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?


Holly said...
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Holly said...

The quote that resonates with me in Chapter 3 is this: "Disciples faced the challenge to move from hiding to engaging their community for the sake of the gospel." (pg. 30 and it's followed a little later with this "With that one command (Jn. 20:19-21) Jesus announced two thousand years of direction for the church... We are exhorted to be on mission where God has placed us now, and our job is to "break the code" wherever we are." (pg. 31)

I think another thing which should be looked at as we contemplate our preferences, are our expectations for the vision of engaging our community. I've seen more pastors, small group leaders, missionaries, etc get discouraged and burn out because their expectations were different than the reality that occurred while moving toward the vision God enabled in the first place.

Chris Tenny said...

I think the comments on this chapter about it being about God's mission and not our preferences is the general point. It is pretty simple and I think Holly's remark about having not just a vision, but concrete realistic expections of what that looks like is excellent, and worth exploring in greater detail.

I think prayer is an important part and I honestly don't do enough. I am a much better public/group prayer than as an individual (much of that has to do with my struggles and hurts). Regardless, I learned something helpful in the last year in regard to prayer. Often times the means by which God wants the prayer answered is through us. I think those older churches that broke the code, did not just pray, but responded to God's heart through prayer and action. Sometimes I feel like calls to pray are not adequately followed by action, as if God will magically bring people to church when they pray but have done nothing different. I have heard so many prayers for "revival" at church over the years it is beginning to drive me nuts. Matter fact, I am pretty sure many of the prophets scorned God's people for crying out to him, but not changing what they do.

The missing piece is not just praying God will reach them, but that we will listen to how he wants us to reach them, and then DO IT. It reminds me of Jesus' teaching on the sower and the seed. The seed really produces fruit when the soil is in the best conditions. Although he doesn't talk about it, and indeed God causes it to grow, but maybe we need to work the soil? This is all great discussion but at the end of the day I think we are at the stage of farmers hanging out in the convenience store/McDonald's/coffee shop during the winter making plans for how they will work the soil in the spring, and then praying and planning for a harvest in the fall.

Holly said...

Great point Chris, taking action when and after we pray for God's will and direction and seeing His vision.

Why do you think most people don't take action? Would it be because they feel they don't have what it takes to do the job? or that maybe someone else will come and do it? or that they think they are the prayer-people, or gifted in that way and God will enable others to act on their gifts? It's an interesting concept to think about.

As James says in 1:22 "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."

To explore a little further: as we think on reaching the community in Lakewood, what expectations do you see arising? Many of them aren't on the surface to be recognized right away.