Mission Trip 2015, Day 3

Today has been very…wet. It rained quite a bit of the morning and afternoon. Most groups chugged right along, distributing VBS invitations for a local church, along with some general church information and the gospel of John. I had the privilege of being in such a group. We got a lot of exercise, and wished that we had some soap to go along with our shower.

But some of our construction teams which had been installing siding and painting the exterior of churches and parks had to find other projects to work on. But they found things to do! They went inside the church, painted room, washed windows, installed a baby changing station on the wall, and helped the church out with some technology improvements.

Our plans aren’t always God’s plans. Sometimes we need to be willing to scrap our plans to follow God’s plan. And sometimes we have no choice but to do so. But even then, we can choose to embrace it wholeheartedly, or complain about it every step of the way.

So even when it starts to rain on your plans, just keep on smiling. Maybe you’ve just entered into God’s plan.

(But we are praying for dryer weather tomorrow!)

Mission Trip 2015, Day 2

We often think of mission trips as being mountaintop spiritual experiences. But that’s often far from the truth.

There can be a lot of disappointment and low points associated with mission trips.  I spent several hours today just riding in vehicles, going from place to place. Hardly exciting. I also spent a few hours just walking around and distributing flyers for backyard Bible clubs that were starting this afternoon and tonight. I didn’t talk with many people outside of our group, and I never talked with anyone about Jesus.

Then, in the evening, I was with a group that was supposed to start a backyard Bible club in a park. We were all there, excited to begin, and we had all our stuff ready, and then…no kids showed up. It was very anticlimactic.

But God never promises that every moment will be a mountaintop experience. God never promises excitement around every turn. And although our walk with Jesus is certainly fulfilling, some of that fulfillment comes when we remember that God is good even when we walk through the valley.

I’m hoping that we’ll be able to minister to more people and maybe even see some people come to know Christ tomorrow and later this week. But even if that doesn’t happen, God is good, and God is drawing us to trust and rejoice in Him more, no matter what happens in life.

Mission Trip 2015, Day 1

There’s not much to say about today in terms of our mission trip. Although we had a great time of worship and encouragement from a guest missionary speaker this morning at our church, when we afterward left to ride in a van for 6 hours, it became a pretty boring start to our mission trip.

We rode in the van. We got stuck in traffic. We got to our destination and sat around awhile while we figured out what we would be doing tomorrow.

Pretty boring.
But not all of life and ministry are filled with excitement. Sometimes we need to patiently endure the boring times in order to be prepared for the great times of life and ministry that God is preparing us for.

So now, as I lay in bed, I thank God for this boring day, and I thank God that He’s going to do exciting things through us this week.

Going on a mission

Tomorrow, I’ll be taking 9 people from my church to Fort Wayne, IN on a mission trip. We’ll be helping 12 churches in the Fort Wayne area by doing construction on church buildings, hosting block parties, and leading Vacation Bible Schools. These mission trips are always a lot of work, and yet a lot of fun.

I’ve gone on probably around a dozen mission trips over the years. I can still remember the first one that I went on. I was in college, and went to Texas with (what was then called) the Baptist Student Union. I remember that I was helping with a backyard Bible club, and I led an older child to know Jesus as Savior. It was the first time I had ever led someone to Jesus.

So I’m no stranger to mission trips. I enjoy them. And I love that I’m taking a larger and larger group from my church with me every year to go on them.

And yet, there’s a part of me this year that’s a bit apprehensive about it all, and I’m not sure completely way. I think that it might have something to do with the realization I came to last year, after coming home from Haiti, that my calling is primarily to my church. But I don’t think that that’s all of it.

I think part of it is just that I’ve gotten comfortable. I’m used to ministering in the ways that minister. I’m used to preaching, and praying, and visiting. So it’s a little scary thinking about how my routine will be disrupted this next week, and I’ll be doing things that I’m not used to doing.

But I’m also thankful. I’m thankful that my routine will be disrupted. Because God often teaches us the most and uses us the most when we realize that we’re completely at His mercy.

So I’m looking forward to the week to come, even if I am a little apprehensive about it, because I know that in my weakness, God is strong.

(Not) Trusting the Church

I love my church family. Every Christian ought to be an active member of a local church. When we gather together, we have a great opportunity to build one another up. We have a great opportunity to worship with other believers. And we can let down our guard for a bit, exposing our weaknesses and fears, trusting one another, because we know that we’re all in the same boat.

And yet I often still have my guard way up. Because in the back of my mind, I wonder, “Can I really trust them?”

Is this right of me? I don’t know. I was taught in seminary to be transparent. This means my life should be an open book. I should allow the church to see who I am and how I strive to joyfully allow Christ to direct my every thought and action.

And yet, I was also taught to be selective in revealing certain details. It’s not always wise, for example, to reveal the precise sins that we’ve struggled with, or that we’re currently struggling with. This might cause certain members in the church to distrust us.

So, out of fear that they might distrust me, am I to actively distrust them?

Jesus Himself was described once as not trusting His disciples. “But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” (John 2:24-25)

Since Jesus “knew what was in man,” that man was sinful and irresolute, Jesus did not entrust Himself to them. And yet, Jesus was also an open book. He never hid His feelings or tried to portray Himself as other than He actually was. Even when Jesus knew that some of the information He shared about Himself would be used against Him, He still showed Himself to all people, that they know Him, and that some of them would find life in Him.

So when it says that Jesus “did not entrust himself to them,” it doesn’t mean that He was guarded around people, but rather that He didn’t gain His worth from them. He didn’t have His hope and joy in what others said about Him, or whether or not they even liked Him.

I wonder if I should have much the same attitude. I often have it completely backwards. I care far too much about what others think about me, and share far too little of my struggles, fears, and sins.

And even though I write all of these things as a pastor, I think most people in the church have these same struggles. We want to know and be known, but we’re scared.

The ironic thing is that the church is the one place where we don’t have to be guarded. We can truly be ourselves, even while we grow to be who God calls us to be. And while there are certainly social norms that dictate when it’s appropriate to share intimate details such as struggles, fears, and sins, we can truly trust the church, while at the same time having our hope not in what they think about us, but in Christ.