Hi! Welcome to Our Seminar- Creating Missional Communities: Implications of Re-Hearing the Church’s Story. I am your host, Todd Hunter. Thank you for participating, and thanks also to Easum, Bandy & Associates for linking us together for this online coaching seminar. I look forward to our conversation and pray that the Holy Spirit will teach us and lead us into a liberating new imagination about what it means to be and do church.
Let me give you a brief introduction about myself (and I hope you’ll tell me something about yourself as you join the dialog).
I became a Christian in the mid-seventies during “The Jesus Movement” in Southern California (where I grew up and currently live). I started my first church in 1979 and since then I have been starting churches or coaching church plants. I had a five year stint as an Executive Pastor of a mega-church and a seven year stint as National Director of the Association of Vineyard Churches-USA. Currently I am the Executive Director of a non-profit, privately funded foundation called “Allelon” (Greek for one another). We coach church planters and consult with churches trying to take seriously being church in a postmodern context.
I am also “Lead Seeker” in a community of faith in Placentia, California. We are living, thinking, practicing and praying our way into what it might mean to truly be the church for the sake of the world – to be a missional community.
I sincerely look forward to meeting you via email. I enjoy dialog and I enjoy making new friends. Talk to you soon –
We’ll get to the diagram later
Recommended Reading List
The Second Coming of the Church George Barna
Believing in the Future David J. Bosch
The End of Christendom and the Future of Christianity David J. Bosch???
A Peculiar People Rodney Clapp
Handbook for Churches and Mission Groups Devers and Cosby
Missional Church Darrel Guder
The Continuing Conversion of the Church Darrel Guder
Resident Aliens Haverwas and Williman
Where Resident Aliens Live Haverwas and Williman
After Christendom Haverwas and Williman
Worship Evangelism Sally Morgenthaler
The Gospel in a Pluralist Society Leslie Newbigin
Foolishness to the Greeks Leslie Newbigin
The Gospel in a Pluralist Society Lesslie Newbigin
Truth and the Authority in Modernity Lesslie Newbigin
Finding Our Way Home K. Killian Noe
The Church of the Savior Peter Renner
Celebration of Discipline Richard Foster
Devotional Classics Richard Foster
Spiritual Classics Richard Foster
Streams of Living Water Richard Foster
In the Name of Jesus Henri Nouwen
Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular Life Henri Nouwen
The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming Henri Nouwen
Reaching Out Henri Nouwen
The Way of the Heart Henri Nouwen
The Contemplative Pastor Eugene Peterson
Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work Eugene Peterson
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction Eugene Peterson
Under the Unpredictable Plane Eugene Peterson
The Unnecessary Pastor Eugene Peterson
Working the Angels Eugene Peterson
A Cup of Coffee at the Soul Café Leonard Sweet
Faithquakes Leonard Sweet
SoulSalsa Leonard Sweet
Hearing God Dallas Willard
Renovation of the Heart (soon to be released) Dallas Willard
The Spirit of the Disciplines Dallas Willard
Re-hearing our Story/Kingdom of God
Follow Me Jon David Hettinga
Ancient-Future Faith Robert Webber
The Divine Conspiracy Dallas Willard
Hearing God Dallas Willard
The Spirit of the Disciplines Dallas Willard
The Challenge of Jesus N.T. Wright
The Climax of the Covenant N.T. Wright
Following Jesus N.T. Wright
What St. Paul Really Said N.T. Wright
Life Together Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Call to Commitment Elizabeth O’Connor
Journey Inward, Journey Outward Elizabeth O’Connor
Servant Leaders, Servant Structures Elizabeth O’Connor
From Brokenness to Community Jean Vanier
A Primer on Postmodernism Stanley Grenz
The Church on the Other Side Brian McLaren
Finding Faith Brian McLaren
A New Kind of Christian Brian McLaren
AquaChurch Leonard Sweet
Eleven Genetic Gateways to Spiritual Awakening Leonard Sweet
Post-Modern Christians Leonard Sweet
SoulTsunami Leonard Sweet
In my effort to describe two understandings of the Gospel story, I am undoubtedly guilty of caricaturing and stereotyping. I do not mean to “diss” anyone, but to be brief and stimulate a dialog. I do this with joyful confidence because I trust that you, too, are wanting to take an honest look at the implications of Jesus’ Good News for His Church and the world.
A Tale of Two Gospels
Please open your Bible (really!) to Mark 1:14-15. Read the text aloud with me – it says, “Come forward; say this prayer [giving loose, usually non-reflective, uncritical mental assent to a set of bullet points outlining one theory of the atonement] so that when you die you can go to heaven.”
It’s not what the text says, is it? Yet a Jay Leno “Man on the Street Interview” and most pulpits would lead us to believe that that is our Gospel – our story. Is it winsome? Compelling? Adequate? True?
