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Steve was a salesman at a local car dealership and I bought my first Malibu from him in 2009. When I heard about his severe cancer diagnosis, I was overwhelmed with a deep compassion and a nudge from the Spirit. 

October 12, 2017 2 1 comments
Blog

Despite being called to this life, one aspect that I have been focusing on is that we, humans, are often caught sleeping. Simply put we need to wake up and realize all of life is a call to live abundantly! 

October 11, 2017 0 0 comments
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The expression of unique gifts is the local congregation’s work of art: creating beauty, seeing the other, being reconcilers and healers, reminding our neighbors who they truly are as images bearers of God.

May 31, 2017 0 1 comments
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The missional focus challenges church practices that mimic consumerism and result, intentionally or not, in the church as a vendor of religious services. 

April 6, 2017 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Throughout the history of Christianity, I've observed two models of church planting that I will label Frontier & Immigrant. Each model has implicit strengths and weaknesses. What is your congregation?

March 15, 2017 0 0 comments
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Here are some great tools for pastors and church planters who want to learn to fully include people with disabilities. 

February 28, 2017 0 0 comments
Blog

Using “missional” as an adjective doesn't change the church's identity but attempts to serve as a reminder of what she's always been. The term neither excludes evangelism nor is synonymous with social justice efforts.

February 23, 2017 0 3 comments
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I have been a member of Anaheim CRC since 1969, and I did not know we had people in our congregation with intellectual disabilities. However, God put this desire on my heart to be their new leader.

February 21, 2017 0 0 comments
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In Dr. George Hunsberger’s last lecture at Western Theological Seminary he asked the question, “What difference does it make when you put the word missional in front of the word church?”

January 20, 2017 0 1 comments
Blog

In a neighborhood that faces many challenges, an arts ministry holds great potential. As Stryker points out, “Beauty, while not necessary to survive, is essential for the human spirit to thrive.” 

January 10, 2017 0 0 comments
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This past week the division in our nation has been illuminated by the election process, not created by that process. But as the church, we must follow Christ in offering a posture of submission to the other. 

November 15, 2016 0 0 comments
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As I rode along and saw empty store fronts, ragged motels, pawn shops, ethnic stores and restaurants, I was gripped by a feeling that surprised me with its intensity. I felt like I had come home.

October 10, 2016 0 2 comments
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We are challenged to discern God's activity by asking: Who in the community is working on behalf of the infants so they won’t die? Who is standing up for the worker? Who is working on behalf of the old? 

September 19, 2016 0 1 comments
Blog

As a church planter with a passion for changing neighbours from strangers to friends, here are a few ways you can start being active in YOUR neighbourhood.

September 13, 2016 0 2 comments
Blog

In a couple weeks our church celebrates six years of existence. During this time we've experienced the high's and low's of planting a new ministry. To celebrate, here are some lessons learned along the way. 

August 24, 2016 0 0 comments
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Churches and denominations should be known as places of great organizational imagination, creativity, and experimentation. Embracing a worldview of abundance propels our organizational creativity.

August 17, 2016 0 2 comments
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An ideology of scarcity keeps us from pursuing a common good for our neighborhoods and the world around us. As the church, we must confront the worldview of scarcity and offer an alternative way. 

July 21, 2016 0 1 comments
Resource, Sermon or Message

On November 29, 1868, Charles Spurgeon preached a sermon on the subject of effectual calling by using the call of Abraham in Genesis 12 as his example.

The sermon is a gold-mine of advice for missionaries and evangelists who would call people to follow Christ. Here are a few nuggets:...

July 7, 2016 0 0 comments
Q&A

I am overwhelmed by what CRC is doing in church planting network and I would make a request if possible to introduce your networking in Kenya. We need more reformed faith churches in Kenya and your work is excellent and Biblical. I am a reformed faith pastor of a small reformed faith church...

July 2, 2016 0 1 comments
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Calling Kansas City home means hearing lots of references to "The Wizard of Oz." As a church planter, I wanted a yellow brick road and got one, but the land of Oz is full of unexpected twists and turns.

June 15, 2016 0 1 comments
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Understanding the weight of this God-sized dream, prayer would not be a luxury, but rather the lifeblood and air we’d breathe if God’s Kingdom was to “come to earth.” 

April 19, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Job Description

EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT

TARGET START DATE: Immediately

TIME COMMITMENT: 20 hours distributed throughout the week with flexible arrangement

DURATION: Permanent

SALARY: Commensurate with qualifications and competitive with the NFP sector...

