Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Gospel, Christian Parenting, & Schooling Options

When I first became a parent I was taken aback by how quickly I wanted to find the right method of parenting and trumpet it as the authoritative way that every parent should do it! It wasn’t just me though, everyone reads and discusses being an attachment parent, if you’re going to Ferber-ize your child and everyone has their own advice they’d like to give you.

It can be a stressful situation that new parents find themselves in because it feels like there should be ONE right way that you HAVE to figure out or you’re going to screw up your kid for life. This is true for any parents, but I especially saw the debate inside of a church setting as even more heated. This is the result of people baptizing their family preferences in the gospel of Christ and seeking to make it an absolute truth that everyone should follow.

This is made worse by the fact that disagreeing on parenting methods is seen as an inappropriate conversation in many circles. People feel judged and offended, but we were blessing to be living inside of a Christian community that didn’t allow it to be an off-limits conversation.

It helped us to distinguish between gospel-centered parenting and preference-exalting parenting. Gospel-centered parenting sees the truths of Jesus Christ’ life, death, and resurrection and the scriptures as the primary focus and principles that shapes all of parenting. This outlines the purpose of a family, how the mission of God is accomplished as a family, and how the family is to interact with one another, the church, and the world. It informs the principles, attitudes, discipline and education for children in parenting.

Preference-exalting parenting agrees with gospel-centered parenting but typically goes beyond that to define the exact methods that must be followed to accomplish all that parenting entails. This happens when homeschooling parents are ostracized as culture-fearing super-protective parents and this also happens when people interpret the scriptures admonition to educate in the Lord to only mean classical Christian education condemning those who choose public school.

As my kids have grown and the schooling conversation has entered our lives, it’s felt like we had our first baby all over again. Questions, our convictions and desires,  along with other people’s convictions and preferences were coming at us. Can you be a Christian parent and send your child to public school? Does being a Christian parent mean homeschooling or private Christian schooling?

It has been a challenging process of asking and exploring these questions theologically, practically, and discussing these ideas with a number of other people and families. It has become clear that many people want to exalt their way of schooling as the perfect way to follow Christ and be a Christian parent, but God does not spell out a perfect method of schooling.

Christian parents are tasked with the responsibility to educate their children in the scriptures, the gospel of Jesus Christ and develop them to be able to maturely encounter a world that increasingly doesn’t believe the same truths.

The education of a child plays into this task tremendously, so parents must explore and examine the best route for their child, their family, and themselves for schooling. There is not just one option for Christian families and the church must be more open and ready to equip families to enjoy the benefits and tackle the challenges of each.

As each Christian family decides how to educate their child, the gospel of Jesus Christ gives them the freedom to have confidence in their choice without condemnation of those who do not choose the same as them. When a church is filled with families who have confidence in their families approach to education, they can be a collection of families who collaborate for the holistic flourishing of the children in the church and in their city.

Not One, but Many Schooling Options for Christian Families

There are predominantly 5 major options for a Christian family when approaching education. Each of them has their challenges in seeking to follow Christ, but the church should encourage, and needs, gospel-centered families in every single option. The mission of the church is to display and declare Jesus to every sphere of life and schooling is one of those spheres.

Currently, here are the 5 options I see:

  1. Private School
  2. Private Christian School
  3. Public School
  4. Homeschooling
  5. Charter School

We spent a year exploring these different options before enrolling Eli in public school here in New York City and it’s been amazing, but it hasn’t been without its challenges.

I’m hoping to discuss the benefits and challenges for gospel-centered parenting that each of these options present another time.

Here’s the major challenge and the most necessary thing for a church community to encourage for families. Families need to be encouraged to have confidence in their schooling choice without condemning others and families need to collaborate for holistic flourishing.

Confidence without Condemnation

There have been times when I have felt condemned and even seen as foolish for sending my child to public school, as if I’m failing them in their spiritual journey by sending them to public school. I also know that others families have felt condemned by me because of our confidence in sending our children to public school.

