Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ch. 3 – Responding to the Commission of Jesus

The point of this chapter hinges on understanding the point of John 20:19-21. Of particular importance is Jesus’ phrase, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

The author (Ed) rephrases this statement: “Our job is to take the gospel to each community, not to hold on to our preferences” (p 31).

He then gives several examples of church environments he has encountered that were not his preference. But he was able to see, in each of these places, that God was working; that the people ministering there had broken the code in each respective community. They broke the code, he maintains, by not holding on to their own preferences but by taking the gospel to their respective communities.

The author makes a brief note about resistance to change (that is, changing our practices from our preferences to the needs of our community) being not only a force from outside of the church but also from inside of the church. “But until we embrace the words of Jesus, ‘As the Father has sent me, I am sending you,’ we will never truly embrace the missional mandate and become a church that breaks the code” (p. 33).

We are sent to our community. If our community cannot relate to the context in which we operate, we must change our context or become obsolete. The author makes a statement that runs counter to the thinking of most Americans, “It is not about me.” It is, however, all about Jesus. “Our churches often struggle because we put our preferences over our call – our preferences over our mission” (p. 36).

We must be careful that our church is always proclaiming THE message. When the message becomes something other than forgiveness of sin through Jesus the Christ, “the gospel is lost” (p. 39). The author asks, “We are sent as missionaries, the only question is – are we good ones” (p. 39)? It seems to me that the answer to this question rests on whether we are sharing Jesus in a context understandable to the person/people with whom we are sharing.

Here is a commentary that is sad, however true: “If only God’s people would spend as much time and money learning how to be witnesses as they do reading a fiction series on the end times, then we would not be living on the only continent in the world where the church is not growing.” Ouch. Has America, a nation founded generally on Scriptural principles, become the one place where sharing the gospel in relevant cultural contexts is more assumed than actually practiced, thus leaving entire communities of people in the dark, spiritually speaking?

I think that the final example given in this chapter demonstrates the most important characteristic of a church that ultimately breaks the code. This little tiny church prayed. They were on their knees looking for vision and change for a long time. This is not unlike the change that occurred at the Brooklyn Tabernacle back in the day when it was a run-down, small church. The local body of believers began to pray and God began to give vision and provide method for them to “break the code” back in the 80s. I might have the decade wrong. [See Jim Cymbala’s Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire if you want the whole story.] The point is, they prayed. And prayed. And prayed. I wonder if, as a community of believers, we are really praying as we should be if we want to see BVC/Regeneration really be influential in our local community.

Chapter questions:
  1. In order to be sent, what are some personal preferences you must overcome?
  2. How can you help those you lead to see the divots in your community? [Reference to “divots” is in line with a chapter analogy comparing the various people groups in our communities to the divots on a waffle.]
  3. What does it mean for your church to be the missionary in your community?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ch 2. Breaking the Missional Code

This is a rather simple chapter where he outlines a simple process to breaking the missional code in your community through only five easy steps (please read with cheasy infomercial voice).
They are as follows:
1) Calling from God
2) Exegeting the Community
3) Examining ways God is working in similar communities
4) Finding God's unique vision for your church
5) Adjusting that vision as you learn the context

#1 is a tough one, largely because it is one of the most neglected doctrines in the church. So much so that Os Guinness wrote several books about it (see The Call, an excellent book). We have to learn what the call is for every Christian and then what our individual part is. I think the language people use in our protestant camp is "I feel led" or "I have a heart for..." Stetzer makes a good point that to be a missional community you have to have God's heart for your community. Its that simple.
#2 Takes time, and the guts to get to know your non-Christian friends and neighbors. He gives a great story about Rick Warren and his infamous letters. Pastor Jim told me about it several times but he left out the most important part - the surveys from the people in his community!
#3 Where is there a similar ministry we could look to instead of reinvent the wheel? Umm... Seattle is probably closest to us in culture, so I like Mars Hill. Except for the fact that Denver does have a pretty substantial and significant Christian population. In addition, Scum of the Earth might be the equivalent to Mars Hill in Denver, as for who it reaches not for personalities or doctrine. We are also a suburban church, so how does that work?
#4 I think that is pretty simple. We use to have this long drawn out vision statement and we haven't revised it formally. I know I have simply reduced it to train people to be missionaries for Jesus in their community. Any other suggested revisions?
#5 Here is a good quote in the book, "If a church does not regularly examine its culture, it ends up as a culture unto itself." this process never stops but is a revolving door.

