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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!

The Cross, Community, and Culture

God has called us to proclaim His gospel to the ends of the earth.  According to Matt. 4:19 if we are following Christ we are fishers of men.  The logical conclusion is that if we are not fishers of men we are not following Christ.  Partial obedience is still disobedience.  The truth of the gospel is unchanging and His children are the carriers of that truth.  Interestingly enough, one of the primary challenges to carrying out our mission is the Christian subculture many churches have created.  This has caused them to turn their focus inward instead of outward on those who desperately need Christ.  The challenge for every believer is to transform from a consumer of Christian product to a compassion for those without Christ.   

There is one act of obedience that we can do on earth that we cannot do in heaven.  That is sharing the gospel with our lost friends and family.  The goal in our churches should be to help people get over their instincts to stick together and form a “holy huddle” and empower them to live their lives on mission for God.   We must develop missional communities that remain focused on their neighbors rather than on their church.  Sadly, it appears that we would rather close ourselves up in a sanctuary several hours a week than open up our homes to share dinner with unbelievers who live right next door.

First, we must embrace the cross because without its truth we have no message.  If a church is focused on the community (serving their needs), and the culture (the context in which we live) but does not share the truths of the gospel it offers a Christless mission without hope!  A gospel-saturated congregation proclaims that Jesus is Lord, knows who they are in Christ, knows how to enter into culture without losing their Christian distinctiveness, knows its neighborhood, and exists not for itself but for its city, neighborhood, and block.  CULTURE + COMMUNITY – CROSS = NO Hope!  Any message without the cross produces a dead religion, a consumer Christianity, a social gospel, a country club mentality, and usually salvation by works.

Second, we must experience community because loving nurturing relationships in a local body of believers is necessary for spiritual development and service.  Everyone needs a place to belong.  God created us to function in authentic community where we learn to experience Christ through one another.  Jesus always had “sinners” around Him who could tell how much He cared about them and because of His compassion they were interested in His message.  The problem is that many churches require that you believe before you can belong (not talking about church membership).  CROSS + CULTURE – COMMUNITY = NO CHURCH  A churchless mission produces spiritual orphans, loneliness, individualism, selfishness, immaturity, and forces parachurch organizations to do what churches quit doing.

Third, we must also engage the community where God has placed us.  We must quit making excuses for why we do not verbally share the gospel.  God has allowed us to have impact and favor within our circles of influence.  If we truly desire to bless someone’s life we must tell them there is hope because of Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.  Someone has said that everything preaches but not everything reaches.  Contextualization is the particular way in which we as Christians communicate the gospel.  We must consider the context (the setting and the culture) into which we are communicating the gospel.  Darrin Patrick explains it this way, “Contextualization is not ultimately even about the content of the gospel.  It’s primarily about the way you communicate the unchanging content of the gospel.”  CROSS + COMMUNITY – CULTURE = NO MISSION

When we ignore and neglect the culture we live in we become a Missionless Church.  We become isolated and separated from any contact with lost people because of our “Come to Us” mentality.  CT Studd lived from 1860 -1931 and was an English missionary to China, India, and Africa.  He said, “Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.”  The gospel is our message of our mission and it is unchanging.  The method of our mission is contextualization.  We must admit, though, that the temptation of far too many churches is to neglect our communities and ignore the culture God has placed us in while believing we are protecting our churches.

            Thanks to my good friend Dave DeVries and the development of these principles from his Multiplication Workshop.  Check him out at www.missionalchallenge.com .

LIVING LIFE LIKE A SHORT-TERM MISSIONS TRIP

Short Term Mission Trips

Mission trip opportunities are all around us!  You do not have to get on a plane to serve on one.  Every day is an opportunity to live on mission.

Who is a missionary?  The answer can be very different according to who you ask.  Most would define a missionary as a person who lives in a foreign land, studies the culture, learns another language, and makes great sacrifices to reach a certain people group.  That is true but what about the rest of the church?  Should not every believer be on mission for God?  What if we lived every moment of every day as if we were on a mission trip, how would your day change?

When people take a mission trip they are ready to sacrifice and suffer discomfort to share the gospel with people they have never seen or met.  There is a very determined focus and plan to each trip whether it is medical, teaching, evangelistic, or humanitarian.  These trips are great and everyone should consider taking one because they are life changing experiences.  Shouldn’t we begin living with a missionary focus right where we are, today?

We must begin celebrating those who are living a missionary life right in front of us.  Unfortunately, the main metric we have used for spiritual growth is how many attend, how often they attend, and how much they give.  What if we began measuring how much time we all spent in community service?  What if we began to measure our goals of ministry in terms of what the body of Christ does outside the walls of the church and not only inside?

What if we lived every day as if we were on a short-term mission trip?

Churches have historically celebrated the dedication of the men and women who have been sent to the mission field (i.e. Barnabas and Saul Acts 13:1-3).  They have become “heroes of the faith” because of their willingness to study a culture and prayerfully discern the best way to reach them with the gospel.  What about your neighborhood, your community, and your city?  We need to also begin celebrating those who are using their “Life Assignment” as a “Missionary Post” to share the love of Jesus Christ.

