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Several months ago Phil read this in the book of Revelation – “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near” (1:3). He had the idea of having the whole book of Revelation read aloud to the church. We decided this could fit very well in the monthly All-Church Prayer meetings.

Tony Reinke, in his book Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books, writes:

For centuries God’s people have gathered for the public reading of Scripture. In the Old Testament, God’s people gathered to hear Ezra read the Bible for six hours (Neh. 8:1-8). In the New Testament, the apostle Paul exhorted pastor Timothy to read the Bible publicly to his church (1 Tim. 4:13). The New Testament is comprised of letters (or epistles) that were written for the purpose of being read. The book of Revelation is one lengthy example (it takes seventy minutes to read Revelation verbally, according to my iTunes audio Bible).

In the early church, the public reading of Scripture was done chiefly by the lector (Latin for “reader”). The lector was the official public reader, and it’s a role that Revelation 1:3 seems to mention: “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy….”

So this Wednesday (10/2) starting promptly at 6:45 PM we’ll be having several lectors taking turns reading through the whole book of Revelation out loud.

Come and be prepared to engage with God as he addresses us and we respond!

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Missional Focus Week – Day 6

Alright, hopefully the emails this week have seeded your hearts and minds with thoughts of ways we could band together to reach out in the UIC Area. Now it’s your turn.

Share your ideas, stimulated by this week’s emails and contextualized specifically for the UIC Area by posting a comment below. Post as many as you want! There are no dumb posts. If you like someone else’s post, comment on it. After a week we will see which ones had the most support and start getting people together around those ideas to implement them.

The final (and most critical) component to all this is going to be prayer support. Whenever you or a group of people are going out on a missional venture, let the Intercessory Prayer Team (IPT) know by sending a quick email to prayer at Immanuel dash baptist dot net so they can be backing you up with prayer. If anything is going to happen, it is going to have to be a movement of the Holy Spirit.

Also, before the next Joint Outreach (10/5) John Rood will be doing some evangelism training at 10:00 AM at The Meeting Place.

Thanks for following along this week. Now let’s see what the Spirit does!

Missional Focus Week – Day 5

The following is adapted from Tim Keller, Center Church, 286-89.

Reaching out to a friend can be natural and organic. It just takes some honesty and courage. Here are some ways to do this, listed in order of intensity:

1. One-on-one – informal

· Let others know of your Christian faith by simply mentioning church attendance or Christian beliefs in casual conversation. This can be a fruitful first step that can open doors for further conversation.

· Ask questions about other people’s beliefs and experiences with faith and church and simply listen appreciatively and sympathetically.

· Listen sympathetically to someone’s challenges and mention that you will pray regularly for them.

· Share a difficult personal issue that you have and be sure to mention that your faith helps you by giving you strength and granting you forgiveness, etc.

· Share your spiritual narrative – a brief testimony of your Christian experience.

2. One-on-one – planned/intentional

· Offer someone a book or audio recording about Christian issues and invite them to discuss their reactions.

· Initiate a discussion about a friend’s biggest problems with or objections to Christianity. Listen respectfully and give them some things to read and discuss.

· Regularly read a part of the Bible together – preferably one of the Gospels – to discuss the character of Jesus.

3. Provide an experience of Christian community

· Invite friends to situations or activities where they meet believers but where there is no direct Christian event or communication.

· Invite friends to venues where they hear the gospel communicated and discussed – one-time event, such as an open forum; fellowship group; worship service; group meeting for inquirers, such as book club, seeker group, etc.

4. Share your faith

· Share the basics of the Christian faith with your friend, laying out how to become a Christian and inviting them to make a commitment.

It is certainly possible to have an evangelistic dynamic built strictly on relational, informal outreach by laypeople. Nevertheless, laypeople are often encouraged and instructed in their ministry if the church provides a varied set of events, gatherings, and meetings in which nonbelievers are exposed more directly to both Christians and to the gospel. Use your ingenuity to imagine a variety of meetings and places where people without faith can, through a winsome approach, be stimulated to consider the claims of the Christian gospel. Here are some examples:

· A one-off event, such as an open forum. At Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, these have typically been artistic forums (such as “Exerpts from Porgy and Bess,” “Coltrane Night,” or a Bach Wedding Cantata), followed by a lecture that offers a Christian perspective on the art, with a time for questions and answers.

