Very well done.
Tim Keller got me reading John Stott’s Commentary on Acts, and man I’m glad he did. This past week, I preached on the kingdom of God from Acts 1, and I was created encouraged and helped by the insight and commentary of Stott, especially on Christ’s ascension and the mandate to witness in the power of the Holy Spirit. Commenting on Acts 1:9-11, John Stott wrote:
“There was something fundamentally anomalous about their gazing up into the sky when they had been commissioned to go to the ends of the earth. It was the earth not the sky which was to be their preoccupation. Their calling was to be witnesses not stargazers. The vision they were to cultivate was not upwards in nostalgia to the heaven which had received Jesus, but outwards in compassion to the lost world which needed him. It is the same for us. Curiosity about heaven and its occupants, speculation about prophecy and its fulfillment, and obsession with ‘time and seasons’ – these are aberrations which distract us from our God-given mission. Christ will come personally, visibly, and gloriously. Of that we have been assured. Other details can wait. Meanwhile, we have work to do in the power of the Spirit” (The Message of Acts, 51).
It is not for us to know the times and seasons the Father has fixed by His authority. But it is for us to know the power of the Spirit in testifying to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in word and deed. Those longing for the return of Christ are not those with prophecy charts in their hands but the gospel on their lips.
There’s a lot of talk these days about missional communities. Currently, I am working through Porterbrook’s Missional Community Life curriculum in three different venues, so I am discussing it quite a bit. About a year ago, I started my kingly moleksine when I accidentally bought a sketchbook moleskine instead of a regular hardback journal. I am not an artist, so there’s really nothing for me to sketch, but I do like to lay out my thinking in various ways, including systems, charts, diagrams, etc.
Several months ago, I began thinking about what would be the process of an unbeliever being engaged in a gospel community on mission. The result of that thinking was this process I “skecthed” out on my kingly moleskine:
A couple of weeks ago, I preached a message entitled “Working Together with God.” I have long enjoyed meditating on 2 Corinthians 5, but unfortunately, my reading typically ended with 2 Cor. 5:21. It is the next verse that has arrested my thinking of late, and as you probably know, there were no chapter divisions originally in the biblical text. The following verse reads:
Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain (2 Cor. 6:1).
Is it not an awesome thing to think about–that God would somehow allow us to partner with him in working out his purposes of redemption as His ambassadors?! I have had the privilege of working with some amazing people in my life, but everything changes in perspective when I realize that I have been called to join the one who works out all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11) and perfectly completes every good work He begins (Phil. 1:6).
As Christians, this unique lifetime privilege is sealed with the unfailing promise already fulfilled and purchased by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because of that, Jesus does not simply leave us with a plan of salvation, but he provides us the power of salvation in the gospel (Rom. 1:16) which, when spoken, calls forth dead people to new life. We have been given the protection and provision that God is with us always, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). We have before us the perspective that Christ will build His church (Matt. 16:18), and nothing, absolutely nothing, can thwart the omnipotent voice of our Shepherd who calls out His own by name (John 10:27-28).
We are working with God in the most important, eternally significant thing in the whole world, and this work warrants not only the sweat of our brow but the sacrifice of our lives. Apparently, it was a concern for Paul that the Corinthian believers would receive the grace of God in vain, and context leads us to believe that a principle way of determining this is through their participation (or lack thereof) in working with God as those entrusted with the message and ministry of reconciliation. Paul was a great example that the grace he received was not useless:
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me (1 Cor. 15:10).
Unlike anything else, the gospel of God’s grace produces laborers who endure and persevere, not because of inner will-power or self-determination, but because they have operating within them the same power that raised Jesus from the dead bringing renewal and abiding hope.
In my message a couple of weeks ago, I discovered four evangelistic motivations in 2 Cor. 5 that help us not to receive the grace of God in vain but rather spur us onward in our “working together with God”. In the coming days, I hope to share them with you as an encouragement in your efforts to make Christ known as one entrusted with the one message capable to raise the dead, change the world, and satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart.
Last month, he GCM Collective held a one-day training focused on the gospel, community, and mission in everyday contexts. Steve Timmis and Tim Chester has a new book coming out soon on the “ordinary” church–living as gospel communities on mission in everyday life, not just Sunday’s. The audio from this one-day conference is not available, so check them out!
