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.