GREAT infographic!!!

Top 40 Underserved and Unreached Places
Usually when you think about the “Top 40” what comes to mind is lists of the top songs played or other popular items that are sought after and prized. In one sense these places are no different. God is passionate about reaching each of these places because He loves the people who live there. But in another sense it is a bit different. These 40 places are not getting most of our attention and effort. How can we put the priority on these places that God does and what might happen if we did?

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What is the Mission of the Church- book review

What Is the Mission of the Church?

Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission,

by Kevin DeYoung & Greg Gilbert Wheaton: Crossway, 2011

Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert have given the church a great gift. Through an exegetically careful analysis of the whole Bible they give the church, lay leaders and scholars alike, an understanding of these issues that will help us all keep ‘the main thing the main thing.’ They grapple with ‘this whole issue of mission…the most confusing, most discussed, most energizing, and most potentially divisive issue in the evangelical church today’ (25) and give their answer to this vital question: ‘What is the Mission of the Church?’ Their approach is refreshing, since they are ‘…writing for the average Christian and the ordinary pastor trying to make sense of a whole host of missiological questions.’ (10)

The book’s three parts challenge the reader to consider varying definitions of common terms and to look to scripture for clarity: (1) Understanding Our Mission, (2) Understanding Our Categories and (3) Understanding what we do and why we do it.

Part 1 Understanding Our Mission

DeYoung and Gilbert ask some great questions, such as-

  • What do we even mean by mission?
  • Is the mission of the church the same as the mission of God?
  • Is the mission of the church distinct from the responsibilities of individual Christians?
  • Is the mission of the church a continuation of the mission of Jesus? If so, what was his mission anyway?
  • Does God expect the church to change the world, to be about the work of transforming its social structures?
  • How does the kingdom relate to the gospel? And how does all this relate to mission? (16)

Before addressing the mission of the church, they give this simple, working definition of mission—a task a person or group is sent to accomplish. In the section ‘A Correction to the Correction’, they laud the missional lifestyle, or getting out of your holy huddle, but they express concern about how missional thinking changes the conversation about the church’s mission. I share their concerns, especially ‘…that in all our passion for renewing the city or tackling social problems, we run the risk of marginalizing the one thing that makes Christian mission Christian: namely, making disciples of Jesus Christ.’ (22)

Part one continues with chapter two asking  ‘What does Jesus send us into the world to do?’ Before answering this by looking at the Great Commission texts, they look at some passages that are commonly used to support a broader definition of missions. Part one ends with a preliminary conclusion that the church’s mission, or task, is to make disciples. They clarify with ‘Though we do not believe that the mission of the church is to build the kingdom or to partner with God in remaking the world, this does not mean we are against cultural engagement. Our point is simply that we must understand these endeavours in the right theological categories and embrace them without sacrificing more explicit priorities.’ (12)

Part 2: Understanding Our Categories

This part of the book, ‘Understanding Our Categories,’ begins It’s never a good idea to make a biblical case for something—especially something as monumentally important as the mission of the church—from just a few texts. The bible isn’t just a potpourri of pithy sayings from which we can pick up a nugget here and a nugget there. No it’s a grand sweeping, world encompassing story that traces the history of God’s dealing with mankind from very beginning to very end. If we really want to understand what God is doing and what  he would have us do as his people, we need to have a good grasp of what that story is, what its main themes are, what the problem is, what God’s remedy to the problem is, and what it all looks like when the story ends. (52) I appreciate that before they look at theological categories they highlight the importance of grasping the whole story first. I have been passionate about reading the bible as one narrative, finding many benefits personally and in ministry. I had not considered that this big picture view is also helpful in organizing our thoughts about mission into categories. The authors choose four categories that most often affect how we think of missions: gospel, kingdom, social justice and shalom. In three of these, they discuss the definition and go on to compare different views. Two chapters are given to social justice, one on exposition and one on application. I appreciate the fair, scholarly exegesis throughout the book but especially in this exposition chapter. In the application chapter, they put forth some proposals for those involved with social justice. Learn what the Bible says about the poor and social justice, but do not undersell it or oversell it. Be careful with the term social justice. The call to love, rather than a call to action, is always  biblical. The authors believe talking in terms of love will make the discussion less controversial and therefore more profitable. The chapter on the kingdom of God is the heart of the book. After summarizing what the kingdom of God is with these words ‘So the kingdom of God then, we may say, is God’s redemptive reign, in the person of his Son, Jesus Messiah, which has broken into the present evil age and is now visible in the church,’ (111) they go on to ask when and how the kingdom will be finally and fully established. Again, relying on sound exegesis, rather than anecdotal stories and personal experience/passion, they make the biblical case that the kingdom is not built by human effort. Drawing from conversations Jesus had with the disciples, and from Revelation they conclude ‘The final events-the defeat of the nations arrayed against the lord and his anointed, the defeat of Satan, the creation of the new heavens and the new earth- it all happens when and only when, King Jesus returns in glory, and not before’ (113). They cite a lengthy quote from The Presence of the Future by George Eldon Ladd, on the kingdom, what it is and is not, including scripture references. They summarize with ‘…the disciples were not simply to sit and enjoy the fact that all  authority now belonged to Jesus; they were to go and proclaim that fact to a dark world that had no idea of that reality. They were to ‘witness’- not build, not establish, not usher in, not even build for the kingdom—but bear witness to it. They were to be subjects and heralds, not agents of the kingdom.’ (122)

