Here in the northern hemisphere, it’s summertime. I’m typing this after 8pm, and it’s still light enough to read. I don’t know about you, but for many of us, summer brings a shift in the basic schedule as well as in the heart: It’s an opportunity to try something new, go somewhere cool, kick back for a few minutes, and think about stuff.
Summer offers us some special ministry opportunities. Here’s a quick list of summer mobilization “to do’s” with a few “to don’ts” thrown in for fun.Do: Watch some World Cup matches.
If you’re reading Practical Mob when it launches, the FIFA World Cup starts tomorrow. If you’re getting to it later, the tournament is already underway. If you’re game, shoot me a note and tell me why I should root for someone other than Egypt and Senegal!
Bonus points: Watch a match with representatives of one of the six Muslim nations who are competing. Boss level: Show up with halal snacks.
Don’t: Go on endlessly with your friends about how you watch the World Cup and like football, what the whole rest of the world calls it, not soccer.Do: Keep praying.
Summer doesn’t mean the need for prayer takes a pause. If you haven’t yet, set a daily alarm for 10:02am. When it goes off, wake up and pray like Jesus said to in Luke 10:2… Ask the Lord of the Harvest to send laborers into his harvest.
Don’t: Forget to also pray for the laborers you know. Sometimes they feel like lambs among wolves (Luke 10:3).Do: Enjoy time with your family.
Eat a good meal and watch a sunset. If you’re an overachiever, make it a sunrise. This kind of advice is straight up from Ecclesiastes, so you’ve got solid biblical backing.
Don’t: Forget that much work remains and needs to happen during the summer, like promotion for that upcoming Perspectives class. If someone’s going to take a class that starts in August, they may need a kind person like you to invite them in July. If your church has a fall missions conference, book the speaker now before someone else snatches her up.Do: Discuss issues of global importance.
You may find that as you hang out with your friends and family around the campfire, something happens after the sun and some beers have gone down: People open up and talk about real stuff. Look for the conversational openings. This might be a great chance to dream and speak deeply of the purposes of God and his plan for your lives and maybe even the nations. Unless you’re Baptist, in which case you might skip the beers.
Don’t: Try to do this during a game of Watch Ya’ Mouth or, if you live in the Midwest, anywhere near a Euchre tournament (where table talk is discouraged). Also, don’t pout because I teased you in the last paragraph if you’re a Baptist. I know you all are taking some hits lately, but you’re still leading the way at many of the global frontiers of the gospel. I’d be honored to drink sweet tea around a campfire with you.Do: Learn some language.
Of course it’s better to learn from native speakers. But it’s less embarrassing to learn from an app. Drops is my current favorite. I’m getting a few minutes of Italian each day. Ever so slowly it’s adding up. I challenge you to beat my best streak, 29 days.
Don’t: Be obnoxious with your little bit of language, por favor (or as I might put it, per favore).Do: Venture into another culture.
Check out a local cultural festival or visit a mosque. Again, if you’re reading this soon after publication, you might be able to join in some end-of-Ramadan festivities. The fast wraps up on June 14th.
Don’t: Just do this on your own. You have friends who want summer fun. Take them along.Do: Take a newcomer on a field trip.
Take some international students or newly arrived refugees out into the wild. Depending on where the newcomers have come from, you might have the honor of taking them on their first canoe trip or giving them their first opportunity to venture into nature or a major league ball park.Do: Look for some local speaking opportunities.
If this is in your wheelhouse, now may be your chance. Pastors go to the lake sometimes. Offer to fill in and then knock it out of the park. If kids are more your gig, be a Sunday school sub or pitch in for VBS.Do: Stretch your mind as well as your body.
Read some things that are fun, helpful, and maybe a bit outside your standard fare. You could take a thoughtful stroll through the challenging and profound pages of Ecclesiastes. I’d love to have you check out my weekly email, Muslim Connect, which helps us make sense of the Muslim world. I’d also like you invite you to join me in reading John Eldredge’s recent book, All Things New.
If summer allows you to dip into fiction, let me recommend the profound and gut-wrenching journey of All the Light We Cannot See.Do: Take some time to listen.
