Generations Church is a community of everyday people committed to expanding God’s family because of Jesus for generations to come.
We (our teaching team) has been teaching through Colossians 1 as Generations Church began weekly services.
Let me give you the “previously on…”
We live in a world with faulty maps. These maps don’t just guide us they shape us. God sent Jesus into the world. Jesus is a map that shows us what God is like and what humanity looks like in proper relation to God. In this midst of this world, we are called to embody the mystery of Jesus made known. We must begin following the map and then inviting others to journey with us. Both our destination and the map is Jesus. Paul is sent into the world to share this message with people (Gentiles) who are included in God’s family because of Jesus.
We have been using Colossians as help to communicate some essentials to a new church. Paul has not met these Christians in Colossae. A coworker Epaphras started the church. He is concerned about the false teaching influencing other Christians in the region.
One theologian puts it, “The epistle is a vaccination against heresy, not an antibiotic for those already afflicted.” So, the false teaching has not taken hold but Pauls’ words are used as preparation against the heresy.
For I want you to know how greatly I am struggling for you, for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me in person. I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of complete understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery—Christ. In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
I am saying this so that no one will deceive you with arguments that sound reasonable. For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ. – Colossians 2:1-5
You may be wondering why I just listed Colossians 2 as the teaching text when the series is from chapter one.
If you look at your Bible, how do they divide it up. Prior to us adding chapters and verses to help in dissecting and understanding and translation, the contents were a single letter. The contents are still a single letter but appear less so due to these additions.
You may recognize Laodicea. For those of you who don’t no fear, Laodicea is mentioned in the very last book of the Bible for being lukewarm (see Revelation 3). They have drifted into apathy about their faith.
While we don’t know exactly what has happened to the Colossians community. It’s important to see that between Paul’s letter and John’s letter something happened within the region.
Paul has commended the Colossians for their faithfulness and impact on the world. It’s worth noting what an inability to discern false truths and apply the wisdom of Jesus produces—a muddy version of Christianity. Paul has told these Christians that the mystery has been made known—thus clear to them—but their inability to keep growing and applying and discerning has resulted in paralysis.
Paul has used himself as an example of what struggling and suffering looks like He has followed Jesus. We do not know what happened with the other believers. However, as Paul leads into direct countering of false teachers, we see a description of what Paul is ultimately working for in their midst. Paul almost goes, “Wait…there’s more…” I’ve told you how the access the knowledge of God and even given you some application. We see Paul go from observation to the specific application. Identify the solution. It’s like going from the observation “dude your broke”…to “let me help you budget and figure out where you are spending unnecessary money.”
Here we get a pastoral capstone of Paul’s goal from his opening words that the mystery of how God would rescue and renew his creation is made known in the person and work of Jesus:
As we look at these last two verses, we sense a switch in Paul. Everything he has said to this point is made abundantly clear—he doesn’t want these believers to be deceived—it’s not even foolish arguments—these are arguments that sound reasonable.
On the other side of our Give Over Get series, we will see how Paul counters these “reasonable” arguments. Here’s what may surprise you, and at the same time may not be all that shocking…these “reasonable” arguments are still put into effect today. They show up in the books you read, in the news you watch, in the social media you follow, in the cultural sayings regurgitated in everyday conversation.
Here’s what happens..like I briefly mentioned earlier. The gospel accomplishments in our culture aren’t always dashed away by false teaching, they are slowly eroded by teaching that that sounds right but has no connection to the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.
Paul is rejoicing because of what he has seen in the Colossians thus far.
If I may assume the first-person stance in this pastoral moment by Paul.
Just like Paul, I can’t physically be with you always. Here’s the beauty. You don’t need me to be physically present with you always.
I am able to hear the vision and values in your conversation.
While we have seen great growth and promise thus far, we still have blind spots. We still have areas of our life untouched by Jesus. We have areas of our church that don’t function as well as they should.
If we do not re-engage with what the vision for the church, then we may just drift into luke-warmness like the Laodiceans.
Here’s is how we will combat that…call or message someone in our church this week. If you need a name or a number, Jon and I will help you. It may lead to you grabbing a meal with each other.
You take the initiative. Don’t wait to see who reaches out to you.
”The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
The national anthem flag controversy, that does not have anything to do with the flag itself, still rages on. The argument on each side continues to rage on with each side digging their heels in a little more. Mike Pence left a game early. NFL owners are requiring players to stand. Still, the whole reason players are kneeling in the first place is being glossed over. In this post, I plan to continue to answer the question: How do you stand firm in a Kingdom worldview while remaining humble and teachable in posture?
You can view the opening post here. My answer: Resilient communication and more specifically, resilient listening. Step one was saturation. As Christians listen to others, do they send the same message (preferably love) through their verbal responses, non-verbal responses, and even their social media posts? Saturating your life with humility and love is a powerful first step because it communicates a willingness to dialogue about the tough things.
