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ACT 3 is a ministry to equip leaders for unity in Christ’s mission.
www.act3online.com • www.johnharmstrong.com
Mission In Christ
The times and locations of these various events can be found at www.act3online.com and registration for those events marked with an asterisk (*) can be completed online or by calling 630-221-1817 during business hours. ocTober 28 “Homosexual Practice in Christian Perspective” Dr. Stanton Jones Holiday Inn • Carol Stream, IL ocTober 30–31
John H. Armstrong
All my life I have listened to Christians talk about the great Commission. I grew up on the words of the Great Commission, even memorizing the words of our Lord in Matthew 28:19–20 at the age of eight. I love the Great Commission. In fact, when I was a boy of ten I went out on Saturdays with my Sunday school teacher to talk to peers about Christ and our class. In high school I sought to share my faith, sometimes with great frustration. As a college freshman I finally became deeply involved in personal evangelism through Campus Crusade for Christ. Nothing so thrilled me as to personally introduce people to Christ. I have practiced evangelism, studied evangelism and now formally teach evangelism. If the word evangelist is correctly understood then I am an evangelist, a person who equips others to do this work of missional ministry (cf. Ephesians 4:11–12). But I believe something is profoundly wrong with the way we generally understand the Great Commission. Let me explain. In John 20:21 we read that Jesus sent his own disciples into their mission with the words: “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” Lesslie Newbigin was right when he said, “This must determine the way we think about and carry out the mission: it must
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ACT 3 Luncheon Forum*
ACT 3 Biblical Forum*
Dr. Peter Enns Holiday Inn • Carol Stream, IL NoVember 8
American Reformed Church (RCA)
Sunday Worship: 9:30 a.m. DeMotte, IN NoVember 14
Lutheran Church of the Master 8:30–10:00 a.m. Carol Stream, IL Please note the date change for the Fellowship of the Holy cross. It was originally scheduled for November 21 but is now meeting on November 14. The time and place are unchanged.
Fellowship of the Holy Cross (Men)
Photo to right: John with Rich McDaniel. Rich is helping our leadership team understand our vision and develop a strategic plan.
Equipping Leaders for Unity in Christ’s Mission
MIssion In Christ
continued from page 1
be founded and modeled upon his. We are not authorized to do it any other way” (Mission In Christ’s Way, 1). The question this text must press upon the modern church is clear: How did the Father send the Son? What was, and is, his way of doing mission/ evangelism? To answer this question we must go back to the beginning, to “the beginning of the gospel” in Mark’s account. Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” And passing along by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew . . . And Jesus said to them: “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him (Mark 1:14–18). There are six points to be made here regarding Christ’s way in mission. I believe we miss these to our great peril. In fact, I believe the modern church has missed these in a way that greatly distorts what we do and how we do it. 1. Christ’s way in mission is the announcement of a fact. It is not the beginning of a program. It is not even a new doctrine or a call to moral change. As Newbigin astutely noted: “It is, strictly speaking, a news-flash.” (Mission in Christ’s Way, 1). Something has happened. A new fact must be heard and received—the kingdom of God, the reign of Christ, has come near. 2. Christ’s way in mission is not about “religion,” at least as we use this term. This announcement is not a category for one part of our lives. It is about God’s reign and thus it is about our whole life. “One might call it ‘cosmic affairs’” (Mission in Christ’s Way, 2). 3. Christ’s way in mission is to reveal that the reign of God is not about something 2
