Monthly Archives: October 2011

Operation Lydia ~ community

Operation Lydia is a four-part series, which is a simple way to consider mission in the context in which you live. You can find a longer explanation here, the first post here, and the second post here. The following post is for part three, which is…

3. Frequent that place

Christian community should overlap with non-believers, and can be based on something you have in common with others (hobby?).

Acts 17:22-23 ~ “So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.”

If we were to break down Paul’s strategy at the Areopagus,

  1. He observed people
  2. He passed through where the people were
  3. He examined their context
After you’ve devoted some time to intentionally seeking out a place of “residence,” and commit yourself to its natural community, then start people watching! Get to know other people, don’t hide in a cave. Continue to frequent the same place with ruthless regularity, but with the intention of understanding the environment you are in. In other words, don’t be a stranger.

Immerse yourself in your mission field!

Reproduction vs. Reciprocity (5 Reasons We Don’t See Discipleship)

Here was the Apostle Paul’s singular strategy in the expansion of God’s kingdom,

Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others  (2 Tim. 2:1-2).

His strategy was Timothy!! Not only Timothy, but all the little Tim’s that Timothy would produce by following these simple instructions. Looking back on early Church history, and the Gospel’s explosive growth through Paul, it seems like he was doing a few things right. If we are doing a few things wrong (we are), then perhaps we should compare our modern methods of discipleship with tried, ancient practices.

5 reasons we don’t see discipleship.

1) We neglect mission because we are satisfied with community

We have fine circles of faith, but those circles never overlap with non-believers who can experience the love of God, and have their questions engaged with, because we feel as though we’ve achieved everything within our subculture. We’ll begin to feel the repercussions of this when the crowd gets bigger.

2) We don’t pass on what we’ve learned; we flaunt what we’ve learned

We aren’t taking the time to pass on the things that have effectively kept us out of darkness, and equipped us for mission. When we are around people who ask questions, the pull is so strong to make ourselves look good, instead of handing to others what we’ve learned.

3) We obsess over non-essentials instead of teaching “these truths”

We get bogged down in silly disputes over theology. While theological nitpicking can be fun, it rarely causes immature Christians to grow. The foundational building-blocks of the gospel of God’s kingdom are what we need to chew on for our spiritual health.

4) We don’t invest into “trustworthy” people that will pass on truth to others

We surround ourselves with people who are on a similar level as ourselves for the purpose of having fun conversations. Yet we never have the opportunity to hand down what we’ve learned to younger Christians who actually NEED to hear what we know.

5) We do not teach others how to teach others.

This is the pebble in the shoe of modern Christian discipleship. Even if we are successful with teaching others how to feed themselves on the Scriptures, we may fail at teaching them how to teach others. At best, we only produce ourselves—we do not re-produce ourselves. Discipleship is a task of reproduction. We may raise amazing Christians around us, but if we do not TEACH them to carry on the same pattern with others in the same way we have done with them, they will die as sterile clones of ourselves, and not as disciple-making disciples of Jesus.

Christian culture seems to be ok with staying in this stagnant space: not wanting to teach and equip the people we are called to invest in to live their lives on mission for the Gospel of Jesus. Deep down, I think it’s because we are more concerned with feeling the reciprocity of friendship, than the reproduction of disciples. This desire must change in my heart. In our hearts. Until then, discipleship will remain as it is. And the books coming out to address the problem of its powerlessness will continue to haunt us.

How do you know if someone is saved?

Catch yourself listening to people in different spiritual settings.

Do you ever unknowingly ponder the salvation of others based on what they say in conversation? I think we have an engrained filter that causes us to do this. Sometimes it’s awful because we end up attributing worth or disdain to people based on how they handle themselves in simple conversations, but perhaps with care….this tendency can be siphoned for edification, not comparison. Of course, all of this begs the question…

How do we know if someone is saved?

Do we just ask them? Consider some of these time-worn methods…

Do you think someone is saved because they said so?

