Jesus and His Passion for a Big Kingdom | Practical Mobilization

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeJesus and His Passion for a Big Kingdom

By Shane Bennett

Driving Merchants from the Temple

Driving of the Merchants from the Temple, by Ippolito Scarsella.

If God’s job is to make his sheep fat and happy, he’s not too good at it. I think about believers in the Caribbean and the US suffering the effects of Harvey and Irma today, Mexicans dead in a massive earthquake, and Christians persecuted in the Middle East. Not to mention potential believers like the Rohingya of Burma who are fleeing for their lives in the hundreds of thousands.

If his job is to radically remake everything, I wonder why he’s so slow about it. Realizing, however, that the fundamental unit of the “everything” getting remade is the human heart, mine and yours, I sadly acknowledge I’m part of the slowness.

Alongside the long list of things I don’t understand and the timing issues I don’t get, one thing seems pretty clear in the Gospels: Jesus inaugurated and relentlessly lived into a vision of a certain and vast kingdom of God—a new reality in which outsiders become insiders, evil is pushed back, justice becomes the norm, and as N.T. Wright brilliantly summarizes, God “puts all things to rights.”

God’s job, then, is to bring about that kingdom. Jesus, by the way he lived, the things he said, and the places he hung out gives us both a framework for what the kingdom looks like and a model for participation in it.

I’m particularly encouraged and re-centered by some of the key biblical ideas highlighted in the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course regarding this:

1. Jesus called himself the “Son of Man.”

While this carried messianic allusions for his Jewish listeners, perhaps it also provided accessibility to non-Jews. At least it lowered some of the walls of exclusivity raised by Jewish-specific titles like Son of David and Rabbi.

2. Jesus hung out with outsiders.

Matthew tells us Jesus went and lived in Capernaum, fulfilling scripture (Matthew 4:12-25; Isaiah 9:1-2):

Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.

This also put Jesus nearer to the nations. While messiah-seeking Jews could come up from Jerusalem to encounter Jesus (as Matthew says they did), Gentiles found him teaching, healing, and driving out demons right in their own back yard! The presence of the kingdom of God had come even to them (Matthew 4:24-25).

3. Jesus gave Gentiles access.

When Jesus cleansed the Temple, or as I like to say, “wreaked havoc on the holy hangout,” he was not teaching us that Girl Scouts can’t sell cookies in the foyer and realtors should leave their business cards at home on Sunday morning. Instead he was rolling back a situation that prevented access to God by Gentiles. He re-opened a path for the glory God deserved and wanted from the nations (Matthew 21:12-17; Isaiah 56:7-8). Can’t you just hear him shout it?

“For my house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations.”
The Sovereign Lord declares—
he who gathers the exiles of Israel:
“I will gather still others to them
besides those already gathered.”

4. Jesus passionately advocated for care for outsiders.

We see him in action healing a Roman soldier’s slave (Luke 7:1-10) and driving out demons from the daughter of a foreigner (Matthew 15:21-28). We hear his words of scathing rebuke (Luke 4:24-26). Were there not widows in Israel? Were there not lepers in Israel? Yet God had sent the prophet to foreigners!

5. He worked long and hard to build global, kingdom understanding in his disciples.

I particularly love how Jesus agrees to spend two days in a Samaritan village (John 4:39-41). Poor disciples! Jesus was leading them into the very places they promised their moms they’d never go! This is such a cool model for us to both go and take others into important situations that are beyond our realm of comfort.

Our Response

What can we do to grow in alignment with Jesus on this? How can we see and live out the kingdom he envisioned? The answer could be as big and diverse as the cosmos, but here’s one thing that hurts and one thing that should be fun:

First, realize that we may have more in common with the religious leaders Jesus was smacking around than the outsiders to whom he showed such lavish kindness.

It’s possible this is just me and not you, but give it a little thought. If you’re reading Missions Catalyst, odds are you’re an insider to the things of God and to the current Christian culture. Our enemy would love to build a mindset in us in which we thank God for our special status and cluck our tongues at those gays, Muslims, liberals, etc. who are outside looking in.

Second, give up on this generation and focus on the next!

