The Church Gathered and the Church Scattered

2 Corinthians 5:18-21

18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled[1] [to settle accounts – as in a bank statement] us to Himself through Christ [who paid our debt – the cross is where God’s justice and God’s mercy kiss] and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word [logos, or doctrine] of reconciliation.

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors [diplomats, emissaries, representatives] for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us [sometimes the best way to “preach” to someone is to listen to them]; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him [THAT is the gospel – Jesus lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died. We don’t live in our own strength – we live IN Him – or His strength].

Did you know that there are currently 38,000 Pro-test-ant[2] denominations?  Catholics have multiple orders (Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, etc.), but have managed to stay under the umbrella of Rome.

I. INTRO

I’d like to speak with you today about the Church GATHERED and the Church SCATTERED.  First, the nerdy Stuff…

  • Ecclesia (Latin) Greek – κκλησί, meaning “congregation” or “church.” The literal translation is “called out ones.”
  • Ecclesiology – Refers to the theological study of the Christian Church.

1. Who is the Church? (Not What…?) It is the body of all believing, or confessing, Christians.  SBF is a unique expression of the larger Body of Christ.

2. What is the authority of the Church?

  • Jesus is the head of the body, the Church (Col 1:18)
  • Jesus is the Senior Pastor. 1 Peter 5:4 identifies Jesus as the “Chief Shepherd.” [A church in transition shouldn’t get a pastor until they don’t really need one.]
  • The Bible is our highest and final authority. Sola Scriptura, not solo Scriptura.

3. What is the relationship between a believer and the Church? As believers we are to submit ourselves to Jesus – the Head and Chief Shepherd of the Church.  There are three overlapping commitments that make up a healthy and vibrant church experience:

  • Celebration (Worship)
  • Congregation (Identity needs met) Acts 2:42-47

42 “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

  • Cell (Intimacy and accountability needs met)

James 5:16: Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.”

4. How should the Church be governed?

8 Therefore it says, “WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH,
HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES,
AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.”  9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers [also add elders and deacons], 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,

5. What does the Church do?  The church exists in two modes:

  • We gather for worship.
  • We scatter for mission.

II. BODY

We will now take a deeper look at what it means to gather for worship and scatter for mission

  • Gather for worship
  • Requires purposeful participation — moving from passive observation to active participation.

(Our identity) Eph 1: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself…”

Even before He made the world God chose you and adopted you, it gave Him great pleasure, God loved, chose, and adopted you.  You are His unique and special possession.

This is what we need to see: Coming is not an event; it is the fulfillment of God’s prehistoric (pre-history) desire.  God created Adam and Eve – it was good.  God wanted to be with people… (Some of you don’t even want to be with people J)

OT – they built a Tabernacle because God wanted to meet with His people.

It’s not our desire – it’s God’s desire – made possible by the blood of Jesus.  Church is not primarily about us – it’s primarily about God.

**We gather to, for, and around Jesus.

Our being here is all about Him – and sometimes competes with our expectations, needs, and desires.

Jesus is the head, the goal, chief shepherd – He’s the Sr. Pastor. He owns and loves the Church. He’s the object our worship, our preaching, and our mission.

The church is all about Him.  It’s not about music or the preaching – although, hopefully they are both focused on worshiping Jesus.

The music and the sermon are BOTH acts of worship (difference between a lecture and a sermon… “if people are taking notes at the end of a sermon it might not BE a sermon…”

If your Christianity is just about going to church then you don’t have Christianity, you have “Churchianity.”

Exalting only Jesus – giving all of our attention to Jesus

Sometimes it’s a sacrifice of praise (Hebs)

Our destination is always Jesus – give ourselves and assume a posture of personal humility, worship, and prayer.

Christ is present and available.

Ps 116:  1 I love the LORD because he hears my voice
and my prayer for mercy.
2 Because he bends down to listen,
I will pray as long as I have breath!
3 Death wrapped its ropes around me;
the terrors of the grave overtook me.
I saw only trouble and sorrow.
4 Then I called on the name of the LORD:
“Please, LORD, save me!”
5 How kind the LORD is! How good he is!
So merciful, this God of ours!
6 The LORD protects those of childlike faith;
I was facing death, and he saved me.
7 Let my soul be at rest again,
for the LORD has been good to me.
8 He has saved me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling.
9 And so I walk in the LORD’s presence
as I live here on earth!
10 I believed in you, so I said,
“I am deeply troubled, LORD.”
11 In my anxiety I cried out to you,
“These people are all liars!”
12 What can I offer the LORD
for all he has done for me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and praise the LORD’s name for saving me.
14 I will keep my promises to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.

15 The LORD cares deeply
when his loved ones die.
16 O LORD, I am your servant;
yes, I am your servant, born into your household;
you have freed me from my chains.
17 I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of the LORD.
18 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people—
19 in the house of the LORD
in the heart of Jerusalem.

Praise the LORD!

Scatter for mission

The term “missional church” may be a new term for you.  Here is the main idea:  We serve a missionary God, who crossed the ultimate cultural contexts to become one of us.  Jn 1:14 (MSG) The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.

The Father sent the Son, the Son sent the Holy Spirit – and the Holy Spirit sends us.

Attractional model vs. a missional model.  In the end we want both.

What we are seeking to accomplish here at SBF can be defined as a “missional reorientation.”

At a very deep level we are redefining success:  It’s not about the 3 B’s (building, budget, and butts); it’s about how many people are we training and sending to be missionaries in their unique spheres of relationships.

Mat 28:18-20: 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Three things:

  1. All authority has been given to Jesus – and He is with us/you always. Our responsibility is basically twofold: a) stack kindling and b) splash (preach).  (D.L. Moody – At any moment we ought to be willing to preach, pray, or die.)
  2. “Go therefore” (Go ye) is the mission of the church.  Are we a “come ye” church, or a “go ye” church?
  3. Make disciples.  I’d like you to view every single person in your various spheres of relationship as a disciple…

[1] To “change or exchange” – it is God moving from hostility to friendship. Reconciliation is what God accomplishes, exercising His grace towards sinful humankind because of the sacrificial death of Christ in propitiatory [or appeasing] sacrifice under the judgment due to sin.

