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Mike Breen calls church leaders to change the culture

Discipling begins with understanding of ‘relationship and responsibility’

 by Emily Enders Odom | Presbyterian News Service

Mike Breen. (Photo by Emily Enders Odom)

Mike Breen. (Photo by Emily Enders Odom)

ST. PETE BEACH, FLORIDA – Building on his plenary address delivered August 10 at the Go Disciple Live “Be the Light” evangelism conference—in which he asserted that “being a Christian always involves making another disciple”—Mike Breen, in his closing sermon, traced the broad sweep of salvation history to show how a more intentional culture of discipling might begin to take hold in today’s church.

And, not surprisingly, changing the church culture starts with the Bible.

Breen—one of the world’s leading innovators in the church planting and discipling movement and a featured conference speaker—contended that the task of discipling necessarily begins with a basic understanding of Scripture. He said throughout the course of the long history of its translation, the Bible was “wrestled from the hands of popes and priests…and placed into the hands of professors training pastors.”

“Before long, the Bible became an inaccessible piece of literature with other artifacts of elite culture — sculpture, Shakespeare, Scripture — marvelous, wonderful, to behold, but impenetrable to anyone’s understanding,” he said. “As Christians have become less and less confident about what they were reading…it was hard for people to disciple others. What text would they use? What would be the raw material of the content that they shared? So it has fallen to leaders like yourself and myself to attempt to make plain what has been obscured down through the centuries. Drawing near to the principal themes of Scripture and teaching them afresh is the best way to give people handles on the truth.”

Breen then spent the next 25 minutes explaining — using the creation story, the Abraham and Sarah narrative, and the Joseph cycle from the Book of Genesis as his primary texts—just what he meant by the “principal themes of Scripture.”

“Scripture is about two things,” he said. “It’s about relationship and responsibility; and the theological terms that describe these things are ‘covenant’ and ‘kingdom’ [or ‘kingship’]. Those are the themes—the longitude and latitude…the double helix of scriptural DNA that runs through every page. I would say to every Christian, when you approach any chapter, verse, book, or page of Scripture, simply ask yourself these two questions, ‘What is the relationship that I am being called to, and what is the responsibility which I am being challenged to embrace?’”

Breen maintained that not only are these two themes apparent from the very first page of Scripture, Genesis 1:26, but that both are fully introduced—if not fully articulated—by the time the reader gets to the end of the first book of the Bible.

God’s creation of humankind, said Breen, “speaks of the intimacy of relationship that was always intended for us and for all other human beings on the planet. God wants us to be in continuous relationship with Him, forever communicating and receiving communication. God has made us for Himself—covenant simply means that two become one. And there’s more. In bearing the imprint of His presence and therefore carrying His presence to the world, our task is to represent His kingship. On any page in the Bible, you will find the fabric of covenant and kingdom, the texture of relationship and representation.”

Through careful exegesis, Breen then showed how the Abraham and Sarah narrative is the story of covenant, and the Joseph cycle is the story of kingdom.

Ryan and Lauren Ahlwardt, conference music leaders, Fishers, Indiana, were joined on the platform by conference attendee, Alexis Ruhumuriza, leader of a new worshiping community serving East African immigrants meeting at Bellevue Presbyterian Church, Seattle Presbytery. (Photo by Emily Enders Odom)

Ryan and Lauren Ahlwardt, conference music leaders, Fishers, Indiana, were joined on the platform by conference attendee, Alexis Ruhumuriza, leader of a new worshiping community serving East African immigrants meeting at Bellevue Presbyterian Church, Seattle Presbytery. (Photo by Emily Enders Odom)

“By the end of Genesis, both themes have been presented to us,” he said. “Covenant—two becoming one—a new identity so permanent, it’s like a scar. So permanent, that your name has been changed. And you now bear the noble bearing of the one who represents the king; and in your representation, you bear the authority and power to bring the message of his salvation to the world. We see these golden threads are woven into each of our lives. And we see one who bears the name ‘Son of God’ indicating that he’s one with God, indicating that the king is the called, chosen king among us.”

What an amazing thing the Bible is, Breen concluded. “What an amazing thing that God should give us such clear handles and call us at certain moments to remember the covenant and to embrace the kingdom.”

As conference-goers then prepared to receive the Sacrament of the Holy Communion, Breen reminded his hearers of Jesus’ words, “Do this in remembrance, until I come again in my kingdom.”

Anamnesis,” Breen said, citing the original Greek of the New Testament, “means not to forget. So as we take the bread and the wine, remember who you are. ‘I’ve given you a new identity and you carry this identity with nobility as the representatives of the king who is coming again.’ He’s coming again, and until he comes, we represent him here. Is there anyone who says amen to that?”


The Go Disciple Live “Be the Light” Conference, formerly known as the Evangelism and Church Growth Conference, held August 8-11, was a vibrant gathering of some 275 Presbyterians committed to disciple-making which leads to authentic evangelism, effective church transformation, justice, and church planting through 1001 new worshiping communities.

For information on the 2017 Disciple-Making Church Conference, to be held January 16-19, 2017, at the TradeWinds Island Grand Resort, St. Petersburg Beach, email Eva Slayton or Ray Jones.

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