8 Good Questions to Evaluate Your Church

By Dan Reiland

It’s easy to get so busy doing ministry that you don’t take the time to evaluate your ministry.

But evaluation is how you get better.

It’s like your annual physical. No one wants to get a check-up, blood work, and maybe a test or two, but that’s how you learn what you need to know.

Then, of course, you need to act on what you learn.

The 4-point plan to get better:

  • Ask the right questions.
  • Give honest answers in a group process.
  • Determine the best-prioritized plan for improvement.
  • Take action.

It starts with asking the right questions.

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8 good questions that will help your ministry get better:

1) How is the unique culture of your church helping you make progress?

Sam Chand wrote an excellent book titled Breaking Your Church’s Culture Code. He states that more than vision, programs, money, or staff, culture has the greatest impact on your church’s future.

How would you describe your culture? Is it what you want? Is your church culture helping or hurting as you pursue God’s purpose for your church? What changes do you need to make? If the culture is healthy, what practices are in place to stay healthy?

2) How would you describe the overall morale of your church?

Are the people happy with your church? That question seems very subjective but is surprisingly easy to answer.

Do they trust the leadership? Are they fired-up about the mission? Are they passionate about following Jesus? Is there momentum? Are problems solved with relative ease (without significant resistance? You get the idea.

Morale and culture are closely linked. If you are struggling and the culture and morale are not ideal, I urge you to pour your leadership energy there first.

3) What is your approach to spiritual formation in your church?

Is there an overall sense that people are pursuing God? It’s not about perfection, but do you see progress? What factors do you consider important to help assess spiritual maturity?

Consider things like prayer, serving others, obedience, and financial generosity. How about the fruit of the Spirit like love, joy, and peace, etc.?

Do you utilize small groups? How is community developed? What priority does biblical truth hold? A great overall approach to assess spiritual growth is to gather stories of life change.

4) Are you developing new leaders?

Next to the favor of God, everything rises and falls on leadership. Do the leaders in your church demonstrate a strong spiritual depth and a servant’s heart? What is your plan to find and develop new and better leaders? You will not realize your potential as a church without a serious dedication to this process.

5) How would you describe the strength of your volunteer teams?

Are your volunteers part of vibrant and productive teams or a struggling band of survivors? Much of that depends on how you select, train, encourage and empower your volunteers. Do you recruit to a vision or just to get a task done?

All churches face the pressure of needing people to volunteer to serve, but how you build teams makes a significant difference. How would you rate the overall esprit de corps of your volunteer ministries? What is the first best step to strengthen your teams?

6) What are the financial indicators telling you?

It is relatively easy to measure results when it comes to money. The weekly offering defines reality. At the same time, one of the largest challenges a leader will ever face is successfully inspiring the people to trust God with their finances and remain faithful to generous giving.

Are you bold in your teaching of God’s truth about money? Do you offer practical training about money management? Do you personally model generosity? Where are you stronger regarding money, faith or practice?

7) Are you on mission?

You must first be clear about the purpose of your church. What is your mission/vision – exactly? Does your congregation have a good sense of what it is? Are you acting on that mission?

It’s essential that your leaders become and remain aligned together in that mission. It will always feel like you are swimming upstream if you are not headed in the same direction.

8) Do your people enthusiastically invite others to your worship services?

I have coached churches where the people had obviously lukewarm feelings about the worship service. They were not motivated to invite someone even if they had a friend they wanted to bring.

It’s not always the worship service, but it starts there. Is there anything about your church that would cause your congregation to pause about inviting their friends?

This is a huge evangelistic combination. If your people are committed to the vision enough to invite people to church, and your worship experience (from nursery to invitation) is worth inviting people to – that is the combination you work toward!

I trust these questions will be helpful to you and the health of your church.

I pray God’s wisdom for your leadership and His favor upon you!

This article was originally published at: danreiland.com

 

A Multicultural Missionary Summer

On July 7-23, 2017 the communities of Cecara and Banegas in Santiago, Dominican Republic were blessed with the Maximum Mission and “4×4: All-Terrain” Global Mission projects hosted by Genesis missionaries Wendy Rivera, Sugey Barron and Joselyn Garcia. The missionaries were also assisted by brothers and sisters in Christ from the USA, Puerto Rico, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Young people from four districts in Dominican Republic participated in the 3 day Maximum Mission project.

