“When we are not afraid to confess our own poverty, we will be able to be with other people in theirs. The Christ who lives in our own poverty recognises the Christ who lives in other people’s. Just as we are inclined to ignore our own poverty, we are inclined to ignore others’. We prefer not to see people who are destitute, we do not like to look at people who are deformed or disabled, we avoid talking about people’s pains and sorrows, we stay away from brokenness, helplessness, and neediness.
By this avoidance we might lose touch with the people through whom God is manifested to us. But when we have discovered God in our own poverty, we will lose our fear of the poor and go to them to meet God.” - Henri Nouwen
It was about a year ago that IVP released Creating a Missional Culture: Equipping the Church for the Sake of the World. Upon the anniversary of its release, I thought I would give some reflections on what has happened this past year, and how the book has influenced people and churches in positive ways. There is much to say, but I want to say it in as a succinct way as possible, sometimes using the words that others have written about the book.
First of all, I am extremely thankful for all the people who formerly endorsed the book. They lead full lives, so for them to take time to read and give their thoughts on the book was a very honoring thing. Thanks to Alan Hirsch, Jon Tyson, Darrell Guder, Linda Bergquist, David Fitch, Michael Frost, Amos Yong, Wil Hernandez, MaryKate Morse, and Dwight J. Friesen. You can read what they said about the book here.
“It’s like the Starfish and the Spider for missional leaders.” – J.R. Briggs (Author, Church Planter from the Philadelphia area)
“If I were to recommend one book as a starting place and overview of the missional movement, I would point to Creating a Missional Culture” – Patrick Oden (A top reviewer at Amazon)
“This is the best offering of anything associated with missional that I have encountered” – Kevin Sweeney, (Church Planter, Honolulu, HI)
“This is not just another book with a trendy title. Creating a Missional Culture is a gold mine for anyone desiring to see Christians flourish in their giftings. If you are new to the missional conversation (or skeptical of its veracity) here is an outstanding primer on the local church’s role in God’s redemptive purposes.” – Dan Stringer (Kailua, HI) Excerpt from Not Just Another Missional Book, Review
“Get this book if you are in the trenches, it’s an accessible text book on the missional frontier that is written with urgency, soaked in genuine experience.” – Dan White Jr (Syracuse, NY), Excerpt from his review on the book.
I’ve been extremely encouraged by the positive reviews on Amazon. Forty three different people have posted a review to date, with a 4.8 out of 5 average rating for the book. Go check out some of the reviews and take a minute to “like” those that you like. There are reviews from just about all fifty states. It has been reviewed by Anglican Priests and church planters alike. If you have read the book, and haven’t yet reviewed it, please do so. 50 people have rated it at Good Reads as well.
Last month, the kindle version went on sale, and Creating a Missional Culture HIT #1 for books on ministry for a full week. Within the first year, the book has sold 20% more than my highest goal for the book. It is already on its 3rd reprint, which means it has outsold my publishers expectations a couple of times already. In this past falls IVP catalog, the book was listed in the 50 core books for InterVarsity Press, and in the Winter of 2014 catalog, it is listed #30 in core inventory.
As people have started to put the ideas of the book into practice, they are seeing some incredible results. Listen to how one church pastor in Sacramento, California put it:
“Here is where I got the most out of this book. I realized as the primary leader, I was trying to fulfill ALL the roles and be a one man show over my ministry. My main gift is teaching. No wonder we were not impacting our community and those around us. Instead, I realized to impact our church community and the community around us, I needed to get out of the way and start allowing all the other giftings and roles of our body become known and used. We adopted the polycentric leadership approach from the book in our ministry and now our community is exploding. We have seen a tremendous outbreak of people discovering that they were not meant to sit in a pew and consume, but are supposed to be equipped and participate together. Our attendance has doubled and we are seeing people get involved, take ownership, find their place and start being used. This book has helped us get rid of the pyramid approach to leadership structure…” – Eric Knopf, Sacramento, CA (See the full review here.)
Eric was so excited about the book, that he designed a free-five fold equipping test, that has already been taken by over 10,000 people. I’m still planning on developing my own five-fold test in the near future.
A number of seminaries have Creating a Missional Cultureas an assigned reading for their classes, including Fuller Theological Seminary, Asbury Theological Seminary, Biblical Seminary and a half dozen others. I’ve started to do some Q & A over skype for some of these classes. If you were assigned it as reading at your college or seminary, let me know.
In addition, the book is being read in a number of countries like England, Korea, Indonesia, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Honduras, Australia, Switzerland, China, The Netherlands and others. A publishing company in India recently bought the rights to publish it in India. So it should be available there in about 6 months.
Finally, here are some of the cities I’ve been able to speak about Creating a Missional Cuture over the last year, at various churches and pastors conferences:
Los Angeles, CA
Cliff College, England
There is a lot more that could be said, but let’s just say that I’m totally thrilled about how God is using Creating a Missional Culture to see his kingdom become a greater reality on earth. Thanks for all the encouragement that you have given me about this book. If you want to keep up with the latest news on Creating a Missional Culture, “like” this author facebook page that IVP set up. God is good.