I’m kidding. Let’s not give up quite yet. But I want to invite you to build kingdom-minded kids by sending your youth group with me next year to connect with refugees. It would be a little bit like when Jesus took his guys to hang out with the Samaritan woman and her village. Let’s spend a week in a US city, learning about the refugee situation, connecting with a local church, working hard, and authentically serving an unreached refugee community.

Sound like a step in the right kingdom direction? Let’s talk.

» You can also comment on our website or Facebook page.

Memorial for Hall-of-Famer Bill Dickson

Good people pass from this life every day, most without the recognition they merit. May that not be the case for Bill Dickson, a long-time Global Mapping International staffer and member of the broader community of people working hard to complete the Great Commission.

Bill Dickson died in a car crash on August 2. He worked in the background of a growing movement, logging hours that were long, challenging, and largely unsung. LightSys, the organization with which Bill most recently worked, issued a press release about his life. Here’s an excerpt.

Bill is best known for his pioneering work using database technology, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and digital publishing for the cause of global mission. Bill was instrumental in supporting hundreds of organizations globally in their use of technology in the early days of the digital era. Some of those included the International Mission Board, World Vision, Lausanne, COMIBAM (the Latin American mission association), The CoMission (an effort to engage the former Soviet Union when the Berlin Wall fell), MANI (Movement for African National Initiatives), and many others. He also helped create the digital versions of products such as Operation World, Peoples of the Buddhist World, the North American Mission Handbook, Operation China, and The Future of the Global Church.

His passion for missions can best be summed up in his own words:

“I believe that we have an enemy who likes to muddle communication and confuse efforts to take news of the Kingdom to the ends of the earth. I believe that good research, done cooperatively, is like turning on the lights in a dark room, and that instead of stumbling over each other in the dark, Kingdom workers can develop trust and begin moving together with clarity and purpose.”

Thank you to people who financially and prayerful support people like Bill. Their work isn’t flashy, but strategic almost beyond measure.

» Read or post memories of Bill.

Helping Kids Help Kids at School

America is going back to school. Little munchkins are buying notebooks, boarding busses, and beginning a new year of education, fun, and tribalism. Cliques are forming and re-forming in the primordial ooze of public schools. Some kids are wooed, others cautiously invited in and too many are overlooked, marginalized, and excluded.

You went to school, right? Were you the same color as most of your classmates? One of my friends, a tall, fair, redhead, arrived for the first day of ninth grade in her new school to find a classroom otherwise entirely filled with students of Pakistani descent. Her teacher arrived, noticed her, and said, “You must be the new girl!” She replied, “How’d you guess?” It’s a challenge to be different.

Thousands of variables affect group formation and insider/outsider status in our kids’ schools. As followers of Jesus, maybe we should be concerned about them all. We should definitely take pains to keep kids from being mistreated because they happen to be Buddhist, Hindu, or Muslim. In fact, maybe we should encourage our kids to extend a hand to such kids.

What can your little Jesus kids do about this? In ascending order of social riskiness, they could…

  1. Keep their cute little mouths shut! Simply don’t join in when kids are being made fun of for the color of their skin or the religious situation they were born into. (They’ll do what they’ve seen at home!)
  2. Sit by the kids no one wants to sit by. Talk to them. (“I took the road less traveled by and that has made all the difference.”)
  3. Invite those kids to into their group. “Sit with us.” “Be on my team.” “Do you have a group for the project yet? Join ours.” (As a bonus, overlooked smart kids will help your kids’ grades!)
  4. Defend them before the “popular” kids. (This is gonna leave a mark!)
  5. Invite them to dinner at your house! (Stock up on halal snacks!)

Are there Muslim students at your school? Download this one-page primer for your kids. Take a quick look before you give it to them because you may want to yell at me, “Dude, what are you? 100 years old?” If you want to amend it for others to make it better, let me know. Or simply adapt it for your kids; you do know how to cut and paste.

If, during the first couple days of school, you’ll simply greet the mom in the burka or say hey to the dad with the odd name, your kids may get the picture and behave the same way. Unless they are thirteen, in which case they will just do the opposite of what you say and do!

» Other thoughts about this topic? Comment on our website or Facebook page or email Shane.

Subversive Mobilization: Baby Steps

A guy came up to me after church on Sunday to mention a talk he’d heard recently that helped him think about Muslims in a significantly new way. He said he felt an openness to engage with them he’d not known before. Furthermore, he was a sharp professional and north of 60 years old.

This encouraged me that mobilization has value and that by God’s grace and providence, Christians of all ages can be open to learning new things and taking new steps.

So I have this question for you: What are some of the baby steps believers might need to take to begin to connect with unreached peoples? Can you give 90 seconds to the cause by clicking below and sharing a “baby step” that comes to mind?

» Access and add to the list. Thanks for lending your wisdom.

(If you’re thinking, “Don’t call them ‘baby steps’ because that is super patronizing,” I’m with you! I just haven’t settled on the right name yet.)

Ten Lessons for Mission Trip Leaders | Practical Mobilization

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10STM Lessons EtnaBy Shane Bennett

This morning, the Rome airport was like an obstacle course of groups young and old, all wearing matching T-shirts, polos, or hoodies. The young lady next to me on the plane somehow managed to appear after the door was closed, crushing my dreams of a free middle seat. She’s heading home from Rome and off to Thailand in a couple of weeks. It’s short-term mission season.

There are a hundred snarky, patronizing, or arrogant things to say to denigrate short-term mission trips. But if you know me, you know I’m a big fan, particularly when they’re done well. Leading two teams to Catania, Sicily this month reinforced ten quick lessons for me.

1. Think ahead.

This probably only applies to the percentage of you who share my weakness in this area. Briefly: Don’t wait until your money runs out to go exchange more.

I was getting scarily lean on food cash for my team of 33 last week, so I went to the post office to change more. After a fair wait, I was informed that I needed the other post office! Then, after a fair wait there, the dear lady told me, “No. You can’t change money today. Come back next month.” What?!?

Turns out next month (Monday, July 1) was just around the corner, but you know, I needed the money then. I took a quick dart down the road to a private exchange office, and my hopes were dashed to find their sign put away, the lights out, and the proprietor literally locking the office door! Hearing my plea and seeing my distraught face, he consoled, “We are always open for tourists.” I took a hit on the rate, but the team ate!

Since this story is a little embarrassing, let’s just keep it between us, okay?

2. Get prayed for.

I asked for more prayer for this team than perhaps any other I’ve led. I shared my apprehension at the team size and ask people to pray for success. I’m cautious about assigning causal relationships between prayers and results, but you be the judge: We drove four huge vans with nine people each for seven days, crawling through the tiny streets of Catania. When we turned in the vans this morning, we paid for one parking ticket and were charged for one scratch.

Miraculous? You make the call! I smile just thinking about it.

3. Delegate.

I was hugely blessed to have a co-leader on this team. Nate covered bases, picked up slack, and basically helped the whole effort succeed. We also enlisted four people to input receipts generated by their sub-teams every day. So as I type, just hours after bidding the team adieu, 95% of the receipts are already entered into our expense report.

Yep, the missing 5% are mine. I am so glad it did not all rest on me.

4. Communicate often and well.

This team was huge! The nearly-daily pre-breakfast leader meetings went a long way to keeping everyone on track, in sync and happy.

5. Communicate, 2.0.

This team and another group earlier this spring both used an app called GroupMe to keep their teams in touch. A message entered once in the app flies out to everyone in the pre-arranged group. GroupMe banks on everyone having a data connection, charged phones, and sufficient cell coverage. When that was in place, it was super helpful.

6. Connect with the local church.

If your short-term team is going somewhere in which there is no local church, good on you! We need more like that. If, however, there is a local church and sufficient humility on the part of your team, connecting with them can shower blessings all the way around.

We experienced this as our team collaborated with a local Sicilian church to put on a “day away” for migrant boys living in a couple of asylum seeker facilities. The church opened up their rustic retreat facility, providing a cooler, outdoorsy venue to escape the city. We provided a bunch of bright, smiling faces to hang out, kick soccer balls, eat, and chat with the two busloads of boys who made the trek.

7. Take measured risks.

Midway through the day away, we loaded everyone up and rolled our nine-vehicle convoy up Mount Etna, whose claim to fame is being the “highest, most active volcano in Europe.” Someone had donated money to pay for the buses; I could imagine how cool it would be for the boys to look down on their new city from 6,000 feet up and I knew the break from the heat would be nice for everyone. But oh, it felt risky. My fears ranged from the mundane to the outrageous: What if their shoes are insufficient to protect their feet? What if lose one of the boys? If they fall in a crater maybe?

