The Call to Re-Evangelize the West – Part Three

Church in Ruins 5

Table of Contents

Foreword

Introduction

Pt 1 – A Fractured Society

Pt 2 – A Brave New World

Pt 3 – Where Do We Go From Here

Conclusion

Where Do We Go From Here: Specifics of a Missiological Paradigm

Society as a whole is experiencing a time of crisis; a turning point in the course of its development, marked by despair and opportunity. 

The True Hierarchy of Needs

The Missiological Paradigm speaks into this crisis by speaking to their felt needs first.  Felt needs usually block actual needs from an individual’s awareness, but in reality it is the actual needs which must be met before felt needs can be met with any permanency.  

As Dr. Norman Wright points out in his book Crisis Counseling, “In the initial stage of crisis, the factual information you give may not register at this time.”[1]  For this reason we must be willing to meet people where they are, we must address felt needs before we can obtain the ability to deal with actual needs.  It is in this way that felt needs become the bridge which allows us to reach an individual’s actual needs.  If we ignore felt needs we do so to our loss, for we will inevitably become ineffective ministers of the Gospel.  Functionally speaking, this means speaking to the issues of shame and powerlessness that so characterize the face of post-modernity. 

Shame is the subjective experience of worthlessness.  It has no object; it is simply a feeling of having no value.  The Truth is that we have eternal value, but we can not experience the freedom from shame that this truth brings until we have first experienced the acceptance of God.  Further more, the acceptance of God can not be known until we receive from Him forgiveness for our sins.  This is the doctrine of Justification applied both judicially and relationally.  In other words, the subjective freedom from shame is predicated on the objective reception of forgiveness for the guilt of our sin. 

Powerlessness is a subjective experience of instability.  It has no object; it is simply a feeling of being helpless.  The truth is that we were formed to transcend this world, but we can not experience the empowerment to transcend until we have experienced the presence of God.  More over, His presence will remain unknown until we integrate His Truth into our lives through the renewing of our minds.  This is the doctrine of Sanctification applied judicially and relationally.  In other words, the subjective empowerment to overcome is predicated on the objective integration of truth in our lives. 

Primary and Secondary Elements

In addition to answering the questions that people are actually asking, the Missiological Paradigm makes the distinction between the primary purposes of God and the secondary methods of how those purposes are carried out.  This is fundamentally a distinction between the essential and non-essential elements of the Faith.  Put another way: primary principles are the objective propositions of God’s revelation, while secondary methods are subjective suppositions, experiences which provide a vehicle whereby we may appropriate the propositional into our thinking.  Primary things relate to our interior life, secondary things to our exterior life.  The primary must not change, the secondary must be changeable; for the primary is based on revelation, but the secondary is about expression. 

The secondary only maintains usefulness while it is anchored in the primary, and the primary has value to us only when it is experienced through the secondary.  All secondary things, regardless of how we feel about them, must pass this test: they must be anchored.  If they are not anchored, then they are not worthy of Jesus.  On the other hand, if they are anchored then they should be embraced affectionately.  It is just as unacceptably egocentric for us to demand that all secondary expressions reflect our own secondary preferences, as it is for us to allow primary revelation to be uprooted in our discussion of principles and methods. 

Functionally speaking this means that we must maintain an open arms policy as each new believer brings their own unique expressions with them into the Kingdom.  Forms have only the significance that we have assigned to them; they have no inherent meaning.[2]  While our traditions should be honored for their value in tying us to our past, they must not be elevated to the place of Torah.  Only revelation can hold that place of authority, all else is secondary.[3]

Community Dynamics

Finally, the Missiological Paradigm looks to the general health and building of community through growing together.  This means a commitment to the strengthening of families through a family friendly environment.[4]  It means cultivating a place where differences and disagreements are something to be embraced rather than avoided.[5]  It means appropriately focusing on the practices of Worship, Discipleship and Ministry.[6]  Let us take each of these in turn. 

Strengthening the Family

First, let’s look at the strengthening of families through a family friendly environment.  I am convinced that one of the greatest things that we can do is purposing to invest in family oriented ministry.  The family is the backbone of society, and the primary vessel through which God moves in the world.  Strong families make for strong churches, and conversely weak families make for weak churches.  The first and most important benefit of family oriented ministry is that it develops strong families whose members are led by the Spirit, full of love, and characterized by submission.[7]

A strong church is the natural outgrowth of a healthy and godly family; it is the second main benefit of family oriented ministry.  Three things characterize a strong church: leadership, unity, and ministry.  The bible clearly defines godly leadership in 1 Timothy chapter 3, and only men who are willing to sacrifice themselves to their families can lead the house of God.  Likewise, unity comes only in a place that is filled with people who have learned that their freedom needs to be coupled with self-control.  Finally, it is only possible to reach out and show love to others, when we have experienced it for ourselves.  True ministry is the natural outgrowth of a strong church community: godly families coming together in true unity, growing together in grace according to God’s design.[8]

