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What must we learn and unlearn to be agents of God's mission in the world? Saturday, January 20, 2007 |

That is the question that CT's Christian Vision Project is asking in this year's focus on the mission of God. Let me stop here and say this - you MUST read their most recent article from Chris Wright entitled An Upside Down World. It is a tour-de-force on global Christianity and the mission of God.

Warning: it will challenge you to think outside of the bubble, so don't read it if you like yourself. Here are a few quotes:

There are more Baptists in Congo than in Britain.
The old peripheries are now the center. The old centers are now on the periphery. Philip Jenkins brought this shift to popular attention in The Next Christendom.
[ see my Book Review of Jenkins' book ]
Can the West be re-evangelized? Only if we unlearn our default ethnocentric assumptions about "real" Christianity (our own) and unlearn our blindness to the ways Western Christianity is infected by cultural idolatry. It may be more blessed to give than to receive, but it is often harder to receive than to give.
That reverses the polarity of patron and client and makes us uncomfortably aware that what Jesus said to the Laodicean church might apply to us in the West: "You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked" (Rev. 3:17).
With the growth of the multinational church, mission is becoming multidirectional. The U.S. remains the largest single contributor of Protestant cross-cultural missionaries. But which country is the second largest? Not a Western nation, but India.
Mission today is from everywhere, to everywhere.
Perhaps what we most need to learn, since we so easily forget it, is that mission is and always has been God's before it becomes ours. The whole Bible presents a God of missional activity, from his purposeful, goal-oriented act of Creation to the completion of his cosmic mission in the redemption of the whole of Creation—a new heaven and a new earth. The Bible also presents to us humanity with a mission (to rule and care for the earth); Israel with a mission (to be the agent of God's blessing to all nations); Jesus with a mission (to embody and fulfill the mission of Israel, bringing blessing to the nations through bearing our sin on the Cross and anticipating the new Creation in his Resurrection); and the church with a mission (to participate with God in the ingathering of the nations in fulfillment of Old Testament Scriptures).
But behind all this stands God with a mission (the redemption of his whole Creation from the wreckage of human and Satanic evil). The mission of God is what fills the Bible from the brokenness of the nations in Genesis 11 to the healing of the nations in Revelation 21-22. So any mission activity to which we are called must be seen as humble participation in this vast sweep of the historical mission of God. All mission or missions that we initiate, or into which we invest our vocation, gifts, and energies, flows from the prior mission of God. God is on mission, and we, in that wonderful phrase of Paul, are "co-workers with God."
Not that there's much more to read, but you can continue reading here...

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The Missional Church - insights from Keller |

What does "missional church" really mean? CT just posted an article about the buzzword that it has become. Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Church in New York, offers some keen insights:

Characteristics of a Missional Church - In this promo video for the Desiring God Conference last year, Keller gives insights into the characteristics of a missional church:

Missional vs. Evangelistic church - In this video, Keller gives insights into the difference between an evangelistic and a missional church:

Missional vs. Seeker church - In this video, Keller gives insights into the difference between a seeker and a missional church:

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Lessons from my mentors Saturday, January 13, 2007 |

You might not know their names, but I do. Names like John Bryson, James Arnold, Mel Sumrall, Kern White. Wes Crawford, Grant Edwards, Dave Furman, Jason Ford, Brian Albrecht. Even really old guys like Jonathan Edwards. They are men that have mentored me and given to me in some form or fashion, sharing their lives, wisdom, prayer, resources, insights, failures, support and connections. Sometimes they went out on a limb for me, and sometimes they just hung in there with me. But through good and bad they taught me more than I could ever relay.

Here are a few lessons (ok, a huge list) I've learned along the way through these men:

- Don’t be afraid of a good fight; healthy conflict can have good results

- Tell the truth no matter how much it hurts

- Live life sacrificially for others; if it doesn’t hurt it’s not a sacrifice

- Busy can be good at times

- Be tenacious and diligent

- Even small mentoring deposits can have long-lasting rewards and dividends

- Sleep when you’re dead

- You’re not done until God calls you home

- Make disciples wherever you are

- Give away whatever you have and have learned

- Go, go, go

- Model for others a life worth living

- Use your platform of influence to challenge others towards Christ-like living

- Love you wife openly and affectionately; talk highly about her

- Move people into your home so that you can disciple them more and better

- Never judge a person by one sermon.

- Leaders can have a lasting influence for generations

- Love God with your mind – think hard and long about God

- You can be intelligent and passionate about Christ

- Write – it is a great way to leave a legacy that lasts for generations

- Be a friend

- Listen well

- Encourage when you can

- Be passionate about the Scriptures

- Dig deep into God’s word for guidance, insight, direction, and inspiration

- Quantity time equals quality time; the more time you spend with a mentoree the better

- Challenge mentorees to use their God-given talents for the Kingdom and they will

- Ask for help, you never know how it might empower a young leader

- Model a missional life and others will follow

- Seek to empower, not to control

- Release young leaders into ministry

- Give away responsibilities in a way that empowers

- Strive to get loyalty first and you will neither get loyalty nor empower others; strive to empower others first and you will both get loyalty and empower others

- Be authentic and transparent about struggles

- Bring people into the mess with you and they will help you

- Build teams, not structure first; structure follows team

- Believe in younger leaders

- Look for the faithful, available and teachable

- Share your life with your mentorees

- Try new things

- Don’t get caught up in the details, unless you need to get caught up in the details

- Challenge the status quo

- Equip and develop, don’t just do events

- Make big asks of high-potential leaders

- Be patient with young leaders – they might actually do some good some day

- Keep your cool under pressure

- Leadership is more like ju-jitsu than karate – better to redirect current motion than try to stop it altogether

- You can take current motion and use it to your advantage

- In developing others, you can’t steer a parked car

- Balance ministry and family – err on the side of spending time with your family

- Equip and resource, in that order

- Submit to authority

- Every organization has a culture. Know it and use it to your advantage.

