The Future of the Churches of Christ: Direct Hit, Part 3 (Wisdom, Exegeting the Community)

Book—Borden,-Direct-HitWe’re studying through Paul D. Borden’s Direct Hit: Aiming Real Leaders at the Mission Field.

Wisdom

Wise leaders guide but do not overrun sheep. They never ask more of their sheep than they are willing to do as leaders. However, they are also honest with those sheep that do not want to be missional. Such sheep are given the opportunity to participate in the core mandate (making disciples), but if they do not want to participate, they are not given voice or authority in how the mission will be accomplished.

(Kindle Locations 584-587).

We don’t need to run off those who don’t wish to participate in the church’s vision, but neither should we empower them to stand in the way.

Positive

We respond when we get a vision of a great God who has called us to great and positive things. Guilt has its place in exposing sin, keeping us humble, and remaining dependent upon God, but vision and excitement are what motivate others for service.

(Kindle Locations 611-613).

“Vision” does not mean “a vision statement.” A vision is something you can see, not something you can recite. The church needs to be able to see what things would be like if it succeeds in the planned changes. They need to be able to imagine the excitement of baptisms and crowded pews. They need to imagine not knowing everyone present because there are so many new people. They need to be excited about real growth, not idealized growth where nothing changes and no ever sits in their favorite spot.

Exegeting the surrounding community

This idea of exegeting the community has become something of a buzzword among missiologists — experts in missions. It’s hardly obvious what it means. Fortunately, Borden explains —

This begins with prayerfully walking, riding, and driving through the community—looking at the community through the eyes of Jesus Christ. It means researching everything that reflects the community’s values, interests, desires, and aspirations. This research occurs through reading local newspapers, Web sites, blogs, and especially the editorials and letters to the editor or interactions of online bloggers. It entails picking up the local free editions of community papers at stores that, while advertising different goods and services, also communicate the ordinary stories and issues that define the local people.

The pastor interviews people, starting with those who are quite visible, such as the mayor, council people, community planners, school administrators and teachers, police and fire personnel, and doctors and nurses who deal with the public in the community hospital. The leader goes to malls and talks to those who are lounging on benches or sitting in coffee shops, or engages merchants who are open to talking about the community. The exegesis may mean going to garage sales or flea markets to see what people are selling and what they value. Throughout this cultural immersion, the pastor is not only interviewing the congregants but also neighbors and those with whom the pastor comes in contact each day.

At some point the pastor then takes this information, sorts it, and synthesizes it to articulate what the community values, its image of itself, its vision for the future, and how it views itself in relation to the communities that surround it.

(Kindle Locations 682-695).

How can you preach sermons relevant to a community you don’t understand? How do you pick a location, a name, service times, a worship style, how you dress in the pulpit, or countless other decisions if you don’t know the community?

Of course, for an established church, these decisions were made literally generations ago for the convenience of people long dead. So maybe it’s time to put these questions back on the table.

Developing a Communication Strategy for the Vision

The pastor now realizes that somewhere in each sermon the “so what” question must be asked cosmically. In other words, “What does this text say to or demand as response from the congregation as a unit in relation to the particular mission that God intends to implement in the community?” The pastor needs to help the congregation see that God has not only called them as individuals to live changed lives on their own but is calling them as a Church to live a changed life as a group.

(Kindle Locations 712-716).

I’m not a preacher but I do teach Bible classes. Many years ago, I realized that the church had a desperate need to learn grace — not just a quarter on grace but grace deeply rooted in their thinking. And so every class I taught was about grace, whether the text was Numbers, Matthew, or Revelation. I remained true to the text, but grace is always present in God’s word. You just have to open yourself to it to see it.

Just so, the church’s mission is found in every opening of the Bible and every event in the life of the church. Graduation day is not just about going to a sound Christian college or remembering to go to church when your parents aren’t around to make you. Graduation is a fresh opportunity to be a missionary for God. Mother’s Day is not just a celebration of mothers, but a celebration of what they do to bring their children to Jesus.

It is important to understand that every phone call, e-mail, conversation, and interaction with someone in the congregation can be a crucial moment for casting vision. There are no throw away conversations while the pastor is on duty. And when it comes to communicating vision, it is a 24/7 task; the pastor is never off duty. The people will learn that whenever they interact with the pastor, the conversation will always be steered toward how God is calling this congregation to see a steady stream of new disciples who are following Jesus Christ.

(Kindle Locations 727-731).

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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One Response to The Future of the Churches of Christ: Direct Hit, Part 3 (Wisdom, Exegeting the Community)

  1. John F says:

    Following this line of thought, the words of Francis Schaeffer come to mind: “How then Should we Live?” In this subject matter, how should the church live in community? In a larger and narrower view, the question should be asked of every sermon or lesson shared in most every situation.

    How words/ works on culture are prophetic.

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