It is because of the church’s diversity that the followers of Christ were first called Christians in Antioch. You could not call them Jews or Gentiles, for both were in the church. You could not label them wealthy or poor, intellectuals or idiots, because the church was made up from all categories of humanity. The only thing that all these diverse people had in common was Christ, and therefore that was the only title you could give them: Christians.
Leonard, Get Real
You cannot initiate and lead a culture-change process if your own personal culture is not up for change as well.
- Vine Project
If we call upon the average church member to take up arms as a gospel minister or a disciple-maker or an evangelist, then (rightly or wrongly) many will feel sufficiently threatened to run in the opposite direction. But what if we were to say the following instead? “Why don’t you pray for the person next to you (wherever that might be), and see if by your word and example you can encourage them to take one step—even one small step—to the right?”
- Vine Project
Book: Payne, Tony, and Colin Marshall. The Vine Project: Shaping Your Ministry Culture around Disciple-Making. Matthias Media, 2016.
Point: Making and maturing disciples is not something that a church does, it is something a disciple does. Here is a workbook on how to pursue disciple making in all of church life.
Path: The authors lay out five phases to work through, making sure that everyone understands that this is not as much of a how-to-manual, but rather a workbook. They lay a biblical foundation, explain logical truths, and give practical examples. This isn’t a book to just read, but to work through with others.
Sources: Based on their previous book and the interactions they have had since then, the authors do a great job at walking the reader through both biblical truth and e
Agreement: Top shelf book. I am so thankful how they presented these truths not as a “five steps to your best church now” but “take time to think through these principles with others and you will change”.
Personal App: Am I seeing every relationship as an opportunity to encourage the other individual to take one step toward Christ?
Favorite Quote: Engaging unbelievers on Sunday is ”like taking in a gues
t at your house for Christmas dinner. This often happens in our part of the world. If there’s someone at church who doesn’t have any family to share Christmas with, then you invite them to join your family for Christmas lunch. Now in doing so, you don’t change who you are or what your family does in any significant way at all. But you make very sure that your guest is looked after. You warmly welcome them, and introduce them around. You explain what is going on at different points— why Uncle Fred always has to sit in that chair, what the background is to your funny family games or rituals, how to play, and so on. You put yourself out to make your guest feel at home and part of the family, even though it’s not their home or their family. Likewise in church— outsiders are not part of our church family. We don’t stop being who we are, or pursuing God’s purposes, just because we have guests present. But we do welcome our guests, who, like the ‘outsiders’ in 1 Corinthians 14, turn up and (God-willing) come to know and worship the living God in our midst.” (Kindle loc. 2967).
Stars: 5 out of 5
It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:
- is planting a church
- is leading a church
serving in a church
Other books along this theme would be:
Anyabwile, Thabiti M. What Is a Healthy Church Member? 9Marks. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008.
Dever, Mark. Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. Expanded. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2004.
Marshall, Colin, Tony Payne, and Matthias Media. The Trellis and the Vine : The Ministry Mind-Shift That Changes Everything. Kingsford, N.S.W.: Matthias Media, 2009.
Rainer, Thom S., and Eric Geiger. Simple Church. B&H Publishing Group, 2010.
Prayerlessness, like Wordlessness, is a classic symptom of a sick disciple-making culture.
- The Vine Project
A common thread running through most of these extraordinary passages is that the people God is gathering into his kingdom are from every nation. To our modern ears, this idea sounds rather lovely—that all the peoples of the earth might finally be brought together, and might celebrate together, despite all the linguistic and cultural differences that separate us; a kind of heavenly United Nations in which all the rich diversity of humanity is represented. This, after all, is how most of us in the post-enlightenment West have been taught to think about the diversity of human language and culture—as a gorgeous human tapestry, with each people group contributing its own unique and wonderful colours and threads. And indeed, we do find all the goodness and beauty that God has woven into his creation present in every corner of it. But in the Bible’s depiction of history and of God’s plan, the scattered diversity of the nations has a dark underbelly. It is a consequence of the judgement of God at Babel. According to Paul in Acts 17, it is meant to induce a humble searching after the true God who has scattered us. The gathering of all nations around the throne of God in Revelation is not so much a celebration of cultural diversity as a celebration of how God has overcome the one foundational problem that all the nations share—that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”.
- Vine Project
One of the frequent questions that we are asked, and for good reason, is “what do you do on Sundays?”
Here is the reasoning behind the question:
If we are trying to plant churches, that probably means there isn’t one that we are part of right now.
This absence of a church leaves us with a few options.
1. We could ignore the idea of regularly meeting together with believers. Bad idea.
2. We could go to the Brethren church, or the Pentecostal church. We have attended services before, but this could cause confusion on various levels.
3. We could rent a building and start hosting services, inviting people to come to church. There are several problems with this approach.
- A building isn’t a church, it can only house the gathered body of believers which is the local church.
