Missio Christus

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Expanding our traditional paradigm of Pastoral calling!

A Question
"Are pastors only called to shepherd the flock, or are they called to shepherd other shepherds in their flock, if they focus on the one without the other will their shepherding be seriously shelf-lifed?"

A Challenge
I challenged all pastors to take seriously their calling to shepherd not only their flocks but the shepherds in their present flocks, to lay aside other commitments that may constrain them in that in order that the body is ministered to by a plurality of shepherds rather than one to four 'trained professionals'. I further challenge these shepherds to consider developing macro-homeletics out of their micro-homeletics to pass on to these other shepherds under their care, what might this look like?

A Model
An incarnational witness first of all to these other shepherds of what real shepherding ministry is like in their local bodies - this translates into invovling the younger shepherds in the messiness of the politics that happen in the church, allowing them to be touched by the sins and weaknesses of the leadership, in a word it involves vulnerability on the part of the leaders. It also involves the leaders admiting that they cannot do the shepherding ministry on their own but rather need the organic expression of a multiplicity of gifts and shepherds - which might also lead into a redefining of what the 'ministry of the word' is supposed to look like.

A biblical theology is the second component of this model. Its no mystery why the Reformers both past and present sought to meet with oneanother and study scripture as a community, this form of fellowship can lead to a maturation of biblical theology and hermeneutics in the lives of the younger shepherds as well as a refreshing multi-perspectival reading of the horizon of the contemporary church and the current trends of biblical theology in the Christian academy that many pastors may be missing due to their faithful focus on their local bodies.

An incarnational mission is the last component of this model. Without deed the word is misconstrued in the life of the theologian, and without word the deeds are merely humanitarian. Shepherds need to lead in developing and implementing in a partnership fashion, the creation of an environment where new missional ministries can be lead and created by the younger shepherds in the local body. This parternship should carry over beyound the creation of the environment, rather it needs to lead into the actuality of new ministries in the life of the church, ministries that are not only inward focused but also outward focused. Attatched to the labor of the older shepherds comes the responsibility and humility of the younger shepherds to pursue this spiritual development and pursue it with a teachable heart.

These thoughts were meant to be brief and serve as a trampolene for further concreate implementation. What might be ways this could begin, and what are the barriers to its progress?

One obstruction to this developing in the local church is that its absence has already created a culture that prevents its construction, this culture can be seen in the inability of the older shepherds to have time for such a model or for the younger shepherds having the interest or external testimony to encourage them to enter into it. The older shepherds are to busy because they are largely solo shepherds and the younger shepherds are not interested because they don't see any real opportunity to lead and be inovative due to the lack of previous welcome they've expereinced or at least the only nominal welcome they've recieved.

What are your thoughts on these matters?

SeminaryNext: further thoughts, Conn's lucid contribution toward the future of evangelical theological education

  • "The equation of learning with schooling, the equation of professionalism with ministry, the equation of teaching missions with western missions, the equation of theorization with knowledge and the equation of practice with praxis (interaction between reflection and action, theory and practice), these false assumptions have lead to institutionalism, elitism, alienation, abstractionism and pragmatism."

This quote by Harvie Conn was taken out of another author's article on what I'm calling 'SeminaryNext', SeminaryNext is a current emergence of new models for training and developing leaders for the Evangelical missio dei of the next century. Larry J. McKinney adds his voice to the others I've already mentioned before. Here is the article's link;


Listen closesly to the series of antithesis's Conn sets up, its my asumption that the impression of these tension in theological education is only hightening. This is demonstrated in part by the recent emergence of rapid learning programs within existing seminaries like Reformed Theological Seminary, Covenant Theological Seminary, and Biblical Theological Seminary; as well as program reductions and modifications at Fuller Theological Seminary and Princeton Theological Seminary. Other models have also emerged that are de novo, such as L.A.M.P. in philadelphia (http://www.philly.lamptraining.org/) and C.U.T.S. in Philadelphia (http://cuts.edu ), or M.I.N.T.S. in Miami (http://www.mints.edu/). My heart is encouraged by this trend and my prayers are ongoing that this sort of rethinking and re-imagining of Seminary will better prepare the body of Christ to participate in the missio dei of the next century!

My challenge to all believers is to ask yourself how you might help train up the local missional leaders of the next generation? How you might partner with these SeminaryNext's nearby you, or even possibly lead in the creation of more?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

When homelessness is defined how will we respond?