April 13, 2016 0 0 comments
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Here are 10 simple vital signs that offer insight into the health of a congregation—five commitments and five functions.

April 13, 2016 0 2 comments
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Don't get me wrong: being perpetually left behind for bigger and brighter dreams has been a difficult adjustment. But now I see that it it isn’t about us and our church but about HIM and HIS church...

May 21, 2015 0 2 comments
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Our living room is used for worship service. Our den is for toddlers. As cool as it is to have our house used in this way, we are facing the reality that we need a more neutral place for more reasons than convenience.

April 29, 2015 0 0 comments

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Thank you for sharing this beautiful story! You've encouraged me to be bold in looking for opportunities to share Jesus. 

we might assume that most churches are not entirely healthy.  Yet God uses them to bring the gospel.  They may be missing one aspect or another of these ten signs of health.  But just as a man with a broken leg could still write a book, so a partly unhealthy church can still demonstrate grace, or speak truth to power, or provide solace for the hurting.  God used Jonah, a spiritually unhealthy man, to bring the message of repentance to Nineveh, and God used Israel, an unhealthy nation, to bring Christ to the world.  Signs of health are important, but not as important as the good news of the gospel itself.  

I've read all of the 4 parts in this series, as well as numerous other explanations of "missional" and "m issional church" and I'm still at a loss to understand exactly what it means.  My conclusion is that it is not so different than the word "smurf" was to those little blue cartoon characters.  Indeed, by the end of a "Smurfs" episode, you had a sense for what the word "smurf" meant, but only a sense, and vague at that, but they kept saying it and so perhaps you felt obliged to have a sense for what it meant.  And so you did.

I stumbled onto this while thinking about our own (non-CRC) church plant in an urban, poor, minority section of a more rural city (Carrollton, GA). The family that moved here with us bailed a year into the plant after realizing that the were not cut out for this which left us wondering whether we stay, how long do we give it, etc. we decided progress toward the three marks you identify would be our measuring stick. 

This work is slow and hard. The people we're trying to reach generally don't know the Bible and have a totally cultural view of what a church is. We live with them, have them in our home, teach them English or life skills, provide free biblical counseling, and of course urge them to be reconciled to God thru Christ. 

Churches in these kinds of neighborhoods may never be mature in these three areas. Financially, they will never raise 200k per year. We are only able to do it because I have a great job and we fund everything while taking to salary. We've said we just want to see the percentage of money from other sources increase. 

Regarding self governing, we have said we just want to see someone not in our family leading something - anything - that serves our church family or community. 

For self reproducing, we just want to see those that are legitimately redeemed acknowledging that Charles Spurgeon was right when he said every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter. 

 

Alan Hirsch argues that the term "missional" should be understood to refer to alignment with the missio Dei that is bigger than just the church. He likes to say that we should think in terms of the mission having a church rather than the church having a mission. In that sense, adding "missional" to "church" implies that the church recognizes and aligns itself with something bigger than itself, rather than simply assuming "missions" is a vehicle to grow itself or extend its reach into the world. This perception can accept that God might use (in addition to the church) individual Christians in their workplace, para-church groups doing relief efforts, or even talking donkeys (ala Balaam) to advance his kingdom. He loves and nurtures and sends His church into the world, but His kingdom is bigger than the church and the church must constantly align itself with whatever God is up to.

Maybe this is a paradigm shift like Galileo convincing the world that though the earth is very special, it is not the center of solar system. The sun (or, in this case, the Son) is.

 

Doug,

I've found it helpful to think of missional as an aspect of one of the attributes of the church spoken of in the Nicene Creed--one, holy, catholic and *apostolic* church, an apostle being a sent one. The attribute of apostolicity doesn't only mean that we hold to the apostolic teaching but that there is a sent-ness to the church itself, missional simply being the current term.  Historically discussions of apostolicity seem to have revolved more around questions of authority and the missional aspect of it has often been overlooked.

Color me as one of those confused.

If "being missional ... is simply what the church is," as this article says, it is no wonder the word has always perplexed me.  I'm disinclined to add modifiers to words when the modifier means what the word intended to be modified means.  When others do that, I have this itch to discover the additional meaning the modifier brings to the word being modified, but it would seem that in this case there is none?

Yes, confused.

