Dean Merrill, collaborating with Patrick Johnstone, recently published Serving God in Today’s Cities: Facing the Challenge of Urbanization. This book is a great introduction to our urban world and ministry today.
Three percent of the world’s population lived in cities in 1800. By 2100, 90% of the global population will live in cities. Most of this growth is happening in the Majority World.
And Dean Merrill notes that we are living in the first urban century with over 50% of the world’s population in the urban context.
In this episode of Strike the Match, Dean and I talk about this book and the urban world in which we live. Check out our conversation and share it with others.
One type of busy keeps you in constant motion. You are always going, doing, never stopping until you collapse in bed at night.
This kind of busy brings the praise of others, “Look at how busy he is!” But this kind of busy keeps you, and those you lead, in the status quo.
This busy allows no time for serious thought and prayer. It can also be an excuse for laziness. Oh, you’ll be doing a great deal of stuff, but not what is most important.
Remaining in the boat of status quo is comfortable as long as your world is smooth waters. But we live in the rapids and are approaching a waterfall.
The other type of busy gets more accomplished, has a multiplicative effect, and keeps you from constant motion. More is accomplished by less movement. More is accomplished by being still and knowing. This type of busy requires you to breathe. It is more focused and allows for reflection and prayer. And where there is much thought and prayer there is change.
This type of busy is dangerous. It causes a ruckus by pushing against the status quo. It sees the waterfall from miles away when everyone is saying “safe, safe,” and refuses to allow the boat near it.
If we recognize we must now serve lunch at 7AM, then we come to the conclusion: We must change the way we prepare others to serve in our blurred world.
Church planting training cannot remain as it is.
Pastoral training cannot remain as it is.
Seminary education cannot remain as it is.
Mission agencies cannot remain as they are.
And if navigating the change in training methodology is not difficult enough, we then have to recognize that many churches and institutions in the U. S. are just now figuring out how to sell 8-Tracks in a iPod world.
After prayer and fasting, where do you begin as a leader? Right where you are with what you’ve got.
Don’t wait for someone to show you how. The 4 billion remain.
Do you regularly tell tales? Leaders tell well the magnificent tales.
Paul did this (2 Thess 1:4). I do this.
“The lips of the wise spread knowledge” (Prov 15:7, ESV).
What are you going to tell today?
I drove through my hometown yesterday and saw a Taco Bell sign: “Lunch now served at 7AM”.
Why did it take this Taco Bell so long to figure out that some lunch breaks are at 7 AM, not to mention the fact that some people like tacos and chalupas for breakfast?
We live in a day of blurred boundaries.
Things shift. Things change. Structures adjust. The taco shells must now be ready to go at the crack of dawn. Eggs alone are not sufficient.
When I read this announcement, I could not help but think of the fact that the Church in the West still has not understood that the lines between home and abroad blurred a long time ago. We do not have to cross the ocean to meet someone from an unreached people group from Asia, Africa, or South/Middle America. Cross cultural work is here and there.
When will our missiology, structures, organizations, and strategies shift?
This Taco Bell was late to the game with their service. We have something much more valuable, but we’re still serving lunch at noon.
A stewardship of innovation exists within the Kingdom. We often do not think in such terms or recognize this responsibility we have received.
If Jesus is building His Church and we are filled with a dynamic Spirit, then change should be expected. We do not innovate for the sake of innovation. We innovate as the Spirit leads us into a world filled with numerous pressures and opportunities for the gospel. With four billion people in the world without Him, how dare we waste His time doing the same things over and over, getting the same results, expecting things to change, and refusing change ourselves. Doing more of what we know is not wise stewardship.
When He acts, we move, adjust, and rejoice.
We change. He expects it.
In this episode of Strike the Match, I talk about these matters and innovation in the Kingdom.
We enjoy celebrating Kingdom successes: record high for baptisms, new ministries started, attendance goals surpassed, etc.
However, leaders must be prepared for the controversy that sometimes accompanies Kingdom success.
The Old Testament told of the salvation of the peoples in the last days.
Jesus commissioned and sent His church into all the world.
And the Holy Spirit did exactly as promised.
Yet, not everyone was happy, happy, happy. As the gospel traveled across new frontiers, the status quo was shaken. The first Church council occurred because of the successful missionary activity of the Church (Acts 15).
