Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Beauty of Conversion

From Jared Wilson . . . 

I had a piece on the beauty of conversion in the March/April edition of the 9 Marks e-Journal. Here is an excerpt:

The myriad ways God brings dead people to life are beautiful, some instantaneously recognizing stark new realities, others realizing of their need over time. Some hear the message for the first time and respond in faith. Others hear the message all their lives but do not have the spiritual “ears to hear” until some day far down the road. This is artful. There is God, in the vast array of human experience and daily life, in the mundane and the spectacular, rehearsing resurrection over and over again. And even the most ordinary of conversions is extraordinary. The angels celebrated no less for my daughter’s first expression of saving faith in her room at bedtime a few years ago than they did Paul’s 2,000 years ago. Every conversion is a miracle. And the great beatific vision of Christ makes beatific visions of us (2 Cor. 3:18) . . .

Conversion is beautiful because God is beautiful. He is beautiful in the greatness and majesty of his glory, the weighty sum of all his attributes and qualities. The way the Bible talks about God’s beauty is, well, beautiful. From the holiness brought to bear in the Pentateuch narratives to the gushing of the psalmists to God’s epic reply to Job to the wonderment of the prophets to the witness of the Gospels to the epistles’ ecstatic exultations and divine doxologies to John’s bewildering apocalypse, the Bible is beautiful with God’s intrinsic and overwhelming beauty.


Equipping Parents to Disciple their own Children!

Here is a very helpful article on seeing the role of children's ministry as equipping parents rather than just teaching children.  Our staff frequently discusses the issues related to the church being the primary spiritual influence of the children who are involved in our ministry.

