At a training event sponsored by In the City For the City, a group of Austin area pastors and ministry leaders, John Burke, our lead pastor at Gateway Church shared on the topic of “Missional Living: Grow Your Church Out of the Culture.” Here are some of the insights he shared:
The church in the Western world is in decline. The U.S. is becoming more and more post-Christian. We need to see ourselves as missionaries in our culture.
2 overarching questions to consider:
- How do we remove barriers between the message of Jesus and those who want and need to hear it?
“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” – Acts 15:19
If only 10% of our city shifted to follow Jesus out of those who don’t already, an entire city would be transformed! Just 10% is the tipping point for social transformation.
- How do we build bridges? (Acts 14, 17)
In Acts 2, those hearing the message of Jesus already knew the stories of the Old Testament. When Paul was in Athens, he acknowledged the new context and built a bridge from where they were (quoting one of their poets) to the full message of God expressed in Jesus.
5 Barriers to Faith Created by the Postmodern Experiment:
- Trust – more abuse and more divorce than ever before plus a distrust of those in authority. Build a bridge to help others see that God’s ways are for their protection and the result of His love. Recognize where people are at and still welcome them.
- Tolerance – the two most common questions from the culture include: what do you think about those who live a different lifestyle & what do you think about other religions? The way we answer will either shut the door completely or keep the door open for more conversation and opportunity. Tolerance is a cheap substitute for grace, an undeserved love. People long to experience grace, but because they haven’t experienced it, they settle for tolerance.
- Truth– This isn’t as big of a barrier as you’d think. More than truth, people are repelled by arrogance. Too often Christians give off a vibe that we don’t have anything to learn from others. Being willing to listen changes this misperception.
- Aloneness –People long for community even as they struggle to trust others. Community is an incredible apologetic. We should be experts at creating community! People should be allowed to belong before they believe. Jesus did this – He allowed Judas to be in his small group, and He made him the treasurer.
- Brokenness – The cost of the postmodern experiment has been brokenness. Here is what our culture looks like:
- 1/3 of women have had an abortion
- 1/4 of women have been sexually molested
- 1/2 of people will have lived together before marriage
- 1/5 of people will struggle with substance abuse
- 1/5 of people smoke
- 1/2 of marriages end in divorce
If our churches don’t look like this then either people are hiding their brokenness or we aren’t connecting with our culture.
We all have areas of brokenness. Even “the righteous” weren’t actually healthy (they were the ones responsible for crucifying Jesus) when Jesus said: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick…. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:11-13).
What was Jesus’ Mission?
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” – Luke 4:18-19
Notice that in this moment in His ministry, Jesus did not read all of the scroll of Isaiah 61 at the synagogue. He stopped just before the phrase “and the day of vengeance of our God.” That would be part of His message later, but in that moment He wanted to emphasize “the year of the Lord’s favor.”
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Luke 19:10
We cannot claim to be a church of mature Christ-followers if we are not reaching people!
4 Ways to Create a Culture of Growth:
Church culture can be your greatest ally or your greatest enemy for the mission of Jesus. God causes the growth (1 Cor. 3:6-9). We have a part to play – creating the environment where people can grow up best.
- Leadership mindset – A mature Christ-follower is on mission “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). A person cannot claim to be spiritually mature and not be about what Jesus was about.
So how do we respond to the Christ-follower who says: “feed me more!” Jesus reminded us that the food for the mature is doing “the will of God” (John 4:32-36). Maturity equals obeying the Scriptures not knowing about the Scriptures.
- Training and values – help people understand why you do what you do and what you are called to do. Do our people have friendships with others in the culture?
- Visionary storytelling – help people see hope in who they can become and remind those in faith where they came from and why you’re doing what you are doing.
- Organization – The church is to be an organism not an institution. Are you organized in such a way that you can follow what God wants you to do?
3 Ways to Create a Culture of Grace-Giving Acceptance:
The world totally gets this: “I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.” – Rom. 7:15
The world does not naturally understand this: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” – Rom. 8:1
- Accept the person first. (Romans 15:7)
- Have a process view. Look at the masterpiece which is covered by the mud. How long is too long to invest in someone?
- Create a culture of dialogue. Allow people to ask their questions and share their doubts.
Questions to Consider:
Do I have non-Christian friends who are becoming the church? Why or why not?
Do I see the mud or the masterpiece first?
What fears keep us from having a process view? How does this require trusting God more?
How does someone come to Christ today and BECOME the church?
- One Jesus-like person who listens, serves, loves, and shares faith.
- A tribe of Christians to whom they feel they could belong. People aren’t usually asking: “Is this true?” They are wondering: “Do I want to become like him (the person they know who follows Jesus)?”
- A “come as you are” learning space (usually takes 6-18 months)
Jesus’ Ministry Timeline:
- 1st Year – call to follow (Jn. 1:38-39)
- 2nd Year – call to be equipped (Mt. 4:19)
- 3rd Year – call to ministry (Lk. 10:1)
- 3.5 Years – call to multiply (Mt. 28:18-20)
Gateway’s Wave Process for Ministry:
- Build a Co-mission-ed Core (vision, core, context)
- Create Relational Momentum (too often Christ-followers lose all of their friends who do not follow Christ within 3 years of the time they start following Jesus)
- Serve your Neighbors with your Neighbors – physically and spiritually
- Equip People to Grow and Multiply – Seasons Include: Get Connected (Loving Community), Be Transformed (Equipping), Change the World (Ministry)
- Accelerate with worship to eventually multiply new networks and groups
For more resources from John Burke, check out: