Monday, April 29, 2019

Whose mission is it anyway?

We’re continuing today with our series on what missional means and why it matters. Last blog we established that according to missional thinking:

1. God is on a mission (which flows out of the love intrinsic to His nature).
2. The church is a product and expression of God’s mission and exists for that mission.

The question then that naturally follows is, “If we accept those points what are the implications?”

While we can go in many directions here, I think there are three answers that take priority. In this blog I will tackle the first of those points, which is Point #3:

3. We don’t get to determine the mission, God does.

This is both the obvious answer and the “easier said than done” answer. If the church exists for God’s mission then God should dictate what that mission is. Duh. But, you might ask, by what means does a community of disciples know what God’s mission is?

In the history of Christianity there has been much dissension (and insanity) over this point. Some people will say just scripture. Some will say scripture and tradition. Others will want to add reason or experience or Christian philosophy to that mix. For my own money, scripture, interpreted in community, should lead the way, but with ample help from Christian tradition and history. But, that’s not the only valid opinion. (Note: Later in this series I will briefly unpack how missional movement leaders define God’s mission, and my own opinion as well. But for now I just want to focus on the big picture logic of the missional movement.)

However you come to your answer of what God’s mission is, the CRITICAL PIECE is then asking these hard questions:

1. Have we really put in the time to consider what God’s mission is, the scope of that mission, and our place in it?

2. Can we articulate that mission and our place in it?

Then we can move on to another difficult set of questions:

- Are we focused on our place in God’s mission, or being successful?
- Are we focused on our place in God’s mission, or advancing (or protecting) our institution or organization?
- Are we focused on our place in God’s mission, or on pleasing our community?

None of those three things are inherently bad, but they often usurp the place in our center that should be taken by God’s mission. Far too many Christian communities make decisions based on "being successful" (as their culture defines it, usually budgets and buildings and size in the US), on simply continuing to exist, or by making sure the people involved in their community are happy with them. When these questions displace the focus on God's mission there's a problem, and the missional movement has been a prophetic voice regarding this problem. The truth is, every community has places where it compromises, and every community also ebbs and flows between faithfulness to God’s mission and forgetting God’s mission. The point here isn’t to condemn or to judge; the point is to call for repentance for all of us and to challenge us to consider these questions seriously.

Book Suggestion: The Open Secret, by Leslie Newbigin

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

What does missional mean?

Today I am kicking off a series of blogs dealing with the concept of "missional" church or ministry. In this series I am going to explore:

1. What it means to be missional;
2. The missional critique of the established church in the US;
3. The critique of the missional movement;
4. Why I am a believer in the missional method;
5. The implications and challenges of mission.

My goal is to keep this discussion simple and succinct. Therefore, I will not be filling up these blogs with footnotes, but will simply paraphrase and state openly that these ideas are not mine (unless otherwise noted). I will however offer one book suggestion for readers each post, and in these books you'll find all the ideas I'm drawing on. Finally, in these posts you will see the basic theological framework for Burning Bush Communities... That is, why we do what we do.

So, let's begin with a few basic beliefs of the missional movement...

The very first thing that the missional movement claims is that God Himself has a mission. We believe that God's love, which is intrinsic to His being (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), moves God to act in the world as an expression of that love. We believe that scripture bears witness to this mission. Traditionally, this concept is called the missio Dei.

Point #1: God has a mission!

The next claim we make is that the church is a fruit of God's mission, and exists to participate in God's mission. What's critically important here is that God's mission precedes the church and provides the church with its reason to exist. I believe Leslie Newbigin said, "The church doesn't have a mission in the world; the God of mission has a church in the world." While this seems like wordplay, the distinction here is important. Mission isn't a program or an aspect of what the church does or even a specific type of activity. Mission is who we are, and should encompass all we do. The church is an expression of God's mission.

Point #2: The church in its totality is an expression of God's mission, and exists for the purpose of God's mission.

We'll pick up there next time!

Book Suggestion: The Mission of God by Christopher J.H. Wright

Monday, April 15, 2019

Burning Book: Dedication and Leadership

It's not everyday that a former communist leader offers advice to the church. In this respect, Douglas Hyde's Dedication and Leadership is a unique and fascinating book. Hyde worked his way up in the Communist Party in the UK in the 1930's and 1940's, and in his journey he did just about everything from training new recruits to publishing tracts to traveling all over the world to birth new Communist cells. However, in 1948 he renounced communism and converted to Catholicism. Dedication and Leadership is a call from Hyde to the church he loved, in hopes that the church would reclaim its heritage of producing dedicated and passionate leaders.

In Dedication and Leadership Hyde seeks to answer a single question: How is it possible that the communists, a tiny fraction of the world's population, have made such a large impact on the 20th century, while Christians, a large portion of the world's population, have made so little?

While Hyde looks at many of the successful methods that communists employ, in the he believes that the difference is all about high level of commitment that is expected of every communist. Hyde finds this dedication at play in all the steps that communists use to develop leaders:

1. A radical vision of a transformed world proclaimed;
2. A leadership that models dedication to this vision;
3. The expectation and necessity of sacrifice to join the organization;
4. The expectation that all who make this sacrifice grow to lead others in the same manner.

Of course, as a Christian I look at that list and cringe, because that list of attributes is ours! There is no greater vision of a transformed world than the Kingdom of God. There's no higher call to sacrifice than that of Christ. And there's no system of developing dedicated leaders more compelling than Christ to the apostles to the early church. Once upon a time these were our strengths.

Dedication and Leadership is a butt-kicker on many fronts, but is a Burning Book because Hyde is a true believer that ordinary men and women can be equipped to do amazing things. Over and over Hyde witnessed ordinary men and women become communists and bring about radical change. The reason they were able to is because they had leaders who believed in them and expected this of them. My hope for Burning Bush is that we can one day say the same... That we made a Kingdom impact because, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we called, we trained and we supported ordinary disciples whose dedication to Jesus- and not human talents or ability- made the difference.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Way to Go Come As You Are!

What a joy for the Burning Bush family to see one of our network partners Come As You Are recognized and celebrated for their long-term service and compassion for the homeless in Fort Myers! Read the write up on them HERE.

Thirteen years of loving service... amazing! And one of my favorite things about the Come As You Are team is their humility. They don't look to be celebrated or recognized; they just serve as if it were the natural thing to do and always seem to find a smile for those they serve in spite of some challenging aspects of the ministry. Thank you Tonya, Tom, Tawny, Greg and all the CAYA team for inspiring us with your love for Jesus and the people He loves!

Greg and some CAYA friends

Getting ready to serve... same time, same place for 13 years!

Baby Steps into Mission: Presence, Part 2

Faithful readers, I apologize for the long delay in getting this blog up. Between summer vacation, official cross country practices starting...