Archives For Mission

It’s all around us at every moment, yet we never see it. It runs through us, in every thought, every gesture, every strand of DNA. It is present in every great world event, in every circumstantial triviality, in ever beat of every heart.

It is the presence of God. The involvement of the Almighty in the world he created. Biblically speaking, the question “Where can God be found?” is nonsense. The question “Where can God NOT be found?” gets us closer to reality, but it’s still invalid. Psalm 139 uses rhetorical questions to drive the point home: “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?”

Foggy Vineyard

Every Christian has known this from their first Sunday School lesson, but in my experience, we are almost completely blind to the presence of God in our world.

God is present in our church services, in our Bible reading, and in our small groups. He rejoins us when we do an act of service or say a prayer. We may sometimes see him in our family life. But other than that, we’re blind. We have relegated God to religious moments, to Christian activities, to spiritual books.

But God is not so bound; we need to learn to open our eyes. You have never engaged in a secular task. You have never left a sacred space. You have never walked out of God’s presence. You have never attempted a feat too big for God’s power, nor have you slumped into an activity too trivial for his active concern. Everything you do matters to God. Everything you see and think and apathetically pass by involves the Creator of all.

Our lives would change dramatically if we could only see the God who is there at every moment. I often use this quote from Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov because I find it so helpful:

“Love all of God’s creation, both the whole of it and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love animals, love plants, love each thing. If you love each thing, you will begin tirelessly to perceive more and more of it every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an entire, universal love.”

We’re not to “love the universe” in a hippy, “we’re all one with the Cosmic One, man,” kind of way. But if we actually looked at what was around us—using the senses God gave us—we would see that this world is full of wonder. Every bit of it. And if we began to notice the wonder pressing in on us at every moment, we would be overcome by the kind of place we inhabit. By the kind of people we are. By the miracles that surround us at every moment. And when we become overwhelmed by the reality we take for granted, we can begin to ask David’s question with the same rhetorical conviction: “Indeed, where CAN I flee from your presence?”

Step outside and you’re in the presence of trees that steal sunshine, inhale carbon dioxide, and miraculously produce green living matter even as they exhale precious oxygen for us to breathe. Step outside and there’s always the possibility that you’ll be hit with water that God pulls up out of rivers and oceans, flies through the air for miles, and then deposits onto dry ground—thereby watering his enormous garden.

Sunset 1

Sit in your car and be propelled at unbelievable speeds by the fire burning at many hundreds of degrees Fahrenheit just a few feet in front of you. Enjoy the cool air that God’s image bearers have learned to create by harnessing the power of explosions in your engine.

Check your smart phone and consider the “air waves” that miraculously and invisibly transport whatever your phone is doing through space. Be amazed that God made a world in which such things are possible and created image bearers who could learn to create devices to send, receive, process, and share this kind of invisible information in nanoseconds.

Go to your office and marvel that God uses industries to provide for his world—distributing food, enriching lives, shaping social interactions, providing safety, spreading information, and the millions of other activities that we call “work” and that God uses to care for the people he created.

You will never spend a second of your life outside of God’s presence. You will never engage in any activity that is not in some way related to what God is doing in this world.

It’s there. He’s there. All around you. In everything. Working. Shaping. Calling. Grieving. Redeeming.

And you’re there. In the world. In your very specific setting. As God’s image bearer. As his ambassador. Extending God’s care to the people around you, whether that be through technology or agriculture or customer service or industrial production. Your work ties in to God’s. Your “secular” activities are anything but. Your “boring” moments are anything but. Your “insignificance” is anything but.

Open your eyes. See the world. See God. And live the prayer: “Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

 

Jesus is Lord—over all of life! Unfortunately, many Christians fail to consider the implications of Jesus’ lordship over anything other than their church life. This is particularly true when it comes to a person’s educational and career choices.

David Kinnaman, in his recent book You Lost Me, explains some startling statistics about the way Christians approach education. Only 16% of Christians report learning how the Bible applies to their field or area of interest. This means that 84% of Christians spend their lives in a career, but have never been taught how their Christian faith should play out in that career!

And the problem begins earlier than a person’s career. Kinnaman also found that only 11% of Christians report receiving helpful input from a pastor or church worker about their education.

Eternity Blog Image (Re-Imagine Education)The implications? The church is sending young people out to be educated and devote their lives to a career, but we are leaving them clueless as to how their faith informs their education or career. We may be doing a good job of teaching them about church life, but we are not preparing the next generation to take their faith beyond church walls.

We all hear horror stories about our kids losing their faith in college. While it seems these statistics have been exaggerated, this remains a legitimate concern. But perhaps the more disturbing reality is that Christians are entering their education and career without Christian guidance related to their field. This practically guarantees that they will adopt a worldly standard of success in their careers, and sets them up to waste what could be a fruitful mission field.

The solution to these problems is holistic gospel living. We need to see how the gospel shapes all of life: our education, our careers, our church life—all of it!

This is our mission at Eternity Bible College. Because the church needs help in training the next generation to think and live biblically in all of life, our mission is to partner with churches in shaping people into world-changers.

Boot Camp AdWe do this with a war-time mentality. We believe that college should look more like a boot camp than a country club, so we train people to live and die well. Think of Eternity Bible College as a boot camp for life, for college, for your career, for your ministry, for your God-given mission. The cost is low, the academic and spiritual rigor is high, and the result will transform your mind and heart before you enter the mission field in your college or career.

Give us one year before you enter college and we’ll train you to understand the Bible and all of its implications for your major and career.

Or give us one year after you graduate from college and we’ll train you to understand the Bible and all of its implications for your field.

The Bible is extremely relevant to everything you want to do in life. Your interests, your studies, and your career are essential to the mission that God has given you to accomplish in this world. We simply cannot afford to send out well-intentioned Christians who have no clue how their faith relates to their life’s work. We all spend years preparing ourselves for our professional careers. But how much time have you given to preparing yourself for your primary calling of making disciples through your life and career?

Invest a year into our Certificate in Transformational Leadership program. Enroll in spiritual boot camp. Ensure that the years you invest in your education and career are gospel-saturated and effective for the sake of God’s kingdom. Learn more here.

It’s easy to be grumpy about all of the denominations in the church. If we’re supposed to be united as the body of Christ, then why do we have Baptists and Presbyterians and Methodists and Lutherans and Episcopalians and Evangelical Free Churches and Assemblies of God a host of others? I recently saw a report estimating that we have over 33,000 Christian denominations in the world.[1]

I can think of a lot that is unhealthy with the reality of denominationalism. But when we look at church history, the introduction of denominations was actually very healthy, and we should all be thankful for this development.

In the wake of the Reformation (roughly 500 years ago), each church saw itself as the one true church. Catholics, Lutherans, Anabaptists, Anglicans: each of these groups (and more) held different beliefs and followed different practices, and each was convinced that their church was right—to the point that they would banish and even kill those who saw things differently. These churches, which took root in specific areas, began to war against each other. The Huguenots (followers of John Calvin) were rounded up by Mary Queen of Scots, tried before Catholic judges, and then tortured and/or burned. The Thirty Years’ War started as actual warfare between Protestants and Catholics.

Eventually, everyone got tired of the fighting. It was clear that no one church would arise and dominate the religious landscape. Christianity seemed hopelessly divided, and war seemed an increasingly useless way to try to unite the church.[2]

Into this mess came the theory of denominationalism, introduced by the Dissenting Brethren of Westminster. Rather than each branch of the church considering itself the one true church, denominationalism sees each church as simply one expression of the whole of Christianity. Each church is referred to (or “denominated”) by a specific name, but it is still part of the larger whole.

The Dissenting Brethren built their theory of denominationalism on four points:

  1. Human beings do not understand God’s truth perfectly, so differences of opinion are inevitable.
  2. These differences of opinion are important, and each church must follow its convictions on what the Bible teaches. Nonetheless, many differences of opinion do not violate the heart of the Christian faith.
  3. No church has a full grasp of God’s truth, so no one church by itself can adequately represent the true, capital C Church. We are the true Church together, not in our individual expressions.
  4. Separation does not mean schism. In other words, we can disagree about many points of doctrine and practice, but still be united in Christ.

Thus denominationalism allowed the church to move forward. We no longer had to kill or banish one another over every doctrinal disagreement. (Can you imagine elder meetings if this were still the case? That would make a great reality show.) This mentality provides the basis for a Baptist church disagreeing with a Presbyterian church on many issues, but still viewing one another as Christians.

Denominations

So while the denominational landscape can be discouraging—if we are all one in Christ, then why have we splintered off into these innumerable groups?—we should actually be thankful for denominations. The diversity in the church is a reminder that Christians still differ from one another significantly. We’re not brothers and sisters in Christ because we happen to think exactly alike. Far from it! No, we are brothers and sisters in Christ despite our very real differences in interpretation and practice. But we are brothers and sisters nonetheless. The Baptist church sitting next to the Presbyterian church are reminders that though we have differing convictions, we still choose to stand side by side as representatives of the larger Body of Christ.

But of course, everything I’ve just said is meaningless if we choose to demonize other denominations. My guess is that as you read over the Dissenting Brethren’s four points, you had mixed feelings. Yes, this is a good perspective, but no, I tend to view my own church as the only right one. We believe the way we do because we’re right. My “Christian” neighbor attends that other church because she doesn’t understand the Bible. Etc.

With the Dissenting Brethren, I affirm that our differences are important. How we interpret the sovereignty of God, the way we practice baptism, and our views on divorce and remarriage are very important, and we need to continue seeking truth in all of these areas. But the authority is the Bible, not the leaders or doctrinal statement of my specific church. And as long as the church next door is committed to God and his word (not superficially, but really and truly), then we stand together as representatives of the full (and diverse) Body of Christ. May we all be variously denominated, but essentially united.