Listen to someone who came back from a summer mission trip. Maybe they didn’t go where you would have gone or do what seems to be the most valuable work, but they may have had a profound or challenging experience. Hug them, ask good questions, and nudge them to consider how this summer fits in to all the summers ahead that God will give them.Finally, one more don’t:
Don’t forget that God loves and delights in you. I’m so grateful we get to share in this calling, this adventure of joining with Jesus in seeing his abundant life extended to all peoples.
Have a great summer (or winter, for our South African, Aussie, Kiwi, and other Southern hemisphere colleagues).
- WORLD: Meet Real People Caught Up in the Refugee Crisis
- MYANMAR: Trapped Christians Reach Safety in Dramatic Escape
- USA: A Look at Refugee Foster Care
- ASIA: First Believer in the Valley
- INDIA: Pastor Beaten and Left for Dead Survives to Keep on Serving
World Refugee Day is coming up this month (June 20). This edition of Missions Catalyst includes stories about people on the move, including refugees, internally displaced people, and even nomads starting to settle down.
Where will tomorrow’s refugees and immigrants come from? The Fragile States Index provides some clues. Wow, tons of data! Jordan is in the news this week, so I thought I’d see where it lands with some of the indicators. Use the site to look up countries that interest you. (Thanks to Brigada for the tip.)
Flowing Data has some maps of what the US would look like if Americans returned to the lands of their ancestors. Every dot represents one person.
Finally, even as we pray for those in messy and challenging situations, we can celebrate good things that are happening throughout our broken world. Consider the story of the young man in France whose daring deed was rewarded with the gratitude of his host nation (Muslim Connect).
Source: International Mission Board, May 21, 2018
Every day thirty-four thousand people flee their homes to escape famine, poverty, and war. Every day thousands of families become refugees. But those are just numbers. And numbers don’t move us. Real stories of real people do. That’s why Human Flow, an epic documentary by the provocative Chinese contemporary artist and activist Ai Weiwei, is so powerful and so important.
The scale and devastation of the global refugee crisis is expansive, but Weiwei is an able guide, taking viewers around the world and introducing us to real people—real image-bearers of God—along the way. He doesn’t focus on the causes of the crisis; rather, he offers a compelling and compassionate window into a world of deep suffering.
“Being a refugee is much more than a political status. It is the most perverse kind of cruelty that can be exercised against a human being.”
The film takes viewers through twenty-three countries, asking us to witness the suffering that forces people to flee their homelands.
» While a record number of the earth’s inhabitants are on the move, many former nomads are settling down to give their children a better life. Read about or watch a documentary on The Last Nomads of Morocco (Al Jazeera).
Source: Barnabas Fund, May 22, 2018
Two thousand Kachin Christians, who were trapped in the jungle by the Myanmar (Burmese) Army have now reached safety, traveling on foot and by elephant.
Barnabas Fund contacts report that although they are now free and safe, many are still in desperate need and thousands of Kachin have taken shelter in churches. There is also the threat of further attacks by the military: “Please continue to pray for the Kachin. The Burmese Army have sent more troops to other Kachin areas, and we are expecting a new flood of attacks and refugees soon when the rainy season starts.”
Attacks by the army, which began in April, trapped around 2,000 Kachin Christian civilians in the jungle of northern Myanmar, with the total number of Kachin displaced estimated to be as high as 10,000. Those who fled, including new mothers and the elderly, have mostly traveled without any mechanized transport through thick jungle. Several are reported to have been injured by landmines.
» See also Fulani Violence against Nigeria Christians Hits Record High (World Watch Monitor). Note that this story reflects not just a clash of religions but also the age-old conflict between farmers and herdsmen. We would do well to pray for persecutors as well as persecuted.
Source: Mission Network News, May 28, 2018
More than half of the refugees worldwide are children, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Many have been separated from their families or their parents can’t provide for them, leaving them in hopeless situations.
However, seeing the desperate situation of these children, Bethany Christian Services is helping to change their lives through their Refugee Foster Care Program.
“We have kiddos coming in from Central America. We have kids from Ethiopia, the Republic of the Congo. We have kiddos from Afghanistan in our program. Right now, we have a huge need for foster families to be able to open their home, their hearts to give our kids an opportunity to be part of their family,” [says Bethany’s Ana Jose].
After refugee children have fled their home country and end up in refugee camps, Bethany receives their referrals and helps to get them processed, then brings them to the United States to live with a loving foster family. Jose says there are millions and millions of refugee children who are in need of foster care. Bethany receives up to 60 referrals every week.
