Book Review: Dangerous Church by John Bishop

I want one thing for my life. I want one thing for the church I serve. That one thing is to push all our chips to the middle and to declare that we are “all in.” It’s to stop playing church and worrying about the next program or whether the offering be enough to prevent that always uncomfortable up front announcement about how we are going to have to cut back on the donuts and coffee.

What I want, what I long for, is to risk big. Either we will fail epically or we will see God do things more amazing than we ever dared to ask or imagine. But either way, there will be a story to tell of how God’s mission was worth everything. It is to this place of risking everything that John Bishop calls us in Dangerous Church.

There are two particularly penetrating (and convicting) insights that from the book that I would like to highlight:

  • It starts with the pastor: Pastors, we are in a strange place. We are just one beggar telling another beggar where to find food. And yet, people look to us to model the gospel in our own lives. If we aren’t gospel risk-takers, why would they be? If we don’t share the gospel with unbelievers, what makes us think they will? If we don’t live out the gospel through caring for the outcasts and outsiders, is there any chance they will? Convicting words.
  • It’s all about God: Ultimately, we – me, my church, any of us – do not have the power to change lives. Only God does. We are called to be faithful and embrace his radical mission in the world. He alone can make the blind to see, the lame to walk and raise the dead to life. Only God. That’s an important truth easily forgotten.

If you are looking for a book that will call you and your church to radical places and to take radical risks for the glory of Christ, this is it. It’s time to stop pursuing being a safe church. It’s time to become a dangerous church. Let’s roll.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free as part of the Dangerous Church blog tour. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


iMPACT: Get Off the Couch!

iMPACT is the month that Covenant Life Church sets aside each year to ask what does it mean for us, as a church, to make a difference in the lives of the people in our church, in our community and in our world. iMPACT culminates on April 16 with our iMPACT Project Day where, in one day, we will deploy hundreds of people from our congregation to serve all around the region. This sermon, based on Genesis 12:1-4, served to kick off iMPACT 2011.

Book Review: The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons

The next Christians “see themselves on a mission, partnering with God to breathe justice and mercy and peace and compassion and generosity into the world. They believe that in small ways they are turning back the hands of time to give the world a glimpse of what the world looked like before sin entered the picture” (p. 59).

Many churches are trying to figure out how to reach and engage the next generation. They want to get younger and involve young families. But they come up short because they miss the fundamental paradigm shift that is occurring before their eyes. Gabe Lyons, in The Next Christians, captures this paradigm shift beautifully. For the next Christians, being a Christian is not just about evangelizing, it’s about restoring truth and beauty and grace. It’s about showing the world a glimpse of what the world looked like in the Garden in anticipation of that day of truth and beauty and grace that will be realized in the new heavens and earth. It’s about joining God in his mission to the world.

If you are a church leader trying to figure out how to reach the next generation of Christians, read this book. If you are a Christian who has not been quite able to articulate your discontent with more of the same Christianity, read this book. The next Christians are not willing to settle for mediocre Christianity. They want to change the world for the glory of God. I know that’s where I am. What about you?

Read Chapter One & Two of The Next Christians


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their Blogging for Books Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Collision: The Line is Drawn Sermon Video

When God’s world collided with Simon’s world, he went from a fisherman to evangelist.
When God’s world collided with Levi’s world, he went from a tax collector to a gospel-writer.

In this message, we explore Luke 5 and the call of Simon (vs 1-11) and Levi (vs 27-32) and what happens when God’s world collides with theirs. And the point: To ask what happens when God’s world collides with yours…

Leading ministry in the next decade

In an interview for Church Executive Magazine, church consultant Kent Hunter (commonly known as The Church Doctor) was asked, “What common issues do churches most seem to have that you encounter in your consultations?”

Hunter response, in which he puts forward five key issues he sees many churches facing, is insightful…

  1. Identifying methods and strategies to deliver the Gospel effectively in the 21st century mission field that America has become.
  2. Communicating to postmodern young adults, eager for spirituality, but turned off to the institutional church.
  3. How to activate members for ministry in the backdrop of soaring costs for staff.
  4. The best practices that provide a model for staffing today.
  5. How to change direction from getting people to church to getting the church to people.

You can read the whole article here, but I’d like to briefly interact with each of these points.

Identifying methods and strategies to deliver the Gospel effectively in the 21st century mission field that America has become.

In many ways, this is the umbrella concept that lays on top of all the others. David Wells has written, “It is the task of theology, then, to discover what God has said in and through Scripture and to clothe that in a conceptuality which is native to our own age.” We, Christian leaders, need to rethink how we are going to effectively communicate the unchanging truths of the gospel in a changing culture. For example, missions has become and “everywhere to everywhere” reality. Not only is the United States a large sender of missionaries, but other countries are now sending missionaries here! Our own backyard might be our biggest mission field.

Communicating to postmodern young adults, eager for spirituality, but turned off to the institutional church.

This idea has been explored in depth in books such as unChristian by David Kinnaman and Lost and Found by Ed Stetzer. People want to be spiritual, but not religious. They want conversations, not one-way monologues. “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:6). Learning how to engage conversations with this type of radical grace is the first start to communicating to spiritual, but not religious, people.

How to activate members for ministry in the backdrop of soaring costs for staff.

LeadNet, in their biennial report on  the economic outlook of churches, reports that in 2006, of the churches that participated in the study, the average staffing ratio was 1:59. That is, for every 59 people who attended the church, there was one F.T.E. position. By 2008, that ratio had changed to 1:45. Churches are becoming more staff heavy, depending upon staff, rather than lay servants volunteering their time, to accomplish the work of the church. How can the church more efficiently and effectively mobilize the whole body to serve? When this happens, we will see the power of the priesthood of all believers.

The best practices that provide a model for staffing today.

As part of a seemingly fundamental shift, I am seeing in churches today a great thing – real staffing plans. Instead of hiring when the money is available or when the need is obvious, many churches are proactively looking at their ministry plan and then aligning existing staff with the ministry plan. When gaps are found, those become the positions that the church will look to fill with either paid or volunteer workers. I am excited about this trend.

How to change direction from getting people to church to getting the church to people.

This is where that “seemingly fundamental shift” I mentioned above comes into play. Being a missional church is all the rage in the conversation, but it is a lot harder of a paradigm shift than most people recognize. Instead of telling the world, “come to us,” we are telling believers to “go into the world.” This shift requires rethinking everything a church does from its facility use to its staffing to its programs. We can tell people to be missional, but does the church’s budget reflect this priority, or is money primarily spent on maintenance of facilities and keeping insiders happy? Do the programs support this priority or are people so busy with church, that they don’t even have time to have their neighbors over for a cookout? Missional is a great concept, but changing directions here is tough.

Interact: This is a good list Hunter provides. Which one provides the greatest opportunity for your church? How will you pursue making that priority a reality?

Our Adoption as Sons

This past Sunday was “Orphan Sunday.” My small group tuned in for the webcast live from Nashville. It was great. In fact, I would encourage anyone reading this to watch the archive from the broadcast at www.gospelmusicchannel.com. Over this blog post and the next, I want to look at a theology of adoption and then the resulting call upon all believers to care for the fatherless, as orphans are often called in the Scriptures.

When I was in seminary, as part of my ministry to college students, I led a trip with students from the University of Central Florida to a conference in North Carolina. While driving the van back from the conference, one of the college girls and I were talking about her adoption. She and her sister had both been adopted as young girls.  She shared what I thought a powerful statement that her parents told her all growing up: “Other parents get stuck with their kids. We chose you to be our daughter.” Now, obviously, other parents don’t get “stuck” with their kids. But the picture is powerful: Her parents picked her, chose her, to be their child.

That is precisely the picture of God’s sovereign election f those whom he would save. He picked us to be his children. In the study of salvation, we often speak of the ordo salutis, that is, the order of salvation. In the evangelical church in America today, we have missed out on crucial part of that process: adoption. Consider the following passages…

“But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir” (Galatians 4:4-7).

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory… Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:15-17, 23).

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13).

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely give us in the One he loves” (Ephesians 1:4-6).

The Scriptures tell us that those who are outside of Christ are children of Satan. “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire” (John 8:44). We were born to an evil father – one who wanted only our destruction and for us to share in his judgment and death. Yet, in Christ, we have been adopted as his children so that we can pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” (Matthew 6:9). Instead of being children of the one who wanted our judgment, destruction and death, we have been “made children” of the God who is the author of life and hope and joy.

In summary, we have been adopted into the family of God. The Greek word “adoption” (huiothesia) is actually the putting together of two words: “to make/appoint” and “son/child.” We have been appointed to be children of God. And given all the rights as a full member of the family. To God be the glory.

Now, the challenge is what does this mean for us as we consider the world’s 143 million orphans? That is will be the topic for the next post.

Mission to New Orleans

While I hope to do some blogging over the next couple of weeks, I am currently leading a missions trip to New Orleans. Follow our journey at http://missiontoneworleans.blogspot.com