The New Face of Missions

wheat-578195 copy

The face of missions is changing. It has to. If all we were doing was the sum total of all God wanted done, the job would be finished and we’d be at a wedding feast.

Missions has become “professionalized”. I know. I’ve been and still am a missionary professionally. And that isn’t changing. But the problem with professionalizing anything is it can take what once was considered the calling of all and relegate it to a relative few, the experts with the degrees. For brain surgeons, professionalization is fabulous. But for missionaries, not so much.

Professional missionaries alone will NEVER get the job done of reaching the world.  It doesn’t matter how trained or smart or even anointed we are.  God never intended missions, or ministry for that matter, to be left to a handful of experts.

If you love Jesus, YOU are a missionary every bit as much as I am.

The issue isn’t IF you are missionary, it is WHERE you are a missionary.  And that location can change seasonally as you follow Jesus.

One of the many things I miss about working in South Sudan was that my kids got it.  They believed they were just as much a missionary as any of us. And they were right. They might have been even a little bit more passionate than some of us.  We adults had to break up fights about who was going to get to go pray for the sick at the hospital.

The harvest field isn’t going to uproot itself en masse and walk into our meeting places of worship. That’s why in Africa we loaded a flat bed truck with speakers and music and our kids and leaders and went into the literal markets of village areas. In the midst of tarps teetering on sticks and ropes, we prayed for the sick and shared the love of Jesus in ways those who gathered could relate to and understand.

Missions here in the west is NO different. Missions is about taking the reality of Jesus we know from our meeting place with Him OUT into our marketplaces. Missions is a bridge from the meeting place to the marketplace all of us who love Jesus are called to cross every single day.

Missions isn’t about invasion. We don’t go to rule over culture or take over the market.  Missions is about incarnation, where the very reality of Jesus made real in us, then through us, draws those with hearts open to receive. We show up… filled up (with Jesus) ready to be spilled out (as His love-offerings on the world around us).

So what skill, idea, business, vocation, training has God put in your hand, that when stewarded with wisdom and excellence, might open doors to genuinely serve your community as Jesus Himself is made real in you? 

THAT, beloved IS the essence of missions. 

The harvest will only be fully reached when the church as a whole, both in the USA and abroad, is empowered to lay hold of the truth: Missions has a new face today… yours.


Save

Are We To Be Missionaries or Mountaineers?

mtneering

I’m sitting here tonight wondering if I should really tell the whole wide virally-prone internet what I think on this subject.  I might step on toes.  I might offend some of you.  I really don’t like doing either.  So let me just preface this post with saying some of you may completely disagree with me.  And that is OK.

There is a teaching popular in certain streams about “seven mountains of cultural influence.”  These mountains refer to different social spheres like business, education, family, the arts, etc.  Because I am a missionary at heart, engaging culture, or more accurately the people who are a part of it, is something near and dear to my heart.  So I was pretty excited about the whole cultural mountain shebang when I first heard some of the basics quite a few years ago.

I totally resonate with the idea of God calling us out of the meeting place to minister in market place… that is completely Biblical. Here I am, send me Jesus!

But what I am talking about here is not that at all.

I am talking about an insidious, sneaky, tangential teaching that can easily mimic the heart and nature of true missions. Ok, here we go.

I recently heard teaching on the seven mountains of culture that stated the following {and yes this is a direct quote}: “Those 7 mountains of influence are so powerful that he who occupies the top of those mountains can literally shape the agenda that forms nations.”

I replayed the segment a few times to make sure I had heard correctly.

Basically the thinking goes something like this: Say you are called to education. Well in order to be influential in that “mountain” you need to work super hard to get to the top so you can be in charge and set the agenda that will bring God’s Kingdom in the mountain of education.

Does God care about education, about what children are learning?  Of course He does. Because He cares about children and parents and teachers and administrators. Does He call folks to go serve in the mission field of education to demonstrate His character and love and power right where they are at? Absolutely.

