God Directed Deviations

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The ‘Deacon Language’ of the New Testament is a Language of Mission.

165083439In the New Testament Greek, diakon- words like servant (diakonos) in Mark 9:35;

“And Yeshua sat down and he called the twelve and he said to them, “He who wants to be first shall be last, and the [servant] ( of every person.” (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)

and Matthew 20:26

“It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your [servant] (deacons)

and service/ministry (diakonias) in Ephesians 4:12;

“For the equipping of the saints for the work of , to the building up of the body of Christ.”

and service/mission (diakonian) in Acts 12:25

“And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their , taking along with them John, who was also called Mark.”

and administrations/functions/services (diakoniōn) in 1 Corinthians 12:5

“And there are varieties of [ministries]  (diakoniōn), and the same Lord.”

all generally refer to the carrying out of a mandated task on behalf of Christ’s authority. When the Apostle Paul speaks of the diakonia that he has received from God he is referring to his divine commission to bring the revelation of the gospel of Christ to all. So, on the basis of New Testament usage, ’diaconal’ language about the Church and the ministry is primarily a language of mission.

I say ‘primarily,’ because mission should predominate church activity. The reason we gather, worship, receive instruction, and so forth, is SO THAT we are equipped, fueled, and propelled into mission for the common good, through love, to the edification of the church, and the reconciliation of all things. Mission is primary over what most would consider ‘ministry.’  Mission continues to happen after, or as a result of gathering.  Church, or should I say ‘the gathering of the church,’ is mission’s respite.

A few Questions;

What is the difference, in your view, between mission and ministry?

Should ‘mission’ be primary or the center of church activity? Why or Why not?

If mission has become secondary or nonexistent in a local church , then what sorts of things have become primary?

Culture, Discipleship, Ecclesiology, Missiology, Mission, Missions, Short-Term Missions, The Church, The Gospel, Theology

Like God’s Manifold Nature, Mission Unfolds Too

11004722_10153158134500087_1343540905_nImagine an infinitely unfolding autobiography written on an equally infinite unfolding piece of paper where the author forever reveals himself.  The manifold nature of God is like that.  It gives me great comfort to know that God is manifold and that He will never cease to be so.  It has been popular of late to say things like ‘God is a sending God,’ ‘God is a missionary God,’ etc.  I think those ideas are true, but dwelling on God’s sent-ness without considering His manifold nature ultimately limits our missiology.  The Apostle John says;

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

This likeness or ‘similarity,’ is certainly not exhaustive because we don’t become God or gods, but continue in some process of forever growth throughout eternity because God infinitely persists in unfolding Himself to us. As I have been meditating on this, I’m relating God’s manifold-ness to mission.  One popular pastor is noted for saying that;

“Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more”*

There’s much to cheer in this quote, but ultimately I can’t accept that ‘missions will be no more,” because we simply cannot justify that idea with scripture.  Yes, the psalmist says “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.” (Psalm 22:27), but then what?  Likewise Paul the Apostle wrote about God’s mission to ‘reconcile all things,’ (Colossians 1:20), but again, then what?

I would rather say that ‘I don’t know what’s next in mission,’ than to say that ‘mission will be no more.’  With that said, I love looking at how groups of people move and how they are moved. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ (Acts 17:28) When looking at movements, and in particular, Christian movements with respect to mission, I often wonder at what kicked them off or why some persist and other do not.  Also, and to be clear, I’m not talking about  waves of emotional experiences and captivated crowds that bear no long-term fruit.

In looking at the most natural of movements, I like to muse about how plants grow.  Lately, I given much thought to spiraling plants.  Now, I’m certainly no botanist, but I think it’s a valid idea that I can learn a thing or two about God the creator and how things that he has created move, their purpose, and trajectories.  I’ve always loved looking at spiraling plants.  In my mind they’ve represented a sort of spring-loaded intelligently designed example of mission.  But, util recently, I think i’ve gotten things backwards.  I’ve looked at these plants as spiraling inwards in order to latch on to something and then reach outward and upward from there. There are some plants that do that.  But most, upon closer examination, spiral outwards, or unfold.  The picture in this blog represents one like that.  I suppose what I’m trying to get at is that the mission story is still being written.  We can’t, at least I think, get at the heart of mission by limiting ourselves to what has already happened.  We can, and certainly should learn all we can by analyzing the great movements in scripture and those of history, but if mission, or should I say the Missio Dei (God’s Mission) is like Him (manifold), then ‘forgetting what lies behind and pressing onwards and upwards to the high calling of Christ’ (Philippians 3:14), might be the thing to do.

