Marriage is a beautiful union of two people moving toward a common goal. As a young boy, I saw marriages from the outside looking in. I was an observer from a distance of families that grew out of this marriage relationship. Some were good and some were not so good. As I got older, I wondered what it would be like to be married. I never really dated much in high school or even in college for that matter. I had wondered if I was meant to be single. I came to Christ shortly after I started college at the age of 19. As I grew in my faith, my criteria for a wife began to take shape. This ideal woman was out there, and I was on a mission to find her. I knew what I wanted (better yet I knew what God wanted) in a spouse so I did not waste time dragging relationships out with someone who did not measure up. I kept looking, but I knew after the first date with a young lady whether or not to continue the process. Needless to say, I became weary lamenting the fact that this process may take longer than I thought. As a result, one night while I was praying I told God that I was giving up the search. I was keenly aware that I had no power or influence in how this marvelous soul mate would be found. I gave up control and surrendered this burden to God. I went on a few more dates after that with some very nice young ladies, but the urgency I once felt to find that special someone now gave way to peace.
At this time, I was a sophomore at GA State University pursuing a Music Business degree. I was attending a local mission church in town and began to help out as a volunteer youth leader. As the church began to grow, more and more new families joined this little church. One such family was the Boan family. Vanessa, her two older children, and a newborn baby happened to visit and join Hope Baptist Church. They were a nice family. It did not take long for our two families to become friends. Candace and her brother Tom were the first two students to become active in our Student Ministry. As that year went on, I got the opportunity with my degree program to apply for an internship in the Music Industry. A couple of guys who attended the Baptist Student Union with me had formed a band and were beginning to tour some around the US. This band, American Zion (Later Smalltown Poets) needed a Road Manager. I worked with them for almost a year. We traveled to 15 states and overseas to Germany. It was a blast. After the internship, I came to church one Sunday evening after returning from a long trip. After the service, I stood around catching up on all the things that I had missed since I was gone. As I was walking up the center isle of the church, Candace came up to me and gave me a big hug. She told me how much she missed me and was very happy to see me. I did not think much of it at the time, but this was the tiny spark that would soon ignite this incredible love story.
After my internship was over, I needed to find a job. Candace’s dad had just started a new business in town and needed workers. He sold Baseball Cards to Sports Shops in 3 different states by van and also did some online business. I began to work for him that spring as a salesman. After working there for a few months, things began to change. (Keep in mind I was not aware of this change at the time because like a typical man I was clueless as to what was going on.) One Sunday afternoon after church, my family and I were driving home and my mom asked, “Do you think Candace likes you?” I said, “I do not think so, why?” My mom began to tell me how she noticed that Candace always wanted to sit with me at church. She also noticed that Candace was everywhere that I was. I did not think much about it. Her family had a habit if coming into church late, so I thought she sat by me because all the other seats were taken. I was totally unaware of what was about to happen.
About 6 months later, we were taking our students from the church to a Halloween Alternative called “The Chilling Fields.” It was a live action depiction of portions of Revelation that took place on a 20-acre piece of property. This particular night the crowd was quite large. We waited for some time. Finally, it was our turn to walk through this unnerving scene that they had setup. Back in the woods, there were several cars overturned, people were made up with various injuries, and there was mass confusion. This was supposed to have taken place right after the rapture. This is where it gets interesting. As we are walking through this chaos and trying to make sure that we do not lose any kids, a man jumped out of the woods and startled us. He was covered in blood and appeared to be burned. He was grabbing on to some of the kids and shaking them. He was asking us if we had seen his family. They were gone. (Taken up in the Rapture) Just as this scene was unfolding, IT happened. I am not sure if I grabbed her hand or she grabbed mine (Candace’s Story), but we found ourselves holding hands. We both did not seem to mind because neither of us let go. Once we made it through the maze of events, we sat and talked for about 30 minutes. It was like talking to someone I had known all my life. That one night of what was at first an awkward moment, propelled us toward a relationship that is stronger now than ever before.
