The missionaries are allowed to – why can’t I?
Why are missionaries allowed to get away with so much when it comes to communicating the Gospel in the context of those they serve? What would happen in our communities if we lived out their missional strategies here at home? How would that impact how we talk? How we dress? How we serve? How we live? How intentional we are in influencing humanity for the better?
Having morning tea this morning, one of the students asked me, ‘How was yesterday afternoon?’ As I sat there trying to remember what I did yesterday afternoon he noticed the blank look on my face and the vacant stare and said, ‘You know… the old people!’
Ah it all came flooding back… Every Thursday I run a computer group for seniors. A nice bunch of people – friendly, fun and considerate.
But to tell you the truth at 38 years of age I didn’t picture myself in this situation.
I did not imagine I would be running a group of how can I say this… ‘mature’ people. Nor did I imagine that at 38 I would still be spending Friday nights running a youth group consisting of mainly 13 year old boys. Nor did I imagine being under pressure to prepare for Sunday’s sermon so late on a Friday afternoon, and then having spent so much time preparing only having half a dozen people turn up!
I find myself asking this question regularly, ‘Am I doing the right thing? Am I wasting my time… or my life in this church planting business? Is the outcome of this church plant going to differ to any other church I have been a part of? Or will it end up being another safe place for Christians to isolate themselves from the world?’
This church planting caper has been an expensive business for me personally, spiritually, emotionally, financially and physically. And it has really challenged me with regards to the people I used to look up to. Some of the people I respected, people who literally took me in and provided a solid grounding for my life, who showed me the Gospel is the pinnacle, the very core upon which everything I do – some of these people have reacted to my change in life in a surprising manner.
Everything I do revolves around creating missional community, reorienting the church around the mission of Christ based upon the life-changing principles I learnt from these wonderful gospel people. In my mind it’s the natural outworking of what I have taken onboard through their foundational teachings.
I had assumed the foundational core of the established mainstream church was that the church exists for mission. All the things I had previously done in churches were based upon that core but it had always been expressed in an orthodox manner.
Now, I am just expressing the same cause/belief in a more relevant manner.
Doing the things I had done simply because I had done them before was not achieving the purpose. On top of that I noticed the reluctance of many Christians to approach evangelism differently at a local level, but when it came to world-wide evangelism a different approach was nearly always allowed, and even encouraged!
“Missionaries” seemed to be getting away with so much more than I could in the local scene. They were able to go into new cultures, create new connecting points with the culture, even speak a new language.
But here locally, could I do the same? No way! If anyone talked differently, looked different, thought differently it was frowned upon. Has anyone else noticed that?
I think I had, not by my own design, become a cross-cultural missionary – except I did not travel overseas.
I was just trying to minister effectively in my own community.
I really struggled in the main stream church because I wanted to use the same way of thinking in local evangelism as was used in the international mission field.
My calling changed from being a pastor whose focus was on the happiness of his members, to mobilizing the church for the purpose of fulfilling God’s mission of reconciling the world to Him.
I had gone from sending our missionaries out to keep them at a safe distance from “us”, to somehow wanting them to break back in and revolutionise the way we live in our own communities.
In my mind membership in church is no longer a viable option. There are no members – only missionaries. There is nothing to join except a community on a mission.
But now I’m taking flak from the people who were, in one sense, catalysts for the person I am today.
I mean what have I got to do? It seems the more relevant I become… the closer I get to ‘real’ people, the further I get from (many of) His people.
Erwin McManus summed up how I feel in an article describing the Mosaic Alliance, ‘We have a zero tolerance policy for religious jargon or Christianese. We have little room for traditions that mean something to us but nothing to a person searching for God. We will not forsake the Word of God for the traditions of men. We are committed to removing every non-essential barrier between God and humanity. We refuse to allow the Gospel to become lost in our nostalgia or to appear irrelevant because we are. And I must confess we are less concerned about whether mainstream Christians get us than about whether those searching for God get Him. And if this makes us the bane of the church then so be it. Paul said he would be accursed if only Israel would be saved. If he was willing to take hell for eternity, we can take a little heat form the watch dogs of Christian orthodoxy’.
Man do they sound like fighting words? Words coming from someone who has had enough of the useless, distracting dribble which consumes so much of our time and energy.
It’s words like that which show me I’m not alone in my frustration! Words like that remind me that when I’m frustrated with the way things are going, there is always a greater cause!
The fight is huge but it is a worthwhile fight.
I may at times become frustrated with the status quo around me, with the situation I find myself in, and even my own inability to make changes when I so clearly see the need for change.
This is the reason why ignitionjournal exists: to fan the flame, to enlarge and enhance our paradigm and to renew the passion which drives our life.
There’s a story told of Robert the Bruce who, after being inspired by William Wallace (of Braveheart fame), fights with his last breath to free his people. After that last breath is gone he has his heart cut from his chest and taken into battle. When all was about to be lost the commanding officer threw the heart into the middle of the battle and cried, “Fight for the heart of your King!”
Sometimes we lose sight of where the heart of our King is.
And so I find myself saying to you and even to myself, ‘Don’t give up, don’t surrender. Keep on going; keep following the heart of the King!’
I know what I’ve written won’t make sense unless you find yourself in a similar situation to me, and then it makes all the sense in the world.
But if it doesn’t make sense then please trust me when I say this, ‘I want His Kingdom to come!’ And I don’t care what I have to do to see it happen. If it means a loss of a job or ministry bring it on… if it means a loss of respect in the eyes of those I once looked up to, bring it on…
If it means I never go back to a church building again, bring it on…
We need a missional approach in local churches now!
We need Pastors to be more concerned about the lost than the saved… We need people more interested in spending time with those who don’t yet know Jesus than ministering to brethren…
We need our diaries to reflect our evangelism priority.
We need less programs and more releasing to live lives which are missional in nature.