The Intentional Church – Book Review

October 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

I. Presuppositions Concerning The Intentional Church

A. A Healthy Church Must Be Intentional About:

·      Making Disciples (unbelief to belief)
·      Training Disciples (belief to maturity)
·      Developing Leaders (maturity to leadership)

B. To Be Intentional About Taking People From Unbelief to Maturity Requires a Plan to do so

·      A Ministry Plan
·      A Pathway Plan

C. There Are at Least 7 Building Blocks For a Healthy, Growing Church.

·      A Biblical Theology & Polity
·      Spiritual Renewal Dynamics
·      Spiritual Discerning and Gifted Leadership
·      Spiritual & Ministry Oriented Laity
·      Adequate Facilities
·      Adequate Financial Resources
·      Effective Ministry Plan

D. There Are at Least 10 Components of an Effective Ministry Plan:

  • A God-Honoring Purpose – Why do we exist?
  • A Faith Oriented Commitment – In what ways will we demonstrate a faith commitment? 
  • A God-Given Vision – What are we seeking to accomplish?
  • Well-Prioritized Values – What is important to us?
  • A Well-Defined Mission – How do we plan to accomplish our vision?
  • Biblically-Based Job Descriptions – Who is responsible for what in accomplishing our vision? 
  • A Strategically Designed Infrastructure – How will we structure our organization so as to accomplish our mission? 
  • A Culturally Oriented Strategy – How will we accomplish our mission? 
  • Well-Documented Goals – How will we know if we are accomplishing our vision and mission? 
  • A Time-Bound Schedule – What is a reasonable timeline of specific tasks that must take place in order to accomplish our goals?

 

II. Concerning Developing Leaders

A. Leading a church is ultimately about developing leaders, understanding that every Christian is called by God to be a leader.

·      Informal, Non-public Leader, Call & Character
·      Formal, Non-public Leader, Call, Character & Competencies
·      Formal, Public Leader, Call, Character, Competencies & Charisma

B. Developing spiritual leadership for a church is not accomplished by merely establishing a leadership training class, but rather by creating environments in which “called people” realize their God-given potential and maximize their impact with that potential.

·      A Missional Environment
·      A Spiritual Growth Environment
·      An Equipping Environment

C. The ideal way to raise up leaders is to begin with a clean slate (called non-believers) and working with them until they become mature and equipped followers of Christ.

 

III. Concerning Making & Training Disciples

A. A believer is not successful in training a disciple unless that disciple is to effective at both making and training disciples.

B. Our churches will not be highly effective at making and training disciples until we who are pastors become faithful in our commitments to both.

C. A church which becomes effective at training disciples will be effective at making disciples.

D. A church will not become highly effective at “training disciples who make disciples” without:

  • A church culture of disciple making.
  • A specific and effective plan for training people to make disciples.
  • Accountable structures to encourage believers to identify and build relationships with non-believing people.

E. Both making and training disciples becomes far more effective when engaged in life-on-life laboring in other’s lives

The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, A Review

May 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Sider, Ronald J.  The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, Why Are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World?  Baker Books. 2005. 144 pp. $12.00