I’ve seen too many Christian parents that seem almost embarrassed about their schooling choice, whatever it may be, and that needs to change. Families should be confident in the direction and vision they have for their families to be educated and their families to embody Jesus in every environment.

Without confidence, condemnation will be felt and conveyed, but confidence provides the freedom to communicate the motivations for the schooling options. This sets you free from the need to exalt your choice above others and the ability to acknowledge and understand others’ choices.

Collaboration For Every Holistic Flourishing

Since each schooling options provides its unique challenges, I imagine the beauty of collaboration among families. Imagine the homeschooling families sharing their wisdom in teaching their children scriptural truths being shared with families of children who only have a few hours every night and weekends to do so because of school outside the home.

Imagine public, charter, and private school families inviting their homeschooling friends to share in the social and missional benefits they lack from schooling at home.

I see great benefit, encouragement, and empowerment in families with confidence in their schooling choice seeking to collaborate for the benefit of their children. The gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to be an alternative community in our way of living, but also to be that community in the midst of people who believe differently than we do.

For families, the way we educate our children has implications for our ability to embody the gospel to one another and to the world around us. We have a responsibility to our kids, but also to our neighbor’s kids so we must take that corporate responsibility to seek the holistic flourishing of our families and the families of our city.

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Missional Community Implications: For the World

On Wednesday I wrote that pursuing missional communities will affect your life and yesterday I wrote about how it will affect your church, and today we’ll look at the affect on the world.

I genuinely believe that a church that pursues missional communities will see the beneficial impact in their community, but also an even bigger impact to the world around them. Everyone has a concept of church, whether they have grown up with a church experience or only developed their perception of church from afar and many of them are not favorable.

A church that becomes a collection of communities that seeks to extend the benefits of the gospel of Christ that they have received becomes a blessing to a neighborhood and a city. The desire of Jesus for His people was that they would know Him and make Him known.

When this happens and the truth of Jesus becomes clearly articulated and demonstrated, there are some big implications for the world, but I’d like to focus on 3.

Experience Jesus rather than Bad Religion

The aim of a missional community is to embody Jesus to their neighbors and neighborhood. It truly takes a group of people to do this as Jesus was more than just a teacher. He was a healer, a man who enjoyed meals with people from every walk of life, compassionate to the hurting, a man who confronted with hard truth and with gracious love, a man filled with wisdom, and much more.

Only a community of people that sees every member as a valuable contributor can truly display Jesus and not just bad religion. Bad religion is putting forth moral perfection, judgmental condemnation of people, and religious activity as the door to experiencing acceptance in Christian community.

It’s impossible to read the gospels and see that as Jesus’ method of invitation to experiencing His presence. A community formed by the gospel of Christ remembers their worth is based in Christ’s perfections and not their own, so they invite people every moral persuasion and background to experience authentic and caring relationships.

It doesn’t have to be called missional community (we call it Community Group), but ultimately it has the feeling of a functional family who experiences love from God and one another making it easy to extend love to anyone.

Receive Blessings rather than judgments

When this happens, the world begins to receive blessings from Christians rather than those amazing judgmental looks we’ve been too good at giving. Since we have the cross of Jesus Christ that pays the penalty for all sin, takes the full wrath of God’s punishment, we shouldn’t be shocked or surprised by any behavior or bad choices in the world. Judgment comes when you think you would never do something, but the scriptures speak of our capabilities of making mistakes as being infinitely greater than we want to give ourselves credit.

So a group of Christians that recognizes judgment has been given to Christ instead of them by their faith in Christ knows they now receive blessing when they don’t deserve it. Instead of sitting around enjoying the benefits package and God’s blessings, the only appropriate response is to extend that blessing.

I’ve seen this happen within our church on a number of occasions. From 2 women passionate about foster care creating a way for foster girls in NYC to develop community and then serve their neighborhood when they are used to being served, to a Community Group in Chelsea that spends time after work and on weekends caring for and being available for children in the projects.

It creates a community looking to extend creative compassion to meet the needs of their neighborhood. So a community group in Brooklyn Heights connects with a park manager and all join together in his efforts to clean the local park. Multiple community groups on the upper west side wake up early to serve the homeless at a soup kitchen, and others on the upper east side spend time at the Ronald McDonald House blessing families and kids facing some of the toughest times of their life.

The world is looking for an organization to bless them, to care for them when they face trials and tough times. The government continues to fail them because their motivation and abilities to meet actual needs is inhibited by politics and self-preservation. Only the church has the sustaining motivation of continually experiencing blessing from God to meet the needs of the world. For too long, we’ve selfishly been satisfied with our own blessing and letting our world suffer. A true gospel-centered community on mission extends the blessings of the gospel to the world.

Faced with a Life-Changing Crossroads

Now before it sounds like this is easy and the world only receive benefits, one of the biggest implications is that the world, and more specifically our neighbors, will be faced with a life-changing crossroads.

The gospel of Jesus Christ has large benefits and huge blessings, but it also comes at a cost. To fully experience the blessings of Christ is to submit your life to Christ as the king of your life forever. This means that the our friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors will eventually be confronted with a lifestyles that follows Christ that contrasts their own.

The Christian places their trust in Christ with every decision of their life, to let the word of God be the definer of how we approach and even conduct our lives. Many times, if not at every turn, this confronts our natural desires or cultural way of life.

A missional community presents these crossroads the way they were intended to be presented, inside of a loving community shaped by the gracious love and mercy of God. Only then will these crossroads make sense because it understands that a loving God is inviting every one of us to follow Him with every aspect of life.

Choosing to pursue missional communities has big implications for your life, your church, and the world in which you live. This is because having faith in Christ demands that we align our lives with a community that is seeking to follow and love Christ. This alignment means shifting the status quo in these areas to embody the type of community that Christ modeled for us on earth and creates for us through faith in His death and resurrection.

I genuinely believe the world would be better off if we chose to live our lives with this mentality. I also believe they are ready and waiting for us to do so.

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Missional Community Implications: For Church

I’m a big fan of missional communities as I believe the scriptures clearly articulate the power and intent of God for a community to demonstrate the gospel of Jesus Christ through their love for one another and their neighbors.

It’s becoming a larger conversation and many churches are considering the idea. As they consider it, they must consider and be ready for the implications. The idea sounds new and exciting, but directly affects the common understanding of church. As I’ve thought about it and considered it, there are many implications depending on the current approach of a church, but overall there are 4 immediate implications for which a church should be prepared.

Monday-Saturday as valuable as Sunday

The Sunday gathering is what most people call church, but the scriptures use church to describe a people, not a service or a building. For a church to implement Christ-centered communities on mission, they will have to give as much, if not more, effort to equipping people to let their faith affect the rest of their week as they do to putting on a Sunday service. Is the church ready to spend its effort on equipping the saints? If it is not, missional community is merely a brand name change without substance.

This does not mean that you need to abolish the Sunday gathering as some have suggested, but it does mean you no longer treat the music or the sermon as the primary point of mission for your church.  The Sunday activities become a part of the rhythm of mission that occurs amongst the community. It becomes catalyst and culmination of mission that leads to the worship of Christ. Is the church ready to define mission as the everyday extension and representation of the gospel of Christ to the world? If not, missional communities will not be missional at all.

In moving this direction, a church also begins to address the personality driven nature and the celebrity pastor culture that can be prevalent for many churches. Leadership is no longer confined to a few “professionals”, but freely spread across an entire community. This can be uncomfortable at first for pastors and congregants who are not used to having less/more ability to lead God’s people. Missional communities thrive in a church where leaders are ready to celebrate others gifts and stories of loving their community.

