ISSUE 03 >>
a newfrontiers usa publication
the local church issue A Community on Mission >> Bryan Mowrey Romanced by a Vision and Ready for the Reality of Community >> Travis Aicklen Welcome: The Potter’s House >> Providence, RI
SOUNDBITE • QUICK LOOK
EMULATING CHRIST • APPS
JOHN LANFERMAN >> Team Leader >> Newfrontiers USA
OFF THE MAP
More than 300 years before the time of Christ, Alexander the Great was marching across Asia Minor as the commander of the greatest army ever assembled up to that time. This war machine had conquered every army it faced. No one could stand against them. When they reached the Himalayas, the front-line came back to Alexander filled with concern. “We have marched off the map, we should go back to where we know.” They had literally marched beyond the known region of that time! Alexander listened to them, then said, “Mediocre armies always stay within the known areas. The great armies always march off the map.” Alexander wasn’t the only conqueror to give the orders, “March off the map!” In Acts 1:8, Jesus told the first church that they would receive power after the Holy Spirit came upon them to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth. Jesus established the church’s identity in himself, his headship, and his intent. He also provided his presence and empowerment for life and mission to the ends of the earth. Samaria was geographically near, but culturally far away. The uttermost parts of the earth were geographically and culturally far away. Both are “off the map.”
It is evident there has been a lack of understanding and clarity regarding the essence and nature of the church. It is absolutely vital we get this right: the church does what it believes itself to be. The church is Jesus’ community charged with the mandate to be a reproducing community to the ends of the earth. He has provided apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor/ teachers to equip us to live together as a people of his presence for the mission. The church is a unique community of God’s people created by the Spirit to fulfill the mandate of the Kingdom of God. God sent his Spirit to create and empower his church; the church consciously takes up God’s agenda in the world in the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, being on mission together is an inherent aspect of the nature of the Church.
a. The Spirit-Filled Church by Terry Virgo b. Real-Time Connections by Bob Roberts Jr.
Mission is not to be understood in terms of something the church does, but something it is and therefore cannot but do.
God indwells his community. The church is where God is manifested on earth; his people are his dwelling place. “The word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood,” John 1:14 (The Message). Mission is not to be understood in terms of something the church does, but something it is and therefore cannot but do. Therefore, we must value the edge more than the center; be directed to the lost more than the found; be proactive rather than reactive; move from addition to multiplication. Jesus told his followers to wait for the power of the Holy Spirit to enable them to be on mission together to the ends of the earth. After the Holy Spirit came upon them in power at Pentecost, it is evident they understood the forward march of the gospel. The word was increasing; a community of God was reaching major cities through the power and direction of the Spirit and through the apostles and prophets. Church multiplication was as natural as individual convert multiplication. Note how believers and leaders in Acts were “marching off the map”… Philip went to Samaria, a culturally distinct people from those in Jerusalem. Peter went to Cornelius, a Gentile. Many in Jerusalem were scattered because of persecution and shared the gospel as they relocated. Barnabas went to Antioch to see the grace of God, got Paul, and established a Gentile church. Antioch became a reproducing church when the Holy Spirit directed them to release Barnabas and Paul. The Antioch church, by sending its leaders, started new churches throughout Turkey, Greece, Asia, and Europe. The church in Ephesus reproduced churches in Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatria, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea: cities surrounding Ephesus and connected by a circular Roman road.
Read more from John and other writers in the Link at: www.confluenceblog.org
The Thessalonian church was commended by Paul because they reproduced in the surrounding areas to such an extent Paul didn’t need to. An apple is a package of seeds. Within each apple are seeds designed to produce more apple trees. The church is like the apple tree—producing individual disciples and more congregations. Like the apple tree, every healthy church contains seeds that multiply churches. God has placed within the church the potential to grow and reproduce! Jesus, the mightiest conqueror of all time, gives orders to us, his soldiers, to “march off the map.” We are committed to be together as a family of reproducing churches, a people of his presence moving into neighborhood after neighborhood until the end of the age!
BRYAN MOWREY >> Jubilee Church >> St. Louis, Missouri
“And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Acts 2:45-47, ESV Throughout the New Testament, we see the early church was strikingly and intensely communal. When God saves us by his grace, he does not add us to an institution or to our favorite preacher. He adds us to a people. All God has called us to be and all he has called us to do works itself out within this community. Now it’s important to understand why we are a community. We are a community built because of God’s mission. We were saved because God reached out to us. We are a community for God’s mission. Our purpose is to bring others to God. Theologian Emil Brunner observed, “The Church exists by mission, just as a fire exists by burning. Where there is no mission there is no church.” So we are not on mission to be a community—community is not an end in itself. Rather, we are a community on mission.
Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Mission Creates Community Some of the deepest and greatest friendships exist among war veterans and pro-athletes. Why is that? Is it because they set out to be great friends? No, it all started with a common mission. They had a battle to fight or a championship to win. Some of my best friends are guys I have very little in common with, except that we are on mission together. We see this with Jesus and His disciples. Jesus says, “Go into all the world and preach my gospel. Be my witnesses. Be on mission for my renown.” They engaged in this mission and were fruitful in this mission, and it built in them a kind of togetherness that is foreign to many of us today. Despite working twelve-hour days, they made time to be together in each other’s homes on a daily basis. They felt so close to each other that it didn’t make sense anymore to distinguish this bank account, this property, or this possession as mine and not ours. We also see, despite the intense closeness they shared, this community was not closed to outsiders. The author of Acts writes that they were experiencing daily additions: that’s a minimum of 365 people per year. In their love of one another and desire to be together, they obviously kept the relational doors wide open to new people. And why wouldn’t they? If the goal is God’s mission—to share the good news of what Jesus has done—then the more people to share the news the better. We all want deeper community, but we mistakenly think if we try to build community, we’ll get community. Instead, let’s be a people about God’s mission! As we live for the mission, we’ll begin to see community form in a new, richer way than we would if we just settled for community alone.
"T jus Wh
Emulating Christ Mike Sandusky Living Hope Church >> St. Joseph, MO
The Church exists by mission, st as a fire exists by burning. here there is no mission there is no church.”
If we want to have deep discipleship in our churches, we must model it after Christ. Four ways we can emulate Christ are: vulnerability, empathy, sacrifice, and love.
Emil Brunner, Theologian
New Frontiers Church >> Portsmouth, NH New Frontiers Church recently bought a building to meet in next to a city housing development. It’s a needy neighborhood, requiring a lot of police attention. Parents will not let their kids play at the local playground because of the broken bottles and used syringes. This summer our church, with the help of about 40 newday teenagers, hosted a Family Fun Day in our parking lot to bless our new neighbors. Invites were handed out and about 200 people came (including our own children). The families all mixed together to enjoy numerous activities and the day was a wonderful success! One lady commented how kind and welcoming everyone was. She said, “Thank you to everyone. My kids had a blast!” Another single mom, who we first met two years ago when she was homeless and pregnant, also attended. We had helped her get some temporary accommodation and she has since found housing. When she saw it was our church moving into her neighborhood, she offered for us to meet in her home. A community group will start meeting there this fall right in the middle of the housing development! We believe that God has called us to have a significant impact in the lives of our neighbors. Praise God it has already begun!
Vulnerability: In the gospels, Christ made himself vulnerable. To say he became fully man is to say he added vulnerability to himself. Jesus became personal and drew near to those who were far from him. Vulnerability, for us, is about putting ourselves out there for others; stepping out to reach them; and genuinely opening our hearts to them. By revealing our weakness, we reveal the power of the gospel with humility. Empathy: God was born as a baby and grew up in humble surroundings. He did not come as a king, but a commoner. Jesus spoke of sheep, seeds, and buildings, not because these things are inherently spiritual, but because they were concepts the common people of his day understood. For us, this means that we must seek to communicate with others where they are. Paul said, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). We, too, must learn how to genuinely communicate and relate with those we disciple. Sacrifice: Jesus didn’t put on a show in his life: he came to give, and he gave it all. Jesus laid down his life to redeem us and calls us to lay down our lives to proclaim who he is to the world. Genuine discipleship models this sacrifice. We lay down our lives, our rights, hobbies, and preferences to serve and give ourselves fully to others. When this happens mutually in marriage, friendship, or community the result is deep love, care, and service for all involved. Love: Finally, we must love as Christ loves us. We see Christ’s love in all he did and all he is. We learn to love by loving Christ, and we are strengthened to do all of these things because of the love that comes from Christ. We must be truly motivated by love, or all of our efforts will be in vain. Love will spur on love, and as long as we are near to Christ, we will always be near the source of our love for others. True, deep, and world-transforming discipleship must be modeled after, and founded in Christ. If we are truly rooted in Christ, although the cost is high, we will find joy in pursuing, loving and discipling others.
