Abandon

I would recommend David Platt’s “Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream.” I was fortunate enough to be provided a copy in a special pre-release directly from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for review purposes. You can purchase a copy for under $11 at Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1601422210/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_i2?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=11XWW9QB32DPRXDPBAYD&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=470938631&pf_rd_i=507846) or directly from the publisher at http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/catalog.php?isbn=9781601422217. Along with that, you can also request a free copy of The Radical Question (a companion booklet, that though is tinier than the original, still contains a big punch) by going to http://www.WaterBrookMultnomah.com/RadicalQuestion. Finally, everyone is able to download and read chapter one of the Radical book at http://www.RadicalTheBook.com.

I enjoyed the introduction titled “Someone Worth Losing Everything For.” The author proposes, “We were settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central mes- sage of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves” (Platt, 7). I find it so interesting that our youth ministry, while going through the Gospel of Luke – and specifically through the portion of the Sermon on the Plain, keeps on coming back to this idea of a radical faith. It seems to me that the Spirit is saying similar things to several within the church. The author goes on to suggest, “Ultimately, Jesus was calling them to abandon themselves. They were leaving certainty for uncertainty, safety for danger, self-preservation for self-denunciation. In a world that prizes promoting oneself, they were following a teacher who told them to crucify themselves. And history tells us the result. Almost all of them would lose their lives because they responded to his invitation” (12).

I kept on thinking about the words of the bible which read, And [Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:23-27, ESV).

There is something in my heart that so resonates with the Simple Church model of focusing on worship, discipleship, and evangelism. I can imagine a church that solely is committed to connecting people to the love of Christ, the life of the church, and the need of the world. I sometimes wonder if we as leadership are guilty of wanting so badly for people to stay true to the church that we inadvertently keep them busy within the confines of our cathedrals. They are so caught up in ministry to the church that they have little time to actually be the church. What if we simply called our people to find one need in the community to meet? Whether it be coaching their child’s baseball team, visiting the prison, volunteering at the retirement community, running for office, or praying with those at pregnancy resource centers. What if we spent less time creating outreach opportunities and rather just made our people aware of existing ministries? What if we invested as much time in scattering the church as we do as gathering them together? Our ministries ought to be primarily felt in the marketplace. That is a radical and revolutionary thought.

Official Book Description: It’s easy for American Christians to forget how Jesus said his followers would actually live, what their new lifestyle would actually look like. They would, he said, leave behind security, money, convenience, even family for him. They would abandon everything for the gospel. They would take up their crosses daily…BUT WHO DO YOU KNOW WHO LIVES LIKE THAT? DO YOU? In Radical, David Platt challenges you to consider with an open heart how we have manipulated the gospel to fit our cultural preferences. He shows what Jesus actually said about being his disciple–then invites you to believe and obey what you have heard. And he tells the dramatic story of what is happening as a “successful” suburban church decides to get serious about the gospel according to Jesus. Finally, he urges you to join in The Radical Experiment –a one-year journey in authentic discipleship that will transform how you live in a world that desperately needs the Good News Jesus came to bring.

About the Author: David Platt is the pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, a 4,000-member congregation in Birmingham, Alabama. Widely regarded as an exceptional expositor, David has traveled and taught around the world. He holds two undergraduate and three advanced degrees, including a Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. David and his wife, Heather, are the parents of Caleb and Joshua, and are in the process of adopting a third child.

Abandon

Communicate


I would recommend John C. Maxwell’s “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently.” I was fortunate enough to be provided a copy in a special pre-release directly from Thomas Nelson for review purposes. You can purchase a copy for under $16 at Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Everyone-Communicates-Few-Connect-Differently/dp/0785214259) or directly from the publisher at http://www.thomasnelson.com/consumer/product_detail.asp?sku=0785214259&title=Everyone_Communicates,_Few_Connect&author=John_C._Maxwell. However, I would propose that there are more effective and practical books on this exact subject – namely, Andy Stanley’s “Communicating for a Change.”

My favorite chapter was titled “Connecting Goes Beyond Words.” The author proposes that a communicator always incorporate “thought (something we know), emotion (something we feel) and action (something we do)” (Maxwell, 49). He suggests that these three aspects are crucial in order to relate with the audience. Leaving out one of these characteristics would most likely result in the listener being disengaged. For example,” If [we] try to to communicate:
* Something [we] know but do not feel, [our] communication is dispassionate.
* Something [we] know but do not do, [our] communication is theoretical.
* Something [we] feel but do not know, [our] communication is unfounded.
* Something [we] feel but do not do, [our] communication is hypocritical.
* Something [we] do but do not know, [our] communication is presumptuous.
* Something [we] do but do not feel, [our] communication is mechanical” (49-50).

