Mission: What If There’s More To Do?
We have talked a lot about mission over the past few weeks. Here’s a recap…
- Mission is the sending of God to the world. We don’t bring God or Christ to others, God is already there!
- And Our job is to see Christ in others. find God at work and join in with God.
- Forgiveness is critical to God’s work. It is foundational. Without forgiveness it is far to easy to be judgmental, condescending, or even paternal
- Paternalism is a particularly problematic attitude when engaging with God in mission work. In essence, paternalism is about believing you have the answers and then trying to fix the folks you are helping as if you were their superior or parent.
- Focusing less on the larger systemic causes of problems in our world helps to curb paternalism. We must look at the lake, not just the individual fish. And by doing both we can discover better answers problems of our day.
But how do we really tackle problems once we have identified and become aware of them?
This is a good question as we continue to think about mission. And it’s also a good question as we think about our own lives as well.
When you run up upon problems and difficult situations in your own life, how do you handle them?
- When you have a financial problem, how do yo tackle it?
- When kids just won’t behave, how do you encourage change in their behavior?
- When you discover you and your spouse just are not on the same page any longer, what do you do?
- When you finally realize that you just aren’t happy anymore, how do you identify and solve the problems that are contributing to your unhappiness?
In some ways solving problems is what being human it about! I don’t mean solving problems is our purpose. I just mean that solving problems seems to be a large part of our lives.
And I think it is interesting that we don’t always think about the process of problem solving…not in mission work and hardly ever in our daily life.
But processes are important. Everything has a process if you think about it. When you cook, there is a process (usually outlined in a recipe). When you drive a car, there is a process to starting, running and directing the car. When you build a house there is a process usually laid out in architectural plans and taught to general contractors. (Believe me there is a process, cause I am dealing with this a lot right now as we are renovating our home!)
Education is a process. Many of you have your morning and evening routines…which are really just processes you have put in place within your daily life (even though o probably don’t think of it that way). Recovering from an illness or having medical treatments, such as surgery, is a process. There is a process to buying groceries, a process for paying your bills, a process for finding a job, a process for leaving a job, a process for getting married, a process for having a child, it’s a process to raise that child (on is there a process for that). It’s a process for teaching that child about all the processes they will need to get our on his or her own and spine successful. Life is a process…!
So, given all these processes that we deal with and work through each and every day, what is your process for solving problems and issues in your life and the world around you? What is your process for changing things that aren’t working, for solving the worlds problems and for making every day the life you really desire?
Let’s dig into this…..
What is your process….step 1…step 2 and 3 and so on?
During the live sermon, we placed our answers on an easel as we thought about and developed a process of change.
Awareness –> Information Gathering –> Analysis –> Vision –> Plan/Strategy –> Action –> Evaluation –> (back to the beginning with Awareness)
So often we jump from Awareness straight to Action and forget all the steps that are really needed to identify and understand the true problems and come up with solutions that will really address the issue.
Read with me today in the book of Acts to understand how the disciples and the early church used this change process.
About that time, while the number of disciples continued to increase, a complaint arose. (Acts 6:1)
There is an awareness that something is wrong.
Greek-speaking disciples accused the Aramaic-speaking disciples because their widows were being overlooked in the daily food service. (Acts 6:1)
Leaders gather info and the problem is named. Those involved are identified.
The Twelve called a meeting of all the disciples and said, “It isn’t right for us to set aside proclamation of God’s word in order to serve tables. (Acts 6:2)
A meeting is called to begin to analyze and understand what is going on. And very quickly the 12 disciples realize through their analysis that they cannot solve this problem and continue to carry out their duties.
Brothers and sisters, carefully choose seven well-respected men from among you. They must be well-respected and endowed by the Spirit with exceptional wisdom. We will put them in charge of this concern. As for us, we will devote ourselves to prayer and the service of proclaiming the word.” (Acts 6:3-4)
They put forth a vision for how the problem could be addressed and they shared it.
This proposal pleased the entire community. They selected Stephen, a man endowed by the Holy Spirit with exceptional faith, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. (Acts 6:5)
The community talked things over and made plans. They chose potential leaders to carry out the vision and address the problem. And in their choosing they had a strategy, though it goes unnamed here. That strategy is simple: give power and authority over to those who are being unfairly treated.
Think about this! This is a revolutionary strategy! How often do we really do this today? Never! We almost always put the higher ups in charge to fix problems as if we believe they are the only ones with the knowledge skills and resources to create a solution and fix things. But here the disciples do exactly the opposite. They recognized that they did not have the knowledge needed. They were not the ones with the complaint. They had the courageous leadership to admit they didn’t know the system well enough. But the people who engaged it everyday did. And so they turned it over to them. And entirely Greek committee of folks to solve the problem of mistreatment to Greek folks! Amazing! Audacious!
The community presented these seven to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. (Acts 6:6)
It’s a simple action, but putting these leaders in place through prayer and laying on of hands is the first action implemented to bring about the vision and create change.
(I wonder how the work of churches and city councils and county commissioners would change if they followed this kind of strategy of putting folks in charge who can see the inner workings of problems?) Maybe we need to realize that sometimes the best solution to a problem is to give involved parties the reigns to create the change they wish to see!
God’s word continued to grow. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased significantly. Even a large group of priests embraced the faith. (Acts 6:7)
And right there is part of your evaluation report. This act so changed the community structure, the organization of the early church that is caused God’s word to spread and grow.
It’s amazing that the process for change is right here in the Bible. And this isn’t the only place we can find it. It’s all over. Just look at a story and examine it through this seven step process.
Particularly in mission, but also in your daily life, you and I have been taught that when we have an awareness of something going wrong, we need to jump straight to action. There’s a lot of homeless people on our streets, well let’s start a homeless shelter. A new study comes out and you hear about how much hunger there is in our community, so you start a food pantry. Drug addiction is rampant, so you start a rehab clinic. There’s a natural disaster, so you immediately send medical supplies. It’s Christmas, and you want to give so you go out and start up a Samaritan’s purse shoebox collection.
And you never really gather info, data, or stories about the problem from the people affected. You never spend time analyzing with others the info you collected. You never work with the people acted to create a vision and strategy and plan. And after the action is over, folks rarely do any evaluation. Even when folks do evaluation , it’s usually more about how many people you think you’ve helped rather than how effective the help has been! And that’s not really evaluation at all!
Folks, there is a process to change, to solving problems. Whether it’s a change in a relationship with a friend or spouse, a change you need to create more joy in your life, or whether it’s a social issue like poverty or hunger or incarceration or addiction.
The Bible offers us a process that’s been tried and tested and works. I pray we will all have the courage to boldly tackle the problems we see that God is working on as we join God in creating goodness in our community and in our lives.