"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

05 June 2010

What I Did on My Summer Vacation (moved)

While it isn’t quite the right time of year for “what I did on my summer vacation” reports, I couldn’t resist sharing with all of you what I experienced during my recent trip to Denver, Colorado. I had the opportunity to spend a day at the national offices of Overseas Mission Fellowship (OMF), a mission agency specializing in the unreached people groups of East Asia. God’s timing being what it is, while I was there, I received email from the diocese to the clergy asking us all what our own unreached people group might be. All this together made me ponder on what principles I see at work in our missionary fellowships that might be applicable to the domestic mission field.

The first characteristic that I observed at OMF was that they were perfectly comfortable waiting on the Lord. Here in Pittsburgh, we have a sense of urgency and the intense desire to make an impact for our Lord; but our brothers and sisters at OMF share the same intensity. The waiting, keeping watch, listening, these things are not exclusive of our desire to move forward. Individuals within the OMF structure are transparent in explaining that the system is slow to the point of frustration, but the urgency for the Gospel does not suffer. Slowness comes out of prayer, not fear, intention, not laziness. We may pray a lot in Pittsburgh, but we don’t like to wait, but I think we do realize that prayer is more about listening than speaking.

The result of that intentional listening is the strength of vision and mission shared by the people at OMF. Every step of the vision is articulated to the people (which is something we also do well here in Pittsburgh) and then the people are systematically equipped to fulfill their part in that overall plan. The word of the day was mobilization. Everywhere I went, people articulated the same vision but with their own contributions and enthusiasm because they had been systematically brought along and mentored in their work and faith.

I also observed a sense of community at OMF, not only in the way that they pray together, but in how families were cared for, children welcomed, and joys and burdens are shared. Not only do the staff members come together to pray daily, but they also shared a clear ease with one another that carried easily over to welcoming a stranger into their space. People I had never met before seemed perfectly at ease with me because of our common passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I saw people who trusted and encouraged one another. I saw space given to children (one office sharing perfectly professional pace with a colorful array of toys, and a couple of dedicated kid-in-the-office areas in other parts of the building) and to the artifacts of the Asian peoples who OMF members have a passion to reach for Jesus. All these things, the risks the people were willing to take, the trust they had in one another, and the concerted effort to bring those who are far off near to their hearts were all visible signs of Christ’s love in Christian community.

Third, I saw a culture of adaptability, willing to use whatever tools God presented in order to accomplish the express goal of raising up indigenous leaders for peoples yet unreached. They use the same model domestically while raising up partners in ministry, prayer and financial support, home based leadership. Again came that word, mobilization; we aren’t called to do all of God’s work ourselves, but we are to give ministry away, equip and encourage others, multiply the mission. I suppose it only makes sense that if your entire message is that God has a place for you in his Kingdom, that we must also equip and encourage kingdom citizens to take up the work of the kingdom on earth.

So if we’re thinking of our own unreached people groups, perhaps we can learn to think a little more like missionaries, being passionate, connected, mobilizing and encouraging one another. I am really excited about what I experienced at OMF and I think we have the same potential for building intentional prayerful community here among our leadership and indigenous leadership among the currently unreached of Pittsburgh.

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