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The #ReimagineFORUM Coaching Session: Bob Burton
Why is it important for Christian leaders to begin a journey of rethinking ministry?
It’s because missional revival and a change of culture within the church go hand in hand. A true missional revival is birthed in repentant prayer, carried by the wind of the Holy Spirit and characterized by holiness. A spiritual awakening in our nation and a renewed global missionary movement in our generation can occur when local churches reorient themselves to God and begin to obey Him. This world is in desperate need of the gospel and Jesus has clearly commissioned His church to the mission (Matthew 28:19-20).
It’s my conviction that Jesus taught and modeled to his disciples—the spiritual DNA of a church on mission. Simply put, the book of Acts is a continuation of the expression of that spiritual DNA (Acts 1:1). This spiritual DNA is evident in the timeless missionary principles which are embedded in those stories of Acts.
Missional revival pivots on two words—suppression and expression. My important assertion is that the church for the most part (not all) tends to suppress rather than, express their God-given missionary DNA. The discovery or rediscovery of DNA does indeed change everything. The vision to see the modern church truly experience God in a book of Acts style missional revival is the essence of the why behind the what for me—calling the church back to her roots.
Why will a “reimagine-journey” be difficult and potentially dangerous to the status quo?
For many believers, the difficulty is reflected by an altogether avoidance of the book of Acts. There tends to be a disconnect between what the first century stories are teaching and their twenty-first century applications.
While the difficulty for another segment of the church is one that enthusiastically attempts to replicate everything in Acts with a focus on signs and wonders. The God-directed outcomes of a true missional revival are the multiplying of disciples, leaders and new churches. This can happen through a healthy view and application of the book of Acts.
By the way, there are ten principles which thread through the book of Acts and these were first seen in Jesus’s life and ministry. In my books, these are what I call the spiritual DNA of a church on mission and are particularly dangerous to the status quo. For each one of the ten, there is an antithesis, a modern-day mutation that manifests itself in churches. Genetic mutations are the status quo and can be changed through a fresh expression of each spiritual DNA principles.
We live in an extraordinary world: Globalization.Immigration. #BlackLivesMatter. Gender reclassification. Marriage Redefined. #MeToo. The rise of White Supremacy. Terrorism. Unpredictable Weather. The impact of the Industrial Revolution gives way to the Technological Age. . . . This a time of epic change that requires the Church to rethink how we apply biblical truth to the traditions-programs-models-systems that format everything we do.
Agree. This is the application part of contextualization. It’s being biblically accurate and culturally relevant. The church needs to learn from Paul in Athens and see how he used these things (idol to an unknown god, creation, God’s nature, arts, etc. Acts 17) as bridges to the gospel. All the things listed above in your question can serve as spiritual bridges to connect people to the real hope in Christ. The principle of spiritual bridges discussed in my book is all about leveraging points of connection for the sake of the gospel, exemplified by Paul’s work in Athens.
What does it actually mean to “reimagine?”
Break-down the word. The prefix “re” makes me think of returning, rediscovering, renewal, etc. It’s about coming back to the old ways for me with missional revival. The word “image” is at the core of reimagine. In my focus area, it’s about the rediscovery of Acts (missionary principles) while at the same time holding up the mirror of the Word of God for churches to see their true image. The Holy Spirit’s work through Acts provides them the framework and patterns to reimagine what might happen if those ten principles are intentionally activated and freshly applied in their church.
What roadblocks or resistance, barriers and boundaries, inhibit or prevent leaders from pursuing a discerning assessment when they commence a journey to reimagine ministry?
Again, the mutations of the principles are the points of limitations for leaders. The first principle of spiritual preparation highlighted in the church start in Jerusalem reminds us of the essential elements of waiting, praying and expecting God to work. Without this orientation to God and obedience to His call to wait for power, there will no doubt be hinderances. With churches in need of missional revival, the manifestation of impatience, prayerlessness and just playing it safe is an indicator that this DNA thread is being suppressed. It’s interesting to note the book of Acts ends with the statement about how that the gospel was unhindered. Like those first century believers, we are called to continue with this mission today.
