local mission

We’re all called to Participate (Issue 31)

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In the latest Intermission we’re looking at ways that each of us can get involved in mission, whoever or wherever we are. Here’s the introduction – we’ll post the articles from the magazine over the next few weeks. To receive the Intermission in the post email office@nzcms.org.nz

Maybe you feel like the frog above. He’s a hard worker who’s good with his hands, loves his family, cleans up after his dog on walks, and is an all-round great guy. But for one reason or another, he doesn’t think mission is for him. He knows of the super-stars who have exciting callings to serve God in exotic places or to serve the church as a pastor or priest, but he’s just a ‘normal Christian.’ And he’s content with that.

But he shouldn’t be content, because God isn’t! There’s no classism in God’s Kingdom – each and every one of us is called to participate in mission. God welcomes us all into the playground of his world and has something unique and essential for everyone to contribute. But participation is different for each one of us.

It’s easy to get trapped into thinking that participating in mission looks a particular way. And if we don’t fit our own image of mission, we assume there’s no place for us. You might see mission as going overseas, or constantly preaching the Gospel to friends, or standing up for the oppressed, or spending every evening at a soup kitchen. We need a new paradigm of mission that’s wide enough for us all – with our unique talents, passions and perspectives.

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.

Community is not the Goal (Issue 30)

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When I think about belonging or community, I always think of my time with a large mission training centre in Australia. For almost four years I journeyed with a group of people who were all deeply passionate about knowing God and making him known. In the midst of all the busyness and excitement, I felt a deep sense of being known as well. These people from a huge variety of backgrounds and cultures and experiences and Christian persuasions – an eclectic mix of people who I would have otherwise never met – became far more than friends.

They were comrades. They were life-lines. They were prayer-partners, safety-nets, the voice of encouragement. They inspired me to go deeper, challenged me to reach higher, pushed me to expand my vision for God’s world. I’d always have someone to process with, to laugh with, to cry with, and I’d be there for them in the same way. It was a space to be ministered to and to learn to minister, to give as much as you received, to bless as much as you were blessed. In one month our relationships were deeper than anything I’d really known before.

It’s not about building community

Maybe I’ve reminded you of a similar experience. Maybe you wish you’d been part of a group like that. Perhaps you’ve been in a similar environment but were burnt by the encounter. In either case, it’s likely a reminder of the longing many of us feel for a deeper, more authentic experience of community and belonging. Ingrained within us is a sense that we’re not supposed to be alone on this journey of faith and life. Yet, though we may have momentary tastes of true community along the way, for many of us it’s not our ongoing reality.

In fact, ‘community’ is a bit of a buzz word. You’ll find it in the vision statement – maybe even in the name – of many churches. Theological books have made community their uniting theme. Counsellors are being trained to think of individuals-within-community. Hundreds of sermons on “Getting back to Acts 2:42-47” have been preached across the country. Many Church leaders have made forming and nurturing a thriving community one of their top priorities.

That’s certainly not a bad thing. The problem is, community doesn’t really happen if it’s your goal. Michael Frost, an Aussie missiologist, says that aiming for community is like aiming for happiness. You can’t aim to find happiness; it’s a by-product of seeking after something else, like love or justice or hospitality. But when you aim for happiness, you’re bound to miss it!

Community vs Communitas

Many of us have looked at the various expressions of community we’ve been part of with the question: “Why’s this so different to what I see in the New Testament?” Jesus invested much of his time forming a community of disciples and presenting them with a new ‘covenant charter’ of how to do life together (e.g. Matthew 5-7). Throughout the New Testament we see communities marked by extravagant love and faith (2 Thessalonians 1:3), by unwavering passion for Jesus (Revelation 3:8), by radical sharing and devotion (Acts 2:42-47), by incredible diversity (Galatians 3:28), by forgiveness and compassion and humility and peace (Colossians 3:12-15). The language describing the church is that of body (1 Corinthians 12:13), temple (3:16), family (Ephesians 2:19), vine (John 15:5), people (1 Peter 2:9), all images which stress that together we are God’s people. In fact, a key theme of Scripture is God’s mission to form a people for his name. Yet this biblical vision for the Christian community seems to stand in stark contrast to the reality we often experience.

So why did I experience all that in Australia? It’s because community wasn’t the focus. We were all there because of a shared passion for God and his mission in the world. It was out of that shared purpose and vision that true community was forged. We were on a shared journey, but it was a journey somewhere.

This is the different between community and communitas. Communitas is community that’s formed in the context of an ordeal, a challenge, a task, a mission. It’s a community that forms for the sake of something beyond itself. Community isn’t seen as an end in itself; it’s the means to an end. A deep sense of love and care and compassion is formed, but it’s as a result of being on a journey together. Perhaps ironically, when you set out to achieve that same sense just for its own sake, the results can feel quite superficial.

