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SEQUENTIALISM

Now there is a word you just do not use every day. At least I don’t but when leading your church to have a mission’s strategy it needs to be addressed. There are several missiologists who have even warned churches of the “heresy of sequentialism.” Sequentialism is “separating into components what really ought to be embraced all at once. It is a very linear approach to our outreach where we begin to believe and think that we must reach our Jerusalem, and then reach our Judea, next our Samaria, and then and only then do we reach out to the ends of the earth.”

In Church Planting Movements David Garrison talks about deadly sins of church planting and one of those is sequentialism. It is the idea that things have to be done in order where first you do this and then you do that. It affects the way we view worldwide missions but can also negatively impact discipleship in the local church. We imply, and even teach outright, that you cannot effectively share the gospel until you reach a certain level of discipleship. When a person steps over the line of faith they probably know more people far from God and have a closer relationship with them then they ever will.

Acts 1:8 gives us the focus of our church mission’s strategy but the text makes it clear that it is to be done simultaneously. Some churches seem to be arguing over choosing one location over the other. You hear things like, “What about about us?” or “Why aren’t we going where people are responding?” Implying that we must choose between focusing locally or globally but that is not the biblical approach. Matter of fact it says “all” of Judea, which should cause us to also have a burden for church planting right here in America. The reality is we do need more churches here and everywhere!

First, develop a biblically sound and comprehensive strategy for how your church needs to be involved in the Great Commission.

How are you helping to reach people with the gospel in your Jerusalem, “all” of Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth? What strategies do you have locally, regionally, nationally, and globally? In Philippians 1:5 Paul thanked those who had decided to partner with him in the advancement of the gospel. It is a privilege to help church planters and missionaries in their gospel efforts.

Second, seek the Lord in prayer on what “next steps” your church should take to be obedient in all of these areas simultaneously.

Jesus prayed all night about whom He should ask to be the leaders He would develop to champion this movement. The church in Antioch set aside and sent out Barnabas and Saul following a focused time of corporate prayer. Think through the P-5 multiplication process of praying, preparing, partnering, parenting, and planting. How can you become more intentionally involved in those areas?

Third, make sure to cast the vision and get the entire church involved in the process.

When it is birthed in prayer everyone owns the vision. It is not a few leaders who decide what should be done and who the church should support. The Holy Spirit is able to speak to the entire congregation so that it will be “their” vision and “their” responsibility given to them by Him. As a church, decide how you will best leverage your gifts, talents, and resources for carrying out the Great Commission.

Fourth, use wisdom in how you use your financial resources.

David Garrison says, “Money, though not inherently evil, is also not essential to Church Planting Movements, but it can produce a quick burst of energy. When a missionary’s hunger to see quick results prompts him to hire pastors and construct church buildings with foreign funding, he has bit the Devil’s Candy!”

“Building a movement on foreign funds is like running a machine with an extension cord that stretches across the ocean. When the movement reaches the end of the cord’s length, it will abruptly stop. A Church Planting Movement must have an internal engine and internal fuel if it is going to flourish.”

Fifth, set up some principles that guard you from building ministries that are not sustainable over time.

Consider a plan of thirds on projects. The rule of thumb here is to never proceed on a project where the local congregation cannot invest a least a third of the necessary funds. The congregation should be investing in the project as well. Make sure the focus is on finding people and reaching them with the gospel and not just providing a facility.

Whenever you give too much or give it for too long you are potentially creating an attitude of dependence. The temptation will almost always be to accept the funds for as long as they offered. Amazingly and quite often when the congregation is forced to step up and move forward in faith God provides their needs though their own sacrificial giving. The receiver of funds may not ever change as long as the giver of the funds is willing to continue with their generosity. Yes, you can give too much and for too long!

As you focus on simultaneously being obedient to His command in Acts 1:8 make sure that whoever you partner understands this principle: under promise and over deliver. As you develop your plan to be missional locally, regionally, nationally, and globally consider that you invest in the harvest by investing in church planting. The harvest is the future and we need to be willing to put our gifts, talents, resources, and money where our mouth is. It will involve risk and there is never a 100% success guarantee.

“Risking for God is dangerous, but not risking is more dangerous.” – J.D. Greear

Developing a Church Missions Strategy

Does your church have a strategy of how to fulfill the Great Commission? A system is needed to improve the challenge and the calling to carry the gospel to every nation. It involves mobilizing our body of believers to be the hands and feet of Jesus locally and globally. J.D. Greear says it correctly, “If a church is not engaging in mission, it really has no point in existing.” The Great Commission is not a calling for a special elite few but a mandate for every follower of Christ.

Greear asks some pretty poignant questions. “Are there mission fields in our backyards that could contribute to the global spread of the gospel that we have overlooked because they don’t enhance the bottom line of our church? Are we evaluating ministry opportunities only by how they benefit us, or are we looking at the benefit they can bring to Jesus’ kingdom even if there is nothing in them for ours?” How is your church involved in the spread of the gospel around the world? How could you improve your church’s involvement?

