How to Be Sure You’ll Never Mobilize Your Pastor for Missions

By Shane Bennett

8797472651_c80175345a_bDear Missions Guy and Gal,

I know you mean well and I love your passion, I really do. But I’ve got to tell you I’m starting to scan the crowd and drift left when I see you coming from the right. I like you and all. It’s just that your advocacy for the world is becoming a little strident. Your zeal’s starting to make me daydream of making you a missionary to a galaxy far, far away.

I don’t want to be too harsh here. But it’s late on Sunday, my football team lost today and I’m not happy with my sermon this morning. So I might use my current mood to get a few things off my chest. You may want take a couple aspirin right now and put on pads and a helmet.

Here goes… Here’s how you can be sure I’m never going to be mobilized for missions:

1. Present all your requests as though they were crises. Emergencies happen. I get it. But sometimes I think maybe you just didn’t think ahead. Or when your emergency 8500 miles away is competing with eight other emergencies within a stone’s throw of the church door, it’s hard for me to prioritize yours. Heck, it’s kind of tough just to listen to it. For added anti-impact, corner me with your crisis just before the service on Sunday morning!

2. Use jargon that I should probably know, but don’t. This makes me feel dumb. Which makes me get defensive. Which leads to saying snarky stuff I later regret. Yeah, and refer to people I don’t know, but don’t explain who they are.

3. By all means, go to my wife if you’re disappointed in how I’m responding to your requests.

4. Give me books I don’t ask for, the context for which I lack, and the content I’m not interested in. Do this monthly. Then ask me if I’ve read them. Heads up: If you ask me twice, I’ll give the books back to you. That way you’ll have them to give to your new pastor.

5. Leave me out of the process. Send me a support letter that you haven’t even signed, telling me you’re off to do something the Lord’s led you to do with another organization, when we haven’t even had one conversation with each other! When you’re actually in the decision process, keep it between you and your college crew.

6. Don’t pray for me, just give me more work to do. And if you do pray, really give it to God on my behalf. Ask him to change me or re-locate me.

7. Inundate me with information, but don’t ask me questions. Don’t ask how I’m holding up or what God’s saying to me lately. Let me pull back the curtain just a bit: I’ve got all the normal family issues anyone else has. And maybe a few more “pastor family” issues, I don’t know. Plus I’m juggling the good, the bad, and the ugly at church. This week that includes the death of a child – unexpected (aren’t they always?), two dear saints going into hospice, the unplanned pregnancy of an elder’s high school daughter, the need to terminate a staff member, a decision to repair or replace the roof, and preparing a sermon on trusting God. (I’m wondering if I can live it enough to preach it.) So I feel for the persecuted church in the horn of Africa, I really do. I cry for a million displaced Syrians. I just struggle to find the energy and focus to take action.

8. Don’t serve what we’re currently doing; just tell me how our church isn’t doing all it could. It’s hard for me to believe you’re willing to bleed on the foreign mission field when you won’t even get up 30 minutes early to help us set up chairs. And honestly, how familiar with our present ministry are you? God has opened amazing doors here in our community. I’m sure it’s not all he has in mind for us. At the same time, I don’t accept the feeling I get from you sometimes that ministry doesn’t count unless it’s a certain number of miles away from home.

9. Ask me if your missionary friend can speak to whole church. Then get that hurt look on your face when I question if he’s really qualified for that!

10. Ask me to go with you on a three-week-trip to the craziest parts of the world. (Me paying, of course!) Then that hurt look on your face again when I hesitate!

11. When you email me about the cool thing you’d like us to invest in, be sure to bad-mouth eight other similar things. This will feed my insecurity and make me wonder how you speak about me to your missions friends.

12. Tell me missions is what’s really on the heart of God. You and I both know I haven’t preached a missions series in two or three years. The implied distance between God’s heart and mine will be clear.

One last thing: Some of us see the giving records, you know. Are you really asking me to allocate church funds to missions when, as far as I can tell, you’re doing nothing to fund the church?

OK, this is more direct honesty than you usually get from me, but I thought you should know. And you should know this as well: None of these issues is forever. Any of them, in fact all of them, can start being different tomorrow morning. I hope they will.

Sincerely, hopefully,

Your pastor

P.S. If you really want to get me connected to the Muslim world, do this: Fly my wife and me to Turkey for a week’s vacation. Include a day and a half kicking around with your missionary friend there. Just a day and a half.

