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.
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.
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!
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.