I kept on thinking about the words of the bible which read, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, ESV). As a communicator, my sermons, lessons, and conversations ought to include contemplation, excitement, and reliability. The day and age of leaders refusing to share stories and struggles straight from their own lives is long gone. They have to be willing to invite others into their journey – sharing how they are living out the gospel themselves. A communicator can do this as he or she asks specific and thought provoking questions. They should consider telling a lot of stories – not just personal ones but biblical ones – inviting the listener into the epic narrative of Christ. Such methods will more than likely engage the audience and bring them to a decision. I prefer the one point message made famous by Andy Stanley – sharing the same point in five different ways . . .
* A light introduction about me
* A common problem that we all deal with
* A text from the Scriptures that shares God’s instruction
* An application point for each individual
* A time of vision for the entire congregation
This approach seems to be simple and memorable. Repetition not only assists the communicator in memorizing the message but also helps the listener to remember and reflect upon the point.

Official Book Description: The world’s most respected leadership expert gives five principles and five practices for breaking the invisible barrier to leadership and personal success. You have a good idea but can’t convince your peers of its merit. You crafted a groundbreaking strategy, but the team trudges on in the same old way. Certain people move forward in their career while you seem to be stuck. If this describes you or someone you know, the problem is not the quality of what you have to offer. The problem is how you connect with people to create the results you desire. In “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect”, John Maxwell takes readers through the Five Connecting Principles and the Five Connecting Practices of top-notch achievers. He believes that a person’s ability to create change and results in any organization—be it a company, church, nonprofit, or even a family—is directly tied to the ability to use the teachings of this book.

Communicate

Creed

MARKS OF THE CHURCH
One of the dilemmas of contemporary Christianity is its visible fragmentation with different denominations staking their distinctive(s) in relation to other denominations. The traditional “marks” of the church are stated in the Creed: “We believe in the one, holy catholic and apostolic church, the communion of saints…” The oneness of the church is defined as “unity in diversity,” not uniformity. In regards to articulating the Kingdom, Van Gelder proposes, “Being governed by the Word means that the church’s life and ministry are to be defined by the biblical story. The church must live into this story, seeking to understand the full purposes of God. The church must also live out of this story, applying God’s purposes to its life and ministry.” There is a correlation between the marks of the church and the mission of the church and this relationship should have a great influence on the formation of Pentecostal ecclesiology.

In regards to the unity of the church, Karkkainen proposes, “Pentecostals, like other Christians, do not have the option of choosing whether to be engaged in ecumenism. The question is rather what kind of ecumenism they see compatible with their own agenda.” Van Gelder suggests, “Rather than contrasting the church’s oneness with its brokenness, it is more helpful to see its unity in conjunction with its diversity. That is, the church, while existing as one, also must exist as many.” There is a great need for prayer and discussion between the different denominations. God’s heart truly breaks at the fracturing of his church. Paul challenged the church in Ephesus, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” It is important that Pentecostals have a voice at the table so “that the church [might] maintain its unity. Every church body must have the conviction and desire to relate to other church bodies that are part of the catholic church. To do less, according to Jesus, is to betray both the nature of God and the nature of the church.”

Walter Hollenweger identifies a few traits of Pentecostalism that match the postmodern mindset – “orality of tradition, narrativity of theology and witness, maximum participation amongst community members, mystical elements of spirituality, and the relationship between body and mind.” Martin Luther understood the relationship between humanity being reconciled back to God and humanity being reconciled back to each other. The Spirit of Christ dwells amongst all disciples especially as they dwell amongst each other.” There is one covenant under Christ. He has a couple of reasons in making covenants with his people. Initially, the Lord is devoted to instituting and reinforcing a unique fellowship with his disciples. Subsequently, he is equally devoted to empowering them to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth.” The idea of voluntarily association, though a reaction to the denominationalism of the modern era, has thus fostered a consumerist approach. So many individuals currently leave churches based upon differing programs and pleasures rather than on issues of doctrine or devotion. The emphasis is often placed on what can be gained rather than on what can be given.

