“Missions” revisited

At the age of 14, I gave my life to full time ministry after watching a documentary on TV about a tribe in a jungle that talked around the campfire about the “creator spirit” who spoke to his reflection in a pool of water, and the reflection stepped out of the water to become man. While watching this with my father, he pointed out the similarity in their tribal tale to the Biblical account of God “creating man in His image.” It felt like God was laying on me the task of taking the Gospel to this people group one day. I’m not honestly sure where exactly this tribe was from, but that they needed to hear the whole story.

I enrolled in Bible college in August of 2000 as a “Missions” major in order to go reach some people group I had never met or even heard of halfway across the planet. I was young, driven, and impatient to go. Halfway through college I started noticing the startling trend of my generation leaving church. I was shaken by the statistics and wondered where my real priorities lay. God began to add to the stress I was feeling. I couldn’t shake my generation here in the states from my mind. I surrendered to being more open about God’s calling on my life in 2003, but at heart, still wanted to go to the mission field.

6 years later, and I’ve been working at Edgewood for over 1 year and was beginning the work of starting our Saturday night service, The Awakening. I started reading up on building new ministries and specifically church planting, as it related to what we were trying to do on many levels. One book was Planting Missional Churches by Ed Stezter. It was in this book that Stetzer makes the connection between foreign missions and ministry here in the states. The book described the process that we go through to reach another people group in a different culture: learn the language, learn the culture, adapt to the customs, relate but don’t try to imitate, find common ground, meet the outward needs, communicate the Gospel in a way they can comprehend and connect to. But when it came to our own culture, we seldom got it right. They learn our language, culture, and customs first. Meeting outward needs is considered “superficial”. Many churches refuse to find any common ground to relate to at all, or they imitate to the point of having no distinction. Result: The Gospel is unappealing to our culture, because the people sharing it appear more interested in advancing an agenda than reaching a life.

It was as if God spoke to me to say, “See! I want you to be a missionary to your own generation. You’ve even got a head start on language school!” God used missions to turn my heart to one of the largest, most unreached people groups. As it turns out, they live all around me. I find that it’s easier for us to have compassion on people who we’ve never met, who live thousands of miles away, than to look to the needs of the people we see everyday. If we want to do missions, we don’t need a telescope to see around the world. We need a living room window. Sometimes we forget that we’re not a church that has a mission; we’re a mission that has a church.

John

If I only get one thing right…

I have about a dozen BIG goals for my life (in no particular order):

  • Love my kids, and teach them to be good adult followers of Christ.
  • Pastor for 30+ years.
  • Train up another generation of church leaders.
  • Be a voice that calls my generation to it’s potential.
  • Be a part of a national/worldwide revival.
  • Start churches on every inhabited continent.
  • Lead without a paycheck one day…
  • Give more than half of my total life’s earnings away.

And I pray for these things daily. These are not just goals and wishful thoughts. I want to see each of these things happen one day. But I made a decision about 12 years ago that still guides me and is at the heart of everything I do. By now, someone is thinking up some great spiritual answer like, “Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind.” Yeah, but that’s more of a mission statement than a goal.

If I fail at everything I set my heart and mind to do, Oh Lord, let me succeed at this one thing – to love 1 woman my whole life. Unconditional,ly passionately, unwavering, uncompromising. And earn her love in return.

I love the church. I love the calling that God has placed on my life, to serve in ministry. I love the people that I get to serve with, both here at Edgewood and around the world. I couldn’t picture doing anything else with my life (which is great, cause I’m not good at alot of other things). But every thing else pales in comparison to my undying love and commitment to my first calling: Tiffany Markum.

I love you, sweetheart. Besides Jesus, you’re the best thing God ever gave me.

Your husband

The GOOD in man

I have to retrain the way I see people. Allow me to explain…

Church, as I have known it for the majority of my life, has had a bad outlook on humanity at large. From a spiritual standpoint, we would argue the “depravity” of mankind as evidenced by our observations of society. The world is full of sin, crime, hate, and immorality. To be sure, Scripture supports that condition of the world. But what is so startling, is that according to the Gospel that Jesus-freaks like me claim to believe, God loves this world. Not to say that He loves what this world is doing to itself, but He nonetheless loves “the world.” Every stranger to me, every rude person in traffic, every loud mouth in the checkout line ahead of me wasting my time, every adulterer, liar, white-collar criminal, religious hypocrite, drunkard, and promiscuous teenager is a soul that God values.

Counter to what some Bible “scholars” may state, there is something in humanity that God loves, desires, and finds good in. Genesis 1:26 tells us that God created man “in His image,” and despite the sin, rebellion, and brokenness of our planet, God finds something good in each human being simply because we bear His image. Marred, muddied, and cracked as it may be, we resemble our Creator. While no amount of noble attempts can change our eternal destination apart from Christ, there are moments of good in human beings: charities to cure disease and provide sustenance, strangers helping strangers, even little courtesies hint of the moral conscience imbued to man by their Creator. And sinful and broken as man may be, God finds pleasure in cleansing, restoring, and remaking His fallen creation into the image of His Son.

On a personal level, what does that mean for me and you? Do I tolerate all of the “miserable sinners” that make up my world? Or do I see inside of each stranger that I encounter the image of their Creator who loves them beyond human comprehension? Do I maintain an us/them mentality to the world? Or do I realize that according to Ephesians 2:1-5 that I am the same as them apart from Christ?

When I choose to see the image of God in every person, I am better enabled to love them like Christ loves them. And my ability to share the Gospel, and effectiveness in doing so increases. We often say that we want to see people the God sees them… so why don’t we?

 

John