When I was younger, I found church talent shows and seasonal specials difficult to get through. We’d be locked in, sitting in the middle of a pew for an hour or two while a bunch of people with little stage presence, some talent, and big hearts did their best.
It wasn’t sad – they weren’t under delusions of grandeur like some kid trying to get into American Idol or America’s Got Talent (or Britain’s Got Talent). But at the same time, it wasn’t good. Or at least it wasn’t consistently good.
But something changed when I grew older and now I enjoy them. Maybe not as much as the Symphony or a blues band. Or at least not in the same way. But I DO enjoy them and I think they have some things they can also teach us about missions.
Love makes all the difference
When I was younger, I was listening and evaluating and sometimes enduring based solely on quality.
- Are they on key?
- Are they together?
- Does it sound good?
- Is there a lot of feedback in the microphones?
Sure, those things matter. But as I’ve gotten older, something else matters more.
Love is the starting point that makes all the difference because if we love people, we evaluate differently. When we love, our desire for a perfect performance is for their encouragement, not our pride. When we love, we evaluate differently – we LOVE seeing our friends and family doing stuff, even if it’s not professional quality.
And the same is true of missions.
When we love, we want the best for each other. We want to see each other thrive. We accept small imperfections here and there because we LOVE each other.
We don’t walk away saying “That email was awful” or “I can’t believe they only gave $5.”
Instead, our hearts are turned towards each other in Christ and we love each other to increasing glory. Sometimes through challenging each other. Sometimes by extending mercy. Often by forgiving. But always with our eyes on Christ.
Stuff will go wrong
In any live (real time) activity there are seemingly limitless opportunities for things to go wrong. Technology can fail us. There may be mistakes in the moment. Maybe there’s rain. Maybe the mail is interrupted.
But in any event, there are always things that can go wrong.
Be as prepared as possible for them – have a back-up plan if possible. And then realize that these are just opportunities for God to come through.
Jump in and help where you can
There’s a reason this comes right after “stuff will go wrong.”
Our church recently had a talent show and there were some technical difficulties with the live video. Ordinarily, that might not be a big deal but I knew that there were some out-of-town relatives who wanted to see adult kids, grandkids, etc. through a Facebook stream.
Well, the stream didn’t come up as expected. I was enjoying the show as part of the audience but once I found out, I immediately let our live video guy know so he could fix it (which he did).
But then a few minutes later, it stopped again and we couldn’t get it restarted. Our video guy had his hands full with other stuff, so I hopped on my phone, kids by my side, to redirect people to a place where they could see the live video.
It wasn’t what we’d hoped for and it took my attention away but we were able to serve well and provide people with something.
Know your limits and trust God
Even thought I wanted to jump in and help, I knew that there was no value in ME trying to fix the stream. There was nothing I could do to help.
- I had my kids with me
- Our video guy is much more qualified than I to troubleshoot and fix this kind of thing
- Even if I could help troubleshoot, there wasn’t an extra computer for me to work with
And I think this can be a significant challenge for us as we think about our involvement with missions. God has given us each roles and our challenge is to do what He’s given us to do as best we can but to also not extend ourselves past the grace He’s given us.
This can take many forms.
- Not volunteering for tasks we’re not qualified to do.
- Not giving money we don’t have.
- Submitting to local leadership when we’re on short-term missions.
I don’t know whether other cultures struggle with this or not. But as a Westerner, I know that I struggle with two fighting forces – selfishness and a messiah complex.
And while I would often like to sacrifice one to serve the other, God has not called me to either. He’s called me to faithful obedience.
Remember that limits can change with seasons
This is a hard one to accept for me.
When I was working on the streaming video, I wasn’t able to get up and leave to work on a computer because my kids were with me. So I was seemingly limited by having to stay where I was and work through a phone – and there were some things I wasn’t able to do well on my phone.
As I’m getting older, there are some things that I can’t do any more. And I understand that’s common. At the same time, because I was older when I had kids, there are some things my peers can do now that I can’t because I have kids at home.
My children, my wife, my house, my job – these aren’t constraints in the bad sense of the word. These are beautiful treasures God’s given me in this season. And my challenge isn’t to find ways around the seasons in my life.
Instead the challenge is to understand the season – the constraints, the limits, the opportunities – and then make the most of that season, whatever it is.
- Maybe you want to make a lot of short-term trips but you have young kids at home.
- Maybe you want to give more but your budget doesn’t support it.
- Maybe you want to transition to full-time missions but find yourself working on strengthening your marriage.
- Maybe you want to be “on the field” but you’re still raising funds after what seems like forever.
- Maybe you want to stay where you’ve been serving but God is calling you to leave vocational ministry.
- Maybe you want to but you find yourself having to do something else.
Whatever it is, recognize what season you’re in or what season is coming, turn your attention to God, and honor God in the season He’s given you.
What about you?
What has God shown you about missions through “ordinary” life?