I just finished reading a stirring testimony from an urban missionaries life, Robert Lupton. Lupton recalls a cold January morning where he awoke in his warm home, showered in his hot shower, and slipped on some comfortable clothing. It was like any other day until he opened his car door. There sitting in his car was a homeless man, and Lupton drew back his fist to pummel the person who startled him. The man ran away scared and Lupton drove off to his meeting, it wasn't until latter that he wondered how his behavior related to Christ's. Listen to his deep repentant reflections;
  • "Why? Why should it be, I wondered, that I am so concerned about sleepoing too warm when another human being equally loved by the Creator barely survives in a cold car outside my door? Why is it that I have a secure place to rest and be restored, when this man, and so many others like him, has no place to lay his head in peace?...The Christ, the despised one, the one for whom we hid our faces, spoke softly, deeply in my spirit. It was the voice of how who himself claimed to have no place to lay his head..."

Lupton's testimony makes me wonder what we really value in life, I believe more than anything else we value a sense of 'homecoming', with the feelings of conclusion it brings to our sense of identity. I think that is why as a society we are so scared of homelessness around us, encroaching in and reminding us of the fragileness of security and identity. Lupton's testimony here reminds us that the sacrifice we are called to, is to be like Christ who even though he had Heaven as his home decided to willingly have no place to lay his head.

When 'homelessness' is defined how have you responded to it? Has a passion for the maintaining of your security removed you from the brokenness for those around you without it?

Further Reading:Robert Lupton. Theirs is the Kingdom: Celebrating the Gospel in Urban America. (California: Harper, 1989).

Monday, August 28, 2006

Is your church reflecting the culture or shaping it? An either or, or a both and...

This posting will be brief but I've noticed that pastor Mark Dever's ministry in Washington D.C., http://9marks.org/ has a banner up on their main webpage with the message, "Is your church reflecting culture or shaping it? Church matters." I really appreciate the way this question ends, church matters. Its not something that has no chips in the game of social impact or social morality, rather its all in and awaiting the river to see the flop - forgive the poker analogy here.

I'm blessed by the clear and challanging thought of the whole message of their banner but I'm also wondering if the banner question is leading people to draw either or answers, or both and answers to it on their own. I think most of the readers probably understand Mark's message - the church matters, but there might be some that make a mistake in believing that its an either or situation, "Either we reflect culture and relegate ourselves to a non-influential consumer or we shape it into the image it was meant to be according to the Creators archetypal plans." But I don't think this is an 'either or' kinda of question, I think its a 'both and' statement, "The church reflects its surrounding cultures because as itself a socially constructed ethos created by humanities fallen and Spirit redeem-ing nature, culture is always overseen by the Creator of all and find itself blessed with his common grace. Yet because of the fall every culture finds itself east of eden awaiting the redemption of Christ as he spreads the kingdom of God out into the fallen world."

What do you think, is the church either a reflector of culture or a shaper? Or is the church both a reflector of culture and a shaper of it as well? Is this just semantics or does the 'either or' 'both and' demonstrat a real difference in missional intention?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

How changes in the way Biblical Seminary does education can challenge us

Have you ever wrestled with going away on a missions trip, experiencing all the intentional and incarnational ministry there and then returning home to your usual evangelistic patterns? Did it feel like something was wrong when you thought about your mentality on the mission field versus your mentality off the mission field?

Biblical Theological Seminary, just outside of Philadelphia,PA; has been making some pretty big changes in the way they go about training leaders for the next generation. Go here for their own explanation, (http://www.biblical.edu/images/connect/PDFs/Case05.pdf). At this school they've been wrestling with precisely those feelings I just mentioned above, they talk about this by modifing the word mission. Below are their three modifications;

  • Missions = the portion
    of a church’s ministry that
    sends Christians to non-
    Christian lands to bring
    people to Christ.

  • Mission = the purpose
    of the entire body of Christ
    to participate in God’s
    mission in the world.

  • Missional = a holistic
    approach that views the
    church as being on a
    mission for God to meet the
    needs of the world rather
    than its own needs.

Which of these terms best describes you? Which do you think best describes Grace Christian Fellowship? Why, and how might we go about reforming ourselves to be more missional?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

SeminaryNext: struggling with whether seminary models of the present are really missional?

When I graduate this coming May from Westminster Theological Seminary (http://wts.edu) with my Masters of Divinity I will have logged eight consecutive years in pastoral training. My first four where spent at Clearwater Christian College (http://clearwater.edu) where I recieved a B.A. in Pastoral Studies with a minor in Bible, and my second four at Westminster in masters studies with an emphasis in Urban Missiology.