· A gathering in a small public venue with a brief talk and Q&A on a single topic that addresses problems people have with Christian faith. At Redeemer, they call these “Christianity Un-corked” events.

· A group of Christians that meets for four weeks; each week, each member asks one non-Christian friend a question about their religious beliefs for the purpose of listening to (not debating) other religious beliefs and objections to Christianity.

· A group mainly for non-Christians that meets regularly. Less intense: a book club focused on reading fiction books by C.S. Lewis, Flannery O’Connor, J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, etc., that get at Christian themes, or even reading books by non-Christians and talking about the faith perspectives and worldviews they represent. More intense: Eight-week “seeker groups” that meet to study a book. Some people may respond well to frank discussions about common “defeaters” of Christianity, while others may prefer to explore the life of Jesus through reading one of the Gospels or using a book such as Jesus the King.

· Onetime “salons” in which Christians bring non-Christian friends to hear an informal presentation by a Christian speaker on a topic, followed by a discussion.

· Worship “after meetings.” Examples include a Q&A session after the church service with the preacher of the day, where any questions are allowed, though usually the topic of the message is covered; an apologetics class (five to seven weeks) that makes a case for the truth of Christianity; or a seven-week class covering basic Christian beliefs and Christian living, oriented to new believers but open to attendance by seekers.

· Affinity-based outreach. Campus ministries, vocational (industry-based) ministries, and men’s or women’s gatherings can have an evangelistic/apologetics aspect in their regular meetings and may hold outreach events at neutral venues, similar to the ones described above.

Missional Focus Week – Day 4

Here is some more fodder for your missional imagining adapted from Tim Keller’s book, Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 283-84.

He says that mission for a believer is a matter of everyday life – of developing nonsuperficial relationships with your neighbors, colleagues, and others in the city. Here are some practical, simple ways to do this:

Engaging neighbors

· Take regular walks in your neighborhood to meet others who are out and about. Keep a regular schedule. Go to the same places at the same time for groceries, haircuts, coffee, shopping. This is one of the main ways you get to know those who live geographically near.

· Find ways to get to know others in your building or neighborhood – through a common laundry area, at resident meetings, and in numerous other ways.

· Find an avocation or hobby you can do with others in the city. For example, don’t form a Christian backpacking club; join an existing one.

· Look for ways to play organized amateur sports in the city.

· Volunteer alongside other neighborhood residents at nonprofits and with other programs.

· If you have children, be involved at the school and get to know other parents.

· Participate in city events – fund-raisers, festivals, cleanups, summer shows, concerts, etc.

· Serve your neighborhood. Visit the community board meeting. Pick up litter regularly. Get involved in neighborhood associations. Find individual neighbors (especially elderly ones) and seek ways of serving them.

· Be hospitable to neighbors – when and where appropriate, invite them over for a meal or a movie, etc.

Engaging colleagues, coworkers, and friends

· Do recreational activities with them – watch sports (live or on TV at home or in a nightspot); go to a theater show, museum exhibit, art gallery exhibit, etc.

· Invite them to join a sports league with you.

· Invite them to work out with you at a gym.

· Put together a movie night.

· Go out of your way to eat with them as often as possible. Invite people over for a meal in your apartment or home or just invite them out to try a new restaurant.

· Plan trips or outings – a trip to a beach, a historical site, etc.

· If the person has a skill or interest, ask them (sincerely!) to educate you.

· Organize a discussion group on something – politics, books, etc., inviting mainly non-Christians.

And remember: part of being engaged is to be willing to identify as a believer. Engaging relationally without doing so could be called “the blend-in approach.” Many Christians live in a social world of non-Christians but don’t think much about their friends’ spiritual needs, nor do they identify themselves as believers to their friends. Their basic drive is to be accepted, to avoid being perceived as different – but this approach fails to integrate a person’s faith with his or her relationships in the world. Moreover, if you only briefly admit to being a Christian, but never share the gospel, you can perpetuate the false notion that being a Christian is simply being a nice, moral person.