In correlating Christian movements with natural plant growth, I’m wondering what valid comparisons and conclusions I can make.  And so, A few questions:

1.  Is mission, to you, a movement which is constantly unfolding or spiraling outward? Or, is it better represented in some other way?

2.  What does your gut say? Will ‘mission be no more,’ or is there something else?

3.  If God is a manifold and a missionary God, then how should that affect our mission right here and right now?

*Let the nations be Glad – John Piper (p.15)
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3 Words That Will Change The Way You Look At Mission Forever!

IMG_9884The words

“Apostle,” “Apostasy,” and “Resurrection,”

could change the way you look at mission forever! 

 Here’s why; 

 
Apostle (Apo-Stello) There are over 80 occurrences of the Greek word ‘apostolos’ (apostle) in the NT, mostly in the writings of Luke and Paul. The word is a joining of two ideas; the common prefix ‘apo’ (out from) and the verb ‘stellō’ which means “to send.”  In NT it is applied to Jesus as the Sent One of God (Hebrews 3:1), to those sent by God to preach to Israel (Luke 11:49), and to those sent by churches (2 Corinthians 8:23; Philippians. 2:25)
 
Apostellō seems frequently to mean ‘to send with a particular purpose,’ the force of apostolos is probably ‘one commissioned,’ and implied, commissioned by Christ.
 
It is reasonable, then, to say that all believers are apostolic-ally accountable for their sent-ness. (Luke 9:10) (John 17:18)  Even if we were to limit the Great Commission to a subset of believers, which I would not, we are still ALL ambassadors of the King and co-workers in reconciliation.  The Apostle Paul discusses the ministry of reconciliation when he uses the term “ambassadors” for Christ:
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20, emphasis added).
 
So the prefix “apo” or “ap” means – from, off, or away from.  Combined with “stello” – to get set, place things in order, arrange, and equip to be sent.
 
More simply put, ‘Apo’ (Separated out) & ‘Stello’ (to be sent) “Separated out to be sent,” is having a Christlike sent-ness and to be separated out like Christ, and sent.  “Therefore, holy brethren, be partakers of  the heavenly calling, and “consider” (meditate, dwell on, be infused with life changing thought leading to action) Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.”  (Hebrews 3:1) 
 
Apostasy (Apo-Stasia)  We already know that ‘apo’ means ~ “to be separated out from,” but ‘Stasia’ is where we get our english word ‘stasis.’ For you Sci-fi geeks out there, you know when someone is put in stasis, usually because of a grave or life threatening injury, they are immobilized, set still, and artificially sustained until such a time as something can be done.  To be in stasis is to be sedentary or motionless.  An example of ‘stasis’ from scripture is when Peter “falls into a trance” in Acts 10:10.  The word ‘trance,’ is ‘exstasis’ in the Greek and is most similar to our word ‘ecstasy.’ Of course, being held still by God and having all of our attention captivated by Him is a good thing.  But there is a fear that paralyzes one into an evil sort of ecstasy.  (Mark 16:8) 
 
We often equate apostasy with teaching false doctrine or rejecting biblical truths.  That’s part of it, but settling for that definition undercuts the seriousness of it’s more complete meaning.  If we take a second look at the word as ‘apo’ and ‘stasis’ together, then it could very well mean being separated out for the purpose of being put in stasis or immobilized.  In other words, rejecting sent-ness and embracing a sedentary state is apostasy.  Another way of saying apostate is “being mission-less.”
 
