Soul Cultivation: Ten Weeks Of Healthy Missional Prayer from Far West Region Church Health Team
Starting Jan 14, 2019
Prepare the soil of your congregation for transformation with a season of ground-breaking prayer. This new field-tested devotional, created by FWR Church Health team, fits any size church and is a great resource, even if your congregation has not yet participated in the Congregational Vitality Pathway.
Soul Cultivation is a 10-week devotional designed to unite your church community in common prayer and conversation about being and becoming a healthier, more missional church.
Cultivating change and transformation in an established congregation is hard and sometimes seems next to impossible. Leaders come up with wonderful plans, march full steam ahead and then look behind only to wonder why no one is following. A recent business journal found that – “not only do 70% of organizational transformations fail, but the failure rate may even be increasing”. They discovered that the most common leadership mistake when it comes to change and transformation is the failure to prepare the way for change. If the organization is not ready for change or doesn’t see the need, it is simply not going to happen.
Jesus is the expert on change and transformation. His parable, The Sower and the Seed, is a master level lesson on the crucial necessity of how preparing for change must proceed the change itself, if the change is to last. The seed that is sown is powerful and potent. No worries about the seed. It sprouts anywhere you scatter it. It is Miracle Grow on steroids. It is the degree of soil cultivation that is the determining factor of healthy lasting growth. Plant in hard soil, rocky soil, or weedy soil and your results are slim to nothing. Cultivate the soil, prepare the way for the seed and look out- you have an abundant harvest.
A.W. Tozer wrote that we often have poor results in our churches and in our Christian lives because we foolishly try to plant before the plow instead of behind the plow and then wonder why we have such a poor harvest. The path to transformation and health is paved with prayer. Prayer is a powerful and often overlooked tool for clearing rocks, pulling weeds, and cultivating the soil of our souls.
Each Monday through Friday, for 10 weeks participants will receive an email with scriptures, readings and prayers based on the 10 marks of a healthy missional church. By “healthy” we mean pursuing Christ and by “missional” we mean pursuing Christ’s priorities in the world. Healthy missional churches are made up of healthy missional Christians. So each week begins with prayer for personal transformation and ends with prayer for congregational transformation.
You can sign up yourself, your church leaders, or your whole congregation by clicking here. If you have questions or would like to see samples click here.
By Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett
Missional Markers: Transforming Communities with Ministries of Compassion, Mercy, and Justice
Global Perspective and Engagement, Fruitful Organizational Structures, Culture of Godly Leadership, and Sacrificial and Generous Living and Giving
This book provides a wealth of guidance for a broad range of situations. Its principles are not limited to questions of physical intervention. They address leadership, compassion, and change. The values espoused in the book are consistent with those embedded in the Congregational Vitality Pathway.
The book has a solidly Reformed perspective on the world. Its comprehensive scope is typified in this quote: “Converts need to be trained in a biblical worldview that understands the implications of Christ’s lordship for all of life and that seeks to answer the question: If Christ is Lord of all, how do we do farming, business, government, family, art, etc., to the glory of God?” p. 45 Later they write, “…the central point of scripture is clear: as humans engage in cultural activity, they are unpacking a creation that Christ created, sustains, and…redeems.” P. 56 The gospel centeredness of their approach comes through in this quote, “Poverty is rooted in broken relationships, so the solution to poverty is rooted in the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection to put all things into right relationship again.” P. 73
Here are some definitions that help frame the whole discussion:
1) Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings.
2) Poverty alleviation is the ministry of reconciliation: moving people closer to glorifying God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation.
3) Material poverty alleviation is working to reconcile the four foundational relationships so that people can fulfill their callings of glorifying God by working and supporting themselves and their families with the fruit of their work.
One of the key ideas is that we often try to solve all the problems with economic answers to spiritual and relational issues. The book builds on a strong biblical basis of the relational damage caused by sin.
One chapter helps readers think through the best role for short term missions. Short term missions have become an industry and if not set in a greater context of mutual benefit and sustainable development, they can actually do more harm than good. I would not send out a Short Term Mission team without at least having them read chapter 7.
Another chapter identifies the difference between relief, rehabilitation, and development. The point is made that all of these are important, but they need to be used discerningly to be appropriate. We do relief for people; we do rehabilitation and development with people.
The book lifts up the cultural differences that can make us blind to operating in ways that are less than helpful. Sometimes, the process is the most important thing. “Participation is not just the means to an end but rather a legitimate end in its own right.” P. 136 In the west we look for productivity and efficiency. Not all cultures value these as highly. The authors point out that relational based assistance is slower and messier, but is often more sustainable.