Part 3 What We Do and Why We Do It

This last part suggests that a new category is needed between that of utmost importance and that of no importance, ‘The thinking seems to be that good works have to be motivated by the highest imaginable reasons—We’re building for the kingdom! We’re doing the gospel! We’re joining God in his mission! We’re spreading Shalom!—or else people will think they’re not important at all’ (230). They give the example of marriage, not of utmost importance in heaven, for sure, but not by any means unimportant! They also address the difference between what scripture says an individual Christian should do and what the church should do. Humorous examples are given that really drive this point home. Lastly, they point out that the church must keep the main thing the main thing. The danger is real. If we do not share the gospel—with words!—the story will not be told. Just as bad, if our priorities mirror the Millennium Development goals, we will be redundant. (220) Decisions have to be made; trade-offs have to be done. You have to decide not just if something will further the mission, but also how directly it will do so, and therefore whether it is worth doing when there are five other things on the table. (238) For the missions teams grappling with tough decisions I suggest they read and discuss the whole section in chapter nine ‘So What Should We Do, as Churches?’ Their main point is this: ‘Ultimately, if the church does not preach Christ and him crucified, if the church does not plant, nurture, and establish churches, if the church does not teach the nations to obey Christ, no one else and nothing else will’ (219).

Who should read this book?

Workers will find this book refreshing as so many ‘tasks’ present themselves on the field. One of the quotes from the chapter on the social justice would be well for missionaries to recall on their long days. ‘If we need fifty hours in every day to be obedient, we’re saying more than the bible says’ (172). Workers are encouraged to remember, whether directly or indirectly, that their main task is to make disciples.

Mission agency leaders would do well to read this book often, evaluating their fields for  ‘mission creep.’

Pastors should read this and consider if maybe they are asking their ‘Missions Leader’ to do too much. Church leaders should be clear about what the mission of church is while making room for individual’s callings/passions for other kinds of outreach. In light of the popularity of the contemporary missional movement, all Christians should seriously and humbly consider the questions DeYoung and Gilbert posit.

Lastly, missions leaders in churches should read this book and ask their elders to discuss some of the questions with them. ‘Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom and the Great Commission’ is exactly what is needed to responsibly, faithfully and biblically serve the church as a missions leader.

I have grappled with definitions trying to bring clarity to the task remaining. In order to raise these issues gently I drafted a handbook for my church to define missions and to guide the team in the difficult task of prioritizing mission opportunities. I needed a tool that would help us make decisions less subjective. I thought a rubric would do the trick but I could not define the categories. After reading this book, I have some new categories to help me complete the rubric.

I pray that readers will rethink their theological categories and consider whether their endeavours could more directly further the mission of the church, making disciples among all nations.

Reviewed by Pat Noble  for SeedBed Pioneers-USA.

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Why do we care about the rest of the world when we have problems at home?

It is time to address this argument.  I’ve heard it SO much I have to respond.  My thinking is this. Christ says that we are the light of the world.  If the true church shines its light across the globe, does not the light that shines farthest shine brightest near? I would argue that if an American or other Westerner that calls him/herself a Christian and reaches across the globe to alleviate suffering, but doesn’t act on a known need next door, withholding compassion, when it is in his or her power to do good, then that person, no matter how much they do oversees, is not a light, as Jesus defines his followers.  In other words I doubt their claim to be a Christ follower.  So the argument that Christians do this, assumes that the light can shine far while not shining near, an impossibility.  I am not suggesting Christians need to do equal amounts of ministry in their “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth” but that IF they walk by an opportunity to do good like the lawyer or the priest in the story of the good samaritan, they are not a true follower of Christ. If God calls you to minister to the homeless in the US wonderful!! Do it with joy and know you are where you are supposed to be!  Let your light shine bright! And consider shining further as he enables and directs.  Putting boundaries on how far your light shines would be putting it under a bushel, no?