» Also read an interesting story about artists who paint portraits of Syrian children caught up in the refugee crisis (World Vision).
Source: United World Missions, May 2018
For the past few years, we’ve been taking groups from the States to areas in the mountains with hundreds of pockets of unengaged, unreached minority peoples.
In 2016, we had an American leader come to see what this was all about and decide whether or not his congregation would get involved. We took him and some others high up in the mountains (14,000+ feet) in a very rural area where many of the villages consist of only a few homes. As they were driving through a village, the leader pointed west up another valley and asked what was up there. We didn’t know. A very outdoorsy person, he asked to be dropped off and allowed to hike up there by himself for the day.
At the end of the day they picked him up. He said he had hiked, worshiped, and prayed up the valley. At one point he had been invited into a home. These people didn’t speak any English, and he didn’t speak their language, but they had a great time drinking tea together. He prayed for and blessed the home before he left. After the trip, he decided his congregation would adopt that valley.
The next summer we were holding the semi-annual English camps which take place in our city for students from these mountain groups. One of the students, Z, trusted in God during the camp. Afterward, he needed a ride back home, so one of our colleagues gave him a ride back to his very remote village. His home was the same one that the leader had visited a year before. Z became the first believer in his valley.
» Full story.
Source: Open Doors, May 27, 2018
The Church in India is growing at an unprecedented rate, with village church pastors forging a burgeoning movement. In January 2015, more than 1 million people converted to Christianity at a single-tent revival event. Increasingly, the leaders of these churches are bearing the brunt of persecution in India, often finding themselves the first target of Hindu extremists, especially when extremists begin to see the impact of these leaders and their passion to share the gospel.
When Hindu nationalists learned Pastor Tilak’s ministry had led 40 families to Christ, they urged the Naxalites, a communist insurgency group in India, to silence him.
» See full story with picture and prayer points. This man went through a lot! Can anyone help us verify the conversion claim in the second sentence?
» See also the infographic Profiles of Some of Today’s Heroes of the Faith (INcontext Ministries). Note that it seems to be two pages long (two separate images).
Missions Catalyst Resource Reviews 05.23.18
- PRAYER GUIDE: The 31 Largest Frontier People Groups
- ARTICLE: 30-Day Spiritual Preparation Guide for Your Mission Trip
- BOOKS: A Good Missions Intro
- BOOK: Engaging the Church to Mobilize Missionaries
- EVENTS: What’s Coming up in June
Samuel Zwemer said, “The history of missions is the history of answered prayer.” This video, part of a series on best practices for mission mobilization, makes a case for the priority of mobilizing prayer in our missions mobilization efforts (GlobalCAST Resources). Take a look, then check out some of their other resources.
This was on my mind when I heard from a group of like-minded people in Southeastern Europe—gearing up for focused disciple-making efforts in Bosnia—who are currently seeking at least 10,000 people to join them in prayer. Watch a short video about it or learn more at Pray4Bosnia.com.
Faithfulness in prayer can have a much more local face as well. Watch Drive-Thru Prayers to learn how one group of believers offering a unique ministry to their Texas community (Deidox Austin).
Keep reading for more tools to help you learn, grow, or equip others.
Source: Inherit the Nations
A quarter of the world’s people are part of what this booklet calls frontier people groups, those with virtually no believers and no evident movement to Jesus bringing God’s promised blessings to families. Half of that population belongs to these 31 groups… some of which many of us may know nothing about.
Will you pray for them? How about adopting a group to pray for this year? Looks like most of the information in this resource is drawn from the Joshua Project website, but it’s framed with additional commentary.
» See also the International Day for the Unreached website where you can watch the IDU 2018 broadcast (90 minutes), download a Great Commission Action Guide, and more.
Source: Missions Catalyst readers
Recently Brad in Michigan asked, “What book do you recommend to a church when they need a short general intro to missions? Who writes this stuff in a really good way?”
Much depends on what you hope to accomplish and the interests and attention span of your audience, but consider these 15 suggestions. I’ll just list them alphabetically by author.
