Missionary God Missionary Bible (book review)

Technically speaking, Missionary God, Missionary Bible by Dick Brogden is a pre-book. It is being released through 2019 as a daily email and then it will be published as a book next year. But I urge you to jump in on these stirring thoughts today! 

God is a missions-minded God, so it makes sense that the Bible would be a missions-centered text, speaking to the hearts of both those who don’t know Jesus as Savior yet, and to the hearts of those Christians who should be missional in their lives. 

Dick is a veteran missionary, and he brings his decades of ministry experience to this monumental work. Dick is using The Chronological Study Bible to take us through the Bible in one year and to look at every text through a missionary lens. The Chronological Study Bible is a fascinating read in itself, as it places the biblical texts in the order in which the events happened, but then when Dick’s insights are added to those historical events, something even more powerful stirs in my heart. 

Each day’s devotional also includes a prayer focus for an unreached people group, along with the vital statistics about these precious people who need to hear the Good News of Jesus. 

This study Bible, read alongside Dick’s missional insights, and then combined with a prayer for a group that needs to receive the Gospel, makes for a life-changing devotional time. You will definitely want to get the book when it is published, but please don’t wait until then to begin to have your missionary heart enlarged and engaged in this fantastic daily study. 

You can subscribe to the daily emails by clicking here.

My Going Is Your Calling

BibleThis morning I shared some cool thoughts on Luke 10:1-3

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.”

Are you following me on Periscope? My username is @craigtowens. If you subscribe, you can see these types of broadcasts live. But, not to worry, I have uploaded it here as well…

14 Quotes From “Pentecost”

Pentecost

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Pentecost by Robert P. Menzies, and learned quite a bit. You can read my full book review by clicking here. Here are a few quotes that stood out to me.

“It’s because Pentecostals fuse the biblical and contemporary horizons that we link baptism in the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues, since that’s what Acts 2 does. It’s why we associate Spirit-baptism with empowerment for mission rather than with spiritual regeneration. And it’s why we expect God to perform ‘signs and wonders’ and to manifest spiritual gifts in worship services. All these things happened in the first Pentecostal community, and their story is our story.” 

“At its heart, the Pentecostal movement is not Spirit-centered but Christ-centered. The work of the Spirit, as Pentecostals understand it, centers on exalting and bearing witness to the Lordship of Christ.”

“Pentecostals are ‘people of the Book.’ Although Pentecostals certainly encourage spiritual experience, they do so with a constant eye to Scripture.”

“So, the stories of Acts are our stories, and we read them with expectation and eagerness: stories of the Holy Spirit’s power, enabling ordinary disciples to do extraordinary things for God. … The hermeneutic of the typical Pentecostal believer is straightforward and simple: the stories in Acts are my stories—stories that were written to serve as models for shaping my life and experience.”

“In Luke’s view, every member of the church is called (Luke 24:45–49; Acts 1:4–8/Isaiah 49:6) and empowered (Acts 2:17–21; cf. 4:31) to be a prophet. Far from being unique and unrepeatable, Luke emphasizes that the prophetic enabling experienced by the disciples at Pentecost is available to all of God’s people. … Through his two-volume work, Luke declares that the church, by virtue of its reception of the Pentecostal gift, is nothing less than a community of prophets. It matters not whether we are young or old, male or female, rich or poor, black or white; the Spirit of Pentecost comes to enable every member of the church, each one of us, to fulfill our prophetic call to be a light to the nations.” 

“Not long ago a Chinese house church leader commented, ‘When Western Christians read the book of Acts, they see in it inspiring stories; when Chinese believers read the book of Acts, we see in it our lives.’”

“Luke’s theology of the Spirit is different from that of Paul. Unlike Paul, who frequently speaks of the soteriological dimension of the Spirit’s work, Luke consistently portrays the Spirit as a charismatic or, more precisely, a prophetic gift, the source of power for service.” 

“Luke crafts his narrative so that the parallels between Jesus’ experience of the Spirit (Luke 3–4) and that of the disciples on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1–2) cannot be missed. Both accounts: 1. Are placed at the outset of Luke’s Gospel on the one hand, and the book of Acts on the other; 2. Associate the reception of the Spirit with prayer; 3. Record visible and audible manifestations; 4. Offer explanations of the event in the form of a sermon that alludes to the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.”

“Luke’s understanding of baptism in the Holy Spirit, I have argued, is different from that of Paul. It is missiological rather than soteriological in nature. … The tendency in Protestant churches has been to read Luke in the light of Paul. Paul addresses pastoral concerns in the church; Luke writes a missionary manifesto.” 

