Worth Repeating : Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer

worthrepeatingExtended quote from Stetzer and Rainer’s Transformational Churches.

“Most Bibles have several maps in the back. If you spent a lot of time in church services, you discovered those maps. When maps are included in the Bible, usually one or more of them trace Paul’s missionary journeys. Paul’s work was not just traveling from place to place. Paul traveled from people to people.

So how did Paul decide where to go and do his “mission work”? Paul’s choice to go was not random or accidental. Could he have gone anywhere he wanted to go? People are people, right? God is not willing for any of them to perish, right? There was nothing random about where Paul, the missionary, chose to do his work for God.

Every church is filled with people who are called to ministry (1 Peter 4:10) and sent on mission (John 20:21). Transformational Churches empower and release people to live on mission, with a missionary mentality, where they are right now – at the right time, following God’s activity and obeying His assignment.

Acts 16:6-10 gives us a snapshot of Paul in action, choosing (or actually being sent) to a specific place: “They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia and were prevented by the Holy Spirit from speaking the message in the province of Asia. When they came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, bypassing Mysia, they came down to Troas. During the night a vision appeared to Paul: a Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, ‘Cross over to Macedonia and help us.’ After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to evangelize them.” Paul’s choices were not random. Paul was a mission-minded man sent by our missionary God. There were three important factors behind where Paul went and ministered:

1. Time: Paul’s choice to go to Macedonia included another choice we seldom consider. It was a choice against going to Phyrygia. The Holy Spirit prevented Paul from going there. Paul had a limited amount of hours, days, months, and years. He needed to invest in the right places. He could not go everywhere at once. The assignment of God’s calling is critical to the Transformational Church leader. Transformational Churches understand that they must seize the time afforded to them in the community God has placed and given to them.

2. God’s Activity: God is already at work ahead of where He has called you. The vision Paul experienced of a receptive man from Macedonia was significant detail. God was at work preparing people for a church plant in Philippi. He was at work in the heart of a wealthy business woman named Lydia. He was preparing a demonized girl to experience freedom from bondage. He was even working in the life of a middle-class security guard (the Philippian jailor) preparing him to receive new life. To say no to Macedonia would have been to miss the incredible work of God for people who were hungry for more.

God lead Paul to say no to the right places. Where you pastor or plant a church matters to God because the people there matter to God. Your first calling is to the people of the place of God’s activity. He calls you to a people first, not to do the thing you do. The missionary mentality perceives how God is working in the people He assigned a church to live among.

3. God’s Assignment: God calls every believer to be on mission and an ambassador for Him. The what is settled. The variables are: Where? When? How? God’s assignment can be difficult and involves risk. Paul’s willingness to respond to the Macedonian call resulted in jail time. Paul never confused the Macedonia assignment with a promise of prosperity and success. He was clearly given an assignment and chose to obey. There was a place and a time where God wanted Paul to go and do something. Why? God assigned Paul to Macedonia because there were specific people in whom God was working and for whom He had a greater plan.

Paul is a great example of passion for God’s work. He spoke about the Philippians in these terms, “It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and establishment of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I deeply miss all of you with the affection of Jesus Christ (Phil 1:7-8). The missionary mentality demands a passion for God’s work because it is among a needy people.

A missionary mindset is focused more on geographic terms versus methodological terms. Evangelism, church planting, preaching, and discipling in Transformational Churches are a given. Adjusting their work to the community becomes natural.”

Of Church and Coffee; a Parable

Most businesses have a certain flow to them. Unique lingo, systems of seating, and flashy advertising are a few of the things that cause one to stand out over the other. Churches are no different. They have a certain flow. From the moment a person gets out of their car in the parking lot, they are confronted with the “routines” that we have put into place. We feel these routines help things move along a little more smoothly. It is not long after their arrival that they figure out there is secret “language” that needs to be learned. As a pastor I have always wondered that all of this looks like to the person who is coming to church for the very first time. Do we make things harder than they need to be? Could we do a better job of explaining ourselves? Could we be more “user-friendly”? I also wonder what it would look like if secular business conducted themselves like churches do. What would that look like? The video below is alight-hearted parable that answers my question above. While humorous, there is something painful about it. Enjoy. Leave your thoughts in the comment stream and we will discuss.

Missional Monday : What Others Are Saying

mmI am thankful for the many voices, resources, institutions, and ministries which are actively assisting the church and her people today to out a missional lifestyle. As our communities, cities, states, and nation evolve before our very eyes, it becomes more critical every day that the local church be the missionary for the gospel in their field. I hope this collection of thinkers and ministries will further challenge you to live mission lifestyles.