 

 

Thank you Kevin.   I really appreciate your take on this subject, and look forward to reading subsequent editions.

I am also moved by Alan Hirsch's comment, "It is not that the church has a mission, but rather that the mission of God has a church."

Dear friend,

Greetings you in Jesus name. We are so grateful to God for the opportunity He has given us to work for the evangelization of India.  We are ambassadors of the Gospel in a land where thousands of villages are totally unreached.  The people in these villages have never heard the Gospel – not even one time.  India has one of the largest unevangelized populations in the entire world.  We are doing our best to reach these people because we believe in the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.  Jesus said, “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel…” Over the years, God has been rewarding our labor.  Thousands of Hindus, Muslims and animists have embraced Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord!

 

In spreading the Gospel, we are not only evangelizing but also tending to the material needs of the poor.  We operate Orphanage, Child Development centers, Church Planting Ministries, Evangelism, School, Tailoring for the tribal women; Relief, Medical care & we also strive to meet the material needs of the thousands of poverty stricken people that we minister to in the states of India.

 

We humbly request your prayers for this mission work in India.  The field is ready for a great harvest of souls. The field is wide open for the harvest if we can send the missionaries.  Odisha India is a land with thousands of ethno-linguistic groups, not to mention an assortment of world religions such as Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Islam, Zoroastrianism and animism.  In India, we have 14 official languages and 1,400 minor languages, not to mention thousands and thousands of varying dialects.  The task is great, but our God is greater still!  We are expecting a great harvest of souls, even as we work to spread the Gospel in this very needy land.  With your partnership, we can make a difference! Please pray, Visit and help as possible for the mission work in Odisha India.

 

 

 

In His Mission

 

Rev Barun Senapati.

Founder-chairman

Bethany trust

Post Box 17. At-PO- Kesinga

Dist Kalahandi Orissa India. Pin No- 766012.

Phone-91-76670-201472

Cell-0091-94373-62390- 08456018175

Website-bethanyministriesorissa.org

Beautiful, Shawn.  Gospel.  Karl

posted in: One Motorcycle Ride

Thank you for sharing your experiences.

Blessings on your ministry.

Regc

 

posted in: One Motorcycle Ride

"This is not a city of holy separation but of righteous social engagement in God’s mission of peace and justice...Submission to God’s activity through partnership will open up space to experience the gospel. " Wise words--thank you! I attended the Christian Community Development Association's conference in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago, and Isaiah's vision was very much at the center of that event's call to do justice as well. 

Very timely and true Kevin! Perfect love casts out the fear of scarcity, and the Spirit leads us anew into abundant creativity!

Peter Stellingwerff

Thanks for this, Rick.  

It always amazes me that people think it's so difficult to simply connect with the neighbours.  I think it has a lot to do with the fact that people think once you do you have to know all the ways to lead someone to Christ -- the bridge image or 4 spiritual laws or something. But we only think that way if we are viewing these neighbours as projects.  This is so backwards.

If we follow Christ's method, our engagement with just loving our neighbours and getting to know them and enjoy them as friends may just lead them to ask questions about what makes us tick, why we follow Jesus.... and, "hey, you're not like other Christians I know, judgmental and moralistic.  How come?"  

This is a great start for people.  

Thanks Rick.

Hi Rick, 

Thanks for taking the time to share these 5 easy ways to engage our neighbours and our hood. A good challenge and reminder for me. 

James are you asking for the CRC to plant churches in Kenya? Or are you asking for church planting ideas for yourself?  I am in Nakuru.  You can email me at asytsma@world-renew.net

I may be able to answer your questions about the Christian Reformed Church.

AMEN!

This is a very timely topic. The way this article is written it asks more questions than showing us what a healthy congregation  looks like. I would like to see more quantitative information rather than wordy platitudes.  I might suggest a church do a CV of itself. Because no personal information is provided we need not be concerned about privacy! So things like "birth dates" and other major timely events could be listed.  Also the number of members since starting in increments of 10 years e.g. List historical budget and what percentage was paid in Ministry Shares. How many pastors have served the church.  How many Council members are there. How many males and females. How many children baptized, how many professions of faith each over the last five years.  How many children enrolled in Cadets and Gems.

it may also provide information on money's spent on local evangelism and collections for sundry causes. In short how much does it really collect for all causes. 

if the church wanted to be really courageous it might consider confirming its commitment to the CRCNA official stand on a number of current issues.

