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Profile of a Missional Church Outline and Notes

Last year I preached a series of sermons on becoming a missional church. The inaugural message in that series was called "The Profile of a Missional Church."

Since it takes a while for these concepts to germinate and take root, I thought I'd post my notes.

Profile of a Missional Church
1 Peter 2:9-3:18

Introduction

Q. If you consider yourself a missionary raise your hand.

Q. If you consider yourself a believer in and follower of Jesus – raise your hand.

Everyone who raised their hand to the second question should have raised their hands to the first question, because every Christian is meant to be a “missionary.”

Evangelism – how do you feel about it?

Intimidated? Embarrassed? "It’s not my gift"? Overwhelmed?

I would suggest that most of those gut-level emotional reactions we have to “evangelism” are reactions to a certain kind of evangelism, but not to the reality of being used by the Lord in genuine spiritual friendships that result in people becoming followers of Christ.

The challenges: understanding what we’re up against

1. A changed world

The world has changed

a. The rise of individualism

“The following statistics demonstrate this altering of our relational landscape in the past twenty-five years.

* Playing cards as a social activity is down 25 percent.
* Frequenting bars, nightclubs, and taverns is down 40 percent.
* The number of full-service restaurants has decreased 25 percent, and the number of bars (including coffee bars) and luncheonettes has decreased 50 percent, but the number of fast-food restaurants has increased 100 percent, as more people eat alone and eat more meals in their cars.
* Having a social evening with someone from one’s neighborhood is down 33 percent.
* Attending social clubs and meetings is down 58 percent.
* Family dinners are down 33 percent.
* Having friends over to one’s home is down 45 percent.
* From 1980 to 1993, participation in America’s number-one participant sport, bowling, was up 10 percent, but the number of bowling leagues decreased 40 percent, as more people bowled alone.
* From 1985 to 1999, the readiness of the average American to make new friends declined by near 33 percent.” (Quoted in Mark Driscoll, The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out without Selling Out, p. 80-81)

The obvious point of all those stats is that people are busier on one hand and less social on the other – and therefore, just having conversations, much less building relationships, with new people is probably more difficult today than ever before.

b. The decline of the church

* 80-85% of churches are either on a plateau or are in decline, with little sign of spiritual renewal or change ahead.
* There has been a 92% increase in the number of unchurched Americans in the last thirteen years. In 1991 there were 39 million unchurched Americans compared with 75 million currently. (2004)
* 88% of youth raised in the church leave when they turn 18 and never come back

c. The end of Christendom

Tim Keller summarizes this well:

"In the West for nearly 1,000 years, the relationship of (Anglo-European) Christian churches to the broader culture was a relationship known as "Christendom." The institutions of society "Christianized" people, and stigmatized non-Christian belief and behavior. Though people were "Christianized" by the culture, they were not regenerated or converted with the Gospel. The church's job was then to challenge persons into a vital, living relation with Christ.

There were great advantages and yet great disadvantages to 'Christendom.' The advantage was that there was a common language for public moral discourse with which society could discuss what was 'the good.' The disadvantage was that Christian morality without gospel-changed hearts often led to cruelty and hypocrisy. Think of how the small town in "Christendom" treated the unwed mother or the gay person. Also, under "Christendom" the church often was silent against abuses of power of the ruling classes over the weak. For these reasons and others, the church in Europe and North America has been losing its privileged place as the arbiter of public morality since at least the mid 19th century. The decline of Christendom has accelerated greatly since the end of WWII.

The British missionary Lesslie Newbigin went to India around 1950. There he was involved with a church living 'in mission' in a very non-Christian culture. When he returned to England some 30 years later, he discovered that now the Western church too existed in a non-Christian society, but it had not adapted to its new situation. Though public institutions and popular culture of Europe and North America no longer 'Christianized' people, the church still ran its ministries assuming that a stream of 'Christianized', traditional/moral people would simply show up in services. Some churches certainly did 'evangelism' as one ministry among many. But the church in the West had not become completely 'missional'--adapting and reformulating absolutely everything it did in worship, discipleship, community, and service--so as to be engaged with the non-Christian society around it. It had not developed a 'missiology of western culture' the way it had done so for other non-believing cultures. (Tim Keller, The Missional Church, http://www.redeemer2.com/resources/papers/missional.pdf)

2. Outdated programs

Most of the older evangelism programs were designed for a Christianized world

To quote Tim Keller again:

"Our current cultural situation poses a crisis for the way evangelicals have been doing evangelism for the past 150 years—causing us to raise crucial questions like: How do we do evangelism today? How do we get the gospel across in a postmodern world?