So for his questions:
1) Who are the people God has called you to reach?
2) What are other churches that God is using to reach similar people?
3) If our church "broke the code" what would it look like?
4) What adjustments need to be made in light of what we are learning?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Chap. 1: The Emerging Glocal Context

Alright, since I have gotten through chapter 3, I am beginning the discussion. No pressure for the rest of you, seminary has taught me to not linger with my reading. Just do it.

Anyways, every missional church book out there has a good introductory chapter that basically says the church in North America has lost its influence and needs to rediscover its mission. First of course is the idea of a "glocal" reality (p. 5). This is such a key concept that describes the diversity of the North American context. We can't assume our neighbors are of the same culture, people group, sub-culture, etc. as our church. In addition, Christianity is not on people's list for the first place to go for spiritual advice. Therefore, as Christians we need to wake up and realize we have been sent as God's missionaries right where we are. I have heard it said, and I think it is so true, God is bringing the nations to us. What an amazing time we live in, I pray we take advantage of this tremendous opportunity.

The author puts forth many troubling statistics, many of which I think are more telling than other statistics I have seen.
1) Number of Christians is down 9% from 1990-2001 (p. 8)
2) Number of unchurched has nearly doubled from 1991-2004 (ibid.)
Friends, we need to really examine what kind of growth we are truly experiencing in our churches. If there are few people making a genuine commitment to become disciples of Jesus, we are a generation away from an empty building.

The author essentially calls us to figure out what kind of population segment lives in our community. Jesus became flesh for us (Jn. 1:14), so we too, need to learn their language and customs to effectively love them and communicate the gospel to them. The example of Jesus is incredibly profound.

A few observations on our community and church:
During my six years as a radio frequency engineer I have looked at a lot of statistics and a lot of databases. Overtime you figure out how to quickly see how the data came to be what it is. A few months ago, I saw a chart of our church's demographics broken down to 20-35, 35-50, and 50+. I knew immediately the chart was misleading and showed 30% of our church is 20-35. As it turns out, 50% of them were over 30. Just yesterday I reviewed a list of all the people in Bear Valley Church's database from the age of 20-30. The list had 319 names. We also have about 900 people who come through the doors every Sunday. Anyone with two eyes who walks into the sanctuary on a Sunday morning knows 30% of BVC is not between 20-30. I looked through the list and realized most of the people in Regeneration are not in the church's database. I reviewed an old list of people who subscribed to our weekly email and found not even half of them were in the church's database. There were 72 people on the list last I counted, yet we probably have around 25 people we would consider regular attenders. A closer look at the list of 319 people revealed 70 pairs of people have the same last name and phone number. Conclusion: 140 people of the 319 were kids of parents in the church or married couples, some of whom I personally know have not attended BVC since they were 18 (and one person is now 29). This now tells me why when we sent over 200 postcards with our Sunday service time and small group information to the same people on this list last fall and it yielded ZERO results. Those 200 letters went to the parents of children who have long left the church, many whom likely left Jesus too. One thing is for sure, we need a more informative database. However, we must examine whether our community actually has a substantial population of singles between 20-30. Though, I believe two things: the numerous apartments in the area have tons of singles, and 2 colleges within 10 minutes and 4 colleges (Auraria counts as at least 3) withing 15 tells me there are plenty.

