Archive for mission
What if this was the beginning of training for living on mission? Here are some guys that took some extra efforts to prepare before returning to a people to tell their story to encourage and challenge others to live different lives.
This past weekend, our family made a quick trip to visit a family member that had been admitted to an extended care facility for rehabilitation from a stroke. It was great to be with extended family again and to see our loved one making great improvement. On the way into the facility, I had to pause when I saw a row of elderly lined up in front of a TV sitting lifeless. The sight wasn’t pretty or heart-warming in any way. I was touched, but troubled by the reality these people were waiting through.
Walking down the hallway, I thought of several I know that had been sent off to take the gospel to the nations by their loved ones. Sent out by their aged loved ones that would are living in places much like the one I visited. Some of these have no one to care for them except for the nurses and staff at the nursing home where they live. Yet, it was clear to a parent or loved one that having their remaining family that is in close contact with them to go and take the gospel to those that do not know Jesus Christ was of utmost importance.
I had a new, profound respect for those sending ones that treasured the lives of others more than receiving loving care in person on their last years on the earth. May they be blessed. May this encourage us to live with abandon as the sent ones to take the gospel to others.
Had a great time last night meeting people, hearing stories, sharing with and learning from others at the Engage@Work forum who are seeking to live out the whole gospel by seeing their work as part of the expression of their faith. The goal of the night was to begin to raise some questions about what this might look like. Special attention was given to what it may look like to conduct business in light of the triple bottom line.
For any readers that may be familiar with the idea of the bottom line, but unfamiliar with where it comes from, this is simply a number that comes from the Income Statement (some refer to this as a profit and loss statement). It is the remaining number (“in the black”) at the bottom that is calculated by taking revenues (green) and subtracting out expenses (“in the red”). Naturally, companies and individuals (and yes, even governments eventually) must pay attention to the bottom line. But the question arises, is that enough? Is making money all that business or life is about?
Socrates stated that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” I would offer that evaluating business from a triple bottom line (TBL) is an attempt to do this examination thing for a business entity. And that, I would offer, is a very good thing. A TBL approach will evaluate whether or not a company is achieving their objectives in profit, people (this may include but is not limited social justice) and place (such as environmental issues, city beautification, etc.).
In extending the conversation, I would propose that doing TBL evaluation can be unwieldy. Still important conceptually, just difficult. I have seen businesses seeking to implement some dashboard metrics that included TBL issues, and found evaluation difficult because of the multiple outcomes. To aid in this, I would offer that it would be ideal to incorporate having an impact on people and/or place in the business plan as key factors that would be able to be key in our ability to also drive the monetary bottom line. Some good examples of this would include TOMS and Land of a Thousand Hills. If there is a big idea that resonates as true and worthwhile with others, then it should give a competitive advantage when all other things are equal. Even when other things such as price or ease of access are not equal, it may still give a distinct benefit that will help drive the old-fashioned bottom line.
Historically, businesses that have sought to do good have primarily done that through charitable giving. This avenue is still healthy and has great merit. But finding ways to incorporate being a blessing to others and/or to the creation we are to steward are definitely worthwhile pursuits to incorporate into business plans and practices.
Sent as Christ was sent, we are, I would offer, sent as the wise ones (among other things). So, what say you wise ones? What do we do with the TBL as we seek to live out the gospel?
There is a percolating discussion on the blogosphere about the mission of the church with the release and subsequent reviews of What is the Mission of the Church? by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert. I first learned about this from my compadres at UC and then this morning saw a pretty exhaustive list of those critiquing the book on Stetzer’s blog.
I wanted to add my 2 cents to the conversation. First, let me state the obligatory disclaimer that I have not read the book. So now for my critique…just kidding.
Second, I have decided that these discussions make me tired. Not because they are unimportant, on the contrary I think they are very important. Thinking through why these discussions make me tired, I thought maybe it was because the debate wasn’t done over a cup of coffee. Then I dismissed this as I took a sip of my coffee and still didn’t feel the conversation to be any brighter. Then I realized it tires me because it is not done with visible eyeballs. There is something about sitting around the table or campfire or wherever and drinking a cup of coffee or tea or whatever and talking about how these things impact our lives. So, carry on the discussion, I just wish it could happen with some of my buddies where theological discussions happen best: in person, in community.
