A Response to the Election in the Words of a Teaching Elder

    Below is a letter that was sent to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church by Pastor Rufus Smith of City of Refuge Church in Houston, TX. It is moving. It is poignant. It is something that we need hear and consider. 

    November 6, 2008

    To: My Fellow Followers of “That Way”

    From: Rufus Smith, Pastor, City of Refuge Church (Houston, TX)

    As Chairman of the EPC’s Urban Ministry Network and the only black senior pastor in the Central South, may I ask you to consider pausing this Sunday or next to openly recognize the historic American election this past Tuesday? The question is not whether you or I voted for President-Elect Obama or not, but the issue is the potential capacity of his election to expedite the erasing of the stain, stigma and stereotype in the collective soul and psyche of an indigenous ethnic group and a nation.

    Whether you agree with the election results or not, on Tuesday, something happened in the minds and hearts of a significant percentage of African-Americans in your cities, towns and churches. For many whom we are trying to evangelize and disciple, please acknowledge in some way this political seismic shift, atmospheric meteorite and divinely permitted event (Ps. 75:1–6); to ignore it with silence or inaction would be a setback and a squandered bridge building opportunity. Make a phone call, send a note, visit the office, issue a statement or whatever else the Lord may lead you to do to some African-American pastor or leader in your community.

    As a Christian, I am NOT personally distracted from the first task of Glory to God via worship and making disciples of every ethnicity; for I deeply believe that our hope is salvation in Jesus not legislation through jurisprudence. As an American, I am prayerful for my President Elect and push for his success (I Tim. 2:1–5 as I did for President George W. Bush); As a Black American, I am as proud as a prancing horse. I was very somber Wednesday. Quite unusual for me. It seemed surreal. Time stood still as I savored what had just happened in my beloved country. 388 long years after the arrival of the Mayflower, the glass ceiling and, I believe, a national curse had been broken.

    My 18year old daughter Rhoda called me at 10:45am on Wednesday in tears. “Dad, she said, you won’t believe the stuff I am seeing and hearing…Please come get me”. I warned her on our drive to school this morning of the backlash some would have today. Several of her classmates are dressed in black today to commemorate the destruction of our country and have hurled insults at her. She has been their classmate for 12 years at this highly esteemed Christian school. My wife Jacqueline went to share an off campus lunch with her, then take her back to school where she belongs to continue her maturation process. I don’t fully blame the kids, but their behavior is indicative of the work we still need to do in our society, even among Christians. We as elders know that the ultimate issue is sin not skin.

    I don’t expect those who are not black Americans to share the SAME EUPHORIC INTENSITY of this HISTORIC DAY as I do. They can’t. At stake is how this atmosphere can be a time of bountiful harvest for the LifeGiver King and how it can hasten the probability that inner city churches and multi-racial churches like City of Refuge can become commonplace in our children’s lifetime.

    I trust that a sacred and civil dialogue can begin for some and continue for others. This time can be a Kingdom building opening for those of us who name the name of Christ and are Christians first, Americans second, and African-Euro-Asian-Latino, Native Americans third.

    No reply necessary.


    Pastor Smith, I say thank you.

    The Blue Parakeet — A Review

    First, Dr. McKnight and Zondervan thank you for the advance copy.

    The Blue Parakeet is a text that discusses how we actually read the Bible. Dr. McKnight brings up two key ideas throughout his short work. His first organizing principle is the concept that the Bible was written in a certain period’s time and ways. The second is that we are to read the Bible alongside of tradition as opposed to through it.

    Dr. McKnight seeks to challenge some of the assumptions that we have regarding how we read the Bible. He begins with a discussion of his own history where people would “read the Bible and do what it says” even though as he began reading the Bible for himself he realized that they did not do all it says. This then leads to the dominant question that he seeks to answer: how do we read the Bible in our times and our ways?

    The book is divided into four parts, “What is the Bible”, “What Do I Do with the Bible”, How Do I Benefit from the Bible”, and “Women in Church Ministries Today”. The first section provides Dr. McKnight’s organizing principles. The second and third sections discuss the proofs and ramifications for his new hermeneutic. The fourth section provides an application to a particular issue within the Christian church.

    Dr. McKnight writes an engaging book. I think that he has provided a useful challenge to the assumptions with which we tend to come to the Bible with. He also provides a wonderful framework for understanding the Bible as story.

    Many, no doubt, will struggle with his section on women. I am not sure that he proves his point fully. I would like to see this section developed more in a future work.

    In conclusion, I would recommend this text for those who are thinking about how to read and understand the Bible in a post-modern, post-Christendom context. I would caution the reader to read with a critical eye as it easy to get caught up in Dr. McKnight’s winsome prose. This will be a text that will be at the center of the conversation for some time to come.

    Where Are You From?

    The Hansen Report: Where Are You From? | Out of Ur | Conversations for Ministry Leaders.

    This article is quality. I think that the ramifications are huge for a congregation like the one that I am a part of. We live in a suburban setting and there are tons of church choices.

    This reality makes implementing change very difficult. The reason for this is that instead engaging with the body in the midst of change the “I will go to that other church” card is played. This also frees people from having to engage with the church when there are deficiencies.

    When my wife and I moved back to the Detroit area we decided to choose a church and not shop for a church. This meant that we never visited a different church. We came to our church and stayed. No matter what.We believed that any weaknesses in the church were things that God had for us to step into there.

    It makes me pretty sad and a little angry when people play the “we’ll just go to a different church” card. If there is a weakness in your church stand in the gap, and be a solution.

    This doesn’t happen, I think in part, because there has been a loss of catechism and a loss of commitment to the vows made in membership. I think this happens because people seem to think that the grass is greener. I think this happens because people are unwilling to truly engage with the body of Christ. I think this happens because in the end people are self-centered and unwilling to die to themselves.

    One of my good friends, Jose, says “It’s time to Ride and Die”, indeed it is.

    In honor of two weeks of political rhetoric…

    Thanks Derek…

    A Savior on Capitol Hill | [derekwebb.net]

    I’m so tired of these mortal men

    with their hands on their wallets and their hearts full of sin

    scared of their enemies, scared of their friends

    and always running for re-election

    so come to DC if it be thy will

    because we’ve never had a savior on Capitol Hill

    you can always trust the devil or a politician

    to be the devil or a politician

    but beyond that friends you’d best beware

    ’cause at the Pentagon bar they’re an inseparable pair

    and as long as the lobbyists are paying their bills

    we’ll never have a savior on Capitol Hill


    all of our problems gonna disappear

    when we can whisper right in that President’s ear

    he could walk right across the reflection pool

    in his combat boots and ten thousand dollar suit

    you can render unto Caesar everything that’s his

    you can trust in his power to come to your defense

    it’s the way of the world, the way of the gun

    it’s the trading of an evil for a lesser one

    so don’t hold your breath or your vote until

    you think you’ve finally found a savior up on Capitol Hill

    A Savior on Capitol Hill | [derekwebb.net].

