Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Deep Roots

White Boat on Body of Water during Daytime

For the Church to reclaim its missional essence, it must first understand God's plan in the Abrahamic Covenant.  In Genesis 12:2-3, God promised that, through Abram (later Abraham), all the nations of the world would be blessed:

"I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen 12:2-3).

Following in Genesis 15, God cut a covenant with Abraham to this effect; the future nation of Israel would be a special people for a special purpose, to bring blessing to the world and represent before God the peoples of the earth.  Following on the heels of this covenant, missional churches understand that, through Christ, the church is now the true people of God (1 Pet 2:9-10); therefore, local congregations are the "local manifestations of the covenant community of the King" (Charles Van Engen, God's Missionary People).  Local churches are to represent God to the world through their communities in which they reside and to represent the lost, the hurting and broken before God.

For further insight, note how Jesus adapted this concept in his call to his disciples. The disciples were to be in the world, but they ultimately were not part of the world.  Yet, they were to go into the world and represent Jesus and His Kingdom--"As you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world" (john 17:18). Missional churches see themselves as disciples of Jesus sent into the world on behalf of God the Father, the King.  "They are God's special people who, because of God's call, emerge in human history as the covenant community of the King, a branch chapter of the kingdom of God" (Van Engen, God's Missionary People).

As I work with churches around the world, I ask the following:
  • Is your church on mission? Or merely have a missions department?
  • Is your church a blessing to your community?  In what way?
  • If your church ceased to exist tomorrow, would the community notice or even care?
The answers reveal how missional a church really is.

Our  reFocusing Team at CRM has the Missional Pathway--an effective process to help churches become truly community-impacting churches!  It's a powerful process to help churches connect with their deep roots in God's mission in the world.  

I invite you to take a look:  The Missional Pathway Video

Perhaps we will meet one day.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Church Growth?

Free stock photo of hands, people, crowd, event

When I mention the term "church growth" when talking to pastors today, I usually get one of two reactions.  Some pastors have fire in their eyes as they talk about new plans for outreach, new set design for the Sunday morning stage, and new staff additions needed to help grow their church. Other pastors grimace when thinking about the weekly grind of programming, the never ending pressure of providing programs to mollify demanding church members, and the struggles to get their church to care deeply about their community.

"Church growth" can be a lightning-rod term.  And maybe it's a bit dated.  Perhaps it's time to re-frame the conversation.  Church growth for many still implies institution.  It focuses the thinking on attendance, programs, people flow, and closing the proverbial back door.  But as some are starting to realize, folks can join our churches, get involved, stay busy, and yet still reflect very little of Jesus in their lives, not to mention the lack of personal missional engagement in their own spheres of influence.

What if we looked through a different lens?  What if we focused the conversation around making disciples instead of church growth?  Even one of the great pioneers of church growth, Peter Wagner, said this: "Notice that the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 contains four action verbs: go, make disciples, baptize, and teach.  In the original Greek, three of them, go, baptize and teach, are participles or helping verbs.  Only one, make disciples, is an imperative verb.  It is clear exegetically that the goal of the Great Commission is to make disciples" (original author's emphasis, Wagner, Church Growth and the Whole Gospel).

What might happen if we re-think the paradigm?
  • How might our thinking as pastors and church leaders shift if we asked questions about how to make disciples rather than just how to grow our churches?  Are they one and the same?  
  • What would it look like to emphasize the conversion, growth, maturing, and replicating of disciples instead of church programming?  What might change?
  • How would our churches look, feel, and behave if making disciples (learners of Jesus) who can make disciples, was the emphasis?  What would our communities be like?
I'm proud to be part of the reFocusing Team at CRM.  Our team's mission is to help pastors and churches get focused on missional engagement in their communities and teach disciples of Jesus how to make disciples who make disciples.  

If you are curious about this approach, take a look at the "reFocusing" tab at the top this this website and watch the Missional Pathway video.

Let's make disciples of Jesus together,


Monday, April 4, 2016

The Church: From Sending to Being Sent

Free stock photo of snow, sky, winter, church

The church in North America is in trouble.  The church of today has been described as a mere vestige of the original movement started by Jesus and the original disciples.  Today, the church is more of an institution than a movement, driven by two complementary values: civil religion and social club. Reggie McNeal muses provocatively, "As he hung on the cross Jesus probably never thought the impact of his sacrifice would be reduced to an invitation for people to join and to support an institution." (Reggie McNeal, The Present Future).

The Christian missionary movement made great gains in the twentieth century and became a truly worldwide movement with churches established on all continents and among major cultural groups. At the same time, Christianity in North America has been declining in adherents, cultural prominence, and impact on society.  North America is truly a mission field today.  What was once a mission-sending nation has become one of the largest mission-receiving nations.

To address this challenge and reverse this trend is going to take more than just problem solving and fixes to our methods.  The issue is about identity more than technique and process.  There is a growing awareness that mission is not just one program of the church, but rather defines the church as God's sent people.  Darrell Guder sums up the situation: "Either we are defined by mission, or we reduce the scope of the gospel and the mandate of the church.  Thus our challenge is to move away from church with mission to missional church." (Darrell Guder, Missional Church)

Towards the end of Jesus' ministry on earth, He prayed about His disciples, "Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world" (John 17:18).  God is a "missionary" God and His people are necessarily a "sent" people.  Despite the fact that the North American church has become a place for programs primarily for church members, the deepest nature of the church is that of a missional, sending body that invites people to experience the forgiveness of Jesus and trains them to receive and walk in the life-transforming power of the Kingdom of God.

Lord, may it be so again!