Thursday, August 29, 2013

MIssio Dei

Preparing for Local Ministries: Required. Meet weekly with a group of fellow students to share our experiences within our ministry settings. Easy and fun.
Christian Traditions (or the History of the church): Required. To be an effective pastor, you should have a working knowledge of the History of the church.
Biblical Hebrew: Elective. I like to challenge myself with languages, and writing right to left!
Missions of the Church in the Contemporary World:  A Church and Society required course. This course is a practical course for church management.

These are my seminary classes this fall and the course I am most excited about is the Mission of the Church in the Contemporary World (Hebrew is a close second) and it is incredibly fitting now that I have stepped into the role of Director of Missions at a church that values service and living for others. Yesterday I began reading the first required book for this class, and the first question the author asked was, is the service the church is engaging in the mission of that particular local church or is the service being engaged in, truly adhering to God's mission? Wow! Sometimes, I think that when we go into service and living for others, we forget that when we volunteer to do church work, we are ultimately working as vessels by which God's mission for his world is achieved.

When I first started this position, I thought to myself, what is it we are doing as a church that embodies living for others? We definitely have people that are going out regularly to be in service, but are we going out because as followers of Christ we strive to affect transformation in the lives or others? Or are we going out because it makes us feel better about ourselves, or because it keeps us busy and out of trouble?

From what I have seen from those who are actively going into the mission field every day (and yes, the mission field can be found in our own community), I see the passion for Christ as the driving force. I see our congregation actively engaged in bringing God's kingdom and his will to earth. And this excites me!

This past month I have been working with a group of individuals for our upcoming Every1Serve which is scheduled for Saturday, October 5th. The challenge I gave everyone was to make sure they know why exactly they are engaging in service that day and to be able to tell all those who step up to volunteer for various projects what exactly they are doing, and most importantly why. I believe that you can ask anybody to work and most people can and will work. However, I believe even more ardently that when you tell someone why they are working, you can really inspire them to live for others when they see how their work is bringing about God's mission.

That is why each project and organization for Every1Serve has a definite mission that strives to transform lives. We are all called into ministry, to love and care for our sisters and brothers no matter where they are in their journey with God. I wanted us to really focus on transformation. I want us to not focus so much on carrying out the mission of our local church but to carry out the mission of our most loving God. We are called to love one another and being in service to our neighbors, even our enemies, affects change in the heart of God's children, including those of us who choose to serve.

I look forward to this upcoming Every1Serve. We have worked hard to secure a variety of projects for all ages and skill levels. I keep saying to everyone, this is called EveryONEServe, not JustafewServe. I hope that everyone who is available on October 5th, will step into service for a few hours that day and prepare to be amazed at how God can work through you to bring his healing grace and power to those in need.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Receiving Blessings

When I first starting working for a church, I did not know how radically it would change my life. I had ideas on how to make our church more visible and more active in the community. I realized quickly that church life is built on a steady and strong volunteer base. The church members had grown older and could no longer effectively carry out the vision they had when they had established the church 60 years earlier. It isn't that they wanted to see their beloved church close, they just were not physically able to do the work that I so desperately wanted us to be involved in.

So, I took on the task of being all things to all people and took it as my personal mission to bring new people into the church. I engaged in outreach and missions. I took Jesus' words seriously, "the Son of Man came to serve, not to be served and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28, NRSV).

My mantra was this, Jesus gave his life so that I could live, therefore I must give of my life to those who are marginalized in our society. I worked hard and the members of my church loved me for it, but it was hard work that needed to be done with other people.

One of the things that has resonated most with me since I began working for the church is that we have been created for relationship. God created us and seeks to be in relationship with us. God doesn't want us to be alone in our physical or spiritual lives as evidenced when he created a companion for the first human. We are to create relationships with the people around us to serve as an example of how we are to be in relationship with God. Our church was actively engaging in service, but not actively engaging in developing relationships.  Eventually, with the help of one of my professors, I  started to seek out a place where people were growing in their faith, their relationships with each other and with God. I believe I have found that place.

I had become used to doing work and serving others on my own and did not know how to react when a man from my new church offered to help my husband and I move to our new house. I immediately told him that we would be okay and that it was very nice of him to offer his services and the services of the people in his Sunday school class. I told my husband about the offer and he immediately told me I was nuts for turning him down and that I needed to call him back. At that point I felt embarrassed, but I called him and he wasn't put out and arranged a moving day for us. In addition, he offered the services of bringing his trailer to load up our stuff so we wouldn't have to rent a U-Haul. We were told that there would be about 5-6 people to help us move, but when 13 people showed up to our house, we were overwhelmed! All of our belonging were moved to the new house within 4 hours and our new kitchen was in the process of being organized by the efforts of some amazing women. They did such a nice job that we have not moved anything around.

The generosity and love that poured out from these people did not stop there. One of the men who was unavailable to help us move that day gave us a refrigerator. I had told him a few days earlier that I was taking the Thursday off before the move day to go and purchase one for our new home. He looked at me and said, "don't buy one, we have one you can have." I was speechless and almost turned him down, but remembered that my husband would probably tell me to call him up the next day and say nevermind. So, I accepted and then he wouldn't take any money.

One of the greatest things in life is Christmas morning. Not because of all the gifts that have my name on them, but because of the joy I see on a person's face when I give them something that they need. Organizing birthday parties for loved ones is equally gratifying. I love giving to people. That means that I am not well versed at receiving.  However, on this particular day I was forced to open myself up to accepting the gift of love and service. I embrace the United Methodist Church's mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. A few weekends ago I got to witness and receive the love of Christ through his disciples. My heart has been transformed in a way I did not think possible.

We can give of ourselves all we want to help change lives, but sometimes we have to pull back and see that there are others who are working to help change ours as well.

Remember that we all need from time to time to experience the love of Christ through our sisters and brothers.

Peace be with you my friends,