I. Summary

Ronald J. Sider’s article, “The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience” is one that every evangelical Christian needs to read. This is not only a good read; it is filled with horrifying truths concerning the message we Christians are sending to the masses of our populace through the way we live. Sider begins by identifying a people who have gotten very far away from the normative realities of their religion and have become indiscernible from those who claim no religious affiliation at all—i.e. they have become enmeshed in the greater society. The hard truth: we are those people! Evangelical Christians have shamefully become ‘average Joes’ who blend with mainstream culture. The Bible is no longer the normative rule in our lives and our cultural norms have taken center stage. Sider cites a wealth of statistical data in relaying the is various points at which evangelicals are falling short of living a live that are truly and totally surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Beginning with a broad overview and a general description of the scandal, Sider soon moves on to what he labels “The Depth of the Scandal”. In this section he looks intricately at the issues of divorce, materialism, sexual promiscuity, racism, physical abuse in marriage, and the wholesale rejection of the biblical worldview on the part of both born-again Christians and evangelicals. Citing statistic after statistic, Sider shows how Christians pole near equal and in many—if not most—of the aforementioned categories they represent a people even farther from the truth than that of the general North American populace! Divorce rates are found to be higher among evangelicals; the amount of giving is found to be less than 0.25 tithe on average among Christians; sexual intercourse outside of marriage is viewed by many confessing Christians to be ‘morally okay’; evangelicals, and especially Baptists, are found to be the most discriminatory toward persons of other races! How are we then different from the world? Sider points out that we have—in most cases—sold out and become just like the world in the way we live. What great implications this has for how others view the Church, Christianity, and ultimately, their very analysis of Christ himself! The flagrant implications are devastating! In conclusion Sider recognizes that in recent years there has been some change in many of these areas that show a genuine lifestyle among Christians that reflects change and that better mirrors the life of Christ. In addition, Sider urges the evangelical community to earnestly repent and weep over her sins and the state of disobedience in which we now find ourselves. He calls for persistent prayer and envisions the revival and amazing sanctification that would ensue, should we turn to Christ totally and completely and distinguish Him alone as the Lord of our lives! In short, Sider reemphasizes what God himself commands of us: “Be holy, as I am holy (Leviticus 11:44).” We are to work out—to live out—our faith; this is the call and command we must understand and accept as our responsibility as children of God.

II. Critique

Sider’s argument is very strong and founded in much statistical study conducted in recent years. He is careful to support each case made. And, in so doing, he gains a hearing among his audience: those persons—namely Christians—who are living either wholly or partially contrary lives to that of the biblical worldview. He strongly asserts that evangelicals are much to blame for the negative shadow that has been cast on Christianity. A main strength Sider possesses is his accusation of even himself, as he is one who stands accused—along with the greater evangelical and Christian community—for slander of the name of Christ. Both Sider’s argument in accusation of hypocritical Christianity and his charge for Christians to prayer, repentance, revival and a biblical worldview are firmly grounded; and so, in concluding, he is not afraid to cite the positive changes that are already taking place among evangelicals. His presentation is well organized in this way, to ruffle the feathers and elicit gasps from his readers throughout the main body of his work, evoking in the reader a strong desire to personally strive toward a holy life and a biblical worldview; following the former is then his presentation of the active role some evangelicals are already taking to see this come to fruition.

III. Theological Reflection

This article is just the catalyst that many if not all evangelicals—including myself—need to hear as to light a fire within and open their eyes to the sin in which the Christian community has resolved to bathe. This article has served me personally in revealing the disparate state in which we as Christians truly find ourselves. Startling as the statistics mentioned by Sider may be, they are data of which we need to be aware so that we become more proactive and intentional about changing the face of Christianity, and ultimately in our quest to change the view that many in our own nation and around the globe have of Christ, due to our unfortunate handling of the name, Christian. We bear the single most important name from eternity past; may we do so to His glory!

Multicultural Ministries, A Review

May 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

Anderson, David.   Multicultural Ministry: Finding Your Church’s Unique Rhythm. Zondervan. 2004. 208 pp. $10.19

I began reading Multicultural Ministries thinking that I would be in agreement with everything said, as I consider myself an advocate for racial reconciliation and love to see believers from all different nations worshiping together. However, much to my surprise, I found many things bitter to my taste buds as I read through Anderson’s work. In reading Part 1 I was going along with him while at the same time, I felt that the book was serving as propaganda for multicultural churches, namely Bridgeway Community Church. I also sensed a lack of discussion of exceptions to the ‘rule’ he was setting forth. Part 2 carried a similar taste for me. However, I really enjoyed Part 4. The inclusion of the scriptures from Genesis and the relating of the stories of creation, the fall, the flood, and the various covenants God made with his people laid down an amazing background on which to view reconciliation. Looking at these scriptures is a great place to start in conversation of reconciliation and the need that we as a human race have for reconciliation to God and how Christ is the fulfillment and the means of that reconciliation. Here, Anderson’s discussion of the marriage of unity and love in the church holds a very powerful truth: ‘lunity’, as he calls the combination of unity and love is very potent in evangelizing the lost and we as Christians are called to practice this dynamic duo. When people see bridges being made where gaps once were and races coming together in harmony they take a second look; this second look may just be the incentive needed for such a person to be open to ‘the church’ as a possibility for them. I believe, as Anderson advocates, that the church should be the leader in racial reconciliation; after all, the only true unity—and thus the only true reconciliation—takes place when people are of one spirit (i.e. the Holy Spirit).

