Hello – SWM Friends!
Recently, I have found myself thinking deeply about the kind of seedbed that leads to mission break throughs. What stirred me afresh was studying Paul’s calling (one of my next book projects), in view of the pioneering nature of the first century soil. Consider that the nascent church in its embryonic form shared something fertile by the sheer virtue of its context. That is, nobody really knew how to do all of this. Sure, Jesus had instructed the Twelve for three years of his earthly stay, and yes, the “plucked away from persecution” Saul of Tarsus had an enormous educational pedigree to draw from. Yet, there was no written manual, no pre-set steps or diagrammed strategies to walk them into carrying it out.
This figure-it-out-as-you-go challenge, I argue is what made Paul and his missionary band’s activity so dynamic. Forced to think a plan through (synagogues and cities), to experiment widely with messaging (Athens), to adapt to what they saw unfolding, to push outward despite the obstacles—meant they shared in the humble mindset of a newbie, of someone who is by very definition in need of a high learning curve. What, do I believe, is holding us back from breaking out with greater missional acuity and better forms to fulfill the Great Commission—it’s our drift from this posture. We are not newbies, but rather “know-it-alls.” I cannot tell you how many times I have bumped up directly against “intransigence” or “arrogance” in church leaders, when it comes to receiving and implementing innovative mission concepts and solutions. This counter-productive attitude exists at pervasive levels in a critical time for the church—a time when the pre-pandemic numbers from The Religious Census reveal that in sweeping fashion, we are in a state of decline. Not glaring in every church, mind you, but overall, yes. Of course, now we are in decline amidst a pandemic that is not simply disappearing, and whose psychological and social impact will be long-term, even if we reach herd immunity. And yet, instead of running toward new thinking, and rethinking what is now required to turn the tide, to better equip a member-driven gospel movement, we have “status quo” syndrome hanging over us. We look nothing like the early church’s “by the seat of their pants” pioneers.
A valuable resource that just came to market is Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant. He proceeds to debunk the myths in our misty thinking—those who went with their first answer on the test did not receive higher scores, and that story about the frog gradually boiling in the kettle, it’s false. Frogs will jump out when it gets hotter. It’s not frogs who won’t move—it’s human beings. We get stuck in our thinking, and in the church, because the world environment is rapidly changing, our un-adaptibility is killing us. I do not think any ministry or mission should settle. That is like an NFL football team playing “not to lose.” Play not to lose, and you lose! I write this piece to say, that the vision of our ministry speaks to this issue. We are not in the settling business, but rather, are called of God to re-envision what we are to become, and to hone the methodology so we can get it done. Keeping in the learning zone, we commit our minds and resources to this vision, so that the church can be made more effectual in its prime mandate. LORD above, so be it!
Thank you for your prayers, and your financial support—they are our daily bread from on high. We are grateful!