Review: Finish the Mission: Bringing the Gospel to the Unreached and Unengaged

Finish the Mission: Bringing the Gospel to the Unreached and Unengaged
Finish the Mission: Bringing the Gospel to the Unreached and Unengaged by John Piper
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was one of those books, that I’m very much glad I took the time to have read, but it left me a little wanting. I agreed with the overarching premise; that to narrow too specifically the Great Commission is to short change God’s global mission. Instead the Great Commission is in fact intended to include all persons, and since that is true, we cannot ignore those unreached people groups living within our world today. I felt the book did a good job setting up this point, and I enjoyed the use of different voices to state and argue the point. Yet, I felt as though the application side of the coin was a bit lacking when compared to the argument side. Still, Finish the Mission is an important and likely necessary book as it relates to the topic of global Christian mission. It’s a book that maybe in actually is meant to focus more on establishing the argument, rather than providing for application. After all, until we believe the argument for joining with God on his global mission for all persons to hear and have opportunity to respond to his Gospel, it’s of little good to write a book that focuses on an application of putting the argument into practice.

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Mentoring, Realizing the Win

Realize the WinOnce a week, for the past two-and-a-half years, I’ve spent my lunch hour eating and spending time with Murray (not actual name) a some what typical fifth grader. We generally talk a great deal about his weekend and what he’s been up to since we were last together. The conversation eventually gets around to talking about video games. Murray spends a lot of his time wrapped up in a virtual world, closed off from the actual world around him. Given what he’s shared about life at home, I can’t say I much blame him.

Not the best of students, Murray and I will some times spend our time together working on an over-due class assignment. I dread when he has his math book in hand. I’m certainly not the person Murray needs to be relying on for math help. Far too often though, when we do end up spending time working on his assignments, it’s a short-lived, fleeting opportunity. He doesn’t much have the attention span to hunker down and focus for too long.

I won’t lie, there are times I leave the school feeling as though I’ve had very little impact on Murray; let alone any sort of positive impact. It’s hard to fight off the questions of doubt that roam in the depths of my mind. The one’s that suggest I’m not doing this kid any good, or that I’m not doing anything to improve his situation of life. Some times, more than others, I’m able to fend off what I know isn’t true. I know simply by showing up week after week I have an impact. I know that by offering Murray an hour of my time, that’s just for him has an impact. But let’s face it, when it comes to mentoring realizing clear wins can often times be very difficult.

The other day however, I realized a huge win. Murray bounded down the hall toward me, as I waited near the cafeteria  this time instead of his Math book, Murray had a composition notebook, folder and a slew of loose papers of various colors. Oh, and a smile nearly as wide as the hall itself. I greeted him in typical fashion, “Murray, how’s it going dude?” His reply, “Good, I’m gonna surprise me teacher and get my writing done!” I’ve been here before with Murray. We’ll eat slowly, as he picks at his food, making small talk about the weekend and video games. I’ll try and glean as much as I can about the assignment due, and he’ll avoid talking about it as best he can.

This time it was different. He had a genuine excitement about his writing project, and judging by the speed in which he downed lunch, I’d say it was at the top of his to do list for our time together. The assignment was simple, craft a story about someone you had researched, using facts about this person’s life. As Murray showed me his rough draft paper, I couldn’t help but notice there wasn’t a single word legible enough to read or even take a guess at. It’s heartbreaking, how lacking Murray’s writing skills are. I couldn’t ignore it, the moment was right in front of me, and so I asked the hard question. “Murray, can you read what you’ve got written there? Your writing looks to be a bit rushed and sort of crazy.” His candid reply, “I some times get in a hurry and my writing gets sloppy.” “Why don’t we work on that,” I said, “I’ll help you try and slow down; we’ll write your story together.”