Anderson’s inclusion of 1 Corinthians 12:21-26 on one body made up of various members was what really brought me on board with him. I truly believe that God does intend for us to be one body, constructed of many diverse parts. Be it differing language, culture, gender, skin color—God wants us to live in harmony and that calls for the type of intentional reconciliation Anderson promotes. And, as Christians, we should lead the way in this and not lag behind, as has been the norm on some similar issues throughout church history.

Now I would like to explain why some elements of the book tasted bitter to me. Throughout the book, I felt Anderson advocating multicultural ministry no matter what; I didn’t see him taking into account areas in which a multicultural community does not exist. However, I do believe he is pointing to a future in which it is highly unlikely that homogenous communities still exist in their purist form. I say this because I come from a small town in western Kentucky where there still exists a homogenous, blue-collar, white culture group. I am 100% for racial reconciliation; however, it seems ludicrous to go to the next city over and target African-Americans in an evangelism effort, when the community that the church serves is not representative of such a culture. Another general qualm I had with the whole of Multicultural Ministrieswas the lack of discussion of language. Having lived in Guatemala, Central America for 2 years, I have witnessed in others and experienced personally how important it is to hear and understand things in one’s heart language. I feel Anderson did address the presence of immigrants and working with them and evangelizing them, however, he failed to discuss how you create a multicultural, multilingual church congregation, allowing for all language groups represented to be ‘fed’ in their heart languages. A Wycliffe missionary once said to me, “It’s like they hear Spanish, but it just doesn’t hit their hearts.” That one phrase has powerfully impacted the way I view language; language cannot be separated from culture, which is why I believe that it must be addressed in seeking a ‘multicultural ministry’.

Now, having explained a bit of my reason for disconcertedness with the work at hand, I would like to say that overall, I support multicultural ministry efforts. I do believe that the church should lead in efforts to unify our society in North America. However, I cannot see the same possibilities in other countries occurring quite as easily. One reason for this is the obvious lingual barrier that arises. Even so, reconciliation needs to take place all over the world; most other countries are suffering from much greater racial prejudices than are we in North America. Personally, I would like nothing more than to be part of a congregation such as Bridgeway Community Church. Now back in the U.S., I find that the only people I really wish to reach out to are immigrants and other marginalized peoples! I have always leaned that way—as many of my friends throughout high school and college were African-American and throughout college having worked with Internationals on some level—but now, knowing just a small taste of what one goes through as an outsider in a country that’s not her own, I am considerably more inclined to be intentional about finding such peoples and pouring myself into them. I find myself wishing to share life more with them than with my own countrymen.

In short, this book caused me to mull over the possibilities for multicultural ministries and the hard issues that arise in constructing such. This is a question I feel every segment of our U.S. populace must deal with; I would like to see the church lead the way in reconciliation and in multicultural efforts. I choose to be part of the solution, not the problem.

The Pleasures of God, A Review

May 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

Piper, John. The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being in God. 2000. Multnomah Books. 400 pp. $8.61

  1. The Pleasures of God: A Summary

In the preface to his book, The Pleasures of God, John Piper explains what the work is about: “…this is a book about the unimaginably good news that God delights fully in being God.” Piper goes on to explain that his book is one that is primarily about grace; he claims that God is ‘supremely happy’ in the companionship he has within the Trinity. In chapter 17 of Acts we read: “nor is he (God) served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). The point here is that God is sufficient in and of himself and in the union of the Trinity within which He exists. He is not served by humankind; he serves humankind. Piper seeks to help the reader understand how God is satisfied in God himself and, in doing so, enables the reader to be most satisfied in God because of this understanding (of God’s self-satisfaction).

