America, Part 2

April 15, 2008

The purpose of my trip to the States was to speak at a conference. The purpose of the conference was to interact with and get to know churches that might have a desire to get involved with work here in Western Europe. During the conferences we had little break-out sessions where we were able to really jump into conversations with the representatives from the churches that attended. I really enjoyed getting to know these people, their heart, and their interest in things happening overseas.

But there where two things that struck me about my conversations. One, there’s a big difference between “doing missions” or being “missions minded” AND being missionAL or being ON mission with God. The first two terms seem to indicate that missions is simply a ministry of the church, like the mens ministry or the childrens ministry. I heard these two terms from quite a number of those attending the conferences. The second two terms indicate (or should indicate) the inherent nature of you and your church. Being on mission with God should be at the center, the core, of who you are to those around you, and how your church is seen by others. Unfortunately I didn’t hear these terms used very often.

Now some might say that it’s simply a matter of training or re-training. But I think it goes deeper than that. We’ve been conditioned to see church in a consumeristic way. We, being the consumer, come to shop on Sunday’s (or for really big churches most days of the week) and get our fill. In many cases these things have the purpose of making us feel better about ourselves. Now, no one would say that’s the purpose, but let’s be honest. When a guy comes home from a men’s ministry camping weekend, or the wife comes home from a weekend women’s conference how do they report their experience? And mission trips are no different…another ministry opportunity to get people “plugged in”.

However, the missio dei (the mission of God) is about seeing His kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven. It’s inherent in who He is. He doesn’t have a mission, He is the mission. And His mission should be carried out not only in the church, but in the lives of the individuals that make up the church…that’s you and me. Don’t make missions another ministry, another short term trip, another dollar in the offering plate. Make it who you are, someone who is on mission with God, not just someone that is missions minded.

The other big thing I noticed is that there were several churches that were waiting to get involved because they felt as though they didn’t have the resources. I’m sympathetic to smaller churches with small budgets not feeling as though they can make a “big” impact on things happening overseas. My recommendation…don’t wait until you have the resources. You never will. Partner with other churches, start small, start with a single purpose in a single place and let God grow it. But better still, start in your own community. Being on mission with God doesn’t necessarily mean that your involvement with God’s mission has to be done over here. Bring about God’s kingdom in your community. Partner with other churches that share your vision and passion for seeing God move in your community and in your world. And go from there…

If any of this resonates with you I’d love to talk more with you about it. Shoot me an email. This is something I’m passionate about and I would love to see your community transformed through your obedience to be on mission with God.

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I was planning to post another short about my recent trip to the States, but it will have to wait for another day. This post, while it is about America, has nothing to do with my trip. I wouldn’t normally comment on things like I am today, but I couldn’t really let this go.

My mom forwarded me an email the other day about Oprah. Let’s pause here and just say for the record that my mom is really good about not forwarding emails to me that she knows I’m not going to be interested in. And I appreciate that. But this one I guess she couldn’t resist. The email had a link to a YouTube video that basically says we need to be aware of what Oprah is preaching, flip off our TV, etc., etc. It seems a new resistance, or problem, or worrying trend, or whatever you want to call it, has sprung up against Oprah regarding her new book club selection The New Earth. It’s basically a new age book, which according to some, looks very similar to what you would find in Buddhism. Now for the record I don’t think or care about Oprah all that much. They air her show over here about 6 months after it airs in the States. The only time I really get interested in watching is when Dr. Oz is on. I like him, and come on, when is more knowledge about your colon not a good idea.

I think many individuals for a long time have realized that when it comes to faith or spirituality Oprah is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. So when she speaks about faith (or anything related to it) I typically don’t pay much attention. And I haven’t paid much attention to this either. And I don’t really plan to. And I don’t think you should either.

Here’s why. Focusing on things like this only succeed in taking our focus off things that really matter, things that will in the end have a lasting impact on eternity. Focus on being Jesus to your neighbor, your co-worker, your children, your parents…basically anyone you come in contact with. Take all the energy and effort you would use to tell the masses about the evilness of Oprah and use it to tell about the greatness of God. Go work at a homeless shelter. Clean up your neighborhood. Invite your neighbors over for dinner. Do something to increase the Kingdom. Don’t waste your time on Oprah.

The only thing that’s worth noticing about the latest belief system of Oprah, and those that are following her is that once again, it’s evidence that America is heading towards post-Christianity. In all honesty, America is the new mission field. And just think, you’re there, living right in the midst of it. You don’t even have to pack up your belongings and move across the ocean to be on mission with God. It’s all around you, right where you live.


The Stories of Others

January 2, 2008

I was watching a show recently where a part-time character was killed in an auto accident. One of the main characters was responsible for telling the spouse about her husband’s death. The main character commented that until this particular day she didn’t even know the wife (they worked at the same place), but was now the one that brought the news that would make up one of the worst days in the life of the wife. The main character would now be known as the one who told the wife of her husband’s death. She would be “that” person in the wife’s story of her life.

It got me to thinking…what part have I or will I play in the stories of others? When my neighbors tell their life story what part will I play? Will I be the one that showed them what Jesus was like, or will I show them what hypocritical religion was like, or will I even be mentioned at all?

I hope that when others I know, or will come to know, mention me in their stories it will be because in me they saw and experienced the hands, feet, eyes, mouth, and ears of Jesus. Hopefully they will say that I pointed them to the throne of Christ.


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A Little Confused

June 13, 2007

I’m relatively new to the life of being a “missionary”. I’m not new, however, to what it means to “share the gospel”. My hope and prayer is that through building relationships with others they might come to know about the sovereign grace of Christ, that the Holy Spirit will awaken their soul, and that God will call them to Himself.

But how far do you take things in a given conversation when things turn spiritual? In fact, just today a colleague told me that she felt the Holy Spirit was preventing her from taking things deeper in a conversation she was having with a friend.

When is just being a friend and living life with someone not enough? When do you push things deeper, and how do you know that it’s the right time?

Just very simple, basic things I’m working through right now.

UPDATE: After reading through my post I feel that a little clarification is needed. I live in a Western European culture. But I work with Muslims. It’s highly unlikely that someone in this context is going to come to faith through good old fashioned theological debate. The sticking points will always be issues such as the trinity, the incarnate nature of Christ, the crucifixion and resurrection. The point of my post was me asking the question, how often and how deep do I push these things, knowing full well that their witness of my life is more likely to lead them towards Christ than a spiritually deep conversation. And I don’t know that this question has an answer, but it needed to be asked anyway.

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First Research Project

April 21, 2007

After hearing about Ed Stetzer’s move to LifeWay Research and the collaboration that will take place between IMB, NAMB, & LifeWay, (you can read through others’ thoughts on this here, here, here and here) I have a proposal for Ed for his first research project in this new position:

What are the key characteristics, the positive influences which influence growth, and the negative influences which stunt growth in simple, organic churches of non-indegenous ethnic minorities (i.e. Iranians, Kurds, Bengalis, etc.) in post-modern cultures (i.e. London, Paris, etc.)?

I’m looking forward to your findings…

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