Would I actually tell someone about Christ?

This is the start of a discussion that we’ll have on the blog this week.

Honesty, is not always the easiest policy to follow when you put things out on the internet. Why? Well, there is a vulnerability that comes with it. It’s a bit like cracking open your journal and allowing people to see the real and raw side of life. The question becomes – how strongly do we feel about the subject matter we are talking about? It is a bit easier to talk honestly about something that we feel strongly about, or something that is a deeply held conviction or belief.

So, why is it that we are so timid with our faith? Remember, honesty is the policy here today. You’ll probably read this from the comfort of your own home, or office, or maybe tucked in the corner of a little café. If any of these are true, or any other place you might be located, you are safe to answer this question in your own mind. Your thoughts are safe as you mull this over.

Be honest with yourself though. Why is it so hard to openly share our faith with the people we encounter in our lives – the guy you see every day at work, your neighbor across the hedges, the girl who sits in front of you in math, the person who just passed you in the café? What if they don’t know the ridiculous love that Christ has for them? What if they are struggling with something that no one knows about and all they need is the love of Christ to be demonstrated to them?

I’ll be honest here. I think I miss these opportunities all the time. But why? Am I afraid of their perception of me? Do I think that they’ll think that I’m a religious nut? Do I not love them enough to care about how they’re doing? Or, maybe I feel ill equipped as far as what to say or how to respond? Whatever it is, at least I can be honest enough with myself to recognize my short-comings.

But it can’t end there. To recognize something that isn’t quite right in our lives, and simply move on, is like recognizing an injustice but being to cowardly to do anything about it. I mean, didn’t Jesus tell us in the Great Commission to “go and make disciples of all nations…”? Jesus said this to his disciples, but that is for you and me today. We’re part of that plan! But, how serious do we take that command? Or, the question that we talked about at the beginning, how strongly do I feel about the subject matter we are talking about? Well, when I think of it that way, things change. I do feel strongly about the freedom that someone can experience in Christ! I do feel strongly about loving your neighbor as yourself! I think I would want someone to tell me about this Jesus guy if I didn’t know him.

So, today, may we be bold and show the love of Christ to those around us. May we speak the words that are sometimes hard to say, knowing that it’s God at work in us. Christ chose to use us as his “body” here on earth to continue building his Kingdom. That should be an honor…not an obligation that we do begrudgingly. Now, let’s go make it a great day!

Can you walk on water?

I doubt you can walk on water (although, we have made some amazing advances in footwear). However, I doubt a guy named Peter thought he could walk on water either. But he did. In the book of Matthew, Mark, and John we read about when Jesus walked out on the Sea of Galilee. The disciples, who are in a boat, see Jesus walking toward them on the water and they become scared because they think they are seeing a ghost. Now, let’s be honest. You and I would have been scared too! Imagine sitting in the middle of this sea at night, and suddenly there is a guy walking toward you…ON THE WATER. I might have jumped out the other side of the boat!

But, Jesus quickly reassured them that it was him. He said to them in Matthew 14:27, “Do not be afraid.” Now, we might be tempted to read this and think, “Oh, sure, now the disciples got it. That cleared the air.” Come on! You don’t think their hearts were still pounding within their chests? Why then is Peter the only one who stood up and [skeptically, mind you] said, “Lord, if that is really you, call me out onto the water with you.” They were scared. This was something new. They might have seen Jesus do some pretty amazing things (oh, I don’t know, maybe healing the blind, making the lame walk, driving out demons…just some stuff like that), but this was not something they were familiar with.

Yet, despite all of these factors, Peter actually stepped out of the boat. And guess what…he walked on the water. Of course at this point we love to talk about how he ends up sinking, and Jesus needs to rescue him. But, we need to realize something; Peter got out of the boat. He took a risk. Did he sink after a short jaunt? Yeah. But he got to see, and experience, the power of Christ.

Sometimes we need to take risks. Sometimes we need to have our boundaries pushed. This might mean being uncomfortable, which we don’t like. But, as Xander said in his last post, “…if we want to continue to impact the lives of people around the world, we may need to learn how to adapt.” As counter-intuitive as it might sound, stepping out of the boat may be the best decision we’ve ever made. Why? Because we’re moving in the direction of Christ. After all, isn’t that who Peter was headed toward?