Your church must first have a solid biblical, doctrinal, and theological foundation to direct His mission. Have you clearly developed and articulated your Christology, Ecclesiology and Missiology? Here are some values that we must embrace if we are going to be obedient in reaching our Jerusalem, and in ALL (emphasis added) Judea. Recent surveys tell us that there are well over 160 millions unclaimed for Christ. The mission field is right before us and there is still a great redemption flow in this country.

In II Corinthians 5:14-15 Paul says, “For Christ’s love compels us; since we have reached this conclusion: If one died for all, then all died: And He died for all, so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised.” Most of what God wants to do in society happens outside the church facilitated by the hands of ordinary people. In the book of Acts, 39 of the 40 miracles recorded occurred outside the church. The greatest obstacle is not finances but rather people willing to live on mission daily.

First, we must look at our motives!

Paul states that His motive is the love of Christ as he looks at Him and is amazed by His grace. As we learn to adore Jesus we are then glad to renounce everything we have to follow Him. It has been well said, “In Christ, I can give up all that I have because in Christ I have all that I need.” When we consider His unconditional love, and we worship Him for who He is, then we will want to serve and sacrifice for Him. Our motive is to make the glory of the Lord known to every tongue and tribe.

Second, we must measure what it will require to fulfill the Great Commission.

Paul says that he sacrificed so much for the mission that people thought he was a mad man. We are willing to sacrifice for what we worship. Risk is scary but not risking for God should be even scarier. Are we more concerned with our own comfort and concerns then living radically for Christ? J.D. Greear says, “We who live by His death should therefore no longer live for ourselves, but should lay down our lives and resources for others as He laid down His for us.”

Third, we then embrace our call to a ministry of reconciliation.

You need to think about those you know who need to know what you know. God has placed you where you are to utilize your gifts and talents as a platform to spread the gospel. Whatever vocation you are in is God’s means of blessing the world and when you do what you do with excellence it gives you the opportunity to tell others about Him. How will you leverage your gifts, talents, and assets for the advancement of God’s kingdom?

Fourth, be willing to pray dangerous prayers.

All too often we pray safe prayers such as God bless me, help me, protect, heal me, and provide for me. Dangerous prayers are risky and life stretching. They are filled with boldness and daring faith. Here is one dangerous prayer, “Lord send me wherever you want me to go and reach whomever you want me to reach.” This is a missional prayer that aligns you with His mission and promotes His glory. This prayer positions you to be usable by Him in any way He chooses.

Fifth, accept that it is your responsibility.

It is God’s will for every one of His followers to be involved in His mission from the moment they decide to follow Him. The Lord has strategically placed you on mission for Him. Ministry and sacrifice is not a secondary experience that happens to only a few, privileged Christians. Every one of us are called to be ministers and to also be missionaries in “All” of Judea.  How will your church leverage your gifts, talents, and resources to be involved in the partnership of the advancement of the gospel?

Romans 10:15 says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things.” Many lack confidence in their ability to share the gospel. Maybe you do not feel qualified and worry you will get something wrong.   We are responsible for handling the gospel correctly but here is some good news, pun intended. The power of the gospel is not in us or in our presentation. Only the Holy Spirit has the power to open a heart and transform a life. We must clearly articulate the gospel and then trust the Holy Spirit to work on the heart of that individual!

Prayerfully consider how your church can leverage its influence to make a gospel impact in your community. Who has God placed in your community and circles of influence that needs to hear a clear presentation of the gospel from you?

Missional Practices

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We are all called to live sent according to John 20:21. What does that look like? What does that mean? Our ineffectiveness to reach out is summarized by Reggie McNeal when he says, “Many congregations have become sociologically cocooned, evidencing little interest in reaching beyond their family or tribe, however defined.”

The challenge has always been, and will continue to be, keeping the church focused outward instead of inward. We are all called to join the everyday mission of God. Living on mission has been defined as “having an inherent understanding of our being the people of God partnering with Him in His redemptive mission in the world.”

The church needs to be led back to an obedience in embracing the Great Commission. When will we wake up to the realization that doing business as usual will not qualify as obedience to the Lord? We are all called to share the gospel.

Recently, PJ Noland preached on this very subject of Missional Practices. He quoted Dr. Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, as saying, “Practice determines play!” All of us have spent hours practicing something because we were taught from an early age that “practice makes perfect!”

PJ went on in his message to say, “Missional practices produce meaningful moments.” He shared multiple stories of Oasis members practicing missional principles in the regular flow of their everyday lives.

The message shared three missional practices in living sent:

  • IDENTIFY – Who do you know that is far from God? In your community, who are those people and where do they hang out? What can you do to make an intentional move toward them? In the message, PJ shared that in Mark 4:35 Jesus said He had to go to the “other side” and then in Mark 5:1-5, He was on “the other side.” He had identified a group of people with whom He needed to share the good news. It begins with you identifying those God has placed in your path that you can begin taking steps to reach them with the Gospel.
  • INVEST – With whom are you consistently developing relationships? With many it is not enough to just share words, you must also share your life. Who are you spending time with on a regular basis that is far from God? Where could you meet up with them on neutral ground and enjoy some quality time together? What hobbies or interests could you leverage to be salt and light? Do you have a list of at least 10 people who are not born again, as far as you know, that you pray for every day? Invest your time into their lives!
  • INVITE – Jesus was all about inviting people to get closer to Him. He said, “Come and see” and “Follow me.” He challenged His disciples to go out into their communities and compel people to come to Him. Today, Jesus does His inviting through us. What could that invitation look like? Maybe you could invite them into your home to enjoy a meal or to the Sunday morning service or to the lake for the day. Don’t be afraid to ask them!

