Introducing the Missional Church by Alan Roxburgh and M. Scott Boren

My last book of the year for my goal was “Introducing the Missional Church by Alan Roxburgh and M. Scott Boren. This book is all about how a church can become missional and help change their community for good and the process that can be used in order to move from a church that is about attracting new attendees to a church that goes into the community and try to change it for the better regardless of how it adds to their membership.

I am not a pastor, I do not run a church and because I am leaving for Germany within the next few months (hoping and praying for this) I am not in a place within any church I read this with a slightly different mindset. I read this book thinking about how I can be missional as an individual in my new community in Germany. What I did then was change where the book said church and added myself.

This first quote basically sums up what the other half of my ministry in Germany needs to be about.

 “What is God up to in my neighborhood?” and “What are the ways I need to change in order to engage the people in my community who no longer consider church a part of their lives?” This is what a missional imagination is about.

The hardest thing for me is to figure out how to help my neighborhood, how to go about finding out what is the “right” way to go about doing that. Roxburgh and Boren relieved my fears when they said:

There isn’t one specific form, predictable pattern, or predetermined model.

I can’t wait to figure out the absolutely best and perfect way to do something, I just need to do it and if it helps people where they need help then it will be alright.

Notice that this illustration emphasizes the call of God to be his people in the midst of life, engaging everyday life in the neighborhoods where they live.

As soon as I move to my new community I plan on living life in a way of observation and action. If I notice someone carrying too many grocery bags, or dropping items, or anything else that I can help with, I will then take action and offer to help.

Offering to help will hopefully lead to conversations with no strings attached and conversations can lead to discussing God, but first it must start with observation and action.

Like I so often like to do, I want to leave you with a quote. A quote that can inspire everyone to be more missional in their everyday life. It doesn’t require you to do things you aren’t good it’s:

about doing local theology-waking up to our context and becoming God’s wonderful cooks with all the flavors and aromas of the local.

 

Life with God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation by Richard Foster

At the beginning of the year I set a goal to read 15 “theology” books (check out more about my goal here and here). While it looks like I will only finish 11 of the 15 (the one today is number 10, but number 11 is almost finished) I am still happy with what I’ve done and decided to make a new goal for next year of 13 books with two in depth Bible studies in addition.

Today is all about the book Life with God: Reading for Spiritual Transformation by Richard Foster.

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If you are like me, you have read the Bible and know the stories pretty well. Even if you don’t know the stories too well, reading the Bible isn’t always the easiest, especially when reading through Deuteronomy, Leviticus and Numbers, they aren’t exactly page turners! Even the more readily understood books like the Gospels can often be skimmed over and nothing gained from reading them. Another thing I have noticed is that “knowing” the Bible does not equate to being changed by the Bible and that is why I initially chose to read this book.

Those two things are what I want to highlight from this book today. I want to share Mr. Foster’s point of view and insight into these two topics.

It is not surprising, then, that study that focuses on knowledge alone does not lead to life transformation, which is the real human need.

The second common objective people often have for studying the Bible is to find some formula that will solve the pressing need of the moment. Thus we seek out lists of specific passages that speak to particular needs rather than seeking whole-life discipleship to Jesus.

When we read the Bible we need to do it with the mindset of being transformed by God’s Word and not just reading it to check off our list of things to do.

So how do we know if we have been transformed by reading the Bible? Mr. Foster says:

the test of whether or not we have really gotten the point of the Bible would then be the quality of love that we show.

The outpouring of love on others, whether we know them or even like them, is the true test of whether we have been changed. And how do we do that? Mr. Foster says we need to work on the spiritual disciplines in our lives which include:

fasting and prayer, study and service, submission and solitude, confession and worship, meditation and silence, simplicity, frugality, secrecy, sacrifice, celebration, and the like.

A Spiritual Discipline is an intentionally directed action by which we do what we can do in order to receive from God the ability (or power) to do what we cannot do by direct effort.

We need to do what we can in order to do what we cannot by the power of God. Studying the Bible for knowledge is good, but studying it to be transformed is better!