“Bold witness for Jesus is recognized as our primary calling and the central purpose of our experience of the Spirit’s power. Missions is woven into the fabric of our DNA.”

“I do not wish to minimize in any way the significance of the great doctrinal truths of Paul’s writings. I merely point out that since Paul was, for the most part, addressing specific needs in various churches, his writings tend to feature the inner life of the Christian community. His writings, with some significant exceptions, do not focus on the mission of the church to the world. … It is probably fair to say that while Paul features the ‘interior’ work of the Spirit (e.g., the fruit of the Spirit, Gal. 5:22–23); Luke features His ‘expressive’ work (Acts 1:8). Thus, by appropriating in a unique way the significant contributions of Luke-Acts, Pentecostals have developed a piety with a uniquely outward or missiological thrust.”

“The clarity of the Pentecostal message flows from the simple, straightforward manner in which we read the Bible. As I have noted, Pentecostals love the stories of the Bible. We identify with the stories that fill the pages of the Gospels and Acts, and the lessons gleaned from these stories are easily grasped and applied in our lives. For Pentecostals, the New Testament presents models that are to be emulated and guidelines that are to be followed. It should be noted that our approach to doing theology is not dependent on mastering a particular set of writings, say, the works of Luther; or coming to terms with a highly complex theological system. Pentecostals also do not worry much about cultural distance or theological diversity within the canon. We do not lose sleep over how we should understand the miracle stories of the Bible or how we might resolve apparent contradictions in the Bible. Our commitment to the Bible as the Word of God enables us to face these questions with a sense of confidence.”

“We must remember that whatever we do, God is measuring the work we do for Him in a qualitative, not quantitative way. … Only the work which is done by the power of the Holy Spirit can be acceptable in the Kingdom of God.” —David Yonggi Cho

“Some will still remain skeptical. They will ask: Is not this approach to church life, with its emphasis on ecstatic experience, emotional response, and spiritual power, filled with inherent dangers? Might it not encourage us to feature emotionally manipulative methods and to focus on superficial matters? Yes, undoubtedly, there are dangers. However, there is more danger in an approach that fails to make room for the full range of human experience, including the emotions, in our encounter with God.”

Flexibility

I am working through a fascinating devotional book called Live Dead. It’s not just a book, but a challenge to live differently. I strongly encourage you to purchase this book, and then take the Live Dead challenge. With the permission of the book’s editor, I am reproducing Day 22’s challenge.

Flexibility: God’s Music, Written In Three Flats by Bob McCulley

Some of the most dangerous times in our life and ministry are when we lock our dreams and hopes in concrete, when we become so focused on what we are planning to do that we cannot see what God is trying to do. One day, while serving among the Maasai people of East Africa, I was running late for an appointment to meet with the village elders in a place called Mbirikani, which was about an hour away from our home. The purpose of the meeting was to appeal for a site where we could build a church in that village. My planned departure was delayed and my wife, Murriell, tried to soothe my anxiety with the words, “God has everything under control.”

I drove my four-by-four vehicle quickly up the road and was making good time until I got a flat tire, which I hurriedly changed. A few minutes later, I had a second flat and again made a tire change that would make a pit crew proud. Deep in the bush and well off the road, I had a third flat tire, and my third and final spare had to be removed from the luggage rack. In the process of getting it off the roof, it rolled away from me and down the hill into a large clump of thorn brush. By the time I retrieved it, my clothes were torn and my face and arms were bleeding from multiple scratches.

As I was preparing to mount the third spare tire, a Morani, a Maasai warrior, came walking out of the forest and greeted me. I did not wish to have a conversation because I was dirty from changing the flats and was now very late for what I thought was a critical appointment. His greeting was congenial and correct, while mine was harsh and abrupt. But I had good reason: I was late, dirty, bleeding, and angry. His next words stopped me. He knew my name. He had heard me preach a few weeks before, and that morning on awakening had decided to go to town to find me and to ask me to help him receive Christ. He had set off before sunrise to walk about 15 miles to town to find me and only halfway there, had found me on the roadside. I stopped changing the tire, cleaned my hands, and got my Bible out. Soon we were sitting under a thorn tree, reading and praying together as he became a newborn follower of Jesus.

When we were done, he thanked me and disappeared back into the forest, and I sat in wonder of the way God schedules our lives. By then I knew I had been right on time for the only appointment God had scheduled for me that day. I had no spare tires left, so I finished mounting the third spare and turned the truck around and headed home. Days later, I learned that the meeting had been postponed until the following day and our appeal had been granted. The community had given us 10 acres of ground on which to develop the ministry.

Our plans and dreams are often far removed from what God has in mind for us, and a lack of flexibility may cause us to miss Him and to be broken in the missing.