Keep brainstorming ways that we can engage the lost, especially those living in the UIC Area, with the gospel…

Missional Focus Week – Day 3

This week we’re trying to prime the pump for ideas of ways that we can collectively reach the UIC Area with the gospel. Here are 8 ways anyone can be missional:

1.) Eat with non-Christians. We all eat three meals a day. Why not make a habit of sharing one of those meals with a non-Christian or with a family of non-Christians? Go to lunch with a co-worker, not by yourself. Invite the neighbors over for family dinner. If it’s too much work to cook a big dinner, just order pizza and put the focus on conversation. When you go out for a meal, invite others. Have cookouts and invite Christians and non-Christians.

2.) Walk, don’t drive. The beauty of the city is that it’s designed to be walkable. So make a practice of getting out and walking around the UIC Area. Instead of driving, walk to get the mail, groceries, and other stuff. Be deliberate in your walk. Say hello to people you don’t know. Strike up conversations. Attract attention by walking the dog or bringing the kids. Make friends. Get out of your house! Take interest in your neighbors. Ask questions…. Pray as you go.

3.) Be a regular. Instead of hopping all over the city for gas, groceries, haircuts, meals, and coffee, go to the same places in the UIC Area. Get to know the staff. Go at the same times. Smile. Ask questions. Be a regular.

4.) Hobby with nonChristians. Pick a hobby that you can share. Get out and do something you enjoy with others. Try local Park District sports leagues. Share your hobby by teaching lessons. Teach sewing, piano, violin, guitar, knitting, or tennis. Be prayerful. Be intentional. Be winsome. Have fun. Be yourself.

5.) Talk to your coworkers. How hard is that? Take your breaks with intentionality. Go out with your team or taskforce after work. Show interest in your co-workers. Pick four and pray for them. Form moms’ groups in the neighborhood and don’t make them exclusively Christian. Schedule play dates for your kids with the neighbor’s kids. Work on mission.

6.) Volunteer with nonprofits. Find a nonprofit organization in the neighborhood and take one Saturday a month to serve there. Bring your neighbors, your friends, or your small group. Spend time with your church serving your city. Once a month.

7.) Participate in city events. Instead of playing Xbox, watching TV, or surfing the net, participate in city events. Go to fundraisers, festivals, clean-ups, summer shows, and concerts. Participate missionally. Strike up conversation. Study the culture. Reflect on what you see and hear. Pray for the city. Love the city. Participate with the city.

8.) Serve your neighbors. Help a neighbor by weeding, mowing, building a cabinet, or fixing a car. Stop by the neighborhood association or apartment office and ask if there is anything you can do to help improve things. Ask your local police and fire stations if there is anything you can do to help them. Get creative.

Adapted from Jonathan Dodson, “Eight Ways to Easily Be Missional,” April 7, 2009, Church Planting Novice.

Are you starting to get some ideas?

Save the Date!

With autumn upon us our schedules fill up quickly! Plan to set aside some time to join with your church family and engage in fellowship!

Mark your calendars for these upcoming events:

Ladies’ Night – October 12th

Mens’ Night – November 8th or 9th

Dinners for 8 – various dates throughout the next couple months

Christmas Party – mid-December

Details to come… but save the date now!

For questions or ideas, contact Cyndi at koinonia.

Missional Focus Week – Day 2

Yesterday we kicked off ‘Missional Focus Week’ at Immanuel. We’re trying to stimulate ideas of ways that we as a church can make more concerted efforts at reaching the UIC Area with the gospel.

First, as we think about greater missional engagement, we need to get to know our neighborhood, its people, and their stories, values, worldview, and culture. We need to ask the kind of questions that missionaries ask when they enter a new culture, questions such as:

Where?

· Where are the places and activities we can meet people in the UIC Area (the missional spaces)?

· Where do people experience community?

· Are there existing social networks with which we can engage, or do we need to find ways of creating community within the neighborhood?

· Where should we be to have missional opportunities?

When?

· What are the patterns and timescales of our neighborhood (the missional rhythms)?

· When are the times we can connect with people (the missional moments)?