Mission Requires Margin Requiring Less Church Events

The church calendar can be the biggest impediment of mission. How busy is your church? How busy is the church staff or key church leaders with church or Christian-only activities? It’s not necessarily that church activities can’t also be missional, but for many churches the activities continue the “come to me to hear about Jesus” mentality rather than entering into the neighborhoods activities following Jesus’ “go and tell” charge.

A church will need to evaluate their current calendar and activities to evaluate if they are asking the impossible of the community of God. Most people are fighting for margin already and need the church to give them the freedom to join their co-workers, friends, and neighbors in their activities. This may mean they don’t come to church on a Sunday occasionally (blasphemy!?!?) but that will confront the church’s view of the overall purpose of the community of God.

Missional communities thrive when margin is provided to exist as members of their neighborhood and church events/activities/equipping needs to serve to supplement rather than compete.

Church Programs, Committees, & Ministries Will End

This is the biggest one for many churches in established denominations. Every ministry, program, or church committee will have to be re-evaluated and adapted to join the missional community mentality or missional community becomes another option on the church activity buffet line.

If a church wants to release their people (they may not) to love their neighbors and serve their neighborhood, every ministry or ministry opportunity needs to be evaluated. Does it compete with or encourage Christians to join the mission of extending Christ’s love to all?  This coincides with the mission requiring margin because many of the programs are more church activity to make people feel involved or contributing when they need to connected to a community not a church task.

A church of missional communities thrives when the entire church is flowing in the same direction. It’s not to say there won’t be care or counseling ministries or similar things that focus on the church community only, but it’s recognizing that those ministries end in missional communities.

Every Vocation is a Spiritual Calling

Most people spend more time at work than they do anything else. If this is not seen and encouraged as an opportunity to exalt Christ with and at work, then there will only be one spiritual job – full-time ministry. Throughout the scriptures we see God specifically impart abilities to people that have nothing to do with our understanding of full-time ministry, but God does this to make Himself known through work.

Every company can be a people group to extend the gospel to and an opportunity to display the love of God and the magnificence of God through the work. Until we all see ourselves as missionaries sent by God in every profession, we will only see church staff members as people paid for ministry. That is a false understanding of who ultimately provides all things for us (God) and is able to use any means possible to fund His missionaries (your salary from your company).

Missional communities thrive when people see all of their life as an opportunity to demonstrate the grace, mercy & transformative love of Jesus Christ to whomever they encounter. This means their jobs, their neighborhood, and their favorite restaurant is an opportunity to display Jesus to the world.

Is it worth it?

This is surely what many churches will begin asking. Is it worth it to affect the status quo? Is it worth it to transition to missional communities if it will take years to do so? Is it worth it if it will cause frustration amongst a people who like the building-Sunday service understanding of Church?

Make no mistake, it will be a challenge for every church that chooses to pursue missional communities, but asking is it worth it with an eye toward the implications is the wrong question.

The right question is, does Jesus deserve the worship of everyone in my neighborhood and city? That answer is yes, He is the only one worthy of worship, the only one who loves perfectly, challenges perfectly, and transforms people. Because of this, any difficulty a church has in extending the gospel of Christ to cause more worship of Jesus is worth it.

Aside from that, I can share that personally there is no greater joy than being in a community that loves the gospel of Christ most and being a part of extending that gospel to others.

So yes, all of these implications are worth it.

 

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Missional Community Implications: For Life

As our church continues to aim toward being a collection of gospel-centered communities on mission (Missional Communities), I’ve noticed that many people are not ready for some of the real implications that come with this idea. Even as many other churches wrestle through this, one thing that must be acknowledged is that pursuing this Book of Acts type community has major implications for your life, your church, and even the world.

Missional community methodology has implications for our lives because the gospel of Jesus Christ has implications for our lives. True faith in Christ involves reorienting our lives to follow His ways instead of the ways we have developed over the course of our lives. These implications deal with many of things we say we treasure, but the end results are many of the things we long for but think we will never have.

