this blog series, we are looking at the topic missional effectiveness. Once again, missional effectiveness is embracing the totality of the missio Dei—including its message, movement, and marks—and enacting it in the life of a local church.

So far, I have covered the message and movement of God’s mission. In the next several blog posts, I will describe the marks of missional effectiveness. In essence, I will be answering the following question: what does it look like for the message and movement of mission to be enacted in the life of a local church?

Observing the grand narrative of scripture, I have come to believe there are at least three marks of enacting God’s mission. Today, I’ll cover the mark of community.

The Missional Mark of Community Explained

In Genesis 1, we are introduced to God and His mission. We learn that God created man and woman in His image, placed them in the garden, and told them to, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fist of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28).

From the very onset, the Bible communicates that God is on mission to create a people for Himself who will be the vehicle by which He advances His kingdom throughout the created order, thus having His glory—displayed through the lives of His image-bearers—fill the entire world.

Therefore, a mark of God’s mission is the creation of a people, or of a community, who serve as God’s vehicle of advancing His kingdom. This is the essence of the missional mark of community. And this mark is present in both the Old and New Covenant in places such as Exodus 19:4–6 and 1 Peter 2:9–12. These passages point to the reality of God creating a community for Himself.

In the context of Exodus 19, God established His covenant with Israel, which, according to Christopher Wright, made Israel a missional community. In his epistle, Peter borrows language from Exodus 19. Both of these passages find their origin in Genesis 1:26–28.

We learn here that a missional community is: (1) created by God and for God, (2) distinct from the world because of its obedience to the word of God, and (3) used by God as an attractive community for the world.

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#1: Created by God and For God

In the passages cited above, God is the one who created His people. He created Adam and Eve, Israel, and the Church. God’s people are His possession, His treasured people. A missional community understands that it has been created by God and for God.

This understanding not only leads the community to be in right relationship with God, but also one another. Why? Because they are a family brought about by their Father and King. A church that is in right relationship with God will be in right relationship with one another.

#2: Distinct from the World because of its Obedience to God’s Word

Having been placed in the garden, God not only gave Adam and Eve the cultural mandate (Gen. 1:28), but He also gave Adam instructions to guard and keep the garden as well as to enjoy freedom by eating from every tree except one. Adam was to pass along these instructions to Eve. Obedience to the word of God was the difference between living and extending Eden and being kicked out of Eden.

In the context of God’s covenant with Israel (Exod. 19), God gave Israel Ten Commandments to govern their lives, as well as over 600 more commandments to implement as a people. Obedience to the word and commandments of God was the difference between enjoying long life in the Promised Land and being taken into captivity in Babylon.

With regard to the Church, Peter exhorted it to be holy (Pet. 1:15-16), to long for the pure spiritual milk of the word of God (2:2), and to come to Jesus, the living stone (2:4). As they do, Peter explained they would be “built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (2:5).

It seems that longing for the word and coming to Jesus are prerequisites for the community of God to be holy and distinct. Thus, everything about the community of Jesus should revolve around Him and His word. Many describe this as gospel-centeredness.

#3: Used by God as an Attractive Community for the World

Both Moses and Peter used priesthood language to describe how the community (or nation) is to relate towards those outside. The term “priesthood”, applied to the community in both scriptural passages, speaks of living in the presence of God and mediating between God and those outside the community. Just as Israel was to be a people standing in the presence of God, reflecting His glorious light, and being a mediator for the nations living in darkness, so too is the Church.

As local churches are created by God and for God, and obey the word of God (in all areas of life both individually and corporately), God uses them as an ‘attractional’ mechanism to draw others to Himself. As churches embody and enact the life of God, they become an attractive community to a watching world. In fact, Peter shares that by observing our good works, those far from God will come to glorify Him (1 Pet. 2:12).

The Mark of Missional Community Exemplified

four_ways_gospel_centered_theology_225.jpgThe Jerusalem Church in Acts serves as example of a church that exhibited the missional mark of community. When Luke gave us a snapshot of the early church in Jerusalem, he revealed that they were devoted to God, His leaders, His word, and one another (Acts 2:42–47). As a result of gospel transformation, they attracted many Jews to their faith family. You could say that the church in Jerusalem had a strong centripetal force at work used to draw in many locals.

The Jerusalem Church also had many leaders who sought to protect the integrity of the ministry and mission (Acts 4, 5, 6, 7, 15) as well as add structures to enhance ministry and mission to the community (Act 6:1–7). In short, the Church in Jerusalem excelled as a faith community in its local context.

While the Jerusalem Church had a strong communal foundation that exhibited a gospel-centeredness, they eventually allowed their ethnocentrism, preferences, traditions, rituals, and practices to encroach upon their missional effectiveness. As a result, they became a community that existed for their own glory, neglected to obey the word in all areas of life, and became a non-attractive community due to unnecessary barriers they erected.

The mark of community speaks of a missional people. To embody and enact the mark of being a missional people, churches must be intentional about teaching that church, or ‘coming to’ church, isn’t about believers consuming elements from a religious vending machine, but about being part of God’s people (a community), who exists for His glory, obeys His word, and is used by Him as an attractional sign to the world.

