The church is a community of travelers

The church is meant to be a community where each person can find safe space to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, without making it unsafe for others in the process. Each of us need time, space, and permission to be who we are at each moment. We need to be allowed to feel our feelings and think our thoughts, and even have a place to engage in conversation about these things. The role of church leadership is to help equip people for the journey of faith, not to make the journey for them or even to lay out every stop along the way. The only limit is that in your journey you cannot demean, abuse or oppress others as they make their journey. Together we learn how to pack for the journey, learning to consider what is needed, and what is just extra baggage and dead weight – but the ultimate choice of what to bring is up to each person. We describe the journey as we and others have made it, so some things will be familiar along the way. We tell them where the “port keys” are, so they know that no matter where they end up, getting back can be a short trip. And we travel, some on one road, others on another.

The different paths often parallel, then diverge, and later intersect. One has a tough climb, while another is on an easy descent. Some are resting in the valley, while others are taking glory in the summit for a moment. Sometimes a particular spot is simply a rest stop along someone’s way. We give them food and water and a place to rest. We listen to their story, and share some of ours. Then we wish them well as they travel on. We certainly do not begrudge their departure, nor think it signals our failure, any more than their arrival signaled our success. The journey is theirs to make. Success or failure of any given venture will not be known until the journey’s end, when all things are weighed by the one who is Way, Truth and Life – in whom we journey, in whom we trust, in whom we live.

Preach Locally – Live Globally

In Jesus’ day, ‘neighbor’ had a pretty narrow definition. He expanded the definition exponentially from – “the people like you in your community that you like” – to – “love your enemy”. Still, all of this was grounded locally. Today, I can talk, email, video conference and text with folks around the globe in real time. My friends regularly have work staff meetings with folks simultaneously on 4 continents! Neighbor now includes everyone. Jesus hinted at this several times, most notably at the end of Matthew and the beginning of Acts when he challenges the church to go ‘to the ends of the earth’ sharing the good news of God’s love revealed in Him.

I’ve been spending some time over this last year thinking about global ministry, and my/our involvement in it. My Aunt Diana travels to Kenya annually for several months as a short term missionary from Belfast with the Presbyterian Church in East Africa. Several of my local clery coleagues are or have traveled overseas for various kinds of ministry. Yesterday I met Peter, a US resident Evangelist from Nigeria. He has just returned from there, and has trips planned to Mexico, German, and back to Africa later this year. I’ve gotten to spend some time in Mexico just across the Texas border around Matamores, and a week in Honduras 12 years ago. I feel drawn to our Spanish speaking neighbors here in the community as we minister to them at the neighborhood park outreach – providing lunch, some activities for the kids, and seeking to build community with and among them.

The world is a small place, and our own local community continues to diversify with dozens of languages in the local schools. And I have a dream of a whisper of a calling to respond, to act intentionally in the midst of this environment. I desire deeply to travel the world and experience many cultures, but I resist the temptation to be a vouyer, or simply a consumer of multicultural experiences as yet another luxury my affluence can afford. I want to act in ways that grow the Kingdom of God. I want to expand my own understanding of the Body of Christ through these experiences, and toshare with others what we have to give. I want to build reciprical community, if that’s even possible.

I also realize that my $3000 for my trip to Africa could make a big impact on a village if I would simply give that money. Do I have enough to offer and enough to gain by making such trips? As I said, I want to make them, but this really doesn’t matter much. What matters is what Jesus wants of me, and that I do not know. What I do know is that I can be more intentional at Forest Grove to raise the visibility of Global Ministries, Disciples and otherwise, starting with the resources through Disicples Overseas Ministries. I wonder if twice a year we could highlight DOM for a month, once in the spring and once in the fall – around Pentecost and again around World Communion Sunday, perhaps. The Fall emphasis could also tie in with and ‘alternative Christmas’ fair in October or November.

How would this connect in with our purposes and core values?