1. Steve Beirn’s Well Sent: Reimagining the Church’s Missionary Sending Process (read our review)
2. Paul Borthwick’s A Mind for Missions: Ten Ways to Build Your World Vision
3. Paul Borthwick’s How to Be a World-Class Christian: Becoming Part of God’s Global Kingdom
4. Mike Breen’s Building a Discipleship Culture
5. Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert’s When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor… and Yourself
6. Kevin DeYoung’s What Is the Mission of the Church? Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission
7. J.D. Greear’s Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches that Send
8. David Horner’s When Missions Shapes the Mission: You and Your Church Can Reach the World (read our review)
9. Jason Mandryk’s Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation (read our review)
10. Paul McGuiness’ Walk This Way: A Better Path to Global Engagement (read our review)
11. Richard Noble’s On Mission Together: Integrating Missions into the Local Church (due out this fall; we’ll try to review it for you then)
12. John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions
13. Denny Spitters and Matthew Ellison’s When Everything Is Missions (read our review)
14. Richard Stearns’s The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us?
15. Storyline: Discovering Your Story in God’s Global Mission (read our review)
» See our Google doc for links and comments. What would you add?
Source: William Carey Library
Pipeline: Engaging the Church in Missionary Mobilization, by David and Lorene Wilson. William Carey Library, 2018. 368 pages.
This one just came out May 1. Unlike the volumes mentioned above, it’s built around contributions from some 40 cross-cultural workers and church and agency leaders, many sharing firsthand accounts from their ministry experiences.
This book addresses a wide variety of topics for sending churches, including the call to missions, obstacles to overcome, mobilizing and equipping the church to send missionaries, and partnering with organizations. One disclaimer: I haven’t read it yet. Have you? Let me know what you think.
Source: Missions Catalyst Events Calendar
June 1-2, People Raising Conference (Oak Brook, IL, USA). Be equipped for raising personal support.
June 2-3, World Weekend of Prayer for Children at Risk (international). Coordinated by the Viva Network.
June 4-15, Engaging Islam Institute (Beirut, Lebanon). Training event from Horizons International.
June 4 to September 2, Encountering the World of Islam (online).
June 5-6, Support Raising Bootcamp (Orlando, FL, USA). Provided by Support Raising Solutions.
June 7-9, Emerge Business Summit (Colorado Springs, CO, USA). Be affirmed, confirmed, and empowered to do missional business in nations.
June 18-22, Christian Community Development Conference (Stuttgart, Germany).
June 20, World Refugee Day (international). Many churches observe this with prayer the Sunday before or after.
June 20-23, Field Security Seminar (Lake George, CO, USA). Prepare to live, work, and travel in high-risk environments.
June 20-30, Breath Conference (Wilderswil, Switzerland). Rest and renewal retreat for cross-cultural workers.
June 21-23, National African-American Missions Conference (McLean, VA, USA).
June 26-28, Amplify Conference (Naperville, IL, USA). Evangelism conference from the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College.
June 27-30, Illuminate Missions Conference (Greenwood, IN, USA). Sponsored by One Mission Society.
June 27-30, International Conference on Computing and Missions (Hannibal, MO, USA).
» View the complete calendar. Please let us know about mistakes or omissions. For more details, contact the event organizers.
Source: Sagemont Church, via the Traveling Team
In the midst of getting a passport, raising support, and packing a suitcase for a mission trip, it’s easy to forget the most important form of preparation: spiritual preparation. This 30-day Bible reading guide is designed to help you do just that. Take at least 15 minutes a day to read each passage, meditate on its truths, and pray for your upcoming trip.
» Get the guide. Just a web page; nothing to buy, register for, or download.
Missions Catalyst News Briefs 05.16.18
- WORLD: Celebrate Cultural Diversity Day
- PAKISTAN: Top Judge to Hear Asia Bibi’s Appeal
- INDONESIA: Family Launches Suicide Attacks
- BURKINA FASO: Patriarch Banned from Village, Comes to Christ
- WEST AFRICA: “God, We Need Rain Today”
This edition includes several stories from Africa—now, for the first time, home to more Christians than any other continent. Full infographic from Gordon-Conwell’s Center for the Study of Global Christianity looks at the global status of Christianity in 2018.
Source: Wycliffe Bible Translators, May 10, 2018
Did you know that May 21 is World Day of Cultural Diversity? It’s a day set aside to celebrate and appreciate the beauty of cultural diversity around the world.