In the next post, I’ll talk about the missional mark of sentness.

 

This article was originally posted at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2017/january/towards-missional-effectiveness-mark-of-missional-community.html

Towards Missional Effectiveness: The Message of God’s Mission – Part 2 of 7

By Ed Stetzer

God is on mission to glorify Himself. 

In the first post I explained that missional effectiveness is embracing the totality of the missio Dei—including its message, movement, and marks—and enacting it in the life of a local church.

I don’t know about you, but I have been on many honey-do runs in the course of my marriage. A honey-do run is simply a time when your wife sends you out (or because you are already out) to get some things for her. The mission is doing something for your honey, which is important in its own right.

However, the effectiveness of the mission will also be based upon your understanding of what she wants you to get. In other words, the message is a vital component of missional effectiveness. If you misunderstand or forget what it is your wife sent you to get, the effectiveness of the mission will falter.

With regard to the missio Dei, the message of mission is a vital component of missional effectiveness. If we misunderstand the message, or get the message wrong, the mission will be either off, or wrong altogether. Therefore, it is essential that we understand the message of God’s mission.

Simply put, the message of the missio Dei is that God is on mission to glorify Himself by means of advancing His kingdom on earth through the means of His people, empowered by His Spirit, who share and show the gospel of God’s kingdom in Jesus Christ.

There are at least five themes that serve as the elements of the message of God’s mission.

Element 1: God’s Glory

The message of God’s mission is that it’s all about Him! His glory is the ultimate goal and point of mission. We were created in His image to reflect His glory in all areas of our lives, but we rebelled and distorting the image of God. Thus, God is on mission to redeem and restore our damaged image in order that we may reflect His glory once again.

Element 2: God’s Kingdom

The message of God’s mission includes the establishment of His kingdom. Richard Bauckham expresses, “The Bible is a kind of project aimed at the kingdom of God, that is, toward the achievement of God’s purposes for good in the whole of God’s creation…” Because the nucleus of His mission includes both His glory and His kingdom, God has always had a pattern of creating a place for His people (us) and calls us to live life under His rule and reign.

From the beginning, God desired humanity to extend His rule and reign throughout the entire created order. G.K. Beale argues that as Adam and Eve were faithful to God in the Garden, living out His commands, enjoying perfect communion with Him, they inevitably would extend the geographical boundaries of Eden (i.e., His kingdom) until Eden covered the entire earth. As a result of living under God’s rule and reign, we experience blessing.

Element 3: God’s King

The message of God’s mission revolves around His king, King Jesus. The first Adam failed at imaging God and effectively ruling as God’s vice-regent over the created order. As a result of the fall of humanity (Gen. 3), we are incapable of glorifying God. Moreover, we aren’t only incapable of glorifying God, but we have been severed and separated from a relationship and connection with Him.

However, because of God’s great love for His glory, kingdom, and creation (and especially His image-bearers), He sent the second and better Adam, King Jesus, to redeem sinners (not to mention the entire cosmos).

Because of Christ’s obedient life, sacrificial death, temporary burial, victorious resurrection, and glorious ascension to the throne, God has highly exalted Christ giving

…Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:9–11)

Jesus is the center of God’s kingdom (and His mission), for it is in Jesus that God is reconciling the world to Himself (Col. 1:20).

Element 4: God’s Spirit (Power)

The message of God’s mission involves the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit for effective mission to ensue. While the Spirit is definitely present in the Old Testament (under the Old Covenant), the Spirit under the New Covenant will indwell all believers, empowering them for kingdom living and mission advancement (Jer. 31:31–34; Ezek. 36:22–32; Matt. 28:18–20; John 20:21–22; Acts 1:8).

The two major roles of the Holy Spirit are to convict the world of sin (John 16:8) and conform God’s people into a worldwide worshipping missional community (Acts 1:8) who are sent out on mission. Thus, prior to his ascension, Jesus tells His disciples to wait in Jerusalem to receive the Holy Spirit. Alvin Reid asserts:

When Jesus declared that His followers would receive power after the Holy Spirit had come upon them and that they would be witnesses, He meant that we could be effective witnesses—but not in our own strength. Effectiveness comes through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

In short, the Spirit of God is the power source for the embracement, embodiment, and enactment of God’s mission.

Element 5: God’s People

The message of God’s mission includes His people’s participation. Essentially, God’s mission creates the instrument of His mission, namely His people. That’s us. From Adam to Israel and from Jesus to the Church, God’s people are called to participate in His kingdom mission. In Jesus, the Church was created as the redeemed saints of God to be His worldwide witnessing agents. Thus, as Emil Brunner once pointedly penned, “The church exists by mission, just as fire exists by burning.” 

In order to fulfill God’s mission, His people (the Church, us) are to verbally share and demonstrably show the good news of God’s kingdom in King Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. In doing so, we proclaim the good news that Jesus is making all things new (Rev. 21:5), while demonstrating that reality as we enact God’s kingdom ethics in all areas of our lives—personal, marital, familial, social, relational, cultural, vocational, etc.

