Monday, October 15, 2012

ESSENTIALS FOR LIVING AN EFFECTIVE MISSIONAL LIFE: Part 1 - Eliminating The 3 Causes For Why Christian Don't Live A Missional Life

I am writing this blog because it is my hearts passion to empower, encourage and equip ordinary Christians to intentionally live a life on mission with Christ!  Wanting o see God's people eager and passionate about fulfilling the mission that Christ gave us is what I live for.  But when I look at those who claim to be Followers of Christ in North America but failing miserably in advancing the cause of Christ I have to ask myself, "Why?"  Why are Christians in North America not successful in making disciples of Christ as other Christians are in other parts of the world?  I am sure that an entire dissertation could be written about that particular subject and indeed there have been such research and discussion but that's not the intent for this blog series.  I am not a theorist but more of a practioner.  What I am wanting doing is to quickly address some basic causes that have kept North American Christians from being effective in living a missional life and suggest some basic skills that every Follower of Christ need to master.  In this blog we will deal with the 3 basic causes that have kept Christians from living a life on mission and suggest three cures.  Most likely these are not the only causes and they are not the only cures but they are a starting point in order to live a more obedient life to Christ and developing a missional lifestyle that would be pleasing to our Lord Jesus.

THE 3 CAUSES

These are not only the causes that keep people from living a missional life for Christ but also the basic causes that keep people from doing anything that need or want to do.  They can be applied to just about any area of your life.  Whether it be going back to school to increase your education or starting a new business or even just learning how to dance the reason why people won't do them will fall usually into one of three categories.  Find a cure for these basic causes and a person has a better than average chance to succeed and learn those new skills or accomplish that new goal.  So what exactly are those 3 basic causes that keep people from doing new things?  They are a:

LACK COMPETENCE:  This means that people just don't know what to do.  They are told that they are to be the Light of the world but then they ask, "But how do you do that?" They have heard sermons, Bible Studies, devotionals and even Christian friends tell them over and over again all the things they should being doing in order to live a missional life for Christ but very little if any training has been provided to teach them how to do it.  So much of the preaching and teaching in the N. American church is what I call "The Ought To Sermon".  The "Ought To" sermon says, "You ought to do this or you ought to do that."  More specifically it could say, "You ought to tithe" or "you ought pray" or even "you ought to witness or make disciples" and then the Christian is left scratching his head wondering, "But how do I do that?"  We have given a lot of "To Do's" with very little, "How Do's!  This has left the Christians in N. America frustrated and feeling incompetent to live a pleasing life on mission for Christ.  They know what they should be doing but they just don't know how to do it.  The disciple of Christ got to that place of frustration in their life when they asked Jesus if he would teach them "HOW" to pray just like the John the Baptist had taught his disciples to pray.  There comes a teachable moment in every Christians life when they have heard all they can handle of "What To Do" and have come to realization that they now need instruction on how to do what they've been told to do!

I believe the Christians in N. America are at that teachable moment where they heard over and over again that they need to be the LIGHT OF THE WORLD, that they need to be a WITNESS FOR CHRIST, that they need to be MAKING DISCIPLES FOR JESUS but now in frustration they are crying out, '"BUT HOW?"  The lack of N. American Christians living a life on mission with Christ is  not because they don't know what  to be do, it's because they don't know how to do it.

LACK CONFIDENCE:  Now there are some Christians that don't lack competence. Many Christians  have been trained on how to witness, how to let their light shine and how to make disciples.  It's not that they don't know how to do it, its just that they don't feel confident in doing it. Living a missional life feel awkward and unnatural.  Bringing up a spiritual conversation with people  feels forced and if they do bring it up there is a sense of worry in the Christian that maybe they will do or say something that is wrong.

