Thursday, March 8, 2012

"Giving what you got" : embracing the pleasure and price of travel

I love a good deal. My wife found a brand new pair of men's boots at Goodwill the other day for 16 bucks. Chocolate brown, suede, ankle length boots. 16 bucks. When she went back the next day to get them for me, the price tag had come off, so the shop attendant said she could have them for 8 bucks. When she went to the checkout to pay the lady said it was 50% off shoes that day. So I got a great pair of boots for 4 bucks. As I said, I love a good deal.

Since 1997, Rynelle and I have traveled together. At one stage airports felt like our second home. We remember those days with fondness and gratitude, but the gloss of globetrotting wore off long ago. We find the price of leaving kids, fighting jet lag, sleeping in strange beds and eating foreign food, somehow more costly these days. Travel is a huge privilege, don't get me wrong. Engaging in what God is doing around the world, making new friends and seeing new places is enriching. But it's certainly not a good deal. It's expensive all round; for the sending church, for the people who go, for the family who gets separated, and for those left behind to take care of the kids. So why do we do it?

Well, we go because as followers of Jesus, the Sent One, we are also sent ones. He left the comfort of His heavenly family to preach and embody the Gospel, and to make disciples, leaving them with the command, "As the Father sent Me so I am sending you." We understand our call to be witnesses of Jesus is not limited to our neighborhood. Christ's disciple-making commission was to all nations.

We also go because we believe the most effective way to make disciples is to plant and nurture healthy churches. When we go, that's what we're involved with. It's not a sight-seeing trip staying in nice hotels, or speaking at flashy conferences. It's staying with the people in the church you've gone to help, listening to their stories, struggles and dreams, answering their questions, and praying through their pains. There certainly is some preaching and worship leading, but that's really the minor part of it. It's more about climbing in the trenches with them. This is what we've spent the week doing in Newcastle, England, with a church called The House, which is in the throes of a leadership transition.

Which leads me to the final reason we go. We go because we have something to give. You don't go to get something. You go because you've got something to give. God has brought Southlands safely and strongly through a transition herself. He's been kind, patient and faithful to us. Although each church's journey is unique, it's been clear that the lessons we've learned have been helpful for this church in her own transition.

It's not always going to be Rynelle and I who go. We're committed to building a strong and compelling local church in Orange County, and equipping others to go too, but I feel we would be selfish and even disobedient not to share some of the treasure of our transition.

Let's not wheel and deal with God as He sends us, whether it's to our neighbors or the nations. Let's not try and get the best bargain. We've been given what we don't deserve in the Gospel, and therefore live to give it freely. As Jim Elliot, the missionary martyr once said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."

Looking forward to seeing you this Sunday.

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