God made all of us and he loves us all so much—no matter where we live or what language we speak! Teach your kids the importance of valuing diversity—and all God’s children around the world—with these fun ideas on experiencing another culture right from your own community (PDF).
» Full story. Want to start celebrating cultural diversity in your kitchen? Download Wycliffe’s new international cookbook for kids. When you sign up, you’ll also get their monthly email with free activities and lessons for kids.
» Also read Saying Yes First, the story of one Texas church transformed into a multicultural community (AG News). Encouraging. This issue of News Briefs ends with another story from the Assemblies of God. See below.
Source: World Watch Monitor, April 26, 2018
Pakistan’s chief justice says he will decide, “soon,” the fate of Aasiya Noreen, a Christian woman whose 2009 conviction on blasphemy charges has fixated world attention on the country’s treatment of religious minorities.
Chief Justice Saqib Nisar told Noreen’s lawyer, Saif-ul-Malook, on April 21 that he would hear the woman’s appeal. Noreen, popularly known as Asia Bibi, has been imprisoned since 2009.
“Be ready, Saif-ul-Malook. I am going to fix your case soon and I myself will preside over the bench,” the Catholic news service UCAN reported Nisar as saying.
“Bibi’s family and everyone else who understands her ordeal [is] ecstatic at the news that her appeal will be heard soon,” Malook told UCAN. According to Pakistan Today, the Chief Justice also said that all criminal appeals before the Supreme Court will be decided by July. The report did not explicitly mention Noreen’s case, but it is a criminal matter.
Noreen, a Catholic mother of five children, was arrested for allegedly making derogatory comments about Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, during an argument with a Muslim woman. She has been in prison ever since and was sentenced to death for blasphemy a year later.
» See full story with links and pictures.
» Grieved about levels of religious conflict in today’s world? Read Four Simple Ways to Love your Muslim Friends this Ramadan (Crescent Project).
Source: Open Doors, May 13, 2018
As we [were celebrating] Mother’s Day in the US, it’s almost unconscionable to think about a mother who would prepare a suicide bomb—alongside her two young daughters (aged 9 and 12)—and detonate the bomb inside a church. And a father who would drive a truck bomb in front of a church and do the same—and direct his young sons to suit up in suicide vests on motorcycles to attack yet another church.
But this is what happened in Indonesia on Sunday.
Three bombs exploded across three churches in Indonesia’s Surabaya, capital of East Java province, on Sunday morning (May 13) while Christians gathered to worship.
At least ten people were killed in the attack—including worshippers, a suicide bomber, and several police officers. Over 40 others were injured.
CNN reported that the attacks were planned and executed by one family—including a husband, wife, and four children. The investigation reported that the family was involved in a terrorist group with ties to ISIS.
The explosions took place at a Catholic church (Santa Maria), a Protestant church (GKI Diponegoro), and a Pentecostal church (GPPS). CNN also reported that the blasts occurred one after another between 7:30 and 8 a.m. Three other explosives were later found at two of the church premises but were successfully defused by the bomb squad.
» Read full story. Note that later reports say the youngest daughter of this family, who survived, was eight years old, not nine.
» For more context and local commentary, see Indonesia on Maximum Security Alert Following a String of Explosions in East Java (Global Voices). Also read a more encouraging story from Indonesia, about a Christian worker now serving there. God began planting seeds for gospel ministry in her heart when she was younger than these children (Weave).
Source: Christian Aid, April 26, 2018
A six-year-old girl had mysteriously died and Bwaba tribal leaders [performed] a divination ritual to determine what had provoked local spirits to commit such an outrage. A shadow fell on [90-year-old] Adama [whom] they accused of employing witchcraft to bring a deadly disease on the girl.
The traditions of the animist village called for him to be expelled for two years to verify his guilt; if he managed to survive in the wilds, he would be declared innocent and could return.
For more than a month he managed to survive on leaves and grass along with meat that a daring granddaughter snuck to him, and for shelter, he’d attached a blanket to tree branches. But the solitude, the elements and the psychological trauma soon took their toll. Gaunt and broken, he was cursing some rocks when indigenous missionaries spied him.
“He learned about the love of God… and decided to follow that God of love who gave his life for the salvation of humanity,” the [ministry] director said. “All our missionary training centers were praying God would completely restore his dignity. Two months later, the villagers discovered the real reasons for the death of the girl, and that it had nothing to do with him.”
