Church planting & missions success? How would you define it!

We’ve been discussing some pretty interesting things in my class, God’s World Mission. One of the most profound is it evaluate the elitist mindset we can have as Western Christians that think “missions” happens when some Anglo-Christian folk waltz into a foreign community, begin to tell people about Jesus and claim that that is when God started working in said area.

It seems that the same could be said for N. American Church Planters at times. Now, as a whole I think that most missionaries, church planters and agencies that support them all, have very good intentions; we want to see people come to know Jesus Christ in real and transforming ways. But often times our methods and attitudes can be tainted more with elitism, than with humility and true, practical, Biblical theology. So, as a would-be church planter, its good to get some perspective check on these matters.

This thought comes from Ben over History in the Making:

“‘It just didn’t work out’ is a bad excuse by cultivators when God’s whole purpose for the plant was to tenderize a community. Likewise, when harvesters make headlines without acknowledging the yeeears of cultivating work that went-on before them in their cities… they strip God of credit.”

We neglect the reality that every corner of this world is His, and He has been working – sometimes ambiguously, sometimes quite clearly – much longer at redeeming His world and the people’s within it than we ever have.

So when it goes well with a church plant, and they are growing and engaging their community and the culture at large – lets praise God! And when it doesn’t seem to panning out, only a handful of people give their lives to the Lord, even though the pastors and leaders are sharing the gospel and teaching it faithfully – lets praise God for that too, that His word will not return void (ultimately, at least) and that He has begun a good work in that part of the world, that someday will be reaped. After all, “from Him, and to Him and through Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever!” (Romans 11:36)

Thoughts, anyone? Agree? Disagree? Too naive? What do you think: How would you define success: as missionaries, as church planters, as commissioned members of Christ in extending the kingdom of God?

[Caveat and Disclaimer: This is not a post about the shortcomings of any particular agency, group, or even socio-political group of Christians (i.e. Western). This is about the presupositions that often times go unchecked, even amongst the most strategic, thoughtful and well intentioned people and groups. I for one am a big fan of many such agencies, like MTW, MNA, Acts 29, Redeemer Church Planting Network, the Sovereign Grace and 9Marks folks, etc., etc.. So, don’t hear what I’m not saying! Thanks for letting me clarify.]

Video for Preachers on Preaching by Matt Chandler

Matt ChandlerFrom The Resurgence site for the upcoming Acts 29 Text and Context Conference.  Stephen Murray (Of Daylight blog fame) is going to have quite a good time at this (Aren’t you Stephen?)

Matt Chandler offers some great thoughts on the task and nature of preacher, and how to discern our “call” to preach in some pretty insightful ways.

Check it out here.

Contemporary or Contextual – What would Keller do?

timkeller.jpgWell, Tim Keller’s new book is almost out – The Reason for God (Hey honey, if you’re thinking of any last minute Valentine’s gift ideas, this might be a good one.) – and low and behold there is quite a buzz swarming over the internet (here, here, here, here and here). Not only that, but Keller made it into a Newsweek piece. (I especially like the line about him being compared to your favorite “dim sum” place in Manhattan).

Here is a comment made by Ed Stetzer after visiting Redeemer Church in New York (Tim Keller’s church) regarding an interesting, and important thing to remember whenever we talk about “contextualization”:

“I was most impressed with how, well, non-“hip” the service was. (The giveaway was the note in the program reminding you to not applaud.)

The “band” was four men in suits who played wind instruments accompanied by an organ.

Yet, most of the crowd was young and engaged… a reminder that contemporary is not always contextual.”

The Reason for GodI think that statement is worth pondering some, don’t you guys? When did I, or we, ever begin to equate contextual with contemporary? I think that Stetzer nails it, and sees beyond the “transferable practices” of some successful church strategy’s, to the transferable principle of making the Gospel truth relevant and understandable for your context.

At the end of the Newsweek piece on Keller, the author makes another interesting comment. After picking up on some the anomalies that make Tim Keller a bit “odd” for the typical perceptions of pastors, she states that New York is a good place for someone as idiosyncratic as Keller, and she muses whether, “he—or his vision—will ever be at home anywhere else.”

I think that the writer of the article has expressed an important aspect of ministry and calling, but particularly for future and would-be church planters. When you consider whatever ministry it is that you think God is calling you to, ask yourself, “Would you or your vision be at home anywhere else?” A great question, and one to ponder before heading out into planting a church. If you don’t have a sense of what God can do and wants to do through His church under your charge for a specific city/town/area, then maybe you’re not really ready to minister.

