Friday, July 25, 2008

Ordination #2, Art. 11: Eschatology

Escatology scares me. Not that I’m scared of the end of the world, but the study of it is such a maze of texts and perspectives. I went to college at the school Tim LaHaye built, which gives me more of a pretribulational rapture view of things, but I’m not so sure any more. Thankfully, in the ordination process we don’t have to nail down the rapture, though I’m sure we’ll be asked. And the other stuff, beyond that, seems fairly straightforward. Here’s the statement, any questions or clarifications are welcome and helpful to the grilling I’ll be receiving in a few months from the ordination board.

Article 11: In the personal and premillennial and imminent coming of our Lord
Jesus Christ and that this "Blessed Hope" has a vital bearing on the personal
life and service of the believer.
While eschatology can be complicated the biblical witness is clear that the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is certain (Mt. 24.30; Acts 3.19-21; 1 Thess. 4.15-16; 1 Jn. 2.28). In addition to its definiteness, it is going to be personal because He said He Himself would come again to take His disciples with Him (Jn. 14.3). This personal return will also be visible and bodily as Jesus said He would return in the same way He left (Acts 1.11).

His return will also be premillenial. Jesus will come to reign for 1000 years (Rev. 20.4-6). The millennial state is indicated in passages like Isa. 65.20 where the present age is surpassed in blessedness, but they fall short of the eternal state (see also Ps. 72.8-14; Isa. 11.2-9; Zech. 14.6-21; 1 Cor. 15.24; Rev. 2.27; 12.5; 19.15).

Next, His return is imminent and this “Blessed Hope” (Titus 2.13) has a vital bearing on the personal life and service of the believer. Biblical authors do not discuss eschatology for the sake curiosity, but to motivate the church to vigilant (Mt. 25.1-13) and diligent living (1 Thess. 5.1-11). There is a tension when discussing the issue of imminence. On one hand, we do not know when Jesus will return and disciples should be ready (Mt. 24.42-44; 1 Thess. 5.2), but there is an indication that waiting is expected. Peter would grow old (Jn. 21.18), the temple would be destroyed (Mt. 24.2), and the gospel would go to the nations (Mt. 24.14), and there are signs that should precede His return (Mk. 13.19-26). It is possible that some of these have been fulfilled, whether it be the definition of “all nations” (Col. 1.5-6) or the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish War of AD 66-70. Because the fulfillment of these signs are uncertain, we ought to continue reaching the nations with the gospel and living diligently as if He could return any moment.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Breaking the Missional Code: Breaking the Unbroken Code (ch. 16)

Finally! I’ve really enjoyed this book and I need to go back and put some of these principles into practice, particularly chapter 15. Given the cultural shift happening – modernity to postmodernity – there are some things we need to rethink in terms of being on mission in North America. How do we do this?

Breaking the Unbroken Code Requires That We No Longer See Missions and Evangelism as Two Separate Disciplines
The world has come to us and we need to use missions approaches to reach our own culture. Stetzer says, “As we give up our rights and privileges as followers and engage those outside of Christ, we become the missionaries of God. …the mission of the church to fulfill the Great Commission does not get relegated to a program of evangelism, but it becomes intricately woven through the entire fabric of the local church” (p. 228).

Breaking the Unbroken Code Requires that We Go to Unreached People
Few of them are coming to us. We need to go to emerging populations, 1.5 & 2 generation ethnic groups, those who are already “spiritual,” multihousing dwellers, urban dwellers, and college students.

Breaking the Unbroken Code Requires that We Empower Apostolic Leaders
We need to send leaders into the North American field to “break the code.” These are essentially missionaries we need to support within our own culture.

Breaking the Unbroken Code Requires the Development of Learning Communities
Dots need to be connected among those who are striving to, and succeeding, in breaking the code.

