When Missions Shapes the Mission by David Horner

When Missions Shapes the Mission: You and Your Church Can Reach the WorldWhen Missions Shapes the Mission: You and Your Church Can Reach the World by David Horner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I would highly recommend that every pastor and church leader read this book.
“Why are more churches not engaged in a more practical and substantial way in taking the gospel to the nations?”
That question is the premise behind the book – finding out why missions is not more of an emphasis in today’s churches in America and then how to go about remedying that situation. The author’s definition of missions is “Missions is God’s plan for reaching all nations with the good news of Jesus Christ by sending His people to tell them about and show them the gracious, redeeming love of a glorious God.”

“The missions mandate of Christ in the Great Commission has neither been rescinded nor fulfilled. What then has happened among His people that we are witnessing a serious neglect of that mandate in how we conduct our lives together in congregations where He is gladly proclaimed to be the Lord?”

After going over a case study of the state of missions in one denomination, the author addresses the hurdles he sees in why missions is not playing a greater role in our churches today.
1. Pastors are uninspired, uninvolved, and uninformed
2. Missing role models
3. Verbal commitments but practical disobedience
4. Divided hearts and loyalties
“Frankly, the state of missions in the church today would be radically different if people would just be honest about the question of lordship. If Jesus is really Lord, He gets to call the shots! He gets to determine how much we should give away and how much we should keep. He gets to decide who should go to the ends of the earth and who should stay in the local context. he gets to tell us what has ultimate value to Him and show us what we are doing that gets in the way of that. He gets to do all of that and much more because He is Lord and we are not! With a passion for Christ comes a passion for the things He loves.”

“Two major issues account for much of the failure to embrace evangelism and missions as essential to the purpose and calling of the local church. We have lost our sense of the place of the Great Commission as an expression of the will of Jesus Christ for all His followers and the power of the Holy Spirit as the force behind our witness to the nations.”

Christ tells His disciples that they are be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. “…this is not intended to be multiple choice!”
“Christ did not call us to be witnesses in either one of three places. He said we would be His witnesses everywhere – no exceptions, no improvising, and no easy ways out.”
“His commission is to make disciples by going to all peoples in all places with all diligence.”

“Entitlement and the American dream of worldly success have trumped absolute surrender and the kingdom value of eternal significance.” We in America are too caught up in our own comforts and affluent lifestyles. A pastor of a church in Alabama said this, “The greatest obstacle to the Great Commission is not our doctrine, or the willingness of candidates to go, but the American dream…” What is really claiming our affections and desires? “Before missions takes hold of the church, a consuming desire for Christ and His passions must be shaped in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.”

Some of the obstacles and roadblocks that we face in our American churches are:
1. “Inward-focused churches” –  “What happens is what has happened for thousands of years: we get so absorbed in our own little world that we forget about the rest of the people on earth.”
2. “A trend toward isolationism among nations”
3. “Magnitude of the task”
4. “Compromise of conviction about the message and the masses”
5. “General spiritual apathy”

The author then looks at the factors that have been part of missions movements in the past. What has been evident when missions was an active part of the church? How can we then apply these factors to bring back missions as part of the mission of our churches today?

  • “Power from on high as the Holy Spirit’s work flowed freely”
  • “A passion for Christ”
  • “Prevailing prayer”
  • “A rich soaking in the Scriptures and sound doctrine”
  • “Unwavering faith that trusts God to be faithful in all things”
  • “Holiness and purity of life (together with deep repentance and an abhorrence of sin)”
  • “Eyes willing to see and have compassion on others”
  • “A supportive, sacrificial, and generous sending community”
  • “Persecution and opposition”

“The only impetus that will sustain a missions movement is an overwhelming love for Christ and a passion for His glory to be made known as widely as possible.”
“A missions calling does not send disciples of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth to share ideas and build rapport in order to instill a higher social order. Missions sends people to the nations to proclaim the truth of the Word of Christ so that they might come to Him, put their faith in Him, and know Him and His glorious salvation: ‘So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ’ (Rom. 10:17 NASB).”
“Missions’ first passion is for God to receive the highest praise and the greatest glory…”
In regard to suffering and the possibility of persecution (something we as Americans have not really had to face yet), “Will we welcome the opportunity to suffer for Christ’s sake and give power to our message by our steadfast witness, or will we insist that God keep us safely ensconced within the walls where no evil can touch us but also where the message cannot get out?” (emphasis mine)

The next section of the book deals with the best practices from churches that are doing missions and have a high missions emphasis. Principles that can then be used to help jump-start those churches who wish to make missions a greater part of their body life together. While not all these will work exactly the same in every church, they can be adapted to suit the culture of a particular church who wants to make missions part of their purpose.