    UnLearning Church

    This book looks like one I want to get a hold of. The excerpt is pretty good stuff. I wonder, what would it mean to UnLearn church for my local congregation? Hmmm….I need to ponder this….

    UnLearn Church

    Blue Parakeet…

    The next grand installment is coming to Church Remix. Zondervan was offering about 100 free copies of Scot McKnight’s new book, Blue Parakeet, to bloggers. I am excited to announce that my copy is on its way and as soon as it does the posts will be rolling in.

    I am also thinking that I will be posting thoughts, random or otherwise, from my Older Testament class this semester. I think that there might be some useful insights from those earlier incarnations of the people God. What do you think? Just maybe?

    That’s where things are headed.

    Here’s a competing vision on Communion…


    [where: 48188]

    Communion…now this is good…

    My son and I were worshipping together on Sunday and being the first Sunday of the month we partook in Communion. As the elements came to us, he smiled at me and we had the following conversation:

    Ethan: Do I get some of that?

    Me: No son. We need to make sure that you truly follow Jesus by faith and that you believe that he is your Lord and that he has forgiven you.

    Ethan: I do Dad.

    Me: Well, you have to get up with Pastor Doug and tell everyone that you do.

    Ethan: By myself?

    Me: Yep.

    Ethan: I’m not ready for that Dad, but I can’t wait!

    Amazing! This ties the whole thing together for me. We have confused the sacraments. For believing children communion is the place for the public proclamation of their faith. For the new convert it’s baptism.

    Can you imagine what that day will be like when he stands before the world and proclaims his faith in the risen Messiah and claims him as his own and then joins with the community through The Meal?

    Infant baptism, communion, all tied together. This is the beautiful way. This is the covnenantal way of our promise keeping and ever faithful God!

    We built it, but they don’t come, what’s up with that?

    I read this article tonight and it blew my mind. I think it’s precise, well said, and poignant.

    Baptism 2 — It’s importance now…

    Today’s culture is adrfit. There is no longer an oppressive meta-narrative keeping everyone in check. Everything changes, and everything changes fast. If you have to wait more than a couple of minutes for your fast food you get upset. If the lines at the self-checkout are long you can’t understand why they don’t have more. People change their relationships almost as often as they do their underwear.

    Yeah, it’s a different world. The change that has taken place has left many disillusioned, frustrated, and wondering if there is anything left that matters, that will be what it says it will be.

    Many of the college students that I work with are looking for stability. They are desirous that somethign will deliver. They can see through all the bull crap that’s out there and so they are cynical. Who can blame them? Every week it sems that another “holy” man has turned out to be a pedophile or morally degenerate in some way. Every week sub concsiously they exclaim with the little boy, after the Black Sox trial, “Say it ain’t so Joe!”

    This is where infant baptism comes in. More than that this is where the covenant promises of the holy, triune God comes in. He brings about the things that he promises to bring about. He makes sure that they happen, because he can.

    I had a conversation one time with a gal about baptism. She was baptised as an infant in a “liberal” “church” of some sort. She had been going to a church in town and they were pressuring her to be baptised now that she was walking with Jesus. They informed her that her “first” “baptism” meant nothing since she was a baby and didn’t choose it and that her parents weren’t even Christians. Yet, to me it is amazing that the day she was bapised her parents, the congregation, and the officiant promised to lead this girl to Jesus. They covenanted with God and he made good. The promise was on him to make happen and he did. As she reflected on that reality she was deeply moved and drew nearer to the God who had called her as a freshman in college.

    As I think about my two kids and their baptisms I am amazed at how the Lord is making good already. Our pastor prayed during Ethan’s baptism that he would be an evangelist and that he would take the gospel to the world. His first few weeks as a kindergartner, the first time he was ever around kids who weren’t “churched” he began inviting his classmates to know about God. I didn’t tell him to. He did it because “they need Jesus like me dad.”

    In a culture, a world where no one makes good on their promises. God does through this rite of passage into the covenantal community of believers. God shows his faithfulness over and over again to the child who is baptised in the triune name of God. It does not save them but it initiates them into the community.

    I can hear the naysayers already, “it doesn’t happen for everyone”. I know. I don’t know why, it’s a mystery. It seems more often than not in my experience that these promises made in faith turn out.

    The God of the Bible is a God who covenants with his people and includes the children in that covenant. He always has, always will. Why are we afraid to trust him for our children? Why act like he doesn’t care, when he does? Why not show a cynical world the beauty of our promise keeping God as we remind our children, our friends, and those around us of their baptism and the promise that God is making good on?

    Oh, for the world to see promises kept generation after generation.

    Baptism 1

    I am on vacation in beautiful North Myrtle Beach, SC. Today is the last day. We leave tonight for Louisville and then on to Evansville. I will miss the beach!!

    I have begun emailing with a close friend about Baptism. So, I thought I would begin my thoughts here. This first post is rough and raw. It’s the baseline argument for infant baptism. It’s not as nuanced as I would like, but, that will come later, maybe. The point of the following posts hopefully will be to show it’s importance in our culture.

    The basic argument from my perspective runs like this:

    1. God is a covenantal God and works out his will through the work of covenants. The ultimate covenant being that of the new covenant in the person of Jesus. The sign of the covenant began with Abraham as that of circumcision. This was the marker of God’s covenant people and was applied to male infants at eight days old. In Christ the covenant was no longer with an ethnic people and so the marker of the covenant was moved to baptism, this is now the sign of inclusion in the covenant community.
    2. The NT references to baptism consistently speak of household baptism which is most easily and normally understood to include children.
    3. Jesus blesses the children.
    4. There is no statement of change to the inclusion of children in the covenant community. A change this radical would require at the very least Apostolic teaching, if not Messianic teaching.
    5. Believers children should be baptised as covenantal members of the community of God’s people.
    6. This in no way means that they are saved, it is simply the outward expression of God’s promise to bring about their salvation and that their parents and the body of believers will bring them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord believing him in his covenantal faithfulness for their salvation.

    The Baptist argument creates a distinction that I do not believe exists in the Bible between Old and New Testament. I believe that it is a coherent whole which builds upon itself and finds culmination in Jesus. The Baptist position seems to argue for a decisive distinction between Old and New where once the NT was complete the OT becomes obsolete and is understood as a relic. That’s a bit over the top, but, well, I am on vacation.

    The covenantal understanding of the story of the Bible is the only one that stands up to coherently reading the whole story of God. The Baptist position does great harm to Biblical coherence. In so doing removes the children of believers from the community of God’s people. It also does harm to the significance of communion which is truly the sign, biblically, of the adult who has “searched himself” and partakes with Christ at his table. The Baptist position does harm here as well by making the Communion table something that means little more than a once a month, or so, ritual of saltine scraps and warm juice concentrate.

    Why are people so mean?

