Everywhere, With Everyone, All The Time

By Scott Armstrong

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deut. 11:18-19).

(Read Deuteronomy 11:18-21, 26-28)

As a missionary—and sports fan—who lived in Guatemala several years ago, I discovered that Guatemala hasn’t really found out that there are many other sports outside of soccer.  They love their soccer, and players for the national team are heroes after a big win.  After an especially big victory over Costa Rica, I listened to the commentator on the radio excitedly praise the player who had scored both goals.  I can still hear him encourage the listeners in Spanish to “Bring Juan Carlos Plata into your home!  He deserves a place in the kitchen!  In the living room!  Talk about him in the morning, afternoon, and night!  Tell your kids what he just did for Guatemala!” 

Although that seems a little bit ridiculous, our verses for today point us in a similar direction.  This time, however, it is God’s Word that we should think about and talk about during the day.  His words and commands should be “fixed in our hearts and minds,” talked about “when you lie down and when you get up.”  Both parents and kids should live and breathe his Word 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  We should all be familiar with what he did for us and how his Word instructs us in our daily life.

Does this mean we can’t talk about anything else but the Bible? Are we just supposed to walk around high school and chant memory verses? Of course not.  But it does mean that we’re not just getting into God’s Word every day; it’s getting into you.  Sometimes we hurry through our two minutes of devotions and ten minutes later can’t remember what we read.  According to today’s passage, that is pretty far from what God wants for our lives!

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Is God’s Word in you or are you barely getting into God’s word each day? Is it a part of you or is it the essence of who you are? With all of the pressures of being a teen, it might be hard to imagine yourself just soaking his word in like a sponge soaks in water.  But it will make a world of difference.  When Jesus experienced the toughest of times, God’s Word was so much inside him that he oozed Scripture (Luke 4:1-13).  What would happen if you took with you today the verses you just read and carried them in your mind and heart throughout all of the activities, stresses, and temptations of the next 24 hours? It might just change your attitudes, conversations, and the way you react to tough situations.  Why don’t we find out? Read those verses again and ask God to help put them under your skin and into your heart and life today.

15 Things I Want To Tell My Third Culture Kids

By Rachel Pieh Jones

I get to visit two of our Third Culture Kids in four days. And then in eleven days they will be ‘home’ for thirty days. Life is good. Until forty-five days from now. No, it will be good then too, just quieter and slightly more teary.

Part of me hesitates to hit the publish button today, it feels private. Is the internet the place for these things? But part of me thinks I’m not the only parent overwhelmed and honored and pumped up about raising TCKs. And this part of me wants to acknowledge that alongside other parents and our kids and to share in all the emotions of it. So here is some of what I want to say, and have said, to my own TCKs…

  1. You are the coolest kids on the planet. You cliff-jump and climb up and then down into active volcanoes. You flew internationally on your own before becoming a teenager. You sleep under the stars on the beach and know how to pee on a toilet or in a hole or behind a bush or where-there-is-no-bush.
  2. I know it is hard. I watched you, proud and teary, the first day of school when you didn’t know how to count to ten in French and on the first day of school in America when you didn’t know how to eat lunch in a cafeteria. I see your moments of hesitation when kids talk about something you don’t understand. I saw your shoulders droop that day you wore your traditional Djiboutian dress to church and then, once you saw how other kids were dressed, asked if you could take it off. I hear all three of you refer to a different place as home. 
  3. I don’t know what it is like. I know what it is like to parent a TCK but I don’t know what it is like to be a TCK. I’ve read books and listened to talks and attended seminars but you are forging a path I have not walked. I’ve got your back and I’ve got a box full of Kleenex and an ache in my belly from our shared laughter. I do not know what your particular journey is like but I will hold your hand, fierce, until the very end. 
  4. I am sorry for the things this life has taken from you. The names of all the friends you have said good-bye to are branded in my mind. Grandparents and cousins at your birthday parties and school events. The feeling of belonging to a specific place, house, culture, language. A mom who can be a parent chaperone without having an accent. Sports and musical and academic activities at which you naturally excel but will never fully experience. 
  5. I am thrilled for the things this life has given you. Adventure and a wide-cracked-open worldview. The opportunity to trust God when nothing around makes sense or when everything around makes sense. Friends all over the world of diverse faith and languages and skin colors and food preferences and economic levels. Multiple language fluency. Creativity and the intrinsic ability to look outside the box, to see from another person’s perspective. Real gratitude, stemming from an understanding that things are fleeting, gratitude for relationships and for time spent in togetherness. Adaptability. Courage. Courage. Courage. 