[2] The quotation “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” comes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act III, scene II. The phrase has come to mean that one can “insist so passionately about something not being true that people suspect the opposite of what one is saying.”

Start A Community Group!!

Community Groups:

One of the goals of this transition season at Southside is to see multiple groups of individuals and families sharing life together and living life on mission – serving the city and each other. We are seeking to be theological, relational, and missional. This can occur in multiple ways.

Community Groups will be a venue in which believers and unbelievers alike can gather together to dialogue about what is being taught in our Sunday gatherings. There are at least four integral components of a community group: 1) Worship – to meet with God and to know Him is our highest priority. 2) Conversational Prayer and Mutual Ministry – having a conversation together with God is an essential way to build unity; first by praising God and then by praying in response to the needs expressed. 3) Application of the Bible – we will seek not just to talk about the Bible, or about each other. Rather, we want our groups to seek to be transformed by the truth of the Gospel. So we will do our best to apply the truths learned to our everyday lives. 4) Sharing a Life – there’s nothing like an honest testimony to illustrate what is being taught.  When a person shares with the group, s/he feels more a part of the group. The objective of the leader is not to be the authority or even the teacher, but the guide.

Also, Community Groups are missional communities that will act as missionary teams, seeking the good of their unchurched family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. They will be concerned with praying for and serving their sphere of relationships in such a way as to let them know that we are Christ’s disciples because we love one another.

Finally, and most simply stated, our community groups are networks of Christ-centered relationships. They are friends seeking to learn how to “speak the truth in love” to one another. They spend time together, meet one another’s needs, watch one another’s kids, bear one another’s burdens, encourage one another, challenge one another, hold one another accountable, rejoice with one another, weep with one another, correct one other, be corrected by one another.

This is gospel community. It is not natural. It is not easy. It is messy. It can be frustrating. But it is good, and it will change you.

Gathering for Worship:

This is perhaps what most people think of as “Going to Church.” Church, however, is not an event, or a ceremony – it is people. Those who have been saved by God’s grace have been saved into God’s family, into a community. So it is only natural for local pockets of this family to come together and celebrate what God has done in Jesus. We come together to celebrate the truth of the gospel and to rehearse the gospel by singing it, praying it, hearing it preached, and seeing it in communion and (God-willing) baptism. We come together to encourage and be equipped for lives on mission. Expect mostly expositional preaching (verse by verse through books of the bible), seeking to exalt Christ and unpack the gospel in every text. Expect communion often, if not every week, (we like remembering the gospel as many times in as many ways as possible.) Expect to be told the truth – no pulled punches. We won’t “Go to church.” The Church will gather.

Discipleship (Life-Long Learning)

We believe that gospel-centered (or Christ-centered) living will make us desperate for theology and that our worship gathering will whet your appetite for theology. However we see a huge need for an ever-increasing understanding of our faith. We live in an age of skepticism and relativity. In many places Christ and the church have been pushed to the margins of society instead of existing at the center. We believe that Christianity is a relational worldview that is complex, beautiful, and meaningful. We believe that if we are going to be effective missionaries we must understand our Bibles, love what it teaches, and proclaim its contents. We all have a lot to learn, and we envision venues within Southside that will take time to work through learning the central truths of our faith.

The Person and Ministry of the Holy Spirit

I. INTRO

Today we are studying the Person and ministry of the Holy Spirit.  We want to establish an ongoing theological[1] dialogue (vs. discussion).

Picture a continuum:

  • On one end of the continuum is what John MacArthur has called, “Charismatic Chaos.”
  • On the other end of the continuum is 2 Tim 3:5 – holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.”

We don’t want to base our theology and practice solely on what we’re against, but what we are for – what we can embrace theologically.

My personal core values (unapologetically): As an active intentional follower of Christ, as a husband, as a father, as a grandfather, as a pastor, as a friend/mentor/coach:

  1. Theological – The study (and subsequent worship) of God is our highest calling.
  2. Relational – We are to love God, one another, and “seek the welfare of our city.”
  3. Missional – We serve a missionary God and we are called to be on mission with Him.

What will be our guidelines for theological engagement at SBF?

We want to work with what the Bible clearly and plainly teaches (today we will, eventually, consider the biblical phrase: baptism of the Holy Spirit).

First, I would like to define some terms:

Three primary (and overlapping) theological camps in U.S. Protestantism:[2] Fundamentalism (“orthodoxy in confrontation with modernity” -James Davison Hunter), Evangelicalism ( Biblicism, Christocentrism, Crucicentrism, Conversionism, Activism),[3] and Liberalism (individualism, ecumenism, empericalism, skepticism, anthropological optimism, rationalism, ethicalism, social idealism, immanencism). Within Evangelicalism there is also three main camps (think of them as state boarders vs. national boarders…):

1.  Dispensationalism  –

Sees God as structuring His relationship with humankind through several stages of revelation. Each dispensation amounts to a “test” of humankind to be faithful to the particular revelation given at the time.

Dispe1nsationalism holds to a literal meaning behind all the figurative passages.

As a result of this literal interpretation of Scripture, dispensationalism holds to a distinction between Israel (even believing Israel) and the church. On this view, the promises made to Israel in the OT were not intended as prophecies about what God would do spiritually for the church, but will literally be fulfilled by Israel itself (largely in the millennium). For example, the promise of the land…

2.  Covenant Theology

Covenant theology believes that God has structured His relationship with humanity by covenants rather than dispensations. Old Covenants (OT) and the New Covenant (NT). These covenants are not new tests, but are rather differing administrations of the single, overarching covenant of grace.

Adam sinned and broke the initial, or old, covenant, and thereby subjected himself and all his descendants to the penalty for covenant-breaking — which is condemnation.

God in His mercy instituted the “covenant of grace,” through Jesus Christ, which is the promise of redemption and eternal life to those who would believe in the (coming) redeemer.

3.  New Covenant Theology

The essential difference between New Covenant Theology (NCT) and Covenant Theology (CT) concerns the Mosaic Law. CT holds that the Mosaic Law can be divided into three groups of laws: a) civil law, b) ceremonial law, and c) moral law. According to CT the ceremonial law and civil law are no longer in force because they were fulfilled in Jesus, but the moral law continues.

NCT argues that we cannot divide the law up in that way – so, the whole Mosaic Law is canceled by the coming of Christ (Christ Event) and is no longer binding on the believer.  The Mosaic Law has been replaced by the law of Christ.  Love God and love your neighbor as your self.  Proponents of NCT might say something like, “Love God with all your heart, mind, and soul – and do whatever you want…”  They may also quote 1 Cor 6:12: All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable.”

Do we have to choose one — Dispensational, Covenant, or New Covenant?? No, it’s just good to be aware of these distinctions as we build a theological framework.  Can we achieve doctrinal certainty?  Not completely on this side of eternity.  God and theology are much deeper and more mysterious that we could ever hope to grasp.

Having said that, the Five Solas are five Latin phrases (or slogans) that emerged from the Protestant Reformation that are intended to summarize the Reformers’ basic theological principles in contrast to certain teachings of the Roman Catholic Church of the day. “Sola” is Latin meaning “alone” or “only” and the corresponding phrases are:

  • Sola Fide, by faith alone.
  • Sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone.
  • Solus Christus, through Christ alone.
  • Sola Gratia, by grace alone.
  • Soli Deo Gloria, glory to God alone.

These solas will hold us in good stead as we refurbish our theological base during this transition season.  Can we move toward doctrinal clarity?  Yes!

4.  Eschatology — Greek éschato: last + -logy. 

We do not need to get caught-up in the rapture debate.

Mat 24:44 – “For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.”

As a church we will teach people to endure tribulation – and if Jesus come early, it won’t matter.

We will encourage our congregation to read Revelation devotionally.  Encounter the risen Christ in Rev 1…

5.  Holy Spirit Empowered Gifts

Cessationism – The spiritual gifts, primarily those listed in 1 Cor 12:4-11, have ceased.  The key verse is 1 Cor 13:10 —  but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.”

1 Cor 14:1: “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.”

James 5:14-15: “Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.”

While fear of a loss of control or emotionalism my drive some cessationists, their overwhelming desire is to protect the unique authority of the Bible and to protect the closed canon and not to have anything compete with Scripture in authority in our lives.

Continuationism – All the gifts are for today.  Consider  the context: 1 Cor 11, 12, 13, & 14…

II.  BODY

The Person of the Holy Spirit

“The Trinity: God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God.  -Wayne Grudem

“In no other subject is error more dangerous, or inquiry more laborious, or the discovery of truth more profitable.”  –Augustine, On The Trinity[4]

C.S. Lewis described the Trinity as a “dance” saying, “God is not a static thing…but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost…a kind of dance.”[5]

Tim Keller elaborates on this concept in the Reason for God in Chapter 14 – The Dance of God.[6]

The early leaders of the Greek NT church had a word for this – perichoresis.  Notice the root of our word ‘choreography’ within it. It means literally to “dance or flow around.”

The Father…Son…and Holy Spirit glorify each other…At the center of the universe, self-giving love, joy, delight – perfect fellowship is the dynamic currency of the Trinitarian life of God. The persons (not personalities) within the God-Head exalt, commune with, and defer to one another…

When early Greek Christians spoke of perichoresis in God they meant that each divine person harbors the others at the center of His being. In constant movement of overture and acceptance each person envelops and encircles the others.

When Jesus died for you He was, and is, inviting you into the dance…when we discern Jesus moving toward us and encircling us with infinite, self-giving love, we are invited to put our lives on a whole new foundation…

Since the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity and is true and eternal God, then we must invoke, worship, and serve the blessed Holy Spirit, even as we do God the Father and God the Son.

Jesus taught us to do this in Mat 28:19 (The Great Commission): Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

Now let’s consider the phrase “baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit is to be more than a doctrine.  The Holy Spirit is to be experienced.

Gordon Fee wrote, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul.  It’s 992 pages; Fee highlights, analyzes, exegetes, and summarizes every mention of the Holy Spirit in Paul’s writings. Pneumatology (the study of the Holy Spirit).

His findings can be reduced to three words:  “God’s empowering presence.”

Fee concludes that, for Paul, the Holy Spirit was more real and evident than we can possibly imagine in our day and age, the vital and experienced presence of the Holy Spirit was an assumed reality.

How do we experience the Holy Spirit?  Gal 5 is about “walking in the Holy Spirit.”  Paul says in the first 12 verses that they have opted for legalism (or moralism).

Then in verses 13-14 Paul lays it out: “…but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”  Paul takes them back to the Great Commandment: Love God with your whole heart, soul, and mind – and love your neighbor as yourself.”

And then here is the evidence of the Holy Spirit…Paul calls it “fruit.”  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23).

The baptism of the Holy Spirit means to be immersed in the Holy Spirit.  No power, no Spirit.  (Holy Spirit power is different than will-power.)

Four Reasons Why It Is Appropriate To Expect To Experience the Holy Spirit Baptism:[7]

1.  Terminology — The very term “baptized in the Holy Spirit” implies an immersion in the life of the Spirit. (Refer to hand out…)

2.  Power, Boldness, and Confidence

Jesus says in Acts 1:5 and 8 that baptism in the Holy Spirit means, “You shall receive power…and you shall be my witnesses.”

This is an experience of holy boldness, confidence, and victory over sin.

A Christian without power is a Christian who needs a baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Eph 5:18 – we are to be continually and regularly “filled with the Holy Spirit.”  The verb filled has an imperative mood meaning it is a command and addresses the volition and the will.  Why?  Because we leak…

There is no reason to think that for Paul the baptism in the Holy Spirit was limited to the initial moment of conversion. And for sure in the book of Acts the baptism in the Holy Spirit is more than a subconscious divine act of regeneration—it certainly seems to be a conscious experience of power (Acts 1:8).

