Category: Trivium of Spiritual Maturity: Mission

A Call to Prayer

As I write this blog post it is National Day of Prayer. In 1775 the first national call to a day of prayer was issued at the First Continental Congress. The great Abraham Lincoln called on the nation for a day of prayer in 1863. And in 1952 Congress established a National Day of Prayer that was signed into law by President Harry Truman. I’m not one who holds our founding father up as Biblical heroes, but it is historical record that in our country our highest leaders have issued calls to prayer. What do we make of this?

Perhaps they were done as a political move to appease certain contingencies. Perhaps with an attitude of, “Well prayer can’t hurt.” And perhaps even some had little confidence that there is even a God who hears or that prayer is anything more than a religious catharsis for weak people. Participate in it … or don’t. But here’s what I know: The only hope for our country is God pouring out His Spirit in revival through a praying Church that is confidently resting on the finished work of Christ and holding high the authority of the Word of God. Don’t get me wrong … there are no formulas. But this isn’t a formula, it is desperate people who know they must obey their Creator and pray to the Lord of the harvest.

As a pastor I prefer speaking in Biblical language than speaking of prayer proclamations and national laws. So, here’s the Biblical term – Mission! It is not the mission of the Church to build bigger buildings, fill more seats, or provide great children’s programs. All those are good, but must never eclipse the grandest mission of all – Telling lost people that Jesus saves … and that Jesus alone saves!

I have no idea whatsoever what is going to happen in this upcoming general election. I have no confidence that our executive or legislative institutions are going to honor God and His Word. But I do know one thing – We MUST pray. We must hold praying for the mission of Christ in our land higher than our grumbling about our culture, critiquing our leaders, or sticking our heads in the sand as if God can’t show up and change it all. He can … and one day He will. Pray as Paul called the Ephesian church to pray – “keep alert with all perseverance … that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:18-19).

  • Mark Spansel

Atheists in Foxholes and Christians at Work

Some of you may know that I work with David Ortiz. David and I have worked together, in various ways, shapes and forms since 1989. We’ve worked as coworkers, we’ve worked as customer and supplier, I’ve been David’s boss and today he’s my boss. It’s kind of weird now that I think about it; I can’t think of two other people with as long and as varied a work relationship as David and I have.

Now, to add another layer of complexity, we’ve also worked together as believer and non-believer: David being the believer and me being the non-believer. That was, in fact, the state of our relationship from 1989 through 2000, when I became a believer. For reasons I understand now but that were oblivious to me then, David had targeted me through those years we worked together as believer and non-believer.

Not every day, but on a regular basis, David would engage me in an ontological discussion. I use that $10 word, “ontological,” by the way, because it captures my hard-hearted, intellectual, arms-length view of God and faith at that time and, at least, MY approach to our talks. Ontology is the word secular philosophers use to describe a discussion on the nature of being and faith; I picked it up in a college philosophy class. Ontology is, essentially, the opposite of pursuing a personal relationship with God.

Remarkably, my desire to keep our conversations intellectual and impersonal never seemed to deter David. Nor did my attempts to knock him off his Christian horse. I remember one time glibly remarking, “You know the old expression, ‘There are no atheists in foxholes’? I think there’s a corollary to that saying relating to our conversation: ‘There are no Christians in the workplace.’” I thought that was a really clever rejoinder to whatever David had been saying to me, my point being that whatever people considered themselves outside of work they didn’t much act like Christians at work.

David reacted like I’d physically hit him. “Oh man, that’s convicting,” he said. I was confused by his response. Convicting how? Why? For whom? I had no idea what he was talking about and wouldn’t until many years later. At the time I just shrugged it off as one of those mysterious things David would sometimes say and moved on to thinking about what I was going to have for lunch.

Fast forward maybe ten years and you would find David and me praying together in that very same conference room where I’d tossed off my “Christians in the workplace” comment and I am asking Christ into my life. How’d that happen? The version of myself from ten years earlier would have been shocked. Frankly, I’m still kind of shocked, even in retrospect.

How that happened is that David never allowed me to chase him away and kind of held down the fort until another important believer (my future wife) entered the picture. I know I often think that evangelizing is something special or heroic or hard to do, something outside the realm of normal, routine living. And there’s no doubt that evangelizing CAN be that, but I think evangelizing is likely more often accomplished by believers living their everyday lives openly and authentically, by giving their non-believing family, friends and coworkers a clear, unobstructed view into a Christ-centered life.

You know, it doesn’t only have to be atheists at work; Christians get to roam there as well.

  • Paul Burkholder

The Heart of Effective Ministry

“What the heart loves, the will chooses and the mind justifies.” —Thomas Cranmer; Reformer, Archbishop of Canterbury–1489~1556

 I want to be effective and fruitful in ministry. I’m sure you feel the same way but I admit my thinking about motivation for ministry in my own life and within the lives of my friends at LCC can be overly simplistic. I tend to think any lacking is simply cured with more information. As if we can be told something true, the lightbulb goes off, and everything in our lives changes. While there’s some basis for that theory, it can only be taken so far. “Right living begins with right thinking and right thinking begins with right thinking about God”—A.W. Tozer. “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he”—Prov 23:7. All true, but when I think about my own struggle to be genuinely excited about serving Christ in Gospel work the water quickly gets muddy.

“All of us are capable of hiding from the truths we don’t want to hear with a heart that doesn’t want healing from its Creator.”—Phill McGann. The fact is we are more than just heads on a stick. The good news is the Gospel of Jesus Christ engages us with a view that sees us as we really are and counsels us with a wisdom that encompasses the full complexity of who we are as God’s creation. The quote from Cranmer is helpful because it echoes the Biblical view of how, when we accept the grace of the Gospel our hearts are transformed because we have found the object we can truly love without reservation. Then our will can follow in obedience, and we find soul satisfying comfort as we think deeply of its truth. When we accept by faith and rest in what Christ has done for us as being complete, a work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts begins to change us.

Maybe that’s why Jesus started a work in Peter’s heart by asking him 3 times about his love. Peter, a once impulsive, inconsistent, and fearful man, was transformed by a love for Christ into an effective, fruitful minister of the Gospel. “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8.

  • David Ortiz

Safe To Be Bold

I’m coming away from a phenomenal conference that had so much good to share about mission and the suffering and joy that we experience as part of the call to share the gospel. I really needed to be encouraged and challenged from the word toward greater faithfulness in evangelism.
I’ve been made freshly aware of something I think we all need when it comes to the dangerous call to evangelism. I need a community of friends that know all about the battle; an army of people who are in it together. Yes, one of the great encouragements as we share the gospel is a group of men and women who have our back when the real threat of rejection, shame and persecution loom. What an encouragement it is to know that after a hard day in the world that I get to come home to people who know the trauma of the battle.

We see it in Acts 2:42-47. With the risk of persecution at an all time high, the amount of people trusting in Christ was astounding! The community was in it together; teaching the word, prayer, meals, rich times of encouragement. No person in need was overlooked. No food? Take some of mine. Need some money? I have plenty. Need encouragement? Come lets pray. And oh yea, as your life is being threatened for standing at the gate of the city heralding the good news, we will be cheering you on with songs of joy as you return home…or sit in prison.

Friends, what would it be like if our community cared for one another so well that we felt safe to be bold with the gospel? How can you take a step forward? Here’s a few ideas:

1. Evaluate afresh what you love most? It is so easy for the weeds of the world to choke out our high calling to love God and love others. Revel in the cross! Let the work of the gospel in your soul be the fuel for mission.

2. Consider where God has placed you to be a witness of Christ? Your calling to be an evangelist is most likely where you live, work and play. Tell someone about your mission field. Ask them about theirs.  

3. Renew your commitment to being a good friend. Set your mind to move beyond being acquaintances and progressing to being a friend on mission!

4. Who is in the battle around you that needs relief? We all have means to help; financial, physical, time, a listening ear, a meal. Look for the wandering and wounded and provide what you can today.

 – Pastor Jeff Pierce

When Our Enemies Aren’t Only Our Enemies

When terrorists blow up cafes and open fire in concert venues it’s not hard to see their hatred and call them enemies of the state, be it in France or America.  In such cases, I believe Romans 13:4 gives solid Biblical ground for the government to carry out justice against such evil.  Paul writes, “For he (the authority) is God’s servant for your good.  But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain.  For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”  The Bible doesn’t lay out strategy here, but does lay a foundation for protecting citizens against those perpetrators of evil and the dignity of human life.

