If the church leaders say to people, "Living on mission in our city is vital," yet they rarely if ever offer opportunities for people to serve the city, then a chasm exists between how the leaders see the church and how others see her.
If the church leaders say to people, "Living on mission in our city is vital," yet they rarely if ever offer opportunities for people to serve the city, then a chasm exists between how the leaders see the church and how others see her.
Release the APE is all about activating the Apostolic, Prophetic, and Evangelistic vocations into the world. We are committed to telling real time APE stories, sharing thoughts that shape the APE, and encouraging believers to live into APE vocations so that all the potential for God movements can be unleashed everywhere.
You may know A.P.E.S.T. from Alan Hirsch's books & teaching. That's where the APE comes from. Who should read the blog? Here's their list
I align with several camps: I'm baptist. I'm reformed. I'm missional. Etc. This looks like a good site for the missional camp to engage, so I'll be reading. Would love to know what you think about their site as the first couple of posts have gone up: "Release the Apostolic, Prophetic, Evangelistic" Part 1 & Part 2. Also check them out on Twitter, Facebook.
I'm very excited to have Center Church by Dr. Timothy Keller in my library. It's nearly 400 pages and is packed full of good stuff. It's hard to describe how "packed full" it is until you see it. You can see pieces of it here...
Check out some of the praise it's receiving...
I'm not exaggerating when I say that Center Church is my favorite book Tim Keller has written thus far.
- Scotty Smith, Christ Community Church
This is not simply curriculum content; it is exactly the kind of life-giving, generative gospel theology our churches need.
- Stephen Um, CityLife Presbyterian Church, Boston
This book will help you if you are serious about seeing your city transformed by the gospel of grace.
- Darrin Patrick, Vice President of the Acts 29 Network
In Center Church, one of the great missionary statesmen of our times lays out a vision of the church vigorous enough to transform entire cities through its agency of the gospel.
- Alan Hirsch, Founding Director of Forge Mission Training Network
Watch this video. Note that Keller says, "Things that work in cities often we find work outside of cities as well." This is more than a book for city-center church planting, and as I have said several times, the best books on the church (regardless of where you are located) are urban church books.
It sounded like a cheesy title, but Michael Frost (Exiles, The Shaping of Things to Come, ReJesus, The Road to Missional) delivered a simple, thought-provoking breakout at Exponential 2012 that I listened to by podcast last night. He compares a good marriage to how we say "I do" and "To death do us part" and the ongoing romance with our spouse with how a church loves her neighborhood (or city). I'd have some minor quibbles, but it was quite helpful for me.
Here are some of his thoughts and points from my sketchy notes, which you can see are comparable to marriage. Should we commit to our neighborhoods (cities) to a lifelong romance, till death do we part? Good thoughts here...
- Talk to your mayor, police chief, fire chief, school principals
- Eat in local restaurants, get in local cafes, walk the neighborhood
- Ask people what they want, long for, desire
- NOTE: Interesting section on midnight-5am "street pastors" 16:45 mark
- "Listen to your neighborhood, it is telling you--if you listen hard enough--how to evangelize them, how to serve them, how to unleash an awareness of the reign of God in that place."
- You will move culture to a tipping point by transforming hundreds of thousands of villages across the nation.
- If this place goes down, we will go down with you.
From Ray Ortlund's sermon on mission from August 12th at Immanuel Church (emphasis his).
...we live in a city and in a world that ignores [Jesus]. Sometimes we ignore him. ... We are not happy that the real Jesus is still ignorable in our city and far beyond. We don’t accept that. We’re making it our church mission, and I am asking you today to make it your life mission, to make the real Jesus non-ignorable in our city and far beyond.
Every one of us can be involved, because this is not for spiritual high-achievers; this is for broken sinners. God’s power comes down on weak people. So, you’re the one he wants to use. What are you going to do for Jesus that just can’t be ignored? What are we going to do together that can’t be ignored? That purpose is going to take us beyond routine church life. Routine church can be ignored. And it is our mission to change that, which we means we need to change first. The more repentance the world sees in us, the more repentance we’ll see in the world.
The Lord Jesus saw a vast harvest waiting to be gathered in but hardly any workers to do the job. So he issued an instruction to his followers: 'Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field' (Matthew 9:38).
That command still applies today. Although 2000 years of Christian witness have past, there are still millions in our world who have never even heard the name of Christ. Even in countries where many profess to be Christians there is great ignorance, and a spiritual great hunger - which only the Gospel of Christ can answer.
This book is an attempt to describe the nature of gospel ministry and to answer the questions that those who are considering it may have. The aim is not to persuade everyone that they should give up their present jobs and offer themselves as workers to churches and missionary organizations. We all have different gifts. But we should all be asking ourselves this question: 'What is it that I could do that would most bring glory to God through the spread of the gospel?' For some that will mean staying where they are, for others it will mean a significant change of direction.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Go pick up Workers For The Harvest Field or another $2 Tuesdays deal.
- Introduction (Vaughan Roberts)
- Section 1: What is gospel ministry?
- 1. What is Gospel Ministry? (Vaughan Roberts)
- 2. The Character of Gospel Ministry (David Jackman)
- 3. The Priority of Gospel Ministry (Richard Coekin)
- Section 2: Varieties of gospel ministry
- 4. The pastor-teacher (Andy Gemmill)
- 5. The realities of being an evangelist (Roger Carswell)
- 6. Church planters for the harvest field (Tim Chester)
- 7. Gospel ministry overseas (Andy Lines)
- 8. Cross-cultural ministry in the UK (Andrew Raynes)
Some new, some I'm just getting to, but here are some links to check out...
Good Book Company Giveaway: Tim Challies is giving away a bunch of The Good Book Company Bible study guides. Great chance to get theologically solid studies by guys like Tim Chester, Justin Buzzard, and Mark Dever. Also, keep an eye out for $2 Tuesdays from The Good Book Company starting next week!
GCM Conference: Highly recommend the GCM Conference coming up in September in Huntsville. My Soma School experience has me in love with GCM and what it is working to do. Sign up!
Paul Tripp: 6 Traits of a Pastor In Awe of God (get your awe back) | "I counsel you to run now, run quickly, to your Father of awesome glory. Confess the offense of your boredom. Plead for eyes opened to the 360-degree, 24/7 display of glory to which you have been blind. Determine to spend a certain portion of every day in meditating on his glory. Cry out for the help of others. And remind yourself to be thankful for Jesus, who offers you his grace even at those moments when grace isn't nearly as gloriously valuable to you as it should be."
J.I. Packer: Advice to Aspiring Writers - 1. Go deep in personal worship. 2. Write to hit hearts. 3. Write from a sense of calling.
The Gospel Project is worth checking out, if you haven't already. Curriculum for kids, students, and adults. Exciting new resource from Ed Stetzer, Trevin Wax, & LifeWay.
I was very isolated from my laptop on vacation (which lasted 2 weeks), but I did find stuff that looked interesting on my feed reader and my Twitter feed and then saved them for later. Here are a few things that caught my eye...
A few new books worth checking out have found there way into my possession. I hope my readers will check them out...
From Founders Press, Whomever He Wills edited by Matthew Barrett & Tom Nettles. It has some outstanding authors who have written different essays, including a forward by Timothy George.
Here are just a few of the essays I'm looking forward to reading...
2. Total Depravity: A Biblical and Theological Examination by Mark DeVine
8. God’s Sovereignty Over Evil by Stephen J. Wellum
10. John Calvin’s Understanding of the Death of Christ by Thomas J. Nettles
13. The Glorious Impact of Calvinism upon Local Baptist Churches by Tom Hicks
Founders Press has more info. Check it out.
Another book worth checking out is the Mission of God Study Bible (HCSB) edited by Ed Stetzer & Philip Nation. Been looking forward to this for some time, and it looks great. Contributors include good pastors and thinkers like Trevin Wax, Matt Chandler, Joe Thorn, Eric Mason, and Tullian Tchividjian.
Go read 7 reasons why I love the Mission of God Study Bible by Devin Maddox. Here are a couple...
This is a nice addition to the growing group of excellent study Bibles out there.
Jonathan Dodson's new eBook, Unbelievable Gospel, is another one worth checking out. From their website...
Very often we find it difficult to share our faith. In the workplace, neighborhood, or social settings, talking about the gospel doesn’t come up naturally. “Jesus” isn't a topic that hits the neighborhood Google groups, flows naturally on coffee breaks, or crosses our lips in local pubs. But when it does, all too often what we have to say is simply unbelievable. Even the way we share the gospel is often unbelievable. Are there actually good reasons for our hesitation in talking about Jesus? Despite what you might think, there are very good reasons for not talking about the gospel. In Unbelievable Gospel, Jonathan Dodson explores ways we shouldn't share the gospel as well as ways we could, to make the gospel more believable.
Over the last couple of weeks I've been enjoying working out with Jerram Barrs audio from his two classes on Francis Schaeffer (Early Years & Later Years) at Covenant Seminary. Specifically, I've been listening by streaming through the Covenant Seminary Worldwide Classroom app on my Android phone.
I've thought for several years that one of the best things that could happen in American churches is that we would take a more L'Abri-like approach to our mission. You can read the Schaeffer's ministry at L'Abri in The Tapestry (out of print, but I just picked one up used but in perfect condition for $25) and L'Abri. I think churches like Soma Communities are doing this kind of thing better than most.
Whether or not you pick up the books, please go pick up these very helpful, free audio classes from Jerram Barrs are hard to beat as resources in thinking about mission, apologetics, living missionally, hospitality, etc. Download Francis Schaeffer: The Early Years and Francis Schaeffer: The Later Years now. You can get them through iTunes, or stream them over the Worldwide Classroom. While you are at it, find more great stuff from Jerram Barrs including his books The Heart of Evangelism and Learning Evangelism From Jesus.
I'm trying hard to figure out how to explain Soma School. For a couple of weeks now I've been in processing mode while unfolding the story of my week in Tacoma for my wife and kids, our church leaders and some of our members, our community group, and our church as a whole.
As a part of processing I'm working on a few posts to explain what I did at Soma School and what God is doing through what I learned there. First, what we did. The Soma School schedule for the week was well constructed to immerse us both in what they say and what they do by hearing it and actually doing it. You can view a general schedule online but it has been tweaked. Here's my brief overview with the tweaks included as well as some of my experience. I tried to be brief. Also, click on photos for larger version.
