Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Way of Jesus

Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." —John 14:6

I’m a fan of adventure stories, my favorites being those of J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Whether reading the books or watching the movies, I cannot get enough of this grand story. In the opening chapter of The Hobbit, we are introduced to the primary character, Bilbo Baggins, a self-proclaimed risk-avoider who does not go on adventures. In fact, he prides himself on staying to himself, not bothering other hobbits, and living in mediocrity. Bilbo could have written an enlightening book on the art of living a quiet, safe life, one that has very little conflict. The story opens:

“This hobbit was a very well to do hobbit, and his name was Baggins. The Bagginses had lived in the neighborhood of The Hill for time out of mind, and people considered them very respectable, no only because most of them were rich but also because they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected; you could tell what a Baggins would say on any question without the bother of asking him. This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected. He may have lost the neighbors’ respect, but he gained—well, you will see whether he gained anything in the end.”

Flowers & TreesFor most of my years of reading the Bible, I interpreted "the way of Jesus" as a destination. Jesus was someone to be acknowledged and attained. Jesus was a doctrine to be grasped, a theological truth to be controlled. In other words, Jesus was method for me to be right and others to be wrong, so that I could live the safe life.

The Hobbit offers an alternative view of the way of Jesus. It is a tale about Bilbo’s reluctant adventure with a small group of companions to take back stolen treasures from a fire-breathing dragon. Adventures are adventures because they are full of ups and does, struggles and victories, failures and pressing through failures. This adventure takes them through a wooded forest where they are bound by large spiders, captured by three huge trolls, imprisoned for trespassing, and almost drowned as they float down a river. And all of this occurred before they even get anywhere close to the dragon!

Adventures like The Hobbit teach us about Jesus' way. For me, and many like me, we begin following Jesus with assumptions that resemble the life Bilbo led at the beginning of the book, one that is defined by predictable outcomes, minimal risk, and getting results without having to give up the safe life. This is reinforced by the common life of our cultures. In our world, the goal is to get to a place in life where you can settle down and not take any adventures, to do what is expected and be respectable, which usually means “keep to yourself.” In other words, keep to an even plain, no ups and no downs. Stick to your predictable routine and all will be well. 

But this usually comes with strings attached, like isolation, the absence of belly laughing, and the joy of accomplishing something. Of course you don’t have to worry much about things like allowing others to hurt you, or deep sadness or the pain of failure. But neither do you get to experience things like helping people experience victory of pain, the freedom to be yourself when you feel loved, and the safety that comes with being with a good friend.

The way of Jesus is a way of adventure, not one of safety and comfort. It’s full of risk, challenges, and threats. It’s full of hard-fought battles that lead to celebrations of victory. The way of Jesus is a journey, not a destination.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Leading Great Small Group Meetings

Small group meetings are important. If you don't do meetings that well, then people will not want to explore life together outside the group. However, if we don't have much life interaction outside the meeting, how good can the meetings actually be?

It's a chicken and egg thing. Good group meetings can lead to life together. And life together generates good group meetings.

Business & Finance
In order to have great small groups the goal cannot be to have a great group meeting. As soon as we put the success of a group meeting in the cross hair, then we will miss one another. The point of it all is to love one another. We have great meetings to the extent that we see the other persons, when we encounter them in truth, and when we serve the other. Great group meeting occur when we turn our faces to one another and we experience the other.

When we value the success of the group meeting over the people in the meeting, then we fail. It's a paradox. We actually have a great group experience when we don't focus on having a great group experience.

So here are a few things that you can practice as a leader in order to focus beyond having a great group meeting:
  1. Pray for every group member. Ask the Lord to give you compassion for them and to open your eyes to see them. This will help you get your eyes off of yourself and your leadership.
  2. Prepare the lesson the night before. Don't wait until the last minute. You want your mind to be clear so that you can focus on the people, not on the lesson.
  3. Listen to what people are not saying as much as to what they are saying. Posture, tone of voice, and eye contact reveal crucial things about what's going on in our lives.
  4. Enlist someone to help you lead the meeting. Don't take on all of the pressure to do everything. Ask someone to lead the ice breaker or to lead worship. Yes you probably can do it all, but your primary job is to focus on the people, not to do all the parts of the meeting correctly.
  5. Remember that silence is actually an asset. Give space for people to reflect, to listen to God, and to form their words. If all of the time is filled with words, you may have an energetic meeting, but you may miss what God wants to do.
Jean Vanier writes, "A community is only truly a body when the majority of its members is making the transition from 'the community for myself' to 'myself for the community,' when each person's heart is opening to all the others, without any exception. This is the movement from egoism to love, from death to resurrection; it is the Easter, a passage, the passover of the Lord. It is also the passing from a land of slavery to a promised land, and the land of inner freedom" (Community and Growth, 55-56).