· How do people here organize their time?

· What cultural experiences and celebrations do people value? How might these be used as bridges to the gospel?

· When should we be available to have missional opportunities?

What?

· What are people’s fears, hopes, and hurts?

· What gospel stories are told in the neighborhood? What gives people identity (creation)? How do they account for wrong in the world (fall)? What is their solution (redemption)? What are their hopes (consummation)?

· What are the barrier beliefs or assumptions that cause people to dismiss the gospel?

· What sins will the gospel first confront and heal?

· In what ways are people self-righteous?

· What does the articulation of the good news sound like for people in this neighborhood?

How?

These are big questions. Now how do we go about doing it? There are many answers. But to start with, missional living doesn’t have to be that hard. Begin thinking of all the activities, however mundane, that make up your life: (1) daily routine (traveling to work, eating meals, doing chores, walking the dog, playing with the children); (2) weekly routines (grocery shopping, watching favorite television programs, exercising); and (3) monthly routine (gardening, getting a haircut, going to the movies). You should have a long list of activities. For each one, ask whether you could add: (1) a community component by involving another member of the church; (2) a missional component by involving an unbeliever; and (3) a gospel component by identifying opportunities to talk about Jesus.

Adapted from Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 42-43, 90.

At the Membership Meeting on 9/4 we re-cast the vision of our church. We said that whether you’re a ‘Sailor’ or a ‘Longshoreman’ we need you to help us reach the UIC Area with the gospel! We want to have a common purpose, focusing all of our ‘proactive gospel intentionality’ on our church’s neighborhood. We began the exciting process of collectively brainstorming creative ideas for engaging our neighborhood. This week we want to continue that process.

Each day this week you will receive an email designed to get your missional juices flowing. Prayerfully read through it and ask the Lord to start directing your mind and heart. At the end of the week we will have everyone submit his or her top ideas. Then we will find which ones are the most popular and get people together to start doing them.

At the outset, however, we must make sure our framework is correct. We don’t want to insinuate that you need to do more! We don’t want to impose a kind of evangelism quota. We don’t want people to feel bad or to simply stir up a flurry of activity so we feel good about ourselves. Proclaiming must come after enjoying.

Jack Miller, in his book Outgrowing the Ingrown Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999 [1986]), 143-44, situates us well:

When we teach… people that it is their duty to obey the Great Commission, it may seem that we are only adding another legal obligation to their load of guilt, one that they do not have the will to obey. But when the gospel is understood and received, it not only takes away guilt from a troubled conscience, but also gives perfect assurance of the Father’s unconditional acceptance of each believer as an adopted child. Through faith, this teaching brings release to the encouraged hearer that empowers him or her to walk in love toward others and to be Christ’s witness to the world….

This is the answer to the question, What makes missions and missionaries go? What makes the local church a vital center of missionary enterprise? Constantly hearing of the message of the good news, which overwhelms people with the love of God revealed in Christ, is what does it. This vision of the divine love expressed in John 3:16-17 equips believers to fulfill the missionary imperative stated in Matthew 28:18-20. It is only as God gives us a John 3:16-consciousness that we can understand the Great Commission as the overflow of God’s heart of compassion for the perishing world.

Constantly remembering the manifold goodness of the Good News will keep our sharing of it from becoming a burdensome task. As Hebrews invites us, let’s continue to pay careful attention to this great salvation. This is where we get missionary fire. And if God has saved us, he can save anyone! Let’s see what he’s going to do!!

Tomorrow (9/21) is the third Saturday of September. Come if you can to grill out hotdogs and serve our neighbors with food and gospel conversations. 11:00 to 1:00 at The Meeting Place.

On Saturday (9/14) from 6:00 to 8:00 PM Dr. Owen Strachan will be leading a session on “The Church: It’s Marks, Purpose, and Nature” at The Meeting Place after Church of the Beloved’s service.

On Sunday (9/15) from 8:00 to 9:15 PM the three UIC Area churches that are part of GOSPEL for Chicago will be having a joint Prayer Meeting at The Meeting Place to pray for God’s work in and through us. Please come for this display of unity in prayer.

From @immanuelchicago on Twitter

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