Posts tagged: missional
The World Needs Grace
2 ¶ Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison– 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. 5 ¶ Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
We seek to be missional in our approach to those who are outside of grace.
Paul, in how he handles his imprisonment and in his words to the church at Colossae, sets forth a picture of what it means to be missional (Intentionally committed to engage those who do not know or misunderstand Jesus.).
What drives his life is captured in the words – “that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison.”
There is something that has captured his imagination (the mystery of Christ – the gospel in all its wonder of his incarnation, death, resurrection, exaltation, and consummation). But not only has it captured his imagination, it has become a deep conviction worth suffering for. And, despite the suffering, the message is so important that he asks not for freedom or justice, but for open doors for the Word that speaks of this ‘mystery of Christ.’
It is this experience of the gospel that is at the heart of being missional. ‘Missional’ begins when the wonder of what Jesus has accomplished becomes the ‘pearl of great price’ in your imagination.
When the most intriguing thought you have is that of Jesus Christ, when your mind constantly returns to that one great delight of a Merciful Savior, when your conviction deepens that He alone has power to save, when you are sure that the advance of the gospel is worthy of your suffering, you are on your way to becoming missional.
Paul began this great epistle with a gospel-driven missional focus. Listen to the beginning words:
3 ¶ We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing–as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, 7 just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf 8 and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
What a wonderful portrait of the life giving gospel as it bears fruit and grows – both qualitatively in the lives of believers and quantitatively in the number of those who believe.
What does it look like, when the gospel impacts our lives in a missional way?
That Missional commitment will be reflected in at least three ways.
Outward focused prayer
Watchfully – praying with eyes wide open. Too often we are willingly blind and deaf men and women seeking to avoid the cry of the city around us. Being watchful will make us aware of the tragedies of people’s lives apart from grace. That tragedy may be the empty soul of success or the empty soul of being alone.
Thankfully – Outward focused prayer is compelled by gratitude for the gift of God’s grace. Gospel thankfulness will enable us to be watchful without becoming envious of or angry at those who live apart from God’s grace.
Evangelistically – He prays for an open door for the word, that I may speak as I ought (a necessity). Our prayer should be that God would further the advance of the gospel through us, despite the adverse circumstances we may be in (ca. Paul in prison),
Outward focused living
Outside of what? Of Grace – they may be inside the church, they may insiders in much of what we call important in life – but they are outside of grace.
Wisely – i.e living life by God’s design as He has ordered it, beginning with the dear of the Lord (Prov 1:9). This means
living with the following tensions:
- We are in the world not of the world, i.e. we engage the culture without being absorbed by the culture (John 17).
- We are a new community but not an isolated one – we live within the culture but always ‘cross’-cultural in that our identity is ‘we are in Christ’ – Gal 2:20
- We are citizens of heaven (Phil 3:20) and ambassadors on earth (2 Cor 5).
We live wisely toward outsiders because we want them to become true insiders.
Sacrificially – ‘making the most of every opportunity’
Older translations, such as the KJV, bring to mind the metaphor of redemption being used. Redemption reminds us of the cost of having something.
Also, the Greek word used here for time views time, not simply as chronological succession of moments, but time as specific moments within that succession, hence the ESV translation “opportunity.”
Certain opportunities come along in life for both personal and corporate ministry that must be responded to in that moment. And, often that costs us something.
“Opportunity is like a fleet horse that pauses for one moment at one’s side. If you do not mount it in that moment, you will forever, here the clatter of hoof-beats, down the corridor of time.”
We do not want to sit back and mourn over the lost opportunities to make a difference for Christ. We can’t go back. We simply ask forgiveness and learn something about our own self-centeredness and reluctance to sacrifice for His kingdom.
Today there are opportunities at this moment, at this very hour, both here in Philly and across the world.
As a church, our special opportunity is to reach the nations of the world throughout the city with all of its density, diversity, and depravity.