    So, I was reading some blogs recently, alot of them, about the missional church. I have been surprised by how mean people are, especially those who claim to be gracious, open-minded, post-moderns. It came to a head with the debacle between Obama and Dobson. The anger and dare I say hatred expressed by many toward both men (in missional circles predominantly at Dobson, in attractional circles predominantly Obama) was amazing.

    The vehemenance can also be seen in conversations that have to do with the mega-church movement. I just don’t get it.

    I understand being frustrated with other believers who disagree with you. It gets hard to keep on communicating the same thing over and over and people “just not get it”. I think it’s sad though when there is not an open heart and open mind that goes both ways. It seems like folks on both sides of the coin forget that they are indeed on the same coin and part of each other.

    Oh, would it not be awesome for kindness, gentleness, and respect to be a real thing in the conversastion between fellow Jesus followers and even people outside the community? The more I interact across the board with people from different traditions in the faith I am seeing more and more the wisdom of my father-in-law who makes some clear distinctions between what should be discussed publicly and what should be done “in the family”.

    I hope that if I ever come across this way that I will get slapped upside the head and fast!!

    Communion 2…

    My friend Tim challenged me to go deeper with this. So, I have been thinking about it for the last few days and meditating some more about why Communion is so significant right now in our time and place.

    I keep going back to mystery and transcendence. So much of our world today is “real” there is no imagination. There is no mystery. Our movies leave nothing to the imagination when it comes to sex, violence, or anything…really. Neither do sports. I was struck by this when I heard a caller on the local sports station talk about his experience as a boy going to his first Tiger game. He said that when he would watch a game on TV it was black and white. He had to imagine the grass being green, the colors of the uniforms, and the color of the stadium. He said that when he walked through the tunnel to enter his seats for the first time he was blown away by the color, the green grass, the green seats, the whiteness of the baseballs, the brownness of the dirt, the blueness of the steel. It seared deeply in his memory.

    We have lost that. Now we have ‘High Def’ TVs were you can even see the sweat drip off the foreheads of the players and the individual blades of grass sway in the breeze. Mystery is gone.

    That is the beautiful thing about the supper. There is a mystery to it. There is something that we can’t get our hands around. There is an engagement of our imagination as we enter into the presence of the raised Jesus with us at the meal (or snack as it is now). If we will engage our imaginations in the mystery of this sacrament then we can regain something that has been lost. We can enter into the story of our faith and with the church invisible taste and see that the Lord is good. In a culture where our imaginations are stolen from us, actually, where we willingly give our imaginations away, this is our one opportunity to engage them again and embrace the mystery that is supping with the Lord Jesus!

    The second thing is transcendence. It seems that much of the Christian life is considered to be humdrum and boring. But, oh, the supper is anything but. It is in this supper that we enter into an experience with Jesus that is beyond us and takes from the normal and we enter into communion, into fellowship, into the presence of our Jesus with one another.

    People want to know what is so different about the Christian life? Is it any different from being a good Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu? Yes, in every way! It is found in the transcendent reality of the supper. The supper should bring us into an experience that changes us and draws us into a passionate and emotional and physical and spiritual engagement with our Jesus. With the one who really died for us. With the one who looked at our sin and our turning away and went to the cross anyway. With the one who conquered death and thereby made us conquerors too. With the one whose love for the Father led him to that cross. With the one who sits at the right hand of his Father and intercedes for us. This is the transcendent reality that the Christian alone can experience as he or she eats and drinks with the Lord at his table.

    Mystery and transcendence. These two things have been lost in our churches, our culture, and our world. They have gone the way of the dinosaur. It is in the Supper that we can reclaim them, reengage with them, and get lost with them again.

    If you want a great picture of getting lost in the mystery and transcendence of the supper grab a copy of the Dawn Treader by CS Lewis. The interaction with Aslan and Lucy in the house of the Magician is amazing.

    Tim, I know that this barely scratches the surface. I can hardly put all this into words. I am still processing and am thankful you keep pushing and drawing me deeper.

    Communion…I think it’s a big deal…

    As I begin to write this I am feeling a bit like I am walking on sacred ground. In the Protestant tradition we only have two sacraments: communion and baptism. I have been thinking a great deal about the role of both. As I mentioned before communion is on the top of my mind because I just finished reading a book about it by Robert Letham. It was fantastic!

    First, what I am not going to do. I am not going to argue for the merits of the Reformed version (read Calvin’s) of communion. I will leave that to the places where it has been dealt with in full. If you want to know the differences between Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed understandings check out Letham’s text or the Westminster Confession of Faith.

    So, what’s the big deal? We take communion once a month in our church and it’s a nice ceremony with saltine crumbs and a thimble of grape juice. This is the consistent mode of taking communion in any church I have been in. I have witnessed Catholic mass and also Lutheran communion. There really doesn’t seem to be much difference in “how” we go about doing it. There are obvious differences in why and what it means.

    So, it’s a nice ceremony. The Elders always look good in their suits and the men and women who serve communion are very solemn. It’s nice.

    But, is communion supposed to be nice? Is it supposed to be so solemn? Isn’t it supposed to be “communion” with the risen Jesus? If so, then so much of this ceremony seems to be a little askew from what it must really be.

    Sitting in my chair I realized how individualistic communion is currently. Think about the first “supper”. The disciples and Jesus hanging out in an intimate setting, one of the boys even reclining on his chest. They were in a circle. They could see each other. They could smell each other’s nasty feet. I have been in a setting with college guys many times like this. My poor wife wouldn’t even go into our basement until I lit a match to “de-man” after Bible study.

    I think that communion needs to be let loose. We need to realize what is really happening. We are coming into, entering into, the very presence of the risen Jesus. We take the “bread” and drink the “wine” and in so doing are united with Christ in community with other brothers and sisters in the body. I can’t see who is joining with me with Christ.

    It’s me and Jesus.

    This is not communion, not in its fullest sense.

    In this culture we need to re-engage with the mystery, beauty, glory, and awe that communion necessarily is. We must elevate this sacrament back to its high, honorable, and lofty place.

    It is mystical.

    It is awe inspiring.

    It is fearsome.

    It is physically, emotionally, spiritually uniting with our Jesus.

    Why don’t we use real bread? It’s inconvenient.

    Why don’t we use real wine? It might be offensive.

    Was the crucifixion convenient? Was Jesus blood spilled not offensive?

    The “supper” is to bring us together to experience community with one another and with Christ. I think we need to move back into a mode of doing communion where we actually see each other. Where we rise and go to the front together. Where those under discipline can’t hid in their chair. Where the one outside the faith feels being left out. Where those in relationship with Jesus physically rise and stand shoulder to shoulder with their brothers and sisters.

    Our covenant children watching and experiencing the longing to rise too.

    The weight of glory as we together break bread and drink the wine. We would touch the broken bread. We would smell aroma of the wine and feel the warmth in our bellies as the wine hits.

    In a culture that sees through the bull it is time that we return and embrace together the beauty and holiness of communion.