For the next twenty five minutes Murray and I wrote a story about Jimmy Johnson. I decided that I’d too write the story on my own piece of paper; sort of as a way to try and help Murray pace himself, I suppose. Composition errors competed with grammatical errors, and while those things jumped out at me right away I realized the win for Murray wasn’t writing a perfect story (although his teacher may believe otherwise). The win for Murray was that for twenty five minutes he stayed focused on a single task, and in doing so ended up writing a story that while compositionally was all over the place, was legible.

The Beauty of Common Needs

The middle. The space of something generally reserved for the “good part”. The point in which you begin to believe again that you can make it to the end. The middle. Today is the middle of the 15 day writing challenge. Today is an ugly day as far as the challenge goes. Ugly in the sense that without first being ugly, beauty is hard to come by. The imagery here is quite profound and simple at the same time. If you never begin and run the risk of that “thing” you’re venturing into coming out ugly, you will never arrive at the transformation from ugly to beautiful.

Today’s challenge joins up nicely with the conversations being had tonight in our small group meeting. Presently, I’m helping to lead a group of young people through the tool, the Barefoot Church Primer. It’s an eight week, daily study on how to learn to live a life that is directed toward helping your “neighbor” and serving in the gap of need. Tonight’s gathering marked the first week of study. The primary point being made around the circle in our discussion was that unless we prayerfully ask to see the most simple of need around us, we’ll likely never notice it in the first place, altogether missing out on great opportunity.

Truthfully speaking, failing to see everyday need is too common a habit. Personally, I often want to strive for the home run when it comes to meeting need. I want to accomplish that thing that makes the biggest bang and is most obvious. Unfortunately, in my search for great, I overlook and take no notice of good; therefore failing to do no good along the way. Missing an opportunity to serve because of such a glaring oversight is, you might say ugly. If I fail to meet the most common, simple of needs I remain ugly. But if I begin to meet those sorts of need, eventually the build up of end results amounts to something of sheer beauty.

My prayer is I would see the most common of need, and begin there, in whatever way I can to meet those needs, painting a picture of beauty along the way.

King of the Mountain

It’s just after 4:30 in the morning, and I’m awake for no other reason than I’ve opted in to the adventure that is the 15 Day Challenge put out there by writer Jeff Goins. I’m up and writing simply because this was the challenge from yesterday, day 2. We were to take our second day into the challenge and deeply meditate on the truth that I Am A Writer; then today wake two hours earlier than normal and write. So here I am… writing.

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Remember when you were younger, how almost any playground opportunity was immediately an opportunity for great adventure? It was in those moments we believed we really could fly. It was there we saw ourselves as king of the mountain. It was on the playground, lost in those moments, that the world seemed quite small and ourselves quite large. When did we loose that idealistic innocence about ourselves? When did life creep back into our reality and shake us so that we stopped living with unashamed abandon? How is it that the pure innocence of the playground rules of living are somewhere along the way replaced with the weight of this is how it’s supposed to be, now back in line?

Quite often it seems the Church is pinned down with this sort of hum drum thinking. Thinking, which leads to believing that to live in the heartland of the ideal sort of existence isn’t the way Jesus ever intended. Have we so quickly forgotten Jesus’ words in John 10? Instead the Church quietly accepts it’s pseudo-fate into mundane mediocre living. Assuming nothing is being missed outside the walls of the Sunday morning gathering. All the while there is a world waiting; desperate for the Church to wake up and exit the building and enter the world with the same vigor that once had us claim ourselves king of the mountain!

For a good number of years, I found myself adding to this narrative of this is how church is. I go, I sit, I listen, I leave, I repeat. Like a robot; a machine going through the motions week in and week out with little thought to whether or not there could be more. By the sheer grace of God I came to discover there was more. That Jesus never intended for his bride to simply go through the motions week after week. Jesus intended his Church to cause mass motion throughout the world, day in and day out, as we engage the culture all around us with the good new of the gospel.

Fast forward the story a bit and I’ve come to discover other like-minded, like-hearted followers of Jesus who have also come to the gripping reality that we were designed for something more, for something great. That we’ve been created to live on mission with God to bring hope and healing to our individual corners of the world, who are broken and in need of such things. It’s such a liberating feeling when you step into the room and realize there are others standing among you who are equal parts crazy to you.