In 1959 Martyn Lloyd-Jones gave a series of messages on revival. One of his expositions was on Mark 9, where Jesus comes off the mountain of transfiguration and discovers his disciples trying unsuc­cessfully to exorcise a demon from a boy. After he rids the youth of the demonic presence, the disciples ask him, “Why could we not cast it out?” Jesus answers, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:28–29). Jesus was teaching his disciples that their ordinary methods did not work for “this kind.” Lloyd-Jones went on to apply this to the church:

Here, in this boy, I see the modern world, and in the disciples I see the Church of God. . . . I see a very great difference between today and two hundred years ago, or indeed even one hundred years ago. The difficulty in those earlier times was that men and women were in a state of apathy. They were more or less asleep. . . . [T]here was no general denial of Christian truth. It was just that people did not trouble to practice it. . . . [A]ll you had to do then was to awaken them and to rouse them. . . .

But the question is whether that is still the position. . . . What is ‘this kind’? . . . [T]he kind of problem facing us is altogether deeper and more desperate. . . . [T]he very belief in God has virtually gone. . . . [T]he average man today believes that all this belief about God and religion and salvation . . . [is] an incubus on human nature all through the centuries. . . .It is no longer merely a question of immorality. This has become an amoral or a non-moral society. The very category of morality is not recognised. . . .

The power that the disciples had was a good power, and it was able to do good work in casting out the feeble devils, but it was no value in the case of that boy

Put simply, Jesus is saying, the demon is in too deep for your ordi­nary way of doing ministry. It is intriguing that Lloyd-Jones said this some time before Lesslie Newbigin began to propound the thesis that Western society was a mission field again.2 Indeed it was perhaps the most challenging mission field yet, because no one had ever had to evangelize on a large scale a society that used to be Christian. Certainly there have been many times in the past when the church was in serious decline, and revival revitalized the faith and society. But in those times society was still nominally Christian. There hadn’t been a wholesale erosion of the very concepts of God and truth and of the basic reliabil­ity and wisdom of the Bible. Things are different now.” (Tim Keller, “The Gospel and the Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World” in The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World, p. 103-4)

3. Salesmanship gone sour

* Shotgun conversions
* High pressure (Christian) sales pitch
* Outsiders

This leads to the main idea of this message: God’s desire is that all of us as individuals, and all of us together as a community, be missional.

Being missional isn't just for “missionaries” to other cultures, though that is needed – we need people who are specially skilled, gifted, and burdened to take the gospel to unreached people groups – to cross cultural, linguistic, ethnic, and nationalistic barriers to share the good news and to plant indigenous self-sustaining communities of people following Jesus

But all of us are called to be missionaries!

Let’s unfold this thesis with five statements about what it means to be a missional church

1. The mission of the church is an extension of God’s mission (1 Peter 2:4-10)

We see this mission implicit in both the privileges and the purpose of the church.

(1) The Privileges of the Church – v. 9

The privileges of the church are conveyed with multiple OT allusions

* Chosen Race

Chosen nation echoes the Trinitarian focus of God’s mission expressed in 1:1-5

Elect exiles . . . according to the foreknowledge of God the Father

In sanctification of the Spirit

For obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood

Schreiner observes that the closest OT parallel is Isa 43:20 – “a context in which God promises to accomplish a second exodus for his people in bringing them out of Babylon. Peter saw these promises as fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and God’s elect nation is no longer coterminous with Israel but embraces the church of Jesus Christ, which is composed of both Jews and Gentiles” (Schreiner, 1&2 Peter, Jude, NAC, 114)

* Royal Priesthood – Exod 19:6 –Israel’s priesthood given at Sinai. Their purpose was to mirror to the nations the glory of Yahweh

* Holy Nation – also Exod 19:6 – a people set apart for the Lord

* A people for his own possession

(2) The Purpose of the Church – v. 9

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

Schreiner: “The declaration of God’s praises includes both worship and evangelism, spreading the good news of God’s saving wonders to all peoples.” (Schreiner, 116)

Every believer is included in this. All Christians and all churches are called to be on this mission of proclaiming the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.

This is God’s purpose in granting us such great privileges – election (chosen race), kingdom (royal priesthood), sanctification (holy nation), God’s ownership (people for his own possession) – all serve mission – the mission of proclaiming his excellencies (or treasuring his glory; declaring his worth; glorifying his name).

Sometimes the charge is made about Calvinists and those who embrace Reformed theology that b/c they believe in election and stress the sovereignty of God, they do not practice evangelism. And on the face of it, we might as well admit, sometimes the charge sticks. And when it does stick, it’s because we’ve lost sight of why God has chosen anyone in the first place. He has chosen them by mercy and he has chosen them for his glory – that they join God in his mission to make his glory known for the joy of the nations.

