the weblog of Alan Knox


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Replay: Community and Mission

Posted by on Jul 7, 2012 in community, missional | 4 comments

Five years ago, I wrote a post called “Community and Mission” after talking with a friend who was a military chaplain. I loved how this friend described the importance of community to the mission of the military. How much more important is community (real community based on the presence of Jesus Christ among us) to God’s mission in and through his children? Jesus himself said that our unity with one another – which results in community – also affects our mission of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. (See John 17:20-21)


Community and Mission

A few days ago, I spoke with a friend who I had not spoken with in many years. God used him as a mentor for me over ten years ago. Since then, we have both moved several times. When I talked to this friend, I found out that he was working as a chaplain in a branch of the armed forces of the United States. (I prefer to keep this general, so I am going to leave out many of the specifics.) I told him about my interest in the church as a community of people instead of as an organization. I am going to paraphrase his response. I hope this encourages you as much as it did me:

As a chaplain, one of the most important things that I teach people is that this branch of the military is a community. But, we cannot be a community that only knows about one another’s life. We must be a community that is involved in one another’s life. If a fellow service member is struggling or having problems, we cannot let that continue without addressing the problems. The mission of this branch of the military is at stake. We must be willing to get involved in each other’s lives, to help one another through difficult situations, to support each other when needed. If we only know about one another, and know about other people’s problems, and talk about those problems behind their back, then we are setting up our branch of the military for failure. Our mission is of utmost importance, because the safety and freedom of the American people depend upon us carrying out our mission. And, the success of our missions depends on our ability to live as a community with one another.

How much more important is the mission of the church? How much more important is it that the church lives as a community with one another?

I love what he said about the military, community, and mission. And, he is exactly right! The mission of the church – which is God’s mission – is much more important than the mission of the military. The military (or at least this chaplain) understands the importance of community in carrying out its mission. Shouldn’t the church understand that importance even more?

I’m going to repeat what he said to the church: Our mission depends upon us living as community with one another – the kind of community that knows one another and is willing to get involved in one another’s lives so that we can all help one another as we carry out this mission together.

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Back home – resting and catching up

Posted by on Jun 24, 2012 in missional, personal, service | 1 comment

We arrived back home yesterday afternoon (Saturday, June 23, 2012) after a week of working with many teenagers and adults from around the southeast. We were all in Norfolk, VA to serve people in the name of Jesus Christ through various forms of construction and painting. We were not building houses. Instead, we were working on houses that were in bad shape and whose owners could not afford to maintain them.

During the last week, I primarily spent time with two different groups: the people who traveled with me from Youngsville, NC, and the work crew which was made up of people from five different cities in three different states. It was a special time with both groups.

One of the young men in my work crew described it like this on Facebook:

My crew was so encouraging and each and everyone of them was awesome! They were always happy and willing and wanting to work! … Our crew ate together, laughed together, cried together, worked together, bernied together, and loved together. I could not ask for a better crew. It showed that people from around the country that have never met before can work together to spread the Gospel.

I was also very encouraged by the adults and teenagers that I traveled with. I learned so much from them, especially one young lady in particular who stepped outside of her comfort zone in many ways including sharing the gospel with people in the neighbor of the house where she was working.

It was a long week of hard work during hot and humid weather. So, I’m tired, and resting.

I realize that I have many comments on the blog that need a response. I hope to get to them in the next couple of days. Please be patient with me.

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Replay: Duplicating what God Created

Posted by on Jun 23, 2012 in discipleship, missional | 3 comments

Two years ago, I wrote a post called “Duplicating what God Created.” Everyone follower of Jesus wants to see God’s kingdom expanding on earth. However, we can jump ahead of God and begin to duplicate something that God has done somewhere or at another time or among another group of people. We should never assume to know what God is doing or how he is going to do it. We can really trust God to do the work that he wants to do.


Duplicating what God Created

Over the last few days, I’ve had conversations with different people around the idea of “duplicating what God created.” We didn’t call it that, and never used those words, but that was the point of our discussions.

What do I mean?

Well, as humans, we tend to be methodical. When we see something that “works,” we tend to want to re-created it… duplicating the systems and processes that seemed to produce the result. Often, we get good results. This works well in the scientific fields. But, in sociological fields – i.e., where people are involved – usually the “duplicates” fall short of the original.

Why? Well, simply put, because people are involved, and people are different from place to place and time to time.

This works into our church life as well. Perhaps a group of believers get together, and they make a huge impact on their community. People study this group of believers, and produce a system with the same activities and programs and ministries and leadership structure, etc. But, they don’t get the same results.

Why not? Because the people involved are different. The context is different. The gifts and opportunities are different.