Live Dead Challenge — Look for a way you can be flexible today. Anticipate an interruption and welcome it as an opportunity, an event God has scheduled for you — even if it makes you late or it means that something you planned does not happen. In the days to come, look for ways you can be flexible. In service opportunities down the road, commit to flexing — dying to your plan and schedule that you might live to the surprises God injects in your daily life.

You can order the Live Dead book and other resources by clicking here.

And, for those of you who live in or near Cedar Springs, join us for a series of messages and a free copy of Live Dead in February.

On The Verge (book review)

I’ve only been acquainted with the writings of Alan Hirsch for a short time, but — wow!do his thoughts resonate with me. On The Verge, which was co-authored with Dave Ferguson, is a thought-provoking, paradigm-challenging look at the potential of the church.

Alan and Dave make it very clear right from the outset that the church in America is at a crucial make-or-break point. They point out that the church in Europe and Australia have already lost their effectiveness in their cultures, and if the church in America doesn’t wake up soon, it will soon head down that same sad path toward irrelevancy.

The good news is that everything the church needs to become the disciple-making, missionally-minded, Christ-centered force it should be is right within it. If churches are willing to realign themselves with the apostolic gene at their core, they are right on the verge of something great!

On The Verge focuses on how churches can imagine, shift, innovate, and then move. Both Alan and Dave are well-suited to inspire their readers to take up this challenge before it’s too late. Alan’s thoughts about the church are so far ahead of the curve, and Dave is not just a church theorist, but he’s successfully doing all of the practices shared in this book.

Pastors and church leaders especially need to read this book. But — as Alan and Dave point out — this is not an issue just for professional clergy. In fact, if the church in America is going to survive and thrive, everyone needs to be involved. This will be a challenging book to read, but well worth your time.

I received a free copy of this book for review.

Does Either-Or Work?

Sometimes I read about this debate whether churches should be “attractional” or “missional.” The first approach says that church should attract people first, and then share the gospel with them. The second approach says that if churches simply focus on sharing the gospel they will then attract people.

Either-or. Either missional or attractional.

What about both-and?

Consider the life of Jesus. No one would ever argue that He wasn’t “on mission” all the time. In fact, numerous times He says, “I’m doing what My Father wants me to do,” or even, “It’s not time for me to do that yet.” Jesus was missional.

And yet… “Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that He was associating with such sinful people — even eating with them! (Luke 15:1-2). People loved being around Jesus. Jesus was attractional.

Jesus exemplified both-and missional-attractional. I think He was able to perfectly balance this because of the work of the Holy Spirit. I can aim for the both-and of missional-attractional in my life … I can give it my best shot. But the only way I can truly achieve anything is by allowing the Holy Spirit to shape and direct my life, just as He did for Jesus. Henry & Melvin Blackaby, in their book Experiencing The Holy Spirit, wrote —

The world doesn’t need to see good people giving their best to God; they need to encounter God doing in and through us what only He can do! …Our best isn’t good enough when it comes to kingdom work; we need the Holy Spirit in our lives if we’re going to be of use to God.”

I need the Holy Spirit in my life if I’m going to be of use to God, and be of any benefit to people.

I need the Holy Spirit in my life if I’m going to balance both-and missional-attractional like Jesus.

Thinking About And

These are my “raw notes” from The And Conference. If anyone wants to add on, modify, or delete, please feel free.

Alan Hirsch

Cultural differences – imagine numbers 1-4 as barriers to even starting a conversation (m1-m4).

In western culture we’re pushing more toward m3 or m4. In fact, the gap between m0 and m1 is shrinking.

Our idea of church is 17 centuries old (tracing back to Constantine), so there is a HUGE assumption we’re making when we think “church.” From m0 to m1 is the church’s current domain. No cultural barriers have to be crossed. However, much of culture is in m3-m4.

If we act attractionally in a missional setting, we’ve extracted them from their “m” zone. New believers in 3-5 years after becoming a Christian will have no non-Christian friends. We’ve extracted them!

Most people feel good about God, Jesus, and spirituality. However, there are negative feelings about “church.” Most people remember or focus on only three things in their “perceived set.” Marketers try to get their product/service in that perceived set.

Jesus, yes; church, no. Kind of like iPhone, yes; AT&T, no. But now the Apple logo on the iPhone reminds people of AT&T.

The dechurched have been inoculated against the church.

Dream out-loud at high volume about what the church could be!

“As the Father sent Me, so I send you.” How did the Father send Jesus? He stepped into culture, He lived in the culture and spoke to people out of culture. Church should come out of mission, not mission out of church. Just like the Acts church didn’t require Gentile believers to adopt Jewish practices. So we don’t plant churches, we plant the Gospel and let the church grow out of that.