Tuesday: Fly in. Reception dinner & introductions at Shakabrah (Jeff Vanderstelt and Caesar Kalinowski's restaurant). GCM vision, Soma vision, & expectations for the week were also discussed, along with some exhortations about being teachable.
I enjoyed some time with a few other Soma attendees from Toronto between landing and the evening beginning. We met on the car ride from the airport and had an amazing story. More on that another time.
We each left with our host family as they came to pick us up.
Wednesday: Story of God. 10 hour story from creation to consummation, compressed to about 6 hours. and taught in two 3 hour sessions. In between we visited Network Tacoma for lunch and to see how they serve the homeless community.
Everyone was assigned a missional community (MC, more info) to attend either Wednesday evening or Thursday evening. I was assigned Jeff Vanderstelt's MC on Wednesday. Jeff brought us to their house and people started showing up. A few folks brought dinner and cooked it as most folks were hanging out and talking. Dinner was served and people were spread all around the house, still talking. Then we all gathered in one room as the MC was finalizing their MC covenant. They didn't talk much about it after the conversation got side-tracked to one woman's concern with how often Jeff, the leader of Soma and the MC, travels. It made for an interesting and eye-opening discussion on expectations, some good ones and some not as much. But it was an open, beautifully messy conversation about who they are and what they are trying to do together.
Both Wednesday and Thursday included pub nights, where Soma School attenders could go out with some Soma guys and talk about pretty much anything. I went both nights (Parkway Tavern), and it was lively conversation.
Thursday: 6 hours on Identities and Rhythms. Lunch in between with Seth McBee and other Soma School attenders to discuss various topics. A handful of Soma leaders were available so attenders could choose who to go to lunch with to discuss their areas of expertise. Really smart and helpful.
Without an MC to attend, Josh Cousineau and I grabbed dinner, late coffee, and headed to pub night. Banter with Jeff Vanderstelt and Sam DeSocio, stories of other conferences, and a packed table with tons of laughter filled the evening.
Friday: 6 hours on the 4 G's: God is Great, God is Glorious, God is Good, and God is Gracious. Followed by 90 minutes of time to repent together in triads. Wow. Powerful. I hate when I'm forced into something like that. It was a running joke that if we knew that was coming we might not have attended Soma School. But it was one of the best experiences of the trip for me, to have 30 minutes for me to tell two brothers how I'm struggling to believe in my heart that God really is these things. Lunch was with Seth McBee again. Also Caesar Kalinowski. Teriyaki. Mmm, good.
Friday night was the songwriters's showcase at Shakabrah featuring Aaron Spiro and others. Packed room enjoying good music.
Saturday: Sacred Space work. Nearly 6 hours of work at Wapato Park. We attacked a large section of the park and took out massive amounts of unwanted growth. Exhausting, but dozens from Soma and Soma School did some beautiful work. What a lesson in a community of faith serving her city.
Then I showered and tried to rest a bit before an expression dinner that my host family is connected with. Great conversation with Justin and Chris and their wives, as well as many others. It was one lady's birthday and they took significant time to surround her and let her know how they see God at work in her life and then pray for her. Eye-opening, beautiful, and something I'd never seen done except very superficially.
Sunday: Attended both morning Soma Tacoma Gatherings with Josh Cousineau. Loved how they did the Lord's Supper. MC's are encouraged to take it together. So they go to a table with a loaf of bread and both juice & wine (intinction), and then they walk away together to circle-up and pray. I took at the 9am gathering with my host family and at the 11:15am gathering with Josh and a couple other Soma School guys.
After, our Soma buddy Lairs took us to Seattle for some burgers and the 5pm Mars Hill service. This was optional, and most other Soma School attenders carpooled up for sightseeing in Seattle. But we did our own thing.
Monday: This is where it all came together. About 6 hours of teaching on building a missional community, which included significant time for questions and answers from two different panels of Soma folks and other discussion.
Lunch for me and a handful of others was with Sam Ticas where we discussed various Soma things, systems, etc.
Dinner was with my host family, John, Trisha and little Aaron before we went to Shakabrah one more time. This time it was host family (John & Trisha, for me) & Soma School attenders together to close out the week, with the opportunity for each attender to share one takeaway from the week. I'll share mine in a future post.
There was a great move of the Spirit in the room as attenders opened up and shared amazing things God was doing. Someone asked Jeff Vanderstelt how we (attenders) could pray for Soma. We then spent a significant amount of time praying for Soma, which was completely unplanned. Wonderful. Then they prayed for us and we left. I packed up and prepared for my flight home on Tuesday.
That's a brief overview of the week not only according to the schedule, but as I experienced it. I probably forgot a few significant things. I purposefully left out some of what God was doing in me as I want to give that a more singular focus. All in all it was a week I'll never forget. John & Trisha were great hosts, loving me and serving me well. Teaching from Caesar Kalinowski, Abe Meysenburg, and Jeff Vanderstelt was excellent. But the whole week learning with head, heart, and hands was remarkable and is incomparable with anything else I've experienced. If you are considering attending Soma School, I highly recommend it. More posts to come.
Mark Beeson on community & mission...
Church is not an event; it's a community. Mission is not an event; it's a lifestyle.
Tim Chester on meals, discipleship, & mission...
People often complain that they lack time for mission. But we all have to eat. Three meals a day, seven days a week. That’s twenty-one opportunities for mission and community without adding anything to your schedule. You could meet up with another Christian for breakfast on the way to work—read the Bible together, offer accountability, pray for one another. You could meet up with colleagues at lunchtime. ...chat to the person across the table from you in the cafeteria. You could invite your neighbors over for a meal. Better still, invite them over with another family from church. That way you get to do mission and community at the same time; plus your unbelieving neighbors will get to see the way the gospel impacts our relationships as Christians (John 13:34–35; 17:20–21). You could invite someone who lives alone to share your family meal and follow it with board games, giving your children an opportunity to serve others through their welcome.
Mike Wilkersen at Resurgence on Journal of Biblical Counseling's return...
Tim Keller on NYC ban of churches renting schools for worship gatherings...
I am grieved that New York City is planning to take the unwise step of removing 68 churches from the spaces that they rent in public schools. It is my conviction that those churches housed in schools are invaluable assets to the neighborhoods that they serve.
Seth McBee on multiplying disciples...
You must regularly talk about multiplication and train the next group for its certainty. It must always be on your lips and prayers, and always on your people’s lips and prayers. If it’s not, then it will be very difficult when it happens–like kicking out your unsuspecting child and telling them it’s healthy.
Here's a list of the Soma School leaders & attenders (Jan 2012) on Twitter. If I'm missing anyone, please let me know and I'll update the list. Also, I pleaded with Abe Meysenburg to get on Twitter. Everyone put the pressure on him! :)
SOMA SCHOOL ATTENDERS (Jan 2012)
Bob Logan with another helpful post on coaching the people who 'get it.'
Among people who indicate receptivity to missional living, some will be willing to go the extra mile in living it out. Look for those who “get” missional living and are willing to take risks, even if they’re not great at it.
These are the people you need to be investing in...
He then offers some simple questions to use in coaching them...
- Where are you now?
- Where do you sense God tugging on your heart lately?
- Where does God want you to go?
- What actions might God be leading you toward?
- What are the next steps you can take?
Jeff Vanderstelt of Soma Communities talks about how missional communities (mc's) do mission. If you aren't familiar with missional communities, or the way they are done at Soma, this is fascinating. He talks about every member mission, how and why mc's write their own covenants after choosing a people group they intend to reach together, how the church commissions them for the mission, coaching mc's get, and more. The covenant answers: "What would it look like for us to radically reorient our lives on a daily, weekly, monthly basis to reach those people together?"
Here's my best shot at creating one post with links to everything from Together for Adoption featured bloggers. Not every blogger wrote on everything or was present for every main session. I expect more posts are still coming with reflections on T4A in the days to come. I know I have some unfinished posts on some talks and a handful of other reflections to share. If you see things I've missed, let me know. FYI: I know other bloggers/twitterers said a lot at T4A, but I'm focusing on the "featured bloggers." If you want to put a link to other helpful posts in the comments from non-featured bloggers, that would be a great addition to the list.
Check out tweets still coming out from #t4aCon attenders and others RTing good quotes. Also go back in the Twitter accounts (listed below) for a ton of great quotes. That may be the best way to get direct quotes, while the posts often contain interaction on the quotes and topics.
BLOGGERS - Name [link to Twitter account] (abbreviation)
Darrin Patrick | Session 1 - The Church & Social Justice
Tullian Tchividjian | Session 2 - Surprised by Adoption
Dan Cruver | Session 3 - Adoption & The God Who Cares
Bryan Loritts | Session 4 - The Church as the Theater of Transracial Adoption
Jeff Vanderstelt | Session 5 - Gospel-Motivation for Missional Living
Tim Chester | Session 6 - Relaxing in Trinitarian Love
PRE-CONFERENCE & BREAKOUTS
MISC & POST-CONFERENCE
I think we need to regain a healthy, biblical view of interruption.
Interruption can be good or bad. When I'm hurt and a doctor tells me I need to go to the emergency room, that's a good interruption. When I'm leading family worship and I get a recorded phone call from a politician, it's a bad interruption. Much open-air preaching is bad interruption. Sometimes very judgmental. Even cruel. Good open-air preaching, humble and loving preaching, would be the best interruption we could ever have.
God has called us to the mission of good interruption. We don't need permission. We don't need to find an invitation to speak. We speak. We declare. We preach. We have been given the command to interrupt the world before they face the judgment of God. We are physicians crying out to a sick world to get life-saving medicine. We are ambassadors of another Kingdom warning that the current Kingdom will be destroyed and the only rescue is to join the Kingdom of the Good King. That's what the Gospel does. It forces the issue. It interrupts.
Praise God, the Gospel interrupts with power. The Bible tells us we have the power of the Gospel for salvation, the power of the Holy Spirit to be witnesses. We have the Word that is fire and a hammer that shatters the rock and won't return empty but accomplishes what God's purpose for it. We have a sword that separates joints from marrow, the sword of the Spirit. God doesn't give us an ineffective Word, but an effective one. It saves.
If we have this power at our fingertips as preachers, and given God's permission to interrupt the lives of everyone around us, how can we not preach to everyone? How can we be content to confine our preaching to those who show up?
(Check out all my posts & resources on open-air preaching)
After I read some stuff and watched the vids you posted I made a short list of things I can do right now as I'm not ready to go stand on the street and start preaching. My list was 1) begin to pray for the right heart, 2) make a solid intentional list of verses and memorize them, 3) find the right spots in my community, 4) compile a list of texts conducive to preaching the gospel in open air.
