Quick Hit on Wesley’s Impact

As we’ve gone Old School during our last several weeks, we’ve drawn a little closer to John Wesley, his sermons and impact. Once again, I’m inspired and thankful for the legacy of faith. Here’s a quote from President Woodrow Wilson regarding JW:

The church was dead and Wesley awakened it; the poor were neglected and Wesley sought them out; the gospel was shrunken into formulas and Wesley flung it fresh upon the air once more in the speech of common men.

It’s time for another Wesleyan revival that reawakens the church, seeks the poor, and flings the gospel broadly.

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Christmas in July & New Blog!!!!

First, let me tell you about last Sunday. It was our first Sunday at St. Mark UMC in Mobile, AL. It was a great day. The people have been extremely warm and are ready to go.

The sermon was entitled “Christmas in July,” and the text was 1 Cor. 5:12-16. Some of you asked to hear the sermon. Well, below is a link to a very poor quality dowload. We’ll get better at recording.

ALSO, SINCE BEESON IS OVER, I HAVE A NEW BLOG SITE. You can find me at http://missionalorientation.wordpress.com/

Here’s the sermon audio:

Christmas in July

Breaking the Silence

Easter is a celebration that breaks the silence.

There is a silent period within the Bible.  There were over 500 years between the writing of Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, and the birth of Jesus.  The intertestamental writings give great insight to what was happening during that time.  However, Protestants do not recognize those writings to be Scripture.  God was silent.

It was the resurrection that broke the silence.  Yes, Jesus was active and had followers while preaching and teaching throughout Judea.  Stories of healings and teachings probably circulated around the area.  We already know that following the death of Jesus, someone compiled a document of sayings attributed to Jesus.  However, the truth is that without the resurrection, these sayings would simply be good insights for healthy living.

Instead, God would not keep his silence.  Jesus was resurrected, and the truth of the identity of Jesus was proclaimed by angels and humans.  The Gospel writers’ inspired words became the newest revelation of God, and we are still hearing the story today.

The New Testament does not only include the story of Jesus, of course.  Acts tells the story of the early church following God’s mission.  The letters of the New Testament are instructive about life in a missional setting and shape our understanding of God.  However, the resurrection that broke the silence is also the final and definitive word.  It is all that we need to tell the world about a redeeming God with power to save.

Faithfulness in South Africa

Methodism still means sacrifice and identity with the oppressed in South Africa.  CNN recently produced a story about a Methodist Bishop who decided to deeply identify with those in need.  Embedding CNN reports requires a higher IQ than I have, apparently.  So, click the link below to watch the story about Bishop Paul Verryn.

Here is an inspiring story that is not all together nice and neat.

The Connection & Mission – Part One

Evaluation of “Welcoming-Worshiping-Nurturing-Sending” as mission strategy for the United Methodist Church

Getting a good start is extremely important. Sprinters know the difficulty of recovering once you have “stumbled out of the blocks.” Therefore, correctly establishing a first piece to a structured understanding of the mission of the church is extremely important. Statistics suggest that the very first part of the process (welcoming) is broken. Between 1995 and 2005, the church membership declined 5.86 percent. Among other things, this tells us that we are not even holding our own members. Our “welcome” may have become worn out.

There are, of course, several reasons that “welcome” may not work as a mission strategy. First, we may not welcome well. If we were friendlier, maybe more people would come. Perhaps, if we welcomed more like Disney World, every church would be packed. I, actually, don’t believe this is the problem. For years, the church has provided hospitality training and made hospitality a focus. While there are churches that have outstanding hospitality ministries which really do make a difference for the church, I do not believe that being unfriendly is the church’s problem.

Secondly, “welcome” may not work because of the cultural context and climate. There was a day that the church was trusted and understood. The steeple of the church was a symbolic spire, and the entire town knew what that meant. Therefore, if someone did not go to church, it could easily be said that it was her or his own choice. They knew what they would get when they went to church. Either they wanted it, or they didn’t. Things are much more murkey in today’s context. The church is regarded with suspicion. The message from the church is unclear. There are other culturally relevant ventures that seem to offer the same kinds of things:  friendship (bars), meaning (education), service (local NGO’s), etc.

So, the question is “How can we welcome a person who does not even concieve of a reason to come to church?” We can’t. Therefore, a priority in mission strategy must be to “go.” When we think of “going” for mission, we usually think of international mission ventures. However, it’s clear that if the church is to impact North America in a profound way, the church must go out into the communities and neighborhoods to reestablish trust and to tell and retell the story of God’s love.

If “welcoming” is our primary point of contact with new people, then we are constantly failing to get a good start. The truth is that we aren’t just stumbling out of the blocks. We’re staying in the blocks and hoping that the finish line will come to us.

