When we grasp that the whole Bible constitutes the coherent revelation of the mission of God, when we see this as the key that unlocks the driving purposefulness of the whole grand narrative, then we find our whole world view impacted by this vision. As has been well documented, every human worldview is an outworking of some narrative. We live out of the story or stories we believe to be true, the story of stories that tell it like it is,’ we think. So what does it mean to live out of this story? Here is The Story, the grand universal narrative that stretches from creation to new creation, and accounts for everything in between. This is The Story that tells us where we have come from, how we got to be here, who we are, why the world is in the mess it is, how it can be (and has been) changed, and where we are ultimately going. And the whole story is predicated on the reality of this God and the mission of this God. He is the originator of the story, the teller of the story, the prime actor in the story, the planner and guide of the story’s plot, the meaning of the story and its ultimate completion. He is its beginning, end and center. It is the story of the mission of God, of this God and no other. ~ Christopher Wright, p. 533
My friend Frank Viola has just released a new book called God’s Favorite Place on Earth that could change your relationship with God, help you defeat bitterness, free you from a guilty conscience, and help you overcome fear, doubt and discouragement once and for all.
This is a book that will jar you out of your "Christian rut" and give you new eyes for looking at everything. It’s a quick, inspiring, and entertaining read.
In addition, if you get the book between May 1st to May 7th, you will also get 25 free gifts from 15 different authors including Leonard Sweet, Jeff Goins, Andrew Farley, Steve McVey, DeVern Fromke, Pete Briscoe, Frank Viola himself, and many others.
Over 47 Christian leaders have recommended the book including John Ortberg, Greg Boyd, David Fitch, Leonard Sweet, Jack Hayford, Mary DeMuth, Mark Batterson, Jon Acuff, Anne Miller, Craig Keener, Pete Wilson, Todd Hunter, Jenni Catron, and many others.
The premise of the book is simple: when Jesus was on the earth, He was rejected everywhere He went . . . from Bethlehem, to Nazareth, to Jerusalem. The only exception was the little village of Bethany.
The curtain opens with Lazarus, who is now ready to die, telling the incomparable story of Jesus’ interactions with him, Martha, and Mary. God’s Favorite Place on Earth blends drama, devotion, biblical narrative, and first-century history to create a riveting book that you’ll find difficult to put down. Within each narrative, the common struggles Christians face are addressed and answered.
Go to GodsFavoritePlace.com to claim your 25 gifts, read a Sampler of the book, and watch the video trailer.
The missional movement must involve serious engagement with issues of justice. As missionary people of God we must champion those without a voice. Tim Keller uses the phrase “quartet of the vulnerable” (Zech 7:10) to describe the plight of the orphan, widow, poor, and immigrant. If you have any doubt about God's heart for the vulnerable, then consider this sampling of Scripture:
“You must not mistreat or oppress foreigners in any way. Remember, you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.”
“Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me. I will certainly hear their cry.”
“And do not slant your testimony in favor of a person just because that person is poor.”
“In a lawsuit, you must not deny justice to the poor.”
“. . . but let the land be renewed and lie uncultivated during the seventh year. Then let the poor among you harvest whatever grows on its own. Leave the rest for wild animals to eat. The same applies to your vineyards and olive groves.”
“When this offering is given to the Lord to purify your lives, making you right with him, the rich must not give more than the specified amount, and the poor must not give less.”
“It is the same with your grape crop—do not strip every last bunch of grapes from the vines, and do not pick up the grapes that fall to the ground. Leave them for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the Lord your God.”
“When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. Leave it for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the Lord your God.”
“If one of your fellow Israelites falls into poverty and cannot support himself, support him as you would a foreigner or a temporary resident and allow him to live with you.”
“But if there are any poor Israelites in your towns when you arrive in the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tightfisted toward them.”
“Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do.”
“There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.”
“Never take advantage of poor and destitute laborers, whether they are fellow Israelites or foreigners living in your towns.”
“Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow.”
Unleader is a call for honest discernment: Am I a true disciple? Am I really becoming more and more like the One I claim to follow? Does my life reflect the quality of the One I love? Or do I fundamentally bear false witness to him and so damage his cause? Am I becoming a narcissist, in love with my own image in the face of my adoring fans, or am I being a leader as Jesus intended me to be? The reader is called to submit himself or herself to such probing questions. If Unleader does contain a prophetic challenge, and I do personally believe it does, then, like all prophetic, texts we ignore it to our peril. ~ Alan Hirsch
Careful, this book is dangerous. It rips the band aid off a festering wound exposing much that is wrong with the Church in America then applies the salve of Jesus' kingdom paradigm. Many leaders in Christendom will not like this book and will prefer that you do not read it, that's why you should read it. ~ Neil Cole
There is an elephant in the middle of the room of the American church…the destructive obsession with business models of leadership that have displaced the ways of Jesus…keeping the church from being the transformative force it was intended to be. In UnLeader, Lance calls it for what it is and offers a clear way out of the insanity. ~ Brad Brisco
Be sure to mark your calendars now for the Sentralized 2013 gathering in Kansas City this September 26th-28th. We will once again be hosting some of the best missional thinkers and practitioners in the world. Come spend time with and learn from Alan and Deb Hirsch, Michael Frost, Ed Stetzer, Neil Cole, Hugh Halter, Jen Hatmaker, Noel Castellanos, Dave Ferguson, Lance Ford, Kim Hammond, Kirsten Strand, Brian Sanders, Danielle Strickland, Kathy Escobar, Mark Labberton, Chris Folmsbee, Tim Catchim, Cam Roxburgh, Brandon Hatmaker, Caesar Kalinowski, Matt Smay, Dan Southerland, Gary Kendall, Brad Brisco, Mischele Brisco, Ryan Hairston, Laura Hairston, Jon Shirley, Joey Turner and others.
