In Memory of Calvin Miller

I’m saddened to hear of Calvin Miller’s passing today.  On one occasion I had the privilege of hearing Miller address a group of pastors. He was a masterful preacher and storyteller second only to David Larsen.

Earlier today Ed Stetzer posted a blog containing some facts of Miller’s life. What intrigued me most about the Stetzer’s post was the inclusion of an essay Miller wrote in The Mission of God Study Bible.  It reads as follows:

A Letter to the Church by Calvin Miller from The Mission of God Study Bible

To every Christian who reads this book: you are a missionary. Missions is the joyous work of informing the world that it is loved. Missions is unrelenting in its desire, it pushes in flaming light against the dark walls of human ignorance. It is honest about all things eternal: we can be free only when we know the truth (Jn 8:32).

Missions is clear, cold water—a cup of grace, a draft of life in the desert. It is as free as air, yet as precious as a pearl buried deep in the brokenness of the human spirit (Mt 13:46). Missions is a message, as simple as two words Jesus Saves—one noun, one verb—and yet this simplicity is God’s broad banner posted just above the gates of eternity (Lk 19:10).

Missions is ravenous in its hunger to please God. It knows no other purpose for its existence. It lives for the single pleasure of hearing God say, “Well done, good and faithful slave (Mt 25:21). You have told the truth in a false world, you have turned the iron key of liberty in the steel door of hell, and the captives are freed (Lk 4:18)! For this liberation you have been called “missionary.”

Missions is a divine madness that hears the voice of God’s only begotten, crying from a mountaintop, into all the world (Mt 28:18-20). It takes this cry to bed and pillow every night. It wakes at every dawn, as Christ whispers in the heart, “I was dead, but look—I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Rv 1:18). You must arise for I have come to seek and to save that which was lost. There is no time to waste, the world is loved and doesn’t know it. Hold out your hand and I fill it with gold, and you must go out to give the gold away, making rich all those who are poor in spirit (Mt 5:3). Tell all those who starve about the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rv 19:9).

To every Christian who reads this book: you are a missionary.

No matter your credentials. All who name the name of Christ have been ordained by the urgency of God’s agenda in a fallen world. Missionaries are not just those special few who have accepted some certificate of some profession. They are not servants of a special calling. Missionaries are all those who have said “yes, Lord!” To say “I believe” is to understand that you have accepted the commission to go into all the world, starting right inside your home, your village, your nation, your world. You have been empowered. Christ has breathed upon you (Jn 20:22). When Christ moves in, you move out. Out where? Out there! Outside your narrow life. Anywhere is the place to start. So start. Seek! Knock! Any door will do (Mt 7:7). You need no grand beginning point.

There, it is done! You have spoken to someone the entreaty, “Come with us to Christ!” Congratulations! You are a missionary and missionaries are the merchants of hope. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring Good Tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, Your God Reigns (Isaiah 52:7).

But be not proud! In redeeming the world all arrogance is precluded. There are no good, arrogant missionaries (2Co 12:5). Christ’s ambassadors (2Co 5:20) are men and women made humble by the immense size of the message given to them by Earth’s Lover. They feed on the bread they give away. They remember who they were when they met Christ, and just that little act of memory causes them to weep that that they once stumbled into grace, before they were ever called to dispense it. Now they are driven by the joy of God’s call, they are the cleansed unclean, the forgiven forgivers, the wounded healers. Nothing is more important than their preachment. They live for it, they die for it (1Co 9:16). They will not change their minds and they cannot change the subject. They are intentional about one truth, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did” (Jn 4:29). I can baptize you only with water, but He will baptize you with fire and the Holy Spirit (Lk 3:16). Thus holding forth the world in their left hand they reach for heaven with their right hand, and the gulf between time and eternity is pulled shut (Lk 16:22). The world at hand is made one with the world that is on the way.

All we who know Him are the heralds of God, missionaries blind to our own greatness because we have served a magnificent obsession, a glorious compulsion, “Jesus lives, Jesus saves.” There is no other significant, eternal truth (Ac 4:12).

The day we became missionaries we were no longer good at the sedentary life. The word “go” forbids us to settle into the plush present, for we know that the future is where we were meant to live, for only the future holds the possibility of us making our next disciple (1Co 9:19). Of course we love our last convert, but that believer has only fueled our fever to meet the next one.

Here in this volume you hold the grand marriage of the Word of God and the Commission of God. This is the book that holds the definition of forty holy men, the Bible writers, who have defined the heart of God. Missions plus the Word equals everything. You cannot serve just one of these, for to serve the Book is to serve the mission (Php 2:16). To fail to serve either of them is to choose to serve neither. Read herein what God has for you, then do all that you have read. Only then will you enter into life a whole person waiting on God, and knowing who you are. And knowing who you are you will find pleasure in your identity (Php 3:8,10).

Your life belongs to the world. Your zip code is the globe. You are a missionary.

Thanks Calvin Miller! I couldn’t have said it better myself. You will be missed.

To all who’ve read this, live sent!

If the first contact with Christ is the reception of a missionary Spirit, the final hope set before us is dependent upon the expression and fulfillment of the work of that same Spirit. Hence Christianity is essentially a missionary religion. Its beginning is missionary; its end is missionary. What hope can he have who calls himself a Christian and is not missionary in heart and mind!

Roland Allen, Essential Missionary Principles, p.99.

The central problem of our age is not liberalism or modernism, nor the old Roman Catholicism or the new Roman Catholicism, nor the threat of communism, nor even the threat of rationalism and the monolithic consensus which surrounds us. All these are dangerous but not the primary threat. The real problem is this: the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually or corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit. The central problem is always in the midst of the people of God, not in the circumstances surrounding them.

