The COVID-19 pandemic has plunged the world into a crisis that is unprecedented for many nations in the post WW2 era. For many people across the world, it will be nothing new, as they live in a state of perpetual disruption thanks to war or famine or both. It is nevertheless a significant shock to many Australians who have grown up with the comfort of living in the land of plenty. This is exactly a time for the church to step up and continue in the tradition first established by the Early Church of sacrificial service and living out the love of God in the face of crisis. (more…)
The Five Habits of Highly Missional People, is a book written by Michael Frost about the BELLS method for sharing your faith. It is a “handy tool for mobilizing Christians up, in and out into mission. That is, up into deeper connection with the Triune God; in to a stronger sense of community with other believers; and out into the neighborhood.” – Michael Frost. Here you can download the sermon series guide, group study guide, kids program and watch accompanying videos that introduce each habit. (more…)
When accomplished academic and author Graham Hill was told by his family that nobody wanted to read his books he knew that he had to learn new media skills in order to connect with people and pass on critical information that can help shape mission. That determination has led to an epic global exploration that is unearthing a treasure trove of interviews and perspectives. (more…)
Did you catch the look of incredulous surprise on the face of the guy sitting on the park bench in our recent Easter video? He suddenly realizes that God has chosen to use him to reach others for Jesus.
Why is he so surprised?
What has happened to our understanding of mission that realising that all Jesus followers are “sent” by God is a new revelation?cYes we have too often outsourced mission and outreach as the video suggests and have diluted down the call to mission to just a select few.
This stands in such sharp contradiction to our Baptist story in Australia and overseas. A story of creative witness in many diverse contexts that is such a rich one. We trace our inspiration to being sent out to bear witness with creativity back to way of Jesus, the early church and the creativity of our God as demonstrated in the Scriptures.
Being sent is at the core of God’s mission, highlighted in the sending of His own Son and so clearly understood by the early church. Of the multiple examples let just highlight one.
Luke in his inspired account of the sending out paradigm of the early church in Acts 11:19f provides an understated narrative of a local church in action at Antioch.
As Luke records it, some unnamed people, ”men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.” Understanding that their commitment to Jesus meant they had to go out, they were instrumental in the establishing the first non-Jewish local faith community.
This ‘sending out’ paradigm is so imbedded in the ethos of this local faith community, that it comes as no surprise that they participate so energetically in another significant “sending out” moment in the mission of God.
As Luke records in Act 13, this same community of believers – inspired by the prompting of the Holy Spirit affirmed Barnabas and Saul in their call to be sent out – “So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”
And this initiated another stage in the movement that was to see the transformative message of Jesus impacting “all nations.” (Matthew 28:19)
The Church when it is authentically the Church is always a sending community. Sadly however the guy in the park bench characterises the lack of awareness of many believers of God’s purpose to use them to share the message of Jesus.
I find myself asking the question, what would it take for my local church to help believers like him understand that as s/he goes out into their daily life activities at work, in the community – s/he is in fact being sent as an agent of transformation?
What would it take? Let me offer five suggestions that would be part of the list:
1. A commitment by the local church to make mission its core business as directed by the Holy Spirit.
2. A strategy by the local church to strengthen the local believers to believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. To fortify their confidence in the Gospel.
3. A strategy by the local church to equip the local believers to be more competent in sharing the Gospel.
4. A process as a gathered community to affirm local believers in their engagement as agents of transformation in their everyday worlds.
5. A celebration of the stories of transformation in the local community and beyond which have occurred because the local believers have “gone out” on mission.
For more on being ‘Revitalised in Witness’ please read the other posts in this series:
“We need to rediscover what it looks like to create curiosity arousing lifestyles…equipping people to live lives that are weird, that are odd, that break moulds.”.
Michael Frost in Missional Conversation Series
Is Michael Frost right?
There are many questions here. What business have respectable middle class Australian Baptists got being ‘weird’? Is there a biblical precedence to support Michael’s viewpoint?
A brief look at some of the Old Testament prophets may provide support. We highlight some of these in our annual Easter Offering video HERE.
Strictly speaking the prophets were in possession of a different set of messages than the Gospel, although we share in common with them the commission to pass on a message from God to the world.
Jeremiah engaged in some bizarre behaviour burying his underwear and walking around with a yoke attached to his back.
Ezekiel’s prophetic modus operandi is similarly odd in comparison to our modern day way of going about proclaiming the message of God. Events that stand out is his act of lying on his side for 390 days, and then repeating that. Eating barley cakes baked over cow manure was another
Perhaps Hosea amongst all the prophets would have the most traction today, due to the self-sacrificial nature of his decision to obey God and take on a prostitute for a wife. It’s not the kind of thing in modern times we expect of God – to be told to live such an unusual, controversial and sacrificial life that plays out like a long running drama speaking to the surrounding world of the nature of God’s love for his people and the degree to which they have defiled themselves.
Christians in popular misconception are perceived to be shunning of sex workers. The truth is that of all the people who reach out to street workers Christians across the world are often on the forefront.
