Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Missional Church - an Introduction

I have had the good fortune of reading a very good book, seminal, in many ways. My brother in law lent it to me and I do believe I should get my own copy.

It is titled, "The Shaping of Things to Come" and it covers how the Church of the future (and in fact of today) needs to adapt to the new world that Christianity has come to consist in.

One of the primary ideas of the book is to present 3 properties of the Church as we know today and then to juxtapose each property with the alternative, "missional" Church view (When I use the word missional I use it in a very narrow sense to highlight the difference between the traditional Church and the missional Church, this will get its own post at some point).

  1. Attractional - A belief that people will seek out and attend our church meetings of their own accord, we thus need to make ourselves as "attractive" as we can through good music, Programs, warm and friendly people etc
  2. Dualistic - Spirituality and Life are treated differently and generally, don't mix
  3. Hierarchical - Leadership is from the top down
Now that describes the current Church modus operandi. The missional Church (i.e. the Church that will be relevant to the contemporary context, and the Church that will thrive in our contemporary context) presents it alternative.
  1. Incarnational - as Jesus became man, so Christians go into where the people are and meet them where they are
  2. Messianic - A Messianic spirituality sees Spirituality as Jesus did - no separation between Church and work, Spiritual life is relevant, present and encompasses every aspect of our daily lives
  3. Apostolic - a view of leadership more in line with Apostolic thought. An organic approach where leadership comes from the body.
More on this subject will definitely be forthcoming.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The "Shopping List" prayer...

How many times have you heard how the Shopping list prayer is inappropriate. You know the one where you just bring your list of requests before God and go through them. The desire to avoid the shopping list approach however, has negatively affected our view of God, his World and who he is.

The key issue here is "Why?"... why is the shopping list inappropriate.

We have thought it inappropriate because it only asks God "for" things and we feel that asking for those things might be inappropriate and thus we do not ask for them. However, it is not the asking for them that is the inappropriate bit, for here you are praying to the Creator, sustainer and provider of all things you have a whole lot of things that you want but you "hide" those from him how knows and sees everything. There is God going, interesting, you actually want a new tennis racket, but you didn't ask for one! That's a bit weird. What are we saying about God if we do not ask him for what we want, are we saying he cannot give it to us? Are we saying he is stingy? Are we saying, no, I will get that by myself thank you very much?

Okay, but if we lose the shackles on the shopping list, where will that stop? What will reign us in?

The shopping list that we bring to God is based on our wants and desires. It is thus not the shopping list that is the problem it is our wants and desires. That is where the problem lies. Let us pray to God that he reforms our wants and desires in order that we can without reservation pray for what we want and not have to hide those from the giver of all good things.

Let's add that to our shopping lists...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The test of language

Occasionally I let some of the children who live in my block play on my Nintendo Wii (what an awesome console).

On the weekend four of us were playing "Mario Kart Wii". One of the best games available for the Wii.

I heard one of the children say, when they were knocked off the track "you suck!". Now that is something I say so I know where they got it from, and I do not think it particularly inappropriate to say that.

But hearing them say it brings a whole new perspective on it. I do not think it something a child should say. It sounds totally different hearing a seven year old say those words!

So it lead me to thinking about a new principle for driving what is appropriate language, and that is to ask, would I be happy for a child to say it? Because that is the true test of language purity.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Suffering and the Sovereignty of God

The other day a friend ask me about suffering in this world, the classic argument, if God is loving, why does he let bad things happen?

A question often asked by people and the obvious tension is as follows...

Either God is loving and not Sovereign, or he is Sovereign and not Loving.

That is the conundrum. Because if either one of the above statements were true then it would make sense of the situation.

However, neither one of those statements is true. What is true is that God is both sovereign and loving.

And _that_ is the way it is and is the _best_ way for it to be.

Let's consider the two elements of the statements...

a. A world where God is not sovereign
Wow! Do you _really_ want to live in a world where God is not sovereign, where _everything_ that happens is absolutely random and without any direction what so ever? At least if God is sovereign then someone is in control. What is the first thing that gets asked in a situation where there is total chaos? why it is "who is in charge here?". Imagine a military force without a commander, would it have any effect whatsoever? Furthermore, in a world without a sovereign God there is _no one_ I mean, no one to run to when things get bad, no one to pray to ask for deliverance? Life is reduced to having little more meaning and significance than sand that is brushed out the door.

b. A World where God is Sovereign, but not loving
I can remember, as a boy, having a lot of fun tormenting the ants in an ant hill in our back garden. It was fun to stick my finger down their hole and watch them all scramble to get rid of the intrusion. They would all bite attempt to disable whatever it was by sinking their pincers into it. I can also remember dismembering some of the ants, to see how they would fare without back legs, for instance. Imagine how the ants must have felt. Now that, is what a world without a loving God is. In fact, even _worse_ than the world without a soveriegn God because now the one who is in absolute control is also out to get you. So he can orchestrate things in the worst way possible!

