Friday, November 15, 2013

To whom much is given.

I was standing next to Kennedy, a graduate from Destiny Seminary in Yangon when I took this photo. Kennedy is now a teacher in Destiny's orphanage. He and I and the team were serving up a feast for the children in the orphanage. Pork, beef, chicken, vegetables, soda, cake and ice cream!
Their normal diet is rice and a little bit of gravy.

It was obviously deeply moving to see the excitement and gratitude amongst the children. It was like Christmas in November. I was also thankful that one of our team bought a year's supply of Unicef vitamin supplements for the Orphanage the next day. We want to help to bring sustained and sustainable change not just one night of feasting and then back to famine.

Even more moving though, was hearing Kennedy tell the story of their new-found freedom to worship Jesus and preach His Gospel. As we stood looking on at the feast, he told me of a night just two years ago when local army officials tried to force David, the principal of the seminary, to stop preaching. He asked the police to give them one more night to preach and worship. They begrudgingly allowed the meeting to continue but returned the next day to put a stop to it. The students and orphans continued like this for some time. Meeting to worship meant the risk of being arrested. Two years later the political climate has dramatically changed. They worship and preach without fear, and are making the most of every opportunity they have. There is no sense of entitlement here. Instead, there is a deep sense of gratitude and fervor to use their freedom to further the Gospel. Kennedy smiles as he sweats through an afternoon lecture on Colossians in 95F heat. He wants to plant a church. He feels that to whom much is given much is required. 

 These are the words Jesus said to His disciples about serving faithfully while they wait  for His return. The metaphor was of royal servants, entrusted with the royal palace, waiting up at night for their Master to return from a party. "Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning."(Luke 12:35)  Jesus was calling His disciples to be watchful and useful beyond the normal call of duty. He was saying that servants of Jesus will often feel stretched, because much will be required from a King of infinite worth, whose Gospel is free but whose kingdom is costly.

Most of us would not think that Kennedy has been given much. But Kennedy is aware of  the profound riches of grace, of training and of freedom. He feels rich even though we might not call him rich. And he is willing to be stretched in order to steward these riches well.

I know it's normal for people to come back from the mission field and remind their churches that "we don't know how rich we are." Forgive me for repeating the mantra, but we don't know how rich we are! We are rich in resources, skills, people. We are rich in the knowledge of Jesus and the power of the Spirit. We don't need to feel guilty about what we have been given. We simply need to resolve not to spend it all on ourselves. We need to resolve to steward it for God and for the benefit of others. This is why we give,  go, pray and send. Because to whom much is given much is required.

Thank you for giving towards the people of Myanmar and Vietnam, for sending the team in prayer, and for staying faithful on mission at home. Let's be dressed, ready for service with our lamps burning. May the Master find us all faithful and entrust us with more.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Are you happening to mission or is mission happening to you?

This Sunday will be 8 weeks since we launched Southlands Fullerton. God has been exceedingly good to us, and it is so satisfying to see the fruition of almost two years of prayer and planning.

There has been early traction in the Sunday gatherings, with an energetic buzz of volunteers,
a full house in Laguna theatre, clear preaching of message and mission, and a wonderful sense of God's presence as we've worshipped and prayed for one another.Visitor quotient has been good too. Perhaps even more important vital signs of life, have been the after-service community gatherings, and the launch of six life groups, who are already finding creative ways to be a faithful presence in the city. Nick and Kari and the lead team have done a remarkable  job of planting a community on mission,
not just a meeting.

Southlands Brea has risen to the challenge of the new season with energy, generosity and composure. Obviously it is feeling the effects of sending out  many high quality people; leaders, musicians, volunteers and just all-round great disciples. But that's the way it should be in these seasons. Of course it means a season of re-building for Brea, and that means new people playing new roles on the building site. Let's dig in deep here, trusting God for increased traction, momentum and life. We are not left behind. We are staying behind on mission with great Gospel intent!

Rynelle said to me a few days ago, "You know, it is one thing when you happen to mission. It is another thing when mission happens to you." I would say that is a profound way to describe the dynamics of the two communities. In Fullerton, because people are going ready on mission, they are happening to mission. They are expecting the unfamiliar, the uncomfortable and the new. In some ways, that is easier because you count the cost of  moving to a new place. At Brea, mission is happening to us. We have not moved physically, but we feel the effects of mission - less people, more work and no sense of the novelty of a new adventure. But actually, it is a brand new adventure for us. It is just happening in the same geography! There is new risk and new reward.

 In 1 Samuel 30, when David left with soldiers to plunder the Amalekites,  some people stayed behind with the baggage. On returning with the plunder after victory, he insisted that those who stayed behind  would share in the plunder of battle. This is an insight into Gospel mission. Whether we go or stay, we share in the risks and rewards of the Gospel. It is so important as a church for us all to count the cost of this mission, being ready to share in it's  risk because we all share in it's reward.

God is faithful. He is already sending great new people our way. On Sunday we welcome in 22 new members in at Brea. There are new members about to be prayed in at Fullerton too. Financial giving has also increased to meet the needs of the new season, and we are grateful for that. As well as that, this weekend Erik and Celeste take 20 people away fro the Alpha Holy Spirit Weekend. Most of these are people exploring the Christian faith. This is magnificent, and requires our prayer.

What a joy to be under the pressure of Gospel multiplication. May Jesus, who commissioned us to make disciples, empower us,  unite us, and cause us to walk boldly in His peaceful authority.