Just Off My Bookshelf: The Wright Brothers

One word comes to mind after reading this book: concentration. In a time where multi-tasking is celebrated, I was reminded through David McCullough’s book that concentration toward a single goal can be invaluable. This book tells the story of two brothers (Wilbur & Orville) who diligently pursued the solution to how people can fly. Their pursuit of knowledge and accomplishing the unimaginable will inspire everyone who reads this book.

A few quotes:
“The best dividends on the labor invested have invariably come from seeking more knowledge rather than more power.”

“No bird soars in a calm.”

“It wasn’t luck that made them fly; it was hard work and common sense; they put their whole heart and soul and all their energy into an idea and they had the faith.”

My Missiology Part 3

So where do we do the work?

I ask this question again because I have yet to provide an answer in my previous blog. I believe the ‘where’ varies for each person. I have found great insight and comfort in Paul’s words to the Corinthian church.

But we confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you…Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand. -2 Corinthians 10:13,15

What is the sphere that God has assigned to you? Boast in that sphere and heed Paul’s warning in the previous verses:

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. -2 Corinthians 10:12

Sometimes we commend our efforts by comparing ourselves to those whose sphere is different. Unfortunately we are tempted to conclude that any sphere different than our own is a lesser sphere. But Paul didn’t place his hope in carnal comparisons. Instead, he knew why and where he was sent. Paul’s hope was that faith would lead to growth; and growth would enlarge his sphere of ministry.

I am aware that some of our methods have a defined sphere that we deem the most important. I want to be clear to state that your sphere is very important. Yet, it is not more important than another sphere that God has sent some of His children to serve.

But I ask this question: does satan constrain his spheres of activity? Doesn’t God’s adversary work in politics, businesses, schools, gangs, arts, music, poor communities, wealthy communities, city streets and county streets? So why would our approach to one sphere of life be the full answer of God’s work through His church? Doesn’t light need to shine in every crevice where darkness is found?

I take great delight in encouraging people to faithfully serve in the sphere God has assigned them on their college campus, in their neighborhood, their place of work, their local gym, their kids’ school, and sports leagues. God has given each of us different gifts and interests. The variety of our gifts strengthens the work of the church. This is a great benefit to ministry in our generation. We live in a world that continues to shrink. We are able to communicate across the globe in seconds and fly across a country in hours. Rarely do people live, work, and worship in the same community. With increased transportation has come increased access which has produced a greater variety of choice. My point is that many of our personal spheres have extended beyond geographic limits. Instead of one sphere of influence we may have 3 or 5. This change has created an opportunity for each person to have an expanded sphere of ministry.

I end my statement of my personal missiology with a brief exploration of this question brought before Jesus: “ Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). This question is vital because all of the law hinges on these two commandments: Love God and Love your neighbor. But who is my neighbor? After telling the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus responds to this question with a greater question: Who was a neighbor?

The Samaritan wasn’t expected to be the one to help but he was a neighbor. The neighbor wasn’t the person who was close; it was the person who acted mercifully. Wherever our sphere of ministry may lead us, let us be neighbors and show mercy to those we encounter.

The content of these three blogs describe significant components of my missiology. It is a mission that is agile and diverse. It is ultimately rooted in this belief: any sacrifice we may offer in our methods is superseded by obedience to going where God calls, being who God created, and doing what God commands. Obedience is greater than sacrifice. The best remedy for a hurting world is God’s glorious plan.

My Missiology Part 2 (of 3)

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known           to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. -Ephesians 3:10-11

Manifold wisdom is wisdom that has numerous parts that are intricate and complex. The church is the instrument in which God will make known His vastly intricate wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. No single person or one gathering of people fully embody God’s manifold wisdom. Yet it’s a beautiful perspective to consider the diversity of ministry happening through the people who take steps of faith into prisons, jungles, businesses, sports teams, sororities, bars, inner cities, country roads, mountain peaks, distant islands, college campuses and church buildings. All are taking a different approach but each one is accomplishing the common goal of making known the manifold wisdom of God.

But where do we do this work?