Ministry is about serving in love and keeping our eyes on the King, not controlling the show.  Does God set people in high places of leadership? For sure He does.  But not because they were trying to climb a mountain to be an influencer and become king of the cultural hill.

God’s Kingdom is not about dominating as monarchs, it is about infiltrating as missionaries.

Let’s look at this from a missions point of view.  If I had gone in to South Sudan mandating people just do as I say and follow my protocols because I knew better and those ideas were “kingdom”, none of what I saw happen would have. I would have wound up building my own kingdom not God’s.

I didn’t go to South Sudan to be in charge. I went in to love like Jesus, be faithful and do prayerfully only what I saw my Father doing. Was culture transformed? Heavens yes. Education, government, economy, social justice all were impacted.  Not by me being an influencer making policy decisions on the top of the mountain range. But by our family keeping our eyes on Jesus and His Kingdom.

Making more policy doesn’t change people’s hearts.  Only a love encounter with Jesus can do that. Trying to manipulate, “influence” and even legislate what we believe to be God’s will on the earth, squeezing fatally flawed man-made structures into a religious mold comes perilously close to witchcraft (spiritual manipulation even in Jesus name that is rooted in our own strength and understanding rather than what God is actually doing).

God’s Kingdom is not a subculture. We are a counter culture where low is high and the highest place of all is the lowest place of service.  They tried to make Jesus a king and He ran the other direction to hide.  Satan offered Jesus the mountain top kingdoms of this world and Jesus rebuked him.  If kingdom influence is determined by cultural power and esteem, Jesus was an epic failure.  His own culture crucified Him.  His greatest platform was realized in a death sentence on the cross.

Jesus Himself said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation {careful scrutiny and visual evidence}; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within, among and inside you.”

So maybe, just maybe, His Kingdom needs more missionaries and fewer mountaineers.

The Dawning of A Dream

warm-1038148 copy

Dawn comes gentle on the horizon. It doesn’t explode forth, rushing into the day like a torrent of light.  Rather it creeps in little by little until the darkest part of night has melted into another sunrise that once seemed it would never come.

It has been a very dark three years of night in many ways here for me.  A night so thick it blackness was suffocating. But darkness cannot choke out light. No matter how faint or feeble, light always wins. Always.

Dreams hide in dark seasons. They can become so quiet you think they too have died, crushed by grief and loss and disappointment and whatever else hides in the shadowy passages of life.

But then the soul’s dark night is met with unexpected glimmers that flow into a dawn that offers back the very dreams that were hidden.  Now they are refined. Matured. Fire-tested and approved.

Since my early 20s I had a dream of equipping folks to step into the fullness of all they are made for in Jesus.  That dream has been stolen, hijacked, mocked, shattered, left behind, lost, found, remembered, fought for, planted in red earth continents away, obscured by pain, allowed to die and now resurrected into beauty and fullness in ways I could not have imagined even a week ago.

Dawn comes gently. But then the sunrise bursts forth over the horizon and light blazes and dreams awaken.

God has made 2 things very clear to about 2016.

  1. I am to start traveling again.  Right now it looks like I will be focusing mostly on the larger southeast… places 1-2 day drives from where I am in north Florida.  I feel like there is something significant about driving for me in this season. {Plus I really love road trips!} Starting in January I’m available for speaking at churches, events, conferences, etc.  More on that coming in the next post or two.
  2. I’m starting a School of the Prophetic that is pretty much unconventional in most every way. And I’m not doing it alone. I have some pretty incredible friends who are going to be involved in various ways.

mosaic-sotp1a web

So let me ask a few questions.

  • Do you want to learn more about hearing God’s voice?
  • Learn more about how to lean in to His leading every day?
  • Do you have questions about spiritual gifting and wonder about finding your calling and where you fit into His picture?
  • Would you like to become more effective and creative in ministry and see His love transform the world around you?
  • Do you have a heart for missions, the nations and being equipped to walk in the fullness of all you are made for?

