“There is no better test of our spiritual state and condition than our missionary zeal, our concern for lost souls. That is always the thing that divides people who are just theoretical and intellectual Christians from those who have a living and a vital spiritual life.”
-Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans – God’s Sovereign Purpose, Romans 9:1-33
Today’s reading in Genesis 25-26 covered the account of the birth of Isaac’s twin sons, Esau and Jacob. I knew this story. There wasn’t anything that shockingly new today.
Other than I wondered what would have happened had Esau not given up his birthright?
He had a choice. And he chose to give it up for a bowl of soup.
The firstborn son. Who would have inherited all the privileges and responsibilities of being the families patriarch gives it up because he is hungry.
Sure, Jacob exploits the situation for his own advantage. But he takes something that was significant from someone else who was despising it.
Esau didn’t just give up a share of an inheritance. Esau didn’t just abdicate his responsibility to his family.
He gave up his place in being part of what God was doing in and through his family.
He was turning his back on being part of the divine answer to the human problem.
He was giving up being part of the blessed people who in turn seek to be a blessing to others.
Esau despised the significance of his birthright for the simple path of least resistance.
For Further Thought:
1. What was an example of you choosing one thing at the expense of another thing? How did you feel about the choice afterwards?
2. Do you ever consider the full consequences of some of your decisions? That a simple choice for this thing over here means a giving up of this thing over there?
3. Abraham’s family was “blessed to be a blessing.” As Christians, we find ourselves with the same calling, as Jesus Christ came as the true child of Abraham. What are some of the ways we (collectively) and you (individually) abdicate our responsibility – our birthright – of being a people “blessed” by God in order to “be a blessing to others”?
I recently read an insightful post on what it means to preach “being missional” over at In the Time of Postmoderns I Was a Puritan. Here’s an excerpt:
Being “missional” doesn’t mean just dropping the word in sermons hoping people will figure out what it means. It takes talking about specific issues of the church’s mission, grounding them in scripture exposition, and trying to engage your church into thinking about, planning, and pursuing missional goals communally; not merely planting ideas in people head’s that they will individually pursue once they leave the four walls of the church building. That kind of individualism is what is plaguing the church already, we don’t need to blindly continue in it.
He goes on to provide a brief but helpful list of several areas where we can dig in to what it means to be missional. Read the whole post here.
Here is the content for the Covenant Seminary’s Francis Schaeffer Institute Lecture Series (that’s a mouthful, isn’t it?) on the Emerging Church. This was a series of talks given by Darrin Patrick, lead pastor of The Journey and V.President of the Acts 29 Network. Darrin is a guy who neither absolutely praises or bashes the Emerging Church movement. Instead, he gives a really good inside picture of it, while also standing somewhat outside of it and gives it a good critical assessment of its strengths and weaknesses. If you’re out there and you’re the least bit curious, or cautious, of anything that bears the label “emerging”, then listen to these lectures.
Audio Content (page – you can download the lectures individually)
Written Content (abridged notes from the talks)
I found out about these videos in my Intro to Counseling class today. I had to share them. They address a real problem we face everyday – “secular sermons” where we are all impacted and formed by our culture in ways that aren’t exactly healthy.
Check these out for a healthy corrective attempt to the problem [Caveat – I find it interesting that this comes from Dove, a company very much invested in the success of the beauty industry. Shouldn’t the church be the ones tackling this problem?]:
I have to say that I’m sorry its been so long since I’ve posted. Its been a crazy few weeks, with a 4 day trip back home to Augusta. Anyway, here’s a great post over at The Resurgence site, dealing with Evangelicalism and reductionism. There’s alot in it, but this last thought is really great. What do you guys think about this?
The danger I face…is that I, too, can reduce the Church’s real problems to simple solutions just like the next person. The real problem is a spiritual and theological one, not a management or programmatic one. This calls for spiritual and theological solutions, not pat answers. This frustrates busy, pragmatic Americans who want programs that will solve their problems. Thus the reductionistic problem just keeps getting recycled over and over again.
