Culture Shaping Power of the Church

Potter's Hands

Os Guinness, in his excellent book, Renaissance, concerning the church in midst of the present challenges unprecedented in Western Culture, notes the culture changing and culture shaping power of the gospel, when the gospel is both declared by God’s People and is actively shaping God’s People.  When many of our churches are caving in pursuit of “relevance”, which is hoped will cause people to “like” the church, so we can keep our numbers up, I think Guinness offers a both prophetic and strategic word:

What we have here in the teaching of Jesus and the Scriptures, and amplified in Augustine, is the very heart of the secret of the culture-shaping power of the gospel in the church. When the church goes to either of two extremes, and is so “in the world” that it is of the world and worldly, or so “not of the world” that it is otherworldly and might as well be out of the world altogether, it is powerless and utterly irrelevant.  But when the church, through its faithfulness and its discernment of the times, lives truly “in” but “not of” the world, and is therefore the City of God engaging the City of Man, it touches off the secret of its culture-shaping power. For the intellectual and social tension of being “in” but “not of” the world provides the engagement-with-the-critical-distance that is the source of the church’s culture-shaping power.

In short, the decisive power is always God’s, through his Word and Spirit. But on her side the church contributes three distinct human factors to the equation: engagement, discernment, and refusal.

First, the church is called to engage and to stay engaged, to be faithful and obedient in that it puts aside all other preferences of its own and engages purposefully with the world as the Lord commands.

Second, the church is called to discern, to exercise its spiritual and cultural discernment of the best and worst of the world of its day, in order to see clearly where it is to be “in” and where it is to be “not of” that world.

Third, the church is called to refuse, a grand refusal to conform to or comply with anything and everything in the world that is against the way of Jesus and his kingdom.

Illustration of a Healthy Church

Church on Mission

If our congregation were to be a church with the gospel, plus a group that enjoys being together in community, but we were not on mission to reach out to our neighbors and the Nations, for the sake of advancing Christ’s Kingdom, then we would just be another social club for people to attend.

Gospel + Community – Mission = Club

If we were to be a church with the gospel, and we were actively engaged in mission to our neighbors, but not together in community, then we would  be like a bunch of silos that aren’t truly showing off the body of Christ. We could not be considered like a city on a hill.

Gospel + Mission – Community = Para-Church

If were to become a church actively on mission, serving together in community with one another, but we had no gospel, or we were careless about the truths of the gospel, we would then merely be just another non-profit organization.

Community + Mission – Gospel = Non Profit

To be the church, to be what Jesus calls us to be, what he created us to be, is a Gospel-centered, missional, gathering of people living life together, sharing one another’s joys and pains, serving together in various ways for the good of our city, expecting nothing in return, all for the glory of Jesus, the joy of being together, and love for our neighbors.

We must be a church that is gospel centered, on mission in community so that we can be the organism, the family, the church that Christ gave the Spirit to empower, and of which he said could not be stopped. (Matthew 16.13-18)

Gospel + Community + Mission = Church

Top 3 Needs of the Church Today

Threefold Chord

The late great John Stott was asked: “What are the top three needs of the church today?”  Here is Stott’s prophetic three-fold response:

The church’s most basic need is to remember what kind of community it is, and in particular its double identity. For God calls his people out of the world to belong to him and sends them back into the world to serve and to witness. The first calling is to ‘holiness’ and the second to ‘worldliness,’ using the word as the opposite of ‘other worldliness,’ and meaning ‘involved in the life of the world.’ So the church is called to ‘holy worldliness’, for this is its double identity. It needs constantly to ensure that neither identity smothers the other.

The church’s second need is to be what it claims to be, and so to allow no dichotomy or conflict between its profession and its practice. Without this the church lacks authenticity and so credibility.

In response to the challenge of pluralism, the church needs to be faithful in defending and proclaiming the uniqueness and finality of Jesus Christ. If it does so, it will certainly suffer for its faithfulness. If we compromised less, we would undoubtedly suffer more.

Turning Consumers Into Missionaries

In this video, Hugh Halter offers some helpful suggestions about turning church consumers into people who live on mission for and with Christ. While this is a long video, in the current climate of American church culture, I found it worth taking the time to consider.  I broke it up into viewing sections – watching 15-20 minutes at a time, making note of the point at which I stopped, and picking up again as I had time.  While I don’t embrace all of Halter’s ecclesiology (i.e. ways we govern and do church), I am hungry to chew on any ideas in-line with the compelling mission of the gospel.  Halter has proven to have both an appreciation of the gospel and good ideas for missional mobilization.

