The “Missional” Trap

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“Missional” seems to have become yet another buzz word used by gifted leaders to rally God’s people around their own callings and motivations.

It all sounds so good, but it becomes a trap when the Great Commission is reduced to one man’s vision and mission – especially if all the other gifts, callings and Kingdom imperatives in the New Testament then get pushed aside or made to play second fiddle.

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Mission, Discipleship and Fellowship: Life Reproducing Life

Last Friday was a holiday here in the United States, and Marianne and I opened our home, yard and pool for a day of family, friends and fellowship.

plantingFortunately, following my heart operation and extended hospital stay two weeks ago, several brothers in a couple of fellowships we relate to stepped forward and organized things – including a great cookout.

Afterwards, Marianne and I both said that this was one of the nicest days we’ve had in years – not because the past few years have been bad (they’ve been challenging due to some of my health issues, but not “bad”!), but because we’re seeing solid maturity arise among those we’ve been pouring our lives into.

Although we’ve always loved them deeply, now it’s actually fun to spend time with them!

In addition, we now have the profound pleasure of watching them reproduce their life in Christ among others.

As they step forward and do the work of mission, discipleship and strengthening our various fellowships, it seems more and more that God’s role for Marianne and me is to step back and serve through simple hospitality, unassuming encouragement and quiet mentoring.

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Celebrating Redemption

graduationThis afternoon, I’m driving to Richmond, Virginia, to attend the graduation of a young man I first met in jail years ago. He’s receiving his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, with honors, from Virginia Commonwealth University. From jail to now has been an intense journey as Marianne and I stood with him during the hard times and refused to let him fall through the cracks. Now, we get to rejoice with him as he achieves this major milestone.

Following God’s Presence is something I wrote five years ago about him, and the church he was part of in the jail. In fact, he’s one of the brothers who asked to pray for me, as I recount in that piece.

I’m not going to use his name, because he is very humble and doesn’t like publicity. But you know who you are, and I am so very, very proud of you! Even as I write this, I’m tearing up thinking about the honor it’s been to be part of God’s plan of redemption and restoration in your life.

~ Jim Wright

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Everyone Loves…

 

Everyone loves the poor, until asked to share a meal in their home with one.

Everyone loves mercy, until they have to embrace the actual mess of inconvenient victims.

Everyone loves justice, until it disturbs their comfort zones.

 

Everyone loves the prophetic, until it exposes sin among them.

Everyone loves grace, until it calls them to repent.

Everyone loves love, until it speaks truth.

 

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A Simple Cure for a Terminal Condition

Is it any wonder that a generation raised to believe it’s all about them has a hard time grasping that it’s all about God?snake-oil-salesman

They are easy prey for those peddling God’s amazing grace, love and acceptance, while rejecting repentance, truth and change.

The greatest deceptions, however, involve half truths.

Unfortunately, there’s just too much of this going around these days, and it’s terminal when it comes to healthy believers and healthy ekklesia.

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Leadership Shift

“For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers.”
1 Cor. 4:15

These days, we are inundated with aspirational books and blogs by articulate but unproven advocates for this and that movement, pet doctrine or agenda …

Become_a_Mentor… while there are too few spiritual moms and dads, quietly laboring without name or fame in committed local fellowships to build strong believers.

Fortunately, God is changing this dynamic.

While some want to instruct and inspire the masses with lofty ideas that have not yet been proven or matured in their own lives …

… effective leaders are content to reproduce in just a few what God has truly taught them.

We all would do well to listen to the latter, and be cautious of the former.

~ Jim Wright

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Related articles

Bearing One Another’s Burdens

The other morning a young man stopped by the house.

burdenHe had been struggling with emotional pain and bondage, and said he hadn’t come earlier because he didn’t want to be a burden.

I shocked him by responding that he and his problems were a burden – that there were other things I could be doing that morning. But, I explained with a huge grin, it was my joy to be burdened by him.

He paused and thought about it, then nodded as he realized I was being totally transparent and real with him. Thus started an amazing time of talking, sharing and ministry.

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The Many Languages of God

diverse-groupGod is a polyglot: He speaks to different people different ways.

Some primarily hear Him through the language of their heart and feelings, some analytically through their mind, some through the dynamics of action, some through the identity of relationships, and some through the passion of mercy and justice – among other ways.

Problems often arise among His people, however, when we think that our primary language for hearing God is His only language, or is superior to other languages He uses with others.

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Redemption

When we think of redemption we usually think about Christ’s atoning blood which delivered us from our sins. Yes, on the day we personallybundle surrender ourselves to the Lord and ask His forgiveness, He redeems our soul and we become His children.

Christ’s sacrifice was vital. We can now partake in His kingdom here on earth and when we die join Him in heaven. However, I believe that Christ’s act of redemption is far more encompassing then simply making a way for us to enter heaven.

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Pursuing Love and Spiritual Gifts

Tim Day, a fellow elder here in Virginia, is co-teaching a Biblical Foundations discipleship class with Sheri Warren and me on Sunday evenings.

