“It Takes A Village” (Community Discipleship And Childcare)

July 11, 2013 at 11:13 am

1423201_miniature_pennan_fishing_villageMy wife and I were tremendously blessed last night by one of Church of the Cross’ Missional Communities who watched our kids so we could have a date night. This may not seem like that big of a deal, but remember, we currently have eight kids (yes, I know, All Aboard The Crazy Train)!

We went to an Indian restaurant that used to be a Black Bear Diner and was still decorated as such. For most of the time, we were the only customers there, which was both nice and semi-creepy. The food was great, but I digress. I say that we were tremendously blessed, and that’s true, but not just because my wife and I got to spend some much-coveted time together. It has reminded me about so much of what we as the Church of the Cross family value and hold dear. I was reminded of the importance of community in discipleship. Consider just some of the ways this is true even when we watch one another’s children for a date night:

We are tangibly bearing one another’s burden. When that Missional Community offered to watch all eight of our children, they were indeed helping to bear our burden. I don’t mean that kids are a burden, but come on, eight kids is a lot. We are simply tired. All of the time. So, for our church family to give us a break, even for a few hours, is something more tangible than it might initially seem.

We are being reminded of the importance of marriage. By watching our kids so we could go out, everyone involved, even the children, were reminded of the importance of marriage. One of the things I often talk about with couples in pre-marital counseling is that, once they marry, they are a family. They don’t have to wait until they have children to “become a family,” children enlarge the family, but they do not make it. And marriage is at the center of the family. If the marriage is suffering, odds are the home-life is also suffering. Our Church of the Cross family recognizes the importance of marriage so much that they are willing to help make dates happen for others.

We are learning to parent better by doing it with others.  Though we are not always as conscious of this as we maybe should be, when we come together as a group of several adults to watch a large group of children, we are continually watching how others do it and we’re talking notes. Or at least we should be. Not everyone parents the same way. And frankly, some are just naturally better at it than others. So when we come together and care for children in community, it is a great opportunity to learn from those who do it better than us, and to humbly admit where we might improve.

Though there is much more that could be said, I’ll just leave it at this for now. When community comes together, even for something we might not think is a big deal, like to watch children, we grow stronger. We get a glimpse into the daily routines of others and we get a better idea of how to serve one another.

Thank you to the Church of the Cross family for living this out.

More Missional Confusion: Anthony Bradley and “The New Legalism”

May 7, 2013 at 10:13 am

1186848_course_srb_1World Magazine recently posted a piece in which Anthony Bradley argues that “the push to be ‘radical’ and ‘missional’ discourages ordinary people in ordinary places from doing ordinary things to the glory of God.”

A few days ago on Facebook and Twitter I made the following observation:

“Being a ‘radical,’ ‘missional’ Christian is slowly becoming the ‘new legalism.’ We need more ordinary God and people lovers (Matt 22:36-40).”

He goes on to say:

I continue to be amazed by the number of youth and young adults who are stressed and burnt out from the regular shaming and feelings of inadequacy if they happen to not be doing something unique and special.

After considering the “anti-Suburban” bent of much moder “missional” thinking, Bradley ties the push to be “missional” and “radical” with narcissism and an unhealthy push towards being “radical.” Bradley concludes and asks:

The combination of anti-suburbanism with new categories like “missional” and “radical” has positioned a generation of youth and young adults to experience an intense amount of shame for simply being ordinary Christians who desire to love God and love their neighbors (Matthew 22:36-40).

Bradley pointedly asks:

Why is Christ’s command to love God and neighbor not enough for these leaders?

The other day, I noted that knocking down straw-men is simply not enough for humble but challenging discourse. Sadly, I wonder if that’s not exactly what Bradley has done. Bradley has presented an understanding of being “missional” that excludes and condemns everyday believers (all of us). However, I think he has simply taken a caricature of “missional” and run with it. While there certainly may be missional practitioners who foster this kind of environment, I can’t help but read Bradley’s concerns through my church family’s understanding and practice of striving to be “missional.”