Next time, I will talk about the movements of God’s mission.

 

This article was originally posted at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2016/december/towards-missional-effectiveness-message-of-gods-mission-par.html

 

Why Jesus Never Commanded us to Plant Churches – Part 1 of 2

By J. D. Payne

I recently spoke with a church-planting leader for a particular denomination.  As we talked over coffee, he inquired about the direction of our church when it comes to church planting.  My response was to describe our future missionary labors in terms like we read about in Acts 13-14; 16; 20; 1 Thess. 1:2-10; and Titus 1:5.  He responded with much surprise as if my thoughts were coming from an unusual source.

Unfortunately, over the years, I have found myself surprising many people during similar conversations.

What does it reveal about our missiology and biblical convictions whenever we think it is strange to advocate that those first century church planting teams have something to teach us?  What does it reveal about our Kingdom stewardship when we view such an advocate as being peculiar?  Do we not recognize a problem exists whenever we label a church planter as being innovative, creative, or unusual for following a Pauline model?

Granted, not everything we read in the Bible is prescriptive. However, I believe our brother Paul and his example should be on a pedestal for us to consider. He was a church planter, you know.

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Having the right definition

As wise stewards of the mystery of Christ, we must subscribe to a definition of biblical church planting as evangelism that results in new churches. Or, to communicate it in other terms: disciple-making that results in new churches. The weight of the biblical model is on this definition.

Imagine what would happen if we began to create a church-planting atmosphere in North America whereby the expectation for new churches is that they should consist of 95-100% new believers–at the moment those churches are planted.

Consider what would happen if our strategies did not embrace methods that would result in new churches consisting of 95-100% long-term Kingdom citizens – at the moment of their births.

We Don’t Need More Flavors

What would happen if we recognized that a wise use of our Father’s resources (e.g., money, people) should be to assist in planting churches from out of the harvest fields, instead of establishing a new work in a community to provide a different style of worship/ministry for the believers who are already there?

We do not need another flavor of church in the Baskin Robbins of North American Christianity; we need missionary bands to settle for nothing less than disciple-making that results in new churches.

What would happen if we equipped and commissioned church planters with the task of only going to the lost in the people group/community?

Yes, we say we are advocating these things, but let’s begin to question our results.

Try this. The next time you hear about a new church planted, a record number of new churches birthed in an area, or church planting goals reached, just ask the question, “What percent of the members of those churches recently came into the Kingdom of God?”

This article will continue in the next post.

Break My Heart, Lord

I received the following reflection from Rev. Howie Shute. Howie and his wife Bev served for many years in the Horn of Africa as missionaries with the Church of the Nazarene and were part of a truly amazing movement of God in those countries. Currently they serve as pastors of the Victory Hills Church of the Nazarene in Kansas City, Kansas. I pray that Howie’s words would pierce our hearts and drive us to pray the same prayer that God is teaching him.

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Rev. Howie Shute

It is a wonderful thing to be around people, who are on fire for the Lord and want to be used in the Kingdom, multiplying Jesus-followers and planting churches…Bev and I were thrilled to be a part of a movement in the Horn of Africa, but we have hungered to see God move in a big way again here where we minister.

God has spoken to me very clearly during this past week. If I can paraphrase what I have heard from the Lord, it is this:

Howie, you have a desire to multiply Jesus-followers through a network of organic churches in Kansas City and beyond. You want to reach un-churched people and especially those living in broken homes. This is good thing but your desire to do this is more out of a sense of ought-ness than it is out of a broken heart for the lost.

copia-de-joven_triste_4_uym.jpgWow! There are times when you hear from the Lord that He really shakes your world. This was one of them. He’s right (of course)! He always is! As I thought about my desire to reach lost people, I recognized that it was a sense of ought-ness that has given me vision to reach the lost of our city. If people without Jesus are lost and will miss out on heaven, then we ought to share Jesus with them. What other conclusion can we come to – especially when we know that the Bible is clear that there is another destination for those who do not personally know Jesus?

We hate to even say the word. I don’t really want to put that word into writing even now. It’s too terrifying even to think about. Hell is a very unpleasant subject. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go away just because we ignore it. It doesn’t disappear if we don’t believe in it. We can’t escape it even if we think that we are too good to go there. We either have a personal relationship with Jesus or we don’t. If we have not entered into a relationship with God by repenting of our sins and trusting in Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, then we are lost and on our way to this place that is too dreadful to mention. Hell awaits all who are not following Jesus. This terrible thought ought not only to give us a sense of ought-ness, but it should break our heart.

That’s what I’m putting at the top of my prayer list in these days. “Oh, God, break my heart for the lost!” Will you join me in this prayer? Pray for me that I would have a broken heart over the lost. Pray for yourself also. If our church were full of people with hearts broken over the lost, then God would use us in a big way to reach people for Jesus.

As we develop a more passionate relationship with God, he will give us his heart and his heart is broken for the lost. And if God answers our prayer to give us greater intimacy with him and to break our hearts for the lost, we will see some amazing things happen throughout our city and the world. So pray with me, “Break My Heart, Lord.”