Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Epistle to Dothan

First, the text from a seminar on being missional for those who are thoroughly modern:
Advanced Consulting Skills for Missional Transformation: August 1-12
This specialized 2-week training is for those who wish to increase their diagnostic skills to work out of a missional framework with church systems. Participants will learn how to probe more deeply and productively into the complex theological, interpersonal, and organizational dynamics of the church.

Discover and learn to use a powerful diagnostic model in your consultative role that will help churches to -
* clarify the end-results they are seeking,
* identify the multiple factors at work,
* put complex situations in perspective,
* integrate and apply a variety of concepts and theories,
* define and evaluate progress on a missional journey.

Participants will learn to use the Systems Model of the Church within the context of a powerful feedback and learning process for the church. An actual intervention with a local church will serve as a significant learning tool. As a result you will be able to incorporate many new skills into your ministry.
Yes . . . this text was accompanied by a diagram of the aforementioned systems model with nice arrows, text, and flow chart flavor.

I'm glad someone is creating charts about being incarnational.

On to the next subject . . .

Our trip to fellowship with the believers in Dothan was a blessing. They have a truly wonderful storefront space which dissallows standard preconceptions about "attending church" or "listening to sermons."

The location and functionality of the area lends itself to multiple uses . . . and they are thinking about ways of letting it be a place of commnity and conversation . . . for whoever. Really good.

What we talked about was not at all sterile and systematic nonsense- you know, the type of mechanistic planning evident in the example I copied above. We ended up in very real-life discussions about sharing faith, building community, setting boundaries, accepting others, clinging to faith in God's mysterious working - observing general principles from our discussions of specific situations.

I was blessed by the opportunity to talk and worship with the Christians there. I am confident in God's working as clearly evident in their ministry to one another. I know that the same care and guidance will be shared with everyone whose lives they touch.

As one of the others who went from our Birmingham fellowship remarked as we were driving home, it seemed like a very New Testament church-like thing to do . . . the sort of thing Paul would write a letter about:

To the saints in Dothan, grace and peace to you, from and through our God, who has richly filled us in our inner being with every gracious gift.

I give thanks every time I think of you, and the joy you have in serving the Lord. May your patience and love be expressed to one another in grace for the sake of Christ, so that you may continue to offer hope and care to anyone who is suffering and discouraged.

For you know that today many are fleeced in churches that seek only their tithes in order to service their debt. Many are promised earthly rewards for their faithfulness, which only leads to a crisis of faith. And others labor under fear, guilt, and shame as they seek to please God believing he will only save those who are worthy. Many have settled for membership in a religious club not knowing the way of a disciple.

All these are the children of God, and need to hear again the Good News of God's grace through Jesus. They need to find others willing to listen and bear their burdens; those willing to be patient as they walk imperfectly on a journey in Christ through the Spirit. Their hearts are sincere and good, but do not know the way of our Savior who gave us life in him rather than a church to attend.

There are many others who search through the confusion of today's culture, unhappy with the religious nature of the churches they have rejected, but struggling to find God. They have an inner awareness of needing the transcendent, and relationship, and hope and love, but the only churches they know seem in their eyes to offer little of this goodness.

You will be the body of Christ to each one you accept, encourage, and instruct in love. Do not worry that your efforts should produce great gatherings of many people, or impressive movements, for God is Sovereign and He will do His work to His glory! It is enough for you to be faithful in offering whatever is in your hand to give. The fishes and loaves feed thousands even when we do not see who is being fed. We should not be limited to wanting to minister in ways where we can see the results. Our work is by faith.

I have seen God among you, and enjoy His presence and be thankful. God is doing much, and all of it will be both glorious and difficult. Rely on the Spirit at all times. Honor everyone above yourselves and others will see God.

Grace and peace to you all in Christ, and may he supply your every need for the ministry to which you have been called. Be content with the mystery of God's working, finding the faith He gives sufficient for your contentment. Live in Kingdom you have received. The saints who meet at Disciples' Fellowship greet you.

Or something like that . . .


Vicki Sullivan said...

This epistle is truly cool in the furnace. God blessed my heart this morning in rereading Colossians 3. Restating the 3rd verse in today's terminology, it read: - We Christians are dead. Our lives are hidden with the Messiah in God. When the Messiah, who is our life, appears, then we too appear with him in glory.-

This morning that text re-newed itself in me as I was once more given to awake to this day. I am dead in Christ. The Spirit that now lives in me, is Christ.

Could that be a reality in one's experience? Is that getting near what Paul meant about new life in Christ?

Greg Newton said...

Absolutely! The new life in Christ is a mystical reality that defies certain explanation, but which is truly Christ in us, the Spirit in us, and the divine life of God ours as a git to replace the life we lost to God.

Reality? Yes!

Ralph Parrish said...


This gave me chill bumps reading it. I am hurrying between work fires and peace entered the turmoil of daily life. Thanks. I was truly blessed to be a part of this weekend and as you offer peace to the saints in Dothan. Thank you for your expressions.

Vicki Sullivan said...

i am thinking -mystical reality is precisely what was lost when Rome made Christianity the state religion. Up until then Christians were all incorporated into Judism. When Rome chose to federalize Christianity, the real problems began.

There were Roman Christians and Celtic Christians. Am I tracking correctly here? The mystic side was stamped out (inclusion in RC) because it was spiritual, mystical, unpredicatble, uncontrolable, and undefinable. Rome's primary reason for making Christianity the official religion of Rome was in line with Roman idealogy. The two don't mix well -ergo: those early fellows who were origional thinkers did not fare well if determined to stay true to God's enlightening.

If one looks though at how Catholic education remains classically based and compare it to public education, one can see there is a lot to learn (honor and respect) from Roman Catholicism. The only truly good education is a classical education.