It is summer and that means…yes, it’s really hot, but also that it is a common time for short-term mission trips. Right out of the gate, let me put my cards on the table…I have never been on a short-term mission trip. However, our church, Stanwood Community Church embarked on a few trips this year. God showed up in a big way by providing for all that was needed for these trips and He brought a ton of kids to be involved. My friend, the youth pastor (who is supposed to be a guest author on this blog by the way…yes, I just officially called him out…), anyways, he did an awesome job coordinating all these trips.
I have classically struggled with short-term mission trips. I have seen again and again the benefit that these trips have on those that take part in them, yet I still wrestle in my spirit with them. I am far from having the “correct” position on what missions should be, but God has done a tremendous work in my life in regards to local mission. When I was still a very young Christian another friend regularly challenged me to get involved in some type of service locally. The “me” of that time thought that there was entirely too much emphasis placed on service and not enough on proper teaching of scripture. (Like I said, I don’t and obviously haven’t always had all this figured out) Nevertheless, I decided to take him up on his offer one week and come down to hang out at the Refuge of Hope. I was in love. It clicked for me and I felt home. I made some good friends there and experienced some real Christian community. That experience has lit a fire in me to look locally when it comes to mission. While my life has been quite full between full-time work, working on seminary full-time up until graduation this past May and oh yeah trying to be a good husband, I have not been able to be involved in much locally. I have had to learn to balance and to prioritize and I’m still learning. Nevertheless, I am still very good at deciding for others that they need to be serving where they are, locally that is.
Last week I listened to my two very close friends, the pastors of our church, tell of their experiences and convictions after their trip to Ecuador with some of our young adults. Here’s my confession, as I sat there listening I began to experience an overwhelming, unsettled feeling. I left without much to say on the ride home and it wasn’t until we got home and were preparing lunch that I could start to make sense of what I was feeling. With the help of my wife, we drug the rain cloud out of my spirit. I just heard my friends speak of these amazing, God experiences they had and all I could think about was the busy, stressful week I had at work. I felt like, “well that’s great, but back here in the boring and ordinary I’ve been working and trying to grind it out.” It was entirely selfish and entirely unnecessary. I also found myself wishing I was there with them. I wanted those experiences. And I missed those experiences at Refuge. If only I could experience that here back in “regular life.”
The thing about any type of mission is that it is never about the person serving. Yet we have a great temptation to make it about ourselves. We find things that make us feel good so we can “serve God”. We tweet about causes that are important so we feel like we did something. We grumble about “those people” that don’t get it and are doing it all wrong. We look at others that have felt a call to do something for God and say that it isn’t genuine because it is not what we would do, since we obviously have it figured out right? We get in a rut of endless experiences, whether it is trips or connectivity to some legitimate need to create a nice, boxed-in, Disneyland Christian experience. We try to carry it over into our “regular lives” but soon realize that, that is very difficult. We don’t get that same fire experience sitting at our desk day after day. We don’t feel like we are serving God by doing something so mundane. We run towards safety. We avoid risk. We play by the rules. We say God, faith, church or spirituality instead of Jesus.
The truth is, is that the “boring and the ordinary” is where we have the greatest potential of impact. What lame opponents we make for the enemy of God when all he has to do is get us to believe the lie that we are plopped in a job, in a community, in a family or in a circle of friends that is not important enough for the Gospel. We believe this lie and feel that unless we are out on the fringes with the rest of the people that are really making a difference for Christ then we aren’t doing anything worth noting. We are truly on the front lines in many ways in the boring and ordinary, because it is where people are and it is the world in which they live. It is also that world into which Jesus entered and therefore the world into which we enter as His disciples.
If a mission trip lights you up for Christ, understand that the fire comes from obeying God’s call to you to serve Him. That can happen at home too! If God sends you on a trip to figure that out, than be quiet and listen up. Or if God calls you to be a full-time missionary or to start an orphanage (one girl said she felt that God confirmed that for her), then do it! As Christians we are missionaries wherever God has placed us. You live in the county, the town, the house that you live in for a specific purpose and that purpose is God’s purpose for you. You work where you work for a reason. You go to school where you do for a reason. Your family and friends are yours and in your life for a reason. God is a master project manager. Every single one of our lives has been masterfully engineered by Him for a particular purpose and He wastes nothing.
So here I sit in the “boring and ordinary” feeling convicted over my unsettled spirit a week ago. How easy it is to feel like I need to have a chat with God and help Him understand that I appreciate His efforts, but He should probably let me plan out the next few months. Why is that? Well if you are anything like me, we slip into discontentment, always wanting to do more for God. In fact, what we may need to do is be obedient right where we are at. Be a good employee, a good student, a good grandson, a good neighbor and the other things you may be and do those things with a heart desiring to serve Jesus Christ. Oh yeah and speak up for Christ when He prompts you to, do not be afraid!