Some godly principles that should be evident in a church desiring to follow God (as seen in the example of Jethro instructing Moses):

  • Prayer. Intercede for the people.
  • Scripture. Teach the people God’s Word.
  • Discipleship. Select and train leaders.
  • Model. Lead them to follow the plan.

“Until the power of the Holy Spirit works in us and a transformation of our desires takes place, missions will remain an obligation to duty, not an opportunity for delight.”

Then it’s time for the personal heart check.
Are we willing? “So I have to live ready to go and to live ready to stay, but my will is not my own once I have committed all things to Christ.”
“God’s called-out people must be ready to pick up and go when the Lord indicates that is His will, but they also must be willing to stay, if He shows that to be His will.”
Do we trust God to provide?
What is the primary calling that God has given us? (Gifts, abilities)

“As one who has chosen to read about such things, perhaps you are just the one to take the initiative wherever you serve Christ and determine that you will take it upon yourself to lead those within the sphere of your influence to reconsider the proper place for missions in the overall call to discipleship for all believers.”

1. “Have I Submitted My Personal Ambitions to the Lord and Asked Him to Reveal Anything without a Kingdom Focus, Anything Selfish, or Anything Unworthy of a Servant of Christ?”
2. “Does the Congregation You Serve Care More for Its Own Comfort and Convenience than It Does for God’s Call to Reach the Nations?”
“People talk about what they are excited about.”
“…people who delight in Him as their greatest treasure and see Him as the light and hope of the world will give themselves wholeheartedly to that which will last forever.”
“The only factor that matters in all of this is whether you have allowed your heart to line up with the heart of God so that you long for what He longs for. And when you do, then you will step out in faith, confident that only by the power of the Spirit will you be able to sustain what God calls you to do. If you are willing, then you need to be ready because you already know that He is able!”

“Missions can and should shape the mission of the local church.”
“The church growth movement of the past twenty years will end up falling flat on its face if it does not do something to revitalize a comprehensive view of what the church is called to be – a view that must include missions as an essential and nonnegotiable element of the overall mission of the church.”
“It may be assuming too much to state that we want what God wants, but let there be no mistake about what God’s desires are. Missions has always been central to His plan for His glory to be made known. How can we say we long for the heart of God if we are not ready to embody the characteristics of effective missions movements of the past and live out the principles for missions from His Word?”
“The starting point for becoming the kind of missions-focused church that reflects the mandate of the Great Commission and the might of Pentecost is to learn how to walk by the Spirit. For each follower of Jesus Christ, everything we do is to be done for His glory, and nothing will be for His glory that is consistent with His Word, preceded by prayer, and clothed with power from on High. Therefore, the spiritual state of the church must be healthy before the missions emphasis can be effective in sending out godly witnesses who understand what the gospel is, how to live in the power of Christ, and why the world needs to know Him. If the church is anemic spiritually and knows little of the dynamic of spiritual living, why would we want to export that? But when a church is sound in teaching and godly in character, when worship is vibrant and love is abundant, when Christ is central and the Spirit moves freely, that is the starting point for a new day in missions.”
“…missions is His passion; it must become ours!”


Why Theology Matters

It seems many Christians these days are not interested in theology, feeling it is too “academic” for them. Theology is the study of God and learning who He is. We all have beliefs in who we think God is. Theology is studying to understand better the truth of who He is, correcting any faulty views we may have. We all have a theology, whether we realize it or not. The importance of theology is making sure what we believe lines up with what Scripture teaches so that we have an accurate view of God.
This past week was a challenging one, and having a theology of God based on Scripture made a difference in handling the mini-crisis that we encountered. Our cat Mocha had a traumatic experience at the vet on Monday night and wasn’t eating. She acted like she was sick and we were concerned whether we might lose her. Believing that God is sovereign and is in control was comforting, knowing that we could trust Him with whatever the outcome would be. Our theology gave us something to hold on to while unsure of what would happen. That didn’t necessarily mean that Mocha would recover. God could choose to take her. But we also believe that she belongs to Him and He has the right to do with her as He chooses. Yet He works all things for His glory, so whatever happened it was that He would get the honor and glory from it. Our theology mattered in the day-to-day routine of taking care of Mocha and trusting that God would give us wisdom for what to do.
Mocha is now back to her normal self and is eating fine. Yet this was also a reminder that all that we have is God’s, for Him to do with as He so desires. She belongs to Him whether healthy or sick.