Twenty years ago this very day, we were joined in marriage. Everything that we have experienced over the past 2 decades has made our love for each other grow stronger by the day. I always heard people talk about Soul Mates, but I saw very few marriages that were of that caliber. I can honestly say that Candace Rebecca Brown is my Soul Mate and Best Friend. This journey that we are on called life, is so much more fragrant and sweet because I am walking side by side with you. You make me complete. When God created Eve from Adam’s rib, there was this longing to be complete. A part of him was missing, but once Adam and Eve were joined in marriage and became one flesh that rib was now back home. The marriage and life we have together is so much more than I ever dreamed or imagined. Every sunrise and sunset I get to be with the person that I love most in this world. As a father, I pray daily that our girls will find a love like ours. The longer that I am alive, the more I realize that our love is rare. Not everyone will experience the love that we have. I am truly the most blessed man on earth.
I am so glad that 22 years ago I turned in my “Man Card” for a few minuets and held your hand because I was scared. Holding your hand that day made me feel safe, but also made me feel like your protector. My promise to you is that I will always be here to hold you hand and walk through this life with you. At times our life together has been crazy, wild, unpredictable, and even scary, but this love is ours. It is strong, deep, and unconditional. If the rest of our lives are anything like the first 20 years, it is going to be one amazing ride. I love you all my heart, Funny Face!!!
In our Christian Life, we are taught many Disciplines that shape us into the person God wants us to be. We learn the disciplines of prayer, scripture reading, hospitality, and service. One discipline that goes unnoticed or overlooked is the Discipline of Thanksgiving. I realized that the discipline of giving thanks is a new concept for me. I would often give thanks in my prayer, but I never considered it a discipline. The discipline of thanksgiving is really more of a state of mind or it may be better to describe it as a state of grace. Our very lives are an example of God’s grace to us. We often neglect the small things in life and forget to be thankful for all we have been blessed with. One example of thanksgiving that really spoke to me is a passage about Paul and Silas. In Acts 16:16-40, we see an example of 2 men who had every right to be angry and bitter over their capture, but instead were singing praises of thanksgiving to God. This might seem strange, but God tends to speak to me in unusual ways. A couple of years ago, I went to court with one of my students to support them at an Arraignment Hearing. As I sat there and looked around the room, my heart began to sink. I was face to face with the cost of sin as it runs rampant through our world. Charge after charge was read and each person entered his or her plea. Some plead guilty others plead not guilty and wanted a jury trial. For the first time, I could really see how much I have been saved from. The only difference between the people in that courtroom and me was grace. I was given a gift of grace that is open to all who would receive it. My heart swelled with thanksgiving and praise. I walked out of the courthouse that afternoon with a greater appreciation for the gospel than I have ever had before. I also had a renewed my passion for the lost. There is a lost world out there, and we have been given the responsibility to share this good news with others. We have been called by Christ to be “transforming salt” and “attractive light” that point people to the saving grace of God. The Discipline of Thanksgiving is a way for us to be reminded of God’s Amazing Grace. This grace is available with no strings attached. If we walk in a state of grace, we will begin to see things through the eyes of Christ. We will love what He loves. We will be heartbroken by the very things that break His heart. Take some time this month reflecting on God’s Grace and how He would want you to share that grace with others. This concept reminds me of a song that some friends of mine wrote. The song Alice Fell tells the story of an orphan girl that is taken in by a man in town. His gift of grace and a new home was the epitome of grace. This is exactly what God does when He adopts us into his family by the blood of Christ. We must be willing to show the same grace we have been given to the world around us. This will transform our world!!!
