An Uncommon Mission

By Ken Childress

“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” John 20:21

A cursory reading of this verse might give us the impression that Jesus is saying, “The Father first sent Me; now it’s your turn.” But there is more to this verse than that. He is also saying, “In the very same way that the Father sent Me, that’s how I’m sending you.” The crucial question then becomes: How did God send Jesus?

Philippians 2 gives us a good understanding of the nature of Jesus’ mission. He humbled Himself, He took the form of a servant, and He became obedient to the point of death (Phil. 2:6-11). Jesus went from heavenly riches to earthly rags; from exaltation to humiliation; from authority to obedience; from ultimate significance to ultimate rejection; from comfort to hardship; from safety to danger; from glory to sacrifice; and from life to death. And He calls us to go into the world in exactly the same way!

Read that list again. Every one of those humbling transitions goes against our grain. We try to work our way up, not empty ourselves. We want more more significance, more safety, more authority, more attention, more comfort. But Jesus calls us to die to ourselves, to take up our cross and follow Him. He sends us out as He was sent.

tender-la-mano.jpg

Does your attitude match that of Jesus? Do you take your mission seriously enough to go into the depths of this world – whether those depths are in another country, your own city, or even your own family – and live the gospel of humility for others to see? Jesus’ mission is to redeem this world, and He intends to shine the light in every vile, dark corner of it – through you and me. He calls His followers into prisons and concentration camps, into opium dens and brothels, and into leper colonies and psychiatric wards. He also calls them into night clubs, corporate conference rooms, university classrooms, and sports arenas. There is no place too uncomfortable, dangerous, or unlikely. Are you willing? As the Father sent Him, so He sends us into our community.

True Family

By Scott Armstrong

“He replied to him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers.’ For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:48-50).

Teaching, preaching, healing.  Matthew does a good job recording the purpose of Jesus’ time on earth (see 9:35-38).  In Matthew 12, after traveling around a lot, proclaiming many controversial things, and receiving death threats, Jesus withdraws from the hubbub of the crowds (12:15).  Or so he thinks.  Many needy people follow him and Jesus continues to heal, cast out demons, and respond to his critics.  The day is getting hot, the teacher is getting tired.

Jesus needs to recharge his batteries.  So what better way to do that than by spending time relaxing with family? He probably has not seen his mother and brothers in many months.  Imagine his joy, then, when someone tells him that his family is waiting outside and wants to talk with him.  They had surprised him!  Surely he would end his sermon, disperse the crowd, and greet them with open arms!

6a00d8341bfb1653ef0176161ea877970c.jpg

But that isn’t what happens at all.  In fact, his response seems a bit harsh.  He seems to say, “Who cares about them? They aren’t my true family.  You are.”  And then chapter 13 says that same day Jesus continues his ministry as if nothing had ever happened.

We need to be careful here.  The point of this passage is not that we need to abandon our families in order to serve God.  The key is found in Jesus’ response (v.50).  Whoever does God’s will is truly part of Christ’s family.  There is something that supersedes even blood relationship here.

My wife and I are missionaries living in Dominican Republic.  Our parents are in the US.  We miss them.  We value our relationship with them almost more than anything.  I say “almost” because there came a point years ago when it became clear to us that God’s will for our lives was to serve him far away from home and family.

That’s never easy.  But we have no regrets!  Following God’s will has brought us closer to Him and closer to our family as well in many ways.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you that following God’s will and being part of Jesus’ family is not worth every sacrifice you make!

My wife and I are missionaries living in Guatemala.  At this very moment, I am writing these words from my parents’ home in the United States.  It has been good to relax and be with family.  I miss them.  I value my relationship with them almost more than anything.  I say “almost” because there came a point years ago when it became clear to us that God’s will for our lives was to serve him far away from home and family.

That’s never easy.  But we have no regrets!  Following God’s will has brought us closer to Him and closer to our family as well in many ways.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you that following God’s will and being part of Jesus’ family is not worth every sacrifice you make!

Mourning or Miracle?

By Scott Armstrong

“While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples. Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment. When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.”But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. News of this spread through all that region” Matthew 9:18-26.

Where do you see yourself in this story? Each character has a different past, a different need, and different reactions to the circumstances around them.  Maybe you identify with the hurting woman who desperately longs to touch Jesus.  Perhaps you see yourself in the ruler who is not worried about himself as much as the ones around him. What great faith he had in order to believe Jesus could bring his daughter back!

Personally, I identify most with the mourners (vv. 23-24). Not because I am regularly sad or anything.  Just because I am very realistic and usually want to help people out.  You see, in Jesus’ day, the mourners served a very important purpose.  When there was a death in the family, the relatives would gather together and call professional mourners to help with the grieving process. In fact, it was required to have several professional women mourners at even the death of a poor family. These musicians and mourners would weep and wail and sing dirges and, although it seems weird to us today, they would help the family and community release the feelings of despair and hopelessness they were experiencing.

