Rebuilding Our Vision for Ministry

rebuilding our vision for ministry

Vision is crucial for organizational and leadership success. Without a clear vision, leaders and organizations will stagnate and go nowhere. If leaders do not see where they are going, they are unlikely to get there.

Vision can serve as a True North for organizations and help leaders keep their bearings as they lead their people forward. Any organization with no clear vision of where it is going is in danger of mission drift and being sidetracked and failing to accomplish its purpose. A leader or an organization without a vision to serve is at risk of becoming self-serving.

Helen Keller was once asked, “What would be worse than being born blind”? She replied, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”

A clear and compelling vision is critical for leaders and organizations. But where do ministry leaders get their vision?

I once led a national mission organization and was expected to have my vision to move the organization forward. There was tremendous pressure for me to come up with a personal vision. It was very stressful, especially when my vision did not match other leaders’ visions. Leaders are expected to generate a vision, envision a desirable future for their organization, and then develop a plan to achieve the results. The leader is responsible for interpreting the rapid global changes around them and looking into the future to determine the best approach for their organizations.

But God does not ask His leaders and followers to operate this way. When it comes to vision, no statement is more frequently quoted or misquoted by many Christian and non-Christian leaders than King Solomon’s famous observation: “Where there is no vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18 KJV). A more accurate translation in Hebrew is, “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint (Proverbs 29:18 NIV). People come up with a vision, while revelation is something people receive.

Great leaders can dream a vision but cannot discover God’s will. God must reveal it. Leaders who ignore God’s will project their vision and accomplish their own agendas.

Great leaders in the Bible like Abraham, Moses, David, Paul, and Peter received visions from God. Abraham did not become the father of many nations because he had a vision for it. God called him and revealed God’s vision to him. Abraham obeyed and led with God’s vision. Moses became the deliverer of Israel not because he had a leader-generated vision. God revealed to Moses His vision to deliver His people from Pharaoh. Moses obeyed and ran with God’s vision. It was not Paul’s vision to become the Apostle to the Gentiles. He persecuted the Church, but God called him on the road to Damascus. God revealed His vision to Paul. Paul obeyed and embraced God’s vision. Great leaders in the Bible did not come up with their vision. They did not create their vision. God revealed His vision to them. They obeyed, and God’s vision was their vision.

God has revealed His vision for the Church in Revelation 7:9-10:

After these things, I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all the tribes, peoples, and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying,

“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

This is God’s vision for the Church, and He calls His leaders to obey and run with His vision to become a reality. Today, God’s vision has not changed. As we rebuild our vision for ministry in the 21st century, let us renew and rebuild our vision with God’s vision.

Ike Agawin
ServeBeyond Director

Rebuilding According to Reality not Partiality

rebuilding according to reality not partiality

If you read our EFCC Blog regularly (or even semi-regularly), you will know that over the past several months we have been talking about “rebuilding.”  We have talked about the foundation of our rebuilding work, which thankfully has remained unchanged. And several of the posts have challenged us with considerations about “how” to effectively rebuild. But there is one consideration of rebuilding we have not yet talked much about:  Who are you rebuilding for, and with? Certainly, we are working for God’s purposes, yet there remains an important consideration regarding the specific target group our calling embraces.

Allow me to start with this:  We need to rebuild, not refresh. Refresh assumes many things remain the same. Rebuilding assumes many things have changed. So, to rebuild, we must consider well the context we are rebuilding with and for.

Paul had a special calling to the Gentiles (see, for example, Acts 9:15). Peter, on the other hand, spent much time ministering to the Jews. They both understood something of the groups they were called to, and their ministries took into account the culture they were seeking to impact. Even as Paul spoke to the philosophers at Mars Hill in Acts 17, he made certain that he knew something about what they believed, what their worldview was. Without pushing further into these examples, I simply want to say that it is really important that we have an accurate picture of the people God has called us to minister to and with.

