Community and Mission Everywhere
I’ve still been thinking about my recent mission trip to Eleuthera, and the community and sense of mission I felt there. By our second day there, all two dozen men on our trip were in complete awe of Keith and Lori Doster, who moved – together with their two girls – to that island in January 2013. Everywhere we went on that 110-mile-long island, Keith knew and talked to people. In turn, the locals were just as excited to see him and talk to him.
Keith and Lori have obtained (and are still obtaining) this level of cultural engagement just by being in the community and showing love (such as by giving rides to people in their bus or van). We were challenged as we saw the depth and breadth of their friendships all over the island, which they built in just 15 months. We all left Eleuthera challenged and inspired to better engage our own “mission fields” back home – our families, our work, our neighborhoods, our cities, etc.
But as we engage our own communities, we must remember that God’s mission for us is more about our own obedience, instead of the results we see.
Living on Mission: Obedience, Not Results
I’ve been reading through the books of the prophets of the Old Testament. Recently, I’ve been going through the time when Israel was about to be sent (by God) into exile in Babylon. Let’s just say it’s not the most cheerful messages of the Bible.
But what has really stood out to me is the faith of men like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Here are guys who were called to preach God’s message, all the while knowing that the people would reject it.
“. . . I have sent you to them who should listen to you; yet the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, since they are not willing to listen to Me. Surely the whole house of Israel is stubborn and obstinate. . . . Do not be afraid of them or be dismayed before them, though they are a rebellious house. . . .
Son of man, take into your heart all My words which I will speak to you and listen closely. Go to the exiles, to the sons of your people, and speak to them and tell them, whether they listen or not, ‘Thus says the Lord God.'” Ezekiel 3:6-11
What does this have to do with me, and God’s mission for our family? Well, I see that God sending me and including me in His redemptive story is not about the results I would like to see. God calling me to a purpose is purely about whether I will trust in Him and obey Him.
Jesus wants your obedience over your sacrifice. In other words he wants you, not what you have to offer.
— Timothy Keller (@timkellernyc) April 19, 2014
Being missional in my everyday life is more about what God is doing and how He will receive glory from it, than about what I can accomplish.
Living on Mission: What’s Next?
Now, I am thinking about all these things in the context of trying to figure out our next step, especially the questions of what we will do next, and where that will be. As we are coming up on our expected transition time, I sure would love some more clarity.
Honestly, I’m not sure I’ll get the level of clarity that I want. When we moved to Allendale over three years ago, it seemed like the obvious step, if only because it was the only option that we saw. (And we are so glad that God pushed us in this direction!!)
Now, as we’ve explored multiple opportunities, I think we may come to a place where we just have to pick something. We may have multiple good options, which will ALL be the “right” choice.
My stomach turns as I write this. I want to have a nice, neat, and clean (if not simple) formula to figuring out what is next for us. But if I had that, then I wouldn’t need to trust God so much, would I? As a leader, I need to embrace ambiguity.
One of the leaders on the Eleuthera trip shared this one night, as he was sharing his story:
“I’m just an ordinary guy taking steps.”
That resonated with me perfectly. We haven’t done anything amazing in Allendale. We have just tried to be faithful to God’s call. We’ve messed up so many things along the way, but our gracious God is sovereign, powerful, and loving.
Living on Mission: More Wisdom
Here are some other things I took away from the teaching and small group sessions on that mission trip. Perhaps they will resonate with you, too:
- Before we can live on mission, we need to know God’s mission. God’s mission is seen in His story of Creation – Fall – Redemption – Restoration.
- As we engage others (family, co-workers, neighbors, etc), we need to humbly let them know that we are sinners just like them. Then we can say (in some form or another): “Let’s get side-by-side, and move towards Jesus.”
- The reason we don’t share our faith with non-believers is because we don’t share our faith with other believers. We need to share our struggles with each other.
- We need to be open to the possibility that God may be calling you to something big. Sometimes He will make this clear, and sometimes we just need to ask Him, “God, what’s next for me?”
While in Eleuthera, I was hoping to get some solid answers about what’s next for us. I didn’t, and that’s OK.
I don’t need to know THE ANSWER to what I’m doing. But I do need to remember these three things:
- I must continue to pursue Jesus, more than pursue His mission.
- I must labor in His mission in the face of ambiguity.
- I must press forward in the context of biblical community.