Tuesday, April 26, 2011

An Open Letter to Francis Chan

Dear Bro. Chan,

I don’t know ya, I’d like to call you Francis but I’ll wait till you tell me it’s OK. I don’t think you’ll mind, still…
I just am very frustrated with your criticisms of the church. I think you should be a little nicer to the body and bride of Christ.
This is not to say that there isn’t room for corrective messages. Certainly, we all know that we are to restore our fallen brothers and sisters. We all are to pull the plank out of our own eyes before taking the speck out of our neighbor's eye. But those things are very specific. Do you have a brother getting drunk? Correct him biblically. Do you have a sister engaging in gossip? Correct her biblically. But complaining about worship services? Where’s your chapter and verse? Sounds like a lot of personal opinion and preference from here.

To quote from the Christian Post online[1]:
“Church today has become predictable, says bestselling author and influential preacher Francis Chan. "You go to a building, someone gives you a bulletin, you sit in a chair, you sing a few songs, a guy delivers maybe a polished message, maybe not, someone sings a solo, you go home," Chan says in his latest "BASIC" video.” “The Crazy Love author is concerned about the big disconnect between what the church looks like today and what it looked like 2,000 years ago.”

Brother Chan, 2000 years ago they were dirt poor and met in the woods to keep from being persecuted. If that day comes again we’ll be in the same boat. We have brothers and sisters around the world facing these things and many of us pray for them. And about the modern worship service, your point is? Can’t we try to do things excellently for the Glory of God? Excuse me. (And I never said to anyone, “we’ll get you out in an hour.”)
Besides, this service is one small part of the week for the believer. Many fellowship with other believers on a daily basis. Many pray for their friends who are lost and look for opportunities to share Christ. Not all, of course not. Do you think this was not true 2000 years ago? Why did the scriptures have to remind them to give an answer to every man, or, owe no man anything but love. They needed reminders, too.

Chan: "When you read the New Testament, you see the Holy Spirit was supposed to change everything so that this gathering of people who call themselves Christians had this supernatural element about them," Chan explains in the video series, produced by Flannel. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, people began speaking in different languages, people were being healed, and believers had a supernatural love for one another. The fire that came down from heaven, that rush of wind, however, seems to have disappeared”, Chan points out.

Change everything? Did he change you? I’m sure he did. The Holy Spirit has changed me in a radical way! (Oooh, good idea for a book title.) I was lost, blind, crippled and dead, spiritually speaking, but now I am alive in Christ. I am putting to death my flesh, I am trying to take up my cross. And I’m not alone! Millions of Christians are doing that. And millions are giving their tithes and offerings to support Christian workers and hundreds of thousands of Missionaries around the world. [2]

Chan: "Do you really see this supernatural power at work when the believers gather together for what we call church?" he asks. "Isn't it the same Holy Spirit that's supposed to be available to us today? Why is it so different?"

No, I don’t see the Holy Spirit falling on us like the day of Pentecost or like on Gentile believers that Peter preached to. What can we do about it? This is where I think you have some good things to say. But give us hard, specific, concrete details about how to be the kind of yielded, cross-bearing disciples, and unified people that God can trust with the power of the Spirit. That would be good to hear, but I promise you, you cannot guarantee that the Holy Spirit will fall in America as he has in the past.
I hear from missionaries and Christians in unevangelized countries that God still does the miraculous. I am inclined to believe that. But they will agree that the greatest miracle is still the change of a hardened fallen heart, into a repentant heart of saving faith. This miracle still happens here in the USA.

The article continues, “Chan's frustrations with the church today are what inspired the "BASIC" series. He was successfully leading a mega-church in Simi Valley, Calif., when he began to question and rethink "how we do church." He began feeling uncomfortable with people driving long distances just to hear him speak every weekend and with church having become a once-a-week routine. After 16 years at Cornerstone Church, he let go of the reins in 2010 and traveled to Asia where he and his family spent time with persecuted Christians and orphans.”

Bro. Chan, your passion is admirable. Why is it though, I hear the snapping and cracking of passion Freezing into legalism. “Are you Radical for Christ? You have to prove it or you’re not. You have to walk away from your job. You have to go to a third world country. On and on and on.” Seriously?
Before I get excoriated, YES, I know, we do forsake all for Christ. And I have and will continue to by God's grace. But if obeying the Lord is to stay in the USA and stay at my job, don’t tell me to do otherwise. As much as I love Keith Green and the songs that helped shape my Christian childhood, Keith was wrong about one thing at least, Jesus did not "command us to go", as one of his songs said. Jesus commanded us to make disciples; here, there and everywhere.

Chan: "I heard one person say the church nowadays is neither super nor natural," he says. "Everything is predictable and everything is expected." "There's a truth to that," he admits. "I feel bad about it. Being around a church culture, even leading a gathering of believers, I've gotten pretty good at predicting what's going to happen in a church service. Was that the way it was supposed to happen?"

So, unpredictability is the sign of the Holy Spirit? I thought it was boldness to preach the gospel. Predictability isn’t necessarily a sign of God’s work but maybe its cultural.