So if I am a professional mourner, I am doing what I am supposed to do here in verse 23. It’s my job to help these people in the most difficult time of their life. Then, just when I have really gotten into character, this guy named Jesus comes in and says the girl is merely asleep.  Sorry, but I have to laugh.  Is He crazy? I know what I see. The girl’s dead. There’s no hope.  Let’s help the family through the grieving process.

But Jesus’ vision is different. Miracles happen when He’s around. Sick women are healed. Dead people are raised to life. When He comes on the scene, transformation and healing take place.

The world is full of death, hopelessness, and sickness.  So, what will your reaction be to the despair around you? Will you go around life like it is business as usual? Or will you pray, plan, and expect that God will do a miracle in the toughest of situations?

Developing Relationships

By David W. Graves

The need to belong is perhaps the most powerful emotional need experienced in modern times. Society continues to fragment, families disintegrate, and technology isolates until the opportunities to truly belong become more and more limited.

But the need to belong has not diminished. Today, individuals are seeking those places where they can belong, and then giving themselves fully to the relationships they find. It is by targeting inclusion that our church can establish its ministry. By becoming a place of belonging, the local church opens itself up to ever-broadening opportunities to proclaim its message – a message of love and belonging in the family of God. However, the big question is: “How does the church establish this kind of ministry?”

Fotolia_66219358_XXL.jpg

It begins by regularly initiating and developing relationships with unchurched people. We need to ask ourselves “How many unchurched people do we have a personal relationship with?”

I can already tell you that most of us who have been in the church for a long time would have to answer “none.” It seems that the longer we are Christ-followers the more disconnected we get with those who are not – and that is a real problem. The same is true for many pastors. 

We cannot possibly hope to reach people for Christ if we are not developing a friendship with them. If I don’t have any non-Christian friends, how can I tell anyone about Christ? 

This is the biggest detriment to fulfilling the Great Commission that we have today – we don’t know any non-Christians well enough to share the gospel with them. Jesus went out of His way – and we must go out of our way – to build real friendships with people outside of the church.

By building relationships with people, Jesus can use us to change their lives.

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

 

What’s your BHAG?

By Scott Armstrong

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” – Dalai Lama XIV

I’m a fan of Jim Collins, a writer and business researcher.   Although the word may have been coined earlier, I believe Collins popularized the term “BHAG” in his book Built to Last.  What’s a BHAG? It is an acronym for a “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal.”

“A BHAG engages people– it reaches out and grabs them in the gut, Collins says.  “It is tangible, energizing, highly focused.  People ‘get it’ right away; it takes little or no explanation.”

Every company should have a BHAG.  All companies have goals. But there is a difference between merely having a goal and becoming committed to a huge, daunting challenge– like a big mountain to climb.  Collins uses as an illustration the moon mission in the 1960s.  President John F. Kennedy and his advisors could have gone off into a conference room and drafted something like “Let’s beef up our space program,” or some other such vacuous statement.  Yet, Kennedy proclaimed on May 25, 1961, “that this Nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.”

That, my friends, is big, hairy, and audacious.  But it is also specific.  Dangerously so.  Given the odds, such a bold commitment was, at the time, outrageous.  But it proved to be a powerful instrument for driving the United States forward towards the seemingly unreachable. 

How many Christians have “land-a-man-on-the-moon” goals like that? As churches do we reach for the stars, or are we satisfied with admiring a two-story office building?

If every company should have a BHAG, then every Christian, every church, and every ministry even more.  After all, unlike businesses, we are not trying to sell more widgets or make more money.  Our mission is global impact and transformation!  Plus, we are serving the All-powerful King of Kings and Lord of Lords:  why would we not dream big and set some crazy, lofty goals? No matter how big they are, they cannot be as big as his for us!

Resultado de imagen para escribe tus metas

The apostle Paul describes it this way – “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” (Eph. 3:20).

BHAGs for the Christian are based in a God who does immeasurably more than even our biggest requests and dreams.

To highlight this, I’d like to direct us to two times when God-incarnate himself was amazed.  These stories should also help us to see the relationship between a big, hairy, audacious goal and a big, hairy, audacious faith (should we call it a BHAF?).

In Mark 6, Jesus finds himself in his hometown where everyone hears him teach, sees his miracles, and literally takes offense (v. 3).  They knew Jesus!  They saw him grow up.  No way could he be the Messiah!  “Nothing to see here, folks!  Just the carpenter’s little boy trying to act like someone he isn’t.”

“He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.  And he was amazed at their lack of faith” (v. 5-6).

Well, that’s one way to amaze Jesus.  The Son of God was stunned at their pettiness and lack of belief.

But another passage shows us a better way.  In Luke 7, a centurion goes to Jesus and asks him to heal his servant.  No need for the pomp and circumstance of Jesus coming all the way to his house.  The centurion believed that Jesus could heal his servant with just a single word.

“When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel’” (v.9).  The man was healed that very hour.

Two different times Jesus was amazed:

  1. Lack of faith
  2. Great faith

If Jesus looked at your faith level, would he be amazed at how big, hairy, and audacious it was? Or would he be amazed at your small thinking?

