#NZCMS

Liminal Spaces: Freaking out about transition

Posted on

Transition is difficult. It’s hard to know how to feel in the midst of coming, and going, leaving the old, and starting the new, even when we know what we’re going to is something good.

What about when we don’t know what comes next? There are times when a season comes to an end, but God hasn’t yet opened the door into something new.

We find ourselves in the ‘grey space,’ evading questions about the future, and desperately hoping that something concrete comes our way soon.

There’s a phrase I find really useful to describe this space – ‘liminal space.’ It describes being in transition, standing on a threshold, but being unsure of which way you should aim, or which direction God is pointing you in. Richard Rohr suggests that this space is sometimes referred to as a ‘luminous darkness,’ the space of ‘not-knowing’:

“It is when you have left the ‘tried and true’ but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are in between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. It is no fun.” (p22 – Grieving as Sacred Space)

As someone who likes control and to plan, I find ‘liminality’ very uncomfortable… plus it’s a challenge to my pride and my sense of having it all together. I find myself worrying about the future – questions about calling, jobs, location and community are all strongly interwoven.

In this space, I want something firm to hang on to, a goal to aim at. But I don’t have one. Rarely am I comfortable with saying ‘I don’t know what’s next.’ Rather than be present to the uncomfortable fact that I do not have the answer and I am not in control, my own way of dealing with this space is to come up with all sorts of crazy options for the future, preferring the abstract, absurd and impossible over the unknown.

I can hide from the gift of liminal space, evading the ‘blessing of unknowing’ with busyness, tasks, excuses, and explanations. But it would be a waste. This space is actually an invitation to learn to live with ambiguity and anxiety, to trust and to wait. It’s a space in which I need to avoid the temptation to ‘explain away’ my unknowing, or to justify why I don’t have a five-year plan.

In this place, where the light has not been thrown upon what happens next, I’m being invited to trust, to lean into the God who has proved himself to be faithful time and time again. This ‘leaning in’ frees me from the burden of being in control, and of knowing exactly what to plan for. Instead, I’m invited into relationship, to embrace the vulnerability of not having all the answers, and instead to trust in the goodness, provision, and kindness of God.

 

THE MUSE

Are you in a space where you aren’t quite sure what the future holds, or you sense that a change may be coming? How can this idea of ‘liminal space’ help you to embrace the ‘not knowing’ as you wait for God to speak clearly?

THE MOVE

Ask God to place the right people around you as you journey through transition – whether now, or in the future. Be intentional about meeting with friends for prayer and conversation – you may not get all the answers you need, but having people who will support you in this space is invaluable.

 

#NZCMS is all about exploring what it means to be God’s missional people in today’s world. Sign up for the emailer by filling in your email at the top of the page or join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group (and turn on ‘all notifications’ to stay in the loop!) 

 

You can’t do it alone

Featured Video Play Icon
Posted on

I’m sure you’ll agree God has called us to make a real difference in the world. And if you’re been sitting in that space for a while, you’ll have realised that changing the world often starts with being transformed ourselves. Like the bumper-sticker says, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Change agents are those who don’t just do a whole heap of stuff, but who have come to embody values that set them apart and drive them to really make a difference. It’s pretty difficult to be both missional and selfish, or greedy, or lazy, or constantly grumpy, or judgemental, or controlling, or gossipy. …

The thing is, many of us put pressure on ourselves to change. … and beat ourselves up when we don’t! Maybe this is partly because we’ve been taught somewhere along the way that we can make self-change happen. We just need the will to change. There’s truth in that, but real change almost always happens in community. It’s belonging to a group that share common values that will help us develop and keep those values.

Bishop Justin Duckworth spoke at the NZCMS Cultivate conference in 2014. In this video he talks about our need for community.

 

Slavings

Posted on

#NZCMS is going to be a little different this year. The biggest change: we’re stepping down to a post each fortnight, aiming for quality over quantity. That means we should be able to provide fresh content each time without relying on ‘re-blogs’ (though we’ll  include occasional articles from our Intermission magazine when the topic is particularly important.)

