As a pastor in a long established church (109 years), I find a tension that makes me weary and drives me to question at times, why I’m here. Don’t get me wrong, my congregation are wonderful loving, warm, salt-of-the-earth people who sincerely desire to worship and serve God. We have gotten more involved in our community through a non-profit organization that works with the poor and homeless, we host a SERVE project and take on some big projects to help those in need. We are a church trying to partner in the mission of God.
I like that. That’s how I believe scripture teaches the Gospel is to be lived and realized, through devoted followers of Christ who represent Jesus in their communities and wherever they find themselves. But here’s the great tension of which I speak; The Dual Life.
The Dual Life can be best described as living in the overarching belief of the American Dream: to work hard and get what’s mine, living primarily out of an individualistic, consumer mindset (even without realizing it) while at the same time claiming to be a follower of Christ and trying to fit some “form” of ministry in somewhere.
It really looks schizophrenic to those outside the faith. And I believe it is one of the greatest hinderances to the furtherance of the kingdom and sharing of the gospel message. In many ways these two schools of thought are diametrically opposed, and nine times out of ten, the Gospel — the missional life — loses out. And the work of the church is stifled.
What it Looks Like
People’s lives are more busy than ever. Mobility expands the opportunities for travel and with the need to have kids involved in every opportunity for advancement and two parents having to work to keep things afloat, schedules are crazy busy and the TODO list may or may not include some church activity. Our “American Dream” culture says prioritize for the upwardly mobile, get ahead and provide the best at any and every cost.
Look down the list of things TO DO and where do you find “serving in ministry?” Usually at the bottom, if you can get to it. For the Christian who believes the truths of the Bible, this is problem thinking. And it’s gone on for so long now that it’s hard for “church” people to think any different. Somehow serving Christ is a thing you do — an event or project — like everything else in life and has to fit into the already hectic schedule.
A New Way of Thinking
In an interview with VERGE, Paul Tripp answers the question about needing to schedule for mission,
“…if you’re saying mission is just one more thing to add to an already busy schedule, think about the thinking behind that thinking. Again it’s got this divided life to it.”
The truth is, mission/being on mission with God is our schedule. It’s not something one adds to their schedule. It’s the life of the Christian. It is our calling — who and what we are.
“And so if I’m going to work I’m not thinking, ‘Well I’m at work today and then later on tonight I’m going to do ministry.’ I’m thinking, ‘I’m heading to a God given place of ministry where I will have the opportunity to live out the grace of the Gospel both in the way that I respond and the grace that I give to people. I get to live that out a thousand ways today…‘ I think, ‘How could it be that I would be so privileged as to be apart of the most important work in the Universe—it’s called redemption and I get to do that all the time.‘
What do I want for my children? Redemption. What do I want for my neighbors? Redemption. What do I want for my husband or wife? Redemption. What do I want for my coworkers? Redemption. What do I want for the shop keeper that I meet three or four times a week? Redemption. And I want to be apart of that. And by the touch of my hand, by the tone of my voice, by the look on my face I want to represent the One who has sent me.”
Now, that may also include some specific things we do throughout the week as a body of Christ; some church functions, worship and specific ministries vital to the life of the church and discipleship. But, can you imagine what the church would look like if every Christian realized this and lived it? We’d be busting at the seems because real mission develops a discipling community. It happens outside of the Sunday event and outside the walls of the building in every day life and around a shared table.
Being on mission with Jesus is about making his grace evident everywhere.
’til next time,
*What is VERGE? http://www.vergenetwork.org/about/
* Paul Tripp: Paul launched Paul Tripp Ministries in June of 2006. With a pastor’s heart for pastors, he is also Professor of Pastoral Life and Care at Redeemer Seminary and the Executive Director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care, under the auspices of the Association of Biblical Counselors. Paul has authored countless books along with DVD/Video resources.