Category Archives: Bible & Scripture

Missio Dei: Journey of the Elect

Missio Dei: Journey of the Elect

Russell Duren

IN581: Theology of Mission & Evangelism

University of Dubuque Theological Seminary

April 14, 2008

Missio Dei… a term that has been selfishly abused, a term that is robustly debated, a term that holds great hope. From Latin, missio Dei simply means “mission of God”. However, not so simple is Christianity’s responsibility – both as a corporate body and as individual believers – to discern how this term is to be lived out, to map out how to follow the mission of God. This paper shall strive to define the missio Dei as the journey embarked upon by the elect of the Triune God of Christianity, in which these believers seek to follow God’s movement for the purpose of its creation’s ultimate reconciliation to Him. Important factors in this definition are the elect, the Trinity, and the action of following. As each component plays a crucial role in the missio Dei, this paper will explain its thesis by giving special attention to these topics. Continue reading

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Reflections for Christmas Eve

Philippians 2:5-8
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though hewas in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, hehumbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.

My beautiful bride Anina and I are visiting my parents in Texas forthe holidays. We just got home from a nice happy Christmas Eveservice. Some carols, lots of candlelight, everyone standing at dramatic moments… you know, the usual. Now don’t get me wrong. It’s great that we celebrate Christ’s choice to come live as we do. It’s totally something only God could do… to choose to take a step down the “social ladder” of the universe. Not up. Down. How often do I choose to do that? So, have you ever heard that phrase, “Imitation is the highest form of flattery…”? It means if you really think something is cool, you copy it.

I guess what I wonder is, if this is the season where I really celebrate how cool Jesus is, what am I doing to copy Him? If I was going to take this Philippians passage and sum up what Jesus did, in one word, I’d say “give.” Jesus Christ gave. Thankfully, this season brings the perfect opportunity to give. (Semi-relevant confession: Anina and I opened our presents early.)

So it’s getting late into the evening on Christmas Eve, and you’ve probably gone out and finished all your shopping for gifts to give to family and friends.But take a moment tomorrow morning, and think about giving a little bit more. Is there a soup kitchen in your community? Is there a food bank? Is there a clothing donation center? Is there a womens’ shelter? Get creative and think of one more way to give before you go back to school or normal routines.

Because Jesus Christ gave to everyone…

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Lectionary Year C

Time is just like money- it’s so annoying to be standing at the end of the week or month and be forced to say, “Now, where did it all go?” Let me use my work as an example. One practice I’ve picked up recently is taking a pro-active approach with my scheduling. It’s amazing the difference I notice in how I feel about my workload when I take steps to curb distraction. Time is just like money– think about what any financial adviser will tell you about budgeting. Mapping out where it will go at the beginning of the month is the best thing. I’m discovering this principle translates very well into my time. But we are human, and we’re going down this line of thought because, left to ourselves, distraction usually creeps in.

I’m sure you can relate to this experience somehow. Distraction. Even you Type A personalities out there. I mean, do you really always manage to filter out distraction? Raise your hand if so… Ok, no one? Because I was going to offer to let you preach instead of me. We all find ourselves asking where it all went, don’t we?

Time at work… I’ve already covered that one. Time on the weekend… what about that? Who has projects around the house that sneak under the radar Saturday after Saturday because Engineer Mountain’s wildflowers are in bloom right now, or the Denver Broncos are playing right now, or because that storm just dumped up fresh snow on Purgatory this morning, or because Russell needs your help in the youth ministry right now? Yes, we know how to play in this town, and it’s a huge battle for time.

I mentioned money earlier. Maybe your day-planner is tighter than a tourniquet, but your budget has a couple holes. Anina and I are pretty good with this, but we do have a month now and then where we look back and say “We spent THAT MUCH on the pets?!?” And I was utterly horrible at this concept when I first started managing my own money. How many of you students sometimes feel this way with your allowances?

Or here’s one: energy. Spending all your relational energy at work, and when you get home, it’s your spouse or your kids asking “You had a bad day, didn’t you?” When in fact, this may not really be the case, but instead you simply didn’t have anything left to give them when you got home.

Or who’s familiar with this scenario? A loved one passes away. In that quiet, solitary moment after you first find out, or while standing around talking with others at the wake, you ask yourself “Why didn’t I call them more often?” I didn’t deal with the passing of my mother’s mom very much at all, and this is one question that I really prefer not to confront.

All of these situations, and many others, have roots in our living of distracted lives.

I have good news for you: God knows.

And he used a stout and cantankerous but obedient man named Paul to give us some direction. Let’s pray, and then dig into today’s text. Continue reading

Under Attack

Probably one of the cloudiest areas of my personal theology is “spirit” stuff. Spiritual warfare, Satan’s role on earth, God’s Spirit among us, etc. Money is well-discussed in the Bible, as well as leadership, and a whole range of other things that I feel pretty solid about, theologically speaking. I’m not ready to give my final answer when it comes to most of these spirit topics, but Jon Birch has hit really hit the nail on the head with how I’m feeling at the moment: (Sorry, my blog theme’s narrow post column necessitates the thumbnail… click to enlarge…)

devilattack1.jpg

In addition to his general blog, Jon maintains a cartoon blog full of sharp, dry humor. That’s where this cartoon came from. ASBO Jesus = Brit speak for ‘Anti Social Behavior Order’. Jon reminds me of Shane Claiborne: he clearly believes in a Jesus that doesn’t come along and just make everything peachy, but instead in a savior that messes your life up after you meet him! (I wish I was strong enough to follow this Jesus!) Nothing is safe or exempt from ASBO’s witty criticism, and Birch knows just how to poke at things… add ASBO to your RSS!

Catalyst 2007 – Andy Stanley, part 2

“Liberating Your Organization: Creating A Leadership-Friendly Culture”

Introduction

  1. There are organizational systems that are conducive to ministry, and there are those that impede ministry.
  2. There are organizational systems that free leaders to lead, and there are those that obstruct leaders.
  3. “System” defined: Your organization’s approach to getting things done.
  • Systems Create Behaviors
    • Preaching doesn’t. Curriculum doesn’t. Talks don’t.
    • Examples:
      • Family vs. Student Ministry
      • Marriage vs. Marriage Sermon Series
      • Western vs. Middle Eastern
    • The systems you inherit, adopt, or create will eventually what staff and volunteers do.
    • Anytime you hear, “Well, our people won’t…” you’re listening to someone who doesn’t understand the influence of systems.
    • Components of a System:
      • Expectations (rules)
      • Rewards (or lack of)
      • Consequences (or lack of)
      • Communication (content and style)
      • Behavior (of those in charge)
    • Systems have a greater impact on organizational behavior than do mission statements.
      • This principle explains why it’s so hard to transition an organization.
      • If a leader casts a vision and never addresses old systems, nothing changes.
      • “What’s happening down the hall trumps what’s hanging on the wall.”
      • People in your organization are only doing what you’ve led and rewarded them to do.
      • Ask, “What are the expectations in our organization? What’s rewarded? (Because that’s what will be repeated.) What brings consequences?
  • The New Testament does not present us with a comprehensive system or model.
    • In the NT we discover what the early church did. The NT does not lay out a comprehensive plan instruction church leaders what to do.
    • Think about it: They had a direct WWJD link, something that we don’t have. They had apostles. We don’t. We have the great opportunity to create the system that carries out the Great Commission.
    • Always differetiate between what is prescriptive and what is descriptive.
      • We can’t be a 1st Century church because we don’t live in the 1st Century!
    • The Old and New Testaments do offer some principles that should be integrated into our systems.
      • Delegation : Acts 6 / Exodus 18
      • Accountability: Acts 15
      • Authority : Romans 13
      • Interdependence : Paul’s discussion of spritual gifts
      • Point Leadership : Modeled in OT and NT
      • Seeking Counsel : Proverbs / Acts 15
    • Something not on the list is Congregational Rule. Some examples of its outcome: Golden Calves, Brothers Thrown into Pits, Following Kings not Prophets
  • System Imperatives
    • Your system should allow you to involve and hire the best person for the job.
    • Your system should provide you with the flexibility to get the right people to the table.
      • i.e. position of Youth Director does not automatically influence decisions regardless of inept person in position.
    • Your system should allow you to make complex decisions within the context of a small group of empowered individuals.
      • Simply cannot communicate complex decisions to large groups of people effectively.
    • Your system should ensure that only one person answers to “They”

Concluding Remarks:

  • “We have different gifts, according to the grave given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently.” Romans 12:6-8
  • You create a system where leaders are free to lead, and guess who will flock… leaders!
  • Congregations led by the “We/They” tend to end up with system dysfunctions.
  • The current system you’re gonna take all your notes back to has the potential to crush everything you’ll bring back. So, learning as leaders to deal with the nuts and bolts is absolutely necessary.
  • Before God created man, He created systems (solar, ecological, etc.)
  • But even in man, the human body is the most sophisticated system in existence.
    • Because the body is a system, it’s a meaningful experience to go to the doctor, a medical systems expert. This is why you don’t just pray when you get sick.
  • If you don’t approach problem solving systematically, you’ll spend the rest of your career blaming, firing, and being critical of people, and never getting anywhere.

Wrapup/Debriefing Questions:

  • List 3 behaviors that you wish characterize your organization (apply on many levels: church, youth ministry, staff).
  • List one thing you’re systematically doing to encourage each of those behaviors.
  • List the things you’re doing (maybe inadvertently) to encourage the opposite behavior.

    Catalyst 2007 – Erwin McManus

    “Solomon was wrong.”

    • It’s not a popular idea to deny the Teacher’s revered sayings, but it just won’t go away.
      • Eccl. 1:9-10 What has been will be again… there is nothing new under the sun.
      • An oft-quoted, a prevailing thought in the leadership frameworks in Christianity
    • We’ve rarely stopped to question what he said here, but we disagree with him in other places
      • Jesus said burden is light, but Solomon said it was heavy
      • Places in Ecclesiastes where we know Solomon was wrong. Not the best to build your worldview around a guy who says it’s all meaningless
      • When you’re having your worst day, don’t write to other people on how to live.
    • Solomon says it’s all a circle. What is coming is simply what has been in the past. Why is it that we’re so quick to embrace this?
      • It’s in our language. Worship band leader: “Let’s make history!” So, it’s ok for us Christians to make history (literally what has past). Or a magazine that says “Let’s change history!” …
      • But what would the typical Christian response be if Erwin says “Let’s change the future!”?
    • We don’t understand what our role in time is. We’re so careful not to infringe on God’s sovereign space, we sit apathetically by waiting to respond to it.
      • But Hitler’s and Stalin’s create history when we wont.
      • Maybe it’s time that we recognize that if only the most evil feel free to create the future, there’s something wrong with our understanding of our role in the future to come.
    • The way we’ve been taught is, “If it was evil, it was us, but if it was good, it was definitely God.”
      • But we weren’t created to live in neutral. If all our actions produce evil, then we should only sit by and react to stuff.
    • Isaiah 43:18-19 “Stop thinking about the past!” (contrast “Do not forget….”) “Now I’m doing a new thing, but will you even be aware of it?”
      • If only God had read Ecclesiastes, He would have got it right.
      • God: “Stop living in the past and get engaged in the future I want you to be a part of.”
    • We have to begin to rethink our relationship to history. We can’t change history, and to make history means that we’re doing something that really matters.
      • But to create the future means that we’re pursuing where God is going into the future.
    • Part of our dilemma is we’ve stopped being honest about the meaning of life.
      • We enter into relationship with Christ, God sets us free. Now we’re free in Jesus to create and do good works in him
    • When we’re only preaching to Christians, are we communicating at the deepest level of humanity?
      • Erwin: “When I sing Christian songs, I have a hard time with some of them, where I want them to be true.”
        • Never been a moment where God was really all I wanted. “God you are all I want, but I could really use a cappuccino.”
        • Exhale if Jesus is all you need … Nice, isn’t it? … Now feel free to inhale when you realize you need oxygen too.
      • Adam had a need for human companionship that he was previously unaware of. Adam’s naming all the animals, then God puts him to sleep to create Eve. Putting Adam through a learning experience. 2 gazelles, 2 gophers, 2 rabbits. “Get the theme here, Adam? No? Just go to sleep, I’ll fix it…”