Great stuff, Jesse. One of the things I've failed to do yet in this series, though I've done some sporadically throughout, is to let people know what I'm doing before I start some form of open-air preaching. I think the preparation is crucial to doing it well. Jesse's four points are excellent and are clearly reflective of things I'm doing. Here's what I'm doing to take steps toward open-air preaching...
1. Praying | I'm not spending a lot of time praying for the right heart, as I feel like the right heart is what God has been preparing in me to even do this series of posts and head in this direction evangelistically. But Jesse's comment reminds me I need to do this more. I'm praying currently more for revival in our church, for the Spirit to guide me toward the right places, right times, & right means, for the Spirit to be working in the hearts of the lost so the seeds of the Gospel will grow, etc.
I'm also praying for a handful of guys who have expressed interest, who I've been in contact with privately about it, and for others who I hope will consider open-air preaching because they would be good at it. I think I mentioned that in a previous post, but worth noting here.
Some of the prayer for evangelism and toward the lostness of our neighbors is with my wife and kids. The kids know varying amounts of info about my growing plans (depending on their age and maturity), but they are a part of this for sure. They will know (generally) what I'm doing when I do it.
2. Brainstorming | I'm spending a significant amount of time just brainstorming. Ideas sometimes come out of prayer, and prayer is my response to ideas. Often listening to podcasts helps to spark my thinking (preaching on particular passages, on revival, on evangelism; Jerram Barrs iTunes U evangelism class), drawing stuff on my whiteboard or in my Moleskine workbook, making lists, playing with acrostics for different things I'm doing or want to do, making notes in a personal journal, etc. I can't emphasize how important untethered time has been in thinking this stuff through.
I could make a whole other point on stuff I'm reading that's a part of my brainstorming, but it's more pieces of things. Much I've found helpful I've tweeted or posted as quotes. But I'll just say I'm reading Scripture, books, stuff out of theology books, evangelism books, etc and so on to help me continue to brainstorm.
I'm also watching videos of people doing open-air preaching. Even the bad stuff is informative on at least what NOT to do. :) I notice a lot of patterns found in nearly all preachers, which helps in brainstorming as well.
3. Bouncing Ideas & Seeking Advice | Molly gets a lot of it. She's pumped, and always has good wifely advice as well as godly advice. Important because of of who she is in my life, and because she needs to be prayed up and prepared for any possible negative consequences. I've been on the phone more the last 3 days than in the last month, just picking brains. Joe Thorn gets plenty of that, but other guys elsewhere are getting some of that. Emails and DM's on Twitter are hopping. I've started sending a list of my posts to some respected guys out there (pastors, authors, missiologists) for their advice, feedback, or whatever. I need people to tell me if/where I'm wrong! I'm thinking it through and I KNOW some guys out there think I'm a nutjob for saying all this, but few are saying it to me. Dear "that guy," please tell me. Help me. Sharpen me.
4. Canvassing My City (County) | I've done this for a while, but it's ramping up. I'm doing drive-bys and paying visits to places at certain times to gauge people-flow. I somewhat regularly do work at the local community college to see the flow of students to and from campus, to and from the cafeteria, etc. Last night, for example, I left the house and did a drive-by the local bars. How busy are they on a Wednesday night?
I have some workbook notes on specific times and places of things that happen, as well as spaces that might be conducive. Helpful for praying and planning for open-air preaching.
5. Texts for Memorizing/Preaching | Jesse's point here is important. I'm looking particularly to the parables at the moment for preaching. I'm focusing more on gospel Scriptures than apologetics Scriptures, but both have a place.
I'm also convicted after some discussion with Jim Elliff that I need to spend more time reading Scripture than reading other good things, books, etc. Trying to ramp up that pursuit.
6. Preparing My Local Church | I'm telling my church in sermons what I'm planning (more vaguely). I'm telling my church in community groups and prayer meetings in as much detail as is helpful. They are responding with more prayer, with more focused prayer, prayer for boldness, etc. After worship on Sunday they spontaneously (led by a couple people) surrounded me, laid their hands on me, and prayed for boldness.
7. Seeking Partners | I've also told my people I need them in the work. Some need to be there to observe, respond relationally and conversationally to follow-up. A few have already stepped forward for that.
Jesse had a second thing he brought up and I'll briefly respond to...
My hang up is, in addition to the qualities you mention that you're calling for in open air preaching, doesn't there have to be an attractional element to gather people? What does that look like other than being in a public place and raising your voice really loud?
I'm going to have more to say about this when I start talking about a particular approach I'm planning on taking. But I'm hoping to take a gradual approach to public preaching, meaning to start preaching out of other things that are occurring. In Acts 2 Peter's preaching is responding to the drunkenness comments of the crowd after tongues are spoken. In Acts 3 Peter's preaching is responding to the lame guy leaping around after healing takes place. Paul (generally speaking) often moves from Synagogue to marketplace to further opportunity (Areopagus, Hall of Tyrannus). Public preaching (of some sort) of Jesus is often in response to his healing, his helping the woman caught in adultery, to the crowds surrounding him because of other things going on.
Now, we for some reason have taken that to mean we should learn some clever magic tricks and juggling in order to draw a crowd. I think more biblical ways above are better ways.
While I'm probably not going to take a lame guy and make him walk (unless the Lord wills!), I can start small with a conversation with one or two in such a way and in such a place that it leads to others joining in as they either eavesdrop (which we hope for) or because they are invited to join.
In other words, I'm not planning at this point on being the dude who brings in his ladder and microphone and says my name and starts preaching to a crowd. I'm planning on starting with a few, loudly enough and in a public gathering area in order that others will overhear, and with the hope it draws a crowd and larger-scale open-air preaching is the result. AND, I believe I've found at least one way to do that in my city, though I'm not ready to post that specifically here. I've told a few friends. I'm happy to give a little more info to anyone who desires more. But what I gave should be enough to spark some thought in your context.
Hope that's helpful. Again, thinking it all through. Trying to find a way to do it better. And I'm desperate for negative or positive feedback so I'm not just some blogger out there saying a bunch stuff that will amount to nothing. What would you add to my list?
If you are new to the conversation, see my previous posts:
It would also be helpful to peruse the various quotes over the last few weeks I've posted from Spurgeon and others. I just want everyone to know what the context is, that I feel there needs to be a movement of sane, theologically-sound, gospel-centered preachers into the open-air again. Now, to the post. And this is where the "sane" part comes in.
One question I get is, How does the idea of public preaching jibe with being missional? My response is that I think it will enhance it...if we do it well. Mean open-air preaching is obviously bad and will kill relationship opportunities. Or even preaching good words but with a bad, unfriendly demeanor can hurt. So my take on good open-air preaching is that it's the guys who get "missional" that will do it well and better.
So here are my thoughts. I don't have it all figured out by any means. Trying to get these thoughts down takes a lot of editing and I probably still need to change some things. So I very much need your feedback.
To be Missional is to live as "sent." The church lives sent as the missionary, we are all missionaries. Somehow we make that about being only relational, meaning evangelism must almost always take 6 months to get to the gospel. I may be overstating it, but at least hear where I'm coming from. I'm sensitive to this approach, embrace it, and want to do evangelism well in whatever form it comes and however long it takes.
But for those called of God to preach, we then by preaching publicly (outside our buildings, apart from Sunday mornings) will be scattering seeds that will lead to better opportunities for our people to live missionally. It provides the chance for Christians who attend our open-air preaching to connect with the listeners with a relational response. It will also create a larger swath of people in our communities who are hearing the Gospel or at least touched by the positive or negative buzz it creates.
Let me illustrate, and I think I remember most details correctly. I would not do it this way, but it helps to show that even in a less than ideal approach, we can still through a kind of open-air preaching make missional connections.
I remember reading of a guy who would go sit in a bar next to folks and order a soda. A bit later a friend would come in, start preaching the Gospel openly and loudly, and then fairly quickly would get kicked out for obvious reasons. The dude at the bar would then look at the shocked people around him and begin to say, "Wow, that was weird. What do you think about what that guy was saying about Jesus and salvation?" And then would in a more relational way, connect with the lost.
Even a bad way of doing open-air preaching led to conversations about the Gospel. So "missional" in this way means that any sort of public preaching can be used positively (or negatively) to start a conversation that leads to a relationship, Gospel disucssion, and more. (Remember, I'm not advocating this approach.)
BUT, imagine if our open-air preaching IN ITSELF is missional-flavored? I'm not just meaning it's a way of getting our "missional" people there to make "missional" contact. I mean that being missional should affect the preacher's approach to the audience. That our desire to be relational should affect very much what we say in public preaching, and how we say it.
What would missional open-air preaching look like?
We see ourselves as local. My posts have not been about itinerant open-air Gospel bombers who hit-and-run and let the locals figure it out. I'm talking about pastors who are called to love their cities toward Jesus getting the Gospel in the open-air again. So the ultimate goal in evangelism, of whatever sort, is to make disciples. Disciples are made in relationships, though it may start without it (Acts 2). And that means we aim that our hearers in open-air preaching will eventually (Lord-willing) join our churches and connect in Gospel-centered community with us. Our open-air preaching will be winsome to those being saved, though it will be foolishness to those who are not (1 Cor 1:22-24).
So with that mission in mind we need open-air preaching to be quite different from what we typically see in America. Here are a few ways our open-air preaching can, and I think must, be missional. They blend together so much that separating these ideas isn't easy. But I'm going to try...
Be Prayerfully Broken First | Don't start preaching until you feel heat from the flames of hell that the people you are about to preach to will face one day soon. Don't start until you weep over them in prayer. Don't pump yourself up beforehand with rock music, trying to gain the courage to get out there and "go get'em." Calm yourself by seeking the Lord for them, remembering your own helplessness to change any hearts apart from the Spirit's work. Remember you want to gain a relationship with the people you will speak to.
Be Real | When have you seen and heard an open-air preacher who seemed like a guy who really cares about you? Who didn't seem distant? I've never experienced that, except one time after conversion watching a friend doing it. I watched him truly listen, look in their eyes. Compassion was written on his face. Longing for the hearers to be saved was clear in his words. His heart was on his sleeve. Missional open-air preaching demands that you are acting like a person who wants to relate to people. That you not only feel compassion toward your hearers, but that it's apparent. You are genuine. You have a personality. You are appropriately transparent. You don't take attack personally, but absorb it because it may help that guy or that girl to see your suffering or the insults and see something different about you.