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After the Maximum Mission project, a 14 day “4×4: All-Terrain” event was held. This event provided the opportunity for door to door evangelism, visitation of new contacts, a workshop for women called “It is wonderful to be a woman”, another workshop for married couples, VBS,  a talent show, and a movie night where the movie “War Room” was shown.

Nine people from Worthington Church of the Nazarene in the United States collaborated in the first week with the two communities and hosted a VBS. This event received additional support from coordinator Beverly Brown of the Dominican Republic Work and Witness ministry.

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In addition, everyone involved in both the Maximum Mission project and the 4×4: All Terrain event dedicated much of their time to community service, such as home and street cleaning, food and clothing delivery to families in need, conversations about environmental care or personal hygiene, house repair and painting, as well as many sports activities for youth.

In addition to the Genesis missionaries, Angel Meran, Reidyn Amador, Elba Duson, and Cristobal Urbaez from Dominican Republic formed an excellent ministry team.  Kimberly Vazquez, Keneth Robles, Desiree Perez, Diana Cruz, Yolanda Avilez, and Julio Mercado from Puerto Rico also participated in fruitful work, as well as Freya Galindo from Mexico.

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Four Churches of the Nazarene from the Dominican Republic North District – Ingco,  Manahaim, Bella Vista and Cienfuegos – also greatly supported many of the activities.

One of the participants stated, “It was a very blessed time knowing we could impact the two communities where we worked. The people from both communities joined us in some of the ministries such as washing children’s hair and cleaning the streets. As we repaired the houses the two communities also came together to help. In the end, we not only served them; they also served their own community.”

Elba Duson said: “I define this as a project of love, faith and courage…the days in those communities taught me to see Jesus in the face of the children, in the people in real need and in the outcry of affection and love in their faces.”

Written by Adriana Carreon in collaboration with Freya Galindo, Central Field Global Mission Coordinator.

Towards Missional Effectiveness: Analogizing and Applying Missional Effectiveness – Part 7 of 7

By Ed Stetzer

Yo-Yos, newer churches, and established churches

Missional effectiveness begins with a biblical understanding of the message and movement of the missio Dei, which hopefully leads a church to become a missional people who embrace a missional posture and who enact a missional program.

So, how does this series about missional effectiveness apply to the local church today? My goal in this post is to answer this question with an analogy and application.

Analogy of a Fully-Orbed Mission

When we think of becoming a missionally effective church—whether we are a newer or established church—picture a yo-yo in motion.

  • The string is the mission (since it is the string being advanced).
  • The yo-yo (circular ball) is the church that has a centripetal and centrifugal movement (weight) that moves outward and inward.
  • The finger within the circular string represents a church held and captivated by mission. [Note: A church outside the string, not captivated and held by the mission, is a church that exists as a monument and not a movement, and according to many missiologists like Lesslie Newbigin isn’t really a church.]

[To get a visual of what a master “yo-yoer” looks like, see this TED video]

Here’s how the analogy works. In a non-movement state, the yo-yo exists as a missional community (people) captivated by mission in its local environment. In this state, it has a strong community held tight by the string (mission).

As the yo-yo is put into motion and begins extending, it manifests the missional mark of sentness (posture). Thus, it signifies a church sent on mission. When the yo-yo reaches its extended state, the yo-yo exhibits the missional mark of multiplication (program), for it becomes a church extending mission to the ends of the earth.

By centrifugally ‘going out,’ the yo-yo has a centripetal force of ‘coming back’ to its established position.

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Application of a Fully Orbed Mission

How do newer and established churches fare in being missionally effective? What follows is a list of the strengths and weaknesses newer and older churches possess with regard to missional effectiveness.

Newer churches tend to have the following strengths:

  • A strong missional program of evangelism and an acute awareness of living sent.
  • A mentality of ‘Go and Tell’ rather than ‘Come and See.’ The reality is that newer churches will not survive if they do not reach people.
  • A passion and vision to reach out to unbelievers and the unchurched. For example, in one study of established churches, there are 3.4 baptisms per one hundred resident members, but new churches average 11.7 baptisms per year. In short, new churches reach new people.
  • A desire to become part of the rhythms of the local community and find ways to serve the community.
  • A flexibility to contextualize to the present culture rather than the culture of two or three decades ago.

