Friday, February 13, 2015

City Notes 20 | Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity Part 3 of 3

Emmaus City Worcester MA Be the Church Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities

City Notes 20: Books in 30 minutes or less

City Notes are more than a book review. They 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. 

Here are links to the previous City Notes books:


Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker Review of Quotes | City Notes 20: Part 3 of 3  

Summer 2007 | Serve, Provide, Clothe, Shine

“Mercy to the hungry, poor, homeless, and orphaned has the threefold advantage of administering relief to the most distressed, identifying with Jesus on the deepest level, and drawing the skeptic through an action he is already compelled by. We’ve had people join us for social projects who would never join us for a church service. Our deepest cynic served burgers downtown with us six times before she set foot in church; she’s a transformed believer now. Nonprofit leaders of secular organizations joined our community after our sustained service to their mission. We provide long-term care for a terminal couple with AIDS through Care Communities; after five months they accepted Christ. The first person we baptized was a homeless woman we helped off the streets. … it bears a meaningful witness to the skeptics, nonbelievers, and antiorganized-religion population. What mail-outs, cold invites, media, and strategic marketing are still struggling to do, relationships through justice are accomplishing. It will disappoint the average consumer Christian, but it might be our only hope to convince the lost. This is more vital than ever because although the postmodern values community and service, that doesn’t mean he lives out those values. There is a marked difference between criticizing consumerism and actually resisting consumerism.” – pgs . 132-133

Summer 2007 | Brandon's Take 
“Although Jesus discussed the kingdom as much as any topic, it’s something many believers have no concept of or affection for. Our focus naturally goes to our kingdom, our immediate reality, our goals and passions, and our church. But that’s not what Jesus taught. He told Peter, ‘I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven’ (Matthew 16:18-19). Jesus never gave us the keys to His church; He handed over keys to the kingdom. This isn’t something to set aside as another symbolic reference. This was Jesus’ instruction: Place your affections on My kingdom, and I will build My church. Bind your heart to things of eternal value, keep your mind on a vision bigger than you, and ensure all your efforts match those affections. Jesus will take care of the rest.” – pg. 135 

I’ve discovered this journey is … about putting hands and feet to the gospel – our hands and our feet. It’s about building bridges with those who won’t come to us on Sunday, not as a project but because Jesus loves them and told us to. It’s a dangerous journey that requires honesty and vulnerability. It’s about the kingdom breaking through in all of our lives. It’s about creating a place to belong before people are expected to behave or even believe. If the gospel is good news to all, then it’s not just an idea to consider, a time slot on a Sunday, or a task assigned to a select few – it’s a life to live. And it’s bigger than all of us.” – pg. 136

Fall 2007 to Now | Value: Building Genuine Relationships with God and Each Other (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) 

“We hoped for some pretty specific fruits:  

  • Jesus would become supreme – not our church, not us, not a method, not a band, not programs. Far more than loyalty to (insert church’s name), we dreamed of a body allegiant to Christ. 

  • (Insert church’s name) would become a disciple factory, rejecting the language and structures that create spiritually immature consumers. Christ followers would learn to take ownership in their own spiritual development, not expecting their church to do all the heavy lifting. 

  • We would raise awareness of human suffering and present tangible opportunities to alleviate it. 

  • Believers, seekers, and skeptics alike could discover a shift away from the old progression (Believe Behave Belong) to something more inviting: Belong Believe Become. Weekly community groups would be the life force of (insert church’s name), not weekend attendance. 

  • (Insert church’s name) would create not only disciples but also missionaries all over (insert city’s name). – pg. 143

“ … we spend the majority of our lives in our homes, our neighborhoods, at work, in school. It was essential to incorporate the spirit of mission into our natural habitats, where the brunt of our influence exists. Between this project downtown and that task out east, the rest of life awaits our mission too. Our teachers had to learn to treat their schools like a mission field. Our business leaders needed to understand the principles of cultural immersion to reach their colleagues. Our students had to develop language that attracted their skeptical classmates to Christ. Our recovering legalists had to replace some entrenched perceptions about culture in order to become missionaries in their neighborhoods. Taking Jesus seriously goes well beyond a church service or mission project; He becomes the substance of our whole lives. – pg. 144 