Read: Missional Moves by Rob Wegner and Jack Magruder. This book describes fifteen “shifts” that have the capacity to alter our understanding of the church and how its mission is carried out in the world.

Follow: Dr. Thom Rainer. Dr. Rainer is the president of Lifeway Christian Resources. He is the author of the books Simple Church, The Unchurched Next Door, I Am a Church Member, and Autopsy of a Deceased Church among many others. Dr. Rainer consistently publishes articles and blog posts that deal with church, pastoral, and ministry related issues. He is the consummate encourager. You can read his work here or give him a follow on Twitter – @ThomRainer

Meet: Heifer International. Their purpose is to “empower families to turn hunger and poverty into hope and prosperity”. Heifer brings sustainable agriculture and commerce to communities with a long history of poverty. This happens through the provision of farm animals that provide both food and reliable income in the form of agricultural products such as milk, eggs and honey that can be traded or sold at market. Families in turn pass on farm animals to other communities who have similar need. This sustainable income brings opportunities for building school and funding small businesses. You can find them here or give them a follow on Twitter – @Heifer

FYI: Statistics speak loudly.

According to the American Psychological Association, the top five ways in which teens today deal with stress are: play video games (46%), social media (43%), exercise (37%), watch TV (36%), and play sports (28%). What’s missing?

According to LifeWay Research, 46% of Americans say their religious beliefs impact their daily work.

According to Barna Research, 79% of practicing Christians say they want to know how their faith speaks to current issues they face.

According to LifeWay Research, 59% of churchgoers attend some type of small group Bible study at least once.

Out of the Office

The week that I have been looking forward to has finally arrived. Summer Vacation. My family and I will at the beach this coming week. I am looking forward to no meetings, no scheduled events, and no places that I “have to be”. Although I will be out of town, there will be still be activity here at The Road Less Traveled. Make sure you check back this week as I have scheduled posts dealing with missions, the local church, and relationships. Please share your thoughts, I look forward to talking about these subjects. Hope you enjoy.

A Little Help Please

I have been writing here at The Road Less Traveled since April 2008. During this time I have written on a myriad of subjects including leadership, the Christian faith, missions, the local church, family, books, Southern Baptist life, and community ministry to name a few. My purpose for writing has always been for the benefit of others. My heart’s desire has been that this medium I enjoy so much would somehow encourage and challenge those who find their way here. So, to everyone who faithfully read what I write, thank you. With that being said, I could use your help. In order to better serve my readers, please consider answering the following question. You may leave your answers in the comment stream. Thank you in advance.

Is there a subject that you would like to read more about here at The Road Less Traveled?

Book Review : The NIV Essentials Study Bible

nivessentialsIt seems that daily there is a new study Bible on the market. Each offers something special and significant that their contemporaries do not. Some hit it out of the park and some just strikeout. The NIV Essential Study Bible by Zondervan Publishers is one such new study Bible that, to be honest, falls somewhere in between. What does this Bible offer that others do not? More than what I first thought. The NIV Essentials Study Bible offers the same type of study notes as other study Bibles do. The unique thing about this Bible is layout. The NIVESB pulls information in from other NIV resources including NIV Study Bible, NIV Quest Study Bible, NIV Archaeological Study Bible, NIV Student Bible, The Great Rescue Bible, and the Essential Bible Companion. Combining all these resources into one location, the NIVESB helps the reader gain a quicker understanding of the Bible. Through eight different lenses, the NIVESB offers a new perspective to Bible study. The lenses include:

1. Flyover Lens: Each boom of the Bible begins with an easy-to-read introduction that comes from the Essential Bible Companion.

2. Unpack Lens: Bottom of the page study notes and in-text charts are included from the NIV Study Bible.

3. Dig Deep, Look Close Lens: Articles and photographs highlight the historical significance of the Bible, courtesy of the NIV Archaeological Study Bible.

4. Q&A Lens: Concise and easy to grasp answers to life’s most challenging questions are provided throughout using the NIV Quest Bible.

5. Important People in Focus Lens: This lens enables the reader to view scripture from the perspective of the Bible’s most notable figures.

6. Guided Tour Lens: This lens provides a “bird’s-eye view” of scripture showing how the theme and topic run throughout the Bible.

7. Insight Lens: These are magazine-style articles that provide a deeper look at the topic being discussed, courtesy of the NIV Student Bible.

8. R&R Lens: Reflect and Respond articles allow for deeper devotional thoughts utilizing the NIV Great Rescue.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”