Did you say yes to any of these questions?

You might want to stay tuned. 😉

Over the last 3 years, God put a fire in my heart to equip and raise up Kingdom leaders and family rooted in the love of Jesus, grounded in the character of God and released in a Christ-centered supernatural lifestyle.  All in the context of an Isaiah 61 community.

This is not traditional ministry training.  We will be developing a format that harnesses the power of online learning and melds it with local community building, mentoring relationships and in person intensives.   Mosaic is not one size fits all cookie-cutter learning.  Mosaic is custom made for the people, organizations and churches God brings.

You can read more here: Mosaic School of the Prophetic

And I can’t do any of this without your help. I still urgently need monthly supporters and/or those who feel led to give specific non-monthly gifts as well. You can find all the information about joining my support team here if God leads you to be a part of sowing into helping make this happen.

You are so loved and I can’t wait to see where this new day of grace is going to lead.

A Cry From the Desert

TDCintro-web

I am convinced. The present day church is in need of another counter-cultural movement birthed in the desert places.

We are standing at the threshold of another reformation and again there are structural doors that cry out for truth born in love to be nailed to them.

Have you ever heard the phrase “desert season” or “spiritual wilderness”? What comes to mind?  People half dead, delirious from dehydration being somehow punished for their sins?  Unfortunately, that is the picture I see painted many times in sermons or messages.

Biblically, deserts were not places of lack and misery. Quite the opposite! The wilderness is a place where we can come to know the wilds of God’s love for us in a way no other place could teach us.   Deserts are places of raw intimacy with Jesus where our comfort-zones are shattered and our props and pretense are stripped away, where reformers are born and nations are shaped.

The desert is the place where God becomes our everything and the platforms of men only find meaning inside of Him. I have walked long with the desert fathers of old, the early church leaders and the Celtic saints.  Their writings gave me my first language for understanding my own journey with Jesus.

The desert fathers and mothers were radical lovers of Jesus who escaped the Constantinean reforms of 313 AD that imposed a political empire on the church that still informs the way we do things millennia later.  Instead, the desert fathers built a community that was a counter-cultural stance against the power structures taking over the fabric of their faith.

They embraced an ebb and flow of solitude and togetherness which brought them closer to the Father and to one another. Yes some of them took asceticism to the extreme and I am certainly not advocating that.  But for most, it was not about self abasement; it was about finding sanity and freedom from a politicized church system run a muck.  And in turn their desert journeys inspired other generations, especially the Celtic Christians a few centuries later.

There is a story about the meeting of two desert monks.  A younger monk sought out an older monk and recited all of his spiritual disciplines. He came with the question in his heart, “What else can I do?”  The older monk lifted his hands towards heaven and his fingers become like lamps of fire. He replied, “If you will, you can become all flame.

Desert journeys are truly about that. About becoming all flame.

Desert seasons are not miserable seasons of God withdrawing or being absent. Far from it. They are seasons of Him presencing, presenting Himself differently in order to draw us deeper into more of Who He is. Deserts are places of burning bushes and miracles of provision. They are the places we are wooed and spoken tenderly to, given back our vineyards, where we lay our head upon the rock and wake to meet angels.  Deserts are where the valley of dejection becomes a door of Hope.  They are the places we come up out of leaning on Him Who is the Lover of our souls.

Yes there are times God seems a bit far, His hand a bit slow for our liking.  But He really isn’t. Ever far or slow.

Over the last few months I’ve touched on some trends and teachings I’ve encountered which I find concerning. I’ve been prayerfully considering where I sense Jesus leading in it all, not wanting to react but only to respond to Him.

We want the love that discerns His best in all things, right?  I’m not saying I have it all figured out and I may well disagree with myself in years to come so you certainly are free to disagree with me. But there is a fire in my bones to share with you some of the things on my heart in the coming weeks and months.