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Missional Church & Personal Evangelism

I've read a ton on the topic of "missional." I read just about everything that mentions the word. A few years ago I picked up a book entitled The Attractional Church. Since I interviewed the author for my first magazine article back in 1996, I was interested in what he had to say. Surprisingly, I found comments about missional in a book on attractional. The author wrote:

"Being 'missional' is an individual responsibility—each of us must accept the responsibility to share Christ with others in any given situation.
      "Being 'incarnational' is an individual responsibility—our transformation into the image of Christ by the renewing of our minds cannot be dictated from the pulpit but must come as a desire from within. Biblical instruction is necessary here.
      "Being 'attractional' is a corporate responsibility—the leadership of the local church has the responsibility to present Christ and His Kingdom as perfectly as possible the way it is revealed in scripture. It also must encourage and train its members to live as "sent ones," (living missionally) and to be like Christ (incarnational) to the lost world around them."

Now I have a great deal of respect for Billy Hornsby, the author of these words and the life of integrity and Godly service that he lived. At the same time, these words illustrate how the word "missional" can be used to mean something like "personal evangelism."

The Church Photo Photo Named Beautiful DoorsWith this understanding of missional, it's the job of the church to get individuals in the doors and then send them out the doors to be missionaries in their daily lives so that they can bring more people back through the doors. I've even heard some say that if a church has 200 people, then they have 200 missionaries who can go out and incarnate the Gospel in their daily lives. And while on one level this is true, we don't really need a word like "missional" to talk about this because we have been teaching personal evangelism practices in the church for decades.

If you have read much about the missional church, you might wonder why even mention the above quote. After all it does not demonstrate much interaction with the rich literature on the topic. At the same time, I don't find that many pastors have much time to interact with the literature either. Therefore, it is too common to find church leaders whose views on "missional" come close to reflecting the sentiments above. When we say the word "missional" in an average church, it would be quite common for people to imagine something that resembles traditional "personal evangelism." They see it as a new word for an old thing.

And of course, with any topic there can be a variety of perspectives. Much like the doctrines of the atonement or justification for example, there are different ways that people talk about missional. However, there is a difference. When theologians talk about the atonement or justification—most people have some idea that there are different ways that other theologians and pastors teach them.  In contrast, when it comes to the topic of "missional" the differences is less than obvious.

So while no one can say that missional can't be used to talk about personal evangelism, at the same time, words are important. They help us think. They help us communicate. And they help us live. If all that is mean by "missional" is personal evangelism, then we must ask ourselves:
  • Are we thinking well?
  • Does this point of view keep us from communicating well?
  • Does it help us live into what God has for the us?
Here are a few things to consider:

First of all, the underlying paradigm of personal evangelism is thoroughly shaped by an individualistic. The focus is on empowering individuals in the church, which becomes the provider of equipping for individuals to go and do something out in the world. On the surface this might sound correct and many over the years have taken this approach, calling the church an equipping center for sending out individuals for ministry. But this just keeps the church mired in the quagmire of being a provider of spiritual goods and services. It just so happens that the good and service provided here are called "training."And it requires individual Christians to go out and be "missionaries" in isolation.

Secondly, a view of "missional as personal evangelism" fails to understand the biblical theme of "election," the calling of a people, a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9) to live in contrasting ways from the dominant culture in which it finds itself. Instead of allowing individualism to shape mission, we need to see how the church is called to demonstrate an alternative way of living in community, which in itself becomes a "sign, witness and foretaste" of God's beautiful kingdom. This way of being the church becomes a demonstration of God's mission in the world.

Finally, "missional as personal evangelism" assumes that the way the church impacts society is to grow the church. Individual missionaries go out in order to bring people with them back to church so that the church or small groups can grow. The more the church grows, the more the kingdom expands. This view of the church feels a bit like a fort and we are the missionary soldiers to go out to recruit for our cause, the success of "my" church.