Dying to the Unhealthy Embrace of Individualism

We have all bought into the American ideal of individualism, that the collective best is accomplished by each of us seeking our own individual ascension. While individualism can have the benefits of promoting innovation, it has the downside of achieving this at the significant cost of others and relationships.

We have taken an unhealthy embrace of individualism that has led us to be suspicious and judgmental of others and seek our own good no matter what happens to others or our society. We seek our own self-ascension to the destruction of others. Jesus shows us a much better way.

Of all the people that ever lived, Jesus had the right to pursue His earthly ascension, many even wanted to make Him king. But He consistently sought the advancement of others with His power, His love, and eventually with His death and resurrection. He knew that only by laying down His life and even His desires (as He expressed the desire for another way to God the Father before going to the cross), would the collective best have the opportunity to be fulfilled. The collective best now has potential because of Christ’s death and resurrection when Christ is embraced as Lord by faith.

For the Christian, we proclaim that we follow Christ’s life, share in His ways, and seek to mirror those ways to our world. He spent His life with a community of people seeking to bless everyone He interacted with leaving us a pretty high bar as our standard for life.

A Life Bound Up with a Community

When a Christian becomes a part of a Community Groups or Missional Community, they are pursuing the life Christ laid out for them, but what they are usually not ready for is the required change. Committing to any type of community means that work, life events, and family time will be affected. This is true for buying season tickets to a sports team, joining a community organization, or even over-committing to work.

Committing to a missional community means we have less of our perceived sovereignty over our time and our life. We open ourselves up to gracious intrusion by others when our homes are less put together, we’re less prepared and it’s less convenient to us.

To be a part of a community is not to add more events. It will require a realignment of the current events of your life to align with a group of people, which may mean less events. You will likely be doing many of the same things, but no longer doing them just for yourself or by yourself.

Meals, recreation, and regular hang out time become community activities rather than individual escapes. And before the introverts go crazy, it doesn’t mean that alone or private time doesn’t happen, but it does mean that alone time is meant to refresh you to engage with a community of people.

Your Stuff is not just for you anymore

In Acts 2:42-47, we see the first church established in a response to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s described as a community with shared beliefs, shared life, and shared resources. It begs the question, am I ready for my stuff to not just be for me? We’ve been taught and continually marketed to that we work so we can purchase and we all need to purchase the exact same stuff so each of us can have it.

What if we viewed our stuff as community stuff? What if we arranged our homes to enable hospitality? De-cluttered to become welcoming and became comfortable with our stuff being messed up and potentially ruined if it meant experiencing relationships in community.

The implications of missional communities is to shift our thinking from if I have more stuff, I’ll be happier, to recognize that real happiness comes from real relationships. It may changes our litmus test for purchases to be more gospel-centered. We may start measuring a purchase by how it can be a blessing to other people and not just a blessing to us.

You are expected to give & not just receive

Church culture has become great at letting a few people lead many people, placing the majority of people on the side of receiver and the few people as givers. Missional communities by their very nature require shared leadership and everyone in the community taking responsibility and ownership for one another and a mission greater than themselves.

This implication is that you become expected to contribute and not just consume a conversation or relationship. This means you have to stop complaining about the community not caring for you enough or giving you enough attention. It’s not that you won’t be cared for by the community, it’s that you help create a caring community for everyone, including yourself.

It also requires that you begin to remove conditions on your contributions to others. Unfortunately, we judge whether to care for someone based on our perceived value they bring to the community and us. A gospel-centered missional community does not operate like this. It recognizes that the love of God was given to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ not because we were good enough, smart enough, or people liked us, but because God chose to extend that love to us. He even chose to do it when we weren’t living like He demands. This is the nature of grace and a community embodies it well when they extend love based on God’s definition of value.

Assessing what we truly want

Missional communities affect what we value, but it ultimately forces us to ask what we really want in life. Most of us want quality relationships, deep conversations, and purpose to our lives, but too few us evaluate if our lives are set up in a way that these will ever be accomplished.

