Archives For Incarnational

Several years ago, I hashed out in a moleskine a process to making the gospel visible in word and deed in the neighborhood. I used the prefix “be” to harmonize 7 steps that are sequential and cyclical. This is a significant element to my understanding and approach to living out my faith in the neighborhood. Here they are with brief explanations:

7 Steps to Incarnational Mission in the Hood

1.  Be-friending – gospel-driven believers neighbor well in their community and build intentional relationships with unbelievers with a “sent” focus to love them meaningfully and build relational equity.

2.  Be-longing – these believers cultivate relationships by dwelling (incarnationally) with their new unbelieving friends and invite them to be a part their lives and especially their small (group) community as they encounter a network of authentic relationships with other Christians.

3.  Be-holding – as unbelievers embrace the hospitality Christians have shown them, they witness firsthand and behold what the Christian life looks like (embracing the gospel).  They see and experience up close both in word and deed lives transformed by the gospel. They are given a generous welcome to see the beauty of Jesus in the lives of His followers.

4.  Be-lieving – unbelievers understand what responding to the gospel means, namely repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ because they have seen it lived out among Christians, and through this, they believe in the good news of Jesus Christ and embrace Him as Savior and King.

5.  Be-longing – new believers learn what it means to identify (through baptism), belong (covenant membership), live (mission) as a family of servants with God as our Father.

6.  Be-coming – new believers grow through continual rediscovery of the gospel in all its implications and application, being conformed to Christ through a community aggressively pursuing holiness.

7.  Be-getting – growing Christians reproduce themselves by making disciples in a community of disciple-making disciples and thereby repeat the cycle of incarnational mission in the hood.

So the process of being on mission in a hood takes an unbeliever from first engaged with gospel intentionality and ends with gospel reproduction (the process then repeats).  The process can be broken down in pairs as well:

Mission and Community » Befriending and Belonging
Mission and Gospel » Beholding and Believing
Mission and Discipleship » Belonging and Becoming
Mission and Leadership » Begetting

Cycle of Being on MissionThere has been some debate in evangelical circles as to whether it is appropriate for non-Christians to belong before believing. My position on this is non-Christians can and should belong to Christians prior to believing for the following reasons:

  1. Christians should have meaningful relationships with non-Christians. While they are not believers yet, life can be shared and non-Christians can experience the love of Christ through their Christian friends.
  2. Non-Christians need to see and understand the gospel clearly. There is so much confusion out there as to what the gospel is and how to biblically respond to it. As non-Christians belong in a missional community in the hood, they get to see and learn firsthand and up close as well as ask questions so that they can get a truer and clearer picture of what it means to know and follow Jesus.
  3. Non-Christians and Christians need to hear, believe, and respond to the same message. The gospel is for Christians and non-Christians alike. There isn’t a different message for these two categories of people. As non-Christians belong to Christians, they see what it looks like to repent and believe as that should be normative and celebrated in the lives of Christians who enjoy grace and live in the goodness of the gospel.

I am not saying that non-Christians who belong before believing are belonging to a church in the form of a covenant membership or somehow given place of leadership or volunteering to serve on ministry teams. I am saying that their belonging gives them access, exposure, and meaningful connection to Christian community where there questions can be answered, their struggles can be embraced, and their lives can be changed as they come to see, understand, and respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Post-Christendom Missional AttractionalSo far in this series, I have touched on Posture and Perspectives in Post-Christendom. At the close of the “Perspectives” post, I argued, “I believe there has been a considerable shift over the past decade (or two) toward paganism where the majority of non-Christians today are ignorant, indifferent, and militant.” In this post, I want to elaborate on the two paradigms for engaging non-Christians in Post-Christendom.

The Attractional Paradigm

During the times of Christendom and its decline, the attractional paradigm enjoyed much success. It was a time when the majority of non-Christians in culture found Christianity relevant and were quite conversant from a cultural standpoint. Christianity was looked upon favorably by the many, and churches seemed to engage the “unchurched Harry and Mary“. The attractional paradigm saw the rise of the seeker-sensitive movement, where a large focus of the church’s mission was to get non-Christians to “come and see” through the church event what Christianity was about. Missiologists call this a “centripetal” movement where the draw is toward the center, namely the Sunday morning event/experience.

The attractional paradigm found ways to reach the non-Christians through a focus on relevance and pragmatism. The event focused on “the experience” wherein the message would have relevance to the most pressing issues of the day (sex, happiness, relationships, overcoming fear, etc.). Outside the event, the attractional model produced goods and services that the non-Christian consumer would find practical and beneficial. Relevance and pragmatism became a winning combination for burgeoning megachurches who could exceed consumer expectations on what they could offer them and the experience they could find.

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missional moleskine 2013Four years ago, I was leading a group from our church in the formation of a launch team for our first daughter church plant. In my series on “cultivating community contacts,” I shared about the “missional moleskine” (not to be confused with the memory moleskine).

When I started using the missional moleskine, I used it to gather all information from people I encountered in the daily rhythm of life. Such information included (a) their name, (b) when and where I met the person, (c) what the person was doing, (d) info to help me remember them, and (e) info from conversations about their life, beliefs, and experiences. This information would then be used for ongoing prayer as well as plans to build on (cultivate) the encounters from the past. Here is how I explained it in 2008:

Once I have gathered this information, I leave room in my journal for future encounters. For example, if I cultivate a relationship with a server at a restaurant, I will schedule my eating around their work schedule and attempt to connect with them on a regular basis, building on the previous encounters and conversations. Each successive encounter would be dated and filled out, creating a chain of commentary hopefully leading to progress in loving them and leading them to Jesus. The end result is to chronicle the movement around the mission as we cultivate relationships with unbelievers and seek to sow the good seed of the gospel in their lives as a faithful witness and relentless commitment to advancing the cause of Christ. Other benefits include specifics for ongoing prayer and intercession and research/reflection for cultural exegesis, planning, and corporate strategies.