Everyone’s risk tolerance is different and I’m not suggesting you go rogue on God. But sometimes we need to push it a bit. In this instance I’m glad we did.

8. Engage with people along the way, even Muslims!

I continue to be delighted at the openness our short termers in Sicily experience as they engage the Muslims we are serving there. Where we find common language capacity, we almost always find willingness to laugh and talk and reconnect. This might not be the case everywhere, but on the off-chance things are trending this way, let’s keep initiating.

If you’re thinking, “No Muslims where I’m going,” I’ll concede the point (but I’ll bet you a bottle of malaria pills there are Muslims in the airport along the way).

9. Prioritize debriefing.

As schedules sometimes do, ours evolved to the point that we debriefed pretty late on our last night in Sicily. (It’s possible there was some lack of planning as well. See lesson 1 above!) There are many high-quality resources to help debrief, so we have no excuse not to. It’s not a good trade to do one more ministry activity when it means bouncing your processing time off the schedule.

Since I’m a pretty simple guy, I usually just ask three questions:

  • What did God do to you? (or say “in you” for more sensitive souls!)
  • What did God do through you?
  • How does this experience fit into the rest of your life?

10. Prep a response to “How was your trip?”

The final debrief assignment we worked on, when people were feeling pretty tired, was thinking about how to answer the question they will be asked a dozen times their first Sunday back at church, “How was your trip?”

As I see it, you’ve got about 30 seconds to respond to this. Aim to tell one thing God did; tell it in a provocative way and in the form of a brief story.

What’s a lesson you learned from a short-term trip this summer or before?

Comment on our website or through Twitter or Facebook or email Shane.

 

 

 

 

Walking in the Weeds | Practical Mobilization

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeRamadan, Refugees, and the Power of Walking in the Weeds

By Shane Bennett

Ever wonder what the coolest city in the world is? You’re going to know in less than three seconds: Catania, Sicily. Surprised? Me, too, but I’m shooting you straight. Although there is a slight chance I may be biased, inasmuch as this city, where I am off and on again this summer, has my heart. It’s a fascinating city at its core and is now home to a burgeoning population of migrants and asylum seekers from East Africa, West Africa, the Middle East, and pretty much everywhere else.

I’m writing this month from Catania and want to float out three quick topics for you chew on. Wait—it being Ramadan and all, let’s say, “mull over.”

1. Ramadan, Halfway Gone

I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but here in Sicily the sun rises early, burns hot, and hangs out late. Faithful Muslims don’t eat until the sun sets at 8:15pm. If you stop eating at 5am, that makes for a long stretch. Of course in some places the days are shorter; I suppose there’s no whining this year if you’re a Muslim in Cape Town.

Regardless of where they live, faithful Muslims are giving it a go this month (May 26 to June 24), exercising self-discipline, trying to honor God, and excelling in good works, charity, and gifts to the poor. I imagine you’re likely already praying for Muslims and the Muslim world this month. If you’d like a brief aid to prayer, shoot me an email, and I’ll send you a one-page Ramadan Prayer Outline.

God told Israel through Jeremiah that if they’d seek him, they would find him (Jeremiah 29). Scholars brighter than me might disagree, but I hope we can lean into that promise and apply it to Muslims this season: To the degree they’re honestly seeking God, may they find him in fresh ways.

2. Refugees, Like Never Before

This afternoon I played Jenga with some guys from Guinea-Bissau, Gambia, and Egypt. They’ve all fled persecution, abuse, and economic deprivation in Libya and/or in their homelands. As I write, two of our team members are leading a late-night discovery Bible study with a young guy from Senegal.

Christians now have an unprecedented opportunity to connect with Muslims from many of the most challenging places on the planet. We’re living through an epic shift in humanity which opens doors of staggering breadth for Christians, offering us a chance to act like Jesus toward people who have never experienced such and to extend Jesus’ invitation to follow him to those who’ve never heard it. What are you doing to engage this opportunity?

Of course, none of us is asked by God to do everything. But to the degree to which God is inviting you and me and our churches to this effort, let’s dream big, show up early, and work hard until the sun goes down.

