Archive for September, 2011

Please, I Need Your Help

You can be the Difference

I am currently crying out to the Lord for help with something that I, alone, cannot do. I just don’t have the resources.  I have four committed people, no dollars, and not enough transportation.  It’s gonna take some more in all of those areas.  We have kids who are being swallowed up by their environment who have come to our mission looking for a hope…looking for something they probably can’t even name…looking for someone who will care enough to commit to them.  They are looking for someone to love them. They need to know that they are lovable, that their lives matter, and that their are things that they can do that will lead them to a life beyond the streets.  Their names are Nathan, RayRay, Cody, Demetrius, Austin, Alex, Jovani, Dominique, Yami, Cheyenne, Genevieve, Emily, Alyssa, Bobby, J.J., Chris, Cadyn, Conner, and Colby. They have hopes and dreams and gifts and talents, and they each have mountains to climb.  They are surrounded by negative influences that most us cannot imagine. No one makes it in this world unless someone with the power and position to help them make it steps up and does it.  If you have made it in this world, many people like that have done that for you. They don’t have sports programs, neighborhood programs, job skill training, tutors, relationship models, or adult mentors.  Often they don’t even know if they will have heat or lights or a place to sleep, or food to eat.  They don’t own a Bible, or any other book for that matter.  They get sent home from school because they don’t have the right shoes or the right calculator. They have real poverty, gangs, drugs, street violence, and abuse that are generations deep…and stories of the world that will not take them to life. They do not know that God’s Kingdom is all around them.  They have never seen it. Right now, I have the resources to work with them for two hours every other week.  That just isn’t enough.  So, I am crying out to the Lord, and to you.

Do you have room in your heart to let these kids in?  Can you drive a few of them once a week to and from an activity?  Can you cook for a gathering?  Can you provide games? Can you help to fund activities?  Can you give up a couple of hours a week to get to know these kids…to be available to these kids…to help them bear their burdens…to tell them an alternative story of the world that WILL take them life? Can you help to give them at least a chance of overcoming their circumstances …circumstances that they did not choose, but rather were simply born into?  Is there room in your heart and life for the hopes and dreams of even one of these kids? We do not have much time.  What is at stake for these kids is everything.  If we do not reach them soon with a path to something different, they will end up in gangs, in prison, pregnant too young, or dead.  THAT is their reality.  Can you help us give them a different reality? YOU can be the difference.  Please, pray about it and let me know if you not only CAN BE the difference, but are willing to COMMIT TO TRYING TO BE that difference.  I cannot promise you that some of these kids will not break your heart.  Some of them will.  I cannot promise you that things won’t be messy and disorganized. But I can promise you that what you do will matter right now, today. Please, I need your help.

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We Give Ourselves Away

We Give Ourselves Away

We give ourselves away.  It’s such a simple concept, but so very counterintuitive for many people who have spent their whole lives using an “outreach” model of mission. If mission is to multiply, then at every mission site, we have to replace every person who is working there with another person so that we can take what is being done at that mission location and transplant it again at another location. And we have to replace them with people who were once the object of that mission who have come to know that the same will be asked of them.  It seems so simple, but it is actually much harder than it looks.

The first thing that makes it hard is that we plant missions with people who are passionate about what they are doing.  They love what they do. They have been prepared their whole lives to do this. They have the crucial DNA within them that makes the mission multiply in the location where it is planted.  They know almost instinctively that they are to invite the served to come and serve.  They know instinctively to look for laborers, not from the pews of churches, but from the street corners and alley ways of the mission field itself.  The mission grows where it is planted precisely because of the commitment, gifts and disciplines of the people who plant it. The people we plant with are builders.  They practice the art of missional living, crafting not simply a mission site, but a missional community.  They pour their time, talent, and treasure into it.

But, to make the mission multiply these leaders also have to be constantly looking for their own replacement.  They are not working their way into a job, but rather are working their way out of a job from the day that the job starts.  They have to be willing to give the work of art that God has built through their efforts away to often very untested leaders who have come out of the mission field itself.  They know going in that they will one day have to place what they have loved and labored over into the hands of other people. And they have to instill that same seemingly self-destructive DNA – that ethic and discipline of giving what we love away – into the people they give the mission away to.  They have so much of themselves wrapped up in the mission that when they say, “We give ourselves away” they actually mean it.  And if they do not do this, then the mission will become sterile and will never multiply to another location.  Doing that requires a kind of spiritual maturity that is rare.  Our planters have to know they are already dead, or they will run the risk of serving their own desires, rather than allowing what has given them life and joy to give life and joy to someone else.  If it gives us joy and new life, then it can do that for someone else who is desperate for it, too.  And letting the mission give life to others is what the mission is all about. That is no easy thing.  And it is no easy thing to find people that God has prepared to do that.

The even harder part is transferring DNA from a planter to new leaders.  How much do they have to know in order to replicate what has been replicated and given over to them? Since spiritual maturity is required and many of the people who will potentially take the mission over have only recently left chaos barking at their heels, how is that transferred? Is it even something that is transferrable?  How do you know when it’s time to multiply, when someone is ready to take your place?  What’s the best way to transfer DNA?  There are so many questions, and so few really hard and fast answers.  That’s the reality.

What we have found is that the only way to find these answers is to get into the mission and start trying things.  Some of them will work, and some won’t.  What we know today after doing this for twelve years is that it takes a combination of things ranging from intentional and deep Bible study, to formal classes on our method, to mentoring.  And we know for sure that it takes intentional and focused prayer. We had to get in the mission and risk failures…and actually have some spectacular failures…in order to get at least a grip on the formula for transferring DNA as quickly as possible and multiplying the mission as quickly as possible.  It’s not like we “make it happen”.  After many years we have come to believe that we don’t.  But it does happen.  And it happens in observable ways.  What we have done is to pay attention when it happens and then we try to learn the process that it happened in.  We then try to create the environment where it happened, and time and again we have seen it happen time and again.

We give ourselves away.  If we do not, then what we plant will last but a season, and then it will be gone.  We are not simply trying to make disciples.  We are trying to make disciples who make disciples.

A Little Self-Check from Matthew 25

 
Matthew 25:32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (You might check into Mat 25:41-46, too)

 I am just writing today as a check-in with my own soul and to offer other believers the opportunity to check in with theirs.  Every once in a while, I need some accountability and some clarity of what matters…and what doesn’t matter…and the consequences of getting sucked into what doesn’t matter.  So, today, I am just putting this passage out there.  I am going to read it several times today and really take it to heart.  It is among the clearest passages of the Gospels in terms of what participation in Christ’s present Kingdom means.

Am I leading my community deeper in this direction, or am I heading up committees and boards whose purpose is to select nice color schemes and design fancy worship services aimed at attracting more people to more worship services?  Is our worship a celebration of participation in this present Kingdom, or is it just a talisman to ward off the wrath of God?  Am I living generously…crazy generously?  Is my community living out these mandates…not as mandates…but as simply “getting” what it is to live in God’s present Kingdom?  What portion of my personal budget of time, talent and treasure is devoted to this…and what portion is devoted to newer cooler stuff?  And what portion of my community’s budget is devoted to this, as opposed to newer cooler programs that attract people to our newer cooler programs?  How much of the resource of time that our people can devote goes to these things, and how much goes to church growth programs that lead only to more growth programs?  Where am I today? If today is my last day, how will I measure up?  How will WE measure up? Am I someone that Jesus can count on? Are we?  Those questions will occupy my heart today…