Leave your placards and signs and clever tricks behind. Leave your creative canned presentations behind. Just be a guy who loves Jesus and these people, and has no desire to argue. Talk how you talk. Be who you are. Speak to who they are. And speak through your longing for them to know our great God.
Be Gentle & Respectful | They will expect you to judge them, to yell, to stand in pride of your position over them. What if you don't respond as loudly as them? Teachers at our local school were telling us that getting louder to talk above a class full of loud students just keeps escalating. If you lower your voice, they will lower theirs to hear what you are saying. Has any open-air guy tried that? Most preachers I've seen just keep ramping up. Even the ones preaching the Gospel more clearly! We are called to gentleness in the hope that we lead people to repentance.
2 Timothy 2:23-26 | Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
1 Peter 3:14-16 | But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
I'm not calling for more open-air preaching like we have. I'm aiming at something relational, gentle, humble, respectful, honest, calm, reasoned, genuine, real, and heartbroken.
Please help me think this through.
1. Shut the lid on your computer.
2. Get out among people. When Jesus saw the crowds he was moved with compassion.
3. Set aside a regular time/s each week to share the gospel. Don’t come home until you do.
7. Be accountable to someone to stay on track.
8. Spend time with people who share their faith and make disciples. Learn from them and catch their heart.
UPDATE 1.25.2011 | Darrin Patrick responds to John MacArthur -- Not Radical Individualism: A Reply to John MacArthur - They are good words, gracious words.
I've learned a lot from John MacArthur since becoming a Christian. He was a "go to" preacher early on for me. I met him at SBTS somewhere in the early 2000's it was a great pleasure for me.
He was interviewed on Sunday night by Phil Johnson - Theology & Ministry: An Interview with John MacArthur. Go forward until there's about 27 minutes remaining and start listening (for context). With a little more than 25 minutes to go you get John MacArthur saying this...
You know, there's a new book on church planting written by a guy named Darrin Patrick and it says if you want to be an effective church planter, develop your own theology.
You know when I read that I just almost fell off the chair. What? I mean, can you think of anything worse than to have some guy develop his own theology? This is ultimate niche marketing. Develop your own style, your own wardrobe, and then your own theology.
Anyone care to rip this apart? MacArthur should be embarrassed.
UPDATE: And you should buy and read Darrin Patrick's Church Planter, endorsed by Al Mohler, Ed Stetzer, Matt Chandler, Tim Keller, Mark Dever, and others who see things a little different than John MacArthur.
"Perhaps an impression YOU leave behind...
...will lead another to Jesus."
I first heard about and met Jim Elliff at a Founder's Conference years ago. I've emailed him a time or two over the last several years about an evangelism project I've worked on that came from a lecture I heard him give. His articles have often been a source of inspiration (like "A Different Style of Evangelist: Laborers on the Loose"), as had the first edition of Pursuing God. So when I heard Pursuing God: A Seeker's Guide was being reworked, I couldn't wait to check it out. Jim & Christian Communicators Worldwide were kind enough to send me a handful of copies to give away & one I could review.
PHYSICAL: The book is compact. At 86 pages (75 of main content) it's a quick read: Introduction, 11 chapters, "Twenty-one days with God" (10 pages for reading/reflecting in Gospel of John) and finally two pages on reading through the New Testament. That's a lot for a very small book. It could be easily divided into tiny, chapter chunks for daily reading, or consumed fairly quickly in one sitting. The cover is just great, black with a barely visible floral design. Really attractive. Better than I would expect from a small publisher. Well done.
CONTENT: This isn't a your-life-could-be-even-better-with-Jesus sort-of book. It's a hard-hitting, direct spiritual challenge intended for the seeker. Elliff writes in the introduction, "This book is for the person who knows God is there, and believes that somehow he must relate to him." Then a page-turn later Elliff says, "What does God think of me? The answer to this question might surprise you--and disappoint you. But the disappointment is necessary." Pulls no punches.
While the content is strong and biblical, that doesn't mean Elliff runs you over. He doesn't. He walks you through the struggle with ample illustration and in a conversational tone.
The first several chapters or so deals with sin: Who we are because of sin, our broken relationship with God, the coming judgment. Then Pursuing God leads toward an understanding of the power of the Gospel, the need & call to repent (not merely an explanation of repentance), trying vs trusting, and then a final challenge to not only believe, but to then go in faithfulness. In just a few paragraphs I think Elliff does well to explain the life of the Christian from conversion on. And again, there is a guide to 21 days reading in John to help with next steps.
MY TAKE: I really like this little book. Elliff doesn't say everything the way I would, but I'm not unhappy with that. It's solid theology, very practical and personal, and convicting. It takes you down a path toward a knowledge of Christ but isn't written as if it has to do everything or it has failed. It stays simple. I also really like how the first chapter can be used on its own: there's a problem and here's how God solves it.
I don't recommend giving this book to a skeptic, an active doubter. It's not rich on evidence or argument for "defeater beliefs." It's not supposed to be. Keller's The Reason for God is good for them. Pursuing God book is for the nearly convinced and open. And I think it's better than most books written for that category of folks.
One thing that stood out to me is it lacks one chapter on the Cross. I thought that was odd. I knew reading through the book that the Cross was there, but I figured it would be a full chapter right in the center. So I thumbed through again and noticed the Cross is everywhere. I actually sent a direct message on Twitter to Jim today and asked about why no one chapter on the Cross and he said, "My idea was to put the cross in many of the chs all the way through." Exactly what I observed, and I'm good with that. While it might be helpful in some ways to have one chapter giving the Cross full focus, it's not a weakness of the book. The Cross is there in full and clear throughout the book.
USE: As I said, this is written for and truly meant for the seeker. But I've already found it useful in two other ways. First, I used it as a chapter by chapter devotional with my kids. Be careful when you get to the chapter on sex. I was reading to a 7 year old and had to creatively edit on the fly. :) Second, I'm using it with new guys I'm discipling. I think it's helpful to have something this brief as a starting point for discipleship. Plus, it keeps me from discipling someone who may think they have understood the Gospel but hasn't yet.
BONUS: Don't miss the online, free, downloadable study guide for the book.
I highly recommend Pursuing God by Jim Elliff for yourself, family discipleship, church discipleship and, of course, for anyone considering Christ. You can even buy them in bulk.
There was a ton of comment here at Reformissionary and around the internet on the Mark Dever, Mark Driscoll & James MacDonald video discussing multi-site & video venues in church planting. You really need to watch that video and check the comments on my earlier post.
A video was posted by Driscoll talking about humility and notoriety, specifically mentioning the previous video and the response of people to it. Here you go...
I'm somewhere in the middle on the multi-site debate. I'm much more sympathetic to a local/regional multi-site like Tim Keller. I find video venues problematic. James MacDonald & Mark Driscoll both have multi-sites with some video venues. Mark Dever is the guy who says even multiple services is a problem resulting in multiple congregations. So though he could have many more people and services and locations, he still only has one service. I'm not exactly in any of their camps, though I like each of these guys and most of what they do.
But when these three come together for a conversation I expected it to be very interesting and full of thought-provoking argument. It's not. It's a lot of misunderstanding and misdirection and sometimes almost insulting comments, though no one acts offended and I'm sure they assume the best of each other.
So many good questions and points need to be discussed and answered, and I'm not sure a single one was in this video. A few thoughts...
There is an assumption that multi-sites become their own congregations after the leader dies and that multi-sites with video are better because they aren't tied to the leader being there and everyone interacting with him. But why can't they be tied to the leader still?
If that leader's face and name wasn't a part of the venue and movement, people wouldn't come in the same numbers. Their "celebrity" brings in the people, which is a part of why it's used. That's why it works. To assume people will stay after that name and face are gone doesn't work to me. I don't know of any church that has been that far in their history to know if that will work or not. But shouldn't we be concerned for these venues since the name and face is so important?
Let me add, celebrities don't stop becoming celebrities when they aren't in the personal presence of someone. Driscoll seems to imply that. In video venues we make our preaching celebrities more like cultural ones...by putting them on TV. I know there's more to it than that, but I'm really surprised that the conversation doesn't go in that direction. I wish Dever would have pushed more there.
One last thing. Where was the theological basis of the discussion. There was a little on church meaning "assembly" at the beginning, but it turned to plans and numbers and stats and a bunch of stuff other than theology and Bible. In that I wonder if Dever is more open to these things than he has been in the past or if a 2 on 1 conversation is just a bad idea unless the 2 are going to be fair in how they argue with the 1. I'd rather not see your ribbing and "fist bumping" approach and see you really engage deeply on issues that are important. I need to hear these men generously argue with each other. I think we all do. I think that's why the conversation and video exist. But I think it failed to produce something worthwhile.
What say you?
When I moved to Woodstock I made an effort to get to know the city that I've come to love and serve. I still do. My basic approach is to keep up on local news through our papers and such, to spend time enjoying my city (eat the food, sit in the café, go to a concert or a high school football game), talk to businessmen and women, shop locally, read on city and county and region demographics, ask people questions about what good in the city and where the needs are, and so on.
I've come to see this isn't enough.
A couple of weeks ago a new video game store opened in town. My boys wanted to check it out. As we were there my daughter and I popped in to the Dollar General store. As I opened the door to enter I felt uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable because I realized most of my friends probably wouldn't be caught dead in there. And neither would I. That's where "poor people" shop.
I have a real fear that missional pastors and churches aren't doing much better than the institutional, traditional church. That approaches to knowing our city like mine are missing a key element, remembering the poor.
One of the most convicting to me...
If we're being honest I think we have to admit that when we go to take the gospel to a city we too often take it among the rich (or richer).
I mentioned the local farmers market and Paul in the marketplace in a recent post. They aren't the same. I love our local farmers market, but it's not where those with less money can shop. It's for those with more. The marketplace of Paul's day was for everyone. In our day we are, more or less, financially segregated. Let's remedy the fact that we usually live along the lines of our financial status and really get to know our city.
So it's important to know your city in terms of the flow of commerce and places to eat and politics and news, etc. But I think we need to do better to know our city by also hanging with and living among those with less. A few ideas...
<>You probably shop at stores that are nice and clean and big and has a big selection and has fashion you like. Find out where people with less money shop for groceries, clothes, etc. Where do single moms shop? Where do most people with food stamps shop? Now, shop there for the next couple of months.
