Late To The Party

I love to be the first one in line, even if it means cutting. I love to know new information before anyone else, maybe because I caught it on Twitter, or maybe because I am higher up on the gossip chain. I love being in the know.

I love new information. I love anything new, and I love being able to share that with others. I like to be ahead of the trends and not behind. I love to ride the wave and not miss it. But mostly, I just like to be a part of the party, whatever key party that is. I just like to be in more than out, a part more than left out, included and not excluded.

So it can be pretty hard to impress me with something new, or something that I did not already hear about elsewhere.

Now, knowing that, I don’t mind being fashionably late to a party, but this week, I feel like I have been super late to the party.

What party?

For the first time in my life, even though it always sounded like a good place to be, I found my way to the Foursquare Missions Press Banquet. Before going, I often thought it would be a nice place to network and eat good food. I love missions and am open to anything mission related. However, I seemingly never allowed the Press to rise to any priority on my radar.

printing

Why?

That is a good question, you ask me. Well, to not beat around the bush, I thought the Press was antiquated. Even as a missionary, I just did not see what the big deal was as I hadn’t seen it applicable to my situation. Furthermore, I saw the print medium as going the way of the buffalo. The idea was nice in a former time, but with newspapers going out of business, magazines closing down, and everything moving online, I simply figured this was nice but not essential any longer.

Boy, oh boy, was I ever wrong.

Watch this video, and you will see.

Innovation captured my heart immediately when I caught what the Press was up to. They are looking for new ways to utilize the print medium, working to get posters printed, books published and disseminated, training materials and gospel tracts available in formerly difficult places. The current levels of creativity at FMP are beyond my wildest imaginations.

This thing (FMP) birthed out of a retired man’s vision a generation ago and full of retired volunteers today has such creativity and cutting edge desires to help get the gospel into the hands of local people, I am blown away. This is something I can get behind. This is something I wish I had been behind for a long time. My question this last week has been a consistent and constant one. Why didn’t I know about this? Do others know, and if not, how do we get the word out.

My heart was gripped as statistics were shared, as milestones were celebrated and most of all salvations piled up in large part due to the faithful work of the Press. People are getting the word into their hands and finding God. This is more than incredible. This work is life changing.

And then there were stories, and stories. People are working hard to meet the urgent needs. The church in one nation is looking for ways to minister to the 1.5 million refugees that have shown up on their doorsteps the past couple of years because of the Islamic State. And the stories kept coming, the urgency could not be more clear, and the people at FMP couldn’t be more diligent and creative to meet the need they were called to meet.

When I heard another national leader from a closed country talk about how this will help them since the materials that get shipped to their island nation never make it farther than customs. Well, they might make it a little farther as they get dumped into the ocean never to be used much less seen by the vibrant church of that nation. What doesn’t get used? Tracts: In a nation where sharing the gospel is illegal and cause for the police to drag you into an interrogation or even an enhanced version of rendition with or without due process, a tract can be covertly passed from friend-to-friend. When people see these Christians living the gospel and exuding joy, they ask questions, and an inconspicuous tract passed from one hand to another allows opportunity to continue the dialogue after some reading has been done.

But evangelism is not the only call for printed materials. Leadership development often hinges on having resources to study. There is so much more benefit to seeing these materials passed around in a cost effective and safe way but I think enough has been said at this point.

If you have more questions, look up the site for the Missions Press. If you want to contribute, click here.

What captures your heart about innovation in mission?

Missional Vs. Attractional 6

Balance and tension are two keys in the discussion of attractional and missional ministry. Too often we get stuck defending a point of view and fight for one way at the expense of seeing the other side may have a valid point as well. Invariably we paint an extreme portrait of the other side to make our side look better. Yet, Jesus had a way about him that caused his critics, and hopefully us, to pause and moment and hold our positions loosely.

If we paint with a broad brush the missional view or the attractional view, neither looks so great, but if we hold them in tension and walk a balance of both as we in the church touch this world at all corners, we can begin to see dynamic things happen around us. Jesus, the ultimate in paradox, used missional and attractional approaches from the beginning as he called his disciples.

Let’s dive into how Jesus held in tension missional and attractional in how he called the apostles. Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), but he couldn’t leave until the future of God’s people was in good hands. And if the real crux of the argument has little to do with missional or attractional but with discipleship, let’s take a gander at how Jesus connected with these disciples in which hands he left the future of God’s mission.

We don’t know all of their stories, and some have more drama than others. Some Jesus found and called, like Phillip (John 1:43), while others came from a third way after John the Baptist pointed him out. One of those, Andrew, grabbed his brother Peter and connected him with Jesus (John 1:37-42). Still there are two narratives from the disciples first connecting with Jesus that can help us balance our view of missional or attractional, and these are stories of Nathanael and Matthew.

Nathanael embodies the classic seeker or attractional philosophy of ministry. This type of church builds a ministry around Phillips answer to Nate’s skepticism when he first hears that his buddy Phillip has found the one they have all been waiting for. The messiah is here, and sheepishly Phillip adds that the son of David hails from Nazareth. Raising an eyebrow, Nate asks, can anything good come from that place? The classic cynic has put his friend off and now feels that he can go about his day with no more of this messiah nonsense being talked about. That is until Phil lays on him the epic line, “come and see”. John lays out a great description

Nathanael encountered Jesus and forever was changed. In Thailand, the Thai people refer to coming to faith as literally knowing God. Before they did not know him, but now they do. At some point along their journey to faith, they encounter God either through answered prayers, miracles, or a feeling of his presence with them.

If Nathanael came to Jesus, because his friend somehow attracted him enough to check him out, another guy connected with Jesus in quite the opposite way.

Matthew, reviled in his community for his chosen profession of greed, becomes a great antihero as Jesus sees beyond his flaws and calls the tax-collector to follow him. The Jewish people despised these Cretans as the lowest of the low for selling out their countrymen as they chase the almighty dollar…oh I mean denarius. They worked for the evil empire of Rome and were characterized by their pure greed and manipulation. Now enter Jesus. Rather than avoiding the tax-collectors booth, Jesus walks boldly up to the swarthy extortioner and calls him out of his current lifestyle into a new way of life (Luke 5:27-29).

Jesus captures something that we all could practice a little better, and let me add a big thank you to our Lord for this one. Jesus has an ability to see us for whom we can become and not limited to who we have been. A reputation matters, but with Jesus, we can have a golden opportunity to start again.

As we serve in ministry, some of our best disciples will seek us out as they learn about who we are, while others must be found. We often like to look at the cream of the crop from each year’s Bible College grads to find the next person to mentor, but maybe our future reside in our community. All we need to do is start seeing them how Jesus does.