Great Post By a Missionary Friend: "The One Percent and Me"

Please head over to Aspen Leaves to Acacia Trees to read a great, thought-provoking post from my friend Jim, a missionary in Kenya. He’s got a great perspective on the “Occupy” movement here in the U.S. and wealth distribution. While you’re there, I recommend you poke around their blog for a few minutes, and perhaps even consider supporting them financially; they’re looking to make up about $250 a month in support.

Here’s an excerpt:

My parents visited last month and we celebrated an early Christmas with them – ham, cranberry sauce and all. After eating, I took some of the traditional meal to our yard-worker, Edward. He had a great time trying all the foods. He really liked cranberry sauce, enjoyed the ham. His favorite part was the stuffing; he didn’t care for the olives. NONE of it was familiar to him. After he’d eaten it and had seconds of the stuffing and that precious cranberry sauce he asked, “You eat like this every Christmas?”

“Yep.” I couldn’t admit to him that I would have normally eaten twice the amount he’d just had OR that we’d had a meal like that only a month ago when we celebrated Thanksgiving or that we’d probably do it all over again when Easter came around.

“Wow!” Wonder filled his face. That he couldn’t really fathom being wealthy enough to eat one meal like that was obvious – and Edward’s a guy living on MORE than two dollars per day – better than over 50% of the world population!

I’m rich. I use the internet, own a car, buy health insurance, have running water (hot water, no less) and listen to an ipod. Maybe I’m not the one percent – but I eat until I’m full.

Read it all.

Video of the Week: Persecution in Eritrea

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. As you enjoy time with family, open lots of presents, feast on great food, and freely travel to your local church to worship on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, please remember to pray for the persecuted church. This is Helen Behrane’s story, and the persecution she endured in Eritrea.

More videos and information about the persecuted church around the world can be found on Open Doors USA’s website, OneWithThem.com or www.opendoorsusa.org.

Video of the Week: Advent Conspiracy

During Advent, our junior and senior high group is doing the Advent Conspiracy. I’m pretty excited about it and encourage you to check it out. Here’s a great promo video that’s from a couple of years ago, but very powerful:

Video of the Week: Two High School Students Make a Difference

We showed this video last Sunday as part of our One Meal One Day wrap-up:

Ten Things You Can Do Without A Building

1) Gather in a park for worship (unless you are a Christian in one of several countries where that’s illegal, in which case having a building is probably pretty low on your list of priorities).

2) Support a missionary as a church. Or two. Or several.

3) Pray daily for the missionaries you support.

4) Sponsor a Compassion child. Ask the children and teenagers in your church to help sponsor the child and write letters.

5) Host a Bible study in your home.

6) Hand out free Bibles.

7) Learn from Matthew 25:31-46 by visiting hospital patients and prison inmates, volunteering at a homeless shelter, and giving away clothes you never wear anyway.

8) Organize a group to fix up homes of widows and single moms.

9) Adopt a local school to volunteer at as a church.

10) Organize a week-long local mission trip.

How to meet with Mormon missionaries

My family and I have lived in Utah for a little over two years now. Not surprisingly, when people from outside Utah ask how we’re doing and what life is like in our new state, they usually get around to asking about the LDS (Mormon) church and how it affects Utah culture. (Note: I use “LDS”–which stands for “Latter Day Saints”–rather than the term “Mormon,” because that’s the term most LDS folks prefer.) Many people assume that because we live here, we are experts on LDS beliefs and theology. More than one person has asked for advice on meeting with LDS missionaries.

We aren’t experts by any means on the LDS church, but Jennifer (my wife) and I have made an effort to learn everything we can about the “predominant religion” in our state in order to better love our neighbors and others in our community. Last summer, we had the opportunity to meet with some LDS missionaries in our home each Monday afternoon for about six weeks. It was a great learning experience, and we felt like we became pretty good friends with one of the missionaries who was at every meeting with us. Again, we’re not experts, but here are some tips for others who would like to meet with LDS missionaries (or have a meaningful conversation with an LDS friend or family member):

Be hospitable and serve good food. LDS missionaries, for the most part, are college-age single guys (and sometimes women). A great dinner or some treats will go a long way to making them feel welcome in your home. When we met with “our” missionaries, Jennifer made sure to make something each week for everyone to enjoy, and always sent the missionaries off with a Ziploc bag of extra treats. If you don’t love the missionaries that visit your home in a real, practical way, don’t you think it’s rather silly to speak about the unconditional love of God? Go the extra mile and be a good host.

Avoid the “magic bullet” approach. There is no “magic bullet” argument or one-liner that will suddenly cause a missionary to reject LDS teachings and enter into a relationship with the Jesus of the Bible. Smug, “Oh, yeah, well what about…” approaches to the conversation will only put up walls, and you’ll impress no one but yourself. Apologetic conversations take time and lots of patient discussion.

Listen more than you talk. Listen to what the missionaries have to say. If you’re not willing to learn and listen, why would you expect others to listen to you? Allow them to lay out what they believe. Ask good questions, but don’t interrupt or launch into a sermon. If you don’t understand something, say so, then listen to the explanation. If you notice an internal contradiction in the LDS worldview, simply state the perceived contradiction, and ask for an explanation.

Ask your missionaries to define their terms. Evangelical Christians and Latter-Day Saints use a lot of the same vocabulary. However, a word will often mean very different things to each. When a missionary talks about being “saved,” ask them to define what they mean, and offer your own definition. This will eliminate a lot of confusion.