Still, I do have something I would like to offer to the conversation. Here’s a clip with Frost’s take on the purpose of the church. This seems important as Gombis states that he is “not sure that the authors are familiar with the viewpoints of missional Christians.” Consider this guy as one of the voices among the missional tribe(s).
“I love you!” the grandfather said to his 4 year old grandson with Latin heritage aiding the grandfather in conveying the fulness of his love for the child. Impulsively, the child responded with an independent, “I don’t love you.” Without a pause or shift in his countenance the grandfather replied, “That’s OK. I love you enough for both of us.” Then, the process began again for the second of three iterations. “I love you!”….
I learned so much observing this family encounter some years ago. Both about the giving love of a wise one as well as the impulsive self-centeredness of a child-like mind. About the love of the Father and the reality of me.
As a continuation of the previous post a good bit wiser, this anecdote is to illustrate a bit more that “if they hate us, it is OK because we have enough love for both of us.” When the wise ones enter into relationships with others while permeated with the love of Christ, we are blessed to enter in with our eyes wide open. When confronted with the lovely or seemingly unlovable, we can move forward in confidence because of His goodness–because of His love.
A recent conversation with my pre-teen daughter about the latest happenings in her world at her new school where she is seeking to live as salt and light led to some healthy thinking and great conversation. (I really love talking with this kid and am thankful that I get to be her daddy.) Anyway, the conversation is an important part of what it means to live on mission.
In the gospels we see numerous times where the religious leaders came to trap Jesus with their sophistry. Following these encounters, the questioners would be silenced, red-faced, apoplectic. On the other hand, we see genuine questioners coming to Christ that were deeply impacted and changed or struggled with the answers he gave. Each encounter makes clear that he was the wise one. He seems to be thinking, speaking and seeing things on a higher plane. So, if we are sent as he was sent then….
The same goes for peace-making. Jesus didn’t make a let’s pretend to be nice ignoring the elephant in the room peace, but more often a reconciliation of relationships that were completely severed with no hope of making things right. For example, there was no way that Mary and Martha were going to have another minute with Lazarus on this earth until Jesus went and changed all that. If that’s a bit too extreme then how about the prostitute at the well that Christ restored to a healthy standing in her community. So, if Jesus was a peacemaker and we are sent as he was sent then….
We have such a privilege and I believe it is fair to even say a huge advantage in interacting with others. We are sent as the wise ones, the peace-makers. We go out from our homes into our community, the places where we connect, our workplace and our schools with our eyes wide open. There is a purpose behind who we are, a mission that propels us forward. We meet and relate to our neighbors to bless them. When they are kind to us, we in turn honor them. If they curse us, we in turn bless them. If they hate us it is OK because we have enough love for both of us. When they want to speak only of mundane or immoral things, we have the privilege of elevating our interactions to things that matter and are lasting.
Lately I have been seeing and hearing some amazing stories that are so impacting less because of what is in the story but more of what is not. These are stories of giving–it seems it just actually may be better to give than to receive. These stories are about emptying one’s self of what was of value, at least it was of value once upon a time. You know the time when the fairy tales seemed better than the real story ever could be. Back when heroes were dreamed of more than walked with.
You know the story of the house with the white picket fence that was where a family could grow up and close together. This safe place would be where kids learned to be a blessing and the parents would be blessed. Where the kids would learn to play football and soccer and the piano too. And where the kids of the neighborhood could go to be safe when away from their own white picket fence trimmed world. Ultimately it was a place for people that looked like, thought like, behaved like, worshipped like and even earned as well as spent like us. This utopia may have been called a community with shared values, but that was code for a whole lot more expectations than we could ever say in a politically correct environment. This is where we wanted to establish the roots of our lives as well as those that would come in our future generations.
Now I continue to come across those that are trading in this American dream for one of uncertainty. Often the life plan can be seen only months out or maybe a year or two where a person knows that for the here and now, this is how and where God is directing. With this move to a new place in life, safety may be a little less than what one felt before. Language, culture and worldview may be a world away from what once was shared. Square footage may be divided by a factor rather than subtracted by a digit. It’s different, but when it’s part of the calling to make disciples, it’s freeing. It’s the only way to live and move and adopt a nomadic faithfulness. This is essential for those that are listening for the voice that would speak in our ear saying “this is the way, walk in it.”