Compass Bible (The Voice) – Review

In requesting to review this Bible
Compass: The Study Bible for Navigating Your Life
I tried to find out more about this translation and where it falls on the translation spectrum. I discovered that the Voice translation has been somewhat controversial. Without delving into the controversy, I’m not completely sure why it is called “Compass” as that doesn’t seem to have much to do with the actual Bible itself. My husband commented that he liked the actual cover of the Bible (as opposed to the dust jacket cover). It has a compass imprint on it that has a tactile feel to it which is appealing.
As far as the actual Bible, the translation claims to be a combination of word-for-word and thought-for-thought – what they call “contextual equivalence”, trying to optimize both without going to either extreme. The result is a Bible that reads like a storybook. When it is part of the narrative, it is written more as a conversation, with the person speaking notated. This makes following the storyline a little easier.
While I wouldn’t necessarily use this translation to do an in-depth study of the Bible, it looks to be a great translation for reading the Bible and grasping the basic overall story. It is easy to read and follow along. This particular Bible also has maps to see the geographical locations of places mentioned in the Bible. There is a topical guide for finding the verses that talk about specific topics, as well as an index of God’s promises (such as verses that talk about Jesus being our Savior, our Lord, etc.). Each book of the Bible has a brief introduction to it. A 1-year reading plan is included. There are also notes/commentary throughout the Bible to help draw out the meaning of the passages.

As an example of how this translation goes, here is John 3:16 – a familiar verse to many:
“For God expressed His love for the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life.”

*I received this Bible free from the publisher through BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my review.

Christian Beliefs by Wayne Grudem

Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should KnowChristian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne A. Grudem
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chapter 1: The Bible
I thought this was a good starting point for the book. After all, the Bible is where we get most of our information on who God is and thus what we believe about the Bible will affect what we believe about God and other theological issues.
Inerrancy and infallibility – two main issues regarding the Bible were just touched on under the heading of authority. This book is not meant to be an in-depth treatise on these doctrines – that’s what Systematic Theology is for! 🙂 But good that at least this was addressed, though I don’t think these actual terms were used. More had to do with the Bible being without error and being true as God cannot be untruthful and it is God’s Word.

Chapter 2: God
One of the things that I’ve been learning these last few years is that God did not create humans because he needed us. Somehow growing up I had this idea that God created us because he needed companionship. Yet in the Trinity He is complete and perfect and does not need anything. He created us because He wanted to not because He needed to. He had all the companionship He needed in the Trinity.
I also liked that in pointing out God is all-powerful there are still some things He cannot do – such as sin. He cannot go against His nature. So He cannot lie as it is His nature to be truthful.

Chapter 3: The Trinity
This is a doctrine that I don’t think I have ever understood. Even in the book he says this is a doctrine that is difficult for the human mind to grasp. Scripture teaches that God is one, yet three persons. Even though I don’t get it, I believe it.

chapter 4: Creation
Nothing too earth-shattering here. I’m thinking his reason for including this in the 20 beliefs needed for Christians has to do with the prevalent teaching and philosophy of evolution. Christians need to be aware of this and be able to combat it with the teaching of creation, that God created the universe rather than it evolving out of nothing.

chapter 5: Prayer
“God does not want us to pray so that he can find out what we need, for Jesus said, ‘Your Father knows what you need before you ask him’ (Matt. 6:8). Instead, God wants us to pray so that our dependence on him can increase.”
I thought that was a good summary of prayer. Ultimately it seems that prayer is about our relationship with God and connecting with Him, focusing on Him.

Chapter 6: Angels, Satan and Demons
Nothing really jumped out at me in this chapter as being something I didn’t already know. I think a lot of times we in America don’t think about the spiritual battles raging around us with angels and demons. We are more pragmatic with the what we see right in front of us. But the reality is that our fight is not just physical, but spiritual as well. Another aspect is the worship of angels or at least highly exalting them, instead of viewing them as they are – powerful creatures that God created, but still created beings.

Chapter 7: Man
No new surprises in this chapter – man being created in God’s image is what sets him apart from the rest of creation. However, it did seem like he was talking about us restoring creation as something that is achievable, when I believe that creation will be restored after Christ returns. He didn’t say it explicitly but it seemed to be implied that we can work toward restoring creation ourselves. As stewards of God, I think we are to take care of the earth, but I don’t think we can restore it without God’s intervention.