Friends, you do not need me to tell you that the world has changed over the past couple of years. And I would say that more change is coming – to our world and thus to the church. What people expect of the church, what people are willing to give to the church (time and resources), what the community expects of the church, what will be effective in engaging the community – in sum, the culture we are ministering within and to, has all changed and will continue to do so. My question for you to ponder is simply this:  are you working to rebuild for a 1999 culture/world, or a 2025 culture/world. We may wish things were the same as they used to be. We may wish that people in our churches were the same, that the people in our communities were the same. But wishing will not make it so.

We cannot rebuild the past. Nor should our rebuilding ignore reality.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said that “He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.” (Life Together, p 27). Stretching Bonhoeffer’s observation into our context here — if you have a picture of the church you are trying to rebuild that is based on your personal dream and not the reality of where people are truly at, the world you want versus the world we have, you will struggle to experience fruitfulness.

So, my plea is simply. Look around. Ask. Listen. Learn. Do your best to understand where people’s hearts are at today. What are their needs? Will you meet them where they are at, not just where you think they should be? Will you rebuild based on where they are at, not where you think they should be? Will you be flexible enough (as Neil talked about last week) to rebuild based on the “new normal” not the comfortable past, or your ideal future? More than ever, we need to be students of the culture, students of the people, students of worldviews different than what we are used to, maybe even different than what we are comfortable with.   Only then we will be able to rebuild with the effectiveness God calls us to.

When rebuilding the right focus and foundation is essential. Wisdom, humility, respect, and a gracious attitude are key. But knowing and understanding the world around you cannot be ignored. We all need to take another, honest, brave look around us, and then begin to rebuild with the context of our world in mind.

Terry Kaufman
EFCC Leadership Catalyst

Building and Rebuilding the Foundation of Mission

building and rebuilding the foundation of mission

Japan is located in the world’s most active earthquake zone. Because of the many seismic activities that happen every year, constructing a skyscraper in Japan is a work of engineering. It is said that the foundation is the most critical aspect of building a skyscraper in Japan. The building foundation is very deep and made of cylinders of concrete, steel, or both that penetrate the earth until they reach a stable bedrock layer to prevent the building from sinking or toppling in an earthquake. The higher the building, the deeper the foundation.

The Lord has given the Body of Christ, a mandate for mission. It is essential to have a good foundation if we were to accomplish the task the Lord has commissioned us to do. There are critically important foundations the Church needs to recapture to build and rebuild. To do mission successfully, there are four essential foundations that we need to consider:

1. Biblical Foundation

The actual word mission is not found in the Bible. Neither are familiar words like trinity or rapture. These are all terms that represent concepts that are present in the Bible. However, we cannot study mission in the Scripture by looking at a concordance, though all Christians would agree that the concept of mission is in the Bible.

If mission is not in the concordance, are there direct ways to trace it? Are there other words that we can study? Is mission merely a minor theme in Scripture, or is it of major significance? Many Christians assume that mission begins with Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20: 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Jesus gave these clear marching orders to His followers before returning to His father. Yet, if we seriously examine the Bible, God gave these marching orders from the very beginning – in Genesis, all the way to Revelation.

Therefore, if the global mission is a topic of serious biblical concern, it should appear before Jesus’ last moments on earth. The Old Testament contains 75% of the Scriptures. Is mission found in the Old Testament? On the other hand, if mission is God’s “big idea” throughout the Bible, why don’t we preach and teach about it and talk about it more often? In our study of the Word, wouldn’t we have noticed such an important topic? Only very few theologians actually expound on such an idea.

Mission is more than just a minor addendum to God’s overall intent. Nor an optional ministry department in the Church. Mission is the very reason written Scripture needed to be given to us in the first place.

We need a missional reading of the Scripture using missional hermeneutics as our tools in developing a Biblical foundation for mission.

2. Historical Foundation

The presence of a mission mandate throughout Scripture becomes visible once we know what to look for. When this is understood, the mission theme connects Scripture into a meaningful whole. The Bible emerges as a singularly focused book instead of a seemingly scattered collection of laws, stories, poetry and chronologies. God’s goal is to reveal Himself not only to Israel but also to the nations. When His intention to reach all nations becomes clear, the Bible fits together sensibly and purposely.

