Mission Possible: Children, Service, and Discipleship.

by DiscipleLand Staff Children's Ministry Curriculum, Children's Ministry Resources Add comments

“The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become.” — Henry Martyn, missionary to India and Persia

Our worldview is the lens through which we interpret everything we see. It becomes the basis for our beliefs and decisions. A correct worldview begins with the infinite, personal God revealed in the Bible. God wants His children to see the world from His perspective. The Scriptures form the framework for living out a consistent, Christ-centered worldview.

As we begin the New Year, the following article by Brandon Hatmaker will help us focus on the priority of serving others.
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The longer I lead as a pastor, the more I realize how significant our call to make disciples really is. Jesus left us no room for misinterpretation… this is our greatest commission.

Collectively, we’ve done a great job at creating programs, studies, events, and processes for just about every angle you want to study Scripture or increase in knowledge. Every age group and demographic is represented. I’m thankful for the gospel-centered pursuits of the church today. It’s just plain biblical.

The more we dig into Scripture and the life of Jesus, the more we see the necessary connection between what we learn and how we live. His life painted a beautiful picture. What we’re learning is that a true Disciple proclaims the gospel in both deed & creed.

Our struggle is (see the New Testament) and has always been (see the Old Testament) our ability to move from knowledge to application. Fortunately, the surge towards missional/incarnational community has been a huge step forward for the church and has offered an appropriate place for mission to happen through community.

The argument is no longer about whether or not this is something we should be doing. The conversation is now more about HOW we do it in our current context, HOW we balance the gathering and scattering, and HOW we do it in a way that proclaims a pure image of the Gospel.

One of the greatest challenges is found in how the church responds to our culture’s call and concern for social action. We’ve been here before… and it ended poorly. A historical social gospel scares all of us, and it should, social action should never become our gospel.

But it should be a huge part of the life of a Disciple.

Church leaders, here is my proposal: As we make disciples, it is our responsibility to teach our people to serve outside the church. It’s as simple as that. We have to empower them, equip them, and release them. We have to help them understand why we’re calling them to serve others. We have to explain the reasoning, the hope, and the impact it will have on us, those we serve, and the collective posture of the church.

But most of us simply tell our people to go serve, and assume they know how.

Here’s what I’m learning: Most of our people don’t know how. Neither do most of us. The number one question I hear as I spend time with church leaders around the nation is “Where do I begin?”

So let me propose an eight-step process to begin leading your people to engage need. This is the process we use at Austin New Church. And it’s proven to be pretty productive. It’s from the study I wrote based on the book “Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture” called the Barefoot Church Primer: An 8-week Guide to Serving through Community. The Barefoot Church Primer is designed to walk small groups, community groups, and/or missional communities through the discovery process of understanding, discovering, and engaging in their context. In it we spend a week on each topic listed below.

Whether you are a church leader or a church attender, you can apply these to both your life and your processes. This process gives permission to learn and offers a biblical foundation before it gives a task. It intentionally walks through a discovery process that if ignored, I believe will inevitably fall in on itself. I think the best part is that it isn’t a program it’s a process. It’s up to you to figure out how to apply in your context. I hope it proves helpful to you.

1. Embrace Social Action as a part of the Discipleship Journey: Jesus knew exactly what he was doing when he told us to serve the least. The most beneficial impact will be on those serving, and the community that serves together, not just those being served. Embrace the learning process as a part of the journey. You’ll be amazed at how much we learn when we’re confronted face-to-face with poverty, brokenness, and disorder.

2. Settle your Gospel Theology in regards to Social Action: Go ahead and press into scripture. It holds up. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself wondering how you missed it before (you may even do some repenting). There is a very sound reason we serve and scripture is clear. Even so, your serving will eventually come into question, either you’ll self-doubt or someone else will. If you do not settle this in advance it will leave you reeling constantly. This is one of the main reasons I wrote Barefoot Church and is the entire focus of the second week of the Barefoot Church Primer. Tim Keller’s book Generous Justice is also an amazing resource.

3. Teach/Learn about the Doctrine of Mercy: Scripture calls us to love mercy. Most of us don’t even truly understand it. Only when we fully “get” God’s mercy towards us will we begin to love it, appreciate it, and want to offer it to others. All else is either false or selfish motivation. A heart for mercy is the biblical motivation for Justice.

4. Teach/Learn about Biblical Justice: Biblical justice is not about making sure people get what they deserve. It’s more about the pursuit of making things the way they should be. We are to seek Justice. Understanding what this means is critical.

5. Expose Need: Here is where the “doing” begins. One of the most critical steps of serving is to actually take a moment to see what the needs really are. At times our preconceived ideas can get in the way of really making a difference. The flip side is also true, at times we struggle to see need that is right beneath our nose.

6. Encounter Need: While a service project or event is rarely going to bring resolution to a need, it will certainly provide a great starting point for people to begin to “taste and see” what we’re talking about. This is a necessary step for people learning to make a difference and can often create the initial tug on a heart or mind to do more. Since a service event/project is beneficial but should never be the “end all”, we plan these quarterly instead of monthly. Monthly and weekly service is reserved for those engaging need through missional/incarnational community.

7. Engage Need: Create a platform or place for people to take a more personal interest in a specific need. A small group or a Missional Community is a great place for this to take place. Often we see needs at an “event” type project that can be followed up with in the coming days or weeks. Encourage and even train your people to be looking for these needs along their way.

8. Move Beyond the Program: We hope that eventually this becomes a regular part of a disciple’s life. If you are growing, the PROGRAM of serving will eventually get in the way of a LIFE of serving. When we understand the biblical basis for social action, as we grow, it will become an intuitive part of our daily/weekly rhythm. I hope you see that this is the end goal. Be sure not to control the process with hopes of keeping people inside the box. Plan to release people into their own mission field.

We are called to bring the good news to others (Matthew 28:19-20). As Hudson Taylor said, “God isn’t looking for people of great faith, but for individuals ready to follow Him.”

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Brandon Hatmaker is co-founder of Restore Communities and author of Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture. Used with permission.

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2 Responses to “Mission Possible: Children, Service, and Discipleship.”

  1. Pastor Chuck Johnson Says:

    This article seems to be very close to an example that is occuring with frequent regularity in the evangelical community of defining the gospel as two-fold, personal salvation and creation care. That you are not truly saved unless you have received Christ and are doing social action so to speak. That very much smacks of works salvation. I do not believe that fits the Bible’s “Gospel Theology”.

  2. Sue Johnsson Says:

    We have been discussing this approach in our ministry team recently – how do we get people to see the need of building relationships with others, showing God’s love and care through individual contacts and small projects. We discussed the importance of maintaining the focus on presenting Christ as God opens up opportunities. We MUST get out into our neighborhoods and connect, as Jesus did. Our children and families need to see the reality of the need and what Christ will do in the lives of people. This approach is what is used in missions all of the time and we need to implement it here at home as well. May God give us a passion for the lost and may the Spirit guide us into ways to reach them effectively where they are.

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