Archives For The Missional Church

macro-microI don’t apologize for taking time in my preaching and teaching to give the larger story of God that we find ourselves in. The Big Picture of God’s Mission in the world (the “macro”) is essential if we are going to serve God in our local, everyday world (the “micro”). It’s not either-or, it’s both.

The July 2013 Issue of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research (IBMR) makes the point in the editorial cover story.

The longer I follow Jesus and study Christian mission, the more sense it makes to live in light of both the big picture of the missio Dei (Mission of God) and the small, daily opportunities right in front of me. The apostle Paul conducted his missionary service this way. For example, at a particular historical moment he encouraged Gentile Christians to contribute on behalf of famine-stricken Judean believers by appealing to God’s larger purposes for Israel and the world (Rom. 15:25–27). Perhaps even more pointed is the way Jesus was ever conscious of God’s macro plan of salvation, but was all the while responsive to micro-level needs and interruptions. Just prior to his crucifixion and resurrection, knowing that “the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God,” Jesus served his disciples through the menial task of washing their feet (John 13:1–5).

Jesus’ disciples heard him teach about life and about God’s macro relation to Israel and the world for three years, all the while watching him serve, perform miracles, and otherwise relate to various specific people. At their final gathering with the risen Jesus, the disciples asked him perhaps the most macro question they could muster: “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). These heirs of Israel’s heritage were articulating their national longing for the restoration of King Solomon’s splendor after a millennium of division, exile, and subjugation. The macro expectation that gripped the disciples both fueled their imagination about the larger meaning of Jesus’ life and filtered their expectations for who this Nazarene was in relation to their own particular lives. It seems that we human beings inevitably carry compelling visions of deity and the world that affect how we live our daily lives.

Jesus gave his disciples a combined macro/micro answer. He noted how, on a macro level, God alone knows when and how the historical developments about which they were asking will take place. On a micro level, Jesus’s followers, empowered by the outpouring of God’s Spirit, would serve him in all sorts of situations in Jerusalem and elsewhere, events of which we learn through Christian mission history.

The undertow of almost any Christian’s sense of the missio Dei is that God has acted decisively in Jesus Christ to re-create this world that went wrong. In light of the Christ event, God’s people participate with the Holy Spirit in his mission in a myriad of micro-level situations throughout the world. Our particular Christian traditions variously depict the contours and hues of the macro missio Dei and its particular components. But no matter how we might emphasize different aspects of the big picture, we all as Jesus’ followers—mission analysts included—must engage people in micro contexts of mission. Just as Jesus focused on the people right in front of him, we all must interact with the real, live people whose concrete situations we share in life. It does no good to contemplate the vastness of the ocean of life if we neglect the immediate conditions of our own rowboats, the surrounding waves and weather, and, most important, our fellow passengers in the boat, with whom we struggle to row forward in our particular locales.

Are you and I seeing and serving the world with both the macro and the micro clearly in view?



Last Sunday marked the coming of the Holy Spirit to the new community of Jesus called the Church! Nothing would remain the same!

Malcolm Guite, poet, Anglican priest, and song-writer has written a whole book of sonnets for the Christian Year. I want to share his beautiful rendering of Pentecost.

Today we feel the wind beneath our wings,
Today the hidden fountain flows and plays,
Today the church draws breath at last and sings,
As every flame becomes a tongue of praise.
This is the feast of Fire, Air, and Water,
Poured out and breathed and kindled into Earth.
The Earth herself awakens to her maker,
Translated out of death and into birth.
The right words come today in their right order
And every word spells freedom and release.
Today the Gospel crosses every border,
All tongues are loosened by the Prince of Peace.
Today the lost are found in his translation,
Whose mother-tongue is love, in every nation.

I love the implications of Pentecost for the world-wide spread of the Gospel. Note the play on words in the last two lines.  We speak of something being “lost in translation.” With the coming of the Spirit and the Church charged with making disciples of all peoples, NO ONE need be “lost in translation.” Every nation knows the language of love that comes from God!

I just had the intense enjoyment of several days with a life-long friend and missionary. His endless stories of being available to the”Everywhere present Jesus” in-spired me! I’m again reminded of Wendell Berry’s poem ending:

Every day you have less reason
Not to give yourself away.

Mary Oliver versed it another way in a poem from Evidence, p. 39:

I have become older and, cherishing what I have learned,
I have become younger.

And what do I risk to tell you this, which is all I know?
Love yourself. Then forget it. Then love the world.

And in prose words, Tim Keller has a wonderful small book with a much larger title. My favorite quote:

“…The essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.”

