Seven years ago our family was in transition. We sensed God calling us to follow Him into His mission in a new way for us...in a way that our hearts had longed to experience for several years. But we didn't really have a language, paradigm or structure for this longing. During this season, Lisa and I read a number of books that helped us begin to give shape to a vision for how we wanted to live our lives and participate in God's mission. Three of the books we read that each seemed to capture an important piece of our heart were Submerge by John Hayes, The Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, and The Celtic Way of Evangelism by George G Hunter III.
In Submerge, which tells the story of an order amongst the poor called InnerChange, we were inspired to ground our lives and ministry within a neighborhood. We felt convicted by the typical western idea that mission is "over there" and that we are "bringing Jesus" to those people. Instead we were challenged to a view that Jesus is at work long before we arrive; that the people we long to serve-even those in extreme poverty-have important assets to build on; that, in fact, we have much to learn from those we seek to serve; and that people are longing for a tangible experience of Jesus that can only be had when his people move into the neighborhood and "incarnate" their lives in the same way Jesus did.
Tangible Kingdom was a paradigm shifting book for us. It was the first book we had read that resonated with our intuition that the Kingdom of God is bigger than what we were experiencing within the walls of the church. We read powerful stories of God at work in the lives of people who wouldn't dare set foot in a church, but were finding hope and healing as the love of Jesus was breaking into their lives right where they were-out there in the world. Though, in our view, this book is unnecessarily harsh on traditional church structure, it does have something prophetic to say about the calcifying that is often found in the church. It continues to resonate deeply with our missionary hearts and our conviction that God is always breaking boundaries to draw people toward Himself.
The Celtic Way of Evangelism gave us a picture of how mission could be contextual rather than marked by conquest. In the 5th Century St. Patrick led an incredible church planting movement in Ireland that according to Thomas Cahill "saved civilization". His methods were controversial in his day and make many surprisingly uncomfortable even today. Rather than impose Christianity in the typical Roman way of his day (army marches in, defeats the enemy, everyone is forced to be baptized and adopt Roman culture and belief), Patrick came as a guest, honored the host culture and trusted the Holy Spirit to lead new followers of Jesus as they wrestled with what it meant to be Christian and Irish. He also established a church structure that fit with the Irish ethos, rather than impose the Roman structure from outside. We wondered what contextual evangelism could look like in post-modern America and were eager to start experimenting.
After more than a year of reading, dreaming and planning we finally got our chance to put these things into practice when we moved into the Gifford Park neighborhood in Omaha, NE. We've learned a lot since those early days, but the convictions that these books helped us articulate continue to guide, inspire and challenge us! And for the fun of it, we're going to give one of these books away to one lucky winner!
Here's how to enter:
Drop us a note on our Connect page and in the message box, tell us which book you'd like!
For extra entries:
Like our Facebook page(1Entry)
Share this blog on Facebook (1Entry)
Tag a friend on the Facebook blog link (1 Entry Per Friend)
*Giveaway ends January 31st @ 12pm, winner announced on Feb.1st*
And we have a Winner! Congratulations Crystal Powers!