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Dec 05, 2007

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E. Stanley Ott

"Reaching Out" is a way of recognizing that we as individuals and congregations are called to engage those around us - which is fully incarnational wherever we are, wherever we go, wherever we are "sent." The overwhelming tendency of established groups/fellowships/congregations is "involvement" and to "reach out" is simply to use one phrase among many to encourage we as the people of God who gather for worship (doxology) and koinonia to also disperse to serve (and to reach)in missional endeavor in everyday life. To think "missional" trumps "koinonia" in priority or vice versa misses the balance of the "Doxological-Koinonia-Missional" emphases of I John 1:3-4 and throughout Scripture.“We declare to you [missional] what we have seen and heard [of Jesus – doxological] so that [the goal of missional isn’t to be missional – it is that] you also may have fellowship [koinonia] with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ [doxological]. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” NRSV I John 1:3-4 And I agree, this is not a pastor/people divide but the life of the whole people of God. Blessings - Stan

Michael W. Kruse

Excellent points, Stanley. Thanks so much. I need to reflect more on what you wrote. Here are my immediate thoughts.

I believe that at creation we were made for community with God and with each (koinonia). We were also made for a mission: Fill the earth and exercise dominion over it. We were made as junior co-creators with God over creation. That is our mission in the world. (mission). By being who God created us to be (koinonia and mission), we glorify him and enjoy him (i.e. place God in joy) forever. (doxology)

Robert Banks in Paul’s idea of community notes that when koinonia is referenced by Paul it always refers to community and solidarity that emerges from common mission or activity. Koinonia for koinonia’s sake, or as a purely self-serving support mechanism is not appropriate. Yet I think you rightly point to the importance of bringing people into the community.

I would contrast the expressions “reach out” and “go out.” They are similar but I think profoundly different. “Reach out” to me has a connotation of being sequestered at a location trying pull people into our location. “Go out” seems to me to be about exiting our location to be in another’s location so that that location may be transformed. Rather than draw people out of their location and relocate them into our location, we join their transformed location to ours.

E. Stanley Ott

Michael, thinking about your three paragraphs in reverse order:

Reaching out vs going out. That we would "reach" in order to lead others to our Lord and the compassion he offers and to draw them into the fellowship seems very appropriate - ekklesia, the assembly of the called out ones, would suggest reaching to lead others to our Lord and to assemble with us is very missional. Some translate the beginning of the Great Commission not with "GO into all the world" but "While you are going into all the world," which assumes we are going and wherever we go we are to be missional guided by the controlling verb of that text, "make disciples."

While koinonia may not be for its own sake, neither is being missional. Each leads to the other this side of heaven and both are to lead to doxology. Its why I like the I John 1:3-4 text but its all there in balance.

We are clearly made for mission, yet made for koinonia and doxology too. The following is an issue of my weekly e-votional of a few months back that speaks to all of this. Blessings - and thanks again for your wonderful ministry to so many of us through your blog. Stan

Building One Another A Letter of Encouragement I Thessalonians 5:11

To view archived issues and to subscribe: www.buildingoneanother.org

August 14, 2007
Volume 6, No. 32 Three Priorities

Dear Friend,

Ray Ortlund, who recently went to be with the Lord, deeply influenced me with his book, Make My Life a Miracle, about the three priorities of the Christian faith.

Some people today appear to believe the church exists primarily for worship and center everything on the doxological experience of worship. Others dwell on the communal/fellowship nature of the church and what it means for the church to transform the lives of people. Still others affirm the predominant focus of the church is missional, to be engaged in the missio Dei, the mission of God in our world.

The description of a vigorous congregation in the closing words of Acts Chapter 2 is very helpful, describing a congregation that balances the priorities of our faith.

The church is doxological (toward our Lord) and communal (toward one another)

42”They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Acts 2:42*

“Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.” Acts 2:46-47a*

The church is missional (outward)

“They would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds* to all, as any had need.” Acts 2:45*

“46And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” Acts 2:47b*

All three priorities are essential: doxological, communal, and missional. May we give ourselves in growing commitment to our Lord, our Lord’s people, and our Lord’s work.

With joy - E. Stanley Ott *Scripture from the NRSV

Michael W. Kruse

Stanley this is wonderful stuff! Thanks!

"Each leads to the other this side of heaven and both are to lead to doxology."

I love this and agree with concept entirely. My hang up comes from a context of doing visioning processes with small dying churches who refer to themselves a warm friendly families that want to know how than can improve their outreach. Outsiders would consider them anything but warm. They are insular and "outreach" or "reach out" clearly means how can we get more young people in here so our institutin doesn't die but we can still keep everything just the way it was.

It isn't the definition of "reach out" that trips me up but the church cultural connotation.

I love the 1 John reference and I need to pass this note on to some others. Thanks again!

(Rob Decker tried to make this comment earlier today but apparently had issues with my spam checker. So he e-mailed me this comment)

Michael:

Its funny how one's background and experience affect semantics.

My experience has been that when churches or groups start saying that they don't want to "reach out," but instead be "incarnational," it normally means the end of impacting the lives of nonbelievers. Often there may be some group growth, but usually it is mere transfer growth from attracting other (often disaffected) believers.

Not that that is always bad, depending on where one's church is.

It would be interesting to see if there are numbers yet on baptisms at Emerging (-ant?) churches. Of course, first one would need to know who is and who isn't.

Also, I'm not saying I have any problem with the term "incarnational." Oh, that we would all be more so! But I can't see someone such as Tim Keller at Redeemer Presbyterian use semantics that imply being incarnational is in conflict with reaching out.

I've seen at times a good desire for authenticity create a certain level of self-consciousness that hinders effectiveness. That level seems to come right around the time we start asking if we should no longer "reach out" but instead be "incarnational."

Additionally, contrary to my bias, I've noticed that missionary efforts that have eschewed "casting the net wide" in favor of focusing all one's efforts on a very small group, looking for multiplication, have been less effective.

I've seen people use the term "incarnational" hoping they would not have to be so intentional with the good news. "I want to be a presence." But being truly incarnational means being insanely more intentional, not less so. It means giving up everything--"taking the very nature of a servant"--in order to reach others. Insanely intentional.

But, again, this is just from my experience with various waves in the last thirty years.

Michael W. Kruse

All good thoughts, Rob. I really resonate with your observations here.

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