Reforming church, culture and our city

Reforming church, culture and our city

Posts Tagged ‘church

Rethinking the face of the unchurched

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Stetzer in his book on Breaking The Missional Code has some useful thoughts on how we can be thinking missionally in reaching the unchurched. It’s important to realize that our culture and the landscape of our cities have changed. Thinking missionally begins when we ask, ‘What is the profile of the people we are trying to reach?

Firstly, we need to understand who are the unchurched in our city? What do they look like in our city, schools, universities and marketplace?

  • If you’re a worker in the marketplace, what is the face of the unchurched? The same holds true if you’re a student or parent.
  • What are the religious backgrounds of the unchurched around you?
  • What are the questions the unreached around you are asking?
  • How do the unreached around you understand spirituality, God, church?
  • What do unreached around you do in their spare time?

Did you know that in our city, there are 70,000 Hindu’s, 161,000 Muslims, 153,000 Buddhist, 1.2 million Roman Catholics, 600,000 who have no religion, and 428,000 who remain unstated?

Secondly, we need to understand the changing ethnic face of our city. The ethnic diversity of our city now means that there isn’t a homonogeous cultural group across our city. There is no longer one culture in our city, and every culture needs to be exegeted for the gospel. Thinking missionally means:

  1. Understanding people groups we are reaching or might want to reach i.e. the ethic composition of your locality and their movements in our city. The ABS 2006 Census information is a useful resource
  2. Understanding population segments of the people we might want to reach i.e. common experiences that binds people together in our city. E.g. second generation ABC’s, factory workers, restaurant workers, North Shore professionals, victims of crime, single mum’s with young children etc. These are the tribes in our city that we might want to reach or are already reaching through our existing churches.
  3. Understanding cultural environments of the people we might want to reach, because people are not just bound by their language and common experience, but by their geographical environment which often brings them together. E.g. apartments in Balmain housing Sydney university Mandarin students, Korean professional families living in Newington, Sri Lankan’s in Wentworthville etc.

Written by eugenehor

August 2, 2008 at 4:19 pm

5 Books I’m Currently Reading

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Written by eugenehor

August 1, 2008 at 12:10 am

Coffee musings: God & Godlessness …

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Was sitting in a coffee shop at Rhodes on my day off reading Bernard Salt’s The Big Picture: Life, Work and Relationships In The 21st Century. This is definitely a must read for those wanting to reach our city, engage culture and plant churches. Bernard Salt, if you aren’t aware is an Australian economist who advises corporate Australia on consumer, cultural and demographic trends.

One of the things he points out is that Australia is not the god-fearing nation it once was. In the 1901 census, less than 1% of Aussie’s said that they had ‘no religion’. 100 years later that has risen to 18%. I looked up the recent 2006 census at the ABS, which points out that 3,706,550 people said that they had ‘no religion’ out of a total population of 19,855,288. That’s 18.6% of the Australian population who believe in absolutely nothing. The number could be actually be higher given that an additional 2,223,957 people state that they have no religious affiliation, and most people unthinkingly tick the census box that aligns with their childhood religious affiliations. At the very least 30% or one-third of the Australian population have no religion. Personally I believe it’s higher as the vast majority of people who call themselves ‘Christians’ don’t actually belong or go to church on any given Sunday.

Take the Anglican church as an example from the 2001 NCLS survey on church attendance. Only 177,700 (11.7%) of those calling themselves Anglicans in Australia actually attend church on a weekly basis, even though 1,341,103 people called themselves Anglican. In fact, the NCLS survey points out that weekly attendance in 2001 would be about 1,660,000 for Anglican, Catholic and Protestant churches. This equates to 8.8% of a population of 18,769,249. As I have often said, we live in a post-Christian culture.