Just something I’m thinking about. What are your thoughts?

Appropriate Accompaniment or Dishonoring Distraction

Appropriate for Worship

Alright, so I’ve recently visited a church where I felt that the musical worship aspects were just so-so. But after the service the musicians were jamming and it was out of this world good. So it got me to thinking (that and the Christian Worship class I’m taking this semester):

Is it appropriate to allow skilled musicians to play to their ability within the context of corporate worship?

Is it distracting – as is usually argued – for talented musicians to incorporate various elements of their discipline (Improv or “soloing”, for example)throughout the corporate elements of gathered worship?

Is it a “sin” or simply dishonoring to God to not worship Him with the same skill and craft that one would employ in other contexts outside of the corporate worship setting?

I found this video on youtube to help illustrate the type of musical skill that I’m talking about (plus, I love Bela Fleck and the Flecktones). I think this clip for the most part captures a way of doing musical improv that is more about the song and band rather than the individual members, and that each member is contributing their unique part to create something that is rather phenomenal.

I almost want to go so far as to say there are some trinitarian elements evidenced in their playing together. Notice how the bass player (Victor Wooten – who is phenomenal) and clarinet player (No idea who he is, but he’s really good as well) “dance” together – blending their individual solos into a unified harmony (“Perochoreses” anyone?).

Can musical skill like this be incorporated into Christian, corporate or gathered worship and be Christ-centered, God-exalting and Community-edifying, or is it only distracting?

Thoughts on Thursday: Cherishing Our Wives, Not Our Lives

Hey gang,

I recently came across a couple of great posts dealing with the fine and elusive task of “husbanding.” I know I need all the help I can get in being a more self-less husband. Check out this post over at The Gender Blog (which is itself over at The Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) and actually read it; its some great stuff!

Here’s a sample:

It seems to me that often the times I grumble in my heart about my wife are the same times I am not seeking to cherish her.”

That’s way too convicting for me. I know that what it comes down to for me is that I too often am only concerned with “Numero Uno” – fretting over my needs, wishes and desires – instead of giving myself selflessly to the most amazing woman in my life. I hope that I can cherish myself less and cherish her a whole lot more than I have.

How’s about you all? Any other ideas you’d care to add to his list?

We live in a beautiful world?

I put that in the form of a question because I actually typically agree with that statement, but a simple scan of the news tells me that this world is not quite right as it is right now. Anyone who makes an ultimate claim that the whole world is “right” and that all people are fundamentally “good” do not see the world through the lens of reality.When I read news like this, I am thankful that God is sovereign and restrains the evil that could be much worse, and that there will be a time where all evil is removed from the world and will be punished accordingly.

Celebrity brings focus?

SpearsMaybe you’ve heard it as much as I have. In America we have traded heroism for celebrity.

Instead of looking up to the men and women in our community who sacrifice and give of themselves, aspiring to be inspiring to others in simple, legitimate ways – like teaching/tutoring kids in our community, talking to a homeless guy with an actual conversation instead of excuses why you can’t spare the dime or buy him a hotdog, or simply remaining faithful to your wedding vows and wife – we all want to criticize Britney, be enlightened by Oprah and Tom, or eat our Wheaties and just be like Mike. (I appreciated a recent commentary on this from Leonard Pitts, Jr. here).

UN ClooneySay what you want about the sad state of North American heroism shifting from men and women of honor, sacrifice and courage to the constant barrage of tabloid celebrity rehab sightings. Its a reality that won’t be going away anytime soon.

The right question isn’t, “How can we change this?” as much as it should be, “How can we redeem this?”

I personally think that George Clooney gets it right:

“We tend to not get to see enough of what we need to see anymore,” he said, adding: “It seems as if at times celebrity can bring that focus.”

“It can’t make the policies, it can’t change people’s minds really, but you can bring a camera where you go because they’ll follow you and you can shine a light on it. That seems to be my job.”

Check out the full story here.


Back in Town and Thanks to Jared

Well everyone, Thanks for sticking with the blog while I was away (it seems that was the case for most of January!).

And especially, thank to Jared Lee for contributing a couple of posts while I was on a more focused vacation. You guys could help me thank him by going to visit his blog sometime and keeping up with Thoughts From the Life of a Guy.

I’m back, and right into a busy semester of school, but I’ll be posting with more regularity from here on out.


Chris G.