In The Unchurched Next Door, Dr. Thom Rainer shares, “Eighty-two percent of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited.” That should be a great encouragement to all of us but Dr. Rainer goes on to say, “Only two percent of church members invite an unchurched person to church. Ninety-eighty percent of church-goers never extend an invitation in a given year.”

How can that be? Far too many churches are not even asking the right questions about their ineffectiveness in penetrating the darkness and reaching out to those far from God. We fiddle with this ministry, rework that ministry, implement that new ministry but never address the congregation’s lack of mission.

How will your church regain God’s heart for the people around you? Missional “Practices” require a couple of things for them to occur:

  • Honest Evaluation – When was the last time you invited someone to church? Have you shared the gospel with anyone in the last month, three months, six months, or year? There must be a ruthless admittance to a lack of burden or real concern for the lost if we have not. It is not enough nor acceptable to think and act like they must come to us if they want to find Jesus. We must go to them!
  • Repentance – Is there a godly sorrow for your lack of burden and concern for the lost? When was the last time you wept or I wept over someone we know who is not born-again? We must repent and no longer accept excuses and disobedience to carry the gospel to others around us. Repentance means we are ready to change and that we are ready to turn things around. Changed
  • Behavior – It is not enough to merely evaluate and repent. Our behvior must change and we must begin to develop missional practices on a daily basis. If we say we value the people’s souls then we must begin practicing habits that will lead us to sharing the gospel with them. While we are trying to “do church” better we must begin “being” the church daily!

Healthy churches are evangelistic churches!

Developing a Prayer Strategy

Prayer

     God’s word is very clear that we are to be a people of prayer and our churches should be a house of prayer.  The battle we are in is a spiritual battle and when Paul tells us to put on the armor of God he says in Eph. 6:18, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;”  Prayer is not preparation for the battle, it is the battle!

 

     When we strive to advance the kingdom of God there will be resistance because the devil is not going to release the ground he controls without a fight.  However, the devil does have difficulty making progress when we speak in Jesus’ name, when we use the word of God, and when we are praying with a positive attitude and spirit.  There are a lot of things Christians are praying against but who are you praying for, who are you asking God to enable to win the spiritual conflict they are in right now?

 

     Do you have a prayer team?  Have you developed a strategy where people are praying regularly, faithfully, and fervently for one another?  Are you praying daily for the leadership of your church?  Are you using the P5 Prayer calendars to pray for a missionary family somewhere around the world, every single day?   We get together to sing, we love to fellowship, but how often do we get together to pray fervently for someone or some specific region of the world?

 

     Henry and Norman Blackaby’s book Called and Accountable has six chapters designed to help you discover your place in God’s eternal purpose.  The six chapters are: Why Does God Call Us?, What Is A Call?, Who Are the Called?, How Am I Called?, When Am I Called?, and How Do I Live Out The Call?  Chapter 1 ends with a wonderful story about how prayer can make a difference in carrying God’s call because of the power of prayer.  Here is that story:  

 

     “Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf was born in 1700 in Dresden, Germany, into one of the noblest families of Europe.  As a young adult, Nicholas visited an art museum in Dusseldorf, Germany, where he saw the painting by Domenico Feti titled Ecce Homo (Behold the Man).  The painting depicted Christ with a crown of thorns on His head and the legend, “All this have I done for you.  What are you doing for Me?”  The face of Christ in the painting never left Zinzendorf’s heart, and Christ’s love became the compelling force of his life.

 

     The love Zinzendorf felt for his Savior expressed itself in his love for other believers, especially through a small group of approximately 300 Moravians whom he allowed to establish a church on his estate at Herrnhut in 1722.  He helped the Moravians develop a deep passion for their Savior and helped them to live out Christ’s command to love one another.

 

     Zinzendorf’s love for Christ was also expressed through his life of prayer.  He spent countless hours in communion with his Savior and sought to lead others to commit to a life of prayer.  His example led the Moravian believers to begin a powerful prayer movement they called “hourly intercession.”  They prayed in shifts, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the work of Christ around the world.  This “hourly intercession” went on uninterrupted for more than 100 years!

 

     The desire Zinzendorf had to reach those who did not know his Savior was another manifestation of his passion for Jesus.  By 1752, The Moravian Church at Herrnhut had sent out more missionaries than the whole Protestant church had done in 200 years.  Before long, they had three members on the missions field for every one at their church in Herrnhut.  All of this was accomplished by men and women with little formal and theological education, but with a burning passion for the Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

     Zinzendorf’s life was a labor of love for his Savior, who had done so much for him and a lost and dying world.”