Meeting Without Mission

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If the church had no mission, would it still meet?

If the church had no mission, would it still meet?

On July 22, 2012, David Goeser went missing. He was a 22-year-old UCLA student. His car was found in Pacific Palsades, near Los Angeles. Within 48 hours search efforts included the entire western coast.

David’s dad, Mark Goeser, said in the midst of the search, “One of the things that I’ve observed since my son has been lost is how these groups that search for the lost (like Search and Rescue teams) have nothing in common except for the commitment to the mission: to find the lost. Without that mission they’d never be drawn together. Yet with this mission to find the lost they have a deep sense of community. They all share a common experience of tremendous loss — or the joy of finding someone! And yet it seems that in many churches today, if you took away their mission to find the lost, they would keep on meeting together for the sake of community.”

The effort to find Mark’s son had brought together hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people. That is the power of a mission. Unfortunately the team’s efforts did not end the way they had hoped. Two months later, on September 22, David’s body was found.

When you read the rebuke of the leaders of Israel in Ezekiel 34, the rebuke was not because they failed to foster community. Ezekiel 34:6 says, “My flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth, and there was no one to search or seek for them.” The leaders were called to task for failing to seek the lost, in the way a shepherd would his sheep.

Jesus said his mission was search and rescue. He said in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Jesus had a mission and formed a community around that mission.

With a mission to seek the lost, a deep sense of community will be found. With a mission to seek community, a commitment to seek the lost is rarely found.

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Sharing Keys

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The prevailing power of the church is based upon sharing access with others.

The prevailing power of the church is based upon sharing access with others.

Have you ever had a neighbor you’ve shared a key with?

We used to have neighbors who would come over to our house when we were gone for the holidays and get our cat and take the cat to their house, because they said they didn’t want her to be alone on the holidays.

We have neighbors on either side of us now, who have our key and we have theirs. We’ve taken care of each other’s dogs when out of town.

When keys are exchanged there is a relationship. There is trust. There is authority and access.

In Matthew 16:19 Jesus tells his followers, “I will give you keys. These keys have the power and authority of heaven” [my translation].

Keys allow you to access the purpose of the object they are applied. The purpose of a house is for living in it. A key can open the door to enter or close it shut. If it is a car, a key can start it or shut it off. If it is a post office box, a key can unlock or lock it. Keys are all about accessing the intended purpose.

Jesus’ keys are for the purpose of entering the realm of the King. Jesus’ kingdom keys allow access to the space where God rules and reigns. This is where things are as they should be and whatever is brought into God’s realm is made right.

I love Eugene Peterson’s take on Jesus’ words in Matthew, “You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven.”

Most of us here can tell a story of how someone used their key to give us access to the kingdom. The prevailing power of the church is based upon sharing access with others. What will you open, close, start, stop, unlock, or lock with the keys you’ve been given?

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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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Stop Thinking about Discipleship

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The goal of the Christian life should be for most of our attitudes and actions to automatically come from who we are.

The goal of the Christian life should be for most of our attitudes and actions to automatically come from who we are.

 

Do you think Jesus had any habits? If so, what habits do you think Jesus had? Do you think Jesus had any bad habits? Not that Jesus had any sinful habits, but perhaps he was a nail-biter or slurped his matzoh ball soup. Maybe his mother had to remind him to not chew his food loudly when Uncle Zechariah and Aunt Elizabeth would come over for dinner.

Jesus’ habits

The Bible does mention several habits of Jesus. Luke 4:16 tells us that every Saturday Jesus had a custom, or habit, of going to the synagogue. We also know he had a habit of hanging out on the Mount of Olives, according to Luke 22:39. He was in the habit of teaching people, too, whenever crowds gathered, according to Mark 10:1. These were routines or patterns Jesus regularly followed.

What we automatically do

The word “custom” used in the verses above is ethos. It is who we are based on what we automatically do. It simply means what is normal for a person or group of people without having to think about it. We derive our word ethics from it. The same word is used in Hebrews 10:25 when it mentions some were in the habit (ethos) of not meeting together.

More than discipline

Habits are not instincts, though. They become automatic through accumulative action. Habits are made. But they are not just disciplines. Some people would say a good disciple is a well-disciplined person. I don’t think good disciples are undisciplined people, but something more than discipline is involved.

Who we are

Discipline is about training and controlling behaviors. Certainly this is part of Christian living. I wrote about that last week. At some point, though, attitudes, behaviors, and living into Jesus’ way should become part of who we are—an ethos should form. Jesus’ way of living should become our normal in more and more aspects of our lives.

Explore Further:

So how do we create these customs into our lives, like Jesus had? There is a lot of good research on the topic of habits. A few books you explore further online or at your library would be:

  • Josh Hunt, Break a Habit; Make a Habit
  • Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit
  • Joyce Meyer, Making Good Habits, Breaking Bad Habits
  • Philip Nation, Habits of our Holiness
  • David Mathis, Habits of Grace
  • Edwin Lutzer, Getting to No

Question:

How have disciplines become habits in your life?

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Training Better Versus Trying Harder

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Training to be godly is very different from trying to be godly. Trying to be godly doesn’t work, training does.

Training to be godly is very different from trying to be godly. Trying to be godly doesn’t work, training does.

Try harder

When discussing the Christian life with others, advice on how to follow Jesus can easily sound like a push to try harder. Do you ever feel as though you are telling people to do more and more? Do you ever feel like you are merely poking them to be better and act nicer?

Sounds like effort

When Paul tells Timothy to “train yourself to be godly” (1 Timothy 4:7) is he in danger of creating a moralistic do-gooder? What is the difference between training oneself to be godly and trying really hard to be good? Training sounds like effort. Isn’t effort the enemy of the gospel?

Hit the gym!

I studied that passage in 1 Timothy recently. As you may know, the word behind “train” in the verse above is connected to gymnasium. It was the place the olympic athletes would exercise and condition themselves for competition. The KJV uses the word exercise in that verse.

Training not trying

This type of exercise is not an enemy of the gospel. It is the way God transform people into the likeness of Jesus. Training to be like Jesus is very different than trying to be like Jesus.

You train

Imagine being challenged to run 10 miles (at one time). You could get your most encouraging, inspiring friends to do it with you. The best motivational speaker would come talk to you beforehand. Most of you would not finish. You may make the daring effort to finish at the cost of injury and illness. If you were able to do it the reason would be you trained to run.

Stop trying

Trying to run without training can be dangerous. Trying to be godly without training can be just as dangerous to the soul. Bill Hull, in his book Choose the Life, says, “I think Christians should stop trying to be godly and start practicing the disciplines that form pathways to the heart of God and transform us into his likeness.” Do you see the difference between trying and training?

Key to transformation

A similar illustration is made with playing the piano by John Ortberg in his book on spiritual disciplines, The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People. He writes,

“Respecting the distinction between training and merely trying is the key to transformation in every aspect of life. People sometimes think that learning how to play Bach at the keyboard by spending years practicing scales and chord progressions is the “hard” way. The truth is the other way around. Spending years practicing scales is the easy way to learn to play Bach. Imagine sitting down at a grand piano in front of a packed concert hall and having never practiced a moment in your life. That’s the hard way. This need for preparation, or training, does not stop when it comes to learning the art of forgiveness, or joy, or courage. In other words, it applies to a healthy and vibrant spiritual life just as it does to physical and intellectual activity. Learning to think, feel, and act like Jesus is at least as demanding as learning to run a marathon or play the piano.”

Train wisely

So, effort, in this sense, is not the enemy of the gospel. Training is inextricably linked to the gospel. Being transformed into the likeness of Jesus is not a matter of trying harder, but training wisely.

Question:

Are you challenging those you are discipling to the spiritual equivalent of a 10-mile run, without the necessary training? What practices can you help lead people, in order to train them to be godly?

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Your Most Important Job

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At the top of each of our job descriptions, whether we have the title Pastor or anything else, should be to stay close to Jesus.

At the top of each of our job descriptions, whether we have the title Pastor or anything else, should be to stay close to Jesus.

 

Intimacy as priority

Staying close to Jesus is the most important thing you have to do. The way we have expressed this around here for years is embracing greater intimacy with God. This is the first qualitative value to be championed, empowered, and expected in our roles, not just for our roles.

First a lover

Jesus told us this. He said, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt 6:33) He is first. You are not first a pastor, leader, spouse, or parent. You are first a lover of God and of what he is doing (running a kingdom). Check out the context of Jesus’ statement. He was talking about heart, love, and devotion (6:21 and 24). Those are elements of intimacy.

Bring the intensity

What intentional, passionate effort are you making to deepen and grow your personal relationship with Jesus? You may read this and think, “Chad, you’re coming across a bit intense.” Do you disagree with the premise? If you are not bringing spiritual intensity to your role, what are you bringing?

Intention required

I think intimacy and intensity are linked by intentionality. There are many ways you can make seeking first the kingdom a reality, but one way it does not happen is by falling into it. Intimacy and intensity takes intention.

What I’m doing

Here are a few intentional ways that have worked for me recently. I would love to learn how you are intentionally cultivating your intimacy and intensity with Jesus.

  • Read something new: there are so many easy ways to get fresh content in front of your eyes and into your heart. I love the YouVersion Bible app and have been reading this one recently. Check out the two apps below as well.
  • Weed something new: eliminating something can be a great way to shake things up and force intentionality. I went on a partial fast recently. Fasting requires intentionality. It doesn’t have to be food that you eliminate. You could fast from the radio while you’re in your car and intentionally give that bandwidth of your mind to something else.
  • Lead something new: your spiritual intensity may be low because you’re bored. You may need more responsibility to get you to place your attention on what really matters. I recently stepped into helping more in children’s ministry at church. It isn’t a big commitment time-wise, but it has definitely sparked fresh creative buttons in me that has increased intimacy, intensity, and intentionality with Jesus.

Question:

What do you need to do to stay close to Jesus?

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