- We would just be duplicating our own little style of services that could be very unlike what a church gathering would end up looking like in our context, and nearly impossible to reduplicate without another person just like us.
- Inviting people to “church” in our context means, “would you like to go to Mass with us?” Not exactly the message we are trying to get across.
Here is the option we have chosen:
Sunday mornings we meet at alternating homes (between our home and the Templetons). Our desire is to feed our souls, encourage other believers in the gospel, and proclaim the gospel to those who have yet to believe it. In order to do that we:
- Read Scripture
- Sing Scripture
- Pray Scripture
Our normal gathering begins with prayer and a couple songs geared toward teaching verses and biblical truths to our girls. Then one of us walks through the chapter we are all studying (currently we are working through the book of Luke) in a way that the little girls can understand. After a few more songs (and handing out snacks to keep he little ones happy!) we read through the same chapter together. The discussion is led by either Jon or I, depending on whose home we are in that given Sunday. The main questions we discuss revolve around the context, observation, meaning, and application of that chapter. We end our time of study with more singing and prayer. This is done in both English and Spanish, depending on who is in attendance. We finish our morning by sharing a meal together, seeking to bridge the conversation over into our time around the table.
It may sound fairly static, but we are adapting as we go. Nearly each Sunday we change something, or ask the question, “How should we adjust our time?” As more people join us, the decoration will change, but the structure will not. We will continue to read Scripture, sing Scripture, and pray Scripture.
We have had the opportunity to visit many churches around the Midwest over the past 1.5 years. We have been blessed in ways we never imagined, and each church has been unique. This post is a way for us to praise God for these churches, encourage churches for how they are blessing us, and give ideas for individuals who are looking for ways to be creative in loving disheveled wanderers like ourselves.
Best practices to help the missionary wife:
- The week before, pastors have shown a photo of the missionary family (us) and shared our names, status (are they on deputation, furlough, etc?), country of service, and even prayed for us.
- Having someone to show us around the church has been so helpful! It can be daunting at times when it is a new church. Where are the bathrooms? Where is the nursery or the Sunday School classrooms? The missionary may prefer to have their children (if they have them) sit with them, but it is nice to have the knowledge. This same person can be the one that the missionary can go to if they have any questions throughout their time spent at the church.
- They gave us an order of service and a bulletin.
- Informed us with whom we will be eating (if there is a meal involved), introduced us to that family, and made sure we have very clear directions as to how to get where we needed to go.
- Asked us questions, checked out our display table. Showed interest and tried to get informed about us and the ministry opportunities.
- **Bonus- Missionary cupboards are nice in certain circumstances, but we have found that the most helpful thing (to us) is when the church has a binder full of gift cards and they let us know that we can pick out X amount of cards (or dollar amount). This has been wonderful as it helps with gas, meals out, a drink from a coffee shop, or groceries. Many missionaries don’t want more material things that they have to pack and lug around in their vehicles, but gift cards can be a great help!
Those were my initial reactions to the courses we were required to take to complete our clearance process with BMM. Every missionary is required to take two classes on Prevention of Sexual Abuse. One is an in-house seminar on problems and procedures, and the other is an online course.
It is hard to hear statistics like “One in four women and one in six men have been or will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime” (Holcomb & Holcomb, God Made All of Me).
But there is hope. There is hope for those who have been abused and there is hope for those who seek to eliminate the abuse. There is hope because of Jesus Christ. With that hope I encourage everyone to investigate these resources:
Darkness to Light – www.d2l.org
A website devoted to ending child sexual abuse. They offer articles, statistics, and a 2 hour course which helps to “raise awareness of the prevalence and consequences of child sexual abuse by educating adults about the steps they can take to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to the reality of child sexual abuse.” While it is not a specifically Christian organization, they are doing a good job at informing us of the dangers of abuse and opportunities to eliminate it.
God Made All of Me by Holcomb & Holcomb
A children’s book which helps parents talk with their 2-8 year old children about their bodies and how to protect them.
On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church by Reju
A book dedicated to examine“ why child predators target churches and offers eleven straightforward strategies to protect children from abuse and to help young victims recover if it does happen.”
- I would encourage every individual to take the Darkness to Light 2 hour course.
- I would encourage every family with young children to purchase Holcombs’ book and read through it.
- I would encourage every church to purchase Reju’s book and teach a class for leaders, teachers, and families on the principles.
“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.”
Book: Stiles, J. Mack. Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus. Crossway, 2014.
Point: Evangelism is something the individual engages in along side of the rest of the body of Christ.
Path: Stiles addresses how the local church can “do evangelism” poorly, and then by clarifying terms, looking at the NT, and giving examples he shows how the church can cultivate a culture of evangelism.
Agreement: I really appreciated the focus on how the church works together to share the Gospel. We are not alone. As we share Christ with others, we can trust that God will use others along side of us to draw people to himself. It challenged me to think broader than handing out a tract and walking away.
It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:
is interested in sharing their faith.
is seeking to help their local church.
is a church member.