The Bible doesn’t know the difference between “clergy” & “laity.” Why do we persist in putting people in these categories?

————–

“Apostolic” is the Greek version of the Latin “missional.” We need an apostolic environment to take movements to a place of spontaneous expansion. The apostle is a catalyst to growth.

Paul starts churches which start churches = movement → expansion.

Paul then teaches. He is the custodian of the movement’s DNA. He is also the guardian of the purity of the DNA.

An “apostle” is not an apostle if it’s a top-down leadership. An apostle is a servant leader.

Ephesians 4

  • vv. 7-11  APEST = apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, teacher.
  • vv. 12-16  maturity – cannot get to maturity without all of APEST. Most denominations focus just on S & T. “Shepherd” is only used once in the New Testament, and the New Testament says, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers.”

Leadership is a calling within a gifting. APEST gifts are given to everyone, but some are called to be leaders within their gifting.

APEST gifts carry more of a vocational weight. Gifts of the Spirit are more of empowerments for the moment. The gifts of Romans 12 are motivational/paradigmal gifts.

———-

Re-Jesus = a renewed focus on full Christology: most of our focus is on the Cross, resurrection & return. We need to include Incarnation & His life among humanity. We make Him Savior, but not Lord.

Re-mission = who God is must determine what the church does.

Re-organize = missional churches are responsive to the world around us. Our churches must be organized to be nimble.

Tim Stevens

Every new term that comes out tells us we’re doing church wrong. So Tim says “Missional schmissional!” and “Attractional schmactional!”

Most churches are defined as “Come to us.” But this only works for <40% of people. People are still “spiritual,” but they don’t like “church.”

Do we attract the unchurched 60% OR missionalize the churched 40%. How about BOTH-AND? We have to help the 40% reach their 60%.

We can still say “Come and see,” but emphasize “So that” = “Come and see what Jesus does so that you can tell others.”

There is no one-plan-for-all method for churches to do BOTH-AND. Each church must discover what works for them in their community.

Jason Miller

Linear thinking is how our brains process info. That’s why telling stories with a plot twist is so powerful. Like when Jesus said, “You have heard… but I tell you….” Twists get people’s attention.

People in the world have had their imaginations devastated by culture who says love is conditional. When we talk about God’s unconditional love, it’s a plot twist they never imagined.

We have a mandate to do something beautiful. Beauty awakens imaginations to see God’s love. Like sympathetic vibrations: God’s beauty begins to resonate and awaken imagination.

“The church is God’s imagination to the world.”

Dave Ferguson

What can we do for those who won’t come to church?

Missional people (micro level) + Multiplying churches (macro level) = Missional movement

How to create a missional culture: (1) Ordain every member; (2) Lead with a “Yes”; (3) Make heroes of everyday people.

Saying “Yes” doesn’t mean funding the project or even announcing the project. It just means giving people permission to reach out.

Business paradigm that makes money but not movements: say “No” to anything that you haven’t fully researched.

Matt Carter

We can’t have “professional Christians” that do ministry & those that only receive ministry.

Christianity today needs to look like what we see in Acts.

What if instead of attracting new people to church, we released current attendees to do ministry?

What if it wasn’t “come and see” but “go and do”?

Small group success = seeing & addressing a need in the community. “Nothing builds community better than mission. When we aim at community, we may get it. But when we aim at mission, we get that and community too.”

Need to share success stories and failure stories. This creates a culture that let’s everyone know that it’s okay to try.

Hugh Halter

We need to redefine “disciple” because now we define them as “church attendee.”

Two categories: missional and sojourners. Missional people prepare the way for sojourners to become missionals by making the Kingdom of God tangible.

A better definition of disciple is apprentice. An apprentice is learning by doing; they’re hands-on.

Second decision environment = people choose to get more involved. For example, Sunday morning attendance is a first decision; a small group is a second decision.

Barriers to discipleship: individualism, consumerism, materialism. To overcome these barriers, Jesus put people in a place of tension. This typically can’t take place in a first decision environment.

Other ways to address these barriers: modeling, confrontation, action/reflection.

Jesus wasn’t interested in followers, but in disciples.

Rob Wegner

“Every member is a minister.” – Mark Beeson

Attractional churches use centripetal force to bring people in. Missional churches use centrifugal force to send people out.

Attractional is embedded inside missional. Attractional is the seed for missional. As Hirsch said, it’s more “extractional.”

Attractional seeds → Missional community → Extractional movement

Do we have to see church as institution and church as movement as opposites? Or co-existing? Genius of BOTH-AND!

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