As it turns out, the latest issue of Intermission was on a very important issue, one I think future generations will look back and judge us on: Slavery. Human trafficking. The fact that there’s more slaves in the world today than at any point in history, despite 200 years of explicitly challenging the whole thing. And Intermission looked at how modern day slavery and the way I shop are woven together like some sort of disturbing tapestry. I made a perhaps obscure comment at the back of the issue so thought I’d tease it out a little further here.

This morning I had the privilege of sitting down over a cup of chai with Peter Mihaere. He runs an organisation called Stand Against Slavery, and we got talking about whether New Zealand could eventually become truly slavery free. That’d mean no slaves or exploited workers here nor anyone trafficked to or from here. It’d also mean no products could be bought here that have in any way been produced by slaves or exploited workers. New Zealand would effectively be a fairtrade country.

The Pope’s goal is to do this globally by 2020… It’s a good goal, but without a huge miracle, it ain’t happening. But what if we started with a small country, an isolated island where borders are pretty easy to control, with a population the size of an ‘average’ city in other parts of the world… I think that’d actually be attainable in our generation if we learn to really work together on this.

The first step? Becoming conscious of the issue at a grass roots level. It needs to become part of regular conversation.

Peter’s challenge to me was to ask, when buying something, whether any slaves were involved in making it. We already know what the answer will be, and I know it’ll make the conversation awkward. “Um… I have no idea… Surely not, right…?” Or perhaps they’ll just look at us funny. But the thing is, how else will people become aware of this problem unless we make this part of daily conversation? If that shop attendant gets asked once, they’ll forget about it. But if it becomes a daily occurrence they’ll start thinking about it. They’ll start asking their manager, who’ll start asking others higher on the food chain. Eventually someone will take notice.

Not alone.

Another side of the equation is making it regular conversation among ourselves. If you’ve tried being a ‘Kingdom shopper’ for a while you’ll know how I often feel. It’s frustrating. It’s challenging. It’s sometimes isolating and disorientating! Many times I’ve wondered whether I can keep it up or whether I should give up trying (which is a crazy thought – should I keep on bothering to care, because of some inconvenience to me, about people who are literally in chains because of what I buy?!).

My life-saver has been the fact that I can talk openly about it with my wife – and slowly but surely there’s others who have joined the conversation. And it’s not just about having people to talk with, but having a shared language. As a rabid Simpsons fan, a line from Krusty has enabled Mari and I to make this all-too-serious topic part of daily conversation. He’s up on a stage promoting his new line of t-shirts (watch the video from 30seconds – it’s a terrible quality video, but it’s much better hearing the quote than reading it.)

“Slavings.” It’s not even a word, and I’m not quite sure how it happened, but it’s now part of our daily vocabulary. When we’re out shopping and one of us is interested in something that almost certianly has dubious origins: “Have you considered the slavings?” When we’re watching TV ads and a too-good-to-be-true deal comes on: “There’s some amazing slavings.” Mari’s been after a nutra-bullet for a while, but whenever a special came up the word “slavings” kept us from acting. (She’s found one on trademe, so all is well with our smoothies).

I’m not sure what these conversations sound like to other ears, but this one simple word has kept at the forefront of our minds the reality of exploited workers across the world. It’s changing how we shop. It’s changing how we view advertising. It’s changing how we talk. It’s changing our family’s priorities. It’s changing our plans and dreams for the future. One word that isn’t even a word!

 

THE MUSE

What can you do to make the harsh realities of human trafficking and worker exploitation part of daily conversation?

 

THE MOVE

Challenge yourself: the next time your shopping ask someone whether the product has been in any way made by slaves.

 

#NZCMS is all about exploring what it means to be God’s missional people in today’s world. Sign up for the emailer by filling in your email at the top of the page or join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group (and turn on ‘all notifications’ to stay in the loop!) 

 

Image by Charles Rodstrom on Flickr.

Get Low: 3 Lessons On Leadership

Posted on

By Peggy Kelley. 

The following has been reblogged from Risecampaign.com.

 

There are so many articles, books and quotes about leadership floating around these days. I find myself cringing over most of them. Sometimes the word leadership itself is off-putting. I picture older men with fancy watches and glued on smiles, ready to dole out tedious jobs to unimportant underlings.