Tim Keller, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy. 

p.s. It’s 99 cents on Amazon in the Kindle ebook version. Buy it!

see the worldOn the eve of our church’s world mission weekend called “World Fest,” I want to weigh in on a question often raised in today’s Christian Mission discussions. Are short mission trips really worth the expenditure of money and energy?  Some cynically assert that they can even do more harm than good.

Last month, our staff attended our Evangelical Covenant pastors’ conference. Mark Labberton was teaching one morning from Psalm 8. He unwrapped a simple but profound summary of the Story of God’s plan we see throughout Scripture:

1. God pays attention to us! (“What is man that you are mindful of him…” v. 4) Are our eyes open to the astonishing fact that the God of the universe sees, attends, pays persistent attention to our lives as his image bearers!

2. We are called to pay attention to God: to open our eyes to see the Lord – in his Word and in his world.

3. Then God says, “Pay attention to the people of the world in My name!”  (“You have given him dominion – skilled mastery – over the created order…” v. 6)

God wants us to see the people that are invisible, people who need attention, people who we ignore and forget, who need the hope Jesus brings.  We are called to see the world as God sees – to let him give us NEW VISION!

I had an epiphany (a light went on!) about why we need to be sending Mission Teams from our churches. We know It’s not about what WE can do. We do not bring God to people; we go and join God in what he’s already doing! Rather, when we send our people – we are sending “SEERS” (or is it See-ers!) When they SEE more of their fellow image-bearers from all nations, their eyes begin to open. They come back and help more of the church community here to see and engage; to love and take action!

So Mission Trips are really VISION trips, to mobilize our church to fulfill our calling – to attend to the world God Loves, in his name!

Will we open our eyes and pay attention?
Will we volunteer to be See-ers; Visionaries in the Mission of God?


by Hannah Mullaney

by Hannah Mullaney

Our fourth Sunday in Advent focused on God’s indescribable love in Christ and how the Church becomes, “Christmas for the World!” Each week has featured a video story and a painting – this week was Tim and Hannah Mullaney.  See the video and listen to the sermon here.


Jesus doesn’t love us like a man loves his wife (not EROS),

His love is far greater than a best friend for life (not PHILOS),

Jesus doesn’t hold us in a tight embrace (we are free),

Jesus gives us love with his arms agape (that’s right – AGAPE!)

      Tim Mullaney, c. 2012


“Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.”

Henri J.M. Nouwen

“The great thing to remember is that though our feelings come and go God’s love for us does not.”
C.S. Lewis

“Jesus in the Breadline” by Fritz Eisenberg

Our church is doing a teaching series, Love Like Jesus.  Nathan Albert, our Pastor of Student Ministries, preached on Jesus’ love for marginalized people; people who become known and seen by us as convenient “labels” and are then conveniently dismissed – or worse.  Nathan called the teaching, Embraced Outcasts, and I hope you’ll take time to listen to it here.

I have a poem that I’ve not shared too widely but perhaps this is an appropriate season to hear it.

“The Walker”

Most know her only as Nancy – if that.
She’s Nancy – the Walker
Deep brown from rays who walk with her
Tracing, retracing the suburban roads.

For many she remains nameless
A nameless reminder
Or a thorn
Or a nuisance in our Starbucks moment.

She has a last name I heard once
But Nancy is better than nothing
Better than ‘that homeless person’
Or “that poor burnt  lady.”

She keeps going, only a few rest stops
Rescued only in winter advisories
That shake our numbness
When we stiffly turn to see her.

Like when the ice storm hit
And I logged her into the local motel
Where they know her and nod
And take our money for a day or two or a week.

A temporary fix
“Doesn’t really meet the need”
Except maybe the need in my soul?
“For I was hungry and you…”  (Matthew 25)

Her family?
Maybe they are burned-out,
And the safety net still has holes
And she keeps walking.

Come to think, Jesus walked a lot.
Deep brown from the same rays
‘The poor you will always have with you’
God’s medicine for our numbness.

     Lyle Mook, c. 2012

How do you take seriously God’s heart for all peoples? How do I make prayer for the nations a part of my ‘Rule of Life,’ my Game Plan for being a disciple of Christ?

Many years ago, an ambitious project was started with the first edition of Operation World – A global digest of facts and prayer needs for the mission of God in each nation of the world.  It is now in its 7th edition.

There is a website of resources and links and available resources to download.  You can also connect to be part of this world wide movement of prayer.

I urge you to visit this website.  Buy the book or download the ebook version or start by receiving emails on each nation.  Let your heart be touched with Jesus’ heart for all peoples!  If you need more motivation, read this short article called Understanding Prayer in the Light of God’s Kingdom.

One other free resource, available on-line you should know about and read every other month.  It’s called Mission Frontiers, from the U.S. Center for World Mission.