Gospel, Community, Mission

The Christian organisation 3D Movements recently changed its name from 3D Ministries I think to make its vision appear even bigger: the transformation of people’s perception and practice of discipleship and mission. Perhaps they wanted to show that rather than simply assisting Christian leaders in their ministries, the organisation invites people to be part of a movement, God’s movement, in the world. It is this big-picture-thinking – perhaps getting bigger and bigger the more we look at it – coupled with a recent talk by New York pastor Jon Tyson, that has inspired this post.

In 3DM’s new website the word Gospel features more prominently than before. Although I would say it’s been there all along inherent in the organisation’s theory and practice, it has been rightly brought to the fore and now sits alongside Community and Mission. Neatly, Community flows from an appreciation of the Gospel and in turn Mission flows from Community. I like how God’s grace is implicit at the start – it is His Gospel, instigated by Him – and flows through community and mission. Put these together in another way and you get gospel communities on mission or GCMs, as the website shows. I like it!

If these are the three core values then their key message of discipleship sits well with each. Indeed, the website tells us that discipleship happens in community, and specifically in an extended family. To be effective in the world, the extended family needs to be self-extending: it needs to be on mission, looking and acting outwards. The mission is to make disciples and the hope is that a Christian community will seek to further itself, to grow its numbers and multiply itself by making more followers of Jesus. This will be the fruit of a community’s healthy discipleship for true discipleship makes disciples.

So, the best vehicle for discipleship, 3DM tells us, is a community on mission. We should be disciple-making disciples and an extending extended family! Discipleship in an extended family shouldn’t happen in the form of a course or programme, neither is it about maintaining healthy ministries. These communities have the potential to be movements, joining in the worldwide movement of God. But is the movement really all about making disciples? If pushed and having to briefly summarise, I would say ‘yes’, but it is not as simple as that; it is also about a whole host of things: ecology, creation, development, salvation, healing rescue, beauty, justice issues, reconciliation and forgiveness, renewal, generosity, self-sacrifice and ultimately social transformation – the transformation of the world under one Head, Jesus Christ (it really is big picture!). It’s an inexhaustible list.

True, if disciples are made then these things will happen increasingly. Of course, that is the ultimate hope that everyone becomes a disciple of Christ, but what does that mean? The New Testament on the whole uses the terms believer and disciple interchangeably. When you first believe you become a new disciple. You are transformed in that moment and you begin a process of being continually transformed to be more Christ-like. Whether it initially feels very different or not, the fact is it has happened. On the surface it may not look it – it’s hard to measure – but transformation has happened and over time things will be different. The next question that one would naturally ask of the new disciple / believer / Christian is will you engage in discipleship? The Spirit will keep changing you but how much will you accommodate that change? And if you disengage completely, you may remain a Christian and a believer but can you be called a disciple?

But already this is becoming a distraction from the main point, and this is what I want to talk about for the rest of this post. What is the main point? This will draw us back to our starting place and the starting place of all things: the gospel. In previous posts I have outlined the gospel as best I can. Essentially, the gospel is that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Jewish Scriptures. In this sense, He is the fulfillment of a story. As a story it can be neatly summarised like Jon Tyson’s address: Creation – Fall – Rescue (Redemption) – New Creation (Re-Creation). Perhaps one could also explain it like this: Order – Disorder – Reorder, but the former summary gives us more detail, specifically how the Reorder comes about.

As Luke explains in Acts, the gospel is the good news of God’s grace (Acts 20:24) and God’s grace is at every stage of the story except the Fall (that’s our doing). So the flow of the story is about God’s grace and His grace is revealled at nearly every point. With such a gospel as this, one will be emphasising some things over others and this is what I want to get into now.

Much of our (evangelical?) gospel focus has been on the Fall and Rescue at the expense of the start and finish of the story. Our gospel has been as Scot McKnight would have it, a salvation plan. If you start with the Fall, your message is that people are initially and above all fallen. The problem is that people don’t know what they’ve fallen from so the message doesn’t make sense. Some may be able to discern a need for God to save them from perceived sin, whether their own or someone else’s, but many won’t. The second part of the salvation plan is Rescue – Jesus came to rescue you – but if you don’t appreciate what you’ve been (or can be) rescued from, the message doesn’t make sense here either. This gospel therefore will only appeal to a minority. It may be a large minority in places but I think if we were to look at the bare facts of conversion in the west, as I’ve said before, the results would show that either there’s something wrong with our gospel or how we share it. I would say it’s both. Even if we do share it as best we can, the response generally speaking in the west is discouraging.

