Wednesday, February 27, 2013
This book challenged my theological boxes in a good way. In the past 6 years on the mission field I have found that God does not operate inside of my theological position.
Tyra believes that the Holy Spirit "can and must be related to in an interpersonal manner." He calls all believers, especially "rank and file" Christians to engage in the exciting adventure of asking for prophetic direction in their daily life. In many places in the world where the church has spread rapidly and exponentially, especially in the Global South, one of the paramount beliefs among the people is that God is living and active in their daily lives. They have a personal sense of call and responsibility to engage in sharing Christ with their friends, families, and neighbors - and they directly engage the Holy Spirit - asking for words of direction, prayer or service. Tyra asks - why can't this growth happen in the 'West'? What paradigm shift is necessary for us to change our relationship with the Holy Spirit and our mission?
Tyra observes that we live in an age of religious relativism. In direct contrast, prophetic messages demonstrate the power and uniqueness of the God we serve, and result in conversion. Tyra believes that the essence of the Holy Spirit is truly "missional" - in opposition to those that emphasize only a personal "experience" or blessing. This encounter with the Holy Spirit, he says, must produce outward-focused action, not only individual experience or blessing.
Tyra believes that Luke's portrayal of the Holy Spirit is primarily missional - based on the books of Luke and Acts - referencing Joel 2:28-29, that believers will all prophesy someday. He sees Paul's portrayal of the Spirit as primarily soteriological (focused on salvation), but says that the two views are of course compatible. To quote the book, "...it must be aknowledged that Luke's message overall seems to be that all Spirit-filled believers possess the capacity, like Ananias, to hear God's voice, receive ministry assignments, speak and act on Christ's behalf, make new disciples, and build up the church, offering a powerful refutation of religious relativism in the process!"
Tyra calls all evangelical believers to allow the Spirit to move them to action or speech that will impact those around us. He says, "Speaking to myself as well as anyone else: what would happen if more evangelical church members became open to the idea that on any given day the Spirit of God might send them, like Philip, on a special ministry assignment? How hard is it to say to someone, when appropriate, 'Hey, I could be wrong, but I just have this strong feeling that God wants me to tell you a story?' We might be surprised at how many hearts the Holy Spirit has already prepared for such an encounter."
Tyra recognizes that some believers self-identify as pentecostal-charismatic, and some do not. Some do not believe that the Holy Spirit 'speaks' today. He challenges this assumption with examples of prompting and guidance that even the most conservative among us would acknowledge were of the Lord. He states, "What if the kind of prophetic activity I am describing here - obeying a significantly strong impression to humbly, gently speak and act in the name of the risen Christ really is, at least some of the time the work of the Holy Spirit? What kind of missional faithfulness would such a large-scale paradigm shift among evangelicals unleash in the Western world?"
Many of us have judged the idea of prophetic speech and action based on poor examples and abuse of this kind of speech. We have read stories and heard dogmatic teachers tell us of the evils of this approach. Tyra calls everyone to examine what Scripture says and to judge appropriately.
Tyra reminds us that expectency tends to preceed experience. I also concur that God seems to wait for us to have strong desire for His presence or direction before He gives it. The stronger our desire, the greater He rewards that desire with specific guidance. Might our assumption that the Spirit does not act and speak to us personally today hinder us from recognizing His voice?
Tyra challenges us to embrace this paradigm-shift, to embrace a "different way of being a Christian." He asks us, "What if more evangelical church members were in the habit of taking seriously the promptings produced by the Spirit to speak and act toward those inside and outside the family of believers in loving, equipping ways (see Gal 6:10)? How many more missionally effective acts of servant-like compassion might be generated?"
To conclude - it is my personal experience on the mission field that my own talent and speech and efforts produce little without time on my knees. It is also my experience that when I have felt a prompting to act or speak to someone that I think is of the Lord - it has resulted in fruit, and when I have ignored this prompting - it has been to the detriment of the Gospel.
It is not the purpose of this blog to lay out my exact theological position, but I will say that this book has challenged me to ask God very directly for more of the Spirit's guidance and direction in my life - and ESPECIALLY in my missional lifestyle. Perhaps the biggest question for me is not IF He will guide me, but WHEN He does give direction - will I obey?
Saturday, February 2, 2013
Missiologists have wrestled with this idea for years - and Meaderis' experience living overseas shows how he has wrestled as well. Put one way, this book is a kind of missiology on witnessing but in popular terminology and writing style.
First - I will review the positives - the things that challenged me. At the end, I will share a few concerns.
The strength of Medearis is his simplicity: bringing us back to JESUS, not religion. As a missiologist might say when bringing the message of Jesus to another land: bring the seed, not the whole tree. Medearis nails this. Leave the doctrinal explanations at home - stick to Jesus.
Meadearis reminds us that Jesus was hardest on those who were religious, not those who were messy. He was attracted to those who could acknowledge their need. Medearis regularly asks those he is sharing with whom Jesus might prefer to 'hang out with' - and when the individual assumes its Medearis - he corrects them quickly. "Jesus would go home with you," he says.
One of the author's favorite hang-outs was a coffee shop/book store where some of the most "un-christianized" people in Colorado Springs hang out. He asks - if Jesus were here today, where would HE hang out? right here. I agree wholeheartedly. Jesus would not visit our mega-churches. He would most likely be visiting bars on Christopher Street, or speaking words of hope in South-East Asia's slums and brothels.
I agreed with most of what Medearis has to say. My one word of caution is that Medearis focuses almost completely on the beginning of walking with Jesus - on sharing with the lost and seeing them come to a place of discipleship of Jesus. He does not address what brings believers to maturity - nor is it the purpose of his book. There is a place and a need for solid doctrine. Sometimes - we can develop a sort of reverse-pharisaism that sounds uber-spiritual because we choose to toss out the extras and "just keep Jesus." Meaderis borders on this attitude - at least that is my perception.
My other word of caution is that Jesus is the Gospel - and so we must not forget the completeness of the Gospel and the urgency of sharing this good news. Yes, Jesus personifies the Gospel - but one cannot understand the power of that Gospel without grasping God's standards and laws and the price to be paid for sin that was spelled out in the Old Testament.
My take-away application from this book is to speak loudly, boldly, freely, and lovingly of JESUS and how He has changed my life. I love the idea of "leaving breadcrumbs" for Jesus - toss them out and see who picks them up and says - I want more!
Yet - I find that one of the most effective forms of evangelism is to take those who respond to the "taste" of Jesus that was offered: and bring them into a small group study that begins in the Old Testament and works through key passages until the Person of Jesus is discovered by the participants. Engaging the Word of God directly and personally changes people, and often - brings people to repentance and into the arms of Jesus.
Well...this was a long blog post. I read this book in about one day. Its not a hard read. It will challenge you and step on your toes - but its worth reading.
Friday, February 1, 2013
The Kings Cross captures the Gospel story by going page by page through the book of Mark, giving not only the message of salvation - but an example of a life lived that gloried in service, and exalted in self-sacrifice. Below are some of my favorite nuggets - and I will comment on how they impacted me.