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Ecuador trip Wednesday, April 26, 2006 |

I leave for Ecuador tomorrow. Internet will be spotty, if available at all. I will only be gone a few days, and will be working with our partners to do training and equipping on a new strategic direction called the PEACE plan, a wholistic church-to-church approach to establishing Church Planting Movements and Community Development. (For those of you who don't know, I am a Missions Pastor by trade. Living in the inner-city is, I guess, a hobby??) This will probably be my last trip before our baby comes in July, unless I take a short one to Asia for continued assessment and follow up with other potential church partners. I'd love your prayers...

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The Openness of the Kingdom Monday, April 24, 2006 |

I listened to a sermon today by Tim Keller called The Openness of the Kingdom. (You can download it here.) It is a riveting look at the how Jesus tries to get across the importance of the Kingdom, the central organizing principle of the Kingdom, and how we can live according to that central principle. It's really been working on my heart in terms of the gospel, salvation, God's Kingdom and all that we are to be about in light of God's grand plan for redemption and renewal. Here are a few quotes:

"When our relationship with God unraveled, all other relationships unraveled."

"The Kingdom of God is the reintroduction of God's presence into this world to turn this world into the home that our hearts most desperately want."

"The purpose of God's salvation is to restore and renew this creation."

"If you're part of His kingdom, you're not just out to save souls, though certainly you are because that's a big part of the renewal, you're also out to do housing, and to do health, and to do education..."

"God's salvation is not just about you, it's about the world."

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Blog redesign Sunday, April 23, 2006 |

I'm working on redesigning my blog. Check back - it will probably be different. Feel free to post a comment if you like (or don't like) the one you see...

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Contrasting Missional and Church Growth Perspectives Saturday, April 22, 2006 |

Missiology.org has a great article by Gailyn Van Rheenen that contrasts the Missional approach to ministry with the Church Growth approach. It's an interesting contrast that will certainly spark reflection on the nature of a theological approach to ministry verses an anthropological approach:

"I pray that churches will become missional, i.e., theologically-formed, Christ-centered, Spirit-led fellowships who seek to faithfully incarnate the purposes of Christ. Missional churches define themselves as bodies formed by the calling and sending of God and reflecting the redemptive reign of God in Christ. They are unique communities in the world created by God through the Spirit as both holy and human. Missional leaders, likewise, reflect the calling and sending of God. They minister with humility recognizing themselves as "jars of clay" who finitely seek to enter into what God is already doing in his world.

The missional approach to ministry stands in obvious contrast to the traditional Church Growth perspective. Church Growth thinking has brought much to the practice of foreign and domestic missions. Donald McGavran, the father of Church Growth, encouraged missionaries to personally minister among unbelievers rather than attempt to draw people into Western-style mission enclaves or mission stations. He rightly emphasized the missionary nature of the local church and the need for pioneer evangelism among peoples ready to hear the gospel. He called for the incisive evaluation of missions. Above all, he taught us to employ tools from the social sciences to analyze culture and to use this analysis to develop penetrating strategies for reaching both searchers and skeptics with the gospel of Christ."

[ continue reading... ]

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Reformissionary - Quotes from The Missional Leader |

From the Reformissionary -

I'm reading The Missional Leader by Roxburgh and Romanuk. If I stopped reading now (not yet halfway through), it's still one of the most important books I've read in the last couple of years. I'm sure much of that is because of where I am in ministry and the things I need to think about for my local church. And I don't agree with everything, but I can't say enough about what this book is working in my life and ministry. Here are a few short quotes...

A missional church is a community of God's people who live into the imagination that they are, by their very nature, God's missionary people living as a demonstration of what God plans to do in and for all of creation in Jesus Christ. (p. xv)

[ read more ]

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Missional Church - Part 6 Friday, April 21, 2006 |

From Todd Hiestand at Mere Mission:

I am often asked, "what is the missional church?" and I came up with this little chart to help me talk someone through it and then also help us thinking through what it means for us to be missional in our specific contexts and cultures.

I would love to know what you think.
Download the pdf here: missionalchurch

Catch up on my Missional Church series:

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5

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Book Review: The Globalization of Nothing - George Ritzer Thursday, April 20, 2006 |

George Ritzer is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he has been honored with University's Teaching Excellence award. He also served as Chair of the American Sociological Association's Sections on Theoretical Sociology and Organizations and Occupations, and received a Distinguished Scholar-Teacher Award from them as well. He has published extensively and is best known for his "McDonaldization" thesis, as laid out in the book, The McDonaldization of Society.

The thesis: Ritzer asserts that in the "grand narrative," the world, because of both the causes and effects of globalization, is moving from "something" (defined as local, indigenous, relationship-driven social forms) to "nothing" (defined as that which is centralized, dehumanized and devoid of substance). With a focus on consumption, he asserts that "this analysis foresees the death of the local," and heralds the idea of "loss amidst monumental abundance," while simultaneously arguing that "the most basic struggle will occur within the global rather than between the global and the local." (p. xiii).

