Archive for October, 2007

New Terminology

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

Submitted by Jim Hoag

The DNA of many churches produces a rhythm and life of its own; in other words, fixed patterns, grids, ideas, traditions, and mindsets about “church life”. One of those mindsets about how to do ministry is the attractional/extractional approach. What I mean by this is a church culture that tries to attract people to “come to us” rather than an emphasis to “go to them”. With the extractional approach, people are extracted from their world and brought to our church-world to get their needs met. This instead of us also going into their world and doing life with them where they are. “Attractional” has the idea of, “If you build it, they will come”. In other words, if we become and if we do all the right things as a church, they will come to us. But what we want to impart is a sending impulse rather than only an attracting and extracting impulse. We want to create a culture of “go“, not only “come” – a church culture whose DNA causes a facing outward, moving into the city as salt and light. So instead of only “extracting”, we EXTEND AND EXPAND out. This is a call for a GENUINE shift from the attractional/extractional approach alone, to an approach that faces outward; from seating to sending. It is no longer only about deep community and spiritual maturity; it’s also about going forth and impacting the lost and disenfranchised – to “heal the broken-hearted and proclaim liberty to the captives”. They are God’s future, so “Go ye therefore…”.

OK, now we move from being exclusively attractional/extractional to being missional/incarnational as well.  By “missional” I mean “sent out” and by “incarnational” I mean embodying the life of Jesus in context with the culture just as He Himself did 2000 years ago. Each member of the body has to see themselves as being uniquely and specifically sent into culture; and see their sending as a calling not as a religious task. A calling to missions recognizes that God has saved us and called us to send us.  Jesus said, “The harvest is indeed plentiful, but the laborers are few”. The remedy for this is when the church no longer sees itself as having a function of missions (sending), but sees that it exists for missions. The members of the body (not just the leaders) are the front line and are most important because they are the church’s core missionaries. This means re-framing the church’s primary purpose almost entirely on missional (sending) grounds to break the inward focus both individually and corporately. Much of the church has been “marinated” in dualism looking at the church building and church activities as “sacred” and the rest of life as “secular”. No, it’s about bringing people the Kingdom by bringing the Kingdom to the people. We have to see that as soon as we meet an unbeliever relationally we have begun leading them to Jesus. Missional forces lying dormant in all of us are waiting to be awakened and unlocked as the Spirit reveals to our hearts the need for this radical understanding and remedy. The idea is a rewiring or renewing of the mind so as not to think church, but to think mission. The shift is on from “come” to “go“. The church is now gathered to be sent out. A “missional church” is a sending church, mobilizing all of its people to be sent into the community. This is not some “technique” or church growth “strategy”; it is the time and season that God has uniquely arranged and purposed for this. This is how God Himself engaged the world in Christ. John 1:14 says, “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” He was one of us. He met us personally. It is this redemptive mission that we seek to recover for our generation. And though missional activity can be risky,learning occurs when we need to draw on the Lord because the situation demands it. Here is where discipleship moves from theory to reality.

Lastly, we move on from missional/incarnational to being contextual/cultural; that is being contextually relevant in culture. This includes contextualizing the life and message of Jesus within a specific cultural/generational context. Paul gives us an explanation of this in I Corinthians 9:20-23, “And unto the Jews, I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,), that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be a partaker thereof with you”. Paul is saying that a “one-size-fits-all” approach to culture must be abandoned. Paul was not anti-culture (which would have alienated him from culture), but he was uncompromised (yet relevant) in culture. We go forth into culture not bringing “church”, but Christ. (Read Matthew 9:10-13 to see who Jesus was engaging in culture!) Like the first century church, it is the Word becoming flesh in the cultural context we live in. Rather than an ongoing emphasis on church-life apart from our cultural context, we are called to reach out to culture in a relevant way. Missionaries who go across the seas to radically different cultures have long realized the need for the gospel to speak in a way relevant to the people being approached.

By definition, then, the attractional, missional, contextual church is always looking outward, always going, always thinking inclusion (not exclusion), and faithful to the Word of God by the leading of the Spirit.


Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

Submitted by Jim Hoag

“ethos” (pronounced eethos) “the distinguishing mark, character or disposition of a community, the fundamental character or spirit of a culture”.

The Lord seems to be working toward creating a mission-centered “ethos” within His church. What does that mean? It means that the Lord is attempting to create a church culture whose natural tendency and whose distinguishing mark is that it moves OUT. Mission is the spark, the catalyzing force that makes sense of everything the church was intended to be.