Theology book #8 – From the Garden to the City by John Dyer

At the beginning of the year I set a goal of reading theology books, biographies of Christian leaders and other books that would help expand my knowledge of how the world should be seen through a Christian’s eyes. I am way behind the 15 books, but I will continue to read them until I get through this list and then I will start a new list, so in essence I will never be done! The most recent book I read was “From the Garden to the City” by John Dyer. This book was suggested to me by several different people who are missionaries, specifically in the technology arena. Since I will be a technology missionary, as we like to call ourselves (or maybe it’s just me), I figured this would be a good thing to read before I become fully immersed in the field. If you are curious about technology and how we should interact with it to impact the World for Christ then this book is a must read. Check it out!

In the description on Amazon it asks a question that sums up what this book is all about. It asks, “Where does technology belong in the biblical story of redemption?”

Any Christian living in modern times should be considering this question especially because of the more and more prevalent role technology is playing in our world. Technology is not only tablets, smartphones and social media though. Technology includes things we often don’t think of as technology including pens, paper and things we have been using all of our lives that seem “old school.” I never even really considered a pen to be technology, and yet it makes sense that it is along with many other things that I would not have considered technology before.

Why do we even need to consider this? Does it matter if we read God’s Word on a Kindle or the actual book? Who cares if we worship using a hymnal or a projector? John Dyer makes an awesome point in his book when he says:

“While God’s words are eternal and unchanging, the tools we use to access those words do change, and those changes in technology also bring subtle changes to the practice of worship. When we fail to recognize the impact of such technological change, we run the risk of allowing our tools to dictate our methods. Technology should not dictate our values or our methods. Rather, we must use technology out of our convictions and values.”

What do you value? What are your convictions? Once you have those in place then you can properly evaluate the technology and what role it can/will play in your life. Our values and convictions should be coming directly from the Bible so before you decide how to use your new iPhone 5 and the fancy new app you got, think about what you value and see if they line up.

Once we realize that technology can change the world and our lives then Mr. Dyer says:

If it is true that technology has the capacity to shape the world that God made, as well as shape our bodies, minds, and souls, then it seems we should care deeply about our tools. Moreover, if technology plays some role in the story of God redeeming his people, we should care all the more.

How can we use technology to play a role in the story of God? So many mission’s organizations are doing that now including using new techniques to get clean drinking water to new places or Bible courses to pastors who didn’t have access before (that’s going to be me!). There are so many examples that I could spend a long time writing about, but that is not the point of this blog. We need to first examine our values and convictions, then determine what role each piece of technology will play in our life and then figure out ways to use the technology in the story of God.

There are always going to be dangers when using technology, but if we remember, as Mr. Dyer says, “We alone, not machines, are responsible for our choices.”

We have to be careful with using any kind of technology and yet if we keep Jesus and the Bible at the root of all we do, technology can be a powerful tool in God’s story. Let me leave you with a final thought from Mr. Dyer that should guide all of us in our use of technology, but so often doesn’t.

We must continually attempt to view technology through the lens of the story of God and his people, with the resurrected Christ at beginning, middle, and end of that story. It is his life, work, and promises that should inform our value system, shape the way we see the world, and transform the way we live in it.

Coffee, with cream and theology? part 3

If you didn’t read my blog on Monday, let me catch you up really fast. As I am today, I normally do most of my work at Plate 21, a coffee-house in South Toledo. Last week I was house-sitting about 15 minutes away so I decided to go to The Flying Joe instead. While there I noticed three pieces of art hanging on the wall and I wanted to share with you all my thoughts about the sayings contained within each one. Monday I talked about living a little each day for Christ which for most of us would be an improvement over our current day-to-day lives. Wednesday I talked about living with the fantasy of Heaven in mind.  Below is the third piece of art.

“Redeem Yourself, You Are Your Biggest Cash Prize.” Let me let that sink in for a bit…..

Ok, so what do you think about this saying? Do you think that if all of your potential was released that it would be as amazing as a big cash prize? Are what you are made of that awesome?

My answer to that last question is a simple yes…..and no. Alright it’s not that simple, but the first part is very simple. We are all made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) so therefor we are made of some pretty amazing stuff.

The no part is pretty simple too. As Paul says, “So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.” (Romans 7:17-19) I can attest that personal, I suck. I can do good things here and there, but overall I suck compared to how I am supposed to be living.

The awesome thing is what Paul says later in Romans 17:24-8:2, ” Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the powerof the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”

So really, I guess what I am saying is that we aren’t the biggest cash prize we could receive. Anything that is good within us is only because of God. Jesus is the biggest cash prize we could ever receive and it is my honest hope that you experience just how amazing it is when you win the lottery that is a relationship with Jesus.