If mission is the focus of all Scripture, then it must also become our focus. By studying biblical history with this understanding, we see these principles worked out in real time and human space. Looking at history in light of God’s global objectives transforms our view of what happened and why. A study of events that formerly seemed dry, dull, and tedious is now filled with relevant lessons.

3. Strategic Foundation

God is accomplishing His worldwide mission and instructing His kingdom people to join Him. His desire to reconcile nations to His loving rule is the primary moving force behind all history. Each of us has a part to play until His mission is completed. Having comprehended His plan in Scripture, we now move to the next step: finding our part and carrying it out in obedience to Him.

With a daring and dangerous charge before us, we need clear and well-thought-out plans and strategies. Some people think that having a strategy might prevent them from being led by the Lord or that it might put them in the position of “running ahead” of God’s will. But God is a strategic God. Made in His image, we are called to be strategic people. Rightly understood, strategies can come from Him and be used by Him. We must determine where the least-evangelized peoples are and then begin to strategize to reach them.

4. Cultural Foundation

Our mission foundations received light from many insights. First, God desires to reach all nations of the world with His truth. Next, He is working through the ages toward that end. Then He desires that His people connect with the remaining unreached peoples. Now we come to the challenge of culture.

Each of the people group who needs to receive God’s message has their unique way of life, its own distinct mode of operating, and its own ideas and stories. From their history, circumstances, and experiences, they have developed their particular culture. Simply reciting John 3:16 in their language will not suffice.

Missionaries shared John 3:16 in many animistic cultures, but people from these cultures were not concerned about love. They were concerned about protection from the spirit world, and until their needs were addressed, the gospel message was not of interest. When people from animistic cultures learned that Jesus had power over the spirit world, the message had value.

To successfully reach people from all nations in Canada and beyond, we must build or rebuild these four critical foundations for mission. Together as a Church, we can finish the global mission task in our generation!

Ike Agawin
ServeBeyond Director

The Role of “Deconstruction” in Rebuilding

the role of deconstruction in rebuilding

As our Executive Director (Bill Taylor) noted in his blog post last week, we are shifting our focus in these posts to “rebuilding.” He appropriately challenged us to recognize the universality of the divine calling we have received as part of God’s family – the call of the church is a call to us all. As we then begin to process thoughts about rebuilding, we must recognize both the present reality as well as the divine design we are working toward. This leads us to this presently controversial word of “deconstruction.”

In some measure, we are at a place of “rebuilding” because of COVID, but it is more than that. COVID regulations and ripples did not singularly change the context and effectiveness of our ministry, though it exacerbated or magnified what already exists in some measure. The last several years also laid bare what we are doing, in a way, clearing the table for us. The question then is: “What was swept off the table of ministry in the last several years that should be put back on?” That is for each of you and your churches to sort out, but I want to suggest that it will be hard to do that well without engaging in a form of “deconstruction.”

“Deconstruction” has been getting a lot of press lately. I have people asking me what I think about it, and how we should respond. Without getting too deep into the manifestation of deconstruction we are seeing in Christian celebrities (that may be a topic for another blog), I would want to clarify that in its essence deconstruction is not the same as destruction. Deconstruction is not equivalent to abandonment – though that seems to be an equivalency too often implied. Deconstruction is a more careful and thoughtful process of taking something apart for the sake of understanding and improvement rather than a critical spirit engaged for purposes other than rebuilding.

The truth is that to rebuild we must first disassemble, or at least review.

COVID did some of that deconstruction for us, but it has left lots of work for us to do. I believe that healthy deconstruction is only a first step – whether it is personal or corporate. The next steps are evaluation (bible based) and then rebuilding. Bill has helped us to begin to think about the rebuilding portion.

Unfortunately, some of us refuse to reconsider anything. Others too easily dismiss what has gone before. Neither approach is right and both invite trouble. Peter is one example of someone who wrestled with this same process. He had to reconsider the reality of Jews & Gentiles and rebuild his approach to ministry. That is deconstruction in its appropriate application: guided by the Holy Spirit and motivated by a concern for the lost, growing God’s church, and bringing honor to His name.