“Some will fall away from the faith, “inappropriately focusing attention on” deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, they will be “seared” (encased) (put in stasis) in their own conscience, they will “forbid” things and “advocate abstaining” from things which God has created to be gratefully “shared in community” by those who believe and know the truth.  They will “reject” the things that God has created for His purposes and sanctified to be received and “exercised” with gratitude.” (1 Timothy 4:1-4) Paraphrase mine…
 
Apostasy then, is sort of a self disfellowship that leads to being mission-less and motionless, an attachment to detachment, or an unsanctified stationary posture.
 Forgive me for being too geeky or should I say Greeky, but these thoughts were inspired by a conversation I had with my friend Tim Catchim.  It caused me to lose a lot of sleep for which I blame him and am grateful for.  Thank you for reading up to this point.  You can subscribe to this blog for similar posts and mission oriented discussions here.  But, here comes the “punch line…” 
 
Resurrection (Ana-Stasis)  The Greek prefix ‘ana’ means – up, back, again, upside down, or back again.  We already know what stasis means, but I’ll add that it implies ‘a sinful and willful motionless or passivity.’  So putting the greek root words together for “resurrection” (Ana-Stasis), it would mean rising up, inverting, returning, or coming back to a state of movement in life, community, and mission against stasis.  It is the opposite direction of apostasy.  It is the counter-measure to apostasy, and the solution to a sedentary, silent, and sinful stillness.  It is the appropriating of and the identification with Christ’s resurrection and ours.
 
You have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God…  Whatever your mission is in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (Colossians 3)
 
 
My fellow ambassador, live in a posture of resurrected, apostolic, and communal sent-ness and you will guard yourselves well from apostasy. 
 Therefore, holy brethren, be partakers of the heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession… 
*This article has been revised and updated from early 2013.
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This Quote about Church was Good until…

0f9283c52c5143d016648a2606d4d07e_zps3a730cecI read a lot. Right now, I’m reading, amongst other things, “Understanding Christian Mission: Participation in Suffering and Glory”  I keep bumping into quotes in this book that make me want to stand up and shout “YES!” and then get a bit deflated when the quote, or the idea, boomerangs back to church as institution, as place, as program, or as empty ecclesiastical calories. I don’t know, I could just be overly sensitive, overreacting, or just plain rebellious, but take a look at this quote;

“Some are sent around the world, others are sent across the street. However, all are sent as ambassadors and reconciling agents with a life to share, as well as a message to speak. For each and every one in the church, worship spills out into witness and witness leads to worshiping the Triune God. The local church is the place where worship takes place and where people (laos) are called to bear witness.”*

What about this quote wants to make you stand and shout “YES!”?

What about this quote, if anything, deflates you?

 

 

 

 

*Sunquist, Scott W. (2013-09-15). Understanding Christian Mission: Participation in Suffering and Glory (p. 310). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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The Church Acquires its Real Nature, Unique Identity, and True Vocation from Mission.

3leaves“The church is a community of faith. Under no circumstances should we lose this very concept of the church. Our Lord Jesus Christ did not establish an institution that came to be called “church.” He gave a particular mission to his disciples: Go forth into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature (Mark 10: 15). In fact the raison d’être (reason for existence) of our church, its true richness and real value is neither in its structure nor in its hierarchy, neither in its theology nor in its spirituality. Its true richness lies in its missionary engagement, evangelistic witness and diakonal action. We should remind ourselves that mission does not come from the church; the church acquires its real nature, unique identity and true vocation from mission. Hence a church becomes church when it fulfills its missionary calling.” ~ Aram K’eshishean

This post is the third in a series of posts that are designed to get your mission committees, small groups, cohorts, and bible studies talking about mission.  The first, “Two Churches, One City, Almost No Common Ground in Mission,” is an interactive scenario which can create a lively discussion. The second, “The ‘Church’ Only Exists When She Exercises Her Missionary Charge.” is a round table discussion of sorts with 3 questions at the end.  Feel free to tweet any of the short quotes above by hitting the ‘tweet this’ link after each.

Do you agree or disagree with  Aram K’eshishean’s quote? Why?