Breaking the Unbroken Code Requires Preparing the Soil
There was a time when much of the plowing, sowing, watering and pruning were done for us as a culture, but now we’re in a place where there’s more soil preparation needed and it may take quite a while for a harvest of souls. It is going to take some patience in many cases, which is a challenge in our culture of instant gratification.

Breaking the Unbroken Code Requires Seeing North America through a Different Set of Lenses
We need to keep learning and keep studying our culture. We need to continually approach our home culture as learners because it has changed significantly and it will continue to change.

Breaking the Unbroken Code Requires Approaching North America on Our Knees
We need to begin on our knees, not our feet and ask God to raise up code breakers and make disciples of all nations.

The Breaking the Code Challenge
1. What code remains unbroken within your community?
2. What will it take to break that code?
3. How do you turn your church into an army for breaking the unbroken code?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Pitching Catcher

A pretty cool article on Sunday's M's game. Cool article unless you're Erik Bedard, I guess.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Why the King James Version?

I get a little nervous when people get rabid about the KJV (“It was good enough for Paul, it’s good enough for me!”), so I thought I’d comment on why I’m reading it these days. Quite simply, I try to read through the Bible each year. I’ve done it a few times and I tend to go on autopilot when I read stuff I’ve read before. Now I read a new version each year. New language will sometimes help me stop and think a second time. It’s the year of King James. And it is pretty interesting language along the way.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Breaking the Missional Code: The Process of Breaking the Code (ch. 15)

This is a great chapter that encourages me, hopefully enough to move me to action, to really know my community better. I’ll just hit bullets because this is a long chapter, but, more importantly, should be read by anyone wanting to do this. But the bullets are valuable.

Understanding Self
Confirm God’s call upon Your Life
Fall in Love with the People
Die to Yourself and Your Preferences (that’s really hard)
Examine Your Leadership Readiness

Understanding Community
Get Counselors from the Context
Identify Natural Barriers of Your Community
Review the Census Information
Study Demographic Information
Talk to the Experts
Move Beyond Demographics and Anecdotal Conversations (Get in the community and get a “feel” for it)
Do Prayer Walks
Identify Spiritual Strongholds
Review the History; Become the Expert
Understanding Networks (who influences the people God has called you to reach? Connect in those networks)
Understanding Where God is Working in Churches and in Cultures
Find All the Churches in Your Area and Map Them Out
Research Indigenous Churches
Determine Their Musical Preferences
Determine Their Dress
Determine Their Leadership Systems
Determine How They Learn
Identify People Groups in the Area that Are Within Your Mission Context

Breaking the Code Challenge
1. What specific passages of Scripture has God used to confirm and shape your calling to break the code?
2. How can you cultivate a love relationship with your community?
3. Describe the culture to which you are called to minister in terms of music, dress, leadership style, learning approaches, how people relate, etc…
4. Describe the culture within the church you need to create in order to effectively reach your community.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th!

Give thanks for the blessings of living in such a great country. May we use our blessings to bless others.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Sad Day

I didn't think I'd care a ton if they left, but it is kind of sad to see them go.

Breaking the Missional Code: Best Practices of Leaders and Churches That Break the Code (ch. 14)

This chapter begins with the tension that the current church culture is dying, but God is moving among missional churches – whether they be seeker-oriented, purpose driven, or whatever – and there are consistent practices by the leaders of these churches.

Leaders Who Break the Code Are Forward Thinking
They ask the right things of the right people. The right people aren’t necessarily “experts,” but the people who are unreached and disconnected. That’s what Rick Warren did as he planted Saddleback, though the questions may be different in any given context. It’s easy to let insiders determine what we’re about as a church. If we want to engage the culture and the unreached, we need to engage them and not get trapped in our own echo chamber.

Code-breaking leaders also understand that the future is here. These leaders are either “paradigm busters” or “early adapters,” but they’re rarely late to whatever is going on in culture. They also “learn their way forward,” meaning they aren’t afraid of failure. They’re willing to risk to move forward.

