Monday, December 31, 2007

More on Breaking the Missional Code

Values of Leaders and Churches that Break the Code (Chapter 6)
Ed and David list the values that are demonstrated by leaders and churches that are breaking the missional code in their communities. They are identified as:
Spiritual formation; Reaching the unreached; Evangelism; Community; Experience; Service; Culturally relevant expressions of church; Spiritual warfare. I want to highlight the first two values.

Spiritual Formation
Effective leaders model these characteristics within their own spiritual formation:
Calling – these leaders throw themselves at the challenge of creating environments where the gospel can be planted and flourish. Leaders who break the code create opportunities, they either “find a way or make a way” (according to Mike Ditka).
Character – When a leader’s words and actions are aligned.
Competency – these leaders recognize that every context has its own unique challenges.
Comprehension – The most successful church planters make a point of reading everything on the subject – because it is the passion of their life. I would imagine that we could include collegiate missionaries in this equation as well.
Commitment – this requires hard work and requires an incredible amount of commitment.
Courage – high level of courage in regard to making tough decisions.
Discipleship – committed to making and multiplying disciples. Making and multiplying disciples involves three things:
1) Living like Jesus lived – he spent three years modeling the life that he intended
them to live.
2) Loving like Jesus loved
3) Leaving behind what Jesus left behind – he simply left behind people who
lived like him and loved like him.

Reaching the Unchurched/unreached
***Churches that are breaking the code are paying a high price for reaching the unchurched/unreached. They are discovering that churches that focus on reaching the unchurched/unreached often create a degree of discomfort among some churched/reached.***
Four questions –
1. Where are the unchurched/unreached?
2. Who are the unchurched/unreached?
3. Why are they unchurched/unreached? - Four barriers
a. The image barrier – relates to how people view Christianity. If we are going to develop relevant churches, it is important to identify through our research specific barriers and issues that answer this question of “why” a certain people group, population or those within a certain cultural environment as a whole are unchurched.
b. The cultural barrier – When secular people visit a church, it can be a culturally alienating experience. (Thus, what do we do about it when we invite someone into our community?)
c. The gospel barrier – the only legitimate barrier as far as we are concerned. We need to eliminate the other barriers but confront those who are seeking with this barrier.
d. The total commitment barrier – once a person crosses the gospel barrier, there is the call to total commitment.
We should do everything we can to remove all image and cultural barriers.
4. What is God already doing among the unchurched/unreached? – It is arrogant to assume that God is not already at work in most places. Let’s find out where he is working and join him.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Repeat: Thoughts on Joseph

For most young boys, there hero is their father. They look up to him, they think he is the strongest man in the world, the smartest man in the world. Jesus probably grew up with a deep appreciate for his earthly father. Joseph probably taught Jesus his trade (which seemed to be carpentry). Joseph must have been a very special man. God probably had a choice of descendants of David he could have picked, maybe even rich and powerful descendants, men of influence. But he chose Joseph the carpenter to be the one with the responsibility of being the role model of his son. That is why the man Joseph so intrigues me. What must he have been like? Jesus learned the scriptures through Joseph. He learned all kinds of things through Joseph. We are left to speculate on what kind of man Joseph was because Jesus' relationship with his heavenly father was more important.

What can we learn from Joseph? When you are totally committed to serving God, who know what awesome and incredible tasks he might ask you to perform.
Joseph’s task was incredibly difficult. What a great responsibility. Joseph could have been tempted to say, “No way! My first born son (who was very important to Jewish men) won’t even be mine. I am not ready for this." He didn’t." He took Mary in and, even though facing difficult circumstances, including several moves for the safety of his new child, he did just what God told him to do. And, as far as we know, he took his task very seriously.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

To Quickly Change the Subject...

Hey, Merry Christmas to me! I can think of something I can spend any Christmas cash on...How about dry wall repair? Here is a picture taken not too long after I fell through the floor of the attic. Combined with my fall on the ice outside today, I probably won't be able to get out of bed tomorrow. I can't tell if I've regressed to an 8 year old state or if I progressed to an 80 year old state.

On an Personal Note...

Just a quick update on my personal life (or just too much information)...
Finally visited the doctor today to examine what I thought were prostate issues. (You know the commercials that feature guys with the "growing problems")? I had been diagnosed by a general practitioner as having a slightly enlarged prostate. That's not good. I had displayed some of the symptoms for the last 10 years, mostly the frequent urination issues. I was talking to a friend a few months ago and asked him (a former general practitioner himself) and he said it did not sound like BPH (or the enlarged prostate issues). I finally visited a urologist recently and he confirmed that I do not have BPH. In fact, I thought I was going to get out of there without a "field examine." No such luck. But it did confirm to him that my prostate wasn't the issue. So, no avodart or flomax or and roto rootering or any of the other more invasive solutions. But, I still have the frequency issues. Now we have to figure out whether I have a small bladder or if I produce too much urine. What to choose, what to choose...I also received the peace of mind that my hernia (which was repaired in 2005) has not come back. But I still have some discomfort in that area.
So basically I know what's not wrong. Got to keep a "voiding diary" and watch how I work out. I'll keep you posted with probably some more uncomfortable revelations soon.

Back to "Breaking the Missional Code"

Transitions to Missional Ministry (Chapter 5)
What can we learn from The Church of the Apostles in Raleigh, NC in the way they organize their ministry around a number of teams designed to facilitate spiritual growth?
Their ministry teams:
Give members specific ways to serve Christ in their church and in their community;
Provide opportunities for them to grow in Christ by serving;
Allow them to grow in their relationships with each other by being part of a team who are serving together.

We need to decipher the communities in which we live. Like Jesus, we need to be spending time getting to know and evangelize lost people, not just looking for the next anointed style, program or method. We need to be deciphering our community and bringing the unchanging gospel to our community.

Instead of importing style and models, more pastors are genuinely asking the same questions that international missionaries do:
• What style of worship/music will best help this group to worship in spirit and truth?
• What evangelism methods should I use here to reach the most people without compromising the gospel?
• What structure of church (or organization) would best connect with this campus?
• How can this church be God’s missionary to this community?

Randy Frazee at Pantego Bible Church– he led the church to growth, not through the classic big service, but by challenging small groups to become incarnational expressions of Christ in their communities. They continue that by creating small groups geographically and expecting those in certain areas to attend certain small groups…and then for those small groups to transform their communities through presence, service and proclamation. (This is described as transitioning from attractional to incarnational).

In our DNA we need to move our members to go beyond “every member a ministry” to “every member a missionary.” How, also, do we incorporate into our DNA the belief that we will be multiplying our efforts, both individually and group wise?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas Songs Musings, Part 1

Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

How cruel is this song? Imagine, you are a little kid, believing in Santa Claus. You sneak down the stairs to see if you can get a glimpse of Santa eating the milk and cookies you set out for him. What do you see? Your mom kissing a man besides your father! How scarring would that have been? Would you ever look at your mom the same way again? Would you be tempted to tell your dad? Or would you let it gnaw away at you until you developed an eating disorder or developed some depression issues? That is a cruel song.

BTW, I used to love Christmas music. That is until the advent of 24 hour a day Christmas music stations that start playing in November. I used to love listening to my favorite stations and they would sprinkle in one or two of my favorite Christmas songs. Now it is non stop. And it is about the same five songs rerecorded by so many spares. Songs I hate: Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree; Holly Jolly Christmas; Jingle Bell Rock; Santa Baby (especially the Madonna version); Grown Up Christmas List. I’m sure there are others. Maybe you could help me out and list you least favorite Christmas songs. Look for my favorites coming up soon.

