Tag Archives: Missions

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

9 Reasons not to plant a church in 2012

Andrew Jones is probably one of the best bloggers out there.  I love reading his blog purely for it’s ascetic value as a fine example of post second millenium blogging style.  But aside from his near perfection of the art of blogging he also has some rather fine content.  While I suspect that Andrew and I, if we sat down over a cup of coffee (or tea in his case), might not dot all the same theological “i’s”, I must confess I love his questions and his gentle (or not so gentle) pokes in the ribs of our church cultures. I love his meditations on what it means to live in the Kingdom.  I love the way he gets me thinking and challenging so many of my preconceptions and inherited assumptions on what it means to follow Jesus.

If you don’t follow his blog you should – you will be richer for it.  By all means, don’t feel you have to agree with everything he says – but let him ask the questions, let him make you feel uncomfortable, let him point you on the journey of discovering what it could mean to follow Jesus in 2012.

With no more ado and ramblings of a brevity-challenged blogger.  Here are Andrew Jones’ 9 Reasons not to plant a church in 2012.  Much of this content resonates with our own vision for ministry and is a helpful discussion starter to understanding some of what we are on about.  My comments are in brackets and non-italics below.

1. The typical church planting model, in which the solo-church planter starts a gathering that he/she invites potential members to join and commit to lacks satisfying precedent in the Scriptures where Jesus sent out people in teams (2, 12, 70) to find people of peace (them, not us) to allow Kingdom ministry in their venue (not the planter’s venue). Add to that the lack of biblical support for a paid professional pastor and the awkward extension of the Temple tithing system into the present day and the whole package seems a little suspect or at least in need of some recalibrating with the New Testament. (not sure either way is right or wrong, more a case of wise or unwise)

2. The measurement criteria of the church planting project, focusing on numbers of attenders and momentum of new church launch, is too narrow, too shallow, unholistic and ignores more vital measurable signs of a transformed society in its various spheres (economic, environmental, social, impact outside the church environment, etc). (I would probably prefer to use a more focussed category – discipleship.  But when people are being discipled then these other areas of impact should be seen)

3. The people most likely to join a new church plant are usually those with some kind of church background – the de-churched, pre-churched, ex-churched – which means ignoring really lost people and duplicating the ministries of existing churches. (exactly – this is the heartbeat of what we are trying to do!)

4. The focus on people pre-disposed or pre-favored towards church culture can lead to competition among churches to gather people from a diminishing pool of potentials and, worse, to “sheep stealing” which, although a shortcut to acheiving the goal of planting a church in the short term, fails to extend the reach of the gospel into a new culture as well as creating disunity and distrust within the existing church. (Another spot on comment!)

5. The challenge for new members to commit to a church meeting rather than be involved in Kingdom mission activities in the world can often lead to a consumer mindset among new members. By not hosting an event for members but rather inviting participants into mission, a different calibre of people is attracted to the ministry. (People who are born in the context of mission grow up on mission and live on mission)

6. The new church plant creates a higher institutional visibility in sensitive countries which places it in danger of either stifling regulations or physical threat to its members.

7. The lack of traditional funding sources that used to fund church planter’s salary and the first year of operation (often US$100,000) has dried up in the midst of the global financial crisis and changing funding priorities, which has mademore sustainable mission practices like micro-businesses and social enterprises become more important as initial building blocks of new ministry environments than trying to start a regular worship service, in which the only sustainable piece is the generosity of the initiates. (We simply have to begin considering other sources of income for mission.  Particularly as we engage in pioneering new ministries and new ways of doing mission)

8. Church planting normally thrives in wealthier areas or suburban areas but ignores the urban poor. Stuart Murray Williams addresses this weakness here. It also focuses on the functional people rather than the high-need people and so we end up with church that prioritizes the rich, something we are warned about in the Scriptures (see James). (The predominant models of church planting require resources and expertise that make it extremely difficult to do effective church planting or ministry in poorer areas.  New models with greater sustainability, mobility and flexibility could really see something radical and beautiful happening here in Africa)

9. In a country where the church already has a bruised reputation for greed, immorality and unethical practices, basing a strategy around starting another church and having people join it, and actually give money to support it, is a hard sell and a troubled solution.

You can read the whole article here.

Related: Church Planting without planting a church