Here are some statistics of Lakewood. It appears I am not too far off, though sadly, there is a very small percentage of minorities in Lakewood. However, I think our mission is bigger than Lakewood.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Introducing Breaking the Missional Code

This week, I would like to introduce the book that we will be blogging through together this semester. It is entitled Breaking the Missional Code, and beyond a glowing recommendation by Pastor Mark Driscoll, I don't know a whole lot about the book. We just finished The Radical Reformission by Driscoll in our small group last Fall. It is my hope that this book will provide a framework for continued development, interactive discussion, and ultimately practical implementation of these ideas. I have several copies that Chris Tenny was able to get at discount, so if you are part of the Regen community or otherwise close enough to see me face to face, let me know that you want a book and I can get one in your hands for the low, low price of $12 (while supplies last). Otherwise the book can be acquired from your favorite bookseller.

I intend to post some thoughts on one chapter each week to serve as a springboard for discussion in the meta (blogspeak for comments). This week I've just typed up the table of contents. It looks like they have included all the buzzwords of late: emerging, missional, contextualization, community, and of course, the buzzword that is more than a buzzword, it is the reason for the whole conversation: Jesus.

As we discuss issues of the church, culture, community, and how all these things work together, let's keep it clear that this is all ultimately for and about Jesus. He is the Lord of the church, and our aim is to please him and point others to him as the author and perfecter of our faith.

Breaking the Missional Code: Your Church Can Become a Missionary in Your Community
By Ed Stetzer & David Putman

Table of Contents
  1. The Emerging Glocal Context: North America has changed and is a changing continent. As a result, new methods and models are emerging to reach new and emerging people groups. Understanding the people who live here will help us develop the kinds of churches that we need to reach them.

  2. Breaking the Missional Code — Some churches have been able to break the cultural codes and lead the people in their context to consider the claims of Christ. As this has occurred, their growth has exploded—even though these churches tend to look different from each other.

  3. Responding to the Commissions of Jesus — Getting involved in missional ministry is not an option; it is tied to the commands of Jesus. He gives us a clear call with unfolding details.

  4. The Missional Church Shift — When churches become missionaries in their communities, they do not focus on strategies and formulas that have worked among people who live in other areas. Instead, they find strategies that help them connect with the people in their context.

  5. Transitions to Missional Ministry — Churches are beginning to see the value of being missional, and they are effectively reaching the people around them. However, they are different from the successful churches of the past. This chapter describes how some of these churches transitioned to missional ministry.

  6. Values of Leaders and Churches that Break the Code — Every church needs certain values and purposes that are transcultural and eternal. Those values are not part of breaking the code, but they provide the tools needed to break through.

  7. Contextualization: Making the Code Part of Your Strategy — Lots of books assert that you need to analyze and understand your community in order to reach it. This is easier said than done. This chapter helps you apply the process in your context.

  8. Emerging Strategies: Many churches are applying new methods to connect with the people in their context—and God is blessing new churches as they tell the story in new ways in new contexts.

  9. Spiritual Formation and Churches that Break the Code — Understanding the spiritual nature and function of a missional church enables the church to focus on its purposes.

  10. Revitalization to Missional Ministry — Churches need revitalization. Many congregations are finding renewal as they reinvent and reintroduce themselves to their communities.

  11. Planting Missional Ministries — Church planting has become a preferred vocational choice for many pastors, but they are not planting churches the way others traditionally have. Theya re finding new and innovative ways to launch churches within their unique cultural contexts.

  12. Emerging Networks: New Paradigms of Partnership — New ways of working together are coming to the forefront. Churches are working together in new ways to accomplish their God-given vision.

  13. Breaking the Code without Compromising the Faith — How to engage in missional code-breaking without changing or compromising the faith.

  14. Best Practices of Leaders and Churches that Break the Code — How code-breaking churches function as they conduct missional ministry

  15. The Process of Breaking the Code — A step-by-step process to understanding and strategizing to reach your community.

  16. Breaking the Unbroken Code — Missions is a hard task pregnant with breakthrough opportunities. Yet, in some cultures and contexts, those breakthroughs have not yet come. Our task is to be faithful to the core of our message as we seek new ways to communicate the gospel in each context. Churches are investing in younger leaders and intentionally broadening their view of missions and ministry into new frontiers locally and worldwide.