Leaders Who Break the Code Are Willing to Pay the Price
This is challenging to me because I like ease and boundaries. They’re important. I’m reading the Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter Scazerro and going through the workbook with a couple of staff guys to help us stay healthy, but there is still a price to pay for code-breaking leadership. I have to look deep inside and see if I’m willing to pay it.

Breaking the code will cost us dearly physically (there’s much work to be done), emotionally (“it’s always lonely on the front end of vision”), relationally (the leading edge doesn’t have a lot of people for your “spiritual umbrella” either as an individual or a family), financially, and spiritually (spiritual warfare is going to be intense).

Leaders Who Break the Code Build Great Teams
You don’t break the code on your own. You need to “build a team and achieve a shared vision” (p. 201). This is something I’m still growing in. At least I hope I am. I know I’m still not great at it. Stetzer mentions it takes charisma and skills. Maybe that’s why it’s a challenge for me. :)

Leaders Who Break the Code Have a Different Beginning Point
Many of the code-breaking churches, according to Stetzer, are starting from a different place. They’re searching the Scriptures, seeking to be what the church was and are willing to re-think what it should look like. When this is done correctly, it is not a blind backlash against what has gone before, but the desire to be what the Bible has called the church to be and to do so on mission in our world.

Leaders Who Break the Code Connect the Dots
Leaders have a vision, but it is based not on their own desires, but to do God’s will in their context. From there they have a clearly defined process for growth and discipleship. I just read the same in Simple Church by Geiger and Rainer. Finally, they stay focused on their vision and process – also proven by research by Geiger and Rainer.

Leaders Who Break the Code Are Constantly Working on It and Not Simply in It
This is good because it is so easy to be self-focused in ministry or want something to be your idea. But code-breaking leaders are looking around for fresh eyes and fresh ideas. They do so by reading, looking for leaders who are “getting it done,” they use technology, they visit others who are getting it done, take breaks from working on it, and have strategic meetings. Stetzer states, “Church leaders who break the code seldom live on an island” (p. 208).

Leaders Who Break the Code Are Interested in Kingdom Growth
They aren’t necessarily interested in just reaching their campus, but planting churches and continually revealing God’s goodness to other areas.

The Breaking the Code Challenge
1. What Scriptures and/or experiences have most shaped you as a leader?
2. How do these Scriptures and/or experiences still drive you to break the code?
3. What do you need to do to continue to cultivate a passion for breaking the code?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Ordination #3f: Women in Church Leadership

Men and women are both created in the image of God (Gen. 1.27; 5.1-2), created for and interdependent upon one another (1 Cor. 11.11-12), equally receive the blessing of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2.17-18 = Joel 2.28-29) and the gifts He gives (1 Cor. 12.7; 1 Pt. 4.10), and are full participants in Christ (Gal. 3.28). Women should clearly exercise their gifts within the church, including what seem to be general encouragements to teach one another as a church (Col. 3.16; Heb. 5.12), but there are some limitations to teaching and ruling (1 Tim. 2.12) based on order of creation rather than cultural elements (1 Tim. 2.13). Also, Paul gives directions to male elders, deacons, and deaconesses in 1 Timothy 3, but no reference to women elders. It seems appropriate that women have significant freedom within the church apart from the role of elder/overseer of a body of believers.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Simple Church Challenge

I’m picking up a book I started a couple months ago again about the most effective churches being “simple” - appropriately titled, Simple Church by Geiger and Rainer. The idea is that ministry and the disciple-making process is streamlined. (The idea of a clear path of discipleship is mentioned in Breaking the Missional Code, too.) Sometimes it seems like there is a dizzying flurry of activity and it can get exhausting. At the same time, I know what it is like to have a ministry dear to my heart and I don’t know what it would take for me to be willing to give that ministry up for the sake of simplicity – and overall effectiveness.

I don’t know that we’ll ever go the “simple” route at our church, but what would it take for you to be willing to give up that ministry that is dearest to you for the sake of simplicity? What kind of overall impact would you want to see?