First, Piper establishes the truth that God delights in his own nature and work. The first few chapters are God-centered, reviewing exactly how God pleasures in his son, in all that he does, and in his creation. Reflecting on the Psalms, Piper highlights how God is pleased in and by all that he does (Psalm 135:6; 115:3). The second portion of the book then looks at how God delights in the response of his people. Here, Piper goes to great lengths to state and reinforce the truth that God is complete in and of himself and does not need humankind or any other element of his created matter to make him whole; however, we humans do in fact need him. So, Piper explains first that God is sufficient of himself and that we are not necessary to complete him; this then sets the stage for our viewing of the gospel message: it is not us, but God who is at the center of the gospel. God did not simply need to create something and then redeem that something; as his creation, he created us to need him, and, what’s more, our fallen nature called for redemption that only our creator could provide. God is at the center. Our response of hope is Piper’s concern at this point in the book; our responding to God with hope in him elicits God’s delight and joy. The expressions of this hope are prayer and obedience to God; he delights in these reactions of his people. Finally, Piper seeks to aid the reader in understanding what it means to inhabit the same joy and pleasure that God has in himself.

  1. The Pleasures of God: An Evaluation

John Piper is very thorough in his work on the pleasure of God. He explores scripture, references past authors who’ve explored similar themes, pulls from personal experience, and intertwines nicely each of these elements to create a succinct product that accomplishes what it sets out to do (i.e. explain at length how God delights in all that he is and does and desires the same for us, his creation). Among other strengths of Piper’s work is his explanation of the Godhead; he expounds on a triune God. He makes clear that there is no competing nor jealousy in the Godhead and that both Father and Son are glorified equally in and through creation “because creation is the overflow of gladness that they have in each other” (p. 89). Piper’s writing also brings clarity to complex issues. He allows for the everyday Christian to understand theologically perplexing matters. This illumination of things once viewed as exclusive to the studies of theology proper is pivotal and marks a move in the right direction: a move in which the greater Christian populace understands with much enhanced clarity just why they believe what they do. Using vivid images and verbal pictures, Piper amazingly shows the reader what they have not seen with their own eyes nor yet wrapped their minds around; he is an author who shares his life with his readers. Interweaving various scriptures into his work, it is obvious that Piper seeks not to present his mere opinion, but to reveal and clearly expound Biblical truths. This inclusion of scripture is a strength of foremost importance as it allows the reader first-hand knowledge in the word of God (The alternative being second-hand knowledge of a mere writer.)

Among weaknesses of John Piper’s work in The Pleasures of God are random or seemingly unnecessary interjections, lack of consistency in form, and usage of ambiguous words without necessary definitions. At times, Piper will interject comments—generally quotes from other authors—without any real connecting element(s). This can lead to greater confusion of the matter at hand and sometimes opens up entirely new questions in the mind of the reader, taking them away from the present focus. This attribute is intimately tied to the second weakness mentioned: inconsistency in form. Piper seems to be consistently inconsistent. Jumping from his own thoughts to those of a favorite author, then on to a past experience, followed up by a quote from Scripture, Piper’s work threatens to leave many readers in a cloudy, muffled state; however, this weakness can be seen as a strength by the reader who enjoys variety and sees certain form as monotonous and overwhelmingly boring. Finally, one ponders on the definitions of words such as glory, joy, rejoice, among others. These are words that have either been overused and thus have lost their original meanings, have multiple definitions, or have been so overused or diversely used among church goers that they deserve a definition upon in-depth discussion.

  1. The Pleasures of God: Remaining Questions

Although this book covers thoroughly the subject of God’s pleasures, it leaves much to be desired. The question that Piper’s book generates is that of God’s anger. For example, what is it that angers God, and is his anger related to his pleasure, as he pleasures in all that he does? Is his anger, then only the result of what his creation does? And, even then, is that not also of his mere essence? There are infinite questions that will never be answered concerning God’s pleasure. As mere humans we simply cannot understand God in his entirety. How can he find pleasure in all that he does when that includes death of innocent people and hardship for good people among other things? How can he be both loving and angry at the same time? Does the fact that he is “outside of time” help explain that? Again, human minds only understand that which God allows them to; any knowledge we obtain is knowledge of something God has made or done. We are merely archaeologists, unearthing those things which he permits.