in the world to come. It is about right now, right here. It is a present reality. This is what is truly new here. It confronts you and says, “Do something and do it now!” 4. Christ’s way in mission tells us that you cannot see his kingdom unless you repent. You are facing the wrong way. You must do a U-turn. This is the meaning of the word repent. The first word of the gospel of the kingdom is not “peace” but “repent.” If you read this text carefully there is no mention here of turning from your sins. I do not doubt that we must turn from sin but this is not the real point and to miss the real point here is quite tragic in its consequences. The point here is rather straightforward: The reign of God has drawn near. To see it and enter into it you must undergo a complete (ongoing) transformation process that Newbigin rightly calls “a total mental revolution” (Mission in Christ’s Way, 3). If you do not change your mind, thoroughly and completely, the kingdom of God will be hidden from you. 5. Christ’s way in mission says, in clear terms, turn around and believe the gospel, the good news Jesus is telling us. God’s reign is near but you cannot see it unless you believe the good news. The good news is not primarily about your personal sins but about the reign of Christ. When it is reduced to a message about getting your sins forgiven then the message is reduced to a private message for inner struggles with sin and peace. This misses Christ’s way of mission and the consequences, I am convinced, are huge. 6. Christ’s way of mission is not a simple possibility for everybody. It is not something I can do on my own. It is the work of Christ and he accomplishes it in me and you by his Spirit. He called men of his choice—Andrew, Peter, James and John. John 15:14 says, “You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and
bear fruit.” They are chosen and called to call others to faith in the present reign of Christ, a reign that is hidden to the eyes of the world but present to all who are called by God in his grace. This is the beginning of the gospel. This is HOW the Father sent the Son. When this exciting news was first announced many were profoundly drawn to Jesus and became his disciples. But in time, as the cross loomed on the near horizon, things began to change. The reign of God did not make sense to many of these people. It seemed hidden, not revealed. Their zeal for Jesus began to fade, much as the zeal of many religious people fades over time in our world. It is precisely here that we must truly “learn what is mission in Christ’s way” (Mission in Christ’s Way, 5). If we do not we will never learn how to make real disciples. In the Gospels the message and the messenger were moving toward the cross. It was at Calvary, and on the first day of the new week, that the kingdom won its decisive victory. But the world only saw defeat. The world always sees defeat when the gospel of the kingdom is properly preached and lived. It seems to me that this takes us right to the heart of our modern problem. We have preached a gospel that is not this gospel. Our good news is about private sins, private opinions, private joys and private freedom. The public scandal of the cross has been lost. We want to be victors but true victory is always found in a message that the world will always see as defeat. If you want to understand the mission of ACT 3 it is imperative that you begin with this question: “How should we understand mission in Christ’s way?” I live to help Christians understand this question so that we might preach the gospel of the kingdom with power. Viewpoint • Nobember/December 2009
A Financial Update
We do not often make special appeals for your financial support but we need your help now more than ever. The recession has had a significant impact on our operational budget. We are presently running about 25–30% below budget for 2009. Our budget is about $240,000 and we are running at about $180,000 at the present time. (This budget includes repayment of debt incurred when the recession hit us last summer.) In the late summer of 2008 we cut spending by 25–30% and have retained those cuts and added a few new ones. These cuts include salary payments. Our present budget reflects the 2008 budget plus the debt we must retire. We have not increased salary for nearly five years. Please prayerfully consider helping us reach this conservative budget and retire our debt, especially through yearend gifts. Some trips and ministries have not been undertaken this year because we do not have the funding to do them. Our prayerful desire is to create a major launch effort for the book Your Church Is Too Small. This will be hindered by a loss of funding. You may send tax-deductible gifts to ACT 3, P. O. Box 88216, Carol Stream, IL 60188. You may also give at our secure Web site: www.act3online.com.
John recently met author Eric Metaxas. Eric’s new biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer will be released in early 2010. He will speak for ACT 3 in the future.
Time and time again we ask friends to pray for ACT 3. If you would like to receive ACT 3 prayer notes you can sign up for our regular prayer news email. You should go to www.act3online.com and sign up for this regular correspondence. Then, please pray when these emails are sent. Your help is vital.