There are essential differences between a church community whose “ethos” or fundamental characteristic is movement out and a community facing in. For instance, the church facing in guards its boundaries; the church facing out extends them. John 20:19-23 says, “Then on that same first day of the week, when it was evening, though the disciples were behind closed doors for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace to you! ‘ So saying, He showed them His hands and His side. And when the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Just as the Father has sent Me forth, so I am sending you.’ And having said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit!'” The disciples were facing in , “behind closed doors”. But Jesus showed up and called them to face out and go forth. Those doors probably flew open. No longer would there be a “quiet in the land”. The Lord came to embed “missional DNA” into their foundation. Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” God sent His Spirit, and He did so in a way that is unique to sending. (Acts 13:4)

In that moment 2000 years ago “behind closed doors”, the Lord established His directive for the church until He returns. He instantly created an apostolic environment, a new community “ethos”, when He said, “Just as the Father has sent Me forth, so I am sending you.” Suddenly there was an emerging missional culture where there had been none before. He was sending forth His disciples into a society completely oblivious to the gospel. Much of the church (whether advertently or inadvertently) has become increasingly non-missional. And much of the difficulty the church has experienced may be directly linked to the loss of a missional ethos. For a long time it has been church defining mission, but I believe a fundamental realignment is at hand characterized by mission defining church. And thus it is no wonder we are hearing the Lord speak through Scriptures like John 17:18 where Jesus said about His disciples, “(Father) In the same way that You gave Me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world.”(Message Bible) Could this be because our culture today is nearly as blind to the gospel and its need for Jesus Christ as it was in the first century? At any rate, the Lord gave His followers the task of continuing the mission that was given to Him by His Father. And the DNA code or life-force that pulsated through those first New Testament disciples is being awakened within us. It is going to be awesome to witness the evolution of this new community that finds its reference point in its missional (sending) emphasis.And it’ll be interesting to see if in 2008 this won’t be a primary emphasis of the Lord and infuses all areas of church life including discipleship, praise and worship, the Word preached, and the structure of services.

This new kind of church environment will have a transforming effect on those who are connected to it, directly or indirectly. The “ethos” of a church community is not to be underestimated. Acts 2:42-47, Acts 4:31-34, and Acts 5:13-14 describes the effect a mission-centered, self-devoted church culture can have on a people and a city. For instance, Acts 2:47 says they were, “Constantly praising God and being in favor and goodwill with all the people; and the Lord kept adding (to their number) daily those who were being saved (from spiritual death)”. Why isn’t this favor and influence as common today? One reason may be that the gap is widening and the alienation increasing between today’s culture and the church at large. Those first century believers went to the people, embodying and proclaiming the gospel, caring for them in the context of their need. He sends help from His sanctuary.”(Psalms 20:2) They moved out from behind closed doors, embodying and proclaiming the gospel contextually. As a result they were a counter-culture IN culture without being anti-culture! This may well be one of the church’s essential learning experiences in 2008. (I was thinking it might be fruitful some time to re-visit the book of Acts through missional lens. In the book of Acts, we can see the sending ethos lived out.)

The church that embraces this call will not only be a spiritual focal point of the community it resides in, but a sending base into that community and points beyond. This is essentially the extension of the gospel Paul is describing in II Corinthians 10;15-16 when he says, “What we’re hoping for is that as your lives grow in faith, you’ll play a part within our expanding work. And we’ll all still be within the limits God sets as we proclaim the message in lands lying beyond you.” As we have said, the goal is no longer just to sustain and strengthen the local body. It is also about going forth, connecting to unbelievers and making sense of the gospel in ways relevant to them. This instead of only being concerned with getting them to church. We bring Christ and the church to them. It’s awesome to see everything stripped down again to its simplicity. And I believe a boldness in going forth will directly affect the clarity and speed at which the future unfolds.

Because of our God-given aversion to “dead works”, it’s nice to know there will be no chance that our mission will be comprised of empty, vague, “evangelistic activity”. No. What we are talking about here is the result of God’s initiative. It is rooted and grounded in God’s timing for His church in this hour and will unfold with increasing clarity. There are huge changes taking place all around us; the growing secularization of culture, the needs of the next generation, changing world views, relativism, the epidemic of religion, and a diminishing regard for the church. People are struggling for definition – an entire culture is in flux. There has been a great shift. This is why it’s so important for a truly sent people to serve and plug into the culture contextually – bringing them Christ. Lost people need to realize that the God they feel they do not know or who they believe does not care has in fact been at work in their lives in many different ways. And I believe the Lord has gone ahead of us; that He is already present and active in the culture that He will be sending us to engage. This can give us great confidence. Therefore we not only bring Christ to the people, but we go forth and discern what He is already doing with those people and get in on it. Psalms 11:9 says, “He has sent redemption to His people” and if we are partnering with God as Christ’s ambassadors, He will make His appeal as it were through us.

As this profound sense of being sent becomes the center of our focus, church “ethos” in 2008 will undergo radical change.