Village leaders admitted they were mistaken in putting blind trust in occult practices and invited Adama to return. He began leading a house church, and three village leaders put their faith in Christ.
“They were baptized four months ago,” the director said. “The leaders of the village decided to abandon the divination practices, which had made so many victims. Now four families, including the family of the village chief, praise the Lord.”
» You might want to take a look at a photo essay about animism in nearby Ghana, Power in the Blood: Animal Sacrifice in West Africa (International Mission Board). The images are compelling and not too graphic.
Source: AG News, May 2, 2018
Every weekend that I am able, I visit my friend’s farm, buried deep in the West African brush. This simple place is the perfect place to build our relationship. Each time we are together, I intentionally move our conversation closer to the gospel. It’s not easy, though, because my friend and I do not speak the same language. I speak English and he speaks the African language of our target unreached people group. I am trying hard to learn his language and am getting better every week.
My goal one particular week was to pray next to him. He is Muslim and prays five times a day. This time, as he was getting ready to pray, I asked him if I could pray with him. He said yes. So, while he went through all his motions, I stood next to him in a very respectful form that he would recognize as prayer and then proceeded to pray (in his language) just loud enough for him to hear the words, “Our Heavenly Father… In the name of Jesus the Messiah. Amen.”
Later that day my friend and I visited a neighboring village. It was miles further into the bush with no electricity, no running water, and no paved roads to get there. While we were there, we sat with the village chief for some time. My friend and the chief were enjoying the visit; I listened in as much as I could but was essentially lost in the flow of conversation.
Soon though, the village chief said, “We need rain badly.” My Muslim friend pointed to me and announced, “He can pray to God.” So, the village chief proceeded to ask me to pray for rain—in his language—and for it to rain today. Despite the obvious pressure of being asked to pray for immediate rain in a language I barely know, that is what I did. My friend, the chief, and others listening all seemed grateful for my prayer.
As we returned to the farm, I prayed all the way. “God, we need rain today!” I kept praying for rain while I was at the farm. I looked to the sky and saw clouds. I prayed again, “God, we need more clouds up there. We need rain today!” Later, I heard thunder and started to get very excited. Then came more thunder, and then came the rain—lots and lots of rain! Thank God for his goodness! I can’t wait to visit that village again soon.
» Heading to Africa? Check out Acclimated to Africa: Cultural Competence for Westerners (SIL). It looks helpful.
George Verwer image: Facebook.Messiology: Five practical principles for mission mobilizers from OM’s George Verwer
By Shane Bennett
You know those people you really wish you could hang out with? Heroes beyond your reach? Maybe you’ll shake their hand or get a picture with them, but there’s no way they’re going to be weekly-get-together, maybe-go-camping-in-the-fall kind of friends. George Verwer, founder of Operation Mobilization, is like that for me. We go way back: I can literally remember stuff he told me (and 17,000 others) at Urbana in 1983. Later talks and books of his have shaped me in significant ways.
Right now I’m really jealous of the guy. I just read a book he wrote called Messiology, and I so wish I’d come up with that term! I love it! I wonder if I was sleeping or deep in a must-watch episode of The Office when God was handing out “messiology” and I missed it. More likely he knew George would hit it out of the park. And so he has.
I love this little book and want to do just two things in today’s Practical Mobilization:
- Point out some ways the book speaks particularly to mobilizers.
- Convince you to get a copy or five.
Celebrity crush alert: I emailed George to ask for a deal on the book for you all and he wrote me back! Read on, or really, (since this isn’t your first-ever email!), skip down to the end for the deal.What Is Messiology?
George says, “Put simply, messiology is the idea that God in His patience, mercy, and passion to bring men and women to Himself often does great things in the midst of a mess… Over the course of 57 years in over 90 countries and thousands of churches and other organizations, I have often observed some kind of mess with them. Sometimes clear sin is involved that needs to be repented of. Other times it’s just silly stuff. I have said, and I feel it strongly, that no matter how filled we are with the Holy Spirit, we are still human. Our humanness has its beautiful side and its messy side.”
Pause for a second. Any messes your life and work right now? If you’re at all like me, this probably doesn’t require a lot of mulling over. Likely a few popped into your head instantly. George is right when he says, “Where two or three are gathered together in His Name, sooner or later there will be a mess.”
