Archives For Mission and Vision

macro-microI don’t apologize for taking time in my preaching and teaching to give the larger story of God that we find ourselves in. The Big Picture of God’s Mission in the world (the “macro”) is essential if we are going to serve God in our local, everyday world (the “micro”). It’s not either-or, it’s both.

The July 2013 Issue of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research (IBMR) makes the point in the editorial cover story.

The longer I follow Jesus and study Christian mission, the more sense it makes to live in light of both the big picture of the missio Dei (Mission of God) and the small, daily opportunities right in front of me. The apostle Paul conducted his missionary service this way. For example, at a particular historical moment he encouraged Gentile Christians to contribute on behalf of famine-stricken Judean believers by appealing to God’s larger purposes for Israel and the world (Rom. 15:25–27). Perhaps even more pointed is the way Jesus was ever conscious of God’s macro plan of salvation, but was all the while responsive to micro-level needs and interruptions. Just prior to his crucifixion and resurrection, knowing that “the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God,” Jesus served his disciples through the menial task of washing their feet (John 13:1–5).

Jesus’ disciples heard him teach about life and about God’s macro relation to Israel and the world for three years, all the while watching him serve, perform miracles, and otherwise relate to various specific people. At their final gathering with the risen Jesus, the disciples asked him perhaps the most macro question they could muster: “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). These heirs of Israel’s heritage were articulating their national longing for the restoration of King Solomon’s splendor after a millennium of division, exile, and subjugation. The macro expectation that gripped the disciples both fueled their imagination about the larger meaning of Jesus’ life and filtered their expectations for who this Nazarene was in relation to their own particular lives. It seems that we human beings inevitably carry compelling visions of deity and the world that affect how we live our daily lives.

Jesus gave his disciples a combined macro/micro answer. He noted how, on a macro level, God alone knows when and how the historical developments about which they were asking will take place. On a micro level, Jesus’s followers, empowered by the outpouring of God’s Spirit, would serve him in all sorts of situations in Jerusalem and elsewhere, events of which we learn through Christian mission history.

The undertow of almost any Christian’s sense of the missio Dei is that God has acted decisively in Jesus Christ to re-create this world that went wrong. In light of the Christ event, God’s people participate with the Holy Spirit in his mission in a myriad of micro-level situations throughout the world. Our particular Christian traditions variously depict the contours and hues of the macro missio Dei and its particular components. But no matter how we might emphasize different aspects of the big picture, we all as Jesus’ followers—mission analysts included—must engage people in micro contexts of mission. Just as Jesus focused on the people right in front of him, we all must interact with the real, live people whose concrete situations we share in life. It does no good to contemplate the vastness of the ocean of life if we neglect the immediate conditions of our own rowboats, the surrounding waves and weather, and, most important, our fellow passengers in the boat, with whom we struggle to row forward in our particular locales.

Are you and I seeing and serving the world with both the macro and the micro clearly in view?

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see the worldOn the eve of our church’s world mission weekend called “World Fest,” I want to weigh in on a question often raised in today’s Christian Mission discussions. Are short mission trips really worth the expenditure of money and energy?  Some cynically assert that they can even do more harm than good.

Last month, our staff attended our Evangelical Covenant pastors’ conference. Mark Labberton was teaching one morning from Psalm 8. He unwrapped a simple but profound summary of the Story of God’s plan we see throughout Scripture:

1. God pays attention to us! (“What is man that you are mindful of him…” v. 4) Are our eyes open to the astonishing fact that the God of the universe sees, attends, pays persistent attention to our lives as his image bearers!

2. We are called to pay attention to God: to open our eyes to see the Lord – in his Word and in his world.

3. Then God says, “Pay attention to the people of the world in My name!”  (“You have given him dominion – skilled mastery – over the created order…” v. 6)

God wants us to see the people that are invisible, people who need attention, people who we ignore and forget, who need the hope Jesus brings.  We are called to see the world as God sees – to let him give us NEW VISION!

I had an epiphany (a light went on!) about why we need to be sending Mission Teams from our churches. We know It’s not about what WE can do. We do not bring God to people; we go and join God in what he’s already doing! Rather, when we send our people – we are sending “SEERS” (or is it See-ers!) When they SEE more of their fellow image-bearers from all nations, their eyes begin to open. They come back and help more of the church community here to see and engage; to love and take action!

So Mission Trips are really VISION trips, to mobilize our church to fulfill our calling – to attend to the world God Loves, in his name!

Will we open our eyes and pay attention?
Will we volunteer to be See-ers; Visionaries in the Mission of God?

 

Poetry is the intensity of our experience;
a way of recognizing and preserving our experience.

Christian Wyman

I agree intently! I thought I would share one of the first poems I wrote that “intensified my experience”- in this case, a Mission Trip. I was in Czechoslovakia with an international assembly of Navigator teams helping to visit believers in then closed countries of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.  We could not take pictures or exchange addresses for security reasons. After 5 incredible weeks we re-assembled in Vienna and I desperately wanted a way to remember. I turned to simple poetry. Every time I read it, I am immediately  brought back to the events that these simple words helped preserve. Others who have been on trips such as this echo the feelings expressed.

Slavic Tears

The last day together;
bowed heads around a humble table;
hearts brimming with varied emotions;
sweet recollection, sad resignation.

Those first few days never allowed for this moment.
So hard to say the words:
“I may never see you on earth again!”

We prayed for one another
and our homelands;
understanding the language of every other prayer.
We needed no translation –

and I wept in Slavic tears.

[Czechoslovakia, 1980]

Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches…apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) We were created and redeemed to be connected to God, to God’s people, and to be fruitful in God’s mission in the world.

Jesus promised the gift of the Holy Spirit who would through his new community the Church, do “greater things!”

The beginning church in Jerusalem was not a set structure to be imitated, but it is a model of values and vision that continues to inspire the church of all times and places! It inspires us here and now.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers….And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.     (Acts 2:42,47, ESV)

In a recent teaching, linked at our website, I summarized the inspiring vision of the Church in this way.

We want to be a LEARNING Community
We want to be a SHARING (‘Koinonia’) Community
We want to be a WORSHIPING Community
We want to be an OUTREACHING Community

It means being taught the authoritative Word of God and being life-long learners;
It means knowing and being known, loving and being loved, serving and being served;
It means coming together for prayers and worship publicly and in our homes;
It means being a contagious people who live and speak the hope of Good News into our world.

It means being committed and connected – PLUGGED IN to Christ and his community.

Are you plugged in?
If not, what’s the one next step the Lord wants you to take?

Take care of the horse!

February 19, 2012 — Leave a comment

Robert Murray McCheyne, after graduating from Edinburgh University at age fourteen in 1827 and leading a Presbyterian congregation of over a thousand at age twenty-three, worked so hard that his health finally broke. Before dying at age twenty-nine he wrote, “God gave me a message to deliver and a horse to ride. Alas, I have killed the horse and now I cannot deliver the message.” An illustration of the recent sermon on having a Game Plan for our BODIES!

We have been exploring how to create a “Rule of Life” – an intentional “Game Plan” for our discipleship.  Another resource you may find helpful is from SSJE (Soc. of St. John the Evangelist). They have written a booklet you can download called Living Intentionally: A Workbook for Creating a Personal Rule of Life. It will walk you through the process with similar kinds of questions. As a monastic community they have a detailed formal Rule of Life that for the most part contains wonderful principles for any Christ-follower.

If you serve Christ in any kind of ministry, let me urge you to print this text and post it where you will see it often. Or better yet – memorize it! (Listen here to the sermon on this text from 10-2-11)

For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed— God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentleamong you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children,12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

 13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you receivedthe word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.  (1 Thessalonians 2:3-13, ESV)

There are so many ways that we can dishonor God by insecure, false, or selfish motives.  We need to do Christ’s work in Christ-like ways.  It means starting with the authority of God’s Word, seeking only His glory, not serving ourselves or making up for deficits in our own lives.  It means having a ‘spiritual parent’ and being a spiritual parent for others in ways that honor God in everything.  It’s a high calling.  It’s the only way to truly ‘make disciples’ modeled for us in Scripture!

In our summer series on Matthew’s parables, I borrowed a title from the early ’80’s book by Tom Sine called The Mustard Seed Conspiracy.  Jesus’ Good News of the Kingdom means that what he was launching was, in seed form, all that God had promised.  The future is in the present!  We are part of the sometimes hidden and seemingly small work of God.  The parables of the mustard seed and leaven remind us that God’s promises and plans are unstoppable!  The audio teaching is here.  And we also made a video of one of our resident chef instructors explaining how leaven works.  Take a look!