Missional Monday: Missional Voices

mmI am thankful for the many voices, resources, institutions, and ministries who assist the local church in living out a missional lifestyle. The purpose of Missional Monday is to raise awareness and foster conversations around the need for the New Testament churches to be missionaries in their individual contexts. I regularly share my own thoughts on this subject here at The Road Less Traveled. However, mine is not the only voice. Because our work is a kingdom work, I want to connect the readers of this blog with others who are speaking about missional living. I hope this collection of thinkers and ministries will further challenge you to live a missional lifestyle.

Read:  Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive by Thom Rainer. Autopsy is a short, but powerful book based on interviews that Rainer conducted with the staff/leadership 12 closed churches. Through these personal interviews he identified trends and symptoms of dying churches: lack of evangelization, inward focus, lack of prayer, and failure to budget for mission work, etc.  Rainer’s hope is that the autopsy conducted on the 12 dead churches will aid current churches in recognizing similar symptoms and make the necessary adjustments before it’s too late. Along with highlighting symptoms that lead to the death of the 12 churches, he provides suggestions on how churches can reverse the dying process.

Follow:  Henry Criss. Henry is the Lead Pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Ridgeland, SC. Henry is a good friend of mine and is currently in a replanting work at Faith. His approach to the work necessary to revitalize a church whose doors were near closing is encouraging and insightful. You can follow him on Twitter – @HenryCriss

Get to Know: Clubhouse Guatemala. Clubhouse is a Christ centered ministry founded in 2008 whose focus is making a difference in the lives of children and adults through block parties, shoe distribution, face painting, Vacation Bible School, and other visible demonstrations of Christ’s love. Clubhouse also assists with discipleship and education and provides many physical needs including medical/dental, water filters, school supplies, and much more. Clubhouse’s focus is meeting the physical needs so they may to earn the right to meet the spiritual needs of adults and children. I am thankful that First Baptist Perry partners with Clubhouse Guatemala and sends mission teams annually.

Top 10 Reasons Why I Love Sunday School – Part #2

Yesterday I began writing on the top 10 reasons why I believe in Sunday School. I shared the first five reasons: entry, relationships, education, accountability, and potential. I want to finish today with reasons six through ten.

6. FunctionI believe healthy Sunday Schools make healthy churches. A healthy Sunday School looks and functions like a small congregation. The church has five over-arching purposes: worship, fellowship, discipleship, evangelism, and ministry. A healthy church has a balance of all five. Sunday School classes take on these functions as well. As our Sunday School classes begin to share the gospel through evangelism, prepare the people’s heart for worship, serve others through ministry, spend time with each other in fellowship, and take the growth of every believer to heart through discipleship, our churches will be healthier.

7. FellowshipAge-graded Sunday School classes allow Christians to fellowship together through common life experiences. It is critical for Christians to spend time together away from the church building. These times of fellowship are very important. These times of fellowship build a sense of community and offer a non-threatening way of inviting a lost friend.

8. DevelopmentI believe that Sunday School offers an often-over-looked benefit: leadership development. Within the Sunday School classes, there are positions of leadership on the micro level. Teachers, apprentice teachers, care group leaders, and outreach directors are just a few. As a person leads out on the small group level, it builds confidence and prepares them for areas of leadership and service to the larger church body.

9. EvangelismSunday School is evangelistic in nature. Sunday School is a great avenue for a Christian to invite a lost friend or family member for them to hear about Jesus Christ. Although a gospel message is regularly given from the pulpit, Sunday School offers a needed component. As a lost person sits in a small group, they can hear the gospel explained in greater detail and even asks questions about what it means to be a Christian. Sunday School is a safe and non-threatening environment for the lost to begin to explore the claims of Christ. Under the umbrella of Sunday School is Vacation Bible School which serves a major outreach event for children.

10. MinistryI believe Sunday School because real ministry happens there; both inward and outward. Because of Sunday School classes being smaller, a more aware and focused care for the members can take place. Inwardly, classes minister to each other in times of sorrow, joy, and need. Outwardly, Sunday School classes themselves can minister to those outside in the community through mission projects. When this happens at the micro level, the excitement and passion spreads to the macro level.