Below are the lyrics to Alice Fell:
Miserable night and he was homeward bound
Til through the peals of thunder he heard the awful sound
And he could not ignore a voice in despair
So stepping from his coach he found her weeping there
“What’s the matter child?” His voice was so kind
She said, “I’ve torn my cloak and it’s all that’s really mine
I haven’t any family to call my own
My name is Alice Fell and these streets are my home”
No one stopped to heal her hurting
Though they knew it all too well
Until one stepped forth to ease her burden
And touch the life of Alice Fell
He took her to a place where love is supplied
Where the food is always warm and the weather stays outside
But better yet in her eyes was a brand new friend
And the brand new coat he bought made her smile again
Though I never knew her or saw her face
I know how it feels to be touched by grace
Alice saw true love in action
And one act of love saved me as well
For my soul by one divine transaction
Has been clothed anew like Alice Fell
I must stop to heal her hurting
For I know it all too well
I’ll step forth to ease her burden
And touch the life of Alice Fell
For my soul in one divine transaction
Has been clothed anew like Alice Fell
The past few weeks I have been focused on getting back into shape. Every other day I have been walking 5 miles around our town. This not only allows me to get my body into shape, it also allows me some time to think, pray, and meditate. As I was walking the other day God spoke to me in an usual way. When God speaks to me it is usually in quite unorthodox ways. He usually speaks to me through the medium of music. It does not matter the genre, he will usually speak to me through a particular song. My musical taste is quite varied. I have been involved in music since I was 9 years old so my musical taste is quite eclectic. I have over 13,000 songs on my iPod. I have everything from Beethoven to Boston and Bob Dillon to Brad Paisley. On the days I walk, I shuffle through my music based on my mood that day. This particular day, I was listening to one of my favorite groups, Kansas. As I was listening to the song No One Together, God spoke to me. No One Together talks about how as people we have missed the boat on what it means to live and be human. We strive in vain to get ahead, but we always find ourselves right back where we started. I began to see that this is exactly what is happening in the Church (Western).
We think some how we have cornered the market on what it means to be a church and a Christian that we do not see that we are a fragmented people. We are too busy “playing” church and are not “being” the church. The church in the west has been blessed beyond measure and the “horn of plenty is bursting at the seam” and we are no better for it. We are not unified around a common mission and purpose. We are so focused on our“own” little kingdom that we do not realize that “the harvest of the world will be our prize”
The church in China is expected to reach 247 million within the next decade. The church in India is still growing at a rapid pace. We sit and scratch our heads and wonder how this is possible. How can this be? We think we know all the answers. We claim to have God figured out. We think we can predict his next move. “We claim to know the secrets, the answers have been found, but how can one fool make another wise?” We cannot predict God’s movement any more than we can predict the weather. We need to get back to the basics. We need to unite around the “God of Mission” and find out where he is working and join him there.
The western church has portrayed Jesus a type of spiritual “Superman” that came to rescue us from our sins. I believe this is a distorted view of what Christ came to do. The history of the incarnation and the struggle that the early Church Fathers had over this issue seemed to divide them on how to describe the incarnation. Some believed that Jesus’ divinity and humanity were separate and never affected the other. Others believed that they kind of worked together as if Jesus was like Superman. His humanity was like Clark Kent and His Divinity was that of a super hero. The way we view the incarnation will have a great influence on how we approach life and ministry.
A proper view of the incarnation will allow us to share that Jesus not only came to give us a “gift”, but also to be there “for us”. The incarnation will allow us to share with our community the true hope that Jesus offers. By God choosing to come “in the flesh”, we have a Savior who understands us. He will be there when we need Him. If we act as if God is this great benefactor that does great things for us, we will have a skewed perspective of what God is trying to do in our lives. God is not just “doing things” for us. God is “for” us.
The history of the incarnation plays a vital role in helping us understand who Jesus is. It helps us to see that Jesus is more than just a person to call on in times of trouble. He is God in the flesh. He is a person who understands us. We can truly say that Jesus “gets me”. He knows my thoughts, my needs, and my dreams. He is not just a problem solver. When we understand the incarnation, then we can see the power of the cross-revealed. We see a God who came in the flesh to show us how to live, how to die to our sins, and how to be raised to walk in His righteousness. The incarnation transcends cultural boundaries. Students want to be understood. They are looking for a place to belong. They want someone to understand them and identify with their struggles. We can help them see that the incarnate Christ is that person. If we become an extension of Christ’s life, we can impact this generation in a mighty way. By investing our lives in students, just a Christ invested in the disciples, we will see much change.
In John 1, we see that “Jesus dwelt among us”. He became a part of the culture. He was “one of us”. We must have the same mindset. Paul encourages us in Philippians 2:5-11 to have the same attitude as Christ, which means we must live out the Gospel before the people that we have been entrusted with. The Holy Spirit allows us to be the “incarnate” representative of Christ on earth. We will have the same spirit and mind of Christ if we tap into the power and guidance that the Holy Spirit offers.