While personal evangelism—done well—is a good thing, we must refrain from equating it with a missional imagination. Yes we are all missionaries in our workplace, in our homes, on our streets. That's a good thing. We need to be equipped and trained to be such. But the church is missional in its very nature. This is not so much about what the church does, as much as who the church is. The church, in very nature, is the body of Christ, an organic living being, enlivened by the Spirit who is sent into the world to redeem everything. The church gets to participate in what the Spirit is doing.
  • We are "in" Chirst.
  • We are "chosen" by the Father to be a light, a city on a hill.
  • We are "empowered" by the Holy Spirit.
To be a missional church is to participate in this life of God's Triune redemption of all of creation.

Personal evangelism is part of this, but far from all of it. "Missional" is about learning to dance the dance of the Trinity who is at work in the world to bring forth the beauty of Jesus in a land of death and destruction. The missional church is no mere fortress that sends out soldiers to bring back willing recruits. The missional church is a way of being that penetrates the ugliness of our world with beauty.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Pastoring Like Jesus: Is This Possible Today?

Are pastors called to minister as Jesus ministered? When this question is raised the answer is not so obvious. We live in different times, in a different culture, with pressures and commitments that Jesus did not have. He never had to deal with committees, managing a building, organizing services, attending denominational meetings, or keeping the deacons or elders happy. It’s easy to preach about the need to follow Jesus in our personal lives, but then the realities of pastoring cause us to just “make the best of it” with the job they have inherited.
If Jesus were to become incarnate in twenty-first century North America, how would he minister? Of course, I can only speculate as others have done. For instance, one seminary professor who taught media classes stated that if Jesus were alive today he would use television. Would he? Would he use the written medium? What about the Internet? To tell you the truth, I don’t know what media he would use to share his message with the masses. There is one thing that I think is quite transferable from the first century to our day: how he developed the movement. If Jesus were alive today he would establish his movement the same way he did 2,000 years ago. He would work with 12 people and develop them by imparting his life into them. He would demonstrate and equip them in the way of life in his kingdom and teach them how to minister the way he ministers. He would not do this with the masses. He would concentrate his energy on a small group of future leaders, investing his life into a few with whom he would share refrigerator rights.

Robert Coleman wrote, “Jesus was not trying to impress the crowd, but to usher in a kingdom. This meant that he needed people who could lead the multitudes. What good would it have been for his ultimate objective to arouse the masses to follow him if these people had no subsequent supervision or instruction in the Way?” Few pastors will argue with Coleman’s observation, but most find his way difficult, if not impossible to do today. One pastor used business terms to explain what he does: pastors lead people who are his employees (but unpaid); his stockholders (who can vote him out if they so choose); and his customers (who can take their business down the road to another church vendor). When pastors have all of the concerns and duties to oversee, how can they afford the time to invest in a small group of people?

Research on the Synoptic Gospels has provided estimates that Jesus spent about 50 percent of his time with 12 key leaders during his three years of ministry. He did not ignore others outside of this group. In fact, there was a core group of about 70 who followed him. He also invested in these people, but with less of his time. And of course he ministered to the masses, as is illustrated in the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000, the Sermon on the Mount, and many healings. However, he prioritized his time, allowing him to give his best to the 12.

As I work with pastors in the church today, I ask them how they would break out the percentages among these three groups. Consistently, they share how 75 percent of their time is invested in ministering to the crowd through preaching, preparation for preaching, counseling, and organizing mass events. The other 25 percent is divided among key leaders and the core group of the church. The time spent with key leaders and core group members is typically spent in getting stuff done for the crowd.

The modern pattern of pastoral leadership often results in feelings of usury on the part of key leaders. Pastors only have a small amount of time to meet with leaders to accomplish a task so that they can better minister to the crowd. That crowd is comprised of individualists who often will leave as soon as something does not suit their personal desires or meet their felt- needs. The pastor then spends most of his time and energy investing in people who don’t have the ability or the desire to pass on to others what he has given them. His ministry stops with what he offers. He invests most of his ministry preaching to, counseling with, and organizing events for the crowd who cannot reproduce life in others.

At the same time, Jesus did not ignore the crowds. He ministered to them through miraculous signs and wonders that revealed the kingdom. While ministering to the masses, he was demonstrating the way of the kingdom to his key leaders. His investment in the 12 was not that of individualized discipleship. He equipped the 12 and taught them the way through his ministry to the core followers and the masses. Jesus had his eyes on developing a movement of people following the way, and he demonstrated this way, for all to see.

