Category Archives: Decision Making

Sacrificing your kids on the altar of missions?

origin_6989065271What’s the best thing about having kids?

No, not the cute antics or the learning to speak or walk or the hugs or total undying obedience to your every whim (ok I made that part up)…

Body shields!

Kids make the most incredible body shields.

When you don’t want to seriously consider or God forbid, actually do something that makes you feel scared or uncomfortable just hide behind your kids!

Imagine this highly improbable, never happened to me before situation… You are enjoying a nice robust discussion over a drink of your choice with a sincere and thoughtful Christian friend. The discussion turns to the issue of say… I don’t know… public schooling, urban mission, downward mobility… Good, healthy discussion ensues.  But then the debate starts to spiral dangerously out of control… out of the theology books…off the blogs…into our city…into our lives… But don’t fear good citizens our intrepid Christian has packed with him his trusty “Get out of Jail Free” card. With a merry glint in his dilated pupil he pulls out of his back pocket the trump card, the discussion-ender, the obedience crusher and with great relief places on the grand table of ideas “Yes I see the importance of these things but really I am not about to sacrifice my kids on the altar of missions!”

*crickets*

*awkward*

End of discussion

I mean who can possibly be in favour of child sacrifice right?

If the alternative is say dead kids or public schools then lets rather keep our kids alive right?

But honestly what does this quasi-spiritual, pious sounding phrase actually mean? Oh I know we have all met the kind of pastors who are so busy running around with their underpants over their trousers trying to save the world as some kind of subordinate Holy Spirit that they give off the impression that kicking a football with their kids is somehow beneath their high spiritual calling.

So perhaps if at this point we can all just start off by agreeing that kids are important. And looking after your kids in a healthy environment is important too… right… yes… we all heard that. I am firmly in favour of loving and protecting your family! I love my family and am truly humbled and shocked that God would entrust such an incredible responsibility to a knucklehead like me. I get it… I’m terrified I’m going to get it horribly wrong and screw them all up… badly…

But where does this fear come from? For that is surely what underlies this non-offspring sacrificing purported spirituality? Fear of obedience. Fear of public schools. Fear of messing up our kids. Fear of our kids getting hurt. Fear that we won’t be able to protect them. Or give them all the stuff we never had. Fear that they won’t follow Christ. Fear that they will get confused. Fear that we may have to sacrifice our own comfort or respectability. Fear of… trusting God with our lives, our family, our future…

I am by no means suggesting that all of the issues raised above are not real, complicated and nuanced. Nor am I suggesting that there cannot be legitimate reasons to answer questions of schooling, housing or area to live in either way. But please let’s stop hiding behind our kids as some kind of get out of conviction free card.

It is arrogance to think that you can protect our kids through home schooling. It is foolishness to think that you cannot equally sacrifice your kids on the altar of suburbia or comfort or status or achievement.

We, as a family, have made our choices about where live and where to school our kids. We want to be self-aware when it comes to the choices we have made. I want to deal with my idols and my fears when making decisions for my kids. It is difficult some days to send my kids to public schools in our area. I envy my friends whose choices have allowed them to send their kinds to private Christian schools. But I am not sacrificing my kids. We are intentionally choosing as a family to engage on mission in this community and that means going to the schools the kids in our area go to.

When we decided to follow Jesus we did decide to “sacrifice our lives” on the altar of mission. Our lives are now caught up in God’s greater, bigger and more beautiful story. This is what it means for us to no longer be king of our own lives. This is what it means for us to no longer idolize family. We have intentionally chosen to sacrifice some of our preferences and comforts in order to serve others. So no we don’t get to sacrifice our kids but we are as a family called to model and practice sacrificial living.

Honestly I am not sure how else I raise kids to be live sacrificially, generously or intentionally except by living, sacrificially, generously and intentionally myself. How else do I show them the character of the King who gave up all the glory of Heaven to serve and redeem us? How else do I teach my kids that Jesus came to rescue us and liberate us from our own selfish desires except by daily choosing to put to death my own desires for comfort, security and playing it safe? How else do I teach my kids that we find life when we give it away in service to the weak, the poor, the lost and the broken except by doing just this? How else do they fall in love with the beauty, grace and passion of God’s mission except by tasting it and living it?

We spend our whole lives protecting our kids, serving them, providing for their needs and their desires. Keeping them safe, comfortable and happy. And then we wonder why they grow up to be exactly what we trained them to be.