Let’s try Jesus’ version: He said, “The good news of God is that the time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe this good news.” What’s different about Jesus’ telling of the story?
The Gospel is not, of first importance, all about us. It is “of” God. It is about His ever unfailing plan for man. It is not another consumer item to acquire, securing us a blissful happy-ever-after eternity. It is about the present reality, through the person of Christ (not simply something He said or did), of the Kingdom – the rule and reign – of God.
What did Jesus (The Door, The Gate, The Way into this remarkable new opportunity) want us to do as actors in His story?
First, repent; examine our whole way of doing life (and church?). He wants us to think again, have a second thought, review our sense of story, determine if we are living in God’s story. Second, He wants us to believe. This is not mere cognition or mental assent. Rather, it means to place our confidence in something; to act and live as if we trust it is true (cf. Matthew 7:24-27).
Jesus’ Gospel is an invitation into the Kingdom of God – the place where what God wants done is done. He is offering us a different kind of life. “Eternal life” is not spacial (out beyond the stars somewhere), nor is it chronological (out there waiting for us when we die). It is qualitative and it begins now! When Jesus asks us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him, to lose our life in order to find it (Matthew 16:24-25), He is showing how to give up an inferior life outside the Kingdom for a superior life in it.
In contrast, in the first telling of the Christian story, our actual real life never comes into view. It is a story about death. Doing a little “English exegesis” on the sentence makes this clear “……so that when you die….”. Should we then be surprised by the statistics Barna, Gallup and sociologists of religion give us, telling us that there is very little difference in the practices of “Born-Again Christians” and “The World?” Upon this telling of the story, the church has no possible imagination for life in the Kingdom. On this telling of the story we are left to spend most of our time, money and energy trying to interest the uninterested who fill our chairs or pews.
To get the discussion started, let’s contemplate two implications (there of course are many) for each version of the Gospel story:
The Gospel of Going to Heaven When You Die
1. I believe something really bad happened when an absurdly reductionistic version of the Gospel was linked to the American marketing machine. Marketing requires branding, slogans and catch phrases. This process gave us the very famous bumper sticker Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven. Really? JUST forgiven? Nothing more? No wonder we have lost any compelling sense of participation in an on-going, unfolding story.
2. If our story is all about death/eternity, then certain forms of church naturally emerge: “Cradle to Grave” programs to interest the uninterested and keep them warehoused in the church until they die. Christ as Teacher for a new way of Kingdom life is lost; He begins to exist in our imagination as merely the Lamb. People begin to fail at taking Him seriously.
The Gospel According to Jesus: The Gospel of the Kingdom
1. We are caught up into a large, all encompassing story; the story Adam and Eve, Israel and the Church were always intended to live in. It is a huge privilege (cf. the pearl of great price and the treasure hidden in the field). And there are serious ramifications for choosing to live outside God’s story (see the attached diagram and the parable of the tenant farmers).
Choosing to say “yes” to God and His story of interacting with a people on earth, “the cooperative friends of Jesus,” naturally involves our whole life. When we switch stories we, like Michael Jordan when he decided to play NBA basketball again, naturally decide to do whatever it takes to fit our life into the new story. We work out, eat right, practice, etc.
In the first story we’re suspicious of or fear any effort on our part. It seems religious, legalistic or, for us Protestants, it’s “Catholic.” In Jesus’ story it is natural and easy (“my yoke is easy; my commandments are not burdensome”); these “works” are not meritorious for going to heaven when you die; they are not used to be seen as righteous before God or man; they are works of wisdom. They are what the saints have always done to cooperate with God’s grace in order to live in His story (1 Corinthians 15:9-10).
2. Living in God’s story, we are naturally otherly, outward and missional. That is the nature of our Triune God. It was how Adam and Eve were designed to live (Genesis 1:28). Israel was chosen not unto privilege, but unto cooperative work with God (Genesis 12:1-3; Isaiah 42:5-7). The Church stands in the same story and prophetic tradition (Matthew 5:13-16; Luke 9:1-6; 10:1-24; Matthew 28:18-20; John 14:12; Acts 1:8; Revelation 22:5-6; etc).
OK, Let’s Talk:
1. Do you agree that our sense of story largely determines how and why we do church?
2. What other implications do you see in the different stories?
3. What challenges are you currently facing if you are already trying to help people see and live in the Gospel of the Kingdom?
• Church-Related? Weekend services?
• Issues in the wider culture?
4. How might Jesus’ Gospel of the Kingdom change our sense of apologetics, evangelism and discipleship?
5. What are some leadership implications?
6. Do the Spiritual Disciplines (remember Michael Jordan) make more sense in Jesus’
version of the story than in the reductionistic one?
7. How might the Gospel of the Kingdom change the clergy and laity sense of vocation?
In a couple of days I’ll post some ideas our community in Placentia is working with to become a missional community.