Outward focused speaking
“conversation always full of grace” – This is speech that manifests God’s fullness in or lives. Too often Christians are known as being judgmental and condemning. Grace-filled speech comes out of a life that knows it own sin and its own experience of grace. Why be grace-filled? Because God has been full of grace toward you.
“seasoned with salt” – the idea of salt in this context is not preservation, but bringing out the good quality of something – to make it tasty. We have the responsibility of seeking God’s grace to enable our speech to become palatable.
An answer is a response to a question? Perhaps this is where we fail in communicating the gospel. We do not listen to the questions that the world is asking and therefore do not answer accordingly. Let me say that the answer to all of the world’s questions is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our responsibility is to show them how Jesus Christ relates to their questions.
Peter put it this way:
1 Pet. 3:15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
“Grasping the external propulsion of God’s grace is crucial to our understanding of mission. It means that mission is not a duty (something we ‘should do’) but a natural overflow of the gospel’s work inside us. If you aren’t motivated to love, serve, and speak the gospel to people, the answer isn’t to ‘just do it.’ The answer is to examine your heart, repent of sin, and discern where your unbelief is short-circuiting the natural outward movement of the gospel. As the gospel renews your heart, it will also renew your desire to move out in faith into the relationships and opportunities God places in your path.
To put it simply, the grace of God is always going somewhere—moving forward, extending his kingdom, propelling his people toward love and service to others. As we learn to live in light of the gospel, mission should be the natural overflow. God’s grace brings renewal internally (in us) so that it might bring renewal externally (through us).”
- The missional church is a collection of missional believers acting in concert together in fulfillment of the missio dei.
- The missional church is one where people are exploring and rediscovering what it means to be Jesus’ sent people as their identity and vocation.
- The missional church is faith communities willing and ready to be Christ’s people in their own situation and place.
- The missional church knows that they must be a cross-cultural missionary (contextual) people and adopt a missionary stance in relation to their community.
- The missional church will be engaged with the culture (in the world) without being absorbed by the culture (not of the world). They will become intentionally indigenous.
- The missional church understands that God is already present in the culture where it finds itself. Therefore, the missional church doesn’t view its purpose as bringing God into the culture or taking individuals out of the culture to a sacred space.
- The missional church is about more than just being contextual, it is also about the nature of the church and how it relates to God.
- The missional church is about being — being conformed to the image of God.
- The missional church will seek to plant all types of missional communities.
- The missional church is evangelistic and faithfully proclaims the gospel through word and deed. Words alone are not sufficient; how the gospel is embodied in our community and service is as important as what we say.
- The missional church understands the power of the gospel and does not lose confidence in it.
- The missional church recognizes that it does not hold a place of honor in its host community and that its missional imperative compels it to move out from itself into that host community as salt and light.2
- The missional church will align all their activities around the missio dei — the mission of God.
- The missional church seeks to put the good of their neighbor over their own.
- The missional church will give integrity, morality, good character and conduct, compassion, love and a resurrection life filled with hope preeminence to give credence to their reasoned verbal witness.
- The missional church practices hospitality by welcoming the stranger into the midst of the community.
- The missional church will always be in a dynamic tension or paradox between missional individuals and community. We cannot sustain being missional on our own, but if we are not being missional individually we cannot sustain being mission-shaped corporately.3
- The missional church will see themselves as representatives of Jesus and will do nothing to dishonor his name.
- The missional church will be totally reliant on God in all it does. It will move beyond superficial faith to a life of supernatural living.
- The missional church will be desperately dependent on prayer.
- The missional church gathered will be for the purpose of worship, encouragement, supplemental teaching, training, and to seek God’s presence and to be realigned with God’s missionary purpose.
- The missional church is orthodox in its view of the gospel and scripture, but culturally relevant in its methods and practice so that it can engage the world view of the hearers.
- The missional church will feed deeply on the scriptures throughout the week.
- The missional church will be a community where all members are involved in learning “the way of Jesus.” Spiritual development is an expectation.
- The missional church will help people discover and develop their spiritual gifts and will rely on gifted people for ministry instead of talented people.
- The missional church is a healing community where people carry each other’s burdens and help restore gently.
- The missional church will require that its leaders be missiologists.
Our vision of a multi-site church for Grace Church of Philly
This multi-site church would be one church whose members worship and serve in various neighborhoods. Each congregation would bear a geographical identifier that reflects its mission to a particular neighborhood such as Grace Church of Philly (University City) (East Falls) (Overbrook), etc. Each neighborhood congregation would have a site pastor for preaching and leadership at the local level. Each site pastor would regularly meet with the other site pastors for prayer, training, coaching, encouragement and missional strategizing under its lead pastors.
This unified church meeting in multiple sites would be governed by one team of elders that meets quarterly to pray for and oversee multi-site movement. This session would be divided into commissions of elders drawn from each local congregation, in charge of shepherding and oversight of their respective local congregations.
This one church of multiple congregations would share administrative resources such as office, finances, equipment, and other resources. This new multi-site church would come together occasionally for regional gatherings, seminars, retreats, youth groups, community outreaches, etc. This church would work together to promote the formation of new congregations throughout Philadelphia and in supporting a global missions program. All of the sites of Grace Church of Philly would benefit by this union and, even more so, the kingdom purposes of Christ are advanced in the city.
The first site is Grace Church of Philly in University City.
Along with others on our leadership team, I currently find myself in a ministry context of planting a new church in an urban area that is racially, culturally, and socio-economically diverse. Add to this mixture a highly transient student and young, urban professional population and further challenges to long-term ministry become immediately evident. In this short piece I will set forth my philosophy of ministry in general (regardless of any temporal or geographical circumstances) and my philosophy of ministry in the immediate context of University City, Philadelphia.
The ultimate goal of my life is to serve and minister in a way that is radically Christ-centered, radically gospel-centered, and radically other-centered by the power of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father (Matt. 22:34-40; 28:18-20). It is the God-man Jesus Christ whose life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension gives meaning to the gospel and displays for me the precious value of each and every human life (John 3:16; 1 Cor. 15:1-8; 1 John 4:9-10). It is through the gospel that I am reconciled to this Jesus and empowered to love and serve others (Rom. 1:16; 5:5; 1 John 4:19). It is through indiscriminately loving others that I can live out this gospel and serve Christ by serving others (Matt. 25:31-46; 1 John 3:14-19).
Why plant new churches?
This question is commonly asked by those both inside and outside of the Christian faith. There are many misconceptions about church planting and the need to engage in this activity.
The following quotations from Tim Keller and J. Allen Thompson’s Church Planter Manual may clarify the absolute necessity of planting new churches.
Why plant new churches? Because it is really the only way of fully obeying the Great Commission:
Virtually all the great evangelistic challenges of the New Testament are basically calls to plant churches, not simply to share the faith. The “Great Commission” (Matt. 28:18-20) is not just a call to “make disciples” but to “baptize.” In Acts and elsewhere, it is clear that baptism means incorporation into a worshipping community with accountability and boundaries (cf. Acts 2:41-47).
Lead pastor John Davis speaking at a pre-launch outreach and fellowship with the core group of Grace Church of Philly at Drexel Park in University City, Philadelphia on 09-19-2009.
The dream for Grace Church is to see God create in University City a Christian Church which clarifies what it means to be “Christian.” We know we live in a culture that has witnessed many misrepresentations of both the Christian life and Christian message and that, consequently, finds neither Christians nor the church very attractive.
The term “Christian” has come to mean just about anything in our time. Everyone who is even remotely connected to Jesus in any way calls themselves a Christian. From Mormons to Roman Catholics; from Liberals to Conservative Fundamentalists; from people involved in New Age belief systems to people who call themselves “born again.” The word “Christian” has become a meaningless term.
Our desire is to bring clarity and re-infuse this term with its proper, biblical meaning. Our desire is to get out of the way so that the Holy Spirit of God can minister to people through the faithful proclamation of His Word. The preaching of the Word will be accompanied by deeds of love and mercy in outreach to the community. Such deeds can only be empowered by the love of Christ that has been poured into our hearts at the new birth. Our prayer is that skeptical attitudes will be changed about the Christian faith, and that it will begin to look attractive to unbelievers who are alienated from God and have never had a saving conversion experience with Jesus Christ.
We believe that Christianity is the most joyful, beautiful, and attractive belief system and worldview that this world has ever seen. We need to stop making this beautiful, precious thing so utterly unappealing to so many.
We want to teach, embody, live, and faithfully represent Christianity before a world and culture that has totally rejected the Church and everything she stands for. We believe that a good amount of the hostility and skepticism that outsiders have toward Christianity is not so much a rejection of the pure, biblical faith of Jesus and His apostles, but is a rejection of the misrepresentations and distortions of the faith that many churches have gotten hung up on.
Many unbelievers think that the Church is filled with arrogant, prideful, materialistic, uncaring, legalistic, homophobic, bigoted people who are primarily focused on promoting a political agenda or party. And unfortunately, their observations are not without merit. We believe that when outsiders look at the Church, they should see love, mercy, and grace rather than hatred, hostility, and hypocrisy. Our desire is to fully embody and incarnate the love, mercy, and grace of God before others.
Acts 2:42-47 tells us that the early Christian community was so filled with people who had humility, confidence, understanding, courage, generosity, sincerity, and joy that they had “favor with all the people” of the surrounding community. There was a beauty resting upon the church (Keller & Thompson, p. 183). Our dream is for this type of Holy Spirit-empowered beauty to rest upon Grace Church of Philly.
Acts 2:47 states that the early Christians in Jerusalem had “favor with all the people.” We want to be a ministry that has “favor with all the people” in University City and in Philadelphia.
We want to be a church that has an “outward” stance toward the world rather than a church that is “inward” in its focus. An “inward” church is one that pours all, or nearly all, of its energies back into itself and the saints present in that ministry. Churches with that are inwardly-focused usually have a hostile stance toward unbelievers and the world. We desire to have an “outward” stance, dedicated to engaging our culture for Christ, faithfully and lovingly bringing the saving Gospel to unbelievers whom we love and who desperately need our Savior.
We have chosen the word ‘grace’ for our church as a starting point in clarifying and communicating the essence and simplicity of Christianity.
Grace is that undeserved, unearned blessing of God that meets us where we are and transforms us. Grace is what we want to show to others, indiscriminately serving them and loving them in the name of Jesus.
We ask you for the opportunity to share life together with you in an environment marked by grace. At the outset, we confess the imperfections of our grace and our need for more grace, but we desire to meet you as you are and to grow with you in understanding and living the magnificent grace of God.
Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV) For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
OUR DISCIPLESHIP COMMITMENTS – 4G
•We gather each Sunday to worship our great Lord and Savior in spirit and in truth.
•We grow through small group Bible study and fellowship to lead grace-filled lives of genuine significance for the glory of God with other believers.
•We give our resources and time to support the work of God and to love our community with acts of kindness.
•We go to intentionally make disciples both locally and globally in announcing the Good News of God’s grace to all peoples without regard to ethnicity, gender, or social standing.
Our discipleship commitments are our discipleship process. This is part of our overall “simple church” philosophy of ministry (following Rainer and Geiger). Our philosophy of ministry includes the following concepts: clarity, movement, alignment, and focus.
Clarity – Our commitments and process is simple to communicate and easy to remember. It is not overly complex or complicated. We believe that the discipleship process should never be left up to chance and should never be a mystery.