Monday, December 17, 2007

More Breaking the Missional Code

Responding to the Commissions of Jesus (Chapter 3)
Stetzer and Putman discuss missions in a general fashion in this chapter. That state that missions makes this point: it is not about us and our preferences. It is about HIS mission and the fact that he sends us. This is one of the biggest barriers to church growth I found in my limited church staff experience. I found that as a staff, we were often paralyzed from doing what we thought was best for the mission of the church because we were afraid of upsetting the preferences of certain people. In a way, we became people pleasers. That is not a good place to be when trying to be a missional church. We never could get the idea across that it was not about us and what we desired, it was first about pleasing God and then it was about reaching people. We were often not willing to give up our own preference of the packaging of our “gospel expression” in order to break through to reach to our community and find the way they would best respond to the gospel message.
They then provide the basic outline of our call to missions:
We are sent (John 20.19-21) – we are (the church and us as individuals) are God’s missionary to the world. Missions makes this point: it is not about us and our preferences. It is about his mission and the fact that he sends us. We need to get out of the evangelical subculture.
To all kinds of people – (Matt. 28.18-20)
With a message – (Luke 24.46-48)
Empowered by the Spirit (Acts 1.6-8) – whatever it takes we are going to reach this community.

The Missional Church Shift (Chapter 4)
Stetzer and Putman move next to discuss the intersection of Christology, missiology and ecclesiology.
How we do mission flows from our understanding of God’s mission and directs our missiology. How we do church is grounded in Scripture but applied in culture. Thus, we have the intersection of who Jesus is and what has he sent us to do (Christology); the forms and strategies we use to most effectively expand the kingdom where we are sent (missiology); and the expression of a New Testament church that is most appropriate in this context (Ecclesiology).

Rather than providing methods to grow a church, missional thinking helps the church leader to wrestle through who God has called him or her to reach. Missional leaders bring the gospel into a context by asking, “What cultural containers – church, worship style, small group ministry, evangelism methods and approaches, discipleship processes, etc., will be most effective in this context?”

Now, what do they mean by cultural containers? I think they mean by that the forms of preaching and celebration that we express when we come together as the Body of Christ. How do we express gospel truth in our Bible teaching so that our community understands those truths and can apply them to themselves? How do we praise and celebrate our love and adoration for God in a way that our community can embrace and join?

So all need to answer their question in our own communities, that is, “What cultural containers will be most effective in our community?”

Monday, December 10, 2007

Breaking the Missional Code Continued

Breaking the Missional Code (Chapter 2)

In this chapter, Stetzer and Putman give us the basic principles of breaking the missional code in any context. What one should do is learn from this principles and apply them in their context, in their community in a way that the people they wish to reach out to will embrace.

The process (of breaking the missional code):

  1. Calling from God – We need to be called by God to a certain people. The key to breaking the code of a community is to have the heart of the Father for that community. We need to guard against the urgency to press ahead before we have heard from God. So, who has God called us to?
  2. Exegeting the community – the example of Rick Warren, he surveyed his community and found why people in his community did not go to church. Warren developed his strategy from an analysis of the community. Since people had four common complaints, he determined to try to address those concerns in his outreach. We don’t use the same techniques, but learn from Warren how he exegeted his community. What are the questions we need to be asking at MU? As we decipher our community, we may discover similar methods that have been used effective in other like-minded communities.
  3. Examining ways God is working in similar communities – we need to ask what are some “successful” campus ministries at MU. What are some “successful” campus church planting movements at similar campuses?
  4. Finding God’s unique vision for our ministry – not every church (campus ministry) is called to reach the same people, worship using the same music, attract the same people, and appreciate the same values. Churches that break the code seek to communicate the word and connect through worship with local people and culture. This takes place as they enact God’s vision for their local church. In the process, they develop a unique vision for their church that both honors God and connects with their community.
  5. Adjusting that vision as you learn the context

Friday, December 7, 2007

Breaking the Code - Continued

The Emerging Glocal Context (Chapter 1)

The word “glocal” is the combination of the words “global” and “local.” It describes the world we live in. It does not take much to connect our local communities the world at large.

One of the duties of communities seeking to “break the code” is the recognition that there are visible and invisible characteristics within a community that will make its people resistant to or responsive to the church and its gospel message. Our goal is to discover those barriers to the gospel and ask, can we remove those barriers and still remain faithful to the gospel. And also, can we find areas of spiritual awareness in the communities we are seeking to impact and capitalize on those areas.

One of those areas where a team seeking to impact a college campus for the Kingdom of God is social justice and global awareness issues. College students have a strong passion for global concerns, social justice and advocating for the poor. As I walked around Mizzou last week, I saw a table set up trying to recruit students for the “One Campaign”, which seeks involvement to wipe out poverty and AIDS in developing nations. I also saw a student with a “Stand – Against Genocide” t-shirt. So that it is pretty apparent on Mizzou’s campus. How can we convey the message that the gospel speaks to those issues and getting “on mission” with the Church can impact these concerns for good?

I think we can learn from Jaeson Ma. Jaeson is the founder of the campus church network. [Link to Jaeson's website.] His desire was to impact campuses for Jesus. After studying the Chinese model of underground house church, “he realized that a church could be planted on a college campus if a trained missionary could pray and win a student of peace or natural leader for Christ”. (This is one of the major things I am praying for to happen at Mizzou.) The missionary would then teach the student leader to win his network of friends and from that network of friends start a small church.

In order for a community to truly impact the community for Christ, they need to truly love their community. Loving people means understanding and communicating with them. We do this with the goal of removing the cultural barriers that keep people from responding to the gospel yet presenting the gospel in a clear and faithful manner in the language of our target community.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Blogging on "Breaking the Missional Code"

For the next week or so, I am going to be posting some highlights of Breaking the Missional Code by Stetzer and Putman. I will also be providing some reactions to their work. I recommend this book highly for anyone who is seeking to be a missionary agent in their community and has the position to lead his/her church to do the same.


I read this book with a mind that is focused on my job as a regional collegiate ministry coordinator in central Missouri. One of my objectives is to begin a missional community that seeks to impact the University of Missouri for Christ. Our goal is to connect with our community, the University of Missouri and all that that implies. We are seeking to create a biblically faithful and culturally relevant outreach.

The book Breaking the Missional Code attempts to assist the reader in being able to think through your context, apply universal principles in your mission setting, and then identify and apply strategies that will make you more effective in your context.

Breaking the code does not mean just finding the best model for your community. Instead, it means discovering the principles that work in every context, selecting the tools most relevant for your context, and then learning to apply them in a missionally effective manner.

Mark Mittelberg, in his book Building a Courageous Church, states: “we must step back and figure out what our mission field’s cultural landscape looks like.”

Missional thinking forces us to see our geographical context through the lenses of people groups, population segments, and cultural environments.

Monday, December 3, 2007

What Would You Prefer?

I have been thinking of this topic for the last several days, ever since I heard of the murder of Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor. I always start to think of this whenever anyone dies in an untimely manner or by a act of random violence. I begin to wonder, "Did this person ask for this?" Hear me when I say this. I don't know if Sean Taylor was asking for it or not. The police in the situation are saying that this was somewhat random and that Mr. Taylor was not singled out. However, it is well known that Taylor had a checkered past. He had a history of involvement with unsavory characters and a history of trouble with weapons.
Here's where my wondering comes in:
Do I want to think the best of the person and just assume that this was a random act and that Taylor was the victim of some thugs looking to rob a rich man and he was shot because he happened to be home when they broke in? If I think that, then I feel a little vulnerable myself. If that could happen to a totally innocent victim, then who's to say that it couldn't happen to me or my family?
Do I want to believe that this man who has had a history of violence and questionable behavior got mixed up with the wrong people and it finally caught up with him? From all indications, he had recently straightened his life out and was making better choices. But if I find out that he was mixed up with some troublemakers, then that adds a little bit of sense to this tragedy. It is a shame that a young man like that had to die so young and with so much promise, but should it soothe my conscience knowing that for the most part this doesn't normally happen to innocent bystanders.
On the one hand I prefer to think the better of the man but I feel vulnerable to random violence.
On the other hand, a thug got mixed up with the wrong characters and he is not the innocent victim of random thugs.
What do you think?