Getting Through Challenges to Missional Community

Outward & Onward

As we have been encouraging the small groups in our church to add a more intentional outward face, I thought I would post this piece by Jonathan Dodson that provides a solid three-legged-base counsel concerning missional communities – which is what small groups embracing an outward face are in transition toward becomming.


The popularity of missional community is rising among evangelicals, and yet, the American church is nowhere near a missional tipping point. I’ve faced missional highs and missional lows. Along the way, I’ve considered a number of things that are absolutely necessary for us to endure the transition to missional church. How should we respond to the challenges of missional community? Here are three things to keep in mind as you lead in God’s mission (and thanks for doing so).

1. Building Missional Community Requires Stretched Grace.

We need more than a drop of grace to get us going on God’s mission. We need an ocean of grace to swim in to continue on God’s mission together. Do you remember when you knew nothing about “missional church”? That’s where many people are. Do you recall how long it took you to process, assimilate, and live out the principles of missional community? This probably took a couple of years, and if you’re a leader, you are in it “full time”. When leading others in missional community, remember the slowness in your own story and extend others the same grace and patience King Jesus extended you. After all, the kingdom of God is slow, and thank God for that! We need more than a drop of grace to get us going on God’s mission. We need grace stretched across the length of our lives and depth of our missional failures and successes. Jesus secured this grace, so revel in it and splash it on others.

Leader Tip: Try to avoid making mission a new benchmark of religious performance. Instead, motivate people with grace. Grace preached and grace embodied. Embody the grace of Christ, who has put up with our missional fumblings for centuries, as you lead others on mission. When it comes to mission, it’s not perfection overnight but progress over a lifetime.

2. Community is What You Make of It.

In order to make progress with your community, remind them that community is what you make it. Community isn’t an idea; its real people, awkward, struggling, weird, different, funny, slow, arrogant, sheepish, humble, curious, skeptical, excitable. You get the idea. Jesus didn’t die to make cliques; he died and rose to form diverse communities. Diverse and different is hard. It requires love, effort, and patience. Community doesn’t just magically appear in a church. In fact, churches don’t have community at all; they are community. The question is, “What will you make of the community?” I’m falling in love with real community, which is really messy, with people who are so different from me and yet so alike in Jesus. There’s nothing like pursuing difficult people, being loved by different people, serving alongside a diverse people. What a display of grace (nothing else could hold us together). 

Leader Tip: In a highly consumeristic, individual-centered society, it will take at least a generation to get back to the biblical notion of community. And even then, we will need more than community to sustain community. Let’s all agree to shatter our ideal of community and enter the real community of people God has placed in our lives. Let’s lift Christ higher than the community. Jesus is head not the body. He’s lord of the church. He’s the hope of the community, not the community itself. Community needs a center deeper than connection and a purpose greater than comfort. It needs the Lord of Community, Jesus Christ, to knit unlikely people together as a display of our common need for grace. Insist on this.

3. Labor for the Lord of Mission not the Fruit of Mission.

With all the missional hype, our faith can easily slip from trusting in the Lord of the Harvest to trusting in the fruit of our labors. I’ve had several deep relationships with non-Christians dissolve over the past year and a half. This came after spending a lot of time with them over meals, out for philosophy discussions, in our home for counseling, and with our family doing fun stuff. They were loved and heard the gospel in ways that were profoundly relevant to their own fears, struggles, and hopes…and they walked away. They walked away from Jesus and created distance from us. That’s hard. If I’m putting faith in the fruit of my missional labors (at least at what I can see), then I’m discouraged. But if I’m putting faith in the Lord of the Harvest, I can be confident that he has been lifted up and that he is in charge of all salvation. He has endured much more to witness friends walk away from his costly sacrifice. He’s not only a model of missional endurance; he’s the hope for missional endurance.

Leader Tip: Put your faith in the Lord of Mission not the fruit of mission. It can be easy to congratuate ourselves when mission is high and berate ourselves when mission is low. That’s a sign that we’ve misplaced our faith. We put it in ourselves or our “fruitfulness.” Come back to the gospel every single day and ask the Spirit to put Jesus highest among your affections and greatest among your hopes. Keep repenting and putting your faith in Jesus and he will take care of the mission.