Passing the Baton, A Review

May 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Steffen, Tom. Passing the Baton. Center for Organization & Ministry. 1997. $16.95

Summary

Tom Steffen’s book, Passing the Baton is a work that focuses on the art of cross-cultural church planting. Written by expatriate missionaries, this is a book aimed at helping other expatriate missionaries involved in church planting. Through sharing his own experiences and extensive experiential knowledge, Steffen brings a model to the arena of church planting that seems impeccable in the planting of indigenous, self-sustained, Biblical churches in which God is glorified. The model set forth is a phase-out oriented model for church planting. Expatriate pioneer missionaries are to set an end-vision for their specific people group and, realizing that this involves an indigenous church led by nationals and conducted in every way by nationals for nationals, are to produce a strategy that involves their phasing out of the picture so that this can be accomplished. This model then works backward from the desired end in setting objectives, goals and action plans in order to reach this end-vision. As expatriates phase out, national leaders phase in—the baton is passed.

Contributions

Steffen’s thorough discussion of the New Testament models in relation to his formula which he lays out in the book is very insightful and helpful. We should, after all be striving to plant churches based on the Biblical model best seen in the New Testament and especially in the Acts of the Apostles and in the life and ministry of Paul. Steffen cites scripture at every turn in effort to parallel his church planting efforts with those of the New Testament model(s). A simple example of this can be seen in the first few pages of the book when Steffen discusses phasing out. Here, he begins by speaking about the length of time which Paul and others stayed in various places and the courses of action they undergo in their efforts to see the people reached for Christ. Implicit in this is the reality that they allowed, yeah even expected that the national body of believers would step up to lead their own people to Christ.

The discussion on phasing out is very insightful and quite honestly comprises many elements of which I had either never heard or considered in depth. Although I have looked at what is oftentimes called the last on-site stage of church planting which involves leaving and knowing when to leave, I had not been exposed to a model such Steffen’s that works from this point backward to formally construct a strategy that will, at every turn be anticipating the departure of the pioneer missionaries. This is a pivotal technique that begins very broadly and with an end-vision and then works deductively in effort to actualize the end-vision. It seems to be nothing less than efficient, adequate and necessary if we are to be involved in planting indigenous churches and if all peoples are to be reached for Christ. By default, front-end-only methodologies fall short of the model that begins by considering an ultimate vision and phasing out.

A concept new to me was that “the Trinity is committed to spreading the Kingdom of God around the world” (p. 17). Yes, it is inherent that God is committed to the spreading of his own kingdom; however, how often do we think of this reality in relation to the trinity and the intricate roles each member therein plays? Steffen points out that the Holy Spirit convicts unbelievers, while empowering and comforting believers; Jesus Christ secured our salvation in his act on the cross and promises that all nations, tribes and tongues will make up His church; God the Father is committed to love and correct his own through discipline, representing a father-figure to his children. Steffen draws a parallel between the ‘team’ within the Godhead as a church planting team and our very own church planting teams made up of different people with varying roles, working together to achieve a common goal. “The Father, Son and Holy Spirit promise to fulfill their roles. The Trinity expects teams and national believers to do likewise (p. 18). ” This is great incentive for us as we seek to plant churches, serving to spur us on in our efforts as mimicking in some small way, the image of God. This also calls us to a greater accountability and faithfulness to the cause of Christ. I find this illustration and parallel alignment of the Godhead with the church planting team (not in actual responsibilities or capabilities) to be very helpful. This discussion will prove helpful in discipling national believers on areas of the image of God in man, the Trinity, the premise for and models of church planting, and even the roles that the believer plays in church planting in relation to and in concert with the active roles of God therein.

Mentioned in part 1 is the key component of maintenance of relationships and networks even after the phasing out stage. Steffen says the following: “Church planters work themselves out of a job, but not out of relationships” (p. 19). Highlighted here is the reality that relationships must be maintained for a healthy transition. The new church and leaders still need your prayer, mentorship, correspondence, and ministry materials among other things.

