Archivos para agosto 7, 2011

By Scotty Smith

” In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.Romans 8:26-28
Dear Father, this is one of those days when I could create a long prayer list and methodically go through it, but I’m not sure I would really be praying. I could go through the motions, but to be quite honest, it would be more ritual than reality—more about me, than the people and situations I’d bring before you. I’m feeling distracted this morning, scattered and not very focused at all.

It’s one of those days I’m glad the gospel is much more about your grasp of me than mygrip on you. It’s one of those days I’m grateful your delight in me is not contingent upon my delight in you.  It’s one of those days I’m very thankful for the prayer ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Gracious Father, I have no problem or reluctance in acknowledging my weakness this morning. In fact it’s freeing to know your Spirit doesn’t abandon us when we’re weak, but helps us in our weakness. Just as Jesus constantly prays for us, the Holy Spirit faithfully prays in us through “wordless groans.” Though I don’t understand everything that means, I do get the part about you searching our hearts and knowing the mind of the Spirit, and that brings me incredible comfort today.

No one knows our hearts better than you, Father. And you search our hearts to save us, not shame us; to deliver us, not demean us; to free us, not frown upon us; to change us, not chide us. You know my past and future, my fears and my longings, my struggles with sin and my standing in grace. What a glorious and gracious God you are!

And at this very moment your Spirit is praying inside of me—perfectly tuned into my needs and in total harmony with your will. I cannot measure the peace that brings. I surrender right now, Father. I gladly groan to your glory. I collapse on Jesus in this very moment. I will not waste any energy today in the paralysis of analysis, vain regrets, pretending or posing. I know you are at work for my good in all things, including in my unrest and uncertainty.

Father, all I have to do is look at Jesus and know these things are true, for he is the author and perfecter of my faith. It’s because of what Jesus has done, not what I do, that you love me. You have called me to life in him and you will complete your purpose in me. I do love you, I would love you so much more. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ merciful and mighty name.


Every church I have served has had a mission statement. I have assisted churches in developing mission statements. Some of those statements have been quite good, others are nothing more than idyllic preference-driven affirmations on how the church can continue to serve only itself. Since the church has a mission, having a mission statement seems quite logical.

But does the church need to develop a mission statement when Jesus has already given us one?

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:18-20).

I know that when churches develop mission statements they mean well, but in doing so do they unintentionally suggest that they can improve upon the mission Jesus gave the church some two millennia ago? We are to go to all the nations in order to make disciples of Jesus Christ, and that mission has not changed. Perhaps we feel the need to have a second mission statement because we want to add our two cents, believing we have to have a say in what we should be doing as the church.

Now some might suggest that a mission statement gives more detail, fills out, Jesus’ marching orders he has given to the church. But the experts in mission statements insist that a good mission statement is short and to the point and easy to memorize, and a long mission statement is counter-productive and basically useless. What is shorter and more to the point than Jesus’ charge to make disciples of all nations?

No individual church needs to develop a mission statement. We’ve had one for two thousand years. What each church needs to do is to get to the task of keeping the charge we’ve already been given.


The Inventor and His Useless Invention

A few days ago Mike Breen posted a series on his blog that essentially asked the question, “Why does most ‘innovation’ in the church revolve around technology instead of discipleship?” In other words, why do we spend so much intellectual and creative capital tinkering with technological niftyness instead of investing that capital in finding out how to make disciples well?

Most of the possible reasons he offered revolved around the fact that discipleship is difficult, and therefore left untried (like that great G.K. Chesteron quote, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”) While I think there’s an element of truth in that, I think that the real issue lies much deeper, and has to do with how our unspoken theological assumptions invariably guide our lives. And everyone has theological assumptions. You can’t live without them. But if they remain unexamined and un-articulated they could lead you to waste your life tinkering with things that don’t really matter in the long run.

My contention is this:

If we want to see a discipleship revolution take root in the North American church, we have to grapple with our inherited assumptions about what salvation is.

Until we really wrestle with this question and come to some solid answers, discipleship will not take root because it will always feel like an optional “add-on” to the “main thing,” some Christian bling for those who are into that kind of thing.

My friend JR Rozko articulated it really well with his comment on the first post in Mike’s series, andwrote a good post in his blog outlining the issue. I’ve also written about the issue a couple times (“Forgiveness Isn’t the Whole Gospel” and “The Gospel, Evangelism, and Discipleship”).

Essentially the issue is this: If salvation is merely agreeing with a few propositions so we can get into heaven when we die, if that’s what it’s really about, then of course all we’ll do is innovate new ways to attract people to hear that message and “say the prayer,” so to speak. Our goal defines the path our innovation takes.

But if salvation is something bigger, like participating in the life of God, joining with him in what he’s doing now (which I would argue is a far more biblical definition), then it makes perfect sense to make disciples of Jesus, because if we accept the invitation to live with God in his kingdom now, we very quickly learn that wedon’t know how to do that. Thus discipleship follows naturally from this, because Jesus knows how to do it, and he promises to teach us and empower us to do it.

If salvation is “signing the papers” so we secure blessing in heaven, then our goal will simply be to get more people to sign the papers, and thus our innovation will take a technological turn, because you get more informational bang for your buck that way. But if salvation is participating in what God is doing now, and our goal is initiating people into that kind of life, we will naturally utilize our creative and intellectual capital to innovate ways to more effectively make disciples. Again, our goal will define the path our innovation takes.

The problem is that many churches try to “add” discipleship to their already-existing programs and paradigms, without deeply examining their assumptions about salvation, which tragically lead them to invent tricky new ways to “get the word out” and remain impotent in their ability to make disciples. Like my friend Michael Rudzena said the other day, “Sometimes it isn’t the problem that needs troubleshooting, it’s the paradigm.”

If we really want to move churches toward building discipling cultures, we need to find ways to ask this deeper question about the nature of salvation. We need ways to confront the underlying assumptions that lead us away from discipleship. One idea I’ve wondered about is using parables. Jesus used them all the time to explode paradigms and turn things upside down.

What kinds of parables could we tell that would explode our paradigms of salvation?