But wait, you say … what about Jesus’ words during his sermon on the mount – “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45).  Isn’t Jesus teaching a heavenly ethic that flies in the face of the earthly wisdom that says, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy” (Matthew 4:43)?  Doesn’t He want us to be different than the ungodly world around us? What are we to make of this?

Acknowledging the complexity of this question, and without trying to be overly simplistic, it boils down to the mission of the state and the mission of the church.  The authority of the government and her mission is to protect citizens and punish evil … that’s why Paul says you should pay your taxes and submit to the authority God has placed over you. Wicked men who take advantage of the compassion of governments seeking to care for displaced refugees ought to be punished.  But this is not the business of the Church … we are not an army, have no authority in military operations, and don’t take revenge (even if we call it justice) into our own hands.

The Church has a much longer range vision than “peace on earth”, its mission is “peace with God”.  We know a greater enemy than Al Qaeda, ISIS, or “radical extremism”, and his name is Satan.  He seeks not land, respect, or a religious state, but the eternal damnation of souls.  This is the mission of the church – to preach the Gospel to all the nations, declaring that Jesus alone restores men to their Creator, rescues them from eternal judgement, and bestows pleasures forevermore.  Knowing this, we pray for the eternal deliverance and salvation of those very people we call upon our government to punish.  Our physical enemies need to be judged, and yet they are not only our enemies.  We love lost souls and labor as the Church on mission to see that they are not judged at the final judgement, but loved by the Father.

  • Mark Spansel

Mission and Engaging for the Gospel

As you science fiction geeks will remember, the original Star Trek TV show was followed some number of years later by a sequel of sorts called Star Trek: The Next Generation. One of the small, endearing features of Next Generation was how each episode ended. Having defeated whatever destructive force threatened the health and harmony of either the ship’s crew or the local citizenry, Jean Luc Picard, the captain of the Star Ship Enterprise, would lean back in his captain’s chair on the bridge of the Enterprise and issue a one word command initiating their journey onto the next exciting adventure: “Engage”.

As Christians, we are similarly called to engage the world though we most often use the word “mission” when we have this conversation. Mission is an interesting and sometimes loaded word in Christian speak. We talk about supporting missionaries and going on mission trips. But our mission call is much broader than can be described solely by mission trips, mission budgets and missionaries. Mission happens wherever and whenever the Gospel is being shared; travel, scary food and foreign languages are not essential ingredients.

LCC’s mission statement (yet another way we use the word “mission”) is “to completely transform our families, community and world into devoted followers of Jesus Christ through the Word of God.” I like our mission statement for its broad definition of mission. Yes, “mission” means what we’ve traditionally thought of it as meaning: swallowing your fear of strange cultures and food, surrendering your love of physical comfort and heading off to hard-to-get-to, out-of-the-way places in order to carry the Gospel to people who need to hear it. That’s the “world” part of our mission statement.

But as our mission statement suggests, mission can also be pursued in places closer to home – in our local communities and in our families specifically. Defining mission this way means that the opportunities for mission abound and each of us runs into them every day of our lives – at work, at school, at the grocery store, at the ballgame, at the dinner table. When we think of mission in only grand, dramatic terms that requires a plane ticket in order to qualify, we walk past these daily opportunities for mission rather than seeing them as the opportunity to engage unbelievers that they are.

During our recent missions festival Pastor Jeff Pierce shared the following with us: “When it comes to your spiritual growth, you are never the end user. God has uniquely gifted each and every one of His children to be a giver in the mission of the Kingdom. How will you use your time, talents, and resources to contribute to the work of missions near and far?”

That’s right, mission describes you and me using the gifts God has given us to share the Gospel exactly where we are, right now. It’s a little more difficult to dismiss or ignore that call to mission, isn’t it? Here’s what I’d suggest: Pray for God’s guidance on this question. Ask: Where does He want to plug you in? Where can your unique talents move mountains for the kingdom? Who are the people in your life waiting to hear the good news from someone? Anyone? Could it be you?

In John 6: 35-40, Jesus declares: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty … For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me … And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day”.

Our call to mission is simple, clean and plain – it was Jesus’ call, to be satisfied by God and then to do the will of God. But to answer that call, we must engage every day, wherever we are.

  • Paul Burkholder