Practical Mobilization

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In This Issue:

  • Driven from Home, but Loved by Jesus
  • Subversive Mom-bilization

About Us

Missions Catalyst is a free, weekly electronic digest of mission news and resources designed to inspire and equip Christians worldwide for global ministry. Use it to fuel your prayers, find tips and opportunities, and stay in touch with how God is building his kingdom all over the world. Please forward it freely!

About 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 him to speak to your people.

Driven from Home, but Loved by Jesus

Reaching refugees with the abundant life of Christ

By Shane Bennett

It was still dark when our team leader rousted us out of bed and said it was time to go. I shrugged on some clothes and with the others slunk out into the early morning coolness of Irbid, Jordan. We were there for the summer (a summer long ago) in order to learn about the city’s cultures and wonder with God about his kingdom coming there. On this particular morning we were off to attend early prayers at a mosque in a Palestinian refugee camp.

We sat at the back of the room and watched as a few people arrived, prepared, and prayed together. When the pre-dawn faithful filed out, they greeted us warmly and one young man invited us to his house for breakfast.

Another brief walk in the dark took us to his small, concrete block home. He woke his sleepy wife and soon we were enjoying steaming tea and delicious watermelon. He shared stories of their lives in challenging times and situations and I was struck both by their suffering and by their hospitality in spite of it.

Something began to form in me that morning. As watermelon juice dripped down my hand, love from and for refugees began to flow in my soul.

Today more than 50 million people are displaced from their homes. If these refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people had their own country, only two dozen of the world’s countries would have a larger population. This is hardship, pain, and desperation on a scale I cannot imagine. It is also opportunity for the gospel which we dare not overlook.

I want to care for refugees because the gospel, as embodied in Jesus, is for people in the most desperate of situations. Jesus not only taught us but showed us that he came for those with little or no hope, the homeless, the dispossessed, and the overlooked. Caring for refugees is the way of Jesus. I assume this is a reminder and not a new thought for you. But I know I often need reminding of who this Jesus is and what he is about.

I also want to care for the displaced because they often represent peoples I deeply long to see introduced to the good news of Jesus, like Syrians, Somalis, Afghans. These are some of the most under-served peoples on the planet. And their homelands are some of the most challenging places for potential ambassadors to visit or live. Yet we now find them in great numbers in places that are readily accessible: Jordan and Turkey, Athens and Berlin. Churches that could not imagine sending their people to Pakistan or Ethiopia might be open to them going to England or Belgium.

And finally, reaching out to refugees is an investment in long-term peace. It’s an example of Wendell Berry’s admonition to plant sequoias. Talking about how believers should respond to ISIS, a friend asked recently, “And are there logs in the eyes of those of us who claim the way of Jesus as the way for the whole world? If the church had done its job of sharing Jesus in the Arab world in years past, would we have this issue? If the boys who are now men in ISIS, ten years ago, had heard and received the good news of Jesus – would they be doing what they are now?

We can’t go back and be there ten years ago, but what about today? Where are the future fighters for ISIS (or whatever) right now? Some of them are languishing in the refugee camps of the world. We have some decisions to make. If Jesus’ pledge that he came so we might have life and have it abundantly is true at all, it’s true for the world’s refugee population. Is it possible that a huge outpouring of love in the name of Jesus might stem the tide of future violence?

(Watch an amazing TED talk from Melissa Fleming, head of communications for the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, inviting us to care for refugees in ways that go beyond simply meeting the very basic needs of life).

So what can we do? As mobilizers, what can we invite our friends, our churches to do? Here are some of my ideas along with an invitation for yours.

1. Advocate

Learn a little then get the word out. Let people know the heart-wrenching need and the unprecedented opportunity for the work of Jesus. Write, speak, update your status, tweet, blog, make movies or more.

2. Invite

If you live among or near refugee populations, develop ways for churches to provide helpful services then invite them to come and serve refugees.

3. Pray and Give

We can support and pray for people, like my friend Wendy in the UK, who are reaching out to refugees (or, in Wendy’s words, “loving the overlooked”). We can get informed and pray for God’s kingdom to flourish among refugees. And of course, we can invite others into our prayers.