After you have done your best to communicate the same consistent message, there is an opportunity to respond–to give someone a hand up, provide a shoulder to cry on, or someone to stand beside and lock arms with. It is at this point in the communication, many begin to share their exact thoughts, usually framed as a problem or complaint, or simply move on from the conversation. Rather than lean in or re-up, they immediately begin to critique the position of the other. Neither response is helpful.
One of the realities of the world is that we do not often see people who are different than us. We complain about them, but we do not often see them. We often see people like us. When we do come in contact with others who are different we exercise a variety of means to cope, some result to judgment and others indifference. Very few take time to actually engage. We must be honest about our attitudes, prejudices, and our tendency to miss people right around us who are different from us.
When we begin to actually see people, most care takes place in the context of ordinary life–eating together, playing together, working together. How? When we simply ask: how can I help?
It is when they respond to this question care begins. St Francis of Assisi said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” One way we communicate that we understand is by meeting immediate needs. Scripture speaks powerfully about the role of God-community in meeting physical needs. Some care may be emotional by simply expressing solidarity with the other person. God desires His people to be soft-hearted and open-handed towards others.
“There will be no poor among you, however, because the Lord is certain to bless you in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance…If there is a poor person among you, one of your brothers within any of your city gates in the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Instead, you are to open your hand to him and freely loan him enough for whatever need he has.” – Deut 15:4, 7-8
There are many passages to choose from like Deuteronomy 15:4, 7-8 in the Bible. What is amazing is how there will be marginalized people amongst God’s people, yet the solution for the issue was for the people to act in accordance with God’s generous character.
We see this reproduced in the New Testament church in Acts 2 and 6.
I like the Acts 6 example. I think it aligns well with our contemporary situation. The Hellenistic Jews bring up a tough reality—their widows are being left out in the food distribution. The widows are already marginalized in first-century society. The full inclusion of the Gentiles is a new thing. Their social ostracization is being further complicated by neglect. Peter’s response is to these widows is perfect. He does not say “Would you be quiet?!” By his actions he said, “You know, there is a problem here. Let’s appoint some deacons.” In the role he was in, Peter acted first on behalf of his sisters in Christ. Peter did not dismiss their plight. He did not doubt their claim. He simply cared and made sure they received food.
We are so quick to dismiss the voice of our Christian African-American brothers and sisters about police brutality and injustice—which is why professional athletes are kneeling during the national anthem.
Let us take a step of care as we attempt to resiliently listen in order to stay in tough conversations.
A very real barrier is physical, mental, and emotional needs. We need to address the basic needs (felt and real) of a people or population segment. For an example from the general poor, providing people with safe housing, nutritious food, appropriate clothing, and access to health care and good education are all examples of tangible care. Here’s the kicker: someone has to pay for it. So, who is it going to be?
In the poor’s case, the cost is financial. When it comes to conversations about injustice and mass incarceration the cost may merely be stepping out of our comfort zone and allowing our clean-cut work hard stay out of trouble worldview to be challenged.
There are no silver bullet solutions. There is no magical system or formula to make people feel cared for. In reality, it begins with listening to the person and responding to what they are asking for. The person has to feel cared for or else it is not true care.
Often we are detached from the situation and because we are detached it is easy to dismiss. However, if we stay in the conversation, guided by a biblical precedent, we will realize before anything else is done we will seek to meet the needs of others.
It has been said, people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.
What steps are you taking to demonstrate care when you encounter someone who thinks different than you?
This week I wrap up another eight-week class at Midwestern Seminary. “Evangelism and Discipleship” has been a great class overall. Honestly, it has been one of the best practical ministry classes I have taken in all my years of school. While I had various takeaways from other courses, “Evangelism and Discipleship” had a unique blend of spiritual formation, practical exercises, and communal discovery. There are three reasons I greatly appreciated the course blend and the uniqueness.
Many classes on evangelism or discipleship share different models. They require you read about evangelism, potentially even define it. The class may even expose you to ways of presenting the gospel, share different tracks, and give biblical percent. Sometimes evangelism is also disconnected from discipleship. As I have written about here, evangelism and discipleship are really two wings of an airplane. My class included all of these elements. However, it also required we practice evangelism. Over the course of the eight weeks, I was required to go share the gospel a minimum of four times. After each encounter, I had to write up how the conversation happened and what the results were. I learned so much over the course of eight weeks. First, I am not very skilled at sharing the gospel at a restaurant with a waiter or waitress. Second, many of my opportunities came because I intentionally set aside time to be amongst non-Christians. Third, my most effective encounters came when I shared the gospel in a few sentences or less and connected it to something earlier in the conversation. Overall, I was thankful for the discipline the course instilled in me to intentionally seek out opportunities to share what God is doing in me, in the world, and through the gospel.
The course dealt with evangelism, follow-up, and discipleship on many layers as I alluded to in my previous reason. The goal, primarily, was to cultivate skills and awareness in me personally by crushing some of my personal preferences. For example, in evangelism, a prior relationship is not always possible and sometimes you just have to share the gospel cold turkey. Therefore, sharing the gospel is not always convenient or on your own terms. Ironically, this idea seems obvious, but how often do we really prepare our hearts and minds for the unexpected opportunity to share the gospel, invite someone over for dinner, or to church events? Another layer was how my personal ability and passion would be reflected in how the ministry I lead would perform in such activity. For example, if I am unwilling to verbally share the gospel with people then should I expect members in my small group, students, or other adults to share the gospel. If I am unwilling to set aside time to meet non-Christians, why would I expect other Christians to look for such opportunities?
