Posts Tagged ‘mission’

In our time of winding down as a church we have been going through the principles outlined in the Emotionally Healthy Church in order to process and interpret what God is doing and has been doing in our lives in relation to our decision to close. The first principle of Looking Beneath the Surface unearthed the painful reality of our condition as a church. The second principle, Breaking the Power of the Past focused on our history as a local church and how that has affected us up to now and how to break free from the negative effects of that in the future. Now we turn to the third principle…Living in brokeness and vulnerability. This one is going to hurt.

Why does it hurt? Because closing hurts. Because honesty hurts. Because alot of times it hurts even more to admit that you are hurt. One of the things that closing brings up is the fact that we could not do it. We failed. We are broken and we do not have what it takes. This is the truth. The other side of that is God did not fail. He is not broken. He has what it takes.

During the time after we shared the decision to close with the rest of the church I began to read Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved and he divides the spiritual life into four movements: taken, blessed, broken, and given. This is all based on Jesus’ words and actions during the Last Supper and our participation in the eucharist. One of the things that stood out to me is that Jesus broke the bread which he called his body. As part of the body of Christ I can expect to be broken. The good thing is that the body of Christ does not consist of only me as an individual or one local church. The body of Christ is all of the church in every place throughout the ages. It means that my brokenness does not stop the purposes of God. My brokenness is designed to lead me and to lead the entire church into the next movement of spiritual life-being given to the world. I believe that this close is a good thing. It hurts and it is painful but God has a plan that is much bigger than the maintenance of one local church or one pastor’s ego.

Last spring I took a class called the Making of Global Christianity. What stood out to me about that class is that the church has not always been the church triumphant. The church has also been the church persecuted. One thing people do not realize which Philip Jenkins has so insightfully pointed out in the Lost History of Christianity is that the church is not a solely European phenomenon. The church was a major force from Syria to China. What happened? Persecution, failure, brokeness. It was a brutal reminder that no church is meant to last forever and that every church whether it is declining or closing or bursting out at the seams is in need of God

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Ten years ago I experienced something that changed my life. Right about this time I would have been reeling from it and trying to process what I had just experienced. I had just returned from my first short term mission trip. Before this trip I had never been out of the country and only a few times out of the state. Many go on short term mission trips and say some of the same things but this trip was special and I was privileged to be a part of what God was doing in Ethiopia in the summer of 2000. Even though I am far away time wise and geography wise I still experience the sights and sounds of that trip and I believe it was powerful not just because it was a trip to a faraway exotic place but it was one of the most poignant glimpses of God’s kingdom that I have ever seen. It wasn’t really the actual trip but the people involved and I am forever grateful to be a part of that team. There are so many reasons why being on that team was so powerful for me but I can really boil it down to a few that I take with me wherever I go. It was a team that was powerful enough to embrace the diversity of the kingdom of God as we were comprised of caucasians, african americans, asians, ethiopians and even a mexican (shout out to Miguel!). It was powerful enough to display the unity of the kingdom as we united together for not only a common cause but common virtues of love, humility, and peace. Lastly it was powerful enough to demonstrate the reality of the kingdom as people witnessed our unity in diversity and we were known as Jesus’ disciples because of our love (John 13:35). Since then I have longed to see that kind of community in action and I’m glad to say that God has given me occasional glimpses along the way. Thanks alot Ethiopia 2000 Summer Project! Ten years ago in Whittier I had no idea that meeting you God would give me such a picturesque glimpse into his kingdom.

Sometimes our travels tell more about our heart than our words. In this chapter Jesus addresses ritual washing (7:1-23) and he actually pronounces all foods as ritually clean. These were two major barriers to the inclusion of the Gentiles into the people of God. So Jesus addresses this issue verbally but if you continue to read the chapter you will notice something. Every story in this chapter has Jesus interacting with and ministering to Gentiles. The next story is about the Syrian Phoenician woman. Jesus is in the area of Tyre and Sidon and this woman was probably ethnically greek. The greeks and jews had a deep hostility towards each other due to greek conquest and hellenism. This resulted in clashes and fighting throughout Palestine prior to its occupation by the Roman Empire. In spite of this bitter interethnic rivalry Jesus casts a demon out of this woman’s daughter (7:24-30). His actions are in line with his words. The next story has Jesus healing a deaf and mute man in the region of the Decapolis or the ten cities (7:31-37). These cities were notoriously populated by Gentiles. Now the text doesn’t say that this man was a Gentile but Jesus was in Gentile territory and possibly had multiple interactions with Gentiles.

This is Jesus not only pronouncing the “the other” as clean but living life like the “other” is clean. His travels tell more about his stance and his agenda towards “the other” than his words. Many of us will say we could not include or love those that are not like us because we were not around them but is that really a good reason? Encountering and loving “the other” is a matter of choice and most of what we do in this consumer driven society is a matter of choice. When we see Jesus going through Tyre and Sidon and the Decapolis he is choosing to be with those who are not like him and in the process ministry happens. Where have your travels taken you? To the safe and secure place with your kind of people or to the risky place where “the other” dwells. Something to chew on.