Here AND There

Church Scattered

We don’t just go to church, we ARE the church …sent out by the power of the Spirit to BE the church.

This illustration above represents two aspects of being a faithful church:

Attractional – those elements of a particular congregation that draw people into the church community. Among these would be the quality of music, the substance and winsomeness  of the teaching, the variety and sufficiency of programs offered, and the friendliness of the members.

Missional – this is the sending of the church members into the community, and to the Nations, in order to make a positive and kingdom impact.  While this is often neglected, missional is not optional.

  • The mission of the church, and her members, is rooted in the nature of God who seeks and sends. (Isaiah 55.5; Isaiah 60.3; John 4.23; John 20.21)
  • Intentionally serving the community is faithfulness to the Covenant God cut with Abraham.  (i.e. Genesis 12.2)  If you look carefully at the Covenants of Scripture you will notice that there are always two dimensions, what I call a Top Line and Bottom Line.  the top line is God’s promise to bless those with whom he has entered into Covenant, evidenced by such promises as “I will be your God and you will be my people”.   The Bottom Line is is consistent with such expectant promises as “You will be a blessing”.   Both dimensions are reflected in every covenant.  Therefore, intentional mission to our community and world is not optional, or part of some deluxe package of being a Christian. If one follows Jesus, he or she does not have the option to choose the arrangement that does not require mission.
  • Mission is a is a clear mandate.  (Matthew 28.18-20; Luke 24.46-49; John 20.21; Acts 1.8; Jeremiah 29.7)

BOTH Attractional and Missional are necessary to be a healthy church. If we are not going, we are not faithful. And if no one is coming, well… the implications are pretty obvious.

The Missional Puritan: On Mission With God

Hey, this Missional thing is nothing new!  Listen to what the old English Puritan, John Owen, wrote in the 17th Century:

God has work to do in this world; and to desert it because of its difficulties and entanglements, is to cast off His authority. It is not enough that we be just, that we be righteous, and walk with God in holiness; but we must also serve our generation, as David did before he fell asleep. God has a work to do; and not to help Him is to oppose Him.

Missional may be a relatively new term coined to challenge an apathetic or directionless church, but it is not new.  It is the living out our biblical mandate.  God has work to do in this world – and in this community.  If we are in Christ we are enlisted to be as seeds scattered wherever our Sovereign God determines to send us, to take root and bless our generation.  (See Jeremiah 29.4-7)

Center Church

I picked up Tim Keller‘s newest book, Center Church.  It hit the bookstore shelves this morning.  I have as yet read only a few chapters. But as expected it is an excellent expression of holistic gospel-centered ministry.  In short it is a book about forming a Theological Vision for ministry, and living out that vision faithfully in whatever context one may live and serve in such a way as to be fruitful.

In particular I appreciate how from the outset Keller explains the difference and navigates between the two common ministry measuring sticks, success & faithfulness.  It seems to me that too many act as if we should assume these are mutually exclusive  – as if either is a sufficient goal or gauge.  Keller instead prefers fruitfulness, seeing both benefits and limitations of success and faithfulness as the simple objectives.  Fruitfulness is the end result of the complex web of faithfulness, competence, and the work of God’s Spirit. Success, whatever that really is, is not eschewed, but seen in light of the components of fruitfulness within a particular social context.

Now while I have not read the entire book, I did have one criticism from the outset.  While the book is less than 400 pages, and the chapters are easily readable (in other words, one need not be a theological scholar to follow along), the size of the book has the odd dimensions of a textbook.  This will look strange among most of the other books on my shelf.  But, I guess, if that remains my chief gripe, there is not much to complain about.

What If We Omitted Gospel, Community, or Mission?

The refrain from an old song says: “Two out of three ain’t bad.”  But would this be true for a church, or a Christian, who incorporates 2 out of 3 of the core values: Gospel, Community, Mission?

Consider these thoughts, framed as a mathematical equation:

Gospel + Community – Mission

If we have a Gospel Community, without the mission or ‘sent’ aspect in our DNA, then we become a church that is all about ourselves.  We may love the gospel, and love that the good news has impacted our minds, and even desire to live that out with other people like us.  But living as ‘sent ones’ to our neighborhood seems too difficult.  When this happens a Christian ghetto surrounds the church, and an “us vs them” mentality is created.  This misses the entire point of the “go” in Christ’s great commission. (Matthew 28.17-21)

Such communities of believers are often very good at living as gospel families.  They take care of each other well: they provide for one anothers’ needs, and they draw very close to one another. But the lack of  engagement with the world, and and absence of multiplication,  is  vividly evident.  Sometimes such an inward focus is even worn as a badge of honor, since it may be believed by our isolation we are not being ‘polluted’ by the world.