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Hark! The angel, Harold sings!

My favorite Christmas carol is officially now “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” by Charles Wesley.  The words (and music) were so powerful, almost overwhelming me this morning as I listened, really listened, in a way it is sometimes hard to do with a song that is so familiar.  It was so powerfully moving me that I said to myself, shake it off Patty, it is a song, not SCRIPTURE!  But as I meditated on the words it seemed like God must have inspired Mr. Wesley, carefully choosing each one, as surely he knew how enduring it would be.  Try to read this without singing it.  Makes it less ‘familiar.’

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King,
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
join the triumph of the skies;
with th’ angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King!”

Christ, by highest heaven adored;
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
late in time behold him come,
offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
hail th’ incarnate Deity,
pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King!”

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that we no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth,
born to give us second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King!”

As I listened this morning I felt like all of heaven was saying ‘JOIN US!’  By the way, my second favorite hymn is “O Come Let Us Adore Him” for that very reason.  It invites others.  The more you witness God’s glory the more you want others to come adore, join the angelic hosts, proclaim him King!  My heart this morning was broken over those that have not heard.  Jesus prayed for our joy to be full and I think mine won’t be full until all have had an opportunity to see/know his glory!  Could that be what Jesus meant?  For my joy seems to always be mixed with a sorrow.

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Thinking on these things…the exile.

I am finishing up the book of Jeremiah and reading the parallel verses in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles.  It occurred to me that the removal of Jews to Babylon was a land redistribution of sorts. Only the poor were left in the land.  A generation would pass before the return of Ezra and Nehemiah and anyone who could claim land rights.  This makes me think that some major property shifts took place.  Undoubtedly some laid claim to grandpas’ or dad’s land.  God spoke through Jeremiah to Zeddekah to set slaves free as required on the 7th year.  It was done and then retracted.  Indeed the 70 years we a sabbath or jubilee of sorts that was long overdue. BTW that oft used verse “I know the plans I have for you, to prosper you…” was for a people, his people, God was leading into captivity!!  He told them to bless the city…BABYLON!! Wow!  Ever hear a sermon on that?

I am also impressed how God sent all of the ‘learned’ ones to be ‘servants’ (teachers?) of Nebudchadnezzer and his sons.

This story surely is not only about Israel and maybe not even primarily about them.

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That which I feared has come upon me

Two things happened that I’ve feared.  (Not my greatest fears, mind you.)  I told a friend recently that I’ve had a recurring dream about loosing teeth.  She, an X-ray tech or the closest thing to a bone expert that I know, said these dreams are very common.  Phew!  I thought I was being vain!  Yesterday my front tooth broke off AND with the arrival of my statement I discovered my card was stolen and I was over $2000 in debt!

Funny thing is that I can’t really get too upset about these minor things.  (a benefit of being a news junkie)  I’m not in the Horn of Africa right now, I don’t own any stocks or investments and my kids are not rioting or looting in the UK! I am not fighting to overthrow a dictator or languishing in a shipping container!

Some people think that what they fear will come upon them.  That God makes this happen to grow us.  I don’t think scripture supports this.  I think he is much more gentle with us that most of us give him credit for.  This is a strange thought coming from one steeped in the prophetic books right now.  I suppose the greatest and most common fear we all have is God’s judgement.  I agree with the late Mike Yaconelli who wrote a unique Statement of Faith (scroll all the way down to read it.) I talking about the Father’s love he says “…He’s also about justice with a capital J, but we’ll take our chances that, in the end, justice will feel like love.”  “Severe Mercy” is not an oxymoron.

I can actually feel God loving me through the embarrassment of a goofy looking smile and in his “I told you so” (I thought my credit card was just misplaced)

Oh, how he loves us! Does he use the things we fear?  Most definitely YES!  Does he make these things come upon us?  Probably not. Maybe sometimes.  But he IS always a  gentle father!