If you speak French, Arabic, Bengali, or Italian, I’d love a chance to buy you all the cannoli you can eat right here in Catania! We feel like we’re wading knee-deep through Luke 10:2 right here, and our city is only one small part of the current global refugee situation.

June PM Pic

3. The Power of Walking in the Weeds

Finally, can I remind you of something you already know? Nothing will expand your view of the world like talking to someone very different from you. I know it’s fun to cheer with like-minded friends and have long conversations with people who agree with you; it’s good to hang with your tribe. But it’s also really good to get off the smooth path and into the weeds from time to time.

We were walking home late last night after celebrating Geralyn’s birthday at dinner. She’s the lone African-American woman in our group. We were carrying left-over pizza and hoping to give it away to some hungry people on the way to our vans. We passed some Nigerian guys prepping to sleep on the sidewalk and found out they were Christians. This, and their hunger, made them good candidates for our pizza, which was laden with pork.

As we shared it with them we talked about the road that led them to this place. Deep in the conversation someone mentioned it was Geralyn’s birthday, and then an amazing thing happened: They proceeded to sing Happy Birthday to her—from their pallets in the streets of downtown Catania, Sicily, hands greasy from leftover pizza. You just don’t get that in Suburb-istan. It will be a long time before Geralyn and the rest of us forget that birthday song.

Since most of us have had these moments off the beaten tracks, let’s be the best cheerleaders to provide such experiences for others. In fact, let’s actually take them along.

  • This Sunday after church, invite a couple people to go with you on their first trip to an Indian restaurant.
  • Grab some buds and spend an afternoon in an ethnic neighborhood.
  • Start planning now for a late fall or early spring trip to a place that requires a passport and a plane ticket.

And take care. When you get off the paved paths, there are thorns, bugs, and snakes. But few worthy adventures come danger-free.

Until next month,
Shane

Comment on our website or Facebook page or email Shane.

Waiting Tables with a Famous Evangelist | Practical Mobilization

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Waiting Tables with a Famous Evangelist

Seven Reasons Why the Smart Also Serve

By Shane Bennett

Philip 2

When in last month’s Practical Mobilization, we left Philip the Apostle, he had stumbled grievously. Maybe, in the past four weeks, you have stumbled as well. I have. Rejoice in this with me: Stumbling does not mean disqualification. There is no mess too big for God, but the trick is to get back up when you stumble. God’s work to redeem all things includes you.

Now we move on to Philip the second, the one they call Philip the Evangelist. His career took off when, of all things, he was assigned to wait tables … and not because a hip new place opened on State Street and the tips rocked, but because a low-level ethnic conflict meant some dear old widows missed lunch!

Luke records in Acts 4 that the apostles, hearing about the problem, asked around for “seven men from among you known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.” They found them, laid hands on them, and gave them the job.

Apparently, Philip and the others nailed it. I don’t think they’d take all the credit, but Luke does end the vignette by saying, in verse 7, “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”

Things were going great for the deacons until one of them, Stephen, starting moonlighting by performing signs and wonders. Opposition arose. He was tried and killed. This uncorked major persecution and everyone—save the apostles—got out of Dodge. As for Philip, he made his way to a city in Samaria and began to go all “Stephen” on them. People paid attention. Luke tells us, “There was great joy in that city.”

When the apostles came down to certify this new ministry, an angel told Philip to hit the road, the desert road. He did, bumped into an Ethiopian eunuch, and was instrumental in the gospel moving into Africa.

The waiter! The waiter gets to play a brief, but crazily significant role in the advance of the gospel. (I’m going to start tipping better.)

There’s much to learn from Philip’s life, but I’d like to focus on his service. Without trying to read too much into the text, it seems that this was a foundational part of his character. Likewise, service is a significant part of mission mobilization, and often an overlooked part (if my own life is any indication).

Let me say here that some of the best servants I’ve ever seen have been mission mobilizers, and I’m thinking of Perspectives Course coordinators in particular. The last thing I want to do is load up your tired back with more burdens. If the Holy Spirit says, “You’re serving well, so let this slide,” listen! There’s always the chance I’m writing this mainly for me.