Such communities usually have a heavy emphasis on bible studies, men’s groups, women’s group, children’s programs, etc.  The groups will usually have an “open invitation” to those on the outside. But because they don’t believe they are “sent” to their community, they rarely see disciples made of the un-churched people around them.   Numerical growth typically comes from like-minded people moving into their area, or through having children, or stealing the members from other churches that may offer fewer activities or which may be going through some turbulent times.  Rarely will they be faced with the general public pushing into the Kingdom, because they never engage general public with the gospel message outside the walls of their church building.

The overall goal is usually to prompt a great understanding of the Word and theology, but it is often intellectually gluttonous and missionally starved… because the reason for the Word and theology is to drive us to glorify God and show us our role in God’s redemptive drama.  If it’s not being used towards that end then it’s being misused.

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4 Possible Paradigm Shifts for the 21st Century Church

I am not sure in what context or venue he said this, but billionaire financier Warren Buffett is credited with having noted:

“In a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.”

Whatever the initial context, there is much wisdom in this insight that can be applied to any endeavor that is no longer functioning.  This includes the Church – especially the mission of the church.

To deny that the Church as a whole has a declining influence would be naive.  While this lack of potency is not the case overall, as Christianity is exploding in many parts of the world, especially in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, it is almost unarguably true of the Church in the West, including the USA.  The declining percentage of those attending weekly worship, and empty rooms that used to be filled with people gathered for prayer meetings, reflect Buffet’s imagery of “leaking boats”.   No question change is needed.

Yet what is subject to change?  Should everything be up for grabs?  There is no lack of suggestions and examples of what people are changing in the name of reigniting the church. And many have increased the attendance of their respective congregational gatherings using a variety of techniques. But is mere pragmatism really the answer? If it “works” is it of God? Is having more butts in the pew (or whatever kind of seat) equal to making more disciples? After all, some of the techniques employed by “cutting edge” congregations are raising some eyebrows – not to mention raising some ire.

I do not recall which of his writings I read it in, (I think it was Building a Bridge to the 18th Century,) but Neil Postman pointed out that not all inventions are actually to our advancement.  Postman says that for something to be an advancement it must meet an actual need.  While Postman was speaking of technology, the same principle applies to institutions, including the Church.  (I know some will object to identifying the Church as an institution, insisting that the Church is “organic”. But in one sense it is. It was “instituted” by God…  Marriage is also an institution “instituted” by God.  But that does not mean my marriage is stoic and stodgy and inorganic.  Marriage and Church are both “organic” and “institutions” at the same time – or, when at their best, organic institutions.)

OK. Back on track…

While some novel ideas are showing clear evidence of drawing crowds, one question must be asked: “At what expense?”  In other words, what might we be sacrificing, what would we forfeit, for the sake of increasing numbers?

It is vital that we remember Psalm 127.1:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.

When I consider Postman’s concern along with this truth, I cannot help but thinking that while some innovations unquestionably advance attendance, those not in accord with God’s blue-print do so at the expense of not actually being the Church.  I do not know what such a congregation is, but God says all their creative efforts are in vain. To be church we MUST be built by God, and upon God’s design.

Now, I do not want to be suspect of being an ecclesiastical Luddite.  I am not against creativity, innovation, or change.  I agree with Buffett that energy expended constantly patching leaks would be better spent on changing to a new vessel.  But Buffett’s illustration does not imply changing modes entirely. He does not say, for instance, that if your boat leaks then buy a car.  He suggests we renew our mode.

For the Church this means that we reaffirm what it means to be a Church. We must do this in every detail: doctrine, church government, misson. We do not just employ trendy organizational practices, and then teach the Bible, and call it a church. We embody everything God says a church is – and has always been.  And then we take a look at where the leaks are coming from, and what is causing them.  Then, and only then, do we consider possible innovations in our methods.

In short, I believe we must consider innovations, but that we must only employ those that are consistent with all that it means to be Christ’s Church, of which Jesus is the Head.