But there are a lot more ways to be a leader, I know. I realized a few years ago that I have some leadership gifts, but it was a confusing revelation because those gifts are paired with other traits which don’t appear to mix well with being in charge of a group of people.

For a few weeks in August I was able to test out those gifts while co leading just a small portion of an outreach in Thailand for a Discipleship Training School. I didn’t go in thinking,“how can I be a good leader?” so much as, “Lord, help me do right by your children.”

I discovered several interesting things about Leading.

1. Leading is not about being the most aggressive, or even the most assertive.

Being from America and growing up as I did with a single mom, I have learned the how and why of both. No one else will do it for you, right? Being aggressive is like spice in food and it’s best utilized in advocating for others. Walking with Jesus, though, with His unique example of love, I find that particular leadership style easily squashes the real goal of community.

Charging ahead often sacrifices relationship for efficiency.

While being decisive is an important part of leading, I also want to note here that the leadership quality that counts is not the ability to come up with the right decision, but the wisdom to recognize and choose that decision, even if it’s proposed by someone else in the group and doesn’t serve the leader’s personal desires.

 

2. Leading leaves room for people to make mistakes.

This is a lesson I learned while teaching. People learn things best when the question is their own and they’ve gotten their hands dirty to find the solution. I’m always available for giving advice (believe me, I often have to tell myself to wait to be asked or at least ask if it’s wanted) but if I’m too eager to tell someone The Way It Is, I may keep them from discovering it more deeply for themselves.

Obviously there is a place for giving advice or I wouldn’t be writing this blog post, but even what you take away from reading this will be just a line or two that you were probably already chewing on in your mind.

 

3. Leading means laying down your life.

This was the biggest thing God kept repeating while I was in Thailand. First through Philippians 2:1-11 and then through of Mark 10:42-45. Jesus laid down his life and invites his followers to do the same.

If you think being the leader means being the Big Shot with the heaviest vote, please resign right now and spend a while cleaning bathrooms without getting credit.

The whole point of leading people is to help them grow into who they were made to be. You might think it’s about a particular project or product, but it’s always really about the people. They might be made to take your job. Let’s hope they are, and that you spend your gifts pouring into that potential.

Often we are led by people who use their position to get what they want. What grows in us, because of that, is the desire to be our own boss, if not to simply replace the person in charge. What follows is this cycle where the person in charge gets their way and everyone else must obey until they, too can get out from under that tyranny to take hold of the reigns for another round of tyranny.

But friends, leading is not actually about Being In Charge and it’s especially not about Getting Your Way. Leading is about being the first to sacrifice, the first to do what is wise and loving for the good of others. Leading is about showing people the way forward and helping them go farther, grow more, be more. Leading is about initiating vulnerability, being trustworthy, being honest when it’s painful and persevering when others want to give up.

If we follow Jesus and walk in his example, our lives will not be about building influence, but about continuously laying down our rights.

After all, the only legitimate Big Shot that walked on earth laid down His heavy vote to help us go where we couldn’t, and be who we weren’t. His life is the leadership model I’m looking to follow.

 

Open home

Posted on

We’ve talked a lot about discipleship here lately, and rightly so. It’s a pretty important topic, especially since many young adults feel like they’ve never really experienced intentional, sincere discipleship. Plus Jesus seemed to think it was pretty important – it was his answer for all the problems of the world! (Matthew 28:19-20)

But here’s the thing. If you’re like me, you don’t feel you have things sorted out enough to offer much. We’ll all be familiar with the thoughts: “I’m not spiritual enough. “”I’m not deep enough.” “I don’t know enough.” “I just not disciple-making material.”

A month ago I was telling God how I don’t feel deep enough to have much to give (…whatever that actually means). Yes, I’ve grown in my faith over the years, and yes, I’m willing to say that I have something to offer. Yet, I guess buried somewhere in my heart is the belief that only spiritual elites can really make a true and lasting difference. I may have something to offer, but with a world (and church) with so much need, we need the heros of the faith to be discipling people – like Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, the Apostle Paul, [insert the faith-heros you look up to]. They’re the ones ‘qualified’ to be forming disciples.

Sometimes wisdom is knowing when to close your mouth. So I did. And I started to listen. And God spoke.