2. Missional churches are comprised of resident aliens living transformed lives in a hostile, but curious world – 2:11-3:18

(1) We are Aliens

“aliens and strangers in the world” (NIV)

* Sojourners/Aliens

* Exiles/Strangers

This recalls Abraham’s description of himself in Gen 23:4: “I am a sojourner and foreigner among you; give me property among you for a burying place, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.”

Schreiner: “The language of strangers and exiles is appropriated theologically, signifying that the readers are like foreigners because of their allegiance to Jesus Christ.”

See also Hebrews 11:13-16

(2) We are Resident Aliens

“among the Gentiles”

“Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evil doers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”

Goal: “so that when they speak against you as evil doers (hostility) they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (missional goal)

(3) We are Resident Aliens Living Transformed lives

a. Transformed believers are good citizens (2:13-18)

b. Transformed believers are stable members of society and family (3:1-7)

c. Transformed believers are passionate about doing good in the world (3:8-14)

d. Transformed people respond to suffering with humble joy (3:14ff; cf. 1:6-9; 2:18-25)

It is only when we live transformed lives that we arouse the curiosity of the world.

J. C. Ryle: “We cannot live to ourselves only in this world. Our lives will always be doing either good or harm to those who see them. They are a silent sermon which all can read . . . far more is done for Christ's kingdom by the holy living of believers than we are at all aware of. There is a reality about such living which makes men feel, and obliges them to think. It carries a weight and influence with it which nothing else can give. It makes religion beautiful, and draws men to consider it, like a lighthouse seen afar off. The day of judgment will prove that many besides husbands have been won "without a word" by a holy life (1 Peter 3:1). You may talk to persons about the doctrines of the gospel, and few will listen, and fewer still understand. But your life is an argument that none can escape." (J. C. Ryle, Holiness)

3. Missional churches declare the gospel in their words and display the gospel in their deeds – 3:13-18

Peter says we must be ready to give an answer. But giving an answer presupposes that there has been a question!

Lesslie Newbigin made the observation that in Acts, “almost all the proclamations of the gospel . . . are in response to questions asked by those outside the Church . . .” (The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, p. 116)

* Peter on the Day of Pentecost
* The testimonies of the apostles
* The defense of Stephen

“In every case there is something present, a new reality, which calls for explanation and so prompts the question to which the preaching of the gospel is the answer.”

Something has to prompt the question – their deeds, their lifestyles, their transformation! In this context, it is especially passion for goodness and their joy in suffering in light of the gospel.

Newbigin then went on to talk about “two wrong concepts of mission which are at present deeply dividing the Christian community. On the one hand, there are those who place exclusive emphasis on the winning of individuals to conversion, baptism, and church membership . . . On the other hand, there are those who condemn this as irrelevant or wrong. The gospel, they say, is about God’s kingdom, God’s reign over all nations and all things. At the heart of Jesus’ teaching is the prayer: ‘Your kingdom come; your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.’ The central responsibility of the Church is indicated by that prayer. It is to seek the doing of God’s will of righteousness and peace in this world.” (p. 135)

This is the Evangelical / Liberal divide – or the divide between more mainline churches on the one hand and more fundamentalist/evangelical churches on the other. The mainline churches almost exclusively concerned with social justice; the evangelical almost exclusively focused on evangelism.

Newbigin goes on: “If I am not mistaken, the conflict between these two ways of understanding mission is profoundly weakening the Church’s witness. The conflict continues because both parties have hold of important truth . . .

What is true in the affirmation on the evangelical side of this debate is that it does matter supremely that every human being should have the opportunity to know Jesus as Lord and Savior, that without a living Church where this witness is borne neither evangelism nor Christian social action is possible, and that the gospel can never be identified with any particular project for justice and peace, however laudable and promising.

What is true in the position of the social activists is that a Church which exists only for itself and its own enlargement is a witness against the gospel, that the Church exists not for itself and not for its members but as a sign and agent and foretaste of the kingdom of God, and that it is impossible to give faithful witness to the gospel while being indifferent to the situation of the hungry, the sick, the victims of inhumanity.” (p. 136)

Then he teases out implications of this, which I’m paraphrasing:
  • We cannot set word against deed, preaching against action. The two always go together. “The words explain the deeds. The deeds validate the words.” (p. 137)
  • Social justice in the world isn’t secondary. It’s right at the heart of what we’re called to do.
  • No project for social justice or peace can claim our total commitment. Only the gospel itself can do this, because only the gospel and the God to which it bears witness can bring full and final healing to this fallen world.
  • But it would be wrong to urge true believers in Jesus who are faithful to the gospel to withdraw from responsible engagement in political and cultural life.
  • The major role of the church in relation to issues of social justice and peace is not in its formal pronouncements but in nourishing and sustaining believers with the gospel in the course of their secular duties as citizens.
  • We always need to point explicitly to the gospel itself – Christ incarnate, crucified, risen, and reigning at God’s right hand until he comes to judge the living and the dead.
4. Missional churches must be gospel-centered in all they do.