(Editor’s Note: This is a two part article. Here is Part One.)
Kids Ministry: Equipping Parents
The focus of a kids ministry shouldn’t actually be kids. The focus of a kids ministry should be parents. Whether kids are in preschool or high school, the same principle applies. Churches and leaders who put time, effort, money, resources, and intentionality into equipping parents instead of putting on a show for children accomplish two significant things: they work toward developing the whole-life spiritual maturity of the children, and they put parents back in the place the Bible places them. Let me explain both concepts.
Developing a Child’s Whole Life
Generally, churches with Sunday-focused kids ministries spend 50-100 hours per year (of the 8,760 hours in the year) with kids. Minus vacations, sickness, and other reasons to miss, trained workers teach kids biblical concepts for an hour or two on Sundays, and very intentional churches might host a second age-specific gathering sometime during the week. In those few hours, trained leaders must cram in entertainment (crafts or games depending on kids’ ages), sometimes music, sometimes a snack, and according to nearly every curriculum we surveyed over 18 months, a Bible story that immediately transfers into a life lesson. “Discipleship and growth” become limited to a few hours a month, and generally become limited to one “style”: in a group, with lots of energy, listening to a teacher teach a broad lesson.
But what happens in the rest of a child’s week when the teacher isn’t there? Who hears about getting made fun of on the playground? Who’s there to encourage the student in the midst of a specific high school struggle? At minimum, if a child is in school until 4pm and goes to bed at 8pm, parents interact with their kids 1460 hours a year! Parents see the daily struggles. Parents have conversations in the car. Parents are asked the hard questions. Parents deal with the specifics, the scenarios, the struggles, the sins. Parents meet their child – every single day – where the real-life rubber hits the road.
Those are the moments where faith is tested and proven. Those are the instances where stories and concepts break down. Those are the times where reality is faced and decisions are made. Why wouldn’t we pour all effort into the people who are there in those moments? That’s the idea of developing a child’s whole-life – kid ministry leaders and missional community facilitators don’t see a kid’s whole-life, so they can’t develop a kid’s whole-life.
Putting Parents in Their Place
The fact that parents are with their kids more than church leaders isn’t a scary concept, and the fact that church leaders can’t develop a child’s whole-life isn’t a bad reality: it’s biblical! Throughout the Bible, God says that parents are the primary disciplers of their children. This concept is most clearly seen in Deuteronomy 6, as God gives one of the most well-known and beloved commands in the entire Hebrew scriptures:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. – Deuteronomy 6:4-7
It’s generally understood that the first half of this command is the primary belief in Hebrew theology. It’s a big one: “God is one, and you must love him with your entire being.” The rest of the Bible shows how to do that, and indeed, the rest of Deuteronomy contains many of the 613 commandments that make up the Old Testament Law. But notice the second half of this passage: God doesn’t tell his people to farm spiritual instruction out to “experts.”
And he doesn’t command them to limit it to a few hours, in a controlled setting, like parents often do today. “YOU shall teach them diligently to your children…” Who should? “YOU! Any reader of this passage. Every parent is instructed to teach God’s Law to your children!” And the venue for this spiritual instruction is in the midst of everyday life and activity: when you sit, when you travel, when you go to bed, when you get up. In the midst of normal activity, a child’s whole-life spiritual development occurs.
Parents, this principle isn’t isolated in the OT; it’s echoed throughout the Bible: you are the primary disciple-maker of your children. Giving that responsibility to “the church” is to abdicate your biblical role. That’s a dangerous place to be.
Church leaders, when you focus on entertaining children instead of training their parents, you potentially prevent parents from fulfilling their biblical command, and you unintentionally limit children’s spiritual development. That’s a dangerous place to be.
Churches, Equip Parents to Train Their Children
The best kids ministry is the one that equips parents to disciple their children well. Train parents in the gospel and the Bible, resource them to overcome their fears and inadequacies, equip them to teach their kids in both objective and situational circumstances, then come alongside them as a family and support them in their biblical role. That’s a biblical, healthy kids ministry.
How’s this look practically? My church has tried different ideas for the past two years, but here’s some of what’s happening now, and what’s in development:
  1. Our youngest kids follow the weekly rhythm of “parents – church gathering – missional communities” for objective biblical training: every week our kid ministry leader sends a Bible story, memory verse, and questions to parents. Parents read and discuss the stories, verses, and questions with their kids before Sunday, so that parents are the first to introduce biblical stories and concepts to their children. Then at church gathering, kids have the passages reiterated by kid ministry leaders, allowing them to see that other adults believe the same thing as their parents. In this way, the church comes alongside parents to support the material parents have taught their kids. Finally, the missional community comes alongside parents in reinforcing the same scriptures – with new questions and activities – as young kids have their own discussion in community meetings. Every concept is taught three times, and the church first resources parents to be the primary disciplers of these foundational truths, then comes alongside the parents to reinforce and support the teaching.
  2. Older kids experience whole-life spiritual development alongside the rest of the church: with kid-specific mentions in sermons and encouragement from small groups, kids first grade and older walk through scripture and regularly hear the gospel and biblical truth address real-life issues, everyday problems, sin struggles, and prayer concerns, alongside the rest of the church family. Many families continue to use the parent and small group resources mentioned above in various settings and discussions as their kids grow through their elementary years.
  3. Quarterlies: In our church’s decentralized model of “communities on mission,” we see great benefit in regularly bringing families and kids together based on age. Rather than a programmed, weekly event which is the focus of that age’s ministry, these “quarterlies” are more focused on our “family identity” – we’re simply connecting as a unified church, and meeting other families by age. For kids, these events are starting points for relationships and intentionality; for parents, there’s training, discussion, or the beginning of their own relationships and intentionality. The relationships then overflow into everyday life as families live as “THE family” of God together.
  4. Classes and discipleship plans: In addition to the weekly rhythm above, we are beginning to pour resources into equipping parents well, in intentional areas of need. However this looks in your setting, on top of objective Bible knowledge, parents need to be trained in everyday things like…
  • Living their biblical role as a parent in today’s culture
  • Speaking the gospel on their kids’ level
  • Gospel-centered discipline, which plays out differently by age
  • Answering needs and situations with the gospel
  • How and when to talk to their kids about tough issues well (like faith, sex, puberty, school, college, driving, and many more)
  • Dealing with tough parenting decisions well (sin, schedule, schooling, budget, saving for college, etc.)
We’re compiling resources to intentionally train parents on these issues and more, or to eventually develop resources in areas where resources are lacking. We’re also developing a resource to help parents think intentionally through their child’s spiritual development. This “discipleship plan” simply asks parents to take time at least once a year, to consider different areas of their child’s life, faith, patterns, identities – and ask how they hope to see their child grow the following year. Our leaders and the parents’ missional community then comes alongside to help in the child’s discipleship.
God’s Instruction Regarding Kids
My church hasn’t developed and carried out these principles of kids ministry simply because they’re “different” or “cool” – and we certainly don’t do kids ministry like we do because it’s easy! Instead, every idea we have regarding kids in the family of God is found deeply rooted in the picture of God’s family seen in the Bible. All we do is carry out the same principles, as closely as possible, in today’s context.
A Summary of Children in the Family of God
Here are four principles we see in the Bible, with a few verses (among others) in which the principle is seen clearly. All verses ESV; italics added throughout:
1.    Parents are the primary disciplers of their children
  • Deuteronomy 6:4-7: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
  • Proverbs 1:8-9: “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.”
  • Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
  • Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (echoed in Colossians 3:21)
2.   Children are specifically addressed, and are found in the gatherings of God’s people, throughout the Bible
  • Deuteronomy 31:12-13: “Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”
  • Nehemiah 8:1-2: “And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month…”
  • Psalm 78:4, speaking of the Law: “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done…”
  • 1 John 2:13: “I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father.”
3.   Jesus valued children, even – or especially! – when they were distracting/unwanted
  • Mark 10:13-16: “And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’ And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them…”
  • Matthew 18:2-7, 10: “And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!’ …See that you do not despise one of these little ones.”
  • John 6:8-9, as Jesus prepared to feed the 5000: “One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”
4.   There are things about God’s kingdom that only children can teach us
  • Matthew 11:16-17, 25: “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn’…At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children…”
  • Matthew 18:2-4: “And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven…”
  • Matthew 21:16: “…and they said to him, ‘Do you hear what these are saying?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes; have you never read, “Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?”
  • Mark 10:15: “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
What do these passage lead to?
When we add to these principles the “family” imagery that runs throughout the Bible – especially the New Testament (it’s in nearly every book), and when we add the fact that, for the first 1900+ years of church, there was no separate “kids ministry,” we get the principles our church follows, as we try to raise kids in the family of God:
1.    We believe that children, as young as is logical, should be included in the normative activity of the church family
2.   We believe that as often as possible, families should worship together
3.   We believe in setting high expectations for our children
4.   We believe in equipping parents and the church to minister well  to children
Thanks for learning with us how, by following the examples of scripture and history, all believers can try to raise kids in the family of God.
Ben Connelly lives in Fort Worth, TX, with his wife and daughter (with another on the way this fall). He started The City Church in 2010 and lives on mission by teaching public speaking at TCU. Ben sits on the board of a few city-focused organizations, trains occasionally across the country, and writes at Twitter: @connellyben
Parents, for more resources on discipling your children at home, check out Winfield Bevin’s Beginner’s Guide to Family Worship.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Loving Those Who Grieve