And they walk away from a Jesus who does not serve them…

Or they apathetically warm a church building designed to serve them…

And their children…

And the world dies a little bit more each day.

Photo Credit: rejik via Photopin

Courage is the Greatest Virtue

CS Lewis reckons courage as the greatest virtue, because without it all the other virtues become conditional virtues. If we lack the courage to act with integrity, honesty or mercy at the testing point then we only have integrity, mercy or honesty with conditions that involve our own pleasure, comfort, safety or desires attached. (HT to Frost and Hirsch)

As I meditated on what God would be saying to our Gospel Community this week, as we gathered to plan and dream a bit for the next few months, I realized that all of our planning boils down to three clear questions. What is God saying to us/ calling us to do in this season? Will we do it? What do we need to do to make it happen?

Most of the time the sticking point goes with question two; “Will we do it?” Mostly we are with a fair degree of wisdom, common sense and occasional direct guidance able to without too much difficulty discern what the next faithful step is that God is calling us to. And then we often skip straight on to question three, the how question(s). We spend a lot of time here making excuses, raising difficulties and finding obstacles to not answering God’s call on our lives/community.

And often this is where we stay. We have a fair comprehension of what God wants us to do. We have some good ideas about what we ought to do. But we also have thrown up many reasons, excuses and potential difficulties as to why we have to think longer/ delay acting/ do something else. It is seldom voiced so plainly. Mostly we just plan it to death and the calling merely slips away silently into the night, unseen and unmissed.

“Will we do it?” is the game breaker. I think it is crucial to answer this question, throw it around, look each other in the eye and answer it out loud before we even begin to talk about logistics. The how are always second tier questions. On the first tier is the What question and the “Will-We” question. Once those are answered in the affirmative the why will follow as a matter of course. If we have made a prior decision to obedience the logistical how questions become less like a series of obstacles and reasons why it will not or could not work. And more like a serious of challenges to be overcome and worked out any way we have to.

The calling is clear. Obedience is a prior decision. Now we simply need the courage to make it work anyway we have to.

What If

Decision making is a big issue within Christian circles.  Who should I marry?  What should I study? Should I take the new job or not?  But I suspect that despite the vast amount of talking, teaching, books, video clips and sermon series on this subject, we are mostly wasting our time worrying about the wrong questions.  There is some useful stuff out there helping us to make wise and godly decisions.  The problem is that as useful as that is, our problem is deeper still.  Not only do we often not have the tools to make wise decisions, we mostly are not even asking the right questions.  Most of our burning questions that we need guidance on are not the most fundamental questions that we should be asking?

Jason Helopoulos guest-posting on Kevin DeYoung’s blog asks “What if?

Here are a few excerpts:

“What if… people were willing to consider, entertain, and act upon a different impulse than is normal in our decision-making. What if one of the most fundamental areas of some Christian families’ lives, vocation and place of residence, were decided differently? What if even just a small number chose the location of their home upon the opportunity to become involved in a church plant? 

Seldom do we hear of a family or individual who decides to accept this job or move to that place because there is a church there that they could serve and assist in. And that is a travesty. We consider everything else. The schools, the parks, the affordability of housing, area recreation, and the weather are all factors that seem to play into our willingness to consider moving to this or that part of the country. And after we have chosen our location due to vocation or interest it is then that we look for a church to join in that new local.

But what if the order was reversed? What if individuals and families began to consider moving to a new location so that they could help start or serve in a church plant or young church? What if this was considered by more than just a few individuals and families and actually became a real consideration for lay people scattered throughout our congregations? How many churches could be planted?

Can you see the picture? Retired individuals and couples consider moving to that city because their wisdom, experience, stability, and free time could greatly assist the church plant effort there; Professional individuals with their flexibility and financial resources packing their homes and moving across the state or country to assist in this church plant effort; Young families actually considering where they could serve the church best, over and above what location would provide the greatest place of comfort for their family; Young individuals graduating from college and taking two years to lend their zeal and energy to a church planting effort instead of moving on to graduate school or finding their career path.

“If weather, upward mobility, schools, and family can be the draw we need to move across the state or the country then why not the Church? What if the planting of churches was a true consideration for every person in the pew–at least a consideration? It could alter the landscape of the American church, lead tens of thousands to saving faith, result in hundreds if not thousands of new and healthy churches, and it would be good for the spiritual vitality of our existing churches.”