A Word from Walker
As we enter the chilly month of February we are reminded that, with the exception of Eskimos, most of us don’t like the cold and, at the very least, try to avoid extended exposure to the frigid elements as much as possible. Similarly, unless you are a combative and cynical person, you probably avoid conflict. No one likes being disliked. Who in their right mind asks themselves on a weekly basis, “Hey, I haven’t gotten into a good argument in a while. Let me see what I can stir up.” There are several kinds of psychological diagnoses that can be linked to personalities of people who seek to offend or stir up strife. None of them are good.
But, beyond the fringe of disturbed souls represented in these designations, the vast majority of people try to get along with others. Still, occasionally, we run into folks who just seem dead set on creating stress and even division. How do you deal with them?
First, I think we always need to ask ourselves, “Am I at fault in any way?” This is not an automatic admission of guilt. Occasionally, we struggle with a hypersensitive desire to be liked by everyone. Jesus warned of this tendency by saying, “Be careful when all men speak well of you.” I think, among other things, he was telling us to be careful of the tendency to water down our convictions in order to be popular or garner affection. Sometimes you will say things and live in such a way that will cause division because your approach to life runs contrary to others’ priorities. This is not what I am talking about. I am referring to your owning the actual fault in a situation. When we are guilty of causing or contributing to a misunderstanding, we need to confess that fault and ask for forgiveness.
The second thing we need to recognize is that beyond humbling ourselves and seeking forgiveness where warranted, there is an element of this that has nothing to do with us. This is true when either we, clearly, are not at fault, or when we have sincerely confessed our wrongdoing and asked for forgiveness. If either of these things are true and a person persists in creating relational havoc, it is really about them. Understandably, when people blame or even attack us, it can cause hurt or anger. But in reality, there is some kind of blindness or brokenness in them that is triggering their reaction. This doesn’t excuse their behavior but it does lessen the frustration on our part. At this point, we should pray for God to reveal both the impact and cause of their actions to them. While we are not responsible for understanding why they are doing what they are doing, we should explain to them how what they said has affected us. When we de-personalize an offence, it boosts our ability to communicate in a non-combative and clear manner.
Third, if they continue the behavior, if it is at all possible, we should distance ourselves from them and ask God to deal with them. The refusal on their part to hear and adapt their actions based on our respectful, plainspoken and reasonable appeal means that there is a “hardness of heart” that you can do nothing about. You can and should pour out your heart to God about this, but seeking to reason with someone who is unreasonable is a waste of time. Oftentimes, respectful withdrawal can not only create the space for God to work but also stimulate the desire for reconnection such that the surly, bombastic, insensitive person seeks you out. Then, your words have the potential to weigh more as they seek to understand the reason you created space.
No one likes being “left out in the cold,” relationally speaking. But, by putting on more protective layers, we can better navigate difficult relationships in a manner that is both wise and potentially redemptive. At least this is what I have been learning over the last twenty years. I hope my input helps a little. Keep safe and warm my friends!
Your fellow servant in Christ,
Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.” Isaiah 6:8
When I heard this message preached in a revival service at Parkburg Baptist Church in Pinson, Tn. where I served during my college years, it gripped my soul and never let go! Little did I know all of the implications through the years of being sent, but God has been faithful.
I never dreamed when I surrendered to living missionally how many manifestations of such would become a reality. In my limited perspective, I thought you were either a pastor or a missionary. On the contrary, God has so many ways of working through His people today! Especially when it comes to areas that do not have access to the gospel as much as we do. While the counties that the PMBA spans are not nearly as diverse as some that I have known, there is still great need all around us.
I am often asked, “Why church planting?” or “Why not revitalize existing churches?” and my response is “Yes!” It is not an either/or proposition when it comes to ministry. God chooses to work in many different ways when He sends us. Just as we are vastly different people, the people that we serve among are vastly different as well. One of my favorite illustrations of this recently is an Unreached People Group cohort that I help to facilitate. One of our leaders is a Hispanic missionary from Venezuela who has a heart for Muslim people. He is learning English and Arabic, but has surrendered to simply be faithful and let God fill in the gaps! In a matter of a few weeks he has connected with various Arabic speakers locally and has started having conversations with them about our faith! Despite his many challenges, he is making great strides because he walks by faith and not fear. He is also helping area churches to mobilize as well!
Our world is simply waiting for us to embrace the calling that we hear in the book of Isaiah and later in the New Testament. God is raising up churches to actively take the gospel to the nations and make disciples by planting churches as we see in the book of Acts. It is that passion that leads our association to embrace a more active role in adopting the unreached areas with greatest need for the gospel. We are excited to announce that plans are underway to advocate for local and global church planting needs more effectively!
Locally we have church plants who launched recently or are in the process of being planted. Many of these are seeking to take the gospel to an area where pockets of lostness (https://viewer.mapme.com/lostness-in-north-carolina/) have been identified and strategic ministry is needed. Such local needs are very accessible for our existing churches to come alongside of the PMBA as we seek to encourage and resource those plants to navigate the early stages of formation, discipleship, and growth. Such a step of faith is never easy, but we believe that it deserves all of the support that we can muster to ensure success.
Global church planting is multifaceted so we are hoping to advocate for two significant areas of need where PMBA churches are already partnering and seeing gospel advance. Areas such as Calgary, Canada and Mumbai, India have significant lostness and area churches are already advocating for these works in significant ways to advance the Kingdom among them.
So what does it look like to adopt and advocate for people groups, church plants, etc? It is often different for every church, but the best place to start is prayer. Would you commit to pray for these works and even advocate for them by doing the necessary “homework” required to effectively pray for their needs? If you don’t know where to begin, we are here to help. While the internet can be a wonderful resource these days, it can be overwhelming for those who may not know where to look. We plan to provide more information in the days ahead for those interested in deepening their church’s passion for missional engagement.
While many churches assume that the next step is to give financially, I’m not going to say that (yet!). Giving is essential, but going tends to fuel giving in so many regards. This is especially true when there are so many “good” opportunities these days. Going enables us to go deeper than an internet search, a video, or a training session even. Going allows us to look into the very eyes of lostness and feel the tremendous need that exists in our world. In many cases we not only look into their eyes, but we feed their stomachs, heal their wounds, and share the life-giving Good News of Jesus Christ.
Once you have done those two things…the rest will come naturally as long as you are abiding in Christ and instructed by His Word. Churches engage in so many ways just like we see in scripture. The key is not how you engage, but that you are actively seeking faithfulness in the great commission that we are given to make disciples of the nations. If you have read this and still feel like I am speaking another language, let us know how we can walk with you in this essential, strategic step. You may just be surprised by the ways that God chooses to move through your church! Maybe someone among you will even say, “Here I am. Send me.”