Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Missional Mandate

Happy Belated Father's Day to all you daddy's. I've heard from several of you dads of daughters recently who have jumped on a couple of books I've recommended. Thanks for sharing your reflections on your reading. It's great to have a kindred spirit or two who recognize that God's sufficiency can overcome our deficiencies!

As a gift to you, check out this Gene Wojciechowski article on the Jason Foundation and one college football coach's effort to assist the Foundation at all cost. It is a wonderful, if very touching, story.


How's this for historical irony from Kevin Starr's classic volume California: A History?

"A third settlement given pueblo (town) status -- Villa de Branciforte, established in 1796 by the viceroy, as a retirement town for soldiers and their families near Santa Cruz never got off the ground. No retired soldiers, much less their wives and families, wanted to come that far north to live on the edge of nowhere. Branciforte (near Santa Cruz) eventually wound up as a kind of Botany Bay for men convicted of petty crimes...While Mexico might talk of a civil society, it remained unsuccessful in promoting civilian settlement in California (circa 1830). Few people wished to come, and so, in desperation, Mexico began to treat California as a kind of Botany Bay for wayward soldiers" (37, 47).

Santa Cruz? A banishment place for prisoners and wayward soldiers? Santa Cruz?

O, for a little foresight, huh?


Two weeks ago, in back of a Sunday speaking engagement in Hollister, I blogged about the state of the church in rural California. In that blog, I compared the status of churches in rural California with the status of churches in the rural South. Comparatively speaking, churches in the West struggle to reach 100 active members in communities where in the South, a similar community would consistently have multiple churches with an active membership of over 500.

Since coming from the South, that one fundamental difference has been most striking, and most troubling, to me. So I solicited your feedback and you responded.

Interestingly, every single response I received placed the presence and activity of young families as crucial to the turnaround. It seemed as though your responses were unanimous in this regard: a church with youth, i.e. families, moms, dads, kids, babies -- is a staple of a healthy church. A healthy church is one where the sound of crying babies and restless children is not only heard but appreciated. A healthy church is one where diversity is prized -- not in terms of theological confusion but in terms of age.

(Now, as I say that, I realize that for a politically conservative person, diversity is a buzzword packed with loaded implications. But I'm a disciple, not a politician and my identity comes from Christ, not a philosophical presupposition that must color my every thought).

Frankly, the task is great. Many of you shared wonderful experiences of your own personal investment or group investment in reaching out to encourage small churches in places like Caruthers and Auberry and Morro Bay and Paso Robles.

I think the greatest aim, though, as shared by one respondent is the need to raise up a generation of disciples who think missional. We've so conditioned ourselves to think of "mission work" as something that only occurs on foreign soil, across an ocean, in third world countries.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

The church is desperately in need of missionaries -- of men and women, moms and dads, children -- who are willing to think, see and live as missionaries at home. It doesn't require crossing an ocean to be a missionary! Perhaps God's calling is for you to cross your street to share Jesus with a neighbor. One doesn't have to jet across the world to foreign soil to do mission work. Perhaps God's leading in your life is for you to set your foot on your neighbor's soil as you share with them the good news of Jesus.

The great need today is the same as in Jesus's day: "When he saw the crowds, he had com-passion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field'" (Matthew 9.36-38).

I want to be a worker for the Lord! How about you? Wherever you are today, whether in a rural or urban setting, a small church or a megachurch, determine to be a worker for the Lord.