Go

Join or form a team with a great mission agency like Frontiers to provide long-term presence among a stabilizing refugee population. Or come with me to reach out to the burgeoning mass of refugees in Catania, Italy, my new favorite city. I’m looking for dozens of individuals along with six to eight intrepid churches who will consider a 3-5-year commitment to bringing the abundant life of Jesus to refugees there from North and East Africa, the Middle East, and beyond.

What else can we do? I’d love to hear your thoughts, your ideas, and how Jesus is leading you to respond to the greatest number of displaced people that we’ve seen since World War II. This is the day. Let’s do something epic.

Feel free to forward to a friend you’d like to see caring for refugees.

Subversive Mom-bilization

“The hand that rocks the cradle, mobilizes the world” (or something like that). I’d like to learn and write about moms on mission, particularly who, how, and why (and when!?!?) moms mobilize. Do you know any stellar examples? Books I should read? Blogs to peruse? I’d love your input on this. Watch for the January edition of Practical Mobilization to help unleash moms on the world!

Practical Mobilization

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 In This Issue:

About Us

Missions Catalyst is a free, weekly electronic digest of mission news and resources designed to inspire and equip Christians worldwide for global ministry. Use it to fuel your prayers, find tips and opportunities, and stay in touch with how God is building his kingdom all over the world. Please forward it freely!

About 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 him to speak to your people.

Hold onto Hope

13178045623_577c206d9a_oBy Shane Bennett

Month after month, year after year, beyond the bounds of a decade, every “prayer and praise” list on my friend’s missionary letter started with this request: “Please pray with us for one family to follow Jesus.” This friend is one of the best people I know. He worked hard, pursued friends relentlessly, learned a tough language, and held on for a long time with a young and growing family. A border dispute between his home country and his adopted one resulted in his visa evaporating and his return home without a single family having followed Jesus as a result of his labor. Not one.

How do you hold onto hope through that? I don’t know. My friend is a much better person than I am. But hold on he did. And now, as a silver lining to the devastatingly black cloud over sections of the Middle East, he’s getting reports from among the people he was serving. Ones and twos reading the Bible. A dozen baptized this week. Families beginning to follow Jesus. Not just one, but many!

When Hoping Is Hard

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life (Proverbs 13:12).

If you find yourself in the first half of that famous proverb and honestly wondering if the second half will ever happen for you, you are not alone. If you find your vision for God’s purposes taking on water and threatening to slip below the waves, you are not alone. If you wonder if God’s kingdom will come, if the good news of Jesus will ever make it to thousands of remaining unreached peoples, you are not alone.

A pastor friend of mine once confessed, “If I were ever to leave the faith, it would be because it’s been around so long and the world still looks as it does.” I can relate to that. I wish that the impact of God’s kingdom was already more pervasive.

Sometimes I walk among groups of people in my own country and see the sadness on their faces and bodies bent with worry and pain, and I wonder, “Where is the kingdom? When will it come?” And mind you, it’s not lost on me, this is in America; one of the healthiest, richest, opportunity-laden cultures in history. In many places, people struggle for day-to-day survival in ways I’ll never understand. Where is the kingdom?

I don’t want to be one of the scoffers Peter quotes in chapter three of his second letter, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4). But sometimes hoping is hard.

So what can we do? At the risk of being trite, may I float out four things that help me?

1. Hold onto the Bible and a smart God.

Peter goes on to say, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

God knows what he is doing and his timetable is not mine.

2. Encourage light where ever you see it.

For years I’ve prayed for reunification of the Koreas, that doors would open and the hope of the gospel flood the North. As I write, something new is afoot on the peninsula, maybe something huge. So I’m strengthening my hope by praying that today will be the day, that this is the answer to so many people’s prayers.

Where you see the smallest smoldering spark, encourage it to flame with the breath of your prayers.

3. Trade up on your hope.

Sometimes, perhaps in an effort to defer heart sickness, we only allow ourselves small and anemic hopes. I wonder if God finds our hopes too small. Maybe we should go after something bigger than not being “left behind.”

Can I share a big hope brewing in my heart? I’m scheming and dreaming for a huge move of God among immigrants and refugees in the Italian city of Catania. In the midst of great suffering and despair, I’m asking God to raise up six to eight churches who will focus their efforts over the next three to five years on sparking disciple-making movements among refugees in Catania.

If that sounds like a fun sandbox to you, hit me up for the dream sheet.

4. Follow Jesus with some friends.

Rarely will everyone in your posse find themselves without hope at the same time. As Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”

As you can imagine, it’s smart to build your posse before you really need them. And when you’re full of hope, let it leak out on them!

God will accomplish his purposes: From the audacious “blessing to all families” promise to Abraham to the kaleidoscopic worship John sees in Revelation 5:9, what God has promised, he will do. Don’t give up. It doesn’t look exactly like we’d hoped, but it will end up better than we can imagine.

Photo: Long Chung, Flikr.

Subversive Mobilization: You Can Quit Anything on a Thursday!

The provocative and winsome Bob Goff, author of Love Does, famously asserts that you can quit anything on a Thursday! And he does. Reportedly Bob quits something every Thursday. I wonder what he’s quitting today?

His logic is that you can’t get the really good stuff into your life if your life is already stuffed with other things.

Makes sense to me. So what should I quit today? TV? Writing the Practical Mob column? I considered quitting Facebook, but then I thought maybe I should invite you to be my friend there.

Here’s what I am quitting. First the easy one, then the harder one:

1. I’m quitting the Christmas gift edition of Practical Mobilization that has occupied my December slot for the past five years. Thank you, Thursday!

2. I’m also going to quit thinking and acting like people who think differently from me are dumb. They may be wrong. And heck, they may be dumb, but I don’t want to assume that, and I certainly don’t want to imply that in conversations with others.

So how about you? It’s Thursday. What are you going to quit?

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.

A Dozen Ways You Can Summon and Release the Next Generation of Global Christians

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4569741215_63ddc9a182By Shane Bennett

As the father of four daughters, it’s been impressed upon me that different people think differently. What seems entirely sensible to me does not make similar sense to everyone, apparently! In some cases, it doesn’t make sense to anyone in our house. And the crazy thing is, unless the sense-difference results in tears (not at all uncommon), I might not even notice it.

What if that dynamic is at work on a broad scale as we invite people into God’s global purposes? On the one hand, we have a huge, manpower-intensive task before us in reaching the couple billion people who presently have little or no access to the gospel. (Justin Long unfolds the task brilliantly and soberly.)

On the other hand, the U.S. is home to more than 95 million Millennials, the generation born between 1982 and 2000. If you live in another country, maybe you’ve noticed them there, too! Some percentage of them love Jesus and wouldn’t be totally put off by a relevant invitation to get some skin in the Great Commission game. But what if the “relevant invitation” that makes sense to me (straddling the frontier between the Boomer and Gen X generations), doesn’t, like, work for them?

This is more than marketing. God help us, we don’t need Millennials to buy our stuff. But we certainly need them to take up the mantle for reaching unreached Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and others. If you’re under 32, please copy and paste this line into the comments section (below) and fill in the blank: “Seriously? If you want me to jump into God’s purposes with you, you need to…” If you’re older than 32, here are a dozen things I already know we should keep in mind as we invite Millennials to follow us as we follow Jesus.

1. Learn how they tick.

Sign up for the MissioNexus webinar on October 9 during which Jim Raymo, co-author of Millenials and Mission, will give you the real scoop! Or, you could get the book. In the meantime…

2. Invite them in.

Nothing beats laying down your phone, leaning in over a coffee-stained table, looking someone right in the eyes, and asking them to go do a certain job in a specific hard place among a truly beautiful people.

Turns out that also bestows great honor on the invited, and it’s closely related to number three:

3. Unleash their latent capacity.

Peter says in his first letter, “Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.” The Holy Spirit has put gifts in the lives of Jesus-loving Millennials. Do you recognize their gifts and skills? Our job is to help them see those and connect the dots to productive global service.