Learning to Adapt

We saw on Friday that kids are some of the best innovators around. So too are they very good adapters. Just think about how kids adapt to social situations, for example. From a very young age, kids are carefully watching their peers and parents to gain a better understanding of how the world works. They pick up on social cues—and they learn how to adapt to their social surroundings. They monitor the social climate of their friends at school, their family at home or the kids on their little league team. By always being alert and aware, kids can adapt themselves to situations really quickly and efficiently.

Similarly, Christians need to be adaptable too. At the end of last week, Josh discussed our culture’s ability to be innovative and imaginative. I agree wholeheartedly that missions could benefit from this spirit of innovation. What’s more, if we want to continue to impact the lives of people around the world, we may need to learn to adapt. Look at Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:19-13:

“For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I might by any means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.”

Paul’s words suggest that in order to reach the most people, we must learn to adapt. We have to learn to re-learn things as many times as possible. We must first acknowledge the wave of change, and then adapt to meet the needs of that change. 100 years ago, culture changed much slower. Therefore, Christians could change much slower. But today, culture changes in the blink of an eye, and Christians must be able to read and respond to this rapid change. We must ask ourselves and what is the best way to usher in the Kingdom of Jesus all over the world—and then ask God to help us do it. This may require some careful observation on our part. It may require us to listen to people more than we talk to them. But when we do these things, we get a better read on the overall climate (political, social, economical, spiritual) of our society and world. When we are aware of how our neighbors—those living next door and those living in Southeast Asia and Africa—are living, thinking, and using technology, it allows us to bring the Gospel message in a way that meets people right where they are. Paul did this. Jesus did it too. We have the chance to do it today.

The Power of Innovation

In the last blog post we talked about this idea of a shift in mindset – the thought that domestic and international missions are no longer mutually exclusive, but rather, that we may be in a time when innovation, technology, and resources connect us all with global missions. Incredible, really, to just think about the possibilities. The idea of empowering my neighbor halfway around the world is mind-blowing. But, how did we arrive here?

The simple fact is that we are insistent innovators. Over the last twenty years, look at all that has been achieved and how quickly – personal computers in nearly every home, big screen televisions that are thinner than our college textbooks, smartphones, smartcars, and the list goes on. We are innovative people. We have been taught to think and dream of ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness. And we are learning it younger and younger.

Let me give you an example. I stopped by my sister’s house the other day to pick something up, and found my 4 year-old niece begging my sister to give her a cookie that was on the counter – just out of her reach. “You can’t have it Anna,” I heard my sister say again. There was a bit of pouting going on, so I stepped into the other room to talk to my brother-in-law. A few minutes later I returned to the kitchen and noticed that it was very quite…too quite if Anna was still here. Suddenly, I saw a little hand searching the counter near where the cookie was laying, but it wasn’t Anna’s hand. I looked around the edge of the kitchen island only to find Anna holding her 1 ½ year-old brother around the waist while hoisting him into the air. She was giving him clear instructions on how to reach the cookie. I stood there staring in amazement! They were very close to getting the cookie; I couldn’t believe it!

When Anna saw me she promptly dropped her brother (landing none too softly I might add), and gave me a sheepish grin as if to say, “You’re not going to tell my mom are you?” I couldn’t help but start laughing. How ridiculous! But how innovative and resourceful she had been. She wanted that cookie!

How badly do we want to see the world (I mean everyone in the world!) have a chance to hear about Jesus, and what he has done for us? We’re living in an age where innovation has taken us to new heights in industry, technology, and consumer products. Why not let it take us to new heights in missions as well? Let’s release that free and bountiful resource of innovation in all that we do. Now, grab your younger brother and let’s get that cookie!

Why should we change now?

I’ll never forget my Economics 220 class that I took during my sophomore year in college. I’ll never forget it because of one, pointed question that a classmate of mine asked our professor during a discussion one Spring afternoon. I’m paraphrasing, but the question went something like this, “Does our (Christians) imperative to bring Jesus’ Kingdom to every nation change now that our means of bringing this Kingdom have changed?” In other words, in this new age of technology and abundance of resources in the West, does God expect every single one of us to carry His truth to the deepest, farthest corner of the globe? Maybe I would better serve Him in my community, attending to the needs of my more literal neighbors, rather than my “neighbors” in Indonesia or Ethiopia.

This is a question that many of us have asked ourselves before. Half a century ago, only a select few professed a calling from God on their lives to travel to another land to bring hope in the form of Jesus’ Gospel. But today, any and all of us in the West have connections to people in other lands. And what’s more, we have the resources and the technology to assist them. So, does our call to meet their needs (spiritual and physical) look different today?

I am not sure that I, or anyone for that matter, have the authority to decide when and how God’s call has changed. However, you and I do have authority over our mindset toward that call. Perhaps before we speak about models and strategies for reaching the lost, we should examine, at a very basic level, our attitude toward missions and evangelism. David Bryant, former president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI), speaks to this exact idea. Of a new kind of Christian in the 21 century, Bryant writes:

We want to accept personal responsibility for reaching some of the earth’s unreached, especially from among the billions at the widest end of the Gap who can only be reached through major new efforts by God’s people. Among every people-group where there is no vital, evangelizing Christian community there should be, there must be one, there shall be one. Together we want to help make this happen.

Bryant calls people with this mindset, “World Christians”. “World Christians” reorder their lives around one central principle: Make the Good News of Jesus known to every single person on earth. Perhaps this is the way we respond to our newfound ability to reach more of the world population. In this way perhaps, world missions in the 21st century is not a question of ‘either-or’, but more of a ‘both-and’.  This may require us to see both domestic and world missions as complementary, rather than mutually exclusive. If we can reorder our lives around a call to domestic and international missions, more people than ever before could be brought into community with their Savior. Why change our mindset? Because our potential for making a greater impact for His Kingdom has increased! This potential, in the form of new technologies, connections, and opportunities abroad allows every one of us to become ambassadors for Christ both in our local neighborhoods and in the global village. I am not sure that I am able to discern whether or not God’s call has changed, but I firmly believe that He wants our very best. We can do more now than ever before. Let’s start first with our mindset.

What if that “something” means change?

Have you ever had that feeling like something was beginning to change, but you loved the old too much to let it go? Never mind if the new is good or not.

I experienced this with one of my first cars which was a Jeep Wagoneer (a Cherokee with wood paneling – it was beautiful). The Jeep had experienced numerous engine problems and was rapidly becoming an antique (you know – the kind that you look at but don’t touch). Finally, my dad broached the topic. “I think it is time you sold that Jeep,” he kindly said, “and looked at something a little more reliable.” He must be joking right? Did he have any idea how many awesome memories I had wrapped up in that old rusty vehicle? Well, actually, yes, he did. He also knew how much money we were dumping into the vehicle just to keep it on the road. “Why?” I tried to ask naively. “What do you mean why?” he laughed back, “let me name each of the forty reasons.” We laughed for a while, because we both knew that he was right.

But, it’s never easy to let something go that has meant a lot to us. I’ve realized this in different areas of my life in the last few years. One of these areas had been in the field of international missions. I’ve been challenged by articles, and prominent Christian leaders, who have begun to ask the question of what missions looks like in the 21st Century. The part that is uncomfortable is that I like the way that we have done it in the past. People feel called to go overseas to share the Gospel, we pray with them to discern, we help to train them and send them, they go and live there for a long time, and then they come home (sometimes).

I like that model. I like hearing the stories of those who have gone and done this in years past, and even now. But…what if we need to start thinking outside the box for how we do missions alongside what has worked in the past; beyond what I like and am familiar with? What does that new thing look like, and will I be okay with perhaps embracing it? Well, as Xander explained on Monday…that is what we are going to be looking at in the next few weeks here on the blog. God is up to something! What DOES missions look like when we try to see 10 years down the road (will I still be driving the Wagoneer – or maybe use it sparingly as I drive something different for my daily commute)? How are we being most effective at sharing the Gospel message with as many people as soon as possible? We’ll see…

Let us know what you think!