Special Opportunities for Partnership
Now and then we need our partners to help us with special projects. One special need now is to purchase a modern video camera that we can use in recording events for the Web. We also need a really high quality camera for photographs of people and ACT 3 events. These items, with the necessary peripherals (tripod, microphones, etc.) will cost us about $1,400. If you would like to become a special partner with us in expanding this mission on the Web please designate a gift for “New Camera Equipment” so that we can purchase these items as soon as possible. We also need specific prayer for our board as we work together on strategic planning through the end of 2009. The photo of Rich McDaniel, on page one Equipping Leaders for Unity in Christ’s Mission of this Viewpoint, was taken at a recent meeting of several board members with Rich. Rich met John many years ago in Trumansburg, New York. He has served at Cornell University in strategic planning for many years. Rich, and his wife Gretchen, have been friends of ACT 3 for more than a decade. He is now helping us develop a strategic plan for ACT 3. We believe that God honors such planning and that true wisdom requires us to put in place a plan so that we can intentionally pursue our mission purpose: “To equip leaders for unity in Christ’s mission.” This planning phase is uniquely connected to the release of the new book, Your Church Is Too Small. The book is to be released on April 1, 2010. 3
But It’s So Hard, Lord!
My mom is 93 years old. For more than eight decades she was “sharp as a tack.” She was a well-groomed, well-dressed “Leave It to Beaver” Mom, who taught ladies’ Bible studies, Sunday school classes, and wrote magazine articles and poetry. Mom was a faithful wife to my dad for 67 years, and took selfless care of him during his 15-year struggle with Parkinson’s disease. She was an accomplished woman, and it was easy to show her honor and dignity. It was not a burden to follow the Lord’s commands from Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16, and Ephesians 6:2: “Honor your father and your mother.” But, now, Lord, it’s so hard! Degeneration of the mind happens so slowly that it seems to just creep up on you. When it first started happening, Mom would read me a new poem she wrote and it just wasn’t quite right anymore. She got frustrated because she couldn’t make her TV work, and she expressed anger because “the pals were stealing her things” at the assisted living facility where she lives. “Mom,” I reassured her, “the pals aren’t stealing your toothpaste and comb!” In the past year, according to my mom, “the pals” have stolen lipstick, powder, six pairs of reading glasses, her hearing aid, her purse, a pair of shoes and some clothes! Other than the glasses and the shoes, the other items were eventually found safely hidden here and there. My mom and I used to talk on the phone every day at 8 a.m. Now she can’t remember her children’s phone numbers. I have written them in large numbers with a magic marker on colored paper taped to her closet door. Now, when she does call, she calls repeatedly forgetting that she just called us. My siblings and I used to tell her what she’s doing, but now we just start each conversation over as if it were the first time. It’s so hard, Lord! When I took my mom to her cardiologist, he asked her, “How’s your heart?” She replied, “Oh, he’s been dead for a long time!” (My dad’s name was Art.) I told the doctor that Mom lost her hearing aid and she spouted, “I don’t need a hearing aid! I hear just fine!” At lunch one day recently, I greeted my mom with a cheerful, “Hi! How are you?” She soberly answered, “I was fine until about noon yesterday.” “Really?” I replied. “What happened then?” “That’s when I realized that you don’t love me anymore!” It’s so hard, Lord! Many times I look at my mom and think, “Who is this person?” She is definitely not the person I grew up with, but she still deserves my honor and respect. My brother and my sisters and I are trying to be faithful to God’s command to honor her as long as she lives. It’s a struggle, but we are blessed to have each other for support. I know many of you are going through this, or have gone through this stage, too. You understand how difficult it is. We must never forget that people with dementia are still God’s creation, and no matter how distant they seem to you, they still need warm hugs, kisses, and attention. So, for now, I give my mom a manicure once a week and read to her from a book she wrote many years ago about her mother’s family and their journey to the United States from Europe. She genuinely enjoys that. I’d like to share with you a touching poem my mom wrote many years ago when her mind was clear and vibrant.
When I Grow Old
By Helen E. Siml When i grow old, just sit with me awhile, please. My conversation will be repetitious, dull or non-existent. Failing eyes will blur my vision, so that new, stimulating impressions will become impossible or frustrating. Failing ears will thwart conversations and cause misunderstandings. time will weave its web around my senses, imprisoning my comprehension, binding me to the bewildering present while glorifying a burgeoning past. Only love, with its warm and penetrating force can pierce the cruel web time builds. if the Lord does not take me home before this happens, i ask you to overlook these irritating adhesions of age and to be patient— to sit with me awhile when i am old. And love me, please.
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