Where are you at in the rebuilding process? Do you refuse to revisit your plans and strategies? Are you simply longing to put everything back together as it was before? Or have you inappropriately thrown out all things historic too dismissively, simply because they were used by a previous generation or leadership? Hopefully, we are wise enough to avoid both of those ditches.

Additionally, let’s hope that what we have built is made up of components so evidently valuable and appropriate that when our ministries are deconstructed, they will reveal the great building blocks of God’s amazing truths, the sources of hope and purpose, of love and charity. And may we have the humility to allow others to test what we have been building, and building on, to make something stronger, better, purer, and even more effective.  In fact, let’s be building blocks on which those coming after us can build upon to reach higher for God’s kingdom.

Maybe we need to avoid the word “deconstruction” because its meaning has been hijacked. But the concept we must not run from. To rebuild well we must not tear down and abandon, but disassemble to evaluate what parts still work, what parts are necessary and valuable, and then reassemble with those pieces. To do this well we must listen to the Holy Spirit and the truth in God’s Word. In fact, that approach is at the heart of our heritage in the Free Church. So, let’s rebuild well!

Terry Kaufman
EFCC Leadership Catalyst

When Theology is Not Enough

When Theology is not Enough

I am haunted by some verses found in John 5. The context – Jesus has just healed on the Sabbath and the leaders are upset. Jesus offers up an explanation for healing on the Sabbath. This leads to more trouble as the Jewish leaders clearly understood Jesus’ statement about his father (v.17) and want to kill him for blasphemy. In the middle of the subsequent rebuttal by Jesus we read verses 39-40:

39You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! 40Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.

Wow! Think about those words for a few moments. These men were the elite theologians in Jesus’ day. They knew their Scriptures inside and out. They had been educated in the best rabbinical traditions. They had systematized their Scriptures into a detailed theology and created a whole host of religious practices to live that theology. But they missed the point! They missed Jesus.

Do we do the same thing?

Before we go further, please understand that I am in no way advocating that we give up on becoming better students of the Bible. I am also not setting up a false dichotomy between theology and religious experience, or theology and Jesus, or the Bible and Jesus. We need to be more robust in our theology, but we also need to experience Jesus in our daily lives. Theology without experiencing life with Jesus is like the experience of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day.

When was the last time you truly experienced Jesus in your life?

Do you have friends that can ask if and how you are experiencing Jesus?

When I say experiencing Jesus, I am simply referring to those moments where we can clearly identify God showing up in some way, shape, or form in our daily lives. It might be as simple as a Bible verse taking on new meaning. It might be an answer to prayer. It might be another member of the body of Christ who visibly lives out Jesus in their words and actions toward us. Whatever it is, it leads us to a bigger, bolder, and more beautiful vision of who Jesus is.

This whole blog season has centered around the theme of theology. As we close that theme, I want to leave you with this encouragement. Our theology comes to life when it is infused by seeing and experiencing the living Lord in our lives. As we meet Jesus throughout our daily lives: we learn more about Him and His good plan for the flourishing of all life, we learn more about His character, we are drawn deeper into His love, life, and mission, and we grow in our understanding of what it means for us to follow Him. As our experience of Jesus grows, our theology deepens.

Do you want to deepen your theology?

The flipside of that question could be this one:

How are you making space in your life to be open to hear from, see, and experience Jesus?

Neil Bassignthwaighte
EFCC National Mission Director & Interim Prayer Catalyst

The End of Mission

the end of mission

Some people believe that mission is over. Jesus said in Matthew 24:14 that “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” The Gospel has indeed been preached to all the countries of the world, but Jesus is referring to the nations – the ethnic or people groups with their distinct cultures and languages. Almost half of the world’s population, representing many people groups, are yet to hear the Gospel.1 The Gospel has not been preached to them. Mission is not over, and the task of world evangelization is still in effect for the Church. But when will mission end?

Throughout the Book of Revelation, John records his vision and revives the confidence of the Churches in the certainty of the spread of the Gospel throughout all the nations. Persecutions and slaughter cannot stop the spread of the Gospel until all that dwell on earth has heard. The song of the twenty-four elders addressed to the Lamb of God celebrates the redemption of men from all nations. They are redeemed out of all peoples of God’s purpose: He has “made them a Kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:10). In another vision, John sees “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language” in worship before the throne of God (Rev. 7:9). Representatives of all nations will be there in heaven worshipping the Lord and thus fulfill God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12. This is where history ends. God is moving all history towards the completion of world evangelization.

In Revelation 21:24, John describes his vision in heaven “The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it. The glory and honour of the nations will be brought into it (v. 26). The worship of God by people from every nation, tribe, people, and language will bring the highest glory to God! This should be our guiding vision of ultimate purpose, that God would be most glorified in every people by a movement of obedience and worship to Christ.

This multicultural worship in heaven will happen because this is God’s unchanging purpose on earth.

We read in Hebrews 6:17-18 the two unchanging purposes of God; (1) To bless Abraham and his descendants, and (2) To bless all peoples or nations of the earth through His descendants or seed. So, between Abraham in Genesis 12 to the worship in heaven by all the nations of the world in the Book of Revelation is mission. The worship in heaven and the completion of God’s promise to Abraham will only be realized through missions.

The Book of Revelation closes with a vision of new heaven, new earth, and the eternal city in which the Lord Himself is the Light. There once more, we meet the nations. In the new Paradise is the tree of life with leaves for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2). And so, history is complete. Mission is over. The nations, the families of the earth who have always been the object of God’s love, redeemed and preserved, have a place in God’s creation. The Lord will be their light, and they shall reign forever and ever (Rev. 22:5).

Ike Agawin
EFCC International Mission Director


Answers in Genesis

answers in genesis

God’s gospel originates in and expresses the wondrous perfections of the eternal, triune God.

1. We believe in one God, Creator of all things, holy, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in a loving unity of three equally divine Persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Having limitless knowledge and sovereign power, God has graciously purposed from eternity to redeem a people for Himself and to make all things new for His own glory.

In an earlier post I highlighted some “Questions in Genesis.”  In this post I want to think briefly about the rich “Answers in Genesis” that these two chapters present to gospel people. Rather than debating the mechanics of creation, I wish to affirm that these chapters provide us with deep, rich insights into the character and plans of our God. Many of these ideas are summarized in Article One of our EFCC Statement of Faith (which I have quoted above).

Genesis 1-2 reminds us that our God is Creator – and creative! Time and again in these chapters we see that the creation is good – very good, indeed!  It is good because our God is good – He is holy, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing! If you have read any of the ancient stories about the Greek, Canaanite, or Roman gods, you cannot but be amazed at the goodness of our God (as introduced to us in Genesis 1-2). He isn’t malevolent, capricious, or immoral, or any of the things we see from the ancient pagan gods. He has good plans for His creation. He is goodness, through and through! His rule is benevolent. He invites Adam and Eve to join Him in a “tending” of the creation meant for its flourishing, not for His own personal abuse. He is sovereign over it – He is king, but He is a loving, wise king who revels in the beauty of what He has made and invites humanity to join Him in its flourishing.

We see that our God is a “loving unity of equally divine persons.”  He declares, “Let us make man in our image!”  Loving unity is such a central feature of His nature that He declares that it is “not good” for Adam to be alone – and He creates a perfect counterpart so that Adam and Eve can experience the same loving unity. The beauty of God’s plan for male and female reflects the loving heart of an infinitely perfect, relational God. Genesis shows us God’s plan of shalom – loving and flourishing community for His creation and for humanity, the pinnacle of His creation. Genesis 3 of course shows how sin and rebellion destroy so much of this beauty, and yet, we see throughout the Word that God has graciously purposed from eternity to redeem a people for Himself and to make all things new for His own glory.”  The first two chapters of Genesis remind us that our God is essentially a God of lovingkindness whose plan for creation and for male and female is beautiful and fulfilling.  All human substitutes for His plan may seem good and satisfying in the short run – but in the end fall short of the beautiful plan God had for creation, creature, and community.

Even the Fall of Genesis 3 cannot destroy the dignity of humans (the image of God in us), nor the beauty of creation. We do well to anchor our vision of God, creation, sex, marriage, calling, vocation, and community in this beautiful passage that introduces our God and His plan for His creation!