» Comment on this article on our website.

Photo: Creative Commons image from State Library of Victoria.

ShaneAbout Shane Bennett

Shane has been loving Muslims and connecting people who love Jesus with Muslims for more than 20 years. He speaks like he writes – in a practical, humorous, and easy-to-relate-to way – about God’s passion to bring all peoples into his kingdom. Contact Shane to speak to your people.

Subversive Mobilization: Starting a Church Missions Team

I’m excited about a meeting coming up in a few days in which some friends and I will dream and scheme about starting a missions team for a really cool church I love!

Would you give me the gift of responding to these two questions?

  1. What pitfalls should I watch for as we begin this process?
  2. What should we definitely do early on?

Even if you’ve never commented before, I’d value your thoughts and your time to record them below.

If you’re in a remotely similar situation, you’ll love the brief, insightful ebook, How to Operate an Effective Missions Leadership Team in Your Church. It was written by my hero, mobilization master David Mays, who’s now resting with Jesus.

Missions Catalyst News Briefs

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In This Issue:

  1. AFGHANISTAN: Election Crisis
  2. MIDDLE EAST: Media Fueling Terror Threats
  3. WORLD: Bad News, Good News
  4. LAOS: Five Christians Accused of Murder Found Not Guilty
  5. YEMEN: Woman Burned to Death for Her Faith

Dear readers,

Lately I have been thinking about influencers and other leaders and those they recruit and lead.

You have probably heard about the foreign fighters in Syria (Your Middle East). Take a peek into the life of a Tajik recruit (Inter Press Service). Use it as fuel for prayer!

We are often told to pray for our leaders (those in authority). A kingdom worker in the Republic of Congo had an amazing sovereign appointment with one. See also 10 Muslim Leaders You Need to Know to Better Understand the Spiritual Battle (InContext Ministries).

Pray, too, for Afghanistan. September 2 was to have been the inauguration of the first democratically elected president. The UN has delayed the audit of a disputed election in that country, see story below, and pray for Afghanistan and its future leaders. Lebanon is also currently without a president, a situation that has increased a sense of insecurity for that nation’s Christians.

When I think of influencers, my thoughts naturally turn to newscasters and media. Some of today’s news pundits seem nothing more than what I call secular preachers, but journalists can be a different breed. Eddie Arthur expresses my own feelings in his blog post In Praise of Journalists. I wonder if he read about Ilgar Nasibov, the Azeri journalist beaten unconscious (Note: graphic image). If you’d like to pray for journalists, check out the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In the battle with you,
Pat

Pat

Pat Noble has been the “news sleuth” for Missions Catalyst since 2004. In addition to churning out the news, she is working to create a SWARM (Serving World A Regional Mobilizers) in Northern New York using the NorthernChristian.org website. You can connect with her at www.whatsoeverthings.com.

AFGHANISTAN: Election Crisis

afghanistan-homeSource: Email from Prayercast, August 31, 2014

Currently overshadowed by other situations in the Middle East, the nation of Afghanistan faces a mounting crisis. Results from June’s election remain contested with claims of fraud on both sides. Tensions are high as this fragile nation stands on the brink of an outbreak of further violence. With over 30 years of continuous war and upheaval, Afghanistan desperately awaits true peace.

Known as the world’s most dangerous place for a child to be born, Afghanistan is a nation that has seen much suffering. The Taliban’s removal brought an increased freedom to a broken nation, but the wounds remain deep. With more than 48,000 mosques covering the countryside, 99.9% of Afghanis are Muslim. Yet God is moving mountains to draw them to himself! Twenty years ago only dozens claimed Christ; today there are believed to be several thousand.

» Pray for Afghanistan.

MIDDLE EAST: Media Fueling Terror Threats

Source: Mission Network News, August 29, 2014

More threats are coming out of radical Islam. Middle East expert with E3 Partners Tom Doyle says we need to be careful what we believe. “Lots of it is false. Lots of it is to tie up the government. Lots of it is to produce fear in the hearts of people. Look at the obsessive news coverage that we’re seeing. These guys are pretty savvy with media.”

Doyle points to the James Foley murder as an example of that. “Everything was rehearsed and scripted. To be able to be put out and tied to Guantanamo Bay, the way he was dressed and with an English-speaking Muslim. All of that is done to just show fear.”

It reminds him of the Assyrian Empire, who did the same thing. Entire villages would kill themselves knowing the Assyrians were coming.