Bernard raises the question of “what do you think happens when a society moves over 100 years from a position where almost everyone is a ‘believer’ to a position where the majority believe in nothing?” His answer is simple and honest. If the majority of people are no longer convinced of life after death, or if they no longer believe in divine accountability or judgment, they will begin to focus on the present, and live for the here and now. He says that, “the interests – and pleasures – of the individual would rise and replace the interests and well being of the broader community, which he points out has been the story of the second half of the 20th century in Australia. In other words, in our culture there has been a move towards an individualism that doesn’t just focus on the now, but is primarily concerned with our own personal pleasures and comfort, or as Bernard puts it, the flourishing of a culture of ‘high consumerism and self-gratification’.

I love the way he puts it,

“By 1987, Hollywood would deliver unto us a philosopher who encapsulated a bold new way of thinking. The messianic Gordon Gekko was a champion of, rather than an apologist for, a virginally pure and commercial form of hedonism. Gekko’s message was simple, ‘Greed is good.’ In less than a decade, Gekko would send forth four of his finest female New York disciples, to advance the noble cause of wantonness, in Sex and the City. And verily they did gather up the poor, the lonely, the downtrodden, those in desperate need of designer shoes, and offer then hope and a way forward” p.47

Hedonism he points out is the new religion in our cities which places self and lifestyle above everything else. It is living by the mantra that says, ‘if it feels good do it’. And Hedonist seek relief from their inner torment in those dens of self-gratification – our shopping malls, our luxury good stores, our “bulky goods stores, where you can hear wailing and gnashing of teeth, ‘I want that apartment and I want it fully furnished right now.’ And after they are spent, they rest.

Living in post-Christian Sydney, it’s important for us to realize as missionaries in our city, that this is our mission field.

I was encouraged at RICEvolution!

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I was encouraged seeing the face of the next generation of ABC (Australian Born Chinese) Christians at RICEvolution on Saturday. The challenge was for them to start a seeing the great need for Jesus in their high schools, and to see themselves as missionaries for Jesus reaching those they school with.

In my preparations to speak to this group of young and enthusiastic group of high schoolers from Chinese churches across our city I discovered looking through the ABS on ‘schools’, that there are 491,000 young people in our High Schools in NSW (just over 3,100 schools). Given that only 96% of the population are unreached, it would be fair to say the same for those in our high schools. That would mean 471,000 young people in our high schools are lost to Jesus. To put this in perspective, on average only 4 out of every 100 young people in our high schools school are Bible believing, Jesus love Christians. We need to encourage the planting of missional kingdom communities for Jesus in our high schools led by Bible believing, Jesus loving high school students! I believe these young people are the generation who can and will radically transform our high schools and city for Jesus!

Pray for those who came to RICEvolution, that from this group will come great things for Jesus in our city and schools. More than anything else pray that from this group will come young people who will give their very lives to serving Jesus and his mission.

What Will It Mean For Us To Grow The Gospel In Our City?

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Just this week our cell group leaders and I spent some time looking at a strategy for ministry in the New Testament raising the question, “what will it mean for us to grow the gospel of Jesus in our city?” Presently there are 4,100,000 in our city, out of which 3,850,000 are unreached. We live in a city where 96% of people are unreached. To put that in perspective, only 3 in every 100 people in our city are Bible believing Christians. On any given Sunday, less than 15,000 Chinese are at church. Currently there are just over 292,000 Chinese in our city, out of which 277,000 are unreached. We live in a city where 95% of Chinese are unreached. To put that in perspective, only 5 in every 100 Chinese people in our city are Bible believing Christians. The reality that we need to realize as a church is that we live in a secular city that desperately needs more mission minded Christians and churches planted.

In fact, when you turn to the New Testatment you discover that part of the strategy for reaching people in the cities was church multiplication. As you read Acts 14:21-28, you discover that church planting was part of the dna of the early church. It was part of the normal practice and life of the church. Wherever Paul went, he evangelised, he discipled and he started churches. Often, he was sent by other churches to do just that (Acts 13:1-3) The tendency for churches today is to focus on preaching, teaching, evangelism, discipleship, prayer, and to see church planting as the optional extra that we pursue when we run out of space. Tim Keller in his article on church multiplication points out that you see in Paul a strategy of Christian formation and Church formation wherever he went.

You discover as you look at Paul’s ministry in this passage that wherever he went he engaged in evangelism, where he ‘preached’ the gospel to that city (v.21). He doesn’t use the word ‘kerusso’ – preach, but the world ‘evangelizdomenoi’ i.e he ‘gospeled’ the city. Paul ‘gospelled’ the gospel to that city, which was more than just preaching sermons. He goes out and takes the gospel to people. The movement is always to take the gospel out to people where they are at. When you look at Acts you often see Paul gospelling in many different settings: in synagogues (Acts 17:1-2), in small groups (Acts 20:7ff; 16:32), in the market-places (Acts 17:17), in rented halls (Acts 19:9), or even just talking to people one on one (Acts 20:20-21). He saw himself as a missionary and wherever he went that was his mission field. You also discover that wherever he went he also instructed, where he ‘strengthened and encouraged’ new believers in the faith (v.21b-22). He taught them and grounded them in the Christian faith i.e. he spent time discipling them. It’s interesting to note that what Paul does here is consistent with Jesus’ great commission in Matthew 28:18-20.

Having done this you see that whenever believers are gospeled and instructed in these cities, you also find that they are gathered together (Acts 14:27; 15:30) to be the church. You effectively see the formation of new churches wherever evangelism and instruction takes place. You also see leaders picked and set apart to lead those churches (v.23). Paul we are told appoints elders to lead who take on the role of teaching and shepherding that particular group of gathered people. He didn’t start a denomination, but instead empowered them for ministry and mission, and committed them to Jesus. They had their own leadership, and were responsible for their own ministry. When Paul started with them they were “disciples” (v.22), but when he left them, they were “churches” (v.23).

This was the consistent pattern of ministry that you discover in the New Testament. We go out to gospel the unreached in our city wherever God sends us and wherever they are: in the café, in the shopping malls, in our workplaces, in our universities, at the hairdresser, at home. You and I are missionaries in this city. And when people come to know Jesus, we are to spend time discipling them, grounding them in the Christian faith teaching them to follow and trust the words and work of Jesus. And where we see people saved across our city, we are to gather them to be the church, whether in new small groups where they live, whether in new Sunday worship services we plant, or whether in existing churches around them.

Following The Right Kind Of Leaders

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It’s crucial that we understand the Bible’s teaching on leadership rather than take our cues from our culture. Firstly, we must recognize that the church is not a company or a business. It’s not even an organization. The church is the body of Jesus where He is the head; the bride of Christ where He is the groom; a building of living stones where He is the cornerstone. The church is the gathering that Jesus died for and gathered (Acts 20:28). We are people who belong to Jesus, and set apart for Jesus in our city. As such we must take our cues on leadership not from our culture, but from God’s Word as a church. We are a Bible believing, Word-driven church. And the predominant criteria for leadership in the church is their character and ability to teach God’s word – leadership that is built on truth and godliness as exemplified in their home, in their relationships inside and outside the church, and in their teaching (Titus 1:5-9; 1 Timothy 3:1-7). Good leaders know their Bibles, are able to teach it to others, and live out what they believe and teach. It is evident to all around them.

Secondly, if we are to build a church that will fulfill the mission of Jesus in our city and world – it will take the right kind of leadership. It’s important that we grow the right kind of leaders, but it’s also important that we follow the right kind of leaders. It’s important that we model our lives on the good leaders. Because ultimately in the church what you see in your leaders is what we should all aspire to – because leaders are supposed to be models of what it means love and follow Jesus in life. As Paul said to the church in Corinth, ‘follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ’ (1 Cor.11:1). Who do you model your life of in our church community? Who do you follow as examples in the way you make decisions, and in the way you think of your career or study? Who impresses you as a leader? Are you looking to and following the right kind of leaders?