I truly believing aligning yourself and committing to a community increases all of the things we truly desire. I’ve never experienced more joy and enjoyment of life as being in the midst of a community that loves the gospel of Jesus Christ most. The implication of this type of gospel enjoyment is the creation of a community that blesses one another and the world.

Tomorrow I’ll tackle the implications for the church and Friday I’ll deal with the implications missional communities has on the world.

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The Disciple

At our church, we just concluded a series titled The Disciple. We asked the question, how would a disciple of Christ look different than a disciple of the culture, specifically in New York City? As we looked at the scriptures to answer this question aiming to identify the true call of the follower of God in a context that increasingly does not follow God, we discovered that a disciple of Christ instead of culture would look different and point to an alternative way of life.

We narrowed it down to 6 specific characteristics and covered them over the 6 Sundays involved in Lent. It was definitely one of the most profound sermon series I’ve been a part of as it forced anyone listening to be confronted with whether the culture was dictating their life or their beliefs.

We are all disciples, it’s not a question of will we or won’t we be a disciple. The question is who are we disciples of? Our culture produces different disciples than our churches should be producing if the churches are making disciples of Christ. The Christian must consider whether they are following Christ with their life or merely with their words.

Each sermon and the audio is below. I had the honor to preach on the Supernatural Love of Others while the great JR Vassar preached the others. I was blessed by this sermon series and I hope you will be too. You can also download these podcasts from iTunes.

The Call to Rest

A disciple must first decide to follow a certain way of living. The invitation of Jesus is initially to find rest and trust in God rather than to find identity in exhaustive work and trust in our efforts. JR preached from Matthew 11:25-30 on The Call to Rest.

Incomparable Love

Many think of being a disciple as a duty, but Christ calls those who will follow Him to love Him most. The disciple is someone who loves God so much that his/her love for others looks like hatred in comparison to his/her love for God. JR preached from Matthew 10:34-39 on this type of Incomparable Love.

Renunciation of Self

Just as Christ has chosen to lay down His life for others, to be His disciple we are called to align with God even against ourselves. Instead of pursuing our own ways and our own desires, we are called to deny ourselves for the benefit of others. JR preached on Luke 9:23-27 about the Renunciation of Self.

Abiding in Jesus

The disciple of Jesus Christ is called to agree with, spend time learning about and letting their thoughts and affections be guided towards God. However we spend our thoughts or affections, intentional or not, is ultimately what we become. We all long for success, but the disciple of Christ finds this through abiding in Jesus. JR preached from John 15 on Abiding in Jesus.

Supernatural Love of Others

In John 13:34-35 Jesus issues a new command to His disciples to love others as they have been loved. Christ goes on to show that a loving community is the method of His mission. While the culture calls us to a tolerant love, Christ calls us to a transformative love. I had the privilege to preach on a the Supernatural Love for Others.

Stewardship of Life

All of us have been given certain talents, gifts, abilities, resources, and time that enable us to create a life for ourselves and others. While our culture encourages us to use these things for ourselves and the building of our most successful selves, Christ calls us to use all that has been given to us, much that we could not create in ourselves, for God and for others. It’s a redefining of success as faithfully using these things for God’s purposes and not just our own. JR preached on Matthew 25:14-30 about the Stewardship of Life.

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Reading the Bible with People who Don’t Believe it

I didn’t grow up going to church and when I finally did, I started reading the bible on my own. I started reading from Genesis hoping I would end in Revelation and after 5 and ½ years I did. But even reading it on my own, there was much confusion and many questions. It wasn’t until I was a sophomore in college that someone invited me to read the bible with them, answer my questions, and challenge my worldview.

I started to be confronted with a theology I had built of God based on my experiences rather than what God says about who He is in the bible.