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  6. I want to hear from you. Tell me how hard it is, tell me the things you love, the things you wish were different, the things you would never change. I need to hear from you what it is like, I need you to be honest with me about the goods and the bads and then I need you to let me hold you. And I need you to hold me. 
  7. I cry for the choices we’ve made. And then I defend them with passion. It isn’t easy to parent a TCK, or any kind of kid, and I have wept tear-stains into our couches and our pillows and the shoulders of dad’s t-shirts. Sometimes I wonder if we have been crazy or irresponsible. But then I look at you and I cry again, good tears, because you are beautiful and complicated and deep and these choices have been part of forming you into you. 
  8. You are strong. You’ve been through evacuations and international moves and medical crises and hellos and goodbyes. You have tried new and scary things. You have laughed and cried but I haven’t heard you whine and complain. You have more than embraced life. 
  9. You are unique. No one else in the world has your story. And yet, you are part of an amazing community of people with stories similar to yours and stories different from yours, whom you can listen to and learn from. An oldie but a goodie. 
  10. You have built awesome memories. Remember the time you camped at Arta Plage and the flood came and the French military rescued you? Remember the time you carried baby God through the neighborhood in Balbala, head of a train of singing and clapping families? Remember meeting the Harlem Globe Trotters?
  11. You have grief. And that is okay, mom and dad are not afraid of it and we want carry it with you. 
  12. You are creative. 
  13. You are empathetic. 
  14. You are wise. 
  15. I am beyond proud of you.

You know that book, I Love You to the Moon? Well, I love you to Somaliland. And Kenya. And France. And Djibouti. And Minnesota. And anywhere else. And back.

This article was originally posted at: http://www.djiboutijones.com/2013/03/1-things-i-want-to-tell-my-third-culture-kids/

Five Ways to Invest in the Next Generation of Leaders – Part 2 of 2

This is part two of the article published in the previous post.

  1. See them as individuals and develop their gifts.

People have a deep desire to be known individually—their unique experiences, gifts, and passions. As you spend time with the next generation of leaders, point out what makes them unique and help them identify and develop their gifts and abilities. Encourage their strengths and affirm when you see them excelling in their gifts. When possible, provide roles to help them develop their strengths.

As I get to know the people in my new small group, I can’t wait to get a fuller picture of what makes each person unique, encouraging each one in their strengths. One young man has spunk and grit, and he will make a fierce leader one day. A young woman has wisdom beyond her years, and one day she will help an organization navigate wisely through a hard season. Yet another young man a free spirit, and one day he’ll remind the church to shake off our tired routines and fall in love with Jesus in a fresh new way. Each young person is made individually and by God for a unique impact in the world. I want to help each one move closer to their unique gifts and calling and watch them come alive.

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  1. Build relationships.

In Mark 3:14, Jesus didn’t just appoint the 12 disciples to go out—he appointed them “that they might be with him.” And Jesus didn’t just bring the disciples around when he was about to teach or perform a miracle. He shared meals with them, travelled with them, and met their families (Matthew 8:14).

The next generation of leaders look up to you, and want to know how you do what you do. They need to see who you are when you’re not in “ministry mode.” How do you balance work, family, and friends? How do you respond when you’re stressed? How do you take care of yourself? What does your marriage look like? Who are your closest friends, and how do you support one another?

Your greatest ministry doesn’t come from the stage. It comes when others witness the thousands of everyday moments when the character of Christ is being formed in you. Allow these young people to see your real life. They don’t just need to learn ministry skills; they need to develop the character that supports the work God wants to do in and through them. Invite them into your home for dinner, let them run errands with you, and provide an inside look into how God is at work in your everyday, messy, chaotic life.

  1. Take a risk and be okay with mess.

If you’re going to take a risk in ministry, let it be on believing in people. Development as a leader is messy and these young people will make mistakes along the way. With your care and guidance, those mistakes will turn into learning opportunities that propel them toward even greater leadership.

I was 23 when I started my first job working with a college ministry. I remember the first couple of times I taught at our weekly gathering, and I wince now to think of how it went. But since then, thanks to more and more opportunities to practice and receive feedback, I’ve grown to be much more confident and effective in teaching.