So you see, when considering the issue of why a loving God allows bad things to happen, let's look on the bright sad and be thankful there is a Loving God, who _is_ in charge.


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Monday, March 05, 2007

Reframing the Vocation...

Recently I have had the blessing of a salary increase. It was a very significant raise such that I now have a lot of surplus money.

Up till this time I have not really been able to afford to give significant money to the church, and with the raise, even after more than doubling my contribution to the church, I am still able to enjoy (is that the right word), more money at the end of the month.

What has that meant?

Well for one thing, it has opened up more possibilities... I am now less constrained by my income, but what it has also done is that it has brought more tension. I was happy with the way I was spending my previous income, and now I have to settle on a new spending pattern. More income brings more responsibility.

But more importantly it has given me the ability to give more money to supporting gospel work. In fact, because of the contribution I am now making to gospel work I feel far more a part of the work than I was before. I think a lot of Christian people who are no in full time formal christian work feel a little on the side line, like they're in second rate employment. Fortunately that is less the case now.

I think the most indicative thing is that I now feel like I have a secondary occupation. It is hardly a secondary occupation. From an eternal perspective it is the most important occupation. Playing a part in changing the world, what could be more important.

That brings me to what I'm really trying to say...

I think the way I should start seeing myself, i.e. My vocation is as a “gospel supporter”. It would not only give me an interesting angle into exposing my Christianity but it would give me greater sense of meaning and fulfilment. The drudgery of every day driving to and from work would be significantly reduced because it would have an eternal significance.

The unfortunate thing about this is that I only feel like this now that I have sufficient financial muscle to support gospel work in a meaningful way. It is quite sad that it has had to come to this. What about those people that cannot afford to contribute so readily. As an aside, the traditional 10 percent is not easy for someone who is making R5000 a month – but a lot easier for someone who is making R40 000 a month.

It is a pity that it has taken a significant raise to bring me to think this way. It should not matter how much money is given because as the story of the poor woman in the temple goes to show, the amount is not important, it is the level of sacrifice. It's hard to say whether the sacrifice has changed, I don't know that it has. What I do know however, is that I am now able to invest in the next life for more effectively.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Touching the void

You ever seen "Touching the Void?"

It's a fairly hectic movie about two mountain climbers that have the most disastrous time climbing a face in the Andes. There you are watching the movie, seriously wondering if these people made it out alive. On the way down, the one guy broke his leg, and the other guy then had to lower him down with a rope, down from this enormous icy moutain. Then the lower person get's caught just below an overhang. There he is dangling there suspended on the rope with nowhere to go. The top man waits, for hours, not knowing what happened - the top stays taut. Not knowint what else to do, he cuts the rope letting his friend fall spiraling downwards, the friend falls into a crevasse and totally shatters the other leg...

So you can see why there is not a small amount of uncertainty as to whether they made it out or not.


Interspersed between shots of the men on the mountain are the real people involved, talking to you and telling you what it was like. So you're left with no uncertainty about the irrefutable, undeniable fact that they did in fact make it back. You can doubt all you want, you can question all you want, but you can't argue against the fact.

Once you accept that the existence, death and most importantly, resurrection of Jesus is exactly what it is, an undeniable, irrefutable fact, then that becomes for you what seeing those two climbers in the flesh means in the movie. There it is. Yes, you doubt, yes sometimes it's not easy, but just as in the movie, you might have doubted, you might have questioned, you might have felt like they didn't make it, but you had to come back every time to the fact that they did - the only way to come out of that movie with a different view would be to irrationally and illogically deny the evidence and choose not to believe it.

I think one of the things that differentiates the real Christian from the temporary Christian is that the real Christian has seen and knows the facts. It's like they've seen the movie with the scenes of the surviving climbers included. So though they may doubt and want to throw in the towel, ultimately, they cannot because they know the final outcome. I'm not sure if every Christian has "seen the surviving climbers". I think some still need to, they could have had a sheltered existence and haven't yet questioned (they're the kind that grew up in Christian homes) or maybe they've tentatively accepted but still need to bed things down. I do believe that every Christian "sees the surviving climbers" eventually. I actually think it's a necessary part of being a Christian.