—Adapted from The Relational Way, pages 40-43

Photo Credit: Jesus and His Disciples - Peter Walks on Water by Roger Payne at the Illustration Art Gallery

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Do Pastors Have Time for Relationships?

As I work with churches, I consistently encounter church leaders not having enough time for relationships. I was sharing the small-group vision of relational ministry with the key pastors of a church of about 5,000. They had small groups and a relatively good structure, but they wanted to take things to the next level. The senior pastor specifically wanted to see his people enter into a radical new kind of life. When I challenged the pastoral team to set the model, the staff—and specifically the senior pastor—looked at me with concern. They performed some quick time calculations and soon realized that their schedules did not allow for relational investment like this. Their lives were already overflowing with commitments and program-related relationships.
Families & People
This problem is not unique to large churches. Often, pastors of small churches feel the pressure in even greater ways. They must lead the church out of being small and this requires all the effort they can muster to make things happen.

The pastoral system in America is a professional system. A professional is one who is trained to perform a certain set of tasks according to a proven program of operation. Doctors are an example of this. They receive training at a professional school to perform tasks which others with equal training and skill should be able to perform. The actual person serving as the doctor matters little; it is the duty that he performs that matters. For many patients, he is interchangeable.

The professional pastor is trained to perform a standard set of tasks that anyone trained as a pastor could perform (depending on the denomination). For instance, in certain traditions, the pastor serves as a professional teacher who informs the flock in the right way of living. He would perform marriages according to that tradition, bury according to that tradition, and baptize according to that tradition. But his presence personally as the pastor is not required for the flock to effectively live what he teaches or receive any of the sacraments from him. The pastor is relatively interchangeable.

Whether he expects the denominational headquarters to transfer him or he anticipates a move to another church, he knows that his time with the people of the church is short in comparison to their time in the church. The average tenure of a senior pastor in North America is less than five years, not long enough to develop refrigerator rights. Therefore, a professional distance is created between the pastor and his people, promoting the image of the spiritual individualist who does not need people to speak into his life. As a result, the pastor is often the most isolated person in the entire church. He does not look isolated nor does he feel so. He is busy beyond belief meeting with deacons or elders, counseling with the hurting, and praying with those in the hospital. His life is full of people, but he has no refrigerator rights. On top of this, the expectations placed on the pastor by the people are unrealistic, thereby creating an even greater pressure to perform. Since he has only four years to get all this done—and he must do his job with enough success to merit the recognition of another church with greater opportunities for pastoral consideration—he is left with pragmatic questions of getting programs going.

As a result, the lonely, focused, workaholic pastor sacrifices his family and personal relationships for the sake of the call to ministry. In his book, Turnaround Churches, George Barna reports on his interviews of pastors who lead declining churches into success. He states, “None of these pastors was proud of being a workaholic, but most of them admitted that this was one trait that enabled them to lead the turnaround. ... A 60 to 80-hour work week was widely viewed as a job hazard for those called to this line of work.” The typical pastor is the super-human rugged individual, or what I call the “spiritual Marlboro man.”

What kind of model is the professional pastor establishing for the people to follow? Here are some typical ways of living that pastors set for others to imitate:
“If you really want to follow Christ, you will become a workaholic for Christ like me.”

“If you really want to follow Christ, you will be alone and isolated like me, with no one to share your deepest needs and hurts.”

“If you really want to follow Christ, you won’t ever put down any roots because you expect to move within the next five years.”