<>You hang at the café in order to meet your neighbors. Good. Now realize how many people in your city can't afford it. Or realize how many won't get their coffee there because they don't "fit in." Where do they hang? What do they do instead? Can you hang there? If not, why not? Is it pride? Fear?
<>A lot of people don't have or can't afford a washer/dryer. Spend the next month doing laundry for your family at a laundromat. Don't just go to the cleanest & newest one. Go to the one nearest to public housing. Go when traffic is high and get to know those neighbors.
What do you think?
Let’s go downtown and watch the modern kids
Let’s go downtown and talk to the modern kids
They will eat right out of your hand
Using great big words that they don’t understand
-Arcade Fire, "Rococo"-
I had a meeting today with a nice young man who is doing youth work in my city. He filled me in on his work to train volunteer youth ministers and organize some youth outreach events through citywide effort.
One topic that came up, that always comes up when discussing Woodstock youth outreach, is the downtown Square (See my previous post, "The Public Square & Open-Air"). Every day of the week youth are hanging on the Square. They are with their friends, mostly just hanging out, passing time. On Friday and Saturday nights it grows as many youth hang on park benches, in the band gazebo, walking around, etc.
By all appearances, there's a specific sort of youth in my city that hangs out in our Square. Generally speaking they aren't the kids in letterman's jackets or who attend math club meetings or who run for student council. Just by checking out their clothes and actions and hearing them talk (available to anyone who passes through the Square when they are around), folks see them as rebels, as troublemakers. They are probably the ones without a solid family life. They certainly are the ones who wear different clothes, have emo-ish hair, and, well, you have a picture in your head. Saw one dude who wears thick black all around his eyes. When they pop into Starbucks some adults seem intimidated. They are (again, generally speaking) loud and rude. But that's just by appearances.
But here's the truth, and it hit me like Mack truck today: I don't really know them.
Sure, I can tell you what they look like and sound like and how a few of them have irritated me or someone else I know. But I haven't met more than one or two of them. I don't know what they've been through, what their parents are like, or anything else about them.
So how can we reach them?
The idea most often discussed by pastors/church leaders I've talked to is to start some sort of youth center where they could hang, get a Coke, get tutoring, and so on. It will give them a place to go and things to do. It will keep them out of trouble. I think there's some merit to the idea (though it has problems), but no one has been able to make it happen. This youth guy just told me today of another concerted effort that was made by a local church that fell short on funds to pull it off.
Then I had this radical thought: We should just walk across the street and talk to them.
It's simple. Anyone can do it. It takes no planning, no property, no rent, no decorating, no keys, no insurance, no staff. They are right there in front of us. It just takes someone who loves Jesus and loves their neighbor and a little time.
As I write this five youth resembling the above description stomped into Starbucks, didn't buy anything (probably no cash), sat in the soft chairs intended to make paying customers comfortable and goofed around loud enough to get shooed away by a barista. But we shouldn't see them as a nuisance to our clean, comfortable lives. We should see them as some of the only people in suburbia who wear their problems on their sleeve. They have issues, often easy to see ones, and we have answers and help. We have the gospel They are a mission field, and they are right across the street. Let's stop planning grand schemes and just go talk to them.
Help me think about the "Public Square." I have a lot of this stuff in my head and I want to get it out there and see where I'm wrong, right and what to do about it.
A public square, or particularly a "town square", is a place, historically an intersection of important crossroads for trading of goods as well as the sharing of ideas.
I live in a town square city. If you visit my city, Woodstock, IL, that's the place to visit. It's quaint, beautiful, historic, and well organized. If you showed up on a random day you might find a farmers market nearly all the way around the square, or a wedding or band concert in the gazebo, or a group of youth hanging around on a bench, or a fair that brings in people from some distance to visit and shop, or a family having a picnic in the shade, or a Groundhog Day celebration at dawn, or a car show, and on and on it goes. And that's just the center park area. Around the outside are permanent stores, the Opera House, an art gallery, restaurants and more.
After 6+ years here there's one thing I haven't found in our public square: The Gospel.
A lot has changed both with goods & ideas. The public square of goods is now mostly at Wal-Mart (a drive away, but everything you need is there, not just specialty items at the farmers market). The public square of ideas is TV or the Internet where the talking heads (of whatever sort) give their side of the story, or deliver their breaking news, and so on.
Even local stuff is discussed more and more on Facebook than through actual interaction with friends and neighbors. We've learned about local concerns, missing/runaway kids, meetings, etc often on Facebook first. Our local newspaper tries to create this a bit by having comments under each article, but the anonymity of it creates a culture of sniping rather than thinking or caring or doing something in response.
There are some great stories of how Christians have used the public square in the past. Biblically, guys like Paul go into the marketplace where he can interact with all sorts of folks. That leads some of the local philosophers to bring him to the Areopagus (Mars Hill) for a more intellectual presentation as someone with a new idea. We tend to think of the Areopagus as the public square, but it isn't. It's more of a private, formal forum for certain intellectuals. The public square was the marketplace, the less formal place, the everyone-passes-through-here place.
Back in seminary I remember reading and hearing stories of missionaries to the American frontier and circuit rider preachers and evangelists. I was so taken I wrote a paper on open-air preaching. I'm sure you've heard grand stories of the public preaching and impact of men like George Whitefield and John Wesley. The public square and open-air was a crucial space for these men and their ministries. It wasn't always a place of acceptance, as tomato stains would testify. Those are some great stories too.
Now some, surely, will be concerned over a re-imagining of using the public square because of how a few have used it. Some of you are not eager to be associated with Kirk Cameron or the mimes who trap themselves in a box only to show that Jesus is the way out. I hear you. But I can't help but to think that someday we will look back at TODAY as a come-and-see, affluent, hidden time in American Christian history. That we will wonder why we didn't take the good news and release it through public heralding sooner. That we will study how this was the time when our public preaching was through advertising and marketing and little more.
I'm not sure the answers, but I think the questions are important. I think there's something we're leaving to the "crusades" and quacks that we aren't supposed to leave to them. I think that our disdain for what goes for "public preaching" nowadays isn't enough to keep us from figuring out how to do it better, how do it right.
What do you think?
UPDATE: Read my follow-up post: "The Kids Downtown."
Austin has more to offer than good music. The GCM Collective Conference is coming October 28-30. You need to be there.
If you are unfamiliar, GCM stands for "Gospel Community Mission." From the website...
The GCM Collective exists to promote, create and equip Gospel Communities on Mission. A gospel community is a group of believers that lives out the mission of God together as family, in a specific area to a particular people group, by declaring and demonstrating the gospel in tangible forms. Regular people, living ordinary lives, with great gospel intentionality.
GCM Collective's online community for discussion and sharing resources is quite helpful. Again, from the site...
Over a thousand missional leaders and thinkers are gathered together online to share insight, experiences, resources, prayer and more to help you in your effort to lead a local community on mission. Engage in meaningful conversations with others from around the world or who live near you.
But the conference is what I want to highlight. I'm going to be there. I want to encourage you to come.
The list of speakers is solid. Ed Stetzer, Steve Timmis (author of Total Church), Jeff Vanderstelt & Caesar Kalinowski (Soma Communities), David Fairchild & Drew Goodmanson (Kaleo San Diego) and Jonathan Dodson (Austin City Life Church).
I was in a breakout group with Vanderstelt and Kalinowski at Verge in February and it was some of the most thought provoking, encouraging stuff I've heard on practical, local church life. I was in a breakout with Timmis for an Acts 29 boot camp which was very helpful as well. And these aren't just thinkers, they are practitioners. We often go to conferences for big names giving big talks. GCM Conference is going to be very different, and I think transformational.
Jonathan Dodson recently posted "4 Reasons I'm Excited about GCM Conference." These are some of the same reasons I'm excited for this conference.
Go read Jonathan's post for more. And join us in Austin in October for the GCM Conference.
(1) Practioner-tested Missional Community Training
(2) Top Notch Theological Reflection on Mission
(3) The Collective Experience
(4) The Centrality of the Gospel in Mission
Missional thinkers/pastors often bemoan the loss of the front porch in neighborhood architecture. It used to be the place to relax after the work is done, sip tea, interact with our neighbors, etc. The back porch has become prominent, and it's where we hang in seclusion from our neighbors and do our own thing.
Here's a "front porch" hack: Turn your garage into your "front porch."
Drive down your suburban street sometime and notice how the garages are the most prominent feature on the homes. It's right out front. It's an ugly design. And when lumped in together with missing or minuscule front porches makes our homes seem missionally helpless. We can redeem that by hacking the garage to make it a place of neighborhood friendliness, fun and conversation.
Three easy steps.
1. Clean It Out. Toss stuff in the trash. You don't need some of that stuff. Give stuff away. Find another place for it. Tidy up whatever you need to leave in there. Make as much space as possible. If you think you can't, you're wrong.
2. Fill It Up. If you don't have one in there already, put in a fridge (even if only a college-sized one). Put yummy stuff in that fridge. Drinks, snacks, more drinks. Can't afford that, at least put cold stuff in a cooler. Then get a dart board, a bags set, iPod speakers/radio, chairs, basketball hoop, frisbee, or whatever you and others find fun. Keep the door wide open. Let the sound & fun bleed out into the neighborhood. Take the grill from the back porch and put it in the driveway.
3. Invite & Be Inviting. Start right after work. Wave at folks in as they drive home from work. Ask them over. Wave them over. Yell as they get out of their car, "Come on over!" Give them an special invite, if that's helpful. Offer them something to drink and ask about their day. Play a game. Stuff will happen naturally as neighbors feel welcome and stop by regularly.
Hard to get rained out (it's covered). You can do this regularly in most seasons as it's inside-ish (get a heater, fan, etc to stretch that time out).
Don't just do this every so often. Make it a rhythm of family & neighborhood life. I think it will make for a nice front porch for your home, and a great way to share life with your neighbors.
One of my favorite conference experiences EVER was at Ridgecrest, NC for a missions conference with John Piper. BOOM! Awesome. There's another conference coming up at Ridgecrest this July with a stunning list of speakers called missionSHIFT.
Check this out: Matt Chander, Ed Stetzer, Alan Hirsch, JD Greear, Jeff Vanderstelt, Daniel Montgomery, Neil Cole, Dan Kimball and...*gulp*...Joe Thorn!