Where do I begin? Where do you recommend a leader looks first to insure they commence a truly Spirit-led, Scripture-fed journey?
Regarding leaders, my heart is to point people to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit who will ultimately teach each person how to live on mission with Him. Seek out like-minded missional leaders who long for missional revival and spiritual awakening. Plan to meet regularly with them in order to pray, learn, encourage, and network towards missional revival. Hold each other accountable in relationship to practicing the missionary DNA principles and not just theorizing about it. Acts is a book of action.
Who are the thought leaders the Holy Spirit is using to help the Church reimagine?
There are many godly people who have influenced me on my missionary spiritual DNA journey wherein I’ve come to reimagine what missional revival might look like are Henry Blackaby, Chuck Lawless, John Stott, Neil Cole, Jeff Christopherson, Alan Hirsch, Leonard Sweet and Bob Roberts to name a few.
All are authors that you can simply Google their work and hear their thoughts.
A quote by Vance Havner (a beloved evangelist of old) is especially meaningful to this conversation. He said, “The church is so subnormal that if it ever got back to the New Testament normal it would seem to people to be abnormal.”
How does your ministry help Christian leaders equip those they serve to begin the reimagine-journey?
My writing ministry is directed to the local church having the tools and process to implement an intentional process for missional change. The workbook is written with the leader in mind who would lead his church into a special set apart season to focus on Acts through employing these cultural change factors: reading Acts, preaching Acts, praying Acts, studying in small groups Acts, and engaging in Acts kinds of missionary activities on a weekly basis. All these things are to be combined and integrated into a season of 5,7, or10 weeks. This is a special time dedicated for seeking God and learning how to express the ten spiritual DNA principles in your life and the life of the church—a missional revival.
In this forum, I’ve spoken only of my writing ministry. I’d like to say something about my primary calling which is my work with the North American Mission Board. It involves assisting churches to discover, develop and deploy missional leaders and church planting teams from within their churches. This aptly describes churches like the ones we read about in Acts—focused on multiplying disciples, leaders and new churches for God’s glory.
By God’s grace, our prayer is to see the day when there is a multiplying church in every community in North America. In order to see that become reality, my team has the assignment of serving churches of our tribe (SBC) through the Multiplication Pipeline Team. All churches are called to have a heart for missions and need an intentional pipeline for the discovery and
development of new disciples, new missional leaders and new churches. The Multiplication Pipeline is an excellent resource for that purpose. >>> www.namb.net/pipeline/
Another important part of my work is to help churches by coaching pastors as they move toward an ever-increasing involvement with church planting. This movement is along a continuum of becoming a supporting, sending or multiplying church.
Additional coaching insights to share? Questions we must pursue?
It would be helpful to end with a question and an application point for you.
Below is a list of the ten principles (their corresponding churches in Acts) which are the spiritual DNA of a church on mission.
Read over the list and ask God to show you what specific areas in your life/life of your church need a fresh discovery and fresh application of first century DNA.
- Spiritual Preparation
Wait, Pray, and Expect God to Work (Jerusalem)
- Spiritual Authority
Rely on the Holy Spirit’s Power (Jerusalem)
- Spiritual Understanding
Focus on the Peoples and Places (Jerusalem/Caesarea)
- Spiritual Leadership
Identify and Nurture Missional Leaders (Antioch)
- Spiritual Synergy
Work Together for Greater Impact (Philippi)
- Spiritual Receptivity
Find the People of Peace (Philippi)
- Spiritual Sowing
Evangelize and Make Disciples (Thessalonica/Berea)
- Spiritual Bridges
Leverage Points of Connection (Athens)
- Spiritual Giftedness
Gather and Give Resources from the Harvest (Corinth)
- Spiritual Warfare
Fight the Good Fight (Ephesus)
Thank you for the opportunity to share my heart with you and your readers!