- Choose your battles carefully – you don’t have 9 lives in ministry.

- Don’t take ministry too seriously sometimes

- Strategic planning is just that – strategic

- Give credit to others where credit is due

- Just listen. That alone can be therapeutic for the other person.

- Give timely advice when necessary

- Have friends that you trust when you’re in a high-octane and performance-oriented environment

- If you spot an emerging leader, do something about it. Give them something to do. Invite them into your circle. Increase their platform.

- Give yourself to an emerging leader and they will give themselves to you.

- A little enthusiasm goes a long way.

- Encourage a vision and you will reap a dream

- Use your platform to give others a platform of leadership

worldview and missional church Friday, January 12, 2007 |

My global leadership cohort is going through a course right now called "Contemporary Culture in Missiological Perspective." That's a fancy way of telling us that we're going to learn something along the lines of this: that there are very good reasons why we should be looking at our American (and Western) culture as if we're missionaries. We can't just assume that everyone has the same worldview, or that Christianity is still the dominant worldview and system of values. That has HUGE implications.

I mean, think about the missionary analogy. Bob Roberts, Jr. asks a great question in his book, Transformation - What if the Church were the missionary? Wow, what a piercing question laden with implications. We aren't in Christendom any more, nor are we in Kansas any more, Toto. We no longer have home court advantage. So we have to take the perspective of missionaries - learn (or in our case, re-learn) the language, the stories, the customs, the values, the communication, of our culture. We have to utilize all those as newfound avenues to the gospel.

So here's a few of my miniscule thoughts on worldview:

I'm always surprised whenever I look at the Western cultural values and how they have been absorbed into the church and also my own value system. I am a child of my culture, and that is never so clear as when I look I look at the differences between the two. I'm an individualist, an isolationist, a consumerist, and I find that the idolatry of power is not fully dead in my heart just yet. Nietzsche would be proud.

The Western worldview is individualistic, isolationistic and consumeristic. The Biblical worldview, by contrast, is communal, missional and sacrificial. There are distinct similarities between the Western worldview and the church, unfortunately. The Western church views salvation, community and mission strictly in terms of it's individualistic view, and emphasizes the individual and his/her needs in all of this. Also, the church's structures, values and mission have been co-opted by Western culture. The Western culture, in it's worship of power, values hierarchical structures and ascent by means of upward mobility. This is all too familiar in the Western church. The Western culture values prosperity in it's pursuit of autonomy (and isolation). The church has also absorbed these values, along with individualism, and many times turns God's promises into a cosmic lottery where the jackpot is upward mobility socially and socio-economically.

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Lessons from a 2-year-old Monday, January 08, 2007 |

A few months ago my wife and I gave our 2-year-old, Wesley Grant, a batman pajama set. It was kinda one of those bedtime bribes that parents sometimes have to do for their kids. “Hey, you can wear this if you go to bed…” Well, make a mental note: never give a child, especially one who doesn’t fully understand the laws of gravity, and who actually deliberately ignores the laws of gravity, a pajama set that glorifies superhuman capabilities. So my 2-year-old decides to test his superhuman abilities – flight, no less, and attempts to jump off the couch. Instead of soaring around the room and landing on his feet like all action heroes do, he planted his forehead squarely in the middle of the edge of the coffee table.

Bad deal. Big gash. Lots of blood.

Of course I was away at a meeting, and so by the time I got home it was a madhouse. My wife had called the paramedics, who arrived about 2 minutes after I did.

So we went to the hospital and waited. Then they took us to a back room and a doctor came in and looked at Wesley Grant’s head wound. “Yep, it’s gonna need about 6 stitches.” She told us that she’d be back with a “papoose” in about 15 minutes to get started on the stitches.

So I got this mental image of this “papoose” with like a dainty mother walking through a wheat field with this soft cloth “papoose”, gently swaddling her giggling child in her arms.

Nope, wrong papoose. They came in about 15 minutes later with the “real” papoose. A 4 ft. long 2x4 with about 14 layers of large, heavy-duty Velcro straps. They strapped my superhero, head-wound boy into this “thing” that could only be explained as a restraining device for escaped convicts, and wrapped him up like a tight burrito. He was stuck, even though it took 4 of us to hold him down after he was strapped in.

And as he was completely and totally immobilized, wounded, scared, struggling and crying, and all he could say was, “Daddy, help!” “Daddy, help!” “Daddy, help!”

All he could do was urgently plead for his father to do something. His toys didn’t matter. His food didn’t matter. His stuff didn’t matter. This child’s only recourse was that his father would do something. And let me tell you something as a father – if it was in my plan and for his good, I would have moved heaven and earth to answer his urgent plea. His urgency alone would have moved my heart to raise up and answer his plea.

Luke 10:2 - “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few, therefore beseech (ask, pray, implore, urgently plead, beg) the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Urgently plead for your Heavenly Father to do something.