In line with this premise, Felipe Assis has made a few paradigm shift suggestions for the future of the church that I find intriguing and promising, and worthy of consideration:

1. Incarnation over innovation

2. Environments over processes

3. Movement over expansion

4. Flat over hierarchical

Assis develops these premises at Redeemer City to City.  To read his assessments and explanations click: Part 1, Part 2

Contextual Asessment Starter Questions

One of the greater frustrations I have experienced in the church I serve has not come from the people within the church as much as it has from well intended (I presume) outsiders and fringe folks who espouse a missional approach. This is surprising because I want to embrace a missional approach. But much of the advice I repeatedly get is to make implementation without regard for the context of the culture in which our church is set, and without regard to the understanding of the people that have long been within the church.

The models that these well-intended Christians admire (and the models these folks have often reminded me are far different from what I have to-date effectively implemented) look a lot like those models I read about from cutting edge missional churches in Seattle, Dallas, and Metro Atlanta. They are excellent examples of missional thinking put in practice. And it is exciting to read about what God is doing in those cities. But I don’t live in any of those places. Nor, obviously, does anyone who regularly attends our church.   Nor do any of our neighbors that God has put us here to love.

So, in short, the reality is that much of the well intended criticism I receive is by those who desperately want to be missional, but whose advice is not really so much “missional” as it is the imposing of particular personal preferences on a people through practices and structures.  The irony is that their advice is just as much driven by their own personal preference as are the practices of the “Traditional Church” these folks rail against.

One of the primary marks of missional is to actually exegete the culture where you live and worship.  It requires an understanding of the real values, the faith shapers and influencers, and the idols that may offer peculiar obstacles to the gospel specific to ones own area.

The question is, then, how to determine what those factors may be in a particular community or region.

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Lost Art of Discipleship

Sometimes we need to face up to difficult questions. Michael Horton, in his book The Gospel Commission, asks some really tough ones that every church, every church leader, every church member needs to ask themselves:

Instead of reaching the lost, are we losing the reached? Or are those reared in our own churches being truly reached in the first place? Do they know what they believe and why they believe it? Are we making disciples even of our own members – our own children – much less the Nations?

I honestly wonder if making disciples is even really the goal of many Christians or churches.  Some are apathetic and/or complacent. Some seem to think taking the time to instruct people in sound doctrine (what we must believe about God and Man) somehow gets in the way with mission.  Some are so contented in their own activity and busyness for the Lord that they sense no need to spend time with the Lord. And many seem to be satisfied with sheer increase in numbers.

Perhaps the task of making disciples seems daunting.  But Jesus gave good news to those who are willing to reclaim this priority:

  • All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. …And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28.18, 20)
  • But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1.8)

He provides his authority, his power, and his presence to all who endeavor to make disciples.

Gospel Clarity for Missional Calling

The article below by World Harvest Mission‘s Josiah Bancroft is a tremendously insightful and clear explanation of the relationship of the gospel to culture.  Not only is this an important understanding for the mission field overseas, but Josiah explains why it is essential even within the local church in North America.

The video above is an interview with Josiah by Collin Hansen of The Gospel Coalition.


by Josiah Bancroft

How do you keep the gospel clear and focused on missional calling when so many competing forces, influences, and voices speak into your life, ministry, and church? I am learning that gospel clarity is tied in large part to how we understand our cross-cultural mission in very practical ways.

For example, I was picking up a large short-term team outside of Dublin to introduce them to our Irish partners and co-workers. When the jet-lagged U.S. visitors stumbled from the bus, one of the passengers asked to pray and gathered us around her. She thanked God for safe travel, for the opportunity to serve, and then prayed for “all our boys in harms way” and asked God to protect our troops from our enemies.

As soon as she said a tearful and happy amen and walked away, my Irish friends inundated me with questions: Who were “our boys”? Was the church supporting a national war? How were those “our” enemies that the U.S. troops were killing? Of course Ireland was neutral in the war, so their questions were reasonable and predictable. After all, they were Christians, not Americans.

Navigating culture and mission with gospel clarity doesn’t just happen, so how—practically—can we keep clear about the gospel while pursuing our cross-cultural missional calling? We all interpret the world as cultural beings. That’s how God has made us. And yet many American believers have struggled with the basic idea that they are part of a culture or a sub-culture. That is now changing.

