If we saw ministry in the United States through missionary eyes we would do things differently.

2015.01 elijah magnifyingWe need a fresh look at ministry in the United States. In fact, we need to see the ministry challenges here through the eyes of a missionary. Here are some of the ways that missionaries look at ministry and the contexts where they work which could change the picture of how we approach ministry in significant ways.

Missionaries do not assume that there is one way to approach ministry. In fact, they are usually very flexible in how they see their context looking first at where there are pockets of people who are open to the gospel and secondly to the methodologies and strategies that might be effective if tried. In other words, most missionaries are not locked into a single paradigm of ministry but need to be highly flexible and entrepreneurial in their approach.

Because of the exploding populations of the world, missionaries are often focused on how to move from addition models of ministry to multiplication models. In the United States we often hire people to do ministry for us rather than truly having to equip others to do meaningful ministry with us. Internationally that is not an option, nor is it Biblical which explicitly teaches an equipping model whether it is Jesus, Paul or Paul’s teaching (Ephesians 4:11-12). One of the critical factors in changing the equation of ministry in the United States is that all believers think of themselves as Kingdom entrepreneurs who are called to bring the gospel into all places where God places them and where they have influence.

Nor are missionaries content to think that the only people qualified for significant leadership have a formal theological degree or are full time. We believe that while formal theological education has a significant place for church leaders (pastors) that there are many creative ways to delivering the necessary theological skills and education and that God can use all kinds of individuals who are bi-vocational and part time. It is only in the west where the majority of churches have full time pastors with formal theological degrees and it was not common in the early church as well.

Further, most mission activity is about relational ministry rather than programs. Programs generally (not always) say, bring people here to the church and we will introduce them to Jesus. Relationship based ministry generally says we will go to where people are who don’t know Jesus and develop friendships and relationships that can open doors to conversations about Christ and where non-believers can see what our lives look like as we follow Jesus.

In addition, missionaries pay great attention to the large cities in their region as the cities are where people gather and are the centers of influence. In other words while not all ministry internationally is focused on the city a great deal of it is. In the United States we have generally left the city for the comfortable suburbs, leaving great gaps in the large cities of our nation. Internationally we are drawn to the cities like magnets and the opposite is often the case in the United States.

There is another key difference. Internationally we understand that no one group can reach any city or region by themselves. We are forced internationally to work with other denominations to reach the cities and regions in which we work. We know we need one another. We call this a Bride over Brand approach in ReachGlobal where the priority is in multiplying the church and the spread of the gospel over our theological differences. If the United States is going to be reached effectively we need to see our fellow churches and denominations (who are evangelical) as partners and colleagues rather than competitors and a threat. This is a major difference in how we think about ministry.

Internationally we also know that for those who have no felt need for God that when people experience the love of Jesus in very tangible ways that they become open to experiencing the truth of Jesus. In other words, while we start with programming and church activities in the United States we often start with the practical love of Jesus and meeting real needs internationally.

Here is the truth. All of us can become myopic and locked into paradigms when all we see is our own context. It is when we move out of our context that we are able to look back in and see things that we did not previously see. This is why we need to see our own ministry through missionary eyes. If we were missionaries here how would we see our context, the opportunities, the ministry options, the populations that are open to the gospel, our cities and our opportunities to see ministry in a deeply wholistic way.

T J Addington – used by permission

Graduation Day!

Nespelem CemetaryLast Sunday at the Nespelem Convalescent Center, WA, a Tribal saint graduated to glory.

As missionaries, Bob and Mina Twitchell, approached the center staff came outside to greet them, saying “Thank God you’re here now!”

“**** is close to passing and the family is here. Will you come pray with them?” **** was 95 years old and Tribal. She had 13 siblings, Mother and Father all of whom have gone on before her.

Bob and Mina met with family and they each took one of **** hands. They prayed aloud praising God for His mercy in sending Jesus to assure eternity to her. She sat in on Bible studies held at the Center and was always so happy to pray with them. She was a very sweet lady. Bob spoke of how Jesus was standing to receive her home and that it was okay to go, to be with her Lord and loved ones who had trusted Him too. As we praised God’s goodness and said Amen, her lips formed the word “Amen!” and then she was immediately with Her Savior FOREVER. The staff were so touched, telling Bob and Mina they had expected her to go sooner but it seemed she was waiting for something. Very Emotional!

The family is from the coast and asked if Bob would officiate at the graveside service Saturday morning in a little cemetery down a gravel path in Nespelem. It will likely be snowing heavily.

Pray the message of the Gospel will be clear and the family will believe though separation is painful, the promise of reunion is sure through the grace of Jesus.

Ooops! Did you forget a gift?

giftWe passed the year end large gift giving season. We found ways to give gifts to our friends, our family, and even sometimes we gave to others in need. Our culture is all about giving the gifts whether it be for Hanukah, Christmas celebrations, parties, and the Day of Epiphany (celebrating when the Kings brought gifts to the child Jesus.)

We got all caught up in the whirlwind and expectations. Many of us have already started planning for next year. So here is my question … Did you forget a gift?

As the Day of Epiphany approached I thought about the many cultures who celebrate this day and give gifts to their loved ones on that day. Some place their shoes under the Christmas tree in hopes the Kings will leave gifts in their shoes. Others place their shoes outside the door for the passing of the Kings. All of this became tradition in remembering where the Kings and their entourage came bearing gifts to the child Jesus.

As they brought gifts, the Kings did not run out to the Dollar Tree to buy a cheap remembrance for the new king. They did not realize at the last moment a gift was expected and send their servants out to secure a gift. They planned for the gift. They left at the time they saw the star and continued their travel until they came to where Jesus and family were living. It could have taken them up to a couple of years to reach him.
When they arrived they brought him gifts (Matthew 2:11) of gold, frankincense and myrrh. As I meditated on this I was struck by the first gift mentioned in the verse – gold! They came prepared to bring him the best, which provoked more thinking.
What was I willing to give him?

He wants my heart and life – yes, I have already given him that.

Really? Have I given him all of my life – all of the parts of my daily life? I don’t think so. I reserve some of those areas for me. Areas I like to reserve are:

Attitudes – I have a right to my attitude you know! – Right?

Anxieties – I have a right to worry and be anxious about my kids, my parents, the work situation, finances and the list goes on. Right?

Ethics – ok so ethics are good for Sunday but really I need to change how I live the rest of the week? No one else is living that way so why should I? Right?

Free time – It belongs to me. I don’t have to share it with God do I? I can do what I want. Right?

Entertainment – I am so tired and I need to have my entertainment to chill out and de-stress. So what if all of the jokes and situations do not honor God. It reflects the way life is and I am ok to fill my life and mind with those things.

Money – Our church took up a special offering at Christmas and I put in a gift. I was encouraged to give what equaled my most expensive gift. Now that is not bad but in a family who does not give expensive gifts it means I did not feel the pressure to give Christ more. I participated and that was enough. Right?

Wrong! What does gold look like when it is given as a gift. Pure gold is pure, costly, valuable, and stands the test of time. Keeping hold of any one of the items from the list above is sin and sin does not allow my gift to him to be pure and I tend to keep a hold of more than one at a time.

So did I forget a gift? Did I forget to search my heart and give him the area that causes him sadness? Did I confess my sin to him, receive his forgiveness and cleansing. Do I want to change my life with his guidance and help to give him the gift he yearns for? Or is it better to say I forgot to give him a gift and he will have to wait until next year!

So how about it? Did you forget a gift?