4 Characteristics of a Missional Church

The 4 Characteristics of a Missional Church

Nik Ripken shares the 4 characteristics every church should have to be a missional church.

5 Responses to Evil

The 5 Responses to Evil

As followers of Jesus, allow me to remind us – we have chosen the side of good over evil. Nowhere is this clearer than in environments of persecution where, as one proclaims the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the price for doing so is increasingly costly (Revelation 2:10). While the battle with the Evil One certainly has physical manifestations, believers in persecution suggest that the deeper war is both internal & spiritual. Suggested here are 5 responses to evil for your consideration. These 5 responses increasingly represent a closer spiritual pilgrimage/walk with Jesus.

The first two responses to evil are quite universal.

Seemingly, the 1st two responses to evil are shared equally between the secular world and those of us who claim allegiance to Jesus the Christ. Dare I say this? Can this be true?

Sadly, most governments, organizations, churches, and sermons that struggle with persecution seldom lead us past these beginners’ responses to evil and the resulting persecution of followers of Jesus.

The last 3 of these 5 responses are overtly spiritual & represent, increasingly, being “in Christ.”
What makes followers of Jesus different from a secular NGO? How are we believers to be separate from the governments, militaries, and humanitarian organizations on this planet?

1. “God save me!”

This is very normal and understandable. It represents the first half of the prayer of Jesus (Matthew 26:36) in the garden before his crucifixion. He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me…” If my family or I were in prison we would want scores of people to pray this prayer on our behalf!! I would certainly pray this prayer myself. Yet it only represents half of the prayer of Jesus in the garden. Almost in the same breath, we do not pray the second half of His prayer: “yet, not my will but your will be done.”

2. “God punish them.”

Our normal response to evil and its persecution is biblically anemic. We see persecution as abnormal and we call upon governments and militaries to rescue us from what God may be using for our own growth and His glory. Sometimes God needs Joseph in pharaoh’s prison for the salvation of the Egyptians & the Jews in Egypt. We must pray both halves of the prayer of Jesus including, “not my will, but yours be done.”

Calling on God to punish our enemies is a far cry from loving them. Followers of Jesus who refused to get stuck in the first two responses to evil could find themselves joining Jesus and Stephen in praying, “When did it become OK to die for one’s country, but not die for one’s Jesus?”

3. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

This just might be the most un-American thought that I share with you. This response to evil recognizes that followers of Jesus can see themselves both as a target of satanic attack yet still victorious in their Savior. From Jesus on the cross and then Stephen in Acts 7:60 – even as the stones tore into his flesh – recognized that their persecutors were themselves victims in need of forgiveness as well as individuals responsible for their actions.

This response does not come easy. It is not the normal response of governments, militaries, or, sadly, the church. Such a response takes strength of soul and character seldom witnessed today. Seeking forgiveness for one’s enemies is counterintuitive, unpopular, and often seen as weakness.

Hating Muslims is popular. Calling Mohammed & Islam ugly names can elicit “amens” from many corners of the church. Greatness is measured by the size of one’s military, economic growth, and within democratic forms of government. Yet forgiving one’s enemies exemplifies a New Testament faith in a world defined by Old Testament responses and reactions.

As one continues to grow in Christ they may come to pray the most dangerous prayer possible,

4. “Father, forgive me as I forgive those who have sinned against me.”

Could there be a more dangerous prayer on the face of the earth for one’s soul? Are we willing to place our souls in jeopardy based upon whether or not we forgive our enemies? This is precisely how Jesus taught his disciples to pray.

It’s quite popular to “fight fire with fire” within the world that is still defined by the Old Testament premise of an “eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth”. Tying our forgiveness by God to our forgiveness toward our enemies represents a growth, and a risk, in Christ that is otherworldly. It demands that we be defined by heaven on earth, acknowledging that living the Lord’s Prayer might just be the most dangerous thing one can ever attempt.

As we grow in Christ there is a response to evil that transcends all others as we pray:

5. “Father, today, glorify Yourself in me.”

This prayer makes a bold statement. It prays to God and proclaims to the world that political environments are not what define our faith. We are as free to share our faith in Christ in Saudi Arabia as we are in South Carolina. We are as free to share our faith in Christ in North Korea as in the Bible Belt of Southern America. No one can stop us from getting off of airplanes, out of buses, and cars from proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Persecutors can certainly punish us for sharing our faith, but by doing so, they help us to proclaim it all the more! If we don’t quit, if we don’t exit the fight at the entry level where we demand “God save me” and “God punish them,” we can grow into the fullness of Christ where we understand faith is not tied to political freedom but is about glorifying God – wherever.

Can we pray, “Lord from the time we rise this morning until the time we go to bed tonight we want everything we have said and done to have glorified you, our God.” If you ever accomplish this kind of growth in Jesus then the hard fight truly begins. Glorifying God is never a static achievement. Believers in persecution record how they have come to this place of glorifying God when they themselves were the focus of persecution. But, oh, how hard the battle becomes when evil attacks those we love; a wife, children, or the people of God for whom we love and have responsibility. It is so easy to become stuck at “God save those I love” and “punish those who harm them.”

Glorifying God, when the cross is borne by those we love, causes us to ask, “Is Jesus worth my life, the life of my wife, my kids, and those that I love?”

Afghanistan: How Must the Body of Christ Respond?

It’s hard to decide what to pray for first? This past week has brought to our local and global consciousness the escalation of COVID-19 in the USA, the earthquake in Haiti, and the unbelievable events in Afghanistan. For some, one of these events may be the most personal if one has lost a loved one to COVID-19 or has experienced personal tragedy in the earthquake in Haiti.

Yet it’s the speed at which the Taliban have regained control of all of Afghanistan that has shocked the world, both secular and sacred. Given the realities of this crucial moment of history, how must the Body of Christ respond? How can we focus our minds, actions, and hearts as human history unfolds in real time. First,

…God is the Lord of History. Since He experiences the past, present and future in equal measure, the events of these days have not caught Him off guard. We will continue to pray as Jesus taught us that His, “kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

…Afghanistan has possibly experienced more intentional, focused witness in the last 20 years, following 9/11, than in the preceding 2000 plus years. The opportunities for Afghans to hear, understand, and believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ flowed from believing, international workers from all walks of life. We owe these workers our love and support while acknowledging that their pain in being separated from the Afghan people is intense. Not a few of these workers gave their lives in Afghanistan. For Afghans.

…YET, as such obedient witness has been offered, many Afghans have believed. More than ever, the debt of prayer must be paid. For us, it is a time of focused prayer and fasting for believers who have chosen to stay in Afghanistan for the Gospel’s sake. They have always experienced being “sheep among wolves.” While we must pray for their safety, we should first pray for their obedience to remain in-country as fervent witnesses. Believers in persecution have consistently observed that the “quickest way to end their persecution is by winning their persecutors to Jesus.” Jesus healed the young boy, possessed by a demon, which often cast this child into the fire. When Jesus was asked by His disciples why they could not heal the young boy, He replied that such evil can only be defeated through “prayer and fasting.”

This is our time, our privilege to pray and fast for believers in Afghanistan, carrying them when, perhaps, they cannot carry themselves.

…It has often been said that “the one lesson that we learn from history, is that we don’t learn anything from history.” For centuries foreign governments and their armies have attempted to force change upon the Afghan people. The British invaded Afghanistan in 1839 with disastrous results, as did the Russians in the 1980s. Real change rarely originates from outside of a country’s border. Real change originates in the hearts and will of a country’s people.

…Further, we are brutally reminded that Afghanistan’s (and the world’s) issues DO NOT have a military or political solution. 20 years of intervention with an expenditure of approximately $1,000,000,000,000 ($1 trillion!) has not offered a solution. Jesus also spoke about this truth. He told of a demon being cast from a house. Though the house was cleansed, it was left empty. So the original evil spirit went and enlisted 7 spirits worse than himself to inhabit that cleansed house. Therefore this house’s final status was worse than the first. (My paraphrase of Luke 11:24-26). Ultimately, this is the same truth that all nations, all people, must acknowledge. No form of government, no might of arms, nor the most successful financial system can offer eternal life, eternal change. As one friend said, “If Jesus is not the answer, there is no answer.”

Praise be to God, Jesus is the answer!

Let us use this time to make a covenant grounded in obedience to God. Jesus commanded His disciples to go into all the earth, making disciples (Matthew 28:19-20 ). We have not gone. Therefore, most of our world do not have enough of the Good News to replace their bad news. They do not have enough of a biblical witness today to find eternal life, eternal change, through Jesus. Shall we continue to sin against our world to the extent that there will always be another Somalia, Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan on the global horizon? Will we leave the peoples of our earth without the love of Jesus, delivered through sacrificial witness? Let’s no longer burden governments and militaries with delivering patches for the problems of a lost world. Let’s lead, not follow.