3.  The Testimony of Acts — In Acts the Holy Spirit is not a silent influence but an experienced power. Believers experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit. They didn’t just believe it happened because an apostle said so.

4.  It Is The Result of Faith

The fourth reason we should stress the experience of baptism in the Holy Spirit is that in Acts the apostles teach that it is a result of faith.

In Acts 11:15–17 Peter reports how the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius just as on the disciples at Pentecost. “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized in water, but you shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us, when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I should withstand God?” 

Notice that the gift of the Spirit, or baptism in the Holy Spirit, is preceded by faith. The NASB correctly says in v. 17 that God gave the Holy Spirit after they believed.

How to Receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit.[8]  Peter’s instructions for how to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38–41…

1.  The Word of God Must Be Heard.  Peter has preached that in God’s plan Jesus was crucified, raised, and exalted as Lord over all the universe and that forgiveness of sin and spiritual renewal can be had from Him. God’s Word has been heard.

2.  God Must Call People To Himself.

The sovereign God must call men and women to himself, or we will never come. Verse 39: “The promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, everyone to whom the Lord our God calls to him.”

No one comes to faith in Christ unless the Father draws him (John 6:44, 65). The proclaimed gospel is heard with conviction and power only when the effectual call of God lays hold on the hearers.

3.  We Must Receive the Word.

Third, we must “receive the word.” Verse 41: “So those who received his word were baptized.”

Receiving the Word means that it becomes part of us so that we trust the Christ it presents.

  • We trust His provision for your forgiveness.
  • We trust His path for your life.
  • We trust His power to help you obey.
  • And we trust His promises for your future.

Radical commitment to Christ always involves repentance—a turning away from your own self-wrought provisions, paths, powers, and promises. And when we really turn to Christ for new paths, power, we open yourself to the Holy Spirit, because it is by His Spirit that Christ guides and empowers.

4.  We Express Our Faith Through Water Baptism.

Finally, we give an open confession and expression of faith in the act of water baptism (full immersion – like with the Holy Spirit, do you want to be sprinkled or immersed?) in obedience to Jesus Christ.

Baptism was the universal experience of all Christians in the New Testament. There were no unbaptized Christians after Pentecost. Christ had commanded it (Matthew 28:18f.) and the church practiced it. So we do today.

III. CONCLUSION

Finally, let’s affirm and critique the Charismatic and Pentecostal Movements:

Affirmation:

The most positive thing about the moderate Charismatic/Pentecostal teaching is that it is theologically appropriate to stress the experiential reality of receiving the Holy Spirit.

When we read the NT honestly, we can’t help but notice a BIG difference from a lot of our contemporary Christian experience.

For them the Holy Spirit was a fact and reality of experience.  For many Christians today it is only a fact of doctrine.  The Charismatic renewal has something to teach us here.

Critique:

That the unity of their fellowship is too often based around their experience – not theology.

Whether Paul sought to bring encouragement or correction to the churches in the NT, he wrote theological essays… Paul generally spends the first half of his letters laying out theology and the second half he describes how to implement, or engage, the theology.

When Paul wanted to go to the church in Rome and develop them into a missional sending church (for his intention to travel to Spain), what did he write?  Theology.  Experience is the fruit of biblical theology, not the goal.  Our impatience tends to confuse fruit for goals (e.g., love, joy, peace, etc. cannot be pursued on their own accord, they are the “fruit” of the settled presence of Christ in our hearts/lives).

This brings me to my second critique:  The gifts of the Holy Spirit were given for the purpose of mission and not personal gratification.  One good description of the kingdom of God is:  speaking the words of Jesus and doing the works of Jesus.  Words and works help to make the invisible kingdom visible.

We serve a missionary God:

The Father sent the Son, the Son sent the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit sends you.

The ministry of the Holy Spirit is, basically, 4-fold: He 1) Saves, 2) Seals, 3) Sanctifies, and 4) Sends.

My prayer for us as a community of believers: “That we would experience Jesus Christ, the sovereign, risen, living, Lord of the universe; and that He would continue to become THE source and content of our real hope and joy.”

This coming Sunday:  Beatitudes.  Read Matthew 5:1-12.  See you then!!


[1] Theology means the study of God.

[2] Protestant Reformation – Martin Luther is regarded as the primary catalyst when he nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door at Wittenberg for the in 1517.  (While Pope Leo was corrupt, the upshot of Luther’s theses was that followers of Christ are saved by grace alone, through faith alone.)

[3] Triperspectivalism (cut-and-paste this word and search for it on this blog and you will find an article).

[4] Book 1.3.5.

[5] Mere Christianity: 136.

[6] Pgs 214-221.

[7] Adapted from John Piper.

[8] Also adapted from John Piper.

“Seeking the welfare” of the city of Manchester…

Below is an excellent quote from Howard Snyder that helps us to distinguish between church and kingdom.  We have started to learn the difference at Southside…

Basically kingdom ministry is the goal and and church becomes the fruit, or receptacle, of kingdom ministry.  What is kingdom ministry?  One of the most basic of definitions is: speaking the words and doing the works of Jesus.  Jesus spoke truth at all times, and His words emanated from a heart filled with of deep compassion, empathy, and unconditional love.  The works of Jesus include loving, serving, feeding, prayer for healing, washing feet, speaking the truth in love, a sensitivity to the heart of the Father, etc.  Someone has humorously stated that, “Jesus came to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

Here’s what Paul told the Corinthians:

“For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?”  1 Corinthians 5:12

Our goal and motivation with outsiders is to speak and act in such a way as to point them to a loving Creator God who is alive and available for an intimate relationship.  (Who wouldn’t want that!?!?)  Notice there is judgement for those of us inside the church.  The Greek word is krinō and it basically means “to call into question” (see also Acts 23:6, 24:21).  There is accountability for our actions as members of God’s Church.

Kingdom is a gospel word — along with grace and cross.  It’s when we hold these three gospel words in appropriate tension that we engage the appropriate biblical expression of the Gospel (e.g. kingdom and grace without the cross will lead us into pluralistic liberalism, kingdom and cross without grace will lead us into moralistic legalism).