So, whereas a Creation-Fall-Rescue-New Creation gospel (or four stage gospel) emphasises God’s action and grace in the Universe, a Fall-Rescue gospel (or two stage gospel) signifies a much smaller-scale outworking. A two stage gospel can more easily become about us, our failure and our effort to put it right at the expense of other factors. Now, of course, these elements of the two stage gospel are valid and feature in the four stage gospel, but fitted into the longer story, the full outworking will appear different. If we focus on the Fall it becomes about people’s failure and, as I’ve said, this is generally unrecognised in our culture if not more broadly around the world. The other danger is when we talk about the Rescue we can end up emphaising people’s response to it: you’ve fallen so this is what you need to do. Our gospel then becomes about effort or work to put things right or to receive Jesus as our Rescuer.

Our effort here is to repent and believe and then to live a life for Jesus and tell others about it, which are not wrong – indeed these things are vital – but an incorrect emphasis of these things (ie because of an incomplete gospel) can at its worst lead to a gospel of sin management (which inevitably leads to more failure) or it can lead to withdrawal. This withdrawal will keep us from others because of shame or judgementalism, or from intentional discipleship because it’s too inconvenient or too difficult. It will keep us from the world either to maintain self-purity or because without the Creation and New Creation parts of the gospel, the world becomes irrelevant. This gospel is at it’s heart about me; or perhaps it’s not that bad: it’s about me and you (singular).

Where is God’s grace in it all? I would suggest that God’s grace is at every point whether repentance, belief, living for Jesus or telling others because all these things are gifts from God. His Spirit is at work in people helping them to repent and believe, to live for Jesus and to tell others. The New Testament uses different words when it talks about people’s response to the gospel: repent and believe, believe, respond, have faith, be persuaded about, join, repent and turn to God and demonstrate repentance by deeds (see some examples: Acts 16:14; 16:30-31; 17:4; 26:20). Now, if we emphasise these things in the context of God’s grace enabling us to respond then the gospel becomes not only more attractive but also more accurate – and God’s character is revealled.

As the story goes, God’s grace is present in creation and the Bible tells us we are made in the image of God. Therefore, we are meant to be creators – even co-creators – engaged and at work in the world for God’s glory and for good. God’s grace is present after the Fall when he continues to love and act in the interest of humanity despite our rebellion (see the Old Testament) and then ultimately in Christ. Christ in his first coming enacts the start of a new age when all things are being renewed and joined under one Head – Himself – before He hands them over to the Father. We are in this stage when ALL things are being renewed towards the New Creation.

Our discipleship then as we follow Jesus is about our relationship with him and this will go forever wider and deeper. It is about us having the authority to enact the New Creation, to recreate and to reorder everything in line with God’s purposes. Our ongoing obedience is to act in line with the renewal of all things whether that’s the micro (people’s lives including our own) or the macro (world- and society-shaping events and processes) rather than merely maintaining personal purity or fulfillment.

Now I want to keep repeating that all the elements found in the two stage gospel are vital. I’m not discounting repentance and faith or Christ’s work on the cross and resurrection but these need to sit in their place in the story and therefore one would emphasise some aspects of these things more than others. For example, adhering to a four stage instead of a two stage gospel will most likely lead us to emphasise mission over evangelism. Evangelism is an aspect of mission so I am in no way discounting it but an appreciation for creation and new creation focuses on mission which is much wider and deeper than simply evangelism. Evangelism is about people coming to faith in a message; mission is about renewal of all things. Mission is about world and societal change which automatically has a collective quality to it. A gospel that is about mission becomes one that is about community, self-sacrifice and service. The renewal of all things is the renewal of everyone and everything. On the other hand by emphasising evangelism alone the focus becomes individualistic – transformation as purely personal and, more than likely, about adherence to propositional truths. It becomes about my renewal and your renewal.

Our response to the four stage gospel then is not only to tell someone about it but to show them in order to invite them into redemption and re-creation. In a previous post I talked about the five Ss of mission: suffering, saying, serving, sharing and the Spirit. They are the ways in which the Church shows society the gospel or the story of Scripture. Four out of these five Ss are action- rather than words-oriented. This is appropriate because a gospel only shared by words can only go so far. Even our words don’t have to be simply about speaking face to face; they can come across in a variety of helpful media: film, drama, art, books and music, and with the Internet, ever more widely and powerfully.