Chapter 8: Sin
I think we don’t take sin seriously enough. “Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature.” Any time I am unloving or unkind – even in thought, I am sinning. Sin is serious stuff – God can’t have anything to do with it as “it directly contradicts everything he is.” Thank God that the story doesn’t end with sin. This chapter is rather depressing but thankfully it is not the whole story. The next chapter is Christ.

Chapter 9: Christ
It is an amazing mystery that Jesus Christ is fully man and fully God. Another truth that is hard for our finite minds to grasp. It does make it reassuring, knowing that He was man and so understands the frailty of being human. Yet was God, without sin, so He could be our substitute.

Chapter 10: The Atonement
Interestingly, in another book I’m reading (God in the Whirlwind by David Wells), the atonement was spelled out in great detail. I’m glad that he brought out that it’s not just Jesus paying the penalty for our sins; it’s also His righteousness is imputed to us. A double blessing of having our sins paid for and given Christ’s righteousness so we can stand before God.

Chapter 11: The Resurrection
This particular doctrine is important to the Christian faith because without it we would have none of it.

Chapter 12: Election
Ooh, boy, this one is a hot button topic for sure! “Election is an act of God before creation in which he chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but only because of his sovereign good pleasure.” Honestly, I thought this chapter did a pretty good job defending the doctrine of election. Not sure I could really do justice to it. Scripture seems to be pretty clear in teaching election, yet at the same time we are still accountable for our choices. Another mystery that we will likely never understand this side of eternity. Part of me wants to just type up this chapter for reference but that would be plagiarism. 🙂

Chapter 13: What Does It Mean to Become a Christian
Clear gospel presentation given in this chapter. For those who are not saved, it gives the path to become saved. For those who are, a way to share with others how to be saved.

Chapter 14: Justification & Adoption
Nothing really new here but a good doctrine for Christians to understand for their standing with God. We are declared righteous in legal terms because Christ’s righteousness has been credited to us. Adoption gives us full rights as God’s child. Who we are in Christ is magnificent and very humbling!

Chapter 15: Sanctification & Perseverance
A good reminder that sanctification is not completed in this life and it is also not solely our responsibility. We do play a part but it is also of God that we are sanctified and is a process. Part of the doctrine of perseverance is also our assurance of salvation. “…true Christians can gain real assurance of salvation from other factors and especially from a present trust in Christ and his ongoing work in their lives. Our present trust in Christ for salvation is one assurance of true conversion…If you believe in him, you have eternal life. If you have confidence in Christ’s work on your behalf, confidence in Christ’s ability to take the penalty for your sins and confidence that Christ should let you into heaven based only on his work and not on yours, and if that confidence is currently present in your life, then that confidence is an assurance of your true faith.”

Chapter 16: Death
Interesting that this is included on 20 basic Christian beliefs. Yet it is something that we all must encounter. Not only our own death, but the deaths of others around us.
And the sadness that is death without Christ. Only in Christ can we have hope when dealing with death. For the Christian, death is not the end. And when Christ returns, we will be resurrected with new bodies that will never die.

Chapter 17: The Church
It was good that he brought out that the church is any who are true believers. I found it interesting that the church as an organization has certain traits – I think that may be more man-made though it isn’t anti-Scripture to have these traits. One trait being that of the 2 sacraments – baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Interesting note that a “church” that doesn’t teach from the Word is not really a church. How many of our American churches now fit in that category? I agree with the assessment of the purposes for a church are worship, nurture and care of its members, evangelism and mercy. I think too many churches end up emphasizing one of these over the others but they are all vital roles.

Chapter 18: Christ’s Return
Though Christians differ on their views of Christ’s return and whether there is a thousand year reign of Christ, all agree that Christ will return. It was interesting to see the list of signs given in the Bible that presumably precede Christ’s return. More mysteries that are not completely understandable. Yet the promise remains that Christ will return, whenever that may be.

Chapter 19: Final Judgment
I’m glad he pointed out that as Christians we will not be judged to determine our final destiny. Christ has already taken care of that. Rather we will be judged to determine rewards. It’s not popular (or pleasant) to talk about hell but the reality is that there is a hell and those who do not put their faith in Christ will spend eternity there. Because there is a final judgment, this should motivate us to spread the gospel to everyone we can.

Chapter 20: Heaven
Ah, what we all long for as Christians! The end of pain, suffering and tears. When our bodies will be restored and the new heaven and new earth will no longer suffer the effects of sin.