An omnipotent and omniscient God still chooses to work out His purposes through flawed humans because he knows that we’ll grow and develop to be even more effective leaders through the process. How much more should we be willing to take risks and give young people the chance to learn and grow! Reaffirm that you still believe in them, help them learn from their mistakes, and give them a seat at the table with you.

This article was originally posted at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/women-leaders/2017/march/five-ways-to-invest-in-next-generation-of-leaders.html

Five Ways to Invest in the Next Generation of Leaders – Part 1 of 2

By Laura Copeland

Practical tips for raising up more people in ministry

Recently, I started helping with a small group for university students. I’m only a few weeks in, but I’m already in love with them. They’re smart, passionate, kind, creative, and fun to be around. They are crazy about Jesus, and they love the church. They love deeply and care for each other incredibly well. When I look around this small group of students, I see unlimited potential.

As we were leaving after our second meeting, one of them asked me, “Are you sure you want to take us on as a small group? I mean, we’re a little crazy.” I smiled, and told her I wouldn’t have it any other way. As I drove home, I started dreaming and praying about how to help them unleash their God-given gifts to make an even greater impact in the world. These students are the future of the church, and that gives me incredible hope.

An essential ingredient for healthy leadership is the ability to raise up other leaders. This is discipleship at its best: raising up the next generation of leaders in the church who will carry on the mission and vision of Jesus. When we develop leaders, we take the cap off our own leadership capacity and exponentially increase our ability to influence the world around us through discipleship.

In my experience, I’ve found that this generation of young people eagerly look for people to invest in them and challenge them. Here are five tips to help you recruit and invest in the next generation of leaders:

  1. Believe in their potential.

Stop looking for existing leaders, and start looking for passion and natural influence. When he or she speaks up, do their peers listen? Does they ask questions and demonstrate interest in a particular area of ministry? If so, they are exactly who you need to spend more time with. They might not have experience, but maybe that’s because they haven’t been given a chance yet.

A person needs someone to believe in them and tell them they have what it takes. When I was starting out in ministry, I had an incredible boss who saw something in me that I couldn’t yet see in myself. He believed in me, and kept giving me new opportunities that stretched me and helped me grow. If he hadn’t believed in my potential, I would never have developed into the leader I am today. Give a young person the gift of believing in them self, and watch them rise to the occasion.

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  1. Recruit to vision, not to need.

Would you rather help set up chairs, or be part of creating an environment for genuine and authentic community where lives are changed? If we’re in event or ministry planning mode, we often see a list of tasks that need to be done. Then we go about trying to make sure all the tasks are completed. Sure, someone needs to set up chairs, but no one is inspired by that task! Instead, cast vision for how each task helps to accomplish the vision. Specifically, learn to cast vision for how your ministry changes lives.

I work with small groups, and I absolutely believe that small groups are the life of the church. If our small groups aren’t healthy, our church isn’t healthy. Whenever I meet someone who I think could be a potential volunteer, I start sharing my heart for small groups. If I see them get excited about the vision of healthy small groups, then I start sharing a little bit more about what our small-group ministry team does and ask if they would consider being part of how we’re changing lives through small groups. Always lead with vision, not needs. Once someone buys into your vision, they’ll be willing to meet any and every need that comes up. Show them the impact their life can have if they join your team, and you’ll find a loyal team member who will stick with you in the trenches.

This article will continue in the next post.

Towards Missional Effectiveness: The Movements of God’s Mission – Part 3 of 7

By Ed Stetzer

The mission of God is attractional and incarnational.

I don’t know why, but I have a fascination with yo-yos. Now, I can’t yo-yo. Nevertheless, I find it amusing and entertaining as a skilled yo-yoer (if I can use that term) cast the yo-yo out with great rhythmic force only to have it return with an energetic bounce to be cast back out and to come back to its starting place.

I often use the yo-yo and it’s movement as a way to describe God’s mission. Just as a yo-yo, when properly used, has a ‘going out’ and ‘coming in’ function, so too does God’s mission. Missiologists sometimes refer to this going out and coming in as the centripetal and centrifugal forces (movements) of God’s mission.

