Came back from Manila for the 3rd time in 3 years. The hosts trust us with running a fair number of programmes (Bible studies, youth sharings, even a sermon at a church) but in the grand scheme of things, we are doing very little. If there are any missteps in what we teach or say, they can rectify it the next week. We’re only with each community for a day every year.
Isn’t this missions? The bulk of our time is spent meeting people, getting to know them. I’m sure the team is tempted to wonder if we’re doing enough–every year, the team members probably do. Yet, why isn’t presence enough? Ours with theirs, and theirs with ours. I don’t know how it is beneficial to the people we meet, but understanding does not dictate effect; effects obtain regardless.
If we doubt that our presence with friends is enough, then it is little wonder when we struggle to accept God’s presence in hard times. There’s often the temptation to want explanations or solutions. Perhaps neither will come our way, but God always offers Himself. That’s such a crazy statement to even consider, “God offers Himself.” Yet, Immanuel is the consistent story of the Bible. Is that good enough for us?
Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.
This quote is sometimes attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, sometimes Aristotle, and sometimes anyone in between.
Taken at face value, I think it is deeply flawed. No doubt it is meant to criticise a preoccupation with gossip, but then, if gossip was the objectionable behaviour, why not say so from the outset? Gossip itself may focus overmuch on events anyway (“did you hear about the accident” etc.) so it occurs to me that the quotation is pithy more than anything else. More fundamentally, here’s why it’s objectionable:
What about Jesus?
And, I mean, God in general. Was He not always concerned with people? Not solely, of course–there’s that little thing about the rest of the universe being in existence and being redeemed by Him. But just look at the conversations He has with Abraham, Moses, Jacob. Then look at Jesus’ meetings with the Samaritan woman, the woman with the alabaster jar, Zacchaeus. Sorry, Bad Quote, but God is concerned with people, not mere disembodied principles. So, off you go.
Relationships have been on my mind lately. Others’, not my own. And actually, it’s the lack thereof that I’ve been pondering.
A friend just told me she and her boyfriend broke up. A few weeks ago another friend told me the same thing. And I’ve been hearing about some mutual acquaintances who are really great people, but don’t seem to be able to find anyone. Just as this article suggests, what’s needed in church is for church to be a place of acceptance.
Welcoming places are highly sought after. They’re practically pursued, if the anthropomorphism is allowed. Their reputation spreads like wildfire, by word-of-mouth, and their ranks swell easily. I’m doubtful that any place can really be ‘made’ that way, as if they could be directed into such an end-state; but what I’m sure of is that churches need to be that kind of welcoming place. I think people can see it from afar, and they’ll be more than willing to travel from afar to be part of that kind of gathering. The best part? I don’t think you can fake that kind of community. And I think that’s something all of us would love to see.
Sat beside a couple at lunch today, who I happened to know is engaged. The gentleman is Indian, the lady is Chinese. Also, Facebook informs me there’s a lot of people I know getting married.
It suddenly dawned on me that most of our wedding customs are tied to specific cultures. Chinese marriages have specifically Chinese customs, Indian marriages have uniquely Indian ones, and so on. What happens when there’s an intercultural marriage? I suppose one custom “wins out”?
More than that though, it seems indicative of an assumption that people should or do marry within their own culture. Is this norm changing? If it is (and I think it is), I wonder if we will need to invent new customs, or find culturally neutral customs for big events like weddings. Maybe such things–culturally neutral customs–don’t even exist. Then we will have to create them, and in so doing we shall erode our ethnocentrism and xenophobia.
My brain works funny, so just…go with me on this one: while reading this article, I started thinking about whether I’m a snob about Christ. Weird thought, right? But I think it is fair–even expected–to say that I have an above-average understanding of my faith, compared to most church-goers. There is no wrong in knowing more, nor of being aware of it. The question is: how do I steward such knowledge?
Every Christian with a sound mind has a moral obligation to know God with his/her intellect, to the best of that God-given ability. This is an outworking of the command in Deuteronomy*, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” But it is not meant to become some kind of intra-church Bible bee competition. We cannot be jerks about how well we know scripture, or even God.
I’m still working this out, this balance between growing in understanding of Him, but not thinking of myself superior to my friends who are a little earlier in their journeys of knowing Him too.
*Note: Yes, Deuteronomy 6:5 does not state “with all your mind”, but the phrasing of the commandment is inarguably “love God with your whole being”, of which the mind is part.
Trackers just ended with a bang, and I think everyone’s crashing out from it with a severe case of withdrawal symptoms. Like, seriously. Everyone. I’ve seen 2 big group meetups on Instagram–and it’s only been 3 days since graduation.
But I would’ve been at both in a heartbeat, if I could’ve.
Tiff asked me what was the biggest thing I learned at Trackers. I couldn’t think of anything in particular, and I still can’t; my answer remains the same. It wasn’t so much about learning as it was just about being with people, people that I’ve come to love. If it must be distilled into a learning point, then let it be this: you can never spend too much time with the ones you love.
It is extremely irritating to get asked why I “have time” to meet people during office hours, outside of more formal settings. I get this kind of question a lot as a church worker. People seem frequently surprised that I am given some liberty to simply sit down for a long meal, a cup of coffee, or just go out with church people when everyone else with a job seems stuck at a desk.
Do you have too low a view of work, or relationship?
It occurs to me that the situation arises out of either one of those two erroneous mindsets. A large part of my work–and many church workers’ work–is to build relationship. This isn’t relationship that has a deal to close at the end of it; the relationship is not the means to an ends, it is the end goal in itself. To wonder that such a thing could amount to work is to wonder that relationship could be a priority, because relationships surely couldn’t be that important.
To be suspicious of such work is to doubt the authenticity of such relationships by doubting the motivation. This is born out of a view that work is fundamentally an undesired thing, an unpleasant necessity that is undertaken for ultimately self-serving reasons.
We were created for relationship. We are workers by nature (God who made us is no slacker) and by destiny (God has prepared good work for us). Some of us simply find ourselves working on relationships, and those of us who do have no reason to be ashamed that relationship is our very work.