With all this in mind consider Snyder’s words:

“The church gets in trouble whenever it thinks it is in the church business rather than the kingdom business. In the church business, people are concerned with church activities, religious behavior in spiritual things. In the kingdom business, people are concerned with kingdom activities, all human behavior and everything God has made, visible and invisible. Kingdom people see human affairs as saturated with scriptural meaning and kingdom significance. Kingdom people seek first the kingdom of God and its justice; church people often put church work above concerns of justice, mercy and truth. Church people think about how to get people into the church; Kingdom people think about how to get the church into the world. Church people worry that the world might change the church; Kingdom people work to see the church change the world… If the church has one great need, it is this: to be set free for the kingdom of God, to be liberated from itself as it has become in order to be itself as God intends.”[1]

Southside: Lets “go ye…” to Manchester.

If you haven’t already, grab one of those Missional Prayer Guides in the foyer and fill it out (it’s pretty self-explanatory), place it in your Bible, and pull it out a few times a week to pray acquaintances, friends, and family across the page (right to left).  And don’t forget to use a pencil…


[1] Howard A. Snyder. Liberating the Church, The Ecology of Church and Kingdom, Inter-Varsity Press 1983:11.

Gospel Shaped Prayer and Passion (Acts 1:12-14)

Series: Gospel Chronicles: How God Shapes and Builds the Church.  A Study in the Book of Acts Part 1

I.      INTRO

A.   Last week we spoke of some implicit core values that were seeded throughout the first two chapters that helped to shape the Jerusalem church as it launched (which we’ll look at next week).

  1. They valued the kingdom of God.
  2. They valued humility and prayer — and as a result they grabbed a hold of unity.
  3. They valued the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit.
  4. They valued contextualized[1] Gospel presentations.
  5. They valued honest, and straight-forward Gospel presentations
  6. They valued an outward missional focus.
  7. They valued discipleship in the context of authentic community.

B.    Today, in our study of the book of Acts, I’d like for us to consider how we can become people of passionate prayer.  Passion driven…fighting unholy passions or getting in touch with God’s holy passions.

C.    I am going to take a different approach than you have probably heard regarding this subject of prayer.

D.   CS Lewis[2] has this fascinating quote that speaks to the issue of passion:
“Indeed if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires [i.e., passions] not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased” (Weight of Glory pgs 25-26).

E.    Most teaching on prayer focuses on petitionary prayer. Today I would like to focus more on preparing our hearts for petitionary prayer.

F.    We will be looking at 4 passages today:  Acts 1:12-14; Lk 11:2-4; Rom 14:17; & Jer 29:7.

G.   Acts 1:12-14 –  

12Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.

13When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James.

14These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

H.   I’d like to look closely at the phrase, from v. 14, continually devoting themselves to prayer.  (The NIV Bible says, They all joined together constantly in prayer.)  What  does this mean??  Our English Bibles do not do this phrase justice.

I.      There is one Greek word for the phrase, continually devoting themselves.  And that word is HOMOTHUMADON, which comes from two Greek words:

1.     HOMO – meaning same. homo – same; hetero – different

2.     THUMADON – Comes from the Gk word thumos and is often translated as rage or wrath.  There is, however, a noble thumos that burns for the good of others, for God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven, and thus it motivates people to act.  Wrath or rage anger is usually personal; born of envy, self-absorption, or vengence. Thumos is often translated as “spirited” or “passion.” It implies a focused indignation or fight.  (It is also the word we get our English trademarked word Thermos[3] from.)

HOMOTHMUDON is used 10 of its 12 NT occurrences in the Book of Acts.[4]

3.     So, our English translations certainly do not do justice to this volatile Greek word.  We can define HOMTHUMADON as: To be together, to become unified with a passionate fierceness and indignation – it’s a crying out for God’s purpose and order to be established.  (Remember, our battle is NOT against flesh and blood [Eph 6:12] – so the fieriness and indignation is not directed toward people – it speaks more of an attitude of desire.)

4.     Today we are going to ask the question – How does this happen?  How does this come about?

II.    BODY

A.   There are 2 holy passions I’d like for us to consider as we pursue passionate prayer for the upcoming season of fruitful ministry here at Southside…

A PASSION FOR GOD’S NAME TO BE GLORIFIED.

A PASSION TO SEEK THE WELFARE OF OUR CITY.

1.     A PASSION FOR GOD’S NAME TO BE GLORIFIED.

a.     Luke’s shorter version of the Lord’s Prayer

2And He said to them, “When you pray, say:
‘Father, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come’” [Very important words concerning prayer!]

3‘Give us each day our daily bread.
4‘And forgive us our sins,
For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.’

b.     The Lord’s Prayer is a template.  There is both form and spontaneity (like jazz).

c.     Notice how v. 2 is God-focused – or, upward focused and vs. 3-4 begin to teach us about petitionary prayer.  For our purpose today, I’d like to zero-in on vs. 2.

d.     V. 2a — Father, hallowed be Your name

  • We address God as Father (Mat – “Our Father” in a family context)
  • When we pray, we are to begin with God.  Passionate prayer begins with a concern for and a preoccupation with God.
  • When we pray, Hallowed Be Your Name we are both asking for and declaring that God’s reputation, God’s renown, and God’s fame would be set apart esteemed, and honored as holy, — That God’s Name would be worshiped, treasured, and loved.
  • We are speaking (declaring) this both to ourselves.
  • And to our city.  (This is what was going on in the upper room!)
  • May our thoughts and emotions that arise at the mention of Your Name be worthy of God.  We don’t want to treat God lightly, or flippantly.  We don’t want God’s name to be treated as common — or of little consequence.
  • But that God would be primary – and at the center of our hearts and minds.  We seek this for ourselves AND for the people in our city (and around the world).
  • **We don’t need to make bigger commitments regarding prayer, the real need is to believe truer and more lofty thoughts about God…