Perhaps this is why we do not see a clear picture of what the church “looked like” in Scripture. If God gave us a clear picture of what the church looked like in Jerusalem, then many would try to duplicate it. If we had a clear understanding of how the church met in Thessalonika, then others would try to create the same kind of meeting. This kind of duplication will not work, because the people involved (i.e. the church) is different.

So, instead of giving a clear picture of what our church meetings should “look like” or how leadership should be structured, or what ministries we should pursue, we’re given different types of information. Whatever we do should be in love. However we meet, we should edify one another. Wherever we go and whatever we do and whoever leads us, we do so as family.

If we take these kinds of “normative” principles with us, it will not matter (as much) what the church meeting ultimately looks like, or how the leaders operate, or what kinds of ministries we pursue. And, we will recognize that while our meetings, leadership, and ministries may look different than another group’s, our goals and purposes are the same.

We will only be concerned when we find love missing, or mutual edification lacking, or family identification nullified. Then we will seek to rectify the problems… not because of wrong activities.

While we will rejoice about how God works among a group of believers, we will not jump at the “next big thing” that comes along, trying to force another group of believers into a mold created by different people.

Instead, we will be comfortably uncomfortable allowing God to create what he wants to create, with the people that he brings together, using the gifts and talents and opportunities that he gives them. And, we will recognize that it’s okay (and even expected) that we don’t look like another group of believers or that God is working differently in and through us.

And, we will happily refuse to try to duplicate what God may be creating somewhere else or at a different time or among a different group of people. Instead, we will focus on loving, edifying, caring, making disciples, and evangelizing the world as God has given us gifts, talents, opportunities, ministries, and resources.

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Most Read Post of 2007: The Church or The Organization

Posted by on Jun 18, 2012 in elders, missional, office | Comments Off on Most Read Post of 2007: The Church or The Organization

I’m out of town this week, so I’m linking to the most read posts on my blog from each year from 2007 to 2011.

The most read post on my blog from 2007 was “The Church or The Organization.”

Please take the time to read that post and the comments from my readers.

Thank you, and I’ll “see” you again soon.

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Yes, you are sent. Why do you ask?

Posted by on May 31, 2012 in blog links, missional | 10 comments

Scholars, missiologists, ecclesiologists, and other “ologists” continue to argue about the connection between the church and mission. Does the church have a mission, or does the mission have a church?

In reality, God has both a mission and a church, and in Christ we are part of both.

Joe (JR) at “More than Cake” has written an excellent post about our part in God’s mission called “I have already sent you! – A Missional Moment with Jesus.”

The main part of Joe’s post is a commentary on Jesus’ statements in John 4:25-27 and John 4:35-38. (Please jump over to Joe’s post and read his discussion of this passage.)

However, I want to focus on the last part of his post. In the last few sentences, Joe points out that Jesus has sent US (that is, all of us who are in Christ) into a “mission field”:

  • Jesus has sent us into our workplaces where people go to earn a living, but do we share with them how God’s riches are far better.
  • Jesus has moved us into neighborhoods where people seek shelter, but have we helped them know that God is the only house of refuge.
  • Jesus has placed is in earthly families where people long for acceptance, but have we shown them by example that God’s family is the only way to find true love.
  • Jesus has sent us into our local Safeway where they sell, “ingredients for life”, but have we held back from sharing our secret ingredient for Life Eternal?
  • Jesus has sent us into the world where we demonstrate compassion by giving food, money and medicine, but have we forgotten about the spiritual need for nourishment and healing in Jesus?

Jesus has already sent you to sow and reap a harvest, did you miss it?

Yes! Exactly! We are all sent by God to proclaim his grace through Jesus Christ and to serve others in his name. Are you “living sent”?

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Replay: The Church as Relational Organism

Posted by on May 26, 2012 in books, community, fellowship, missional | 7 comments

More and more, as I read books about the church, authors are recognizing that in Scripture the church is not an organization or an institution, but people. Four years ago, I wrote a post called “The Church as Relational Organism.” In that post, I referred to a few quotes from a book that I was reading at the time. The author was emphasizing the relational aspect of the church.

This is more than rhetoric. If we truly view the church as relational instead of organizational, it will change the way that we interact with one another.


The Church as Relational Organism

A few days ago, in a post called “What is a ‘traditional’ church?“, I mentioned a new book that I was reading: Missional House Churches: Reaching Our Communities with the Gospel (Colorado Springs: Paternoster, 2007) by J.D. Payne. Primarily, I picked up this book because of the title and because it was written by a Southern Baptist. I haven’t read much concerning “missional” or “house” church from the perspective of other Southern Baptists, so I was intrigued by this combination.

Overall, I liked this book. As with almost all books, the author and I hold differing opinions on a few things. For example, when he is defining the Church/church (he uses “Church” for “universal church” and “church” for “local church”), I think he makes more of a distinction between “universal” and “local” than Scripture makes.

