Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Reflections on the Tree of LIfe: Extended Family"

I went to the Evangelical Covenant Midwinter Pastor’s Conference last week. This is often a highlight of my year as I learn from gifted leaders, connect with friends from around the country, and worship with the larger family of the Covenant.

I always enjoy Midwinter but this year seemed extraordinary. I couldn’t put my finger on it for most of the week. The speakers were good, but they didn’t blow me away. The worship was passionate but seemed interrupted at times. It finally came to me at the end of the week: it was the atmosphere!

The sense of oneness with the larger Covenant family was striking. I spent a lot of time with the Church Planter tribe and met several people who were attending Midwinter to check out church planting within the Covenant family. As I listened to their stories of how respectfully they were being treated, how welcome they felt, how included they were, I felt excited to be part of a family that is moving in this way.

I heard the phrase over and over: “We are in it together.” As I looked around the room, I saw that I was in it together with brothers and sisters from many different walks of life. I sat by a man from Nepal, spoke with an African American woman pastor, worshipped with a young Chinese woman who did a rap in Spanish, and celebrated the diversity of the new hires in Covenant leadership positions.

Twelve years ago I attended my first Midwinter. It wasn’t like this. I sat in the back and looked around the crowd: there were a LOT of middle aged white men. Now as I look around, I see people of all ages, race and gender. I was invited to a luncheon to discuss how the Covenant can be more supportive of women church planters. I feel honored that my voice is being sought out and listened to; it makes me know that “We are in it together” is not just a phrase but is actually being embodied.

Two weeks ago, Missio Lux hosted a Taster for 3dm. We are anxious to share yet another family that is having impact upon us. I attended a Taster two years ago this month, and the most compelling part of my experience was watching 3dm live out extended family so well. Four families were committed enough to one another to move from one side of the US to another to engage in a very new venture. They gather every morning to worship and pray for one another and the ministry. They eat at one another’s homes regularly. They celebrate big and small occasions with one another. They speak of one another with honor and respect.

Missio Lux has two good models to follow. But, even more than our current experience, we have a call from Jesus to “be family to one another” (Mark 12:46-50). If we truly want to follow him as a disciple, one that learns from his life and seeks to have it imprinted onto our lives, than living as extended family to one another needs to be a high priority .
So, how do we practically live this out?

It starts with awareness. We need to realize that we are part of something bigger than our own families. I spent some time at Midwinter with a wonderful woman that is in her 30’s and is not yet married. She spoke to me a couple of times of how she sees the Body of Christ as her family, but wondered aloud if they see her as part of their family.

Who is in your viewpoint that you could reach out to intentionally include as part of your extended family?

What does that look like? Some options could be inviting them to holidays and family celebrations. Perhaps inviting them to take a vacation with you. Check in with them during storms or if you know they are being challenged. Take time to listen to their stories of their day, their hopes and dreams and their fears.

How are we including the foreigners amongst us?

I’ve been reading Deuteronomy the past week and the Lord is very clear to show us that we are to include the foreigner, the widows and orphans. It’s not an option if we want to live a life like Jesus. Perhaps you are the foreigner: how are you reaching out to embrace your host culture?

Another practical way to live as extended family with one another is to be a learner about a people group who is very different than ourselves.

Do we know how Chinese Christians worship?

Are we embracing the dreams and desires of a generation different than our own?

Are we willing to take a risk of being culturally insensitive if we make a mistake in how we treat others?
It seems Jesus
was more about taking the risk than ignoring those who are different. Remember how we spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well? He crossed both an ethnic and gender barrier; and even more amazing, she was the first person than he revealed his identity to.

Missio Lux has some interesting brothers and sisters of faith. I am going to highlight two. One is named Gak; and he lives in Nakuru, Kenya. Gak is the Sudanese Lost Boy that oversees our Sudanese orphans in boarding school. Gak has given his life to be present for the children in overseeing the compound where they live on their breaks. He sees that the tuition is paid on time, and he purchases the food for the vacations. He retrieves the children when they are sick and nurses them back to health. He parents 35 children during the month long breaks: how’s that for an extended family?

Recently Gak came down with malaria. It was our privilege to pray for Gak’s healing. It prompted me to stop and think, however, how often am I praying for Gak on a regular basis?

He is one to whom 1st Corinthians is written: “On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other "( 1st Cor 12:22-25).

The second person is AuHuen. She lives in Holland. Her family was present the week that Pine Lake launched Missio Lux and they continued to be part of ML until they moved back to Holland. AuHuen is so passionate about Jesus that she prayed for 40 days that the Lord would bring her sisters and brothers to form a missio community in Holland that would pray for the revival of Europe. God heard her prayer and now this community of people from all around the world are gathering to shine as light in Holland, but also in their own cultural families.

Spend some time this week praying and discerning how the Lord is leading you to extend your arms of family. Let him speak to you about his dream for us as the family of God. Listen for some specific actions items that you can take to follow Jesus’ heart for his family. And, finally, act on the ideas: take a step to extend what Jesus died to give us in relationship.

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