e.     2b — Your kingdom come…

  • Last week we defined the KOG as the “rule and reign of God.”
    • The Christ Event established the KOG on the earth and it will be consummated when Jesus returns.  (Jesus pulls eternity into the present at stakes it with the Cross.)
    • Meanwhile we have partial but growing access to eternity.  The presence and power of God has been unleashed across the earth. (2 Cor 5:2 [NIV] “Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling…”)
  • We position ourselves for passionate prayer by aligning ourselves with the God’s rule and reign in our lives.  This is also what was happening for those 10 days in the upper room (Acts 1:12-14)
  • When we pray: “Your Kingdom Come,” it’s a prayer that seeks to banish all the other modern day idols from our lives (primarily money, sex, and power).
  • Rom 14:17 – 17For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking [temporal things], but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
    • Gospel fruit – Where God reigns He brings these things into our lives.
    • Righteousness – (It’s like being pregnant – you either are or you aren’t.)  Roms 5 clearly tells us that righteousness is a gift – SO if we are lacking a sense of right standing (before God) there is either poor theology of what God offers us in Jesus OR there is resistance on our part.
    • Peace — Prince of Peace does not rule and reign in your heart?
    • Joy – Perhaps other masters have taken dominion?
    • Christ alone by grace alone, through faith alone (Mat 7:22-23).
  • The primary objective of God’s kingdom is not to get us into heaven, but to get heaven into us… (There are still people to be saved from the wrath of hell.)

f.      So what am I saying about positioning ourselves for passionate prayer?

  • Passionate prayer begins with being God-focused, God-centered.  We don’t begin with our petitions, we begin with God.
  • We ELEVATE, WORSHIP, and GLORIFY the NAME of GOD. (Mission exists because worship doesn’t. –John Piper)
  • SURRENDER (ABANDON) your life to the KING.  God will take your sin (infection) and exchange (Luther) for right standing, peace, and joy.
  • Worship is not about the music – it’s, first and foremost, about the heart.
  • Baptism is important (Anabaptists – 16th century)

2.     A PASSION TO SEEK THE WELFARE OF OUR CITY.

a.     Jeremiah 29:7 — Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’

b.     This verse helps us to refocus toward a KOG orientation.  Church is great, but is not the goal.  Church is the fruit of kingdom activity/ministry.  Kingdom ministry begins with seeking the welfare of the city.

c.     What is our city? In the Bible it was the regional hub.  Paul was urban centric – because he knew if he reached the cities he would reach the culture – and the countryside.  Historians estimate that by 300 AD somewhere between 1/3 to 1/2 the population of the Roman Empire was Christian.

d.     If you want to affect your world for Christ, seek the welfare of Manchester; if you want to affect the nations for Christ, seek the welfare of Manchester (the world is coming to Manchester, is it not?).

e.     The is Missional reorientation taking place in churches around the world.  We will be talking/praying about the more in the coming days – here it is in a nutshell…

  • How churches measure success is being redefined.  From “How do we get people to come?” to “How do we equip and mobilize our people to go?”

f.      You might be saying, “I’m already to busy just trying to keep my head above water!”  The missional question is, “How will we – or how do we – best represent Jesus Christ where God already has us?  Family, friends, neighborhoods, work, clubs, sports.”  Are you good news, bad news, or no news?

III.  CONCLUSION

A.    How do we become people of passionate prayer?  Ask God – individually and corporately – to grow IN us and then THROUGH us:

  1. A PASSION FOR GOD’S NAME TO BE GLORIFIED.
  2. A PASSION TO SEEK THE WELFARE OF OUR CITY.

B.    Next week: Gospel Shaped Mission (Acts 2)


[1] The message never changes, but the methods do.

[2] One of the most prolific and profound Christian authors of the 20th century.

[3] Genericized Trademarks – like Jacuzzi, Cellophane, Google – Thermos is a trademark name for a vacuum flask.

Gospel Shaped Core Values (Overview of Acts 1-2 developing some key core implicit values)

I.     INTRO – Sermon notes from May 8, 2011

A.  Diagnostic weekend – June 9th-12th.

B.  A team of about 7 people will be here to interview as many people from Southside as they can

C.  There will be an all-church meeting on Sun, June 12th where an initial oral report will be presented.

D.  We’ll be asking a lot of you that weekend to come in for an interview and then attend the all-church meeting to participate in the report.

E.  Why study Acts?

  1. Intro Acts Series: The Gospel Chronicles: How God Shapes and Builds the Church.  A Study in the Book of Acts Part 1 – Part 1 (Acts 1-9).
  2. We will be in Acts 1&2 for the next 3 weeks.
  3. In addition to the themes covered in the first few chapters of Acts (that Dana spoke about last week), I can think of at least 3 similarities between Acts 1 and SBF…
  • The Christ followers were a people in transition…as we’ll see, things didn’t turn out the way they expected.
  • In the midst of some anxiety and disappointment, they began to connect the dots and run with a vision they never expected.
  • A relatively few people (120) blossomed into a church that reached its full redemptive purpose.

F.    7 Refocusing questions that we will address here at Southside during this transition season:

  1. Who has God shaped us to be? (Core Values)
  2. Why do we exist as a church? (Biblical Mission)
  3. Where is God leading us in the future? (Fresh Vision)
  4. Whom has God called us to reach? (Ministry Focus)
  5. Which ministry model best facilitates our vision? (Building authentic community)
  6. What ministry goals can we believe God for?
  7. What is our plan for ministry for the next 2-3 years? (Strategic map)

G.    What’s a Core Value?  An enduring belief, a preferred choice.  Core values are the essence of a church’s identity.

  1. Those few, select distinctives that are non-negotiable.
  2. Where is Southside’s God-given potential for greatness?
  3. There is a difference between stated values and practiced values.  Stated values are often religious values that people/churches think they should
    have.  Practiced values are the unique distinctives that a church is actually doing.  Practiced values ask the question, “What are we currently doing that has the potential for greatness?”
  4. There is a difference between implicit values and explicit values.  Implicit values are implied values – while they may be clearly formed or articulated, they are not stated.  Explicit values are definitive and clearly stated.  Churches, with explicit, practiced values know who they are and who they aren’t.  All opportunities for ministry are evaluated in the light of God given values, mission, and vision.

