The Kinds of People the 21st Century Needs

The 4 Turnings…

In 1991 or so, George Hunter mentioned, during a presentation in East Los Angeles, the 4 turnings –repentances — of the human heart that help create the kinds of people the Kingdom needs.

The four turnings are these:

  1. A turning to Jesus Christ as Lord
  2. A turning to some form of Christ following community
  3. A turning to the Scriptures
  4. A turning back to the world on mission

These turnings can happen in any order. That these can happen in any order must be emphasized. Many will belong to the community of faith for a season before ever believing in Jesus. Others will be on mission to the world before reading and centering the scripture. Some will believe in Jesus but will hesitate to identify with a Christ following community.

What do these four turnings looks like?

The Turning Back to the World…

Let’s talk about the fourth of these turnings, the turning back to the world on mission. Assuming that the Spirit, and not some denominational board or church committee, is the director of Christ’s mission to reclaim the universe, then we can look around and see the Spirit at work around the world in amazing ways. Humanists that work to help the oppressed victims of the sex trade in southeast Asia, Secularists that struggle to preserve the environment, Christians that smuggled human beings –in days past — out of Nazi occupied territory or that smuggle human beings out of Islamic lands today, Rock stars that seek to alleviate Africa’s debt, and Ivy league blue bloods that seek to develop economic models that will lift the miserably poor out of economic hell.

I have a 12 year old son who loves The Snake Master, Austin Stevens, is a fan of The Jeff Corwin Experience, and who was deeply moved when Steve Irwin died. Lucas catches and releases all kinds of reptiles, but is particularly fixated on snakes at this stage in his life –at least his mother hopes it’s a stage. Niza, my wife, just spent a night in the hospital with Lucas. He was admitted for observation after being bitten –again — by a snake he captured in the wild. Lucas’ interest in snakes has been escalating from the small to the large and the non-venomous to the venomous, and this thick heavy snake had the look and markings of a Cotton Mouth. The Cotton Mouth is a snake local to this region that injects a neuro-toxic venom.

As the swelling of his hand diminished you could clearly see the outline of the snake’s bottom jaw on the palm of his hand and the puncture marks of the top jaw across the top of his fingers. He did not suffer any of the symptoms of the neuro-toxic poison that accompanies a Cotton Mouth’s bite. [I learned that most bites are “dry” meaning that the toxin is not injected with the bite]. Lucas maintained the entire time that the doctors and paramedics had improperly identified the snake, which I carried with me to the emergency room and then again to the hospital. [Yes, Lucas had the presence of mind to keep a hold of the snake after it bite him and put it in a tub so he could return it to the wild. And yes, after listening to the medical professionals on the one hand and my son on the other there is no doubt that Lucas knew at least as much as they did about snake identification. Nevertheless, we were glad that, even though Lucas did not concur with their findings, the Doctors decided not to take any chances].

It scares his grandparents that Lucas doesn’t share their natural fear of snakes. In fact, Lucas is on mission to make sure snakes thrive on the planet and that their environments are protected. I think he’s on a mission from God. And, in spite of the fact that I want him to be a Doctor, Lucas must be about His Father’s business.

The Scope of our Mission…

The whole of the world is the Spirit’s field. We are stewards of the whole world, and eventually of the stars. Every field of study and common curiousity are fields of mission for human beings. Countless are the ways in which we would encourage people to serve beyond our local churches if we saw the whole menu of human activity as a field of service and mission. We are stewards of the creation and as such we can point to the God of creation by our care for it. We need to think more about how engaging the whole of the world with passion is a way of moving the world of men towards God.

To be the kind of person Jesus needs in the 21st century, we must turn back to the world on mission. This isn’t the only “turning” to be sure, but it is a crucial turn.