The desire we have for community is a legitimate one, but to pursue it for its own sake is a mistake. “We build community incidentally, when our imaginations and energies are captured by a higher, even nobler calling” (Michael Frost). If you set out to build community, you end up with more of a support group. If you set out to form a group on mission together, you end up with communitas.

So when we say that We’re All Called to Belong, we’re not talking about belonging as the goal itself. We’re all called to belong to God’s family of mission.

For discussion

When on your journey have you experienced communitas?

How can a group move from community towards communitas? What steps could your group make?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.

Transformational Community (Issue 30)

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Ruby’s dad finally succumbed to cancer a few Saturdays ago. Her visa for our country was due for renewal just a few days later. So first thing Monday morning, fellow students took her to the visa office, explained the situation about her having to get back to her home country, and encouraged them to quickly renew the visa. In the meantime we also took her to the travel agent who, by 2pm, had booked her on a midnight flight. By 3pm the visa office had come through with an updated visa in record time. By 4pm other students were packing her bags. By 5pm she was on the bus with a fellow student for the 3 hour trip to the airport. On top of all this, they had also raised a serious amount of money to pay for her ticket home and to help with funeral expenses. That’s my definition of a loving, caring community.

My turn came a few days later when I pulled a tendon in my foot. For two weeks now students have been giving me daily massages to speed up the healing. They’ve been washing dishes, going to the market, buying meds, doing household chores, cooking food, doing regular visits. They even helped me get to an important meeting.

Two days before Christmas last year we received a photo from a graduate. He was dressed in a Santa suit (minus the beard), a half decorated Christmas tree standing beside him. He’d started a fellowship like the one he experienced with us, simply because he missed the community here. He told us he was planning to have the fellowship and related friends to his home for Christmas dinner – we were more than a little surprised to hear he was welcoming about 100 people from his newly formed community to the feast! Transformational community is something that grows and spreads.

A worthwhile cost?

Community costs, especially when it comes to time. It’s a cost everyone interested in community needs to take seriously – you simply can’t have transformational community without taking time to invest in that community! And it takes place in the ordinary ‘stuff of life.’ Community gets messy and we need to be ready to help with the seemingly less important things. One example would be teaching some guys simple hygiene – what do you do when you get a number people complaining of itching in various parts of their body and find out their bed sheets haven’t been washed for six months?! Many students also tell us about their ailments first and we have to direct them to the right medical attention. In two cases recently this meant being with the students in the operating theatre while they underwent minor surgery and also taking care of them afterwards.

When people ask us what our model for community is, we simply say the love of God. (What’s the formal model of community demonstrated in Acts 2: 40-47 or John 17:20-23?) When students graduate even the excess clothing they can’t take with them is left for the incoming students. Nothing is hidden; indeed all things are shared in common, especially the Father’s love. The end result is that many lives are transformed for eternity because they have not only discovered the healing power of God but the healing power of godly family. My prayer is that the wave of transformational community that has begun here will ultimately go out and transform the whole world.

For discussion

Have you ever been part of a deep community like this? If so, what was it like and what do you most remember? If not, what would such a community mean to you?

What would a step toward deeper community look like for you?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.

Towards Team-hood? (Issue 30)

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Here’s a little ad I just whipped up:

Cheap avocados. 50c bags of mangos. Hobbit-worthy grass-thatched dome housing. An orange flowering vine winding over the veranda. Living 100% off the grid. It’s the dream! The sun’s energy to charge your laptop and rain to provide water to hand-wash your clothes (which is very idyllic and not at all tedious). Whether you’re a teacher, a change-maker, a business person, a nurse, a mechanic or a theologian, there’s more at stake and more potential here than anything you’ve encountered before. God’s at work and there‘s plenty to do. So come join our little team!

Lately I’ve been thinking about what it would be like here in Gulu, Northern Uganda, if we were part of a mini-team with a shared purpose and common rhythms. My husband, Nick, and I have lived here now for over three years. Determined to connect locally, we dedicated our first five months to language learning and joined the closest Anglican church. We spent time sitting and listening. For our first year we stubbornly turned down invitations from other ‘non-nationals’ to socialize. After all, we came to befriend Ugandans, not Australians, right?

Around a year in, we found we deeply missed culturally-familiar conversations with similarly educated people and fellow Christians who were willing to pursue us, hold us accountable and challenge us. We sheepishly called the Australians back. Why couldn’t we find this amongst our many local friends, who we deeply love and respect? It’s a hard question to answer, but despite being surrounded by many caring local neighbours, we’ve often felt isolated, lonely and overwhelmed by the seemingly endless need around us and the challenges and frustrations of our work.