As the Church, our response as a community (as 3DM would have it) is to base ourselves around social transformation (ie mission) rather than ritual. With a firmer grasp of the four stage gospel, which includes redemption through to re-creation, we will appreciate more fully Christ’s headship over all things – the stage, I might add, in which we currently play a part. If we view creation under Christ’s power and authority then we’ll view every aspect of society as being drawn under the rule of Christ; what you do in the world is part of the movement of God. Your function in society therefore is extremely relevant. You can choose to see society as becoming part of God’s Kingdom, that is, his authority and power through us who believe. All sectors of society whether education, law, politics, business, government, religion, charities, technology, health, leisure and sport are being used and renewed for His glory.

So, more practically, because the home is the place of recreation, rest and family then it’s a key place for God’s people as the extended family on mission to step out in authority to show their neighbourhoods the four stage gospel, the story of Scripture. Because in a healthy society its social systems such as education, health care, social enterprise, sports and other social activities (underpinned by law and government) are about making society a better place then the four stage gospel will naturally connect. We do all this in the way Jesus showed us – and continues to show us. An appreciation for Christ’s rule will lead us to recognise that He has done it – He has won the victory for the Kingdom.

Church therefore becomes a celebration of re-creation. It’s all celebratory – whether that’s communion, testimony-sharing, the baptism of new believers, making right relationships, having hope despite loss, music and prayer, the use of spiritual gifts, and people being healed and reaching their full potential. Surely, since Church in it’s healthiest expression is community, then what better thing to have at the heart of community than celebration! And people will be drawn to such a community and will become disciples, whether gradually or quickly. This is the trend both now and forever: a movement towards full redemption and re-creation. Imagine society continuing redeemed after Jesus’s return. How will the Church spend its time with this ending in mind?

Covenant and Kingdom Part 4: Implementing Values

How to implement the values already discussed:

  1. Run a teaching and community study series on Covenant and Kingdom. Also look at the history of monasticism with reference to current monastic expressions in the west in order to see examples of rules of life. Include opportunities for Q & A and discussion.
  2. Community leadership training event. Look at:
    1. Commitment
      1. Share the idea of a statement that encapsulates the agreed commitment of a community to one another. Remember the statement can be as long or as short as people like. It’s about prioritising attendance but also commitment to the overriding principle/s of the group.
      2. Time period. What length of time will people commit to – a year? Until the group multiplies? Until an individual leaves? When would that be?
  3. Rule of Life. This, along with commitment, is what will help the group become distinct and authentic out of love for God so that the world may know. Mission is the outcome of a healthy rule of life.
    1. Language. In one respect, after the teaching series the community already has a basic form of language in covenant and Kingdom (Remember too: Father, identity, obedience, King, authority and power). This language is a Bible-reading tool. With practice all members can effectively study and apply the Bible by discerning covenant and Kingdom on the pages. What else could form the language of the community?
    2. Rhythms. The community could decide on the following:
  • Frequency of meeting?
  • Seasons of group mission?
  • Meeting structure: Bible? Prayer? Other?
  • Spiritual disciplines? (Personal or corporate). Fasting (Lent), prayer (for healing), serving, giving, tackling spending habits?
  1. Once each community or mini-community has established commitment and the beginnings of a rule of life, meet again for community leadership training. Look together at challenges: individualism, pressures from the surrounding culture, societal expectations. Discuss ways to maintain a healthy, distinct community based on the values in this series.
  2. Establish a rhythm for community leaders to meet (once every 2-3 months?). Raise up leaders who will meet with and train community leaders.