Three words need to be considered if we are going to transform our culture and accept our missionary assignments.

  1. Intentionality. We must be focused on reaching out to those we come into contact with daily at the “missionary post” God has placed us.  That can be at the hair salon, the grocery store, the factory, the senior citizen center, our school, or wherever God has purposely placed us.  We must daily remind ourselves that we are on a “long-term” mission trip called life.
  2. Integration.  The good news is that we are not on this trip alone.  The Holy Spirit will guide and direct us to individuals that we need to minister to and serve.  The other good news is that we are not on this trip alone because there are other followers of Jesus who have purposed to live a missionary life also.  It would be great to sit down with others and discuss potential ways to work together and help one another to increase the effectiveness of our intentionality.
  3. Incarnational.  This is living our lives so that others can see Christ in us.  Our neighborhoods, apartment complexes, condominiums, and trailer parks need us to dedicate ourselves to being resident missionaries.  Here is the question of the day.  Is Jesus Christ visible or invisible in you?  Many groups who have gone to a foreign mission field on a trip have prayed that the people they come into contact with will see Jesus in them.  Is that our daily prayer as we accept the assignment that God has given for us to live our lives on mission for Him?

Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Living as missionaries in our zip code!!!

What if we lived every day as if we were on a short-term mission trip?  

 

LIVING SENT

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“Live Sent” is a familiar phrase in todays church venacular. You have probably also heard, “It’s not about our seating capacity but our sending capacity.” Being mobile and ready to follow God’s direction in our lives is for every follower of Christ. He does say “follow me” and there should not be any limitations on the location or the address whether here in North America or on another mission field.

  • Here is what living sent involves:
  • Living surrendured to the leadership of the Holy Spirit!
  • Living submitted to His guidance of where He wants you to serve Him!
  • Living with a willingness to go! Living on mission in your zip code!
  • Living determined to share the Gospel!

There are many testimonies of those who have not just talked about living sent but have lived it out in their lives. Families who have sold out, found jobs where God was calling, and helped a church planter by being a part of their launch team. Barnabas had Saul, Paul had Silas, and church planters have those who are willing to live sent. They are willing to pull up their tent stakes, step away from the comfort of family, and begin representing Christ in a new zip code because He asked them to “follow Him.”

Recently while visiting a church plant I heard another story of “living sent” from a young lady who grew up in the church planters youth group. They shared with me how she willingly came to their area and found a job teaching in a public school just so she could help. When I asked her where she worked she told me of a town about 20-30 minutes away. I asked where she lived and she said, “Oh I live here and drive to work because I knew I needed to live near the people God sent me to reach.” That is living sent!

There are multiple stories of couples, families, and individuals who have moved to help church plants such as:

  • Fusion Church in Fountain, Colorado
  • The Summit in Richland, Washington
  • The Refuge in Nixa, Missouri
  • Jacob’s Well in Plano, IL
  • The Bridge in Celina, TX

These church plants were blessed with other followers of Christ who were willing to listen to His leadership in moving to a new location, finding a new job, and beginning a new exciting journey. Each one of them have exciting testimonies of how God provided them other people who stepped out in faith believing God had called them to live sent. Maybe God is calling you to live sent and has placed a burden on your heart to follow in their footsteps? Are you willing to follow Him wherever He is calling you?

What if God were to say to you, “How about Thornton, CO?” You are probably wondering were in the world did that come from? Brain and Piper Cleary are planting CrossRoots church in Thornton and they are faithfully praying that God would send them people to help them reach their zip code for Christ. They are looking for couples, families, or individuals who would move to Thornton to be salt and light. They are praying for disciplemakers who want to build relationships within their circles of influence as they develop!

Ed Stetzer and David Putman in Breaking the Missional Code: You Can Become a Missionary in Your Community say, “One of the defining issues that we have observed over the years is that leaders who break the code seldom if ever do it alone. Working with church planters, you never have a shortage of people with big dreams and visions. It is the nature of those who plant churches or desire to plant churches to want to be paradigm breakers. However, this thing of not doing it alone seems to be the decisive difference in those who want to do it and those who actually get it done.”

Let me ask it once again, “How about Thornton, CO?” Is God asking you to live sent and to help a church planting couple reach their community for Christ. Living sent also requires:

  • Living the Great Commission
  • Focusing on People Far From God
  • Praying for Your Neighbors and Co-Workers
  • Engaging in Spiritual Conversations
  • Ability to Share the Gospel

In The Leadership Ladder: Developing Missional Leaders in the Church Steven Ogne and Kenneth Priddy ask us to evaluate our missional living by asking: “Does it make a discple? Having good missional activities leads to the making of disciples. Expressing God’s love through service is good. Expressing God’s love through relationship is better. Expressing God’s love by leading someone to faith in Jesus Christ, is best. The best missional activities put us in relationship with someone long enough that he or she can, through us, experience Christ and become His follower.”

Live sent!!!