This year, I am focusing on making disciples through a renewed relational investment plan, and with that plan, and am reincorporating the missional moleskine with a few tweaks. The big thing I’m focusing on this year is incorporating “place” and “progression” in the investment “plan“. My goal is to see the missional moleskine turn into a travelogue for life in the city. It is tracing life on mission at home (first place), at work (second place), and in the community (third places). Living as a missionary is not about being special or additional but intentional, and the missional moleskine helps me map that out.

By progress, I am talking about the establishment of relationships with non-Christians and investing in those relationships progressively over time. It is common knowledge that the majority of people whose lives are transformed by the gospel do so through a relationship. For me, this is ground zero for living on mission.  While this may sound really elementary and basic, the starting point has to be an honest one.

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Some of you who read the title of this post saw the words “chiastic structure” and are wondering what in the world that has to do with making disciples on mission. Hang with me for a second. I’m not going to drag you into Hebraic literature and poetic structures, but I do think such a title warrants a little explanation.

A chiasm is simply a learning device to draw connections and parallels in concentric fashion, usually working from the outside in. Examples would be ABC-CBA (the two A’s parallel, the two B’s parallel, and the two C’s parallel). This is also a way of drawing emphasis, usually the center being the most important pairs of parallels.

Reflecting with my disciple-making team, I believe there is a chiastic structure to missional discipleship.  In other words, I believe there is biblical symmetry in how we enter missionally and how we make disciples by joining them to invite us into this life on mission. In order to make the parallels memorable, all of the parts of the structure begin with the letter “P” (and all Southern Baptists say a hearty “amen”). Here’s the chiastic structure:

Chiastic Structure of Missional Discipleship


Last week, I wrote about “owning my own square mile” based on coming to terms with God’s purposes and providence/plan for my life. I genuinely believe that a high view of God’s sovereignty does not marginalize mission but actually mobilizes mission. God’s purpose is that His people who represent Him on earth–His character, His Ways, and His gospel. God has a plan to bring about His eternal purposes culminating in the glorification of His Son from every nation, tongue, and tribe. That plan is through the local church to proclaim the gospel of God which brings about the obedience of faith to those becoming like Christ in all things. God is the great Evangelist who plans salvation (Father), purchases salvation (Son), and personalizes salvation (Holy Spirit).

As a disciple of Jesus, I’m called to follow Him on mission to love God and love others, to become a fisher of men, laborer in His harvest field, ambassador of His gospel, and soldier in His army. My life should be characterized by the pursuit of man–of sinners far from God–who become the object of my affection, the subject of my prayers, and the prospect of kingdom advance. In order for this pursuit of man to become meaningful, I must pattern my life after the priority of the kingdom of God and making the gospel of first importance. Because I have been sent into the world by Jesus (John 20:21), my life should reflect a pattern indicating a pursuit for sinners because of God’s purposeful and providential placement.

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Owning My Own Square Mile

Tim Brister —  January 17, 2013 — 9 Comments

My Block GroupAnd he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Acts 17:26-27

Last week, I talked to you my efforts this year to build a neighborhood in my city through Next Door. This is a heavy burden I have, one that I have not steward very well in the past. The verses above speak about God’s providence, namely that God determines our dwelling places. Have you thought much about that? Yes, you thought you live where you do because of the great deal on the house, the school district, the proximity to work, etc. But in and through all of these secondary causes, there’s a primary cause that you live where you do: God put you there.

And God’s providence is not without God’s purpose.

God’s purpose in Acts 17 is “that they should seek God…and find him.” So let’s put this together. God placed me in this particular plot on planet earth for the purpose that people should seek God and find Him.

And God’s purposes should become the passion of our lives.

If God’s purpose of providentially placing me in the city where I live so that people would seek God and find him, then it ought to be my passion to accomplish that purpose. God has a design. He’s being intentional and purposeful. When I embrace that intentional design, my response should be a passionate embrace and acceptance of the mission.

Simply put: I live where I live so that those without God can find life in Him. What difference would this make if my life really looked like that?

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Restless Love

Tim Brister —  March 7, 2012 — 2 Comments

There’s a lot of talk about being missional these days. There’s not a lot of visual aids, at least not like this one. I found it incredibly moving. May God raise up many men and women like Sara in our generation to take the gospel in the heart of brokenness and ruin and see the transforming power of King Jesus.

[vimeo 17998361]
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So check it.  “The brothers” took Paul by night from the mad mob rioting at the house of Jason in Thessalonica (Acts 17:10).  Surely that was a rather traumatic moment.  This landed him in Berea where Paul, undeterred by the riots in the previous city, kept doing what he had been doing–preaching Christ.  The mob catches up with Paul in Berea so “the brothers” send him off again “as far as Athens,” and there Paul finds himself waiting for Silas and Timothy to show up (Acts 17:14).

One the one hand, persecution drove the mission.  On the other hand, “the brothers” executed the mission.  On every account, Paul was constrained by the Spirit who testified to him to expect imprisonment and affliction in every city” (Acts 20:23).   In the middle of all this was a man possessed by Christ, stubbornly committed to preaching the gospel at all costs, and prepared to fight the good fight of faith.

Apparently Athens was not on the agenda. The brothers took him “as far as Athens”, and, as Luke explains, he is there simply waiting for Timothy and Silas to show up.  What do you do while you wait? Check your Twitter updates?  Play video games on your iPod?  Listen to your last iTunes download?  For Paul, his waiting meant listening, learning, and leading others to Christ.

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