The Elder Leadership Institute (ELI) began several years ago under the direction...
The text came last night: Be ready at 8:30. It was ominous, but in a promising sort of way.
So, morning came. I dressed, took kids to school, and got my bike ready. My friend arrived promptly at 8:30 and we hit one of Bend’s many mountain biking trails.
I had wanted to try mountain biking for years. But the cost of a good bike and the time spent on the trails felt like too much of a focus on myself. I had kids to focus on. I had a church plant to focus on. They needed my attention and resources, not mountain biking.
I HAD HEARD IT SAID THAT THE BEST MISSIONAL PRACTICES ARISE FROM THINGS WE ALREADY DO OR WANT TO DO. I BELIEVED THAT INTELLECTUALLY, BUT I HAD A TOUGH TIME PUTTING IT IN PRACTICE. YEARS OF COMBATTING SELFISHNESS (OR WHAT I THOUGHT OF AS SELFISHNESS) TOLD ME, “NO! YOU CAN’T AFFORD THE TIME OR THE MONEY. DON’T BE SO SELFISH.”
A couple of years ago, my avid mountain biking brother-in-law pushed my hand during a visit to Bend. He found me a good second-hand bike I could afford and I bought it. I had made it over the cost hurdle. But I hadn’t made it over the time hurdle. For most of the past two years, the bike has collected dust (to the annoyance of my dear wife). But that changed with my text-sending friend.
So, for the past five weeks, I’ve been doing what I’d wanted to do for so long and having a blast. The scenery is gorgeous. The trails are both challenging and exhilarating. And the conversations are heading in places they hadn’t before.
My friend has a deep skepticism of Christianity that has been challenged by the carefree faith I practice. He brews beer and allowed me to join him recently for a brewing session (though I think I was in his way half the time). He loves movies and we’ve put together a series of guys movie nights at his home theater. And now that we’re riding together, we’re having longer conversations.
MISSION BEGINS BY GOING. JESUS SENDS US INTO THE WORLD. NOT OUR SMALLER, PERSONALLY SHAPED WORLDS, BUT INTO THE WORLDS OF OTHERS WHO DON’T KNOW OUR LORD. BUT WHAT MAKES THAT STEP OF ENTERING INTO ANOTHER’S WORLD MUCH EASIER IS IF IT’S A STEP WE’RE ALREADY WILLING TO TAKE.
Since I already had interests in beer, movies, and mountain bikes, it has been a piece of cake to enter into my friend’s world.
There are those who will show up at church to find out about Jesus — we have a few non-Christians who join us for our meals and Jesus stories each Sunday night in Sisters. But there are those who won’t, like my beer-brewing, mountain bike-riding friend. We can’t expect them to come to us. We have to go to them. And we have to go to them as friends, not as missionary targets. My friend would be horrified if he ever thought I was treating him like a target.
So, my challenge to all who follow Jesus and want to engage in mission but don’t know how is: Find out what you’ve always wanted to do and go do it! Just don’t do it by yourself. Find others who love doing it and join them. You’ll gladly enter their world and conversations about Jesus will follow. (Yes, there are ways to make that easier, but they’ll have to wait for another time.)
As a paraphrase of one of St. Augustine’s sermons puts it: “Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.”
And as St. Paul put it in his first letter to Timothy: put your hope in God, “who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17).
LOVE GOD. DO WHAT YOU WANT. BECAUSE GOD IS NOT STINGY WITH GOOD AND ENJOYABLE THINGS. AND MISSION IS A WILD RIDE!