The political, economic, and military world will continue to seek the means to advance their country’s ideology. Conversely, we as followers of Jesus must seek a place to kneel. Arising from the place of prayer will we not now go and do as Jesus commanded over 2000 years ago? Please, no more Afghanistans.

Remembering CM with great love and deep appreciation.

A Call to Missions

Over Spiritualizing A Call To Missions? The Church and the Great Commission

I can remember reading the Bible for the first time.  I came to Christ at 18 years of age in a Kraft Food’s cheese factory.  My father had negotiated a job for me at the factory the last nine weeks of my senior year in high school.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is I had to work nights those last nine weeks of my senior year in order to go to college.  I worked from 7 PM to 3:30 AM five days a week and never missed a day of school.  Of course I was too exhausted and I remember the embarrassing day when I went to sleep in an 8 AM chemistry class and woke up in a different chemistry class at 2 PM for another group of students!  I found out later that the teacher had threatened her other classes with death threats if they were not quiet in order to allow me to sleep after discovering that I was working nights in the factory to make enough money to go to college that fall.

One night as I was working by myself in a remote corner of that factory, I heard the voice of God speaking to me. I did not recognize His voice until the third time I heard Him speaking audibly in my ear and to my heart.  That night I gave my life and any career to the Almighty.  As a redneck from rural Kentucky all I knew about Christianity was that if you were saved and called by God you had to become a pastor.  I found this such a depressing thought because I felt that my salvation call would chain me to rural Kentucky churches the rest of my life.  I gave up a scholarship to the University of Kentucky and my lifelong dream to be a veterinarian.  Added to my despair was the discouragement I received from my parents, sometimes pastor, and peers to fulfill what I had heard God demand of me.

Finally I received semi-godly counsel from a young pastor in my rural county who took me to Lexington, Kentucky to visit a Christian bookstore.  There he helped me purchase a 7 pound, annotated, Scofield Bible-it looked like and weighed as if it was meant to be on a coffee table.  It had more footnotes than it had Bible.  He also purchased for me seven sermon outline books which severely hindered my ability to understand the Bible on my own and creatively develop messages that might have been worth listening to.

Once I arrived at college, and having announced that I was a pre-ministerial student, I felt the time had come to read the Bible.  I can remember reading Matthew chapter 28 and coming to what I would later be told was the Great Commission.  There I read these powerful words, “Go ye into all of the world.”  I was captivated by the thought that the Almighty had commanded us to go everywhere, at all times.  I confess I had no clue how to leave Kentucky, let alone go to other countries of the world.  So I sort of shelved this Go Ye into the back of my mind where I could retrieve this command if and when they became actually doable.  During my second year of college a doctor who had served as a sent out one for 20 years in Thailand spoke in a chapel.  As I listened to him, my heart soared with the possibilities of a different future.

I ran up to him after his devotional and asked him, “Do you mean to say that I can serve God anywhere in the world and your mission agency will pay me to do that?”  He laughed and said, “Well I have never been asked a question like that before but I guess the answer is yes.  We will pay you and you can take the gospel anywhere in the world.”  I said to him, “Where do I sign up?”  Amused he informed me that it wasn’t quite that easy, before sharing some of the hoops that I needed to work through before serving overseas was a possibility.

Finally the day came when now my wife and I were being interviewed by a mission board in regard to our service overseas.  Ruth is the epitome what mission boards would want in a candidate for overseas service.  She grew up in a pastor’s home.  She came to know Jesus at an early age.  In the sixth grade she wrote a class paper on Africa and knew then she wanted to spend her life in Africa.  She could articulate a call to missions second to none, and the interviewers were so deeply impressed with her.

Then they turned to me.

They asked me about my call to missions, and I simply replied, “I read Matthew 28.  They looked at me strangely and replied, “You don’t understand.  To be appointed by this mission board you have to have a special call to missions.” “You don’t understand,” I shot back at them, “I have read Matthew 28 which told me to go to all the world and I’m just trying to go.”  These kind, godly men, dressed in such immaculate suits proceeded to give me a 30 min. sermon on the concept of being called.  They shared about a call to salvation, a call to ministry, a call to missions, and then a fourth call to a special place in the world.  Then they looked at me with pride and asked me what I thought about what they had shared.  I was still naïve enough to think that when they asked me for my opinion that they actually expected me to reply!