What I felt him saying was beautifully simple:

It’s not about ‘being more,’ about ‘having more to offer,’ but about opening your home and opening your lives. It’s not about having a whole lot to offer, but about offering what you do have. Start with what you have, and more will be given. Depth always comes AS you pour out, not as you wait until your ready to be poured out. 

I may not be all I want to be. I may have a long way to go in my journey with God (which is a never-ending journey anyway!). I may have much to learn, much to see, much to live out and experience. But I am able to open a door!

It’s easy to complicate discipleship, but I think one of the keys of the whole thing is to just make space to be with people. And sometimes that’s as simple as opening your door.

 

As we’re heading towards Christmas ask yourself this: What can you do to make your life more open to others, creating space for others to learn and grow?

Whose Kingdom?

Posted on

By Katie Wivell

What is it that stops me?

What is it that keeps my eyes fixed on my feet when you walk past?

What is it that makes it so hard for me to stretch out my arms and welcome you?

Maybe it’s the ugly truth that I profess to be part of a Kingdom of grace, and unconditional love, and authentic community – and yet, I’ve still managed to carve out my own space.

My own space where I’m building a different kind of kingdom… Katie’s Kingdom.

In my kingdom, things roll smoothly for me. And I work hard to keep it that way, I please the right people and I make sure I belong. I make sure I have enough; love, respect, clothes, money, social hangs, Facebook likes, success stories… Security, comfort, and belonging. These are my treasured possessions.

And you, with your differences and difficulties, you embody the insecurity that I flee from daily.

Why should I be the one to give up my seat and make a scene, and walk over to the one who is different! I worked hard to get here! And I work hard daily, to keep everything in the right place.

So I’m sorry. This kingdom can’t accommodate for your complicated need set today. If I reach out to you, I’m afraid I’ll lose my balance. And I’ll fall. And this kingdom of comfort will slip from my hands. And I’ll be the one on the outside. Without a seat to sit in.

And that, that is the thing I fear the most.

 

For me, these are the worries that have stopped me from helping people far too many times in the past. And they are the same kind of worries I see popping up everywhere at the moment. We look at refugees, and their insecurity and need and state of loss, and are reluctant to offer them substantial support. At the root of our reasons to not help those in need is FEAR.

Fear of what the cost might be to us.

I think for many of us, we are reluctant to take a stand on this refugee issue because we are too busy asking the question: “If I do this, what will happen to me?”

If I welcome refugees into my country, my city, my community, what will happen to me?

Not enough of us are asking the question, “If I don’t to this, if we don’t do this, what will happen for them?”

And maybe we brush this question off by saying, well, someone else will help them, someone else will pick up the pieces. The countries closer to Syria will take them, and will be better equipped. We are just little New Zealand after all. But we weren’t just little New Zealand when we hosted the Rugby world cup, or signed the TPPA agreement…

As Christians, I think at a time like this we have an opportunity to be the voice of hope. And I would go as far as to call it a responsibility. Comfortable Christians have been saying, “somebody else will do it” about too many issues for too long. As followers of Jesus, who spent his entire life teaching us how to love sacrificially and restore what is broken, we are called to be those ‘somebody elses’ who do something about it.

This is a hard pill to swallow, especially because we live our day to day lives in an environment where nobody expects this kind of extravagant love and care from us. In our society, and sadly even in some of our churches, we are taught to pursue success. If we have a good career, stability, and still manage to be kind to others and turn up at church, then we are doing pretty well.

For a long time I was largely blind to the problem with this attitude in my own life.

But then I started to fall in love with Jesus. And study him more. And soak up his ways and his purposes more. And I realised if I was really a follower of Jesus, I needed to change my priorities, my goals, and broaden my social circles, to not just people like me, but to everyone, especially those who are strangers, or in need. And that is hard!

And this situation is HARD! And scary! And risky! I’m not saying that it isn’t. But that doesn’t mean we can step over the issue and walk away.

Sometimes I catch myself trying to side step the possible things I could do to show God’s love to these people who desperately need it. And when I do, or when I see other Christians in our nation doing a similar thing, I remember when Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. If we’ve spent any time reading our Bibles or sitting in church, it’s a story we’ll be well familiar with. I remember this man who has been robbed and beaten lying in a desert road, close to death. And I see the priest approach him. Jesus sets up this scene so that we expect the priest to intervene and help, as any follower of a God of love would… But the priest looks at the man lying in the dust, weighs up his own desires and schedules, then steps over him and carries on his way.

When I deny any responsibility to help the refugees that want to start lives of freedom and safety in my community, I am like that priest. When we, as the body of Christ in New Zealand, deny or fail to rise to any responsibility to help the refugees that want to start lives of freedom and safety in our communities, we are like that priest.

I’m not an expert on the refugee crisis. I don’t claim to be. I don’t work with them every day. There are questions I have about risks of taking on large numbers of refugees, and there are worries I’d have about trying to support a family when I know nothing about the reality of the suffering they’ve faced. But I can’t look at Jesus, and claim to follow him, and do nothing.

So my hope is that we would look at this issue with new eyes.

That we would start to be brave, and remember the kind of God that we follow.

That we would stop only asking the question, “but what will happen to me?”

That we would see refugees not as a threat to our comfort but as men and women and boys and girls who are just as loved and treasured by God as we are.

And we would start asking, “God, we are scared, and at time overwhelmed, but help us, what can we do for these your children?”

 

Katie is a youth worker in Campbell Bay, and also studying for her Social Work Degree in Auckland.

 

THE MUSE

What are the fears that keep you from action? How have you responded to the refugee crisis?

 

THE MOVE

What can you do this week to counter your fears?

#NZCMS is all about exploring what it means to be God’s missional people in today’s world. Sign up for the emailer by filling in your email at the top of the page or join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group (and turn on ‘all notifications’ to stay in the loop!) 

Consuming Christmas

Posted on

Christmas.

I’ve seen ‘signs’ of it already.

It’s only the beginning of November and already we’re seeing the tinsel go up.  Retail places are blasting totally irrelevant songs about dreaming of a white Christmas, and telling us to start planning our spending (be that money or time).

If you were happily ignoring these signs – forgive me for pointing them out, but stay with me….

All of the above ‘signs’ of Christmas make me cringe at little bit more every year. The consumer-filled, plastic-stuffed, sugary, glittery Christmas Tune we’re meant to dance to makes me want to avoid Christmas for as long as possible!

But I actually love what Christmas is really about: a God who breaks into our world, who ‘moves into the neighbourhood,’ who comes as a baby in human skin and in doing so begins a world-changing process of reconciliation that no-one could have dreamed of. Truly the best gift of all!

The Church has a different way of pointing to the ‘signs’ of this Great Gift: Advent. It’s part of our church calendar that actually helps us build the anticipation and expectation of waiting for the coming Messiah. Some churches do this with candles in a wreath (that’s what I grew up with). Others have extra services, and (sadly) others don’t really do much different in Advent at all. But what I’ve realised this year is that Advent doesn’t have to be something that I hope my church does for me; I can find ways to participate in this advent season in my own life too.

 

So the question that’s facing me in this season is: How can I step into the church’s way of Christmas preparation rather than the culture’s way of preparation?

This question was part inspired by a blog I read last week about life-giving tips for the Christmas build-up. They talk of things like: Reflect. Give. Simplify.

One thing I’m looking forward to using to help me reflect and prepare are the Advent Art Cards produced by the Anglican Church for the Decade of Mission. Artists from around Aotearoa and the Pacific have created art that responds to the Advent texts to stimulate your missional thinking.

 

Which leads me to question number two: How do I respond missionally to Christmas? What’s one small thing I can do?

This question sounds like a tough one, but in actual fact I’ve discovered it’s not that complicated. As I examine what God has given me, (who I am, passions, skills, people etc), I found a surprising idea that was obvious:

What do I care about? Ethical, Slave-free sustainable living (read my other blogs on here and it’s obvious).  Christmas shopping is hardly ever that!

What do I like to do? To be creative and make things.

So this year, my sister and I (always good to have an ally in these things) are hosting an Ethical Christmas Crafternoon. An opportunity to bring a bunch of people together to encourage making alternative Christmas gifts and decorations which is fun for us, good for the environment and isn’t exploiting other people for our own Christmas cheer. From recycled and raw materials we’ll be making our own wrapping paper, Christmas wreaths, Christmas crackers, decorations, and even might try making wooden manger scenes! We hope this will inspire others to consider their consumer choices this Christmas whilst giving them opportunity to find alternative ideas.

Other ideas that I’ve done in previous years for advent include: helping out at a community Christmas Lunch, inviting friends to a church service around Christmas time, organise to send the Shoebox Christmas gifts with friends/church, make a countdown Christmas Chain (we did this growing up as kids!), or find a good advent calendar like this one made by Kiwis with NZ-contextual images of the Christmas Story.

Whatever it might be, the church has a Gift to offer this world, and I hope we can all find a meaningful way of living that Truth this Advent season.

 

 

THE MUSE

How can I step into the church’s way of Christmas preparation rather than the culture’s way of preparation?

 

THE MOVE

What’s God given me passion for that might be one small thing I can do to respond missionally in this Christmas season?

#NZCMS is all about exploring what it means to be God’s missional people in today’s world. Sign up for the emailer by filling in your email at the top of the page or join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group (and turn on ‘all notifications’ to stay in the loop!) 

Evangelism should be comfortable, right? (Issue 25)

Posted on

When the Holy Spirit nudges me to talk about faith, three soothing thoughts often come to mind. “Now isn’t the appropriate time or place.” “I can’t think of the right words to say.” “I forgot to brush my teeth this morning.” These convenient excuses mean I can get on with my day and no one has to feel awkward.

The underlying belief in our post-modern world is a me-centred relativism. “I can believe whatever makes me feel good and you can believe whatever makes you feel good, just don’t push it on me.” Feelings equal truth, and this creates some challenges when it comes to evangelism. And these are challenges within the Church as well. As a post-modern Christian, my motivation to witness is often dictated by my feelings, and my feelings often say no.

For me, evangelism begins beside the fireplace on my knees. When I seek God’s company, he reminds me that I’m his loved and accepted child. Regardless of what my feelings tell me, my identity is in the death and resurrection of Jesus. I can risk looking like a fool for him.

I’ve been encouraged to plan my day by asking God “Who?” Who is he wanting to bless through me and have a conversation with today? Once that’s arranged, I can sort out the daily what, where, when and how’s. I can risk being fruitful instead of busy, and risk partnering with God to reach the people around me.

Evangelism also begins on the deck reading my Bible. When our worldview is rooted in Scripture, we understand the spiritual condition of others. We can look beyond people’s feelings and see their desperate need for forgiveness, reconciliation, cleansing, wholeness. In Scripture we rediscover God’s passion for the broken. When God’s truth is more important than feelings, we can risk having an awkward conversation.

At the heart of evangelism is a lifestyle of love and obedience to God. If we don’t share God’s passion for transforming lives, then all of the tools and methods we learn are useless. As we work on our hearts, we can start exploring faithful approaches to help connect our culture with Christ. Perhaps you’ll find opportunities to apply the AAA approach below.

Accept Everyone

Jesus was labelled a friend of sinners by the religious leaders. What would it take for us to hang out with the ‘wrong people’? Here’s a few pointers:

Create opportunities to spend time with not-yet-Christians. Joining an interest club or invite the neighbourhood around for lunch. Don’t be offended when not-yet-Christians act like not-yet-Christians. Good roots come before good fruit, and noticing, accepting and loving people for who they are is not the same as endorsing their behaviour. Ask God to put five not-yet-Christians on your heart. Try to pray for their salvation daily, visit them weekly, bless them monthly and include them in your activities whenever possible.

Ask Questions

Jesus asks about 300 questions in the New Testament. Asking questions gives us a chance to truly listen, and listening is a rare yet powerful way to show love. Ask about their interests, family and dreams. Questions also allow people to evaluate their spiritual beliefs and consider new ideas.

Admit the Truth

While many hold that ‘all roads lead to God,’ Christianity claims an exclusive message. Only faith in Jesus Christ can lead us to a right relationship with our Creator. We need to believe this, and we need to believe that Jesus is the best gift that we can offer anybody. One way to speak the truth in our culture is to tell stories. Listen to their story, and be prepared to share some stories of how you’ve experienced God in your life. You can also share stories from Jesus’ life, as this is the Jesus we’re inviting people to follow!

