Month: February 2009

What does Missional look like in Metropolis?

I want to get a conversation going that I hope will eventually change the face of First Baptist Church. The question I would like to pose to get the conversation going is this, “What does missional look like in Metropolis?” Now before you answer that question I think you need to understand a couple of things.

First, what does the word missional mean? The term missional has come into vogue over the last several years. At first I thought this was just a fad and basically ignored it. But slowly, as I read more and more about how this word was being used, I began to experience a change of heart to the point that now I am a full-fledged, cool-aid drinking advocate of this word. In its most basic form the word missional is simply the adjective form of the noun mission. Simply put, “a missional church functions as a missionary in its community.” (Ed Stetzer, Comeback Churches, 4) Stetzer goes on to say that, “Missional churches do what missionaries do, regardless of context. They can parachute drop into a village in India or go into a metropolitan U.S. city and be missional. If they do what missionaries do- study and learn language, become part of culture, proclaim the Good News, be the presence of Christ, and contextualize biblical life and church for that culture- they are missional churches.” (Stetzer, 4) In simple terms then, a missional church views itself as being on mission with God in its local community.

Second, why has this term come into vogue lately in the church? Most pastors and missiologists alike would agree that starting about a decade ago the tried and true methods of growing churches began to lose their effectiveness. Something had changed in the culture and the programs and strategies that once produced growth were now showing signs of losing their appeal. Just in case you’re wondering this is about the time that First Baptist reached a plateau in our attendance and where we essentially remain today. What was essentially happening was that the church stopped being able to relate to the world it was trying to reach. Basically, the prevailing culture of the church became so different from that of the world we were trying to reach that we lost the ability to communicate effectively. Stetzer observes that, “It’s ironic that most evangelical churches are filled with people who live very much like the world but look different from it. It should be exactly the opposite. We should look similar to those in our community but act differently. Study after study has shown that North American evangelicals engage in the same lifestyles and sins as the unchurched. Yet, their church preferences are quite different that the world. In other words, we look different to the world, yet live that came as the world.” (Stetzer, 6) This observation may be why so many in our culture view the church as hypocritical and irrelevant to their lives. The missional church attempts to return the church to its original mission of proclaiming the gospel in culture by intentionally sending its members into the community as missionaries and making decisions based upon effectiveness in carrying out the mission rather than preference.

So now let me explain the conversation that I hope to get started here on the blog. Obviously, if we are going to become a missional church we will need to examine how we are going about the mission of God here in our community. What I would like to hear is a conversation about how to go about being missional in our city. In other words, being missional means that we do not go out and copy what someone else is doing. What works in Nashville, St. Louis, Atlanta or Seatlle is not likely to work here. Metropolis has its own unique and special culture. How do we go about proclaiming the gospel in a manner that is relevant to our community? Maybe, another way to look at this issue is, what are we doing now that hinders our effectiveness in reaching our community? In other words, are there things we are comfortable with that are out-of-touch with our culture and actually hinder us from effectively carrying out the mission?

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Prayer is the Battle

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12

Last week I began a short series of articles on principles of ministry.  In that first article I talked about the first principle of ministry, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you’re at.”  That principle recognizes that God will take whatever we surrender to Him, bless it, and multiply it to meet the need.  This week I want to give you a second principle- prayer is the battle.
The verse from Ephesians that I quoted above reminds us that we are in the midst of a great spiritual battle.  Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of evil.  I think that often we want to reduce our battle to the level of flesh and blood.  For instance, we want to make our battle against other Christians (i.e. denominations or factions within our own denomination), or against a political party, or even against the lost.  But our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual hosts lead by Satan himself.  Therefore we must fight with the spiritual weaponry that God has given us.  Paul goes on in Ephesians 6:13-17 to list the defensive armor the Christian is to wear into battle.  Each of these pieces of armor is important and every Christian needs to understand them.  But this week I have a different focus that I want to bring out.  I want to focus on verses 17-18 where Paul talks about the offensive weapon the Christian weilds.
In Ephesians 6:17 and 18 Paul gives us our only weapon- the Word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit.  In other words, the battle we fight we fight with the word of God.  But notice that verse 18 tells gives us the sphere in which we weild this sword, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints…”  In other words, Paul is saying that “prayer is the battle.”
Over the last three weeks our church has been actively involved in ministering to our community and we have seen the power of servant style evangelism.  But Satan is not afraid of a ministering church.  He knows that ministry can quickly become an opiate for the church, numbing them to the pressing lostness that surrounds them.  Ministry done for ministry’s sake is actually a hindrance to the gospel.  But when ministry is combined with prayer something amazing begins to happen. Satan trembles when he sees a church that is both praying and ministering.  Why?  Because he knows that prayer is the battle.
Prayer is the means by which the church acquires the Spiritual power to carry out it’s ministry for the glory of God.  Prayer is the means by which a small ember may be fanned into a flaming fire.  There is an old story that says on day Thomas Aquinas, the famous Catholic theologian, was walking with a student through the magnificent buildings which make up the Vatican complex.  The student said to Aquinas, “Look, Master, no longer can the church say to the lame man, silver and gold have I none.”  Aquinas replied, “Yes, but neither can it say, rise and walk!”  The church cannot rely on its tremendous material and human resources.  This is a spiritual battle we are in.  We must fight the battle on our knees.  Praying with all of our might for God to turn back the forces of evil in our community.
You can join us in this battle.  Begin daily setting aside time to pray.  Begin coming to Wednesday night prayer meeting (which we have recently changed to become and actual prayer meeting).  Get a friend or two to form a pray partnership or triplet and start praying together.  Prayer is the battle, beloved.  If we want to see our community come to Christ then we must pray until God moves.