The attached survey was way too complex and very difficult to answer objectively by a member.

Harry Boessenkool

Am I to understand that jokes riffing on Oklahoma's "Kansas City" are still fair game, then? I hear ev'rythin's up to date in Kansas City.

 

I'm wondering if we are really doing this church planitng in a way which glorifies God, is good stewardship of

church planters gifts and family health when we try t do it on a financial shoe string. Yours is the second writing I read  today about church planting in DC and Kansas City/  Both done on a shoestring budget.  The one in DC closing before two years had passed and the one in KC still ggoing after four years.

What troubles me who is defining this church planting model? Why so much demanded of the church planter?  This sounds like cruel and unusual punishment to me. 

Is this really the best model we can come up within the CRCNA?

 

 

Thanks Dirk.  Great perspective.  We're all just a passing through.  How nice it is to have stopped along the way at a wonderful roadside stop.  Those stops often provide inspiration for the rest of the trip.  Thanks

Dirk, This is such a great perspective! Thank you so much for sharing this with us. It is always difficult to say goodbye to these folks, but when we look at the bigger picture of what God is doing in and through them, it gives us a whole new outlook going forward. I love it.

Thoughtful Allen - thanks!  ~ kenvh

Thanks Allen.   You took the words right out of my mouth.  So confirming to know you remain a good friend and kindred soul on this kingdom journey.  May God bless you and keep you and use you to advance His kingdom in your new home.  

 

Hi Allen.  Thank you for the reminder.  This offers good encouragement and validation for what we are trying to do at Chelwood.  I used to feel the same way about "saving souls" until I read John Ortberg's new book Soul Keeping.  In that book, Ortberg shares Dallas Willard's definition of the soul.  Willard says the soul is the will, mind, and body together, so that in order to care for our soul and the souls of others we must be concerned about all aspects.  It involves the will (or personal choices), the mind (in every respect that implies), and the body (our physical condition matters for the care of our soul).   I think that is a great way to think of the soul, and gets us out of thinking of a "soul" as our state in heaven after we die.   What do you think?

posted in: Living the Kingdom

Hey Allen, thanks for the post. Your words resonated with my heart and connected with some of the ideas I just expressed ("IN the world, not OF it" (Community Engagement/Evangelism)). A lack of intimate engagement, arms length evangelism...whatever you want to call it, is perhaps the hugest (is that a word?) barrier to the spread of the gospel...It's hard to create meaningful relationship with those you don't 'touch'. And making disciples means building relationships. I'm trying to listen and figure out what that means for me and my family. Prayers for you and yours as you listen and love in your new context. 

 

posted in: Living the Kingdom

Of course Jerry, I could not include every detail... thankful for the CRCHM!

 

Yes Ryan, I agree with Jon, a "beautiful and humbly-told true story of church planting."  Many of us are praying with you for a New City 2 and New City 3!  And don't forget to add that a supportive denomination provided you with over $15,000.00 that first year with more to follow.  I think that makes the story even more beautiful!

Good article, Larry.

A beautiful, humbly-told true story of church planting. Thank you.

Thanks for your article, Larry, on the love of God.  You are right when you say this is an overused statement.  It’s overused not only by suggesting that many people and even many Christians don’t know how to define this love, but they also don’t recognize that God’s love in Christ is particular (a limited atonement).  So what about those outside of the pale of the Christian faith, which is the vast majority of people.  Does God even love them?  It does seem as though Bill Wald has hit onto something when he suggests the “first person” pronouns of “we” or “I” indicates only those who are in Christ, or the “elect” or “chosen.”  

It’s difficult to think of God loving those who have been chosen for destruction (Romans 9).  In fact for those who are not the object of God’s love, he insures their destruction.  We often speak of God determining, not only the ends, but also the means.  If God has determined the means by which the chosen would come to salvation (election), he has also determined the means by which the lost would come to their destruction.  He has credited the lost (as well, as the saved) with the sin of Adam.  There is no way, anyone can claim to be righteous, even the newborn, for all have been credited by God with Adam’s sin.  On top of that God imputes to all people a sinful nature, by which they can’t help but to sin. Paul talks about his own failure against sin in Romans 7.  He says he is a slave to sin and an utter failure.  And that’s the implication for all people apart from Christ. This sinful nature is given to all by God.  On top of God crediting all with Adam’s sin and giving all a sinful nature, he gives a standard of perfection that is impossible to meet.  As we have been taught from the Bible, “It is impossible to please God.”  So God has determined the means (and insured) for the destruction of the human race.  The sinful lost cannot even respond to the gospel without the Spirit's enabling.  It’s seems difficult to understand why the sinful lost will be held responsible for their own sin, when God has determined the means by which they can’t help but to sin.  Of course Paul criticizes anyone who would talk back to God or criticize his ways.  God has a right to do whatever he wants with his clay.