I want to humbly challenge Bradley to look beyond the hype machines to the actual missional conversation that is happening behind the spotlights. His notion that being missional is not for everyone is simply ludicrous. After all, Steve Timmis and Tim Chester have presented our church family with the notion of living “everyday life with Gospel intentionality.”

In other words, the primary context for missional living is the everyday life of the everyday believer. We as a church family have intentionally sought to strip away the church calendar in order to free people up to live ordinary life; just differently. Though my main concern here is not the “new radicals” that Bradley lumps in with his missional concerns, is the call to die to self really something “ordinary” Christians are exempt from?

I have to be honest and say that I am confused by what Bradley expects everyday believers (which, by the way, his very notion perpetuates the myth of laity vs. clergy, but that’s another point entirely) to be doing and how that varies from the call of a vast number of missional theologian practitioners. Bradley concludes:

Perhaps the best antidote to these pendulum swings and fads is simply to recover an mature understanding of vocation so that youth and young adults understand that they can make important contributions to human flourishing in any sphere of life because there are no little people or insignificant callings in the Kingdom.

While I disagree that missional is a fad, his notion that “youth and young adults” can and should “make important contributions to human flourishing in any sphere of life because there are no little people or insignificant callings in the Kingdom” is exactly how I would describe missionally. Followers of Jesus should be striving to redeem the everyday. Freeing people up to live as missionaries in their everyday context is anything but legalism. In fact, I have seen numbers of people finally “wake up” from their Evangelical pew sitting slumbers.

While I appreciate the dialogue and even the pushback against “missional,” I am deeply concerned that so many well-intentioned evangelical writers simply mischaracterize what it the vast majority of people I read, learn from and interact with mean by “missional.” The thrust is exactly what Bradley says it’s not: you don’t have to be a superstar to live an extraordinary life in and for the Kingdom. In fact, that’s exactly who thrives in Jesus’ upside-down economy.

The missional types I interact with are at the forefront of regaining a healthy theology of vocation, they are pushing people to not add lots of church events to their calendars but to sieze the day, every day with the numerous ways God gives every one of us to live faithfully. They are urging people to intentionally serve others, to build relationships of discipleship and gospel fluency no matter where someone might be along the spectrum of faith.

It’s amazing to me that what one person sees as the freedom of the Christian life that’s so often lacking in modern evangelicalism, another sees as the new legalism while arguing for exactly what so many missional types are expounding. How is it that the term “missional” is now so widely used but so poorly defined in any sort of consensus. I understand the term to be exactly what Bradley argues for.

What do you think?


Evangelism vs. Discipleship(?) And Why Knocking Down Straw-Men Isn’t Enough

May 1, 2013 at 11:03 am

1355950_scarecrow_at_wheat_fieldBelieve it or not, there was once a time in my life when I loved controversy. I used to like to debate. It didn’t even matter if I really believed what I was saying; I just wanted to see if I could convince you.

Over the years, as God has humbled me (not always comfortably), I have learned that part of the reason I like these types of exchanges is because I tend to be an external processer of ideas. I like interaction, dialogue and even push-back. This helps me sharpen my own ideas and be humble in the positions I do hold.

I say all of this because, as the writer of a blog, I realize that the internet can be a platform which simply perpetuates the cycle of loudly ignorant arguments. In fact, I’ve been thinking about a quote from Andrée Seu lately as I consider the exchange of opinions on the internet and beyond:

Not always right but never in doubt, that’s us. Name an issue and we line up with an opinion. Organic eggs versus nonorganic? Not only do I have a view on this, but if yours is somehow different from mine, I like you a little less somehow.”

I don’t want to be that guy. But part of the reason I like the internets is precisely because of the open exchange of ideas. I find that it challenges me, especially when I read things I disagree with. I’ve just been convicted that I ought to disagree a little quieter and more thoughtfully. But it’s still OK to disagree. As my friend Justin recently pointed out:

Learning to disagree without dehumanizing those with whom we disagree (and especially about issues tied to identity) is as important an expression of grace as simply siding with someone.

