Friday, June 20, 2014

Sully Notes Special | 13 Marks of a Faithful Missional Church – Mark 1 of 13

Emmaus City Church Worcester MA Multiethnic Gospel Soma Acts 29 Christian Reformed Network of Missional Communities

Mark 1 – A Church with Worship That Nurtures Our Missional Identity – of 13 Marks of a Faithful Missional Church in the 21st Century American West  

Sully Notes are meant to provide you with direct quotes from some books I've read in the last year, so you can get a taste of the overall theme of the book and then begin to chew on what your life might look like if you applied what you read.

Previous Sully Notes include:

 3DM Missional Community Trilogy Sully Notes

Emmaus City Church Worcester MA Multiethnic Gospel Soma Acts 29 Christian Reformed Network of Missional CommunitiesThis week's special Notes are touching on a subject growing in recognition and discussion within the 21st century American church. What is the missional church? Is it something we do or who we are? What does a church look like that is living out the mission of God in their cultural context? How does a church remain faithful to the good news of Jesus, the Spirit of God, the Scriptures, the church throughout human history and around the world, and the mission of God that the church is called to join, while also meeting the questions, needs, and desires of the people God is sending us to in the cultures and contexts we live in today? I have found no better book to answer these questions than in Michael Goheen's A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story. It's a new classic for me along with his other book with Craig Bartholomew, The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story. Goheen's pastoral, biblical, and missiological teaching is one of the main reasons as to why I'm grateful to God that He led me to be ordained in the Christian Reformed Church. It was an honor to be served dinner by Michael and his wife in their home in Phoenix back in 2013, as my wife and I with others were able to hear from him and discuss how the church is called to be a contrast community in a consumer culture.

But back to his book. A Light to the Nations is a gold mine for discovering treasures of the great narrative God has provided for us in the Scriptures of redemptive history for humanity through the person and work of Jesus. I would love to do a three-part Sully Notes for the entire book, but I can't. I underlined far too much. I greatly encourage you to pick it up and read it for yourself. And prepare to take your time. There is much to mine, study, and reflect on here if you want to understand how the Bible reveals God's pursuing love for His lost children to not only save them, but to transform them in order that they might join Him on His mission to redeem, reconcile, and restore.

However, for these next 13 posts, my goal is to share the final chapter of the book with you. "Chapter 9: What Might This Look Like Today" is where Goheen answers the question, "Ten Things I'd Do Differently if I Pastored Again." His list becomes a lucky thirteen. For Emmaus City, this list will help us reflect on our faithfulness each year so we can continue to grow in becoming Jesus' church that lives and strives to declare and display His good news in our city as we pray, hope, and work towards seeing gospel transformation in the individuals, neighborhoods, businesses, and cultural centers God calls us to serve and sacrifice for in Jesus' name in Worcester, MA.

Whether you lean "liberal" in your Christian missiology or "conservative," or you're just exploring how you and your local church can be better shaped by the mission of God, I think you'll find much to ponder. Each blog post will each feature one mark that will take about 5 minutes to read. Here is the full list before the first excerpt:

  • Mark 1: A Church with Worship That Nurtures Our Missional Identity
  • Mark 2: A Church Empowered by the Preaching of the Gospel
  • Mark 3: A Church Devoted to Communal Prayer
  • Mark 4: A Church Striving to Live as a Contrast Community
  • Mark 5: A Church That Understands Its Cultural Context
  • Mark 6: A Church Trained for a Missionary Encounter in Its Callings in the World
  • Mark 7: A Church Trained to Evangelism in an Organic Way
  • Mark 8: A Church Deeply Involved in the Needs of Its Neighborhood and World
  • Mark 9: A Church Committed to Missions
  • Mark 10: A Church with Well-Trained Leaders
  • Mark 11: A Church with Parents Trained to Take Up the Task of Nurturing Children in Faith
  • Mark 12: A Church with Small Groups That Nurture for Mission in the World
  • Mark 13: A Church That Seeks and Expresses the Unity of the Body of Christ

Mark 1: A Church with Worship That Nurtures Our Missional Identity 

"Worship is the central calling of the church partially because it gives the people of God their focus and direction in the whole of their lives; from worship the whole life of the church flows, and in worship the whole life of the church finds its true end. Getting our worship right, therefore, must be a top priority.

Paul Jones rightly argues that a big step toward nurturing our ecclesial identity will be our worship: 'We are how we worship.' How can our missional identity be nourished in public worship?

First, worship today needs to tell the true story of the world as revealed in the mighty acts of God culminating in Christ. Jones hopefully says, 'The Church is a 'story-formed community' that is rooted in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ ... In order for the community of faith to endure through time and to withstand the threats of inculturation, the story of what God has accomplished for the Hebrew people and the Christian community must be continually re-told in corporate worship.' Truly the Bible must narrate the world for the Christian community, and corporate worship is the primary place this will happen. The way the worship is structured, the hymns that are chosen, the way various elements are introduced and related to one another, the way the gospel is preached all can focus our attention on the story of God's mighty deeds  past, present, and future  in which we find our place.

The book of Revelation gives us a canonical example of how worship can play an important role in calling God's people to live in the biblical story over against all competing stories. John's vision, which constitutes the book of Revelation, comes on the Lord's Day, the day of worship (Revelation 1:10). The church in Asia Minor is threatened by the invincible power of Rome and is in danger of being domesticated by its vision of the world. Yet the book of Revelation audaciously challenges Rome's established order and power. John proclaims that the true story of the world is revealed in a man crucified by the Roman Empire but who now reigns over all and is guiding universal history to its final goal. John offers this vision as an 'alternative world' and thus 'constructs a counter-narrative disputing the imperial one, opening up a different way of seeing the world.' It is this story that is celebrated in the liturgy, songs, and prayers of God's people in Revelation.

A second thing is that we must continually be reoriented and redirected to the unbelieving world as the ultimate horizon of our calling. The same elements of liturgy can direct attention either inward on ourselves or outward to the nations. For example, the Lord's Supper and baptism need to be rescued from an introverted orientation that dwells only on benefits for individual believers and instead utilized to direct the church to its calling in the world. Both sacraments should be eschatological and missional, and our liturgical celebration of them should foster this view. Our confession of sin, perhaps one of the most important elements of worship, enables us to live out the gospel and find in it the source of life. Like the sacraments, however, it may be framed simply in terms of our individual enjoyment of forgiveness and renewal or as an act that enables us to again appropriate the gospel that empowers us to live out a godly life for the sake of the world. Our closing charge to the congregation and benediction can either send us with God's blessing for our own comfort or empower us to embody the good news in a world that needs to see it. A constant reorientation to the horizon of our calling – the world God loves – by continued repetition and redirection through all the common areas of worship Sunday after Sunday will gradually nurture a missional people."  – pgs. 202-204    
Curiosity piqued? Something inside you being stirred? Go ahead and connect.
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