You know that moment when you read or hear something... and your only response is an emotional/mental, "Ouch!" ??
I had one of those moments the other day when I read:
"One of the main reasons [insert your country... county... city... name here]'s churches are not ministering to a larger number of people is because they typically wait for people to come to them.... Many congregations seem to have become ends in themselves. They exist for each other and become preoccupied with themselves and their way of 'doing' religion. Lay ministry means nothing more than getting involved in running the church." (Dr. Reginald Bibby, Transforming Our Nation: Empowering the Canadian Church for a Greater Harvest, p. 302, 300-301)
I read that and started to wonder, "Could that be true? That even when we go as missionaries to far flung corners of the globe we still somehow wait for people to come in to find us instead of going out and sharing with them?"
I can only really speak to my own experience living, working and trying to minister in West Africa - but if I'm speaking honestly, spending most of my time with other expat friend and colleagues was certainly more comfortable. And there were times that it was needed and an integral ministry. Even after living in the same neighborhood for several years, stepping out into the community to visit with the ladies, trying to use my third language, seeking to understand a culture and way of thinking that was so completely foreign to me, always knowing that I was obviously a foreigner just because of the color of my skin.
I can also only really speak to my own experience living, working and trying to minister in Midland, Michigan - where my kids attend the Christian school that is a ministry of our sending church... where life seems to be consumed by school and church activities or by traveling and visiting with our partnering churches activities... and our little ones come to the "invite a friend to church" nights and realize they don't know anyone who doesn't already know Jesus or go to church regularly.
So different from life on the mission field in Niger.
And I have to ask, where would we even fit getting to know someone else in to our way too busy lives? And why is "way too busy with so many church and Christian school activities" a tempting badge of honor to wear? As I speak with others, I don't think my family is the only family that struggles with this. So I think it is worth asking the question: Is it possible there are too many activities so that we can invite/entice people to church... but we're so busy either running or participating in all those activities we don't really know anyone outside of church? We are, effectively, waiting for people to come to us rather than going out and ministering to them!
A few weeks ago, my husband telephoned from work and told me to get ready to go out. He wanted to take me somewhere. I was reluctant. My always-too-long to do list of stuff that still needed to be accomplished around the house continued onto the next page. So I sort of just ignored him. When he walked through the door, he was insistent... and adamant that it would remain a surprise until I was in the car and on the way. So I threw on some "going-out" clothes, brushed my teeth and hair, added a few touches of make-up, gave the biggers instructions for babysitting the littlers and within fifteen minutes or so, we were on the way...
...to a program called Thursday Night Together, a "happy hours" of sorts at our local Center for the Arts. One of the men where Tim was working was planning to go with his lady friend and invited Tim and I to join them. Once there, I sipped my water with lemon, ate cheese and crackers, listened to a Québecois folk music group play a few songs, explain about their instruments and give a little bit of the history of French Canadian folk music. We visited with this older couple and enjoyed sharing a little bit of what we'd seen God do in Niger over the past several years as well as hearing what this couple thought of God and ministry. We spent a few minutes actually speaking French with a few of the group members, talking about Québec and their travels in the United States.
It was fun.
More importantly, it was an eye-opening reminder.
It was a reminder that just because I've "gone" as a missionary to a far away place, I've not received a pass on God's command to "Go..." when I'm not in that far away place.
- For "Go... and make..." is what He's told me He wants me to do. Go is the first step.
- Get out of my house.
- Step outside of my comfortable community.
- Unbusy and unclutter my life so that there is opportunity.
- Step into places that may feel a little uncomfortable.
- Accept invitations when others offer hospitality, even if it looks different.
- Find opportunities to interact with - ministering to and learning to love those who haven't, who aren't, choosing to come to me.
Photo Credit - Bianca Bueno