Doyle points to another example. “This week there was an e-mail going around saying the Christians were being lined up and being beheaded. That didn’t happen. Someone put that out. We need to be careful. Christians shouldn’t live in a state of fear, but we need to be prepared.”

» Read full story.

WORLD: Bad News, Good News

Source: Erich Bridges, International Mission Board, August 26, 2014

The cascade of grim global headlines overwhelmed a friend of mine recently. He announced that he couldn’t take it anymore — at least until tomorrow.

“I don’t know why I care,” he wrote. “I don’t know why I bother. I check the news. Bad. All bad. Unless the news is horrible, it’s bad. Why care? Why bother? Why not just play ‘Angry Birds’ and pretend it doesn’t affect me? It sounds easier.”

Despite his frustration and discouragement, I know he won’t stop reading, watching, caring, and praying. He’s an intelligent and compassionate young man, for one thing. He’s concerned about world affairs. He makes a point of keeping up with what’s happening and tries to understand it.

Another young person I know returned recently from a youth mission trip to Amsterdam, the Dutch capital. She and the group arrived there the same week in July that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew. Two-thirds of the passengers were Dutch. People on the streets of Amsterdam were just beginning to experience the shock of the tragedy as the youth team walked through the city and distributed more than 6,000 copies of the Gospel of John.

Some people they encountered rejected the small gifts of truth. But many accepted it — many more than the Amsterdam-based Christian worker helping the young people expected — and they began reading it. Perhaps they were looking for something to hold onto, something to hope in.

» Read full article.

» Read also these articles about our world: World’s Top Church-Destroying Countries (Christianity Today) and a report from InContext Ministries about how the influence of various countries is viewed, positively or negatively, by the rest of the world. And see this great, concise piece from Asia Harvest, God’s Solution to Terrorism. Part one addresses the “real cause of global terrorism.” Look for part two in next month’s Asia Harvest newsletter.

LAOS: Five Christians Accused of Murder Found Not Guilty

Source: Barnabas Fund, August 21, 2014

A group of Christians in Laos who were falsely accused of murder have been found not guilty. The believers, who remain in custody, were arrested after a sick woman sought prayer at her local church, converted to Christianity, and later died. The five Christians, four of whom are church leaders, have been detained since June 24.

The accusations came after Mrs. Chan, a convert to Christianity, passed away on June 21. Mrs. Chan had been suffering from an unidentified illness for two years, and local Christians prayed for her recovery. After her health initially improved, Mrs. Chan and her eight children became Christians and began attending church. Mrs. Chan’s health then deteriorated further, and she died on the way home from hospital.

Mrs. Chan’s sons and daughters wanted a Christian burial for their mother. When the village authorities prevented this from going ahead, Mrs. Kaithong, the leader of the Saisomboon church, appealed to the district chief. The five believers were then arrested, initially over the burial dispute, and later charged with murder. Buddhist leaders stepped in and conducted Mrs. Chan’s funeral service against her family’s wishes.

» Read full story.

» Interested in East Asia? We’ve been following stories about Christianity in China. See China Plans Establishment of Christian Theology (China Daily) and Why Is China Nationalizing Christianity? (The Diplomat), as well as China Removed More than 200 Crosses (Worthy News).

YEMEN: Woman Burned to Death for Her Faith

Source: Morning Star News, August 29, 2014

On the morning of June 9 in southern Yemen, Saeed woke to the sound of screaming. He shot out of bed, pushed panicked family members aside and saw his wife stumbling out of their kitchen, engulfed in flames.

His wife, Nazeera, had been preparing breakfast at about 9 a.m. when she poured liquid from a cooking oil bottle into a hot pan. The liquid flashed, and the bottle exploded. While her four children watched, screaming, Nazeera was being burned alive.

“I rushed out of the room,” Saeed told Morning Star News, weeping. “I couldn’t even speak to ask her what happened. All I could think about was putting the fire out and then getting her to the hospital. But my 16-year-old son, he couldn’t stop himself and held on to her, hugging her while she was burning. He got hurt, and I had to pull him away from her.”

About two weeks later, Nazeera, 33, died as a result of her burns. When Saeed returned to his home in a village after her death, a relative told him the unthinkable – members of both his family and hers had taken the vegetable oil out of the bottle and replaced it with gasoline. Saeed knew the reason – many years ago, the two had become Christians and refused to return to Islam.

» Read full story.