The Mission Doesn’t Care Who Gets the Credit

The Mission Doesn’t Care Who Gets the Credit

Hijacking is illegal.  Hijacking the mission of Jesus Christ is unconscionable. And yet…it happens all the time among people who should know better, but don’t seem to.  Participation in God’s Kingdom means complete surrender to God’s purposes.  It means being a slave (the Greek word that Paul uses is “doulos”) to God, not being God’s partner.  Partners get equal credit.  Slaves have no need of any. Their desire is to please their master.  Is the institution of religion our master, or is God?  Whose affection we seek tells us the answer to that question.  Jesus taught that, “You can’t serve both God and mammon.” It’s one or the other, not both. There is no equality here.  God is God, and we have the almost unbearable honor of being God’s slaves. The upside-downness of that statement is mind-boggling by any earthly value system.  I know this sounds crazy to those who have not found themselves at the crossroads and made the choice to give up their life to follow Christ.  I know how insane that sounds to people who live life other ways.  But those who have surrendered their lives to Christ know the absurdity of seeking credit for the actions and goodness of the one that we have surrendered our lives to.  What difference could it possibly make to a slave who gets the credit? Can the world’s recognition lift the burden of a slave? No. Only the master can.

The hijacking of the mission for personal or institutional gain reflects glaringly a slavery to the institution of religion, rather than to the will of God in our lives. Beware, because hijackers often disguise themselves as fellow travelers until the moment is right to seize control.  I am not unsusceptible to the temptation to take credit for something that God is doing in order to get a leg up in my career. I have painfully learned, though, that when I have fallen prey to the temptation, it has only led to disaster. When that plane inevitably crashes, the debris scatters for miles.  Every day I have to get up and remind myself that I am a dead man.  I have died with Christ, and have risen anew to a new life in the Kingdom of God.  Anybody else out there been baptized? That’s what it means.  Of what relevance is a career move when you’re already dead? Slavery to Christ is not a career – it is a state of being, no matter how God has called us to make our living. Why would a dead person feel the need to hijack a movement of God?  Either we’re not hijacking it on purpose (which is a highly dubious claim given the amount of weaponry required to give it a try), or we’re only “playing dead”.  My soul tells me that when I get caught up in the power plays of profession or denomination that there is some place in my life or mind or soul that I have not fully surrendered…that isn’t quite dead yet.

None of this is really my point today.  My point today is two-fold.  First, faith is not an institution.  It is a movement.  It can’t be controlled by anyone.  Only a fool tries to harness the wind and call it their own.  Only a really misguided soul tries to take credit for the incoming tide. We might be able to fool people for a little while into thinking that we control the tide. But when people figure out that we are not the force behind the tide, what we find as the tide goes back out is that it has taken all of our integrity with it.  Mission is all about networking, and maneuvering for power destroys networks. Participation in the mission is participation in God’s Kingdom.  And participation in God’s Kingdom is participation in a movement… THE movement.  Participation in the movement requires that we give ourselves away.  In order to participate, we have to pass on what we are receiving as fast as we can. Amazingly, nothing that I have ever given to God or to another person in Christ’s name has ever returned to me empty.

The mission is a constantly overflowing cup.  The credit belongs to the wellspring, not to the cup.  The things that we love most – that are most meaningful and moving to us, are the same things that most people in the world are starving for.  They are designed to flow through us to others.  It’s the way a movement works.  We experience it by passing it along. We aren’t IT…we get to be part of it.  It is a generosity and forgiveness and grace gig…all of those things can only be experienced by passing them on without putting our logo on it.   The crazy thing about THIS movement is that, just as Jesus promised, we find that in giving it all away, it is returned to us a thousand fold.  Jesus said, “Those who seek to save their life will lose it, and those who give their life away will find it.” Those who are branding their programs with the term “missional” are trying to make the mission “theirs”.  I saw a missional promotion video recently for a string of mega-church spin-offs.  It was very cool.  It was very well put together.  It essentially invited people to come and worship in their churches.  It must have cost a fortune to put that thing together.  Every week I have to beg for hours for the funds to feed 150 people a week at the pantry, and to fund the street ministry. I bet I could feed a couple thousand people for the cost of that video alone.

The movement isn’t theirs.  It isn’t mine.  It isn’t yours. As soon as we make it ours, we drag it down to earth and it becomes just another institution with a marginally cooler way of talking.  The movement of Christ is God’s and God’s alone.  As a wise friend of mine named Darren Smith (Streetscape Ministries – Google it, support it) wrote recently, “Only dead people see God.”  If we want to see God in the mission, the first thing that has to happen is we have to die to our own desires and fears.  Personal desire leads to fear.  And dead people have no fear.

The second point about this is the reality that people caught up in real suffering don’t care where relief comes from.  The people that the Kingdom of God is most desperately trying to reach are so desperate themselves that when a cup of living water is handed to them, they don’t remember which person gave it to them.  Why would they? Would you?  They only remember that in their time of trial, they cried out to God and God sent someone to them to act on God’s behalf – in Christ’s name.  As soon as we stick our name on it, the water dies…there is never again any real life in that water because we have no life to give.  It becomes merely water.  But when we die to our own desires for accolades and applause and power, and we offer a cup of water that is not ours but God’s, then it quenches both the thirst of the body, and the thirst of the soul. Does a severely wounded child even know who places the bandage on them?  Does the mother of that child even care? Does a starving person even remember the face of the person who hands the food off of the relief truck? No.  How silly we become when we try to move ourselves ahead by taking credit for a goodness we don’t author.  How much we miss the boat when our desire for professional advancement or church growth are fully alive and functioning in our motives after we have gotten in the water of baptism and told the world that we are already dead. What difference could it possibly make to a dead person what human gets the credit for delivering the blessings of God? What care is it to a dead person to hear the applause of the earthly masses? Only the dead see God…and seeing God is the greatest blessing of all.

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