the weblog of Alan Knox

missional

Where are you sent?

Posted by on Mar 22, 2013 in blog links, missional | 2 comments

Where are you sent?

Tim at “Synerchomai” has written a very good post called “Missional Because We’re Sent.” As you can probably tell from the title of this post, Tim is writing about living as those who are sent by God into the world.

I love that Tim is writing about this subject. Well, I love that anyone is writing about this subject, but especially Tim because the focus of his blog (like the focus of my blog) is gathering together with our brothers and sisters in Christ. But, like I’ve also learned, Tim has discovered that it’s difficult to talk about gathering without also talking about being scattered into the world.

Here’s a small part of Tim’s post:

What really struck me was that believers who otherwise would have had nothing to do with one another were becoming excited about collaborating together to proclaim and demonstrate the gospel.

From this meeting together we will scatter, each to our own communities. That is our missional function. We’ll hope to gather again, to build one another up in a way that is truly organic. There’s something here I don’t quite understand: how we long to be together as brothers and sisters, yet we are sent out into the communities where God has placed us.

I think Tim is investigating something (or 2 things) that God builds into all of his children: a desire to gather together and a desire to go to others. Sometimes, we live as if these are exclusive issues, even giving special names (like “missionary”) to those who are called to go, while us normal Christians are called to go.

But, in reality, and like Tim says, we ARE all called to go into the world. We’re all sent by God as missionaries wherever we are.

Sure, God sends some around the world or across the country. He doesn’t send us all around world or across the country, but he does send us all.

So, the question is not, “Am I sent?” The question is, “Where am I sent?” or perhaps even better, “To whom am I sent?”

These are questions that we should all consider. Our brothers and sisters in Christ can help us with these questions when we gather together. But, we can only live them out when we scatter.

Talking about being sent is not enough; we must live sent.

So, where are you sent? To whom are you sent?

How can you do for the least if you don’t know the least?

Posted by on Feb 20, 2013 in blog links, love, missional, service | 7 comments

How can you do for the least if you don’t know the least?

A couple of days ago, Jeremy at “Till He Comes” wrote a great post called “16 Ways to Build Relationships With the Poor.” (UPDATE: Thanks to Jeremy for pointing out that this post was actually written by Sam as a guest post on Jeremy’s site.)

As you can tell from the title, the point of Jeremy’s post is to help people build relationships with people in need. Why would Jeremy focus on “the least” among us? Well, Jesus did say something about God’s people (the righteous) being those who care for “the least.”

But, there’s another reason to focus on finding and building relationships with the least. Several years ago, I realized that I was living an isolated life – isolated from unbelievers and from the poor, hungry, sick, prisoners, etc. I was living in a “Christian bubble” (some call it a ghetto).

You see, as great as it is to spend time with other believers (and people who are like us), it’s just as important that we also disperse and spend time with those who are not believers (and people who are not like us). But, for Christians like me, this may be difficult to put into practice.

Because of that, examples like the ones that Jeremy gives in his post can be very beneficial. Jeremy lists these 16 ways to build relationships with the poor:

  1. Help unemployed single mothers and families find jobs.
  2. Help families find housing they can afford.
  3. Buy products and services from people you know are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. Don’t look for the “cheapest” option, but for the person or business that most needs your business.
  4. Refer people you know to a business or person who needs the business.
  5. Tip generously at restaurants, especially when you know that the person who served you really needs it. Sometimes you can tip people who don’t usually receive tips, such as the guy at the car alarm shop who repaired your car alarm.
  6. Give commendations to managers of businesses for employees who helped you, especially for employees you know really need their job.
  7. When things don’t go right in your dealings with a business, do not threaten an employee with “I’m going to get you fired,” or “You will get you in a lot of trouble.” That vicious threat can terrify someone for whom that would mean losing their only source of income, and their only way to provide food, clothes, and housing for their children.
  8. Volunteer to help. This might mean helping repair someone’s house or car (so they won’t need to pay someone to do it), taking them to the doctor (so they won’t have to pay someone to drive them), or even picking up something they need (so they won’t have to pay for the gasoline to get them there).
  9. As you walk, run, or drive around town, keep an eye out for furniture and other household items set out on driveways with “Free” signs attached. Some of these items are in excellent condition and can be given to someone who needs it.
  10. Find out what your friends need and decide if you can meet any of their needs with some of the “stuff” you have in the closets, garage, and attic.
  11. After an event where a lot of food was prepared, contact certain people who are short on food and plead for their help in “taking some of this food off our hands so we won’t have to throw it away.”
  12. Invite your friends to dinner and making sure they take plates of “extra” food home with them.
  13. If you find something at a store, garage sale, or thrift shop that you know one of your friends needs, buy it and give it to them.
  14. Remember friends on their birthdays and at Christmas. This might include flowers, a gift, or inviting them for dinner, but always includes spending time with them when possible.
  15. Pick up trash on inner city streets and alleys. This improves living conditions in several ways for the people who live there, many of whom are poor. Explaining how that works would require a post of its own.
  16. Spend time with your friends, especially when you know they need someone to sit with them, listen, hug them, weep with them, and rejoice with them.

Obviously, there’s nothing more right about doing the things above than doing other things to help, serve, and love the people around you in Jesus’ name. Of course, there’s nothing wrong about doing those things in Jesus’ name either.

The great things about Jeremy’s list is that he focuses on building relationships – getting to know people – not just treating them like a project or anonymous group.

So, whatever it takes, get to know the people around you – especially those who are poor, hungry, thirsty, sick, prisoners, etc. Serve them and love them in Jesus’ name… and while you’re doing that, don’t forget the first part: get to know them. You may be surprised to find that God will use them to teach you something about himself.

Living as one who is sent by God… wherever you are

Posted by on Jan 18, 2013 in church life, community, discipleship, edification, missional | 8 comments

Living as one who is sent by God… wherever you are

Typically, when we gather together on Sunday mornings with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we have a plan to study through a certain section of Scripture together. We usually discuss an entire book together; so each week we know which chapter we’ll be studying that week. (When we gather together at other times during the week, we rarely have that same kind of plan.)

For the last few weeks, we’ve decided not to study through a book. We’re not setting that aside completely, because it has been very valuable for us. (In fact, we plan to start studying another book of Scripture together in a couple of weeks.) But, for now, we’re not discussing a particular passage of Scripture together.

However, when we came together last Sunday, God definitely had an agenda for us… but not an agenda that any of us planned. It turned out that as we asked for prayer for people whom God had brought into our lives over the last few weeks, a pattern emerged. We were all asking for prayer for people at different places in their walk with Christ – some of them were not following Jesus at all – and God was using us in different ways in the lives of these people.

We began to talk about how God was showing us how important it was for us to live intentionally as those he had sent into the world. Yes, it’s very important that we gather together and build each other up (the point of this blog, by the way). But, the “gathering up” suggests dispersal, and the “building up” suggests that we’re being prepared for something. In fact, we’re seeing more and more that God is sending us out to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and to help others follow him with us. (When I say, “With us,” I don’t necessarily mean meeting with us on Sundays or at other times. I mean we are helping others follow Jesus as we follow him also.)

Someone mentioned a neighbor. Someone else talked about a coworker. Someone met a person in the grocery store. There were different people at different points in their lives and at different locations.

At one point while we were talking, one of our sisters described how God had brought a young man across her path. She was with some friends when this guy made a comment about God. She started talking with him, and eventually the young man started asking her questions. This happened over the course of several weeks. After not seeing each other for a few weeks, the next time she saw him, the young man continued the conversation by asking questions about what they had talked about previously.

