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Posts Tagged ‘missionaries’


The first section of Organic Outreach for Churches by Kevin Harney covered motivation: love for God, the world and the congregation. He calls this the heart of the congregation. In the second section he addresses the mind of the congregation. The focus is on the administrative structure expressed by the heart that seeks to reach out with God’s love to the world around it through the congregation. Put another way, the first task of leadership is to cultivate love for God, the lost people around us, and our congregation. Until this is done, the administrative structure should not be changed. To borrow terminology from another book on ministry, there needs to be a vine before you put up the trellis.

“When our hearts are filled with love for God, for our community, and for the church, we are ready to strategize about outreach.”

This is one of the positives of his approach. He is talking about outreach as a (church) community project rather than focusing on preparing individuals to share their faith.

The first step in this process is the mind-shifts Harney believes need to take place so we can be productive. Here they are:

  • From random to strategic outreach
  • From famine to funding (making money available for LOCAL outreach)
  • From believing to belonging (as the first step in the process)
  • From us to them (regarding focus)
  • From programs to praying
  • From mush to clarity (regarding your beliefs)
  • From fatalism to faith

These are important shifts, though I would be hesitant to fully embrace the 4th one (us => them) for reasons I will develop below.

I will throw out a reminder. This all takes time. This morning I read about the building of the temple by Solomon. It took 7 and a half years. Just as the temple wasn’t built in a day, neither will a congregation’s outreach ministry. People are often harder to mold than stones. This is about cultural change, and that takes time, and undetermineable period of time.

He then develops the idea of from famine to funding, because you’ve gone from random to strategic outreach. Many churches provide money for missions, elsewhere. By someone else. Funding missionaries is a great thing. The point is not to eliminate funding to foreign (and even local) missionaries and ministries. The point is to add funds for your congregation to reach the people around you.

This also means that everyone is getting involved instead of paying surrogates to do the work for you. Not everyone will have the same role; the different gifts of God’s people will be engaged. This is one of the mind shifts he neglected: from them to us. No longer should outreach be the work of a chosen few who work on behalf of the rest of us (surrogates). An outreach committee would lead the strategies that involve everyone in various ways (even if all you can do is pray because you’re home-bound).

One common problem Harney experiences is that ministry leaders see outreach as an optional thing that competes with their ministry instead of being something that their ministry also participates in. As a result, they can ignore events, schedule competing events etc. The goal is for each ministry to see their place in outreach. To see it as part of their mission. The Outreach Team is then viewed as influencers. He finds it most helpful if all the ministry leaders comprise the Outreach Influence Team.

Harney then moves into the 6 Levels of Influence. It all starts with God. As a loving, eternal community (Trinity) God is a missionary God who has been sharing His love with people since the beginning of time. Between God and the world, Harney lists the Outreach Influence Team Leader, the Outreach Influence Team, ministry workers, and ministry participants.

To put it simply, the team leader encourages the team to maintain focus and develop the ways their ministry participates in outreach. The team provides training for workers in outreach, which helps instill the vision for outreach to participants so they begin to engage in praying for others, inviting people to events or ministry functions etc.

Then he moves into raising the evangelistic temperature utilizing the one degree rule. This is about accountability. And while it can be helpful, knowing the perversity that remains even in Christians, it can easily lapse into legalism and self-righteousness (self-condemnation if you aren’t doing enough). It is here that he starts to sound more seeker-driven than seeker-sensitive. It was here that I began to grow frustrated.

Why was I frustrated? The easy answer would be my flesh is resisting the call of God to engage in this process. I don’t think that is is (though he did talk about lots of meetings and I’m currently have meeting fatigue).

The other answer is a glaring lack of ecclesiology in the book. It is assumed, and you know what happens if you assume. Part of ecclesiology is the mission of the church. When there is no clearly developed mission of the church, an author’s emphasis becomes the mission of the church. There are subtle statements in this section that indicate that he thinks outreach trumps the rest, shapes the rest. Like most books on a particular goal of the Church, it becomes out of balance and begins to veer down dangerous roads.

Let me explain. I take a tri-perspectival view of worship (and most things, to be honest). I express this as worship is intended to exalt God, edify the Church and evangelize the world (in terms of unbelievers present). Worship cannot focus simply on evangelism as in the seeker-driven model. I think we should be sensitive to “seekers” (I don’t really like that word). By that I mean we explain things. We periodically explain some of what we do in worship. In preaching we explain “big words” and call people to faith for both conversion (justification) and sanctification.

Our mission, as expressed in the Great Commission, is not to simply make converts but disciples. We are to present people to Christ in maturity. Yes, you have to start with conversion but that is not the end all and be all of church life. Outreach is a part of our mission, not the mission.

If we are asking about outreach temperature, we should start asking about your marriage (if you are married), parenting, sex life, work life etc. because all of these are about being faithful to Christ in our context. Suddenly we have a long list, and even more opportunities to become self-righteous Pharisees boasting of our outreach righteousness, or parenting righteousness.

Taking part of the mission as the mission is just plain dangerous. No one comes out and says that, but it is expressed in terms of the “most important” part of our mission, or main emphasis requiring “inordinate amounts of time”.

So, while I agree that outreach should permeate all of our programs so it is an organic thing for the congregation, I don’t agree that it supplants or overwhelms all of the other ministries of the church. Our discipleship ministries should be welcoming to outsiders (and people should invite others as well as pray for the lost), should connect everything to the gospel (including calling people to faith as well as expressing that faith) as well as prepare people to share their faith (preferably in a tri-perspectival way, which is a separate blog post). Our worship should not be reduced to altar calls, “love songs” to Jesus with a great beat etc. I’m still a “Word & Sacrament” guy. Evangelism as well as exaltation and edification take place as we sing the Word, pray the Word, listen to the Word (preaching) and see the Word (sacraments). God works in that to bring people to faith as well as build people in their faith. We explain things, we don’t eliminate them precisely because worship is also for God and His people, not just the people who don’t believe yet.

Precisely because there is no explicit eccesiology, Harney is beginning to slip down this road though he may not realize it. There are some things that slow it: being clear about what you believe. He hasn’t gutted the faith like some do. But I find him beginning to move out of balance in this second section. In the third section, we’ll see where his trajectory leads us.

 

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Recently there have been books released that deal with the heart of the pastor. They aren’t books about how to do ministry but how a minister should be. Jared Wilson’s The Pastor’s Justification is the second of these books I have read. Earlier I had read Paul Tripp’s Dangerous Calling.

Both books are very good but quite different from one another. They form a good “Good Cop, Bad Cop Routine” when read in tandem. Tripp’s book is a dangerous read. Perhaps I should say a hard read because he is ruthless. This doesn’t mean he’s legalistic or avoids the gospel. In addressing our sin he does bring us back to the gospel regularly. His concerns, reaped from talking the numerous pastors, center on the gaps in their preparation and a sense of having arrived that cripples men spiritually. He puts his finger on many common struggles for pastors.

“The primary problem in pastoral ministry, brother pastor, is not them. It’s you. You are your biggest problem.”

Jared’s book is kinder and gentler. This doesn’t mean he ignores sin because he doesn’t (see the above quote). You will feel the sting of conviction here as well. He also keeps bringing us back to the gospel regularly. The point of Jared’s book is one that I got from Tim Keller a few years ago: preach as a justified man. Of course it is about more than preaching.

[This book is not just for pastors though. Missionaries would likely benefit and see a great deal of overlap. It would be a helpful read for elders and ministry leaders as well. They will experience many of the same temptations and need to find the same freedom in Christ pastors need.]

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Peter Hubbard, like Jesus, is not content for us to merely be gracious to homosexuals in Love Into Light. He’s not content to change the climate in the church regarding people who struggle with same sex attraction (SSA). He wants repentant, believing strugglers to be a focus of outreach and part of our community.

This doesn’t happen accidentally. We need to be wise in how we live in community and go about outreach. In talking about community, he starts with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which is a pretty good place to start. Community is important, essential, but it can often be idolatrous too.

“The one who pursues community to escape loneliness is trying to escape from himself.”

I’ve seen that happen. I’ve experienced that to an extent. We just experience the loneliness, and don’t really understand what is going on in the heart. We should not forget that we are made in the image of God, however. As a result, we were made for relationship; for community. God is the eternal community of Father, Son & Spirit living in loving harmony. We were made for that. We also recognize that each person within the Godhead is differentiated. They have a sense of self. Loneliness can be a sign that we don’t have a strong sense of self, or enjoy being by ourselves.

“So in one sense we don’t need each other (God is enough). Yet in another sense we desperately need each other (He reveals Himself to us in community).”

Many people in the church who struggle with SSA often agonize alone. They fear rejection, if people knew. They need the acceptance of the group, and the group needs their honesty. This is a hindrance to community if there are any sins that are kept private. We don’t let anyone into our hearts and are … alone.

He relates how his congregation had a frank discussion of homosexuality. It prompted one member to think more deeply about their sin, and how it was “natural” to them- meaning they had a predisposition to anxiety.

“I”m being challenged to realize that we all may have something in our ‘nature’ that is sin, and we cannot choose to condone our own sin, even though we have a propensity for it. He have to fight against it as the Holy Spirit frees us from it.”

Community deepens as we recognize this fact about ourselves. If we do, we see that while their sin is different in the details, it is not different in kind. If worry is 2nd nature to you, a life-dominating sin, you can understand what it would be like to continually be attracted to the same sex. Just try to a second to consider what it would be like to know that your very attractions are wrong. Every day presents numerous opportunities to stumble in your heart. Of course, even heterosexuals face this as our hearts are tempted to move beyond fidelity, lusting for our neighbor’s spouse or a single person.

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I just finished reading Acts this morning in my new office at home. It is more peaceful there than at the kitchen table when I’m done with my reading in the morning. I could spend some more time pondering it.