By now, you are wondering who I disagree with, right? Well, funny you should ask. I’ve been thinking a lot about a piece that appeared on The Gospel Coalition website back in March called “Why Serving the Common Good Isn’t Enough.” I don’t personally know the author and I contemplated trying to contact him to let him know that I would be publicly disagreeing with his piece but then I thought that since he already published this, that’s it is open to dialogue. What do you think? How should Christians in particular disagree with one another publicly? Because I do take issue with the piece. The general idea is summarized by the author:

The problem doesn’t lay in the actions themselves. Cleaning a beach or planting a community garden is well and good. But what makes Christians unique in the world? Is it these types of “common good decisions”? Absolutely not.

Later, we’re told:

What makes Christians unique is not their good deeds, but the message they bear of a man whose incarnation, life, death, and resurrection has permanently altered human history and now demands the loyalty of every human being. Christians are indeed called to good works (Eph. 2:10), but they are called to do them “in the name of Jesus.”

There is a deep tendency in the past several years among evangelicals to stress building community and engaging the broader world. But where is the concurrent revival of interest in evangelism? Christians who seek to live faithfully for God in the world must always marry their “common good decisions” with the words of the gospel. This doesn’t have to be annoying or necessarily happen every day, but all of us—whether we design homes or fix cars—must give a reason for the hope we have (1 Pet. 3:15).

But here something I’d like to question: who does the author have in mind? Who is he correcting? He mentions Gabe Lyons and Andy Crouch by name. Is he calling them out for only “serving the common good” without declaring Truth about Jesus? And this is the first issue I have with this piece: while there are undoubtedly people guilty of what the author alleges: serving the “common good” to the exclusion of verbally sharing about Jesus, I’ve simply never encountered anyone like this. The author stresses this concern:

In contemporary evangelicalism, many pastors have awakened to “common grace” and “common good decisions.” But in the process some have forgotten the very public role of “special grace,” that message of God’s redemption in Jesus that is meant for the whole world.

But who is he talking about? I travel in several “missional” circles and have friends with varying levels of Evangelical merit badges. But I have never met a single “missional” pastor who stresses demonstrating Gospel Love to the exclusion of declaring Gospel Truth. If the author is thinking of someone in particular, we need to know who it is. Otherwise, he’s done nothing but kick over a straw-man. It’s fine to argue with a position no one holds, but just admit that you’re doing so only to promote your own position. We owe it to one another to be as clear as possible. If this is a real issue, give me an example. The author corrects a position I’m not sure anyone actually holds. Which leads us to my second issue with the piece. We’ve already quoted the author as saying:

There is a deep tendency in the past several years among evangelicals to stress building community and engaging the broader world. But where is the concurrent revival of interest in evangelism? Christians who seek to live faithfully for God in the world must always marry their “common good decisions” with the words of the gospel.

I can’t help but wonder if the entire piece is simply based on a common but important evangelical misunderstanding. Notice that he separates out “evangelism” from the service of the “common good.” In other words, it’s the common notion that evangelism is separate from discipleship. It’s quite common for Christians to believe that the two are somehow separate. After all, “evangelism” is what we tell those who don’t yet believe in order that they may become Christians and “discipleship” is how we help them grow once they’ve become Christians, right? The common assumption is that “discipleship” begins after conversion and therefore, we must always stress the verbal proclamation of the Gospel.

But what if this notion isn’t right? Don’t get me wrong, we must verbally proclaim the Gospel, but what if evangelism is actually part of discipleship? What if it isn’t a “either/or” question but “both/and”? In other words, as I am serving those who don’t yet believe, what if I am seeking to interact holistically? Serving physical needs while regularly and intentionally talking about Jesus? When I have my neighbors over and they see the way we open our home, the way we deal with our kids, the way we deal with spills and broken lamps, when they hear the way my wife and I interact, we are discipling them.

