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.”
There is less than
four two weeks 2 days until the kick off of the Sentralized conference on September 29th. It will begin with a book release party on Thursday night featuring both Michael Frost’s new book, “The Road to Missional” and Hugh Halter’s “Sacrilege.” You can now take a look at the rest of the conference schedule, as well as specific titles for each talk here.
I believe this conference is going to play a significant role in the ongoing missional conversation in the United States. There are essentially three reasons we have taken the time and effort to put Sentralized together.
First, we believe there is a continual need to bring clarity to missional language and concepts. Unfortunately, the use of missional terminology has become confusing in many circles. Some view “missional” as the latest church growth strategy, or a better way of doing evangelism. Others see missional as a means to mobilize church members to domissions more effectively. Still others believe missional is simply the latest Christian buzz word that will soon pass when the next trendy topic comes along.
However, we would argue that those who believe missional is merely an add-on to current church activities, or perhaps a passing fad prevalent only among church leaders, have simply not fully grasped the magnitude of the missional conversation. While it may sound like hyperbole; the move towards missional involves no less than a complete and thorough recalibration of our understanding of God’s mission, as well as the form and function of His church. By bringing together many of today’s best missional thinkers, we want to challenge God’s people to critically consider the significance of missional concepts and principles.
Second, we want to ensure the missional conversation moves beyond theory. We want to inspire and propel the people of God to engage His mission in life changing ways. That is why a considerable portion of the conference will focus on practical engagement; through the stories and personal examples of some of the best missional practitioners from around the country.
Third, we desire Sentralized to be a wellspring of relationships, networking and collaboration. To help this take place we have created “living room” spaces around sponsors’ displays and throughout the commons area. There will be numerous opportunities for you to cultivate relationships and exchange ideas, not only with other conference participants, but with each conference presenter. We want you to have real opportunities to interact personally with each of the speakers. To have the chance to get to know the presenters and to ask questions that are applicable to your ministry setting.
Hope to see you later this month.
If you are interested in effectively influencing others to take action on issues of social action, then I would highly recommend “Social Justice Handbook: Small Steps For A Better World” by Mae Elise Cannon. I am not familiar with any other resource of this kind. Cannon provides a comprehensive guide to the topic of social justice that is not only rooted in Scripture, but is replete with tangible ways to pursue justice through the local church.
The handbook is divided into two main parts. Part one, which includes five chapters, titled “Foundations of Social Justice,” is meant to provide a biblical and theological framework for justice, and addresses how individuals and churches can get involved.
Chapter one, “God’s Heart for Justice,” is a broad view of the theological foundation for social justice. Chapter two focuses on definitions and questions about social justice. Chapter three, provides a history of Christian social justice in the United States. Chapter four addresses the process people must embark on to allow their hearts to be opened and broken toward those who are most affected by injustice and oppression. And chapter five focuses on the roles individuals, church, community and government can play in advocating social justice.
While each of the chapters are excellent, my favorite is chapter four. In it Cannon shares a very helpful process of moving people from apathy to advocacy, that I believe has broad implications for ministry. She writes:
Though social justice cannot be simplified to a step-by-step program, I have identified nine components to be consistently helpful in the movement from apathy to advocacy: prayer, awareness, lament, repentance, partnership and community, sacrifice, advocacy, evangelism, and celebration. Sometimes these elements happen in a linear progression, sometimes they happen simultaneously, and at other times they are cyclical. In any case, they are part of the ongoing process of personal transformation and spiritual growth toward Christlikeness.
Part two, “Social Justice Issues,” is arranged alphabetically and includes more than eighty justice “topics.” This section of the book is designed to be both a reference guide and a reflective tool. Cannon has included multiple ministry profiles, spiritual reflection and awareness exercises, and simple (not easy) action steps. Lastly, the book includes a wonderful set of appendixes, that include organizations, books and movies that deal with a variety of justice issues.
I appreciate the words of Gilbert Bilezikian as he sums up his recommendation of this resource: “The moment you open Social Justice Handbook, it will vibrate in your hands with the heart-passion that inspired its making, a passion generated by him who described his life-mission as bringing good news to the poor, release to captives, sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed and the time of God’s grace.”