There are several practical ways that we can go about endeavoring to develop a family oriented ministry to strengthen our families and our churches?  The first is family friendly scheduling.  Often we don’t take into account the busy schedules of our modern culture and hence we contribute to the pulling apart of a family rather than bringing together of it.   Second, and along the same lines, we must plan events for the whole family.  By doing this, we combat the culturally driven generation gap which robs us of our heritage and stability both individually and collectively.  Finally, we must employ family oriented teaching and seminars.  The reality of our current situation is that the majority of people are not aware of what it takes to cultivate a healthy family.  It is not that they don’t want to do it, but that they simply don’t know how.[9]

Of the many different opportunities for ministry, it is my belief that developing one centered on the health of the family is the most vital as well as the most profitable.  Healthy families build healthy churches, healthy churches minister to their communities, and the world is made up of hundreds of thousands of communities.  If we want to reach the world, we need to start where we will have the greatest impact… in the home.[10]

All of this said, it is of the utmost importance that we both acknowledge and determine to meet the real needs of those in our community who do not have a traditional family structure.  There are many families that consist of single parents due to past choices, divorce, or even death.  There are families that are blended in race, in denomination, and those that consist of two separate families combined into one by new marriages.   In all of these situations we must be committed to shoring up the family where it is weak, and coming along side of those who need our help in special ways.[11]

Understanding Conflict

Next, let’s look at what it means to cultivate a place where differences and disagreements are something to be embraced rather than avoided.  In his book on this very subject, author and ministry consultant Gil Rendel calls this kind of multi-generational church a bi-modal congregation.  Unlike the consumer church design where differences are used to divide the congregation into pure market segments, in a bimodal congregation there are usually two or more groups competing for influence but desiring to be together.[12]  Healthy bi-modal congregations are not necessarily comfortable ones as the result of three fundamental commitments.  A commitment to the acceptance of new members; their ideas, culture, and contexts; a commitment to pass on the Faith from one generation to the next; and a commitment to healthy dialogue about what is sacred and important[13].

Both the pure market approach and unhealthy bi-modals deal with conflict from a problem solving perspective.   This dynamic creates an environment where there are always winners and losers, and all issues become battlefields.  With the problem-solving dynamic, the winners reap the spoils of war while the losers must go to the corner and lick their wounds.  This is not an environment of love, but of progress so called.  In a healthy bi-modal, people dialogue regarding their concerns and come together with one mind, seeing the unity of the Body in love as more important then simply getting stuff done.[14]

In regard to leadership, the leaders of bi-modal congregations must do several things for their churches to be healthy.  They must direct conversations, set the agendas, and teach the vocabulary of a connecting dialogue.   There must be a conscious decision to stop focusing on differences, where conflict is concerned, and to instead focus on community.  Finally, there must be a refocusing so that conflict is seen for what it is and not what Satan would have us believe.[15]  Conflict is not the end of ministry; it is the labor pains of ministry, the beginning of what God is doing.

Practicing the Essentials

The only way for us to truly live is to find our life in Jesus.  Like the flower which needs sun light or the fish which needs water; Man can not live without the love of God.  When we choose to surrender ourselves to Him and seize hold of His love for us we become engaged in three distinct but interconnected sets of relationships: we engage Him, we engage ourselves, and we engage others.  These three relationships are developed through the practice of three essential activities; Worship, Discipleship, and Ministry.

Thus we must look at what it means to appropriately focus on these essential practices of Worship, Discipleship and Ministry.  More specifically, how do we as God’s people apply these appropriately in the Body life of the local congregation?  It is my conviction that each individual congregation according to its unique heritage and circumstances must answer this question with in their own context.  It will do us no good if we seek to walk out these practices in the exact same way as another congregation because we are not all the same.  God has designed each of us with a unique vision, and He has gifted us with the unique capacity to carry out that unique vision.[16]  That said it is my intention to only address several internal mechanisms of these primary practices that are true in every heritage and circumstance. 

Worship

Engaging God involves a dynamic tension between the pursuit and the apprehension of the Holy One who is at once immanently close and yet also the transcendent other, between the majestic and the intimate.  It involves Knowing God as Father and Maker, as King and Savior, as Helper and Comforter.  It involves the cultivation of a life of devotion and prayer, of honesty and vulnerability as we live our lives before the very Throne of the Living God (Psalms 141:2; Hebrews 4:14-16; 8:1-2; 9:1-10; 10:19-22; 12:28-29).  In the words of one anonymous writer:

Worship is… when you’re aware that what you’ve been given is far greater than what you can give.  Worship is the awareness that were it not for his touch, you’d still be hobbling and hurting, bitter and broken.  Worship is the half-glazed expression on the parched face of a desert pilgrim as he discovers that the oasis is not a mirage.

Worship is the “thank you” that refuses to be silenced.  We have tried to make a science out of worship.  We can’t do that.  We can’t do that any more than we can “sell love” or “negotiate peace”.  Worship is a voluntary act of gratitude offered by the saved to the Savior, by the healed to the Healer, and by the delivered to the Deliverer.  Be inspired, encouraged and know that there is someone up there who loves you more than you know, more than you can comprehend.

The thing to be clung to in regard to Worship is that it is about Jesus.  Styles of services and preferences of music do not constitute true Worship.  When our lives are about loving Jesus we worship, when our lives are about us feeling good we do not: regardless of the forms we assume.[17]  A worship service must stimulate adoration.  It should be a medium of encouragement, exhortation, teaching and rebuke.  The service should also be a demonstration of the unity that we have in Christ.  Finally the service should act as a proclamation of the reality of the Gospel for those who are not believers.  The scripture gives the meaning and the purpose of worship, but the conspicuous absence of forms is an indication of freedom in such things.[18] 

There is a term used in missions which deals directly with what I am speaking of here.  The term used is indigenous worship; it is used to describe the worship of a people group that originates with in the context of that people group.  This is of great importance because indigenous worship connects with the people of a culture in away which non-indigenous worship often can not.[19]  It is necessary to hold in balance the spiritual traditions of our faith ancestry while at the same time realizing that God’s desire is for us to lift up to Him the new song that He puts into our hearts.[20]  We can not survive the devaluing of our past, nor the disregarding of our present without suffering loss to both.  It is God’s Glory, the Beauty of His Holiness, is the premise and the Substance of our Praise.  We do not create as much as uncover what was already there.  Our sermons, our songs; are not the result of our ingenuity, but rather discovery; they are mere shadows of the Heavenly reality.

Worship is not an exercise in protocol; God doesn’t demand it of us to make Himself feel better or to satisfy His ego needs.  Rather, worship is the natural out pouring of a heart that has been captivated by the Love of God in Jesus Christ.  Paul says it beautifully in Romans 8:15 when he tells us that the spirit in us testifies of our adoption crying out to God, Abba Father (a.k.a. “Daddy”/ “Papa”/ ect.).  This is Worship, the cry of our hearts to our Heavenly Father in Christ Jesus.  What is more, in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 the Apostle Paul says that we should pray with out ceasing; or in other words, the act of prayer (praise/ adoration/ supplication) should be as natural and as constant as breathing.  Worship must be the sum total description of our lives given over to God for His Glory.

Discipleship

Engaging One’s self involves a willingness to be vulnerable before God’s Word: to no longer sit in judgment on it, but rather to accept its judgment of one’s self.  It means allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to us through the scripture and reveal to us who we really are.  To allow the Holy Spirit to transform us as He renews our minds with the Truth of God’s Word and to cultivate the ground of our hearts, that the gifts and talents He has placed with in us might grow to fruition.  The Discipleship process is nothing less than the restoration of the image of God in man, the transformation of man into the image of Christ.  Put another way true Disciples are those who have an all consuming passion for the things of God; who are single minded in their pursuit of His glory; who are diligent in their study and application of His Word; who are in the process of becoming like Jesus, having His character cultivated and borne out in their daily lives.  In the words of John Westerhoff, Discipleship is… “A pilgrimage… into an ever deepening and loving relationship with God.”[21]

The process of becoming a Disciple of Jesus Christ begins with education, the equipping of individuals with the tools necessary to learn.  Vast numbers of modern church members are sorely ignorant of the scriptures, theology, church history, and apologetics; not to mention proper exegetical and hermeneutical method.  It is our responsibility to make disciples; people who are mature and can reproduce themselves.  Our programs must reflect this if we are ever to see the Body grow up into the fullness of our head, Jesus Christ.[22]

The second stage in the process involves consecration, the preparation of the individual for transformation through the renewing of the mind.  This is a change not only in the way one perceives life, but also in the way that they conceive of life as well.  Now through obedience we find that it is God’s Truth which sets us free and reveals His will for our lives.  While education prepares one to learn, consecration prepares one to become.