In regards to the universalism of the church, Pentecostals might most effectively contribute to these ecumenical discussions by establishing and emulating a holistic missiology. A deeper grasp of the Trinity’s relationship and function would arise if a gathering of diverse churches would place Christ’s commission at the center of all they are entrusted to be and do – especially in relation to the restoration, renewal and inauguration of the Kingdom. Van Gelder claims, “Three aspects of God’s mission in the world have direct implications for the ministry of the church: God’s cosmic confrontation with the powers, God’s reconciling work in the world, and God’s redemptive work within the community of faith.” Being missional brings with it apostolic connotations. To be an apostle means to be one who is sent. The original twelve were commissioned to take the gospel into all of the world. All believers are entrusted with carrying the mission. A challenge for every community is to effectively translate that message into the specific language of one’s culture. An ability to frame the gospel in a pertinent way is a natural progression to being obedient to the global cause.”

There is a significant link between the marks of the church and the mission of the church. Van Gelder suggests, “The church is both a spiritual reality and a sociological entity. It has divine roots in the eternal purposes of God, yet exists as a historically conditioned organization. It is both holy and human, both spiritual and social.” Even in the midst of the beginning of the modern Pentecostal movement, there was a reemergence of racism and sexism. One cannot ignore the infamous history – but emerging generations ought to learn from it. Pentecostals can admit their failures and extend a hand towards other denominations within the Christina faith. Humility is often the beginning of meaningful conversations and reconciliation. Van Gelder proposes, “It is the Spirit’s power that indwells the community and its members. It is the Spirit who draws, leads, guides, teaches, counsels, and provokes the church into living by a redeemed set of values.”

WORKS CITED
Althouse, Peter. “Marks of the Church (part 1).” Online Lecture, 2010. Southeastern
University, Lakeland, FL (accessed April 17, 2010).
Althouse, Peter. “Marks of the Church (part 2).” Online Lecture, 2010. Southeastern
University, Lakeland, FL (accessed April 17, 2010).
Karkkainen, Veli-Matti. Toward a Pneumatological Theology. New York, NY:
University Press of America, 2002.
Van Gelder, Craig. The Essence of the Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000.

Creed

External

POSTMODERNISM AND THE MISSION
Dr. Althouse proposes, “For the church to faithfully fulfill its mission, the kerygma (proclamation), koinonia (fellowship) and diakonia (service) must all be actively engaged in all dimensions. The priority of one to the exclusive of the other(s) unbalances church mission and risks collapse into a self-serving institution or diffusion into mere social service without transformative power. The church must live missionally, faithfully engaging all three of these components. One ought to reexamine and reevaluate the way and reason certain cultures have been constructed. The church has been guilty of externalizing assumptions by projecting personhood to the larger context; objectifying that interpretation and solidifying those notions as norms and expectations, and the internalizing such conclusions as socialization and fact. Common cultural language such as building, expanding, establishing, extending, promoting, and branding the church must be replaced with the biblical understanding of receiving, entering, inheriting, and seeking the church. Pentecostalism has to remember the true significance of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring as it relates to the inauguration of the church and the notion of the church as an organism that is to grow on a daily basis.

In regards to the proclamation of God’s Kingdom, Dr. Althouse proposes, “Nineteenth-century evangelicalism held together the missional vision of the church as being both proclamation and social action/ justice, but with the early-twentieth century and in the shadow of the American Civil War and World War I proclamation and social action/justice were severed. The church can recapture its primary mission of proclamation and social action/justice without succumbing to an either/or strategy.” Christ sacrificed himself on behalf of humanity, taking their place, making himself the ransom so that he might be reconciliation, which ought to influence every aspect of a believer’s existence – mind, body, spirit, and strength. The indwelling of the Spirit has empowered the church to proclaim Christ’s message in the same way that the Charismatic Christ preached the good news. The church has been entrusted to bring about concrete social change in reflection of a social God. Dr. Althouse is quite clear when he states, “The church is not God’s Kingdom or the goal of God’s mission but rather the sign, the instrument, the foretaste, and the anticipation of the that Kingdom.”

