Archives For Mission

I’ve written a bit about Francis and Lisa Chan’s new book, You & Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity. The book is now available, and you definitely need to read it, whether you’re married, engaged, think you might someday be married, or know someone who is or will be. This book is perspective changing, and I’m excited for people everywhere to begin digging into it.

I just came across this 13 minute video that really conveys the heart of the book. The stories in this video are so powerful. They will inspire you to see your marriage as bigger than your own happiness. God has a purpose for you and your marriage. A mission to pursue. He wants to change lives through your marriage, and not just your own. I’m so thankful for people like this who challenge us to see our lives and marriages as God sees them.

Settle in with a box of tissues and watch this video, then order the book below.

You and Me Forever from You and Me Forever on Vimeo.

 

Order the book now at Amazon or at youandmeforever.org.

You & Me Forever Cover - Francis & Lisa Chan

 

John Piper PreachingChristians—evangelical Christians—are those who have a sense of urgency about spreading the gospel. So when a Christian is handed a microphone, he or she knows what to do with it. That microphone, that platform, that position of influence, is to be used for the sake of the gospel.

That’s as it should be. You might say that we know what a microphone is for. And yet, unless we ask how a microphone is to be used, we could be making a big mistake in our zeal for witnessing. In fact, I think we do this very often, and it’s the Christian musicians among us who suffer, it’s their witness that gets restricted and/or diminished, and it’s their place in the mission of the church that gets called into question. All because we don’t know how to use a microphone.

If you’re handed a mic, and God has gifted and called you to preach, then you’d better preach. Speak the work of God clearly. Proclaim it with passion. Too much preaching today skirts the real issues, shrinks back from declaring the full character of God, and minimizes Jesus’ call to die to self, take up one’s cross, and follow. Preach it like it is.

But if you’re handed a mic, and God has gifted you as a musician and called you to glorify him through your music, how do you use that mic? Do you act as a musical preacher, laying your three-point sermon atop four chords? Many Christian musicians have taken a route similar to this, and some have been effective. But is this the only way our Christian musicians can use their God-given gifts to his glory?

How do we ask other types of Christian professionals to use their crafts in their Christian witness? Dorothy Sayers challenges the typical approach:

“The church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him to not be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours and to come to church on Sundays. What the church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.”

If you want to serve God in your carpentry, then make excellent tables. That’s the first step toward honoring God with the skills he has given us. Yet for many Christians, the first demand we make of Christians with musical skill is that they function as preachers.

Joylissa

Joylissa.com

Truly, the first step toward honoring God as a Christian musician is to make great music. This is an overgeneralization, but too often Christian musicians have sacrificed the quality of the music for the sake of more preachy lyrics. I have seen many great examples of excellent music paired with deeply religious lyrics (here and here, for example). But I have also seen Christian musicians badgered, rebuked, even accused regarding their devotion to Christ—all because they skillfully crafted songs about many important aspects of God’s world; they simply fell short on the “Jesus” quota.

Nobody is questioning the salvation of Christian police officers who don’t insert the Apostles’ Creed as they read a criminal their rights. Nobody is questioning the devotion of a plumber who falls short of his quota of cross-shaped pipe junctions. Yet the presence of a microphone causes us to misunderstand the nature of music and to hold our musicians to the same standard as our preachers.

Music isn’t preaching; it’s art. Preaching is about clarity and conviction. Art is about seeing the world in fresh, challenging, and inspiring ways. It intentionally and powerfully works through indirection. Obviously there is an overlap between these two forms of communication, but until we are ready to appreciate the true artistic nature and value of music, we’re missing the point.

If God has gifted and called you to be a preacher, be a good one. Preach passionately and clearly. If God has gifted and called you to be a musician, be a good one. Stretch your creativity to the limits of God’s gift. Explore his world and the people he made with joy and sorrow. If you’re ashamed of Jesus, that needs to change. If your only goal is to gain popularity, that needs to change. But if you’re singing to God’s glory regardless of the subject matter you believe you should explore, then don’t listen to those who think they know how to use a microphone. Glorify the Giver by enjoying his gift to the fullest and helping others do the same.

And if you find this kind of thing interesting, you might want to check out Resonate: Enjoying God’s Gift of Music, which releases next week:

 

Micah Teruya

God, as the Creator, chose to make human beings creative. Creativity is no accidental side effect of being human—a thought that I believe plagues the subconscious thoughts of many Christians. No, God endowed us with creativity so that we would use that divinely engrained gift in cultivating his world for his glory.

This has many implications, but today I want to share how this gift of creativity shapes the ministries of two of my former students: Joylissa Vleck and Micah Teruya. Both see their musical abilities as gifts from God and believe that God is calling them to use those gifts to minister outside of Christian circles. Though their styles are different, they share the same heart for glorifying God through musical creativity.

I asked them a few questions about how they view their music. These two have thought through what they are doing in greater depth than most Christians think through anything they undertake. In fact, both moved from their homes in Washington and Hawaii respectively to attend Bible College so that they could be more effective as musicians. Perhaps that sounds odd, but they both see the Bible as foundational to their approach to music.

For Micah:

“Music is a gift that God has blessed me with for the time being and I want to use it to further his kingdom. If I don’t, then I’m really just wasting resources. Alongside that, music is something I take great joy in…I can think of few things more fulfilling than being able to use something I love to glorify God.”

Joylissa Vleck

Joylissa sees her music as a means of using her gifts to create beauty in the beautiful world that God made “by taking the notes and frequencies that he created and using them in one of the many ways that he created them to be used—by making music.” She adds, “To neglect music is to neglect a part of God’s creation.”

Many Christians see a place for music in ministry, but would restrict the legitimate use of music to worship music and “Christian music” (however we would define that). But neither Joylissa nor Micah see these forms of music-making as their primary calling. Joylissa explains:

“I’ve been told many a time that I should be playing ‘Christian’ music for ‘Christians.’ But if music is indeed something that God created, then why have we decided that it has to stay within church walls? If someone were to say to a hairstylist that they should only cut the hair of Christians, or that this can only be done in a church building, you’d think that was ridiculous. A huge part of blessing and restoring the world is telling people who God is. I do that through my music, though it isn’t saying ‘God’ or ‘Glory’ every few seconds. I want people to see my genuine struggles and joys and the way that God intervenes and is part of them.”

Micah, too, sees music as an important avenue for helping people see truth in a way that they’ve never seen it before:

“So many people are looking for answers everywhere except the Bible. My goal as a songwriter, like any missionary, is to help people realize how irrational the message of the world is and how rational God’s love for them is. The challenge is doing this in a way that provokes a listener to think and wrestle through that realization rather than just spoon-feeding them a gospel tract.”

This is not meant to discourage those who are not gifted musically, nor to question those who use their musical gifts for Christian audiences or within church services. We are all given unique gifts and callings from God. What I find so valuable in the music of Joylissa and Micah is the thought they’ve put into their approach to music, the sense of calling and obedience that permeates what they’re doing, and their desire to use everything at their disposal to the glory of God.

To hear their music or support these musicians, you can watch the videos below or visit their sites (Micah | Joylissa).

Luke Comes Before Acts

Mark Beuving —  February 12, 2013 — Leave a comment

Luke the Physician wrote a two-volume work. Volume I is the Gospel of Luke, Volume II is the book of Acts. Taken together, these books give us a careful and compelling account of what happened in the Roman Empire during the first century AD.

In this post, I want to explore the obvious: Luke comes before Acts.

In the church today, we rightly understand that we have a mission. So we get busy evangelizing, church planting, sending out missionaries, caring for the needy, counseling, etc. Our mission as the church continues what was begun in the book of Acts. Of course, we don’t do this perfectly, and the church needs strong and frequent calls to recover what we are actually supposed to be. But the point is, the biblically sensitive among us read the book of Acts and get inspired to continue on with the life of the early church.

But Luke comes first. If we’re not careful, we can become attracted to the life of the early church without considering the motivation of this community. It’s so appealing to see Christians sacrificing for one another, boldly speaking about Jesus, and literally changing the world. We read that and want to get in the game. We may even try to directly imitate the things the early church did.

Now, none of this is bad. But when we consider why the early church did what it did, our fascination with Acts gets a bit more refined.

Jesus on the Cross 2Luke’s gospel records the strangest events in the history of the world. Here was a man—clearly more than a man but clearly human—walking around speaking words of wisdom, healing the sick, raising the dead, challenging those who claimed authority, speaking gently to the oppressed, and generally transforming everything he touched. Luke leaves us no doubt that this man was the most unusual the world has ever hosted.

This man was about to be made a king, but then his supporters decided to kill him instead. If you were reading Luke for the first time, you’d reach Jesus’ death and think—well, that was a weird end to a weird story. But then it gets even weirder. Jesus doesn’t stay dead. He comes back to life, sends out his followers, promises to empower them for the mission he is leaving with them, and then ascends to heaven.

And then Acts happens. Do you see why it’s important that Luke comes before Acts? It’s not enough to rally around a common mission. It’s not enough to have a sense of goodwill towards mankind and to set out to change the world. The reality is, a group of twelve (or 120 when Acts begins) doesn’t just change the world. It can’t be done. At least, not unless Luke comes before Acts.

The amazing truth is that twelve hearts transformed by the risen Lord can change the world. They did it. This is why Acts is so compelling. Actually, the unbelievable events recorded in Luke’s Gospel changed the world, though the change was largely imperceptible until Jesus’ followers went about proclaiming the kingship of the man who raised from the dead.