So when God has determined the damnation of the majority of the human race, it is difficult to talk about the love of God flippantly.  And even for those in Christ, who are to display God’s love to others, it would seem difficult to claim that love for oneself when Christians are no better than others at displaying love for God and neighbor.  Just as the Old Testament Jews failed to keep God’s commandments, so also do Christians.  So where does the assurance of God’s love come from, where is the proof of the Spirit’s working?  This whole love of God seems very confusing to me (unless I should throw huge sections of the Bible away).  Oops, we can't do that.

posted in: God Is Love

It is so encouraging to see this move of the Spirit in your community!  Thanks for sharing your story.

"Love" and "God" are very mysterious. 

"Love as it turns out is not defined however we desire."

Is God's love defined as however God desires? 

"Love is always connected to Christ. If someone tries to give definition to "God is Love" without this connection they are not being true to the text. Not only so, but God's love far from freeing us to do whatever we wish actually obligates us to follow God's love by loving others. To divorce "God is love" from this obligation to love also brings a failure to the true definition of God is love."

The Devil is in the pronouns. Do the pronouns refer to "we, the regenerate" in exactly the same way as to "we, the condemned?" CRC members more learned than I have made the case case that the doctrine of predestination only refers the "We," the regenerate thus converted. If so then is not God semi-Pelagian and/or Arminian?

 "For the Christian the propitiation was the shed blood of Jesus on the cross. It turned away the wrath of God so that He could pass "over the sins previously committed" (Rom. 3:25). It was the Father who sent the Son to be the propitiation (1 John 4:10) for all (1 John 2:2)."

Then propitiation is option on God's part but was intended to be mandatory in Jesus' "pre- cross" thinking?  

​If God does not desire (love to see) the unregenerate to spend eternity in Hell. Then what should we conclude about the nature of God, love, authority, power, and hell? How about Purgatory? Does it not make good sense if used to modify the theology of (CRC) Rev. Punt?

If a person, knowing (understanding in his mind and his guts) the eternal consequences, chooses Hell over Heaven, who "wins?"   

posted in: God Is Love

To know that Christ died and suffered as a result of God's love, is to understand the depth and breadth of His love.  But we often have a very shallow understanding of love.   The epistles of John say much more about this.

Who loves more:  the mother who says her son in prison for theft and vandalism is a "good boy", or the father who brings his son to the police because he has stolen a car, and trafficked in drugs?  God's standards indicate that His love is not a nicey, nicey smiley feeling, but a steadfast faithfulness to his promises and demands.  His love for the repentant sinner comes with the expectation of repentance and change.    Our love for each other is tied to God's love for us.  This is not an unconditional love, but it is a forgiving love.   "  7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin...  9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."    "2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world."

"II John 1: 5 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands."

God's love was shown in the Ten commandments (and some other commands) he gave, as well as in the promise of the Messiah.  The commandments were the way people were to demonstrate love to each other.  Our failures were covered by Messiah's payment.  Our desire to follow these commands demonstrates our love for God and each other.  Our lack of desire to follow these commands indicates our lack of desire to love one another.  Let us walk in the light, and confess our sins, and be purified from unrighteousness, and have fellowship with one another.

 

posted in: God Is Love

Seems to me the concept of "our making" is not Reformed. Regeneration precedes  (logically and temporally) conversion, We should be identifying the elect e.g. the regenerate and assisting their conversion to discipleship. It may seem like only words but words are important because our important theoretical (can't think of the right word) thinking is done in words.

Unlike our "dispenational" brothers and sisters, we don't evangelize for the purpose of "getting the lost into the lifeboats." If Reformed theology is correct, there is nothing we could do to keep the elect out of the lifeboats or to get the unregenerate into them. 

These days in Canada and the US most evangelism is designed to snatch people from other congregations and denominations. Our members have no training to deal with people who have a logical defense for other religions or even atheism. Off hand, I don't have a solution.   

Thanks, Larry,

Your summary, sharing made for encouraging reading. It's applicable for planters as well as pastors in "organized" and maybe even declining churches, of which we have sufficient, if not way too many.

I'd like to underscore the one observation/wisdom shared regarding pastoring the sheep the pastor has and not using them just to get more sheep. In observing the church from a more and more removed vantage, I'm seeing a reluctance on pastors' part to be the shepherd, although I'm glad the ranching model appears to have vanished.

"...taking care of people" is the still the pastor's responsibility and it'll receive a promised blessing, as Jesus told Peter after restoring him to his leadership role.

Just some thoughts from a pastor somewhat out to pasture...

George

Hi Larry,

As the Section Administrator for Leadership Development, I wanted to say "Thanks!" for your posting. It's great to see a name other than my own in this neck of the woods. Traffic is growing and I am excited for the dialog that is happening on and off the site about this incredibly important topic. 

This is a fantastic post that gives us lots to think about in our own ministry context, whether we're are a leader or not. As a pastor's wife I know how this list will resonate with the desires of my husband's heart when it comes to the church he yearns to lead. And as a Mission Developer working with a steering team to plant a new hybrid of church plant/campus ministry, this list gives them an opportunity to ensure priorities like these are front and centre when hiring the new ministry leader and establishing a launch team. Anything that causes us to stop and reflect on present realities, challenges them and then motivates us to adjust to the newly discovered 'desires of our heart' is time well spent. Thank you for passing this on to us.

I want to add to the question you posed. So, with the established church as the context, I'd love to hear feedback on which items from this list of leadership wisdom have the greatest potential for church culture transformation? And second to that is the question of where within the church should the locus of change begin for permeating and lasting change? The pastor? A small group of passionate individuals outside of the leadership? Both?

The list is the relatively easy part...but determining (agreeing on) the place to start and starting are two much more difficult tasks it seems. Or do we just make them difficult by seeing the traffic jam and not the destination? One simple, possible, immediate "Yes!" at a time, I guess.  

Hi Bill,  Thanks for the thought.  I've reflected on this as well. While we can go in the category or Pelagian or semi-Pelagian I go in a different direction. I remember reading the book on early church history, Cities of God. This book pointed out how Paul went to the cites because that was where new people were moving and these people were much more open to gospel than people living in the more traditional rural areas. Also, the author was able to look at how social relationships and guilds were important for spreading ideas and spreading the gospel. Recognizing how God used social systems and social networks in the early spread of the gospel I see "funneling" as another way that God uses his created systems to reach those he has called to himself.  I see "funneling" therefore neither as Pelagian or semi-Pelagian, but as the way God connects us to those he is calling to himself. 

 

 

 

posted in: Are You Funneling?

Would this approach be Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian?

posted in: Are You Funneling?

"A simple gospel does not exist"

A simple gospel exists if matters of command and control are eliminated e.g. the "and all you gots to do is . . ." addendum.

 

I just finished reading Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard in which he uses the term "Gospel of sin management" repeatedly in describing how Christians on both the right and the left have gone wrong. In a footnote to a sentence on p.42 he credits “Demythologization— Crisis in Continental Theology,” by Peter Berger, in European Intellectual History Since Darwin and Marx, edited by W. W. Wagar [New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1966], p. 255; where Berger uses this term. Hard to tell who got it from whom, but interesting concept.

The gospel message is the good news of salvation, Christ coming in our place to die for our sins thru faith in Him.  The story of that gospel takes many forms, and can be very extensive, and it never quite ends as it lives in our lives.   The entire scripture is the story of that gospel, how it came to be, how it was necessary, how it was fulfilled.  But without the central theme (salvation) of the gospel, the story loses focus and perspective.   That's why every "complete" sermon ought to include a statement of the gospel message, as it tells an aspect of the gospel story.

Hi Norm,

Thanks for taking the time to dig deeply into the "shepherd" and the work of the "shepherd" under Christ. I sense that you are seeing things pretty clearly in Ajax; and doing some great things to take people out of the baby stage and into a mature faith. Your blog is a great picture of an interactive method to take people into the text. It's a strong encouragement to me to think about how I both prepare people at EverGreen for the coming week and how we step out of the message and into living it in the following week. 

In that light, I would love to hear how others have done this. So for all of the readers...how about some of your ideas. You can check out Norm's blog at http://www.jesusfollower.ca/ and see the way he engages his congregation.