This is not only true for just living a missional life but its also true for any new skill that a person is attempting to learn.  Whether it be learning to type, to ride a bike or swim in a pool there is a period of time where the new skill that has been learned is done by force and not done naturally.  I remember when I was learning to play the guitar and had just been taught my first three chords.  I knew those chords, I knew where my fingers were to be placed on the fret of the neck and I could put them there but I had to think about it and it didn't feel natural and it took time.  But now 40 years later I can play those same chords and others but mind doesn't have to concentrate on doing it, it just seems to do it almost without thinking.  The goal of training people in living a missional life is to get them to a point where these knew missional skills are done with confidence and done naturally without feeling forced.

THEY LACK ACCOUNTABILITY:  Now there are a few Christians who know what to do and also have the confidence to do it but they still don't do it!  Why?  The answer is because they are not held accountable to anyone on whether they doing it or not.  The reality is that most people do things when they know someone is going to check up on them about it and ask them if they actually did do it.  That's one of the reasons why teachers give tests to their students.  Yes, I know that one of the major reasons for testing is to measure how much the student has learned! I get that but I also know it's to help ensure that the student will actually do the work.  When students know that they are going to be tested on certain material they are more likely to make sure they have studied it.  At work if you know that your boss is going to come to you to check up on your work you are more apt to make sure the work is done.

Accountability is a very Biblical concept.  The parable Jesus told of the master who went away on a very long trip and gave 3 of his servants different amonts of talents. To one he gave 5, to another he gave 2 and to the last he gave 1 each according their own ability.  They were to use these talents while the master was away and in a way that the master wanted.  The servants each knew that there was coming a day of accountability when the master  would come back and see what they had done with his talents.  I just think it would be a whole lot better for all of us if we didn't wait until the Lords return for ultimate accountability but between now and then we lovingly hold each other accountable so that when the Lord Jesus does return we will hear him say, "Well done good and faithful servant."

THE 3 CURES

PROVIDE TRAINING EVENTS:  The best way to correct the lack of competence is for the church to provide training in the essential skills needed for living a missional life.  If people don't know what to do its the leadership of the churches job to provide training in those areas.  This training should not be complicated but easy to follow, understand and most of all it should be reproducible!  That means that whatever training a church provides the member who finishes that training should be able to use it to train someone else without any difficulty.  Can that training be passed on, can it be duplicated and taught by an ordinary Christian who completed the training or is it difficult teach that the average Christian couldn't use it?

If a training course is to complicated for one of its participants to use to train another Christian it SHOULD NOT BE USED!  We are not here to only train people to do certain missional skills but we are here to train people who can then train people, who then can train people.  Our goal should always be to see the rapid reproduction of disciple makers.  That means we not only train Christians to live a missional life but we train Christians train others to live a missional life, who will be able to train others.

The only real test of any program, training course or process to decide if its reproducible is whether or not it actually reproduces.  CAN THE PEOPLE WHO'VE GONE THROUGH THE TRAINING TAKE WHAT THEY HAVE BEEN TAUGHT AND TEACH OTHERS TO DO THE SAME? Now that the real question.  Paul writing to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2 said,

"And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses these intrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."  
Here we see reproducibility at its very best and all the way to a fourth generation.  Paul was confident that Timothy could take the information that Paul used to train people all over the world in the Christian faith and use it himself to train others because Paul made sure it was taught in a reproducible manner.

The way the training curriculum is designed and organized, the method of presenting the material, the process of how the training class is conducted all need to lend itself to being reproducible.  The training material needs to be designed so that it's quickly remembered and the process to teach that material needs to be done in a way that anyone can do it even if they're not skilled in classical teaching.

PROVIDE PRACTICE OPPORTUNITIES:  The goal of our training should never be just for information!  The training objectives for missional living should always be for daily application!  It should be the goal of every church, pastor, missionary, evangelist to train the people of God to have a missional lifestyle that is naturally lived out daily.  People need to know not only how do live out a missional lifestyle skill but they need to actually do it.  That means they need to become confident in performing the new skill.

