I still remember with fondness, my first missional experience. I was in my first year of graduate school and was participating in World Gospel Mission’s campus group. For weeks we planned and practiced our international mission to Irapauto, Mexico. I had never been out of the U.S. And while I was nervous, I was also excited about the possibilities of intersecting with the lives of the Mexican people.
We landed in Mexico City and made the long trip to Irapauto. It didn’t take long before we began seeing the dilapidated houses and extreme poverty that lined the roads out of Mexico City. Soon after, all we saw from the windows of the van were miles and miles of flat desert that reminded me of all the cowboy movies I grew up watching on tv.
When we reached Irapauto, it was hot. But even more memorable than the heat was the greeting from the young Mexican church. These Jesus people were meeting regularly in the missionary’s home to worship and celebrate the presence of God among them. Our team worshiped with the Mexican church and our worship led us to serving.
By the end of our week in Mexico, we had shared the message of Jesus with adults and children. We had experienced grace in the smiles of these people. We had even quickly escaped from a bad side of town where the people were not very interested in hearing about Jesus. My life was not going to be the same anymore.
Before this moment in my life I had never really served in a significant way. Because my experience with Christianity and Jesus didn’t begin until I was sixteen years old, my mind wasn’t wired for serving. I was wired for selfishness. Sure I had done the occasional good thing for someone but mostly out of guilt or sympathy. But in Mexico my heart and mind were changed. I began to see what God’s people could do when they got out of God’s way. I experienced the global church – the people of God who were committed to transforming the world for Jesus. This time more than any other time forever shaped what I have come to believe about the potential of the church. It caused to me rethink church as being a verb!
In one of Jesus’ defining moments he said, “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). In that moment, Jesus raised the bar. If he served, his church will serve. The culmination of his serving was Holy Week – from washing the feet of the disciples to his death, Jesus showed his people the extent of a servants heart.
If God’s people are to be like Jesus it will require a moment by moment adjustment of our priorities. There is no time for selfishness. Our days on earth are too short to only accumulate things. Our life with Jesus is too important to be stuck on being comfortable in church?
Will we be slaves to church as a noun – a place we go to do ritual? Will we miss the great things of God by writing checks instead of being the living, breathing Christ, getting our hands dirty in the lives of real people?
I think that Jesus’ way is even better. It’s the way of laying down our wants, our priorities, our comfortableness, our patterns and saying “yes” to investing ourselves in another person’s life so that they can know Jesus, too.
In down to earth ways this means:
- Staying connected with Jesus everyday by reading the Bible and praying
- Asking Jesus to keep our eyes open to real, significant ways of serving practical needs
- Letting Jesus put a burden on your heart for the people who live around you
- Living out of your createdness and your spiritual gifts
- Helping another Jesus Follower to start thinking about church as a missional community
- Never be satisfied with the status quo of North American Christianity