Covenant and Kingdom Part 3: Discipleship and Language

When developing a rule of life, you need a language. The starting point is Jesus. How did Jesus disciple people? He talked about the Kingdom. He used the terms ‘repent’ and ‘believe’. He showed his relationship to his Father in Heaven. He invited people into relationship with him but also challenged them when they thought or acted in the wrong way. He modelled all aspects of human behaviour: prayer, understanding Scripture, socialising, teaching, raising leaders, dealing with opposition, vulnerability. He showed his attitude to sickness (he healed everyone). He used what I call the five Ss, which we’ll come to later.
The next question to ask is how do you disciple people? What might that look like? What can you sustain? If you are already discipling people and you are aware of what you say and do, you will have a language and preferred rhythms. You may not have thought about it but they are there. What are they?
So let’s give an example of a discipling language as part of a rule of life:
1. We start with commitment. Say you invite people to commit to each other to meet once a fortnight for an hour, and your commitment is to using the five Ss to process life together.
2. Let’s look at a Kingdom rule of life. The first thing is
a. Language – prayerfully create your own or copy someone else’s.
i. A key word you could use is ‘Gospel’. It is after all at the core of what we’re about. (To see what I mean by this read my posts in the section entitled, ‘Gospel’).
ii. The Gospel is the true story of Scripture and we as the Church can show it through the five Ss, five compelling signs of the Gospel, and this is mission:

 Suffering – how we suffer will draw people to Jesus
 Saying – when we ‘speak the truth in love’ people are drawn to Jesus
 Serving – when we serve one another and those we don’t know well, people are interested.
 Sharing – when we share our time, possessions, lives with the Church and with those we don’t know well it intrigues people.
 Spirit – the signs and wonders done by the Person of the Holy Spirit among us and through us are evidence of God’s presence. When people encounter God’s Spirit they know he is there.

These are the five Ss, suffering, saying, serving, sharing and Spirit. A good way to remember them is to look at your left hand. I think of suffering as the little finger because it is the smallest and you feel small and weak when you suffer. I think of saying as the ring finger because if you’re married you have a ring on that finger that reminds you of your marriage vows that you have said to your spouse. I think of serving as the middle finger. It is the tallest and those who humble themselves in service by making themselves the smallest are in fact the tallest – this is what Jesus taught. I think of sharing as the index finger. It’s for pointing and when we share we point to our possessions and say ‘These are yours’. I think of the Spirit as the thumb because it’s different and it’s thicker. The Spirit is different from us yet chooses to make his home in us. The thumb is strong as is the Spirit.

The purpose of the five Ss is to transform another S: Society. The story of Scripture is shown through the Church’s suffering, saying, serving, sharing, and through the Spirit. The outcome is social transformation.
So how do we use the five Ss as our discipling language, as our rule of life? In that hour of meeting you ask each other or the leader asks how you’re doing with them. How are all five? You could focus on one of them each time. Where am I strong or weak? Where’s the stretch? What’s difficult right now? Then read relevant passages from Scripture and pray together and for each other.

I’ll give an example of a community: someone I know has set up a boxing club. The commitment is £5 for each person who comes along for an hour’s training. What’s the rule of life? Well, currently there isn’t one you can point to but the Kingdom is advancing there. If we think of the five Ss, sharing is the one thing that is happening. The believers are sharing their time and their passion for boxing with those who don’t believe. Through sharing the Kingdom is extended and people are invited into the community of God’s people. They may not know it yet (in fact, they don’t) but this is the way things could play out if the believers remain faithful in sharing.

What else could the believers do? Looking at the five Ss (their discipling language that they could all have in common), in the rest of the week they could pray for the Spirit to come and change the other’s lives. They could pray for an opportunity to say something. They could serve or help the others in some way.

Your language needn’t be the five Ss or Lifeshapes. Develop your own. What might it look like? Start by looking at what Jesus did in the gospels then look at your own values and capabilities and see where it leads.

b. The second thing is rhythms. What rhythms are helpful for the community? In the above example, there could be the rhythm of going through each of the five Ss. Another example is this: at the moment I have been trying to engage more with prayer. On each day I pray for something specific. So on Mondays I pray for my extended family, on Tuesdays I pray for my wife’s family, on Wednesdays I pray about my workplace, on Thursdays I pray about the future and so on. Fortunately, because of the freedom I have in my work I can sometimes find time to pray for 5 minutes in the day. If it’s not too busy I pray at 9.15am, 12pm and 3pm. At 9.15am I like to see my prayer time then as praying for a deeper relationship with God. At 12pm, I pray for the people I work with. At 3pm, I pray that I may be effective at mission. These are three distinct categories that I can focus on in prayer – if only for 5 minutes. This doesn’t happen every day, it may only be for a season, but it is an example of a rhythm that members of a community could adopt.

Covenant and Kingdom Part 2: Mini-Communities, Commitment and Rule of Life

Re-framing Community

When we think of community we think of a large group of people but the reality is that many communities that are part of a church are very small – whether small groups or triplets or something similar. It might be more helpful then to think of ‘mini-communities’ rather than ‘communities’ because they are smaller than the body of people that gathers on a Sunday. When not at church on a Sunday, these are the communities where individuals find belonging and identity. They are the communities where people talk about work, share their life, reflect on the wider church and in some instances engage in mission.

