Category: Missional Church

Servant or Planter?

This morning I was struck by a comment made by the brother of Jesus. James writes: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ to the twelve tribes who are scattered abroad, be well.” (personal translation) In particular, I was moved by the fact that James did not use his status as the brother of Jesus to command attention or endorse his letter. Instead, he describes himself as a servant.

I queried my own soul and found that I do not conceive of myself as a servant. Words like church planter, theologian, and writer came to mind. Words that reflect my self-identity, words that are not servant. How do you think of yourself, honestly? What words come to mind first?

The significance of James using the appellation servant is at least twofold. First, he conceived of himself as a servant of God and Christ. In fact, the Greek reading goes like this: “James, God and the Lord Jesus Christ, servant…” We are meant to make no mistake about his allegiance and devotion. It is not to his office, to his church, to his ministry or to his family; it is to God and Christ. James’ view of Jesus is not that of a mere blood brother, but sees him in the exalted place of co-divine and co-regent with YHWH. It is in the acceptance and service of the great triune God that James finds his identity.

Second, James’ servanthood is evident in its expression to the community of faith, caring especially for believers who have been scattered through persecution from Jerusalem into the world. His letter is for the oppressed. His heart reaches out in grace. His words are in service to God and to his fellow followers of Christ.

May God redefine my identity to be servant first, to God and Christ and to others, not as a church planter or theologian.

New Driscoll Books, Etc.

A new line of books emerging from a partnership between Crossway and Resurgence called Re:Lit– Resurgence Literature — will release six new books by Mark Driscoll, along with other authors. The first book to be released in ‘08 will be Vintage Jesus: Timeless Answers to Timely Questions (table of contents below). Driscoll’s second book will be Death By Love. See more info here.

Vintage Jesus: Timeless Answers to Timely Questions

  • Chapter 1 Is Jesus the Only God?
  • Chapter 2 How Human Was Jesus?
  • Chapter 3 How Did People Know Jesus Was Coming?
  • Chapter 4 Why Did Jesus Come to Earth?
  • Chapter 5 Why Did Jesus’ Mom Need to Be a Virgin?
  • Chapter 6 What Did Jesus Accomplish on the Cross?
  • Chapter 7 Did Jesus Rise from Death?
  • Chapter 8 Where Is Jesus Today?
  • Chapter 9 Why Should We Worship Jesus?
  • Chapter 10 What Makes Jesus Superior to Other Saviors?
  • Chapter 11 What Difference Has Jesus Made in History?
  • Chapter 12 What Will Jesus Do upon His Return?

These questions are answered with insights from people such as Jesus himself, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Luther King Jr., Hugh Hefner, Jack Bauer, Fidel Castro, Oprah, Kanye West, Gandhi, Homer Simpson, Mike Tyson, Gil Grissom, and Madonna, along with some demons and a porn star.

Listening to the Lost

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Deprogramming myself from often good, but largely program and doctrine-driven churches, I am discovering the joy of becoming a part of a mission-driven community. Most of my church experience and church planting training has been thoroughly Western and attractional–relying on plans, time lines, informational meetings, monologue preaching and teaching, Bible-studies, book studies, evangelistic events, etc. In fact, some of my most transforming church experiences up to this point have been self-initiated community groups that revolve around the internal mission of mortification of sin (see article).

One of the primary missional influences that has kept my head above programs, looking for people and cultures, has been cross-cultural ministry in a variety of places, most recently in Southeast Asia. It was through the adopting the unreached Shan people that I was forced to put my Anthropology degree to practice. In Asia we conducted prayer walks, interviews, and strategy meetings all with the aim of understanding what it means to be Shan. How do the Shan eat/work/worship/relate across generations and gender? Who is in charge of a village? What difference does it make? What are these necklaces that all the children wear? What does it mean to sleep at the temple?

Our questions moved from general to specific, as we learned more about Shan culture. The aim of our ethnographic research was to produce a body of information that could help inform church planting strategies in N. Thailand and Burma. One of the results was Surehope. One of the most effective ways to know our”target audience” was to ask them questions…something that we really arent good at in the West. Instead, Christians assume a defensive posture, making conversations doctrinal battles or apologetic arguments. Ethnographic research forces us to take a more humble path, the path of learning from those we hope “to reach.”

By asking questions from concern and genuine interest, we will travel much further and faster in our relationships. But first, we have to be convinced that we have something to learn from others, especially from those who don’t believe as we do. Our biblical anthropology–all men are created in God’s image–should convince us of that, but only the Spirit of God can convict us of subtle self-righteousness in viewing non-Christians as projects to complete, not persons to love. Jesus, of course, is the ultimate example…at the well, in the garden, in the temple…he constantly asked questions from love and for life. Through attentive conversation and questions, Jesus lovingly related to others eventually leading many into new, restored living.

Jesus-like church planters and disciples will ask lots of questions and listen to the answers. Francis Schaeffer once said something to the effect of: “Give me an hour with an unbeliever and I will listen for the first 55 minutes and then in the last five minutes I will have something to say.”

Listen to the lost and you will learn. Love the lost with that understanding and often you will see life.