Here are five things from this little book that I think are particularly helpful for us as we advocate for God’s purposes among the nations, work in the roles he has given us, and deal with the messes we—and sometimes others—have made.1. We’ll never fully “get” God.
That God works in spite of and sometimes by means of the messes in our lives rests on the mystery and mercy of a great God. Verwer says, “The last verses of Romans 11 have helped me again and again: Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and unfathomable his ways.”
The stamp of God on creation, on every bit of life we’re connected to, is both broader, deeper, and more subtle than we imagine. In a way that is both stunning and uncomfortable, I’m reminded that I comprehend only the tiniest slice of the great work of God at any moment. I pray for grace to be duly humble.2. God didn’t ask me to sign off on who he uses.
Joel Osteen? Pope Francis? Nigerians? Hard-core Calvinists? Americans? Apparently, God doesn’t feel the need to have me vet everyone he chooses to work in and through. I don’t get this: How can perhaps-mistaken people be used by a good God to raise up honest disciples? It boggles the mind!
But clearly, the circle God draws and labels, “these are building my kingdom” is bigger than the one I’d draw, and I tend to think I’m pretty open in this area. I once nearly lost a long-term worker I was recruiting because I was not strong enough on some beliefs. (You’ll have to guess or ask which ones!)
Is it possible we can become so enamored with our view, our dogma, or our history that we assume God does not work outside of it? Is it possible that we waste valuable time writing papers, making videos, holding meetings all primarily designed to point out how other people are wrong? All the while many of those “wrong” people and “wrong” methods are tools in the hands of a wise and powerful God, so intent on accomplishing his purposes of gathering people to himself, that he can and does use them! And we don’t see it.
Neither George nor I advocate that we abandon truth, but rather rejoice in the deeper truth, the mystery of a powerful God who accomplishes his purposes through a more diverse set of humanity than we might be comfortable with.3. Critical people annoy me to no end.
Seems wherever you look, Facebook, online and print publications, public forums, pulpits and stages, people are constantly being critical. “This ministry isn’t committed to the Bible.” “That church is too extreme.” Really, what is wrong with people? Do they not own a Bible? Maybe they never open it. Don’t they have anything better to do than complain and criticize?
Oh, hang on: “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me…!”
It is so easy for me to snip and bite, casually pointing out the shortcomings of some and the extravagances of others. In my younger days, I wasn’t even subtle: “No Christian should own a Range Rover. It’s just a ridiculous status symbol.” As I’ve gotten older and put childish ways behind me, I’ve sadly gotten more sophisticated in my criticism. Dang it! But God has mercifully reminded me through the valiant Verwer to ease up on knocking people down.
No church is perfect, few supporters respond as quickly as we like, every agency drops the ball, all of us fall short of what we might be. Thank God his grace abounds.4. I should say “I’m sorry” much more often.
Want to join me in this? Honestly. Not in an “I’m sorry you felt bad when I did that” kind of way. More of an “I dropped the ball; I failed to respond in on time; I lied to you because I was embarrassed about my mistake” kind of way.
There are times when, in an effort to be funny, I say things that are not honoring. Other times I’m arrogant and self-aggrandizing because I want to be looked at and liked. And sadly, I sometimes overlook or demean people because I don’t see how they serve my purpose.
I’m sorry.5. Let’s love more, even when it hurts.
I cannot imagine the criticism and abuse George Verwer and his wife Drena have dealt with over the years. One of my favorite leadership quotes is, “If you want to be a leader, you’d better get used to the sight of your own blood.” I suppose the Verwers know it well.
May God give us the grace to love people when they fail us. When they impugn our motives. When they relentlessly attack, causing pain to us or worse, to ones we hold dear.
This mobilization stuff, this completing the Great Commission, it’s messy. We know that, don’t we? Thank you, George, for the happy reminder that God is big enough, good enough, and intent enough to work out his purposes for us and the world, in spite of—even through—the messes.About the Book About the Book
In my best George Verwer impersonation, “I beg of you, I implore you, get five copies of this book. Read one, give four away. If you’ll just write me, I’ll send them to you for free, that’s how much I love literature!”
Really though, get this book. If you don’t have any money, ask for a free copy. If you have some money, pay a dollar a copy (10% of the Amazon price). If you have a ton of money, bless George!