In larger churches, mini-communities act like a family since larger congregations can feel like a crowd where people struggle to find belonging. This is not to say that people don’t find community in large gatherings but neither should a group be discounted as a community because it is comparatively small. It is these mini-communities that serve an important role when church-goers are not at church on Sundays. Church-goers should be sent out, not merely as individuals, but as smaller communities.

Mini-communities therefore offer great potential but they can also be hindered by a lack of personal commitment and purpose. Generally, a lack of commitment and a fuzzy understanding of purpose are common elements for Generation Y (those in their twenties and thirties). This is in stark contrast to biblical times. The disciples were committed to following Jesus and he was committed to them. He had a clear purpose and they too understood the purpose of their discipleship – to follow and learn from their Rabbi. The purpose was the work of the Kingdom. As time went on that purpose became clearer and clearer. Both the expectation of commitment and a purpose were there from the beginning. What was achieved by the time of Jesus’s departure came in part from a community dynamic which was heavily influenced by this powerful combination. How then can we help Gen Y discover commitment and purpose in order to make the most of community?

In our western context, we will need to work harder at calling for commitment and setting a clear purpose. I propose that all those invited into a form of mini-community are also called to commitment to the group and to share a common Rule of Life. This need not be formal; in fact, it might be more appropriate for this to be an informal, ‘caught’ culture rather than something written down. Some groups might find clearly stated expectations helpful, others might not.

So, mini-communities need to establish two things and in this order:

1.       Covenant commitment.

 This means a commitment to one another: to attend group meetings, to pray for, to care for and to meet regularly with one another. God has made a covenant with us from whom we draw our identity and to whom we are obedient. Obedience to God
will shape the group.

 Group members’ commitment to the group should shape their identity as a covenant community. Our identity comes from God but it is shaped by living as part of the church. What we achieve through community and how intentional we are with it are closely related. Counter-culturally, particularly for us in the West as the church we should prioritise community over individual identity. This does not mean discounting the individual; it means we will need to work harder at community.

Commitment can be caught or taught. If taught, it might be helpful to have something written down, a statement that everyone can commit to. This could come from the community itself after a brainstorming session and then simplified or it could be instigated by the leadership. Included in the statement there should be a time period. An individual will commit to being part of this community for a specific period of time (usually until the group multiplies or an individual moves on). A statement will make this commitment conscious for all involved.

 

Covenant commitment is WHAT WE ARE ABOUT.

 

It’s about our BEING.

 

 It’s about WHAT WE ARE COMMITTED TO.

 

For example, a huddle has a covenant commitment of a year, meeting for an hour and a half every two weeks at a certain time. It’s about discipleship, re-producing/multiplying and Kingdom. Huddle members commit to these things before they join the huddle.

 

A small group might meet every two weeks. It will be about community, ‘family’ and friendship. Small group members generally commit to these things. They may not consciously think of these things but they value them.

 

So, what are you committed to as a community? What are the general guiding principles?

 

2.       A Kingdom Rule of Life.

As Jesus modelled through his disciples, we are community on mission. Mission is multi-faceted. It is not merely something we do; it’s something we are. Mission will flow out of how we live and how we live is determined by our values and priorities. A community that prioritises mission will see mission. A Kingdom community is expectant that the King will act with authority and power, enabling the members of the group to live for the Kingdom in their day to day lives. Members will feel supported to step out as Kingdom workers when they know that there is a family of believers behind them doing the same.

 

A Kingdom Rule of Life will consist of rhythms (daily, weekly, yearly…). It has its own language which all community members can understand and use. Like a covenant commitment, this could also be encapsulated in a statement that comes from a brainstorming session or by the instigation of the leadership. What is the community’s Rule of Life? What is its language? What are the expectations of this group and of its individual members?

 

A Kingdom Rule of Life is about WHAT WE DO. What we do is mission except that mission is the outflow of a way of life.

 

While Covenant commitment is about our BEING, a Kingdom Rule of Life is about our DOING.

 

It’s about WHAT ARE THE NUTS AND BOLTS OF WHAT WE DO?

 

For example, a huddle has Lifeshapes as its language and Rule of Life. The outflow of this will be multiplication, growth and mission.