So I looked at them and said, “It is my opinion that you Baptist have created a call to missions that allows you to be disobedient to what God has already commanded you to do.”

That went over really well.

I looked at my wife to discover tears slowly sliding down her cheeks.  I realized at that moment that these Baptists have a secret code or password that you must know in order to go on the mission field and no one had ever told me what that password was.  I thought that I had ruined my wife’s chance to fulfill her childhood dream of going to Africa and that the search committee would dismiss us as candidates for the mission field.

Now 28 years later I still believe the same thing.  Honestly I don’t believe there is a call to missions.  There is a command to missions.  No one who is a follower of Jesus gets to choose whether they are called or not.  We just get to choose, through sense of the guidance of the Holy Spirit, where God wants us to live out our witness at this time.  Being a daily witness for Jesus requires obedience to the command from Christ himself.  A calling to a specific place of service always follows the command to go to all the people groups in the world; whether across the street or across the globe.

Do you want to know if you are called to missions or not?  Read Matthew 28.

A Baptism Tip

A Baptism Tip with Nik Ripken

A baptism tip if you ever find yourself in East Africa.

Identifying with the Persecuted

Identifying with the Persecuted

When we speak of those being persecuted, we often feel sorrow or pity for our fellow believers in persecution. But should we? Let’s talk about identifying with believers in persecution.

July 2021 Ministry Update

July 2021 Ministry Update

Nik Ripken Ministries (NRM) continues to gain momentum as churches, theological schools, and mission organizations return to in-person gatherings as the effects of Covid 19 are addressed. In spite of Covid 19 restrictions the NRM team has:

  • Invested many hours weekly in mentoring believers/leaders in the US and globally through Zoom calls, hundreds of emails, phone conversations, and other social media outlets.
  • Provided consultation to various mission agencies and news outlets to aid them in interpreting global events of persecution, affecting our world today. We are often consulted concerning how to respond to persecution events ongoing in today’s world. 
  • Spoke in scores of churches and student events this first quarter of 2021. This includes more than 2,000 students and thousands of believers in other settings. Ruth Ripken continues to lead multiple events with women, introducing them to Muslim Women’s Worldview that equips them to meet Muslims in their community, sharing apostolic Christian witness with them.
  • Partnered with the International Mission Board for a June 6, 2021 release of a Day of Prayer for the persecuted church https://www.kentuckytoday.com/stories/day-of-prayer-for-persecuted-church. Check also for The Day of Prayer, June 6, 2021 https://www.imb.org/persecuted/ .    This is one of the many ways that NRM seeks to mobilize the body of Christ in the West to engage in fervent prayer for their brothers and sisters in persecution.
  • Editing continues on a 25-hour teaching video series based on the interviews of approximately 700 believers in persecution in approximately 72 countries. This one-of-a-kind resource will be made available to churches and mission agencies to prepare those they send cross culturally.  It will especially become a major teaching tool used by short and long-term missionaries who desire to serve cross culturally, especially inside environments of persecution. This has received 60% of needed funding.
  • Ruth is developing a companion video that will be used by believing Western women to engage Muslim women with the good news of Jesus Christ. This tool can be used to assist women to cross the street to Muslim women as well as use on foreign mission fields. This has yet to be funded.
  • Dan Allen leads NRM in resource development, seeking global translation opportunities for the three books authored by Nik Ripken as well as the reproduction of the Insanity of God film.

 

Nik Ripken Ministries remains to give voice to believers and churches in persecution. We see them as our mentors and teachers. From what they have taught us we can better prepare the church in the West to fulfill the great commission by crossing the street and crossing the oceans utilizing wise practices taught to us by believers in persecution.

Would you consider making a donation today to support the mission of Nik Ripken Ministries?

Storytime with Nik Ripken

No Worship, No Mission

A story of worship from Nik Ripken and how it impacts the mission of God.

Storytime with Nik Ripken

The Joy of the Persecuted

Nik Ripken shares a story about the joy of the persecuted believer on the Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.

Looking for ways to pray for the persecuted? Visit imb.org/persecuted for a prayer guide.

Nik Ripken: Lost in Translation

Is He Worth It?