At EverGreen we have done a number of things over the years. Right now we are writing a weekly sermon based study for our small groups, as well as, using SOAPS (as Norm does) to have people reflect on the passage of the week. In the past one of our bigger pushes to get people reading and thinking about the Word was something called "Explore the Story, Discover Your Life". This was a year long sermon series and a daily reading of the scripture with a daily commentary.  If you are interested, you can see it at  http://www.explorethestorydiscoveryourlife.blogspot.com

One of the things that I wonder about is figuring out the balance between teaching/preaching that really does reveal new wonders in the scriptures and what I might call an ESV Study Bible level of understanding. I think that the ESV level of understanding is pretty much what most people pursue and is what is needed for discipling and teaching many. However, what shepherds/pastors bring to the conversation is not only a theological education, but also the time to spend on the task of digging more deeply into the passage that can unearth treasures in the text (although, as you point out, sometimes a child does that in a surprising way). People working their regular jobs, doing that killer commute and the rest don't have this time. This deeper digging can keep the text fresh and make people wonder at the reality that the Scriptures never get old and there are always new things to discover--that can impact their lives.

Thanks for engaging, Norm

Thanks for sharing this, a great topic, one that I have been personally wrestling with. I would avoid the extremes (no need for shepherds at all, calling people only to be 'self-feeders'), but would encourage a rethink of how we think about shepherding. I would like to add to this discussion, and to hear what your responses to my 'rant' might be.

1) An important qualifier is that we are under-shepherds, working for the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:1-4). My fear is that instead of helping the sheep hear His Voice (John 10:27), we are training people to know our voice. They come to rely on us to interpret scripture for them. Or if they don't like our voice, they look for a shepherd who's voice they prefer. The shepherds need to improve their voice to keep their audience, and compete with others in order to satisfy their sheep... or they look for greener pastures. Somehow we need to teach the sheep to hear His Voice whenever scripture is opened, whether the sermon is good or bad, the speaker is dynamic or bland, ordained or not ordained. For me, the Voice of God (Logos, Jesus) is more important than the mouthpiece (which we need too); whether the mouthpiece is a professor, pastor or pew-sitter, a sunday school teacher, a parent, a youth group leader, or a stranger on the street, God's Voice needs to be heard. 

2) I would suggest adding another image to help us explain the shepherding image: a parent (1 Thessalonians 2:7-12). When children are young, they need to be fed. But eventually they need to learn to feed themselves, and eventually even feed others. This does not end the parents role, they still help them get the food, help them prepare it for a time, but the children eat for themselves. And soon they are able to prepare a meal, and maybe even surprise their parents with a meal prepared for them. And one day, they will have opportunity to feed their own children. By feeding themselves, I don't mean 'self-feeding' as you characterized it (independent, individualistic). Eating and feeding should always be communal affairs, but at some point the kids need to grow up and eat... with the support of the community. My experience is that we make 'food preparation' so complicated that you have to have a seminary degree to do it rightly. We not only lead our sheep to the table, we precut the food, we decide on what to eat, when and how, we even make them sit quiet and still while we spoon feed them. This makes sense for babies, but when do they grow up? See Hebrews 5:11-14, where eventually the babes become teachers, who by constant use they have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

3) How many of us have heard those dreaded words, 'I'm not being fed'. They make it sound as if they are deeper than we are, that their maturity level has grown beyond our shepherding skills. But that is not what I hear. I hear baby robbins squawking in the nest, demanding that we give them what they want - feed me, love me, help me, teach me, care for me, comfort me... This is the kind of SELF-feeding that I think we need to address. They have not grown up, they are still in their high chairs, with their clean bibs, waiting for us to spoon feed them. Is this cycnical... maybe? True of everyone... of course not. But it is I fear a common pattern, one that is related to our traditional shepherding/preaching ideas and practices.

4) I am presently serving in a long time 'church plant' setting. We have lots of babes in Christ, and they do not know how to hear God's Voice. But they have learned enough of churchianity to know that some shepherds provide better sermons than others. I have felt the pressure to perform better, to compete with the mega-shepherds. But that is not the way I want to go. I am who I am, and I do the best I can. I need to instill in them a love for God's Voice in scripture, and an ability to feed themselves in community, to grow up and eventually become teachers, who by constant use of Scripture have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. My sermons are not all great, and some of them are pretty bad, but the scripture is always great, and God's Voice can always be heard. 