What do you think?
See you in the Mystic…

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16 thoughts on “The Kinds of People the 21st Century Needs

  1. Ah people from Asbury have such wisdom (don’t know what happened to me)
    I think turnings 2 and 4 are the most needed and yet the most difficult to see happen in an established church. More often Christians and Churches turn in on themselves, their comfort, their preference etc
    I wonder if however its turning number one which is in fact the crucial one? Until we accept and live out the Lordship of Christ we will have little incentive to embrace the other other turns he calls on us to make.
    Ann is so glad that snakes and other reptiles are rare and largely harmless here in Scotland. I am currently worried about the interest in motorbikes that my bike has stirred up in Mairi (ain’t I a hypocrite?)

  2. Eric, I knew them the moment I heard them and never forgot them. I’ve used them many, many times in coaching new church planters. It’s interesting how practical frameworks stick to you, huh?

    James, I just sent you an invite to M. Safe return doubtful. Turning number 1 may be the crucial turning for some, but none of the turnings can happen without the spirit of Christ. In my personal experience #1 was the center piece followed by #4. My #4 activity led to the creation of a community who joined me on mission.

  3. Alex,
    Great Stuff! I recently had a couple groups answer the question – What is the Gospel? My answer is very similar to the 4 turnings – but it was interesting to see that many in the group because of prior tradition instilled in them, were stuck on #1, and wee bit of #3 & #2 (did I just say “doo-doo”?)! 🙂

    Many get the Turning to Jesus, some get the community, most try to turn to the scriptures, but acting locally and thinking globally for some reason or another was left out of the equation for many. I was sort of stunned; but I sure gave them a BIG bone to chew on for a bit. Thanks for sharing bro!

    IHL,

    Richie

  4. Wow, I love this line

    “Every field of study and common curiousity are fields of mission for human beings.”

    I was at a Pastors house last night(Columbus,OH) meeting him for the first time. we were on his porch and he knew everyone that walked by. this one lady stopped talked about the enviroment and then left.

    This pastor says “The day we started the church, this lady walks up to me and threatens me, tells me know one in this comunity wants a church here.” etc…

    Now 3 years later, they have a weekly relationship about going “green”, all because this Pastor see’s the enviroment as spiritually, He’s on a mission to save this lady through the enviroment.

    Love the blog.

  5. I wonder if we should think of them as a circle of mutual reinforcement, each turning leads us to all the others in a deeper way? I think that is how I have experienced them. Though turning to community for many will be a disappointing experience for many churches step 4 is purely theoretic

  6. I’m with you here Alex. We need major repentance when it comes to our relation with God’s world. We need to more from the more instrumentalist I-It relation to the world to a more I-Thou relation. Seeing God in it and through it. Not destroying it in the name of wanton consumption.

  7. Rich, we must remember that we were part of the ground before we became part of the sky. As goes creation so goes man.

    Nic, Thanks for the example. Nice.

    James, That’s where church planters can move the world towards a better place. “Your heart is free. Have the courage to follow it.” Braveheart

    Joshua House and Cruciformity, Thanks for the “track backs.”

    Alan, Good to hear from you. Consumption is the name of the legion that possesses the west.

    See you all in the mystic…

  8. I’m glad I happened upon this blog, and this particular post, on this particular day. I want to plant a church in the future and Turning #4 will be key (the other 3 to be sure, are as well). I love this line – “We need to think more about how engaging the whole of the world with passion is a way of moving the world of men towards God.” I have found that the folks who turn more to community and to scripture are those who have been in mission and service to others…they live and smell more like disciples than all those people who sit in a conference room “studying.”
    This was a cup of cold water to my soul today. Thank you for sharing it. I wish Hunter had shared that info back when I was at Asbury…still, better late than never. Thanks for this great encouragement!

  9. I only realised this year that I need to turn back to our Lord. I am searching for a church that honestly worships the Lord, this is tough. The Bible is one of the best resources but I find that God is using others as well to reach me personally. It is not easy to turn back to the world, but I was very priviledged to go on a mission to Thailand and came back a new person. I dont know yet what God wants of me next but I am waiting to hear His voice.

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