October 14, 2016 • Life for Leaders
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
Today we’re going to look more closely at a temptation I mentioned last week: that if we want to get involved or contribute more, all too often it takes the form of flying to a faraway place, “making an impact” for a week, and then flying home.
Trouble is, such short-term trips typically give us an edited version of life. They don’t naturally present us with living, three-dimensional people, in all their glorious and gory detail. It’s the Facebook version of relating to the poor and hurting, where everyone presents to each other only those things that are acceptable in public. We check “like” and move on. The rich present their strength and compassion and curiosity, while the poor present their joy and patience in the face of suffering. Those things may be true, but they are not the full truth.
Which is why we might be wise to think less about missions trips and more about relationships.
Choosing to invest our talents and energies locally does not prevent us from taking short-term missions trips. However, if we do go to another state or country, we must be diligent to always try and view the experience more like a movie than a snapshot.
To make a sinfully trite comparison, when my wife and I have friends over for dinner, we don’t begin the dinner conversation by asking how we can help them with their problems, just as we don’t invite our guests into the messy laundry room. And if we go to a remote village, the poor often treat their rich visitors the same way. We are treated to the best food, and we see the smiling kids around the table on their best behavior. We see what’s working in the community, and we make a “difference.”
Then we leave. And real life resumes for everyone.
Taking the gospel global is good. Taking the gospel local is good. And doing both is best!
However, what we cannot do as followers of Jesus is allow our privilege or preference to take us exclusively to far away locations. In order to reach “the ends of the earth,” Jesus asks us to go through our local community, even if it’s uncomfortable. Even if it results in relationships that last for months and years, rather than one or two weeks.
This may sound uncomfortable, or even scary, but remember that Acts 1:8 promises us the power to be God’s witnesses, from our own neighborhood or business all the way to the ends of the earth. Let’s ensure we are using our resources to bring us into relationships with people who need God, especially in our own communities.
In my experience, those are the relationships with the most value—both to me and to the kingdom.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Do you have genuine relationships with people who are quite different than you?
If so, what do those relationships teach you?
If not, what is stopping you?
Pray through the following scripture and ask God for guidance and wisdom as you wrestle with these issues:
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:4-7, NIV).
Portions of this series were adapted from Roy’s book Junkyard Wisdom: Resisting the Whisper of Wealth in a World of Broken Parts. You can connect with Roy at www.junkyardwisdombook.com.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Gifted Communities (1 Corinthians 12:1–14:40)
Roy Goble grew up working in his father’s junkyard, where he learned to take apart absolutely anything and to evaluate everything for the value of its parts. After studying economics and business at Westmont College, and marrying his high school sweetheart, D’Aun, he joined his family’s growing real estate business. As the business flourished, he experienced the complexity of creating wealth while following Jesus. He began to wrestle with what he knew about business and what Jesus was calling him to be and do, beginning a decades-long quest for a way to understand his place in God’s kingdom and in a global society.
Click here to view Roy’s profile.