“If you really want to follow Christ, you will establish a professional distance from the people you lead.”
I pray that this does not describe you or your pastor. I pray that my life does not reflect these patterns either. However, the more I work with churches to help them establish groups, the more I discover that the model that people are following hinders actually doing groups well. My fear is that pastors are setting a model that operates according to the system of individualism and pragmatism, resembling the culture of the world. Miller states,
The drift into individualism and isolation has not become so obvious that (at least to sociologists) American culture is unique. We are alone in the world putting such heavy emphasis on individual versus group identity. Ours is a culture of fierce, personal independence. We take pride in indi- vidual competition, mastery and achievement. We pay a steep price, however, as ours is also a culture of intense anxiety and psychic distress.
While sociologists might see it, most pastors I talk with do not. I repeatedly hear the same thing that Barna found in his research, “None indicated that he or she was comfortable with the toll the job exacted on the family life. Yet, none of those who were workaholics in practice maintained that anything less than total effort and energy would have enabled the come- back.” I struggle with leaning this direction because I love my job and feel such a passion for what I do. But I also know that such a pattern will be counterproductive to the kind of life I want the people who follow me to lead. Henri Nouwen recognized this pattern 25 years ago. He wrote:
The basic question is whether we ministers of Jesus Christ have not already been so deeply molded by the seductive powers of our dark world that we have become blind to our own and other people’s fatal state and have lost the power and motivation to swim for our lives.
Just look for a moment at our daily routine. In general we are very busy people. We have many meetings to attend, many visits to make, many ser- vices to lead. Our calendars are filled with appointments, our days and weeks filled with engagements, and our years filled with plans and projects. There is seldom a period in which we do not know what to do, and we move through life in such a distracted way that we do not even take the time and rest to wonder if any of the things we think, say, or do are worth thinking, saying or doing.
The relational way will only flow from who we are, the character we possess and our willingness to cultivate the kingdom according to patterns that do not reflect the patterns of this world. We must develop a new system of being the church, one that cultivates relationships through the practicing of spiritual disciplines, honoring the Sabbath, communing with God and developing community in which church leaders develop healthy connections. As we do this, we establish patterns worth passing on to others who will lead others into the relational way.

—Adapted from The Relational Way, Pages 37-40

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

God Fulfills God's Promises

"Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, as I promised to Moses" —Joshua 1:3

About 500 years before God spoke these words to Joshua, God promised Abraham that his descendants would possess and inhabit the land of Canaan (see Genesis 17). However, Abraham never saw the fulfillment of this promise, as his family grew from tribal nomads to a slave nation in Egypt. Moses was given the charge of leading the people from slavery into the Promised Land, but they rebelled out of fear, not having enough faith that God would give it to them (see Numbers 13). For 40 years, the Israelites wandered through the wilderness until they were prepared to enter the land. Moses was not able to see the filfillment of the promise, but now Joshua would.

As a descendant of Abraham during the years of monadic travel and Egyptian slavery, it would have been easy to give up on the promise of the land. It would be easy to see such promises as wish dreams. It would have been tempting to think that such promises would never be fulfilled in any concrete way; instead a more viable option would have been to seek after some kind of Platonic, spiritual, other-worldly fulfillment. This is the very thing that we see happening today where spirituality is relegated to our private lives and the Gospel does not have anything to do with how we live on a day-to-day basis. Church speaks to our spiritual mind, so we go to church to get our spiritual recharging, but the rest of our lives is lived as if God does not exist.

But the promise of the land is concrete and physical. The fulfillment of such a promise is measurable and clear for all to see. It is difficult to spiritualize such promises into some kind of secrete that only those with special, other-worldly insight can understand. In other words, God's promise of the land was a public promise and the fulfillment of that promise was a grand witness to God's faithfulness.

Growing up our church would sing the hymn that proclaimed that Jesus lives. In the chorus, it asks: "How do you know he lives?" The response we rang out with a heightened criscendo: "He lives within my heart." While true, it is incomplete. God's work in our lives and in our world cannot be relegated to inner, private truth or personal spiritual experiences. God works in public ways. His blessings are concrete expressions of the love that God is. The fulfillment of God's promises manifests in public ways. 

There are two challenges to this though. First, God's fulfillment never comes in the form that we expect. This is most clear in the ultimate fulfillment, Jesus on the cross. No one ever expected the glory of God to be fully revealed through God suffering and dying. That kind of fulfillment is concrete, but it is not the kind of concreteness that anyone would have projected. God's fulfillment is revelation, that is it comes from without us. It is not a logical projection of our current experience into the future. It is beyond us and therefore it is always different—and better—than we could ever imagine. 

Secondly, God's fulfilling work always takes longer than we expect. We have promises from God, but we have given up on God because the visual fruit did not manifest quickly enough. God does not operate like McDonalds. God finishes what God started, but the finishing never occurs on our timetable. Read Hebrews 11. 