Stick to topics of central importance. It’s easy in apologetic conversations to get sidetracked by discussions that are interesting but don’t get to the heart of the matter. We met with our missionaries for six weeks, but such a long time is rather unusual. I suggest that you focus on the following questions, since your time may be short:

  • What does it mean to be reconciled to God?
  • Who was Jesus and where did he come from?
  • How do we know that something is true or not?
  • What did Jesus accomplish in his suffering, and what is our role in being reconciled to God?

Pray, pray, pray, pray. Remember, it is God who works in the hearts of men and women. Rely on him to lead your conversations, pray for spiritual protection, and pray for your missionaries by name (over a year later, the missionary friend we grew close to is still on our family’s prayer list). Also, offer to pray for your missionaries before they leave your house, that God would protect them and that they would grow close to him. The missionaries who came to our house said no one had ever done that for them, and that they really appreciated us praying for them.

What has your experience been in meeting with LDS missionaries?

Asking the wrong question

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” – Acts 1:6-8, ESV

It was a simple question. And I’m not too sure I wouldn’t have asked a similar question. After all, they had been through a lot, and they had put a lot of hope in Jesus. For three years they followed him. There were times when things began to look up: Jesus began to get popular, gather a lot of support, and even was asked to be king at one point. But he always resisted. Then he was arrested. He was executed. And all seemed lost.

But here he was in front of him, plain as day, alive again. They knew he was the Messiah. No more denying. No more running away. And no more doubting (well, maybe just a little). Okay, they thought to themselves. Now, we get it. You proved that you are really the Messiah, so now it’s time to get down to business. And so they asked the question: “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”

Again, it was a simple, sensible question. But it was the wrong question. Their question put another way, was this: “Jesus, now are you going to fix everything?” Jesus’ reply in Acts 1:7-8 is gracious. “It’s not for you to know. But you will be used by God, who will empower you to tell everyone in the world about me.”

The disciples–and their Jewish kin–had a problem. A real problem. They were God’s chosen people, yet they were oppressed. It wasn’t a small problem. It wasn’t a petty problem. And they wanted Jesus to fix it. To make it right. But it wasn’t the problem that Jesus came to fix. Certainly, part of Jesus’ triumph was that he would reign with justice and peace. But the disciples, even though their problem was big, were thinking too small.

Jesus had come to reconcile the whole world to the Triune God.

We’ve got problems, too, you know. Real problems. Painful problems. And just like the disciples, we ask Jesus when he’s going to fix them.

Lord, is this the time you’ll repair my marriage?

Lord, is this the time when you’ll finally heal my daughter?

Lord, is this the time when you’ll help me stop feeling these desperate emotions?

Lord, is this the time when you’ll stop all the violence against your followers?

Real problems. Real questions. But Jesus gently leads us in a different direction. He doesn’t rebuke the disciples for their question, for how they just want things to be set right. He doesn’t dismiss their pain, and he doesn’t dismiss ours, either. He does, however, show us the bigger picture. All of the problems of our world are part of a deeper issue. We need to be reconciled to God. And we are the ones God plans to use in order to spread that message of reconciliation. That’s the bigger picture.

Interesting pattern, isn’t it? We tell God that we are eager for his healing to become a reality in this world. He responds, “Well, just when and how that will happen isn’t for you to know, but I’ll tell you what you do need to know: you’re going to be my witness in your community and throughout the whole world.” Not what I was expecting. But just what I needed to hear.

Are We Collecting Students or Sending Missionaries? (Part 3)

So far in this series, I’ve noted that if we aren’t equipping students to be missionaries in their families, schools, and communities, we’re simply collecting students (Part 1) and provided a few ideas of what it looks like to simply be in the business of collecting students (Part 2). To finish off the series, here’s a list of what it look like to be a youth ministry that sends missionaries:

More emphasis is placed on what God is doing than what the youth ministry is doing. It’s a great thing to love our church and youth ministry, but when we tend to highlight what’s going on in our church than what’s going on outside of it, we have a problem. We should be more eager to celebrate what God is doing than what our church or youth ministry is doing.

Students are encouraged to make an impact in their world that exists outside the church walls. Students have been gifted by God to serve him where God has placed them in their schools, families, athletic teams, dance studios, and communities. We need to encourage them to serve however God has called them to do so.

The youth pastor and leaders foster a Kingdom-first mentality. Our lead pastor, Roy, frequently tells our staff that it’s amazing what can be accomplished when we don’t care who gets the credit. A youth ministry that sends missionaries has leaders that are more interested in building the Kingdom than building their kingdom.

The youth pastor works with other youth pastors and churches to reach students in their community. I’m not saying that every single event or initiative has to be a joint endeavor. But whether a youth pastor is willing to partner with other churches says a lot about whether that leader is collecting students or sending missionaries.

Evaluating the youth ministry involves more than attendance data. We can’t ignore numbers, and we should certainly celebrate when are in a season when we get to see lots and lots of lives changed by Jesus. But there are other things to take into consideration when evaluating a youth ministry. When we focus only on numbers, we’re probably more interested in how many students we’re collecting than anything else.

Question: What would you add to this list?

Video of the Week: Compassion International – One Meal One Day

Our students are doing this in November. Consider getting involved at www.onemealoneday.com:

One Meal One Day from Compassion International on Vimeo.