Jesus got a hard time from the religious elite for hanging with tax collectors and other people of ill repute.
It can be argued that there is an incarnational logic to the somewhat bizarre ministries of the prophets. Under the direction of God to deliver a message, they didn’t just proclaim prophecies but lived their message out through their symbolic behaviour, be that in in the choice of marriage partners, their clothing or using their bodies symbolically. They took the word of God seriously and allowed it to have a disruptive and transforming effect on their lives.
Is anybody listening?
The prophets of old weren’t at any risk of being ignored. They aroused curiosity and made the message of God a talking point. It seems as if the church on the other hand is routinely ignored, except for when something controversial happens. So what would it mean to us to live lives that arouse curiosity? Do we have to do something outlandish or bizarre to be noticed?
It is important to note that the behaviour of the prophets mentioned wasn’t some grand plan that they schemed and hatched – it was under the direction of God.
Modern Day Curiosities
There are plenty of examples of Christians living extraordinarily sacrificial lives right across the globe, particularly those who minister amongst the poor and marginalised. However, this is not the preserve of Christian believers alone and therefore not necessarily curious from a religious perspective.
Some modern day believers do choose ‘curious’ ways of witnessing to the world around them. Carl James Joseph, a Catholic pilgrim from Detroit, Michigan, has been living without money and depending on the generosity of others for the past 20 years. Carl carries a large cross on his back and is dressed like Jesus. He is barefoot most of the time and lives a very simple life.
Having visited about 20 countries in the world he has now become a well-known figure in the old city of Jerusalem, where he explores the life and path of Jesus Christ.
If you drive down the old Route 66 into Groom Texas you will see a giant cross which attracts up to a thousand people a day. It was built by Steve Thomas of Pampa, Texas in 1995. Mr. Thomas, disgusted with the huge billboards advertising pornography wanted to make a public profession of faith along the Interstate. Originally he wanted to put up his own billboard with Bible verses but could never find the appropriate verse. Instead, inspired by a cross built by a rancher in Ballinger, Texas, Mr. Thomas decided to construct a giant cross. The cross was constructed by a hundred welders in two pieces and stands 190 feet tall.
Alongside the cross is a replica of Calvary, with steps leading to the crosses, and a replica of Christ’s tomb. The Stations of the Cross feature life-sized sculptures of the events leading to Christ’s crucifixion. The Groom Cross is fast becoming a roadside pilgrimage site with the number of travellers visiting the site increasing exponentially.
But what about us ‘normal’ people?
The most elementary way togain traction and cut through is to upset the applecart of expectations.Through perception that is often justified and at other times unwarranted the church and Christians at large in Australia seemed to be pegged when it comes to expectations of attitude and action. Upsetting those expectations arouses curiosity. Here’s some ways I’ve found makes a difference:
- Not judging when you are expected to.
- Taking an interest in others lives and views rather than just trying to ‘push a message’.
- Being found in unlikely places (outside the bubble of the church).
- Learning to build friendships with people outside of your usual Christian networks.
- Being at the heart of a community rather than the fringe.
- Asking questions rather than making statements.
Whilst the examples above don’t attract as much attention as the antics of the prophets or giant crosses it does make a difference one life at a time. Like the prophets, we can submit our lives to God to be used for whatever purposes he wishes and whatever way he wants. The question is, how are we going to respond if he wants us to do something off the wall?
By Stan Fetting (Operations Manager, Crossover)
For more on being ‘Revitalised in Witness’ please read the other posts in this series:
An inspiring story of a couple who found Christ in a dangerous place to confess belief in Christ, and how they have found a new family to connect with in Australia in a church that has reached out to them. (more…)
Greater Western Sydney for Christ is a unique initiative using church collaboration and business ventures as part of a vision to reach GWS. This includes a nursery, landscaping, church planting, and a Bible College. GWFC seeks to reach and transform suburbs situated from Parramatta to Blackheath, north and south of the Great Western Highway for Christ. This is done primarily by encouraging local churches and ministries, giving them resources, and planting more churches. checkout the thinking behind the ventures that form GWFC. (more…)
All around Australia in local Baptist churches are connecting with youth and providing a safe context within which young people can grow and encounter faith. Luke Bartlett, Youth Pastor of Narwee Baptist Church explains the strategic approach to working with young people and developing leaders. This video was shown at REVIVE Conference.
The latest PRAC Magazine edition focuses on the ministry of the evangelist and the place of the evangelist in local Baptist churches. What happens when you wake up one day to realise that the whole purpose of entering into ministry has changed without you realising it? How do you relate to the Gospel to street sub culture? What happens when you build a sports centre instead of a church? What is a 3rd place ministry and what happens in them? How do you engage people who are not even used to talking let alone talking about spirituality? (more…)
Often when we think of evangelism we think of strategies, programs, leading people to Jesus courses, massive outdoor events, preaching the gospel. But how often do we think of prayer in that mix? We pray for our family, our church, our work, our health but how often do we focus on and spend extended periods of prayer for those who are not yet Christians? Check out our resource for churches to mobilise their people into evangelistic prayer here.