Bearded Gospel Men: Hudson Taylor

"China is not to be won for Christ by quiet, ease-loving men and women … The stamp of men and women we need is such as will put Jesus, China, [and] souls first and foremost in everything and at every time—even life itself must be secondary."

Hudson Taylor (via Christian History)

If you know anything about Hudson Taylor, you know he was a missionary to China. What you may not know is that while he was a baby Taylor's parents were praying God would send him to China. This was at a time when hardly any missionaries were targeting the country. He was converted as a teen while in the midst of an extended time of prayer, and from that moment on he began preparing himself for mission work in China.

He arrived in Shanghai as a 21 year old. Twenty one. Because Taylor wasn't interedted in relying on translators to preach the gospel, he committed himself to true cultural immersion, including dressing in Chinese clothes and growing a pony tail (as was the custom among Chinese men). This made sense to our missional brother, but brought criticism from other missionaries. Undeterred, Taylor followed God's calling to take the gospel into China's interior.

Hudson Taylor saw that for the gospel to take root in China's and reach greater numbers God would need to raise up more men. So he began recruiting other Christians to go and make disciples where there was such a desperate need. In 1865 he wrote, China's Spiritual Need and Claims, and organized a network of sorts, China Inland Mission. Taylor and CIM not only brought the Gospel to China's interior, but it helped to build the strong and vibrant underground church that exists in China today.

Hudson Taylor was a bold, yet selfless man who sacrificed much in preaching the gospel, helping to translate the Bible in Chinese, starting churches, and creating a network, and the church today is blessed by what God has done through him. In all of this we see that Taylor was a most definitely a bearded gospel man.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

For far less serious bearded fun, check out the BGM Tumblog.

Subtext Forum

Today I'm at the Subtext Forum (meeting at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) where Ed Stetzer will speak to our second gathering about the church in the suburban context. Ed is a former professor of mine from seminary, has been a help to me over the years in numerous ways - and is a friend. If you can't make it to the forum, be sure to pick up some of his books. To start I'd recommend Breaking the Missional Code, Compelled by Love: The Most Excellent Way to Missional Living, and his newest Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches that Reach Them. Steve McCoy and I put this event together and we'll probably be twittering some of the fun (here and here). You can also follow the subtext twitter feed.

Redeemer Orientation

This past Saturday I led a group of people through our first membership class (Redeemer Orientation) and I thought I'd share a little about why we have membership, why we continue to use the language of "membership," and how the class is structured. We do church "membership" because we believe it is a healthy way for us to practice what the Bible teaches should be true of a local church. Specifically, formal membership enables us to function as a covenant community characterized by a unified faith, work and discipline. Apart from membership we find that these things are more difficult to maintain.

And yes, we use the term "membership." Some of my friends opt for the term "partnership" instead, believing it has less baggage than "membership." While I don't agree with that assessment, I don't think it's a big deal. We use the term membership for two reasons.

1. The term is biblical (Rom 12; 1 Cor 12; Eph 2:19, 3:6, 4:25, 5:30). Call me nutty, but I like using biblical terms whenever I can. But to be fair, I don't think we have to use the word. Jesus chose not to use the word "Messiah" for himself because of the confusion that was likely to result (there was a lot of cultural/theological baggage attached to that title). He preferred "Son of Man." Concerning joining a church - we just don't believe people who may be averse to the idea of "membership" are comforted or fooled by calling it partnership. Either way people have to join. But if "partnership" works better for another church - that's cool with me. Whatever we call it, the important thing is to practice it well and lead people toward a healthy understanding of life as the church.

2. The concept is biblical. The Bible demonstrates that the church is analogous to many things; the church is likened to a building (1 Cor. 3:9, Eph. 2:21, 2 Cor. 6:16), a body (Rom. 12:4-5, Heb. 12), a flock (1 Peter 5:2), and a family (1 Tim. 3:15. Eph. 1:5). At Redeemer we really favor the idea of church as family - which is another reason we maintain the word "member." I am a member of my family. And when a person joins The Redeemer family, it is less a business partnership, and more of an adoption, or marriage, as we all become members of one household. The family metaphor and membership work against the practice church shopping, and even idea of favoring a church as one might favor a particular Starbucks location because of a particular barista or blend of coffee.

Participating in the Redeemer Orientation is not a promise to seek membership with us, nor is completing the class a guarantee of membership status, but it is a prerequisite for all who seek membership. Our class consists of 3 sessions that happen in one day over the span of 3 hours. That is much shorter than some church's membership process, and a bit longer than others. For us this seems like a good fit. People have been asking for an outline of what we cover so here it is. Just the bullet points, obviously there is much more detail in the class.

Redeemer Orientation

Part 1: The Gospel (The Heart of Our Church).

A. The Gospel

1. The gospel is historical (1 Cor. 15:3-7). The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

2. The gospel is theological. The gospel is the good news that through the cross of Jesus Christ we have the forgiveness of our sins, and the redemption and restoration of all things.

a) Forgiveness, peace with God (Eph. 1:7)

b) Restoration of all things (Col. 1:19, 20)

B. The Gospel and You

1. Conversion: Faith and Repentance (Mk. 1:15)

2. Your identity in Christ (Gal. 2:20)

C. The Gospel and Others

1. A Redeemed Community (1 Peter 2)

2. The church as family (1 Tim. 3:15. Eph. 1:5.)

Part 2: The Church (The Shape of our Church).

A. What is a local church?

1. Defined

A local church is a covenant-community of Christ followers where: The word is rightly preached. The sacraments are rightly administered. The mission of God is shared. The leadership is biblically formed and functioning. The discipline of members is practiced with grace.

2. A healthy church.

3. Healthy church members.

B. Church Distinctives

1. Confessional. A confessional church is a church that is essentially united around a clearly articulated faith. We believe that it is the truth of God that gives birth to the people of God and compels them to move forward on the mission of God.

Confessionally, we are Reformed and baptistic.

2. Missional. A missional church is one that recognizes itself as God’s missionary people to those they live among. This means we do not see ourselves merely as those who send missionaries to other countries, but as missionaries ourselves to a unique time and place (the greater Fox Valley area in the far west suburbs of Chicago in the third millennium). As a missional church we are looking for ways to serve our community with the gospel in word and deed and are seeking to be an active part of God’s redemptive work here in our city.

3. Relational. A relational church is one that sees itself not as a distributor of religious goods and services, but as covenant community, a family, who share their lives, practice hospitality, and live out the missional nature of the church not as individuals but as a peculiar people. It means that relationships are valuable to us, and we strive to develop them both inside and outside of the church.

Part 3: The Mission (The Movement of our Church).

A. Our purpose statement. “to love and serve God and others”

The captures our movement in summary form. It is the essence of God’s law, as well as the proper response to the gospel.

B. Our Paradigm. "The table, the pulpit, and the square."

This is whiteboard time and when we show visually how all the parts of Redeemer are designed to work together. I've blogged on this in the past, but we have tweaked it since then and I may blog on it in the near future.

I have really benefited from reading through other church membership practices. Feel free to share what you do, and have found helpful or problematic concerning membership in the comments.