That class pulls together folks from indigenous, participatory fellowships that are relating together in our county. Through it, the three of us – with help from other local elders – are helping to lay a foundation of sound doctrine in those churches through their emerging leaders.

Over the last few weeks we have focused on spiritual gifts, and the importance of everyone being able to encourage and minister to one another in our local fellowships as we each use the gifts God gives us for our mutual benefit.

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Intentional Discipleship and Sound Doctrine

Among the fellowships relating together here in Virginia, we’re seeing a deep hunger for mature discipleship, in-depth training and sound doctrine.many_pieces

That hunger was reinforced earlier this year, when Miguel Labrador visited several of those fellowships. Miguel, with his wife Claudia, has been a catalyst for the rapid spread of the gospel in Ecuador – where they’ve helped birth many generations of new believers and fellowships over a relatively short time.

Like us, they have a “go and sow” approach – where we go and sow the gospel in existing communities, thus allowing local fellowships, believers and leadership to emerge indigenously within those communities.

This stands in stark contrast to the more common “come and gather” approach, which urges people to organize around a single church with its central building, programs and pastor.

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Integrity

It’s great to write books and blogs promoting the role of women in the church, finding “ekklesia”, and all sorts of other local church issues.

masksBut the rubber meets the road when it comes to those with a history of using the church to sexually prey upon and exploit others.

It is hypocrisy to then defend and promote them, to discount the properly issued warnings of their own local church (see 1 Tim. 5:19-21), to ignore the evidence you personally have seen, and to stand quiet as they continue a campaign of cover up through threats and intimidation against anyone who dares bear witness against them.

When it really matters, do you put your values – and the things you write – over personal friendships and your network of mutual promotion?

It’s time to walk in integrity once again…

God wants leaders who’s public persona, words and values match their private lives.

~ Jim

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Glasses

In this journey of faith and fellowship, I keep coming across books and blogs by authors who decry this or that perspective in the Body of Christ, while then arguing that we must see things through the glasses of their own unique perspective – often under very enticing rhetoric.

diversity-clipartIn essence, their books and blogs express unrealistic aspirations – as they promote some theoretical concept of church and community that looks, thinks and acts just like them.

If truth be told, we’re all guilty – to some extent – of trying to do the same thing.

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The Prophets?

German martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

Where the world seeks gain, Christians will renounce it; where it exploits, they will let go; where it oppresses, they will stoop down and lift up the oppressed. Where the world denies justice, Christians will practice compassion; where it hides behind lies, they will speak out for those who cannot speak, and testify for the truth.

Do we really want virtue, justice and truth – especially when they challenge the status quo of our settled lives, churches and ministries?

Do we really value virtue, justice and truth – even if they challenge any self-affirming relationships with Jesus and each other?

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (1 John 1:5-6)

May God send prophets among us yet again.

~ Jim

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Roots

The last several years have been a wonderful journey of seeing folks come to the Lord and fellowships emerge in highly improbable places. In my own life, the roots for this go back to my dad and mom, Bob and Mary Jane Wright.

tree_rootsIn the 1970s and 80’s, the Lord used them as pioneers in what we’d now call “organic” church – before that term became popular (even though today it unfortunately can mean nearly anything).

Forty years ago, they helped birth a regional network of open, participatory fellowships in Maryland, where people could find and express the vibrant life of Christ in dynamic gatherings as everyone ministered one to another – rather than having directed, hierarchical meetings.

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I Confess: I Killed Ekklesia

Yup. It’s true. I killed ekklesia (the Greek word often translated in the New Testament to mean a local “church”). Now, several years later, it’s time to finally come clean and confess.

my_confessionAlthough we all love the “glory stories”, we also need to tell of our failures – because it’s our failures which often teach the most.

So here’s my sorry story of having killed a fellowship.

Maybe, by owning up to my failures, it will help others trying to form an organic fellowship, home group, simple church – or whatever you want to call an open, participatory gathering of believers ministering one to another in smaller, relational fellowships.

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Intentional Ministry

Last night was the second week in a semester-long class Marianne and I are teaching, through Nathan’s Voice and our fellowships, on pastoral counseling. We had a full house (literally!).

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The Art of Pastoral Counseling

We previously taught this two years ago, and many are now ministering grace and healing in our county to those trapped in the bondage of addictions, past abuse, and controlling emotional wounds.

About half of the class comes from our fellowships, and the rest from other churches in the area.

But this morning, I’m tired…

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Pastoral Counseling

Several ministries are offering a free class in Pastoral Counseling on Wednesday evenings in Prince William County, Virginia, beginning April 17, 2013, from 7:00 to 9:30 pm.

The class is open to all members of the Body of Christ from local churches (not just “pastors”!), and likely will run about twelve weeks.

To give some idea of the type of counseling we will be teaching others to do, I’ve reprinted below a blog about one session I had with a deeply troubled man last year.

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