However, newer churches tend to have the following weaknesses:

  • A lack of structure and organization. In other words, they tend to have weak community. I have found that many new churches struggle with developing teams, leaders, systems, and processes that help facilitate ministry and mission. They struggle with foundation, and therefore are in need of creating centered-set primary theological boundaries, as well as a solid structure that includes governance, systems, and processes.
  • A lack of macro multiplication. In other words, they tend to never parent another church. While it seems newer churches are better at multiplying in a micro way (making disciples), I would like to see more of them multiply in a macro way (church plants).

Established churches tend to have the following strengths:

  • A strong centripetal pull through the foundation they have laid—usually through their programs, systems, processes, and structures.
  • A solid financial base with resources to fund mission acvity and global missions.
  • A stable, consistent presence in the community. In some cases, the church has become an anchor in the community.

However, established churches tend to have the following weaknesses:

  • A difficulty to multiply in both micro and macro ways. There’s no denying that the majority of established churches in the West are in trouble. Thousands close each year, while others struggle to maintain or slow down the decline. Typically, the longer a church has been established, the more mission drift occurs. Based on research, churches that are not involved in multiplication, especially in church planting, are unhealthier than those who are. Thus, they could use more intentionality in their missional posturing and programming.
  • An inward focus. Many established churches typically have lost sight of the mission. Rather than being motivated by mission, often they are motivated to maintain their traditions, preferences, culture, and systems. They fall into the same trap as the church in Jerusalem; they go overboard on their foundation and end up protecting and preserving their culture and homogeneity at the expense of mission. (Unfortunately, churches often choose maintenance over mission.)
  • Allow a clergification to set in where the paid clergy does all the work while the members sit by consuming and watching.
  • Prohibitive leadership. Although there may be a solid foundation with strong leadership, in some cases, established churches are controlled by what Mark DeVine calls “lay cartels” that act as the powerbrokers of the church that prohibit leadership and mission advancement.

Why do I share all of this? My goal is to show areas where churches exhibit strength while noting areas where churches can improve. My intention in listing the weaknesses isn’t shame, but brutal honesty. If you are a pastor or church leader, it may be helpful to talk through these posts and discuss your church’s strengths and weaknesses.

We live in changing times.

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My goal in this series was to outline how churches today can be missionally effective.

Missional effectiveness begins with an understanding of the message and movement of the missio Dei, which should result in enacting the marks of becoming part of a missional people (community), embodying a missional posture (sentness), and enacting a missional program (multiplication).

In doing so, churches become the effective vehicle of God’s mission, the vehicle that He purchased with the blood of Christ over two thousand years ago.

 

This article was originally posted at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2017/january/towards-missional-effectiveness-analogizing-and-applying-mi.html

 

Towards Missional Effectiveness: The Mark of Multiplication – Part 6 of 7

By Ed Stetzer

Go where people are, make disciples, plant churches.

I’m in a series covering the topic of missional effectiveness. In the previous two posts, I have explained the marks of God’s mission. What I have sought to do is stress the major foci of each mark in an effort to build a visual of the enactment of the message and movement of mission. Today, I’ll cover the missional mark of multiplication.

The Missional Mark of Multiplication Explained 

Thus far, I have attempted to outline the missional marks of community and sentness when the missio Dei is enacted in a local church. But there is one more missional mark that is enacted when the church embraces the totality of God’s mission, and that mark is multiplication.

Multiplication is used by God to advance His mission throughout the world. While the impulse of multiplication is hinted at in the OT in places like Genesis 1:28 (“be fruitful and multiply”), Genesis 15:5 (Abraham’s infinite number of offspring), and Jeremiah 29:6, it becomes very clear in the New Testament.

The missional mark of multiplication, particularly in the New Testament, rests upon Matthew 28:18–20, Acts 1:8, Acts 9:15, and Romans 15:20. In these passages, it is clear that God’s mission extends outward to the nations—to those who have not heard the gospel.

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The Apostle Paul clearly understood this. In fact, Paul saw God’s global mission connected to an aspect of God’s covenant with Abraham. Paul writes to the churches of Galatia, “Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and told the good news ahead of time to Abraham, saying, all the nations will be blessed through you” (Gal. 3:8). 

