Sunday, September 29, 2013

Our Mission - Partner

  1. I John, brother...
  2. John, servant who bore witness to the word of God...
  3.  I John... partner
This three part series was designed to be given as a talk at the genesis collective time away in Malibu. We wanted to explore the theme of "Mission" and our role in it the Mission of God.

This third piece looks at the role of "partnership" - between the Ephesians 4 giftings and the local church.

To quote Seth Godin again: Tribes need leadership. Sometimes one person leads, sometimes more. People want connection and growth and something new. They want change”

“Some tribes are stuck. They embrace the status quo and drown out any tribe members who dare to question authority and the accepted order... Every tribe, though is a movement waiting to happen, a group of people just waiting to be energized and transformed. A movement is thrilling...” Seth Godin
The conversation about “partnership” is seen in this context is John, the third apostle working in the area [Paul, then Timothy], engaged on mission with the 7 churches in the region. So often we default to Paul when studying the role of apostles rather than Peter or John. Added to this is the apostle’s heart to and for these churches.
But let us stand back for a moment and talk about Mission Theology:

In his epic account, David Bosch wrote: Mission was understood as being derived from the very nature of God. It was thus put in the context of the Trinity, not ecclesiology or soteriology. The classical doctrine on the ‘missio dei’ as God the Father sending the Son and God the Father and Son sending the Spirit was expanded to include yet another ‘movement’. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit sending the church into the world... our mission has no life of its own; only in the hands of the sending God can it truly be called mission...In the new image is not primarily an activity of the church but the attribute of God...It is not the church that has a mission of salvation to fulfill in the world; it is the mission of the Son and the Spirit through the Father that includes the church. Mission is therefore seen as a movement from God to the world; the church is an instrument for that mission...
The primary purpose of the missiones ecclesiae can therefore not simply be the planting of churches or the saving of souls; rather, it has to be service to the missio dei, representing God in and against the world, pointing to God, holding up the God-child before the eyes of the world in a ceaseless celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany. In its mission, the church witnesses to the fullness of the promise of God’s reign and participates in the ongoing struggle between that reign and the powers of darkness and evil...
The missio dei is God’s activity, which embraces both the church and the world and in which the church may be privileged to participate.”

Darrel Guder writes in turn: This ecclesiocentric understanding of the mission has been replaced during this century by a profoundly theocentric reconceptualization of Christian mission... Rather mission is the result of God’s initiative, rooted in God’s purposes to restore and heal creation... God’s mission unfolded in the history of God’s people across the centuries recorded in scripture and it reaching its revelatory climax in the incarnation of of God’s work of salvation in Jesus ministering, crucified and resurrected. God’s mission continued then in the sending of the Spirit to call forth and empower the church as a witness to God’s good news in Jesus Christ. It continues today in the worldwide witness of the church in every culture to the gospel of Jesus Christ and it moves toward the promised consummation of God’s salvation in the ‘eschaton’...the biblical message is more radical, more inclusive, more transforming than we have allowed it to be”

Chris Wright says it simply:
“Fundamentally, our mission (if it is biblically informed and validated) means our committed participation as God’s people, at God’s invitation and command, in God’s own mission within the history of God’s world for the redemption of God’s creation” .

  It is impossible to cover every theological perspective, every debate, every position held. What we can do however, is begin the define what the mission is that we are called to.

The word “partner” means:
  •   W.E. Vines Dictionary: “koinonos - an adjective signifying ‘having in common’ in spiritual life and business”
  •   Websters Dictionary:  “...two people who dance together; one who plays on the same team with another”

Biblically, this word ‘partner’ is applied at 3 levels:

1.   With the other Ephesians 4 gifts that the apostle worked with:

2 Corinthians 8:23 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit.

Philemon 1:17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would me.

2.   With the churches who partnered with him and he with them;

Philippians 1: 5 ...because of our partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
Philippians 4:15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only.
3.   With the churches through which that new spaces, places and people were opened:
2 Cor 10:13 But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ. 15 We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, 16 so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another's area of influence.
Let me then summarize all of this in our context: 

I believe that the great redemption narrative that traces the text gives us the backbone of divine mission throughout the text:
“Be fruitful [increase], multiply, fill the earth” to Adam Gen 1:28
“Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth” to Noah Gen 9:1
“... I may make my covenant between me and you and may multiply you greatly...For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations... I will make you exceedingly fruitful I will make you exceedingly fruitful and I will make you into nations and kings shall come from you...” Gen 17:1 - 7, 22:15 - 18, 26:1 - 7, 28:3 - 5, 35:9 - 15, 48:2 - 6,
“They are the shoot that I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendor... the sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations” Is 60: 21 - 61: 11
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you and surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” Matt 28:18 - 20

What is our Mission?
“The art of leadership is understanding what you can’t compromise  on”
So great leaders don’t try to please everyone. Great leaders don’t water down their message in order to make the tribe a bit bigger. Instead they realize that a motivated, connected tribe in the midst of a movement is far more powerful than a larger group could ever be” Seth Godin

