KOH2RVA: Day 272

car-without-engine-640Mike Breen, one of the leaders of the missional church movement, has predicted that unless things change that movement is going to fail. He says, “We are a car without an engine, a group of people addicted to and obsessed with the work of the Kingdom, with little to no idea how to be with the King.”

John White, commenting on that prediction, quoted the late great Lesslie Newbigin, who believed that too much of missionary thinking was pervaded by the idea that salvation could be achieved through human effort alone. When we think like that, Newbigin wrote, “Mission is conceived as a task, rather than a gift, an over-spill, and an explosion of joy.”

Mission as an “explosion of joy.” There’s something to aim for. It’s what I have in mind when I tell the people of First Baptist that, “As children of the Heavenly Father, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we are called to labor alongside the Lord Jesus in the joyful work of bringing heaven to earth.”

And it’s what I find in the occasional updates I get from Jeremy and Monica Chambers—a couple of young, enthusiastic church planters living and working in Richmond—whose approach to mission is wonderfully organic and whose epistles overflow with the kind of joy Lesslie Newbigin was talking about. When I read them I often feel that I’m reading a chapter from the Book of Acts. Take a look at this one:

Praise the Lord for these breakthroughs!

(1) One girl is beginning to follow Jesus for the first time in her life! She had a “christian” background but NEVER knew what it meant to be a TRUE FOLLOWER of Jesus! At our “faith discussion” she acknowledged a lack of purpose in life, and distance from the Lord. In our follow up we have seen her move (by the power of the Holy Spirit!) towards wanting to learn the Word and to become a follower of Jesus. We reminded her that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13) and, just as the book of James tells us, if you draw near to the Lord, HE WILL DRAW NEAR TO YOU! She has embraced these truths and is internalizing/acting on them and BEGINNING TO LIVE THEM OUT FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HER LIFE! (can you feel the excitement? Think about this, this is HUUUUUGE!!! This young lady is walking with Jesus for the first time in her life!!! She also approached us asking for one of the Ephesians “In Him” posters that we made!) because she wants to meditate more on her identity in Christ. We have begun a process of helping her to learn to understand the Word, and how to be a seeker of God. Praise the Lord for His overpowering LOVE endures forever!

(2) Praise the Lord with us as we are seeing a deepening rhythm with young men for the first time since we moved here. For our first few months we just focused on getting to know people, and from months 3-6 of living in Richmond, we started having a lot more relational momentum with young ladies but only a few young men, which made us wonder “why?” Recently, however, the Lord has brought a larger number of younger guys across our paths and we are starting to formulate the beginnings of a bible study with a few of them (as we are also doing the same with some of the ladies). These are the beginnings of a church plant! IT IS HAPPENING!! Praise the Lord! (Keep in mind, we started from NOTHING here, so these steps are amazing confirmation of the Lord’s provision, movement and growing momentum in the lives of individuals!)

(3) Random guy: so, this one is CLASSIC! I walked behind my apartment to throw away some garbage, and a local guy (who smokes weed… and grows his own plants in the alley way) was back there planting seeds. He asked me what I do and within minutes we had this excellent discussion about the claims of Jesus (claims to be the Way, the Truth and the Life – John 14:6). We talked about what Jesus’ true intent was when He communicated with people (so we talked a bit about the woman at the well, and numerous stories from Mark, Luke and Matthew). This young man has many issues he is working through, and some of his ideas are WAY OUT THERE, like… if I told you … you probably would not even believe that people ACTUALLY believe some of the things that this guy claims to believe. But you must keep in mind: he is regularly doing drugs, he is shaped by every wind of teaching that comes his way, like a wave of the sea he is blown and tossed by the wind … he is not walking in the Truth of Jesus, and he doesn’t know the Way. He needs a LAMP for his feet and a LIGHT for his path. The MIRACLE is this: HE IS OPEN! He is open to talking about Jesus! He is not hostile (as many people we meet tend to be hostile to Christ, full of distrust and hatred), not at all, he is willing to enter into major contemplation of who Jesus is! He will also be attending a game night that we are regularly doing and these conversations will absolutely continue with this guy.

It’s hilarious how God does some amazing things in the alley behind our apartment! HA! But do you see what is happening here? The gospel is being fleshed forth in freshly contextualized ways, reaching people in all sorts of subcultures! This is what we have been praying for and God is answering the prayers! Keep praying!

Jeremy and Monica

I don’t think Mike Breen could read that update and conclude that Jeremy and Monica’s mission is “a car without an engine.” It may not have wheels. It may not have doors. But it has an engine. Their mission is powered by the Holy Spirit.

And the joy is contagious.

KOH2RVA: Day 231

peter-cornelius-the-bibleIs it just a coincidence?

On the same day I’m preaching about the time Peter went to the home of Cornelius, a Gentile, someone who was considered “unclean” by the Jews, I have been invited to a reception for the retiring pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church—what some people call “the gay church.” After that I’ve been invited to serve on a panel at Congregation Or Ami—a reformed Jewish synagogue just off Huguenot Road—for a discussion on aging with dignity that will include end of life issues. After that I’ve been asked to say a few words at the ordination of Krista Mann Manuel, a recent BTSR graduate who is now serving at Tomahawk Baptist Church.

Fifty years ago there wouldn’t have been a “gay church,” I probably wouldn’t have been invited to serve on the panel at a Jewish synagogue, and a Baptist church would probably not have been ordaining a woman. The times they are a-changin’ as Bob Dylan might say, and the question I have to ask is this one: Is the church caving in to the culture, as some people fear, or is the Holy Spirit on the move?

Here’s an excerpt from today’s sermon:

The Jewish Christians, the ones Luke calls “the Circumcised,” wanted to know why [Peter] had been spending time with the Uncircumcised and eating with them. It was against the law!—the Law of Moses, that is—it was contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture! I was trying to imagine a comparable situation last Friday when I bumped into Victor Davis over at Clark Springs Elementary School, where I tutor. Dr. Davis is the Baptist minister who did our January Bible Study last year. I said, “Victor, in our time and place, who is it that would be considered ‘unclean’ by the church?” And without hesitating he said, “The gays.” And so, on the way back to church, I thought: What if a local Baptist minister went on a mission trip to New York and found out when he got home that pictures of him hanging out at a gay nightclub in Manhattan had been published on the front page of the Richmond Times-Dispatch? Don’t you think there would be a special called deacons’ meeting that very afternoon where the chairman would hold up the newspaper and ask, “What’s this all about?”

I don’t have time to tell you how the sermon comes out, not now, but if you’ll come to church at 8:30 or 11:00 this morning, or tune in to our webcast at http://www.fbcrichmond.org, you’ll hear the rest of the story. And maybe tomorrow or the next day I’ll tell you what happened at the pastor’s reception, and the panel discussion, and the ordination service.

It’s an interesting world we live in.