Archive for the ‘Missional Observations’ Category

Coming Home to Ordinary

After nearly four and a half years of living and serving at a para-church ministry, we returned to “ordinary” life. We signed papers and took possession of home in a new town in a new state. Now, I am seeing “ordinary” in a brand new light.

When this oddball cult of Jesus-imitators first took off two thousand years ago, they had no organizations, para-church ministries, hierarchies, or, for that matter, churches as we know them. And yet, without all the trappings of power and organization, they went from a small local “cult” of Judaism, to about 25 million in 300 years. Everything they did, they did with their neighbors in their neighborhoods. They did it all in the ordinary context of ordinary life. They lived there and served there.

Today, with all the power and clout of massive organizations, billions of dollars of support, global media resources, powerful political lobbying, “Evangelical Christianity” is shrinking. Even in recent history, the “Jesus Movement” of the late 60′s exploded across this nation, then became organized, institutionalized, commercialized, and died before 10 years had passed. Building a “Christian” empire was never the point. This is why it never works.

Our mission, as Christ followers, is to care for each other and those around us. We do what He does. In doing this, we make disciples. You don’t need an organization for that. You just need others working together with you. You also need to be engaged in “ordinary” life.

One thing I noticed while living at this “para-church” community is how visitors tended to see the place as “true ministry,” and their own lives as marginal and “ordinary.” They seemed think of us who lived and served here as “true missionaries,” while thinking of themselves as uninvolved. They often used to express how they would love to live and do as we do.

Even this morning I heard a glowing report about men who raised their hands or came forward or something. These men had decided to go into “full time ministry.” The fact of the matter is that every follower of Jesus is in full time ministry already.

Professional clergy and Christian organizations are not the point. Every disciple plays a full and complete part in the mission. Discipleship is all about this.

Having lived in that para-church community for over four years, I have to say that it was not “true ministry.” It was necessary and, in some cases, vital, but it was not, in any way, the front line. It was more of a necessary evil and a compromise.

Formal ministries, by nature, tend to be isolated from “real” life and everyday people and issues. I suggest that “ordinary” life is the front line. It is where we all need to be engaged. Though we left this “para-church” formal ministry. I think we are finally getting into the real and substantial ministry. This is the kind of powerless movement which outlasts empires, and rescues millions.

I believe that ministry is best conducted in the events and context of everyday life. Even in the para-church ministry we served with, those we served had to “reenter” and exist in everyday life. I am convinced now, more than ever, that if we all served well in the “everyday world,” para-church ministries would not be so necessary.

Unfortunately, the popular idea is that rather than creating thriving communities of serving disciples we have to attach ourselves to a suitable local church to secure a “safe haven” for “Christian” living.

The point is that we are the missionaries; every one of us. So, what do we do?

Here are some suggestions:

Look closely at the practice of discipleship. Become a student of Jesus. Learn how He acts and thinks from the Gospels. Pay careful attention to what He tells us to do and how He does things.

Get together with other believers to work out these things. Study and talk over what you are learning and encourage each other. Spend time together. Take meals together

Look out for each other and take care of each other. Pray together and for others often. As you begin to get good at this, begin to offer help and kindness to those outside your group.

As you move forward with this, you may find God directing your “opportunities.” It is not complicated. It is also not always easy, but the reward is transformation.

You get to grow as a fully invested follower of Jesus, living out his life and work right here and right now.