I haven’t been all that sure what to call this series.  Then it hit me.  It is a cry from the desert places to return to the simplicity and purity of devotion to Jesus. #desertcryseries

So sweet friend, may you run to the desert knowing burning bushes of commissioning, deep wells of compassion and holy encounters where you are named and you meet God face to face are waiting for you there.  It is from this place reformers are being shaped to prepare the way once again for the Lord.

I’ll leave you with a prayer scribbled in the corner of one of my Africa journals.

 

Your Kingdom Come

kingdomage-1aThis is the way God’s Kingdom comes.  With dusty feet on unpaved paths and hearts open-wide to Jesus even when He comes as the least of these.  With hearts in love with the King who are willing to give their lives away.

Since returning back to the USA in 2013, I’ve seen some pretty wild things going on in different pockets of the church.  I’m not here to name names.  Because a preoccupation with names is part of what got us in the mess we are in to begin with.  It isn’t about who says what or which camp believes what, it is about each of us individually and in community looking at Jesus so long and often the least little bit of not-Jesus is glaringly obvious.  I do however have a burning in my spirit to start talking about some of the “what” I have encountered in the last few years.

Church we NEED discernment.  Not fear.  Not avoidance. Not playing-it-safe.  We need the raw deep love of God that discerns His best in everything (Phi 1:9-10). Over the next bit, I’m going to be sharing some thoughts on what I’ve observed in an upcoming series called Tough Love.

I’m not saying I have it all figured out or even have definitive answers in some cases.  But I need to share what is burning in my heart.  As always, you are free to disagree and think I have it wrong.  In 10 years, maybe I’ll even disagree with myself on some things.  😉 Disclaimer: I am not speaking of any one ministry or person specifically. So please don’t read into anything more than what is written.  The only finger I am pointing is at the spirit of deception’s toehold in these areas of distraction.

Recently, I have run across several websites who refer to the Church age as being over, extolling the fact we have ascended to enter the Kingdom age. (Which infers the kingdom age is of a higher revelation than the church.)  These same sites boldly state their ministries “create heaven on earth.”  One of them even charges fees to litigate your “case” in “heaven’s courtroom”.  100% serious.

I can’t even begin to tell you how incredibly grieved my spirit is seeing such things in black and white.  I mean not even subtle folks.  I will in a future post talk about the “courtroom of heaven” teaching out there and my personal take on it.  But let’s start with the basics.

THE CHURCH AGE IS NOT OVER because the Church is NOT an age.  The Church is the Bride of Christ Jesus gave His life for.  The Church is the Body of Christ, Jesus’ hands and feet, ears and elbows on the earth.

God’s Kingdom is not an age. It is an ever-present reality Jesus advances through His Church, His people as they live in love and so live in Him and He in them (1 Jn 4:16).  God’s Kingdom does not come without the Church. (By Church I mean the sum total of all of us who know and love Jesus who live and serve and love in relationship with Him and one another.  I’m not referring to any one institution, denomination or organizational structure.)

It begs the question.  If the Church age is over (meaning the time of influence of the church is over), whose kingdom and what influence are these folks actually bringing?  It is kind of a scary thought.  I have my conclusions, but I will leave you to take all this to Jesus and draw your own.

Some of you may say it’s just semantics.  I hear you.  But words matter.  Because words have power.  It is so important we don’t just hop on the prophetic trend wagon and start assimilating catch phrases and buzz words just because they are the “now” thing.  I don’t know about you, but most things that fly around buzzing in my ear wind up getting swatted.

We need to run everything by Jesus.  Even this post.  EV-E-RY-thing.  The Living Word is the litmus test for every other word we encounterIf a message you are hearing disagrees with Jesus, you have permission to disagree with it: no matter who brings it, how famous they are, how spiritual they seem, how many books they have written or how polished their website is.

Church, Your story is still unfolding.  It hasn’t ended because His Story hasn’t ended.  Your brightest hours are yet to come.