Louise Summerhill knew what "stuff" could do to her mission.
|Sally created this painting for Birthright of Salem.|
"The essence of Birthright is love." - Summerhill
More than the women they serve, it's the volunteers who daily get the most challenge by the mission of Birthright. As a volunteer I found it easier to ask a woman a barrage of questions about what stuff she doesn't yet have for the baby. It's easier to pile up stuff in her arms than it is to sit and listen. The hardest thing is to ask whether her heart is happy for another baby and wait the awkward five minutes for a pregnancy test to result. Staying on mission is challenging for those who are trying to achieve it.
I feel that this is analogous for the Church. Jesus' mission was singular: make disciples, teaching them everything He commanded. If we are going to do that well, who is teaching us and maturing us to do the most important thing? If I walk into a traditional church, I get a barrage of stuff. I have massive resources at my request, multiple bible studies and self-growth classes, a variety of places to "get plugged in and serve," and even entertaining attractions to invite friends to come to. Don't get me wrong - I'm glad for the stuff. People can be blessed by it most times. I love to attend events and give stuff away and I'm thankful for the church for developing it. How might we focus? How might we depend more fully on God? Luke 9:1-3,
When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt."Many Christians including me get lost in "Christian stuff" which supports the mission - but it is not the mission, itself. At the Birthright regional conference they gave us training on "Equipment." All that was written on the page were three things: "Some kind of phone." "Something to take notes." "Ears, eyes, mouth, and your compassionate heart." What would happen if this was most prominent in the Sunday morning bulletin?
From the document...
The structure is individualized mentoring and strengthening because it invests personally in believers to transform them, to raise them up into disciple makers. The proposal's operational structure is only enough nuts and bolts to get the work done. Its only contribution is making disciples at the relational level. The proposal is the work, and nothing more. It is most fitting to have the willing embark on this adventure, those eager to see the power of God. There is no space required to be rented out. The home and the phone call are the avenues to make and raise believers. We submit to the Holy Spirit to lead our hearts, and altogether we set before us God's Word to assure us of the work He has predestined for us to do.
We have the power of God. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Certainly I am not going to be asked to do all things, and weakness is another essential element to giving God the glory due. The Body has many parts. Having the wisdom to know when to trust God to provide a help or service, and when to allow a professional to serve, is important. The persons mentoring and strengthening believers in becoming disciple makers will need counsel from the wise in the church. Setting all those protections aside, we trust God that the people of this city are tailor-fitted to find life and wisdom from believers who have entered into their life for the purpose of redemption. Redemption is a spiritual need but it is also a work in the practical problems of life. God has planned to redeem everything, and we encourage trusting God in all things to help us.
There is a secondary structure provided by this ministry. Individually we run out of time or resources or answers. This is a critical cue from God. Elijah got depressed thinking he was the only one testifying when God rebuked, “I have 6,000 who have not bent the knee to Baal.” As a new believer develops capacity for things of the LORD, we bring them to church if they are willing (the “attractional model”) where they can draw more broadly in community. Also, we familiarize them with other members in our homes and other locations in the city (the “missional model”) where their spiritual needs can be met. At some times we cannot take a phone call because of other commitments. To familiarize with others allows a network, both on the church campus and everywhere. This proves Christ's Body as family, taking some important glory away from the individual worker. Certainly there already are many in our own church who take the opportunity to share Christ, and this way we are aware of one another's work and able to support one another, praising God for it.
God is sufficient. When the children of Israel were in the desert, they were led by God Himself in a pillar. Who knows how miraculous it could have truly been to have their bodies sustained as Jesus did when he was in the desert and did not eat or drink for 40 days. Instead, they believed that they needed water, so Moses asked God and he split the rock. They complained again, and God gave them what they asked so that they would continue to follow. "We need bread," they complained. That wasn't enough. "We want meat." So God gave them meat. Later in Psalm 73 God recounts it saying that His children "limited His power" because of their complaining thoughts that they needed more than God Himself to survive. Isn't our challenge like this? We understand that the Spirit is enough to help us accomplish the Great Commission to make disciples of all men. We're afraid that if with our lives we lift up Him alone to make disciples He will not indeed draw all men to Himself. We think we need additional provisions to accomplish this. We need an initial earthly draw: a fashion show, basketball, gifts to families of inmates, etc., to get them to want to come onto the church campus... and while they're here, we'll share the gospel. These avenues see a harvest, thank God! But it is also true that the Spirit's glory is in ways precluded by material production and human ingenuity.
Identity. In this ministry, the natural draw is YOU (with CHRIST). The people of this city want to come with you while you're shopping, running errands, or doing yard work. They want to belong, they desire a permanent place on the inside. Being inside they see how the Way of Jesus Christ makes the mundane life-giving. You need not have a family or a spouse to do discipleship. As you share yourself, you share Him who dwells within. The Holy Spirit is satisfactory fascination and supply in what we do. Because we have entrusted our resources to God and His arrangement of God-seekers to come to us, we have more confidence. The benefit of knitting together like-minded disciple makers is further security that God and His Word is constantly at the center of our efforts.
Family. Like the LORD our ultimate interest is people. Earthly families are about making and raising people. It is the same in the Kingdom. The Kingdom is about replicating people who are the image of God who do the mission of God. Luke 14:12-14 - "Then He also said to him who invited Him, 'When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.'” Might we be careful to seek first people who "cannot repay us" - people who are immature in knowing Jesus Christ. When we impart a steady flow of the Spirit to them, they will not be able to repay us. But this is how we "make" babies, and "raise" babies so that they can know God in the depth that we do. This is “Family Evangelism,” or “Covenant.” Family is something the whole world intuitively understands, and desires.
(in upcoming conclusion: a personal note)