How can I prepare them?

Last night, technically, earlier this morning, I wrote a three page journal entry on what it means to me to be a pastor. The kicking off point was a thought that occured to me: The heart of a pastor must be guarded from sin yet available to sinners.

This morning I awoke with the strongest desire I’ve had in a very long time to go on a missions trip. My church has a mission mentality. We want our people to know that we are living life on a mission, that you don’t have to go on a mission trip to have that “aha” moment. I completely support this mindset. I know that living life on a mission purposefully and intentionally is a paradigm shift for most. It certainly has been for me.

That being said, the thought that has been going through my head is, “How can you prepare them for what they will see when you cannot fathom it yourself.” I want to take a team of fresh eyes, fresh hearts, fresh minds on a mission trip somewhere new. Perhaps it will be my eyes, mind, heart that will need refreshing, but I believe it will be a group of people who’ve not been on a trip. I would love the opportunity to take new believers on a trip to serve a community that needs serving, to take them out of their element, to stretch their minds, their paradigms and to bring the new-found passion for Christ and for life back to NJ. I know that there is nothing that refreshes me and my vision more than serving people out of my element, out of my comfort zone. I want to pour out the wine that has been placed into my wineskin so that new wine can be poured out. I want to share me with people who have real life needs.

As I sit here typing, I know that there are those who will assert that Americans need Jesus. With this I cannot agree more. The problem is that we really don’t need anything. The vast majority of Americans are well-fed and live in better conditions than 2/3 of the world, despite what the media is trying to tell us. Trying to present Jesus to this nation is like trying to sell ice cubes to Eskimos. It appears that we have it all, though we are constantly striving for me. We watch Oprah and believe we’ve had that “God moment” needed because she cried at a worship song. As we supersize our meals and throw the containers on the ground, we have no idea or care about the person in Africa who has neither eaten nor consumed clean water for weeks. As we show up for our Sunday duty at our myriad of churches, unscaathed aside from words from the liberal media, we have no concept that there are Christians in Bangledesh, in Syria who attend church covertly because for them, church attendance is death. There are nations in Europe, the intellectual center of the West, wherein only 10% of the people have truly heard the gospel, where an even smaller percentage of the population have touched a Bible. I’ve recently read about cultural Christianity which permeates the southern part of the US. I’d like to assert that cultural Christianity is a cancer throughout our nation. It’s a badge that we pull out of the closet on Christmas so that we can show off our new dress, on Easter so that we can wear a new hat.

I am an American, and I love this country. I would take a bullet for democracy; I would take a bullet for President Bush. I have been so blessed to grow up in the land of opportunity. I cannot imagine growing up elsewhere. However, I do not believe that this is where I have been called to minister. The more that I try to picture myself here, the less I feel like me and the more I feel like that square peg being pushed into a round hole. I try to picture myself in NJ for the next three years, going to school, working, living life and I see Much Afraid with her crippled leg, limping around the valley being scorned by her family and friends. It is time for me to take my crippled self to the mountains, to have the Shepherd, Wisdom and all of the others teach me to have hinds’ feet. I know that people in NJ, in the USA need Jesus more than ever, need to be led to the Saviour rather than to a pantheistic religion. I also know that I am the one who is called to minister here at this time.

So, I find myself, once again turning on a dime, changing direction. It is time that I stop allowing myself to be tossed on the waves like a person without an anchor. I have to focus on what I’ve been called to do, and I have to step out of what I’ve not been called to do so that the person who is called to fill that place can step up and be the man or woman of God he or she is called to be. Will people understand? Hopefully. Am I certain that this decision will be accepted? No. My Anchor, however, is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. His name is Jesus. He too had to walk a path that others did not understand. His followers expected Him to overtake the government and for His kingdom to be on earth. My knee jerk reaction to life is to seize the opportunity that I have right in front of me. That is how I was so successful at the bank. I believe that God’s plan is different. And now is when I will have to prove that I am willing to look foolish and follow Him, not really knowing where He leads, trusting that He has not only my best interest but the best interest of people that I have grown to love very deeply at heart.

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