Thursday, March 26, 2015

City Notes 21 | Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission Part 2 of 3

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

City Notes 21: 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:

2015 | The Rest of God; Interrupted; Everyday Church Part 1 of 3

Everyday Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis Review of Quotes | City Notes 21: Part 2 of 3

Chapter 4 | Everyday Mission: 1 Peter 2:9-3:16 

The church is the people of God called to display the goodness of his reign to the world. It is the bride of Christ formed through his reconciling death. It is the community of grace united by the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. Church is not so much about how we structure ourselves, where we meet, how often we meet, or even what we do when we meet. Church is about who we are as the people of God, living distinctively by grace through the Spirit under the reign of King Jesus to the glory of our heavenly Father. These are the elements that should preoccupy us. Everything else then becomes a way of presenting, harnessing, and protecting this. Understood in this way, it is easy to see why church planting is so important. The church is God’s primary mission strategy in the world. Our strategy must be to litter the world with communities of light ... If anything is a hindrance to people being introduced to Jesus, then it must be disposed of. Yes, the cross offends; Christ crucified will always be a stumbling block. But we must remove every other offense. We must do all we can to live in a way that exposes and manifests the true nature of the cross.” – pgs. 85-86

“We are to live in the midst of an antagonistic world so that others will ask the reason for our hope (1 Peter 3:15). This is the mission strategy Peter gives to marginalized congregations living in a hostile context. Respond to hostility with good deeds. Live such good lives that people glorify God. At the heart of this mission strategy are not services, courses, programs, and activities but ordinary lives lived for God’s glory. Mission takes places not through attractional events, but through attractional communities. This does not mean that good works on their own are sufficient. Proclamation matters. We are called to ‘declare’ God’s praises (1 Peter 2:9). We are to be ready to give ‘an answer for everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that (we) have’ (1 Peter 3:15). This gospel is a word, but the primary context in which that word is proclaimed is everyday life. First Peter 2:11-12 is just the headline. Peter then goes on to apply this mission strategy to our life in society (2:13-17), in the workplace (2:18-25) and in the home (3:1-7). … It is not simply that ordinary Christians live good lives that enable them to invite friends to evangelistic events. Our lives are the evangelistic events. Our life together is the apologetic.” – pgs. 88-89

“When we think of evangelism, we should not first think of guest services, evangelistic courses, street preaching, or door knocking. We should think of Gary at a meeting of the residents’ association. We should think of Hannah in her office. We should think of Sharon serving a meal to her husband. 

Here is an exercise to help identify opportunities for everyday mission

(1) daily routine (traveling to work, eating meals, doing chores, walking the dog, playing with the children);
(2) weekly routine (grocery shopping, watching favorite television programs, exercising); and
(3) monthly routine (gardening, getting a haircut, going to the movies).

For each one, ask whether you could add:

(1) a community component by involving another member of your Christian community;
(2) a missional component by involving an unbeliever; and
(3) a gospel component by identifying opportunities to talk about Jesus.” – pg. 90

“Jonathan Dodson from Austin City Life in Texas suggests eight easy ways to be missional:  

(1) eat with non-Christians,
(2) walk, don’t drive,
(3) be a regular,
(4) hobby with non-Christians,
(5) talk to your co-workers,
(6) volunteer with nonprofits,
(7) participate in city events, and
(8) serve your neighbors.” – pgs. 91-92

The core elements (of a church doing mission) are loving Jesus, loving people, and loving life. – pgs. 93-94

(1) Love Jesus: Love and passion and enthusiasm are infectious … You will never attract people to Jesus if you are not excited about Jesus. Enthusiasm creates interest. Passion breeds passion. Loving Jesus is also the antidote to legalism. … The joy of the Lord is our strength, Nehemiah 8:10 says, but there is no joy in just obeying rules. Enthusiasm for evangelism begins with an enthusiasm for Jesus. Our willingness to speak of Jesus arises from our delight in Jesus. Loving Jesus also counters perhaps our main impediment to evangelism, which is what the Bible calls the ‘fear of man,’ our desire for approval and our fear of rejection. A passion for Jesus means he matters more to us than other people. His opinion is the one that counts … Be passionate about him. Meditate on Jesus until he captures your heart afresh.

(2) Love people: Not just seeing them as evangelistic fodder or targets for gospel salvos, but as friends, people to love. Love will care for all their needs – physical, social, emotional – but gospel love also recognizes our greatest need, which is to love God through Christ. So true love will always want to introduce people to our greatest friend, Jesus. … If you do not love people, then pray that God will melt your heart and give you love for specific people.

