Alan Hirsch asked three simple, but fantastic guiding questions for those striving to possess a seven-day-a-week missional mindset. What if we asked these three questions every day?
Where did I see God at work in the world today?
How did I join with God today?
How did I resist God today?
Imagine if we reflected on these questions every day? Or just once a week? Spiritual formation, the process of growth to become more Jesus-ish, happens when we resist God less and join God more.
This daily discipline of self-reflection have a potent capability of cultivating a spirit of anticipation, where we expect God to show up and join with him in advancing his kingdom - his rule and reign - by practicing his ways in our everyday lives.
Just this week I realized something: I'm so humbled, honored and proud of our Renew launch team and the ways we are intentionally striving to live out the gospel every single day of the week, not just on Sundays.
Sure, we're not perfect, but we're growing and its inspiring to see the way they are serving and loving and leading.
We've said over and over again that we're more interested in launching people first, before services. That we want to be known more for our sending capacity than our seating capacity. And I believe we're catching that. Our team is striving towards a more holistic understanding of the gospel - individually and corporately.
There's a lot brewing this month that I'm really excited about...
-People are impacting their oikos. Oikos is a Greek word that means "family, household, sphere of influence. We all live in several "neighborhoods" (i.e. geographical, vocational, social, demographic, psychographic, genealogical, etc). We're seeing unofficial connections happening, friendships that are forging and spontaneous activities and relational spaces are emerging. We're attempting to live as missionaries who are 'cleverly disguised' as businessmen and teachers and college students and engineers and stay-at-home moms. The stories emerging from people being intentional in their oikos has been so encouraging and inspiring.
-Our house churches are off to a great start. They're eating meals together, sharing their stories, exploring the Scriptures, adopting a family/school/organization where they are serving on mission at least once a month and throwing parties for their friends and neighbors at least once a month as well. So many fun stories have already emerged from these house churches - I may share some of them some time in the future...
-We're serving at least twice a week at Manna on Main (the main soup kitchen/food bank/financial assistance organization in our community) by cooking/preparing meals and/or serving meals to the under-resourced and marginalized.
-We're serving at the North Penn Boys and Girls Club in their tutoring program, weight lifting program and helping to teach leadership classes. We've helped them with a blood drive last weekend. Others are considering coaching flag football.
-The Lansdale Farmers Market continues to take form and shape. Last summer we went to the borough leaders and asked "Would a farmers market be of help to the community?" They liked the idea and a team has been working very hard with other people from the community to see a farmers market start late spring/early summer in Lansdale. We're very excited about it! The LFM graciously received a grant for $12,000 from the North Penn Community Health Foundation to help us bring fresh fruits and vegetables from local venders to promote a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. The LFM team holds an open to the public meeting once a month. About 50 different North Penn residents have come to one of these meetings to offer their help and their willingness to volunteer. The LFM team is constantly looking for people who would want to help serve to make this happen so if you are interested shoot us an email here.
-Every Tuesday morning a group of guys meetings at Zoto's Diner to eat, hang out and discuss three questions: (1) Where did you see God at work this week? (2) How did you join him this week? (3) How did you resist him this week? They've been great conversations as we strive to pay attention to God and learn to respond appropriately.
-We've been proposing some ideas and initiatives to borough council, the North Penn Regional Council for the Arts and the Lansdale Performing Arts Center for some ways we can help to cultivate the arts in the area. There are many artists who desire to connect with a community of artists and who long to exhibit and express their art in spaces in the commnity. We're attempting to work to see that happen. There is a lot of potential here!
On Saturday February 21 at 10 am we're hosting another Clean up day around downtown Lansdale. We're meeting at Railroad Plaza (next to the train station) to clean up the area around the Kugel Ball, Main Street and the train station as a way of serving the community to make it look clean and nice. This event is open to the public and you are more than welcome to join us!
-On Tuesday night February 24 at 7:30 we're renting out a bar and hosting an evening called Doubt Night to connect with skeptics and create space to air out our doubts, questions and thoughts regarding faith, life, Jesus, God and the Church. Should be fun! We'd love to have you a part of the conversation. Find out more information by scrolling down two posts and seeing the post below called doubt :: night. We've also created a facebook group...join us.
Other things we planning for later this spring...
-We will be hosting a Forum on Homelessness and Suburban Poverty. We will have a diverse panel of experts who work closely with homelessness and suburban poverty in the borough and in the Montgomery and Bucks counties. This will be educational and will intend to help residents in the community to know how we best address the systemic issues of poverty and homelessness in our region. Stay tuned to the website for more information.
-We will be hosting a financial seminar called Strategies for Surviving an Economic Downturn. We know the economy has been difficult for thousands of families in our area. We are bringing in my dad to teach a seminar in late March about practical ways we can work towards a more financially healthy lifestyle (reducing and getting out of debt, creating a budget, etc). We're doing this to bless the community and equip them in this difficult time.