Avoid Paternalism, “Never do for anyone what they can do for themselves.” You get a very different solution when you use an asset-based approach verses a need-based inquiry. One affirms in innate value endued by the Creator in every person. The latter assumes the ‘helper’ has more and better answers and resources and diminishes the worth of the person we are seeking to help. This is the classic clash between someone in need having too low of a self-image and the person with material resources have an over inflated sense of value or importance. The book calls the latter a God-complex. Both parties need to be open to giving AND receiving.
To be sure, this book will push established boundaries and ideas. Such points as healthy helping takes time to listen to people, to build relationships, and to jointly develop a plan challenge our cultural bent to believe we are the most developed culture and therefore we have the best solution. The book includes some humbling reminders, such as, “We are not bringing Christ to poor communities. He has been active in these communities since the creation of the world…” p. 57.
This book would make a great read for a deacon or benevolence team. It sets out principles that can be helpful in shaping a philosophy of missions locally and globally. The issue is not to create an excuse to not share our resources, but to invest our helping efforts in ways that use wise, sustainable stewardship.
This review only scratches the surface of what is in this book. Maybe the best endorsement I can offer for this book as a study resource is that we ended up with more people in the last class than we started with in the first class. No drop off due to boredom or irrelevance. Those who are interested in learning more can go to www.chalmers.org to get an overview of what is proposed in this book. The small group experience videos correspond to the six sessions outlined in the supplemental study which is available. You can go through this in six weeks, but there is so much more material to process and digest, I would recommend at least two weeks for each session.
1. Centrality of the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16)
We believe that the Bible is the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine and conduct. Our preaching and teaching in all settings reflects careful preparation, relevance, and creativity. Our people are equipped and growing in their ability to study and apply Biblical truth in ways that lead to a scripturally integrated life.
2. Life transforming walk with Jesus (John 3:3,30; Phil. 1:6)
We teach our people how to be attentive to Christ in all circumstances. Our people understand the radical nature of the message and mission of Jesus that continually deconstructs and reconstructs a person’s life. Our people are equipped and growing in their ability to use a variety of spiritual growth resources, experiences, and settings.
3. Intentional evangelism (Matthew 28:18-20)
We are burdened for the spiritual condition of those who do not yet know Christ. We have identifiable pathways for evangelism to take place in our ministries. Our people are equipped and growing in their ability to build spiritual friendships and know how to share their faith as God-birthed opportunities arise.
4. Transforming communities through active compassion, mercy and justice ministries (Micah 6:8)
We are burdened for the hurting people in our community and beyond. We have identifiable pathways for compassion, mercy and justice ministries to take place. Our people are equipped and growing in their ability to see and address the hurts and the causes of hurt in our community and beyond.
5. Global perspective and engagement (Acts 1:8)
We raise the sights of our members beyond our congregation and community by developing a Biblical worldview and often pray for and reference global matters. We have identifiable pathways to support the cause of Christ globally. Our people are equipped and growing in their ability to participate in the global dimensions of our ministry.
6. Compelling Christian community (Acts 2:42-47)
We understand that our love for one another is a powerful testimony to the deity of Jesus. We love each other as we are, not as we should be. We share life together beyond the worship service.
7. Heartfelt worship (Psalm 138:1a; John 4:23)
We exalt and celebrate God for who he is, what he has done, what he is doing and what he will do. Worship reflects careful preparation to help give voice to many dimensions of response to God such as adoration, praise, contrition, lament, and commitment. People leave worship knowing something more about the heart of God and about their own hearts.
8. Sacrificial and generous living and giving (Romans 12:1-8)
We help people discover, develop and deploy their spiritual gifts. We regularly, graciously, and unapologetically teach on the importance of financial stewardship in the spiritual growth of the Christian. We have many examples of lifestyle choices being made on the basis of stewardship and the priority God plays in the lives of our members.
9. Culture of godly leadership (Hebrews 13:7)
Our leaders at all levels serve with character, competence, and conviction. A spirit of collegiality pervades, with our people trusting our leaders and our leaders trusting our people. We continually identify and train godly leaders for all dimensions of our ministry.
10. Fruitful organizational structures (Exodus 18:13-26, Acts 6:1-7)
We can articulate a compelling, Christ-honoring vision for our church. We embrace evaluation as normal and natural and work through conflict constructively. Our organizational structures are designed to be efficient at making decisions while at the same time building congregational ownership for those decisions.