Our sister asked the church some questions about talking with him. She wanted wisdom for how to answer his questions, and how to approach him with the gospel. She expressed her desire to see him walk with Jesus, and at the same time expressed her frustration with not being able to make him understand. It was a great time of building up our sister and praying for her and the young man.

By the way, this young lady is 13 years old, and these conversations have taken place in a public school.

Like I said, I’m excited about what God is doing in our group of brothers and sisters in Christ, and I’m excited about what God is doing through us as well… from the oldest to the youngest. I’m also glad that our young sister felt comfortable enough to ask questions and seek wisdom from the church as we gathered together.

She was a great example and a great reminder that we are to live as those who are sent by God wherever we are and whatever we do.

God enjoys a good light display

Posted by on Dec 21, 2012 in discipleship, love, missional, service | 1 comment

God enjoys a good light display

Last year, I wrote a post called “An inspirational light display.” We strung lights on our house to celebrate Christmas because, well, that’s what you do around here. But, when I was looking at the lights, I realized that God loves a good light display. Of course, I wasn’t thinking about the string of twinkling icicle lights on our house. That’s not the kind of light that pleases God…

————————-

An inspirational light display

God cares about light displays. But, I’ll get back to that in another 200 words.

Last weekend, our friend Jared helped us string white icicle lights along our roof line. Many of our neighbors have decorated their houses, porches, trees, and yard ornaments with lights: white or multi-colored; twinkling, blinking, or steady.

Of course, there’s nothing in our neighborhood to compare to Mr. Grizwald’s light display. There are a few families in our town or the towns around us who seem to be attempting to give Clark a run for his money. And, then, there was the TV show about the houses around the country that have been decorated with hundreds of thounsands – even one million – lights.

So, are you thinking about a light display this Christmas? You should. Seriously.

Why? Because God enjoys a good light display. Jesus talked about this in the Sermon on the Mount:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others… (Matthew 5:14-16 ESV)

Apparently, according to Jesus, God enjoys light displays that light up an entire hillside… and entire city. He wants a light display that cannot be hidden. Of course, this passage is not only about Christmas light displays, but certainly Christmas lights fall into this category.

I’m thinking that the early church’s emphasis on light displays (especially at Christmas-time) was one of the reasons (perhaps the main reason) that Paul told followers of Jesus let their lights shine in the world. Their light displays were so spectacular that their pagan neighbors could not help but notice.

So, we can see that light displays – including Christmas light displays – were important to Jesus, and they were important to Paul and the early church. If light displays were that important, then certainly they should be important to us as well. We’re not told whether we should choose white or multi-colored lights, or whether the lights should blink, twinkle, or remain on steadily. Perhaps that doesn’t matter as long as there is an awesome and inspirational light display.

Hold on one second… Are you sure? You really don’t think Matthew 5 is about Christmas lights? You think I should read further? Let me see…

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 ESV)

Ah. I see. But, what about Paul telling Christians to shine their lights? That’s about light displays, including Christmas lights, right? No? We’ll see about that…

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Philippians 2:14-16 ESV)

hmm…. hmph.

Well, readers, I apologize. Apparently, someone – who shall remain nameless, but his initials are HS – wants to ruin a perfectly good inspirational Christmas message by demanding that I consider what Jesus and Paul were actually saying. Someone thinks these passages are about living our lives in a way that demonstrates our trust in God and that they have nothing to do with Christmas lights.

But, I’ll leave that up to you – my loyal readers – to decide for yourselves. If you think Jesus and Paul are talking about Christmas light displays, then I hope your house is the brightest on the block.

But, if you think they’re talking about living your life in a way that others notice and in a way that points others toward God through Jesus Christ, well, I guess that’s fine, too.

Just don’t expect to win the best decorations or tackiest lights awards this year!

