Tag Archives: Intentionality

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

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Let’s Go Down the Hill

The other night a few of us in our gospel community got together to listen to this talk by Steve Timmis entitled Being Neighbours: A Gospel Strategy.

What was apparent to us as a community was that we need each other to help us intentionally “go down the hill.”  The hub for our community at the moment appears to be our house.  Our house’ it seems, is rather strategically situated at a confluence of at least two vastly different worlds.  If you go up the hill, broadly speaking, you encounter the cool, funky, hip (hipster actually) community.  The food is good, the beer is crafty, the people are nice (which is to say remarkably like us).  The vibe is creative, quirky and just a little bit grungy.  This is the fun and exciting part of our community.  All of us enjoy hanging out there.  We don’t need help going “up the hill.”  It’s going to happen.  Whenever we feel like grabbing a pizza or watching some sport, it’s natural and easy to take a walk up the hill.  This is also, perhaps it goes without saying, a community that deeply needs Jesus.

But down the hill a simple five-minute walk away from the hip side of town’ life is completely different.  Poor, drug ravaged, high unemployment, little or few role-models.  Kids wander the streets, sometimes till late at night.  Family breakdown, crime, drug addiction and jail sentences are fairly common aspects of many families lives “down the hill”.  These are not “our people” (and our community is fairly mixed racially).  It is not comfortable, fun or safe by our usual standards.  This is the kind of place we have to intentionally choose to be.  It will not just happen, naturally or organically.  It will take sacrifice, effort and a grab me by the neck kind of reminder these are exactly the kind of places where the light must shine brightest in the midst of the greater darkness.  And sadly these are also the places where traditionally churches have been at their least effective.

I don’t need my community to help me go up the hill.  I like them when we go up the hill.  But I need to get me to go down the hill.  Perhaps we don’t fully understand the mutual necessity that Jesus builds into the church as body image simply because we simply do not go down the hill enough.  We like each other when we go up the hill but we need each other when we go down the hill.

Ordinary Life: Sharing Life

With the summer holiday and Christmas season here in Cape Town, this little series of blog posts has gotten a bit interrupted.  I was writing about what it could look like to “plant a church without planting a church”.  The first post was on “Gathered around the Word” – you may want to go have a quick look to refresh your memory.

2. Sharing Life:

Community is something of a buzz word in Christian circles, everybody is in favour of it and every church claims to be about it.  And fair enough – being a “community church” is pretty hard to argue against.  I have never come across any pastor or church leader, no matter how dodgy they may be on other issues, who claims to be against community.  It is one of those “no-brainers” of church life.

But strangely enough for an organisation that is so fond of community we have an amazing ability to short-wire our own desires.  Despite the stirring rhetoric community is most often than not reduced to a Sunday meeting and perhaps (for the really keen) a mid-week small group (call it what you will).  Our community is event and programme shaped rather than relationally shaped.

Our intention is not in one sense to do anything new or particularly innovative but rather to simply ask ourselves what could it look like if we decided to truly “share life” together.  As Francis Chan suggested in this video clip, I am not sure it would look much like what can often pass for church community.

Programmes are not the enemy, nor are they intrinsically evil as may be believed from listening to some organic church thinkers.  Although I confess I am weary of programmes,, probably for similar reasons that as an adult I cannot stomach tomato sauce… over-consumption.  Our problem is not programmes, it is an over-reliance on them to do what ordinary Christians ought to be doing in ordinary life.  Why do we need programmes for hospitality, evangelism, missions, welcoming, discipleship, helping the sick, providing meals etc.?  Special events I get.  But it feels like we have shaped the ordinary in church using the criteria of the special event (unfair?).

So what does community look like when we try to wean ourselves off programmatic community?  It looks like family, like shared life. Like ordinary people living ordinary life with gospel intentionality?

1. I think geography is crucial in this (some will disagree with this but this is my blog 🙂 ). Living close to one another (I would define that as in reasonable walking distance?) allows us to share life in the ordinary. We can pop into one another’s homes, walk the dog together, go to the same coffee shops and pubs, borrow stuff from each other, pop round for coffee or lunch or to pray or share news.  We can get to know the same neighbours, friends, shopkeepers.  We can send our kids (often) to the same schools.  They (& us) could play for the same sports teams and frequent the same parks.  Geography allows us to do this in a way that I am not sure we can replicate when we have to drive.

2. Time is the other key.  Those of us who have been brought up with a Western mindset or who work in a Western context have fallen prey to the need to over-schedule our lives.  If there is a free block in the calendar we should put something into it, the unwritten rule seems to go.  Key to being a gospel community and sharing life together is to intentionally keep gaps in the diary.  Gaps that allow us to respond to needs, pop in on a friend, go for a walk, invite people over for meals, go to the pub, visit a neighbour, pray with those in need. If we are too busy, no matter how good our rhetoric and our intentions our vision for gospel community will always be something we do tomorrow.  What you say “no” to may be as important as what you say “yes” to if you want to share life with those in your gospel community.

3. Lastly, there must be an intentionality about being family, and sharing life together.  You can live just around the corner from me and have buckets of free time but if we are not intentional about being a gospel community (on mission together) then we will find things to do that fill up our time.  That intention may translate into moments like this: “I feel like watching TV but let me go visit Nathan” or perhaps “let me invite Nathan to come watch  the football with me.”  For many of us today, living in community has become counterintuitive, a going against what seems natural or normal to us for the sake of living as God’s new people.  A people on display as a demonstration of the goodness of God’s new kingdom.