As we do this, we’ve got to invite Millennials to lead and also give them room to fail.

4. Teach them to raise money and to make money.

The movements we long to see in the world will be funded not only with raised funds, but by hard work paid by the hour. People catalyzing those movements need to be familiar and skilled in both.

5. Motivate with the Bible, the world, and a big God.

We shouldn’t be surprised if Millennials need more than an accurate exposition of the Great Commission to get in the game. Couple biblical mandate and authority with a vision of solving big-time global problems. Place these both under the umbrella of a big God bent on remaking the cosmos and we’ll find Millennials rising to the challenge.

6. Hire one to get the rest.

In What the Church Can Learn from Jimmy Fallon, Tiffany DeLuccia talks about NBC’s brilliance in hiring Fallon to replace Jay Leno in their premier late-night time slot: “They invested in a person who could authentically speak to a different generation, who could make them laugh and make them want to share their laughs with a friend.”

We might see success that mirrors their ratings bump if we hired Millennials to mobilize Millennials.

7. Recognize that friends bring friends.

Youth with a Mission recently surveyed 186 of their global staff. When asked to list all the factors that influenced their decision to join YWAM, almost everyone cited a friend’s leverage in their decision to join. Only five percent cited a missions event or conference.

How can we encourage people to invite their friends to jump in?

8. Embrace the appeal of diversity.

When we moved back to Colorado from England, our then-twelve-year-old son looked around our town and asked, “Where are all the black people?” Millennials form the most racially diverse generation in American history; more than four out of ten are non-white.

When they look at your agency or church, does it feel really white?

9. Make cross-generational connections.

Drew Dyck, managing editor of Leadership Journal and author of Yawning at Tigers, says, “Intergenerational relationships are crucial. The number one predictive factor as to whether or not a young Christian will retain his or her faith is whether that person has a meaningful relationship with an older Christian.”

We’ll see a similar benefit in Millennials staying connected to the Great Commission if we also connect them with older mentors.

10. Open your network.

One of the greatest gifts an older person can give to a younger person is access. You know people succeeding in a variety of fields and a plethora of cross-cultural situations. Consider introducing newcomers to veterans of similar focus and passion. As a bridge, you can tell a smart, successful older person that it’s OK, beneficial even, to give some time and attention to a future (apparently distant future) rock star. Cast the vision: “I know he talks kind of funny and he only owns one pair of pants, but I think you two could accomplish some good stuff together.”

11. You think what?!?

You see it coming don’t you? Maybe you’ve already experienced it: You’re sitting in the lunch room, someone’s decrying the latest court ruling allowing same-sex marriage, and your sharp, young mobilization director (see number 6 above) says softly, “What’s the big deal anyway? Why are we so concerned about this?” Or your brochure-worthy evangelist, reviewing with you the future of the fourth church she’s helped start, confesses that she’s both gay and not inclined to leave the work God is obviously blessing.

Millennials are living through tidal shifts in culture and thinking differently from many of us in significant ways. How do we respond? How can we get ready for this?

12. Know that smart phone’s not going away.

Expect that technology will play a bigger part in a Millennial’s life than yours. We also need to check the assumption that technology is a distraction or an inferior way of relating. While we’re at it, let’s add live-chat to our websites! I totally believe that will lead to more coffee-shop opps (see number 2 above).

Bonus: 13. Foster holy hookups.

Millennials are marrying later and doing so out of a greater context of broken relationships than previous generations. Without rushing people to marriage, how can we provide relationship counsel and help them through the minefields and decisions? How can we offer opportunities to meet like-minded Jesus followers? For starters, how about, “Go on a short-term trip with us and get a free six-month membership to CalledTogether.us”?

Conclusion

God will accomplish his global purposes, his kingdom will come, and I love to watch as coming generations rise up to run their leg of the race. May he give those of us who need it grace to listen well, open the door, and get out of the way. And to you who are stepping into the fray, success to you beyond what we all together have ever asked or dreamed.

» Comment on this article below.

Photo: Creative Commons image from quinn.anya.

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.