Ollie is the Anglican Evangelism and Under 40’s Ministry Enabler for South Canterbury.

For discussion

How does Ollie’s example challenge you?

What can your group do to put the AAA approach into action?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.

Go away sun

Posted on

I wake up in the morning as the sun starts to inch its way into my room, uninvited once again. Where are those grey cloudy days when I need them? The ones that reflect how I’m feeling. Numb and tired.

Suffering is inevitable. It’s part of being human to experience pain, grief, loss. And as Christians we are definitely not immune to it. We all suffer in different ways throughout our lives. Battles we often face in silence.

My journey in that sense is no different to anyone else’s. There have been times where I have experienced great joy at how well life seems to be going! And then there’s been the pain when it hasn’t. I am currently in one of those difficult times.

Sickness. Cancer. Malignant. Chemotherapy. Terminal. Life? Death?

These are words which have tormented my family for over a year now. We have felt thrown around by confusion, various test results, heightened emotion and many unknowns.

As a theology student I’ve spent much time contemplating the place of suffering in living a life for Christ. In all this craziness I’ve felt guilt over the fact that I don’t feel like I’m living how God would want me to be. I don’t feel like I’m living out his mission. Often I feel so disconnected from the normality of life and don’t know how to function properly. Is this a good enough excuse to not be leading people to God?

Yet I constantly have people, who I know and don’t know, tell me that they’re being influenced by how I’m dealing with what I’m going through.

What?

I haven’t really been trying to live missionally, or influence others or anything. I’ve just been trying to make it through each day!

But maybe the world isn’t looking for people who can show they are strong and immune against adversities, people who are perfectly acting out “God’s mission” at all times. I think the world is looking for people who can be real, and vulnerable, and transparent but still have hope.

Maybe those who came to me were responding to how I was acting, not because I was trying to hold everything all together, but because I was real about the fact that I seriously don’t have everything all together. Yet I still have hope in a God who does.

And “hope” is an interesting thing. I have hope. But that doesn’t mean that I always feel happy and joyous. I don’t always have a positive outlook on life and sometimes things do get a bit too much.

Hope for me is the ability to look to Christ in the midst of my struggles and know that whatever happens he will be with me.

He is with us and has compassion in our grief, in our depression, in our anxiety. When life seems to be throwing us more than we can handle.

And perhaps this is what mission is all about? That a God of hope sent his Son to a suffering world to show us there’s more to life than pain and hardship.

There isn’t one more qualified to know what suffering is like than Christ. Mission in a way is inviting people to have companionship with Christ who also knows what it’s like to suffer. And if we are to be like him that means we are also called to be companions to those who are suffering. To acknowledge pain, to listen, to just show up and be real. To plant hope in the midst of hopelessness.

When we are real with our lives, admitting our struggles, yet giving these to Christ with hope, we are showing people a way of living that addresses the broken needs of our humanity.

We show them that in such a damaged, helpless world that can’t give us answers, there is hope. And his name is Christ.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19).

 

THE MUSE

Alicia has opened up and made herself vulnerable, sharing what’s really going on in her heart. What stood out for you?

 

THE MOVE

Is there a frustration, struggle, doubt or worry that has been nagging you? Find a trusted friend, share together and pray together.

#NZCMS is all about exploring what it means to be God’s missional people in today’s world. Sign up for the emailer by filling in your email at the top of the page or join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group (and turn on ‘all notifications’ to stay in the loop!) 

Reclaiming the Discipleship Roots of CMS (Issue 24)

Posted on

Two thousand years ago the world’s true ruler came declaring that the Kingdom of God was at hand. He explained – and demonstrated – what that Kingdom looks like. He died for our sins and rose to inaugurate that Kingdom. But rather than continuing to gather followers and spread the Kingdom himself, he did something peculiar. He told his followers that they were the ones to continue his mission, and central to their mission was this thing called discipleship (Matthew 28:19).

Discipleship is central to mission. As Dallas Willard said, “The church is for discipleship, and discipleship is for the world.” But where does this group called CMS, the Church Missionary Society, fit into the picture?