From Justin Taylors Blog . . . 

Photo credit: Benjamin MÃ¥rtensson (
I once asked Matt Chandler about the unhelpful things people said to him in his fight against cancer. He refused to give examples but explained, “I think people can get a little weirded out by pain, suffering, and death. They don’t know what to do so they end up saying things that are hurtful to people who have experienced loss.”
For those of us self-aware of the propensity for foot-in-mouth disease, we sometimes choose simply to ignore those who are hurting so that we don’t make things worse.
Jill Sullivan, who lost a 16-year-old daughter to a highly aggressive form of brain cancer,explains why it can be so hard to return to church after the death of a loved one. She writes:
Our churches are full of people who are hurting, many of whom have lost children or other loved ones. For me personally, returning to church was one of the most difficult things to do after my loss, and I’ve talked to many other bereaved parents who have expressed the same thing.
She offers some reasons why this might be the case:
  • Families tend to sit together at church, and when your family is missing someone, their absence is particularly acute in the pew. Looking around and seeing other intact families worshiping beside you can also be very painful.
  • The songs we sing in church can bring up very strong emotions. Songs about heaven can conjure up an almost unbearable longing in our hearts, and songs of praise can be difficult to sing when your heart is broken.
  • There is an unspoken expectation at church that everyone is filled with the “joy of the Lord.” You know what I mean . . . we put on our best clothes and our Sunday School smiles and give the appearance that all is right in our world. A grieving parent may simply not have the emotional stamina to play that role.
She then asks, “So how do we as the body of Christ reach out to bereaved parents and give comfort without adding to their pain?”
Here are her suggestions for both those who are grieved and for those who can comfort:
  • Be patient with them. Grief is a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s important to respect the fact that people need time to heal. The grieving parent may not be ready to resume regular church activities right away, whether that’s teaching Sunday School, singing in the choir, working in the nursery, or greeting at the door.
  • Grief comes in waves. Don’t assume that a person is “over it” if you see them smiling or laughing, and don’t assume that a person is “not doing well” if you see them grieving outwardly.
  • They may not be interested in small talk. Someone who has lost a child is grappling with deep spiritual issues and may not be interested in shallow conversation. Listen to them if they want to talk, and don’t feel that you need to answer all their questions. Remember how well it went over once Job’s friends started talking!
  • Grieving people are vulnerable and often hyper-sensitive, and they may have been hurt by things that well-meaning people have said to them. Some of those things might include:
    “I know what you’re going through. My grandmother died last year.”
    Something along the lines of “God always picks His best flowers first” or “God must have needed another angel in heaven.”
    “She’s in a better place.” (There’s nothing really wrong with that because it’s true…it’s just that the grieving person really wants their loved one here with them!)
    “It’s a good thing you have another child.”
  • They also may have been hurt by those who have intentionally avoided them or who have said nothing to them at all. So what should we say to a grieving mom or dad?
    “I love you, and I’m praying for you.”
She writes, “That’s it? Could it be that simple? Yes, it really is. This statement, maybe accompanied by a warm hug, is all that’s needed to assure a bereaved parent of your care and concern.”
You can read her whole post here.
For those who are grieving, this workshop from Nancy Guthrie (at the TGC Women’s Conference) may prove instructive and edifying.
Audio here.
See also this interview with her about making the church safe for grieving people.
Nancy tells her own story of profound suffering—the death of two of her children in infancy from Zellweger syndrome—in the book Holding On to Hope: A Pathway through Suffering to the Heart of God. Since that time she has gone on to write additional books exploring God’s comfort in suffering—for example, When Your Family’s Lost a Loved One: Finding Hope Together and Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow.  She has also edited two relevant collections of classic and contemporary essays: Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God’s Purpose and Provision in Suffering and O Love That Will Not Let Me Go: Facing Death with Courageous Confidence in God.


Michael Horton » Systematic Theology Study Mission Wisdom Community
Calvinists can be pains in the neck. I should know—I’ve been one myself on occasion. Yet, it is a terrific irony that a theology that so exalts God and lays human beings low before his majesty and grace should be championed sometimes with a spirit that contradicts it.
There are a lot of misconceptions about Reformed theology. I tackle these at length in For Calvinism. Here I’ve been asked to address a few of these in a nutshell.


There are several impressions bound up with this critique.
First, the very name suggests that we hold up John Calvin more than Jesus Christ. Truth is, “Calvinism” was coined by critics who wanted to marginalize Reformed teaching, when actually Calvin didn’t teach anything unique that you can’t find, for example, in Augustine or Luther. Furthermore, as important as he was, Calvin was one of many shapers of the Reformed tradition. Our confessions and catechisms (none of them written by Calvin) set forth what we believe. As Charles Spurgeon said, “Calvinism is just a nickname” for what we should call “the doctrines of grace.”
Second, sinful attitudes and behaviors come from our own hearts, not from the word of God. Reformed theology exalts God and his grace, while laying ourselves low as helpless sinners and rebels who are on the receiving end of his generosity. Puffed-up pride is about the most contradictory response one can imagine to the deepest convictions Reformed churches confess.
Third, new converts to anything often possess a zeal that easily morphs into a spirit that many perceive as impatient, know-it-all, and harsh. Yet again this doesn’t fit the conviction that only the Spirit can persuade people of his truth, just as he teaches us.


First, this impression rests on a basic misunderstanding of Reformed teaching. Regardless of what individuals teach, our confessions teach that human beings are never forced to believe or do anything against their will. Unpacking that requires more space, so I can only refer folks to For Calvinism, where I treat this question at length.
Second, “the earth is the LORD’s and everything in it” (Ps. 24:1 NIV). God is not a supporting actor in our life movie. We exist for his purposes, not the other way around. Nor do we “make Jesus our personal Lord and Savior.” He is the Lord and Savior of the world; otherwise we would have no hope of salvation.
Third, the whole emphasis on God’s sovereign grace is on the work of the Triune God in freeing us—our mind, will, emotions, and bodies—from slavery to sin and death. Apart from this grace, we are indeed “robots” in a sense, slaves to our sinful rebellion, as Jesus said (John 8:34). “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (v. 35). Regenerated by God’s grace through the gospel, we find ourselves loving the God who was our enemy, attracted to the law that once condemned us, drawn outside of ourselves to look up to Christ in faith and out to our neighbors in love and service.


First, Reformed theology emphasizes that our entire salvation is due to God’s faithfulness, not ours. Yet precisely because this is true, we want to be faithful.
Second, Reformed theology underscores that in our union with Christ we receive both justification and sanctification. In the words of the Belgic Confession, “Therefore, far from making people cold toward living in a pious and holy way, this justifying faith, quite to the contrary, so works within them that apart from it they will never do a thing out of love for God but only out of love for themselves and fear of being condemned” (Art. 24).


First, this impression is contradicted by the logic of Reformed faith and practice. How can a theology that reorients us to a God-centered view of reality kill genuine, heart-felt piety? Whenever the Apostle Paul teaches the doctrines of God’s sovereign, electing, redeeming grace, he typically erupts in praise (see for example, Romans 8:31–3911:33–36).
Second, precisely because “salvation belongs to the LORD” (Jonah 2:9), we are free to trust and obey without the selfish motive of trying to save ourselves or score points. As Luther put it, “God doesn’t need your good works; your neighbor does.”
Third, Reformed piety is sometimes a little different from what many Christians have come to associate with “genuine, heart-felt piety.” The whole point of the gospel is to turn us outside of ourselves, while much of contemporary piety drives us deeper into ourselves. Many of us were raised in backgrounds where missing a private quiet time was viewed with more suspicion than missing church. Reformed piety includes the personal aspect, including private prayer and meditation on Scripture. Yet it emphasizes the importance of growing together: as covenant families in daily worship and instruction (catechism) and in the communion of saints gathering each Lord’s Day for the Word, the sacraments, and discipline. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper aren’t our means of commitment, but God’s means of grace, as he sweeps us into his unfolding drama together with his saints. Because God is at work here, we are at work there, in the lives of the others around us. Growth in grace is a team sport, not a private hobby. Reformed piety emphasizes the importance of setting aside the whole Lord’s Day for being refreshed in the communion of saints by the penetrating powers of the age to come in Christ and by the power of his Spirit through his word and sacraments.
Fourth, this emphasis on piety as a life lived in relation to others extends to our callings in the world. We don’t offer our good works to God, but to our neighbors who need the gifts—temporal and spiritual—that God has given us to share with them. Reformed piety embraces the world. We aren’t trying to score points or to transform culture, but to relate to particular neighbors right in front of us in very particular ways each day (see 1 Thess. 4:9–12). So the horizon of Reformed piety is not merely the individual heart or a personal relationship. Of course, it is that—but much more. Christ’s saving work includes the whole created order—not only souls, but bodies, and not only human beings but the natural world (Rom. 8:18–25). We are not looking for “the late, great planet earth,” but “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”
Fifth, the criticism that Reformed theology kills genuine piety is contradicted by history. The leading theologians of the Reformation were often pastors who also wrote devotional guides, hymns, prayers, and catechisms. They were also often scientists, artists, poets, and linguists, who also founded orphanages and poor houses on the side. When Calvinists founded the early Ivy League colleges in America, they did not imagine that they might have to make a choice between the Bible and classical pagan literature or between theology and science or between piety and the arts. In their view, it was all of one piece. As Wilhelm Niesel reminds us, “The much discussed activism of Calvin is rooted in the fact that we belong to Christ and thus can go our way free from care and confess our membership in Christ; but it does not arise from any zealous desire to prove one’s Christian faith by good works.”


I devote a whole chapter in For Calvinism to this one. So I’ll just scratch the surface here. As with misunderstanding #4, this criticism doesn’t fit either the logic or history of Reformed churches. 
First, Reformed theology teaches clearly that God works through means in fulfilling his saving purposes. After expounding the truth of election in Romans 8 and 9, Paul went on to explain how God saves his elect through the preaching of the gospel in chapter 10. If election were not true, we would all be left in our sins and there would be no point to evangelism.
Second, Reformed Christians were in the vanguard of the modern missionary movement and that evangelistic impulse has remained powerful in our churches to the present day. The first Protestant missionaries to the New World were sent by Calvin to Brazil, and Geneva (as well as other Reformed centers) was a base for the first Protestant missionary schools. Calvinists pioneered missions to China, Korea, the Middle East, Africa, and South America.
Third, given the communal emphasis highlighted above, it is difficult to imagine how Reformed faith and practice could be charged with killing community. Rather, it builds community around Christ as he is clothed in the gospel and given by the Spirit to sinners through the public ministry of preaching and sacrament, under the care of elders and deacons. This is why we confess the faith together, corporately confess our sins and receive Christ’s absolution, teach the same faith and practice across generations, and encourage Christian education and outreach.


As I began, so I will end with the admission that we don’t live up to the wonderful truth of Scripture that we confess. There are tragic inconsistencies in our lives, as individuals and as churches. Where there are contradictions, we need to be reformed by God’s Word and Spirit. Nevertheless, it’s far better to have convictions that we fall short of living out than to live out convictions that are less faithful to God’s Word.


Living the Mission

By Winfield Bevins

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Mission is why we exist as disciples. God’s love inspires us to be missionaries to the world around us. Emil Brunner said, “The church exists by mission just as fire exists by burning.” Mission begins at home, serving in our local church, and reaching our community. As disciples, we have been sent as missionaries to share the Gospel in our present culture and to fulfill the Great Commission.
The church is rooted in the concept of the Missio Dei, which recognizes that there is one mission, and it is God’s mission. The Missio Dei is a Latin theological term that can be translated as “Mission of God.” The word missio literally means sent. The church is not an end in itself; the church is sent into the world to fulfill the mission of God.


Understanding what it means to be a part of the mission of God begins with understanding that God is a missionary God. The very being of God is the basis for the missionary enterprise. God is a sending God, with a desire to see humankind and creation reconciled, redeemed, and healed. God’s mission can be seen throughout the pages of the Bible and history. Nowhere is the mission of God better understood than in the person and work of Jesus Christ. John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Many Christians and churches teach and preach that missions are something we support or do, such as sending or supporting missionaries in other countries. This was the case 20 to 30 years ago. However, in the 21st century the mission field has come to us.
We live in a post-Christian world where people simply don’t know the gospel anymore. Therefore we are all called to be missional disciples and share in the mission of God. Ed Stetzer says, “Being Missional means actually doing mission right where you are. Missional means adopting the posture of a missionary, learning and adapting to the culture around you while remaining biblically sound.”


Being a missional disciple is simply following the way of Jesus. Jesus Christ was the first and greatest missionary. The Bible tells us that He came from heaven to earth to die for a lost and dying world. The following scriptures reveal how the mission of God was fulfilled through Jesus Christ and how we are called to continue and complete the Missio Dei in our culture.
  • Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work.” – John 4:34
  • “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” – John 5:30
  • “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” – John 6:38
  • “I know Him; because I am from Him, and He sent Me.” – John 7:29
  • “And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do thethings that are pleasing to Him.” – John 8:29
  • “We must work the works of Him who sent Me, as long as it is day; night is coming, when no man can work.” – John 9:4
  • And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me does not believe in Me, but in Him who sent Me. And he who beholds Me beholds the One who sent Me.” – John 12:44-45
  • “For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me commandment, what to say, and what to speak.” – John 12:49
  • “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” John 13:20
  • “And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.” – John 17:3
  • “For the words which Thou gave Me I have given to them; and they received them, and truly understood that I came forth from Thee, and they believed that Thou didst send Me.” – John 17:8
  • “As Thou didst send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” John 17:18
  • Jesus therefore said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” – John 20:21


As the Father sent Jesus, He also sends us into our time and culture. Mark Driscoll says, “It is imperative that Christians be like Jesus, by living freely within the culture as missionaries who are as faithful to the Father and his gospel as Jesus was in his own time and place.”
We have been chosen by God to live in this time and place in order to fulfill the mission of God. Acts 17: 26-27 tells us that God has determined the exact place and time where we should live so that that men may find Him. It is truly awesome to realize that you have chosen by God to be His representative to this world. It is both a great privilege and great responsibility.
Paul describes our calling in the following way, “we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:20.
Being missional is God’s way of showing the love of His Son Jesus through His church. Christians must strive to always be like Jesus, our perfect example. Jesus said, “the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:45. This scripture beautifully embodies the task of Christian ministry. To be a disciple is to be a servant. We are to serve and give our lives for others. Serving is the example that Jesus gave; therefore we should follow it.
As the church we are called to care for a lost and dying world that is in desperate need of a savior. Too many times we compartmentalize the different ministries of the church. We have viewed social ministry as something we do on one hand and evangelism on the other. God is calling the church to rediscover the biblical model of holistic ministry.
Jesus met both the physical and spiritual needs of the people He ministered to. As the Body of Christ on earth, we are His representatives to a lost world. Therefore what we do and say are of eternal importance. Being missional disciples is not an either or situation. It means that we care about people’s souls and their bodies. It means that because we care about the gospel we should care about social and environmental issues. Being missional disciples brings all of life together under the banner of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Winfield Bevins serves as lead pastor of Church of the Outer Banks, which he founded in 2005.  His life’s passion in ministry is discipleship and helping start new churches. He lives in the beautiful beach community of the Outer Banks with his wife Kay and two daughters where he loves to surf and spend time at the beach with his family and friends. Twitter: @winfieldbevins
For more on living the mission of Christ, check-out Winfield’s book Grow: Reproducing Through Organic Discipleship.
For more free mission resources, see: Relationships First: Reasons it’s Difficult to Share Our Faith by Jonathan Dodson and Messy Discipleship Jake Chambers.