-Area-wide prayer walk: Prayer is important. All we do does not start with us. We never start anything new. We're are simply joining God in what he is already doing. We'll be hosting a Saturday morning time this spring to do two things: walk...and pray!
-And, Lord willing, we're looking to hold our first public corporate gathering this spring. (Stay tuned).
Exciting stuff! Again, stay tuned to the Renew site for more information as it becomes available. Oh, by the way: if you live in and around the area we would love for to join us for any and all of these things listed above.
Regardless if we know you (yet) or not. Regardless of your faith background.Regardless if you are currently involved with us at Renew or not. We would love to have you join us for any of these events.
If you want to be involved just let us know. Log onto our website or contact us.
Alan Hirsch in his fantastic book The Forgotten Ways asks a great question regarding our mindset with how we approach this concept called church. It's a simple framework, but its been invaluable for me in my conversations with others. He asks:
Is our approach:
the community for me
me for the community & the community for the world?
One approach is driven by consumption. The other is saturated with a mission-laced ethos of sent-ness that must get into our bloodstream as the people of God.
Someone emailed me recently and asked: What books should I be reading to understand the missional church concept? Here are a just few recommendations:
The Missional Church: A Vision for Sending of the Church in North America (Darrell Guder) The Tangible Kingdom (Hugh Halter and Matt Smay) The Forgotten Ways (Alan Hirsch) The Shaping of Things to Come (Hirsch and Frost) Exiles (Michael Frost) Organic Church (Neil Cole) Search and Rescue (Neil Cole) Transforming Mission (Bosch) The Mission of God (Christopher J.H. Wright) The Celtic Way of Evangelism (James Hunter) Reimagining Church (Frank Viola) Mission in Christ's Way (Lesslie Newbigin)
The Renew Community is hosting an evening of conversation we're calling doubt :: night andI'm pretty pumped about it.
What is doubt :: night?
It's a laid-back evening of conversation and dialog about questions and doubts. We firmly believe that we don't have to be afraid of the deep, significant questions of life, but instead we can discuss them openly and courageously.
This event is for anybody- regardless of your faith background or journey - who is willing to share their doubts or questions about life, faith, God, church, Jesus - with others.
We'd love to have you come and air it out with us.
Ever think about small town firehouses and firefighters as missional entities? If not, we probably should. They may be the best metaphor for the church's responsibility for missional engagement with the community.
When we lived in our old house I would drive by the firehouse in our town everyday to work - there and back. Here are a few things I noticed:
(1) Everyone trusts a firefighter. There is intrinsic trust and respect. They are viewed by the community has being there to protect the community. They are a friend of the townspeople. When a problem arises people think of them immediately. They care about the safety of people.
[Q]: How can we as followers of Jesus gain the respect and trust from those in the community?
(2) They train their people. They undergo hours of required and constant training to help keep their people sharp and informed so that they are prepared to face any emergency.
[Q]: Are we being trained as leaders to be prepared for emergencies - and are we understanding the changes and shifts in culture to be most equipped to be relatable to the culture we are trying to reach?
(3) They train others in the community. Education is important. Firehouses host classes, teach seminars and post reminders. On the sign out front it would sometimes read March is National Child Safety Month. Come in and we'll show you how to properly install your child's car seat. They are equipping people constantly.
[Q]: How are we equipping people to lead and serve effectively where they live, work and play?
(4) They use their facilities to bless the community. Firehouses are oftentimes the places where emergency shelters are first established in times of great crisis. Numerous times I would drive by and the marquee would read Middle School Dance Friday Night 8 pm or Bingo Night every Thursday.
[Q]: How are our church facilities being used by a variety of people and organizations and groups throughout the week?
(5) They help towns celebrate. They know how to throw parties. They host elementary school field trips. They sponsor pancake breakfasts and bingo nights. And fourth of July fireworks shows.
[Q]: The Kingdom of God is described by Jesus as a party. Most churches wouldn't be described that way by outsiders. What parties could we throw? How can we help celebrate with the people in our community?
(6) They are willing to give their lives away for the betterment of other people. They are always on call - all hours of the night - to provide help when it is needed most.
[Q]: Why isn't the church viewed this way? What would have to happen for us to be viewed this way?
(7) They fight evil rather than run from it. The thing a firefighter hates more than anything else is fire...and so therefore he or she rushes towards it, not away from it. He/she wants to do everything in his/her power to stamp it out because it knows its power and the destruction it is capable of causing. (Same with a doctor who hates cancer or a social worker who hates domestic violence. They do what they do not because they like cancer or domestic violence but because they hate it and want to eradicate it.)
[Q]: Do our churches have a posture of running away from evil or moving towards it in order to help stamp it out?
I'm sure there are other elements of firehouses and their missional expressions that the church could learn from. What else would you add to the list?
What are the questions that individuals and faith communities that possess a missional mindset are interested in asking? This is far from exhaustive, but it probably offers a good sampling. I am sure there are others and I'd love to hear from you all regarding ones that need to be added to the list.