 

A small group is about meeting in the home, food and drink, Bible study, prayer, sharing, caring, growing (individually and numerically) and multiplying. The outflow of this will be multiplication, growth and mission.

 

So, what is the expectation of what you do week in week out as a community? What are the specific things you do?

 

Some final thoughts…

 

Commitment in society, other than in intimate groups, is often formalised in writing. Is this a key to authentic community?

Commitment is a common expectation in our society even if we don’t always acknowledge it. Often, the agreed commitment is written down. In the workplace, we have a contract which records our commitment to the job as workers and our employers’ commitment to us. At school, rules are recorded which all pupils are meant to subscribe to. There are shared verbal expectations. For gym members, fees are paid and there is an agreement of expectations for the use of the gym. A sport’s club has a similar arrangement. I suggest that a mini-community that is operating well will look loosely like these examples.

 

Alternatively, there are places in society where commitment is limited or completely lacking. Large places that accommodate a lot of people – such as a gallery, a library or a museum – and smaller places for smaller numbers of people – such as a coffee shop or a restaurant – are all places that do not require commitment.

 

Similarly, a Sunday church or some kinds of church group do not offer a high level of commitment. People can dip in and dip out of these places without necessarily being noticed (unless you have to pay!). This is not a problem so long as people don’t expect this form of church to be the only form to satisfy their desire for community.

 

People are more likely to experience community at work, school, a gym, a sports club or a church small group rather than at a museum, a gallery, a library or a large church gathering. All these places are good and serve a purpose but not all provide community. Commitment leads to community.

 

It is helpful to observe our forms of church and recognise the purposes they do or don’t serve. What will help them reach their full potential? If we want community, commitment is something we will need to cultivate and this may need to be formalised in some way.

 

The Challenge of Individualism

Individualism will prevent commitment (Covenant) and mission (Kingdom). Mission is most effective when people operate as part of a community instead of as an isolated individual. Individualism leads to a dip-in dip-out approach to community and encourages people to prioritise their personal agenda over the call to mission. In the west, a key counter-agent to a committed, missional community will be individualism.

 

Making a way forward for a stronger community

Once Covenant commitment and a Kingdom Rule of Life have been established for the mini-community – whether formally or informally, caught or taught – then the values of Covenant and Kingdom, ‘being’ and ‘doing’ will begin to form community life.

 

If you want to take this further then note that these two terms (Covenant and Kingdom) can be traced throughout the Bible. Find out more about Covenant and Kingdom at missionorder.org and weare3dm.com or read Mike Breen’s ‘Covenant and Kingdom: The DNA of the Bible’ which can be ordered from 3dm.

 

Summary:

 

  1. Covenant Commitment
    1. What or who are we?
    2. Time period?
    3. Being

 

  1. Kingdom Rule of Life
    1. Purpose
    2. Mission
    3. Language?
    4. Rhythms?
    5. Doing

 

Counter-agents: individualism, lack of commitment, lack of purpose.

 

Covenant and Kingdom Part 1: Commitment and Mission

This is part one of a four part series on covenant and Kingdom and how we can help the Church grow in them. I have been heavily influenced by Mike Breen’s book ‘Covenant and Kingdom: the DNA of the Bible’ as well as talks that he has given over the years.

Mike teaches that covenant and Kingdom are the two key values of the Bible. You can trace them on every page from start to finish. There are three values for each: Covenant is about God as Father, that our identity comes from him and that we are called to obedience. Kingdom is about God being King, having and giving authority and power to his people.

How familiar are we with these principles and how often do we allow them to become part of us as God’s people?

What follows are reflections on this teaching and elements taken from the book.

God is a King and a covenant-maker; Jesus is a King and a covenant-maker. God is and does in accordance with His Kingdom and covenant-making nature. It’s unchanging. And in response we should serve the King and keep His covenant, made ultimately through his self-sacrifice upon the cross.

Our turning to God, our conversion, is not only about belief but also about total life change. This is the high cost of discipleship: our lives keep on changing. It was never about making our lives easier. It was about inviting us to become more like Him. We are therefore called to hold covenant and Kingdom in high regard because they are God’s values.

Covenant asks of our commitment to Jesus. Kingdom asks of our decision to live a life of mission for the rule of the King. Both commitment and mission are key values of our discipleship. God’s commitment to us and to the world and God’s mission to us and to the world come from His character. He is fully committed to us and fully missional to the world.