However, I appreciated his organic and relational definition of the church (I will use one term for both, like Scripture does):

What is clear from the Gospels is that Jesus came to establish a new community… The citizens of this new community were part of a divine kingdom and lived according to the kingdom of ethic that involved 1) love for the King, 2) love for others in the kingdom, and 3) love for those outside the kingdom. (26-27)

For the most part, the church today is defined and understood in institutional and compartmentalized concepts… On the other hand, the Scriptures advocate that the church… is primarily understood in relation to the kingdom of God through organic metaphors emphasizing 1) the relationship of believers to God, 2) the relationship of believers to one another, and 3) the relationship of believers to unbelievers. The church is primarily to be understood in simple relational terms. (35-37)

Similarly, when Payne discusses the various metaphors that the authors of Scripture use to describe the church, he begins with my favorite metaphor – the family:

The obvious meaning behind this metaphor is that the bonds holding together the citizens of the kingdom are as strong, if not stronger, than the bond of blood. Just as an earthly family loves, honors, protects, encourages, and cares for one another, the church must do likewise. (29-30)

My thinking about the church changed drastically when I began seeing the church as a family instead of seeing the church as an organization. I began interacting with people through the relationships that God created through his Spirit instead of interacting with people through positions and functions. We are brothers and sisters with the same father. That relationship is stronger than blood.

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My friends Paul and Laurel are in the Congo

Posted by on May 11, 2012 in community, fellowship, missional | 2 comments

A few weeks ago, I published a post called “Is God opening a door of opportunity for us in the Congo?” In that post, I explained that some friends of ours (Paul and Laurel) were moving to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

After several long flights and a few days in Entebbe, Uganda, Paul and Laurel and their four month old son Noah arrived in their new home in Isiro, DRC a couple of weeks ago.

Paul and Laurel will be working with locals to create written versions of several local, tribal languages. It sounds strange to many of us in the west, but many of the languages in that region (and in other regions around the world) are only spoken language. There is no written version. When my friends visited the area a couple of years ago, they were present when a man wrote down a story for the first time even in his native language.

Last weekend, I had a chance to Skype with Paul and Laurel – and even Noah. So far, they are getting adjusted to their new home and beginning to learn Lingala. (They have already spent alot of time learning French, which is one of the national languages of DRC.) Soon, they will begin their translation work.

I enjoyed catching up with my friends, and it’s amazing how technology (like Skype) can help us continue interacting with one another even though we are thousands of miles away.

Of course, as I explained in the post liked to above, we are also praying about how God could use us in the DRC and how God could use our brothers and sisters in the DRC to help us. That’s right… mutual edification across continents.

So, what’s going to happen? We don’t know. Paul and Laurel have already seen some opportunities, but we’re waiting both for more information, for them to meet more people in their city, and for direction from God. We trust that if he wants us to work together with our brothers and sisters in the DRC, then he will make that clear.

Still… it’s an exciting time. Already, I’m learning about more things that God is doing half way around the world.

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Replay: When we had nothing to offer them but ourselves

Posted by on May 5, 2012 in discipleship, love, missional, service | 9 comments

Three and a half years ago, I wrote a post called “No produce, just relationships.” Often, when we find someone in need, God will lead us to provide for those physical needs. However, as much as the people may need that physical help, they need something else even more. God works through relationships, and when we pour our lives into other people, we are bringing Jesus Christ with us. Here is a real story that God used to teach me this lesson.


No produce, just relationships

At the beginning of the summer, our family and some friends began to visit a local government assisted housing development. Cathy, a friend of ours who is part of the church with us, introduced us to many of her neighbors, and we met other neighbors while spending time in the neighborhood.

When we started visiting the people in this neighborhood, we would take them small bags of fresh produce or fresh baked bread. Why? For several reasons. 1) The produce and bread were small tokens to demonstrate our concern for them. 2) Often charitable groups bring in old produce, breads, cookies, and cakes that other people would not buy. We wanted to give them something that anyone would want… not leftovers. 3) We wanted to give vegetables, fruit, and wheat bread to encourage a healthy lifestyle. 4) We were hoping the produce and bread would give us opportunities to serve them in other ways, including opportunities to proclaim the gospel.

A few weeks ago, the lady that runs the produce stand (Vivian – which is another story altogether) told us that the stand was closing. That morning, as we told the people in the neighborhood that the produce stand was closing, they all said about the same thing: “You’re still going to visit us, aren’t you?” Our weekly visits had turned into more than an opportunity to hand out produce. We had begun to build relationships with the neighbors.

So, throughout the week, I often find myself thinking about and praying for Cathy, Dennis, Tina, Mrs. Jeans, Shonna and her children (Marvin, Laruen, and Mya), Mrs. Woodlief and her son Benny, and Mrs. Fort. We’ve met a few other people in the neighborhood, but these are the ones with whom we usually spend the most time. These are the people who have opened their homes and their lives and have invited us in.