Francis A. Schaeffer, No Little People (Wheaton, 2003), page 66.

Understanding the Missional Church

The link above contains a very concise explanation and history of the term “missional” from someone in my tribe, the EFCA.

Reactions? Is this assessment correct? What’s missing, if anything, from the author’s take on missional?

Personally, I’m thankful for the article and especially the following paragraph. “The missional conversation goes much deeper than strategy. In fact, most advocates of the missional church idea are opposed to programmatic or formulaic approaches. Rather, the core concern and motivation is a rediscovery of the biblical teaching of the Church as a missionary people.”

Amen and amen. Shout it from the rooftops. Too many people peg missional as strategy alone. It’s not. It’s an identity. I am missional because God is a missionary God. Through the redeeming work of Christ every believer is, de facto, a missionary like God himself and Christ his sent one. And what is this mission of ours? It’s the Holy Spirit directed spontaneous expansion of the Church among the nations, to the glory of God and the joy of His people.

I just wish more churches would contemplate the Bible’s theology of “sentness” instead of casually going about business as usual. Much is at stake. The fields are ripe for harvest. What we believe matters greatly and deeply affects how we express this cherished entity called the Church.

I believe the default posture of the believer (therefore the church too) is one of being centered on Christ and sent by him. If we lack sentness about our lives we just might lack the fullness of Jesus in our lives. Jesus on tap yields sentness. May Christ reign supreme so that his church lives sent!

Understanding the Missional Church

The evangelical church will not survive unless it aggressively pursues unchurched lost people outside its ‘four walls.’ It must adopt an ‘invasion’ or ‘penetration’ mentality. The days have long passed when the church could sit back and wait for lost people to come to it.

Aubrey Malphurs, Planting Growing Churches for the 21st Century (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992), 117.

Cancer, A Theology of Suffering, and Missional Living-Part 2

Recently, Miriam and I have been reading the Metaxas biography Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy together. Early in the book Metaxas writes about the death of Dietrich’s older brother Walter during World War I and the effect it had on the Bonhoeffer family. The legacy of faith passed on to Bonhoeffer by his godly mother, Paula, can be seen by her choice of Walter’s funeral hymn Was Gott tut, das ist Wohlgetan (What God Ordains is Always Good) by Samuel Rodigast. One stanza says this,

What God has done, it is well done. His will is always just. Whatever He will do to me, In Him I’ll ever place my trust.

As Miriam was reading these words an email arrived from my mother. A couple of weeks back I wrote about my mother’s ongoing battle with cancer and how her cancer has made her more missional. (You can read that first post here.) This second letter builds upon the first and further elaborates what God has been teaching her through her trial. Her words are eerily similar to the truth that Rodigast’s hymn proclaims. Below is the transcript; she’s granted me permission to share this.

Dear Eric and Miriam,

A year and a half ago I was beginning to sense an unsettling presence of discontentment in my spiritual life. While studying the life of King David I was totally awe struck at his GREAT FAITH and how God displayed His awesome POWER. I seriously searched my heart: Lord, I am afraid I have little faith! Although not consciously aware, wasn’t this in fact a prayer for trials. How will I ever know I have faith unless my faith is tested.

This is what I am learning: you can depend on the fact that God often sends trials in order for us to discover our gifts. His goal for me is not merely discovering them, but the real growth is understanding and experiencing the comforts of His divine grace in the midst of my Holy trial. I call this a Holy trial because my cancer is God’s perfect design for me. He designed this test/trial to suit me. Something had to challenge me to trust Him and so it is with certain assurance that the Lord will either deliver me quickly or He will sustain me through this trial for as long as He desires to test me. The supernatural confidence, patience, and perseverance He has given me PROVES the power of Divine Grace. “I have tried you in the furnace of affliction,” Isaiah 48:10. I can confidently say; let affliction come, God has chosen me. Sickness may intrude my life, but I have a remedy close at hand: God has chosen me. Whatever may come my way, I know: He has chosen me.

This is what I have learned: If it were not for experiencing the storms in life I would never know for sure that His work was true and strong. If the powerful winds never blew I would not know how firm and secure the Holy Spirit’s work. Therefore I choose to remain steadfast and immovable even in the midst of my difficulty. C.H. Spurgeon said, “I truly believe if one desires to glorify God, one has to be prepared to come to terms with the fact he will face many trials.”

Thank you Lord, may my momentary light affliction bring great honor to the gospel and be a testimony to your word. And so “great faith” will venture ahead. I choose to keep my eye continually focused on Him, to let my heart be full of Him and to let my lips speak of His great worth. He is infinitely worthy, infinitely good, and infinitely just. When I pillow my head at night I give thanks for what He is going to do and I rest in perfect peace, perfect joy, and unwavering faith because my hope and expectation is in Him. As my sovereign Lord awakens me morning by morning may I not leave His presence until I thank Him for His new and fresh mercies. “Great is your faithfulness” to me, Lamentations 3:21-23.

Growing in Him,

Mom

Mom, thanks for modeling a life of faith for the next generation. You are a living example of Paul’s words in Romans 5:3-5.

Rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Your hope will not put you to shame! May you know more of Christ today than yesterday. Love you Mom! Continue to live sent!

We affirm that Christ sends his redeemed people into the world as the Father sent him, and that this calls for a similar deep and costly penetration of the world. We need to break out of our ecclesiastical ghettos and permeate non-Christian society. In the Church’s mission of sacrificial service evangelism is primary. World evangelization requires the whole Church to take the whole gospel to the whole world…. The goal should be, by all available means and at the earliest possible time, that every person will have the opportunity to hear, understand, and to receive the good news.

The Lausanne Covenant