One of the implications of this gospel-centered lifestyle for the church is this: that what we need is not so much an evangelism-program or a full-time pastor of evangelism (though neither of those would be wrong and both might be helpful some day).

Rather, what we need is a gospel-centeredness to everything we do as a church. So that all of our ministries and services are just surging with the good news!

* Worship – songs, creeds, prayers that reflect on the gospel; Sermons – messages that consistently take us beyond moral exhortation (though that is sometimes needed) to the good news of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ

* Christian Education – SS classes that do the same – keeping the focus on the message of what God has done in Christ to redeem the fallen world

* Community – Fellowship, relationships, small groups - Christ-centeredness in curriculum, but also personal application of the gospel to one another’s lives in a context of mutual love, fellowship, and accountability

* Social action – ministry to women (PCC), the hungry (food pantry), the community (various forms of community service), the elderly (nursing homes) that demonstrate the love of Jesus in tangible, hands-on, need-meeting ways.

When all of these things are gospel-centered and Christ-centered, then all of them become evangelistic – i.e. all become avenues of sharing with unbelievers the good news of God’s grace in Christ.

5. Missional churches share the gospel with a genuine concern for people – 3:18

“Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is within you with gentleness and respect”

The key words are “gentleness” and “respect.”

a. Let’s engage in genuine friendship, not slick salesmanship

* Not button-holing
* Not high-pressure sales pitch
* Not conditional friendship (if they become Christians we’ll be friends)

One of my regrets is blowing it with some guys I used to work with. I felt like I had to challenge everything that was wrong and always channel conversations to the gospel. I did that often – but I failed in just building good friendships with some of them. I remember asking one guy to lunch and his reaction was that’s fine, but I don’t want to talk about Christianity. Unfortunately, we never went to lunch because my only purpose was witness. I was short-sighted in my vision.

The successes I did have in witnessing generally arose out of long-term friendships and genuine concern and respect over time.

b. Let’s focus on making disciples, not securing decisions or shot-gun conversions.

Think journey, not destination; process, not event.

That’s not to deny that there is a definite moment of regeneration where someone passes from death to life. There is. It is not always discernable and its not something we can force or control. Too often we’ve equated that with the saying of a prayer or the making of a public confession and so we drive people hard to that goal.

I suggest we move away from trying to close the sale or draw the net and instead build long-term friendships with people and then in both deed and word, with much gentleness and patience we do what we can to help people take the next step towards Jesus whatever that is.

This will take the pressure off.

“In reformission evangelism, people are called to come and see the transformed lives of God’s people before they are called to repent of sin and trust in God. Taking a cue from dating is helpful on this point. If we desire people to be happily married to Jesus as his loving bride, it makes sense to let them go on a few dates with him instead of just putting a shotgun to their heads and asking them to hurry up, put on a white dress, and try to look happy for the photos.” (Driscoll, The Radical Reformission, p. 68)

c. Let’s welcome people into our community even if they are not yet Christians.

Let me explain what I don’t mean and do mean.

I don’t mean that we should accept unbelievers into membership of the church. That would be dishonest to them and to us, because membership involves (1) making a public confession of faith in Jesus (2) identifying one’s self as a follower of Jesus through baptism (3) living in covenant with the community to live as followers of Jesus – that is, to learn his ways and obey his teachings. Only people who genuine want all of that should become “members” of the church.

However, we should welcome people who have not come to the conviction that Jesus is Lord or who have not decided to identify themselves as disciples or who are not ready to make the promises involved in living as a covenant-bound member of the body.

We can do that by:

i. inviting them to our worship gatherings, bible studies, fellowships, and small groups

ii. allowing them space to voice their doubts and explore Christianity without feeling pressured to convert in every service or conversation they have with us

iii. building genuine friendships with them that allow them to benefit from the service and concern of the community – such as help in sickness, during trial, dealing with grief, managing personal crisis, etc.

Conclusion

Lesslie Newbigin: “The Church is not so much the agent of the mission as the locus [the place] of the mission. It is God who acts in the power of his Spirit, doing mighty works, creating signs of a new age, working secretly in the hearts of men and women to draw them to Christ . . . But the Church is not the source of the witness; rather, it is the locus of witness. The light cast by the first rays of the morning sun shining on the face of a company of travelers will be evidence that a new day is coming. The travelers are not the source of that witness but only the locus of it. To see for oneself that it is true, that a new day is really coming, one must turn around, face the opposite way, be converted. And then one’s own face will share the same brightness and become part of the evidence.” (The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, p. 119-120)

Is the light shining on your face?

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