The REAL Gospel is InforMISSIONAL

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I've had a sudden flash driving along GA Hwy 32 in South Georgia as I'm headed home. I've had to stop at a gas station in some small town. My wife will probably get a little frustrated with me when she see's this appear on my Facebook page and wonder why I've stopped to spend a half hour typing! Here's why, babe!


I feel like I'm so overwhelmed at how dumb I've been as a pastor and church leader for so many years. Here's what I believe the Holy Spirit may have led me to discover in the last few moments. More information does not lead to greater sanctification. More information does not lead to transformation. More information simply leads to a hunger for more information, neither of which can truly change anything.

So far my life and leadership have been rooted primarily in information. Up to about a year ago, I would never have said that information saves me or anyone else. But I sure acted like it. I publicly taught and preached that Jesus saves. But I lived and led as if information saved. How do I know? Look at the spheres into which I poured my life and ministry.

1. Expositional preaching. If I can just get the meaning of the text right and communicate it to people, my life will be changed, and so will those I'm leading. And if I can just preach a book of the bible verse-by-verse, and get the intent of the author right and apply it right with the right words then that will change the people I lead.

2. Nouthetic (Biblical) counseling. If I can just find out the root sin in someone's life, name it with a biblical name, find the solution in Scripture, and teach it to someone, then their lives will be changed.

3. Reformed theology. If I can just read and study more good, solid, sound reformed theology, I will have a higher view of God and my life will be changed.

4. Gender & Age specific ministries. If I can start up a men's ministry, women's ministry, accountability groups, children's ministries, and bible studies, then we'll all be changed by the teaching.

5. Biblically qualified elders and church leaders. If I can just teach the men of the church the qualifications for elders, then they will know what they have to become in order to lead with me in the church.

These are the things God has rooted my life in. And it seems that the more time and money I poured into getting these things right, the less concerned I was about the mission of world evangelization and church planting. My focus on the inward mutated so that I no longer valued the outward. I valued the outward only with my words, but not with my actions.

I love all of these spheres because they contain biblical truth, I'm convinced. However, here is the one caveat that has left much of my ministry powerless, I believe. Transformation and sanctification happen in the mission, and not in the information.

What I've discovered for the last year…and what just became so suddenly crystal clear for me is that the gospel is good news. That's right! We all already knew that! And what does news do? It is told. It is always being told. It is always moving forward to be told somewhere else by someone else. So the gospel is movement. Gospel-movement is missional, because it's always moving and heading forward toward the day when Jesus returns. In its constant state of moving forward it is sanctifying and transforming people while simultaneously collecting and absorbing more people, all the while transforming while moving forward, and moving forward while transforming.

This makes the gospel informissional. It's information - truth - that is told and taught and preached while moving forward in the mission. The very movement of the mission sanctifies and transforms those who travel with it. This means several things then for the spheres I've poured my life into.

MISSIONAL-Expositional preaching. If I am pursuing verse-by-verse preaching of a text that is focused only in changing people and is not itself being shaped by the mission, then my preaching will become (and has already for several years) become mutated. It is mutated when the focus is on getting the text right more than it is on making it missional enough. The purpose of preaching - expositional or otherwise - is to teach truth that changes us while we are moving forward on the mission.

MISSIONAL-Nouthetic counseling. If I am pursuing a constant discovery of root sin in order to find it in the Bible, in order to find the Bible's solution to the problem, and I am not seeing that zero involvement in the mission is a primary contributor to that person's sin, then my counseling has become myopic and mutated. The purpose of biblical counseling is to help resolve conflicts and problems both outwardly (with others) and inwardly (in my own heart) while I'm on the mission. Otherwise, my focus is entirely on me…my sin…my heart…my problems…my sanctification, etc. My sin is not denying myself and radically involving myself in the mission. My heart is inherently devoted to myself and needs to repent by radically involving myself in the mission. My problem is that I am self-preserving, self-esteeming, self-focused instead of self-denying and self-sacrificing. My sanctification will take place when I deny myself by sacrificing myself for the mission God has called me to. It will NOT take place by reading more books, attending more seminars and workshops, and going to more counseling sessions.

MISSIONAL-Reformed theology. If I am pursuing a constant reading of good, reformed theology to get a higher view of God, and yet I am not involving myself radically in the mission, I will never have a high enough view of God. God has commanded that I be involved in the mission. To study as much as I have done before in order to focus on God while not doing the thing God called me to do is ridiculous. My study is fruitless because it leads me to a fake knowledge. It is knowledge that does not help me obey God, but it tries to tell me it wants to worship God. Yet God has told me He is seeking true worshipers for Himself, and given me the task of doing the same. How can I really worship God if I am not doing what He Himself is doing and seeking and saving the lost to make them true worshipers?

MISSIONAL-Church ministries. If I am creating, organizing, recruiting, and leading ministries in the church that are focused on gender and age then I am not focusing on the mission which by nature is inclusive, instead of exclusive. Accountability groups are created to help men deal with sexual sin struggles. But a key tool in defeating sexual sin is self-denial by sacrificing oneself radically for the mission. Men's ministries and women's ministries become simply a gender-clique in the local church when they focus on getting together instead of going together. Children's ministries are an absolute waste of time if they simply impart Bible stories to children without treating those stories as the shaft of an arrow, and the children as the head of the arrow, meant to be launched out into the world with the same faith as those in the stories they heard.

MISSIONALLY-qualified elders and church leadership. If I am focused so much on teaching and imparting the biblical qualifications for eldership and leadership to the men of my church while completely forgetting that part of the very means for making men qualified is sending them out into the mission just like Jesus did both before (Matthew 10) and after (Acts 1:8) the cross, I am not creating biblically-qualified elders. I am creating men with great moral character, but not men with great missional character.

Oh! I feel so stupid! It's amazing how I (we) can get so focused…so tunnel-visioned on truth that we only see it in parts and not those parts as connected to the whole. I can't preach biblically unless what I preach from the Bible takes on the character of the Bible. And the Bible is missional! I can't counsel biblically unless I counsel people to deny themselves and lose themselves in the real mission God has called them to. That counsel must be missional! I can't see people ministered to in the local church unless ministry turns from its Westernized-inward focus it has within churches in America, to an outward focus which is inherent in the very concept of ministry anyway! And I can't lead me to become qualified for leadership in a local church unless the very understanding of leadership involves the inherent concept of leading people somewhere…like, on the mission!

Things have changed for me tonight. They have changed suddenly. They have changed instantly. They have changed holistically. They have changed biblically. The gospel has finally arisen in my heart in truly biblical and missional terms, not just in informational terms. Discipleship, then, is informissional. It is the impartation of information while on the mission that sanctifies and transforms. The transformation that takes place by the renewing of the mind, talked about in Romans 12:1, is NOT about information. It's about being transformed by my mind understanding the implementation of the mission I read about in Romans 10 and 11, for goodness sake!

It's all about to change.

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