By understanding the mission of God as being directed towards the nations, Paul implemented a missions strategy that included targeting populated urban centers, evangelizing the city (micro multiplication), and planting and establishing churches (macro multiplication).

According to Eckhard Schnabel, there are [at least] fifteen phases or locations of Paul’s missionary work that took place in 35 years between his conversion (31/32 AD) and his death in Rome (67 AD). During those years, Paul had three missionary journeys.  As Paul went to the nations, he would go to their cities.

Tim Keller asserts that part of Paul’s mission strategy included going to the largest cities of the region. Very seldom do we see Paul navigating away from cities. It seems Paul believed that cities were where the potential for gospel impact and gospel multiplication would be greatest. Alvin Reid expresses that if churches reach the cities, they’ll reach the world. 

It seems that Paul thought that as well.

Once in the city Paul did at least two things: evangelized people and planted churches. Paul evangelized through preaching at the local synagogues, participating in small group Bible studies, meeting people in the marketplaces, renting halls and lecturing, and engaging people in his profession (tent-making). As he made disciples, he would then plant and establish churches.

Keller summarizes Paul’s missional engagement with the cities in this way:

When Paul began meeting with them [converts], they were called ‘disciples’ (Acts 14:22), but when he left them, they were known as ‘churches’ (see Acts 14:23). To put it simply, the multiplication of churches is as natural in the book of Acts as the multiplication of individuals. 

As seen in the life of Paul, multiplication requires intentionality. It requires going to where people are, sharing the good news of Jesus, and planting and establishing self-supported, self-governing, and self-propagating churches.

The Missional Mark of Multiplication Exemplified

The church in Antioch exemplifies the missional mark of multiplication. They multiplied exponentially in Antioch—reaching both Jews and Gentiles. Not only did they multiply in Antioch, but they also reached beyond their city. Antioch became the first sending church by sending the first missionaries and becoming the first church-planting church (Acts 13:1–3). Simply put, they became a multiplying church.

The missional mark of multiplication is really the missional program of the Early Church. The end result of the missional program of the church is found in Revelation 5:9 and 7:9, where John sees a vision of God’s people being from every tribe and language and people and nation. Thus, for a church to be missionally effective, it must become a multiplying church—going to where people are, making disciples (micro multiplication), and planting churches (macro multiplication).

 

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

 

Towards Missional Effectiveness: The Mark of Sentness – Part 5 of 7

By Ed Stetzer

God’s mission involves sending. But what does God send His people to do? 

I’m in a blog series covering the topic missional effectiveness. In the previous post, I started to explain the marks of God’s mission, beginning with the missional mark of community.

Today, I’ll cover the missional mark of sentness.

The Missional Mark of Sentness Explained and Exemplified

God’s mission has a dual movement—it moves centripetally and centrifugally. Thus, God’s mission isn’t static—it’s active.

One of the active characteristics of God’s mission is the notion of sentness. God establishes this pattern early in redemptive history. He goes to Adam and Eve, sends Abraham to the Promised Land, Moses to Egypt, Jonah to the Ninevites, Israel to Babylon, Jesus to the world, the Spirit to the Church, and the Church to the nations.

Clearly, God’s mission involves sending. But what does God send His people to do? Taking into account passages such as Genesis 1–2, Genesis 12:1–3, Jeremiah 29:1–7, Matthew 5:13–16, and Jesus’ sentness, the missional community of God is sent in the world to do at least two things.

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  1. God’s missional community is sent to be faithful in all areas of life.

This point dives deeper into the community’s obedience to the word of God in all areas of life. While I don’t have space to look at all of the verses above, let me note Jeremiah 29:1–7 to explain this idea.

Some may wonder, why use this passage?

Wasn’t Israel taken into captivity because of their sin? Yes, Israel finds themselves in Babylon because of their sin. However, we read in Jeremiah 29:4, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon….”

So, God has intentionally sent them into Babylonian exile. And in the proceeding verses we learn why He sent them.