Watching the church change from barren to fruitful

Posted by on Dec 20, 2012 in blog links, discipleship, edification, gathering, missional, service | 7 comments

Watching the church change from barren to fruitful

Roger at “SimpleChurch Journey” has shared a very interesting list in his post “Choudhrie’s Challenges Re-Visited.” The post is a summary of an essay written by Victor Choudhrie titled “Mega Church to Meta (Beyond) Church” and subtitled “21 Steps to transit from being a barren church to a millionaire of souls.”

Here are some of the interesting “steps” (interesting to me):

3. Phase out programmed Sunday ‘services’ while implementing informal, small
gatherings. The Bride of Christ must have intimacy with her Lord every day, not only for a
couple of hours a week, lest she become unfaithful.

4. Replace Mosaic tithing with Christian sharing, thereby harnessing the enormous,
financial resources, hospitality and goodwill available in Christian homes.

5. Dispense with wafer-and-sip Holy Communion and promote breaking of bread with
simple Agape meals (love feasts) from house to house, that believers take with glad
hearts, ‘and the Lord added to His numbers daily’.

7. Shift from being a spectator-oriented church to a ‘metastasizing’, interactive,
participatory, prophetic church. Empower men, women and youth, to get the dragon off the driver’s seat.

10. Know your identity in Christ: You are a royal-priest, made so by the blood of the Lamb.
Dismantle the ‘Reverend’ culture that divides clergy from layman.

14. Empower every Sunday school, bible school, prayer cell, women’s fellowship, and
cottage meeting, by calling them full-fledged, authentic churches.

18. Reorient your personal paradigm. Your business, workplace or home, wherever you
spend most of your time, is your ‘primary nuclear church’. It matters little whether you
are the CEO, or the janitor or the kitchen queen; you are a full-time minister there and
accountable.

Obviously, there are other “steps” in Choudhrie’s essay besides the ones listed above (14 other steps, to be exact).

I love that the focus of these “steps” is to empower, equip, and send all believers as priests in God’s kingdom, wherever they live, work, etc. These steps recognize that the Spirit indwells all of God’s children, and, therefore, he can and does work through all of them. He does not only work through a few of them.

Given the many exhortations in Scripture toward mutual service, mutual discipleship, mutual edification, mutual teaching, etc., I agree with Choudhrie that taking these steps would help the church grow toward maturity and fruitfulness.

What do you think?

Missions in the New Testament

Posted by on Oct 25, 2012 in blog links, missional | 2 comments

Missions in the New Testament

My friend Eric at “A Pilgrim’s Progress” has finished his series on missions in the New Testament. He began this series back in January with a post called “Missions in…” His summary page, with links to the other posts, is simply called “Missions.”

I think this is an excellent series. He wrote one post for each book/letter of the New Testament, covering various aspects of God’s mission (and our mission as God’s children) through that particular book/letter.

I love the way that Eric introduces his summary page:

God has a heartbeat for missions that we see throughout the pages of scripture. John 1:14 may sum it up best, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” May our hearts beat for the spread of the gospel as God’s does!

This is quite timely for me, since I am praying along with some friends that God would give us a passion and opportunities for proclaiming his good news.

When you think about God’s mission (or perhaps our mission as God’s children), what verse/passage comes to mind first?

When you have nothing left to give…

Posted by on Oct 5, 2012 in love, missional, service | 6 comments

When you have nothing left to give…

In the last few weeks, I’ve had several good, encouraging, challenging conversations with some brothers and sisters in Christ who are seeking to follow Jesus as he leads them to give to and serve others. I’m not just talking about giving out money to people in need; I’m talking about spending time with people that God brings into their life, helping them with various life issues as well as helping them follow Jesus.

These friends have each shared examples of times when God has allowed them to greatly help other people. Sometimes, they were helping other brothers and sisters in Christ, and sometimes they were loving on and serving people who were not (yet) followers of Jesus. They were encouraged and humbled by the fact that God was using them in ways that are often surprising and unexpected.

But, occasionally, my friends also shared another concern: there are so many people who need help, and my friends do not always have the money, time, energy, resources, etc. to help them.