A month ago I sat in Gulu’s dusty, bustling bus park, carefully scanning the rows of passengers on each bus that swung in. Right on time, our friend emerged with his glorious kiwi-accent, wearing a marmite laden tramping pack. My sister arrived a week later, and another friend just in time for Christmas. Now, with five of us living in our little hut, we have a glimpse at what team-hood might be like here.

Since they’ve arrived I’ve been thinking even more about why doing life and mission as a team makes a lot of sense. Here’s my top five:

1. Becoming more available to neighbours

This Saturday morning our neighbour Lucy popped round to charge her phone with our solar and bring us a papaya from her tree. Our friend Opiyo dropped by to process some bad news: his carpentry teacher was killed in a car crash. After lunch a band of four kids arrived ready to read their story-books, answer a quiz on the content and exchange it for a new one. We want to be available to our neighbours, and we want to be part of our community. But with just the two of us, we can’t always handle so many visitors. Since our three friends arrived, if I have my hands full cooking dinner, or I’ve had a rough day, we don’t have to turn the kids away. There’s usually someone there with the energy to make someone welcome.

2. Life logistics

Without running water, washing machines, a stove top or a fridge, life takes a bit longer. Division of labour is not an overrated concept. We take turns cooking, and it’s just way more efficient. My sister and I wash the clothes, and the boys fetch the water from the borehole with a wheelbarrow. We all get to avoid our least favourite tasks!

3. Greater scope for creative re-charge time

Before we arrived in Uganda, Nick and I never, ever watched TV series. I’m too embarrassed to confess how many I’m now familiar with. As excellent as my personal favourites ‘the Wire’ and ‘the West Wing’ may be, we’ve definitely over-dosed. A combination of factors led to this trend. Often we’ve felt so exhausted by the work day, community interaction and domestic tasks to find the energy to do much else. Local friends don’t like to move around after dark so there are limited social opportunities. Since our visitors arrived, bringing with them new energy and creativity, we’ve spent more time singing, running, playing games and discussing life over long meals outside. Some forms of relaxing are just better for the soul.

4. Spiritual discipline

There’s this bit in Romans which reads: “I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another” (The Message, 7:15). I know I’m not healthy if I don’t regularly take time out to be quiet and listen to God. Yet I too frequently lack discipline to actually do it! I’d love to try group spiritual rhythms and times for prayer, whether it was something collective or an individual thing we all do at the same time. Other people can help us commit to ways of life that we’ve decided we want.

5. Common vision for a common location

A month ago I was part of a disastrous meeting. It felt like our community organizing group was irretrievably falling apart at the seams. I was low, confused. I came home to our temporary team. They were a sounding board, giving me perspective and hope. And sometimes, discussions lead to new ideas altogether. The other day my sister and I were thinking about what the early seeds of an organic woman’s rights movement would look like in Gulu, and we discussed the idea of starting a woman’s dance and discussion group. There’s something special about living with people with common visions for a common location. Frustrations get aired and discussed. Challenges collectively pondered. New creative ideas emerge.

So that’s what I’ve been thinking lately. It’s been a great, tumultuous, inspiring three years by ourselves. But there might be a whole other way of doing things round the bend. I’m sure it won’t be all rosy tinted, I’m sure living in a team would bring its own conflicts and challenges. But I’d love to try. And in case you’re wondering, I’m entirely serious about my opening ad. Get in touch.

Tessa & Nick are NZCMS Mission Partners in Uganda. Tessa heads up a Community Organising group that tackles various social issues in the broader community. For more from the Laings visit ugandapanda.com

For discussion

In what ways do you feel lonely, isolated and overwhelmed?

How could Tessa’s top five apply to your context? What points would you add to your list?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.

Tethered to Christ, Tethered to Each Other (Issue 30)

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By Scottie Reeves

In Jesus we see this most powerful picture of inclusion. This man of immense integrity, character and holiness is always inviting those to the table we would never expect. The prostitutes, the thieves, the loan sharks and the violent extremists. At Christ’s table there’s room for Trump, room for refugees, room for beneficiaries and room for billionaires. There is room for you and room for me.

This is the reckless hospitality of Christ that whips up some more wine for a room full of wedding guests who were likely already inebriated. It’s the outrageousness that kneels down and washes the dusty feet of his disciples. It’s the controversy of a saviour who looks over the crowd immediately in front of him to call the short swindler down from a sycamore tree to eat with him.