My answer to this is: where is God calling us to go? I’ve watched people go to safe havens for their faith at Christian camps. I’ve walked with families who keep their kids out of public schools in order to give them a God honoring education at home. Then there are people who leave the comfort of their homes to enroll at the toughest school and live in the harshest community. Which approach is correct? I believe they both are.

The question of where we are supposed to do ministry is difficult to answer. The incarnation of Jesus is often an example of how to live out ministry. “ The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (1 John 1:14). God is still in the business of dwelling. That’s why Paul urges the believers in Rome to offer their bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1).

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”           -1 Corinthians 3:16

“And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”             -Ephesians 2:22

The Spirit of God dwells in us. This reminds me of the glorious intent of God to be with us and not leave us. I know some conclude that since Jesus dwelled among us that we need to dwell in a certain community. I do believe that is a beautiful calling but it is not a universal calling. Even in Jesus’ dwelling He travelled to different communities. There were moments where people wanted Him to stay but Jesus had to move on.

At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent. -Luke 4:42

Jesus says something I think is vital for every follower of Christ: “that is why I was sent.” Knowing why we are sent is as important as where we are sent. I believe it is important to walk in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25) and know why we were sent. This “why” cannot always be constrained to a preconceived method. But we can make disciples who know why they were sent and the One who sent them.

My Missiology (1 of 3)

In one week I’ve had a number of conversations about missiology. Missiology is the theological study of the mission of the church. So I think it’s time that I share my missiology. Though my thoughts are not complete the starting point is clear: I believe the pastor’s primary role is to study the mission of their own church rather than the mission of the whole Church. I believe the work God accomplishes through His church is diverse, difficult, and beautiful. God accomplishes unity without being confined to uniformity. No single church gathering accomplishes the entire mission of Christ through His body.  But together we accomplish the great and vast work for this generation.

I’ve found that the problem with the methods of our missions is that it can eliminate the need to seek the Lord. Many methods of the ‘how’ of ministry have a few established steps that will guarantee change, church growth, and community transformation. Our methods become so important that we conclude that ministries fail because they didn’t take the right approach. Can God work through a church who doesn’t accurately take each prescribed step? Or is success completely embalmed in the confines of methodical steps?

Sometimes I am tempted to put my hope in the methods. Fulfilling prescribed methods don’t seem as difficult as discerning the mystery of God’s work. However, the Lord has often led people toward unfamiliar and unpredictable actions because His thoughts and ways are higher than ours (Is. 55:9). And how often did God only work through the predictable schemes? The approach to Jericho was different than the approach to Ai. Through Moses He dried up a path in the Red Sea but filled the earth with water in the times of Noah. Nehemiah left the king to rebuild Jerusalem but Esther entered the king’s palace as his wife. Paul ministered to the Gentiles and Peter ministered to the Jews.

Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit preached.

People were cut to the heart and they asked, “what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).

Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit preached.

People were cut to the heart and they stoned Stephen (Acts 7).

The lasting mission for the individual believer and the family of faith is to discern the will of God through communion with God. It is our privilege to follow where He leads and trust what He says. I believe this mission takes priority over any method we may prescribe. The question brought before Jesus continues to echo throughout this generation.

Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

-John 6:28-29

Does our missiology cause us to depend more on man and his methods or God and His mystery?

God works in mysterious ways 

His wonders to perform…

Blind unbelief is sure to err,

And scan his work in vain;

God is his own interpreter,

And he will make it plain.

 -William Cowper

Just Off My Bookshelf: Great Bridge

I read this book to learn what it takes to build a physical bridge so I could gain insight in building relational bridges. One of the strongest points I learned was that every bridge builder must consider how much of a load their bridge can bear. Bridges (even relationally) are about connecting two sides but also about withstanding the burden of those loads (people, cars, ideas) that need to travel over. With an uncertain challenges approaching the city I think the insights are applicable.

David McCullough is a prolific author and this book is one of his many works. There may be more details to the process than you can digest but its a good story.

A few quotes:

“It was an absolute no man’s land below, but here above it had been conquered, bridged, beautifully.”

“Nothing lasts forever. The most unforeseen circumstances will swamp you and baffle the wisest calculations. Only vitality and plenty of it helps you.” ‘

“The foundations for the support of these large masses of masonry must be unyielding.”

-The architect of the bridge about the importance of foundation.