Friday, November 21, 2008

Purpose Driven Life, part 5

Since I started in the INO program, I’ve felt the calling on my life tug in two very different directions. On the one hand, I have the vision of my working with the poor and homeless firmly rooted in my mind (a vision, as I’ve said before, I think God put there when I was 19). On the other hand, I have this interest in doing two things in the church: teaching 1) people of faith how the Body of Christ needs to be a better steward of the environment (because God created the earth and our lousy stewardship is killing the poor) and 2) spiritual gifts and motivating people to use them. In the past, I’ve tongue-in-cheek called the teaching the church thing “showing the Church how we’re screwing up.” Please note I’m not completely joking…

But I digress. As I’ve said, I’ve felt this tug in what seems like two completely different directions, though the subjects are pretty well related. I haven’t been sure how to reconcile what could be two potential careers/ministries.

Enter Day 36 of Purpose Driven Life, on which day Warren says, “God is at work in the world, and he wants you to join him. This assignment is called your mission. God wants you to have both a ministry in the Body of Christ and a mission in the world. Your ministry is your service to believers, and your mission is your service to unbelievers” (281). Ding ding ding!

This explains a lot, actually. I’m not sure how I became so textbook on this one thing in my life, but there you go.

What he says first is that ministry is about serving believers. You might be asking yourself how teaching the Body of Christ serves other believers. Put in that sense, it doesn’t. But in the sense of teaching the Body about the environment, poverty, and spiritual gifts, it’s serving believers by teaching them how to be good stewards. And by teaching people about spiritual gifts, it means other people can find and use their gifts in ministry and mission.

As I was searching for a particular Scripture, I found a web page that seems to be one of those Q&A type things. I think the Q in question here fits this ministry thing (for me) REALLY well:

Q: Does God meet ALL our needs when we give very sacrificially? My husband lost his job 5/04. I'm in my 50's disabled. We were $3000 in debt. I'd hoped yrs. for a house not renting. Now it's $20,000 debt & climbing. I've always been a great steward with God's money.

A: "My God SHALL supply all of your needs according to His riches in Glory in Christ Jesus." WHO IS IN CHRIST JESUS? The body of Christ. Why isn't your church helping you? OR individuals in your church? This is where other Christians need to reach out to you and GIVE you money and food. "GIVE and it SHALL be given unto you." WHY IS THE BODY OF CHRIST FAILING IN THIS AREA? Don't they understand they are "In Christ Jesus."

Second, he calls mission a service to unbelievers. I don’t want to imply that all people who are poor or homeless are unbelievers, or that people become homeless/poor because they aren’t Christians or have no faith in God. Please don’t take that in this context. But there are many people who, because of their circumstances, find it hard to believe that God loves them. Some find it hard to simply believe in God because their lives have been so hard, or they might blame God for the hardships they or others are responsible for in their lives. There’s a lot to be said for praying for the poor, but I think there comes a time when we have to be willing to be an answer to prayer as well. James 2:15-17 says, “ Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” I believe singer Steve Camp said it best this way: don’t tell them Jesus loves them till you’re ready to love them too. This verse sums it up for me. I think that there are many times that the only way we can speak to someone about God is to help them with their physical needs. Minister to them through their stomachs and skins. Give them shelter and a hug. Only then, once we’ve shown them that the Body of Christ loves them, can we show them that Jesus really loves them too, and wants a relationship with them.

I’m excited about this. It makes my life a lot easier, in that I feel I’m not being pulled in two different directions anymore and that these things could possibly be in harmony and unity with what God wants for my life.

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