H.   Today we will look at some of the practiced, implicit values that launched the church in Acts.  These implicit values are salted through the first 2 chapters.

I.   We can think of it like a football game – we don’t know what play they called in the huddle, but when they run the play we find out what play was called.

II.   BODY

A.    Implicit Values of Acts (Alternatively known as The Church I Would Join)

1.     They were Kingdom Focused — Acts 1:3 (NAS) “To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.”  

a.     The Kingdom of God – Quite simply is: The rule and reign of God.

  • The KOG is our destination.
  • Jesus established the Kingdom at his first coming and will consummate the Kingdom at his second coming. Jesus reaches into eternity and pulls it into the present – and stakes it into the ground with the Cross.  “We live in the presence of the future.”  “The already and the not yet.” 
  • As we live in the presence of the future there is paradox (seeming contradiction).  We are saved, but working out our salvation; we are sanctified, yet being sanctified; we are healed yet being healed. It’s both present and future
  • One of the most dynamic aspects of the present reality of the KOG, is that within it is the power that raised Jesus from the dead is made available to us.  The Greek word is dunamis – the same word we get “dynamite” from – and which we find in Acts 1:8. 
  • The Church is the fruit of kingdom activity.
  • The demands of the Kingdom are that we repent; we are to place God first, and follow him at any cost.

b.  Kingdom is a gospel word – along with the Cross and Grace that form a theological construct to help us see the under-girding of the gospel throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation:

  • The Cross – Speaks of the Atoning Work of Jesus Christ
    • This is shorthand for the “5-Fold Christ Event”: 1) Virgin Birth, 2) Miraculous Ministry, 3) Degrading Death, 4) Victorious Resurrection, 5) Missional Ascension of Jesus Christ. 
    • Apart from the atoning work of Christ, we would be forever guilty, ashamed, and condemned before God.
    • The way of God is suffering/humility – and then glory.  This is what baptism is supposed to be about – I will die to my previous life and come alive to God – and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • Grace – The unmerited favor of God.  Acceptance is given to us freely at God’s expense.  Martin Luther calls it, “the great exchange.”
    • It’s important that we understand there is common grace and saving grace happens when we take up residence within the KOG.  
    • Definition: All that God is, lavishly poured into you. 
    • Jonathan Edwards speaks of grace as, “the very Holy Ghost dwelling in the soul and acting there as a vital principle.”[1]

2.     They were Humble, Prayerful, & Unified“And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying…14These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.”   Acts 1:13, 14 (NAS)

a.     Humble prayers of confession and repentance before/with God and one another.

b.     Corporate prayer leading to intercession – reminding the Lord of His word/promises.

c.     Unity is a fruit, not a goal

3.     They were Holy Spirit Empowered

1:4Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; 5forJohn baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

2:1,4And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place…4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…

a.     John 4:24 — God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

b.     Eph 5:17-21 –  17So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

18And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, [we apparently need to be continually, or regularly, filled with the HS – Why?  Because we leak!]

19speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;

20always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;

21and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

    c.  Two points

  • (Jn) We are to seek to live in the healthy tension of spirit and truth.
  • (Eph) HS infilling occurs when our hearts are worshipful, when we are grateful, and we walk in mutual submission.

d.  John Piper: “Mission exists because worship doesn’t.” (Supremacy of God In Missions)

4.  They delivered Contextualized Gospel Presentations16No! What you see this morning was predicted centuries ago by the prophet Joel”   Acts 2:15,16 (TLB)

5.  They engaged in Honest/Straightforward Gospel Presentations – Acts 2:23, 36…

23this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

36“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ–this Jesus whom you crucified.”

6.  They were Outward Focused (Missional)“Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”   Acts 2:41 (NIV)

a.     There is a missional refocusing going on in the Church today.
b.     We are all called to be missionaries.  The Father sent the Son, the Son sent the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit send us.
c.     Changing metrics…

7.     They were Intentional About Discipleship and Authentic Community (They lived Community in the context of Discipleship) – Acts 2:42-47

And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.  44And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common;  45and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.  46And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

8.     As a result of living out these values – they were Fruitful

a.     “A sense of awe,” or a healthy fear of the Lord (v.43)

b.     Wonders & signs (v.43)

c.     Community (vs.44-47)

  • Identification
  • Equality
  • Unity
  • Enthusiastic joy
  • Praise
  • Favor with all the people
  • Salvation’s (v.47)

III. CONCLUSION

A.   What does it mean to be Gospel centered? (Or, Christ centered?)

B.    My experience is that the North American Church has lost, or squandered, much of the power – and the breadth of the Gospel.

  1. I have been reminded recently that the Gospel is not advice – it is news.  It is, in fact, the ultimate Good News. Sunday mornings are not the place to give advice.
  2. Gospel-centered ministry is rooted in remembrance.  On Sunday mornings we are to remind one another primarily of what Jesus Christ has done, not what we must do.

C.    Many of us have tended to view the Gospel a message that we responded to many years ago – and then moved on from.  Yet the Gospel is more like an ocean.  It is deep, and wide, and vast.

  1. We are called to view, and engage, and respond to the gospel with every passage of Scripture we read, or study.
  2. I would suggest that the essence of Christian maturity is when the Gospel itself gets worked in – and through our lives.
  3. Here is my goal for you – and for Southside: My aim is that you would experience Jesus (my goal for you is experiential) as the sovereign, risen, living, Lord of the universe – and as the source and the content of your real hope and joy. Two things are necessary:
  • God’s liberating truth
  • God’s liberating grace.

4.  What is the evidence of salvation?

  • Fruitfulness
  • What is your deepest desire?
  • True Christians have conflicted desires to be sure.  True Christians struggle, and sin, and mess up – to be sure. Yet, the deepest desire of the true Christian is for Jesus and the unfolding of the gospel.
  • Non-Christians – and you could say false Christians also have conflicted desires, yet their deepest desire is for themselves, or for ease, or comfort – something other than the person of Jesus Christ.  (The simplest definition of idolatry is making a good thing an ultimate thing.)