Do you think someone is saved because you personally led them through the sinner’s prayer, and they said all the important elements, i.e., confessed their sin, confessed Jesus as Lord, asked God into their heart, and sealed it with Jesus’ name?

Do you think someone is saved because they’re members of a church roster, having been baptized, entered into the rolls, and confirmed?

Do you think someone is saved because you heard them pray at a prayer meeting, and were deeply impressed with their ability to articulate prayers?

Do you think someone is saved because they don’t live like they used to live?

Do you think someone is saved because they haven’t missed a corporate worship gathering in a while?

Do you think someone is saved, because they are able to articulate all the important doctrines about justification through faith?

Do you think someone is saved because they ran weeping to the altar to receive salvation during that outdoor festival you saw them at?

Do you consider someone to be saved because they sound just like John Piper, with everything they speak about lacquered in superlatives concerning God’s glorious, sovereign, eternal worth?

We size people up all the time.

I’m not tripping out over this yet. But I have a better question… Read the rest of this entry

Going somewhere else

Why do we put six months of diligent preparation into overseas mission…

…yet approach our own cities with such casual impromptu?

Is the New Testament reliable?

This podcast is the backstory behind today’s blog post:

How can we trust the Bible when we don’t have the original copies??

We can work from what we do we have: Manuscript copies (MSS)

In order to do so… Read the rest of this entry

Discipleship and the Assembly Line Mentality

This is a five minute podcast involving a discipleship dilemma. If you have any thoughts about this, I would love to interact in the comment section. Thanks for listening!

Operation Lydia ~ mission

Adorn’s second step of Operation Lydia is to…

2. Go outside the gate to where the people are.

The idea is that Christians are called beyond the “gate” of their church subculture, and into the lives of outsiders on a regular basis. We are called to interact with them. A simple way to start this is by getting out of the house! (or church).

  • Paul “went outside the gate to a riverside” before happening by a group of spiritually hungry people (Acts 16:12).
  • Jesus had an urge to “pass through Samaria” where he met a spiritually broken woman (John 4:4).

God’s instructions can’t always be systematized. But sometimes it helps to break things down in our minds so that we aren’t overwhelmed with the grandioseness of the mission. Here’s a way to start…

  1. Be intentional (don’t aimlessly go anywhere. Seek the Lord as to where He would have you be)
  2. Take initiative (don’t expect opportunities to come to your doorstep. Engage! Seek out!)
  3. Expend yourself (commit to that place/area/community/scene once you discover it)

This “place” should be where the Christian is best able to cultivate their own identity as imagers of God.

Invest yourself there!

Finally, a good book on college ministry.

College Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture, by Stephen Lutz.

Stephen Lutz writes a book from his experience as a campus pastor at the thriving environment of Penn State, revealing that the unreached people groups of the world are crowding our college campuses en masse, and that in order to reach them effectively, we must change our tired strategies to be more missionally-minded.

I appreciate how Lutz cuts beneath the inspirational rhetoric so typical of this genre, and immediately translates “missional theology to the practice of college ministry.”

A big theme throughout the book is the urgency to reproducing disciples, not just converts.

Lutz spends a considerable amount of time fighting the tendency to fall back on the usual modernist ministry proclivities such as concert infatuation, assembly-line efficiency, and head-counting as the sole measurement of success. He articulates the gospel masterfully, restoring college outreach back to the basics of one-on-one, long term discipleship. Lutz then ends the book with a call to die to self-absorption. Yes, I know… that’s how ministry should look. But this is one of the first books I’ve read with a college focus that orients itself around the Great Commission of Jesus with such purity.

The layout of the book is a trisect of short, charged admonitions that move along like a narrative. Borrowing from a tree analogy, Lutz illustrates the activity of an effective college ministry as

  1. being rooted in the Gospel,
  2. growing out in mission, and
  3. bearing fruit that will last in discipleship.