To be honest, we’ve wondered that ourselves. We’ve wondered where we fit in and alongside the Kiwi Church. And we’ve been wondering how we can make discipleship central to who we are and how we operate.

Back to our roots

As it turns out, when CMS was launched over two hundred years ago, discipleship was already central to our vision, values, models and methods. So when we say we’re making discipleship central, we’re actually talking about reclaiming something of our original DNA. We’re reclaiming this same focus for a changing world and a new generation.

The early CMS didn’t just send people overseas. Joining CMS meant being committed to mission everywhere, whether in deepest Africa or the streets of London. And ‘local’ and ‘global’ weren’t seen as opposed, but two sides of a single coin. After all, can you really say you value God’s mission if you only care about your own neighbourhood or focus only on the other side of the world? That’s why the early CMS sent people from within the community to the farthest reaches, and why they fought the slave trade in England – Wilberforce was one of CMS’ founders you know.

To join CMS meant to be part of a missional community who were together learning what it meant to follow a missional God. And that’s what emerged in New Zealand in the 1940s. Young evangelicals from various churches, calling themselves the NZCMS League of Youth, started gathering to explore all things mission. A movement was born. Passion for mission and the Gospel resulted in many people coming to Christ or going deeper in their faith. And from among the community people were sent into the nations. The League eventually waned, but we hope to see a new movement with that same passion raised up, one that suits our post-modern, post-Christian context.

From Agency to Community

Today NZCMS is typically seen as being a mission agency. We may send people to other countries, but ‘agency’ isn’t the right word to describe us. We’re the Church Missionary Society. First and foremost, we’re supposed to be a society, a community centred on God and his mission. We’re not an organisation you support or a list of missionaries for the church wall, but a community you belong to – a community made up of people across different churches, united by a passion for local and global mission.

How should this look in the 21st century? To be perfectly honest, we don’t fully know yet. Yet we sense God is moving us from functioning like an agency to being a nation-wide missional community once again.

So maybe the question isn’t so much where we fit, but where you fit.

The answer is to become CMS, not just support CMS. Because CMS isn’t, at its core, an office or an agency. CMS is you. It’s you aligning yourself to God’s missional Kingdom purposes and joining others who are on that same journey. It’s about becoming part of a movement that reaches beyond your local efforts to the farthest corners of the earth – because mission here should inspire mission there, and vice versa.

We’re exploring what the Society across the nation could become, seeking to develop and nurture purposeful missional communities. How are we to pass on the rich missional heritage to the emerging generations? How can we invite those God leads us to journey with us in our missional engagement? Can we be a community from which people are sent? All across the country I meet young adults seeking missional-direction. The challenge is finding mentors and coaches willing to journey with and open their lives to these people. We desperately need ‘discipleship incubation centres,’ missional hubs and communities: homes, café groups, small gatherings and churches seeking to shape the next generation of mission workers.

We’ve already started reclaiming this emphasis on discipleship. We’ve launched an online ‘community’ that hopes to engage young adults in an on-going missional conversation (nzcms.org.nz/hashtag). We’ve re-invented our Haerenga Mission Internship as an apprenticeship, reclaiming discipleship through imitation by placing people serious about cross-cultural mission under an active missionary (nzcms.org.nz/haerenga). We’re developing resources to equip you in your local efforts (nzcms.org.nz/intermission). We’re finding ways to expand our regional efforts. And we’re preparing to launch a new initiative for anyone seeking intentional missional discipleship that integrates into their daily lives.

Friends, we’re enthused by the journey God has us on of re-discovering our discipleship roots. Rather than say ‘will you join us’, I want to say:  ‘How can we join you?’ That is, how can we partner with you to deepen and further your missional efforts? We want to resource you, encourage you, challenge and equip you to participate in mission-focused communities wherever you are, and in doing so see you flourish as the Community of Mission Service. I’m looking for key people who want to be equipped to support and network local groups that are seeking to be intentional about living missionally. You may be a NZCMS faithful, you might be discovering who NZCMS is for the first time. No matter your journey, we look forward to where God is leading us together.

To find out how we can partner in mission, email me at steve@nzcms.org.nz

 

For discussion

What would it mean for your group to belong to this ‘community of mission service’?

What do you think CMS could look like in 21st century New Zealand?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.