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The Centripetal Movement of God’s Mission

The centripetal movement (coming in) of God’s mission is most clearly seen in the Old Testament with the nation of Israel. God placed Israel in the middle of the nations. In the Promised Land they were called to be a light to the nations—to live so that the nations would be drawn to Jerusalem (see Exod. 19:5–6; Deut. 28:10; Isa. 49:6). As Israel embodied and enacted the life of God (i.e., the Kingdom of God), they were to be an ‘attractive sign’ to a watching world.

The centripetal movement of God’s mission remains as part of God’s missional call for the New Testament people of God. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught His followers, “You are the salt of the earth. . . . You are the light of the world. . . .[L]et you light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:13, 14, 16). Peter uses similar language found in his epistle (1 Pet. 2:9–12).

The centripetal force of mission expresses that mission isn’t only about going or doing (missions), it’s also about being. Thus, the identity and nature of God’s people manifested in the way they live out the cultural mandate, the Great Commandment, and their relationship with God becomes an attractional missional element among a lost and dying world.

The Centrifugal Movement of God’s Mission

The centrifugal movement (going out) of God’s mission is most clearly seen in the New Testament—although it is present in the OT in places like Joshua 2, Jeremiah 27 and 29, and Jonah. However, in a more pronounced way, Jesus introduces the paradigm shift of going out when He gives the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18–20; Acts 1:8).

The Great Commission teaches that God’s mission isn’t just local, but global. And it is not the globe’s responsibility to come to the area where the local church resides, but the church’s responsibility to go to the globe.

The Great Commission (as well as Acts 1:8) is commenced in the Book of Acts and is to be continued today. Rather than people coming to Jerusalem, the believers went out from Jerusalem. Some have taken Acts 1:8 and created a (centrifugal) missions strategy that includes local missions, domestic missions, and international missions.

While I think this is helpful, I would also like for us to think about Acts 1:8 as a cross-cultural, cross-ethnic, and cross-racial mission. In other words, the Jewish believers were to centrifugally cross cultural, ethnic, and racial boundaries in order to share the gospel with those far from God.

This is an important point for believers living in an urban context—not to mention for all Christians given that we live in a globalized world. Over the last half-century, our world has experienced urbanization—an influx of people moving into cities.

Thus, our cities and their metro-plexes contain much diversity—they are typically multicultural, multiethnic, and multiracial. And the reality is that diversity isn’t slowing down; if anything, it’s accelerating. Those living in or around urban centers may encounter their own Jerusalemites, Judeans, Samarians, and foreigners.

The following is a chart to help understand the differences between the diverse groups—which are not only found throughout the world, but also where we live, work, and play—the Church was and is centrifugally called to reach all, simultaneousy.

Note that Acts 1:8 is an outline of the book of Acts, not an order that we follow. In other words, we don’t first reach our Jerusalem, then our Judea, and so on.

We are already, now, at the ends of the earth. The mission is from everywhere and to everywhere.

But there are some things we can still learn about the kind of people we are to reach. Here’s one way to think of it.

  • Jerusalem – Any location within the daily sphere of influence of your community of faith.
  • Judea – Any location outside of the daily sphere of influence of your community of faith, but shares a common worldview.
  • Samaria – Any location outside of the daily sphere of influence of your community of faith that has a slightly differing worldview, are often unappreciated and even disliked, but shares some commonalities with you.
  • Ends of the Earth – Any location outside of the daily sphere of influence of your community of faith that has a radically differing worldview with few, if any, commonalities.

Let me sum this up.

God’s mission moves two ways.

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First, it moves “attractionally” (magnetically) through the transformed lives of His people. Thus, it’s important for churches to teach and equip believers to live transformed, godly lives that are centered on King Jesus and that demonstrate His kingdom ethics. The mission of attractional living can and does lead to those far from God asking, “What must I do to be saved?”

Second, God’s mission moves “incarnationally” (externally) through God’s people being sent to a lost, dying, and diverse world. Thus, it’s important for churches to teach, equip, exhort, and provide avenues for believers to participate in God’s worldwide mission of reaching those far from God, a movement that begins with neighbors but that moves to the nations.

The mission of incarnational living can and does lead to the ingathering of all nations into one people—a people from every tribe, nation, tongue, and people group (Rev. 5:9; 7:9).

Next time, I will talk about the mark of a missional community.

This article was originally posted at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2016/december/towards-missional-effectiveness-movements-of-gods-mission-p.html

 

Towards Missional Effectiveness: An Introduction – Part 1 of 7

  By Ed Stetzer

What is mission? What is missions? What is missional?