This small paperback is dynamic considering its few pages and sharp focus.

As a college pastor in Southern California, former college student, millennial, and product of a college environment, I found the book well-suited to train others (myself included) for reaching out to campuses with the hope of long-term fruit. I wish I had read this book years ago.

Though the “college ministry” in the book title seems to imply a pastoral modus operandi, this is a book for ANYONE who wants to engage the college campus setting with results that will last. In fact, having wrestled with many of the obstacles that Lutz presents, both as a college pastor and a former student, I am suggesting this book as a MUST read.

Related articles

You can see what else I’ve been reading…

Operation Lydia ~ Image

Yesterday, I introduced Operation Lydia as a four-part series. It is a simple way to consider mission in the context in which you live.

First things first:

1) Be yourself.

Matthew 5:16 – “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

There are two things we should be aware of before we ever go on mission…

  1. What we have in common with the world around us: the image of God
  2. What makes us different from the world around us: the likeness of God
Being the light of the world is a direct call on the Christian to reveal by our lives the image of God within culture, society, environment, arts, sciences, music, and the people around us. This is outlandish!

Jesus is saying that we image the good that is around us through good works, yet we maintain the likeness of God in us by staying grounded in our identity in Christ!

Since we have been renewed into the likeness of Christ (Col. 3:10), we have now been given an uncanny ability to be immersed in a dark environment, while maintaining our identity as Christ-followers, i.e., lights shining in the darkness. So, for the Christian to be themselves is a tremendous call to be both an imager of God and an imitator of God in the world directly in front of us.

What’s liberating about this is that Christ nominates us for transformative mission in our closest spheres of influence.

What’s difficult about this is that our sphere of influence may be our lame 9-to-5 job, our daily commute, our favorite coffee shop (where we love our privacy), our family, our irritating next door neighbor, our favorite hobby….

As a hardcore introvert, this is for me an olympic feat.

What is it about the implication to be yourself that keeps you from immersing yourself in the world around you?

Operation Lydia – an introduction

I have struggled with being on mission in my surrounding neighborhood for most of my Christian life.

Growing up in a Christian home, church, sunday school, and overall Christian environment, has led me far away from most non-believers. Maybe that was a good thing early in life….it kept me off of drugs, right??

The downside to this is that I cultivated a slightly sheltered view of people who don’t live like me—super holy, if you haven’t noticed (just kidding)—and its a view that took years to dismantle. So…now that I recovered from seclusion, I am progressively taking on the task of being social with non-believers. GASP.

This may seem simple to many of you. But it took me years to learn.

Having been raised in a culture that is largely church-oriented has made the concept of speaking, much less socializing, with the outside world a task as formidable as sending a middle-class white American family to live with an indigenous Latin American tribe for a lengthy period of time. Yeah, that’s right…

It feels like a missions trip in my own back yard.

Maybe some of you resonate with this. Perhaps you haven’t grown up in the Christian bubble your entire lives, but you still feel out of place when trying to reach out in a meaningful way with non-believers. Maybe you used to run with that crowd before, but have been so immersed in churchianity recently, that you need to find your way back to the mission of Jesus. If that’s the case, we’re on the same drive. You can ride shotgun.

The reason for this blog post is to set up a conversation with you.

I want to deal with these things in community (a virtual community, but a community, nonetheless).

About a year ago, we gathered at Adorn to see what the Scriptures say about being on mission in our context. The result was a project entitled Operation Lydia. It’s like an hour long, so there’s no need to rehearse it, unless you want to. Because for the next two weeks, I will be blogging each of the four bullet points in that series along with its Scriptural passage, and a list of questions. I’m still wrestling with these questions myself, so perhaps if you have some of your own, we can wrestle through this together.

Perhaps at the end of it all, we will come out less like a pseudo-ministry, and more like an equipped tribe on mission in the world around us for the Kingdom and glory of God.

See you bright and early in the morning.


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