What Happens When the Church is Activated on Mission?

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

In the book of Acts we see the Holy Spirit set the early believers ablaze for the work of God. We encounter Peter, who steps forth with boldness to preach the good news and thousands come to believe Jesus is the Messiah. We see bold people like Stephen, who speaks of Christ and it costs him his life, and Philip, who shares across cultural and religious barriers to bring the Samaritans to Jesus. We see an enemy of Christ, Saul of Tarsus, become a passionate evangelist and bold church planter, the Apostle Paul.

Acts is an active book where we see the church activated on mission. What does it look like when individual believers and church communities are activated by God for His work? Suffice it to say that things happen.

But let’s look at something we could miss here. Acts is an active book but we also see two things in Acts that Christianity is not about.

Christianity—following Jesus—does not leave us much space for being boring or apathetic. Sometimes in the midst of the world, with all the needs, all the challenges, all the serious situations, we can become overwhelmed by the needs. This sometimes leads us to turn away from the needs of the world, focusing on our own lives and challenges. Essentially, we become apathetic. But activated churches and Christians are not apathetic or boring. They are engaged with the needs of the world because God cares about people and the needs of the world. God is an active, giving missionary God.

At the same time, even though Acts is an active book, it is not a busy book. In fact, there is a big difference between being busy and being active. The early church was activated by the Holy Spirit to join in with God in a focused way for God’s mission. But the early church was not meaninglessly busy. Some of us, when we become Christians, think that we are to become busy for the kingdom. But there is not a lot of space for busyness in the activated church. Some of us need to remember that God is not all that interested in uncommanded work. He wants us to join in with His kingdom mission but not to be aimlessly rushing around with whatever captures our attention in the moment. In fact, what captures our attention may lead us away from the activated mission God has for us. As a wise mentor once shared with me: we may need to consider whether we are more in love with the work of the Lord than we are in love with the Lord of the work.

Activated Christianity is not about being boring and neither is it about being busy. Activated Christianity is not about apathy to the world’s need nor is it about frenzied activity. The book of Acts shows us that the church is activated by the power of the Holy Spirit for the mission of God in the world.

The Weekend Wanderer: 18 April 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


Screen Shot 2020-04-16 at 2.55.43 PM“When Christ conquered Caesar” – In my message this coming weekend at Eastbrook at the beginning of our new series, “The Final Word: Knowing Christ through Hebrews,” I make reference to this article by historian Tom Howard. I think you will enjoy this contrast between the ways of Nero and the ways of the first Christians, including Howard’s description of why Christianity ultimately overcame the crumbling empire of Rome.


1162785971222092.yp1ayqnqcvsmboslolrp_height640_custom-175c2aac0b32e71fa8949771537068a468c369c3-s1500-c85“Alternative Mourning Rituals Offer Comfort And Closure During An Outbreak” – One of our ministry partners in Congo, Congo Initiative, is shaping culture in many ways, including helping people deal with grief during this challenging time. “With a team of four counselors, psychologist Noé Kasali — who heads Bethesda’s counseling program in Beni, an Ebola-affected city in the northeast of DRC — has helped ease mourning for those who have lost a loved one to Ebola. They have done this by creating new interpretations of the traditional funeral ceremonies that are a critical part of the Nande culture — the largest ethnic group in Beni — but without the body of the deceased present.”


09brooks_Sub-superJumbo-v8“The Pandemic of Fear and Agony” – David Brooks invited readers of his New York Times opinion column to send their feedback to him about how the pandemic is affecting their mental health. Reading his catalogue of selections from the 5,000+ replies he received is humbling, painful, and insightful. I would encourage you to read this just to know that you’re not alone and also to help us all become more aware of how others are struggling during these times. A pastor friend of mine commented a week ago that he thinks mental health is one of the fronts of ministry that will become front and center in the days ahead. I cannot help but agree.


cs-lewis_at_desk“C. S. Lewis’ Advice To Students During A Pandemic Will Do All Our Souls Good Right Now” – Perhaps in light of Brooks’ chronicle of our mental health challenges, we could use a good word. C. S. Lewis, although often over-quoted, provides rich wisdom and insight, which is probably why is often over-quoted. He is just so good in these times. Thanks to Joseph Griffith for his reflections on Lewis’ 1939 message “Learning in War-Time.”


dancing_skeletons-_-dance_of_death-_wellcome_l0006816-440a8388671527f09dfe71029e5941ca31dd978d-s1500-c85“When Pandemics Arise, Composers Carry On” – Or maybe we just need some good music to help us cope with the pandemic. Over the centuries, art has been of great help during times of suffering, and that is no less true in times of a pandemic. Tom Huizenga offers examples of musicians who did just that, including John Cooke, Johann Sebastian Bach, and, more recently, John Corigliano and Lisa Bielawa. You may have your own selections of music that soothe your soul in troubling times, but here are some who composed music like that for themselves and us.


20200414_CovidweeklydeathsUSv2“Not Like the Flu, Not Like Car Crashes, Not Like… “ – Ari Schulman, Brendan Foht, Samuel Matlack at The New Atlantis: “Any serious attempt to put coronavirus deaths in context by comparing it to some other cause of death in a previous year must acknowledge the marked differences in the Covid-19 trend — most notably, the rapid spike in deaths that is still underway, and the wide range of uncertainty about when it will peak, how high it will peak, and whether it will peak only once. As long as the pandemic is rapidly spreading, these comparisons will be fraught. Perhaps a better way to state the danger posed by the coronavirus is just that we cannot easily compare it to any precedent in recent history. Nor do we need to dispute projections about future deaths to recognize what has happened already. Amid the statistical noise is a powerful signal. The question is whether we choose to see it.”