Now, there are many different reasons for this kind of feeling, and I don’t want to get into all of those reasons. Instead, I’m hoping that this post will be an encouragement to those who find themselves in a similar situation.

First, I want to thank for giving of yourselves in this ways. You are demonstrating the love of God, as John described here:

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:16-18 ESV)

When we give to others who are in need, the love of God is abiding in us, and we are loving in deed and in truth.

Second, please notice something that John wrote above, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need…”

You are not responsible for giving something that you do not have. This is very difficult for people who spend so much of their money, time, energy, and resources helping others. But, when the money, time, energy, and resources are gone – when you truly have nothing left to give – then you are not withholding the love of God when you do not give to someone.

Of course, even though I say that – and even though John makes the point clear in the passage above – it’s still difficult to accept. Why? Because we still know that people are in need and because we still want to help them.

But, remember, God loves these people much more than you do. He has more resources than you have. Do not allow anyone or anything (not even yourself) to lay guilt on you for not helping someone when you have nothing to give.

In Jesus’ name, share what he has given you in order to demonstrate the love that God has lavished on you. And, accept that if God has not given you anything to share with others, then he does not want you to share anything with them.

Is it possible for children to be homeschooled and missional?

Posted by on Sep 21, 2012 in blog links, missional | 10 comments

Is it possible for children to be homeschooled and missional?

Scot at “The Jesus Creed” posted an interesting question/response in his post “Homeschooled and Missional? Absolutely!

In the post, a reader named Helen Lee is responding to another blogger who suggests that homeschooling, by definition, is anti-missional. By the way, by the term “missional,” I’m talking about God’s mission of redeeming the world and how he works through us.

At one point, Helen makes the following statement:

First of all, homeschooling one’s children does not automatically result in an anti-missional lifestyle any more than sending one’s children to public schools guarantees a missional one. It doesn’t matter what type of school your children attend. The greatest influence on a child’s life that will determine how missional he or she becomes is whether or not that child’s parents are living a missional lifestyle themselves.

Last year, I wrote a post called “Raising missional homeschooled children.” That turned out to be a very popular post, even though all I did was link to another post on the subject – a post written by a friend of mind called “Missional Homeschooling.” Although I didn’t say too much in my post, I left the following comment on the original post:

The first and most important thing we realized is that we can’t raise missional children if we are not missional ourselves. Second, we took our children with us when we served others, whether it was across the street or across the world.

As disciplers of our children (hopefully, not the only disciplers, but disciplers none-the-less), the way that we (as parents) interact with others will affect how our children interact with others, both positively and negatively.

Do you want to raise missional homeschooled (or public schooled or private schooled) children? Then live a missional life yourself, following Jesus as he desires to use you to impact the world around you for his kingdom.

How many mission journeys did Paul take?

Posted by on Sep 5, 2012 in missional, spiritual gifts | 9 comments

How many mission journeys did Paul take?

Usually, when someone asks the question that I’ve asked in the title of this post, the answer revolves around whether or not someone believe Paul actually traveled to Spain. The answer is usually given as three journeys if the person does not believe that Paul went to Spain, or four journeys if the person does believe that Paul went to Spain.

But, that’s not what this post is about. Scripture does not tell us whether or not Paul traveled to Spain, but in the Book of Acts and in Paul’s letters, we can tell that Paul went on many more than four journeys.

Now, the standard three journeys taken by Paul are taken from Acts 13-14 (Cyprus and southern Asia Minor), Acts 16-18 (southern Asia Minor and Macedonia, primarily Corinth), and Acts 19-20 (Asia Minor and Macedonia again, primarily Ephesus).

But, according to Paul, once he left Macedonia in Acts 20, he was on another journey assigned to him by the Holy Spirit to go to Rome via Jerusalem (Acts 20:16,22). Since Paul sees himself as being sent by the Spirit to Rome, this is another missionary journey (remember, “missionary” comes from the Latin translation of the Greek term meaning “sent”).