Top 10 Reasons Why I Love Sunday School – Part #1

I am a Sunday School pastor. What I mean is that I am a fan and proponent of Sunday School. Today, this open time of small group Bible study is being called by different names. Some churches call it Small Groups, rather than Sunday School. Some churches call it Cell Groups, rather than Sunday School. Some churches call it Life Groups, rather than Sunday School. The name is not as important as the concept. I want to share with you my top ten reasons I believe in Sunday School.

  1. EntrySunday School classes serve as an entry point into the local church. In Sunday School, an individual can find an entry point, an open door, to the church as a whole. An individual can determine the church’s mission, vision and gain a better understanding of what the church is all about; before committing to full membership.
  2. RelationshipsAs a church leader, I am learning more and more how relationships matter to people. Sunday School gives a person the opportunity to meet and build relationships with others who are at the same place in their lives. This small group time is critical in building relationships that aid in the removal of other obstacles and barriers.
  3. EducationWe teach the Bible in Sunday School. Paul told Timothy to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Sunday School is our primary time of corporate Bible study. Groups come together for an ongoing and consistent time of learning. While it possible to study the Bible on our own, Sunday School gives the opportunity to hear how God is working in the lives of others. We learn from their experiences.
  4. AccountabilityEvery Christian is first accountable to God. After that, each Christian should then have someone else to whom they are accountable. Sunday School offers this needed connection. It is in this small group setting that one can share their cares, concerns, personal challenges, and fears. When a Christian has someone who will be asking about how their journey is going, there is an increased effort in pursuing Christ-like lifestyle.
  5. PotentialSunday School has a wonderful future. It is flexible. As specific needs in our community are discovered, Sunday School has the potential to respond. Sunday School, cell groups, life groups, or whatever you may call it can go off-site and begin to meet the need quicker than the entire church can. This potential should move us to seek pockets of people with specific ministry needs.

Missional Monday: Be Careful About Missions – Part #5

mmResult #4: If We Are Not Careful, Our Sense of Time Can Be Assumed.

35 Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! 36 And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. (John 4:35-36)

The disciples had lost their sense of urgency. They did not understand that time to act was upon them. Jesus, as He most often did, used His creation to drive home His point. He drew the disciple’s attention to a nearby field which was ready to be harvested. To be “white for harvest” meant that the fields were beyond ready. In fact, there was a danger of the harvest being lost if action were not taken. To allow it to remain in the field would run the risk of losing it all. There is a spiritual lesson here for the church.

The time to act is now. In our day, we are staring into the faces of a harvest of souls. There are many today who are ready to hear. There are many today who are searching. There are many today who are waiting for someone to explain how they can find real lasting peace. There are many today who are searching for a sense of hope. We say we will share our faith “someday”. We say we will speak of Christ to our lost family member or friend “when it is more convenient.” We say, “I’ve not been gifted to share my faith.” We say, “there is plenty of time. We are wrong to assume that we have a day beyond this one. We are wrong to assume we have plenty of time. We are wrong if we are not living our lives in a sense of urgency. Satan’s greatest strategy is not to convince people that heaven and hell do not exist. His greatest strategy is to convince people there is no hurry. If we are not careful about missions, we will assume we have all the time in the world. The lost do not have the luxury of our false assumptions.

Missional Monday: Be Careful About Missions – Part #4

mmResult #3: If We Are Not Careful, Our Sense of Purpose Can Become Skewed.

31 In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33 Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. (John 4:31-34)

The disciples believed that Jesus’ trip through Samaria was a diversion not needed. Their priorities were out of order as they thought only of their personal inconvenience. His disciples believed His stop along the way was just a break to rest and nothing more. He took this opportunity to teach them about His mission. A mission that was theirs by extension. Jesus had said that the Son of Man has come to “save that which was lost.” Jesus reminded His disciples that He was accomplishing the will of His Father and finishing the work.

Jesus came to the earth for one reason. Did He teach? He did, but it was not His main mission. Did He heal? He did, but it was not His main mission. Did He come to challenge the religiously comfortable? He did, but it was not His main mission. Did He come to inspire the hopeless? He did, but it was not His main mission. Jesus came to this earth to die. He came to give His life a sacrifice and ransom to bring men and women, boys and girls, back into relationship with His Father. The church today has one mission and purpose: the proclamation of the gospel. Missions is the way of doing this by extending the kingdom through hands-on and tangible means. Missions cannot simply be something that we do; rather it must be who we are.