The place we must begin to counteract this reductionism is in seeing that our mission is not merely an activity of the Church, but rather that the Church exists for mission. Mission is the result of God’s activity within the world and that mission is to restore and heal creation. The Church is a community of the redeemed and exists to serve that mission. This is the meaning of John 20:21. God is a missionary God and we, as his people, are a sent people. The Church is not the purpose of the gospel, or even the goal of the gospel. The Church is the instrument and witness of the gospel. Only when we get this right will be begin to be the community that God intended for us to be.
So, do we as North American evangelicals operate in ways that reduce the gospel – in our gospel “presentations”, ministry objectives/approaches, etc? Do we tend to see the church as serving our need for community, or as God’s ordained instrument in accomplishing His mission?
Thoughts, comments, suggestions!
This is the best quote I have come across on contextualization, and it happens to come from…you guessed it…Tim Keller. Much thanks to Darrin Patrick for talking through this and pointing to this definition about contextualization at the FSI Lecture Series this weekend on the Emerging Church (check out http://covenantseminary.edu in a couple of days/weeks for the audio – if they post it.)
Quote on Contextualization:
Contextualization is not giving people what they want. It is giving God’s answers (which they probably do not want) to the questions they are asking and in forms they can comprehend.
Colin Hansen has an article for CT about The Gospel Coalition. Its a good excerpt, and worth reading to understand what I think is an exciting and important trend for the shaping of future ministry, particularly in the U.S. Here are a couple of good quotes (from Keller, yes!), but do go read the rest of the article (click here).
“I want to see more churches and leaders joining hands across denominational and network lines to think out how to do effective mission based on the historic, classical understanding of the gospel as it has come down to us from the Reformation and through the Awakenings.”
“If we seek service rather than power, we may have significant cultural impact,” the statement says. “But if we seek power and social control, we will, ironically, be assimilated into the very idolatries of wealth, status, and power we seek to change.”-Tim Keller
Anthony Bradley has another great post over at The Institute regarding two things: 1) Some great sermon series’ from some solid, missional churches (I’ve only listened to the series from the Journey, which I highly recommend listening to, but the others look pretty good as well), 2) some thoughts ans signs of unhealthy churches. I found them pretty interesting, what do you all think? Here they are (click here to go to Anthony’s full post):
Here are some signs of possible immature and unhealthy churches and/or dying or dead churches:
(1) Little or no adult baptisms. That tells you A LOT about who the church is NOT engaging. (Acts 18:10) Fellas, did you know that there are actually Christians who don’t think it is odd that their church hardly ever has adult baptisms. Some don’t even at an eye at that. Shouldn’t that be kind’a embarrassing? The most I’ve ever personally been involved with, as a church employee, was when I worked at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philly). It was an amazing number.
(2) It’s mono-ethnic( except for rural churches). If the church is in or near a major city and the church represents a segregated mono-culture (by race and/or class) in leadership and membership you are right to think that is kind’a odd. It’s 2007 not 1907. And, sadly, church leaders and members avoid living in the epicenter of major cities. (Rev. 5:8-14; Eph. 4)
(3) The church has no social witness. Members and regular attenders are not personally involved in local, state, or national social issues (wherever the curse is found) at any level. It’s not a regular part of their family life. (James 1:27)
(4) Infrequent practice of the sacraments.
(5) Non-Christians are not involved in the life of the church, the personal lives of church goers, or attending worship (Lev. 19:33-34).
(6) The preaching, teaching, programs, aesthetics, music, etc. primarily appeal to 40-something women and their children. The men may be physically present but are bored and/or dead.
There’s a great post over at ‘Conn’-versation regarding the shape of younger Christian leaders and the whole “missional” conversation. I appreciate the post because it has put words to my scattered thoughts, particularly in relation to missional conversations within reformed denominations. For anyone trying to live and move in both worlds, this can be more tricky, and require a bit more awareness and discernment with the things we say or do. Anyway, here’s a great quote to wet your appetite:
“The adjective Missional will likely have its day in the sun and end dried up in the field of other helpful, but not bygone categories, but the changing ecclesiology it sought to capture will remain until and if we experience the Southern Hemisphere shape of Christendom to come (spoken of by people like Philip Jenkins) expanding into the landscape of our Post-Christian West in a culturally transforming manner.”
Check out the whole post here.
(P.S. – I have yet to read Jenkins book, but have heard great things about it, and with this post, I will most likely end up reading real soon. Anyone have any thoughts on the book itself?)