Confidence only comes with:

 PRACTICE 

How many of us when we first learn how to ride a bike was actually confident in riding that bike?  Not many of us!  After I received some basic instructions on how to ride a bike my father put me on the seat of the bike,  placed my feet on the peddles and then took my hands and told me to firmly gripped on the handlebars and then with one firm push he sent me sailing down the sidewalk.  I was scared and nervous. My hands were shaking making the bike wabble back and forth.  My feet kept slipping off the peddles and I just knew I was going to crash.  But then I noticed something! The whole time I was riding my bike my father was running right alongside of me, holding the back of my seat so it wouldn't fall and staying with me until I gained the confidence to ride without him.

WHAT MY FATHER WAS DOING WAS GIVING ME A SAFE PLACE TO PRACTICE UNTIL I GAINED THE CONFIDENCE TO RIDE ALONE!

Now that's the kind of training we need for living the missional living.  As part of the process of training we need to give opportunities for people to practice what they've learned and we need to allow them to practice it week after week after week.

But that's not what happens in most church training events. Today most trainings are usually a day or two in length and the people are sitting around tables with a work book to fill in the blanks as the instructor tells them how they should do a particular missional skill.  There may be some video's that are shown as an example of how the skill could possibly be put int practice.  There might be some time given for participants to pair off to give a half hearted attempt to do what they've just been told to do.  Then as the training is ending the participants are given a pep talk about how they can now go out and do it.  But the reality is that most of the participants, while knowing what to do and how it might look, still don't feel confident in doing it.  Why?

Not enough time to practice in a safe place.

Confidence comes with lots of practice over time.  That's why I really appreciated James Kennedy's Evangelism Explosion Witnessing Training.  Or at least I should say the practicing element that was incorporated into the training.  I do feel that for the most part the training material was very difficult to reproduce but I do like the way they give a trainee weekly opportunities to go out with a skilled person in  witnessing and then allowed them an opportunity to practice the different parts to a gospel presentation.

PAIR CHRISTIANS INTO TEAMS:  The third cause for failing to live a missional lifestyle is that there is no accountability.  If a person knows that no one is going to check up on them to see if they are doing what they should be doing there is a much greater chance the person will never make it a lifestyle and possibly stop doing it all together.  So the cure is to design accountability into the training process that is not legalistic and none judgmental.  I think that we really do need to make sure that we have those two qualifiers: Not Legalistic and None Judgmental.  The reason is because our purpose is to encourage and not condemn.  We are not hear to look down a long and judgmental nose and tell people, "YOU'VE FAILED".  No our goal is to loving engage people in living a life on mission with Christ.

We're Here To Encourage - Not Condemn

 So how do you do that? How do you have accountability that doesn't measure if a person is PASSING or FAILING? I suggest pairing participants into teams of at least two people.  These teams are to do the mission activity together and thereby hold each other accountable.  These teams are to think of themselves as soldiers who are in battle together, who are watching each others back and trusting one another.  They are Comrads in Arms.  They have a profound sense of responsibility to perform at their highest level because their partner depends on them and they depend on their partner.  I think this is one of the reason why Jesus sent out the 72 in teams of two to very town and village he was about to go.  Jesus knew that along the way their would be discouragements and if they weren't in a team they could very easily quit and go home but because he had them in a team they would be there for one another to encourage each other.

TEAMS ARE A GREAT ACCOUNTABILITY PRACTICE

But even after the teams were done Jesus had them come back and share what had happen.  This was both a praise report time and an accountability time.  Churches would do well to have a time where missional teams come back together to have a debriefing and praise sharing on what God was able to do.  

In the next three blogs we're going to cover three of the essential skills needed for living a missional life and ways for you and your team member to practice these skills.  By doing this we will effectively deal with the lack of competence, the lack of confidence and the lack of accountability and allow you the ordinary christian to live productive missional life.


I'M PRAYING THAT GOD WILL RAISE UP, TRAIN UP & UNLEASHING ORDINARY CHRISTIANS TO LIVE A LIFE ON MISSION WITH CHRIST WHERE PEOPLE ARE MADE INTO RAPIDLY REPRODUCING DISCIPLE MAKERS.  GOD BLESS YOU AS YOU GO AND LIVE FOR HIM!

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