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Keller on The Gospel, Moralism, and Irreligion

Check out this short video from Tim Keller on three ways to view the world.  The Christian message is often rejected because it is either viewed as moralism or is presented as such.  The Gospel is really the only thing that frees us and gives us hope.

The Gospel: 321

Here’s an awesome video displaying the Gospel in terms of God’s Community of Love and Mission.

  1. What’s new to you in this Gospel Presentation?  How did it awaken you to what the Gospel means?
  2. What do you feel, if anything, should have been added in?
  3. We often share the Gospel through Creation -> Fall -> Redemption -> Restoration.  We’re all the elements in this presentation?  What would you like to have seen more of?

 

Video by Jeremy Poyner

Missional Training #15 – The Importance of Showing the Gospel Through Service

In this Short 3 Minute Video below, Jeff and Caesar talk about how to make disciples.  What they have to say is really important to starting, sustaining, and growing Missional Communities. 

We’ve spoken before about inviting people into our lives before we invite them to our churches or to our MCs.  Jeff and Caesar encourage us to invite them into the life of the disciple before they even become committed followers of Jesus. 

  1. Why is it important to connect our acts of service to the people who we’re making disciples of? 
  2. How does leading people in the ways that Jesus tells us to help open the doors to Gospel Conversations?
  3. How are you and your MC serving the unchurched around you and serving with the unchurched around you? 
  4. Think of the neighborhoods, the people groups, the organizations in which your prospects live, work, and interact.  How can you serve in those contexts and how can you invite others along?

Share God’s Story This Easter

Holy Week, especially Good Friday and Easter, is probably one of the best times to invite someone to a gospel presentation of some sort or to attend church with you. 

In our Mother Church, we handed out bible tracts to all of our members.  Each tracts simply told the story of Easter and why it is important.  In each of those tracts was an invitation to one of our Good Friday or Easter Sunday services.  We could have advertised over the radio, in the newspaper, or in mass mailings, but most people give a church a try because someone personally invited them.  We encouraged each member of our church to hand that tract and invite to someone they know who was dechurched or unchurched and invite them to come to church with them. 

Since we are in the process of starting a church and haven’t started formal services, I encourage you to invite some people to attend church with you at St. Paul.   You could use the bible tracts if you’d like, but all of you know the Story and have been trained in telling it.  You could share the tract or simply invite them to church.  At Some point, be ready to tell the Story.  Remember what can happen if you’re not prepared to tell the whole story.  Telling them “Christ is risen” is indeed the central message of Christianity and Easter, but if you don’t expand on who he is, why he had to die, and what his resurrection will bring, the Easter Story won’t make much sense. 

Again, Follow a Creation –> Fall –> Redemption –> Restoration pattern

Explain the God Created everything Good.  The world was as it should be.  Everything was perfect.  We lived with God, others, ourselves, and creation in perfect relationships.

In the Fall, humanity joined in the rebellion of God’s enemy.  They rejected God’s love and protection and sought life elsewhere.   Their rebellion, called sin, broke all the perfect relationships we had at Creation.   All creation began breaking down.   Pain, suffering, natural disasters, war, violence, sickness, and death were all a result of our rebellion. 

Yet God sent His Son into the World to Redeem all of Creation.  He loved us so much that he was willing to carry all the burdens of our rebellion and to experience the worst of it as he died an excruciating death on the cross.  He died the death we deserved and we receive an exchange.  He took on our guilt on the cross so that we could take on his right standing with God.  We are considered innocent because Jesus stood in our place and took our punishment as the guilty party.  Jesus rose from the dead on Easter morning and proved he had defeated death.  Now we have the assurance that because He lives, we’ll live also. 

Jesus ascended back to His Father in Heaven, but before He left he gave us His Spirit.  Through His Holy Spirit, Jesus now dwells in us.  He has begun to restore us to the people we were meant to be as we have a new relationship with God and he has chosen to use us to start restoring in part the world around us as we display God’s goodness in our actions and share the good news of what He’s done with others.  One day, God will bring all things to a full restoration.  All the bad things of this world will no longer be remembered.  God will restore all things as they were meant to be.  The world will be perfect again.  We’ll live in pleasure forever in the presence of God. 

We all have this great hope.  Make sure you share it with someone this Easter.

Leading to the Launch of our first two Missional Communities

A passion of mine has always been how to reach the unreached, how to give a credible Gospel witness, how to share the Gospel in such a way that the current generation hears and understands it.  I’ve studied church planting for years and have studied Missional Communities for the last couple years.  Yet I’ve found that often times it’s difficult to put what you learn into practice.  I wish I could give 6 months of my life to join  a church that did MCs well and then come back and do what I’ve experienced.  However, we often don’t have the luxury of that.  We simply have to try what we’ve read about and adapt as we need to along the way. 

Over the last four months we’ve been involved in the business of planting a church.  In late September, our sending church approved of our mission plan and funding.  In October we gathered a core team.  We began this blog so that we could share many of the things that we’ve studies and discussed. 

Where We’ve Been

Here’s what our Core Team has been doing as we’ve gathered weekly:

  1. In those meetings we discuss a chapter of the Gospel-Centred Life over  a meal.  This volume, written by Missional Community pioneer, Tim Chester, does a great job of sharing how the Gospel addresses everyday life and how we’re called to live in Gospel Communities on Mission.  Most of our MCs will use this material at some point.
  2. After each meal, we’ve gone through The Story Formed Way, a ten week session of interactive dialogue and story telling through the key narratives of scripture.  The idea behind it is to give the participants a biblical and systematic theology yet be equally accessible to the novice and the mature Christian. 
  3. Almost every week, I’ll also put up a blog post entitled Missional TrainingI ask that our core team review that video or post and we often discuss those posts in our meals as well.  I recognize that not all people have time to watch the videos, but it gives the self-learners some direction and also posts that our future leaders can point their MCs to for training. 

Where to begin with starting MCs?

We are near the conclusion of our training and are ready to plant our first two Missional Communities.  For the mean time, we’ve called these MC East and MC West.  As each MC gathers and discusses where meeting place and their mission, they will probably take on a more specific name for a neighborhood, development, or street they meet on.  We’ve divided the members of our Core Team into these groups based off of their proximity to one another and their affinity.  We have diverse ages in each group.  Yet we chose to keep our three guys in their early 20s together and our three families with young children together at this time. 

My wife and I will attend the group with young families since we have a 9 mo old daughter.  Since I’m the pastor, I plan to be at both MCs initially for the first 4-6 weeks to guide, mentor, coach the leaders and be present to answer (if I can) any questions that come up.  (I wont need to do this at the beginning of each MC, but my initial leaders felt like they needed me present since we’re really learning what it means to be a Gospel Community on Mission.  After that initial period, My wife and I will probably take a few people back to our neighborhood, or somewhere else, to help start another MC.

So, As we seek to launch these MCs, there’s a few things that will need to be done.

  1. The leaders of each MC will pick a date for starting The Story Formed Way. They will consult their MC members and pick a date about 4-5 weeks out.  
  2. In the mean time, the leaders will work with their team to make sure that there are social and/or service events planned for the weeks leading up to The Story.  They will invite their prospects to those events to introduce them to other members of their MC.
  3. As well as big social events, they will make personal plans with those prospects as well.  We’ve been talking about this from the beginning.  Most members of our core have been trying to engage their unchurched friends and neighbors.  We’ve encouraged our members to  invite them into their live before inviting them into their MC. 
  4. At some point in those 4-5 weeks, their to invite their prospects to come to The Story.  They’ll explain that it will include many of the people you’ve been hanging out with.  It’s low key, in a home, with no expectations of biblical knowledge.  Trust the spirit on when to invite them and how to invite them.  If they say, “No,” keep inviting them to social and service events.  You might have to build your relationship a little further before they trust you enough to open up. 
  5. Who should you invite?  We’ve been talking about those people in our lives who need Jesus.  Each member should have been trying to build relationships with someone that is unchurched or dechurched.  Are they family, friends, acquaintances, coworkers?   Who can you engage?  Who have you engaged?  Who has asked you about the Church Plant?  Who has shown interest in joining us?  Are there members of St. Paul who have left the church in the last year or so for various reasons, but might be engaged in a Gospel Centered Community on Mission?   

 

Correcting Mistakes

In the mean time, my core group will continue to meet weekly.   After listening again to Jeff Vanderstelt’s Gospel Fluency, I realized that I had made a near fatal mistake in our core group training.  I hadn’t been asking my core to rehearse the Gospel.  I simply asked them a couple weeks back, “What is the Gospel?”  I received blank looks, the names of the Gospel books in the Bible, and “Jesus on the Cross.”    Now my team knew the Gospel.  Yet they weren’t prepared to share it. 

So in the following weeks, we will be asking “What is the Gospel?” and will look for an answer that speaks of the whole story of God: Creation –> Fall –> Redemption –> Restoration.  We will also bring up hypothetical situations and role play by asking, “How does the Gospel Address this.  We have been studying the 4 Gs since the beginning, but last week I made up cards with the 4 Gs and how to use them.  We’ll encourage each member to actually memorize them and use them in explaining how the Gospel addresses sins and anxieties in life. 

A second big mistake that we made was  that we’ve talked a lot about reaching out to our unchurced family, friends, neighbors and acquantainces, yet we were not intentional about keeping each other accountable.  Because of this, it was easy to think about making plans to grow in our relationships with these prospects, but not actually get around to doing it all that much.  In the future, we will share with one another who are prospects are, ask one another how we’ve engaged them in the previous week, and we can also pray for those people our fellow MC members are working to win over. 

Again, we are learning how to church plant and launch Missional Communities as we go along.  I hope what I’ve shared here might help some future church planter or MC leader.  If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment.

Sharing the Gospel: All You Need Is Story, Part 3

In Sharing the Gospel: All You Need Is Story Part 1,  We mentioned that every Christian needs to know how to share the biblical story of

Creation –> Fall –> Redemption –> Restoration

In Part 2, we talked about how the Christian life and a personal faith story adds validity to sharing the Gospel Story.  Today I want to share why it’s important to always be ready to share these stories.

We all have people in our lives that we know are far from Christ and we feel like we’re called to share the gospel with them.  For my mother, this person was her hairdresser.  She prayed for her daily and always wanted to share the faith with her, but she never saw a natural way to bring it up.   

Every time my mother came home from getting her fair done, she’d stand at the door smiling, waiting to see if anyone noticed her new hairdo.  We almost grew to expect it and we’d keep an eye out for her return so that we would remember to say something about her hair style.

One spring day she went to her hair dresser again.  When she go home, all of us were looked up, ready to check out her new hairstyle, and we noticed that she wasn’t smiling, but she looked like the dog died. 

After some prodding, my mother shared that her hair dresser had asked why my mother was getter her hair cut.  My mom responded that it that she was getting ready for Easter later on that week.  Then the hair stylist asked, “That’s one thing I’ve never understood about Christians.  Why is Easter so important to you guys?” 

My mom panicked.  She simply said, “Oh, that’s when we celebrate Jesus rising from the dead”….and that was all she said.

Now was my mother’s answer wrong? No!  Not at all!  It was spot on. Yet she could have given a better answer.  She didn’t make the most of the opportunity God had granted her.  In fact, her answer probably didn’t make much sense to the hair dresser.  Yet if she was prepared ahead of time, she could have shared the grand story of why Easter is important through: Creation –> Fall –> Redemption –> Restoration.    If she had memorized those four themes, she wouldn’t have panicked and would have given a much greater answer that explained the significance of Christ’s death. 

This encounter wither her hair dresser was years ago.  My mother has been looking for another chance to talk to her about Christ ever since.  Don’t miss your opportunity.  Be prepared to Share God’s Story and to share how it has changed your Story.

Sharing the Gospel: All You Need Is Story, Part 2

Yesterday, in Sharing the Gospel: All You Need Is Story Part 1,  We mentioned that every Christian needs to know how to share the biblical story of

Creation –> Fall –> Redemption –> Restoration

You’ve been saved by believing the Good News of that Story.  You need to be ready to share it as well because God will allow you opportunities to be his witnesses.   Yet what makes that story ring true? They need to see it working in your life.   

Before Peter tells us to be ready to share the Gospel Story, he says in 1 Peter2:12,

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

For people to believe the message of Jesus, they often have to first see it working in our lives.  So, we should try to live our lives as if we truly do believe that God owns everything, that he has given us everything we need in Jesus, and that he will give us life eternal with Him.  When we don’t do this perfectly because we are still sinners, we can’t cover it up and act “holier than thou.”  Rather we need to be honest about our struggles and be ready to live lives of confession, repentance, and forgiveness openly so that others see that the Christian life is attainable and not just for the morally superior.   They also then see the Grace of God in action. 

 

How To Share Your Story

Besides being willing to live the Christian Life,  we also need to be prepared to Share how God’s Story has affected us.  The best way of doing this is by following this outline:

  1. How Was I before Christ?
  2. How Christ came into my life?
  3. How He changed me and my life?

I’m Lutheran, so in my church body we baptize as infants and teach our children the faith from infancy.  Many of us can’t remember a time that we didn’t believe.  So instead of talking about when we became Christians, the pivotal point in our story is when our faith became our own and not just what our parents taught us, or when our faith was tested and how it brought us through difficult times.   So our stories might look a little different.  It might go something like this. 

  1. I was raised in the faith
  2. When I made my faith my own/ how I grew in it
  3. How it changed me

or

  1. I was a Christian
  2. I faced a horribly difficult situation
  3. How my faith gave me hope and strength

 

My Story

Personally, I’m a mix of both story methods. 

1) I grew up in the faith, but I was never taught why I should believe.  I walked away from God and became a selfish individual.  Everything I did was for my own benefit.  I was in every relationship I had for only as long as I got something out of it.  I was willing to lie, steal, or to hurt anyone to forward my own agenda of become successful. 

2) Yet I ran into difficult times which forced me to reexamine the faith.  After much study I found out how real God was, and how reliable his word was.  I was floored by the love that He showed us by sending his Son to pay for all the bad things I had done.  I soon realized my life shouldn’t be about me, but really everything was about Him.

3) Now I try to live every day of my life for God instead of myself.  I don’t do this perfectly, but I continue to try to serve God with my life because of everything he did for me through Jesus.

How would you tell your own story of Faith?  Feel free to share it in the comment section.

Tomorrow I’ll share why it’s so important to always be ready to share these stories.

Sharing the Gospel: All You Need Is Story, Part 1

As Christians we’ve been transformed trough the message, or story, of what God has done for us through Jesus (Romans 10:13-17). The story has been passed on to us, and we’re also called to then pass on that story to others that they too might believe.  The apostle writes in 1st Peter 3:15

In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Peter doesn’t call on all Christians to be evangelists, or street preachers, or those annoying people who harass you until they get you to accept a bible tract.  Rather, what he says is to be ready to share the Gospel.  If you’re living the Christian life, some how some way people will notice.  In their time of need, or plainly out of curiosity, they will ask you for the reason for your hope.  So you must be prepared to share it.  To do this, you’ll need to know the basics of the biblical story. 

How To Tell God’s Story

The easiest way is to remember these four elements.

Creation –> Fall –> Redemption –> Restoration

If you have these four elements, you can tell people of the entire redemptive act of Jesus. 

(Creation) God created this world perfect.  It was everything we yearn for.  The world was good.  We had peace with God, with each other, with the animals, & with nature.  It was heaven on earth. 

(Fall) Yet God had an enemy who convinced humanity that they didn’t need God and that they could run the world better.  So humanity was led into rebellion (that is sin) against God.  Because of that rebellion, the world isn’t how it should be.  There are natural disasters, wars, famine, hatred, suffering, and death.  Yet God couldn’t bear for this to go on forever.

(Redemption)  He sent his one and only son, Jesus, into the war zone of this world to offer a truce.  He paid the price of our rebellion on the cross so that we could be pardoned and forgiven.  He has made it possible for a relationship with God again.

(Restoration) Yet God didn’t leave it there.  One day, he will come back and restore all of the creation to what it was meant to be.  There will be no more wars, sorrow, weeping or pain.  It will be heaven on earth once more.  Everything will be made right. 

This narrative of Creation, Fall, Redemption & Restoration is something every Christian needs to know how to share.  Try to speak or to write the gospel story following Creation –> Fall –> Redemption –> Restoration.  Feel free to leave your attempt in the comment section below. 

Tomorrow, I’ll share what makes people trust the  Biblical Story

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