Here's a start...
-How are we blessing the neighborhood/community?
-How can we help?
-How are we earning the right to be heard, growing to be an ally and an advocate for the community in which we live, work and play?
-Who is in my oikos (Greek word for family, household, social sphere, circle of influence) and how am I being intentional with them?
-How are we listening to the needs of our community? What are the top needs of our community and how can we unleash the various passions, skills and gifts that exist in our faith community in order to meet those needs?
-What are ways we can join God, who is already actively at work in the world today?
-How am I growing to be more like Jesus through my attitudes, thoughts, feelings and actions in the midst of my everyday activities?
-How can I ____________ in the name of Jesus today?
-How are we creating spaces of belonging for those who are not interested in things of God? How am I intentionally inviting people into those spaces to listen, party, hang out, converse and live life?
-How am I learning from the other?
-What is good news to "those people"? (This is a question of understanding context of certain groups and sub-groups, not an 'us/them' dichotomy).
-What is a holistic gospel understanding and how can I flesh that out in my life?
-Where am I spending time? Is it in a location where people who are close to the heart of Jesus hang out?
-How am I developing opportunities to build relationships with people outside the four walls of my church?
-How am I living out the values and the patterns of a Jesus life seven days a week, not just on Sunday?
From time to time publishers send me free books and ask that I read them and then write a review about them. I enjoy this (when I have time) and (hopefully) helps to get the word out with a few titles. (If you're a publisher and are looking for bloggers for your company's blogger book review program email me on the link below my picture. We can talk...)
Here are two books I read this week:
How Can A Good God Let Bad Things Happen? - Mark Tabb
I've read a lot of books in the why-do-good-things-happen-to-bad-people? genre, but this one was refreshing. Free of pithy cliches and easy answers, it went the other direction.
Mark Tabb unabashedly wrestled with the questions. It was thoughtful, respectful, honest, engaging...even raw. It didn't shy away from the tough questions - in fact, he invites them. The honesty truly came through in the first-person struggles, sometimes through tragedy and grief, with God and life and how they are to make sense.
I read this one with greater focus and diligence as Renew prepares to host "Doubt Night" later this month, allowing skeptics to air it out regarding doubts and questions about life, God, faith, Jesus and the Church. I'll recommend it at Doubt Night, for sure. The book reminded me a lot of John Ortberg's most recent book "Faith & Doubt."
The author writes with the theological prowess you'd come to expect from a seminary professor...and yet writes in an intriguing, engaging style that you might not come to expect from a seminary professor.
I'm grateful the book answers tough questions, but I am even more grateful that this book is willing to question the tough answers.
Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches That Reach Them - Ed Stetzer
I'm really loving the thoughts and insights of Ed Stetzer, whether its in book format, his blog or on Twitter. He's somebody that you should start reading and following.
He's a keen missiologist who's done some great research. That research isn't just in surveys and numbers (although there's a lot of that in here) but its translated into the "so what?" for church leaders. He reminds me a lot of George Barna...except Ed writes with hope.
Here are my reflections: -it's thoroughly researched -its fair and balanced and provides strengths and cautions for effective ministry. -this is a gift for leaders trying to understand unchurched twenty- and thirty-somethings. -its hope-filled -Stetzer is fully engaged and connected with the thoughts and feelings of unchurched younger adults, something far too few Christian leaders have been able to do. -its full of great connections of surveys to stories to rea-life translatable opportunities for church leaders
I'm very grateful to have read both books. They've taught me a great deal. I'd recommend both books for skeptics and dreamers.
What if we read the morning newspaper missionally?
If we did, I think we'd think differently.
Instead of reading the newspaper only to catch up on what's going on in the world what if we read it prayerfully? What if we read it in a way that broke our hearts as we read stories of war and famine and corruption - and it made us long for God's peace and goodness to reign?
What if we had a continual prayerful state of reading - that God would bless our leaders and would give them wisdom as they make significant national and global decisions? What if we prayed for grace to be extended to those who were instigators, initiators and advocates of evil? What if we prayed that God would have good triumph over evil? When we read about stories of retaliation what if we asked God for opportunities to respond with a different way of life?
What if we read the main section of the paper and prayed for each of the countries that made the headlines? What if we thanked God that He is the God if every nation, tribe and tongue?
What if we read the local section of the paper and wondered how we, our families, our friends, our faith communities could respond by comforting those experiencing tragedy or loss or heartache?
What if we read the money section and asked God to show us while "some trust in chariots, some in horses, we trust in the name of the Lord our God"? What if we asked that the god of consumerism would be dethroned through this economic downturn so we can be reminded as a country of what's most important?
What if when we read in the weather section of the paper that a few nights this week will dip below freezing -and it prompted us to pray for the homeless - and we asked God to show us what our role should be with those outside without heat?
I think if we read the newspaper that way we'd be readily available to join God in his work for the day ahead...