We’ll celebrate what we anticipate. But be prepared for success beyond that–Kingdom success that upsets the norm. That’s the stuff councils–or special called business meetings–are made of.
Be sure to subscribe to my weekly podcast Strike the Match. It is here I (and frequent guests) talk about matters related to missions, innovation, and Kingdom leadership. Check it out on iTunes or RSS.
I recently did some writing on controversies in the book of Acts. Halfway through the book, the reader comes across the Jerusalem Council–a gathering born out of gospel advancement.
One of the fascinating matters about this gathering is related to James’ argument. After hearing about the conversion of the Gentiles, he looks to a minor prophet for guidance, not a Great Commission mandate from the lips of Jesus. Christopher Wright draws attention to this in The Mission of God’s People:
One could easily imagine Peter standing up to say to the critics, “Listen, friends, Jesus told us to go and make disciples of all nations and that is what Paul and Barnabas are doing. So back off!” But instead, James settles the matter by reference to the prophetic Scriptures. He quotes from Amos 9 and affirms that what the prophet foresaw is now happening: the house of David is being restored and the Gentile nations are being brought in to bear the name of the Lord. That’s where the story pointed, and that’s what was now happening (37).
The first century Jewish believers were experiencing the grafting in of the Gentiles. Genesis through Malachi was a sufficient foundation for understanding the mission.
If we did not have the New Testament, would we be able to teach our people about God’s mission in the world and our role as His people?
Of course, we have the complete cannon of Scripture. Yet, how much do we know about the Great Commission according to the Old Testament (even beyond Genesis 12 and 15)? When we talk about mission do we exclusively take our people to the New Testament? If so, what does that hermeneutic communicate to them about the mission of God?
The school year is almost over. Our church recognized graduates this past Sunday. This is a common practice among some churches in the U. S.. We asked our graduates to stand during the worship gathering, gave them a brief challenge, reminded the church to pray for them, and had a time of prayer for them as they plan to enter the marketplace or additional education.
While this is good practice, more is needed–much more, and long before graduation day.
Here is a PSA (Public Stewardship Announcement) that I often remind myself of:
Pastors, we must shepherd our members to the field. The stewardship we have with the students of our churches is a great trust.
Long before graduation day:
1) Lay the Foundation. Give your students the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). Teach them a biblical worldview (2 Tim 2:2; 4:2-4) and how to study and apply the Word.
2) Develop Disciple Making and Church Planting Skills. Yes, we must do this for everyone. Everyone needs to be taught how to make disciples. And since church planting is a small step from that (Remember, your church is closer to planting than you probably think.), we should teach them how to plant churches. Not everyone will be a church planter, but we will enable them to say, “I can do that!” or “I can help a church planter do that!” If our churches are only providing biblical knowledge, then we are only halfway there. We must teach students obedience to all that Christ commanded (Matt 28:20; 1 Tim 4:11-16), and this includes how to make disciples.
3) Provide Guidance Counseling. Yes, our churches must absolutely do this, too. It is part of the great stewardship we have received. We must call our students to marketable skills and degrees. Why would we ever leave one of the most important decisions in our students’ lives to the whims of youth, unbelieving guidance counselors, or peer pressure? If we have been giving them a vision for God’s glory among the nations and helping them understand God’s world, then we need to be shepherding them into the marketplace where they can make the most impact multiplying disciples and churches across North America and throughout the world. We must show the connection between their vocations and God’s global mission!
The United States and Canada contain the third and fifth largest numbers of unreached people groups in the world, respectively. Check out last Friday’s episode of Strike the Match ( iTunes or through RSS) to hear what some people are doing to discover and engage these unreached peoples.
Four Fields of Kingdom Growth is an excellent church planting resource. I am so thankful for our brother and sister who took the time to write this back in 2007. It is a doctrinally-sound work that was birthed out of praxis, not theory, and is being used of the Lord in an amazing way.
Some of you are very familiar with Four Fields. However, most people, particularly those serving in the Western world, are not aware of this manual.
If you have not read it, you should. And after you read it, apply it–yes, especially in North America. I highly recommend this work and reference it in my forthcoming book.
If you have read it and are using it, tell others about it. It is how they will come to benefit from it too.
Last Friday on Strike the Match, Dr. Bryan Galloway and I discussed the massive research underway to identify the unreached people groups in the 100 largest U. S. metro areas and 5 largest Canadian metro areas. Check out our conversation at iTunes or through RSS.