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

When is a Christian not a Christian?

How many of us know of, or have heard of someone who is a Christian and is living with their partner. I know of the situation coming from both sides of the gender divide.

The question however is this, are they really Christian?

Okay, just to be clear on something. I understand that merely living with someone does not impugn the person's standing before God, however, in Society's eyes, two people in a romantic relationship, who are living together, are having sex and thus by deduction, in society's eyes, that Christian who is living with their partner, is also having sex. It has nothing to do with the reality and thus the reason why I'm suggesting they are in fact not Christian.

But back to the question...

It is a question that will probably cause a great deal of discussion, controversy, and in fact, heated disagreement - there is however another question that I think is the real question that needs to be dealt with first, and that is "Do we have a right to make such a judgment?". Your answer to this question will drive your answer to the issue..

Let's examine some of the ideas and emotions driving this question.

  • People want to be nice...
    People, in general, are loath to sell someone short, they also do not want to be known as the person that condemned someone else. They will typically take the view that it is between them and God - they are on their path, I am on mine, who am I to say that your path is not the narrow one.
  • People like to sit on the fence and follow the crowd
    In these kinds of questions, going against the flow is not very popular. It's not that easy. People do not know how to respond and thus respond with what everyone else is saying. If they answer no then they will be the outcast.
  • People don't want to judge
    This probably has the biggest influence on people's thinking on this matter. People do not want to judge because of Jesus words, "Do not Judge, or you will be judged". Is that the only reason? And did Jesus outlaw any form of judgment with those words?
If you consider other references in the New Testament, especially from the words of Paul, you will notice that he in fact does quite a lot of what we are reluctant to do. "Let him be eternally condemned" is words he uses in Galations to refer to someone who preaches a different gospel, and "Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme." 1 Timothy 1:20 (

Those are very strong words, no matter who they come from.

What exactly does Jesus mean when he says "do not Judge". He did what we would refer to as judging, so did Stephen (a non apostle) in his speech in Acts 7.

"You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it." Acts 7.52 - 53 (

and again from Paul in Titus chapter 1.
"For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. 11They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. 12Even one of their own prophets has said, "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons." 13This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith 14and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth. 15To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted." (

There are numerous injunctions in the New Testament to "rebuke". There is also a mention in one of the gospels about how if you turn your brother from sin, then you will be blessed.

So in answer to the question - do we have a right to make such a call? I think the answer to that is yes, but with humility. We are not to go around making judgments left right and centre as to the eternal destiny of those people in our church, nor are we to go around making these kinds of calls when we haven't done our utmost to investigate and to give them the benefit of the doubt.

However, when it is obvious that some who claims to be a Christian is consistently living in sin, there is warrant for us to make such a call.

But - you only have a right to make such a call if you're willing to live with the consequences, and that is, you have a duty, as a Christian to draw along side the brother or sister and help them back. The point is this, just as we should be bent on seeing out non Christian friends saved, we should be arguably even more bent on seeing our fallen friends brought back. It's not good making a judgment that they are in fact not Christians and then not do anything about that. They are still our friends and still deserve our respect. Possibly, the reason why people are loathe to make these kinds of judgments is precisely because it may mean we have to act. The other issue is that the person may be seriously struggling with the weakness, whatever that may be and desperate to turn things around, what they need is a supportive loving friend who will listen to them. They have to make the turn around decision though.

I think we do ourselves a disservice when we feel that it is not right to question somebody's faith. Let's face it, faith without works is dead.

Let me balance this all by saying that is if someone saw everything that I did, including when nobody's looking, they would probably also question whether I am in a Christian, and that's fine. If they don't think I'm a Christian, I can handle that. It will cause me to question the issue and hopefully drive me to make more effort. The point here is that they have my eternal destiny in view and that is the most important thing. It is a thorny issue, a lot of us struggle with sin that nobody sees, every day. Why am I picking then on the people whose sin we do see. I think the correct approach is that when we do see a friend who claims to be a Christian but is living in sin, to tackle them on the issue and to say something like, I can't understand how you can be a Christian and live like that - that will probably scare them enough to bring them back, especially if we start giving them tracts and the like! But once that is done, we pray and let God do the rest.

But what do the people out there think? I'm not so sure if my argument is as coherent and strong as it could be, or as balanced. If you have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment and maybe I can improve it. What did Jesus mean when he said "Do not Judge?".