    Think about it this way: What must communion have been like in the first century when the faithful were accused of being cannibals (eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus) and of practicing incest (for they were ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’) in the midst of their love feasts? Our communion doesn’t inspire this kind of response from a watching world.

    I pray that we will embrace communion: the uniting of ourselves as the body of Christ with our head, the risen Jesus.

    Some of what I am reading…

    As I was catching up with my blog reading today in my quiet home, I thought, “It would be cool to link the blog to the stuff I am reading.” So, here it is: Stuff I am Reading

    Phase two…

    So, I have been writing a bit about the big picture of what missional is and exploring some things here and asking questions. Most of these questions I don’t have answers for, it’s a bit frustrating for a guy who usually has answers for EVERYTHING!

    It’s hard to be in a place where you feel like everything is up for grabs. Where you are evaluating so much of what you believe and what you think. It’s good though because I am realizing how little I know and how little really matters. But, the things that do matter are critical.

    In light of all this, I want to take a bit of a detour. I have been thinking a bit about two issues that seem to me as very important for our time.



    It seems that both of these issues are ones that either have been forgotten about (communion) or are taken for granted (baptism). Over the next couple of weeks or so I am planning on wrestling through why I think these two things are critical for recovery in this generation as we seek to engage with our God in his mission.

    I just finished reading The Lord’s Supper by Robert Letham, so I will take up Comunion first and then Baptism.

    Who leads this whole thing?

    The one questiont that I have been wrestling with in conversation with a friend and as a result of reading The Forgotten Ways is the issue of authority. What does it mean? Who is in authority? Is there leadership anymore? What does it all look like in reality, right here, right now? Are we all to do what is right by our own personal hermeneutic? Are we simply to do what feels good? Is it “just Jesus and me”? What is the role of the community of God’s people? What are the individual roles within that body? Are some called to lead? Are some called to follow? What do we do with the Bible? What do we do with our heritage of the visible church?

    The answers are not easy in coming. But the list of questions continues to grow. Check out our conversation here.

    Stepping out…

    So, I have begun thinking about “programming” in the church. It’s something that I have been wrestling with for a while and my thoughts are beginning to clarify a bit more. I studied some pretty large chunks of Acts this winter and spring. Something that really hit me was how “out there” the first and second generation Christians were (Paul is a second generation, let that one sink in for a moment).

    They met together and ate food. They worshiped out in the open at the Temple. There was no real distinction in their mind of anything sacred or secular. There certainly did not appear to be any kind of “holy huddle” going on in the early church. There was rhythm to their life.

    They broke bread, they served, they remembered the Lord, and they sat under the teaching of the leaders. They did all this in a culture that was just as pluralistic as ours. They did this in a culture where the Empire was more oppressive (atleast in the persecution sense).

    The question I have been pondering: Why do we pull out so much? Why do we feel the necessity to program EVERYTHING. Why can’t we set aside a day for corporate worship, teaching, etc…Then the rest of the week what if we gathered together outside the walls of the church and followed Christ in community “out there” in the midst of a lost and dying world? What if we did more in our homes? What if we even invited our neighbors? What if?

    >Living on a Need to Know basis

    >submitted by Robin Schmidt

    It is the information age. We can find out pretty much anything through books, television, or the world wide web.

    We value knowledge and pursue it. We have game shows where people compete to see who possesses greater knowledge. Remember Ken from Jeopardy? He seemed to know EVERYTHING. We believe knowledge is power. If we know then we are in control.

    My father-in-law is not a doctor, but he plays one on the internet. With a small amount of research he can diagnose symptoms, attempt to manage treatment and presume to advise doctors. Sometimes a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

    Recently, I have been reflecting on the connection between knowledge and fear.

    In the beginning there was a tree and it was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Of all that God created this was the one tree whose fruit man and woman could not eat.

    Then came the lie. You will not die if you eat this fruit, said the serpent, eat it and your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

    You will be like God. What did the woman think that meant? Exactly like God? Equal to God? Did she get that it was just like God in knowing?

    Fast forward a few hundred/thousand years and consider some shepherds outside of Bethlehem. An angel appeared to them, and his first words were: Fear not. Why? Because an angel appeared to the shepherds and suddenly they knew. They knew that angels existed. They knew they were not alone. They knew what an angel sounded like, looked like, and they were afraid, sore afraid.

    Faced with the knowledge of an angel, we know we are not the biggest thing going. We are NOT God, we are little and powerless and vulnerable and we become afraid. Very afraid. Sore afraid.

    We are made in God’s image but we don’t have his perspective, his power, you name it we ain’t got it. So, here we are, NOT a lot like God, only now we know.

    The woman saw that the tree was good for food, it was a delight to the eye and it was desirable for gaining knowledge. She desired knowledge so she took it and ate and gave it to the man.

    You might say she had a hunger for knowledge. So do we.

    They ate the fruit and they recognized their nakedness and attempted to hide it and then hid themselves from God because they were afraid.

    Afraid of what?

    I’m thinking they were afraid of what they knew.

    God told them not to eat from that tree, presumably because they didn’t need to know good and evil. God walked with them in the garden and was asking them to live on a need to know basis. But knowledge is power and we want to know.

    The thing is, they already knew all they needed to know. They knew God.

    Applying the paradigm…maybe?

    Here is something I put together about applying the missional concept to the role of “Youth Pastor”. What do you think?


    There has been a fundamental change in the way the world works over the last twenty-five years. The shift has been called “post-modernism” or “hyper-modernity” or “post-Christian” or “post-Christendom”. Regardless of what one calls the paradigm change, the change has indeed happened. The way that most people see and understand the world is very different than it was not very long ago. You could say, “this ain’t your mama’s world anymore”. The kind of shift that has happened is as thoroughgoing as the shift that took place in the 1960’s, maybe even more so.

    The environment that the children of the emerging generations are growing up with is a unique one that the church, their parents, and their educators have not ever experienced. The rampant individualism, the emphasis on a radical consumerism, and the overdevelopment of the institutional church are leaving the emerging generations out of the spiritual conversation. If we are going to reach the emerging generations there has to be a change that takes place on a fundamental level.
    Consider briefly the reality that the Benoit Mindset List tells us of this year’s graduating seniors:
    “Most of the students entering College this fall, members of the Class of 2011, were born in 1989. For them, Alvin Ailey, Andrei Sakharov, Huey Newton, Emperor Hirohito, Ted Bundy, Abbie Hoffman, and Don the Beachcomber have always been dead.

