The 21st-century church is struggling because we refuse (or even resist) to recognize that the enculturated presuppositions which have birthed our visions and undergirded our strategies are no longer effective. American culture, from Hollywood to Cupertino to Wall Street to DC, considers the church to be irrelevant at best, becoming indifferent to our presence and increasingly belligerent to our principles.
Personal values have replaced biblical teachings.
But I see good news, as a growing number of Christian thought leaders and best practice mobilizers recognize the need to return to our biblical foundations. They are seeking the mind of Christ for applications to our time and troubles. Together at the table, they are choosing the discernment of the Holy Spirit rather than the latest trend on the cover of Harvard Business Review. We must #ReimagineChurch.
Could it be what the Spirit is saying to the Church can be capsulized in a simple equation?
(GC + GC + GC) X GC = GC
The Great Commission plus the Great Commandment added to a Great Commitment, multiplied by Great Collaborations results in Great Communities
Let’s unpack that equation . . .
Matthew 28: 19-20 says, “Now go in my authority and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And teach them to faithfully follow all that I have commanded you.”
Every church claims the Great Commission as their purpose, or incorporates “…as you go, make disciples, of all peoples” (Matt. 28;18-20) into their vision or mission statement. But the rapidly changing views and radically different values of our culture require a reexamination of biblical teachings on mission (“as you go”), disciple-making (the command to “make disciples” by “baptizing” and “teaching them”), and authentic diversity (“ethne”).
This quest has serious and strategic implications on the questions of missions in a global society, how we train Christ-followers to believe in the inspired Word of the triune God, and how we train (from seminars to seminaries) those who train them.
The content of the Great Commission has not changed. The containers we have fashioned to carry it must. They are begging for a redesign.
We must #ReimagineEvangelism.
Matthew 22:36-40 says, “’Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?’ Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
The church is rediscovering the command to love God and the “equally important” command to love neighbors. Evangelical worship has called believers to express love for the Lord with lyrics expressing awe and intimacy, at the same time our literature has exploded with love-your-neighbor teaching; stories and strategies of getting out of our seats to bring love to the streets.
Great Commission congregations are also realizing the need to first authentically demonstrate the Great Commandment in order to repair reputations and rebuild trust so that our invitations to faith can be heard. Great Commandment churches are reconnecting their gospel proclamation with their gospel demonstration. As one city-reaching convener says, “Our good works produce good will so that we can present the good news.”
Connecting GC with GC will prevent us from repeating the Fundamentalism/Social Gospel debate that led to the divorce of evangelism and social ministry. The bifurcation of two components that were never meant to be set apart from one another. Conjoined twins that were not intended to be separated.
We must #ReimagineLove.
Matthew 5:44 says, “However, I say to you, love your enemy, bless the one who curses you, do something wonderful for the one who hates you, and respond to the very ones who persecute you by praying for them.”
Jesus’ Beatitude teaching is truly radical, calling for a great commitment. Pray to God? Of course. Pray for others (read, family and friends)? Sure. Pray for enemies…what?
Implicit in Jesus’ statement is the challenge to pray for people outside of our inner circle. And that wider group include, but is not limited to persons who harm/control/oppose us. If we are challenged to pray for enemies, we most certainly should pray for those who look (and smell and talk) different, those who are lost (without hope in God), those with less (under-resourced, voiceless, marginalized), and those who lead by influencing culture and community.
Prayer fuels both the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. However, while every church prays, not every congregation is a praying church. We pray our long lists, but listen briefly (if at all) for the not-yet-prayed prayers the Spirit waits to reveal. We recite wonderfully written prayers with our mouths, but too seldom engage our minds or motivations. We pray fix-it rather than change-us prayers. Our corporate prayer is more a recital of solos than an orchestra performing in concert.
Is it possible our rants against society are evidence our prayers are monologue rather than dialogue?
A Great Commission church or a Great Commandment congregation that gives lip service (forgive the pun) to prayer will fall short of the fulness God intends for their evangelism outreach or their ministry of compassion, mercy and justice.
We must #ReimaginePrayer.
An Equation for Collaboration
- When the Great Commission
- … is reconnected to the
- Great Commandment
- … and combined with a Great Commitment to prayer
- … then their combined impact can be multiplied by Great Collaborations - -
John 17:23 says, “I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”
The digital age has introduced leaders to equally passionate leaders from other denominations and associations while connecting a wide variety of Christ-focused networks in cities/communities across the country. This has led to an unprecedented rise of round-table gatherings in cities large and small.
As these men and women pray together and interact on issues that confront them, they begin to explore ways of pursuing solutions together by sharing resources. At every meeting, invariably I hear “John 17” as short-hand for uniting. This is not a doctrinal or organizational unification, but a missional unity expressed through Great Commission sharing, Great Commandment caring, and Great Commitment praying.
Real collaborations are rare. Most John 17 expressions or actions are in reality based on partakers coordinating schedules (same ministry action at the same time) or cooperating on a common event (each participating ministry brings their specific resource or gifting). True collaborating begins with trusted relationships and a blank whiteboard that is eventually filled with the ideas/concerns/commitments of every ministry present. Participants become partners who are convinced they can serve and succeed better together.
Collaborations are never easy nor quick. Collaborations require a no-personal-agenda convener who has the capability to invite leaders of influence across a wide spectrum of ethnicities, networks, denominations, and movements. They also require a neutral platform that showcases the participating members standing shoulder-to-shoulder rather than a one-member-website promoting the event of campaign. [see EngageChicago.net as an example of a neutral platform promoting networks, events, ministries]
Leaders participate humbly, offering their time and their ministry’s resources because they have recalibrated success from how the task benefits their organization or congregation to how collaborative actions will advance the kingdom of God across their community or city.
No single collaboration will include the entire Body of Christ. While large, citywide collaborations have catalytic value, smaller partnerships within a specific affinity group (location, age-focus or need-based) also have great value. Addition has now become multiplication.
We must #ReimagineUnity.
1 Timothy 2:1-4 says, “Most of all, I’m writing to encourage you to pray with gratitude to God. Pray for all men with all forms of prayers and requests as you intercede with intense passion. And pray for every political leader and representative, so that we would be able to live tranquil, undisturbed lives, as we worship the awe-inspiring God with pure hearts. It is pleasing to our Savior-God to pray for them. He longs for everyone to embrace his life and return to the full knowledge of the truth.”
The intended result of Great Commission action by Christ-followers living a Great Commandment lifestyle fueled by a Great Commitment to praying (2:1-2) and mobilized by Great Collaborations … leads to the salvation of individuals (2:4) AND to the transformation of the communities in which they live (2:3).
We cannot be satisfied with events that megaphone a gospel scripture but ignore the debilitating needs of the listener or send them home to a jobless community or an unsafe neighborhood. The Gospel of Jesus is good news for people (faith), for the places they live (hope), and from the things that harm them daily (love).
God’s great communities are waiting to be built by great commission churches making great collaborations to deploy great commandment Christians who make life-transforming prayer a great commitment.
We must #ReimagineSuccess.
Phil Miglioratti is National Facilitator for cities and communities with the Mission America Coalition and as a lifelong Chicagoan, he curates EngageChicago.net, and serves as Co-chair of Explore God Chicago.