Five years later, I was challenged to be on the other end of that equation, to invite people to read the bible with me who didn’t believe it. I was challenged to extend an invitation to people that might be curious about Christianity or understanding who Jesus is, what He did, and why He is so important. I remember thinking, “Why would anyone who doesn’t believe it, want to read it with me?” all while forgetting the affect reading scripture had on my own life.

Since then, I’ve read through the gospel account with a number of people who do not believe it, have no faith or have a faith that is dramatically different than mine. I have found these interactions to be the most amazing, joy-filled and impactful times in my life. As I’ve started to do this again with some friends of mine recently and I began thinking about what I’ve learned in the process of inviting people who don’t believe it to read the bible with me.

Bad religious experiences define understanding of Jesus

Most people have a view of God that is based on poor religious experiences with flawed Christian churches rather than on seeking to understand Jesus Christ in the Bible. I’ve heard so many stories of not wanting to associate with Christ because of experiencing judgment and hypocrisy from those claiming to be Christians and from church experiences.

It’s important to recognize that all Christians and churches are flawed, which is why the gospel of Jesus Christ exists. This gives us the freedom to apologize for the sins of others who claim Christ, our own sins and build bridges of imperfection in people that lead to a perfect Christ.

Listening to them tell their story of their interactions with Christianity will be a great way to connect their current theology to their religious experience. Reading the bible together allows the scriptures to explain Jesus and Christianity better than our experiences.

Explore Jesus & Christianity, not Church

There’s no reason to discuss joining a church if people are just beginning to explore Christianity. I’ve learned to distinguish reading the bible from joining a church, not to neglect the church community, but to remove any obstacles to truly exploring Jesus.

Relationship & Gospel Receptivity is Essential

Evangelicalism can put such an emphasis on knowledge that it neglects the relational aspect of life. When it comes to sharing our faith with others, we can easily forget that our lives testify to the truth of our words. Authenticity is the expression of our faith through everyday life.

Only if people are somewhat receptive to the gospel will they be receptive to reading the bible that explains the gospel. I’ve learned to only extend this kind of invitation to people who express a desire to learn about God, God’s grace, Jesus or the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is because I know the bible is better at explaining these things than my words.

Explain the story & content of scripture

If you are familiar with scripture, you will easily forget how much you assume in regards to other people’s knowledge of the bible. Explain the story of God as laid out in the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. Skipping straight to the gospel story misses the explanation of why a Savior is needed.

Additionally, it will be helpful to explain the Old & New Testament and the gospel accounts, since they have 4 different writers with 4 different perspectives. Similarly, you and I tell a story differently, the story has similarities, but key differences. Preparing people who are reading a book they don’t understand communicates concern for them and is essential to making the Bible more tangible for reading.

Listen, Answer Questions, & Learn

I usually recommend going through the gospel of John. This is partly because I love it, but also because it spells out clearly who Jesus is and what His purposes are. We usually read 2 chapters together and I encourage them to ask any and every question possible.

It’s amazing how much I learn when people who have fresh eyes on the reading point out things I easily skip. I don’t always know the answers, but then get to pursue the answers and follow up.

We also aim to share what we think these chapters are challenging us to do and how we are responding to the challenge.

Uncomfortable but Enjoyable

There have been times that I have done this and it’s been a complete train-wreck, and it is no doubt uncomfortable at first, but it really is incredibly enjoyable. Pushing past the initial awkwardness creates an opportunity to learn more about Jesus and more about one another.

Reading the bible with someone who doesn’t believe it lets the scriptures explain clearly who Jesus Christ is and what He has done for us in His life, death, and resurrection.

Much will be made of Easter Sunday this week, which can be one powerful day, but inviting people to read the scriptures for themselves moves beyond passive learning to active exploration.

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Filling the Missional Community Holes

On Wednesday, I wrote about how the church needs more than missional communities because the nature of these gospel-centered communities on mission are limited. While they are able to accomplish much in the area of discipleship and life transformation, they can be lacking when it comes to theological training, counseling, discipleship, and family equipping.

