jonathan stone's blog

. . . posts on faith and life

you see dry bones, i see an army

Appearances are often deceiving. And despite what the title of this site might make you think, I actually have a very extreme amount of hope for the future of the Church. Why? Because the fire of God is His passion for His people (see Deut. 5). Christ gave himself up for the church, to make her holy and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or blemish (Eph 5:25-27). This gets close to the root of what IT is all about, what God is doing in His creation through history.

Unfortunately, our application of our eschatology encourages us to do very little in actively pursuing God’s vision for His bride. We assume that this is one of those things, from a list of things, that He will do when He returns. So, we have decided to leave it alone. I personally believe that not pursuing the maturity of the church is a great mistake. And that we will be held accountable for whatever we decide to do or not to do in regard to this matter. I also believe that you do not have to believe that the ‘perfection’ of the church will take place before the parousia of our Lord in order to catch a vision for the ‘perfecting’ of the church while we wait.

If our churches are going to contribute to the perfecting of the Church then we will have to ‘awaken the sleeping giant’ (Eph 5:14). If any sort of radical change, revival, reformation, awakening, or movement is going to come across this earth it will happen as the people (the laity) are awakened, mobilized, equipped, and released into the world. Leaders in the church (apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers, pastors) will have a key role obviously, but they will not be the source of the greatest amount of direct impact. Since most of us who comment on here are church leaders/ministers, I want to emphasize our role in unleashing the much larger role of ‘the people.’ I am sure that all of us need to awaken some things in ourselves first, before we can adequately shine the light that will awaken the people of God. So, I want to start a series of talks that I’m going to categorize under ‘vision.’ I hope to catch some vision from each of you about how to awaken, mobilize, equip, and release the people into the world.

Here are a few things that are bouncing around in my head currently:
(1) People want to ‘experience’ the mission of the church through direct ‘connection’ and ‘vital participation’ (3 of the 4 points in Sweet’s EPIC model).
(2) The church has a future in disaster relief. Emergency response, preparedness strategies, Critical Incident Stress training, quick mobilization teams, and second stage relief are not only going to be HUGE in the 21st century, but they are also exactly the kind of things that can help us get men interested in plugging back into church (not that there aren’t women interested in this as well).
(3) Given the continuing ‘flattening’ of our world, people generally expect and desire to ‘think globally and act locally.’ People want to be plugged into the globalized world, not running from it in fear.

I know that many of you have other thoughts about the importance of unleashing this army of God’s people. I also know that many of you are already finding very tangible, practical ways of doing this in your church. So, I’m wondering what your thoughts, ideas, and current ‘promising practices’ are?

8 comments on “you see dry bones, i see an army

  1. Don
    April 4, 2008

    WOW! Nothing like my department’s agenda put online! (And, since I’m on that subject and you’ve mentioned Leonard Sweet, I’ll throw this shameless plug in. What I mean is the following:

    If our churches are going to contribute to the perfecting of the Church then we will have to ‘awaken the sleeping giant’ (Eph 5:14). If any sort of radical change, revival, reformation, awakening, or movement is going to come across this earth it will happen as the people (the laity) are awakened, mobilized, equipped, and released into the world. Leaders in the church (apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers, pastors) will have a key role obviously, but they will not be the source of the greatest amount of direct impact. Since most of us who comment on here are church leaders/ministers, I want to emphasize our role in unleashing the much larger role of ‘the people.’

    Let me try to personalise this a bit.

    As everyone who reads my comments knows, I was Roman Catholic for a good while. Now traditionally the RCC has a very definite idea about the role of the laity. As Cardinal Leo Suenens put it humourously, the role of the laity is “to know when to kneel, to know when to stand, and to know when to reach for your wallet.”

    So I take my leave from the RCC, and join the great COG. Unfortunately, in spite of all the happy words about the “priesthood of all believers,” I find that the concept of many (especially in the ministry) of the role of the laity is little different from Cardinal Suenens, in practice if not in theory.

    I hope that the reaction to your piece will enlighten me on why this is so. I know your empahsis is on our eschatology, but it’s certainly not the only reason, and I don’t even think it’s the most important one. But we’ll see.

  2. Jonathan Stone
    April 4, 2008

    Don, I like your observation of how we practice (if not in theory) our view of the laity the way that we do. In practice, we believe in “the priesthood of all priests” (or OB, or LM, or AB or PB or whatever).

    I threw in the part about eschatology, and I think that is significant. But I agree that it is not likely the root cause. I also wonder how prevalent this is among the other ‘tribes’ in America? Are some better at empowering the laity to participate in the mission? If so, why? If not, what is it about our American Christian culture that keeps us held back on this?

  3. Don
    April 5, 2008

    Certainly is quiet up to now…

    In the meanwhile, check this out. Perhaps we can get something going, in accordance with “the tradition!”

  4. Jonathan Stone
    April 5, 2008

    Don, that’s a funny post. Thanks for sharing.