With the rapid changes in U.S. culture during recent years, our churches are beginning to see U.S. culture more clearly. Our culture has changed so much and so quickly that the church sometimes struggles to engage. We are hard pressed to maintain the mental and spiritual clarity that can respond powerfully to a such pervasive cultural forces. So what can help us with our struggle? I’d like to make a few suggestions.

1. We Need Clear Kingdom Identity and Allegiance

As missional people we belong to the kingdom of God and live in the United States as strangers and aliens. Keeping my kingdom identity clear as a believer keeps me from identifying completely with this present age. God has given each of us a role in our culture, so we should embrace our lives and do well here. But this present time and place isn’t everything, and this age doesn’t fully define a believer. So while I work to bring all things under the rule of Christ in my life and mission, I do it as an outsider. Where I forget this missional identity, I can confuse my interests and culture with the kingdom of God. Then I lose my gospel clarity and muddle the message with my culture.

Practical Help: Keep the horizon of God’s larger global mission clearly in view even in local ministry work, so that all your concerns are kept in the right perspective for new kingdom people. Without this missional global horizon, local ministry easily appears so large to us that it obscures everything else.

2. We All Answered the Universal Call to Cross-cultural Missional Life

Since we are each part of God’s mission to reach the world, and because we live as strangers and aliens, therefore all of our ministry and mission is necessarily cross-cultural. All church planting is a cross-cultural exercise. All evangelism reaches across cultural boundaries, even in our own families and neighborhoods. The struggles between generations are in part cross-cultural conflicts, because the world has shifted so quickly and radically. Every attempt to reach out or serve in the church must recognize and communicate to our own culture with cross-cultural understanding and sensitivity. All ministry here is cross-cultural.

Practical Help: We need a steady flow of outsiders and missionaries who bring in tales of the kingdom moving and struggles to take the gospel into difficult places. What worked in Congo? What is God doing in Russia? How is the God moving in the Czech Republic? Hearing how culture works and is navigated practically in other places gives us new perspectives on what things belong to the kingdom and what belongs to the culture.

3. We Enter Other Cultures

As a missional people we are responsible to cross the cultural barriers with the gospel rather than wait and require those outside to come and understand. Actually that’s one of the big differences that came with the church in the first century. Everyone doesn’t have to become Jewish to have access to God. Today in the church we must learn the new languages, not the nations . . . remember Pentecost? We adapt rather than require others to “eat kosher.” We go, rather than having everyone come to us. When I bear the weight of reaching out to others, here or in foreign countries, I best imitate Christ who became like us in love and won us with great sacrifice. When the gospel is small in my life, when my flesh and home culture press in, then I am unwilling to change or sacrifice for others to bring them the gospel. Missions pushes me to clarify my commitment to the gospel and to Christ.

Practical Help: Get a larger heart for the world by spending time with others who love their enemies. That love is what motivated Christ to do the work of incarnation. Roll up your sleeves and find a place to sacrifice time, work, and money for the expansion of the kingdom in places you will never see as well as in your hometown. Turn every group in the church outward with a cross-cultural eye to be true missional communities.

4. We Go

We know the gospel is how we enter the kingdom. The gospel promises are also how we live daily before God in repentance and faith. And the gospel is the central message of the church as we go into the world. This might seem obvious, but it is so easy to mix cultural pieces into our speaking about Christ that we need to be clear. Paul tells Titus in his church planting and leadership to emphasize—even insist on—and confidently affirm the gospel as the life and message of the church (Titus 3:8).

Practical Help: Get involved in short-term missions and create a global missional team to find those in your fellowship who need to go. Join with cross-cultural workers who have more experience so that you can learn from them. The New Testament way requires us to listen to these cross-cultural workers. Of course the greatest was Christ. But Paul also qualifies, and as a cross-cultural missionary he was wonderfully equipped to lead churches and planting in various places without confusing his culture or Roman culture with the call of the kingdom. I would love for our churches to find his gospel clarity and passion renewing us all for global missions and partnership in new ways.

Perhaps there is another way to say all of this simply. The gospel always leads us believers to a global vision and a heart willing to sacrifice for a lost world. That’s what it means to follow our Savior. And learning to keep our vision clear, listening to others engaged in that same struggle, and feeding your heart with the gospel promises and the kingdom calling from Scripture are all essential to keep our missional calling centered on the gospel.


Both the article and the video first appeared on The Gospel Coalition blog.