    1. What Berlin wall?
    2. Rush Limbaugh and the “Dittoheads” have always been lambasting liberals.
    3. They never “rolled down” a car window.
    4. They may confuse the Keating Five with a rock group.
    5. They have grown up with bottled water.
    6. General Motors has always been working on an electric car.
    7. Nelson Mandela has always been free and a force in South Africa.
    8. Pete Rose has never played baseball.
    9. Rap music has always been mainstream.
    10. Religious leaders have always been telling politicians what to do, or else!
    11. “Off the hook” has never had anything to do with a telephone.
    12. Russia has always had a multi-party political system.
    13. Women have always been police chiefs in major cities.
    14. Classmates could include Michelle Wie, Jordin Sparks, and Bart Simpson.
    15. Wal-Mart has always been a larger retailer than Sears and has always employed more workers than GM.
    16. 16. Being “lame” has to do with being dumb or inarticulate, not disabled.
    17. When all else fails, the Prozac defense has always been a possibility.
    18. Multigrain chips have always provided healthful junk food.
    19. They grew up in Wayne’s World.
    20. U2 has always been more than a spy plane.
    21. Stadiums, rock tours and sporting events have always had corporate names.
    22. Commercial product placements have been the norm in films and on TV.
    23. Women’s studies majors have always been offered on campus.
    24. Being a latchkey kid has never been a big deal.
    25. Thanks to MySpace and Facebook, autobiography can happen in real time.
    26. High definition television has always been available.
    27. Microbreweries have always been ubiquitous.
    28. Virtual reality has always been available when the real thing failed.
    29. Tiananmen Square is a 2008 Olympics venue, not the scene of a massacre.
    30. MTV has never featured music videos.
    31. They get much more information from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert than from the newspaper.
    32. They’re always texting 1 n other.
    33. They never saw Johnny Carson live on television.
    34. Avatars have nothing to do with Hindu deities.
    35. The World Wide Web has been an online tool since they were born.”

    Biblical Foundations

    The change is simple and yet so radical that we might simply dismiss it out of hand without thinking through the consequences. The fact of the matter is that we as the church are like most auto manufacturers. We are seeking to outsource the spiritual formation of the emerging generations.
    Biblically the primary function of the parent is to “bring them [children] up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Interestingly, the emphasis is on the father here. He is not to “exasperate” his child. This is the role of the parent. It is their responsibility to train and instruct their child in the Lord.

    This idea is not new to the Newer Testament but is found throughout the Older Testament as well. A key passage is in Deuteronomy 6:1–9:

    “1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you.

    4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

    The concepts of the parents passing on the fundamental truth about who God is, is placed on the shoulders of the parents.

    It is not the responsibility of the youth pastor. It is not the responsibility of the Christian school. It is not the responsibility of the Sunday School. The spiritual formation of the child is the parent’s responsibility.

    The body of believers is then to come alongside the parent to aid in that process of spiritual formation. This is communal. Think about what you just read there in Deuteronomy 6. Could you imagine being a child and every home you went to had Deuteronomy 6:4, 5 written on the doorposts? You would be exposed to it at every turn.

    The other key thing is that at a very early age (probably 13) boys and girls were understood to be fully a part of the community of faith. The disciples of Jesus were most likely teenagers. The covenants were bestowed on children at eight days old!

    Today, most people younger than 35 in our faith communities are seen as children who are not ready to exert leadership. It’s nice if they want to be in a choir or a play, even play in the band. But, they are not challenged to teach, to engage as leaders in the community. How many conversations take place around the dinner tables in our homes about spiritual things? Does family worship take place? Is there intentionality of the parent to teach their child spiritual truth?

    Missional Paradigm Applied

    Approximately 80% of churched children do not continue in their faith after high school. The keys to retention seem to be pretty straightforward, discipleship and parental involvement.

    Most churches however, hire “Youth Pastors”. The job descriptions are simple. Reach out and care for our High School and Junior High students while providing support for K-5.

    The consistent pull in youth ministry over the last twenty-five years has been to create a bigger, better program. If you entertain them, they will come. The hard part is that you keep them by how you get them. The entertainment has to be bigger, better, and more awesome each week or they will go down the block to the other church.

    What if we saw the children in our congregation as not simply kids but as image bearers of the triune God? What if the parents were engaged in the spiritual development of their children? What if we sought to actually send our kids out as ambassadors and engaged with them as brothers and sisters in Christ?

    To achieve this there would have to be a fundamental transformation in the role of the “Youth Pastor”. He would have to become a “Family Pastor”. To understand what “Family” pastor means one must first define what is meant by “family”.

    Family is the core building block of a community. This would include young married people to those who have sent their children to college. This would also include single parents and blended families. The reason is that marriage is the primary foundation for godly parenting. The Family Pastor would first help marriages to be healthy and then build on that foundation when as people have children. He will help in the transition from no kids to one child to elementary to middle school to high school to college.

    This role would have him focusing on the discipleship of parents, helping them to engage their children in spiritual formation. He would then be freed to foster the “youth” of the church to be missionaries to their peers.

    This means that the ministry of the church to the youth would have a focus on pulling the children into mission as opposed to pushing them through a program. The emphasis would be on training. Sending them to their peers as ambassadors for Christ.

    A developing community of Christ followers who happened to be young people would replace programs. “Church” would become a place to connect with other Christ followers on mission. Sunday mornings would be a time of worship, prayer, training, and teaching.

    Young people would be pulled into the rest of the community. They would be influenced by 80 somethings, 70 somethings, and on and on.

    Generational differentiation would be replaced as young people are seen as participating members of the community. The Family pastor would help to bridge the gaps between generations.
    Youth involvement would move beyond babysitting and singing in the choir to a full engagement in the life of the church. Youth would be seen and understood as people created in the image God along with adults. Believing youth would be recognized as fellow believers indwelt by the Holy Spirit with spiritual gifts.

    As emerging generations graduate and leave the context of the church and enter the world, they will leave with a firm grasp of their faith, and how it functions in the context of the body of Christ.
    To move from program to organic community in realm of families and youth will require time. There will be consolidation. But, when the gospel is embraced by a generation (be it emerging, Boomer, or even X) the results are explosive.

    Nuts and Bolts
    The big question that must be answered is practically what does this look like in a job description for a search committee of a church that desires to apply the missional approach to “youth” ministry. The key would be not the development of programs but a pastor who is focused on discipleship as his primary ministry. I think that it could look something like this:

    • An embracing of the concept of covenantal family.
    • This points to the fact that within the body of Christ there are covenantal families that comprise it.
    • Children are brought to adulthood, recognized as adults, and differentiated from their parents.
    • Shepherds families (as defined above)
    • Marriage support
    • Parenting training
    • Oversees and develops volunteers in all youth ministries.
    • Disciples parents and trains them to engage in spiritual formation of their children.
    • Disciples teens and sends them out on mission to their peers.
    • Develops an environment of spiritual formation for youth church-wide cross generationally so that all believers are embraced and sent as laborers.
    • Recruiting and developing multi-generational disciplers.
    • Drawing teens into discipleship relationships beyond their parents and peers.
    • Develops an organic community among youth and families where youth are continued to be developed into adulthood and maturity in the faith.
    • Develops and provides opportunities for training and involvement in mission in the peer and familial context.
    • Develops an environment where the family is the first discipler but not the only discipler, thereby creating an environment where teens are prepared to be discipled outside the family context.
    • Teens are developed and sent as adults and mature believers upon graduation.
    • An acknowledgement from the church that this will be an imperfect and messy process.