5) So I am trying something, and praying that it will help. I've adopted a three year bible-reading schedule. I hand out the readings each week, and highlight which reading from that list I will be preaching on next Sunday. The handout has open space for them to answer the question beneath each reading, 'what do you hear God saying?'. I blog my own reflections for each reading, each day, and ask them to post their own thoughts. I email 5-10 members each week and ask them to share their responses to the upcoming Scripture passage, and incorporate their responses into the message (I would love to meet weekly with some, as I've heard other pastors do, but in my busy, commuter culture meeting time is at a premium). On Sunday morning, I attempt a partial 'lectio' by reading the scripture, pausing, then reading it again. Then I ask them to share what they hear God saying in the scripture. Finally, I share some of my own reflections, trying to model how we need to all hear God's Voice in scripture. I am letting them know that one day I may be asking them to publicly share their own reflections in a 'sermon'. So far only two have done so... but in time.

6) I have discouraged them from saying 'good sermon' to me after the service (that was easy, not too many did). Instead I've urged them to share with me if they heard God speaking to them - teaching, rebuking, correcting, training, comforting, blessing, etc. - in the service. Sometimes it was in a prayer, sometimes in a song, sometimes in message. One time a young girl shared with me what God said to her in the passage, and it had nothing to do with my 'sermon'. Thing is, after I heard what she said, I myself heard God differently, through her 'sermon'! I am often surprised and blessed by what others hear God saying in scripture. I realize that all my training and experience gives me tunnel vision, seeing things that others don't see, and missing (obvious) things that others do see. Reading scripture and hearing God is indeed a communal activity - we should stop restricting it to the educated and qualified few. 

7) I fear that our emphasis on ordination and the formal 'preaching of the word' has held back the church. We stress the anointing of the pastor, but scripture also stresses the anointing of the disciples, so that they do not need anyone to teach them (1 John 2:26-27). It is the Spirit that teaches us, it is the scripture that is God-breathed and useful, a double-edged sword. Why is it that so many christians do not know how to proclaim (preach, share) Jesus in the marketplace? Because we've hired that task out to a limited few. When the early church was persecuted, the disciples that scattered preached the word wherever they went (Acts 8:1-4); today they just look for another church to preach it to them. Think of the story of the church in China, when the communist government killed the pastors, burned the bibles and books, sent away the missionaries, scattered the churches, closed the seminaries. The west thought for sure the church was toast; but they (and the Chinese government) forgot about the Holy Spirit, the Chief Shepherd, and the power of God's Voice. When the walls in China finally opened a little, the west found a thriving church. Still to this day ordinary people (without seminary training) are being used by God to speak, and be heard. We need to learn from them!!!

Conclusion. Do we still need shepherds? Yes! But do we need to rethink what shepherds do, and how they do it? YES! Reading scripture for yourself is not the self-feeding that concerns me. I feel the bigger problem is the SELF-FEEDING of baby sheep that never seem to grow up and learn to feed others.

Thanks for the helpful insights, Larry.  I think we do tend towards a "no" culture in the CRC, and I can see that the first person to change will have to be myself. But, yes,  I like the possibilities!

posted in: Can You Say, "Yes?"

As church planters we found very quickly that we needed all the gifts (people) that the Holy Spirit sends in order to move things forward.  We were blessed in the fact that we had little "red tape" to cut through to make things happen.  If a new believer came to me or other church leaders and asked if they could organize a new ministry we would say YES!  Then we would sit down with them, help them develop their ideas, find out how we could connect other church resources to the ministry and after they got the ministry going, we would report on the ministry to our "steering committee".  Some things worked, others did not, but we learned through the process.  Some new ideas from new converts became pivotal ministries to reach out into the community.  These ministries got new people involved and they bore fruit in many ways. 

Your brother and sister, church planters in Mexico on the beach presently, Rev. Wayne and Sandy DeYoung former CRWM/CRHM

posted in: Can You Say, "Yes?"

I'd be more than happy to provide the full report to anyone who emails me: aschenkel@crcna.org

posted in: What Counts?

Here is the blog site listing all the articles from Mike Breen on missional communities
http://weare3dm.com/mikebreen/we-are-3dm/missional-communities-series-fi...

posted in: What Counts?

Where is it possible to get a copy of this report on which these blogs are based?

posted in: What Counts?

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