This summer, for eight weeks, I’m joining together with a group of fellow crazies to move through the book, the Barefoot Church Primer by Brandon Hatmaker. This journey will daily guide us through the learning and doing process of shifting our lives to better live on mission for God. I’m excited to think what a room full of teenagers and adults, all pointed in the same direction, will be able to accomplish for the Kingdom this summer. While there is a part of me that would like to see where this may all go; it’s a rather small part of me. More than anything I’m excited for the journey and for the group of playground misfits that have opted in along side of me.

Changing my small corner of the world won’t be easy, but then again, anything worth doing rarely is.

Of Right Words & Positive First Impressions

I was reminded of the power of one’s words and the impact of a good first impression over the weekend. I, along with several of the family, were sitting in a packed room, awaiting the start of our daughter’s dance recital. As the lights dimmed, a figure walked to the front of the stage. The lights on the stage came up on this individual, and we the crowd were meet with an awkward, “Um, good evening…”

As the lone figure on the stage continued to greet us, his guests, he also shared a long list of other opportunities we could enjoy here at the event center. Within thirty seconds of the greeting, I was more than a little confused. I didn’t know why this person was greeting us. To my knowledge he wasn’t connected to the dance studio. He wasn’t talking about or informing us of anything having to do with dance or the recital; the reason we were there to begin with. He was however, giving us a bit of sales pitch; unfortunately though he was so all over the place, it made it extra difficult to follow the bouncing ball. Keep in mind I still don’t have a good context for why I’m even hearing the pitch from this guy.

The awkward moment was only made more so by the layering of more and more, seemingly extraneous information for the next couple of minutes. I thought we came here for a recital, I kept thinking to myself, I don’t care about a concert coming to this place in November. Eventually the man sat down; I’m not sure who was more relieved, him or the audience.

Words are important. How we use words are also important. We all know by now how there is only one chance to make a good first impression, and if our words aren’t well prepared, our first impression quickly becomes a whoulda-shoulda-coulda opportunity.

I tend to think in terms of Church-life. How does this life lesson translate to this context? What opportunities have been missed or damaged because our words were not well thought out or utilized? I’m sure we can very quickly produce a long list of horror stories of where we’ve tried and failed. Let’s be honest, the Church hasn’t always done well to make a good first impression; having chosen the wrong set of words for the situation. I don’t know, something about Turn or Burn, just doesn’t resonate well with me…

Thankfully however, the Church is allowed a healthy dose of grace. God grants us a second chance at a first impression. The trick in this is to be transparent enough to admit you were an idiot the first time around. For example, I have a neighbor who moved in behind us about three years ago. For close to a year I said nothing to this new neighbor of ours. At best he’d get a “friendly” wave. Understand, I wanted to make a contact with him, but in my mind I’d figured too much time had passed, and that to approach him now with a neighborly greeting would be awkward. Truth is, this was my excuse. I should have introduced myself within the first week or so of him moving into the neighborhood.

Then one day it happened. Contact was made. While a little uncomfortable for me, the ice had been broken (thanks to my neighbor–I was still talking myself out of making contact). I knew this was my second chance. So I swallowed my excuses, along with my pride and introduced myself and offered my apology for not doing it sooner. His reply… No worries man, any time you wanna grab a beer, come on over.

What… really… wow. Not the response I’d expected. Since then, I’ve had various interactions with this neighbor, all the while slowly getting to know him and he getting to know me. Where are things leading, I haven’t a clue. But I know it feels right and it feels good, so I keep looking for opportunities to engage. I don’t worry so much about my words now, as we’re past the introduction stage, and we’re moving into something more. Again, how God plans to use our conversations and interactions, I’ll have to wait and see. In the mean time, I’m keeping an eye pointed toward the direction of my neighbor, looking for the next opportunity to chat.