  1. I believe the Mission Dei is the renewal of all things; ETERNAL
  2. I believe that our part of that is to “Disciple all Nations”; GLOBAL
  3. I believe that we need to agree that together [ as a brotherhood of mutual love and co-engagement] we can achieve more; TOGETHERNESS
  4. I believe that we plant churches that can influence and impact their communities, cities, countries with the gospel which expresses itself with both salvation as well as social justice; TRANSFORMATION
  5. I believe that our mandate includes recognizing, raising up and releasing all 5 of the Ephesians 4 giftings; as well as all other forms of leadership; GREENHOUSE 
  6. I believe we need to be intentional to identify the emerging apostles, especially in each nation / context, seeking to release them as soon as we are able, to launch their own apostolic stories / spheres - seeking to get each country to have at least one or more of their own apostolic stories; APOSTLES
  7. I believe we need to see Genesis Collective as a story, end with Meryl and I, but the legacy, DNA and essence living on in the lives of many.leaders, fathers, pastors, apostles [and E4 giftings] , as well as pioneers, entrepreneurs, creators, risk takers, fire brands and challengers of the status quo. MULTIPLICATION...
As my friend Brian Barr said: What we really are and have been doing for many years is:

"be fruitful and multiply"

- reproducing disciples

- planting churches

- multiplying movements 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Our Mission - Truth

  1. I John, brother...
  2. John who bore witness to the word of God & to the testimony of Jesus... vs 2
We now move to the weighty and meaty part of our conversation. Whilst we love the first component, we know that we also need to find commonality around areas of common belief.

In his fun little book on “Tribes”, Seth Godin makes some key contributions that are helpful to our conversation:

A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea...
“Tribes are about faith - about belief in an idea and a community...”

Steve Addison writes that “Movements that change the world” have the following similar ingredients:
White Hot Faith
Commitment to a Cause
Contagious Relationships
Rapid Mobilization
Adaptive Methods

Tim Keller whose genius has helped all of us, has summarized this conversation when he added: “It is an ‘organized organism’ with these movement characteristics:

Unified vision and beliefs,
Cooperation and catholicity of spirit
Sacrificial commitment
Spontaneity and creativity

Amos teaches us: “Can two walk together lest they be agreed?” Amos 3:3  What is clear, is that there does need to be a body of truth that resonates within this brotherhood  that is essential for future endeavors. So what are the common belief convictions that create the unified, family agreement to empower us on mission together? 

The Australian rancher does not use fences to control his livestock. The harshness of the context has created a most unique way to keep the cattle from drifting. The lesson is that one can trust wells [sources of life and a unifying set] to keep a brotherhood together, one does not need fences [highly defining requirements that demand ‘in and out’ conversations.] 

      I do not find man made lines of separation than we have designed, to be very helpful. We do not want to define ourselves by these human categories. Not only are they divisive, but they tend to represent a subculture, a set of behavioral norms, that add to the confusion. We will not be defined by either these groupings nor by the subculture that they represent. 

Calvinistic vs Arminian
Charismatic vs Non Charismatic
Premillennialism vs Postmillennialism vs Amillennialism
And so forth...

     John was in exile because of what he believed in. All that he needed to do was to go to the temple, that was built for emperor worship - take a pinch of perfume, place it on the altar and say "Caesar Kurios" [Caesar is Lord] and he would have lived in piece. Yet he was unwilling to do so and exile was the punishment for this aged saint. What would we die for? What would we go to prison for? They are the truly high theological values that we must pursue in our togetherness.

Here is a list of theological essentials that reflect our sense of commonality: [I am intentionally steering clear of man-made groupings and categories. These are not scriptural and are very divisive and therefore unhelpful]
  1. A Trinitarian Foundation,
  2. The Inerrancy of Scripture,
  3. A Gospel Centeredness,
  4. Disciple Making,
  5. The Kingdom Advancement,
  6. The Spirit Empowerment,
  7. Believer Mobilization,
  8. A Elder Led Local Community in partnership with E4 gifts,
  9. The Strategic Role of the E4 Giftings,
  10. A quest for a model of multiplication,
  11. SocialTransformation and Renewal,
  12. Anticipating His Return.
These theological pieces are all loaded with prayer, discussion, debate and humility. Let us not ride our warhorse of theological preference, but find the weighty theological pieces that empower us all going forward.

Our Mission - Brother

  1. I John your brother...vs 9

   Whenever we engage these kinds of conversations, we are stuck between biblical accuracy and cultural acceptability. In our quest to walk through that fine line, we find much joy in John's language found in Revelation. His love for the 7 churches is clear and apparent. He does not feel the need to impose his role as apostle on them. Rather in true Johannine humility, he uses this language as he appeals to relational rather than positional authority. John is very comfortable to describe himself as brother, but this was a word forged in reality not a religious title.

     The temptation to default to business, pragmatic or religious models are avoided. John is building a family. Every word he writes in his gospel, his epistles and here in the apocalypse, builds strong healthy relationships modeling the very image of family. 

