Friday, September 11, 2009


Everything in existence has a reference point in terms of its relatedness to God. Sin has caused all creation to be out of proper relationship with God’s character and being. As sinful beings we are out of relationship – “separated from God”. Sin causes death. We're all sinners, and we'll all eventually die.
Jesus wasn't a sinner, but he died, and in his death he conquered sin. Death couldn't hold him down, and to prove it, he rose from the grave.

In like manner, one of the most important implications of the gospel is that it restores us in relation to God. In believing the gospel, we are brought to new life in Jesus, to the end that in him we would conquer sin and death, and be restored to God as Jesus was. By God’s design, that restoration to God has manifold implications for our lives - spiritual, physical, emotional, financial, relational, mental and social implications. These implications are seen as parallels of the story of the gospel, played out “in like manner” of the gospel in everyday life. In each of these areas the gospel motivates and models for us redemptive thought and action.

“The Scriptures provide many examples of this gospel (-centered) living. In Gal 2:14 Paul rebukes Peter for conduct that was “not in line with the truth of the Gospel” and in Phil 1:27 he urges believers to “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.” In other words, one of the ways the gospel must function is by informing specific behaviors. Thus, we should read our Bibles with an eye toward detecting these connections. So, for example, when Paul appeals to the Corinthians to “flee from sexual immorality” he explicitly bases his appeal on the gospel—“you are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1Cor 6:18-20). When he urges forgiveness he explicitly references the gospel as both motivation and model (Eph 4:32). When he tells husbands to love their wives he does so by linking his exhortation directly to the gospel (Eph 5:25). When he calls the Corinthians to an ongoing generosity he explicitly reminds them of God’s generosity in the gospel (2Cor 8:7,9; 9:12-13, 15).”1

Being “gospel-centered” means that as we live our lives out in the times and places God has appointed, we work to reconcile all things to God, by the gospel (Col 1:20). To do this, we maintain a holistic focus for living which seeks to shape and transform all life, conduct and ministry with the news, meaning and implications of the gospel.

1 “Gospel Implications”, Mike Bullmore,,PTID314526|CHID598016|CIID2168232,00.html

Missional Leadership

Modern church leadership has drawn deeply from the structures and methods of the business world.  While many of the leaders employing these methods do not typically embody a hierarchical attitude, the “CEO” or “top down” structures in churches place pressure on leaders to use power and authority in a worldly manner in order to “draw a crowd” and “get things done”.

The temptation in this approach is to mistake the execution of well-run programs, the gathering of large groups of people into events, and the swelling of budgets and specialization of staff in disparate programs as success.  This attractional mindset - that widespread participation in various programs of the church produces transformation – has been tested, found wanting, and yet prevails even in churches much larger than our own1,2.

If it is assumed that our leadership structures are effective, we will naturally measure “attraction” (participation) in and assume that equates to transformation.  Indeed, the bible mostly refers to such phenomena pejoratively3,4,5, 6 .

Biblically, groups and individuals transformed by the gospel constitute success.  The mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus who have been taught to observe his commandments.  Missional leadership methods prioritize and value the missionary nature of the church over contemporary attractional programs & methodology.
Missional versus traditional Attractional Churches* 
(Missional / Attractional) :
(“Go out” mentality  / “Come In” mentality);
(Emphasis on transformation & action / Emphasis on words & information);
(“Community” formation focused / “Event” formation focused);
(Environmentally sensitive / Environmentally indifferent);
(Everything is mission-oriented / Missions one among many programs);
(Values driven / Methodology & Program driven);
(Thinking holistically / Emphasis on disparate programs);
(“Diachronic” reading of the bible / “Synchronic” reading of the bible);
(More organic, grassroots - bottom up / More business structured, top down);
(Typically smaller churches / Frequently large churches);
(Small budgets, fewer paid staff / Large budgets, many paid staff);
(Priesthood of all believers / Clear demarcation between pastors/laity);
(Younger congregations / Older, baby-boomer congregations)
 *adapted from Biola Magazine “The Church in a Missional Age”, Spring 2009

1.       Willow Creek Community Church conducted a multiple-year qualitative study of its ministry.  Please watch the 13 minute video of the findings by Greg Hawkins, Executive Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church at  
2.       An article covering Willow Creek’s changes to their “attractional model” 
3.       Matthew 15:3, 8-9.    
4.    Colossians 2:8.   
5.    Luke 11:42-43.  
6.    Matthew 6:5

Missional Communities

The term “missional”1 is a ministry buzzword that is currently used to describe all manner of vision and mission fulfillment in all sorts of churches and denominations. In my meaning of the term, and originally, “missional” is an adjective which describes the host of values, priorities, emphases and resultant strategies that come from embracing a “missionary approach” to all of ordinary life and ministry.