God sent them to live in Babylon as if they were living in Jerusalem. Israel was to build houses, have families, plant gardens, and to multiply in exile. In other words, they were to live in Babylon as if they were living in Jerusalem. Since faithfulness was to be a mark of the people of God in the Promised Land, faithfulness was also to be a mark of the people of God in the foreign land.

Israel’s faithfulness would display a life that revolved around the glory and life of God. Greg Forster identifies this aspect as the joy of God being displayed through the life of a believer. As a result, Forster writes,

That embedded joy will not consist simply of a changed attitude. Our actions will change. In our families, we will act differently as sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, fathers, or mothers. In our workplaces and other economic relationships we will act differently as employees, employers, managers, co-workers, students, teachers, clients, customers, or vendors. In our communities, we will act differently as friends, neighbors, members, or participants.

In addition, Israel’s faithfulness would lead them to operate as the city of God within the city of man. I love what Tim Keller says to this point. He writes,

Every city has two cities, the city of God and the city of man. Every city contains a smaller city, the city of God. The city of God is the people of God who forms an alternative city. What does that city look like? The Sermon on the Mount tells us. Christians are to take sex, money, [work], and power and instead of using them the way the city of man uses them, they are to use them the way God intended.

This leads me to my second point.

  1. God’s missional community is sent to bless the city spiritually, socially, and culturally.

As God’s people demonstrated the life of God and lived as the city of God, they were to seek the blessing and flourishing of the city of man.Interestingly, God doesn’t tell them to assimilate, withdraw, or seek the total transformation of the Babylonian culture (the city of man); he simply tells them, in their faithfulness, to seek the prosperity and shalom (human flourishing) of the city and to pray for it to thrive.

Essentially, God sent Israel to Babylon for the sake of His glory and for the good of the city. Keller puts it this way,

[God sends his people] to be used in life giving ways. The way you bear witness of God’s city is to go into the city for the city’s sake. The citizens of the city of God are the very best citizens of the city of man because they do not move in to assimilate, to use the city for their gains, or to move in for their own tribe, but they move in for the sake of the city.

As a reminder, the Babylonians were a polytheistic, pagan, ruthless, and violent people. In other words, they were dead in their trespasses and sins. Yet, God tells His people to live and pray towards their flourishing and peace. But what does that look like? Once again, without being exhaustive,

I believe people like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego function as examples of what it means to live faithfully and bless the city.

These men served the empire civilly. In their service, they demonstrated the tension of living faithfully for the city of God while striving to serve the city of man. From their service, they exhibited at least three ways God’s people can bless the city of man.

First, they blessed the city spiritually by maintaining spiritual fidelity to God in the face of temptation.

In other words, they loved God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. All of these men faced the temptation to bow down to a cultural idol, yet they chose to be faithful to the supremacy of God. As a result, many people were convinced of the truth of YHWH.

God’s people cannot bless the city spiritually by living unfaithful lives. When our words and witness line up, we exhibit an alternative plausibility reality for which the world needs to see.

Second, they blessed the city socially by having a humble and gracious disposition towards those in authority and in the larger culture.

They did not complain, grumble, or react unkindly towards those whom either had spied them out or who had treated them unfairly. Another way to look at it is that they loved others. When we exhibit grace and mercy towards others, we once again put the city of God on display for the world to see.

Third, they blessed the city culturally by doing their job with integrity, excellence, and skill.

They worked vocationally as if they were working for the Lord. The king recognizes their faith, character, integrity, and skill and honors their God and gives them a promotion. As the people of God work in a manner that reflects the glory of God, they exhibit a work ethic that surpasses (or should surpass), the work ethic of the city of man.

By embedding themselves in the larger culture and living faithful lives for the glory of God, they inevitably bless the city in spiritual, social, and cultural ways. As a result of the presence of God’s people and their participation in the culture, the city was better off. This reminds me of the question which many church leaders and churches ask themselves: If they were to one day cease to exist, would their community take notice and miss them?

In sum, the missional mode of sentness speaks of the church (and individuals) having a missional posture. Thus, missional effectiveness requires churches to teach, train, and equip believers towards a faithful presence where planted so that they may be used as God’s temple to reflect His radiant glory in all areas of life as He works through them to bless others spiritually, socially, and culturally.

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

 

This article was originally posted at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2017/january/towards-missional-effectiveness-mark-of-sentness-part-5.html

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