We will be offering 14 main sessions, over 30 breakout sessions, and significant times to network and connect with all the presenters. Further details are available on the Sentralized website here. Mark your calendar and plan on joining us in KC this September!
A few years ago our family moved to a new part of town to plant a church. We were convinced that God placed us in our new home, on our new street, in our new neighborhood, for the purpose of meeting and getting to know our new neighbors. But how do you begin to build relationships with those whom you have never met? The primary key is that you must be intentional. New relationships seldom happen by chance. Instead you must find ways to “rub shoulders” with your neighbors. While your neighborhood situation may be quite different from the one we experienced here are some simple ways we began building relationships with our neighbors.
1. Pray for Your Neighbors.
Someone has said, “We need to talk to God about people, then talk to people about God.” If you have a neighborhood directory use it to identify the names of each family member in your building, on your street or cul-de-sac. Make a list that will help you pray for each family that you seek to build a relationship with. This list will help you move from simply hoping to connect with some nameless neighbor in the future, to specific action aimed at building a new relationship.
2. Be Outside.
After dinner take a walk in your neighborhood with an eye for meeting people. Play with your kids in the front yard instead of the backyard. Some of the best opportunities for our family to meet our neighbors came from playing baseball and Frisbee in our cul-de-sac. Playing ball in the front yard many times acted as a magnate for kids in the neighborhood and inevitably parents would follow.
3. Organize a Garage Sale.
Have a garage sale at your house and ask your neighbors if they have anything they would like to sell. We found in many cases neighbors not only brought over items to sell, but they would spend time “working” the sale and creating the opportunity to begin some brand new relationships and deepen existing ones.
4. Invite People for Dessert.
One of the best ways to get to know your neighbors is to have them over for dinner. However, we have found that inviting people over for dessert is less work and many times less threatening from their perspective. Dessert is less formal and requires a much smaller time commitment.
5. Have a Cookout.
Everybody loves to eat, and few people will turn down the chance to cookout on the grill and sample others people’s favorite dishes. Some of the best-attended get-togethers that we have hosted have been backyard (or front yard) cookouts. On one occasion we had the chance to have one of the local TV stations do their weather from our backyard. We used the opportunity to have a neighborhood cookout and everyone came to meet the weatherman and to be on TV.
6. Ask for Advice.
Everyone has differing talents and areas of expertise. One way of getting to know our neighbors better is to ask for advice in a person’s area of expertise. Having moved from a condominium where the grounds were always cared for, I had many opportunities to ask the more handy men in our neighborhood for advice. Advice on how to operate the sprinkler system, to over-seeding the lawn, to fixing a frozen air conditioning unit.
7. Join a Community Cause.
Find out if your neighborhood has a Home Owners Association. If so, join in on neighborhood workdays, or find an associational committee on which you can be a part. Find out if there is a neighborhood directory, if not, offer to put one together for those on your street.
8. Have an Open House.
One of our first connecting efforts after moving into our new house was to host a “dessert party.” We hand delivered special invitations to more than 180 homes in our housing addition. We simply invited people to a “come and go” dessert party where we had a dozen different kinds of desserts for people to sample. We also found that most people are very open to attending a party around the Christmas season. Take advantage of special times in the year to invite the neighborhood over for food and fun.
9. Watch for Special Needs.
Be on the lookout for special needs. Offer to baby sit or perhaps pet sit. Help to maintain yard work while neighbors are on vacation. Not long after moving in we noticed one of our neighbors preparing to paint their house. We spent part of the day helping them paint and that evening they had us over for pizza and we had the opportunity to discuss spiritual issues.
10. Start a Home Bible Study/Discussion Group.
The most significant and rewarding step to getting to know your neighbors is to discuss spiritual issues with them. After spending several months taking every opportunity to build relationships with those around us we invited our neighborhood to a new “discussion group” that we started in our home one night a week.
Jesus explicitly told us to love our neighbors and that begins by getting to know them. Recognize that there is a cost to building relationships with people around you. It will complicate your life, it will cost you money, and it will certainly cost you your most valuable resource, time. But I hope we will also recognize that the benefits of investing in the lives of others and of being a part of what God is doing in the world, and your neighborhood, far exceeds any personal inconvenience we might experience in the process.
We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws, because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory. . . .
Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. That’s why Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies. But if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption.
– Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies”, 17 November 1957, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery Alabama