If we are not careful, our purpose can become skewed. If we don’t know and hold to our purpose, the church simply becomes an entertainment center. If we don’t know and hold to our purpose, the church simply becomes a social club. If we don’t know and hold to our purpose, the church simply becomes a shrine to past success. If we don’t know and hold to our purpose, the church simply becomes a building in the town that is no different than any other. Let’s be careful about missions.

Missional Monday: Be Careful About Missions – Part #3

mmResult #2: If We Are Not Careful, Our Sense of People Can Become Limited.

27 And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?” 28 The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, 29 “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (John 4:27-29)

39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days (John 4:39-40)

When the disciples returned, they were surprised to find Jesus talking to a woman. Why? The phrase “that He talked with a woman” is a loaded one. This should be seen in the context of the Jewish norms of that day. It was not judged decent or proper for a man to enter a lengthy conversation with a woman, especially in a public place. A religious man was to especially guard against this practice. Beyond all of this, Jesus was talking to a Samaritan woman. The Jews had no familiar conversation with Samaritans, men or women. For Jesus to ask a favor of this woman certainly must have had the disciples confused. In this very narrow snapshot, we can see an incredible barrier to missions. The barrier: An unwillingness to engage all people with the gospel; born from the belief that some are worthy and some are not.

The disciples had a hard time understanding that Jesus had come to be the Savior of all people. Jesus did not come to be the Savior of the Jews only. Jesus did not come to be the Savior of men only. Jesus did not come to be the Savior of the rich only. Jesus did not come to be the Savior of the religious only. Jesus did not come to be the Savior of the good person only. In defense of His ministry, under Pharisaical scrutiny, Jesus affirmed His mission by saying, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” If we are not careful, our sense of who the gospel is for can become limited. It is easy to engage people who look, act, eat, recreate, shop, and believe as we do. The challenge is to go to those who don’t share our value system. The challenge is to go to the one who mocks the name of God because they don’t know any better. The challenge is to go to those who were just like we were before Jesus saved us. Remember that person? As the story ends, the Samaritan woman believes on Jesus and shares what He had done for her with everyone she knew. This is the essence of evangelism: one hungry man telling another hungry man where he found bread. Let’s be careful that we don’t put an unfair and unnecessary limit on those who have the chance to hear. The bottom line is this: no one is worthy of God’s salvation. It is a work of grace. Share it.

Missional Monday: Be Careful About Missions – Part #2

mmResult #1: If We Are Not Careful, Our Sense of Location Can Become Habitual.

3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 But He needed to go through Samaria. 5 So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” (John 4:3-7)

John records something interesting here. In v.4, he made the statement that Jesus “needed” to go through Samaria. Some translations say that He “had to go” through Samaria. Why did He need to go to here? Remembering how the Jews viewed the Samaritans (with indignation and hatred), this would have been an unorthodox travel route. Perhaps His need was a practical one. Maybe it was simply the straightest line between two places. Perhaps His need to go through Samaria was a spiritual one. Maybe there was a despised woman living in a despised land whose despised conduct had been nothing to write home about. Perhaps she was His single reason for choosing this route. A divine appointment if you will.

As your read the remainder of the chapter, you will see that His disciples viewed this detour as an inconvenience. They were on their way home and probably had their minds set on the destination. The disciples had lost their sense of place location. They had grown comfortable with people who were just like them and could not believe that Jesus would venture outside the “safe zone” of Israel. This problem belongs to the Church today. We have become slaves to certain locations. We navigate between safe zones. Tragically, we have been guilty of putting certain locations, and as a result people, off limits. Jesus was teaching the disciples that no location was off limits. He was teaching them that no people group or nationality were off limits. If we are not careful about missions, our sense of location can become habitual. Same places every day. Same faces every day. Same conversations every day. Same results. The Church must stretch. The Church must expand. The Church must go to the places what are overlooked. The location for missions is a both/and proposition, not either/or. Let’s not allow our habitual routines to cause us to miss those whom the world has written off and pushed to the fringe of society.