Paul made the most of unexpected opportunities to preach the gospel. Chapter 27 is the storm and shipwreck. They endured a 2-week long storm that blew them off course to Malta. They didn’t expect to be there. The captain was not a wise man, and didn’t listen to advice. He put everyone’s life in danger.

Thankfully, for them, Paul was on board too.  God preserved them because of Paul. I am reminded of Lot’s family (and Noah’s) who were preserved from judgment because they were with him. That is, until Lot’s wife looked back. Of course, it may have been better if the daughters had too. Bad stuff, that.

But God spared the whole crew, the soldiers and the other prisoners (and any other passengers). He encouraged them through Paul so they did not lose heart.

It was because of the shipwreck, however, that they ended up on Malta and Paul ended up making Christ known on Malta. Paul could have complained about being shipwrecked and not making it to Rome. I tend to get frustrated by the unexpected. I wouldn’t make a good missionary, or apostle.

Paul trusted the Father, and made good use of this unexpected opportunity. We have no idea when the gospel would have come to Malta had Paul not been stranded there. But this was no accident. He was sent there by God’s providence that some of the people of Malta would believe the gospel and begin building the church there. God met them in their weakness, for it was begun my Paul healing many of their illnesses.

God kept His promise of getting Paul safely to Rome. It just wasn’t on Paul’s time table. God will be faithful to us. He will accomplish His purposes for us and in us. We have to remember that it is not going to be how we expect or demand that it be. But along the way, the unexpected path, we will have the opportunity to make Christ and His saving work known to people that may have never heard otherwise.

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I’m on vacation right now.  Some may find it strange that I preached yesterday.  Yes, I preached yesterday.  Why?

In the words of Spock, “sometimes the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”  God’s people need the ministry of the Word.  At the beginning of the summer I learned that a church near my in-law’s home was in the midst of a crisis.  Their pastor was injured in a bicycle accident.  He is (at least temporarily) paralyzed.  I knew that Reformed churches in upstate NY are a rare breed, and therefore they may have trouble finding pulpit supply.  CavWife and I agreed to extend an offer to preach if they need some assistance.  As a result, I’m preaching 2 sermons that I did during a series on Parables of Grace.  In this way I could enjoy my vacation, yet provide for their needs with minimal preparation.

It was a great experience on  a rainy Sunday in the capital region of NY.  I found them to be a people of prayer, and prayer focused on Christ.  By that I mean they consciously recognized the work of Christ in their prayer, and the basis for the acceptance of our prayer and worship.  After the elder’s prayer during the service, the congregation was free to offer spontaneous prayer.  The people were aware of others, and focused on their requests.

In terms of the rest of the service, it had a “low” church feel.  The liturgy was rather simple.  I did not know any of the songs they sung.  Yep, any of them.  The worship team consisted of piano, 2 acoustic guitars, a subdued electric guitar, harmonica, subdued drums and 3 or 4 singers.  They sounded like they’ve played together often.  The songs were largely catchy so you could pick them up quickly.  There was a good focus upon the finished work of Christ.

I was greatly encouraged by the commissioning that took place in the service.  Their pastoral intern was ordained in July.  Today he and his family depart for one of the ‘stans.  Strange the providence of God.  This congregation probably could use him, but unless you’re Superman you can’t stop a speeding train.  They have planned so long and raised the necessary support.  I know they felt conflicted.  They were loved by the congregation and loved the congregation.

So, my sermon on the Parable of the Sower was appropriate for them as well as the congregation.

I spent some time talking with some of the elders afterward.  The uncertainty of the doctors adds to their own uncertainty at this time.  They don’t know how much their pastor will recover.  It is impossible for them to prepare for the future.  My advice was an interim pastor until they can determine what the future looks like for their pastor and for themselves.  This loving group of people haven’t just jettisoned their pastor due to the injury.  They are waiting to see if they can move on with him instead of without him.  So, please keep Hope Church in your prayers.  It has been a challenging few years.  Thankfully they are prayerful people as well.

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There are some new books out that have piqued my interest, and are now on my wish list.

And looking ahead…

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Assuming all goes well, and CavSon does not get sick, he will have surgery tomorrow.  His palate will be repaired, his lip scar touched up and tubes put in his ears.  It is outpatient surgery, so barring complications he and I will be there less than 24 hours.  I’ll be spending the night with him and need to bring things to keep me busy.

1. I’m loading up my MP3 player with some lectures by Graeham Goldsworthy and Piper & Chandler from the Text & Context Conference at Mars Hill.

2. I’m bringing the PCA Book of Church order to brush up “just in case”.

3. I’m bringing The Path to True Happiness by Martyn Lloyd-Jones and hope to finish it.

4. I’m bringing Jungle Pilot which is about Nate Saint.

5. I’ll also bring a novel.

Maybe I should bring my glasses since I’ll be doing so much reading.  I think the laptop will be staying home so CavWife can use it.  I’m not sure if they have wireless service there at the hospital.  Hmmm, I wonder if anyone I know has a portable DVD player.  I’ll have to check on that prospect.

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