To add to the above, Steffen is careful to point out that departure/phasing out does not equal abandonment in any sense. The pioneer missionaries are to phase out as planned from the beginning in a healthy way, leaving behind a viable, self-sustaining entity. They are to then keep contact with the church, encouraging and admonishing them, networking with them and serving to mentor the new body of believers—especially the leadership.

Although not a completely new idea, Steffen includes nice reminders on flexibility throughout his work and specifically emphasizes such in the church planting process, pointing to the regular evaluation of strategy and plans and the subsequent openness to update and allow for new developments. We begin with a clearly defined plan; we remain flexible and allow our strategy plans to be like clay, moldable and changeable to fit the changing and unanticipated realities faced in church planting.

A helpful quote on page 38 reads as follows: “Church planters must be willing to die to self-serving ambitions so that national leaders can live up to their full potential.” This is good to hear and most likely to be reminded of from time to time. Although we have goals and we envision certain outcomes, we are not the only ones whom God has called into a given church planting effort. To equip, empower and enable nationals is a very important part of the job of the cross-cultural church planter.

Limitations

Steffen himself notes that his work has limitations and in the opening pages he identifies a few: gear is toward cross-cultural church planting and is thus speaks to elements necessary to and for such, to the exclusion of properties that need to be considered in E1 and E2 situations

In addition, the book is written specifically from the perspective of expatriate missionaries to facilitate church planting carried out by expatriates. While we may count this a strength in speaking directly to the needs of expatriate missionaries, it gives the book a narrow scope that disallows its total effectiveness for others—i.e. national church planters and others. A national perspective would be necessary to assess and speak to the needs and roles played by such persons.

While Steffen advocates and even emphasizes teaming, and in-so-doing, the formation of partnerships with other Great Commission Christians (GCCs), he does not directly address the reader with effective ways in which to build a church planting team, incorporating partners. A valuable addition might involve discourse on how to begin and nurture relationships with other GCCs, what to look for in partnering, what are ‘red flags’, what types of alliances to avoid, etc. Furthermore, what happens to these relationships after the pioneering entity/team has phased out?

Principles

Steffen endorses the laying out of objectives at the forefront of all church planting efforts. An overall strategy should be in view and a vision spelled-out, in order to plan strategically so that the objectives are met in view of the overall vision and expressly for the purpose of seeing the plan out from start to finish, resulting in church. All endeavors will fit advantageously into the overall strategy that strives to bring about the goals and objectives that relate back to the vision of seeing the people come to know Christ and build up viable, New Testament churches.

The principle of responsible disengagement as first mentioned on page 16 is one that is noted as primary throughout the work at hand. From the beginning one must take into consideration just how they will disengage themselves gracefully and in a healthy way that fosters growth in the church and that does not cause hindrances to church growth and multiplication.

Throughout his work Steffen strives to present and foster holistic approaches to ministry; he appreciates the connectivity of all aspects of the human being and thus seeks to ‘treat’ the whole person in effort to bring about life changes and ultimately transformation of the people at large.

The definition of church is very important: “How one defines a local church determines the product one looks for (p. 16)”. This principle relays the importance of the idea of what church is, what it does and does not entail, etc. Here the church planter must ask himself what the essentials of a church are; these will comprise what makes up the church. This topic is very important in forming alliances with other Christian organizations overseas. To partner on some projects you do not necessarily have to have the exact same goals; however, if you intend to plant churches and your partner does as well, then you need to be on the same page doctrinally. Evangelistic and social mandate ministries can be conducted in conjunction with you partners, but you need to understand and appreciate one another’s end-vision from the outset.

A pivotal principle identified by Steffen is that of identifying the various cycles through which a local church goes. Steffen relates that churches go through states of vitality, luke-warmness, and sterility. He also mentions the different sentiment among first generation believers as compared to that of second and third generation believers in relation to these cycles. In my experience working with both first and second generation believers within a congregation that is at a general state of luke-warmness, I must say that these cycles really do exist. This pattern of luke-warm sentiment on the part of 2nd and 3rd generation believers was characteristic among the churches I worked among in Guatemala. Many times you find that the 1st generation believers made a clean break with their past religion, practices, and all that is therein affiliated—things that are sinful/evil to them. The second generation believers then ride on the coattails of their parents or predecessors, merely falling in suit. However, problems begin to arise with this second and also with the third generation believers as they are facing the hard theological questions that deal with why they as a church body do or do not practice a certain aspect of their culture. They did not have to make the clean break that their parents did and thus do not see these entities as evil or even bad or sinful. This disparity can cause great questions in Christian identity and the like. It may also foster legalism in the 2nd and 3rd generations who follow tradition without understanding why they do or do not do certain things. Thus, wedded to this principle of identifying cycles is that of being alert to these generation issues.