As I’ve looked into a number of churches who pursue missional communities, I’ve noticed that they supplement their communities in these areas to enable people to live gospel-centered lives with a group of people. These are just a few of the ways I’ve seen these addressed in a way that doesn’t run contrary to missional communities, but promotes mission in the context of a community of Christ-followers.

Theological Training

Porterbrook Network

Porterbrook Network was established in 2006 by Steve Timmis & Tim Chester. They are the authors of my favorite book to give away, Total Church. They established it to “equip individuals and churches to rediscover mission as their DNA, to become better lovers of God and lovers of others, and to proclaim the Gospel through word and action for the Glory of God.”

Our church had over 100 individuals sign up and go through the Porterbrook Learning material which is compact theological training, best processed within a community. What I love about the material is that all of it is designed to equip communities with the theological understanding of God and His mission. This propels a community toward application in mission rather than ending in knowledge as I’ve seen many a Sunday school class do.

Equipping Classes

One example of equipping classes that I’ve experienced and learned an immense amount from is the Get Trained Ministry at The Austin Stone Community Church. Equipping classes can be a great opportunity to further learning in the truth of the scriptures, Christian theology, and Christian mission.

The consistent danger to be avoided is creating another environment where passive learning can take place. Passive learning plays into the dominant consumerist nature that destroys Christian community and is a product of the culture, not the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Counseling

Counseling Centers

There seems to be a growing desire for Christian counseling to be operating in conjunction with a church and I am all for it. Professional Christian counseling without connection with a church seems contrary to the thrust of the scripture that sees God creating a loving community for His mission.

There have been a number of churches who have seen the value in professional counseling and have started Christian counseling centers. I love the idea of a church connected counseling center when it comes to Christian counselors because of the connection to the community. The downside of counseling can be its seclusion from a people who can care for, support, and provide accountability to the individual seeking change.

It embraces the idea that change of the individual is best accomplished in a community, while providing someone trained to address the issue and focused time to spend seeking healing. Counseling can too often manage your condition and circumstances, where a gospel-centered community can remind you that it’s about Jesus and only His redemptive work in the cross and resurrection can truly heal and transform you.

Redemption Groups

Redemption Groups were started by Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA. They are an “intense small group that digs deep into difficult and seldom-discussed areas of life, such as abuse, addiction, and trials of all sorts.” Since the focus on missional communities is not a support group, redemption groups provide that environment to spend focused time addressing these issues.

They are also gospel focused in nature which aims to provide an easy transition into a missional community. The end goal must be a transformed community ready to extend the healing that they have received in the gospel.

Discipleship

Building a Discipleship Culture

Missional communities are one of the primary ways people can be discipled by Christ in a community. They must be a part of a church with a discipleship culture for them to truly serve the purpose of discipleship. Mike Breen & Steve Cockram’s book are great on cultivating a discipleship culture within the church.

While the book is great, the content doesn’t need to be simply copied and pasted into your community. Discipleship is ultimately implementing and embodying Jesus’ way of making disciples who make disciples. It was a repeatable process that focused on the few to reach the many instead of the modern church aim of focusing on the many to reach the few.

Family Equipping

Honestly, in the area of family equipping and missional communities, I’ve yet to find anything that cultivates families on mission & discipleship within families. I fully believe in integrating children into missional communities as it takes a community to disciple a child, but I also believe the church has the responsibility to equip parents in discipling their children.

Many churches provide age appropriate worship and peer contexts, but don’t confront the deferral parenting these have a tendency to create and our culture typically promotes. Other churches emphasize family discipleship and separate it from missional communities.

If anyone knows churches or ministries seeking to both, I’d love to learn. The church community is a family and a community of families. Equipping for gospel-centered parenting seeks to develop the missional community conversation for multiple generations. It’s a hole that still needs filling.

These are obviously just a few examples to assist gospel-centered communities on mission. There are many more and many that I am not aware of I’m sure. How have you seen churches supplement missional communities?

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