Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Mission of NCI: Missional Churches

As we continue to sharpen our focus at NCI around this idea of missional churches, I would welcome your feedback and thoughts on the following -

NCI exists to produce Missional Churches! We believe that by producing truly missional churches we can mobilize the church to transform the world!

NCI is a not-for-profit, 501 (c) 3 organization that partners with individuals, churches, denominations, and missional organizations that want to multiply and mobilize churches. We look for strategic, ministry partners who we can come alongside in order to help them accelerate the development and multiplication of missional churches.

NCI’s core focus is consulting, training, and coaching for missional church multiplication and missional church development. NCI is a hands-on, “grassroots” ministry that provides missiological insight and guidance for a wide range of church models in a wide range of cultural contexts.

NCI is a team of coaches, missiologists, and practitioners who seek to develop church planting and missional church leaders who are capable of multiplying and mobilizing the church. NCI is an aggressive learning organization, making us a thought leader who can provide new understanding, new processes, and improved results.

NCI seeks to establish reproducing churches and church multiplication centers that are contextually appropriate. We hope to leave behind a church planting movement everywhere we serve. We hope to see the church mobilized in new ways to transform the world.

NCI adds value to the Body of Christ by:
1. Developing pastors, business professionals, and university students to be missional leaders who will start and/or lead missional faith communities – we do this primarily through training and coaching.
2. Consulting with churches and missional organizations to enable them to start more and better churches.
3. Consulting with churches to help them become missional churches that reproduce missional disciples and new missional churches.
4. Research and learning is central at NCI – we serve the Body through training and sharing our new learning.
Our core contribution (business) is consulting, coaching, and training others to start and develop missional churches (both conventional congregations as well as alternative expressions of church).

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.
Psalm 67:1-2

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Missional Church: Outposts of the Kingdom

If we believe that the kingdom of God is “advancing forcefully” (Mt 11:12), and that we have the invitation, the privilege to take hold of it and be a part of what God is doing to transform individuals and communities (see last blog), then we will have a much clearer understanding of what a missional church really is!

Jesus’ message about the Kingdom was a message about transformation. Dallas Willard calls this “the revolution of Jesus” (Renovation of the Heart, p.14). He says that Jesus set in motion a “perpetual world revolution” that is still in process and will continue until God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

It seems that Jesus was not trying to establish a governmental, political, or even an institutional power base. Instead, he created the church to be His missional vehicle to announce and represent the kingdom of God on earth. Through the church His plan was to establish beachheads of His person, word, and power in the midst of a failing and futile humanity. The church was to bring the presence of the kingdom and its King into every corner of human life simply by a community of believers fully engaged as heirs of this kingdom. This type of church is transformational.

Willard sums it up this way. “Churches are not the kingdom of God, but are primary and inevitable expressions, outposts, and instrumentalities of the presence of the kingdom among us. They are “societies” of Jesus, springing up in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and to the furthest points on earth (Acts 1:8), as the reality of Christ is brought to bear on ordinary human life.” (p. 16).

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Kingdom Is Advancing Forcefully!

Erin raised a good question in the last blog when she said “Do you think the kingdom in any way depends on our obedience?”

My immediate response was “yes” and “no.” Yes in the sense that we are to “seek first the kingdom of God” (Mt. 6:33). Yes in the sense that the kingdom of God is “within you” (Lk. 17:21) and we determine whether the “King” rules us or we rule ourselves. Yes in the sense that we can chose to be a part of God’s kingdom purposes and thus be agents of the kingdom on earth; yet “no” in the sense that we cannot stop the purposes of God on earth.

Matthew 11:12 (NIV) tells us “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” Now the meaning of this verse has been somewhat debated. I have studied the arguments and I am most in agreement with William Hendriksen on this one!

The argument is around the phrase “forcefully advancing.” It can be interpreted as either the passive voice (where the subject receives the action), or the middle voice (where the subject is usually active.) The first interpretation would suggest that the kingdom of God is suffering from violent men (which does not seem consistent with the rest of scripture or the immediate context.) The second interpretation would suggest that the kingdom of God is being seized eagerly and that forceful men (e.g. men of courage, fortitude, determination) are embracing it. I think the second interpretation makes more sense and is more contextually appropriate.

Hendriksen says that ever since the days of John the Baptist the kingdom, “has been pressing forward vigorously, forcefully. It is doing so now, as is clear from the fact that sick are being healed, lepers cleansed, the dead raised, sinners converted to everlasting life, all this now as never before. Still, by no means everybody is entering. Many, very many, even now are refusing and resisting. But vigorous or forceful men, people who dare to break away from faulty human tradition and to return to the Word in all its purity, no matter what be the cost to themselves, such individuals are eagerly taking possession of the kingdom; that is, in their hearts and lives that kingship or reign of God and of Christ is being established.” (New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew. 1973).

So the bottomline is that we do not “stroll” into the kingdom of God! We must be strong and courageous, resisting the forces of darkness in order to take possession of the kingdom. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we submit and take hold! So to answer Erin’s question, yes, it does to some degree depend on our obedience. However, God will always have a people who will submit to His rule and take hold – so no, our disobedience will never thwart God’s larger kingdom plan. What do you think?