    Imagine generation after generation of covenant children embracing their relationship with God as their own…

    Imagine sending High School seniors as ambassadors for Christ to the university, work force, and the world, year after year…

    Imagine healthy marriages that foster an environment for healthy parenting…

    Imagine parents and children engaged with Jesus together…

    Imagine generation after generation Christ-followers being born, grown, and sent to the world…

    Imagine our church changing the world by sending laborers to the harvest one son and one daughter at a time…
    Imagine the Lord smiling and saying to each generation of parents, “Well done, my good and faithful servants.”

    The Forgotten Ways, Part 8

    It’s hard to imagine a few weeks ago when I sat down with my friend Doug at the Bean and he encouraged me to read Allelon.org’s blogs about the missional church that it would have led to a month of thinking more deeply about what it means to be the church. The next day I walked into the library at Michigan Theological Seminary and grabbed a little book called The Forgotten Ways. This is post eight, the last chapter of the book: Communitas, not Community.

    I think that the opening quote from Paulo Coelho is best summary of the chapter where he says, “The ship is safest when it is in port. But that’s not what ships were made for.”

    The quote says it all. In recent times there has been an emphasis on “community”. This emphasis has always highlighted the church being a safe place, a retreat from the world. The metaphor of a hospital has been used. The community was a place where you can come and be yourself and be accepted and find rest.

    Hirsch argues this is the Constantinian, institutional, Christendom at its best! I agree.

    The difference between community and communitas is the purpose for the gathering of the people. There are many similarities but there is one key difference. That is mission.

    Hirsch uses a number of illustrations for communitas but the one that resonated with me the most is the Fellowship of the Ring. This radical little band of hobbits, men, an elf, a dwarf, and a wizard set out to defeat the ultimate evil. They start as tolerating each other at best. But, by the end of the mission they are something different. They experienced communitas.

    The organization that I work for has something called “Summer Project”. In the states it is a 10–12 week mission experience for college students. They work at the local McD’s or Starbucks. They proclaim the gospel on the beach. The best summer projects are those that have communitas, where the mission of turning lost students into Christ-centered laborers is always present and being pursued.

    The problem with communitas is that it requires there to be conflict. The Fellowship of the Ring fought against insurmountable odds. Summer project students have to face support raising and spiritual attack. Or consider a sports team, like the Detroit Red Wings who had to face injury, horrible officiating, and a league front office that did everything they could to keep them from winning Lord Stanley’s Cup.

    The church in the West since the time of Constatine has for the most part not faced very much conflict. Sure there have been internal struggles mut not much outward. There is no persecution. Just a calm acceptance of the church’s presence. The church has become comfortable and lost its sense of mission (does this sound familiar? If not read parts 1–3).

    When a community goes on mission together it ceases to be community and becomes communitas. It experiences pain, conflict, joy, victory, defeat. It goes through something toward something. I think that’s why when churches are ramping up for a program they experience something different but then the program happens and the experience is not sustained. That’s because the ramp up feels like mission but in the end it is not.

    To experience communitas requires the radical transformation of the very reason for why we gather as a community. Will we gather as a community to sing? To pray? To hear the Bible taught? All nice things. All things that will develop community. But if we gather to do these apart from being on mission then we are missing something, we are missing communitas.

    Community is a ship in port. Communitas is a ship at sea. The ship is not designed for port. The ship is designed for the sea. The church is not designed for community. It is designed at its core DNA to be communitas.

    Th ramifications of this are so huge that I might develop carpal tunnel syndrome trying to write them. The key thing that I want to think more about though is how can we send every part of the church on mission? A week in Mexico is a nice beginning but it is barely scratching the surface. What does it look like to be on mission as a people of God everyday, from young to old? This is the core question of communitas.

    The Forgotten Ways, Part 7

    As I sit here at home I have just finished the book! So we are on the home stretch with only a couple of posts on The Forgotten Ways remain. This chapter was one that I was not particularly looking forward to. As a result it took a while to chew through it. However, it turns out that “Organic Systems” are actually pretty cool things! Who knew?

    I think that the best way to understand the concept of “Organic Systems” in Hirsch’s mindset is to think about a spiderweb. The whole web is connected to itself. There are multiple nodes and lines. The whole thing is interconnected. This is what an organic system is all about.

    Consider our body. There are multiple little systems like the nervous system, skeletal system, or epidermal system, but each one by itself does not a body make. They all come together and create a body. This is what the church ought to look like.

    The church, Hirsch argues, is a living system. This means that it is marked by certain elements that set it apart from a static system. A static system represents something solid. Consider a chair or some other inanimate object. It is assembled and when finished does not change. No matter what room it is in the chair remains exactly the same.

    Now, consider a living system. It is always growing, adapting, and changing. Think of a plant. If it is in a room where a window is to its left the plant will grow towards the light and have a bit of leftward orientation. If you move the plant to the other side of the window then it will change its orientation to the light. It is liquid and not solid.

    Hirsch makes a compelling argument that the church is to be like this plant. It is to be liquid. The church is to be ever changing as it pushes forward into new cultures and times and people groups. The manifestation of the church must look different for each context within which it finds itself.

    To achieve this it must have a system that is liquid and not static. This means that there must be a movement ethos within the church itself. A movement ethos is that mindset of being on mission with Jesus towards the ends building his kingdom for his glory.

    Leadership within this system is decentralized and spread out. Hirsch points to Al Qaeda as a picture of how this works in reality. Each individual cell has the DNA to reproduce the entire movement. This is why all the armies of the first world cannot stomp it out. This is why the persecuted church grows with such rapidity. The leadership is not centralized in one person or in a group of persons.

    The church must be constantly birthing new cells with their own leaders who can and do embed the mDNA. This is very different from the way the institutional church plants. Hirsch argues that the Christendom model is cloning as opposed to birthing. In a clone the new church seeks to look just like the parent church. In birthing there is a combination of different factors that bring about something new (not to mention the fact that making a baby is more fun than cloning one).

    Hirsch uses the example of Willow Creek and Saddleback to paint this picture. A church plant from these places will have difficulty in reproducing the level of programming and excellence that the original brings, because by its very nature it does not have the critical mass to do so. However, if you birth a new church it will take the mDNA of the parent and combine it with a new context thus creating a whole new church that belongs in the family of the parent but is itself a unique embodiment of the mDNA.

    This is what organic systems are all about. He argues that organic systems grow by hyperbolic multiplication as opposed to linear addition. The example he cites is Pay it Forward the film that protrayed the story of a boy who is assigned the task of changing the world. He devises a plan where you don’t pay back someone for doing something good but you pay it forward. The effects were deep and lasting. The arrangement was that you pay forward two good deeds when someone does something good to you. This rippled to the other side of the country.