If you think about, please pray for Dennis. His father passed away last Friday, and the funeral is Monday.

And, pray for Cathy. She’s struggling with health issues – emphysema and back pain.

Also, pray for Tina. Tina’s son died from an overdose a couple of weeks ago. Tina ended up being hospitalized herself because of emotional issues a few days later. Now, she is dealing with several other issues related to her ex-husband and former care giver.

Pray for Mrs. Jeans. She had skin cancer on her ear last summer. The doctor removed part of her ear, but now something else is wrong. She has also been struggling with health issues, including a couple of weeks with the flu. Plus, her nephew is having family issues also.

If you ask Mrs. Woodlief, she’ll tell you to pray for everything. But, we know that her foot often hurts her, and she has to walk with a cane then.

And, Mrs. Fort will always tell you to pray for her knee. When the weather changes – which has happened alot lately – her knee hurts as well. If you think about it, also pray for the grandchildren and great-grandchildren who live with Mrs. Fort.

We can no longer offer these precious people fresh vegetables and fruit. We still carry fresh bread occasionally. But, they’ve let us know that they don’t want the produce and bread as much as they need the relationships. For many of them, we’re their only support system. We don’t have much to offer financially, but we can and do offer the love of God as often as possible.

Do you think there may be someone out there waiting for you to demonstrate the love of God? Why not start getting involved in someone’s life today?

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A Panic Attack Leads to Sharing the Gospel… by the one having the panic attack

Posted by on May 3, 2012 in church life, community, missional | 2 comments

A friend of ours had to to go to the dentist. While in the chair, she started having a panic attack. One of the things that she did in response was to send a text to her husband.

Her husband sent a text to several people telling them what was going on.

One of the woman’s friends got the text and went to the dentist’s office. She told the receptionist what happened, and eventually was led into the room with the woman had been having a panic attack.

By the time the friend arrive, God had calmed the woman down, and she was no longer having a panic attack. However, the friend stayed with her a few minutes to comfort her and encourage her.

When the friend left, the dental hygienist asked about the visit. This gave the woman an opportunity to explain about her relationship with her friend which led to a proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ.

Because of a panic attack… It’s so awesome to see God work through (and in spite of) the brokenness in our lives when we submit it to him.

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Mutuality and Itinerant Service for the Gospel

Posted by on Apr 17, 2012 in community, fellowship, missional | 9 comments

For the next few days, I’m going to publish a short series on the connection between mutuality and various forms of serving for the sake of the gospel. I’m planning to stick to commands, exhortations, and examples that we find in Scripture relating to mutual service and servants. There is a danger in sole-ministry, expert-ministry, and professional-ministry. In Scripture, service (of any kind) was performed mutually – both with others and for the sake of others.

In this post, I look at the service of apostles or itinerant servants. I’m defining apostles as those who travel from place to place in order to proclaim the gospel to unbelievers and in order to strengthen believers.

Yes, in Scripture, even “apostleship” was a mutual form of service. The best place to begin in Scripture is in the Gospels.

Though he would probably be the only person to not need mutuality, Jesus usually traveled with, taught with, and served with others. After Jesus surrounded himself with others, he then sent them out (i.e., as apostles) together:

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. (Luke 10:1 ESV)

When we get to Book of Acts, we often see people traveling together: Paul and Barnabas, Barnabas and Mark, Paul and Silas, Silas and Timothy, etc. In fact, though we often focus on Paul, he was not “called” to travel alone. He was sent by God and by the church in Antioch together with Barnabas as a team:

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:1-3 ESV)

And, while it is also easy to overlook, apparently Peter was traveling with others as well:

So he [Peter] invited them [the men from Cornelius’ household] in to be his guests. The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. (Acts 10:23 ESV)

Now, certainly, there were times when people traveled alone. For example, it seems that Philip was alone when he was traveling around proclaiming the gospel in Acts 8. And, at least once, Paul was forced to travel alone to Athens. But, even in that instance, he asked for Timothy and Silas to join him as soon as possible. (Acts 17:14-15)

However, I think that Paul’s attitude when preparing to travel to Rome can help us understand that even when traveling alone (potentially), Paul still had mutuality in mind. He told the Roman believers:

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you — that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. (Romans 1:11-12 ESV)

God created us to need him and to need one another. Even apostles need others to travel with them, to serve with them, and to encourage them even as they encourage and build up others.


Series on Mutuality and Service

  1. Mutuality and Itinerant Service for the Gospel
  2. Mutuality and Teaching Service for the Gospel
  3. Mutuality and Shepherding Service for the Gospel
  4. Mutuality: Sharing Life in Christ Together