Steffen advocates the identification and isolation of the different roles played by team members, national believers and God. It is of obvious importance to recognize the responsibilities that God has in every effort that we do; we must know in both our hearts and our heads that it is God who draws people to himself, not us; it is God who saves people from sin, not us; it is God who enables us to do the work we do, not us. Furthermore, as discussed in class we need to identify the roles of each of our team members and national believers in order to identify various objectives that we as a team—channeled individually and specifically where possible—will seek to accomplish in our church planting efforts. This will allow us to identify quantifiable goals and action plans to make these goals happen.

“Theological training must move from the simple to the complex, from the known to the unknown and be presented through viable cultural means (p. 18).” Here Steffen is advocating a general paradigm that moves from basic to more advanced. This seems to be a good model as it enables all those coming in to be discipled from day one. As relationships are built with non-believers, discipleship begins just in sharing life with these persons. The missionary or national believer models Christ-like lifestyle patterns for the non-believer. This naturally flows to Bible storying times in which discipleship takes place as well. Spiritual growth is occurring during each of these stages and a foundation is laid for a transformed life.

Another factor Steffen highlights is that of setting realistic timetables for the new church(s) that is planted. This gives them a certain timeframe in which to accomplish certain goals. Positive spin-offs of this are two-fold: in a broad sense it gives them specific goals to be working toward, casting a vision and practical ways to reach these goals; it also allows for the new body to be affirmed by attaining their realistically-set goals as they move along as a new body of believers.

Steffen firmly enunciates that effective church planters must enter the culture as learners and remain hungry learners throughout the entire church planting process. Retaining this hunger for learning more about the people among whom you minister is very important. I agree that this principle is of primary importance. One simplistic application is this: those who are teachable are given the chance to teach; this learner’s mentality creates a save space in which the nationals feel safe sharing their culture and lives with you.

Evangelistic efforts serve as times of modeling evangelism to others. Steffen promotes a model in which others—most likely new believers—accompany the church planter, are encouraged to participate, and are given time to debrief and deliberate after the evangelistic experience.

Empower nationals for ministry. This is our goal as international church planters. It should be noted on the front end that we are to ultimately concern ourselves with the empowering and equipping of nationals who will replace us. They are the ones who will then carry the national church and extend her reaches as growth and multiplication occur.

Fundamental to any church planting endeavor is an understanding of the whole Bible and primary to this is correct understanding of the message of the gospel—i.e. all humans are sinners and Jesus Christ’s salvific act on the cross serves as sufficient to atone for this sin. We must read all of scripture in light of the gospel. Steffen mentions this principle in his ample discussion on evangelism and emphasizes that we need not present ‘felt need gospels’ to our target people. The people need to understand their need for salvation—their lostness—and then they will understand that their true need is for a savior—Jesus Christ. This must remain at the hub of all that we do as church planters. It is great to use bridges and avoid barriers in relating the gospel to others; but the moment we change the gospel message into something that it is not is the moment we have forfeited our right to proclaim Christ among the nations. We must remain true to the scriptures and their presentation of the necessary gospel of Christ and subsequent faith in Him alone.

Conclusion

Steffen is very comprehensive in this study. He clearly lays out practical approaches to start churches and to empower nationals along the way, resulting in indigenous churches that are Biblically strong and self-sustainable. I don’t see how anyone seeking to plant such churches cross-culturally could disagree with Steffen’s approach—at least in theory—of the phase-out oriented model of church planting as it seems an excellent way of conducting oneself as a cross-cultural church planter.