Still, here are seven reminders why picking up a towel and wiping some tables is a good idea for mobilizers.

1. Stuff needs to be done.

Before we get all spiritual about this, how about some practicality? A laundry list of grubby work needs to be tackled, including sometimes literally laundry! Things need to be put away. People need to be listened to. Cute little noses need to be wiped. These are kingdom concerns. Let’s do the ones that fall to us.

2. Jesus modeled service.

One episode in the life of Jesus that you hope doesn’t come to mind when you’re trying to dodge an unwanted service opportunity is when Jesus got down on the floor and washed those grubby apostolic feet. The one who made the dirt and fashioned the first feet said, “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.”

I suppose the list could stop at two items, but there’s more.

3. The Bible instructs us to serve.

Perhaps remembering his mini-bath debate with Jesus, Peter writes in his first letter, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” In many other places, we’re told the life of Jesus is one of putting others ahead of ourselves as we put God ahead of everything. This isn’t easy, but it is clear.

4. Serving trains us for further service.

Is it possible that Philip’s record of service somehow suited him for outreach in his Samaritan city? I don’t want to make too much of this, but Jesus did say that faithfulness in small things leads to opportunity for faithfulness in bigger things. I like to think that Philip’s time at the tables developed internal character, qualifying him to work effectively as an evangelist.

Credibility is a key payoff here. I love a volunteer who will put away tables, do data entry, and drive the van when it would be more fun to snooze in the back seat. If we haven’t logged some hours in the nursery, we may not be ready for the missions committee.

5. Service is a tangible expression of love.

In Galatians 5:13, Paul says to use our freedom to, “serve one another in love.” One of the clearest ways to live out “I love you” is to serve the one you love. They go hand in hand. As with Philip before us, simply bringing food to someone or clearing away their dirty dishes speaks a great deal. Some of my living heroes of the faith are those who see a need and quietly go about meeting it. Sometimes you have to be sharp to observe this because the good servants do it on the down low.

6. Serving models service for others.

Years ago I took a missions pastor role and moved to Indiana. My new church had a community service day just after our arrival—like hours after our arrival. I didn’t really want to go, and it technically wasn’t part of my job description, but my dad swayed me and got me there! When we arrived at the site I was pleasantly surprised to see the senior pastor, my new boss, pulling weeds alongside a church member who was the owner of a significant local company. That marked me. We didn’t always live it out 100%, but we were a community who served.

7. Serving is an antidote for arrogance.

Since you probably need no such antidote, let me just share about myself here: Sometimes when you read what I write or when people listen to me talk, I begin to think I know a thing or two. Then it’s a short jump to a confident sense that I do know what’s right. And pretty soon, I’ve figured out how nearly everyone else is off in their approach to missions, while I’m right on! Cleaning a dirty toilet tends to dial down my arrogance meter.

As you work out the calling God has given you, may you challenge the church boldly, love them deeply, and serve with great gusto, as one who has indeed been served by the King of kings.

» Comment on our website or Facebook page or email Shane.

Practical Mobilization

Adobe Spark (19)5 Mobilization Lessons from a Couple of Guys Named Phil

By Shane Bennett

Way too recently I realized the Apostle Philip was not the guy who took a carriage ride with the Ethiopian eunuch. Turns out there are two Philips! One is an Apostle, and the other a deacon and evangelist. Both have cameos in the beginning of the New Testament, though, and a quick look at their lives reveals some valuable lessons for mission mobilizers.

1. Called to go with Jesus

John gets Philip the Apostle’s story rolling in chapter one of his Gospel. He says two really cool things: “Jesus decided to leave for Galilee,” and “Finding Philip, he said to him, ‘Follow me’” (John 1:43).

I can still remember being in college and reading a mission book or article about this idea. It had a picture of Jesus with a backpack, looking over his shoulder, making a little “come along” gesture with his hand. The caption said something like, “Jesus is on his way to the nations and he’s inviting us to come with him!”

Campy? Yes. Effective? Yes, for me, at least!

I love it that Jesus decided to go to Galilee: to the hard places. To the overlooked people. And having decided such, he invited Philip to join him. This must have been a little tough on the boy. On one hand, “Jesus picked me!” On the other hand, “I’m pretty sure I promised Mom I wouldn’t go to places like that!” Apparently the invitation won out.