I've had a lot of time to reflect on whether or not the current model for training and preparing the next leaders of the church is a good one, and I've come away believing that there is a lot of room for reform. While completing both these degrees I spent many hours a week in missional ministry in my local church families, finding out the benefits of the training firsthand as well as the failures - this is not to deny my own sinful nature in those failures.

. . . two horizons - one obese, one malnutritioned
Anthony Thiselton, a NT scholar and Hermeneutician, said that there are two horizons to every interpretation. There are those of the text (its own nature, authors, and their worlds) and then there are those of the audience (our understanding of texts, the ancient authors, and their worlds). How do Bible colleges and seminaries prepare the next leaders? Do they honor the two horizons? Below are the five major areas almost all bible colleges and seminaries focus in upon;
  1. Theology (topics, systems, theologians, models)
  2. Old Testament (language, introductions, sections/divisions, individual books, themes)
  3. New Testament (languages, introducitons, sections/divisions, individual books or authors)
  4. Church History (time periods, models/approaches, polemics and apologetics, other religions/cults)
  5. Practical Theology (homeletics, pastoral care, counseling, administration, missions)

I'd have to say its been my experience that the first horizon, that of scripture, is quiet obese when it comes to the resources of preparing the next leaders, whereas the horizon of our present world is quiet malnutritioned. The first three weigh in heavily in the standard 120 credit hours for a BA and 100 credit hours for an MDiv but the last two usually only cover about 15% to 25% of our credits.

Our current models of training leaders, in my opinion, fail terribly at offering a balanced approach toward preparing people for missional living from the word to their worlds. We have trained experts in all things ancient who often times lead very unengaging lives within their local communities and the larger world - not to mention the cities they live near or in. And these experts have debt that excludes them from being able to serve in churches unable to pay a salary (Ed Stetzer picks up on this point in his book, Planting Churches in a Postmodern Age, humbly my own testimony bears this out). And the churches led by these leaders of tommorrow are often very textually oriented and tradition bound...just like their education was, but not broken for justice for the oppression many of their neighbors are living under. What are we to do?

. . . two voices with another trajectory for training future leaders

There are many voices answering this last question, in my mind the two that have the most to say are the late Harvie Conn of Westminster Theological Seminary and the present Eddie Gibbs of Fuller Theological Seminary. What are your thoughts on the current model, is it missionally minded enough to train leaders who can reach their surrounding cultures, their citites? What other things might be lacking in the model or in my picture of it?

Further Reading: Harvie Conn. Eternal Word and Changing Worlds: Theology, Anthropology, and Mission in Trialogue. (New Jersey: P & R; 1984). Eddie Gibbs. LeadershipNext: Changing leaders in a changing culture. (Illinois: IVP; 2005).

Contextualization: a vehicle for the gospel but not a value neutral one

There's a lot of talk going on about contextualization today. Often times its spoken of in terms of a method whereby we express the gospel to non-Christians, and sometimes to non-western audiences outside the United States. The emerging churches often speak of contextualization in America and the need to deciever and translate the gospel to very non-Christian, non-churched neighbors.

Contextualization is something that is just part of living missionally for Christ in a 'world' where meaning has layer upon layer of cultural values - 'a global world with global cities'. Because contextualization is something we've become so acustom to as an idea (often times we're naive to how un-contextual we're being with the gospel message and lifestyle) we need to be jostled into raising perceptive questions regarding the values of the cultures we're attempting to be contextual toward.

Listen to Lamin Sanneh, a missiologist at Yale Divinity School (http://www.yale.edu/divinity/), who reflects upon the hidden biases of culture and the need for being thoughtfully contextual;

  • "Context is not passive but comes preloaded with its own biases, ready to contest whatever claims it encounters. Contexts, after all, are constructed strategies. As such, a context-sensitive approach should be responsive without being naive."

As we go about the labor of stepping back and considering our manner of expressing the gospel either by words or our lifestyles we must wrestle with two questions, not simply the one. We must ask: first, is my presentation of the gospel being understood in an intelligible manner?; and secondly, am I actively taking the biases of the culture(s) I'm reaching out to missionally "captive with the knowledge of Christ" (2 Cor 10:5)?

In what ways brothers and sisters might we be missing the mark in our contextualization of the gospel? Are there particular cultures that are harder for you to contextualize unto?

Further reading: Lamin Sanneh. Whose Religion is Christianity?: The Gospel beyond the West. (Michigan: Eerdmans; 2003, only 130 pgs.)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

What is a Reformissionary?