The third and final stage involves the actual transformation of an individual.  This part of the process is not programmed but rather prompted along by honest and intimate relationships with a spiritual mentor or sponsor and a group of committed companions.  It is at this stage that not only have one’s perceptions and conceptions regarding life been changed, but also one’s convictions or beliefs.  It is what Dallas Willard and Richard J. Foster refer to as “character formation”, the actual fruition of the process of committed Christian growth.[23] 

Thus there must be an intentional and active attempt on the part of the Church to approach this task in a holistic manner.  The Holy Scriptures form our subject matter for they are the Divine Revelation of God and the Foundation of our Faith.  The Christian Faith Community forms the environment of observation for the formation of the disciple.  The act of living out Jesus commands and ministering alongside of other saints allows for participatory learning.  The examples of mature Christians who are led by the Holy Spirit and whose lives are centered on Jesus Christ inspire the disciple to continue striving forward.  None of these parts can truly exist without the others; they are in every way interconnected. 

Ministry

Engaging others, the act of being Christ’s Witness in the World, involves connecting with people.  In both cases ministry takes place the same way; the life of Jesus Christ, that Living Water in the Souls of God’s People, is poured out of oneself and into another through the medium of connecting relationships.[24]  The only real difference between the two is in regard to the recipients.  Ministry is a life style; if Jesus is your life and you give your life away then you’ll do ministry.  We must learn to simplify, we must be honest and real, to just be there and let God be God.

There are two ways in which the Church pours out the life of Christ.  The Love of God that manifests itself in the lives of all of His children by the power of His Holy Spirit is the first and primary way.  By this I am speaking of the whole of Christian character as it exhibits itself to the people an individual comes into contact with.  The second way is less general; its expression is found in the specific gifting of each individual member of the congregation.  As people discover the gifts that God has given to them, they also discover a place of service that God has prepared just for them. 

Imperative to a proper understanding of Ministry is the additional realization that it is both a process and an event.  Too often we are guilty of emphasizing one over the other.  We must provide a relational foundation of connection with Jesus through our daily lives.  Closely tied to our understanding of Ministry as process and event, is the concept of networks.  God has put each of us into a natural network of relationships.  It is through our constant and consistent contact with those whose lives comprise this network that we stand to have our greatest impact.

We as a Church must not only be sensitive to the general ministry of believers, but also to the specific ones as well.  It is our responsibility to do all that is within our power to train, support and encourage these individuals in their ministries.  Together we accomplish the tasks given to us.[25]  In this way we participate in God’s work of redeeming, reconciling, and restoring all of creation to Him in Christ Jesus.  Just as God was incarnated among Men in the person of Jesus, so now He chooses to be incarnated among Men through His Church; that He might meet people at their point of need.  Ministry is fundamentally incarnational and contextual, earthy and messy.  It causes us to be poured out as we come into contact with the emptiness of a God-less existence.


[1] Norman H. Wright, Crisis Counseling (Ventura: Regal, 1993), 33.

[2] Richard Shawyer, “Indigenous Worship” [Evangelical Missions Quarterly Vol. 38, No. 3. (July 2002): 326-334], 327.

[3] Gil Rendle, The Multigenerational Congregation (Bethesda: Alban Institute, 2002), 2.

[4] Pamela Erwin, The Family Powered Church (Loveland: Group, 2000), 12.

[5] Gil Rendle, The Multigenerational Congregation (Bethesda: Alban Institute, 2002), 8-9.

[6] Fundley Edge, The Greening of the Church (Waco: Word, 1971), 189.

[7] Jeff VanVonderen, Families Where Grace is in Place (Minnesota: Bethany House, 1992), 15.

[8] Larry Crabb, Connecting (Nashville: Word, 1997), 9.

[9] Pamela Erwin, The Family Powered Church (Loveland: Group, 2000), 15.

[10] Win and Charles Arn, The Master’s Plan for Making Disciples (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1998), 29.

[11] Randolph Crump Miller, Christian Nurture and the Church (New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1961), 17.

[12] Gil Rendle, The Multigenerational Congregation (Bethesda: Alban Institute, 2002), 4.

[13] Ibid., 6.

[14] Ibid., 5.

[15] Ibid., 8.

[16] George Barna, The Power of Vision (Ventura: Regal, 1992), 55.

[17] AW Tozer, That Incredible Christian (Camp Hill: Christian, 1964), 134.

[18] Richard Shawyer, “Indigenous Worship” [Evangelical Missions Quarterly Vol. 38, No. 3. (July 2002): 326-334], 333.

[19] Ibid., 326.

[20] Ibid., 333.

[21] John Westerhoff, The foundation for Preaching and Teaching (Louisville: Westminster, 1994), 10.

[22] JP Mooreland, Love the Lord with all Your Mind (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997), 188-189.

[23] Richard Foster and Dallas Willard, “The Making of the Christian,” Interview by Agnieszka Tennant, Christianity Today 49, 10 (October 2005): np.

[24] Larry Crabb, The Safest Place on Earth (Nashville: Word, 1999), 22.

[25] Fundley Edge, The Greening of the Church (Waco: Word, 1971), 169-170.