Like most people, I want what I buy to work and be effective at what it was created to do.

For instance, I have a smartphone that keeps track of my life. I call, text, surf the web, tweet, Facebook, use Maps to get directions, make calendar appointments, etc. It helps me to function at a high level. In fact, I must confess that I couldn’t imagine going back to the pre-age of smartphones. I assume I would manage, but not without making some major adjustments.

However, the good news is that smartphones are here to stay and the technologies and capabilities will be ever increasing to help enhance our lives in some capacity.

But what if all of a sudden my smartphone didn’t work effectively? What if the screen started to freeze frequently and Siri started telling me where she wanted to go, rather than me telling her? I would likely be frustrated and look for an upgrade. Why? Because we want what we buy to work effectively at what it was created and designed to do.

When it comes to the mission of God (missio Dei), God bought a vehicle (the Church) by which He will carry out His mission in the world. The Church is God’s Plan A for advancing His mission in the world.

There is no Plan B.

Thus, the design and intended creation of the Church is to be the vehicle by which God (through the good news of Jesus Christ) creates a people for Himself from all peoples on the earth. As a result, the DNA of the Church is, and must continue to be, missional.

We were birthed from God’s mission for God’s mission.

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Just as we want our smartphones (and the other things we buy) to operate according to their design and intended purpose, God wants the Church, whom He purchased by the blood of Christ, to be faithful to its purpose and, yes, effective at advancing His mission throughout the earth. In all truthfulness, one would think that if God’s people understood the gravity of how Jesus purchased their salvation and how their salvation relates to God’s mission and their role in it, they would be missionally effective.

In order to understand missional effectiveness, let me define what I mean by missional and missional effectiveness.

The term missional has been used quite a bit in the last 20 years. While missional has been popularized, it has not experienced a consistent usage or a consensus definition.

One of the reasons why there’s so much confusion around this word is because the term missional is an adjective. By definition, adjectives are not easy to define, because they are used to accomplish the purpose of the author. One sees this in the way missional has been used. Yet, the flexibility of missional is both a benefit and a frustration. Because many practitioners, theoreticians, and foes have kept themselves busy defining, defending, and dissecting the term, the meaning of the term has become blurred and caused some to swear off the word altogether.

However, I am not ready to concede this conclusion. I believe missional has enduring value. The question is not whether the term should be used, but how it should be used. How should we define missional?

At its simplest, missional is an adjective that describes a person or church who participates in the missio Dei.

But, of course, simple needs to be fleshed out.

For example, although this is not all it means, the idea of missional certainly includes missions. Lesslie Newbigin and others have helpfully distinguished the terms mission and missions. Newbigin understood mission to be the all-embracing term that refers to the entire task for which the Church is sent into the world, and missions as the intentional activities designed to create a Christian presence in places where there is no such presence, or at least no effective presence. (1)

So, it’s a big word because it is a big mission.

In light of what I have noted above, I understand missional as the totality of embracing, embodying, and enacting God’s mission in the world.

While I am grateful for all the missional talk, articles, books, and conferences, I am still somewhat concerned about the fact that many don’t seem to fully understand the essence of missional. Andreas Köstenberger rightly concludes, “A church that is unsure of its mission will not be effective in carrying it out.” (2) That is exactly what we see in too many churches in the West.

Most church approaches to mission are still founded upon twentieth-century strategies, which find root in an Enlightenment imagination—if we work harder, create more strategies, and techniques, then we can reach more people. Churches often begin with themselves and how they—through their strategies, programs, and ministries—can reach more people.

Churches then function as the originators of mission, which ultimately leads to a of lack missional effectiveness.

So, let me be clear about effectiveness in this context.

Missional effectiveness is embracing the totality of the missio Dei—including its message, movement, and marks—and enacting it in the life of a local church and beyond.

Thus, missional effectiveness begins with the mission of God. It begins with the church asking itself what mission looks like to God and crafts its identity, nature, and practices around His mission.

To help challenge and encourage church leaders (and their churches) towards missional effectiveness, this blog series will discuss the message, movement, and modes of God’s mission. And it will then conclude with some application to the twenty-first-century church.

This article was originally posted at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2016/december/towards-missional-effectiveness-introduction-part-1-of-7.html