Proclamation has to be holistic and sacrificial. One scholar proposes, “Along with racial unity, the first Pentecostals were born with the idea of pacifism. A literalistic reading of the Bible and an enthusiasm caused by the wonder of God’s Spirit uniting people of different origins, worshipping in the same community, caused Pentecostals to regard war as belonging to the ‘old age.’” The missional approach is important for the church because it “signifies that bearing witness is constitutive or reflective of the church’s being or identity and, as a result, its entire purpose and activity.” The World Council of Churches produced a joint document that was titled Common Witness and Proselytism that states, “Witness must proceed from the Spirit of love, it must be concerned for the good of God and human beings, not for that of a single community, and it must leave the addressee with full freedom to make a personal decision.” Leaders must cease focusing so much on increasing attendance, expanding facilities, and growing budgets and rather on developing creative and courageous ways to serve their communities, strengthen their families, and truly further the good news in their region. Harper and Metzger stated, ““Thus, our salvation involves the ultimate transformation of body, soul, and spirit in Christ’s redeemed community in a renewed cosmos, to which the church itself presently bears witness.” The reflective and representative nature of the church in the community ought to be a foretaste of the coming Kingdom. One author asks, “If we were to leave town, would anyone know? While our buildings would stay put, are our facilities placed in strategic locations to impact the community at large?”

Living missionally also means that the church exemplify community that is from the outflow of the very nature of the Triune God; a fellowship that is extended to the church being sent out on his behalf. Believers ought to be more deliberate to associate with others as a Christ-centered community, “‘incarnating’ Christ’s presence, and inviting others to become members of the Holy Spirit’s temple community by being active in church small groups and home communities.” Still another author states, “The future of the church in God’s new creation is the mutual personal indwelling of the Triune God and of his glorified people.” Being present with people will sometimes be unpredictable and even unpleasant. There will be times to speak out with conviction – and people will at times be offended at the truth. More often than not, however, there will be moments to display compassion – to care, pray, weep, console, and encourage. It will be during these times that hearts will grow soft towards the love of Christ.

Finally, in order to faithfully fulfill the mission, the church ought to serve. One scholar encourages believers to move past “the prosperity gospel and its definition of success to the good news of God . . . {that which] encourages us to journey with Jesus by becoming outwardly and downwardly mobile and reaching out to those who look, act, think, and smell different from us.” Many historians agree, “Pentecostals have continued to speak and act on behalf of those victimized by abortion, pornography, violence, oppression, etc. And even more concretely, they have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and provided emergency disaster relief. They have expanded their educational efforts in many parts of the world.” The doctrine of healing is just more evidence that the movement aims to show concern for social action – valuing the wellbeing of the soul, mind, and body. William Seymour saw Spirit Baptism as the reconciliation of the races and integration of nations as the predominant sign of the Coming Kingdom.

One scholar even goes as far as to propose, “The church that relocates, reconciles, and redistributes wealth in this way moves out as a missional witness to the communal and co-missional God, who wages war against the whore of Babylon and the merchants with whom she committed adultery, and against Pharaoh and Caesar, who impose their nameless deity and imperial rule on peoples for their own economic gain.” The local church has to honestly evaluate how much of one’s budget is allotted towards oneself in contrast to that which is allocated to bless those who are unable to help themselves. Church leadership has to distance itself from political positions that hold to the idea that either government is predominately responsible to care for the needy or that every individual is personally responsible for oneself. In so doing, they are ignoring God’s mandate of authentic Christ-centered community that not only takes care of the family but also invites others to the table of fellowship. Service includes social welfare but also aims to change the surrounding structures that cause the oppression. The bible speaks of a teacher of the law when it states, “But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” Jesus responded by calling his disciples to serve their enemies – those who were drastically different and even quite deplorable to them.

In conclusion, Harper and Metzger suggest, “Whole churches can minister missionally by identifying needs in the community and reaching out to address those needs . . . Like Jesus, we must live among the people, tabernacling in their midst, while also inviting them to tabernacle with us as God’s temple community.” The mission of the church is the mission of the Kingdom and not the other way around. Acts of the Apostles is the model of the church living out the mission through sermons to Jews and to Gentiles – as well as through social justice such as helping the widows. Being missional is a urgent vocation because salvation comes only through confessing Christ.

WORKS CITED
Althouse, Peter. “Postmodern Culture.” Online Lecture, 2010. Southeastern University,
Lakeland, FL (accessed April 9, 2010).
Althouse, Peter. “The Mission of the Church.” Online Lecture, 2010. Southeastern
University, Lakeland, FL (accessed April 10, 2010).
Harper, Brad and Paul Louis Metzger. Exploring Ecclesiology. Grand Rapids, MI:
Brazios Press, 2009.
Karkkainen, Veli-Matti. Toward a Pneumatological Theology. New York, NY:
University Press of America, 2002.

External