Scott McKnight on “Mission” #kingdom #church

“Kingdom mission is church mission, church mission is kingdom mission, and there is no kingdom mission that is not church mission…

Many see kingdom exclusively in utopian terms and the church in all its rugged messiness, so they toss dust in the eyes of anyone who gets the two too close. But this fails at the most basic level of exegesis. The kingdom in the New Testament is not just a future glory but a present rugged reality struggling toward that glorious future. That is, the kingdom is only partly realized; it is only inaugurated in the here and now. So the kingdom today is a rugged mess no less than the church is also a utopia…

It is easier to do [good deeds like build a well than get involved in a church] because it feels good, it resolves some social shame for all that we have, it creates a bonded and encapsulated experience, it is a momentary and at times condescending invasion of resources and energy, and it is all ramped up into ultimate legitimation by calling it kingdom work.

Not only that, it is good and right and noble and just. It is more glamorous to do social activism because building a local church is hard.

It [building the church] involves people who struggle with one another, it involves persuading others of the desires of your heart to help the homeless, it means caring for people where they are and not where you want them to be, it involves daily routines, and it only rarely leads to the highs of ‘short-term’ experiences.

But local church is what Jesus came to build, so the local church’s mission shapes kingdom mission.

from Kingdom Conspiracy (p. 96-97)

Why You Should Care About Collegiate Ministry

Final reflection piece for the year. Will have another marina pic and some top 5 lists, but regular blogging won’t happen again until 2013.

This post reflects a little bit of my journey over the past year…I wholeheartedly believe in the work we are doing here in Boston: here’s why…


Confession: a pet peeve of mine is the minimizing of the importance of collegiate ministry. Our field has not always done a great job advertising our awesomeness (probably because campus ministers are too busy to do marketing). But, in my lower moments, I find the misunderstandings of our work to be aggravating.

Some look at college ministry as intellectual youth ministry. Others dismiss it as a mere “life-stage” ministry. Some deride it as an unhelpful “parachurch” organism/parasite. I get asked about once a month: “so when are you going to become a ‘real’ pastor.”

There are many people who get it and who invest in it and who think what we are doing is important. And that is beautiful. But the misunderstandings still drive me crazy.

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to hang with people from other ministries all over the world. When I asked them to tell me the story about how they got interested and inspired to do their work they all started with this:

“When I was in college…”

That phrase has been difficult to get out of mind over the last several weeks.

Collegiate ministry may not be directly addressing poverty, or dirty water, or whatever other issue or cause you might care about, BUT it will have an impact on all of those things.

If you care about the fact that church attendance is declining rapidly in the remerging generation you should care deeply about collegiate ministry.

If you care about issues of class and race and poverty that affect our cities and the education of our young people you should care deeply about collegiate ministry.

If you care about global missions you should care about collegiate ministry (for two reasons: US students will be called at this point in their lives to go abroad and international students studying in the US will take the good news of Jesus back with them).

If you care about sex-trafficking, human slavery, and other rights-based issues you should care about collegiate ministry.

If you care about the direction of technological advancement, research, medical and scientific developments, and the progression of philosophical thought and practice you should care about collegiate ministry.

If you care about politics you should care about collegiate ministry.

And, at the risk of exploiting current events, if you care about the deep, deep brokenness in our country you should care deeply about collegiate ministry.

I had the opportunity to meet with some Boston University officials at the end of the Spring semester and they revealed a startling development:

During that semester the school, for the first time that anyone could remember, made more hospital calls for students struggling with mental health issues than for alcohol related incidents.

Among emerging adults there is a profound crisis centering around questions of meaning and being.

The shootings in Newtown and other communities are the extreme expressions of a culture that is failing miserably to answer these questions in any kind of meaningful way.

We don’t know how to talk about truly significant things like evil, life, and ultimate meaning.

Most of the people (men? boys?) committing these unthinkable shootings are between the ages of 18 and 25.

Over the next couple of weeks and months we will hear about gun control and mental health reform, and both are important and needed conversations.

But, neither get to the heart of the issue. President Obama got us there for a moment in his speech on Sunday when he asked: “Why are we here?”

This question and other questions of meaning and being (what is a human? what does it mean to be human? is there purpose and meaning and importance to life and the universe? etc, etc) are at the center of our national crisis, a crisis that impacts our young people (specifically college aged students) more than anyone.

