Jesus. People. Place.

As I continue on this journey of life and ministry I was reminded this week that our posture in building a church, discipling those around us, and sending people out to do the same must be founded in and focused on three things. Jesus. People. And Place.

Jesus

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:2–5 (ESV)

Gospel-centered, Christ-centered, Jesus people, pick your description, Christians are meant to be “all about Jesus.” Paul says it here reminding believers in Corinth that that is all he offered, Christ and him crucified. A finished work of the cross. A Savior who died for us. Then the rest of the New Testament keep rolling with the same point.

As we preach him, as we center our life around him, he works, the Spirit empowers us and faith is birthed in us and those in our hearing.

The implications are broad but they are all a narrowing to that which is most important in the life of a believer and the church, Jesus.

People

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:18–20 (ESV)

While the introverts among us might prefer the Christian life just be “me and Jesus” he actually makes us part of a family or other people that trust in him. And the purpose of that family is to serve as ambassadors for Jesus, God making his appeal through us. Imploring reconciliation to God.

While it is easy in the Evangelical world to recognize the need “over there,” awash in statistics of unreached people groups, most likely God has surrounded you with people he loves and desires to call his own. So as you cling to Jesus, you notice the people around you and you love them as you have been loved.

May the Lord increasingly give us a vision for how much he loves the people we come into contact each day that we would implore them to reconciliation.

Place

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,” Acts 17:26–27 (ESV)

Finally, God in his sovereignty has put you in a place. While that place may change over time, while you are there you are meant to recognize your placement, proclaiming Jesus to the people there, and endeavoring for the good of that city (or town or borough, etc)

In the exile, God would tell his people to labor toward the prosperity, or flourishing of the city they were in. As those living in boundaries determined by God claiming it as our own, becoming a champion of “local” for the good of the people around us that they might meet Jesus.


For me, this works out as a steadfast determination to know nothing but Jesus as I preach, have conversation and disciple those in our church, Reservoir. It also means I want to clearly see they image-bearers around me and reveal my own need for Jesus that they would recognize theirs. All while loving the place I live, where I am called (Escondido is my hood).

It also means that members we encourage, leaders we train and residents we prepare to send out all have to be conditioned likewise, to be about Jesus, People, and Place.

Are you down?

Worthwhile February 22, 2019

February is coming to an end. It is always faster than we think. For many, the hope of Spring over the horizon is enough to warm your heart and even for those of us in SoCal, we wouldn’t mind some warmer temperature.

So this week let’s get real warm, in the love of Christ!

Two articles. On having a “Precious” and not being awkward when we think we are.


First from Sam Storms. A question: Is Jesus precious to your soul? I am preaching from the text he quotes and have been asking myself the same question all week. More than anything else, I long for Jesus to be precious to me, my obsession even. Are you on board? It’s worthwhile.

Read him here.


Next up before you clock out for the weekend, Andrew Wilson quotes Matt Smethurst’s new book on how sometimes (okay most of the time) evangelism can feel awkward and embarrassing to us. But it may be used by the Lord to draw people to himself.

Are you down for being embarrassed in order to share Jesus? It sure beats not sharing him.

Check it here.

Worthwhile: Missions Book Recommendations

Recently, my friend, we will call him ‘Matt Pilgrim,’ assembled a list of books he recommends for those interested in the mobilization of the church. ‘Matt’ has a passion for difficult places and longs to see the glory of Christ spread across the globe. I take his recommendations seriously and was struck that I have some reading to do! The list is broken down into helpful categories depending on emphasis. Here is his robust list of resources:

Biblical Basis for Missions

Let the Nations Be Glad! by John Piper
Absolutely essential reading for those unpacking God’s heart for the nations and desiring to share it. If I could only choose one to recommend, this would likely be it. The clarity of thought on prayer and on the necessity of sacrifice are foundational and should confront any western Christian with some real questions regarding our walk with God.

Finish the Mission by Various
This edges toward the academic, but is still highly accessible and brings together really compelling thoughts from current theological and missiological heavy hitters.

Christian Mission in the Modern World by John Stott
This is a classic that is highly compelling and not too long.

Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader by Various
This is a reference volume, but perhaps the most complete compilation of arguments for missionary motivations and methods currently available. This brings together articles and essays from across evangelicalism covering four topics: the Biblical Basis for Missions, the History of Missions, Culture and Missions, and Missions Strategy. (Because the physical book is huge, I prefer the digital version that is easily searchable)

God’s Love Compels Us by DA Carson and Kathleen Nielson
Compiled essays on the biblical basis for missions. Addresses the core doctrinal and theological issues that lead us to love the nations like Jesus.

Into All the World by Samuel Zwemer
An older book, some of which covers issues around scriptural integrity and trustworthiness that may be inaccessible to some. The second half, though, is a beautiful argument for motive and method in finishing the task of world evangelization.

Multiply by Francis Chan and David Platt
This is a powerful discipleship tool that walks through the Old Testament and – while not explicitly focused on cross-cultural missions – lays the groundwork for understanding God’s heart for the nations as expressed in the Old Testament.

Mobilization and Motivation (Going)

The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken
This is essentially a biography, but is a moving look at sacrifice for the kingdom and learning how to wrestle with the question “is Jesus worth it?”

Radical by David Platt
An essential book in my own journey that I would highly recommend as both convicting and accessible. This book forces those of us in the American church to wrestle with how we’ve intermingled the American Dream with the promises of God and, in doing so, have lost touch with God’s heart for the nations and how he grows us through suffering, sacrifice, and risking all for the Kingdom.

Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper
Not entirely missions focused, but a very helpful tool for self-reflection and discerning what we’ve allowed ourselves to value over the glory of God. The title sums this one up well.

The Missionary Call by David Sills
A helpful walk through the process of discerning a call to the mission field, including biblical, theological, cultural and other practical considerations with which each individual should wrestle.

Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung
This is not a missions book, but is a convicting and accessible read targeting millennials in the church who are “stuck” and perhaps overwhelmed by the opportunities and choices they have. Practical advice on getting started in obedience to God’s will with simple steps and stories to help.

Practical Missiology

Global Humility: Attitudes for Mission by Andy McCullough
Not necessarily the first book I would hand someone interested in missions, but this may be the most important book I’ve read in the last 5 – 10 years. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It helps a Western Christian to begin thinking like a global Christian and understanding the biblical model of humility in missions that is traced throughout all of scripture.

The Insanity of Obedience by Nik Ripken
Highly readable and worth a look if only for the fantastic stories. This book looks at the radical nature of pursuing obedience to Jesus among the nations. Some of the content here may be a little overwhelming to someone new to the conversations and culture around missions, but this is a great read nonetheless.

The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman
A straightforward classic that brings together the why and how of world evangelization by examining the discipleship model of Jesus.

I Am Going by Daniel Akin
A helpful look at the basics of aligning our hearts with God’s mission that includes a biblical basis for going to the nations, the role of the local church in missions, and practical steps for pursuing mission.

Apostolic Church Planting by JD Payne
A practical manual on planting churches where there are no believers. This is a bit technical, but can start opening hearts and eyes to the ecclesiological variance present around the world that may look strange to us, but remains fundamentally biblical across cultures and geographies.

Tradecraft: For the Church on Mission by Caleb Crider, et al
This book captures very practical missiological tools used in cross-cultural missions work and translates them back into principles and tools for the local church. A helpful read for local church leaders in particular.

Speaking of Jesus by Carl Medearis
A very accessible read on demystifying practical evangelism. Medearis brings experience as a worker in the Muslim world back to the US to offer practical tools for sharing Jesus with friends, neighbors, and family.

Miraculous Movements by Jerry Trousdale
Another potentially overwhelming read for those new to the missions conversation, but this is an eye-opening look at how God is building his church in places many would find it difficult to imagine there being any gospel fruit. This focuses on Muslim people groups but helps paint a picture of how God works differently and powerfully among different peoples.

Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes by Richards and O’Brien
A helpful introduction to learning to be self-reflective in how we consume scripture with a focus on our preoccupation with western ethics, morality, and philosophy that may force us to miss much of what a bible story may be communicating.

Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures by Jayson Georges
On the more technical/specific side, this is a solid entry into the honor-shame dynamic which is essential to understand before working in any context outside of the western world.

Business as Mission by Michael R. Baer
An introduction to the concepts around business as mission that can open up people’s thinking on “what” or “who is a missionary?” Also helpful theologically in breaking down the sacred-secular divide that keeps us thinking that business is a less holy or less important role in God’s Kingdom.

The Local Church and Missions (Sending)

Operation World by Jason Mandryk
A definitive prayer guide to the nations that includes prayer guides for every country and people group around the world. This book, along with the associated online resources, can help guide both individuals and whole churches into praying for and sharing God’s heart for the nations.

When Missions Shapes the Mission by David Horton
A good read for local church leaders to help reflect on the alignment of their local church strategy and culture with God’s purpose for the church to bless all nations with Jesus. An exciting way to think about building the local church around God’s global mission.

Gaining by Losing by JD Greear
A solid argument for building a local church culture that builds leaders and sends them out on mission.

Strangers Next Door by JD Payne
A practical look at why and how the local church can minister to the nations locally. Good context on opening our eyes in our own context to how God is “shaking the nations” to bring them in contact with the body of Christ.

When Everything is Missions by Denny Spitters
A challenge to church leaders to think about how they communicate about missions in the local church and the implications of certain choices that have to be made in building a sending culture.

Missionary Biographies

Through Gates of Splendor by Elizabeth Elliot
The life and death of missionary Jim Elliot and his partners in South America. Easy to miss the valuable lessons in intentionality in preparation, prayer, language acquisition, etc in the shadow of the killing at the end.

CT Studd: Cricketer and Pioneer by Norman Grubb
One of my personal favorites. A winsome, highly-quotable, larger-than-life evangelist who laid it all in the line for the Kingdom over and over again. His poetry (sampled in the book) is also convicting and occasionally hilarious.

Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor
An inspirational biography of one of the fathers of modern missions, who resolved to take the gospel to inland China. His intentionality in cross-cultural adaptation and massive personal sacrifices are a beautiful testimony to a life poured out for the nations.

Peace Child by Don Richardson
An important and very accessible book on the concept of the redemptive analogy – or finding the key that unlocks the truth of the gospel in a specific culture. An entertaining read regardless but much to be learned from this story for future practitioners.

Andrew Fuller: I Will Go Down if You Will Hold the Rope by John Piper
A powerful testimony to the importance of a local church that is purposeful and sacrificial in sending missionaries to the nations.

We Died Before We Came Here by Emily Foreman
A beautiful contemporary story of sacrifice in North Africa. This is particularly accessible because of the “average joe” appeal of the couple on which the story focuses. They emerge from broken families and complex lives to be used powerfully and sacrificially in building God’s Kingdom.

The Life and Diary of David Brainerd by Jonathan Edwards
This is not an overly accessible read (and it can really drag on at points), but a powerful testimony to a short life poured out for Christ to be known among enemies.

Samuel Zwemer: The Burden of Arabia by Janet and Geoff Benge
A short book on the life of Zwemer, who labored for decades in the Middle East with little fruit to show for it. He patiently and sacrificially laid the groundwork for future ministry to unreached Muslims in Arabia.

This is quite the list and represents a full missions library. May we take up and read… and go!

Called to Ministry

I took the day to read Edmund Clowney’s Called to the Ministry and it was a little book of good reminders as I process how all Christians are called to ministry.

I am further challenged to think that the “fruit” Jesus is talking about in John 14 & 15 is that of an evangelistic nature. He is sending his men out to make disciples and enlarge the kingdom – their fruit is those added to Christ in belief. This is the call then for all believers – to be about fruit of salvation, a fruit others enjoy as they meet Christ.

Some of us may be called to vocational ministry as well and by no means is this a more important call or one that holds all the responsibility to share the gospel. Instead it is a call of equipping, living in such a way that believers around us are prepared to evangelize and truly live the gospel. Vocational ministers are the example not the exclusive worker.

What does your ministry look like and why have you been denying your call to it? These are questions the believer must answer daily as we live to share what we have…