Creativity & The Gospel

Having friends who point you in interesting directions is a wonderful thing. Sam Persons Parkes introduced me to Doug Pagitt’s website. Doug is a leading voice in the Emergent church movement. In my studies, I have dug very deeply into the missional church movement. While the missional movement and the emergent movement are cousins (some would say brothers), they have a distinct set of leaders. The emergent movement is a great gift to the church, but my desire for precision in my study has kept me from looking very deeply into the emergent movement.

In delving a bit deeper, I have listened to a bit of Doug Pagitt’s podcasts. They can be accessed through iTunes or through his website. During one talk, he deals with creativity and how creativity works. Along with comparing creativity with sex as something that you should just do and not talk about so much, he gave some keen insight.

Real creativity is not just dressing something up differently according to Pagitt. Creativity strikes at the core of new life. If you are a Coca-Cola distributor, you can’t change the product. All you can do is change the bottle, or the can, or the advertising. Pagit says that Christianity is different. The gospel is continually renewing itself in the lives of people. Therefore, simply dressing it up differently is not creativity at all.

Creativity in the Church is reshaping the practices, the formation, and the community.

Missional Hermeneutics – Old Testament 4

Isaiah’s Missional Vision

Determining authorship and purpose of Isaiah is perhaps more complicated than even Jonah is. The complication arising from several sources of composition, including the Deuteronomists, has created confusion about the message of the book of Isaiah (Isaiah 1-39 93). Even when we approach the book with the assumption of unity, for which John N. Oswalt convincingly argues, the multitude of images held within the text, makes finding a single thread of purpose extremely difficult (Oswalt 19). My goal, therefore, will be to identify the missiological thread throughout what we now have as the book of Isaiah. While Isaiah 40-55 (or Second Isaiah) is known for the work of the servant among the nations, Yahweh’s concern for all nations and desire to gather all nations to him resounds throughout the whole.

One of the defining images that Isaiah offers is of the mountaintop of God. Blenkinsopp suggests that in each case, the mountain of the Lord refers to Jerusalem (Isaiah 1-39 191). The idea of the “mountain of the Lord’s house” (2:2) being a center for all nations brackets the entire body of Isaiah (2:2-5, 66:18-21). In the first reference to the “mountain of the Lord’s house” (2:2), Yahweh establishes Jerusalem as a place of wisdom and peace, which attracts the nations “because the teaching that goes forth from that source appeals to the deepest human longings” (Okoye 113). In the final reference to the “holy mountain Jerusalem” (66:20), the nations have seen Yahweh’s glory and are bringing offerings. However, the final reference does not simply leave the reader with the picture of a gathering of all nations. Instead, Yahweh declares that some of the outsiders will be taken “as priests and Levites” (66:21). No longer objects of the mission, the nations become full participants.

The gathering of the nations unfolds in specific ways throughout Isaiah. The inclusive vision of Isaiah is especially shocking when Egypt and Assyria are welcomed into the fold (19:16-25). Israel’s history with Egyptian oppression continues to aid a view of Egypt as an enemy. Because of Assyria’s military might and bullying, Israel’s attitude toward the country might mirror the attitude toward Ninevah (Isaiah 1-39 320). Yet, Yahweh groups the three peoples together in blessing, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage” (19:25). Again, the inclusion is not only in blessing toward the three peoples. Yahweh declares that the three will join in his mission of blessing the world (19:24) (“Implications of Conversion” 15).

Isaiah directs its comprehensive understanding of mission primarily toward Israel living a faithful and true life before the nations so that they will come to know Yahweh. The interpretation of Isaiah’s mission has, therefore, been seen as centripetal in nature (Bosch 19). This understanding, however, does not take seriously two important missiological arguments. First, Isaiah’s repeated use in the New Testament (especially Luke-Acts) provides evidence of the early church reading parts of Isaiah as centrifugal mission. For example, Paul and Barnabas quote Isaiah 49:6 as support for an active mission to the Gentiles at Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:47). In doing so, Paul and Barnabas interpret “give you as a light to the nations” as a sending out to be light to the nations (Martens 65).

Secondly, scholarship has not full addressed the purpose of the servant images. Most studies of the servant images in Isaiah have focused on identifying the servants. Is the servant Israel, the remnant, Jesus, etc.? No matter who we conclude the servant images to portray, however, it seems clear that the servant is a protagonist and carries out the will of Yahweh. Therefore, the servant provides us with an image of prototypical action from the whole people of God. If that is the case, the centrifugal actions of the servant are not limited to the servant alone. Instead, they become expectations for everyone who worships Yahweh. Second Isaiah continually shows a God who actively seeks the nations. From Isaiah 40 onward, “God is anything but a tribal god. God’s project reaches toward the ends of the earth” (Martens 60).