TRAVIS AICKLEN >> Radiant Church >> Visalia, CA
ROMANCED BY A VISION AND READY FOR THE OF
The book of Acts begins with a description of community that has ruined most of us—devoted disciples, daily dinners, prayer meetings that were more than just praying for those dinners, everyone with everything in common, a generous group giving up their possessions because they found something worth selling everything for. Acts 2 could have very well been the inspiration for this year’s LEGO Movie theme song: “Everything is awesome, Everything is cool when you’re part of a team. Everything is awesome When we’re living our dream.”
“Everything is not awesome, Everything is not cool when you’re stuck with that team. Everything is far from awesome, When you’ve been circumcised unnecessarily.”
It’s nearly impossible to find someone leading in a local church today that wasn’t inspired by the description of the early church in Acts. Not unlike the LEGO Movie’s theme song, Acts 2 is stuck in our heads. We can’t stop humming it. It has ruined us. Following the book of Acts, the New Testament is filled with additional descriptions of community that have also ruined us - leaders leading people astray, gossip & slander, division & feuds, personality cults, backsliding, authority being abused, legalism, grown men being circumcised unnecessarily…need I say more?
The Bible shows us both the incredible possibilities and the harsh realities of community. The Bible tells the truth. Yet, sometimes we’re surprised and confused when we don’t just stumble into that seemingly perfect, “Acts 2-esque” community on our first try. For those of you working towards a healthy expression of church community, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Community is about bearing with one another. We’re typically eager to be with one another, but as soon as we have to bear with one another we quickly bail. Christian community will ask you to move beyond being with people.
a. The Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark b. The Vision and the Vow by Pete Greig
c. Deep & Wide by Andy Stanley
Each church community is a net that Jesus casts in order to collide with schools of fish—those communities we are established in. The size of the catch is dependent on the strength of the net.
W Community is about losing your life. If the church has only hurt you, then you’ve stopped short of God’s intention for your life. Church is designed to kill you, not just hurt you. Our church communities constantly present us with opportunities to die to our own selfish desires and to prefer one another.
Community is about equipping for mission. In Matthew 4, we read about Jesus gathering His first little community. While walking along the Sea of Galilee, He spotted four fishermen who were busy mending their nets. The word “mending” in verse 21 comes from the Greek word “katartismo”. Ephesians chapter 4 translates this same word as “equipping.” They were equipping their nets by mending them. They were fixing their nets, making them strong, preparing them for service, and getting them ready for action! Each church community is a net that Jesus casts in order to collide with schools of fish—those communities we are established in. The size of the catch is dependent on the strength of the net. As you mend and strengthen connections it will create an environment for healthy community to grow. Many of us have been romanced by the idea and the potential of community. Acts 2 certainly paints a beautiful picture of what is possible. But what if God uses romance to draw us to a place of commitment? Even the best church communities can’t exist without participants demonstrating high levels of commitment. Fighting to establish a healthy church community can be a challenging process. The good news is that God is committed to making his name great as we follow him in community.
The Potter’s House
DANIEL WEST >> Providence, Rhode Island What is your church’s mission statement? We make disciples who make disciples.
How did you get connected with Newfrontiers? We began with a vision of a Latino faith community in Providence, New England, and the world. Six years into our church’s life, we began to receive the Lord’s direction to become a church that reflects the diversity of the nations living on our doorstep. We needed a family of churches to join on mission that reflected this mosaic of nations and that was also charismatic and reformed. An online search led me to a conversation between Mark Driscoll and Terry Virgo about Newfrontiers! I spoke with Curt McCutchan in St. Louis who connected me with Ian Ashby and the northeast regional leaders in 2012. We have become friends and family on mission together: praying, worshiping, and fishing together!
What are your church’s strengths? Family groups are our greatest strength. Almost everyone first comes to The Potter’s House through a family group. We eat, pray, and share a story from God's Word when we gather. Group members carry each other’s burdens and serve the poor of our city. They feed the homeless, find jobs for the unemployed, interpret for non-English speakers, raise money for families in crisis; as well as encourage and stir each other up to good works. One of our group leaders has returned to Mixco, Guatemala, supported by us, to plant a new church.
Daniel & Paula West
NOW ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS
Training present and emerging leaders to work within the church community to reveal the Kingdom of God
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