I read through a little book at the beginning o f the summer called "The Radical Reformission" by an author named Mark Driscoll. Driscoll is a pastor of one of the fastest growing churches in America, and whats remarkable about his growth is where its happening - Seattle Washington. Not the bible bealt or some midwestern area where people just don't have much to do but instead in the heart of one of the most difficult urban missions in America. What's his secrete to reaching the people of Seattle? I believe its his faithfulness to the Gospel, Culture, and Mission. Listen to his following reflections;

  • Reformission is a radical call for Christians and Christian churches to recommit to living and speaking the gospel, and to doing so regardless of the pressures to compromise the truth of the gospel or to conceal its power within the safety of the church. The goal of reformission is to continually unleash the gospel to do its work of reforming dominant cultures and church subcultures.

Reformission therefore begins with a simple return to Jesus, who by grace saves us and sends us into mission. Jesus has called us to (1) the gospel (loving our Lord), (2) the culture (loving our neighbor), and (3) the church (loving our brother)."

What does a life that takes the mission of God seriously look like?

  1. It is a life where there is a balance between how we love our Lord, our neighbor, and our brother; denying neither of these important area.
  2. It is a life where particular focus is given to each of these areas. Loving our Lord requires at times single focus upon, though we also love him in the other two areas. Loving our Lord means faithfulness to his gospel - understanding it, building our daily lives upon it, and sharing it.
  3. Loving our neighbor means loving the cultures we find ourselves in. Driscoll' s point again and again in his book is that you cannot love your neighbor and be indifferent to their culture. Its to big apart of them, it would be loving them in an impersonal fashion.
    Loving our brother means loving the church and understanding the subcultures she creates at times.

What do you think about Driscoll's Radical Reformission? Is it a journey you should take as well?

Further reading: Mark Driscoll. The Radical Reformissionary: Reaching out without selling out. (Michigan: Zondervan, 2004, only 200 pgs.)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

How does God relate to Culture?

...defining culture

Before answering the question, 'what is the nature of God's relation to culture?', we need to first understand what culture is. The following definition of culture was taken from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture);

  • The word culture, from the Latin colo, -ere, with its root meaning "to cultivate", generally refers to patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activity significance.

While not being a perfect definition of culture it does help us understand what culture is in general terms. But what is missing in this definition? The spiritual element of culture...how does culture relate to God? Particulary how does culture relate to a triune God? And how can we understand human culture in relation to the redemptive story of the Bible - creation, the fall, redmption, and recreation?

...God in relation to culture

Charles H. Kraft, a renown missiologist of the 20th century, offered four models for how God might be related to culture in his book, Christianity in Culture;

  1. God against culture
  2. God in culture
  3. God above culture
  4. God above and through culture

Kraft chose the last one as the most biblically sound way to understand God's relation to culture. The question of course is what does 'God above but through culture' look like according to Kraft? God above but through culture' - "God as transcendent and absolute, completely beyond and outside of culture. I see cultural structuring, however, as basically a vehicle or milieu, neutral in essence, though wraped by the pervasive influence of human sinfulness. Culture is not in and of itself either an enemy or a friend to God or humans. It is, rather, something that is there to be used by personal beings such as humans, God, and Satan." (pg. 113) Kraft's understanding of 'God above culture' is helpful but needs to be qualified in one way. Culture is a 'friend' of God because God as as a triune being - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - has created all things, including socially strucutring tools like culture. And he has done this in a covenantal fashion.

'God above but through culture' - "Human beings are pervasively infected by sin...But human beings are redeemable...When they [human beings] do things differently, they change their usage of cultural forms, patterns, and processes at their disposal. It is the use of the cultural structures that is changed (at least, at first), not usually the structures themselves." (pg. 114) On the matter of 'God through culture' I would again add just one thing here, God works through culture not just be changing how Christians use culture but also how non-believers use culture because God's grace extends to all in a common way.

So though God is above culture he works as well within it, and when he seeks to change it he does so through renewing the way the human heart uses the culture's they are within. God is above but through culture, and this has implications for the mission of Christ we all are called unto!

...implications for the mission of Christ

As we enter our various relationships with people we need to realize that their culture, no matter how godless it may seem at times, was covenantly created by God. He is both above culture since he transcends it and his person can not be reduced to it though he remains relevant to human cultures throughout time, and He is working through it by creating new hearts in Christians and by imparting His common grace upon all cultures everywhere at all times.

As you weigh in your heart's the question: what does the gospel look like for these culture's I'm missionally called to reach? Keep in mind that God is above them, but that he also works through them...

Further Reading: Charles H. Kraft. Christianity in Culture. (New York: Orbis, 1999)