Repeatedly, the course reinforced the idea: disciple to conversion, rather than from conversion. Disciple-making involves the reproduction of a life through relational evangelism, intentional follow-up, and directional development.
Where the course unexpectedly addressed was my personal walk with God. Vance Pittman says, “a person’s first call is to intimacy [with God] not ministry.” He has also said, “What God wants to do through me, he must first do in me.” If I do not exercise the spiritual disciplines, such as journaling, bible reading, and prayer, then my ability to minister will be greatly handicapped.
The Soul Winner by Charles Spurgeon: I had never read a full book by Spurgeon before. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with him, C.H. Spurgeon is known as the “Prince of Preachers.” He preached at Metropolitan Tabernacle (seated 5000 and standing room for another 1000) for 38 years in London during the mid-to-late 1800s. Throughout the book, Spurgeon masterfully weaved biblical conviction with persuasive illustration. Spurgeon thought through the many perspectives which needed addressing as it pertains to soul winning.
The Evangelism Handbook by Alvin Reid: At first glance, I thought this book would be weak and unhelpful. Never judge a book by its cover. Reid presents evangelism from a holistic perspective. My favorite section of the book was Part 3 of the book where Reid unpacked the intentional nature of evangelism. SOme of the most convicting moments came when reading these chapters. Primarily, if church leaders are not leading out in personal evangelism, then why would we expect our congregations to share the gospel. Further, are we actually equipping the believer to share Monday through Saturday, or are we expecting them to invite to church and person the “invitation” on Sunday?
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney: I am thankful this book was included in this course. Whitney addresses the elephant in the room when it comes to disciple-making. The basis for the book was is 1 Timothy 4:7 (NASB) “…discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness…” He exhorts the reader to remember how discipline without direction is drudgery. There must be joyful discipline in the life of the believer. Every believer is indwelt with the Holy Spirit and therefore our purpose is godliness–making us more like Him. God uses spiritual disciplines to transform believers from the inside out. Whitney works through seven key disciplines which God uses to shape and mold the believer. What I appreciated throughout the book was that the disciplines do nothing in of themselves, except for when God works through them as the believer keeps eternity in view.
Reading and studying other writers and thinkers have been immensely helpful in shaping my view of cultural engagement and practical ministry. One of the most helpful thinkers I have followed is Derek Rishmawy. Yesterday he shared an excerpt from his essay in the new work Our Secular Age.
His essay focuses on applying Charles Taylor’s insights to ministry to Millennials growing up in the Super-Nova of belief and the internet age, (and really anybody inhabiting our cross-pressured age). Here are both the excerpt and his full post:
We’ve reached the point where everybody has to preach apologetically, even if your congregation isn’t mostly millennial. To be clear, I don’t think such preaching is simply a matter of incorporating in every sermon arguments for the resurrection, or the existence of God, and so forth (though some of that might help). Instead, we need to actively answer objections to the gospel from inside the mindset of our cross-pressured culture on a regular basis as a part of ourscriptural exposition.
We need to show the consistency, coherence, and comeliness of the gospel to this generation. But it is not enough to simply defend the gospel. Present the way it interrogates the dominant, unquestioned narratives of our hearers—on meaning, money, sex, power, politics, gender, and so forth—and actually makes better sense of the world than any other view on offer.
This precise line of thinking contributed my recent post on the Bible. The necessity of engaging people in the internet age apologetically is why works Unparalleled by Jared C. Wilson and The Problem of God by Mark Clark shot up my reading list.
I am also convinced that everybody does not only have to preach apologetically, but churches must disciple others with the apologetic necessity in mind. I am sorry (not really) but “because the Bible says so” is no longer a persuasive statement.
What might a few disciple-making essentials need to be, which will help establish a consistency, coherence, and comeliness of the gospel in the life of a believer?
I could probably suggest several essentials. Developmentally in the life of a believer, I think there are five core markers which are built on. However, primary to the other four is the understanding of one’s identity in Christ.
Did you know there are 33 Things that happen at the moment of salvation? That’s right. There are thirty-three instantaneous and simultaneously given riches of God’s grace poured out on the believer.
That’s right. There are thirty-three instantaneous and simultaneously given riches of God’s grace poured out on the believer.
There are thirty-three instantaneous and simultaneously given riches of God’s grace poured out on the believer.
When we rightfully understand who God is and how he acts, we grasp the power of our new identity. Because God sent Jesus to live a perfect life, die on the cross, and then be resurrected, we now have the ability to know God personally. When God saves us and we believe, we experience the thirty-three things.
God is, so God does; therefore, we are, so we do (living apologetically).
How would your life change? What apologetic would be projected into the world if you lived in light of your identity in Christ? Here are fifteen. Why not begin a search for the rest?