And if you care about this, if you care about how we answer and will answer these questions as a nation and a culture, then you should care deeply and passionately about collegiate ministry.

Organized? Religion

Some good thoughts from Dan Kimball on “organized” religion (more specifically churches):

“What makes the difference between healthy and destructive organization is what you are organizing for. When the church organizes around the biblical mission that Jesus gave his followers to share his good news of hope and forgiveness with people and lovingly encourage them in their desire to know Jesus, this leads to healthy organization…There’s too much need in the world not to be part of the organized church.

On That Which is Right in Front of Us

Yesterday I shared some pictures from Sojourn’s Spring ReadRetreatServe. For the “read” part of the day, students wrestled with three different perspective on the “act justly” clause of Micah 6:8.

One of the readings was from John Perkins’ book With Justice For All where he outlines the basics of his classic 3 “R’s” for Christian Community Development. One line stood out to me and framed my preparation for the day. Perkins says:

How can we claim to be loyal to Christ’s mission when we flee the mission field at our doorstep.

A couple of thoughts about this…One, we always think the grass is greener on the other side. It’s so much easier to be missional “over there.” Sometimes “over there” is the place we go on a “missions trip.” Sometimes it is the place where we volunteer. Sometimes it is even church. Often it is a form of escapism. It’s easier to go somewhere and get loved on by kids for a day than to deal with our cranky co-worker who makes fun of us for going to church on Sundays.

So, part of this is a call to see where we are: our workplace, our neighborhood, our campus, as our mission field. This is where we are, this is where we do life…live the Kingdom there!

Second, though, is this: sometimes we avoid going because we are comfortable where we are, it’s scary “over there”, the wrong people live over there, etc. So we hide out where we are to avoid getting messy. We hide out at church, in our small groups, and in our activities instead of actually getting to know people who are far from God who live next to us, who work with us, who sit in class alongside us.

So, part of this is a call to take a risk and move outside the walls of comfort.

I needed to hear this. Living in East Boston, it can be easy to see my “mission” field as the campus and the neighborhood simply as a place to live. It can be easy to get frustrated with people who just want to hang out with other people who look like them. I make excuses. I justify myself.

But I live in two worlds, the campus and the neighborhood, and I am called to live faithfully in both places. The kingdom is present and active in both places. Do I see it and do I join it? Not as much as I would like.

Saturday was a good reminder: do not flee the mission field at my doorstep.


Here’s an interesting couple of verses in Luke:

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide my inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” (Luke 12:13-14, TNIV)

Some context: Jesus goes on to talk at length about money and possessions and worry. About trust and generosity. The thrust of the passage is to be “rich towards God“…his purposes, his Kingdom.

But, if you read that reply in a certain tone, you get the impression that Jesus, as blasphemous as it might seem, was kind of annoyed with this guy. As in, “come on man,” don’t you see that there are bigger things going on here than how you divide your inheritance with your brother.

Jesus was welcoming, hospitable, and compassionate. But he was also protective of his mission and priorities. The Word did not become flesh to settle petty disputes. He knew where he was going and was not going to get sidetracked.

As ministers, leaders, pastors, we  want to help people. That’s why most of us get in to this work. When someone comes to us and wants our help, our natural tendency is to say “yes”. This is the work we signed up to do, after all. But not every ask moves the mission forward…not every idea is the right idea for right now…some things people can (or need) to figure out on their own.

I find Jesus’ response strangely encouraging. But also challenging because I want to help everyone. Anyone else struggle with this?

*For the sake of full disclosure, the essence of this idea is stolen from a talk Rob Bell did in the poets, prophets, and preachers series but his emphasis was narrower, focusing on how people respond to sermons.

Must Reads

Links of the Week:

  1. An interesting graphic on philanthropy (people will give money to colleges, will they give money to college ministry?)
  2. John Piper caused a stir with his “masculine feel to Christianity comment”…here’s an overview and some helpful responses
  3. Daniel Kirk with some great insight on what the Bible is for and the narrative approach
  4. Logan Gentry with some good thoughts on how missional communities can fail
  5. 2 posts from Scot McKnight’s blog on eschatology that is grounded in story versus escapism.