Movement – Our focus is going to be on moving people through this process, facilitating their building up and edification in the faith.
Alignment – All of our ministries, from the youth programs to small groups to mercy ministries, will be aligned around this simple 4G process.
Focus – We will not be a “program-heavy” church. Our philosophy is not “more programs,” but excellence for the glory of God in the programs that we will have.
OUR CORE VALUES – TRIM
Being transformational means that we are prayerfully depending upon the power of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit to transform any life. The grace of God means that there is no one alive who is beyond the hope of redemption and transformation in Christ Jesus.
Being relational means that we are joyfully offering love and grace to everyone, regardless of where they are on their spiritual journey. First, this means we will actively cultivate redemptive relationships with believers as well as non-Christians. Second, we will be conscious of and welcoming of non-Christians in our midst. Third, we will communicate not just what we believe but why, in a way that invites questions, engages people in dialogue and take a process approach (not a crisis approach) to communication. Tim Keller observes, “Many people simply have ‘process personalities’ – they will never come to faith if they are pushed. They need to come in stages.”
Being incarnational means that we will strive to live out and model the gospel of grace within the culture. We want to be deeply involved in our communities. Ed Stetzer remarks, “We don’t back away from godless people but instead embrace godless people because we understand the hearts of lost people conquered by the lordship of Jesus builds the Kingdom.”
Being missional means that we are intentionally committed to engage those who either do not know or misunderstand Jesus. We are intentional about and absolutely committed to adapting everything we do in worship, instruction, community, and service so as to be meaningfully engaged with the non-Christian society around us. Being missional, we understand that we are co-citizens with non-Christians and seek to build redemptive relationships in the culture instead of totally separating ourselves from the culture.
Each of the TRIM values undergirds and empowers every aspect of our 4G discipleship commitments. How we fulfill out 4G discipleship commitments should always reflect our TRIM values.
OF IMPORTANCE TO US
We believe that God calls every believer to wholehearted discipleship. A church full of Christians running hard after God, living with intent as His children and using their gifts to extend his kingdom, brings God great glory and is a powerful witness to the world. We are eager to help every Christian live as a learner, minister, evangelist, and steward.
We believe that the church is a ‘glocal’ mission outpost. By ‘glocal’ we mean being missional both locally and globally. As a mission outpost, the church actively seeks ways to penetrate the community, the nation, and the world with the Gospel. Bob Roberts, Jr. states, “When we start a church, we realize we are doing so not just for the community but for the world, based out of that community. Every church you start is a church for the world” (p. 124).
We believe that effective ministry must be biblically based as well as culturally relevant. We do not need to sacrifice either biblical truth or cultural relevance. All of our ministries will be in the ‘vernacular,’ speaking directly to the immediate culture and people without compromising Scripture or theology. Regarding speaking directly to the culture: Christians, frequently, are great at speaking to each other, but not so great at communicating with the wider culture. Our desire is to speak to the non-Christians of the culture in a powerful, compassionate, Scripturally-saturated manner.
AN INVITATION TO BECOME PART OF OUR GRACE COMMUNITY
We ask you to prayerfully consider becoming part of the GCP core group for the birth phase of the church for as long as the Lord leads you for the following:
1. To pray daily and persistently for the city of Philadelphia and for the launch and establishment of Grace Church of Philly in University City.
2. To be involved in the lives of the believers and unbelievers in that area; to build bridges with them that might serve to further the kingdom of God.
3. To maintain a consistent devotional life and consistent walk with Christ.
4. To open yourself to the Lord as to what types of ministry roles He may have for you at Grace Church.
5. To give to the work of this ministry as you are able to do so.
We want to encourage people to commit for as long as they believe that they are being ministered to, for as long as they believe that their gifts are being effectively used for kingdom purposes, and for as long as they believe that this is what the Lord wants them to be doing.
Grace and peace be with you.
