Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Three people I remember and why it matters to mission

I was reacting to a seminary prof (Dr. Alvin Reid) on Twitter yesterday who said he had just finished visiting with some students. I told him that I was thankful that he did because 22 years ago when I went, two professors had invited me to spend an hour with them and out of my whole seminary experience, I only remember those two guys plus one other.

Here's why... maybe:

1. You only remember the people who loved you, not the people who taught you.
I've been a member of two mega-churches in my day. I know the names of the pastors and you would too, but I don't know them. Never met 'em, never shook either's hand... nothing. They were great expositors and I loved their sermons. But truthfully, I could've watched 'em on T.V. and loved 'em just as much. I don't have any affection for them, any lasting desire to look them up when I'm in town. They didn't even know my name. Same with my profs, 'cept these two. They loved me, knew my name, brought me in their lives and heard my struggles. God says, "Knowledge puffs up, love builds up." Lot's of guys have given me knowledge, only a few have built me up.

2. Sometimes people make such an impact on you that you remember them.
That was the other guy... the third guy I remembered. The reason I remember him was he made me fall in love with the Bible. He taught me the book of John, his name was Dr. Munn. By the time I got done with that book, I didn't just love Jesus more, but I had my own solo scriptura experience. I loved God's word. I read or listened to the gospel of John every day of that semester at his request. And he would teach in such a way that you began to be mesmerized by the word of God. It's beauty, it's simplicity yet profundity, it's coherence. So sometimes you remember people for an impact they had on you.

So what does that have to do with being missional?

People are never gonna remember you for that block party you threw or that bottle of water you passed out or that car you washed. Just not gonna matter 22 years later. What will matter is the time you spend on their couch, listening to their stories, letting them into your world and you into theirs. What they will remember is the way you taught them to love the Bible and the way you spoke into their lives. People are going to remember you because you loved them. And you may think a block party expresses love, but I challenge you, go back a year later and ask them ones you gave the block party to if they love you because you did. Most of them won't even remember your name.

Missional life is not having loving events for strangers, missional life is having a loving relationship with strangers where those strangers are no longer strangers but friends and no longer friends but brothers and sisters in Jesus.

When that happens, 22 years after you're gone... they'll remember.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why the church doesn't reach the poor

As a 20 year pastor and a two year charity director I have struggled with why the church doesn't reach the poor. I struggled with why my church didn't and why it is hard for us. Here are some unfortunate thoughts that usually pop up when someone considers helping the poor...

1. They deserve what they get.
At the core of all reasons may be this one. They are poor cause they won't work, they are poor cause they do drugs, they are poor cause their lifestyle is destructive. If they'd get their act together, they wouldn't be poor and I'm not motivated to help someone who is doing it to themselves.

While that may be true, consider this: ALL we like sheep have gone astray. Jesus cared for you while you were yet a sinner.

2. They take more out of the plate than they put into it.
Yep, they sure do. Consider this: Acts 4:32-35 ...and they (the early Christians) felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. ...There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.

The early church had some that put in the plate and some that took out. That's what the money was for. We use it on many other things but not too much on people who need help so that there is no needy people among us. 

3. I don't want their kids around my kids.
In our ministry some of the children are dirty, spit at us, hit us, say horrible things to us, hit other kids, hoard the treats, disrupt the service and once even stole the offering.

Listen, I'm not saying this isn't a challenge. But you send your kids to school every day for six hours a day with the same kids and you expect their teachers to maintain a safe environment. Your teachers can too. And seriously, what do you think Jesus meant when he said, SUFFER the little children... 

4. They take too much energy.
Yep, sure do. It's true that you have to go their place cause they don't have a car and pick 'em up or have Bible study close by. It's true that many of them weren't "raised right" and don't even know the simplest things like hygiene or basic care. It's true that many of them don't know how to provide structure, boundaries and discipline for their children, and it's true that there are a lot of issues you've already worked through that they haven't. But if they they had it all figured out they wouldn't need you... they'd be you.

Friend, these are only a few, but they are the ones I hear most frequently. The church is not for us only, who are easy to take care of and can get by on a good Bible class, a good sermon and some good music once a week. The church is for them, the broke, dysfunctional, dirty, not raised right, lazy, messed up folks.

Jesus said it this way when the 'church folks' "complained bitterly to Jesus' disciples saying, "Why do you eat and drink with such scum?" Jesus answered them, "Healthy people don't need a doctor—sick people do. (Luke 5:30-31 NLT)


Thursday, March 4, 2010

You get what you play for

There is an inescapable reality when you begin to live a missionary lifestyle. You are going to be in relationship with new people, people not like you, not like you at all.

The difference between living a missionary lifestyle and doing missionary projects is simply this: If I do an outreach oriented project in your neighborhood, I don't have to be in relationship with you. I plan with you in mind, I come in and serve you in a loving way and then I go back home. Home to my people who have similar jobs and interests and paychecks and lifestyles. The missionary however moves into the neighborhood with a different attitude. Maybe you don't physically move in (some do) but you move in with the purpose of making new friends, becoming a part of new family's lives. You still serve and do projects with the other person in mind, but this time your service has a long term relationship tied to the end of it. And that makes all the difference in the world.

There's a highway patrol investigator who now lives a missionary life who said to me, "You know Bobby, I used to pursue people just to lock 'em up to get 'em off the street, now I pursue them to get them back on their feet. Same people, different purpose."

There's an old saying that says, "Begin with the end in mind."

If the end is to visit and perform a kind act, then that's what you'll do. If the end is to make a new friend, then the same kind act will be planned for much differently...with a much different result.