Craig Groeschel, founder of the visionary and growing LifeChurch.tv, asks us to think about this last week of our lives.  What great faith steps did you take in the last week? Did you attempt something so bold that it was bound for failure unless God was in it? What did you pray for? If God answered every one of your prayers in an instant, what would be different not just for you, but in the world? 

“Some of you, if you prayed great prayers,” Groeschel says, “would have found a cure for cancer or solved a hunger problem, saved a marriage, or had kids adopted into families. That would be great. Others of you would have your food blessed. And you would have traveling mercies to Grandma’s house. What would be different in the world if God answered yes to your prayers and it would be immediate? For some of you, nothing would be different because you didn’t pray and you weren’t bold.”

It is an insult to God to think small.  It is a complete misrepresentation of his character.  It may sound silly, but I am becoming to believe that not having a BHAG that we have prayerfully and daringly developed is an issue of sin.  It is, indeed, a lack of faith.

So what’s the BHAG God has given you? If you don’t know, then it is imperative that you spend time seeking God’s face and the “immeasurably more” that he has.  It will probably need to be developed and polished in community, too.  Make sure it is clear and focused.  And then let that shape your prayers and actions in the coming days.  You – and the entire world – will be forever changed!

So, What Is a Nazarene?

Today marks the first day of the Church of the Nazarene’s Global Conventions and General Assembly.  These events are held once every four years and this time in Indianapolis, Indiana we are expecting more than 15,000 attendees and delegates for times of corporate worship, training, fellowship, and business.  However, maybe we are getting ahead of ourselves.  Some may ask, “What is a Nazarene anyway?” On an exciting day such as today, Rev. Daron Brown reminds us of our equally exciting origins.

Written by Daron Brown
From his column Pressing On

A few days into my freshman year at Trevecca Nazarene College, one of the guys in my dorm suite pulled me aside. He was unchurched, attending TNC on a baseball scholarship. He spent his first week wide-eyed, watching us Church of the Nazarene folks, wondering what he had gotten himself into. With a hushed voice, half embarrassed and half amused, he whispered, “What is a Nazarene?”

Since then I have been asked the question dozens of times. While there are different ways to answer it, perhaps the best response is to look back at how we got the name.

In the first century, the town of Nazareth in Galilee was considered a second-class community. This attitude can be seen in Nathaniel’s response to Phillip when he spoke to his friend about “Jesus of Nazareth.” Phillip evidenced his skepticism with, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46, NIV). The assumed answer to Phillip’s rhetorical question was “Of course not. Nothing worthwhile ever happens in Nazareth.”

05-17_article

In Luke 4 when Jesus returned to Nazareth, he was physically rejected and nearly killed by citizens of his own hometown. Their response might be described as, “Why should we listen to you? You’re no better than us.” To be a “Nazarene” in the first century didn’t win you much credibility.

It is remarkable that the Second Person of the Trinity would come to us by way of a remote place like Nazareth. God himself chose to reside in a community where people believed goodness did not exist. In doing so, He reminded us that we are not always so quick at distinguishing good from evil. It’s a problem we’ve had since the first chapters of Genesis.

Some 700 years before Jesus’ birth, Isaiah foresaw the life of Christ with the words, “He was despised and rejected by humankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces, he was despised, and we held him in low esteem” (Isaiah 53:3). In embracing the role of an outcast, Jesus the Nazarene showed His solidarity with those who were marginalized, persecuted, and without hope.

Nineteen centuries later, in Los Angeles, California, a Methodist Episcopal Church preacher named Phineas F. Bresee felt the call to take the message of Holiness to poor families—urban outcasts who likely were not welcomed by well-heeled folks in prominent fellowships. Leaving his denomination over the issue, he partnered with a well-known physician and former president of the University of Southern California, Joseph P. Widney. In 1895, they joined with others in the community to start a new church. The late historian Timothy Smith said that in doing so Bresee “declared that the only thing new in the movement was its determination to preach the gospel to the needy, and to give that class a church they could call their own” (Called Unto Holiness, Vol. 1, p. 110). The name they chose for their movement was suggested by Widney, who said the term “Nazarene” symbolized “the toiling, lowly mission of Christ… to whom the world in its misery and despair turns, that it may have hope” (Ibid. p. 111).

Since that time almost 122 years ago, our fellowship has expanded into more than 160 areas around the world. You’ll find Nazarenes of diverse ethnicity and socioeconomic backgrounds, worshiping in beautiful sanctuaries, cinder block buildings, and strip malls. Our thousands of churches may have different personalities and programs, but we continue to share a common aspiration. First and foremost, we are driven to take the message of Holiness to the poor and needy around us. Secondly, we embrace the identity of the God who himself became an outcast in order to reach the outcasts of this world—people like ourselves.

Since my freshman year at TNC, I have gotten better at responding to “What is a Nazarene?” These days, the best answer I can give is: “Come with us into the neighborhoods. Let us show you the jail ministry, the community garden, the food pantry, the mentoring and backpack feeding programs. Come join us as we work alongside those who suffer—the sick, the aging, and the addict—and then you will clearly understand what it means to be a Nazarene.

Daron Brown lives and pastors in Waverly, Tennessee.

This article was originally posted at: pbusa.org