Another story that is up for revision as some are living it out today is the family name. There has been great concern over the centuries for the family name to be upheld. More than a few kingdoms have been rocked by the need for lineage that would carry on the patronymic. Also, more than a few dad’s hearts have been broken by children that did not uphold the integrity of the family name. But there are some that upon hearing a call to the nations have to go and Google their name to see what is publicly available on the inter-webs about their life. Seeing that they are clearly identified in a way that would not be acceptable to the government and / or people of the place where they are moving, they take legal action. They change their name so that they can live among those who are open to the truth and love of Christ, but are not able to accept some of the cultural trappings that we have used to self-identify.
These areas of abandon are just a glimpse of the One who emptied Himself. Ultimately, His tale is the one that is the creative genius of all the once upon a time fables, but His mission is also the beautiful calling for the heroes that are living it out today.
As several have asked about a recent event in our lives based on a tweet I posted on The Twitters, an update seemed in order. For readers that don’t know, during my recent travels our house was burglarized. No one was home and every one is safe though the pooch was a little shaken up. While the hoodlums didn’t make off with loads of valuables, they did disrupt our lives.
We are continuing to address the logistical issues which come from a forced entry break in. But on the bright side, we were able to have a meet up with a number of our neighbors to talk about what it would look like for us to act as neighbors rather than just as people who live in close proximity to each other. I do not believe that God has for us to live in strife with our neighbors. At the same time I do not believe that He desires us to have a state of apathy for those that live close to us. It is in our community–where one plants his family–that we are the incarnation of the gospel.
Our neighbors were skeptical about getting together the first time, but they decided for another get together much sooner than I would have proposed.
Off topic, I had a piece posted this week on the Upstream site on the Sent and Sending church. Well that was the published title. I originally sent it as “A Church Brouhaha.”
On recent travels (that I am one flight away from finishing up as I type), I had the privilege to provide some training and consulting for some international church planters in the Balkans. The stories there were encouraging and I am very excited to see what God will do there in the next year(s). For those from there that may be reading this post, know that I am cheering and praying for you!
So I finished up late one night and was headed to the airport before dawn the next morning. I was exhausted and, if honest, a bit proud that I had been able to share with others some of the things the Lord had been teaching me over the past several years. Then as I ambled toward the check-in line, I saw several children with a range of birth defects in the line ahead of me. Most of the defects were facial, though there were also crippled and severely autistic children. The ethnicity of the children was Roma. These gypsies are the outcasts of Europe. Discrimination against them is not just uncommon, but is expected. Leading these approximately 10 kiddos was a Bulgarian man and several ladies. These blessed servants were giving their lives away in anonymity to the “least of these.” It was beautiful. I was both touched and humbled.
While waiting for the plane, I saw the man–who was clearly the leader of the group and respected by both the children and the adults. He was interrupted as the youngest, who was sitting in front of him in a wheel chair with casts on both legs, wildly offered an empty paper cup. As the child gestured with the cup toward the man, he immediately stopped what he was doing and took a pretend drink from the cup. The child was elated. All the kids and ladies were smiling and laughing at the antics. This Bulgarian man was teaching the ways of Christ more than anyone else ever could have that morning to those kids, the ladies, and some other observers including me.
Maybe my time in the Balkans was a blessing to some others. Certainly, it was enriching for me. I learned a good bit about the ways of Jesus.
This past week I had the privilege of being at a children’s camp sharing about mission and enjoying time with my family. While away, there were several delightful things that I saw as beautiful. Thought I would share a few here.
- nature – The handiwork of God. Breath-taking. Enough said.
- children – I loved being able to hear stories and see the energy and enthusiasm of so many youngsters. It was infections.
- faith – While this goes back to kiddos also, it was beautiful to see the purity of child-like faith.
- family – It was so good to spend time with my family and create some new memories. I also thoroughly enjoyed watching my kids interact with other kids and adults. (Thanks to all of those that cared deeply about my kids!) I was reminded that they are growing up in so many ways. Finally on the family note, it was also a blessing to see other families that are seeking to walk with God.
- sacrifice – Those who shared their lives as sponsors and cooks, leaders and administrators were giving their time for others. These were beautiful expressions of service and love.
- friendship – This week was also a week to reconnect with some who have been instrumental in my life. Thanks so much to them! This was a blessing and our time together last week as well as over the years was, for me, a glimpse into the goodness of God.
- God – Sharing with others about the missionary God that calls us to be a missionary people and in turn requires the church to be a missionary church was, as usual, helpful for me in reflecting on how beautiful is the plan He made. How beautiful what He has called us to be about.