The first 3 chapters give a "detailed presentation of what is meant here by nothing" (p. xvi). Chapter 4 focuses on the "equally important concept of globalization and a series of its subdimensions - glocalization and grobalization" (p. xvi). Chapter 5 is where the main argument of the book is made, and where the two main concepts of the book, globalization and nothing are discussed. Chapter 6 explores the "ultimate example of the globalization of nothing - large-scale Internet sites devoted to consumption" (p. xvi). Chapter 7 deals with a wide range of issues pertaining to "nothing" and their relation to globalization while Chapter 8 continues those thoughts with the focus more on globalization, dealing with "a series of issues relating to globalization... including what can be done by those concerned about the problematic aspects of the globalization of nothing" (p. xvi).

Ritzer spends an exhaustive (and exhausting) amount of time making a good, but sometimes biased point. The point is that the causes and effects of globalization are changing our social forms, for better or worse. In my book he could have said this using far fewer words. I felt that in contrasting indigenous social forms as "something" with centralized social forms as "nothing", even though he adds a caveat that "nothing" isn't necessarily bad (p. 7-9), he created a form of cultural imperialism. It is obvious that his bias is toward the "something." By couching his arguments, basis, and points in the way that he did, he actually contradicted the very message, or bias, he was trying to promulgate. It is true, however, that this "grand narrative" that he discusses, the globalization of nothing (at least in his book), is changing the landscape of our global social forms. There are both upsides and downsides to this. Although he uses Starbucks as a whipping post, Starbucks is the centerpiece for a successful church planting strategy in Dusseldorf, Germany. That is the upside. Starbucks, the pinnacle of "nothing", now becomes a lightning rod for God's activity in a spiritual wasteland. Not bad for a "non-place" serving "non-things" by "non-people".

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Missional Church - Part 5 Wednesday, April 19, 2006 |

Ed Stetzer gives a good intro to and explanation of Missional Churches in this article. Here's an excerpt:

"..."missional" is not the same as "mission-minded," though they are both important and related. The term "missional" is simply the noun "missionary" adapted into an adjective. For example, an "adversary" is your enemy. Someone who is "adversarial" is acting like your enemy. Thus, a "missionary" is someone who acts like a missionary (for example, understands a culture, proclaims the faithful Gospel in a way that people in culture can understand, and uses parts of that culture to glorify God). A "missional church" is a church that acts like a missionary in its community." [ read more ]

[ HT: Friend of Missional ]

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Theology neglected in mission Tuesday, April 18, 2006 |

Missiology.org recently highlighted an interview that Victoria Selles of Zondervan did with Gailyn Van Rheenen about various missiological reflections:

Victoria Selles: You describe [...] the relationship between theology and practice in missions with a very useful metaphor: the missional helix, a spiral of four interdependent activities that together form a successful approach to Christian mission (theology, cultural analysis, historical perspective, and strategy). Which of these elements do you think is most neglected by missionaries and planners in our time and at what cost?

GVR: I believe that theology is the most neglected element for at least three reasons. [ continue reading ]

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Investing... for justice Monday, April 17, 2006 |

Rudy Carrasco writes a wonderful article on investing our lives for the sake of justice:

When did you last spend time with a poor person, an at-risk individual, or someone in need? When was the last time you were close to them for an extended period? I ask, because that's what Jesus did. He was close to the poor who needed justice. The Messiah was sent to preach Good News to the poor, to proclaim freedom for prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, release for the oppressed, and the arrival of the Jubilee year (Luke 4:18-19). He did this first by becoming incarnate, one of us. He did not commute from heaven in a fiery chariot. "The Word became flesh," says John, "and made his dwelling among us." [ read more ]

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Driscoll on Easter Sunday, April 16, 2006 |

Mark Driscoll on Easter.

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A gospel of justice Tuesday, April 11, 2006 |

There is a little, 85-year-old woman who lives next door to us. She survives on social security. She makes less than $1000 a month to support herself. She is widowed, and has only one surviving neice that lives in town and actually comes to check on her. She has a hard time getting around, and cannot even get her own groceries.

Now, there is a guy across the street who had convinced her that she had a leak in her roof, and it needed to be repaired - for $600! He *graciously* agreed to do that work, as long as the little old widowed woman would pay him the money up front. She paid him the $600, and in less than 48 hours, though, he had *lost* the money. (It is important to note that he is a suspected drug addict and has begun recently to deal drugs as well, at least gathering by the incessant traffic of passers-by that come and go from his house.) By the way, we had a professional roofer look at her roof later - surprise, surprise, no sign of a leak.

The police cannot do anything. There is not a possibility of recourse through small claims court. She has nowhere to turn. Her money has been taken and there is nothing she, as an elderly widow, can do about it.

Now, here's the question:

What does justice look like in that situation? What does the gospel look like in that situation? What does true religion look like in that situation?

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress..." James 1:27

I will blog later about how we responded. More to come...