    As you know, it’s not unusual for things to slow down to a crawl in the blogosphere on the weekends. However, in the case of this particular topic I am still not sure how much interest there is among the population that typically comments. Among that population there is a strong call for the attention of those above, including an expressed desire to be mentored. But there has been little expressed desire to discuss our need in going the other direction. I don’t mean that as a critique. It does not mean that we are not mentoring our people (though that could be the case). It’s just not what we have come on here to raise our voice about. At least that’s what I hope this observation means. Because if we are not actively trying to give our people the very things that we claim are being withheld from us, that would make us terrible hypocrites!

  5. darrellbjr
    April 8, 2008

    Jonathan,

    This is a great post and it hits me right where I am.

    I pastor dry bones while trying to engage a unique inter-racial urban culture trying to co-exist with a rural mentality on the outskirts of Appalachia.

    I can’t wait for the sleeping giant to wake up.

    My question is do I spend more time intentionally trying to wake my members who feel they have already done their part or do I spend my energies in the community.

    Right now I am trying to do both, and the community is responding better than the church.

    Again, thanks for this post. It greatly encourages me.

    Darrell Buttram, Jr.

  6. Jonathan Stone
    April 9, 2008

    Darrell, thanks for sharing. It’s encouraging to me that it was encouraging to you!

    Hungington, WV. Never been there, but in my more daring days I almost made it up there…stopping a little short in Beckley in order to paddle the Gauley (the famed “Beast of the East”).

    Do you care to share a little more about that struggle? I’d love to hear more about it!

  7. darrellbjr
    April 10, 2008

    Jonathan, you’ve never been to Huntington? Man you don’t know what you’re missing…probably not much, but you just don’t know!

    My struggle is interesting. You realize you’ve opened Pandora’s Box right?

    Four years ago I told this congregation I was being assigned to a new pastorate. I told them I had permission to take them with me if they wanted to go. I invited them to come with me and check out the new pastorate. Some of the folks were starting to cry, thinking I was leaving, or the church was closing. I took them outside the church and said, “Look around you. Everywhere you can see, and everyone around you is my pastorate…Will you go there with me?”

    Four years later and I’m still waiting for them to truly answer.

    I have a handful of folks in the local church who really have embraced the vision, and I am thankful for that. Then there are a couple others who are hard workers and will do just about anything I ask, but they really don’t get it.

    Most of the folks view church as a spectator sport without the noise…kind of like watching the Masters Cup. However, they are predominantly a very giving church and they care deeply for their pastor.

    Our church was held back from relocating in its prime, and owns 5.5 acres of hillside below a housing development which has been an albatross around the church’s neck for over 30 years. All dreams of building a new building have been gradually dieing with the saints who had those dreams…20 funerals in 7 years and there were only 50 in attendance when I got here.

    Two years ago the median age of the church was 45, now it is 55, and would be much higher were it not for our children’s ministries. The average age in the community varies because of the transient nature of the neighborhood. Right now it is 45-48.

    Three years ago, we partnered with an African-American congregation to prayer walk our community. Immediately following, four teenagers were murdered on prom night in the same community.

    Because of outreaches we had done in the city, I was able to arrange for a group of pastors to meet with elected officials and to enter into a “prayerful dialogue” to find solutions to the problems of drugs and violence. Out of that came a deep respect from people in the community and a sense that someone was trying to help them.

    Now we are beginning to see great improvements in the community. The community connections have brought about many ministry opportunities outside of the church. Some of these connections have brought people into our church, but most neighboring guests have felt uncomfortable for any number of issues. In listening to the neighbors who do not attend church, I found that most of the issues which kept them from attending would be nonexistent if the church came out of the building.

    So I have both a congregation which has largely limited itself to its building and a community desperately needing a church in the neighborhood. As a result, I am trying to pastor both a congregation and a community.

    I’m preaching to dry bones which I belive will are in process of being revived and empowered. At the same time I am ministering to spiritual pre-borns and newborns who are hungry. Eventually I hope to see these two steams converge…and that is when things will get real interesting.

    How did this get so long? This may be the longest response you’ve ever had posted.

    Thanks for allowing me to share.

    DB

  8. corum deo vida
    May 7, 2008

    your blog made me think of Revelation 19:

    7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.
    8 Fine linen, bright and clean,
    was given her to wear.
    (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)

    it seems, to me, that the coming of our Jesus is a synergistic move. this passage is confusing if you don’t understand it as a synergistic one. did the bride prepare herself or did the groom give her the fine clothing? and how did the groom give her clothing that was made up of her righteous acts?
    but when we see that Jesus’ return is dependent on us, in that we must clothe ourselves with righteous deeds that He then returns to us to wear…well that puts a twist on it, no?

    this is why i, contrary to popular belief (and my raisin’), do not believe Jesus is returning soon. for me, the church seems to be naked, worse even, she is the emperor from ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’. she is naked but her vulgar pride renders her blind. i don’t say this as judge or as a pessimistic party pooper. i say it with grief and with hope in Jesus. i pray He gives us the grace to see. and yes, YES! those caring for the world-cups of cold water acts…yes those could be the very things that clothe us in righteousness preparing us for the wedding.

    kindra

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This entry was posted on April 4, 2008 by in vision.
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