Bill Taylor
EFCC Executive Director

A Reading List for Everyone?

A Reading List

Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out. Ecc. 12: 11-12

A great book is very helpful. But how many helpful books can one possibly find or read? Every year scads of books get published. Some are good. Some are incredibly helpful. But we can get lost in a sea of books.

Someone recently encouraged me to put together a list of Christian non-fiction books that every Christian should read. What an impossible task. Think about all the languages that would need translations. So the person refined the challenge. Could I form a list that could be read by every English reading adult Christian in the western world? Still too broad, but I began to think about it.

My first thought was, I don’t want to minimize Bible reading.

Reading books must not replace our Bible reading! The Bible is so much more than any book. But only reading the Bible without listening to other Christian perspectives about the Bible, leads to misinterpreting the Bible. We can’t help it; we are trapped by our biases. We need the help of others in doing theology. Authors provide some of that help.

Then, I began to form some criteria to help me put together a book list. Here is what I came up with:

  1. A book I have personally read. I can’t recommend it otherwise. I still have a significant pool to pick from. Over my ministry years I have read well over 1500 books.
  2. The book would need to be easy to read. So, sadly, no classics with antiquated language. It should have few large and hard-to-define words. Likely aimed at a high school reading level.
  3. The theological concepts need to be accessible to all. Although there are deep theological treasure troves which some people enjoy, those kinds of books are beyond this list.
  4. It must contain applicable topics for all Christians. It would need to have a universal appeal.
  5. It should cover basics or subjects close to or leading to them.
  6. It needs to be a short list. Not all are avid readers and avoiding the sea of books is crucial.
  7. Written from a gracious Neo-fundamentalism need not apply.

I looked back over the lists of books that I have read. Yes, I kept track of every Christian book I have read since I started ministry. I know I’m weird! Forgive me.

Here’s Neil’s Reading List for Any Christian (with qualifiers understood) that I came up with based on the above listed criteria:

  1. With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God – Skye Jethani
    This could be reread several times over. It’s that important! Skye explores 4 ways of relating to God that are essentially attempts to control Him. He then shifts to focus on what Life With God really is and how we can cultivate it.
  1. Seven Things I Wish Christians Knew About the Bible – Michael Bird
    This little volume has more tools for good solid Biblical interpretation than several Bible College texts books I have seen. Michael’s simple yet profound work helps readers get a handle on what the Bible is and how to handle it well.

We could probably end the list right there if we wanted. They are the top tier. But that’s too short a list. So, I added a few more, in no particular order:

  1. Inexpressible: Hesed and the Mystery of God’s Lovingkindness – Michael Card
    This is a beautifully written book on the Hebrew word Hesed and what it reveals to us about the character of God.
  1. Who is This Man?: The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus – John Ortberg
    A wonderful look at who Jesus is and the impact he has had on our world.
  1. Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith – Larry Osborne
    This volume is a prophetic corrective. It too is one of those books that could be reread several times as a healthy reminder of the need to not become overzealous about other’s lives.
  1. Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense – N.T. Wright
    I almost didn’t include this book because it is a slightly more difficult read than the rest of the list. But a book like this, or C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, probably needs to be on this list and this reads slightly easier than Lewis.
  1. The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction – Adam McHugh
    This volume is much needed in our current cultural climate. The art of listening needs to be recultivated, as a discipleship and hospitality practice. Adam has all kinds of good advice on how that can happen.

That’s it! That’s the whole list. There were many great books that I wish I could have included. But of the writing of books there is no end. So based on all my criteria, it ultimately boiled down to these 7 books.

What is your list? I suspect that you would have different books on your list, based on your reading history. I would love to hear your list.

Neil Bassignthwaighte
EFCC National Mission Director & Interim Prayer Catalyst

Questions in Genesis

questions in genesis

God created ha’adam in his image;

In the image of God He created him. 

Male and female he created them.  (Genesis 1:26-28)


I was chatting with a former EFCC pastor recently and he was bemoaning the fact that the majority of young people raised in the church have nearly identical beliefs about sex, gender, sin and other moral issues as their unchurched friends (for a statistical study on this see Kinnamon & Matlock, Faith for Exiles).  My immediate response to him was, “we need to help our people understand God’s beautiful plan for human flourishing (Genesis 1-2) and then see the world’s counterfeits to God’s plan in the context of Genesis 3 and the fallSadly, we have only taught our people what we are against – not what God is for.”

I am entitling this post “Questions in Genesis” because I think we would be well served by asking better questions regarding Genesis 1-2, rather than the “Answers in Genesis” approach.  That approach assumes that the essential theological issues worth fighting over have to do with answers regarding science and the mechanics of creation.  I believe that using Genesis 1-2 primarily as an apologetic against modern science has led to two problems.  First, we often overlook Genesis 1-2 in our gospel presentations.  We start with “you are a sinner” (Genesis 3).  The we skip the OT and go straight to the cross.  The upshot of this “sin management gospel” is accept Jesus, be forgiven and then be good.  This misses out on the richness of God’s redemptive narrative throughout the rest of the Bible.  The second problem with reading Genesis 1-2 this way is we miss out on what the author is really focusing on.  Genesis 1-2 is essential reading for understanding the good/beautiful character of the Hebrew God (versus the pagan gods of the land).  It is also one of our most powerful passages for understanding God’s beautiful plan for His creation (and for humans in particular).

I believe that historically we have brought tons of cultural assumptions into the text of the Bible.  This can lead us to miss the point of what the Spirit wants us to know and live out when we do it to passages like Genesis 1-2.  In this blog I simply want to surface several questions that help to expose some of the cultural assumptions we impose on this text.

  1. How would OT Jews have read this text?  Would they have looked for answers regarding the science and mechanics of creation?  Or would they have seen the Spirit presenting an apologetic regarding how good/moral/beautiful Yahweh is compared to the gods of the land?  Would they have marveled at how a good God initiated a beautiful plan for human flourishing?
  2. Do the English translations feed into some of our cultural assumptions about men and women?  For instance, the Hebrew word for “Adam” (quoted above) is not used as a name for the first man until chapter 4!  Adam and Eve are both “Ha’Adam” = human.  “Ezer”, translated “helper” or “helpmate” makes it sounds like Eve is a second-rate servant, created only to wait on Adam.  Yet “ezer” is a strong military term that denotes protecting someone from danger.  Yahweh is the “Ebenezer”, the “Rock of help”.
  3. What does it mean for both men and women to be made in the image of God? What would Jewish followers of Yahweh have understood about humans bearing the imprint of the King?  How does that speak to the dignity of humans?
  4. What does it mean for those made in the image of God to “be fruitful and multiply”? Could this have great utility in encouraging followers of Jesus to flourishing and bearing shalom in creation?
  5. Does God really set up an eternal hierarchy in Genesis 1-2? Or do we read this in because of our cultural biases?  Are there clear structures and commands for hierarchy in these chapters or do we have to work hard to infer them into the text?

In the coming months, I want to ponder each of these questions a bit more fully.  Not only do I think that the questions help us better understand what the Spirit wants us to understand but they also provide powerful context and direction for dealing with many of the critical issues of our day!

Bill Taylor
EFCC Executive Director

The Goal of Theology

theology blog

I think of theology as the middle step of a three-step process. I find this helpful as it moves me past theology that is a collection of beliefs or field of study and begs the question – how does this area of theology transform my life?

Here’s how I see this three-step process:

  1. Revelation – It starts here. God reveals a glimpse of Himself to us. Much like Moses, who only got to see a fraction of the glory of God, we only get a glimpse of God. We see what God has chosen to reveal in the Word – both living and written. We see what God has chosen to reveal about his plan for all of creation. And we see what God has chosen to reveal about what part we play in that incredible plan.
  2. Theology – Making sense of revelation is what I believe we do in theology. Finding our way through all God has revealed takes time, study, and the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. In doing this, we as finite humans, employ methods that help us make sense of our observations of revelation. Let me mention two here (these are clearly my names, no theologian would call them this):

Pull-it-apart method

As a young guy, I loved to tear things apart, see how they worked, then put them back together. This usually worked okay. Although I did cause my parents concern somedays. In the process of pulling everything apart, I learned how a lot of household gadgets worked. We do the same thing in theology. We pull the revelation of God apart, determine key categories, place the pieces in those categories, so we can see how it works.