But, believe it or not, these are not all of Paul’s missionary journeys. For some reason, people tend to begin viewing Paul as an apostle beginning in Acts 13. While Acts 13:1-4 is an amazing passage of the Spirit and the church in Antioch sending Barnabas and Paul, that particular journey ended in Acts 14. Luke specifically states in Acts 14:25-26 that when Paul and Barnabas return to Antioch, they have completed the task they had been sent to do in Acts 13.

Paul’s journeys began very early after his conversion near Damascus. After being visited by Agabus, Paul immediately began proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ in the synagogues in Damascus (Acts 9:20). When he was run out of town, Paul went to Jerusalem (Acts 9:26). After staying in Jerusalem for a while, he then went to Caeserea in order to sail to Tarsus, his home town (Acts 9:30).

This still is not the end of Paul’s journeys. He was still in Tarsus when God began to save Gentiles around Antioch. When Barnabas went to Antioch to help the young church there, he went to Tarsus to ask Paul for his help. Once again, Paul found himself traveling, this time going from Tarsus to Antioch (Acts 11:25-26).

(By the way, according to Paul in Galatians 1:17, he also traveled to Arabia for three years at some point during his other journeys.)

In other words, Paul’s life from the time of his conversion was one of almost constant travels punctuated with a few periods of staying in one location for a time. This is exactly what I would expect from someone gifted by God as an apostle. Remember that the term “apostle” is from the Greek term that means “one who is sent.” Paul lived as one who was sent by God from place to place.

Finally, there is even indication in Scripture that Paul’s traveling nature was built into him by God. (Perhaps Paul has this in mind partially in Galatians 1:15.) We know that Paul was originally from Tarsus. But, we first meet him in Jerusalem (Acts 7:58). And, we later see Paul traveling on behalf of the Jewish leaders (Acts 9:1-2).

So, how many mission journeys did Paul take? It’s almost impossible to count them all, but it’s definitely more than four, even if he never made it to Spain.

(I want to thank my good friend Art from churchtaskforce.org and waginglove.com for helping me think through itinerant [traveling] service in Scripture.)

When it comes to giving to others, why do we usually seem to start with reasons to not give?

Posted by on Aug 7, 2012 in discipleship, love, missional, service | 6 comments

When it comes to giving to others, why do we usually seem to start with reasons to not give?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve enjoyed following Chuck on his newish blog “Being Filled” (and, of course, I’ve enjoyed his interactive here and on Twitter). One of his latest posts is called “Give to Everyone Who Asks of You.”

Whenever I hear someone teach about this subject (or read someone who has written about this subject) they almost always begin with exceptions for giving or justifications for not giving. Interestingly, Chuck deals with many of these excuses in his own post.

For example, concerning the excuse “he doesn’t deserve it,” Chuck writes:

You’re right; he doesn’t deserve it. You don’t deserve it either. What you have is not the result of your own careful planning and managing. Everything you have is a gift of God. And God has just commanded you to pass some of that gift on to another undeserving person.

Chuck covers several other excuses as well.

But, I’m not concerned so much with the excuses and whether or not they are justified. But, when I read Chuck’s post, and went back and read Jesus’ command in context, I noticed something:

In every instance in Scripture where it is recorded that Jesus commanded “Give to everyone who asks of you,” he said that in the context of loving our enemies. Think about that… Jesus is talking about giving to people who oppose us… and giving them anything they ask from us. (There are other commands and examples of giving to people who are not our enemies, but this context was about giving to enemies.)

Again, I’m not interested in when, where, why, and how we may or may not be justified to not give, I’m simply pointing out that when Jesus commanded us to give, he was not talking about giving to people who agree with us or even to people who like us.

This is certainly a different kind of giving… If Jesus began in the context of enemies, why do we typically begin with reasons not to give?