(3) Love life: Christians should be the world’s natural enthusiasts. We see the world as a theater for God’s glory. We know it is marred by sin and scarred by suffering, but we also see in it many good things from God. We know that ‘since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks’ (1 Timothy 4:4 NLT). … Our job is to have fun to the glory of God! ... This attitude of enthusiasm reflects a robust doctrine of creation, but it is also a great way of connecting with people. … (get) a godly curiosity and delight in everything, and funny enough, people love having (you) around.
“One of our ambitions is to take the idea of gospel ministry as the primary preserve of the professionals and give it back to the masses. Christianity has always been a populist movement. Stuart Murray says, ‘We know of few ‘missionaries’ in pre-Christendom. Mission depended primarily on the witness of unknown Christians – countless acts of kindness, family and friendship connections, provocative discipleship and significant conversations. Evangelism was a lifestyle, not a specialist activity’ (Post-Christendom: Church and Mission in a Strange New World). One of the key benefits of everyday mission is that it enfranchises each and every one of us. Everyday mission requires everyday missionaries rather than superheroes of the faith. We need to recapture the sense that gospel ministry is not something done by pastors with the support of ordinary Christians but something done by ordinary Christians with the support of pastors. … So instead of ‘opening a church’ when we plant, perhaps we need to concentrate more on being the people of God, a group of disciples who take following Christ seriously. The term Christianity occurs zero times in the Bible. The term Christianity occurs no more than three times. The term disciple is found over 260 times.” – pgs. 96-97

“Our view of church matters because what we understand by church is going to be hugely influential in the task of planting. If we think church is primarily about the event of meeting, then the bulk of our effort will go into that event. We might be tempted to think that once that event is up and running, our job is more or less done. But if church is far more (though not less) than a meeting, then church planting is about the long haul of seeing authentic, alternative communities created that model the reign of Christ as they live the life of the gospel and speak the word of the gospel. George Hunsberger says: Churches are called to be bodies of people sent on a mission rather than the storefronts for vendors of religious services and goods. … We must surrender the self-conception of the church as a voluntary association of individuals and live by the recognition that we are a communal body of Christ’s followers, mutually committed and responsible to one another and to the mission Jesus set us upon at his resurrection (Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in Northern America).” – pgs. 98-99

“Mission by being good neighbors, good workers, and good family members – that is what Peter calls us to. In particular Peter calls us to a distinctive attitude to others. We live in a culture where it is all about me: my rights, my pleasure, my fulfillment. God’s people have an altogether different motto: ‘It’s not about me; it’s about God and others.’ That makes a profound difference when we enter the public square or the workplace or the home … ’Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God’ (1 Pet. 2:16). This beleaguered, ostracized, misunderstood Christian community is to respond by honoring everyone and treating everyone with respect. Our ethic is neither totalitarian nor individualistic, neither conformist nor fragmentary. It is freedom used to serve others in love (Galatians 5:13). As Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 9:19, ‘Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.’” – pgs. 100-101

“Alan Hirsch suggests the following questions to ask periodically to help evaluate your missional focus:  

(1) are we in close proximity with those we feel called to?,
(2) are we spending regular time with these people?, and
(3) are we too busy to develop meaningful relationships?

The important thing is to set a culture in which people understand your values and vision so that they are free to respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit. They do not need to refer to a plan or program. Instead they are released to respond to opportunities as they emerge.” – pgs. 106-107 

“ … living differently by grace is never easy. God has not equipped us all to be big personalities with multiple gifts or oratory that draws the crowds. But through the death of Christ and the faithful work of the Spirit, he has empowered us all to live such good lives that others are drawn to Christ. However you do church, let it be nothing less than the people of God on mission together. In this way we are a city on a hill and a light to the world.” – pg. 110 

Chapter 2 | Everyday Evangelism: 1 Peter 3:15-16 

“We need to give people time to think. We are asking them to believe a totally different worldview full of weird miraculous concepts. We are asking them to make a life-changing decision. Give them a chance to think before you unload another heap of strange ideas. Trust the Holy Spirit to work on their hearts. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate evangelist. He and he alone persuades people of the truth. He convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment. He opens blind eyes. He melts hard hearts. And the wonderful thing about the Holy Spirit is that his pace is always right. While you are silent, the Holy Spirit is at work, and he will gently but surely accomplish God’s purposes in a person’s life.” – pg. 113

“ … people do not use the categories creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. But 

they will talk about who they are and what they are meant to be (creation);
they will talk about what is wrong with them or what is wrong with the world – somebody or something will be blamed (fall);
they will also have a sense of what needs to happen for things to be put right (redemption); and
they will have some sense of the state of affairs that they are hoping will give them meaning or satisfaction (consummation).
Creation: my identity.
Fall: my problem.
Redemption: my solution.
Consummation: my hope.” – pg. 116

“The (non-gospel) story

Creation: I should be in control or sovereign.
Fall: Other people prevent me being sovereign.
Redemption: I will avoid people who challenge my sovereignty.
Consummation: My sovereignty is unchallenged. …

The Bible’s gospel story is:

Creation: We are made to find freedom under God’s sovereignty.
Fall: We rejected God’s sovereignty in favor of self-sovereignty (so this person’s solution is actually the problem).
Redemption: God welcomes rebels back under his sovereignty through the cross.
Consummation: God will restore his liberating rule over the world.” – pg. 117

“Another window onto people’s gospel story is their view of other people. Legalists routinely rank people, because they see life as a ladder you climb toward redemption, and you assess how well you are doing in relation to the people above and below you. Those perceived as being above will epitomize their view of salvation and consummation. If they idolize wealthy people, then they may see salvation as acceptance. The behavior they condemn will be the reverse of what they consider to be the means of redemption. So if they condemn idleness, then they may well see hard work as the means of salvation. If they condemn people who look uncool, then they may see following the latest fashions as the means of salvation.” – pg. 118

Here are questions to consider that help to reveal people’s gospel story:

Creation: What do they assume the world should look like? What kind of person would they like to be? Who are their heroes? What would have to be in place for them to feel happy? 
Fall: How do they describe their struggles and battles? What do they feel is their most pressing problem? What do they feel they lack? Who or what do they think is responsible? 
Redemption: What do they think will make life better? What provides a sense of escape or release? Who or what will deliver their hopes? What are their functional saviors?
Consummation: What are their hopes? What is the long-term project to which they are working? What are the dreams for which they make sacrifices? Have they given up so that their hope has shrunk simply to getting through the day? – pg. 118

“Just as lies about God lead to the slavery to sin, so the truth about God leads to the freedom to serve (Galatians 5:1, 13). If I am enslaved by my worries, then freedom is found in trusting the sovereign care of my heavenly Father. If I am enslaved by the need to prove myself, then freedom is found in trusting that I am fully justified in God’s sight through the atoning work of Christ. … Because these lies and idolatrous desires create slavery in people’s lives, when we proclaim the truth or when we call them to worship the living God, we are offering good news. We are not telling them off. We are offering liberation from slavery.” – pg. 122

The four liberating truths that provided a framework for everyday pastoral care also provide a framework for everyday evangelism. They help identify the underlying unbelief and idolatry behind people’s behavior as well as point to the truth that will set them free: (1) God is great, so we don’t have to be in control. (2) God is glorious, so we don’t have to fear others. (3) God is good, so we don’t to look elsewhere. (4) God is gracious, so we don’t have to prove ourselves.” – pg. 124 

Asking What do you want? and Why? is a simple approach that can create a platform to speak the four liberating truths as good news, … Remember that God is the great orchestrator of mission. We need not ‘close the deal’ every time. The point when that is appropriate may come, and we may or may not be involved. We can trust God to organize the route. Mission involves a multiplicity of activities such as sharing meals, helping with others, hanging out, engaging in recreational activities, answering questions, offering snippets of gospel truth, and holding conversations that appear to go nowhere. Taken individually most of these may not look like mission. But if you persevere with prayer and gospel intentionality, then God uses them in his purposes. Another helpful question is, How’s that working for you? In other words, What are the results in your life of living for this (your functional god)? In times of crisis it will become clear that people’s functional gods do not deliver.” – pg. 127

Christian community: Here people will not only hear the gospel word but see it being loved and lived. They will see the power of the gospel to unite disparate people and make them family. They will also see us failing and falling out but then see grace in action. They will hear our message with a variety of voices and experiences. The different gifts God has given us work together to create a compelling testimony of the gospel. By exposure to the Christian community we mean, of course, more than attending a weekly meeting. We mean being introduced to the network of relationships that make up the church. We mean sharing in the life of the community in the context of everyday life. Often people dismiss our intellectual arguments, but they find it much harder to dismiss the compelling witness of the Christian community. … (I Peter 2:12).” – pg. 130 

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


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