Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tour Guides for Jesus

I am trying to take the advice of my niece who is a prolific blogger - and blog pundit - about setting aside time every month to write my blog. Now I just have to find the time to schedule the time to write my blog.

I'm hopeless.

As you may already know, I am a big fan of Rob Bell, pastor at Mars Hill Church near Grand Rapids. He wrote a book called Velvet Elvis in which he articulated faithful Christian-following in words I could not find in nearly two decades of ministry.

One portion that captured my imagination was his description of being a missionary. He writes, "Missions is less about the transportation of God from one place to another and more about the identification of a God who is already there."

In the past, most Christians have thought of missions and being a missionary is to take God where God is not. I agree with Rob Bell when he writes, "Some people actually believe that God is absent from a place until they get there."

But, that would be a really flawed understanding of missions.

The essential flaw in that thinking is to think that we need to take God anywhere, and that there is a place in this universe - let alone on this earth - where God is not present.

Missions is more about starting where people are an pointing out where God is present and working in their lives. Missionaries are, then, kind of tour guides for Jesus.

Again I quote from Rob Bell: "Tour guides are people who see depth and texture an connection where others don't. That is why the best teachers are masters of the obvious. They see the same things we do, but they are aware of so much more. And when they point it out, it changes the way we see everything."

The best tour guides tell us how a color or brush stroke can tell us more about the artist, or how the style of architecture can tell us more about the architect.

I like the "Tour Guide" image for missions and missionaries. It makes more sense to me and is better theology.

I am leading my congregation to think of themselves as missioners
As tour guides for Jesus
Who go to the people they know are living without a relationship with God
Without hope
And pointing out to their friends where God is present and working in their lives.

But, missioners do more then just point out God.
They live as a Christ-follower would live in that culture.
Missioners aren't interested in changing the culture, or even necessarily changing the person
I am pretty sure that's God's job, not ours.

Missioners don't need to take on the false beliefs of the culture, or the practices of the culture that run counter to a Christ-centered life.

Instead, the missioner lives as a living example of how a Christ-followers looks in that culture.

So, a missioner in the culture of sports
Would live as a faithful Christ-follower in the sports culture.
A missioner to the medical community
Would live as a faithful Christ-follower in the medical culture.
The same is true of missioners in the office
Or missioners in the youth culture,
Or missioners in the local community.

We are not talking about changing culture
Or confronting culture
Or even transforming culture.
We are talking about being a living example
To people
Who have adopted a set of beliefs,
And assumptions about Who God is and is not
And connecting some of the dots
And, maybe, change the way they see
Their present
Their past and
Their future.

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