I am very excited to share some details about a conference scheduled for this September here in Kansas City. I believe the Sentralized Conference is going to play a significant role in the ongoing missional conversation in the United States.
There were at least two major reasons for organizing a conference like Sentralized. First, we believed there is a need to continue to bring clarity to the missional conversation. Even with the considerable amount of writing and dialog around missional concepts over the past decade, the use of missional terminology remains confusing in many circles. Unfortunately some view “missional” as the latest church growth strategy, or a better way of doing church evangelism. Others see missional as a means to mobilize church members to do missions more effectively. While still others believe missional is simply the latest Christian buzz word that will soon pass when the next trendy topic comes along.
However, we would argue that those who believe missional is merely an add-on to current church activities, or perhaps even a passing fad prevalent only among church leaders, have simply not fully grasped the theological and missiological magnitude of the missional conversation. While it may sound like hyperbole; the move towards missional involves no less than a complete and thorough recalibration of the form and function of the church of Jesus, as it attempts to discern how to participate in God’s mission. By bringing together some of today’s best missional thinkers and authors; we desire to assist God’s people in thinking deeply about God’s mission in the world.
Second, we want to ensure the missional conversation moves beyond theory. We want to inspire and propel the church to engage in God’s mission in life changing ways. That is why a significant feature of the conference will focus on practical engagement; through the stories and personal examples of some of the best missional practitioners around, participants will struggle with how to practically organize the church around God’s mission.
The conference will kick off with a book release party involving two new books that will be released in October; “The Road to Missional” by Michael Frost and “Sacrilege” by Hugh Halter. In addition to Frost and Halter other speakers throughout the conference will include Alan and Deb Hirsch, Dan Kimball, Neil Cole, Mike Breen, Lance Ford, Mindy Caliguire, Helen Lee, Kim Hammond, Michael Stewart, Eric Mason, Rickie Bradshaw, and Geoff and Sherry Maddock.
For more information on the conference schedule, speaker bios, and registration go to the Sentralized Conference website here. I hope to see you in KC this September.
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
One of the crucial topics in the missional church conversation involves the creation of new scorecards. The church must move beyond measuring success by the traditional indicators of attendance, buildings and finances. Instead we must create new scorecards to measure ministry effectiveness. These new scorecards will include measurements that point to the church’s impact on community transformation rather than measuring what is happening among church members inside the church walls. For one excellent example listen to this 12 minute interview conducted by Reggie McNeal titled “Raising Student Test Scores: A New Metric For Influencing the Community.”
This is an excellent video of Tim Keller from the Cape Town 2010 Lausanne Congress. Keller contends there are two major ways to reach cities with the gospel; planting/renewing contextual churches and city-wide gospel movements. He does a great job in just 18 minutes to unpack each. You can also download a copy of the advance paper written by Keller that helps to lay a foundation for this session here: Tim Keller Lausanne Urban Mission paper
Heavenly Father, give me a heart like the heart of Jesus, a heart more ready to minister than to be ministered to, a heart moved by compassion towards the weak and the oppressed, a heart set upon the coming of Your Kingdom in the world.
I pray tonight, for all those sorts and conditions of men to whom Jesus gave special thought and care;
For those lacking food or drink or raiment (clothing),
For the sick and all who are wasted by disease,
For the blind,
For the maimed and lame,
For those oppressed by an injustice,
For the lost sheep of our human society,
For fallen women,
For all lonely strangers within our gates,
For the worried and anxious,
For those who are living faithful lives in obscurity,
For those who are fighting bravely in unpopular causes,
For all whoa re laboring diligently in Your vineyard.
Grant, O Father, that Your loving kindness in causing my own lines to fall in pleasant places may not make me less sensitive to the needs of others less privileged, but rather more incline me to lay their burdens upon my own heart. And if any adversity should befall myself, then let me not brood upon my own sorrows, as if I alone in the world were suffering, but rather let me busy myself in the compassionate service of all who need my help. Thus let the power of my Lord Christ be strong within me and His peace invade my spirit. Amen
Evening Prayer from A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie, 1949