We fall short when we put a low premium on discipleship. When we undervalue commitment, we come and go as we please; we live a life of inconsistency. We remain committed so long as our needs are being met. When we undervalue mission, we are self-serving or inward-looking. We worry about ourselves.

But God calls out to us to live a life devoted to Him and given over to His mission to the world.

Summary

Discipleship is…

Commitment

God as Covenant-maker

Stay

Other principles: love, identity, obedience, relationship, God as Father, belonging, vow.

 

Mission

God as King and Missioner

Go

Other principles: Kingdom, rule, reign, authority, power, judgment, justice, warfare, Heaven.

 

Gospelling – Different Versions

Gospelling: Sharing the Gospel.

Below are some versions of the Gospel.

Scot McKnight version of the gospel story: God is usurped continuously by human rulers that He chose to rule and glorify Him (insert examples from the story of the Old Testament). Eventually, He sends Jesus who rules perfectly and is rejected by humanity. Jesus dies the usurpers’ death to absorb their punishment, and shows that perfect rule is actually perfect servanthood. He rises to defeat death and to prove His rule. God, in Jesus, both defeats and saves the usurpers. By turning to Jesus, people’s usurpations are forgiven and the Holy Spirit transforms people. God then lets a whole new line of people rule, this time under Jesus, in the power of the Spirit. One day, Jesus will return and end all usurpations and ‘humans will govern on God’s behalf in the way of Jesus forever’.

What is Christianity?
Creation – The world was created perfect by God
Rebellion – Humanity rebelled against God
Resolution – Jesus came to resolve humanity’s rebellion. He died, was resurrected and was then seen by 500 people in the flesh before ascending to Heaven.
Recreation – One day, it will all be resolved when Jesus returns.

Acts 17 [Paul in Athens] Gospelling:
God is Creator
God is Personal
We’ve all rebelled
God calls us to turn to Him through Jesus.

1 Corinthians 15 Gospelling
Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to [Peter],[b] and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time,
Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he ‘has put everything under his feet’.[c] Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

This is the story of the Bible. God created a perfect world that became corrupted when humanity rebelled against him. People’s relationship with God was damaged. God then spends the rest of the story trying to bring humanity (and the rest of creation) back into relationship with him.
He chooses a nation, Israel, to show the world that God wants relationship with people. He raised up leaders of this nation to show the world God’s love. But they failed.
The prophets told people that God would resolve the problem by sending someone special. This person was Jesus. He fulfilled the prophecies (about 300 of them) and resolved the problem.
He died on a cross, taking on the punishment that was meant for humanity because of their rebellion. But on the third day he rose again and was seen by many of his followers (on one occasion 500) with a new, physical, heavenly body. He then ascended into Heaven.
One day, he will return as a reigning King of the Universe to reclaim what is his.

Huddles: Small Discipleship Groups, Part 2

In the previous post, I explained Huddles, which are small discipleship groups, and I outlined what I have done this term with a Huddle I’ve started. I wrote about the first three sessions and I’m going to finish now with the final three.

Session 4: Get a member of the group to briefly teach the Circle (they can use paper and pen). Introduce the Semi-Circle using Genesis 1:26-2:3. Explain that we were orginally made in God’s image. God works so work is good. Because the first thing we did when we were created was to rest on the seventh day, we are meant to work from rest, not rest from work. Spend the rest of the session talking about natural rhythms of the day, week, month, year, and talk about seasons of life: being single, marriage, children, education…

Session 5: Ask the group how their rhythms are going. Use the Circle to unpack any kairoses. Use your own example. Teach the Semi-Circle using John 15. It’s about being pruned in order to abide in Jesus and then growing in order to produce fruit. Explain that being fruitful will at some point ultimately give way to pruning and that even unfruitfulness will end in abiding as well (verse 2) – and that’s how it should be. For homework, I asked the huddle to think about how they work and rest and to put into place a good rhythm, especially during the busyness of Christmas time.

Session 6: We finished this term by engaging in mission. Our church, along with other churches, in the lead up to Christmas, hosts a hut in the town’s outdoor Christmas Market as a means of sharing the gospel. The hut houses an interactive art piece and invites visitors to reflect on the meaning of life. For this session, the huddle served as a team for an hour and a half at this hut. We then had a meal together at my home to celebrate the end of the term.

The Huddle continues next term…