Let-it-live method

I once heard Leonard Sweet talk about the difference between a toaster and a cat. To repair a toaster, you use the previously mentioned pull it apart method. You don’t do that to a cat, well at least if you want it to live. To figure out a cat (is there really any figuring out a cat?) you need to see its personality, how it behaves, etc. Akin to this, is treating God’s revelation as a unified story and observing the themes and storylines that run through it. Doing this lets it live, intact. Visit the if you want to view some examples of this method.

I think both methods (and others) can be helpful, but they don’t guarantee we get it all right, and they certainly are not the end goal.

  1. Praxis – Praxis is the living out of an idea or belief. This is the reason we do theology. God reveals, we attempt to make sense of it, so we can live in accordance with it. The goal of theology is not just right belief, it’s life with God, and life with other’s done God’s way. The end of theology is the worship of God and the Holy Spirit’s transformative work in us.

In doing theology, I hope we never stop at the second step. To move beyond mere belief to lived out action, we need to ask our theology questions like:

How does this inflame my passion for God again?

How does this lead me to fall to my knees in worship?

What does this call me to obey?

How is this shaping me to be more like Jesus? How does this help me relate in Christ-like ways to others?

Neil Bassignthwaighte
EFCC National Mission Director & Interim Prayer Catalyst


Mission, Theology and the Bible


If we ask about the biblical basis for mission, many will answer and direct us to the words of the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:16-20).

But for Paul, the biblical basis for missions went much further back. The “Great Commission” in its present Scriptural form did not yet exist. In Paul’s missiology, he defended both his mission practice and mission theology based on the Old Testament scriptures. In the Old Testament Paul found a rich and deep theology of the mission of God for the nations, and he built his mission theology on that foundation.

Paul sees the mission of God as bringing the whole of the created order to liberation along with the sons and daughters of God (Romans 8:18-27). He proclaims the Messiah’s resurrection as the first fruits of that new creation and can affirm that a new person is already a new creation when a person is in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Paul also goes back to Abraham. He sees the mission of Israel as being called into existence as the covenant people of God and to be the agent of God in blessing all the nations (Galatians 3:6-8). This understanding is Paul’s foundational block of his theology that he calls “the gospel in advance” – that is, the good news that God intends to bless the nations from the call of Abraham.

For Paul, the mission of God through Israel for the salvation of the nations was the message of the scriptures. Paul’s mission as the apostle to the Gentiles was grounded in the Bible of the time. His biblical theology was a theology of mission – the mission of God.

Our Lord Jesus did the same thing. He fully understood his mission in light of the Old Testament, and He taught His disciples to see mission in the same light and on the same foundation.

44 Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all the things that are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and He said to them, “So it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

(Luke 24:44-48)

Jesus says that this passage is the whole point and thrust of the scriptures: the Law of Moses, the Psalms and the Prophets. The message of the Old Testament is the death and resurrection of the Messiah and the preaching of the gospel to the nations.

The Old Testament then is as much about mission as it was about Jesus. These two are an inseparable part of the same reality – the saving mission of God. If you truly know who Jesus is from the Scriptures, then to confess Jesus as the Messiah is to commit yourself to His mission to the nations.

With the New Testament, the biblical basis for mission is the whole bible – from Genesis to Revelation. God revealed Himself in the scripture as a missionary God. Biblically, mission is the mission of God (Missio Dei), and the Church is God’s agent in fulfilling God’s mission. God’s mission is to redeem all the nations (people groups) of the earth, and He is carrying this out through His redeemed people, the Church. Mission is not an optional ministry of the Church. The mandate of the church is to be on mission with God. “As the Father has sent Me, even so, I am sending you” (John 20:21). The Missio Dei is God the Father sending the Son, and God the Father and the Son sending the Spirit. The Father, Son and the Holy Spirit send the Church into the world.

Ike Agawin
EFCCM International Director