- Everyday Gospel for the Post-Christian Context (Steve Timmis)
- Everyday Community: Church in the Margins (Steve Timmis)
- Everyday Mission: Discipling in the Margins (Jeff Vanderstelt)
Three BIG areas of my thinking, writing, and ministry exist on the axis of gospel, community, and mission. So when I discovered the GCM Collective, I was very eager to get on board and learn from others who, like myself, have given themselves to them. The GCM Collective exists to promote, create and equip Gospel Communities on mission. By a “gospel community” they mean “a group of believers that lives out the mission of God together as family, in a specific area to a particular people group, by declaring and demonstrating the gospel in tangible forms.” In other words, regular people, living ordinary lives, with great gospel intentionality.
To join the GCM Collective, you simply need to provide your email address, and you will receive instructions on how to create your profile and jump into the discussions. Speaking of discussions, you can browse such groups as:
» Bible Teaching in Missional Church
» City Renewal
» Community Life
» Everyday Mission
» Fostering a Missional Culture
» Gospel Resources for Missional Church
» Missional Exegesis & Theology
» Planting Missional Churches
» Role: Missional Community Leader
» Transitioning to Missional Church
» World Mission
In each group there are discussion threads on particular topics, some of them having downloadable resources for your benefit. For instance, I am currently reading through the docs on missional community leader from Soma Communities, Kaleo Church, and Austin City Life for our leadership development here at Grace. Really good stuff.
Although I do not post that often on the GCM Collective, I am learning on a daily basis from the likes of Tim Chester, Drew Goodmanson, Jonathan Dodson, and many others. I encourage you to check it out, especially if you are a church planter or leading a missional church.
Don’t know who wrote this at Ligonier, but this is excellent:
Martin Luther declared that a new Christian must withdraw from the world for a season, but upon reaching spiritual maturity he must embrace the world as the theater of redemptive activity. His message was, “Away with the cowards who flee from the real world and cloak their cowardice with piety.”
Perhaps the greatest need for our day is the need to market Jesus Christ. The church must become expert in marketing, not in the slick Madison Avenue style but in an aggressive, yet dignified way. The marketplace is where we belong. It is where needy people are found. It is not enough for the church to hang a welcome sign on her door. We dare not wait for the world to come to us.
God never intended the Christian community to be a ghetto. The church is not a reservation. Yet the pervasive style of modern evangelicalism is that of a reservation or a ghetto. We can argue that it is the secularist agenda to put us there and keep us there. But such arguments won’t do. We are there because it is safe and comfortable to be there.
The secularist hates the light and is quite willing to offer us a bushel for it. Shame on us when we buy custom-made bushels and willingly place them over our candles. To hide the light or to restrict it to a reservation is to do violence to the gospel and to grieve the Holy Ghost.
Church-as-reservation, custom-made bushels, doing violence to the gospel, cloaking cowardice instead of embracing the world as God’s theater of redemptive activity–I think we can all respond with “Ouch!” and “Oh me!” But seriously, this little devotional raises some huge issues in the life of the church as well as our personal lives that call for repentance and faith. May God help us to never to hide from His mission in our man-made bushels while grieving the Holy Spirit!
Word and deed ministry should always go together in the mission of the church. I take this from (1) the example of Jesus, (2) the mission of the Twelve, and (3) the practice of the early church.
I believe Matthew 4:23 and 9:35 are intentional summaries of the earthly mission of Jesus. They encapsulate the word and deed ministry of Jesus together. Consider the similarities:
And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.
“We pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry. The mentality of the professional is not the mentality of the prophet. It is not the mentality of the slave of Christ. Professionalism has nothing to do with the essence and heart of the Christian ministry. The more professional we long to be, the more more spiritual death we will leave in our wake.”
These are the first words of John Piper in his book, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry. God has used these words in profound ways, not just in changing my thinking but really the course of my life. It was in a staff meeting one morning that I read this chapter and spoke of the dangers of a professionalized ministry, and the consequence of that meeting was a sovereign shift that directed me to seminary and now to the local church where I serve.
I am increasingly concerned, however, about the state of the church, and specifically how professionalism has caused her to suffer. Every minister ought to do everything he can to be skilled in his craft, competent in his work, and unwavering in his commitment to fulfill his calling. And yet, what I am finding today is that when well-trained, gifted men of God excel in their ministry, those who are blessed by them experience two things: a sense of “I could never do that” and a sense of “I only want him to do that.”
The first response reveals the distance created between the pulpit and the pew, and the second response reveals preferential culture that has been created where God’s truth has added value when it is communicated from this particular person (professional). Here is what to be the consequence of these realities: