Sometimes I wonder if we are just sleepwalking through life…
Give me a man in love; he knows what I mean. Give me one who yearns; give me one who is hungry; give me one far away in the desert, who is thirsty and sighs for the spring of Eternal Country. Give me that sort of man; he knows what I mean. But if I speak to a cold man, he just doesn’t know what I’m talking about…You are surprised that the world is losing it’s grip? That the world is grown old? Don’t hold onto the old man, the world; don’t refuse to regain your youth in Christ, who says to you: “The world is passing away; the world is losing it’s grip, the world is short of breath.” Don’t fear, for thy youth shall be renewed as an eagle. -Augustine
While the ultimate source of revival is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit ordinarily uses instumental, or penultimate, means to produce revival.
To start every revival, the Holy Spirit initially uses what Jonathan Edwards called extraordinary prayer-united, persistent, and kingdom centered. Sometimes it begins with a single person or a small group of people praying for God’s glory in the community. What is important is not the number of people praying but the nature of the praying. C. John Miller makes a helpful and perceptive distinction between “maintenance” and “frontline” prayer meetings. Maintenance prayer meetings are short, mechanical, and focused on physical needs inside the church. In contrast, the three basic traits of frontline prayer are these:
A request for grace to confess sins and to humble ourselves.
A compassion and zeal for the flourishing of the church and the reaching of the lost.
A yearning to know God, to see his face, to glimpse his glory.
These distinctions are unavoidably powerful. If you pay attention at a prayer meeting, you can tell quite clearly whether these traits are present. In the biblical prayers for revivals in Exodus 33; Nehemiah 1; and Acts 4, the three elements of frontline prayer are easy to see. Notice in Acts 4, for example, that after the disciples were threatened by the religious authorities, they asked not for protection for themselves and their families but only for boldness to keep preaching! Some kind of extraordinary prayer beyond the normal services and patterns of prayer is always involved.
P. 73 “Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City”, Tim Keller
This video by Caesar is helpful for those of us doing Missional Community in suburbia. By nature of our context we are spread out and so the idea of immersing ourself in one neighborhood is not easy to accomplish. We know that being on mission, living as missionaries, is a part of our gospel identity. So…we have to be creative. I guess that puts us in the “Network Missional Community” category.
I won’t be so naive as to say the long, dark valley of leadership can be avoided by learning to name your failures. In fact, new and, at times, more difficult challenges will arise simply because you begin admitting your status as your organization’s head sinner, and the normal challenges will remain whether you confess your flaws or try to hide them. But realize that most leaders invest too much capital obscuring their need for grace, which not only keeps their staff at arm’s length but also subverts their trust and steals energy and creativity they could otherwise devote to the inevitable crisis that continue to arise. And, perhaps even more dangerous, hiding failure prevents leaders from asking for and receiving the grace they most desperately need to live well, not to mention lead well. -Leading With A Limp by Dan Allender
Now one of the buzzwords around today is the word “missional.” People want to create missional churches or missional programs or missional small groups.
The problem is that we don’t have a “missional” problem or a leadership problem in the Western church. We have a discipleship problem. If you know how to disciple people well, you will always get mission. Always. You see, somewhere along the way we started separating being “missional’ from being a disciple, as if somehow the two could be separated. Pastors started saying they didn’t want to be inwardly-focused so they stopped investing in the people in their churches so they could focus on people outisde their churches.
Granted, we should focus on people who don’t know Jesus yet, but Jesus himself gave us the model for doing that: Disciple people. If you know how to actually make disciples, you’ll reach people who don’t know Jesus. Because that’s simply what disciples do. That was Jesus’ whole plan. If you disciple people, as these people do mission in their everyday comings and goings, with the work and shaping of the Spirit, the future of the church will emerge.
-Excerpt from Mike Breen and Steve Cockram in their book “Building A Discipling Culture: How To Release A Missional Movement By Discipling People Like Jesus Did”
The couple wanted to know when the church was going to stop talking about the Mission of God and the idea of being missional. The answer was rather simple and straight-forward, “never”. We can’t be faithful to God’s Story and stop talking about the main theme.
That little conversation really did happen. Sadly, the couple really did leave the church. The reality is that many of us fail to see that EVERY area of life is wrapped up in the redemptive Story of God, otherwise known as the Mission of God. In all seriousness, to stop talking about the Mission of God is to stop talking meaningfully about everyday life. Consider this…
The greatest need that you, your marriage and your family has is to experience the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. Redemption of fallen creation is the Great Story we find ourselves in.
Your workplace has meaning not because you collect a paycheck there rather because God wants to use you and your work for his redemptive purposes. Your cubicle is filled with purpose and meaning because it is a sphere of God’s redeeming activity.
Your neighborhood, your suburb, your city needs one thing more than anything else, for you to understand, embrace and join God in the redemptive work he is already doing.
Your church (any church) will become ingrown, lacking in purpose unless they align all of their activities with the redemptive activity of God in the world.
Blow your mind and do a detailed study on the word “redemption” in Scripture. What you will find is that participating in this all-encompassing redemptive Story of God is what life is all about. We can never stop talking about it.
If we think that mission is merely one dimension of life then chances are good we don’t understand the full implications of the gospel. We don’t have a little chat about mission and then move on, everything we do as believers falls under the umbrella of the Missio Dei…marriage included.
Frequently I hear people refer to the church as a hospital. I know what they mean. The church is a place where the broken and hurting receive healing. I agree that spiritual healing is available in the body of Jesus Christ. But overall I think the metaphor is incomplete and in fact it’s a bit misleading.
Growing up one of my favorite shows was MASH. MASH stood for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. Today the term MASH is no longer used in military circles. Instead they call it a Combat Support Hospital. That’s what a church is, a Combat Support Hospital. We are living in a hostile land (Ephesians 6:12) and our mission is to bring the gospel to every nook and cranny of society. No doubt injuries will occur as we lay down our life for this Christ glorifying endeavor. Fortunately as the church gathers we are strengthened, refreshed and equipped so that we can go back and live as ambassadors of Jesus Christ.
When we say the church is a hospital it leaves us with the impression that receiving healing for our personal wounds is the end game. That’s just the beginning! We are healed so that we can bring healing to others.
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. -Matthew 16:18
Where am I finding my deepest sense of satisfaction in life? What is it that truly makes me happy or joyful? I know what pastors are suppose to say, think and believe. But what I’m supppose to think and feel does not always line up with what is really going on in my heart.
I like it when there are alot of people in church on Sunday morning. No, I like it alot. The converse is also true. When there are not alot of people in church on Sunday I feel depressed. Borderline embarassed. On those days the drive home from church is pure misery. I intentionally force myself to think about things other than ministry just to keep myself sane.
What is the issue? I recently spent a little extra time praying and fasting and it confirmed what I already suspected. The pursuit of significance is one of my idols. I often mouth the words, “I want Christ glorified”, but if a little of that glory comes my way I won’t fight it. The battle does not stop and it’s intense.
Part of the problem is a lack of gratitidue on my part. Failing to be greatful for the kingdom work that God has given me to do here on earth. I end up begrudging God for not making much of me. Come on, who doesn’t want to be a part of something big? Dreaming big is not a sin. The sin is that my joy is not full unless I have been made to feel significant.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
(John 15:9-11 ESV)
I may never pack the house to the rafters on Sunday, write a killer book or be on a speaking circuit. I have to come back to this very basic truth, the gospel tells me that Jesus is enough.