Pastor Judly Adams a pastor who lives in the inner city of Kingston, Jamaica has allow the Psalmist to teach him how to pray. Kingston is a very poor city where many are untrained, unskilled and therefore unemployable. Many people this pastor works with go to bed hungry, just getting by on handouts. Many families are headed by single women who if they find jobs at all, get rock-bottom wages, not adequate enough to take care of even one child. And then there is violence. Listen how he puts it:
“Violence has certainly increased recently. Many more people than usual have died violent deaths. Much of it comes down to fighting between gangs who support opposing political parties. This area is rife with gangs, and their style of life is revenge – an eye for an eye. Innocent people get caught in the crossfire. And then, too, you have sporadic robberies. Just last week a businessman was gunned down in broad daylight because he refused to hand over his vehicle to some robbers who were trying to make their escape.”
Here is his prayer of disorientation:
Look here, Lord
Things were bad this week in our community.
Someone was shot and killed.
The gun violence keeps increasing.
People are afraid.
Where are you Lord?
Are you asleep?
I need your help.
You’re the one who brought me into this place, so this is your problem too.
Are you going to enlighten me and show me how to respond to this?
Are you going to intervene?
What do we do?
What are you going to do about this situation?
Now if you meet this pastor, you will find that he is one of the gentlest men you will ever meet. Yet his is not one to mince words when he is asking God for help. He tells it like it is. He was no doubt trained by the Psalmist.
Some of you know that this year I started working at the National Director for Church Planting with V3, which you can learn a little more about here. I’m excited about a number of things we have going on, including some new learning communities for church planters starting up this fall. We have been going through a branding process and so I wanted to unveil our new logo today (just above). We are in the process of developing our website, which will go live in mid to late September. So what do you think of the logo?
“Sometimes we experience a terrible dryness in our spiritual life. We feel no desire to pray, don’t experience God’s presence, get bored with worship services, an even think that everything we ever believed about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is little more than a childhood fairy tale.
Then it is important to realize that most of these feelings and thoughts are just feelings and thoughts, and that the Spirit of God dwells beyond our feelings and thoughts. It is a great grace to be able to experience God’s presence in our feelings and thoughts, but when we don’t, it does not mean that God is absent. It often means that God is calling us to a greater faithfulness. It is precisely it times of spiritual dryness that we must hold on to our spiritual discipline so that we can grow into new intimacy with God.” - Henri Nouwen
We live at an amazing time in history, when we have the ability to connect with people from all over the world, to share our faith and to build up the body of Christ. I love to travel to different cultures and learn from people of other cultures as well as share the things that Christ has put on my heart. I’m thankful to live in a time where I can take a plane to places like Indonesia and bring God’s word to God’s people in different cities.
One of the things I enjoy doing in my “spare” time is meet people from different countries over the internet, especially through facebook and/or twitter. I try to connect with those who don’t know Christ and then it seems that Christian leaders from those same countries somehow find and connect with me. I especially enjoy connecting to cultures and countries where the media seems to demonize, and countries that our government puts in a bad light, because I am convinced of God’s love for the whole world.
Last week a pastor in an “unnamed” country facebooked me and asked if I could speak to his young adult group. I told him I’d love to visit, but probably couldn’t come out that way till next year. He said, “Oh, I was thinking you could share with our group through Skype”. I said, “Sure, I think we could work that out.”
So tomorrow I will be connecting to this congregation in a country in the Middle East with a huge Muslim population. Please pray with me as I share with them about living a life of faith. We live in interesting times, and I’m thankful to God for the opportunities to live out and share the good news in so many ways.
Lord, life’s a whirlpool.
So much to do.
I rush around, faster and faster,
intent on today,
Never looking beyond the immediate.
My good intentions,
wet and waterlogged,
slide down the plug hole,
on the blurred edge of vision,
people stand, beckon, call.
So indistinct I can pretend
I don’t see them,
except to myself.
But I rush on.
a little largesse on the way.
Greasing the palm of charity.
My once bright conscience dulled
with tarnished generosity.
Encrusted rust, self-damaging.
My own collecting boxes
full of good intentions,
And yet, Lord,
there are moments
when I hear your voice.
Soft, yet insistent.
Your voice, coming,
not from some cloudy heaven
but somehow centered
in the people I ignore.
And when I take my courage in both hands -
and doing that
means putting down my diary first -
and turn to them,
I find I’ve turned to you.
Among the lonely.
You are the neighbor I ignored.
The injured on the Jericho road.
And when I walk by,
on the other side,
I sidestep love,
and I’m the lonely one,
Self-exiled by my busyness.
Lord, help me try again.
Find time for others.
Find time for you.
A good friend of mine and a group of his friends help to provide soul-care and spiritual direction for pastors, which they call The Table. The Table is a two year communal experience where you will give attention to the state of your soul and the true longings of your heart. You meet intermittently throughout the two years, and get some individual spiritual direction throughout the time. Click here for more information and an application. Go to the very bottom of the page to get some specific dates, and spread the word if you know of any pastors that might be able to use something like this.