What if there is no distinction between evangelism and discipleship? What if evangelism is simply a part of discipleship? What if Gospel proclamation is always, always, always part of discipleship, no matter where someone is along the spectrum of faith? We do not stop proclaiming the Gospel once someone professes belief. Nor do we neglect serving others simply because there’s no chance to preach at them. We are always “evangelizing” one another in the context of tangible service. I can’t help but wonder how much damage this separation of “evangelism” from real life has caused.

While the author is concerned that too many Christians are “serving” without “proclaiming,” I can’t help but consider the exact opposite: I’ve encountered far too many Christians who are far too quick to tell someone they are going to hell without Jesus (which may indeed be true) but far too slow to demonstrate God’s love in tangible ways. What if the stress on proclamation limits the stress on demonstration? We’ve simply weighted the see-saw to the other side.

What are your thoughts here? I am entirely open to the possibility that I have misunderstood the author’s position and filtered it through my own experiences. But I am also open to the idea that Christians can publicly push against one another’s positions for the betterment of all. After all, the internet’s got to be good for something, right?


Be The Church (GCM Collective)

March 2, 2013 at 6:55 pm

Be the Church from Caesar Kalinowski on Vimeo.

Distinguishing Between “Disciples” and “Discipleship”.

May 14, 2012 at 6:08 am

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how local churches can best create contexts in which God’s truth is more likely, not just to be clear, but become “real” for people (for more on this concept, see my feeble post here, listen to Tim Keller’s fantastic lecture series Preaching to the Heart, or read Jared Wilson’s wonderful book Gospel Wakefulness). We cannot, nor should we try to force people to change. And yet, I do believe that Christianity is most powerful outside of the institution. By this, I don’t mean that local churches should have no structure. I simply mean that, to a large degree in the West, Christianity has become institutionalized.

We have largely helped people in the segmentation of their lives. We have encouraged them to abandon their “non-Christian” friends to enter into the “Christian” world. We have replaced their movies. We have replaced their music. We have replaced their friends. This, of course, has been done in order to protect Christians from “being pulled down.” Because, as we all know, it is much easier to pull someone off a ladder than it is to pull someone up onto the top of a ladder.

The result, of course, has been that many Christians have isolated themselves from those who don’t (yet) believe. We encourage our unbelieving neighbors to join us in the sports league at the local mega-church and we ask those who don’t (yet) believe to cross cultural barriers that we ourselves are not willing to cross. All the while, we forget how much we love to sing “Jesus, What A Friend Of Sinners,” without really wanting to live like Jesus lived.

I should have mentioned at the beginning that, alongside my thinking about making the Gospel “not just clear but real,” I have been thinking about the idea of discipleship in light of Matthew 28:18-20, which has become known as “The Great Commission:”

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

The more I think about these verses and its implications, the more I have come to personally distinguish between “disciples” and “discipleship.” In his fascinating book The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard describes a “disciple” as:

A disciple or apprentice, then, is simply someone who has decided to be with another person, under appropriate conditions, in order to become capable of doing what that person does or to become what that person is.

I think (but please help me understand if I’m wrong), that we can safely distinguish between the process we have come to know as “discipleship” and someone who is actually a “disciples.” Let me explain. Based on Willard’s explanation, coupled with the “Great Commission,” I understand a “disciple” to be someone who has actively decided to follow in Jesus’ ways and strive to become more like Him.

“Discipleship,” however, I understand, to be the process teaching people to “observe” or “practice” all that Jesus commanded, so that we can baptize them “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy spirit” in the promise and strength that, not only has “all authority in heaven and on earth” ben given to Jesus, but that He is with us, “always, to the end of the age.”

But, let me further explain. As I understand it, “discipleship” applies to both those who have made the decision to become “disciples,” but those who haven’t. And, to add to the mix, “discipleship” is not just about modifying people’s behavior. Because, let’s be honest: we can tweak people’s emotions and we can scare people into certain decisions, but, in our own strength, and in our own ways, we can never really change people’s hearts. That’s up to God and God alone.

