(Following are my notes on Deb Hirsch’s talk at the CMA Organic Movements Conference earlier this month. This is the abbreviated version. You can download my longer notes here: 7_obstacles_to_engaging_in_mission_deb_hirsch.doc )
The fall away rate for people who continue to be really involved in mission is very high. People get older and become church attendees, but lose their enthusiasm for mission. What's the motivation that keeps me going? "Once I was lost; once I was blind."
There are obstacles that stop us from being engaged in mission. Some are about external circumstances and some are internal.
7 Obstacles to Engaging in Mission:
1. Distorted view of Jesus.
I fear that a lot of Christians are not seeing Him clearly. We see Him in our own image. We try to tame Him or domesticate Him. We try to keep Him behind the stain-glass walls. The Jesus of the Gospels was quite unruly. He didn't care much for social graces; often impolite or outright rude. He always seemed to be hanging out with the wrong people at the wrong time in the wrong places. We have made Him meek and mild, polite, never offensive, and always at the right place, in the right time, with the right people.
We have cleaned these images up because they offend us. But when we follow a sanitized, cleaned up Jesus, then we become like that: tame and sanitized.
2. Distorted views of self
The foundational identity that we need to live out is that we are disciples. Churches are full of Christians, but there are not a lot of disciples. Christians believe, but disciples follow. A sacrificial motif. No sacrifice, no disciple. If we see our self with this identity, we will walk out our purpose: "to go out and be missionaries in the world."
3. Distorted views of others
I started in ministry with a "worm" theology. We are all bad people. We end up focusing on people's negative behavior.
We need a paradigm shift. The primary truth is that people are created in the image of God. Look at other people I encounter and recognize that this person, no matter who it is, in some way reflects my God.
4. Distorted views of love
We are totally saturated in romantic notions of love. But Christians are called to a sacrificial love.
C.S. Lewis says that self-giving love is the most fundamental of all loves. "For in self-giving, if anywhere, we touch a rhythm not only of all creation but of all being. For the Eternal Word also gives Himself in sacrifice."
Romantic notions of love do not cut it in the mission field. It's "fun" to get out there and have a romantic notion of the being out there. But real love is what is needed to sustain mission. "To know love one must know pain."
5. Distorted views of the world
Where you stand determines what you see. Too many of us keep ourselves cocooned in our safe lives and houses. How can we respond to the needs of the world if we are not out looking for them. To understand the pain of a city, you have to go to where the pain is. We have to move out beyond where we are to see the pain.
We bought a house with five people in a red-light district. Every time I walked out of my house I could see a prostitute on one corner or another. We have to place our self where we can see the needs and the pain or we become lazy.
6. Distorted views about money, consumption, and status
"No one can serve two masters…"
Martin Luther said three conversions were necessary--heart, mind, and wallet. Money has the capacity to ensnare us like nothing else does. For western Christians money is our greatest blindspot.
We have also been seduced by consumerism-- the alternative religion of our day. Sociologists say consumerism has become the "new religion." This is the greatest competitor to Christianity, yet we don't see it because we live amongst it. We have to repent of the idolatry.
7. Distorted views of the family
We have become captive to the construct of the nuclear family (mom and dad and 2.2 kids) as the ideal family structure. We have set this up as an idol. We have ministries based upon this as the ideal.
This is not a biblical notion of family. In fact, nothing like it. This notion of family has only been known for the last 40-50 years with industrialization. Prior to that, people lived much more in a village-type family structure.
The biblical notion of family is very inclusive-- households-- many, many uncles, brothers, sisters, parents. The kingdom is a big inclusive family.
(Note: These are only my notes and do not convey the impact of her total message. But I thought the bits and pieces of wisdom were powerful enough to pass along.)