The Staying Nature of God

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Roots

Second-class citizen

Perhaps like me, you have never felt a call to international ministry. Living in a family like ours, that emphasizes the ends of the earth like we do, can be tough. I have never lived internationally (does the summer I spent in the San Fransisco Bay area count?), so it is easy to feel like a second-class denominational-citizen.

With us always (& everywhere)

The going-to-the-nations part of the Great Commission is obvious, and typically the part emphasized. But at the end of the Great Commission, Jesus promises his presence wherever we may find ourselves. “I am with you always” (Matthew 18:20) It isn’t necessary to fly off to some far-flung corner of the world to find Jesus at work. 

Staying nature of God

Jesus is present, and at work, right where you are. The place you already live is the most obvious, and maybe overlooked, place to start ministry. Scholars and teachers have convinced Christians of the sending nature of God (the missio Dei). Perhaps more emphasis is needed on the staying nature of God (the incarnation). 

Staying in one place

There are amazing examples of fruitful ministries which have resulted from people staying in one place. Several I know personally are the late Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel movement. He didn’t start there until he was 40, but labored for over 50 years at the same church. Wayne Gordon moved to the Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago over 40 years ago. He is still there. My pastor, David Riemenschneider, came to Bloomingdale in 1978. I believe he has the longest tenure of anyone in our network of churches.

Simply sticking it out

Perhaps you are praying that God would bear more fruit where you are. His answer to that prayer could be through simply sticking it out. What if all God needs to produce a harvest is get you to stay put?

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The Scary Truth about Discipleship

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You have been reading the Great Commission all wrong.

You have been reading the Great Commission all wrong.

 

If you stop to think about the way you live the Christian life (how you were discipled) practically, day-to-day, I would guess you have learned what you do by imitating other Christians. The positive and negative habits, both good and bad traits, have been developed by imitation.

Wired for imitation

We are wired for imitation. How we live the Christian life is more caught than taught.

Faster and more powerful

Imitation is more powerful than education. Duplication is more powerful than doctrine. We are shaped more by mimicking others than we are memorizing theology. We copy the way others live faster than following what they teach.

A way of life

Jesus’ final mandate in Matthew 28:19-20 (the Great Commission) was to make disciples of all the nations baptizing them (identifying with God’s character and authority) and teaching them to observe (not to learn) everything he commanded. A disciple is an apprentice, a follower, an imitator of a way of life.

Not about belief

There is nothing in this mandate about what to believe. The mandate is to make people imitate a way of life. Jesus didn’t say teach them to KNOW everything I commanded. He said OBSERVE—live it!

Living what we believe

Don’t hear me say that what we believe is not important. What I am saying is the more important point is living what we believe.

About imitating

Discipleship is about imitating a certain way of life. If every church imitated your church, what would the state of the church in your community be?

Not style but character

I know we value diversity and different styles and we wouldn’t want every church to be a copy of just one church, but I’m not talking about style, I’m talking about character.

If every church…

So if every church imitated the generosity of your church, how much resources would flow out of the church and touch the lives of the people in your community?

…imitated…

If every church imitated the outreach and evangelism of your church, how many people would be given the opportunity to accept or reject the message of who Jesus is and what he has done?

…your church

If every church imitated the service and assistance of your church, how much good would be done around your community? Would service organization be overrun with volunteers? Would schools be glutted with tutors? Would park districts and municipalities be laying off employees because there would be so many people cleaning up and working in the community?

What about you?

Those were broad generalizations about the church as a whole. Let me really meddle for a moment and ask you to apply the same question to yourself. What about you is worth imitating?

If every Christian…

If every Christian in your church imitated you, what would the church look like? You don’t have to think about your entire community, just think about what your church would be like if everyone was like you.

…imitated you

If everyone has the same level of faith you have, what atmosphere of confidence in who God is and certainty that he will do what he has promised to do, would there be in your church? If everyone treated their family like you do, how strong would the homes be of people from your church? If everyone prayed with the same consistency and intensity as you, what would the prayer life of your church be?

A life worth imitating

Your goal should be a life shaped by Jesus, worth imitating. Until you do, the Great Commission cannot be fulfilled. Making disciples is more than convincing them what to believe. Making disciples is about convincing people your life is worth imitating.

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What Is the State of the Mission?

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State of the Mission

You are privileged. You have been granted access to information not everyone has. You have heard the story of the creator God coming into his creation and giving himself to those he created. That’s the gospel of Jesus reconciling the world to himself. You have been granted access to that story.

Privileged

Not everyone is so privileged. There are over 4,000 peoples, with unique languages, ethnicities, and cultures, (over 1/4 of world population) who have no access to the gospel. Through the hundreds of missionaries of The Alliance, we have access to around 100 of those peoples. So there’s a lot of work do be done.

Access

There is an access divide. There are those who have access to the gospel message and those who have no access. The mission is to make disciples of each and every unique people group on the earth. Compared to all the resources available (both people and money,) for this mission, from those who have the privilege of having the gospel, only a sliver goes to those who have no access (3% of all missionaries and 1% of all the money).

Response

I am proud that The Alliance family has allocated over 80% of our international workers to those who have no or low access to the gospel. Jesus said, “Everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded” (Luke 12:48). We have been given much. I trust the emphasis of our mission strategy to go to the least reached is the right response to the demands of the need. May we never take for granted the privilege of what we have been given.

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Stop Trying to Reach the World

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Deep Impact

Making an impact

There was a time when I thought God’s desire for my life was to make the biggest impact in the world I possibly could. I remember preaching a sermon about that idea, where I used the scene in the movie Deep Impact when the asteroid hits the earth to illustrate making an impact in the world. I now see how stupid that illustration was, since the impact of the asteroid only created destruction and devastation. But I digress.

Making disciples

I am beginning to receive the Great Commission as a great relief. God has not called me (or you) to save the world. Jesus did not say, “Go and make disciples of the whole world.” He said, “Go and make disciples of every people [ethne or people group].” (Matt 28:19) I am not denying God loves the whole world. We all know John 3:16. But we are not God. His mandate is more personal and specific. Let me try to explain.

Mission as project

It is easy for me to approach the mission as a project. Jesus was clear that the mission was to real people, in real places (Acts 1:8). Andy Crouch recently wrote how mission gets put in faceless, impersonal terms of “engaging culture”. He says, “Our mission is not primarily to ‘engage the culture’ but to ‘love our neighbor.’” (CT July/August 2016 page 34). Mission as a project to engage the culture becomes so murky. How do we really know if we are making a difference?

Let God make a difference

We are not called to make a difference. We are called to make disciples. Real, flesh-and-blood people, in real places, at this particular time in history. That is why I am glad the mission of The Alliance says nothing about reaching the world. We have agreed to work at the mission Jesus gave us: to make disciples. As Stephen Freeman wrote, “Let God make all the difference in the world.” The part of the mission God has invited us into is with people. He will work out the cosmic redemption himself.

Fostering inaction

This is where we as mission mobilizers have to be so careful. If we communicate mission as a global project, I believe they can become overwhelmed and paralyzed about what to do. Presenting a vision of reaching the world can actually foster inaction. I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’ words about global, impersonal worry becoming an escape from personal charity. This is why partnerships with the international workers who are present in the places we are not, become so important. We are to do the work we can and support those (real people) doing what we can’t.

Fulfilled together

Be encouraged that God does not expect you to impact the world. You are fulfilling his mandate as you are faithful in making disciples of real people in real places. None of us can accomplish the mission alone. By God’s design, it can only be fulfilled together.

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3 Things to Remember about the Global Church

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Alliance Espresso is your weekly shot of mission perspective from the Midwest District office.

Alliance Espresso is your weekly shot of mission perspective from the Midwest District office.

The mandate

Jesus’ final mandate was to makes disciples of all the nations baptizing them (identifying with God’s character and authority) and teaching them to observe (not just to know) everything he commanded. There is nothing in this mandate about what to believe. This mandate defines who Jesus’ followers are to be and what they are to do.

Will be accomplished

We do not have to wonder or worry about whether this mandate will be accomplished. The future was graciously unveiled to the last of the original disciples this mandate was spoken to. In Revelation 7:9, John was given a glimpse of a “great multitude” that was “from every nation”. Disciples from all the nations will follow Jesus!

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3 Reminders

Below are 3 things we need to constantly remind ourselves, and those we lead, about the global Church. These come from Max Wilkins, CEO of The Mission Society. Feel free to print these out and distribute them to your missions team or, even, copy and paste them in your own newsletter, email, or bulletin.