What does this mean for us today? I see a few things:
  1. God's mission to redeem and restore the world is God's mission, not ours. Our call is to participate in God and then this will carry the church forward in mission. Mission arises out of life in God and this comes about through cruciformity. Cruciform life in God is not something we can plan or even make happen. It is only something that comes about as we walk with Jesus. We must refuse to try and make God's mission happen. While it might look righteous, our forcing mission on the world always looks like violence. And this is never how God fulfills.
  2. God's work in our lives as individuals is God's work. There are parts that we can control and there are parts that we cannot. This calls for formation by the Spirit, not just more hard work on our parts. Most of the time, this requires us to learn the discipline of waiting on God. God wants relationship with us, more than he wants us to get over our problems. Slow down. God is not in a hurry, and if you want to participate in what God is doing in your life you have to walk at God's pace.
  3. God's work in our churches and our small groups will manifest in concrete ways beyond our "spiritual" activities. We must resist the temptation to drive a wedge between our private, spiritual world and our public, secular world. God is at work in concrete ways in our families, at our work, in our schools, in government. It won't look like what we expect, because it will call for cruciformity, but God is at work to redeem everything.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Theology of Mission by John Howard Yoder: A Review

 https://www.ivpress.com/img/book/XL/9780830840335.jpgJohn Howard Yoder is most known for his theological work in ethics and non-violence. However, from 1964-1983, Yoder taught a class on theology of mission. This book is a editorial revision of the recorded lectures from that class. While the content pre-dates the current missional conversation initiated by Lesslie Newbigin and furthered by the publication of Missional Church, edited by Darrel Guder, et al., it’s message is a prophetic and welcomed voice to the missional conversation.

Yoder’s theology interprets mission through the perspective of what he calls “believer’s church.” As is consistent with the rest of Yoder’s body of work, he works through his chosen topic from an Anabaptistic perspective.

His contributions add considerable weight to the conversation of mission in the North American context. Some of these contributions include the following. First, Yoder emphasizes the importance of the dynamics of the church as faithful covenant partners to mission in the world. In other words, it confronts the idea that missional is simply a shift from an internal focus to an external focus (318).

Secondly, he espouses what he calls a “long view” of mission. Instead of focusing the church on visible growth factors that can be manipulated to produce church success, he offers a point of view that focuses on the way the church lives and the long-term impact that this way of life can have on redeeming the world. He writes, "In the long view there have been rises and falls in the church's visible success and faithfulness and mission. There were times when there seemed to be success and it turned out to be hollow. There were other times when there seemed to be failure and persecution, and it turned out that there was still vitality. It is not for us to reckon these things; we know that God will conquer and that God will take up into the fulfillment of our ministry of presence. We do not have to figure out when or how soon this will happen. In fact, one of the things that God uses for divine purposes is our patience, which means our willingness to take the long view." (318)

Thirdly, he challenges the pietistic emphasis on internal renewal and private morality while accepting the external factors of a given culture as neutral. The church is called to be a prophetic presence in the midst of the culture, calling into question public patterns that undermine the kingdom.

Fourthly, he emphasizes the call of mission for presence and servanthood in the midst of culture. Within this, he challenges the notions of church growth theology, which focuses primarily upon the conversion experience and propositional beliefs. Evangelism for the sake of getting people to convert put church success at the center, not the mission of God.

Finally, offers a concrete method for mission—an alternative to popular methods—which he calls “migration evangelism,” a strategy he espouses as a missions strategy whereby Christians move as a group into an area and take on jobs within the culture and live as embodied witnesses to the way of the kingdom (408). This is an excellent alternative to the professional minister who sets out alone to be on mission. While he does to apply this method to the modern Western context, this could be easily adapted today.

As one critique, the exact focus of the mission of God—one that he clearly grounds in the Triune sending of the Son and Spirit—is not as clear as it could be. He does not address how the church which embraces the long view of mission and seeks to faithfully live in covenant relationship with the Father, Son and Spirit actually engages a culture on mission and for what end this engagement occurs. While he does confront the “enclave mentality of the church,” (284) and recognizes that salvation is historical, it is not clear what it means for the church to engage the culture on mission that offers an alternative to the pietistic and church growth mentalities that he challenges. How does a church think about engaging a society that has been dominated by Christendom systems and offer a prophetic challenge to it? This question is left largely unaddressed in a satisfactory way.

If you are at all interested in the questions around the church and mission, this book is worth your time. Even if you are not from an Anabaptist background, it will sharpen your understanding about what it means for your church to participate with God in God's mission. 

Yoder, John Howard, Edited by Gayle Gerber Koontz and Andy Alexis-Baker. Theology of Mission: A Believer’s Church Perspective. Downer’s Grove, IL Intervarsity Press, 2014. 400 pages