We must keep the BIG picture in mind. We have to put people before programs. We cannot underestimate the power of presence. Just being available and listening to students share the successes and failures in their life; we will make a great impact. Remember, we are a model of relational ministry. We need to be real and authentic with those we come in contact with. Jesus was able to do this very well. His disciples saw Him in His full glory on the Mount of Transfiguration and in His brokenness in the Garden of Gethsemane. Authenticity is really at the heart of the incarnation. When Jesus was baptized and the Father spoke His affirmation over His son by saying, “in whom I am well pleased”, we see who Jesus really was. His divine nature and human nature were transparent for all to see. All we have to do is look. His miracles testified to his deity while his sorrow and brokenness in the Garden displayed His humanity.
Incarnational Ministry is what every believer is called to. We are the body of Christ. We are an extension of His saving grace. We must be willing to step outside of our comfort zone, and “dwell” with those who need to experience the incarnate.The church must be unified in its approach as it becomes the “salt and light” in the community. We have a reputation of being a people who cannot get along with others. We have been stereotyped as “difficult people”. We must be a “No One Together” people but an “Everyone Together” people on mission!!!
Go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLG0CGQVhRI to listen to No One Together by Kansas
In our world today, it is becoming increasingly harder to find people who can think critically about the issues of the day. We are each swayed by our emotions, the things we see on TV or in films, and even by our own thought life. The way we view God (or think about Him) says a lot about how we view the world. Do we see God through the lens of Scripture or have we created an image (idol) of God based on our own perceptions or assumptions we have about God. How does this “image” of God affect our theology and ultimately our worldview??? Does thought play a role in shaping our theology?
Theology defined is the study of God. In order for any study (-ology) to be valid it must have an object, concept, or theory on which to base this study. My oldest daughter is graduating from High School this May. She plans to study Marine Biology. In order for this discipline to be learned and practiced she must be near a body of water large enough to give her plenty of specimens to study. She plans to go to school in Florida, which is the perfect place for her to embark on this journey of discovery. It would not do her any good if she planned to go to a northern, landlocked State University to study Marine Biology. She could learn everything she needs to learn from books, but never really have any hands-on experience to help solidify her studies. The same is true of us when we try to develop a theology apart from having a strong, and vibrant relationship with Christ. If the relationship is not there, we tend to base our knowledge of God based on what we have heard or read about him. While these things are good and give us a picture of who God is, it falls short of the revelation that wants to share with us.
Our theology will only be strengthened if we truly study, worship, and follow the God of the Bible. We cannot create a god created in our image. We must worship the Image Bearer. We need to take time to read the scripture on a daily basis, pray, and spend quality time with God to get a clearer understanding of who He is. We must filter our view of God through the lens of Scripture. We cannot take it upon ourselves to “think” God is something that He is not or to “think” that He wants us to do something that He does not intend for us to do. We must rely on the Holy Spirit to “lead us in to all truth”. The Holy Spirit will confirm and remind us of what God has put in our hearts as we study and meditate on the Bible. God is no open to our personal interpretation. He is not validated by what we think of Him. He is God. He is Holy, Just, and Merciful. If we are going to be called by his name (Christ Follower), we have to know who we are following. So do not let your thoughts and feelings determine your theology, but let your theology shape and define your life. Let it guide, shape, and drive your worldview. We must get this right. There is too much at stake for us to be lazy when it comes to our knowledge of God. The world is struggling to even believe that God exists, much less believe He can guide their lives. We are God’s mouthpieces to a broken world. We must speak and share the truth. We must introduce the world to the God we know, but we first have to know him ourselves. Take some time this week and earnestly seek God. Put all those past images or views of God out of your mind and open your eyes to see God for who he really is. You might be surprised. It could change your world!!!
