suffering – a Bosch update part 2

yesterday, we went to lunch with David Bosch’s amazing widow, Annamie.  she models what i dream my 70s will be like.  throughout the course of our conversations yesterday, i was struck by some things she shared about suffering.  for that, i will summarize her comments with a quote from her husband’s book (which i know she had influence in).

pg. 177 “suffering is not just something that has to be endured passively because of the onslaughts and oppositions of the powers of this world, but also, and perhaps primarily, as an expression of the church’ active engagement with the world for the sake of the world’s redemption (cf Beker 1984:41).  Suffering is therefore a mode of missionary involvement.”

in light of this spirit of antagonism that has been swirling around me the last several weeks, i have been faced with a healthy challenge by my good friend Arthur: “do you want the results of Jesus without the way of Jesus?”

so often i get surprised that there would be enemy attacks on my mind and heart when I move into mission.  i assume God will just block all of those things from me because i’m serving Him.  but God didn’t call anyone into cheap, easy lives.  he called us to follow Him in His ways.  early Christians were called followers of “the way”.  and that way often times led to their certain deaths.
so why do i assume i can eat from the fields without having first experienced the back breaking work of plowing the them?  the way of Jesus is a way into territory not easily handed over.  while that does not invite us to naively entering into highly dangerous places, it also doesn’t say we should sit back in the comforts of what we know either!  whenever you enter into these places of service, you are upsetting someone.  embrace it as a mark that you are part of God redeeming the world… carry the work of the cross & resurrection deep in your soul for the sake of the world’s salvation.  those things may never leave your side, but with the prayers of many, you will be reminded of the truth as you move deeper into the heart of kingdom expansion.

new language for evangelism – a Bosch update part 1

for many years of my life, i have had this nagging feeling about my “conversion experience”.  i was taught in the school of bridge diagrams, argumentative apologetics… in other words: revealing the depravity of humanity and its need for salvation lest we run head first into the gates of hell.  i don’t dare knock on that.  i met Jesus through these models.  however, i’m starting to wonder if that process has actually cheapened my walk with God.

there’s a sense that when i had my conversion experience, i was just made fine.  now i could move through life knowing my eternal destination was secured.  then one of my fellow discussion partners chimed in with this line, “the problem with Christians is that no one wants to kill us.  we fit in nice and neat into the society around us and we don’t worry too much about calling sin ‘sin’ because we’re often caught up in it ourselves!  what’s different about me than anyone else?  i still lust after consumeristic things, i still go after success at the sacrifice of my family… i’m no better, and in many ways, i’m worse than everyone else!”

a better way of understanding what is happening at this moment is that i have entered into a journey of following the WAY of God.  rather than saying “you’re a sinner going to hell” (thus scaring some into a decision, chasing others away, and isolating everyone), offering a wholistic system of life that God wants to renew in every human being.  so then every day, i’m confronted with the things in my life God wants to restore and make new.  it’s a better option for life, not a ticket out of hell!

when i experience the life of Jesus as my option, i then move into service out of gratitude for his love.

I notice this is true with kids.  when i have loved Ezra well, like right after a good afternoon of backyard soccer, i can ask him to clean up just about anything, and out of gratitude, he obeys.  he’s not obligated to obey (which we experience more often than we’d like), but he’s grateful for the love we just shared in and serves from that place.

i prefer gratitude out of love than gratitude out of guilt.  it’s more unifying and intimate with my master.

Don’t Buy M&M’s – Transforming Mission Update

First, let me apologize for those of you who don’t like to read thoughts on mission/church/theology.  I made a deal with some folks that read this blog that I would post some insights from my reading group going through David Bosch’s “Transforming Mission”.  I promise not to use this space to voice too many opinions on church/theology/culture/etc… I’m considering another blog for that ;).

Thursday this week, we met again.  So much stood out to me in the discussion, it was hard to summarize one point.  So let me pull a few things out that I think connect.

We are all… every human on the planet… called to care for the poor.  So much of what Jesus said in his short three years on earth mandates us to this end.  I don’t believe the lie that I so easily fell into when living in the States that said “well, I support missionaries in Africa or wherever, and that’s my part”.  That’s fine, and that’s a start, but there’s actually quite a lot of things that I contributed to in my day to day life that actually perpetuated world poverty.  Sometimes I even knew about it, but let’s be honest, shopping at Walmart was just easier than figuring out where I could get clothes NOT produced by kids in sweat shops (I don’t think I will be apologizing for being blunt here).

Further more, I’m concerned about some of the initiatives I see when it comes to church outreach.  Far too often, a small percentage of the church actually sees injustice in their communities and moves to address those issues.  What’s easy is for the majority to write off their part and say “well my community does it, so I don’t have to.”  That’s a pretty unbiblical response I’d say.

So what’s my part?  Yeah, welcome to my world of tension!  I think there’s actually something intrinsically crucial to how we set up our communities that lead me to my response to this question.  Rather than 10% doing something and 90% taking credit, I wonder if the 10% could help the 90% by finding places where every member of the community could get involved in addressing the problem.  SO, with that, let me be a help to you, my dear friends in America, by giving you a copy of a link my friend sent me this week.  CLICK HERE

If you’re unaware, there’s a global crisis within the impoverished world, of young people being sold into the sex industry (common day slavery).  Unfortunately, I found out that one of my favorite chocolate companies, Mars, has been contributing to horrific child labor so as to alleviate their costs and increase their profits.  Here’s a small step for all of us to take:  DON’T BY MARS CHOCOLATE!  That’s simple, but we must continue to push and do more.

I fear there are HUGE social systems that cause us to NOT deal with the issues we’re facing in the world.  The proof came when the first bailout package was signed last year in America.  What I witnessed was how that had effect on making the South African currency drop 5 points.  We don’t think our choices affect the world so significantly… but we all have played a part in the destruction of others.  It’s our duty to reverse the course of our actions and the actions of previous generations to put an end to the destruction of others for the betterment of ourselves.

My friends who are blogging on this topic:

Cobus

Tom

Chris

a very unique privledge

If you are at all familiar with the study of missions, you have probably heard of the late David Bosch’s foundational work “Transforming Mission”. Written just prior to his tragic death in 1992, “Transforming Mission” was far before its time, still influencing missionary efforts all over the world. It’s a book that I’ve been wanting to get into for some time, but haven’t had the chance due to the massivity of it. It’s not a quick or easy read.

Well this coming month, I have the unique privilege of holding myself accountable to not only reading the book, but LEARNING the book with some of South Africa’s up and coming church leaders. Not only that, but none other than the Mrs. Annemie Bosch (David Bosch’s widow) will be joining us as well. I’ll be joining this group (meeting once a month for discussion on the assigned chapters) with my teammate, Arthur Stewart. It will indeed be a very special opportunity that will help shape much of what we do at Nieu Communities and in the surrounding Pretoria area.