What do YOU fear?  Hand it over to your Father.  He’ll be gentle with you.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.


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Last Tuesday I posted a scripture  from the book of Jeremiah on FB.  I did not know that the very day I posted it was the day Jews mourn the destruction of the temple.  So on Tisha B’Av I posted God’s word to the Jews through Jeremiah the prophet.

Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’ -Jer 7:4

Now lest you think these words are about mourning the loss of the temple go and read the context.  God was SENDING a nation to destroy the temple.  He was saying to the Jews-don’t trust in the temple! Your time is up!

And today the 30 Day video was an excellent BBC video about the Dome of the Rock and the Temple Mount.  THEN someone forwarded to me an article from PMW that claims that Palestinians deny the Jewish temple ever existed. (I don’t think it is quite fair for PMW to make this claim of all Palestinians. Just as our leaders don’t speak for all of us, so the PA does not speak for all Palestinians.)

The temple is gone but the mount is still the focus of many pious people.  Even some Christians devote their lives to rebuilding it to bring the messiah back.

I did not set out to study the temple.  It just was part of my chronological reading that I noticed.  But it seems to be coming at me from all directions.  So I am thinking on these things.

Before you jump on the temple rebuilding bandwagon I hope you watch this.

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“Broken Hallelujah” and “A New Hallelujah”

Last week my cousin shared with me the name of an artist that brings her very close to a ‘religious’ experience.  This artist, Amidon, of Vermont, she says, does the ‘Broken Hallelujah’ song the BEST.  I’ve loved that song ever since I saw the movie Shrek.  (She’d never seen Shrek and I told her not to as it may ruin the song for her.)  I greatly respect this cousin so I looked for the Amidon version but could not find it. But I did download the Jeff Buckley version and found the lyrics. I didn’t know it was about King David!! The last verse is disappointing but so TRUE for many people. While surfing at Amazon I also found “A New Hallelujah” by Michael W. Smith.  What a refreshing song to follow the beautiful psalm-like song, Broken Hallelujah!  These two songs, listened to together, are so much like David’s psalms.  Very honest, despairing and yet hopeful!  My ‘broken hallelujah’ has been made new. Is your hallelujah broken? Watch the African Children’s Choir with MWS!  I hope you will join them in singing “A New Hallelujah!”

Here is a reworded rendition of “A Broken Hallelujah” making it about Jesus not King David. Enjoy!

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Which stories would you choose?

I am working on a list of stories that tell the biblical narrative as a unified message.  While this project is for children ages 6-13 it should be very useful for all ages.  Other than the careful choosing of which stories will be age appropriate, the teachings will not be different than for teens or adults. The chosen stories should…

  • express God’s heart for all nations
  • demonstrate God’s power as he uses it to glorify his name among all peoples
  • fit into a grand narrative
  • age appropriate for 6-13 yrs
  • result in a good grasp of the history of Israel AND the surrounding nations

I am open to your suggestions.

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What exactly IS the “Great Commission?”

It seems very embarrassing to be asking this question when I have spent two decades of my life as a mobilizer.  Have I changed or has the mandate changed or been rediscovered lately?  I am a little troubled (I recognize that to be made uncomfortable can be very good for me) by some of the ideas I’ve seen lately.   I am reading a book that I will write a review on soon but I am asking this question with all sincerity.  Right now here is what I feel pretty sure of..

  • God has invited us, the church, his bride, to be part of his redemptive plan for the world
  • This redemption can be seen in its completion in Revelation 7:9
  • We are to do this by making disciples of all ethne
  • We are to do this by proclamation and demonstration
  • Jesus said he would return after the gospel is preached to all ethne
  • His kingdom is here and also not yet
  • God is not done with Israel and they will have a special place in unfolding future events (not necessarily the state of Israel)

What I am not so sure of are these ideas…

  • God’s redemptive plan is to use us to transform societies, countries and nations
  • things will get better if we have a ‘Christian’ form of government
  • His kingdom will be ushered in by something we do (even ‘preaching the gospel to all ethne may only be a prerequisite and not a ‘trigger’ per se)
  • If churches just get this ‘missional’ thing everthing would get better. (Note I said missional not missions)

I’d love your thoughts.  Do you believe we should be working hard at changing cultures, societies and nations or does this happen as a result of the gospel going forth into these places? Is God waiting for us to get it right?  Am I missing the mandate if I think God didn’t lay out a ‘template’ out for us?  Am I simply a pessimist?

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