 1. The church is growing

The reports of the imminent death of the church are greatly exaggerated. While it is true that a few places in the world are experiencing an increasingly secular society, globally the Church is not only the largest faith expression (representing 2.2 billion people or 31.5 percent of the world’s population), it also continues to grow. Most experts believe the church will approach three billion adherents by the year 2050.

2. The center is moving south and east

For most of its history, the center of Christianity has moved west and north. The church saw great expansion in Europe and later in the Americas. Increasingly Christianity became associated with the western world. But over the last century a massive shift has taken place. The center of Christianity has moved to the global south and back towards the east, and lies today somewhere around the equator in West Africa.

3. Sub-Saharan Africa now has 60 times as many Christians as 100 years ago

In 1910 there were less than nine million believers in sub-Saharan Africa. Today there are well over a half BILLION! This figure represents the most explosive growth of the church in its 2,000-year history. Today, three of the nations with the highest number of Christians (Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ethiopia) are in Africa.

Remember the right question

The bottom line is, God is at work in the world! The question is not Will his mission get done? The question is How will we join him in his mission?God is at work and his mission will be accomplished. What part has he asked you to play in his mission?

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So Big You Can’t Miss!

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Domino Effect

No use trying

When the giants of global missions are considered, they can seem so big that it is easy to conclude there is no use trying. Perhaps we aren’t tempted to totally give up, but at times wonder what difference our tiny part can make.

Vision to match the problem

I have been reading between Psalm 65-68 the past couple of weeks. The global vision of the Psalmist has stood out to me from these Psalms. All the earth and all the nations are spoken of. Global giants require a vision of a global God.

It’s so big

Nicky Gumbel says, “There are two possible attitudes when facing a giant. One is to say, ‘It’s so big, there’s nothing I can do.’ The other is to say, ‘It’s so big, I can’t miss!’” I love that perspective!

Domino effect

That kind of perspective reminds me of an experiment by physicist, Lorne Whitehead. He figured out a single domino can topple another domino 50 percent bigger. Apparently it’s physics, that’s why it took a physicist to figure this out! I’ve seen the schematic and I still don’t understand how it works.

To the moon

Starting with a single, two-inch domino, the 10th domino would be as tall as Peyton Manning. The 18th would be as tall as the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The 23rd would be taller than the Eiffel Tower. The 31st would be over Mt. Everest. The 57th would get you to the moon.

Knock down giants

Never think your tiny prayer has no effect. Never think the amount you give to the Great Commission Fund makes no difference. Never think the work you are doing isn’t doing anything. The Lord can take our little dominos and knock down giants that we never could have imagined!

Sure to hit

There is no denying how huge the mission is, but that just means when you come up against it and lean your domino into it, you are sure to hit it!

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The Same Access

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Access Tozer Quote

Peter questioned how many times he should forgive after he is sinned against. Jesus gave his famous reply to Peter’s question of not the seven times Peter speculated, but seven times seventy. Then he told the perfect story of the guy who was forgiven this huge debt and went out and found someone who owed him money, grabbed and choked him, and had him thrown into prison because he couldn’t pay. This story struck me in a new way.

I see this as an illustration of access. One person in the story is a good example of open access to redemption and restoration. Another person in the story is a bad example of closed access. The kicker, though, is the one who was given open access is the one who then closed access to someone else.

It says the servant owed his master 10,000 talents. I heard someone say that one talent was the equivalent of 13 years’ salary. So the servant owed the master the equivalency of 130,000 years of work! Can you imagine having a debt that huge hanging over your head? Then, can you imagine someone canceling the debt and letting you go? What kind of person would you be? How would that affect your outlook on life? The image that comes to my mind is the old man who was “high as a kite” in the Mary Poppins movie. I could not conceive of anything getting him down.

We know this guy was followed after his master let him go. I think the ones that followed after him just wanted to see how a guy would act that had experienced such a reversal of fortunes. What would that kind of overwhelming joy look like? He was like a man in a cell with the walls caving in, who suddenly found an access panel that was not only a way of escape, but opened into an endless white beach and crystal blue waters.

Can you imagine the horror of the other servants when they saw they way the wicked servant acted? Instead of offering access to the same freedom and forgiveness, he shut him down. The other guy owed the servant a fraction of that amount (100 days’ wage compared to 130,000 years!). The man begged. The text says, “But he refused.”

Whoa.

The logical response to the debt, the death sentence really, that was once hanging over our head, that was then removed once being given access and accepting the message of salvation in Jesus, should be overwhelming joy that overflows to others.

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