Historically, CCC has used the word “missionary” to define vocational ministry workers who travel internationally or out of the area into a mission “field”. The thought that some people are “Christians”, and others are “missionaries” who are special Christians that do the work of the ministry – reinforces an unbiblical dichotomy that has done major damage to the identity of the local church in America. We need to recover the biblical picture that CCC’s “mission fields” are the homes, relationships, businesses and neighborhoods in which our members live together. The gatherings of these “missionary groups” involve many different ordinary life activities and require the sharing of life that challenges the individualistic idols of our culture.

The typical “small group” or “growth group” in a church largely gains its identity from a regular weeknight gathering whose primary purpose is to study the bible or some other book, to pray for each other, and “fellowship”. Membership in such a group is largely a matter of regular attendance.

A missional community is a gospel-centered group of Christians who band together to fulfill the disciple-making mission of the church in their area (Matt 28:18-20). While bible study does take place in these fellowships, the primary identity of these groups lies in a shared commitment to cultivate and maintain a “missionary mindset” as they reach their neighbors and live in community with one another.  This is done through sharing the common rhythms of ordinary life with gospel-shaped intentions.  In these groups we take the regular stuff of life - eating, serving/blessing, celebrations, work, listening, rest, recreation - and seek to demonstrate the truth and beauty of the gospel through these things to one another and to non-believers.

1. The first missiologist using the term "missional" in its modern understanding was Francis DuBose in his book, "God Who Sends" (Broadman Press, 1983). By the 1990's the term began to appear more and more in such books as "Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America" (Edited by Darrell L. Guder) and the works of Lesslie Newbigin.

The Gospel

 “What is the gospel?” is a hot-topic issue within some segments of the evangelical church.  Over the last 8 years, the question has increasingly become the subject of now countless sermons, articles, conference messages, debates and books.  A Google search of “What is the gospel?” returns a list of 47,500,000 websites.  In this past year, I have personally sat under the teaching of first-rank conservative evangelical theologians who saw fit to use their time to bring clarity to this question.  “What is the gospel” is creating no small stir in America as pastors and ministry leaders struggle to reach people while clearly communicating the message that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Some have lamented the ineffectiveness of today’s church (especially compared to the book of Acts!) and concluded that an adjustment of their message is the order of our day.  This is not, however a sign of our times.  Paul wrote to the Galatian church and saw the need to immediately address this issue in their fellowship, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel… there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ”.  The temptation to change the message of the church comes anew to each generation.  Indeed, even Paul maintained “gospel-habits” to keep himself centered on the message of Grace (1 Cor. 15:31).  The need for clarity on the question, “What is the gospel?” is as old as the Church itself. 

GospelThe news and meaning of the life, substitutionary death and resurrection of Jesus.

The gospel is a clear & very specific message.  Popular misunderstandings of the gospel mistake the message of grace for “instruction” on how to live morally in order to maintain God’s blessing.  Others distort the message of grace into a license to pursue our own appetites and seek the fulfillment of our will.

 In ministry, confusion about the gospel also arises from a lack of clarity between the gospel message itself and the various presentations of the doctrines of the gospel in scripture.  When this informs the study of scripture, the text is most often broken down for analysis into various disparate subjects.  So, the subjects of worship, faith, prayer, serving the needy, marriage, preaching, missions, fellowship, evangelism, eating, discipleship, and even the subject of “the bible” itself, are beheld as distinct subjects.  They are vaguely related as “things of God”, connected primarily through their proximity in the bible.

For contrast, the doctrines of the gospel are; the incarnation (life), atonement (death), and eschatology (resurrection - new life unto the restoration of all things, Col 1:20) of Jesus.  We see these doctrines presented explicitly and thematically throughout the entire bible.  The meaning and implications of the incarnation, atonement and resurrection are the “subjects” which generate the writings of the entire New Testament.  The news and meaning of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus – the gospel – informs every word and theme in the bible.