There is something powerful about a personal invitation. [click to tweet]

Jesus said to Philip, as he says to us today, “I’m going to the nations and I’d like you to come with me.” You and I are invited by the risen Son of God to participate in the blessings of God being pressed into every nook and cranny on the planet, being planted within every family. Can you even imagine that?

Sometimes we wonder about our part in it, though, don’t we? “I don’t measure up.” “Maybe God doesn’t use people like me.” “Maybe I’m just making all this up in my head.” This is why you should never take a short-term mission team of twelve people, by the way: Each person will at some point think they’re the Judas in the group! You’re better off leaving someone at home or conscripting someone at the airport!

Take heart. God has in mind to use you in ways that are stunning and glorious for his name. He’s your dad, he loves you, and he’s quite pleased to have you working at his side. [click to tweet]

One last thought. These are good days to be called. Seriously! If you’re going to follow Jesus, why not do it during times in which it really matters? When we see the disconcerting rise of nationalism, in the midst of an unprecedented refugee crisis, and when migration has brought the ends of the earth to the end of your street, you and Jesus might not need a backpack but be fine with an iPhone and a Clif Bar!

I’m telling you, these are good days to be a Christian. We have a message to bring. We have power that needs to be unleashed into the world, unleashed with humility, winsomeness, and the very love of Jesus.

2. Encouraged to bring friends along

Philip said yes to Jesus (probably the lesson from his life that we need the most). Immediately he went to get Nathanael. I wonder if there was a little bit of, “No way I’m going to Galilee without backup, Bro. You need to come with me!” At any rate, Philip’s response to this crazy-great invitation was to grab a bud to go along. I love that!

When Nate expresses some doubts about whether this guy could be the guy, Philip simply and brilliantly responds, “Come and see” (John 1:46).

That’s the ticket, my mobilizing friends: asking our friends to come and see.

  • See the invitation of God to join him.
  • See the power of sacrifice in the purposes of that great God.
  • Experience the fun of connecting with people from other cultures.
  • Feel the weight of honor of participation in the expansion of the Kingdom of God.

That’s why I say to people, “Come and see what God is doing among Muslim refugees in Sicily.” That’s why I invite people to sign up for my weekly email, Muslim Connect, to see how normal Christians can practically engage with these huge issues and the normal individuals caught up in them. That’s why I invite people to consider the hard places and overlooked people.

Look around in your sphere of influence. Who’s waiting for you to say, “Come and see”?

3. Not disqualified for stumbling

At this point in the story, the music goes all minor and foreboding. Philip, who started so well, falters at two key points.

We read, “When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, ‘It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!’” (John 6:5-7).

It was a test and Philip failed! Give him an F- for the cheeky hyperbole, “…for everyone to have a bite!” Apparently Philip had a hard time understanding what Jesus could do. I’m glad I never struggle with that. It must be hard and sad. Poor Philip.

Actually, I wonder how many tests like this I fail, too. Happily, the canon is closed; John is not taking notes on my life!

Later, and more poignantly, we read that Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?” (John 14:8-10).

Not only did Philip not understand what Jesus could do, he didn’t understand who he was. This seems to have been for Jesus a preview of the pain of the cross.

If Philip, walking with Jesus as he did, had such a hard time seeing clearly, what hope do we have? He failed the test, ate a hearty dinner, and then stumbled again! If my life heretofore is any indication, I’m going to stumble. You, too? We’re going to stumble.

I remember sitting in the living room of a Muslim neighbor in our town in England. As he shared his conviction that we’re all fine because we’re all finding our own way to God, I found myself nodding in assent! As if from outside my body looking on, part of my brain was shouting, “Don’t nod! You don’t believe that!” But I did. The conversation moved on; I drank my coffee and left. Stumbled. Big time.

Please remember: to stumble does not equal disqualification. An older, wiser John writes, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).

There is no mess too big for God. The trick is to get back up when you stumble. Don’t lay in your filth! God’s work to redeem all things includes you. [click to tweet]

And should your friends stumble, help them up, lending a hand as someone who has stumbled or may likely stumble in a similar way.

Watch for the second part of this article. We’ll shift to Philip the Evangelist and watch as he responds to Jesus’s call, literally in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

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