Coffee, with cream and theology? part 2

If you didn’t read my blog on Monday, let me catch you up really fast. As I am today, I normally do most of my work at Plate 21, a coffee-house in South Toledo. Last week I was house-sitting about 15 minutes away so I decided to go to The Flying Joe instead. While there I noticed three pieces of art hanging on the wall and I wanted to share with you all my thoughts about the sayings contained within each one. Monday I talked about living a little each day for Christ which for most of us would be an improvement over our current day-to-day lives. Below is the second piece of art.

Today’s saying is “Tomorrow is the fantasy we make it through today for.”  Besides the fact that this phrase is grammatically incorrect since it ends in a preposition, it contains quite a few nuggets of thought. I may have failed my first English class in college, but I at least know that you shouldn’t end a sentence with the word for (dang it, I don’t know how to not end that sentence with for as the last word). Anyway on to the nuggets of information.

My initial thought was this phrase is highly negative, I mean is that all we are doing? Are we just getting through today so we can experience tomorrow which we have high hopes for, but then when it comes it is just another day to make it through? That’s depressing, and yet sometimes I think it is true. I know I have found myself often times thinking about an event and getting really excited about it, but then when I am in the midst of it, I am thinking about it being over. I can be having a good time, and yet I am thinking about it being over.

Then I got a little more deep into the phrase and thought about how, as Christians, we are getting through this life to get to the fantasy of tomorrow that is Heaven. Getting through this time, makes it sound negative, but think about how you act when you are anticipating an awesome event. My brother is engaged right now and his fiance and him are planning the wedding with great fervor. They are “getting through” each day making sure every detail is taken care of so they can enjoy their wedding and the festivities that go along with the wedding. Trust me, they are doing a great job, because I am getting excited about the whole thing. It’s going to be pretty awesome! “Getting through” the day doesn’t mean we cannot enjoy today, it just means that there is something so awesome ahead that each day now will seem like junk when we imagine what is in store for us.

That brings me to the thought that we should act with fervor towards every single day in anticipation of the greatest fantasy ever. Are you? Am I? It’s not a fantasy that is non-existent, but a fantasy that is beyond our wildest imagination. It reminds me of the talk Sammy Adebiyi gave this Monday at the young adult community at North Point church in Toledo, SOMA. Last night Sammy was talking about God’s love. We can think we know God’s love, but as Paul says in Ephesians 3:19 “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Sammy made the comment that we can think we understand God’s love, “but there’s more.” We cannot understand His love, just like we can never fully understand what Heaven will be like. It doesn’t matter. Think about the most awesome thing you can think of and then multiple it by a thousand. That is still not anywhere close to how great Heaven will be. We need to remember this and let it drive us and be our motivation to prepare us and others for that time.

Coffee, with cream and theology? part 1

Last week I was house/dog sitting for my mom and step-dad in Perrysburg, so instead of going to my normal coffee-shop/office (Plate 21) I decided to go to one that was a little closer. I ended up at The Flying Joe in Perrysburg and while I missed the service of Plate 21 it served my purpose of getting me out of the house and giving me a place to do some work. While there, my ADHD (never officially diagnosed, but I have a hard time concentrating on……) kicked in and I started to check out my surroundings. I noticed three pieces of art on the wall and at first glance they did nothing for me. They were nothing too exciting, but they fit very well into the “flying” theme. After checking it out for about the 50th time, I noticed the saying on it and it kind of sparked a little something inside me. Then I looked at the other two pieces of art similar to it and every one of the sayings got my brain working a little. Over this week I am going to do a short blog post about each piece of art and just a few thoughts about how we can apply these sayings into our everyday life to advance the Kingdom of God. Below is the first saying. “How great would life be if we lived a little everyday.” I am going to switch this up a bit. Instead of “How great would life be if we lived a little everyday” I want to change it to “How great would life be if we lived for God a little everyday.” We all know that as servants of the Almighty God, we kind of suck. We do not do nearly do as much as God calls us to do. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” I am going to be honest with you, sometimes I don’t fulfill that verse completely. I know, shocker! Scandalous, even! If you are honest with yourself you might just find out that you too are not that great at fulfilling those words. We don’t even do it when we consider the reward that Paul states two verses later. “I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.” So maybe if we try every day to live a little for God, with the hopes of eventually living completely for Him, then we too can say that “many may be saved.” Every day make a conscious effort to do something for God and see the results in your life and others too.