The Recovery of the Holy Land, A Review

May 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Dubois, Pierre. The Recovery of the Holy Land, Translated with and introduction and Notes by Walther I. Brandt, Columbia University Press, New York 1956. 239 pages with works cited and index.

This book is both a proposal and a plea addressed to Edward I of England involving things of general nature such as peace, reform of the Church, education and an outlined proposal meant for the King only suggesting a crusade to rescue Palestine from Moslem hands.

Pierre Dubois provide a first hand look at the propositioning for the plan of a new crusade. After the fall of Acre (1291), most proponents of a new crusade were aware that a frontal attack on the coast of Palestine would be doomed to almost certain failure, and turned their attention to the possibility of a flanking movement. Dubois plan for a new crusade, despite his laudatory phrases in praise of Edward I of England, was based on the premise that the French would assume the leadership. Dubois felt that if was first necessary to establish peace in Europe and reform the Church in head and members. Dubois recommended that monastic disciplines be reestablished and the military orders be united into one, under new leadership. An important feature of Dubois’ schemes was new educational system whose primary purpose would be to train the youth of both sexes for service in the East.

The second part of the Recovery, intended only for the eyes of Philip and his close advisors, Dubois turned his attention to French problems. Dubois challenged that the King defend his realm by summoning feudatories to military service and, in the case of ultimate necessity, he might seize the property of churches and ecclesiastes. By establishing the French hegemony over the West, the king could then could enforce feudal obligation and sponsor a successful crusade that would give him control of the Holy Land. We may fairly conclude, then, that Dubois’ truly original ideas comprised little more than his definite plan for a system of international arbitration and the proposal for the establishment of a system of schools which should regularly admit women to professional training.

Overall I thought this text was somewhat long winded although it is fairly short in length. It seems to me that Dubois does not feel that coming out and saying what he intends would really help his cause so he somewhat tones it down. I still could relate to this book even though it was written in the Middle Ages and was quite surprised to the fact as how he went about justifying some of his proposals. I would recommend this book for someone who desires to look into rhetoric lying behind a push for Holy War as a desire to establish personal and self-succeeding goals.

The Apostolic Fathers, A Review

May 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Lake, Kirsopp. The Apostolic Fathers. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press; London: W. Heineman. 1985-1992. 293 pp.

This book is a collection of documents, not chosen for the Bible, that were written soon after Christ’s Crucifixion during the early spread of Christianity.

The Apostolic Fathers is an intriguing look into the early Christian Church it’s structure and their practices. The book is a collection of writing including ‘The Teaching of the Apostles’, I and II Clement, The Epistles of Ignatius, Barnabas, Polycarp and Hermes. The book covers the generation or more that apostles and prophets coexisted with the local ministry of bishops and deacons. Given in this source are directions for baptism, fasts on Wednesdays and Fridays, the correct form of the Lord’s Prayer, and eucharistic prayers. Clement features the two-tiered ministry in his writing in Chapter XIX of his first book. Warnings of exploitation of the distribution of alms runs rampant throughout the translations and exhortations to live a life of obedience stand out probably directed to those people who became Christians for very worldly reasons.

I learned many things from this book that I felt were unique and did not know before. The first thing I learned is that the reason these books were left out of the Bible was that none of the works claimed to be apostolic, so therefore they were on a slightly lower level than those books excepted into the canon. The next thing that stood out to me where the constant references to the Old Testament and Gospels and the introduction or emphasis placed upon the Holy Ghost. Barnabas, possibly written for the Ebionites, does a good job of using prophecies in Daniel and then illustrations of a scape goat and red heifer to further show the types of Christ. Ignatius is filled with many exhortations of obedience and devotion to Christ. Ignatius goes further and emphasized the importance of unity and his own personal desire to suffer. The ‘Shepherd of Hermas’ warned that on station days the fasting that God required was abstinence from evil acts and desires. I particularly like Command VII on fearing God, but not the Devil.

I thought the book was very good and felt that it was very interesting looking back upon the works of lesser status, but certainly not of importance. The one thing that I seems to have stood out to me is each author’s desire for authority, which their references strive to grasp. I would recommend this book with anyone already familiar with the books of the New Testament who is looking to go a little bit further in their search for the direction and spirit of the early church.

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