Since I was a young boy, I have enjoyed watching Cooking Shows. In the beginning of the Cooking Show Genre, there were not very many chefs who had a show on TV. I remember watching shows like Yan Can Cook, Julia Childs, The Gourmet Chef, and the Cajun Chef. These shows usually showcased a very classic technique that could be easily learned by the home cook. These shows were very basic and were built on the foundation of the basic skills of the culinary world. As time went on, these chefs became celebrities. In the 90’s people like Emeril, Wolfgang Puck, an others quickly made a name for themselves. Now in 2013, we live in the world of shows based on Culinary Competition. Chefs are judged on how well they can take basic ingredients and elevate them to restaurant quality dishes. Each week the judges throw the chefs challenging curves. These competitions have raised the stakes. Not only do these chefs have to know basic techniques, but they also have to tap into their creative side to take their dishes to the next level. One of my favorite shows is Master Chef. Gordon Ramsey, Graham Elliot, and Joe Bastianich judge this weekly completion. Home cooks from around the country audition to be part of a select few that are chosen to compete in the biggest Culinary Competition in the world. These home cooks are judged on their knowledge of food, cooking techniques, tasting, presentation, and creativity. This show reveals very quickly which cooks are well rounded and can take the most basic of ingredients and make them shine. As I was watching the Master Chef Finale last week, I could not help but see the similarities of this show and shows like it to our churches in America.
Every Sunday, churches across the country set up for the biggest Spiritual Competition in their community. Each church tries to take the basic ingredient (The Gospel) and put their unique spin on it. They are trying to make the Gospel palatable and easy to swallow. Churches often show case other elements of their “dishes” without letting the main ingredient shine. The Gospel, like the best Kobe Beef, requires very little cooking time, but the prep is key. If you marinate the Kobe Beef too long it can become tough and chewy. It does not need a bold or spicy sauce to make it sing. In fact Kobe Beef, is best served rare. The true taste of the marbled meat has a chance to shine. You can really taste the purity of the best beef in the world. The same is true with the Gospel. We need to take care and make sure the prep work is done before we begin to share. We must take time and know the ingredient we are working with. We must also know the taste preferences of our audience. If we were to prepare a very wide range of proteins for this very elaborate dinner and when we begin to serve the main course, we find out that every person at this event is a vegan. We would not be asked to cook for this type of event again. We must know our audience as we share the Gospel. The more we know the audience the better our prep time will be.
Just as a chef knows every flavor profile of the ingredient he is working with, we must also know the flavor profile of the Gospel. We must be like a skilled chef as we break down the Gospel for this generation. We need to be skilled in every technique that will allow the main ingredient, Christ, to shine. Also just as each chef puts his or her signature twist on a dish, we too can put a signature twist on how we share the Gospel. Our talents, Spiritual Gifts, Personality, and Experience help to bring our own sense of taste to the Gospel Presentation. God wants us to serve him out our unique shape. You are the best chef for the “Kitchen of Life” that you have been assigned to. It is up to you to season the Gospel with your own unique spin and flare. This does not mean that we water down the taste of the Gospel or leave out the bitter parts. What it does mean is that we are skilled enough to take the “whole Gospel” and share it in a unique way. Just as every chef has a few critics that do not like his food, we too will have critics who do not like what we serve. Resist the temptation to change the menu. God gave the menu to us, and we must be faithful and share every part of this very pure ingredient. The main ingredient must be the star of the dish. We must not cover up or add to the redeeming work of Christ on the Cross. That in itself is a very savory dish that will dance upon the pallet.
So how do we become a Missional Master Chef? First, we must recognize that we ARE Missionaries. Biblical faith is growing and spreading as never before in History. 1 out of every 10 people in the world is a dedicated believer. Although the gospel has spread rapidly, it has not been able jump across cultural barriers, which results in many being left isolated by the gospel. We need to help the local people develop tools to share the gospel with their culture. It is more likely that the gospel will be received by one of the indigenous believers than by the influence of a foreigner. This is true in our churches today. Churches have become social cliques. We only reach out to those people who are like us. We need to train our people to share the gospel with the culture in which they live. A blue-collar worker will be more receptive to fellow workers than he would be to a Wall Street stockbroker.
Second, the blessing that God gave Abraham of becoming a blessing to all nations begins with the message of salvation. The essential missionary task is to develop a viable, indigenous church planting movement. That means churches must be growing on their own, led by local people, and continuing to reproduce intergenerational fellowships that will reach the entire people group. The world is broken into thirds. One-third claims to be Christian. One third is non-Christians living within reached peoples, and one third lives within unreached people groups. We should still keep sharing the gospel everywhere we go. Just because a people have been reached with gospel not everyone will believe. We must not stop once they are no longer classified as unreached.
Third, in order for indigenous churches to be started and continue reproducing, the local people must become involved. The local people need to be trained to do the ministry. We tend to only train a few workers, and soon they become frustrated and overworked. Every member of the local church should take part in sharing the gospel with the people to whom they belong. Local congregations must be given the tools to become equipped for kingdom work. If not they will become dependent upon the paid staff, and when he or she leaves the ministry will die.
In the New Testament, churches were spontaneously expanded. There was no great appeal by the apostles to coerce the local church to go start new congregations. The Great Commission was understood as a tenant of the Christian Faith. They just went and did it. Wherever the Apostles went, they started new churches. They were discipling new believers and then turning them loose to do God’s work. We often times think only “School-trained” people can do the work in a local church, but that is not the case. These new converts were uneducated men who yielded their lives to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We as a church need to return to this way of mission’s work. It worked back then and it will work now. Until we realize the power a local believer has in the church planting process, our world missions effort will become retarded and frustrated.
So I encourage you to become familiar with the taste of the Gospel. Try and savor all the nuisances of flavor. Notice the rich undertones of Grace, Mercy, and Love. Also be familiar with sharp and pungent taste of Judgment. For the Gospel to be presented in its entirety, we must create a balanced dish of all these components. The Gospel must be presented in such a way that Jesus will shine and the true flavor of Salvation can be tasted in every bite. The last question I have is this: Who are you cooking for? Who will taste the dish that you are serving? Take some time this week and survey your neighborhood, work place, school, and church. Take note of what you are serving. Would God be pleased with the dish that you are serving? If the world were to taste it, would the Gospel be so hidden or foreign that it would be lost in the sugary sweet coating that we use to make it more appealing? Serve the menu you were given in your unique way. You will be surprised at the number of diners you will attract. Just as a local restaurant gets a reputation for the meals its serves, you and your church will get a reputation from the very ones you have been called to serve. Let’s get out there and serve the best dish in town, Christ and Christ Crucified!!!
Last week I had the opportunity to lead a session at The Roots Seminar at the University of Jamestown. Roots is a student led ministry organization that plans Worship Services, Lock-ins, and other community events. I was asked to speak on how to plan Worship Services. We looked at several different aspects of a service, and how to use different forms of media to communicate a particular message. We looked at several different things that will influence the direction of the service such as audience, environment, media, message, and application. After the conference, I began to think about one major aspect of a Worship Service that I totally forgot to mention. Over the past few years, I have started looking at Worship Services from a Missional Focus. What does it mean for a Worship Service to be Missional? We need to answer this question for ourselves and really wrestle with the implications this can have on those that we lead in our congregations. If we fail to consider the Missional aspect of our Worship Services, we run the risk of using tools of emotional manipulation to produce the response we want from our people rather than using worship to further the Missional purpose God intends to accomplish through the act of corporate worship.
So what makes a Worship Service Missional? To answer that question, we need to define Worship. Dictionary.com defines worship as a reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred. Another way to define worship is a lifestyle that honors God. Worship is not a one-time event. Worship is a lifestyle. As Christ Followers, we are to honor God with our lives. Everything that we do, say, think or feel should bring honor and glory to God. When we honor God, we are fulfilling His overall mission of restoring creation and mankind to a right relationship with the creator. Worship helps us to focus on the attributes and characteristics of God, and in doing so we realize that this life is not about us. God becomes the focus of all we do. Once our focus is on the right thing, then and only then are we able to complete the mission of God. We will be able to live an “on mission” lifestyle because we are in tune with the “Mission Giver”. So it is important for us to keep this aspect in mind when we plan our Worship Services. If we loose this main focus, we can begin to make worship about us. It becomes reduced to worship styles and personal preferences. The Worship Wars of the past decade are proof of what happens when we lose site of the Missional component of Worship. We tend to become masters of emotional manipulation rather than masters of Missional Magnification.
Churches have gotten very good at manipulating peoples emotions. I have been in several Worship Service Planning Meetings and the emphasis was placed on which songs, videos, dramas, etc. could be used to elicit an emotion response. We feel that if we can manipulate someone into repentance or challenge them to action that we are justified in using these tactics. The ends justify the means. We have to be very careful not to put the emphasis on people’s response to us and our “perceived” message. We MUST point people to Jesus and the Cross. The mission of God’s redemptive work of salvation and sanctification is the ultimate goal. We must create an environment that allows people to have a personal, intimate encounter with God. We must create space for the Holy Spirit to work. We need to get out of the way and let God show up and show out. Mission is the fuel that feeds the fire of our worship,
Worship and praising God is the fuel as well the goal of missions. The redemptive value of worship energizes our acts of mercy towards others. As nations see the dignity of worshiping God, it becomes the greatest blessing that He can bestow on us. It becomes the most sharable message in the world. God had specific ways He wanted His people to fulfill the missionary mandate. He wanted them to go and tell of His glory to other nations. He also wanted them to live their lives in such a way that other nations would be attracted to God and worship Him.
In order to fulfill God’s missionary purpose we need to join Him where He is working. It should not be a sense of duty, but a passion for those who are lost. We should have such a passion for God’s glory to be revealed that we are willing to go to great lengths to share with others. We should have the purist of motives and work together to accomplish this task. We should integrate evangelism and social interaction into every event we plan. Our passion should be like a wild fire that spreads when fanned by the wind of the Holy Spirit.
The Message of the Gospel declares the victory that Jesus had over death, Satan, and sin. They were each defeated by His first coming, and will be destroyed at His final coming. Our mission as Christians is to share the Gospel with the entire world. We make up God’s Kingdom on earth, and we have been given the mission to enlarge the borders by bringing others to a saving knowledge of Him. Prayer is our weapon against Satan, and through prayer we can undo Satan’s work in the lives of believers. Prayer will help us to know where God is working, and we can join Him there in Kingdom work.
In order for God’s Kingdom to continue to grow, we need to be in a state of constant prayer. Our prayers need to be specific and strategic. We need to pray for people to be delivered from idolatry and strongholds in their lives. Prayer is not some mystical magic, but it a source of communication with God. It allows us to be in tune with His Kingdom purpose, and become equipped for every good work. We also need to pray for those who have never heard the Gospel. Our prayers will prepare the way for the gospel to be shared and received.
Jesus came to provide grace and mercy for mankind. He came to establish His kingdom in the hearts of men. He taught that His mercy and forgiveness was for all nations. Because He did not come in with an iron fist, He was killed. The people misunderstood how the kingdom of God would be established. They knew when the Messiah came, he would establish His kingdom, and it would have no end. They assumed it would be by force and not by grace and mercy.
By looking at how God has moved throughout history, we can see that He works in the supernatural realm as well as the earthly realm. Jesus has ascended to the right hand of the Father, and is constantly interceding on our behalf. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be victorious over satanic and demonic forces.
The first, second, and third century Christians were about this kind of transformational mission. They preached and practiced a Christ-like life in the communities where they lived. Being a follower of Jesus wasn’t a separate church function of their lives in which they participated once a week; it was their life in community with one another. This is what defined them. When new believers were added to the church, scripture states, “They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teachings and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42, NIV). These early Christians had a mindset vastly different from our western twenty-first century world. They saw prayer, walking in the Spirit, working at their jobs, caring for their families, ministering to those in need, and the rest of their lives not in compartmentalized facets, but as a whole—integrated and continuous. This is true of the mission field today. We really need to get back to a holistic approach of the Christian life.