So, what are some of the things that Jesus has commanded people to obey? Think about Matthew 16:24-28:

 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

Here, Jesus basically says that we should love God so much that the rest of life is simply rubbish to us (a sentiment the Apostle Paul expressed years later). We love God so much that we’re living to give up the rest of life in order to follow Him. Or, when asked what the greatest commandment is/was, what was Jesus’ response, was, if I may summarize, “Love God and Love Others” (Matthew 22:36-40). Or, what about the time when Jesus said that it was by our love for one another (not our political affiliations or the “family friendly” radio we listen to or the movies we watch or don’t watch, or the neighborhood we live in, or the car we drive, or the church we “go to” or drinks we do or don’t drink) that the world would know that we are His (John 13:35)?

Here’s the thing: “discipling” those who profess to follow Jesus and those that don’t often boils down to the same thing: getting people to realize that they can’t possibly meet God’s standards on their own. They need Jesus. They need His perfect, Spirit-dependent, Law-abiding, God-loving, perfectly dependent, God-glorifying, joyfully obedient because it flows from Worship of the Almighty who created Heaven and Earth life. What Jesus did, we need but could never do. What Jesus is, we should be but don’t want to be. We have loved other things. We have pursued other loves. We have bowed down to the altar of _____________ when all that said “god” represents is only found in the One true, Creator God who somehow exists in Three Persons in One Being and demands our worship because it is good, right and perfect.

So, as I meet and talk and live life with my Christian friends, we are continually finding the myriad of ways in which we fail to meet God’s standards. And we are so thankful that Jesus has d0ne what we do not and could not and, frankly, do not want to do: glorify God in utter dependence with every breath. We learn to show one another how utterly dependent on Jesu we truly are and how utterly beautiful His life of perfect obedience not only was, but is for my everyday.

And, as I talk and live with my friends who do not yet belong to Jesus, my home becomes an example of my worship/joy-fueled pursuit of the Perfect Model, Sacrifice and Intercessor. They will begin to witness the way I lay down my own life for my wife’s best interests and, in response, she joyfully yields herself to my lead. They will witness how we sacrifice our time, our money, our resources for the sake of others. And we will continually seek opportunities to tell them that it is only because we have come to know the depths of how much God has first loved us by giving His only Son (1 John 4:8-12) so that we may have everlasting life (John 3:16).

In other words, as I see it, the point of “discipleship” is to get those who already believe and those who don’t to get to the point where they throw there hands up and say “I have no hope other than Jesus.” The point of “discipleship” is always to get people to the Gospel, to get them as close to hugging that bloody, splintery Cross as possible.

For some, this will result in belief and new life and following Jesus through earthly death unto eternal life. For others, this will result in eternal judgment from God. At some point, everyone, everywhere, at every time, must decide what to do with Jesus. He is the the one inescapable historical figure who everyone must deal with. After all, He claimed to be God and that makes Him either a “liar, a lunatic” or a truth-teller, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis.

So as I understand it, though a “disciple” is someone who has been spiritually raised from the dead (Ephesians 2) and has committed themselves to Jesus and the glory of God in all things, “discipleship” is the point of getting people to the point of realizing that they have no hope before God other than Jesus. So, “discipleship” applies both to “disciples” and not-yet discipels, since the Gospel is the hope for both.

I hope you’re tracking with me and I’m not sure I’m communicating my point here well, but what I’m trying to say is that I understand “discipleship” as something that applies to both “Believers” and “Non-Believers” (to use more traditional Evangelical terms) because the point of discipleship is never just behavior modification but heart modification which comes only through contact with God which comes only through the Spirit leading us through contact/confrontation with Jesus and His Work at the Cross.