In my experience of leading Blueprint, a church community of Millennials in the liberal heartland of Wellington City, I can tell you that my generation loves this radically welcoming Christ. He sits well alongside our near-religious fervour for tolerance at all costs. Our Jesus is shaped by a culture which says daily, ‘how dare you judge me!’ Yet we also follow a Christ who said in Matthew 16 that people weren’t really his disciples unless they left behind their families and began to carry their own instruments of death too. To sit at a table with Jesus was one thing, but to truly follow him meant abandoning family, reputation, career and security. Christ is consistently welcoming, but there is something quite exclusive about the way of Jesus too.

BELONGING AND COMMITMENT

When we talk about what it is to belong we must remember that our sense of belonging will always be equal to our commitment to one another. We belong truly with those who are tethered to us and whom we have tethered ourselves to. So while inclusive hospitality is deeply important, this alone will not build belonging or a dedicated community of disciples. Faith communities that provide constant encouragement and inclusion without a call to look beyond themselves will inevitably create consumers instead of disciples.

Alongside Blueprint’s usual Sunday services we run several community homes of hospitality filled with young adults. My wife Anna and I live in one of these houses on upper Cuba Street with five other young change-makers. Every Tuesday we hold a meal for anyone in Central Wellington who wants to join us. This is an experience of inclusive hospitality where anyone and everyone is welcome, from university students to those in the grip of addictions, from young professionals to those sleeping on the streets. Our guests describe this as a place of love, care, warmth and manaakitanga. There’s something special and profoundly Kingdom-of-God that happens around that enormous table each Tuesday night.

Yet what our guests don’t know is that the power of that hospitality comes from the fact that the seven hosts belong deeply together.

We’ve made unbreakable commitments such as daily prayer, proactive conflict resolution, mission to our neighbourhood and honesty with one another. Everyone is committed to being in our house for at least a year, and some of us are entering our third. When you know you’re still going to be living with someone in a few years it starts to seem silly to avoid the hard conversations.

KNOWN BY OUR LOVE

Jesus said that the world would know we belonged with him “by the love we have for one another” (John 13:35). Love doesn’t just grow in church services or life groups. It grows when we’re committed to one another, when we resolve to belong together even when we’re not sure we necessarily like each other anymore. The power of our dinner table is formed the other six days of the week in a community of people who have done the hard work to love one another sacrificially.

Sadly, if the commitments of our faith communities to one another aren’t deep then our inclusive hospitality is normally severely lacking too. We’re drawn in by the hospitality of God, but we’re formed by commitment to the community of faith we now belong in. As Christians we’re called to become a ‘set apart’ people (1 Peter 2:9), an exclusive people with exclusive commitments to one another and ways of living that stand as stark alternatives to the mindless consumption of the world around us. We are exclusively Christ’s, in order that we may be formed into a radically inclusive people whose dinner tables are always bulging, whose spare rooms are always full and who live out costly empathy, compassion, care and hospitality for all people.

And here’s the really interesting thing. As we’ve begun to pursue this deeper and ‘more exclusive’ way together over the past few years, we’ve seen more people come to know Christ for the first time than ever before. Maybe it is as Margaret Mead famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Scottie and his wife head up Blueprint Church in Wellington. He’s an ordained Deacon in the Anglican Church, a Social Entrepreneur, and has previously worked with a nationwide creative arts trust.

For discussion

In what ways does Scottie’s example of the Blueprint house encourage and challenge you?

What would holding together high commitment and high belonging look like in your context?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.

We’re All Called to Go (Issue 29)

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“There’s just no opportunities.” That’s what my team said to me as we sat in a radio station break room in the Middle East. No opportunities?! Simply to prove a point, I told them I was heading out for 10 minutes and would return with a story. Well, it took 20 minutes, but in that time I bumped into multiple people I could start a good conversation with, offered a traveller some chips, was taken by said traveller to meet the leader of a human rights movement, and was told that he could introduce me to a leader of a key political party.

Why couldn’t my team see the opportunities in front of us? Maybe it’s because, though we’d travelled overseas we hadn’t yet truly learned the posture of ‘sentness.’

‘AS YOU GO’

Matthew 28 often comes up when we’re talking about the ‘GO’ of mission. Jesus tells his followers to “go and make disciples of all nations”. In mission circles we often lock on to that first word, stressing how God calls his people to “go” into all the world. But in the Greek, the emphasis is actually on “making disciples”. And the word for go might better be translated “as you go” – as you go about your life, focus on making disciples.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be going – it means we need to think of ‘going’ in broader terms. ‘Going’ doesn’t just mean traveling to an unfamiliar part of the world. It’s more an attitude of the heart, a posture of readiness. Some are called to travel, particularly to places where the Gospel has made little headway – think of Jesus’ challenge to the disciples in Acts 1:8. But going doesn’t just mean relocating; it means knowing we’re all equally sent.