So the emerging church in the first century tended to see prayer and faith and worship and loving others as Christ loved as an integrated whole. Church wasn’t a weekly event, separate from their daily living. They were the church. That is what defined them. The concept of Missional Worship implies that we not just think and talk about Christ one day of the week in a building somewhere. We cannot think in terms of participating in a church program or just attending a series of events. We must help those we lead to want to experience the totality of what Jesus is all about and model it daily before their children and within their community. We must understand the mission Jesus gave us as a journey, a relational pilgrimage of becoming more and more like Christ, a mission that is to be lived out in every aspect of our lives within their community locally. It is an experiential relationship with Jesus that transforms attitudes and actions. Corporate prayer and worship in a fellowship is born out in the attending to the physical and emotional needs of people by caring for the sick, feeding the hungry, and befriending the outcasts and rejects of society. Our mission is to raise up transformed followers of Jesus by seeing people in the community redeemed spiritually as well as restored physically, relationally, economically, etc. This is a Missional approach to Worship. We must begin to view Worship through this Missional Lens or our Worship Services will become archaic, outdated, and irrelevant to a world that we are so desperately trying to reach. Take some time this week and discover what Worship really is, and how it can be used to accomplish the mission that God intended it to accomplish.
We are adding another dimension to our Student Ministry. This fall we are starting 6 Missional Communities. Missional Communities will be vital part of our Student Ministry. They are a place where students can get connected to the body of Christ. These communities provide a place for intimacy and the ability to build safe environments for people to open up. Also our Missional Community Leaders are empowered to be shepherds and not chaperones. Those leaders will shepherd the flock that they have been given. They will also invest in the lives of those students and their families.
Envision groups of Christians who don’t just talk about how culture needs to change; they are praying together in agreement and actively engaged in changing culture in the power of God’s Spirit. What does that transformation look like? Imagine rural communities serving the needs of nearby urban communities and the entire area being turned upside down. Housing is being rebuilt. Illegal drugs have all but vanished. Gang members are being transformed into small group members who are mentoring their younger brothers and sisters into being compassionate followers of Jesus. Employment in the inner city is on the rise. Addicts that once stole or sold themselves into prostitution are working at steady jobs. School violence throughout the urban, suburban, and rural communities is at an all-time low. Kids are learning and loving it. The hungry are being fed, the naked are being clothed, and the sick are being cared for. Kids are even caring for the elderly and being mentored by them. The entire community has come together to meet each other’s needs in a miraculous way. One-way to accomplish this is by creating and organized structure to facilitate this process. Below is a brief description of what a Missional Community should look like:
So what does a Missional Community (MC) look like?
*These are some of the core components of an MC:
* From Launching Missional Communities by Mike Breen
Our goal is to have Missional Communities in every area of our city. We also want to have members of our Missional Communities in every class, club and sports team in Jamestown Middle School and Jamestown High School. These communities will be strategically organized to reach into every area of the school campus as well as every neighborhood in town. In John 1, we see that “Jesus dwelt among us”. He became a part of the culture. He was “one of us”. We must have the same mindset. Paul encourages us in Philippians 2:5-11 to have the same attitude as Christ, which means we must live out the Gospel before the people that we have been entrusted with. The Holy Spirit allows us to be the “incarnate” representative of Christ on earth. We will have the same spirit and mind of Christ if we tap into the power and guidance that the Holy Spirit offers.
We must keep the BIG picture in mind. We have to put people before programs. We cannot underestimate the power of presence. Just being available and listening to students share the successes and failures in their life; we will make a great impact. Remember, we are a model of relational ministry.
We need to be real and authentic with our students, their families, and our leaders. Jesus was able to do this very well. His disciples saw Him in His full glory on the Mount of Transfiguration and in His brokenness in the Garden of Gethsemane. Authenticity is really at the heart of the incarnation. When Jesus was baptized and the Father spoke His affirmation over His son by saying “in whom I am well pleased”, we see who Jesus really was. His divine nature and human nature were transparent for all to see. All we have to do is look. His miracles testified to his deity while his sorrow and brokenness in the Garden displayed His humanity.
Incarnational Ministry is what every believer is called to. We are the body of Christ. We are an extension of His saving grace. We must be willing to step outside of our comfort zone, and “dwell” with those who need to experience the incarnate, and Missional Communities are a vehicle for us to practice “incarnate” living in a dark and broken world. These communities will help us be “salt” and “light” to a generation that is desperately seeking the truth, so make plans to be part of these vibrant Missional Communities today!!!