Keller, Timothy J. and J. Allen Thompson. Church Planter Manual. New York: Redeemer Church Planting Center, 2002.
Rainer, Thom and Eric Geiger. Simple Church: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples. Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2006.
Roberts, Bob Jr. The Multiplying Church: The New Math for Starting New Churches. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008.
What does it mean to be Missional?
Luke 5:27-39 27 After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” 28 And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. 29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Are you ready to follow Jesus in a Missional way? – By missional I mean living with an awareness that the world we live in needs Jesus and intentionally seeking ways to bring Jesus into that world.
From the call, response, and subsequent actions of Levi and the circumstances that surround him, Jesus, and the disciples, we learn a bit more about what it means to follow Jesus in a missional way.
Missional is being RADICAL and at times seemingly irrational.
Levi responds immediately to Jesus’ call to follow (literally – ‘keep following me’ and ‘he kept following him’). He left everything.
I say this act of following is ‘seemingly’ irrational, because it is truly irrational only if Jesus is not who He claims to be. If He is Messiah, Lord, Son of God, and Savior, to not follow Him fully would be irrational.
Missional people are moved by the call of Jesus and understanding who it is that gives the call.
Missional is being RELATIONAL – Following Jesus means that we remain as friends of sinners.
Usually everyone is a friend of sinners at some point in life. Though it is possible to grow up in total isolation (Christian home, church, school, friends), this is not the norm. Most people when they come to Christ have a network of relationships that include many non-believers. Unfortunately early on this network is broken.
The enemies of Jesus called both Jesus and his disciples “friends of sinners” beacuse this was an obvious reality in their lives.
For Levi, he has just answered the call. He hasn’t burned the bridges of relationships. He still has friends who aren’t followers of Jesus and he seeks a venue to which they would come and where he could introduce Jesus to them. This leads to my next point.
Missional is being RESOURCEFUL – Following Jesus means that we create opportunities for our friends to meet Jesus Christ.
I love church gatherings with God’s people but at the same time, I love the words of C. T. Studd, that brilliant young Englishman who gave away a fortune that he might go out to the forests of Africa. He put his philosophy this way:
Some like to dwell
Within the sound
Of church and chapel bell.
But I want to run a rescue shop
Within a yard of Hell.
Levi knew his friends well enough to know what kind of venue they would come to. I believe that all of us need to be more thoughtful, prayerful, and intentional in creating venues where we can invite our friends and neighbors and Jesus. The choice of these venues is driven by what honors Christ and what is attractive to sinners, rather than what is ‘approved’ by institutaional Christianity.
Missional is being RISKY. Following Jesus means that we live with the risk of criticism and misunderstanding
Being missional often means that you act contrary to religious culture. This is not the intent (how can I PO other Christians), but is often the result, when your sensibilities are such that you think about pleasing God and loving and reaching people, not looking over your shoulder for approval from man.
- Criticism arises from a false comparison (disciples of Jesus to disciples of John and Pharisess).
- Criticism arises from the failure to see the uniqueness of Christ and His mission.
- Criticism is based more on the fear of change than a question of what honors Jesus Christ.
- Criticism is often rooted in a fear of loss of power.
Missional is being REDEMPTIVE
I take Jesus words about ‘coming to call sinners to repentance’ as a probing invitation to everyone as much as a rebuke to the Pharisees.
Everyone listening would have had to ask themselves the question: Am I sinner? If I don’t think so, if I think I am righteous, then Jesus did not come for me.
Being missional must always come back to the question: Why did Jesus come? Lk 19:10 - “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (which by the way was spoken to another tax collector).
Grace Church of Philly is looking to build a core launch team of believers who desire to follow Jesus in a Missional way – living with awareness that the world we live in needs Jesus and intentionally seeking ways to bring Jesus into that world.
Pastor John Davis delivered a short sermon on missional thinking at a pre-launch fellowship and outreach for the core group yesterday at a private residence in South Jersey.