Church-online-marketing-featured-imageMissional vs. Attractional in the Age of COVID-19? – There was a little bit of a kerfuffle online between church leaders who could be grouped within the attractional church camp (see Carey Nieuwhof’s “Half of All Churches Are Instantly Growing. Here’s Why and Here’s What to Do“) and the missional church camp (see Mike Frost’s “Coronavirus could set the church back 25 years“). Because of online church necessitated by this moment, some are advocating more and more of this while others are wringing their hands over it. I think we all just need to admit at this point that we’re all figuring out what it means to live as the church in this new moment. The old arguments about attractional vs. missional are growing tired, in my opinion, and need to be updated into a time where we see growing opportunities and hunger for deep human connection.


Dave Dummitt family“Willow Creek names Michigan pastor David Dummitt as new leader” – Speaking of attractional versus missional debates, it was easy to miss this news in the midst of everything COVID-19. Dave Dummitt, formerly of 2|42 Community Church in Ann Arbor, was named the new Senior Pastor of Willow Creek. For those who followed the Willow Creek search process, you know that it started with scandal, was criticized from the start, stalled at least once, and finally has come to a conclusion. Regardless of how you feel about everything that has gone on, let me encourage us to pray for Dave, his family, and Willow Creek as they embark on a new chapter as a church.


Music: Wilco, “Impossible Germany,” from Sky Blue Sky

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 30 November 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

Screen Shot 2019-11-26 at 1.36.36 PM“The First Christian” – Some Christians, in an effort to avoid what can become an overemphasized Mariology, downplay the role of Mary in our faith. Luke’s telling of the gospel story, however, highlights Mary as an ideal picture of true Christian discipleship that all of us should look to as an example. The preeminent prayer of the life surrendered to God comes from Mary’s lips: “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38). Jennifer Powell McNutt and Amy Beverage Peeler’s article, “The First Christian,” offers a moving exploration of Mary as Christian exemplar.

 

Missional“Futurist Church Series :: Where is ‘Missional’ 10 Years after the ‘Conversation’ Peaked?” – The past ten to twenty years of church ministry conversation seems to have been dominated by the word “missional.” Sometimes, it seems, “missional” has become more of a buzzword than a word of substance, but it is still an important theme in the ministry of the church in a post-Christian era.  This interesting interview brings together five important voices in the early missional movement: Alan Hirsch, Michael Frost, David Fitch, Brad Brisco, and Jeff Vanderstelt.

 

advent-playlist_v2-01“An Advent Playlist” – Music is one of the most powerful means for engaging in both cognitive and non-cognitive worship and spiritual formation. At one level, our conscious mind intellectually engages with the words and beauty of music. At another level, our spirit engages non-cognitively with the emotive swells of music and find that songs linger in our memory and heart beyond mere intellectual consideration of it. As we prepare for Advent, I was glad to stumble upon this curated playlist on Spotify for Advent by Victoria Emily Jones from the Art & Theology blog. There was much here that I wasn’t familiar with, which is a gift at this time of year.

 

Fred Rogers“Mr. Rogers was a televangelist to toddlers” – When I graduated from high school, I participated in a recognition banquet where each student had to name one of their heroes. I said “Mr. Rogers,” which was partly a joke but partly truth. I appreciated how Fred Rogers’ faith had shaped his life toward public witness. With all the appreciation of Rogers’ life and influence in recent years, and in the form of two recent movies, Daniel Burke’s article at CNN is a welcome testimony to a Christian life lived as a public witness toward the love and hope found in God.

 

_109823848_gettyimages-1135630791“Egyptian woman ‘wins court battle’ over unequal inheritance laws” – There is a lot of discussion these days about faith and the public square, with most of the examples coming from Western society. We often ask not only “how should Christian faith interact with politics?”, but “can Christian faith really make a difference in the public discourse?” Here is a quite different example from Egypt, where Coptic Christianity collided with Islamic Sharia Law in relation to legality of gender equity for inheritance. “A Coptic Christian woman in Egypt says she has won a legal battle to receive the same inheritance as her brothers. Under the Islamic Sharia inheritance laws the country mainly relies on, female heirs inherit half that of male relatives. Huda Nasrallah, 40, brought the case to test the legality of the statute. The human rights lawyer built her case around Christian doctrine of equal inheritance. Two courts had earlier ruled against her based on Sharia. Sharia has been used in personal status law regardless of an individual’s religion, and this verdict could set a precedent.”

 

Music: Handel’s Messiah” by Jenny & Tyler from Christmas Stories.

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Prayer as Power for Mission with God (Romans 15:23-33)

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, I concluded our series “Power in Prayer: Learning to Pray with St. Paul.” After looking at Ephesians 3:14-21 on praying our way into God’s power and love and Colossians 1:9-14 on how prayer shapes our souls, this weekend I explored Romans 15:23-33 on how prayer connects with our mission in the world.

You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities for involvement. Each weekend I am also providing some resources for prayer related to the passage or theme of the week.

Resources for prayer

Each month we have a prayer guide for the church, the city, and the world. How could you more actively utilize these resources in praying for others?

Operation World is a helpful resource for intercessory prayer for the nations. Access it online or purchase a hard copy to pray over the world in a more informed manner.

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I Am Filled with God’s Power

In our current series at Eastbrook Church, “Who Am I?“, we are exploring biblical answers to questions about our identity as human beings. This past weekend I concluded the series by looking at how the Holy Spirit anchors our identity in God, connects us to a broader family, and sends us out with a new sense of mission.

You can view the message video and an expanded sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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