    Hirsch argues that it is this hyperbolic growth that saw the Chinese church grow from 2,000,000 to 60,000,000 in forty years. The picture is quite simple. Each individual covenants to lead two people to trust Christ and disciple them sending them out to do the same. Each church covenants to plant two churches and pushes them to do the same. It would not take long to reach the whole world with the gospel.

    This chapter is simple spiritual multiplication. It is something that most of us have known about for years and years. However, most of our churches have not embraced this. We have moved into a fortress mentality where bigger is better and safer. We pull people in and out of the world as opposed to discipling them and sending them out.

    What would happen if our church, your church, grasped and applied this principle of hyperbolic growth? Are we willing to change? Are we willing to push leadership to the edges? Are we willing to send, send, send?

    The Forgotten Ways, Part 6

    If the church is going to become this embodiment of Jesus in a communal way then there is a foundational issue that must be dealt with. That is our conception of what it means to lead. How do we lead if we have set aside the corporate and the coercive models of power?

    Hirsch argues that there is a change in the leadership environment of the church. This means that there must be an embracing of what he calls “Apostolic Leadership”. This kind of leadership he argues is one of function and not office. The concept of leadership as being function and not office is a big deal in the tradition that I come out of. Offices are critical to the leadership of the church in my tradition, those of Elder and Deacon.

    To move our leadership beyond these offices is not something that can be taken lightly. However, this idea of function means quite simply that anyone, regardless of office, can lead. So, what are the functions of the apostolic leader?

    1. The apostolic leader embeds mDNA through the taking of new ground for the gospel and the church. The church is to be dynamic and ever growing, therefore, the leadership must transcend sitting at a desk, to actually engaging in the mission of the church. This means that the apostolic is building into others the mDNA.
    2. The apostolic leader guards mDNA through the integration and application of apostolic theology. This means that the apostolic leader is not just pioneering new things but she is also making sure that the church stays on course as the dynamic people on a mission.
    3. The apostolic leader creates the environment for even more ministry to emerge. The apostolic ministry is the one that is the touchstone for all other ministries. This means that a teacher can’t teach if he has no people. A pastor can’t shepherd an empty community. The apostolic ministry creates the environment that brings about the possibility for all the other ministries listed in Ephesians 4 to exist.

    Apostolic ministry (this is the touchstone ministry) creates the environment for the prophetic ministry (without this ministry evangelism becomes hollow and God himself becomes an idol) which creates the environment for the evangelistic (it opens the hearer to the message of the evangelist) which creates the ministry for the pastoral (exposes the disciple to their need for understanding) which creates the environment for the teaching (teaching from the revealed will of God that brings understanding).

    The apostolic leader is one who comes into leadership not through the appointment of a role but is a leader because of who he is. This Hirsch terms “greatness”. This greatness is organic, inspirational, and profoundly spiritual. The example of the apostolic leader is Jesus. Jesus led with an amazing humility and authority that drew people into not just a follower but a discipleship where they sought to become like him.

    Hirsch argues that an apostolic leader is one who can create “webs of meaning”. This means that he is able to bring about the connections of many different people, groups, and agencies by creating the apostolic environment where meaning is brought about by focusing on the mission of Jesus.

    There is so much more detail in the Hirsch’s chapter that I can’t possibly cover it all. I think that this is a decent synopsis of the Apostolic Environment. The impact of this is important to keep in mind. Too often the person who is wired for apostolic ministry is seen as a trouble maker. She is never satisfied with the status quo. He is frustrated with the lack of outward looking concern for the people on the fringes. The questions that are before us are simple, are we willing to embrace these people as opposed to shunning them? Are leaders willing to learn how to be apostolic? Are pastors willing to bring others into leadership?

    In my tradition where there is a plurality of leadership there is great opportunity. The question is though are we willing to disciple new elders who fit in all five kinds of leaders: apostles, prophets, evangelist, pastors, and teachers?

    The Forgotten Ways, Part 5

    Part five is upon us! The Missional Incarnational Impulse. What the heck does that mean? This is another chapter where Hirsch makes it pretty clear that he must define his term in the negative, what I mean is that, a positive declaration of “missional-incarnational impulse” is difficult in and of itself to define, therefore, you have to state what it is not to bring clarity to what it is!

    Missional-incarnational impulse is basically the opposite of the attractional model of the church. What is the attractional model, you ask? Well, it is the idea that we are to draw people into the church building by providing the best, most exciting, and most relevant programming that we can possibly fathom. I think the best way to illustrate the attractional model of the church is from Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.”

    The opposite of this is the concept of mission. What do you think of when you consider the word “missionary”? Mostly you think of Wycliffe or New Tribes or the Jesus Film or some ministry that send white folks to places where “no man has gone before”. They live in huts and try to bring Christianity to a people far, far away. However, this is not the heart of “mission”. Hirsch, I think rightly, argues that when you think about being a “missionary” the person in the mirror ought to come to mind.

    To that end he provides the theological backdrop for the fact that the people of God are on mission and not to be cloistered in a church building. He argues from John 20:21, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you (cf, 5:36–37, 6:44, 8:16–18, 17:18; I also think you could back to Genesis and the Abrahamic covenant in Gen 12 and 15 and you see the sending heart of God there, in the beginning).” So, from the beginning of the Jesus movement the focus was on sending as opposed to attracting. Hirsch calls this the “sneeze effect.” The movement of the gospel is to be like a sneeze sending germs out! It is a web of multiplication as opposed to a straight line of addition.

    That defines “mission” but what is incarnation? John 1:1–18. The word became flesh. Jesus is the God-man. The perfect embodiment of God and man. Two natures. One person. Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. This is incarnation. It is a mystery. In light of this Hirsch points out four dimensions of the incarnation (here I will quote extensively from page 132):

    1. Presence: In Jesus the eternal God is fully present to us; he was God in the flesh (Jn 1:1–15; Col. 2:9).
    2. Proximity: God in Christ approached us not only in a way we can understand but in a way we can access. He not only called people to repentance and proclaimed the direct presence of God but befriended outcast people and lived life in proximity with the broken and “the lost” (Luke 19:10).
    3. Powerlessness: In becoming “one of us”, God takes the form of a servant and that of someone who rules over us (Phil 2:6ff; Luke 22:25–27). In acting in this way he shuns all notions of coercive power and demonstrates for us how love and humility (powerlessness) reflect the true nature of God and are the key means to transform human society.
    4. Proclamation: Not only did the Presence of God directly dignify all that is human, but he heralded the reign of God and called people to respond in repentance and faith. In this he initiates the gospel invitation, which is active to this very day.

    The issue then is that we must apply these four dimensions to our own lifestyles. So consider my own reflections about how this looks:

    1. Presence: We must be “in” our neighborhoods and communities. That means that we play a role in the life and rhythm of our neighborhoods. Go to an association meeting. Join in cleaning up the neighborhood greenspace. Coach baseball. Be a part of the PTA. Volunteer somewhere. A friend of mine once said that 99% of ministry is just “showing up”. We need to show up.
    2. Proximity:We must make ourselves available to relationship. This means that we make time for chatting at the mailbox with the neighbor. This means that we invite someone over to watch the big game. This means that we go when invited to watch the big game! This means that we havet to be willing to open our lives and invite people in. But, the same goes for our churches. It’s awful tough to invite someone to worship when it’s 25 miles away. Proximity is also the physical closeness of the gathering of worshipers.
    3. Powerlessness: We must be servants. Shovel your neighbors walk. Watch their kids so they can go on a date to work on their marriage. Actually listen and care about what is going on in their lives and not waiting for an opportunity to “share the gospel”. Powerlessness means in the church envrionment that leaders are working at raising up more leaders and discipling themselves out of a job.
    4. Proclamation: Recognizing that we are part of a “message tribe”. This means that in our opening our lives we are faithfully communicating the story of Jesus in our lives (actions) and in words. This means that we UNASHAMEDLY communicate the need to know Jesus and that he is the center of who we are. We need to be bold and clear. Believe it or not if we hide this about ourselves and then “spring” it on people they will actually be more offended.

    This living will require us to know what is going on around us. We will have to study our communities like a missionary going to a foreign land. We will have to know with certainty the language they speak (are they Losties or into McDreamy? And if you don’t know what I am talking about then it’s time to get our from under your rock).

    Ultimately this missional-incarnational impulse means that we take church to the people. 

    Think about what would happen if we were to actually take the gospel to people. It would spread. It would spread everywhere. We would be living locally and caring deeply for people. Our communitites would change. But, something else would happen. The gospel would spread out to their webs of relationships. Soon, the gospel will go all over the world.

    This spreading creates the necessity for new churches. New local communities of worshippers (isn’t this what we see in Acts?). These new communities continue to spread and send. The gospel takes root in new cultures and communities and then gets passed on again.

    Finally, how do we get all this in order. Simple. Christology determines Missiology determines Ecclesiology. What does that mean? Our understanding of who Jesus is determines what we believe our mission is and what we believe our mission is determines “how” we are the church!

    If we believe that Jesus is sending us out then we must go and be incarnational, like him. If this is our mission, then the church building becomes less of a central place for programming and becomes a gathering place for the discipleship and sending of missionaries!

    I am beginning to think that this is huge! One thing that Hirsch has not really addressed in this idea of incarnational is that the Holy Spirit lives in us. Think about the reality of this! The third person of the Trinity of God lives inside me, you, and any person who follows Jesus. We ARE incarnational. This “transition” from attractional to “incarnational” is one that actually WANT to make but simply fear it. Because if we do, then something messy results. We become powerless and have to relinquish ourselves to the Holy Spirit.

    The Forgotten Ways, Part 4

    The Heart of It All — Jesus is Lord. So, now what? The first main principle that Hirsch lays out is that of disciple making. The development of disciples has taken on a new cool twist recently with all the emphasis on the Jewish life and what a Rabbi really is and therefore what it means to be a disciple. Hirsch steps in a provides a clear, succinct, and challenging picture of what discipleship is all about. How important is discipleship? Hirsch argues, “if we fail at this point then we must fail in all the others.”

    So what is discipleship? It is the embedding of mDNA into other people. It is that process by which men and women follow Jesus are built into people who can reproduce their lives into others. This is God’s plan for sending his message all over the world. And it as Hirsch puts it, “it worked.”

    Discipleship has taken on many labels over the years, Robert Coleman called it “The Master Plan of Evangelism”. The envogue thing these days to be a disciple of Jesus, getting his “dust all over you.” Here’s the thing. We all talk about discipleship. We all know that being a disciple is an important thing to be. But, how many people actually practice discipleship? This is the real question.

    Hirsch challenges our concept in this subject based on the reality that church involvement has become the lowest common denominator. The “seeker-sensitive” church has made it so that anyone can come to church. In the early church to be a member you had to work through the “catechisms”. This could take years.

    When there is danger surrounding the church and it has to make sure that false brothers are not slipping in then discipleship takes on a whole new meaning. In the West we do not fear for our lives. In the West we are able to shop for our church and find the one with the best program and the least amount of commitment. This simply is not possible in the persecuted church or the early church.

    Hirsch has labeled his concept of discipleship as “The Conspiracy of the Little Jesus”. This means that he understands Matthew 28:18–20 to be Jesus casting a vision for there to be “a lot of little versions” of himself “infiltrating every nook and cranny of himself.”

    This is the heart of what it means to be missional. There is a build and send aspect to the entire concept of discipleship in the missional church. Discipleship has often been understood as come out to church, Sunday school, Wednesday nights. These events constantly pull people out from their worlds.

    The missional understanding of discipleship is one where building and sending takes place at the same time. Discipleship cannot be done rightly in the walls of a church but it must be done out in the world. We must continue to go out and enter into every aspect of the world.

    Hirsch argues, and I think convincingly, that this is the center of what it means to be “in Christ” or “abiding in Christ”.

    The key to discipleship in Hirsch’s mind is embodiment. This concept simply means that the “teacher” needs to be living out the Christ message in life before the “learner”. So, again we must take another look at what it means to do discipleship. It’s not taking people through a curriculum. It is living life with other believers in the context of their world.

    Paul uses imitation language throughout his writing. Can someone learn to imitate another by hanging out at church? In a coffee shop? No. They need to do life together. Discipleship is something that has to be intentional. It has to be all-inclusive.

    Discipleship then has significant ramifications for how the church is led. Hirsch puts it succinctly, “leadership to be genuinely Christian, must always reflect Christlikeness and therefore…discipleship.”

    Movements can only reach as far as the leadership base. Leaders in the missional church are self-reproducing, fully devoted disciples. Therefore, leaders can only be built as disciples are built. In the missional church the best way to judge health of the movement is the number of disciples that are reproducing their lives.

    Discipleship is a necessity. Discipleship is the core practice of the missional church.

    The way that Hirsch argues for discipleship to take place is right practice bringing about right belief. That is, processing what it means to be a Christ follower as we go. That is thrusting people into mission RIGHT NOW and teaching them on the job, as it were.

    Think about all the things that we learn to do: walking, talking, socializing, all of it is done through doing and learning as you go. This is the same for following Christ. We need to take people and get them doing it. Involve them and they will become more like Christ.

    I think that there is so much good here in the discussion that Hirsch provides on discipleship. There are some things that I think are inherently hard for us in the West to swallow. Especially, those of us in suburban life. How can we do life together when our congregations travel as much as an hour to come to church?

    Personally, I know of two families in our church that live in my suburb. We travel 20 minutes to church. Why? Because there is a need for reformed, biblical communities in metro Detroit.

    What would it look like to organize a church around its communities? What if a church organized cell/small groups based on geography and said, “Do life together. Include others from your community.” Eat dinner together. Have your kids play with each other.

    What is all this took place in the rhythm of life? What if we chose to limit the number of times we “pulled out” people from the world in which they live?

    Discipleship is radical. Am I willing to be radical?

Older Posts →