If you want more on this topic, consider Tim Keller’s perspective.


 

[1] The estimate of 33,000 denominations is almost impossible to believe, until you consider that (1) each major denominations is made up of subsets (e.g., not just Baptist, but American Baptist, Southern Baptist, etc.), (2) each denomination can look much different from country to country, and (3) nondenominational churches are very popular, and being nondenominational does not mean that they are united in doctrine and practice—it basically means that each individual church is almost a denomination unto itself.

[2] It should sound crazy to us that warfare amongst Christians was ever considered an option, but this was the result of hundreds of years of the church being tied to the state.

The Day Between

Joshua Walker —  April 4, 2015 — Leave a comment

Celtic CrossOn this day 1,982 years ago the men and women who had devoted their lives to following Jesus for the previous three years locked themselves in a room and brooded in despair and fear. Their Lord, the one they thought was the Messiah, was dead. Some of them had even been the ones to wrap His body and bury Him.

What transformed this group of fearful, despairing men and women into the group that would turn the world upside down? It was their witness of the risen Lord and the subsequent gift of the Holy Spirit 50 days later at Pentecost.

The full scope of what Jesus had accomplished at the cross was brought to light through those events: He had made a way for all men to be reconciled to God; He had initiated New Creation in the resurrection; and He had initiated the New Covenant which includes the incredible gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit!

Here we are, almost two thousand years later, and I want to ask you: Do you live in the Day Between, in fear and despair, or do you live in faith in the risen Lord and the power of His Holy Spirit given to us? Although today is the day that we remember the Day Between, we never have to live there again. He rose and is risen today! We can live in that reality each and every day: we don’t have to wait for tomorrow!

My prayer is that you would be encouraged in the reality that we serve a risen Lord! May we live in faith and power and not despair and fear. What is our King asking you to do today that requires faith and the power of His Spirit? Obey His calling with His power as you walk in the “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

Josh GraumanAs I mentioned in my previous blog, I am excited to be starting a new program in South LA for training cross-cultural church planters. In this post I want to dive in to what the program is going to look like.

My heart as a pastor is to walk in discipleship with people. Some might take that to mean that study should be informal and non-structured, but discipleship doesn’t mean “non-academic.” Discipleship should include rigorous study of Scripture. We have designed The Apprenticeship to include both structured teaching (a full 3-year, 93-unit M.Div. level program), as well as walking alongside our pastors in inner-city ministry. We will study Hebrew, Greek, and Genesis to Revelation chapter by chapter.

Why go into so much depth in such a “practical” program (roughly 75% of the formal program is Bible and original languages)? In short, it is because we believe in the sufficiency of Scripture. Studying the Bible in depth is extremely practical. While some may view Judges, Jonah, or Jude to be books that may change your theology but aren’t very practical, we believe each of these books have massive implications for your daily lives and topics as commonplace as how you relate to your next-door neighbor.

At Eternity Bible College, we spend about half of our class time doing Biblical Theology. This means that we study Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, which allows us to focus on what God focuses on in the Bible. As a professor, I don’t choose the topics that are important to me. God has already set our agenda in Scripture. And by walking through Scripture chapter by chapter, we can see how revelation unfolds in God’s time, and keep context primary in our study.

We are adopting this same model for studying Scripture in The Apprenticeship. Students will develop the tools to derive their theology and practice from Scripture alone, and will be freed from the shackles of pragmatism and legalism.

This fits perfectly into our vision of equipping apprentices to plant churches cross-culturally. Church planters must be able to rigorously study Scripture on their own, and know how to derive theology, philosophy of ministry, and application to a wide variety of circumstances and topics. Every culture is unique, and yet the Bible is the answer to all the problems of every subculture around the world. So that’s why such a large portion of our program focuses on teaching the apprentices how to rightly divide the Word and apply it in various contexts. (Click for more info on the importance of Biblical Theology or Hebrew and Greek.)

Hebrew BibleYet we still believe that our study of Scripture must be applied to daily life or it hasn’t been understood correctly. In fact, it is impossible to understand the Bible as God intended without applying it to real life. The Bible addresses our thoughts, motives, and lifestyles, and so to understand it properly we must be in contexts where these are dealt with. And so that is why I am so passionate about the rest of our program. There will be lots of time for “fireside” discussions, prayer, and doing ministry and life together. Although I am going to be heading up the program, our apprentices will also learn from and walk with other pastors as we minister in the inner city together. Here we have cultures colliding as many hispanics are moving into one of the oldest African American neighborhoods in Los Angeles, and we have the privilege of planting a church here that brings the unity and hope of the gospel.

Once again there is a lot more information on our website, but that gives you an idea of what I am going to be embarking upon. We would ask that you keep us in prayer and if you know anyone interested in training for cross-cultural church planting, that you direct them our way! Click here for more info.