Serving Amid “Bows and Arrows and Rolling Pins”

Bet that title got your attention! The quoted phrase in the title is a teaser, taken from a blog post written by Cana Laska, one of our members who is serving as a Christian missionary in Mbarara, Uganda. Cana is working with Bishop Stuart University to open a new law school. You may have seen Cana in worship or talked with her in the welcome area on January 12, when she was back home for a visit. In the blog post that includes the title phrase, Cana shares a story about learning that weapons are often sold at market stands that appear only to sell kitchen supplies.

Security guards in Mbarara sometimes use bows and arrows as cheaper alternatives to guns – it was a jaw-dropping moment for Cana, who was sure that those weapons were only going to be used to hunt birds. Experiences like this illustrate the challenges and revelations Cana experiences while on mission.

Please pray for Cana and her ministry in Uganda. If you haven’t yet talked with her in person, I hope you have a chance next time she’s back for a visit, and if God speaks to you through her mission you can donate with a check to church (indicate Cana’s name) or online through her blog, justicemercyandfaith.com. Cana often shares specific material needs on her blog as well. For example, she recently asked for resources for a women’s Bible study she’ll be leading at a local prison. Check out the blog to read about her missionary work and adventures, and to discover how you can show your support. While you’re there, see if you can find “Jesus Christ General Hardware!”

Cana’s stories of being on mission are so relatable – they’re about day-to-day life and the sometimes surprising ways that God shows up for and through Cana. Her stories can inspire you to think about yourself as a Christian missionary serving in your city, not because it’s a fun exercise in role-playing, but because this is who you are!

 

Take Time to ACTS

As I spend time with parents, one consistent theme comes up as they talk about the times they cherish most with their children – those unexpected, unhurried times when their children engage in conversation. Those moments when their children let down their walls for a few minutes, share their hearts, and take time to listen and talk are precious minutes that parents seems to desire more than most anything else. Those conversations do more than anything else to strengthen relationships. Our Heavenly Father is much the same. He cherishes the moments that we come to Him in conversation, those times when we are unhurried and lay our hearts, desires, and needs at His feet.

Often we know that a vibrant prayer life is important in our relationship with God, however it seems to be an intimidating and often neglected aspect of our faith journey. We don’t know how to pray or are intimidated to start. Or, we approach God in our prayers in the same way we approach Santa – with a list of requests and needs that feels one-sided, hurried, and dry. This Christmas, perhaps one of the best gifts you could give your family is a renewed excitement and commitment to conversations with God.  How can we do that? Where do we start?

Perhaps you can use this simple model for prayer as a way to begin feeling comfortable with talking with your Heavenly Father. Use it as a way to model prayer for your family, or as a way to expand your prayers from a list of wants to a more engaging conversation with your Heavenly Father. 

A – Adoration: Spend time praising God and acknowledging who He is. Recognize the attributes of God that you have noticed during the day or the week. This isn’t a time to thank God, but instead a time to come into the presence of God, understanding who it is that you are having a conversation with.

C – Confession: Recognize who you are and your need for God. Allow this to be a time of vulnerability and taking off the “mask”. Admit your sins, and your great need for a Savior. Spend some time in silence afterwards, letting God speak back to you whatever He desires to say.

T – Thanksgiving: Notice how God has been actively working in your life and thank Him for it. Acknowledge your blessings, and even thank God for your struggles. Use this as a time to recognize that all you have is a gift from God.

S – Supplication: At this point, begin to list your desires and needs before God. Pray for the needs of others, as well as your own needs. Submit yourself to God, trusting Him to provide for you in just the right way and time.

If you would like some creative ways to teach your child to pray using this model, please visit our website, www.livelifetogether.com, and click on the “children 4yrs-4th grade” page.  There is a resource you can download on the left side of the page.

Imagine what could happen in our families this holiday season if we began to make conversations with our Heavenly Father a prominent place in our homes. There is no better gift you could give to your family than teaching them to spend time in conversation with their Maker and Savior.

 

Spending Time

Time is the one thing that every person has in equal amount. No matter where you live, if you are wealthy or poor, young or old, well educated or have never been to school, every single person in the world has 24 hours a day. It really is pretty amazing to consider the gift of time. Each new day God gives us a beautiful gift of 24 hours. It is up to us how we spend those hours made up of minutes and seconds.

There are hundreds of quotes about time, here are just a few:

"There just aren't enough hours in the day."
"Time flies when you're having fun."
"Time stands still while you're waiting."
"Time heals all wounds."
"Time is more valuabule than money, you can get more money, you can't get more time."

It seems like in the month of December the calendar fills up with extra demands on our time. We try to fit in more visits with family, more shopping for gifts, and more hours of baking and even more opportunities to worship.

How will you use your time? Who will you invest in? What intentional decisions can you make this month as a family for who you will spend your time with? Perhaps it would be wise to take some time and consider who around you could use a little help, or some encouragement and follow-through on those promptings.
    
What plans do you have? Perhaps you can take something that you are already going to do and this year invite a neighbor or someone on your impact list to join you. Who can you bring with you? What could you do as a neighborhood to bless others? Go to a local nursing home and sing some Christmas Carols, or gather at one of your homes, bake cookies, and then take them to other neighbors. Who do you know that is alone this Christmas? Invite them over to join your family. You can start a new tradition; find a few friends and sign up to ring bells for the Salvation Army. Offer to babysit for a mom so she can go Christmas shopping by herself. Collect mittens and hats and take them to a local school.  

The truth is, we find time for what is important to us. Take time to consider once again how amazing it is that our God would choose to send his Son Jesus to be born in a manger. Take time to talk about the most awesome gift     that has ever been given with your family and friends. Take time to worship. Take time to pray for those who do not yet know that the Messiah has come and he is coming again. Take time to ask God, “How should I spend my time today?”