Next week: Persistent and Passionate Prayer (Acts 1: 13-14).


[1] Jonathan Edwards, TREATISE ON GRACE.

The Missional Reorientation of the Church

I was recently a part of a diagnostic team that conducted an in-depth analysis of a church on the east coast. One of the important recommendations is for them to turn outward in some fresh new ways. The following article will be included in the final report as an appendix resource…

Missional means adopting the posture of a missionary, learning and adapting to the culture around you while remaining biblically sound. (from Planting Missional Churches by Ed Stetzer)

For the church, the concept of maintenance is the one-word summary of the Christendom church paradigm that has been in place for some 1,710 years since Constantine became Roman emperor[1]and made Christianity the “state religion.” In Western Christendom, the church existed in a friendly environment and occupied the seat of influence, if not power. Today the church has been marginalized, pushed to the edge of western society.[2] The good news for us as 21st century followers of Christ is that God inspired marginalized people to write the Bible to other marginalized people. This is key, and holds great promise and adventure for us in these days ahead.

Intentionally moving from maintenance mode to missional mode involves a theological reorientation that proactively shifts from an ecclesiocentric[3] understanding of mission to a theocentric[4] reconceptualization of Christian mission.[5] In other words, the church becomes the fruit of missional activity, not the goal. As this new paradigm forms, a radical shift begins as missional praxis (practice) takes on fresh perspective. In this sense missional praxis includes missions–and much more. It brings together evangelism and social action and invites every member of the church to contextualize the gospel of Jesus Christ into the subcultures where our lives are spent beyond the church property – neighborhoods, extended family, the workplace, clubs, and other social groupings. Every member becomes a missionary.

The mission of the church, according to the late missiologist Lesslie Newbigin, is not merely an interpretation of history; it is a history making force.[6] Newbigin also noted, that the real challenge for Christianity is the conversion of a culture. During the Enlightenment there was a shift in the location of reliable truth from the story told in the Bible to the “eternal truths of reason,”[7] of which the mathematical physics of Newton offered the supreme model. These “eternal truths of reason,” required no faith and doubted everything except what could be measured and proved.

This emerging missional perspective is further enhanced by author and professor Charles Van Engen’s definition of mission, “God’s mission works primarily through the people of God as they intentionally cross barriers from Church to non-church, faith to non-faith, to proclaim by word and deed the coming of God in Jesus Christ.”[8]

Each local church becomes a missional community described as the pilgrim people of God who are on a journey towards the fullness of the reign of God.[9] Missional communities of faith no longer see the church service as the primary connecting point with those outside the community (of faith). Connecting with those outside happens during the week with those whom God has sovereignly placed in our lives within the various sub-cultures of our own local community. As we personally and authentically engage Christ – and then listen to, serve, love, and share the gospel with those around us, we act as missionaries to our culture.

As churches see their present community as a mission field. Leadership of a mission outpost is practiced with faithfulness and on-going compassion, knowing that for many years to come it will remain a mission outpost. It does not have the goal of becoming a churched-culture local church. The spirit of a mission outpost is one of mission, whereas the spirit of a churched-culture local church is one of maintenance focused on membership vs. salvation, maintenance vs. societal outreach, and dollars vs. meeting specific human hurts and hopes.[10]

Most traditional mission sending agencies in North America and Europe have, in general, failed to recognize that the most urgent contemporary mission field can now be found in our own back yards, and that the most aggressive paganism with which we have to engage is the ideology that now controls the “developed” world.[11]

The entire Bible is to be viewed as a “manual in mission,” or as one missiologist has said, “There is only one scriptural symbol that corresponds to the question of the dynamic and functional relation of the Church to the world. That symbol is mission.”[12] Finally, Van Engen also suggests that leadership effectiveness, as we move toward a missional praxis mindset, need not be measured by accomplishments, but how God’s people are equipped, empowered, inspired, and organized to participate with God’s mission.[13]

Congregations should no longer expect the community to exclusively come to us.  The Great Commission (Mat. 28:18-20) calls us to go.  There is a difference between a go ye church and a come ye church. Local missional praxis ministry involves the people of God crossing barriers to serve the other.  For congregations with well cared for facilities, mix missional outreach with ministries that go off-campus as well as workshops and classes that showcase the campus.

In measuring its effectiveness, the maintenance congregation asks, “How many visitors have we attracted?” The missional praxis congregation asks, “How many members have we sent?”

Unchurched adults interested in finding a congregation aren’t nearly as likely to visit one in person as a churched person who is shopping for a new congregation. This means effective evangelism must begin outside the church building in relationships between Christians and unbelievers, according to research the attractional model of Church (come ye) generally attracts transfer growth, while a missional model of Church (go ye) generally attracts a higher conversion growth percentage. It’s not either-or, but both-and.


[1] Ogden, Greg. Unfinished Business: Returning the Ministry To the People of God. Zondervan, Rev. 2003.

[2] A primary reason for this is that the church has lost much of its moral authority due to imposing a “Christian” moralism without gospel-changed hearts, which often led to cruelty, hypocrisy, and the abuse of power and authority.

[3] Or, church-centered.

[4] To God-centered.

[5] Guder, Darrell L., and Lois Barrett. Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans 1998:4.

[6] Newbigin, Lesslie. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans 1989: 131.

[7] Newbigin, Lesslie. Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship, Eerdmans 1995:73.

[8] Fuller Theological Seminary: MP502, Lecture 1.

[9] Guder: 204

[10] Freeman, Robert E., Fuller Theological Seminary: ML525 Leadership Selection and Training in the Info-Tech Age. Lesson 1 — PARADIGMS OF ADULT TRAINING IN MISSION.

[11] Newbigin, Lesslie. The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission (Revised). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995:10.

[12] Bosch, David J. The Why and How of a True Biblical Foundation for Mission. Reprinted as Hermeneutical Principles in the Biblical Foundation for Mission, Evangelical Review of Theology 17(4): 437-451, Oct. 1993.

[13] Van Engen, Charles. God’s Missionary People: Rethinking the Purpose of the Local Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1991: 176.