        • God understood Adam’s need far more than Adam understood his own, and God had joy in meeting those needs.
        • All of creation is a testament to how much pleasure God finds in meeting our needs.
    • A man on TV with healing oil, selling oil that had cured lady’s dog from cancer.
      • What has gone wrong? Somebody has to be sincere. Somewhere. I have to believe that. Maybe the old lady that sent in her welfare check to buy the oil for her dog… maybe the dog is the only sincere one?
      • “Somewhere down the line someone figured out that Christians are incapable of discerning what is authentic and what is inauthentic.”
      • “How is it possible we’ve lost our capacity to connect to what it real?”
      • Every person without God who watches that show has to know that it is not real. But why do we fall for it?
    • At one point the memories I had became less trustworthy than the stories I had been told. I had disconnected myself from reality. My soul was sick. The human spirit cannot live in falsehood. We’re designed to live in truth. Our souls long for the real, the authentic.
    • What is the future of the church?
      • We’re in a great moment now, because for the first time in a long time we’re allowed to tell the truth. We didn’t mean to be disingenuous, but we were. Our Jesus stories don’t have to be dramatic.
      • Say you were 6, you had never robbed a bank. You tried, but you couldn’t drive so you couldn’t get there. You ate your vegetables. You didn’t even go bad there. You met Christ, some of you actually even love your parents. Then you came to faith, and somewhere later you came to a crisis of faith and you pushed away from Christ. And you came back to Jesus but you have to make your past sound dramatic.
        • But do you?
        • God just keeps putting the pieces back together and creating something beautiful.
        • Mosaic is a gathering of pieces that is put together by the hands of an artist. Something that is beautiful when it’s put together, especially when light shines through it.
      • Lot of ways of describing human history: Nations, empires. Art, dance. War, conquest. Anthropology. Sociology. Geopolitical. But through scripture, human history is a conflict between tragedy and beauty
      • God creates us among beauty and we bring tragedy into it. And history is all about God taking it all and creating something beautiful
      • Solomon may have had it most right when he said “time for everything” in chapter 3. God has made everything beautiful in its time he has also set eternity in the hearts of men.
      • There is nothing more powerful we can do as leaders than to call our people into engagement with the honest authentic narrative of God’s activity in our lives.
      • God is making everything beautiful in its time. He is the source of ultimate beauty. Is it possible for the source of all beauty to go unrecognized?
      • “I have trained myself to leave the worst for the best, and I have been nauseated by the overpowering strength of it.”
      • Is it possible for us to have trained ourselves to believe that to live an inhumane life is what it is to be human?
        • Is. 53. – The one who was most beautiful was the one who walked among us and we didn’t get it, he was seen as horrid to us.
        • John 1 – Real life, real humanity was walking among us. He was in the world, but we did not recognize it.
      • EM: “Was at a church that didn’t want me to be their pastor. They wanted me to be their speaker.”
        • “I’ve got enough neurosis, I don’t need the church stuff.”
        • What the world needs from us is not great sermons or brilliant messages. Ned them to take them to a place that they cannot go without us. Because we have been with God, and now we want to take them there.
          • We need less teachers, and more poets. Able to find the beauty in the most painful experiences we go through.
        • “God is making all things beautiful in your life. And if you’ll listen carefully and look with care you’ll see his fingerprint on everything you encounter.”

        An overwhelming but not explicitly stated message in Christianity is that you can’t be human because it will bring the whole movement down. But the movement really started when God stepped down into flesh and was human.

    William Blake quote

    Both read the Bible by day and night; but you read black where I read white.

    -William Blake