Would be cool just as a conference, but it gets better. Though not a speak, Tim Keller and some other guys (after I hear Keller, everyone else just fades away...Stetzer, Hirsch, blah, blah, blah) are crafting "The Missional Manifesto"...
During the months leading up to missionSHIFT, many of today’s leading missiologists, theologians, and practitioners will begin to draft a document entitled “The Missional Manifesto.”
The framers hope to construct a helpful statement on the use and application of the word missional. The intention of “The Missional Manifesto” is to allow the Scriptures to guide our understanding and involvement in the mission of God as it applies to the whole of life and doctrine. The document will strive to show how missional intersects with truths about the gospel, the local church, evangelism, missions, social justice, and contextualization, among other things.
Prior to missionSHIFT, all interested parties will be able to participate in shaping the document via Twitter using the “tweet” feature on the left side of the home page - using @missionSHIFT and #missionSHIFT. Because we feel that biblical community is inherent to the participation in God’s mission, we hope you will use the “tweet” feature to share information about missionSHIFT via other mediums such as social networking and email platforms.
Before the conference, “The Missional Manifesto” will be posted on this page for attendees to prayerfully read through and consider signing in affirmation at the conference. After missionSHIFT, non-attendees will be given an opportunity to electronically sign “The Missional Manifesto” on this site in affirmation of its content.
As stated, we believe now is the time to forge this declaration and we look forward to doing that with you!
Friends, this is a really great opportunity to both attend and help to craft this document with some of the finest minds and practitioners around. Check out missionSHIFT.
Daniel Montgomery of Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY on the Gospel (via)...
Poets.org: National Poetry Month is one week away
Skye Jethani: Why I Don't Tweet (I left him a comment)
This looks like meals together with believers and unbelievers 2-4 times a week; cleaning up the yard of our widowed neighbor next door; serving at the elementary’s auctions, community events and after school programs; going through “The Story of God” 1-2 times a year with unbelievers to introduce them to the Gospel; sharing our house for others to live with us and join us on the mission; having an “open door” policy to our neighbors and friends; throwing parties regularly to meet more people who we hope will also come to faith in Jesus; etc… We focus on demonstrating the change the Gospel makes in our lives through tangible expressions of serving and declaring the reason why we live this way by sharing the Gospel.
Jamie Munson on Opposition
Opposition is diverse and relentless and, if given all of your time, deadly. Perspective dies as the opposition blurs our vision. Hope can die as the opposition becomes weightier than the opportunity. Fatigue can kill you if you spend more time running from the opposition than pursuing the opportunity.
What would you say if you had cancer and may not make it until next Christmas? Here's what Zac Smith said...
Tullian Tchividjian: Counterfeit Gospels
The good news of the gospel is that both inside and outside the church, there is only One Savior and Lord, namely Jesus. And he came, not to angrily strip away our freedom, but to affectionately strip away our slavery to lesser things so that we might become truly free!
As I was just talking to Jayne about this she said many people are willing to do the basics of hospitality, but shut down once it gets difficult and messy. It is at this point, where the Gospel gives us strength to continue AND where the opportunities to give a reason for our hope (1 Peter 3:15) open up because most people (believer and unbeliever alike) know how to be “good neighbors”, however, very few are willing to “suffer” (if we can call it that) for the sake of others.
We have found that the mess and the difficulty of loving hospitality done in the power of the Gospel is one of the most powerful witnesses we’ve had to our neighborhood.
Don't start with a big program. Don't suddenly think you can add to your church budget and begin. Start personally and start in your home. I dare you. I dare you in the name of Jesus Christ. Do what I am going to suggest. Begin by opening your home for community...
How many times in the past year have you risked having a drunk vomit on your carpeted floor? How in the world, then, can you talk about compassion and about community--about the church's job in the inner city?
Joe Thorn: Do You Love the Law?
But here's the rub: we can only love the law after it has been fulfilled by Christ on our behalf. The law will only be a delight to us after we have found life by the gospel.
Lifehacker: Create your own QR-Code, like this one for my Tim Keller Resources...
>< Starting to read Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh soon. So much good buzz out there on this book. I've needed a book like this for years, and now it's here. From the introduction...
My hope is that, through this book, God will begin or continue a process of healing introverts--helping them find freedom in their identities and confidence to live their faith in ways that feel natural and life-giving, the way that God intended.
>< I'm still working on a review for Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic by Chris Castaldo. I really like it. If you are doing outreach to Catholics or have Catholic family and/or friends (that's pretty much all of us), I recommend this book.
>< Phriday is for Photos tomorrow. Some of the photos from the photography project for 5th grade art are up at the school and I snapped a couple of pics. Proud of these kids.
>< The last few days have been an explosion in good, new music. Looking forward to a few great recommendations on Monday.
>< New Lots-o-Links post middle of next week or so.
>< I'm planning to put a post up next week on resources I've been using to study and understand Catholicism.
>< Getting a lot of ideas for posts on both evangelism and discipleship. Hope to start getting to those next week.
>< April is coming up fast, which means National Poetry Month comes once again to Reformissionary. Can't wait!
I've been struggling. Personally, spiritually, pastorally, physically. I was talking with my wife on Saturday night about some of the stuff I've dealt with in the last year and beyond, and it blew me away when I realized the issues that have I've dealt with in my life. I know that's vague, but I want to give at least a little context for what I'm going to say and what I've experienced. I know we all go through difficult, dryer times. We all have detractors. And I've talked to a number of young pastors in the last months and years who have had many of the same issues. I know I'm not alone or unique.
In the few months prior to Verge God was really working on me. I've been doing a lot of repenting of the idols in my heart. I've been preaching the gospel to myself. Molly and I have been thinking through a lot together. She has been going through much of the same through a study that just rocked her world a couple of months back.
When I got to Verge I connected with friends and settled in for a good time. What I didn't expect that God would use this conference as a spiritual pivot-point. Practical, sure. Theological, maybe. Not spiritual. During the conference, through a number of sessions and conversations and events, the Holy Spirit haunted me with God's goodness and faithful love in Christ.
Let me briefly describe how the Holy Spirit worked in me at Verge.
First, I was blessed and challenged by the video lead-ins by Alan Hirsch. Each session started with Hirsch detailing an idea that the upcoming speakers would speak on. One-by-one these videos deepened my love for Christ and the Church. I ended up looking forward to the next video more than the next speaker. It was a great thread tying together the conference, and through them the Spirit was stirring that old fire in my belly to see God's local church vibrant and alive.
Second, as detailed in my previous post, Jeff Vanderstelt and Caesar Kalinowski's breakout on Soma Communities took Hirsch and gave it legs, concreteness. They took the hunger I was gaining for biblical, misisonal community encouraged by Hirsch and made it seem possible. God was renewing my view of community, my calling to shepherd our church toward it, and my love for the Church despite her flaws.
Third, the two sessions with Francis Chan were remarkable. Nothing flashy. Quite the opposite, really. Just real. The dude was real. He was honest about his own struggles and our struggles as pastors to want what God wants and to want them through the means God provides.
Both sessions were on the Holy Spirit. I don't care what the titles or topics were. The Holy Spirit was the point for me. Why are we functioning on any power other than the Holy Spirit? Chan said...
You will try and fail to start movements. Movements come from Jesus, from the Holy Spirit. If you try to go surfing and there are no waves, you send your buddy out to start splashing and try to make waves. We can't do it.
Think about the book of Acts, and how unstoppable they were. This is Holy Spirit powered.
I want to ride the wave. I'm spending way too much energy splashing in the ocean to make my own waves when if I look for the Spirit's waves, they will be unstoppable. How can we think our tactics and strategies and plans and efforts will go anywhere without God?
Chan's honest and sobering message inspired me to dream again about being the church we saw in Acts. I used to dream about the exciting, messy movement of God in the world. I want to want that again. Most preaching makes me want to believe I can do something. Chan made me want to believe and pray that God would do something.
In his second message Chan said something like this...
If you are not suffering, there is a problem. Imagine how close you’d be with Jesus and how safe you would feel had you suffered alongside Him. Then you would know this is real.
This was the message I can quote the least because I was so tunnel-visioned into what God was saying. I didn't hear the sermon, I experienced it. You can get a lot of the message from Jonathan McIntosh's post. He echoes much of what I thought about Chan and the work of the Holy Spirit at Verge.
Allow me to quote JMac here for my fourth and final point.
Fourth, the Holy Spirit showed up. Jonathan writes...
The best part of the weekend was a worship session on Saturday afternoon that never seemed to stop. It was time for the singing to be done and for all of us to move on to the next deal on the schedule – except that God had something else on His schedule.
Matt Carter got up and acknowledged that something was going on. Breakouts were going to start soon and that if people needed to go they could, but he opened the door for others to stick around if they felt so led. And we did. People just stood there. Or knelt. Or bowed.
And then one by one, people spontaneously started calling out to God. In a group of thousands, people started calling on the name of Jesus.
It’s hard to describe what happened, and I really don’t want to dishonor that moment by trying to make it seem more dramatic than it was. I’ll just say that for me it was an intense moment of sensing God’s hugeness and my own smallness and yet feeling accepted in that instead of alienated. It’s the first time I’ve seen something like that happen in a group that large since my charismatic revival days.
I agree. I've had a lot of "aha" moments from God through His Word. I've had a sacred few moments when He was noticeably present in a special way. I've had even fewer like Verge when He moved in unity among many and was, apparently, sensed by nearly all of us.
Truthfully, I'm all too skeptical of these things. So much junk is said to be the work of the Spirit, and that's when eye-rolling and tongue-clucking commences. But I can't deny the experience I (we) had at Verge. It was the culmination of many things happening in my life. It was sparked by truth and Christology and ecclesiology and evangelistic/missional fervor at Verge. But the crescendo for me, and it seems for all of us, was when a "rock star pastor" (Chan) laid himself bare, talked about struggles instead of displaying his flapping cap, and talked about Jesus and the Spirit instead of strategies. It was a moment I can't forget, and that drives me NOT to pursue a new ministry plan BUT rather power that can only come from the haunting of the Holy Ghost.
May our churches find ourselves on our knees far more than we sketch out plans. May the interruptions that God puts in our lives be seen as more important than our intentions. May we be willing to suffer as missionaries for our great God. And may He be glorified.
Bill Streger: Uncool People Need Jesus Too...
I have yet to assess a church planter who wants to move to a declining, smaller city and reach out to blue collar factory workers, mechanics, or construction crews. Not one with an evangelsitic strategy to go after the 50-something administrative assistant who’s been working at the same low-paying insurance firm for three decades now....Why is that?
Brent Thomas: Would You Like To Be Part of a Movement...
Though, on paper, we offer much less than other churches (we “do” Sunday mornings and Community Groups), we are actually asking you to consider an entire reorientation of your life around the Mission of God (Missio Dei), to be part of a movement, to transform the culture of the NorthWest Phoenix Valley through the power of the Gospel.
Beginning With God helps parents start a Bible-reading routine with their preschool-age children. The beautifully-designed book from The Good Book Company is an easy-to-use companion to the Beginner’s Bible and other popular toddler’s Bibles.Check out new music from These New Puritans and The Besnard Lakes.
Dave Kraft: What Makes A Leader? series
Hudson Taylor on Evangelism...
Perhaps if there were more of that intense distress for souls that leads to tears, we should more frequently see the results we desire. Sometimes it may be that while we are complaining of the hardness of the hearts of those we are seeking to benefit, the hardness of our own hearts and our feeble apprehension of the solemn reality of eternal things may be the true cause of our want of success.” (via)
GCM Collective (Gospel Community Mission) launches on Monday...
It is a gospel community that lives out the mission of God together, as family, in a specific area and to a particular people group by declaring and demonstrating the gospel in tangible forms. God is moving to create thousands of new gospel communities on mission around the world. Be a part of this movement.
When my very smart and relatively young girlfriend (she was then 20) first told her father she was thinking of marrying me, he refused to even hear of it. "How much college debt does he have?" he demanded. "What's the rush? Why not wait until your career and finances are established? How do you know he's the one?"
Brent Thomas sees Rob Bell's Drops Like Stars
Just because someone says something very well, that doesn’t mean someone says something very right.
Joel Virgo: Pray with Perspective series
Francis Chan: Public Passion vs Private Devotion
Last summer I came to a shocking realization that I had to share with my wife: If Jesus had a church in Simi Valley, mine would be bigger. People would leave His church to attend mine because I call for an easier commitment. I know better how to cater to people’s desires so they stick around. Jesus was never really good at that. He was the one who said, “He who loves father or mother … son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matt. 10:37 NIV) I’m much more popular than Jesus.
Having come to that conclusion, I came back to the church with resolve to call people to the same commitment Christ called them to. I knew that people would leave, and they have. I found comfort in that because, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26 NIV) Over time though, the conviction can fade, and it gets tiresome seeing people leave. There is a constant pull to try to keep people around rather than truly lead the faithful who remain. When my church was started, I used to tell my wife that I didn’t care if we only had ten people, as long as they really loved God and desired to worship Him with all of their hearts. Where is that conviction now?
One of my guilty pleasure movies is Far and Away. Two young people (with terribly inaccurate accents) come to America in hope for freedom and land. My favorite character is the girl's father who is in constant despair as a powerful and rich landowner in Ireland. He wants freedom and adventure. He's bored with money and business compromises.
After much adventure and seemingly insurmountable circumstances, the boy and girl finally make it to the race for land in America. Along the way the girl's father and mother have come to America in search for their daughter, find her, and join in the race for land on which to live out the rest of their lives. Likely too old to win land in this race, they sneak to a beautiful piece of land in the night, which was dangerous and illegal. The man boasts to his wife with a jolly and satisfied grin on his face just before their , "We're breaking the law, Norah."
On arrival at Verge 2010 the announcements made it clear that every attender should only attend the workshop they signed up for. We were strongly urged not to attend a workshop we didn't sign up for. As a member of the social media team I had my sections chosen for me, and they didn't include the two Soma Communities workshop with Jeff Vanderstelt and Caesar Kalinowski. So I broke the law...with a grin on my face. Yeah I sat in the back on the floor, but that's closer to the outlets anyway. I'm so glad I disobeyed Verge.
During these two workshop sessions, which they admitted were only a hint at what happens at Soma School, I had about 25 brain explosions. It was very hard to keep tracking with them, distracted by every "aha" moment. I have been hoping it all would sink in since Verge, but I'm still in the learning phase of what Soma does. It's not complicated. But it is profound and challenging. It's taking a lot of work to undo these evangelical Southern Baptist knots in my brain.
All Soma has really done is to focus on local mission and community without driving everything through programs. They were telling practical stories about things they are doing that I've only scratched the surface of in my life. For me they are ideals. For Soma they are in practice and alive. Missional Communities may have no better friend than Soma. Very convincing. Let me pull out a couple of threads here, to show you how God was working on my heart at Verge. I hope to represent what they were teaching accurately.
Let me give you 2 words that are reforming my approach to community. You can also check out the notes I took during Jeff & Caesar's workshop.
We need to see everyone as family. The church, our missional community, etc.
From Soma School PDF...
Think about it in Familial terms…Do we define a family based only upon what they do? “We are a family because we sleep in the same house, eat together, do dishes, share a budget, etc…” (Defined by activity). By who they are? “We are a family because we have the same parents, the same last name, belong to one another, etc…” (Defined by being). Or because of how we came into being? “We are a family because our parents gave birth to us or adopted us” (Defined by Origin). A Healthy family would be defined in all three ways: 1) Our parents birthed us or adopted us – so we belong to them. 2) We are all related and share identity – so we belong to each other. And, 3) We do what families do together – life lived together defined by love.
Jeff and Caesar also encouraged us to think beyond the Family to the world, extending to all people. We are commanded to love our neighbors, to treat them like members of our family (even if we think of them as estranged family members).
What if we treated the older couple across the street as parents, the very old woman next door as our grandmother, the kids around the block as our kids? How life changing would it be in our neighborhoods? What if our home was open and our hospitality that relational and loving?
Speaking of hospitality, I found the discussion on using the everyday rhythms of life for mission refreshing and helpful.
Soma has identified 6 everyday rhythms...
In order to lead our people to see all of life as ministry and mission we must equip them to live out the gospel in everyday activities – everyday rhythms.
We have found some transferable patterns or rhythms of life that we see throughout The Story of God and in every culture in every part of the world. Through each of these rhythms people have the opportunity to walk by faith – walking in line with the truth of the Gospel – or walk in fear or prideful rebellion to God – walking in unbelief.
When we come to understand and believe the Gospel we realize that we are saved by faith not works AND we are being saved by faith not works. We know that the righteous live by faith and every moment is pregnant with the opportunity to walk by faith and therefore in line with the truth of the Gospel. Training up ourselves and others to walk in line with the truth of the Gospel is really all about learning to walk by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave up his life for us in every part of life.
These everyday rhythms that we have identified can be easily observed in the very beginning of The Story before the Fall of Man and through The Story we can see how they can be lived out in faith or in fear or prideful rebellion…
What everyday rhythms of life do you observe in the Garden including the Fall of Man that are also present in every culture in the world?
For more on understanding each rhythm check out the Soma School PDF starting on page 10. For now let me say that it's nice to think about life as mission rather than stopping life for mission. It's not a new idea, and it's all over the missional conversation of the past few years. But these guys are not just thinking about doing it. They are doing it and leading others to do it well.
The heart of rhythms is that we don't need to add more to our lives. Just do what you do with gospel intentionality. It's been my approach here in Woodstock for the past few years, but I'm still learning. Soma may be the "go to" guys on this stuff now. We are talking in my house about how to think about the rhythms of culture, our lives, and how to see them intersect. We are working on having our door of hospitality open a lot more and having a more "open door" sort of policy to our home. We are thinking about how to invite others to the family meals we already have together every week. We are planning to celebrate more and accept more invitations to celebrate with others. Christians should be the most celebratory people in the world! Good stuff.
This was easily the best teaching I got at Verge. I hope you will look into it more. Check out the Soma Communities website, in their 31 page PDF of Soma School Notes. You may want to look into attending a Soma School this year in May or October.
In the past several weeks I've reviewed Gospel-Centred Church and Gospel-Centred Family. Today, a review of Gospel-Centred Life, a workbook by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester (not to be confused with the workbook from World Harvest Mission). Their book, Total Church, has been such a helpful and provocative resource for me as a pastor. Highly recommended for pastors and other church leaders. I was glad to dive in an tackle these three short, practical workbooks. All of these books came to me for review from the good folks at The Good Book Company.
Onto my review of Gospel-Centred Life (GCL). Like the others this workbook runs under 100 pages. It's broken up into fourteen lessons/chapters in three main parts.
In GCL each lesson is about 4-5 pages (a few a bit longer) and moves through five sections. In my copy at least there is no introduction explaining the five small sections for each study. GCC and GCF both had this and I think it's helpful. The online description says GCL is 128 pages long, so maybe this is remedied there. Either way, the sections are pretty self-explanatory to me so it's not in any way a deal-breaker.
The sections: Principle (one sentence), Consider This (intro to the principle using a brief story), Biblical Background (read a Scripture and think through short questions), Read All About It (the meat of the lesson and the principle made full), and Questions for Reflection (helpful end questions to apply to life and provoke us to further thought). For full lesson titles go here, where they also have a sample to read.
As with the other workbooks this one is really good. Solid theology and practical. Good for personal use or group discussion. Let me hit a few highlights for me from this study.
Properly, the authors start with God's glory, the "great, unchangeable principle against which everything is assessed." I'm pleased to see a nice foundation on the spiritual as well. So easy to miss. We too often overly focus on personal goodness through denial without emphasizing enough the Holy Spirit. There's even a chapter titled "A Life of Miracles."
I really like the emphasis on the family of God in decision-making rather than merely seeking God personally is so helpful and broken in most of our churches. The authors encourage us to think about the implications of the Christian community as we make decisions AND to make significant decisions in consultation with members of our Christian community. As a pastor I am shocked at how often my people make decisions without seeking advice, considering the consequences for the church, without mentioning it to their community groups, etc.
Really GCL is far more about community life and relationships than I expected. I should have expected it after reading Total Church, but I didn't. I think this is needed as our churches have such poor community life and is too dependent on programs.
Lastly let me explain how the Questions for Reflection section at the end of each lesson is so helpful in GCL (as with the other workbooks as well!). The authors think through areas of application that are easy for us to miss in everyday life. We often think of the obvious and easy applications and the authors are good at finding the missed ones that should be more obvious to us. After a first time through the questions at the end of the lessons will be easy to return to as refreshers and as reminders of how to think through the process of good application. Well done. Even as I write this I'm feeling conviction and encouragement to live differently as I flip through the book. Below are some examples of these helpful application questions.