So when you read Acts, be careful to understand that Acts is not giving us a manual for church planting, nor is it giving us a program for “Changing the World in Thirty Tumultuous Years.” Acts gives us an inspiring account of what happens when human beings are transformed by Jesus and devote their lives to carrying on his mission together. We probably shouldn’t be trying to recreate the events of Acts in our modern setting, but the reality of a transformed community on a common mission is something we should devote ourselves to—not as an end in itself, but as the outflow of hearts transformed by the Man described in Luke’s gospel.

World Upside Down

Preston Sprinkle —  January 11, 2013 — Leave a comment

When Paul preached the gospel in Thessalonica, it aroused quite an uproar. “These men who have turned the world upside down,” shouted the mob, “have come here also” (Acts 17:6). This scene drips with irony. Paul and his companions go into a large city and teach in one of the synagogues for 3 Sabbaths. And some of Jews and a good portion of the “devout Greeks” (i.e. proselytes) and women come to Christ. But Thessalonica had a population of about 200,000 people. I don’t care how many people from the synagogue came to Christ, Paul’s preaching didn’t put a huge dent in the otherwise pagan population. “World upside down?” Really?

The outcry of the mob reflects not the number of converts, nor the immediate societal effects, but the beginning of the Kingdom of God overpowering the Kingdom of Satan. God is turning the world upside down through an upside down Kingdom. And it begins with a mustard seed—like the one planted in Thessalonica 2,000 years ago. I witnessed a similar seed in Kathmandu last Sunday.

Only 2.5% of the 800,000 people in Kathmandu are Christians, and every one of these

Pastor Beki

Pastor Beki

converts is an in-your-face-miracle. Most people in Nepal are Hindu. A few are Buddhist. This means that almost every single Christian is a genuine “convert.” In other words, they didn’t raise their hand during Sunday school class or at summer camp to accept Jesus. Rather, they were yanked from one religion to another in the midst of persecution from family, friends, and society at large. There is no human explanation why the church continues to grow in Nepal. But it continues to grow.

On Sunday, I saw many mustard seeds turning the world upside down in Kathmandu. Our first visit was to a colony of lepers living outside the city. Beki, the Nepalese pastor touring us around, visits them every week with food, fellowship, and love. Today, we got to follow Beki’s heart around the colony while passing out food. As we handed out rice and vitamin-rich biscuits, we were greeted with warm smiles and much gratitude. It felt a little different, however, than other homeless excursions I’ve been on in the States. Then I asked Beki, “Who else comes here to care for these lepers?” And with his characteristic life-giving smile he said, “Nobody comes to help. Only the Christians.” And by “Christians” Beki humbly meant himself. Hindus believe that these lepers have been cursed by God, so to help them would go against God’s will for them. I suddenly realized I wasn’t another walking handout filling space until the next handout arrives that evening. The rice we delivered was their food for the week.

I asked Beki, “How many of these lepers are believers?” He answered with deep seated satisfaction: “When we started the ministry, there were one or two. Now, there are about 14-16 believers.” As I did the math I realized that while 2-3% of Kathmandu are believers, about 30-40% of its lepers are believers—citizens of God’s unstoppable kingdom.

Without fingers and feet, these lepers are turning the world upside down.

Our next stop was at a church that meets in a small room in a rundown apartment building. I hesitate saying “small,” because small for Americans means there’s not much room between the chairs and the stage. But this church was genuinely small—a 12ft x 12ft room packed with 25 people. A fire-hazard, I know, but we’re not going to worry about that in Kathmandu. Come to find out, we were 2 hours late to the gathering. But they were all there, with warms smiles that cut through the chilly basement air. We gathered, we sang, and Mark shared a word mark teaching from Matthew 2. We sang some more, shared testimonies, and drank some deliciously sweet tea.

I was shocked once again at the power of the gospel. How in the world did these people come to Christ? How is it possible that these former Hindus gather in a basement to worship Jesus in the face of persecution? They don’t even have a pastor to drag them to church every Sunday. Yet they gather. They sing. They worship their King. I imagine that Satan is shocked at this gathering as well. After all, his kingdom has had a firm grip on this country for thousands of years. A country that birthed the Buddha; a country flooded with Hindu temples; a country awash with idols; a country where cows are more valuable than people with leprosy. “Not in my backyard!” Satan cries. Yet God continues to rip people out of Satan’s empire and crown them with honor and glory in God’s kingdom. Even lepers, and children gathered in a murky basement.

Without a building, without a stage, without a pastor—this overcrowded gathering is turning the world upside down. I’ve witness the power of God in Kathmandu last Sunday. But nothing compares to the confusing joy I experienced in the jungles of southern Nepal on Tuesday. Stay tuned!