Welcome to the Waretown United Methodist Church Fall Session Discipleship Initiative! For the next four weeks we will be posting a once weekly reflection on Scripture, Mission, and the book Right Here Right Now: by Alan Hirsch & Lance Ford. This Blog/Facebook discussion is part Bible Study, part Book Discussion, and part Practical Worskshop. You may post responses to this post, repost, start a new related post, or message with others regarding the posted discussion for the week. Before you begin, please observe the following practices:
1. PRAY before you start! When we are in connection with God daily… God works in and through our lives to bring insight, inspiration, and understanding.
2. ENGAGE others in the group and outside. What God reveals to us through insight, inspiration and understanding is not meant for us alone… but others as well. God wants to use all of us to bring love, grace, hope, and faith to others.
3. RESPECT everyone. Sometimes we don’t agree… that’s OK. Consider every person and post to be earnestly seeking the best that God has to offer.
4. PARTICIPATE. It’s easy to passively observe… it takes guts to get in on the action! God is not calling for armchair quarterbacks, or part-timers. The only way to experience anything from this is to be ‘ALL IN’.
Pastor Erik’s Reflections
Have you ever noticed the differences between things designed to stand still in a fixed location and things designed to move? We can say a lot about each type of thing, in short, one is type is defense-driven and the other is offense-driven. Characteristics we like to find in fixed location things are stability and security, while characteristics we like to find in moving things are adaptability and versatility. Let’s think about our homes for a moment. We want to live in a well constructed structure that provides reliable safety from the elements and will endure for many years. We DON’T want it to be able to move! Now, let’s think about trailers, mobile homes, and tents. In these we value versatility and adaptability. We WANT to bring them to the forests or mountains or beaches or tailgating at the football game. Moving and changing easily is EXACTLY what we want! In military terms we find the same thing. A bunker is a fixed defensive structure designed to provide safety and security while an Apache helicopter is an aggressively moving structure designed to advance the offense of the battle. It’s the same with castles versus cavalries, farming for food versus hunting and gathering, and saving money in banks versus spending. Similar examples even extend to people’s personality, character traits, management styles, parenting and teaching: practical and conservative versus creative and free-spirited, keen administrators versus courageous explorers, reactive responses verses proactive intentions. In any and all of these examples one approach is not better or worse than the other, rather, their effectiveness depends solely on the objective they are designed to achieve. After all, if we try to advance our battle front by sitting in a bunker it is as foolish as seeking refuge and security among the cavalry riding out to fight.
Reflections from the Book ‘Right Here Right Now
So, what does all this have to do with Jesus, our faith, and the church? Well, a close look at the Scriptures reveals that Jesus intended his followers (his church) to be an offense movement rather than a defense fortress. Mark 16, Matthew 28, Luke 24, and John 20 (among many other chapters) contain some form of the following Jesus sayings: “as the Father has sent me, so I am sending you”. (John 20). In Right Here Right Now, Alan Hirsch says this: “The church that Jesus designed is made for impact. The movement that Jesus set in motion is designed to be an advancing, untamed, and untamable revolutionary force created to transform the world”. (p. 30). And being a movement rather than a fortress has drastic implications for who are as Christ followers, what we do, and how we do it. Unfortunately, most churches today see themselves as a fortress rather than a movement. This is evidenced in their 1) resistance to change, 2) reactive rather than proactive approach to inviting and engaging outsiders, and 3) lack of relevance in the wider culture. Now, with the majority of Christian churches in decline in the US, we are at the critical place where we need to come out of the castle and get onto the horses of the cavalry. The ‘Briefing’ chapter of Right Here Right Now describes this in terms of MOVES.
- Move It: Active Christian faith that reaches the world for Jesus Christ is NOT something undertaken by a few ‘professionals’ like pastors and such, but rather something that EVERYONE is called to do in their lives, neighborhoods, and communities.
- Move Out: God has gifted every believer uniquely and with the power of God’s Spirit to change the world for the better one person at a time. And, God has called every believer to this mission right here and right now where they are and with their personality, experiences, circumstances, and talents. Everyone.
- Move In: If we are the cavalry rather than the castle then our actions must fit. We don’t wait for people to ‘come in’ and learn our churchy language, traditions, and viewpoints on the world. Instead, we ‘go out’ to the people around us at work, home, school, or wherever we hang out and with their language, traditions, and viewpoints show them a Christian example and perspective on faith and life.
- Move Alongside: We are not in it just for the conversion factor. If we don’t really and authentically care for, love, and have relationships with the people we are trying to reach… then we are being hypocritical. Jesus calls us to love, love, love neighbor and enemy alike.
- Move From: Moving in and moving alongside should never be seen as, or conducted as, ‘watering down’ the Christian lifestyle. There is so much in our culture today with regards to self-centeredness, materialism, sexuality, etc. that Christians MUST provide a living counterexample by living selflessness, sustainably, and with integrity. It means getting radical… and people will take notice.
Matthew 13 is filled with parables that describe the Kingdom of God (or Kingdom of Heaven). One thing that really stands out is Jesus’ repeated assertion that many will either hear and NOT understand, or hear be changed by the Gospel (Matthew 13:11-17). As disciples of Jesus Christ trying to reach the world and start new places of faith our first priority is to measure ourselves by the Scriptures. In the first parable (Matthew 13:1-12) we read the parable of the sower (and then get an explanation in 18-23) and are confronted with the reality that when Jesus Christ reaches the hearts of people there are four ways it can go: 1) complete lack of understanding resulting in rejection; 2) immediate acceptance but no endurance in the face of hardship resulting in falling away; 3) inability to compete with selfishness and materialism resulting in defeat; or 4) understanding, acceptance, endurance, and priority resulting in success, maturity, development, and transformation. Whether we are talking about our own faith journey as Christians or our calling as Christians to reach and change the world for Jesus… this parable is important. Who of us haven’t struggled with a lack of understanding (the Gospel just isn’t ‘sinking in’)? Who of us haven’t been inspired briefly by the Gospel but then ‘knocked out’ by tough times? Who of us aren’t guilty of sometimes trading comfort, entertainment, or pursuits of wealth rather than holding our steadfast commitment to the life of faith? Do we have assurance that, despite our shortfalls, we are growing, maturing, and producing hundred-fold for Jesus? If WE face these three types of setbacks… the people we are trying to reach will be facing them as well. We need to remember that. This is a great parable by which to challenge our faith lives as well as our commitment to being ‘on a mission’ (think: offense, cavalry, movement). Notice what happens, Jesus says, when the seed fall on good soil: “Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Mat 13:8). First, we are to embrace Jesus as Lord, then, by living that out in our lives and community, we multiply (reach others) a hundred, sixty, or thirty times!
Discussion Questions (you can find the original downloadable questions HERE)
•What key idea stands out for you or especially spoke to you from this chapter? Why?
In this section (pg 31 ff) Alan talks about the Mission of The Whole People of God (MPOG). How much thought have you given to your role in this movement? Where do feel you are as a player in the MPOG?
When Alan says, “It is not so much that the church has a mission but that the mission has a church” what does this mean for your own life?
Is there a particular group or tribe (other than your church community) that you are currently connected to? If not, what possibilities come to mind?
On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being strongest) how do you feel you have been living (conversing, frequenting, inviting) those you live among?
What areas in your life are you aware of that you need to set aside and get free from in order to be a missional Christian?