This is more than:
  1.   membership of an organization,
  2.   association in a network,
  3.   co-laborer on assignment,
  4.   friendships without mission.

The word John uses here “adelphos” - from which we get ‘philadelphia’ - brotherly love, the community possessed of this relation [It is fun to consider the letter to the church in Philadelphia] 

 What the bible speaks of is more than just ‘being mates hanging together’. Each of the more known apostles, uses this term to describe their understanding of their evolving story. 

Peter: “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God” 1 Peter 2:17
“By Silvanus, a faithful brother, as I regard him... 1 Pet 5:12
Paul: “Tychicus will tell you of my activities. He is a beloved brother and a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord”  Col 4:7
“Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss” 1 Thess 5:26

This was NOT a religious term. It is the family framework that leeks into every page of the text.
 There is a deeper call that is laid out here. This is more than, 
  •   membership of an organization, or denomination whereby loyalty to the tradition is the highest value;
  •   a network whereby the system provides the safety of connectedness as the highest glue;
  •   mateship whereby all things are incorporated or rejected not based on truth but on maintaining the friendship as the highest value;
  • a movement if left to its own energy can produce forward mobility  - the highest value is mobility but not the long term relationships.
The group that John is addressing has experienced the most dastardly of tribulation and persecutions. There is something weighty that is forged under these circumstances that deepen 'men' walking together.

Communitas ... happens in situations where individuals are driven to find each other through a common experience of ordeal, humbling, transition and marginalization. It involves intense feelings of social togetherness and belonging brought about by having to rely on each other in order to survive...communitas describe the dynamics of the Christian community inspired to overcome their instincts to ‘huddle and cuddle’ and to instead form themselves around a common mission that calls them onto a dangerous journey to unknown places - a mission that calls the church to shake off its collective securities and to plunge into the world of action, where its members will experience disorientation and marginalization but also where they encounter God and one another in a new way” Alan Hirsch

I want to be part of this kind of "brotherhood"
  1. It is loaded with a togetherness that is forged through challenge; 
  2. It is a depth of relationship that is a high value, like the Ozzie ‘digger’, the bonds soldiers form under fire, combat and death;
  3. It is clearly of divine authorship, God bringing us together, a knitting of hearts that withstand tough and combative circumstances;
  4. It is comfortable with uncertainty;
  5. It is fashioned by collaborative engagement;
  6. It has leadership in plurality, just like a family;
  7. It is parental in its model, seeking to raise up 'children' to “leave home”;
  8. It is strong, robust and radical,
  9. It holds true to the big picture and these family relationships do not separate over non eternity pieces,
  10. It empowers each church on her own unique story - not requiring all to conform into a single image, DNA yes, conformity no - just as each of our children carry our DNA but we do not require conformity;
  11. It produces authentic joy and friendship with the desired accountability...
  12. It is in for the long haul - that is what biblical family is, that is what biblical family does.

There is no desire in our hearts to build another way. That does not mean that others are wrong and we are right. Rather, it helps us define our distinctives, framing our story in a way that we see in the text and by the way we are wired - seeing life through the lenses of family.

So  if John speaks to these seven churches from the position of brotherhood, then we want to create the culture of Family  among the churches 

Our Mission - The Beginning

Our Mission
There is an amazing story similarity that draws us all together. Yes it is Jesus but many who thirst for Him are not here nor would they be comfortable in this gathering. So what is this common ingredient?

“We all believe that we can effect change, through the gospel, in ways that are different to days gone by.”

We are not Catholic, Lutheran, Wesleyan, Pentecostal... or any other grouping. Somehow, we believe God is on about new ways the old gospel can be displayed to a skeptical world.

Our conversation today is about “The Mission”

It does for some fascinating study - from Luther to Calvin, from Chris Wright to NT Wright, from John Piper to Alan Hirsch, from Alister McGrath to Tim Keller, from David Bosch to Ed Clowney... the quest to revisit the ‘mission dei’ [the mission of God] and see how it overlaps with the mission of the church, is a fun adventure in its own right. Just when that mist becomes clearer, then we have to fine tune ourselves further to ask, ‘within that conversation, what is our mission?’. That is what this paper seeks to discover.

Read Revelation 1:1 - 11

Revelation was written as:
  • a letter - John to the seven churches that are in Asia... vs 4
  • a prophecy - Blessed is the one who who reads aloud the words of this prophecy... vs 3
  • a revelation / apocalypse - The revelation / apocalypse of Jesus... vs 1
This is incredibly helpful as it is not written to one church but to seven, so we get some idea of what is important to more than one church.

It is also most helpful as we see a third apostle writing through the lenses of his apostolicity. So often, we tend to define the 'apostolic' through the story of Paul. What has been so educating is to have the conversations, not just through one man [Paul] or two men [Paul and Peter], rather by a remarkable man who brings a new set of lenses that Paul and Peter do not. John’s story has been so eye opening for me. It has helped me to see in ways I had not done before.

The ship is safest when it is in port. But that’s not what ships were made for. Paulo Coelo