Why oh Why the current discussions, depending on one's orientation, as to whether missional churches are sufficiently discipleship oriented or discipling churches sufficiently missional?. Can't we as Jesus Followers be both? Can't a community of Jesus Followers be both discipleship and missionally oriented? Must we choose between a justice culture or a evangelistic culture? Again, can't we have both? Or, better yet, why can't we have all four; missional, discipling, justice and evangelism*, as descriptive terms?
*While other authors including Alan Hirsch raise more terms that may or may not include these four ecclesial realities discussed in this overview, these four are sufficiently inclusive to frame the issues.
In the first century, the 74 AD setting of the Messiah Scrolls, there existed a Christ Culture which included all four ecclesial realities whose members were (at least) civil to one another; while Rome and Satan were tearing at them from the outside.
Rick McKinley, in a sermon at Imago Dei Portland OR, advanced the concept that "If one is passionate about justice, one has to be passionate about evangelism."
"We can change the church infrastructure (to focus on injustice) but we cannot change the hearts of parishioners (to build enabling praxis/attitudes about injustice initiatives), only Jesus Christ can do that." We need the spiritually informed structure of World Vision's caring orientation for the poor as well as the spiritually informed energy of Multiply, the evangelistic/disciple making initiative being launched by Francis Chan and David Platt (November 2012). For church leaders and elders keyed upon integrating the four ecclesial realities into church plant initiatives, also plan to attend Exponential West 2013 October 7-10 at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in Orange County CA.
This Messiah Scrolls novel, as the Silmarillion to the OT and NT, describes one vision of the first century Christ Culture and how the Apostles and subsequent Jesus Followers did all four ecclesial realities; building a graphic picture, as the New Testament was being written, of how Christ intended us to live, then and now:
(1) implementing Jesus Christ's command to build born again discipling, faith communities, while
(2) honoring the Holy Spirit's missional zeal (as shown in the Gospel of John) to interpret and use
(3) the inspired New Testament Word of God, as it was being written, as their daily ethical guide,
(4) resulting in eternal life for Jesus Followers with God in His Heavenly Kingdom.
Michael Frost is helpful here:
"Life is rarely so neat as to present us with such sharp distinctions (much less a civil ethos?) between whether to evangelize (building discipleship) or socially engage (building missional)...our mandate is to do whatever is required in the (providential) circumstances to both demonstrate (missional) and announce (evangelical) that Kingship. We feed the hungry because in the world to come there will be no such thing as starvation. We share Christ because in the world to come there will be no such thing as unbelief." (The Road to Missional, page 28)
Let us work towards a new Christ Culture of all His discipled, missional healers as they join across denominational, pentecostal and mega-congregational jurisdictions to form a sustainable, Jesus Follower meta-community. Staying parochial in our secure congregations won't do it. Let's consider how the first century Christians might have connected to each other...
In the Messiah Scrolls on-line novel on this web-site, first century Christian disciples for the first 10 years after Pentecost, still in the early stages of community building, operated as a stealth group within local synagogues. Starting in the early 40s AD, John and Matthew joined by several close, long time friends, e.g., now converted leaders with Roman and Scythian backgrounds, moved a large Hebrew community complement from Joppa to Alexandria, home to the second largest concentration of Hebrews in the Middle East outside Jerusalem. James and John Mark stayed to build the Christian community in Jerusalem.
Working under chaba (Hebrew for "secret/stealth") cover of the synagogues, John and the growing number of disciples used the Hebrew words Barach Chaba, meaning "to go forward, secretly", as a means of establishing and verifying contact with the growing number of disciples. The proper Jesus Follower response was Shalach, a Hebrew word referring to "being sent out", that is, Jesus Followers (in the novel, disciples aka Jesus Followers) going forward with a secret mission of forming “sustainable missional community” throughout the 55 Roman provinces. Community Zero, as the first two locations were designated in their raidly growing aggregate number, ultimately became headquartered in ancient city of Rhakotis (aka New Rhakotis) 100 miles west of Alexandria. This is the venue for the events during the year 74 AD, as told in the Messiah Scrolls novel.
These early Messiah communities maintained secrecy for their own safety when they broke free of the synagogues, e.g., primarily to be safe from Rome and its scorched earth policy, started in earnest under Caligula from 38 AD onward. In the first century, the growing numbers of Jesus Followers lived in these chaba communities, like the discipling/missional communities of our own day, confirming and exchanging original and copied Christian Texts (which the Romans and the High priests wanted to capture and destroy) and solidifying both the training of disciples and missional grants covering inter-community projects. .
While Hebrew Priests added fuel to the Roman scorching of Christians, both in the novel and in history, it is the presence of Satan himself, in the novel personified as Belial, who hunts down and kills the key apostolic authors. Belial's avowed goal (in 74 AD as Satan's is today) was to crush the new Christ Culture with its inspired scribing and distribution of the newly written testament; thereby ending the Jesus Follower movement before it really began. The Belials of today can be identified and called out as they appear. In too many cases, Belial comes from within, for example from Christian scholars, exalting themselves, who have lost their hermeneutical focus; not seeing Jesus Christ as Human and Divine; nor seeing the Bible as Holy Spirit inspired, for believers to "rightly divide the Word or Truth."
A year ago, December 29th 2011, the BBC reported that Christians in Israel were beating each other with clubs in the holiest of places. So much for Christians being sqeaky clean martyrs to the world. One of the many sadnesses within our overall Christian mission is that we can't even maintain basic civility among ourselves. This kind of internal hurt paves the way for the public deconstruction of the last 2000 years of effective witness bearing and proclamation of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God help us in His judgment as to our record of stewardship in the Book of Life.
Nonetheless, having shared that reality, in the first three centuries AD, the Follower community of Jesus Christ was destined to spread worldwide, not grouped, known by or associated with one particular sub-culture, community or denomination, as is the case after Constantine and the Council of Nicaea. The Christ Culture and His discipling/missional emphasis, energized by the within Presence and counseling guidance of the Holy Spirit (John 14), placed His Followers on the street (Matthew 28:16-20), warts, doubts and all; to "go therefore" as first century Micahs.
Under the guidance of the Presence of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Follower communities were called to go forward, sustainably and secretly,
(i) accessing the Hebrew and Roman cultures, proclaiming Christ and converting them to a Christ culture,
(ii) shepherding and feeding the "least of these" among them,
(iii) doing magistrated, kingdom justice across their missional communities,
(iv) being faithful as the Apostles were to Christ’s command; scribing the New Testament and then loving and discipling with spiritual discernment,
(v) maintaining a Christ culture inspired community heritage of newly established institutions, while (vi) "walking humbly with their God": as the first century AD Christian Follower response to, "What does the Lord require of you?", echoing Micah 6:6-8.
As 21st century Christians, how willing and able are we to witness civility across congregational lines and promulgate a Christ Culture of collective Holy Spiritual power; to both care for non-Christians and disciple new Followers, while missionally Micah Sixing the evils within the consumer culture, eating away at Christian praxis like a Leviathan? Praise the Lord for those present day Jesus Follower congregations acting with Holy Spiritual zeal who are reaching others with their disciple deployment, social justice outreach and church plant initiatives.
Reggie McNeal has written that there currently exists a post-congregational context to our Following of Christ’s mandate. While this context, if true, may need to be more fully realized to be properly so identified and understood, I say Amen to the combined discipling deployment and missional direction of current churches of all sizes, brought to the current discussion in such as the Verge and Justice Conferences. Daily prayers for "the civilty of first steps" reinitiated, and blessings upon you, male and female, Christ Culture warriors.
The Messiah Scrolls Project