Amy Meyer

 

Are You Ready? 3 Simple Moves to Prepare for Spirit-inspired Opportunities to Share Jesus

“In your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect.”  Peter, writing to Jewish Christians who had been driven out of Jerusalem and scattered throughout Asia Minor (1 Peter 3:15)

Recently in one of our lifeGroup conversations this question came up:  “When is it the right time to share the Gospel with our friends?”  Timing is everything.  How do you know?  Here’s a good rule of thumb:  When your friend asks you.  God is already working in the life of our friends. The Spirit, if we are sensitive to His leading, will provide “opportunities” for us to share our hope.  We can take the pressure off of ourselves to “manufacture opportunities.”

One of my priorities, then, as a Christian leader, is to walk alongside Jesus-followers and prepare them for those opportunities.  I am called, in part, to help get them ready.

How are you preparing Jesus-followers to “share the hope they have in Christ” when they are gifted with Spirit-inspired opportunities?

Here are the 3 simple moves that prepare you (and those you lead) for those oppertunities.

1) Consider, again, that Jesus is Good News.

Good News is not difficult to share.  Jesus is Good News!  He is not advice. He is not theology.  He is not history.  He is a person.  He has done great things for us and in us.  He is doing great things for us and in us.  What if we approached our relationship with Jesus, the same way we approach that “great thing” that recently happened to us?

Try this:  Pick out one of your favorite stories about Jesus from one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) and look for an opportunity to share it with your friend.

2) Ask good questions.

Powerful, soul-stirring questions combined with a genuinely caring and interested spirit can be the equation that unlocks meaningful opportunities to share Jesus.  One of my favorite questions I got from a list in a book entitled “I Once Was Lost” by Don Everts and Doug Schaupp.   

“What is the most significant thing that has happened to you in the last month? Pg. 56

Have you ever noticed how often we use questions to just gather information?  What if we started using questions to stir emotion and thought?  Think of the opportunities that might emerge.

Try this:  Choose your favorite, go-to questions and give ‘em a shot the next time you have an unhurried conversation with your friend. 

3) Build your capacity in community.

We sharpen each other as we practice and compare notes.  I love exploring the way Jesus built capacity in His disciples.  

  • He taught.
  • He assigned.
  • They went out and tried.
  • They returned and shared stories.  


This training cycle was repeated again and again.  What would happen in our churches if we turned our gatherings into places where this rhythm was repeated.

Try this:  Get together on a regular basis with a few other Jesus-followers and begin praying for your unbelieving friends, and then begin sharing your “stories of engagement” with each other.  Listen deeply to each other, learn from each other, encourage each other, and pray for each other.  Pay attention to what begins happening over time.  You will be amazed at the “Spirit-inspired” opportunities that start popping up.

 

Values: How Words Help Change the Culture of Your Church

Words create worlds.  Language shapes us and forms us.

When I say, “Let’s go to church,” what does that statement reveal about my understanding of the nature of the church?

Sometimes as leaders we are called to help people move from one deeply held perspective to another.  Words help make that shift possible.  Words build a staircase that allow people to move up from where they are to where God wants to lead them.

Over the past few years in leading that kind of “perspective shift” at the Church, I have recognized that a portion of our staircase was a little shaky.  It needed to be rebuilt.

Let me explain:  in pursuing a God-inspired vision which we call “One Church, Regional Impact” many have asked, and to some degree are still asking, “Why?”  At some point I began to recognize that some did not understand the “Why” behind the “What”.  I realized, because of my work with Auxano, that this was a Values issue.  Words create worlds.  In this case, words articulate the answer to “Why?”

Here’s how we define Values as Missional Motives at the Church:

“In any given day there are a thousand things clamoring for our attention, a multiplicity of motivations that move us.  What we value will either direct us back toward center or divert us from what is truly worthwhile.  Values are the motivational flame of the church.  They are the shared convictions that guide actions and reveal our unique strengths.  These motives answer “Why do we do what we do at our church?”  They are springboards for daily action and filters for decision-making.  They distinguish our philosophy of ministry and shape our culture and ethos.”       - the Church Leadership Guide

       

(Old) Values

   

(New) Missional Motives

       

Growth

    Ordinary+ 

We value a lifelong journey with Jesus that results in individual growth and kingdom expansion.

   

because ordinary people connected to Jesus share in Christ’s extraordinary mission.

       

Relational Service

   

Step+

We value people and the opportunities to meet their individual needs as an expression of the Gospel.     because simple steps guided by Jesus accelerate the impact of new life.
       

Authenticity

   

Friendship+ 

We value genuine relationships and a sincere Christian lifestyle/ behavior.

    because friendships infused with Jesus expand the reach of true community.
       

Creativity

   

Generosity+

We value innovation in ministry.     because generosity empowered by Jesus fuels a contagious, others-centered culture.
       
Every Person a Missionary      

Home+ 

We value the personal privilege given to every Jesus-follower to help others live life with Jesus every day.

    because a home centered on Jesus becomes the epicenter of an active life of faith.
       
       

Here are the major reasons why we are rearticulating our values.

The Motives behind our Motivational shift:

 

  1. Our values could be any church’s values.
    They did not clearly express our unique motivation.

    Ask:  What uniquely motivates your church?
     
  2. They didn’t help us answer the “Why”.
    We were never using our value statements to answer people when they asked “Why?”

    Ask:  As a leader these days, what “Why” questions are you answering?
     
  3. The words that we chose were not catalytic or compelling.
    People did not want to speak them out loud.  They did not inspire anyone to participate in creating the culture that those words were trying to describe.

    Ask:  Are your values serving as a motivational flame for your people?

 

Pastor Jeff