Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Church

young pastor being ordained
Photo by Marc Scaturro on Unsplash

Follow-up: Understanding Authentic Christian Ministry

As we saw in an earlier post, the Corinthians needed to learn to keep culture in perspective. This was especially true in their understanding of leadership and Christian ministry. The leadership values of the culture were exploited by Paul’s opponents, causing some in Corinth to question Paul’s credentials. George Guthrie observes,

In short, in the apostle’s seeming humility (even humiliation 12:21), his taking on the role of a servant, his rejection of patronage and the concomitant rejection of financial gain, and his refusal to advance his status by use of rhetorical skills, he stood in violation of key leadership values and principles embedded in the Corinthian culture. The apostle, on the other hand, presents to the Corinthians an alternative; a theocentric and biblical vision of authentic leadership. 1George H. Guthrie, 2 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 2015, p17.

While not all cultural leadership values will conflict with authentic Christian ministry, they will need to be compatible with the message of Christ crucified. We, like Paul, need to model and teach authentic Christian ministry so that the leadership of the churches we plant reflects the cross in their ministry. I observe seven key characteristics of authentic Christian ministry in 2 Corinthians.

The Church is God’s Household

In this series of posts on the letters to Timothy and Titus, I have emphasized that Timothy and Titus were co-workers with Paul in planting churches in Ephesus (Timothy) and Crete (Titus). These letters are Paul’s instructions to his co-workers for dealing with various issues such as teaching sound doctrine and warnings against false teaching. About halfway through 1 Timothy Paul expresses another purpose in writing:

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth. – 1 Timothy 3:14,15 (ESV)

Behavior is very important in the letters to Timothy and Titus and in a future post, I will explore “good works” as a component of church planting.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Book Review: Hearers and Doers: A Pastor’s Guide to Making Disciples through Scripture and Doctrine

In his recent book, Hearers and Doers: A Pastor’s Guide to Making Disciples through Scripture and Doctrine, Kevin Vanhoozer makes the claim that everyone is a disciple of someone else. Hearers and Doers: A Pastor’s Guide to Making Disciples Through Scripture and Doctrine by [Vanhoozer, Kevin J.]We all follow someone else’s words or stories. The question is whose words, whose stories are we following. We often follow the stories that provide meaning for our culture. The book identifies as a pastor’s guide but has valuable insights for missionaries. Vanhoozer makes use of Charles Taylor’s (the author of A Secular Age) concept of social imaginary. He explains:

A social imaginary is the picture that frames our everyday beliefs and practices, in particular the “ways people imagine their social existence.” The social imaginary is the nest of background assumptions, often implicit, that lead people to feel things as right or wrong, correct or incorrect. It is another name for root metaphor (or root narrative) that shapes a person’s perception of the world, undergirds one’s worldview, and funds one’s plausibility structure. … Social imaginaries, then, are the metaphors and stories by which we live, the images and narratives that indirectly indoctrinate us. Yes, we have all been indoctrinated: filled with doctrine or teaching. The doctrines we hold, be they philosophical, political, or theological, feel right or wrong, plausible or implausible, based largely on how well they accord with the prevailing social imaginary or world picture. – p.8, 9

Book Review: Well Sent

51xanlIajuL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_QL70_I have frequently been asked about resources for local church missions programs. In 2015, Steve Beirn, Global Ministries Pastor at Calvary Church in Lancaster, PA, published Well Sent: Reimaging the Church’s Missionary-Sending Process. Steve served at our sending church in Holland, Michigan before going to Calvary so I know him well. He writes with passion and experience. In the introduction he writes:

This book seeks to elevate the role of the local church in the sending effort. The trend in missions today is to place the individual at the center of the sending process. Sometimes the agency is placed at the center. This book places the local church at the center of the sending process. – Well Sent, p. 17.

The Vine Project: A review

Jesus told us to go and disciple all nations. That means that those of us who have been called and sent are to be disciplemakers who equip others to be disciplemakers as well. The question that I have been asking myself recently is, “Are the sending and training structures that we have established to help get people to the nations effective in equipping them to be disciplemakers?”  We train people to raise their support, learn and adjust to a new culture, learn to speak a new language, prepare for various security risks, educate their children, and get along with their teammates – but are they learning to become disciplemakers?

I read The Trellis and the Vine a number of years ago. This short book differentiated between the work of actually discipling people from the work of creating and maintaining the structures and programs that support this disciplemaking.  The former was called “vine work” and the latter “trellis work”.  The authors, Colin Marshall and Tony Payne, made the sobering and accurate observation that often trellis work has taken over most of the church’s time and energy, so that very little actual disciplemaking is happening. The book called for a radical mindshift that would prioritize disciplemaking over programs and building organizations.

Teaching is a Spiritual Gift

The Bible is clear and understandable. Anyone can understand it. [For a helpful discussion on the clarity of the Bible see Wayne Grudem, “The Perspicuity of Scripture,” Themelios 34:3 (2009): 288-308]. All believers ought to study the Bible so that the word richly dwells within them. The Berean Jews were commended for examining the Scriptures to see if Paul’s teaching was true (Acts 17:11). All believers are charged to teach and admonish one another (Colossians 3:16).

But do all these truths mean we don’t need teachers? Apparently the Holy Spirit did not think so, because one of the gifts to the church is teaching.

Meditation on the Church

The church is important. In Christ and Culture Revisited, D.A. Carson writes,

We need to be reminded that the only human organization that continues into eternity is the church. (217).

This statement, made somewhat in passing, highlights the importance of the church.

The seventh part of SEND’s Statement of Faith is:

We believe that the church is the body of Jesus Christ, for which He will return, consisting of all who have accepted the redemption provided by Him.

Throughout this series of blog posts on our Statement of Faith we have been asking the basic question, “How does this statement hold us?” We continue with these thoughts on the church.

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