From chapter 2, A Life For Others...
If you are a shy person, the next time you find yourself sitting next to someone you don't know, remind yourself that God has made you to be a lover of God and others. Ask Him for the grace to express that love in the moment. If you are an outgoing person, the next time you are in a social situation and the centre of attention, remind yourself that God has made you to be a lover of God and others. Ask Him for the grace to express that love in the moment.
From chapter 8, Look Forward to Eternity...
What did you do last week for your present comfort or security? What did you do last week for God's future?
From chapter 13, Possessions...
Look at advertisements in magazines or on the television. What does each one promise? How do these promises parody the promises of God?
This is yet another valuable resource from The Good Book Company. Buy Gospel-Centred Life for $8 and get it cheaper in bulk. Highly recommended.
*I'm running a series of short posts on attending & experiencing Verge.*
I'm not a big conference-goer. I tend to get more excited about the idea of conferences more than enjoy the experience of them. I don't like leaving my family. Yeah, I know. Neither do you. But I've realized that I'm quite the homebody. I hate to leave home for a couple of days without the family with me. Home and family and privacy energizes and encourages me. Travel and itineraries and going through security and all that does not make me happy. So when invited to join the Verge Social Media Team and fly to Texas I wanted to say "no." Wisely my wife urged me to go. And, you know, Verge sounded cool and fun and interesting. Plus I love going to the "weird" cities (Boulder, Madison & Louisville are 3 of my fav places in the world). And Austin is not only a "weird" city but also a key part of the music world, the kind of music I love. So I decided to go.
Honestly, I'm a bit of a cynic at big events. Going to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting will do that to a guy. I'm especially skeptical of big events with lots of flash. I easily cluck my tongue and roll my eyes at the slightest twinge of showiness, celebrity, and self-importance at big conferences. Yeah, I'm a jerk like that. And that worried me even more because as a Verge Social Media Team guy I wanted to be generous and kind and to expect the best from the conference speakers and experience. I'm sure I left for Verge a bit guarded, but I would try my best to be open.
What I know now is that God was working on me for months prior to Verge, to hear from Him. I didn't know Verge would have anything to do with the struggles and sufferings and sins God has been pointing out in my life. I didn't know the things I've been reading and thinking would come together at the conference. I didn't see my family devotions, current sermon series, and Verge merging. I thought Verge would be a conference full of practical how-to's with a bunch of look-how-amazing-we're-doing-it's. And while I love the idea of missional communities and want them at Doxa and I knew I needed the practical stuff, I didn't think these three days of my life would amount to much. I was wrong. Very, very wrong.
Brief Molly Update: Molly has been having some rough symptoms from her Chiari I Malformation the last 2 weeks. Day to day she doesn't know how she is going to feel. For the most part she keeps living and enjoying life and serving others as much as she usually does. In lots of ways she is looking to do more. What a lady! We are hoping the symptoms will just go away, and we believe they will in time. Thanks for praying for her.
Jonathan Dodson: 10 Tips for Missional Community Leaders
Francis Chan's animated video played at Verge: The Big Red Tractor...
"The Gospel becomes this sort of civil religion
that really just affirms my lifestyle."
*Updated as WiFi holds out.
Main Session II
Gospel is...the kingdom has come.
*Sorry, having a rough run with WiFi here at Verge. Hard to find the connection to keep this up.
Breakout Session 1
Jeff Vanderstelt & Caesar Kalinowski of Soma Communities
(*break out stuff below will be more quotes and content than my thoughts on them)
Missional Community (MC) is a gospel community - being formed by the gospel, living life by the gospel.
The shift needed is to start thinking of people as family.
MC sent by missionaries to a people group by demonstrating the gospel in tangible forms. and then declaring the gospel to others both to those who believe and those who don't believe.
MC - Not primarily a small group, not primarily a Bible study.
We do one Bible study then another, but what was the last one? Are we living what we are learning or just moving on to another study. We need to be faithful to what we've learned.
"I'm not going to prep up another deep study of the word to disobey." -Caesar
Study the Bible in proximity of relationship, and live it out together.
MC - not primarily a support group.
We aren't just mummys all wrapped up.
MC - not primarily a social activist group.
If we become about one particular cause, we miss the mission.
MC - must have a people group they are sent to, called to.
Be the peculiar people.
MC - not primarily a weekly meeting
You may well get together weekly, but you don't define your family that way. People are prone to dualistic thinking in the church. When I'm at the church, I'm the church. When I'm at home, I'm at home.
Sunday morning: If you came to church this morning, we're glad you're here. You're never going to get to do that again. -- (because this isn't the church, we are the church)
We don't go to missional community, we meet with the community. Reorganize our lives around the gospel in community.
Always training on the gospel, who we are in Christ, and how to live with gospel intentionality.
*I know my notes are sketchy and hard to follow. Sorry. Doing my best to get as much of it down as possible without misstating what's being said.
-- Caesar jumps in with some Prophet, Priest, King perspectives on shared leadership (bit of a semi-reluctant rabbit trail)
Every missional community is under the leadership of an elder. Start with 6-8 people. Typically kingly types are your leaders. Starts to cap out at about 20.
*Lots of questions now. I think the specifics and dynamics of what MC's do/should look like are hard to imagine. Folks are trying to see more concretely.
We invite people into our lives.
Story-formed - Only answer from where you are in the story
Breakout Session II (part 2 with Jeff Vanderstelt and Caesar Kalinowski)
What We Do - these are all rhythms, not events
Don't add more to your life. Just do what you do with gospel intentionality.
We have no programming at Soma. What Missional Communities do we are doing.
Identity: Family, Missionaries, Servants, Learners
Recommended: You Can Change by Tim Chester
I don't invite people to things because they are already a part of my life. An open door policy in our houses. We teach people constantly to understand relationships by how they are invited in and when they are told we are busy.
Stop trying to get everybody. Get one.
*Lots of questions coming now. Honestly, the ideas from these breakouts have stirred me up. It's hard to concentrate on the questions while I'm stewing on my own, and my context, and our need to BE the church.
Realign your life around the mission. Radically reorient your life around the mission. As leaders, every pushback with Christians is an opportunity for discipleship. We will not stop calling you to what you were created to be.
Reactive Mission - Proactive Mission
Be on mission in such a way that if God doesn't show up we are ruined. We need to be overwhelmed.
Great QnA time during this session. I feel like it's all possible. Biblical, gospel community. Check out more at the Soma links above. Dinner time.
My post for the day. For quotes and such go to Twitter #verge10. Updated regularly here are my personal thoughts, reflections, etc.
Main Session I:
Matt Carter - Pastor, The Austin Stone
Carter challenged us to not be about the mission, but about Jesus. Comes from Revelation 2. If we are about Jesus we will properly be about mission. If we are about mission (primarily, or ultimately) we will lose track of Jesus.
Francis Chan - Pastor, Cornerstone Church
Chan does theology. His style is engaging and winsome. He's funny. But he drops bombs. Simple lit fuses leading to truth and theology and mission. Good stuff.
We meet on the Lord's Day. He is risen indeed. Why aren't we living like people who know the radical resurrection of our Savior?
You will try and fail to start movements. Movements come from Jesus, from the Holy Spirit. If you try to go surfing and there are no waves, you send your buddy out to start splashing and try to make waves. We can't do it.
Think about the book of Acts, and how unstoppable they were. This is Holy Spirit powered.
The Global Cities Initiative Conference took place in New York City on September 9 - 11, 2009. Over 80 cities were represented by ministry leaders and church planters, and the experience culminated in the signing of a covenant (found in a link to the right under "Related Media.")
Tim Keller gave three plenary addresses at GCI, which you can stream by clicking on the titles to the right (or download by right-click). Also to the right are downloadable pdfs of the outlines of these talks, which were distributed at the conference. The talks were:
September 9th - "Gospel Renewal"
September 10th - "City Focus"
September 11th - "Movements & Ecosystems"
The conference was hosted by Redeemer Church Planting Center in partnership with Transform World Connections, which was founded and is currently led by Luis Bush.
Links to the audio and PDF's...
New resource in the mail. As an official member of the Verge social media team I got The Tangible Kingdom Primer, a study based on The Tangible Kingdom book. It is a "stand-alone resource," so if you haven't read the book that's just fine.
I read through the introduction last night and liked the 7 day format, including a day where a small group would work through it together. It's 8 weeks long and looks to be quite helpful for folks looking for missional resources for their church. Check out their website. And come join me at the Verge conference in February!
I'm pastoring a church striving for and working through renewal, so I'm always looking for good, Gospel-centered resources to help our people grasp the realities of what that renewal involves. When Brad Byrd (The Good Book Company, Brad on Twitter: @tweetiebyrd) gave me a copy of The Gospel-Centred Church (GCC) workbook by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester at the Acts 29 boot camp in Louisville, I hoped this would be one of those resources. It is.
GCC is broken up into an introduction, three main sections and a conclusion...
There are a total it's 18 lessons of 4-5 pages each. Each is engaging and provocative. It worked well as an individual study, but I can see greatest value in a group setting. For the most part you can read it either systematically or topically. Despite having the limitations of being a workbook under 100 pages, the authors do well to encourage us to long for and become the community the Gospel should produce.
There are six parts to each lesson. The first is a principle--the core of the lesson. A scenario is introduced to raise a dilemma in gospel ministry. Then we consider Scripture (only a reference given so you can use your own Bible) with questions, a section discussing the theology and application of the principle, discussion questions, and actionable items are finally suggested.
I enjoyed GCC. Its challenges were many: how we think about church buildings, money, community life, leadership, courage, using gifts and more. I grew progressively more convicted by chapter after chapter over this different picture of what "church" can and should be.
I most impressed by some thought-provoking statements and application. The authors were creative in making the principles practical. Specifically many of the "Ideas for action" were helpful. GCC will provoke you to be see your world in a different way because of the Gospel.
GCC will be helpful anywhere Christians are struggling with what it means to be community-focused and missional. If you are a pastor of an established church, I think GCC will be helpful for key leaders in your congregation. If you need a bit of a push out of safety and into the world, you will find encouragement here. If you need to remember the value and importance of local communities of faith, of locking arms for our mission, this is a good place to go. Small groups of various sorts will do well to check out GCC.
This is truly a workbook about a Gospel-shaped vision for the local church. If you are looking for a theological book, this isn't it. But for what it is, I found GCC useful for my own life and will be using it with some folks at Doxa.