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Urban Legend Tuesday, April 04, 2006 |

Bob Lupton, a man who has spent the last 35 years expanding God's kingdom through urban community development, spoke to a group of us tonight. This group was made up mostly of folks that have moved into Binghampton, an at-risk neighborhood in the inner-city of Memphis, to be strategic neighbors. He is a hero of mine in urban ministry, and has lived in and loved the inner-city for decades. When he talks, he speaks as a sage who has learned as much from knocking his head against barriers, as he has learned from success. His words to us tonight were loaded with gems of wisdom. Here are a few:

"The church has lost a theology of impacting neighborhoods."

"We need to have a theology of Shalom."

"We should be redeeming fallen systems AND redeeming fallen souls."

"There's a difference between doing church and doing the Kingdom."

"We should love God and love our NEIGHBOR. Who teaches a course on Neighboring 101?"

"You can't skip over the Great Commandment to get to the Great Commission."

"Have you ever asked yourself, 'What does redemptive engagement with our neighbors look like?'"

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Book Review: Jesus and Community - Gerhard Lohfink Sunday, April 02, 2006 |

Gerhard Lohfink was professor of New Testament at the University of Tubingen until 1986. It was at that point that he resigned in order to offer his services to the Catholic Integrated Community. Steeped in their identity as a community of Christians, the group was founded by young German Catholics in order to wrestle with the meaning of Christian community in the context of post-World War II Germany.

The thesis of the book is this: The teaching and praxis of Jesus give a clear and normative tradition on community (p. 5), in radical juxtaposition to the more recent Western liberal exegetical emphasis on individualism (p. 4). Beginning with the preparation, through John the Baptist (p. 7), of Jesus' ministry and teaching (firmly rooted in the community of Israel) and moving quickly through the institution of the twelve (p. 9), the healing of the sick (p. 12), Jesus' prayer for gathering and sanctification of the people of God (p. 14), through to the universal reign of God (p. 26), Part 1 deals with the broader context of Jesus' teaching to Israel as a community. Part 2 seeks to address how Jesus envisioned and modeled the gathering of this community, namely, through the instruction, teaching, requirements of, and promises to the disciples. His focus on Israel and the disciples is indicative of, not contra-distinctive to, his universal concern for the community, the people of God, to be gathered and restored (p. 71). Part 3 addresses the fact that the early Church, New Testament communities, were just that, the people of God, the true Israel, called into community (p. 77), marked by the Spirit (p. 82) and the "elimination of social barriers" (p.87), and punctuated by the practice of "togetherness" (p. 99) and love (p. 107). Culling extensively from the Early Church Fathers and their dealings with healing, brotherhood, society and war, Part 4 deals with the undeniable principle that the ancient church continued "Jesus' praxis of the reign of God"(p.149) in community.

One of the things I most appreciated about Lohfink's analysis goes back to an early statement that he made in regards to the liberal exegetical focus on individualism. He gave a brief illustration of an ecclesiastical mobile unit and how it could be likened to the church as "an institution which offers its wares to a group of individuals" (p. 4). He then compared this to our consumer society, as exemplified by the large super-market. One of the greatest barriers I see to missional living in the 21st Century, at least in the Western world, is this consumer-driven, church-as-purveyor-of-goods-and-services mentality that many people have in our society. Instead of helping people to become culturally subversive in regards to consumerism, churches have abdicated their role as pilgrim/prophet and become spiritual super-markets. Lohfink's analysis of the faults of individualism, and the overarching theme of the people of God as community, was a cup of cold water in a dry and weary desert of consumer-driven instincts. May he be like a voice in the wilderness crying out for the church to be what she was meant to be - the people of God, gathered, restored and missional.

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Why the Church needs to understand the city |

I recently wrote a review on Philip Jenkins' book, The Next Christendom. As someone who clearly understands the recent and future trends in Christianity, Jenkins has some insights as to why we, the sent people of God, must understand the city. I commented on the implication of the growth of cities and how the church should respond:

"Jenkins states that “most of the global population growth in the coming decades will be urban” (p. 93). In another major shift, these urban areas will mainly be Southern (p. 93). In fact, “the very concept of ‘belonging’ to a particular state will probably erode” (p. 11). As God’s people we are strategically placed and uniquely positioned to deal with this trend. Urbanization is not just a trend – it is a fact. If by 2050 up to 3 of 4 people will live in cities, then the people of God must be prepared to get ahead of this trend by positioning new churches and church planting resource centers for this future growth. In the mega-cities, cities with populations of potentially more than 30 or 40 million people, there will be “next to nothing in working government services” (p. 93). This has huge implications for the church in regards to community development. Churches should be adept at the strategies and success criteria for effective community development. And the fact that millions of people will in effect be “living and working totally outside the legal economy” (p. 93) brings unbelievable risk, but also provides unbelievable opportunities for churches in regards to social justice. If churches, new and old, can be an advocate for the poor and oppressed, for compassion, for justice, they will invariably align themselves with prevailing success. Jenkins is so convinced that this is a key to growth that he goes on to state that “rich pickings await any religious groups who can meet these needs of these new urbanites” (p. 94)." [ read more ]

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