If you’re a father – who models for you what it means to manage your home or love your children as a Christian father? If you’re a wife – who models for you what it means to love your husband as a Christian wife? If you’re a working professional – who models for you what it means to be a Christian in the marketplace or how you should view your career? If you’re a student – who models for you what it means to be a Christian at university or how you should view your studies? The more important questions is – are the people you’re following or modeling your life after, the right kind of leaders?

It is absolutely crucial that we build our lives on the right kind of leadership – good leadership … Biblical leadership. To do anything less is to build our Christian lives on sinking sand. In 1 Tim.4:11, Paul tells Timothy to set an example to those at church in his speech, life, love, faith and purity. Why? Because the way Timothy leads in what he teaches and how he lives has eternal significance. He will either be a bad example leading people away from Jesus, or a good and faithful one leading people to Jesus (1 Tim.4:15-16). We need both good leaders to teach us and model the Christian life for us, but we also need to be discerning in making sure that we are actually following the right kind of leaders as well. Who are you following?

Written by eugenehor

June 1, 2008 at 2:36 pm

A View Of History In This City

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Our view of history shapes the way we look at life, how we live and how we understand circumstances and events in our world. Some people believe that history is cyclical – life is a cyclical. There’s nothing new – because history repeats itself in an endless cycle. Others believe that history is linear. History and life is linear with a beginning and an end. Then there are others who hold to a chaotic view of history. History and life is nothing more than a series of events that are left to chance, a series of random disconnected events with no beginning, end meaning.

windowAnd so when you look at life you’re faced with 3 possible windows. Am I stuck in a never ending cycle beyond my control? Am I moving forward towards some ultimate goal or ultimate end? Or am I living a series of random disconnected events that just happen without beginning, end or purpose?

I shared last week from the pulpit that there is a Biblical and Christian view of history and life. The Christian view of history and life is that it’s linear and purposeful moving towards a plan put in place by God himself. The Christian view of history is that there’s an unifying story that’s being played out in history and life that cuts across every nation, culture, people and language group – it’s going somewhere … it’s not a random series of events … and all that happens in history and life in our city is moving towards a plan put in place by God himself. There’s a story that unites us in this city.

broken faceFirstly, the Christian view of history is that something is wrong with us, our society, our city and our world. Even in an affluent and modern city like ours brokenness is self-evident, from local council corruption, to 30,000 homeless on our streets, to 31,000 abortions each year. Nationally, 40% of marriages in our country ends in divorce, and we spend more on our pets (2.3 billion) than on overseas aid (2 billion). Something is wrong with us, our city and our world. The Bible calls it the consequences of sin i.e. the consequences of living life in a society and culture that has rejected God. What we see and experience of brokenness around us is the outworking of a culture and society that has turned its back on God. (Rom.1:18-32)

crossSecondly, the Christian view of history is that God is not absent, but is involved, in control, working out his purposes in history to save us, to fix us, to redeem our culture, to renew society, to transform our broken cities and world. And he’s doing it in a man called Jesus who 2000 years ago died on the cross for our sins, who rose again from the dead, and who now rules as God’s appointed right hand man in our lives, our city and our world … who is gathering to himself a people, building a new and transformed society and culture, a city within our city, called the church. Everything in history and life converges and centres on Jesus who comes to save and to transform those living life without God, caught up in sin and brokenness. (Acts 2:21-36; 4:12)

There is a story being played out on the stage of history, in our lives and in our city. We live in a broken world, because we’re broken people who have rejected the God who made us and ignored his way in life. We all need saving, and God acts to save us in Jesus by sending him to die for our sins, to conquer death by raising him from the dead, and to be the one who now rules over all. And right now Jesus continues to save and gather his people, building a new and transformed city within our city called the church; a city where his love, compassion, forgiveness, justice and mercy rule; a city on a hill, a church whose light cannot be hidden in a city that desperately needs saving. You and I are that city, and the story is still being played out today.

Written by eugenehor

March 5, 2008 at 11:24 pm