Chan: "When Jesus said this power (of the Holy Spirit) would come upon you, it really did come upon them and they were powerful beings (Jesus' disciples)," Chan points out. "Why is it that in the church so many people are weak or defeated or we get so insecure because we look at ourselves rather than God? It doesn't make sense."

Ah, yes, here’s the voice of a pastor. Yes many are weak and defeated. That shouldn’t be so. But it was so long ago as well. Why was the book of Hebrews written? Because there were many believers about to lose heart and return to Judaism.

Chan: Though Christians believe in an almighty and all powerful God who places His spirit in believers, the response among His people today is: "Hi, welcome to church. Here's your bulletin. We'll get you out in an hour. Come back next week." "I mean, really? Is that all God intended for us?" Chan challenges.

No, that’s not all God has in store for us. You are right that is a tragic attitude. But once again, I contend that there are millions for whom that is not their experience.

Chan: While pondering whether Christians really believe the Holy Spirit exists today and can work powerfully, he asks one poignant question: "What would the church look like today if we really stopped taking control of it and let the Holy Spirit lead?""I believe this is exactly what the world needs to see."

Well Bro. Chan I think this statement belies your lack of faith. Really. Hard for me to say, because your faith is probably stronger than mine, but I think our Sovereign Lord is capable and is in fact in charge of His church. He moves his church where He will. He moves ministers to walk away from mega-churches, He moves college students to go to other countries, He moves young couples with children to leave jobs and go to Ethiopia. He leads US churches to worship in many different languages and in many different venues from ornate cathedrals to barely functional warehouses to living rooms to outdoor arenas. He leads African churches to worship in different ways, and Asians and eastern Europeans. God is in control and in charge. And yes, we all need to check our dedication level frequently. Are we forsaking all? Are we taking up our crosses? Are we denying ourselves? Some yes, most no. And please keep calling us to true discipleship. But don’t be slapping around Christ’s  Bride, He doesn’t like that I don't believe.

[1] http://www.christianpost.com/news/francis-chan-church-today-not-what-god-intended-50000/
[2] http:/christianityzperiodzaboutzperiodzcom/od/denominations/p/christiantodayzperiodzhtm and its link to Frontier Harvest Ministries. http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_Christian_missionaries_are_in_the_world#ixzz1KgVGHGlQ

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Missional, Missional, Missional: Can I be Anti-Missional and Still Saved?

In his article “Defining Missional: The word is everywhere, but where did it come from and what does it really mean?” Alan Hirsch (12/12/2008 online Christianity Today) writes, “It has become increasingly difficult to open a ministry book or attend a church conference and not be accosted by the word missional. A quick search on Google uncovers the presence of "missional communities," "missional leaders," "missional worship," even "missional seating," and "missional coffee." Today, everyone wants to be missional. Can you think of a single pastor who is proudly anti-missional?”
He goes on to say that Missional is not “emerging”, seeker sensitive, evangelistic, cell-group centered, or social justice. He defines missional as: “Because we are the "sent" people of God, the church is the instrument of God's mission in the world. As things stand, many people see it the other way around. They believe mission is an instrument of the church; a means by which the church is grown. Although we frequently say "the church has a mission," according to missional theology a more correct statement would be "the mission has a church." (Hmmmm... (me))
He goes on, “Similarly, to be missional means to be sent into the world; we do not expect people to come to us. This posture differentiates a missional church from an attractional church.” And, “The attractional model... seeks to reach out to the culture and draw people into the church—what I call outreach and in-grab. But this model only works where no significant cultural shift is required... And as Western culture has become increasingly post-Christian, the attractional model has lost its effectiveness.
So far so good. Then he states, “Missional represents a significant shift in the way we think about the church. ... we ought to engage the world the same way he [God] does—by going out rather than just reaching out. To obstruct this movement is to block God's purposes in and through his people. When the church is in mission, it is the true church.
            Really? This is a significant shift? Are we only now, in the 21st century discovering the mission of the church? I remember hearing back in the 70’s, “Win a friend to win a soul.” Wasn’t that the same thing? Somebody wrote 2000 years ago, “be IN the world not of it.” Oh yeah, that’s in the Bible.
But who couldn’t agree with Ed Stetzer in this list:
  • From programs to processes
  • From demographics to discernment
  • From models to missions
  • From attractional to incarnational
  • From uniformity to diversity
  • From professional to passionate
  • From seating to sending
  • From decisions to disciples
  • From additional to exponential
  • From monuments to movements
And let me add a couple more to Ed's list:
  • From services to service
  • From ordained to the ordinary
  • From organizations to organisms
(Ed Stetzer, David Putman Breaking the Missional Code (Broadman & Holman, 2006))
There are some great things here! And I believe these are based on genuine concerns. Stetzer says: “I think perhaps the common thread through all the variations “missional” would be the concern that churches have become inward focused and self-concerned and have given up the missionary nature of the Christian and the Church.” (http://blindbeggar.org/?p=701) And, he takes his concern, that the church may take the Missio Dei in the wrong direction, seriously (As in the Church Growth Movement) stating, “Missions historian Stephen Neil expresses the concern that when churches focus on societal transformation... then “everything” is mission. Neil explained, “when everything is mission, nothing is mission.” Those words were prophetic: he spoke those words to a movement that progressively moved away from church planting and evangelistic missions to a near total focus on social justice. (ibid)
Stetzer, like many others wants to do away with the "tyranny of the ‘or’.” As in, Do we help the poor or preach the gospel? Do we build an orphanage or spend our money on missions? In those choices the gospel and missions ought to triumph. But what if we took an ‘and’ approach?, they might ask.
Hmmm, good questions, are the “or” questions valid? Is a both/and approach better?
If you were to Google “definition of missional” you’ll find 20 or so definitions easily, all very similar. But you will also find hundreds of derivative statements; mission is..., mission is not... that try to define the definitions but many of those are contradictory.
            Jesse Johnson (Pastor, Local Outreach Ministries, Staff Elder @ Grace Community) in his seminar during the 2011 Shepherd’s conference makes some “counter-missional” observations for the sake of balance and evangelism. So many modern (Or should I say post-modern) ministers have defined missional in cultural and social terms. Doing church in clothes that look like your surrounding community’s clothing (Driscoll); Combining feeding the poor with preaching the gospel; or as a ‘middle ground’ between evangelism and mercy ministry (McLaren). Stetzer even says that missional takes away the distinction between doing ministry inside the church and missions outside the church.
Johnson has a problem with this. Not that ministry in the world is a bad thing. Building a house for someone who lost theirs and giving sandwiches to the homeless are admirable.
But some missional minded people would have us believe that houses and sandwiches are the mission of the church. I mean, if that’s “Missional” then the great commission includes sandwiches.
But it doesn’t, does it? Isn’t the Great commission making disciples? Isn’t the great commission preaching the gospel to the nations? Isn’t it being witnesses of the suffering and resurrection of Christ? Yes it is, according to Matthew, Mark and Luke anyway.
So what’s this about in a nutshell? Don’t be missional if it means turning the mission of the church into a soup kitchen or a Home Make-Over. Be missional if it means being primarily about what the Bible says is the mission of the church.
Does that mean engaging a culture where they are? Sure. Does it mean taking on cultural appearances to become all things to all men? Sure, within reason. Does it mean being Christ-like out in the world? Sure. But it also means that the main thing is the gospel and the gospel challenges the worldly culture, it doesn’t embrace it. The gospel condemns godless culture. The gospel is bad news before it is good news. The gospel is the Power of God, not sandwiches. Not ‘everything’ is the mission of the church. Preaching the gospel and making disciples is the mission of the church.
Don’t forget, “Missions historian Stephen Neil expresses the concern that when churches focus on societal transformation... then “everything” is mission. Neil explained, “when everything is mission, nothing is mission.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

7 Words of Christ at the Last Supper

1.      1. The Lord prepares their last meal. The Lord is preparing something for us.[1]
Luk 22:7Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. 8 And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat. 9 And they said unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare? 10 And he said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he enters in. 11 And ye shall say unto the good man of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guest-chamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? 12 And he shall shew you a large upper room furnished: there make ready. 13 And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.

2.      2. The Lord expresses His desire and His intentions for when they will eat together again. This is something Jesus desires to do with us, too.[2]
Luk 22:14 And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. 15 And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: 16 For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.

3.      3. The Lord shares with them and eats and drinks the same thing they do. Jesus knows our pains and weaknesses. He was tempted just as we are yet without sin.[3]
Luk 22:17 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: 18 For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.

4.     4. The Lord explains to them the bread and the wine. This is what all of the old testament sacrifices point to, and the tabernacle, and the temple, and the Passover itself: That Jesus would be the perfect Lamb, offered up by His own Father, for sinners such as you and I who didn’t have a prayer.[4]
Luk 22:19 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. 20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.

5.      5. The Lord knows He is being betrayed. The Lord know when we betray Him, too.[5]
Luk 22:21 But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table. 22 And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!

6.      6. The Lord patiently teaches them again about being servants. The Lord is a patient teacher for us, too, when it comes to how we treat the body of Christ.[6]
23 And they began to enquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing.24 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. 25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. 26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. 27 For who is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. 28 Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. 29 And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; 30 That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

7.      7. The Lord warns Peter but He doesn’t judge him, He tells him He’ll pray for him. And the Lord ever lives to make intercession for us, too. If you belong to Christ, He is praying for you just as He did for Peter. Peter did fall, but Jesus personally restored him. Who do you think personally restores you?[7]
31 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: 32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. 33 And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. 34 And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.

[1] Joh 14:2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
[2] Rev19:7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8  it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure"-- for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.9  And the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." And he said to me, "These are the true words of God."
[3] Heb 4:15  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
[4] 1Co 5:7 Cleanse out the old leaven …. For Christ, our Passover lamb has been sacrificed.
[5] Heb 2:17 Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted. 1Jn 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
[6] Lu 22:26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. Eph 4:31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
[7] 1Jn 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: