What we’re learning about incarnational ministry, rest, and other things

If you get our prayerletters, you have already seen most of this post. I thought I’d expand on this email update for my blog….

Last month I finished a biography of Amy Carmichael, a missionary in India in the late 19th –20th centuries. I was struck by how she didn’t just focus just on the “exciting things” in her prayerletters. In that spirit, here are some things that are hard and that we’re learning.

lightbulbWe are learning that incarnational ministry takes time. (And I want quick results.) We’re learning this everywhere. In a local bar, after observing and praying a few Friday nights, we realized that we need a way to be a “familiar face” and part of the culture. We think that learning to play pool and joining in the open billiards games might be a way to do this.

We have seen a similar thing at the nursing home we serve at: it’s not enough to come  in and out, but like Jesus, we must become part of the community. For us, this has meant volunteering in some of the regularly scheduled activities in addition to our simple church’s (a.k.a. missional community’s) monthly game night. Our next step is to find people open to Jesus’  message and serve residents’ spiritual needs too. (Update – I just got back from meeting with the activity director…I was going to mention that we’d like to start conversations with residents about how we could be a blessing and serve them spiritually. But she came out and asked us first if we could start adding to the spiritual activities of the home. Talk about cool timing! We will start with dreaming a bit with one “person of peace” there.)

Lastly, we think that this summer will finally be a good time to organize neighborhood parties as we did in Hammond. Relationship building in our new neighborhood has been slower than we hoped…there are few people outside (especially during the winter) and few families with kids (who would be a natural connection.)

semicircle2We are learning to live within our limits as a “missionary family.” Working from rest is one of the principles we will teach in our discipling framework (from 3DM Lifeshapes), and keeping Sabbath is a big part of this. We’ve noticed that several missional communities around the country have re-discovered this spiritual discipline. This hasn’t been easy for us, but over the last four months, we’ve been learning how to receive a full day a week as a gift from God to our family, free from worry, solving problems and work. We’ve really been impacted by Ruth Haley Barton’s chapter on sabbath in Sacred Rhythms.

We are seeing that it’s very difficult to raise support AND be involved in local ministry. I knew this from our time with IVCF, but support raising work gets squeezed out as local ministry opportunities and needs come up. Hard to do two things at once.

We are learning that text messaging can work for group communication, but it fills up people’s inbox a bit too much – Email is pretty much out for many younger people, Facebook messages get lost, and I personally don’t want to fill my Facebook news feed with Christian events. I’ve used a Google voice # with GVMax to send out texts for gatherings and huddle (our discipling cluster). Recently, we’ve been using Groupme for group text chatting across devices. These work, but honestly it does get a little much to use text only for communication.

I’d love to hear what anyone else is learning about these things in their contexts!

Lightbulb image CC Flickr user cheerfulmonk