As we bring everyone into contact with what is expected of them by God (Matthew 5:48, etc.), which is nothing less than perfection, we all begin to realize that the only way we can meet such expectations is by a perfect substitute inserting themselves between us and God, which is exactly what Jesus has done. So, the idea of “discipleship” means bringing a professed “disciple” through, not only the initial changes that come at salvation (I used to smoke/drink/think about that and now I don’t) but the heat issues behind the sins  (I now realize that I smoked/drank/thought about that because I was looking for _____) and it also means bringing someone who does not yet follow Jesus to a point of crisis, whether it means they realize they can’t possibly do it on their own or they don’t want to curtail their “freedom” to follow Jesus.

So the point of “discipleship,” as I’m beginning to understand it, is to always make someone a better disciple of Jesus, no matter where they’re at on the continuum; to always bring them closer to fuller belief (while realizing that there will be some who simply never cross over the full threshold of belief, which, ultimately, is God’s business, not ours) and full discipleship. It is always meant to bring us to the point of brokenness (the intersection of “law/gospel”), where we realize that we can’t possibly meet God’s standards without Jesus.

What are your thoughts? Am I right in distinguishing form “disciples” and “discipleship”? Is the point always to bring us (as Sovereign Grace Ministries has taught me to sing}, “Deeper Into The Glories of Calvary”? Am I right in understanding the process of discipleship to begin even with those who don’t (yet) believe in helping them to confront Jesus’ expectations and guiding them to the realization that they will never meet such standards on their own? Am I right in understanding that the ongoing process for those who have already professed allegiance to Jesus is the same?

By the way, iff you wonder why the image for this post is based on Franz Kafka‘s brilliant short story “The Metamorphosis,” please read it if you haven’t and then e-mail me if you still have questions. Or, if you have read it and don’t like my associations, also please e-mail me. Otherwise, please

  • Read my previous post about helping the Gospel become, not just “clear” but “real.”
  • Listen to Tim Keller’s “Preaching to the Heart” lecture series.
  • Read Jared Wilson’s helpful book Gospel Wakefulness.

Missional Communities And The Gospel: “Don’t Just Make It Clear, Make It Real”

April 30, 2012 at 7:29 am

Francois de la Rochefoucauld famously said: “The only thing constant in life is change.” Life is not static, it is dynamic. We mark the passage of time through the changing of the seasons, we measure our lives by the roadside monuments to change; births, marriages, career changes wins and losses.

God tells us that a life following Jesus is also a process of change. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that those who belong to Jesus are being transformed “into the same image” (the image of Jesus; we are being made more like Him), from one degree or glory to another. In other words, not only have we been changed at salvation, we are being changed as we continue to follow Jesus. As much as I’d like to stop an marvel how it is that Paul can say we have any degree of glory from which to be transformed in the first place, I want to focus instead on the idea that he simply expects continued transformation to be part of the Christian life.

Scripture uses the imagery of growth and maturation to describe the process we often call “sanctification.” In short, salvation is pictured as a new birth (John 3:1-15). Paul says that the church works together so that we can all attain “to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13). The goal is that everyone will be “presented mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). We know that this process of change, of becoming more like Jesus will not be complete until “he appears” and “we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

All of this seems to me, to imply that the Christian life should be a process of active growth. When children are passive, when they simply sit and watch television all the time, they don’t develop the way they’re supposed to. Metabolism and growth slow. I worry that we have created a church culture where the excuse “oh, he’s just a baby Christian” has become all too common. I worry that we have created a church culture that has lulled people into passivity, making them dependent on on paid professionals and isolating them from the power of the Gospel in everyday life.

In his wonderful series on Preaching To The Heart, argues that the point of preaching is not just to make the Truth clear but to make it real. In other words, preachers should be applying the Gospel to the motivational structures of the heart while people are there listening. If you’re not sure what he means, I highly suggest listening to this series. But I’ve been thinking a lot about the implications of Keller’s idea. I believe that it applies, not just to preaching but to the very ways in which we “do church.”

