I feel the pressure of deadlines. Either self-imposed or by some exterior force, I feel them looming. The beauty of school is the syllabus. I know the deadline for an assignment and exactly what must be done by that deadline. When it comes to following the Lord's leading as I answer his call, I'm finding the syllabus looks a little different. Rather than doing "x" to achieve "y" in "z" amount of time, it is a personal journey with a personal Savior that does things according to his divine plan. Not forced, but not lazy, its just right... perfect timing...
But... I struggle with the sin that seeks to govern my perception of when things "should" happen.
When my sons want something from me, the often seek to move my will by crying out with much wailing and trepidation. They have been known to throw things, cry, roll on the floor and melt into a puddle of grief. They express their desire to have or know what only I can give them, as if their display of misery would move my will to give them what they want.
This week I have been fasting and praying that the Lord would give me an answer. Unfortunately, I began by displaying my own despondent misery in order to move the will of God toward my ends. My plan was to fast and pray to move the mouth of God to speak. Not surprisingly, he did not give me the answer I was looking for...
It wasn't long before the Lord reminded me that the purpose of fasting and prayer is not to bend the will of the Almighty, Sovereign God to do as I please. Instead, fasting and prayer should be my expressed desire to align my heart and mind with His in the midst of my present struggle. He showed me that the timing in which we receive his good gift is a gift in itself. When we seek him first, He reveals his heart and molds ours hearts to his.
As the Holland Family waits for the Lord to speak, we are submitting to him our desire for clear, tangible steps to follow in the coming days and months. Meanwhile, we will cling to the Word of God as the anchor for our wandering hearts:
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
2 Corinthians 12:9
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Seeking His Perfect Timing
A few years ago I came across this statistic. "If all the moving peoples of the earth were to comprise the population of one country, that country would be the fifth largest country in the world." This statistic has sunk down into my heart and created a passion to spread the word of God among this "people group". Most of these moving peoples are filling the major cities of the world. This is part of "globalization". In 1974, in the first Lausanne Conference, Ralph Winter proposed that mission focus should be given to bringing the Gospel to "unreached people groups" of the world. These people groups were understood to be geographically distinct along with their unique culture and language. Reaching the unreached people group is a mission mantra that continues today . This strategy looks something like this: 1. Identify a people group that needs the Gospel. 2. Cross the boundaries of language, culture, and location to bring the biblical, culturally contextualized gospel to the unreached (and/or) unengaged peoples. 3. Disciple new believers to be obedient disciple-making disciples of Jesus. 4. Once that new body of believers is self-sustaining, move on to the next unreached, unengaged people groups. Understandably, that is an oversimplification of the missionary's strategy, however it encompasses the general idea. Considering the phenomenon of globalization and the sheer number of moving peoples from every corner of the plant, I see a new opportunity in missions found in the planting of International Church. The International Church can play a key role in reaching those unbelievers that are on the move.
When considering the phenomenon of globalization, how are we to both effectively and efficiently transmit the Gospel faithfully to those that are "on the move"? I propose that the most effective way to reach the moving person is not through the identification of particular people groups, but by seizing the current opportunities that are bridging traditional boundaries to unreached peoples. God has seen fit to allow three of the most common barriers to Gospel transmission to be more easily overcome. Those are:
Globalization has allowed the unreached access to major cities that are often equally accessible to missionaries. Within the globalized city, the missionary can find a myriad of representatives from unreached people groups. These people desire to make a life for themselves with a higher income, job opportunities, education, access to medical care, etc. Certainly, there are many peoples who have not found their way to the cities and must be engaged directly in the place where they are living. However, if they have a "representative" living and working in the city, they may become an ambassador for Christ to their people "back home".
The proliferation of the English language has created an unprecedented demand for English language learning. In many ways, the demand for English is leveling the linguistic playing field for the western missionary. By creating access to English language learning to any and everyone, the opportunity for the English-speaking missionary to transmit the Gospel increases. This is an argument for efficiency as learning each language and dialect of every person in the city (or the world) is an impractical (if not impossible) undertaking for any missions organization, let alone the individual missionary. On the other hand, the depth of understanding of the Gospel may lag due to the time needed to grasp the English language. If the opportunity for Gospel transmission arises in the city context, by all means share boldly and fully the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The benefit, however, is for those who have arrived in the city to flourish economically in the long run. This occurs when the moving person gains the skill of speaking English.
(I concede that there are a host of other needs that may be more pressing such as food, clothing and shelter. These must be met in the name of Jesus, so also should the gift of speaking a language allowing the person to engage the global economy). What's more, there are thousands of English-speakers that are on the move, taking up residence in global cities. Each need the saving message of the Gospel and a church where they can be discipled to carry that Gospel to the next corner of the earth.
Following the teaching of English, the teaching of the host city's language may be just as effective in the long run. Many moving people found in a globalized city are not familiar with the host country's language.
The boundary of culture is being crossed by already occurring changes to the culture's of moving people. Although I say natural, I do not mean easy. The person on the move already must contend with cultures unlike his or her own home culture. They must work hard to change accordingly by learning the culture of the host country. They may even abandon elements of their own culture in order to survive and thrive in their host country. As a missionary kid, I've seen this most keenly in the lives of Third Culture Kids like my self. "TCKs" are raised in an environment outside of their parent's home culture. They may never fully integrate into the host culture, therefore, they ultimately operate according to their own uniquely developed "third culture". Every person seeking to establish a life for themselves is already culturally adjusting to succeed in the host culture. The missionary must see this already occurring adaptation as an advantage for Gospel transmission. As one's culture is changing, so the person is often more likely to accept their need for a Savior in the midst of great transition. Accepting the Gospel means change, something with which the transient person is already becoming familiar.
[Side Note. This is where the International Church has the tremendous opportunity to support and encourage the local church to love the moving person in their midst. On the other hand, the International Church has the opportunity to receive the Intentional and network them according to their needs. (More on network and national church relationships in another post)]
Seize the Opportunities
Given the opportunities for crossing boundaries within global cities, I propose that International Churches are key to increased disciples making among moving peoples. The greatest strength of the International Church is to seize its position in a global city to reach the moving person who, in turn, can become Christ's ambassador wherever they go next. The International Church can use English as a means to reach the transient person. Finally, the International Church can stand at the cross-roads of cultures and introduce the ultimate cross-cultural bridge into new life with Christ. As disciples of Jesus Christ, let's seize new opportunities to carry the Gospel across barriers.
Panera Bread is one of the few places I’ve found where I can focus and get homework done. Today, I sat sipping Hazelnut coffee while hammering through a book review for my Church History class. In order to drown out the chatty folks around me, I found some ambient noise to wire into my ears (I can't focus while listening to music…anyone else find that to be true?). Being the jungle-bred MK that I am, I listened to some poring rain. Aahhhh…. though there were blue skies outside, I sunk into the memories of my homeland.
After nine months here in the US, I found that I’m itching to move again. So far, I have not found much that really connects with me here in Texas. I’ve dived into school, life, ministry and family as best as I’m able, but something hasn’t clicked yet. I don’t feel home…yet, despite having rearranged the furniture every few months. I say "yet", thinking it will happen eventually, but it begs the question, "What do I do to feel at home?"
As a Christian I know the Scripture passages that say, I will never be “at home” while here on earth, but there are those God-encounters that remind us that we are His children, heirs of a great kingdom to come. When I think of my “home” in the jungle, I think what moves my heart to longing is that I found God there. The jungles of Ecuador is where I was gripped by grace and moved by the power of God to step away from my self into the life of purpose, life abundant, life that was truly life. Though sanctification was occurring, what I remember best was seeking and seeing God work in me, despite my sin. That, is why I can say, “those were good times”.
Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.
This morning I was in Colossians 1:9-12 where the Lord reminded me that the knowledge of God is key to living in his power. This means patiently enduring with joy and responding in thanksgiving, no matter where I find myself. I pray that the Lord will encounter me here early and often, but I must abide in him, seek him, know Him. A seminary eduction without this is just knowledge, but coupled with knowing Him, it becomes a powerful force against the listless ignorance of our time. We are placed in certain locations and during certain times because God desires that we find him (Acts 17:26-27). While we are here, (wherever that is for you), let us resolve to know God now.
If you have not heard yet, the Holland family is leaving Ecuador. In August I will continue seminary studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, TX. This plan has been in formation since December, although it had not come to its current form until a couple months ago. This transition means a lot of things, especially for two missionary kids and their Ecuadorian son. More than anything it has meant learning to rest in the arms of God as we leap forward in faith that he will be all that he has promised to be for us.
As I have been processing this new step in my life, I've been working my way through Genesis. Genesis means beginnings and not only is the beginning of the world described in the book, but character after character experiences transition after transition to something they did not expect. Hebrews 11 refers to these character's faith in a home that they could not yet see, but believed that they would reach eventually.
Home means a lot to me. At first home meant summer at my grandparent's farm drinking really cold Welch's grape juice from a Tupperware mug. Later in my life it meant playing hard outside in a jungle rain with my best friends. As I got older, home became much more elusive. I wasn't sure where I was comfortable to breathe easy. Being with my family was always good, but it seemed to be in a different place very often. I lord the farm and I missed the jungle. I even missed the dry air of the Andes, but home sunk deeper into me than anything I could experience.
I think that the concept of home became a deep drawing that led me further into the Gospel of Jesus. The truth was, I was not satisfied with homes on earth because they always changed. Holding on ever tighter did not mean better homes, it often meant more pain when it changed. But, I Christ I have a home that does not change. A friend that does not leave and a place to go forever. I read recently that if every migrant person were to comprise a country, they would make up the fifth largest country in the world. That is an enormous people group. The Lord has a purpose in moving people. We see that we have nothing that can't be taken away. He becomes our constant.
In order to launch this puppy I had to come up with something to say. I guess I'll talk about my beard.
There are days when I think, who's in control of my face? Me or my Beard? Its large, glossy, fun to look at and pet, but is it taking over control of my face? Am I known for my Christian-like behavior or am I just known for my protruding facial display of virility and manliness? One time a lady (that I didn't know) told me that I'd be a really good looking guy if I didn't have that thing on my chin. To which I didn't reply, "That's because you think men should be more lady-like and look like babies. I am not a baby. I'm a man."
There's a deeper issue here, obviously. Our culture wants to neutralize everything. They say that boys can play with dolls, girls can fight on the front lines, so long as everything is accessible and fair for everyone. Sure, women can get facial hair implants, but it is not what the good Lord intended. The hair on my face is 100% natural God-given and today, that's a great big shout-out to complementarianists. If nothing else one great "subtle" difference between men and women can be found right under our nose.
We are transient people who find our home in Christ. We write about transient living, Missions, and why we are here on this earth.