Missional at its core means ‘sent.’ It is the opposite of ‘come to us.’ So many believers have selected their pet concept of the Great Commission: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’ but neglect the prerequisite instruction: ‘Go.’ Going is the noble history of the Trinity. God sent Jesus to dwell among fallen humanity – not to visit, not to remain separated, not to detach, but to immerse. He was the Supreme Missionary to mankind, submerged in culture, among the people He wanted to rescue. Upon Jesus’ resurrection, God sent the Spirit from the heights of heaven to the heart of every believer, an indwelling. Among, beside, within – this is the way of the Trinity. God has gone to people since the day He walked in the garden. People came to Him only after an encounter, after a revelation, after belief. He is the initiator, meeting humans on their turf in the middle of their chaos. God understood that we were too broken and confused to find Him in His divine dwelling places. Once we belong to Him, we know where to look for sweet communion, but until then, He comes to us. God sent Jesus; Jesus sent the Spirit; and together they send us as ambassadors for the gospel, immersed in humanity and living in the harvest field. On a practical level, why would we expect an unbeliever to come to church with no provocation? What does he know of the beauty of the Spirit? Why would he be attracted to an unknown Savior or a community that feels like worshipping Him? ... The message must be brought to him, in his context, where he is and how he is. This is … the mission of the church. … The problem with Christian segregation is the idea that God asked us to be on mission with Him, sent us to some group of people somewhere, and wants us to minister to them in a way that meets their needs by speaking their language.” – pgs. 144-146 

Fall 2007 to Now | Offering a Tangible Kingdom 

“Paul understood what drew people to faith: ‘We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us’ (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8). Sermon-centered evangelism leaves too much work to the paid pros and omits a meaningful relational context. Hugh Halter and Matt Smay (authors of AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church and Tangible Kingdom) wrote, ‘When we focus on the message only, what are we saying to people? Maybe that they really aren’t dear to us? Is it possible that to share four great truths about God without giving listeners a part of our lives might communicate the wrong thing? Paul knew that a message without an attractive tangible person embodying and delivering it would fall on deaf ears or be lost amid all the other faiths of that time. …’ How much more tangible is the gospel when someone experiences it over weeks and months with a real believer whom he or she can ask questions and learn from by observation? When a Christian consistently treats someone with compassion or demonstrates integrity at work, the gospel wins a hearing. We can continue to invite unbelievers to church, but we must first invite them into our lives.” – pg. 148 

“Love has won infinitely more converts than theology. The first believers were drawn to Christ’s mercy long before they understood His divinity. … If love is the most effective way – and the Bible says it is – then how much genuine love can one pastor show an entire congregation? ... Believer, your pastor or your church can never reach your co-worker like you can. They do not have the sway over your neighbor that has been entrusted to you. No one better than you can love your wayward brother. One decent sermon cannot influence a disoriented person in the same way your consistent presence in her life can. While organized religion provokes mostly skepticism for the average postmodern, a genuine relationship with a Christ follower on mission can reframe the kingdom, making a fresh perception possible. Then that person discovers that church is not a place you go – it’s a people you belong with. The building is simply the place you celebrate God together.” – pg. 149

Fall 2007 to Now | Right to Remain Silent 

Paul presented the most superior posture we can assume: ‘I am your slave.’ What if your neighbor came to understand that you wanted to be his servant? How would my colleague soften to the gospel if I set my agenda aside and became her constant slave? How would our communities be transformed if our churches became servants to our cities? It at every turn believers labored for others as if they were our masters, we could not be ignored for long. … We came to their neighborhoods, to their homes, to their communities. We couldn’t expect anyone to come to us without some reason. – pg. 152 

Fall 2007 to Now | Breaking the Code 

“ … we had to study the nuances of the culture: How do you think? What are their values? What events have shaped their histories? What are their goals? Starting with demographic segmentations is okay, but a slave must learn the finer distinctives of his master if he is going to serve effectively. … we know most grew up connected to the Catholic Church. … we include a few liturgical elements in our service: weekly communion similar to the Catholic method of coming forward, corporate recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, and a spoke blessing over the people at the close of each service. There are plenty of potential elements that honor Christ; we’ve simply chosen a few that also provide a familiar context to our community. This principle affects all Christ followers who want to live on mission. Our most attractive offering is a genuine relationship, so we must resist quick assumptions and settle into longevity.” – pg. 155

Fall 2007 to Now | Changlings

If we’re going to win people, then let’s win people. We do whatever it takes – within the boundaries of law and neutral practices without moral significance – to attract people to the glorious mercy of Jesus. When love regulates our liberty, we create a context to share the gospel and have it actually received. If people are offended by God Himself, by His authority, His Word, His Son, His history, there is less we can do about that. They will ultimately have to wrestle with Him. But if they are offended by our representation of God, then we’ll answer for our arrogance. We can help that, and we better had. We cannot stand on principle at any point along the belief spectrum. Whether persuading a legalist to grace or an atheist to faith, it is our high calling to innocently conform to their worldview in any possible way to earn a hearing for the gospel. Jesus ate with sinners, created wine for partygoers, fished with fishermen, held the children of mothers, taught in the temple with teachers, worshipped in synagogues with the faithful. All things to all people, not bound by convention, public, opinion, appearance, legalism, or even His own rights. Paul went o, ‘To those not having the law I became like on not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak’ (1 Corinthians 9:21-22).” – pg. 158

