Equipped for Mission 2011: Ed Stetzer, Session 3

Thursday, September 29, 2011

From Passivity to Activity
1 Peter 4:10-11

Because of the condition of the world today, we must now live as subversive agents of God's kingdom in the world, both as a sign of the kingdom, and as an instrument of the world. The Bible speaks of us as an alien, for example. This communicates that we do not actually belong to this country, or even this world. We are aliens living for a different agenda. The world has been taken over illegitimately by Satan, and ours is the task of subverting that illegitimate rule.

What this means is that all of God's people should be involved in the mission. Research shows that too many Christians are "involved" in church but not necessarily in the mission. From 1 Peter 4 there are several things we learn about an every-member involvement in the mission.

1. All have gifts. Based on the gifts they have received. The past tense nature of the word needs emphasis. Sometime in the past, the Christians Peter is writing to have received the gift. There is a gifting for service and ministry, for His agenda and His purposes, that we have received at conversion.

EVERYONE should use their gifts to serve others. Peering back into the Greek, the original word behind our English word "everyone" actually means..."everyone." Yet this is not our experience today, right? Is it our practice, or this passage to be the normative for the church? Which one? Obviously, it is this passage. Yet the norm for today is sit in "church" week after week, do nothing, yet still call oneself a follwer of Jesus. Being a passive receiver instead of an active participant in the mission of God is the norm today. I'm in the kingdom, but not a part of the plan nor a participant in the mission.

1 Corinthians 12:7 teaches us that "a manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial for the common good." Yet the majority of people are unengaged on the mission. The system we have created and nourished has often created an outcome we do not like. So are we doing something wrong?

How about the WAY we build churches? We usually end up building churches that look like a movie theatre, which is a terrible idea. Why? Because when you teach people that going to "church" is like going to a theatre, you should not be surprised at the results you get. People essentially become spectators. They come, sit quietly, and essentially do not participate. We inadvertently teach that they are to be passive spectators. Our current model teaches people passivity instead of activity.

Part of this is connected to the way we think about leadership. It seems resemble more the Catholic models I grew up with. Everything revolved around the functions and duties of that person or leader who was saying all the magic words and doing all the magic stuff. The rest of the people can't hear from God, or search the Scriptures, or know what they are doing, so they turn to a priest. This is not unlike every religion in the world. You create a priesthood, as well as a set of religious duties and exercises, and then both work in tandem to keep the gods from being mad at us.

But the Bible says we are a kingdom of priests, a royal priesthood, active participants in the mission of God. This means EVERY person uses their gifts The older system of clergy/laity distinction is unbiblical, where the function of the "layperson" is to "pay, pray and stay out of the way!" ALL of God's people are called into the ministry, however. The only question is where and among who. If you are a Christian you are sent on mission. The problem is that most of us in this room know that, yet it's not actualized in our churches back home. How then do we move back to that direction?

2. God intends ALL to use those gifts. We are to be good managers of the grace of God in our lives. Manager and steward are translated from the same word in the Greek, which was the servant or steward who managed the stuff that belonged to the owner of the house. This person stewards the property for some particular purpose dictated by the owner.

Now there's one truth about a believer and management that can't be lost. It's this: everyone's gifted and is to manage that gift...whether they are good at it or not. The question is not whether you are a manager, but whether you are a GOOD manager or a BAD manager. We've all been placed together in community to live and participate together in the mission together...the emphasis being on together because are a family.

This is connected to how we understand membership today. "Member" in our world today is about paying, applying, and being accepted. Yet biblically, member is about being born again into a body, a community, a family. In our world today, when a member is lost or departs from the group, it's no big deal. Yet in the Bible, when a member is lost or departs from the family, it's like losing a literal member of our body, like a finger, or an arm. Being dismembered hurts physically, and experiencing dismemberment in the family of God hurts emotionally and spiritually.

So we must labor hard to change the perspective that the average Christian's job is to pay, pray, and stay out of the way. We don't want people to come who consider themselves consumers of a product we are trying to sell. I tell people not to invite people to become customers of religious goods and services for sale here at Grace Church. Rather, we are recruiters for reconciliation.

The danger that Newfrontiers will need to battle against is that our attractive points - reformed, charismatic, missional - may end up attracting a new kind of Christian who joins with us, yet ends up destroying our local churches because they are not actively participating in the mission.

3. For which He empowers us... There are two broad categories of gifts here: word and deed. These are a summary of the things we involve ourselves in, while engaged in God's mission. But the power to get this done comes only from the Holy Spirit. Yet in practice, pastors tend to be an agent that disempowers people. This is because as pastors we pastor out of our weaknesses, and tend to develop unhealthy patterns based on the weaknesses of the people. But God desires us to be strengthened by HIM.

When people come to Christ and begin to need a pastor, look up to a pastor, want to be like a pastor, eventually the pastor's security and identity comes to lean more on the performance and praise of the people. In Oprah's world, that's called codependence.

Most pastors are in a codependent relationship with their people. They recognize that a majority of their people are passive spectators, but pastors revel in it because the people throng around the pastor. They inordinately need the pastor. A wise pastor sees this and addresses the need, provides expectation and defines response.

An insecure pastor sees this, enjoys the feeling of being needed, and voluntarily (albeit unwittingly at times) lives in the cycle of codependency. Pastors end up doing for people what THEY should be doing. And in order to break the cycle, the enabler must stop enabling. Stop doing things God has called them to do.

The problem in the church today is that there are too many people riding in the carriage in the back and not enough people out front pulling it. The world is hungry, though, to see a group of people who stand up and DO what they are supernaturally enabled to do, and be surprised by it.

4. ...To bring God glory.... We are empowered to ALL use our gifts so that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. God gets His glory when people sing...but also when people serve. We don't serve in order to be accepted. We are accepted, and therefore we obey. This includes service. We serve because we've been accepted.

So how do we move people from passive participants to active participants in the mission?

First, we must get out of the way. God is glorified by a kingdom of priests...and not A priest. That means pastors must get out of the way, breaking the unhealthy cycle of codependence, and get out of the felt need that other have for us. The only approval that matters is the one that comes from God.

Second, employ strategies that cause people to rely less on us and more on God. That means the pastor or leader is less essential. Cast people on God with projects and activities and events toward the mission that present the need for THEIR participation.

Ephesians 4:11-13 is key. God gave a five-fold ministry to the church for one reason. "Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ." The people who are rowing the boat are less likely to rock the boat. Be willing to do whatever it takes to go back home and say, "I'm not gonna be the center of this. Furthermore, it's not acceptable to watch the show and not get involved in the mission." You'll lose people. But you'll be glad you did in five years. You don't need customers. You need co-laborers.

Stetzer is President of LifeWay Research, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources and LifeWay’s Missiologist in Residence. For five years before that, Stetzer served as Director of Research and Missiologist-In-Residence for the North American Mission Board

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