Missional believers have a posture of ‘sentness’ – deep in their hearts they’re aware they’ve been and are always being sent by the God of mission. So regardless of whether that sentness involves a plane, learning a language, picking up a skateboard, visiting prisons or knocking on your neighbour’s door, God calls each of us to live from a posture of being sent.

ALL MISSION IS LOCAL

What’s more important: local mission or global mission? We all have our opinions, but the fact is, no matter where you are its local. In a real sense, there’s no such thing as ‘over there,’ because as soon as you arrive ‘over there’ it becomes ‘here.’

Why’s that an important observation? Because we often have an idea that, if only we could travel to some exciting place, engaging in mission will be easy. Somehow it can seem that a plane ride can transform us from ‘normal Christian’ to ‘missionary superstar.’ But who you are overseas is the same person you are back home – your habits, disciplines, strengths, gifts, weaknesses and fears don’t suddenly change. Like they say: ‘Wherever you go, there you are.”

Missional folk know it’s not about where you are, but who you are. For them, mission doesn’t have a start and end date; it’s an all-of-life thing. When they get on that plane, they’re ready for whatever God brings their way. But it’s just the same when they leave the house on a normal Monday morning for their workplace. In fact, time and again we find it’s people who know how to live missionally here who thrive when they relocate to a new part of the world. Why? Because they’re already living it out! They live from this posture of ‘sentness.’

HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE

In many ways, I think the Church in New Zealand is a sleeping giant. Every day we cross paths with people who don’t know Jesus, who are hurting, who need someone to talk to. Lurking beneath the surface in our cities and suburbs are injustices, prejudices, addictions, needs, cycles of poverty. There’s enough opportunity in your own neighbourhood to keep you busy for a lifetime.

In fact, some argue that there’s so much need here that we can’t justify focusing on problems somewhere else. It’s a fair point actually, especially when there’s so much more we could be doing in our communities and when those engaged in local mission often feel alone in their efforts.

But that doesn’t mean global mission isn’t important. Coming back to Matthew 28, even though the emphasis is on making disciples, “all the nations” will never be discipled unless some of us get on a plane or boat or jeep or hiking trail and GO to them. There’s still an urgent need for people willing to go into all the world for the sake of Christ and his Kingdom – particularly to the ‘difficult places.’ For years the vast majority of global mission resources have been invested in areas where the Gospel has already taken root, whereas areas with little Gospel witness remain largely neglected. The harvest remains plentiful, but the number putting their hand up to serve overseas is actually decreasing. That means that though we’re all called to have a GO-ing attitude, some of us really are called to put our feet to the ground and GO somewhere new.

Having a GO posture means being ready to respond when God starts prompting you to a particular place, people group, neighbourhood, culture, street corner or club – whether that’s ‘here’ or ‘over there’! The question for us is, have we been seeking God about where and what and who he would call us to, or have we seen mission as something for someone else?

Regardless of where we do our going, we’re all called to GO.

 

For discussion What’s the difference between seeing sentness in terms of where you go and seeing it as an attitude of the heart? What difference does it make for you?

As someone called to belong to God’s community of mission service, what’s his challenge to you and your group when it comes to going?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.

We’re All Called to Give (Issue 29)

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By Zane Elliott 

A couple of weeks ago I held in my hand my first million. There’s a lot of power in those words: ‘my first million.’

There isn’t space here to establish a comprehensive theology of giving, but perhaps the most important aspect can be summed up with one word: ‘stewardship.’ As caretakers of God’s creation Adam and Eve were given the mandate to ‘have dominion,’ to care for the earth and all that’s in it (Genesis 1:27- 28). The created order belongs to God, but we’re given the task of not only looking after it, but as people living cross-shaped lives, we’re engaged in renewing it. From the beginning, we’re called to be stewards.

That has an impact on the million that was in my hands. Such a vast sum of money opens so many possibilities, and so many pitfalls. Some people just don’t have enough each day, and here I was with more banknotes than I could stuff in my wallet. It was helpful for me to recognise that, as a steward, it wasn’t mine to use as I wished. The money in my hands was actually the property of God.

MORE THAN MONEY

It’s the same for us all, and for all of our resources, not just our cold hard cash. Everything we have comes from God (Psalm 24:1). It’s tempting to think these things are our own, that we’re the masters of our own destiny, that we deserve what we’ve got because we’ve earned it. Giving helps keep our pride in check. When we accept we’re stewards not owners, words like ‘earned,’ ‘deserve,’ ‘entitled’ drop out of our vocabulary.

Giving challenges the greed that’s so pervasive in our society. In Beyond Greed, Brian Rosner observes that “slavery to money can affect those at every level of society, and may even be thought of as encompassing society as a whole. … But worst of all, it can cause people to act in hard, unfeeling and even self-destructive ways.” To borrow a phrase from Batman’s Alfred, our greed – our slavery to money – can turn “good men cruel.”

Often our perceived needs stop us sharing our resources, our desires prevent us from seeing the needs of others, our lust for more keeps us from giving. We put ourselves first, using what we have leftover to build comfortable lives. But Jesus calls us to be people who forsake comfort so we can comfort others. Jesus calls us to be people who reject building bigger houses so that we can house the homeless. And sometimes Jesus calls us to leave our houses and possessions behind to move to someone else’s neighbourhood. Jesus calls us all to be cross-shaped people living to please our Heavenly Father rather than striving for the pleasures of this short life.

Giving is hard. It can hurt. It means sacrificing our desires and enabling someone else. But giving helps us develop Christ-like character, and this is by no means limited to financial generosity. We can give a meal. We can give a spare bed to someone in need. We can give our time serving, interceding, stuffing envelopes at the NZCMS office. In fact, when ministries and mission organisations talk about giving it’s easy for us to roll our eyes: “here’s another appeal for more money.” But giving isn’t just about how much money you hand over. The truth is, sometimes giving money is the easier option. Are we willing to find ways to give that doesn’t include a $ sign – our time, effort, energy, talents?

When we’re generous with the things God has blessed us with we learn to trust him more fully. Instead of living from our excess and relying on ourselves, we rely on God and recognise his provision. We learn to consider others before ourselves – I’m pretty sure Jesus said something about that one. We learn to give thanks for the excess or the talents and gifts we have instead of chasing after what we don’t. And when we give, particularly towards mission projects and Mission Partners, we partner with others and enable them to serve God in ways we may never be able to ourselves.

So let’s start. Start giving. Maybe a small sum of money to bless someone else, maybe a meal to someone who needs it, maybe a bit of your time. Then, when you’ve started, or if you’ve started already, evaluate. Evaluate your giving. What impact is it having on you? What impact is it having on those around you? What impact is it having on your closeness to God? Where could you give a little more?

It sounds easy for the guy with the million right? What could this 32 year old millionaire ever know about the struggle of giving?! Well just for the record, the million was Indonesian Rupiah ($106NZD). It doesn’t matter the amount, or what non-$ gift you’re offering, all the same principles above apply. It all belongs to God, and can all be used to glorify him and as a way to make us more like Christ.

We’re all called to be generous with all we have.

Zane is a member of the NZCMS Council and serves as a Chaplain for the New Zealand Defence Force.

Want to read more? Check out Brian Rosner’s Beyond Greed and Dr Omar Djeoandy’s Redefining Success.

 

For discussion Why is the subject of giving often taboo in our Christian culture? What difference does a broader view of giving make, one that includes but isn’t limited to financial giving?

As someone called to belong to God’s community of mission service, what’s his challenge to you and your group when it comes to giving?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.

We’re All Called to Pray (Issue 29)

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We’re all called to pray. This statement appears in the middle of the five missional postures discussed in this Intermission. But I wonder if it should be in the middle. I wonder if praying is where we ought to begin. Or is the middle exactly where it should be – central to everything else?

In John 15:5 Jesus states “I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” I wonder if we sometimes become so fixated on working for ‘fruit ’ that we forget that the fruit is ultimately born of relationship – a natural outcome of the ‘remaining.’

For me ‘remaining’ is always the initiative of God; God’s Spirit touches our spirits and we respond. In this way our relationship was born and in this way it is sustained – Spirit to spirit and spirit to Spirit. When we remain in this relationship with God who comes to us as Love, we find ourselves knowing more of who God is, what delights God and how God works. Our love and appreciation for God grows. This is prayer.

EXPANDING OUR VISION

In the nature of love, those things that matter to God increasingly matter to us. Stirred by Love, we see God all around and seek to become more aware. Our vision is stretched by God’s limitless vision that reaches far beyond our own small world until it includes places we haven’t visited, people we don’t know. The burdens of others, our brothers and sisters who share the same Father, are now our burden. Their poverty and oppression and struggles affect us and we cry out to our Father on their behalf.

Sometimes we need words as we struggle to find God in the situation. At other times our prayers may be only a silent ‘Amen’ to God’s ever-loving intention. Our prayers may result in a call to action: a call to fasting, a call to go. Always our prayers will result in a call to share with others the wonder of how much God cares so that their eyes too may be opened, their faith grown and their hearts also turned to praise and glorify God. These are fruits of ‘remaining.’

REMAINING BUT LOOKING EVER OUTWARD

As Christians we’re all called to be members of the vast ‘community of mission service.’ As members of this community we’re all called to pray. The fruit of this prayer is always an expanding love and compassion for others which reaches far beyond our own small corner of creation. In the cycle of God’s never-ending economy of grace, our joy in seeing the fruits of prayer in the lives of people brought into the light grows our faith, and turns us in joy back to the One who began it all, our God of Love.

Thus from remaining to fruits and from fruits to remaining – remaining in a God whom we follow out into a world beyond ourselves.

We’re all called to pray for God’s whole world.

Along with her husband Gerald, Maureen was a missionary in Nepal and then a NZCMS Mission Partner in Cambodia. They have now settled in Dunedin where, among other things, they help run the local NZCMS branch.

 

For discussion How has your ‘remaining’ – your personal time with God – grown your heart for God’s whole world?

As someone called to belong to God’s community of mission service, what’s his challenge to you and your group when it comes to praying?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.

We’re All Called to Participate (Issue 29)

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Only about 10% of Kiwis go to church, and that number hasn’t changed in decades! The average church sees only about two (or less) people come to faith each year, and that’s while many others walk away from the faith. And importantly, up to 80% of Kiwis are beyond the reach of a Gospel witness – either they don’t know a committed Jesus-follower or their Christian friends haven’t shared the Gospel with them.

Why’s it like this? God doesn’t want anyone to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9) – so it’s not because God doesn’t want people to know him. Perhaps the problem is closer to home – people can’t believe if they haven’t been told (Romans 10:14), and sharing isn’t just the role of ‘professional Christians.’ We’re all called to be ambassadors for God, yet maybe many of us think we’re the exception. But we’re all called to participate – God wants an army of ambassadors, not just a few Generals.

EVERYONE GETS TO PLAY It’s easy to see things as ‘us’ and ‘them.’ The professional preacher and us normals. The gifted leader and those who are led. The ‘missionary’ and the ‘supporters’ back home. ‘They’ are the ones with the calling; we’re here to watch or help out. But we all have a role to play, each and everyone one of us. Some roles may seem dramatic and exciting, others may seem small and insignificant, but every follower of Jesus has a place – think of 1 Corinthians 12:12-26. And importantly, from God’s perspective, no role is more important.

Think about that. The missionary in China or Abu Dhabi is just as important in God’s mission as the little-ol’-lady who enables community by serving tea after church. If they’re both doing what God’s called them to, if they’re contributing what they’re capable, then God values it equally! So let’s not act as if some of us are ‘more important’ than others.

“All God’s kids get to play.” John Wimber built a movement on this principle: ministry and mission is something for us all, not just the ‘professionals.’ And it’s important to stress that we get to, not have to. Too often appeals to get involved are all about turning up the pressure. We’re made to feel guilty that we don’t preach to our neighbours, that we don’t volunteer at a soup kitchen, that we don’t feel called to travel overseas.

But God isn’t so much pressuring us to do more, but is inviting us to be involved in something life-transforming. It’ll take us closer to God, unite us in our communities, give us meaning and purpose, not to mention the eternal rewards we’ll reap (Matthew 25:20-23, 31-40). No one is excluded from the fun and joy of mission, even if it may be challenging.

God is welcoming us all to participate, not with a stern look of frustration at how little we’ve done, but with the hopeful excitement of a loving Father who’s delighted to share his greatest joy and passion with his kids!

AN ILLUSTRATION What’s it look like when everyone’s following their call to participate? Perhaps each person simply feels equipped and ready to live missionally in their local contexts: their workplace, school, family, neighbourhood. But sometimes it means finding ways to participate together. After all, mission happens best in community.

Our church has been putting this into action with a ‘church open day.’ One Sunday a year, the seats are cleared out and replaced with bouncy castles, candyfloss machines, a sausage sizzle, face-painting stations, manicure tables, ministry promo stalls. People from the community venture in – it’s less threatening and more inviting than a typical church service. Maybe they’ll stop and listen to someone sharing a testimony from the front. Maybe they’ll get into a deep conversation with a church member. Maybe they’ll join a programme our church offers. Maybe they’ll just grab a coffee and then disappear – but even so, our prayer is their view of ‘church’ and ‘Christians’ is softening.

Why are these powerful events? Community creates synergy. You didn’t have to be the gifted Gospel preacher or the one sharing a testimony. Regardless of your gifting and strengths, you have a role. Everyone is essential, the preacher as much as the one keeping the toilets clean! It’s the combined effort, not the work of any key player, that created a platform for us to engage our neighbourhood.

Sometimes we get to all participate together like this, the synergy of our efforts accomplishing more than we could alone. And sometimes being called to participate is about remembering that God’s invitation to engage in mission is always open to us whenever and wherever we are. Missional engagement is possible for each and every one of us.

We’re all invited to participate with God in what he’s doing, wherever we are!

 

For discussion Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 together. How does this passage speak to our equal invitation to participate in God’s mission?

As someone called to belong to God’s community of mission service, what’s his challenge to you and your group when it comes to participating?

We’re All Called (Issue 29)

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By Steve Maina (NZCMS National Director) 

I’m often asked to speak about mission. At churches, in small groups, in Bible College classes, that’s the topic they all want me to share about. But the word ‘mission’ carries a bit of baggage with it – we all have an understanding of what it means, and more importantly, of who’s called to be involved. And that’s a major question: is mission for a select few, or is it for you? Is it for us all? The question matters, because it determines whether or not you see yourself as essential to God’s mission in the world.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT ANYWAY?

Mission belongs to and originates from God. The Bible’s grand narrative has mission at the centre: from the start to the finish, Scripture is all about a God on a mission, a God seeking to redeem his whole creation through Christ from sin and evil. “God so loved the world that he sent…” (John 3:16). Mission flows out of God’s very heart.

God is a God of mission, and his Church is supposed to be the same. The Church doesn’t send some people with a special calling in missions; the Church itself is sent. As Emil Brunner said, “The church exists by mission as a fire exists by burning.” The Church is not and cannot be the Church unless it’s orientated around mission. Whether or not someone crosses cultural or geographic boundaries to pursue mission isn’t the issue. Wherever the Church is, it’s in God’s world and is supposed to be all about God’s mission. And here’s an important reminder: if you’re a follower of Jesus, you are the church!

NOT IF BUT WHERE

The question is not if I’m called but where I’m called. It’s time we stopped legitimising some places as ‘mission fields’ and others not. We’re sent to follow Christ as Lord in a broken world and to shine Christ’s light wherever we are.

We need to pause to ask God where our ‘wherever’ is supposed to be. It may mean leaving one’s own location (social, cultural, geographical, intellectual) to enter a new space we’re unfamiliar with. Maybe it’ll be found across an ocean, in a shift within your city or country, or simply by going out of your way to meet people you otherwise wouldn’t. Moving from the known to be with the other is exactly what Christ did. He emptied himself and left behind the glories of heaven to enter the darkness and poverty of our world (Philippians 2:5-8).

Or perhaps you’ve already discovered the ‘wherever’ that God’s called you to. But even there, maybe God’s opening new doors: opportunities with neighbours, workmates, family. Being sent by God isn’t so much about where you go, but the posture of your heart – people who know they’re ‘sent’ have a readiness deep within them for whatever God brings along.

MAKING MISSION THE CENTRE

For a while we’ve wrestled with the question: how can you sum up who NZCMS is and what we’re about? Many people view us as essentially a mission sending agency – an organisation that sends people overseas. That’s a big part of what we do, but the core of who we are is much deeper and bigger. Our purpose is to partner with the Church in order to make mission central for every follower of Jesus.

That’s it: Making Mission the Centre.

But if we’re to help believers discover what God’s mission is all about and how they can make it central to their entire lives, we need a shared understanding of what a missional follower of Jesus looks like. We’ve identified five postures – five lived-out attitudes – shared by people participating in God’s mission. These postures are the same whether you’re serving overseas or engaging here in New Zealand.

And we’ve not taken these out of thin air. These reach back at least as far as a NZCMS bookmark from 2008 that invited people to make four simple commitments: to keep informed, pray regularly, give generously and go willingly. The simplicity of this list was great and made clear that we all have a role to play, though unfortunately it implied that mission is ‘over there’ and not here; mission is for the go-ers meaning the rest of us are more-or-less merely senders. (We, of course, do need to be sending some people as Mission Partners to different parts of the world, which involves supporting, praying and financing their efforts. But all of us have a role to play in mission, not just supporting others in it.) So we’ve made some updates, keeping true to the list but making it clear that mission is for us all.

We’re all called to belong

We’re all called to participate

We’re all called to pray

We’re all called to give

We’re all called to Go

We’ve arranged this Intermission around these five missional postures, exploring what each can look like in hopes that you’ll join us in committing to living these out as best you can. That’s what it means to belong to the CMS family: it’s not about signing a piece of paper or a membership form but sharing this missional DNA.

Join us as we seek to Make Mission the Centre for every follower of Jesus.

 

For discussion

Are you familiar with the earlier four NZCMS commitments? Share what these meant in your journey of faith.

What would it mean for you, your group, your church to ‘Make Mission the Centre’? What challenges or obstacles might get in the way?