Fall 2007 to Now | Brandon's Take

Emmaus City Worcester MA Rest Be the Church Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities
There will never be enough knowledge to fill the cracks of Christian maturity without the fruit of selfless service manifested in our lives. Our lives must reflect this heart of Christ, or we will always remain one click away. Scripture talks clearly about fullness that is found only in love. Paul said to the Ephesians, ‘I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God’ (3:17-19). If we’ve been in church for years yet aren’t full, are we really hungry for more knowledge? ... Do we really need to be fed more of the Word, or are we simply undernourished from an absence of living the Word? Maybe we love God, but are we loving others? If our faith is about us, then we are not just hungry – our spirits are starving. … Maybe we spend too much attention on ourselves instead of becoming a people on mission. In Ephesians 4, Paul wrote that if we prepare ourselves for ‘works of service,’ we will become mature, complete, perfected, and not lacking in anything. Isn’t that what we’re looking for? It’s hard to grasp; it’s a paradox – but those who’ve experienced it can testify to it. In John 13, Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, an act even Jewish servants were not required to do. He closed this physical parable with these words: ‘I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them’ (verses 15-17).” – pg. 161 

Fall 2007 to Now | In the City, For the City 

“Transformation came in the front of dirty homeless men and abandoned orphans. It came through abused women and foster kids. It came through lost neighbors crying at my kitchen table. Transformation began with humility, even humiliation. It started with conviction and discipline. It increased through loss, not gain. It grew through global exposure and uncomfortable questions. It was born out of rejection, replanted in new soil. It was not found in my Christian subculture but in the eyes of my neighbors, the needs of my city, the cries of the nations. It was through subtraction, not addiction, that transformation engulfed me, and I’ll tell you something: I am not the same. (Insert church’s name) is a missional church not only because that position reaches the lost but because that approach makes true disciples. If an endless array of Bible studies, programs, church events, and sermons have left you dry, please hear this: Living on mission where you’ve been sent will transform your faith journey. At the risk of oversimplifying it, I’ve seen missional living cure apathy better than any sermon, promote healing quicker than counseling, deepen discipleship more than Bible studies, and create converts more effectively than events. It transforms both the master and the slave.” – pgs. 163-164

“Our community groups meet two weeks a month for traditional fellowship and discussion (this is deliberately inclusive and the front door into our church family); they meet one week for mission work with our nonprofit partners in the city; and they spend the last week apart to intentionally live on mission: inviting neighbors over for dinner, going out for coffee with a co-worker, hosting Poker Night … Instead of the decidedly weird labels of ‘mission’ and ‘missional’ work, we call the whole effort Love Your Neighbor, Serve Your City. … Because this is priority, we fund our community groups’ projects, which they have complete autonomy over. They have permission and freedom to reach their neighbors the best way they know how.” – pg. 164

“There is no magic to living on mission either. Speak the language of the people you’re sent to; that’s pretty much it. When you can, conform innocently, value what they value, enjoy what they enjoy, go where they might go, think as they might think. Connect with them on their terms, not yours. If you live around intellectuals, that’s your avenue; the Bible should keep them occupied for the rest of their lives. If you live in a creative community, connect through the arts; they’ll ultimately discover the beauty of God to be overwhelming. If music, then music. If sports, then sports. Be it books, movies, conversation, exercise, hunting, parenting, social work, community activism, camping, coffee, good food, good wine, or any good thing – decode the love language of the tribe around you and speak it. It’s not rocket science. Win them over to you, and you’ll have the best chance to win them over to Christ. … Don’t imagine that living on mission means we connect with culture by leaving Jesus out of the equation. Nothing could be further from the truth. God’s kingdom reigning in the lives of our neighbors is our supreme motivation. We do all this for the sake of the gospel. Living on mission immersed in culture as its slave simply primes the pump. It creates a meaningful context to ultimately introduce people to Christ, the reason we live and breathe…I’m sharing in the blessings of the gospel more than I have in my entire life. Not just church, but my life in Jesus for His kingdom has become the most fun, fulfilling venture of my Christian experience. I am so confident in the gospel and its effect on humanity. – pgs. 164-165 

This is the mission we are all called to as believers, the noble task of the church. It’s not enough to be theologically brilliant without the heart of a missionary. It’s sometimes intangible work planted in the messy soil of relationships instead of the cleaner territory of theology. It is slow, often maddening. It requires the patience of Job and the maturity of Paul to execute the mission of Jesus. Living on mission will be misinterpreted and criticized – count on it. Cultural immersion is basically a commitment to being misunderstood. Amid the fabric of community and developing relationships, you’ll often wonder if this is doing anything for the kingdom, but when your neighbor in crisis rings your doorbell at one in the morning, you’ll remember that it is. You’ll be more convinced when they are drawn to the beauty of Jesus after witnessing His kingdom consistently breaking through in your life. Perhaps even more so when their children are baptized. Weeks, months, years – we are bonded to people as long as it takes. The battle is for the souls of humanity, and our secret weapon is love. The King and His kingdom will reign supreme – that is settled. The only question: Will you help contend for it? – pgs. 167-168 

Next post: Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission Part 1 of 3 


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