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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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.

-shorty

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On Strategy

July 10, 2007

I read with great interest blogs and sites that deal with issues of strategy and methodology in missions. I appreciate and respect individuals like Guy Muse and David Rogers. They talk about things like MAWL (Model, Assist, Watch, and Leave), or common elements found in CPM’s (Church Planting Movements), or strategies from Wolfgang Simpson’s book Houses That Change the World.

In and of themselves these are all good things to discuss. I’m of the belief that while strategies are good to study, the implementation of them is quite dependent on the geographical location and group of people you are working with. There are things that Guy writes about on his blog that simply wouldn’t work where I’m at. It doesn’t mean that they are bad, they’re just not right in this context. Much of what is written about mission strategy starts with a wrong assumption. The assumption is made that there are those that have either come to faith, or about to come to faith. So the strategy focuses on what to do at the point of conversion so that it can be duplicated such that it leads to a movement. This is why much of what I read about mission strategy doesn’t work for me.

I live in a European context. But I’m not working with Europeans. I’m working with Muslim ethnic minorities. The community is completely closed. They have little to no use in outsiders. If you don’t have a good or service to offer them they want nothing to do with you. To “do life” with them is very difficult…next to impossible in my opinion. Theological discussions will not persuade them. And these people are not coming to faith and are not near coming to faith.

So you can see that I have a hard time taking what others are doing (or not doing) and try to implement it here. I have to find something that works for where I’m at and who I’m trying to reach. And this has led me to a passage I read recently in John 4. The son of a royal official is very ill. The father comes to Jesus asking him to heal his boy. Jesus responds by saying, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe”. In other words, Jesus is saying “look, you won’t believe in me based on what I’m saying, so I’m going to have to show you something miraculous and blow you out of the water in order for you to believe.” And he does just that. He heals the boy and as a result the father and his whole household come to faith (v. 53). This is where I’m at with strategy. I’m not giving up on building relationships with those in my community. In fact, I’m doing just the opposite. But I truly feel that these people will have to see sign and wonders, and will have to have dreams and visions in order to come to faith. I know that God can move anyway he chooses, but it just seems that something is going to have to shake these people to their very foundation before they will look and behold the glory and grace of Jesus Christ.

So now my strategy contains a lot of praying for signs, wonders, dreams, and visions. It may be the only way this community is saved.

-shorty

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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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