I’m not convinced that there is only one right model of church. In fact, I believe in contextualization and I love the fact that the Church is such a beautiful tapestry of different backgrounds and approaches all coming together. And yet, I do have lots of reservations about the “come and see/bigger is always better/consumer-driven” approach that seems to have become the default. I worry that it simply reinforces the false division between the “sacred” and the “secular” and enforces the false notions that the “spiritual” aspects of life are our “quiet times” and what happens at the church building. We see lots of teachers making God’s truth clear to people, but I’m not sure we really see it becoming “real” to people.

If you’re not sure what Keller means by the distinction between making it “clear” and making it “real,” Keller references Jonathan Edwards’ A Divine and Supernatural Light, where Edwards argues:

“There is a twofold knowledge of good of which God has made the mind of man capable. The first, that which is merely notional … And the other is, that which consists in the sense of the heart; as when the heart is sensible of pleasure and delight in the presence of the idea of it.  In the former is exercised merely…the understanding, in distinction from the… disposition of the soul …Thus there is a difference between having an opinion, that God is holy and gracious, and having a sense of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and grace.  There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet and having a sense of its sweetness.  A man may have the former that knows not how honey tastes; but a man cannot have the latter unless he has an idea of the taste of honey in his mind.”

In other words, someone can intellectually know that honey is sweet without having tasted its sweetness. But you cannot taste its sweetness without also knowing intellectually that honey is sweet. In fact, once you’ve tasted it, the intellectual knowledge becomes “more real.” Psalm 34:8 urges us to “taste and see that the LORD is good!” I am concerned that our passive approach to church (sit in a pew, sit in a class, sit in a study, etc.) has led to many people being able to intellectually describe God’s sweetness without having ever actually tasted. We need to do a better job in the church of creating contexts where people have the chance to actually taste God’s sweetness, to see Him in action, to rely on His power.

Much of Jesus’ ministry happened “along the way,” and in community. In fact, as Jesus traveled through life with those He was discipling, many of his “ministry opportunities” might have been what we would consider distractions. I’m becoming convinced that we need to marinate people in the Gospel, get them outside of the church walls in community and on mission (yes, this is an argument for missional communities).

If the goal of the way we do things is not just to make the Gospel clear but real, then I believe Sunday morning can no longer be the organizing principle of our local churches. Before you jump to condemnation, I’m not saying we shouldn’t value Gathering, and preaching and singing and prayer and fellowship or even church structure, just that it doesn’t seem to be the best way to make the Gospel real in people’s lives.

We need to intentionally place people where they are living in community and on mission while becoming fluent in the Gospel. This happens best in smaller groups outside the church walls and helps people come to grips with what it means for the Gospel to be real. We desperately need the Gospel to live in community, where “that person” pushes our buttons and my coffee table was just broken and people didn’t clean up after themselves and where people can speak the truth in love to me and we can bear one another’s burdens. We desperately need the Gospel to live on mission, living everyday life with Gospel intentionality, learning to live through the lens of missionary eyes.

I don’t have time or space to fully unpack the idea of missional communities (or GCM’s as some call them) here, but I do want to urge church planters, pastors and Christians in general to ask: is the Gospel simply “clear” in my life or has it become “real.” In order for this to happen, I believe we need to move beyond Sunday-driven church as we’ve known it and redeem the everyday, where God seems to do most of His work already.

  • Visit the GCM Collective website
  • Read Total Church by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester

A Missional Contradiction?

April 3, 2012 at 7:03 pm

My friends over at Verge Network have started making some clips from the recent 2012 conference available. I was able to watch a few of them the other day and I came across these two from Alan Hirsch and Jeff Vanderstelt that initially seem to contradict one another and I wanted to get your thoughts.


The first is from Alan Hirsch on the missionary nature or “sent-ness” of the Church:


The second is from Jeff Vanderstelt, explaining why he’s actually growing tired of the term “missional:”


What do you think? Do Hirsch and Vanderstelt contradict one another? What do you you think?