Thursday, May 17, 2007

Mission, Mission(S), and Ministry

My wheels are turning this morning after some discussion in church last night, and with my husband. We were reviewing some of the material offered in the Purpose Driven Church.(that is not an endorsement one way or the other; we were looking at something specific). It divides the categories to examine as the following:
1. Worship
2. Fellowship
3. Evangelism
4. Discipleship
5. Mission/Ministry
We could easily conclude that we are progressing well in the areas of 1, 2, and even 5, although that is where my thoughts are this morning.

I think most people (whether correct in doing so or not) have Mission in their minds as Mission(S), plural. The thing that takes place mostly overseas and involves the direct spreading of the gospel, through all sorts of means. Actual witnessing and teaching, as well as serving the temporal, physicial needs for food, medicine, literature, etc.

In contrast I think most people (myself included here) view Ministry as the thing or things that take place under the auspices of the local church. Although every individual within that local church may well have his/her own ministry. I think of Ministry in some of the following ways: the ministry of the Word through preaching; the ministry of the Word through singing; the ministries of the various small groups: youth, seniors, children, Bible study groups; Ministry of meal preparations for those who are sick, death in the family, etc.; sending cards of encouragment; counseling, and on we could go. This is just the tip of the proverbial iceburg.

Here's where my thoughts get stuck. These "ministries" I just mentioned are all so NECESSARY and yet so CYCLICAL. These things have to be kept up in order to effectively meet the needs of a congregation. They also take up a tremendous amount of time and energy. And I'm just thinking of a small church like ours! However, in all our efforts to serve the needs of our local churches, we can let the evangelism/discipleship fall by the wayside. And we all have our excuses for why that is so. But if we neglect this thing that was so important to the heart of Jesus, and we fail to bring NEW converts into His Kingdom, are we not being disobedient?

I confess the topic makes me uncomfortable. I used to be far more zeroed in on thoughts of evanglism due in large part to my geographic location. :) Since having children, I consider that to be my biggest MINISTRY, and I also want the church to help me in that MINISTRY. But does that excuse me from MISSIONS? EVANGELISM? DISCIPLESHIP OF NEW BELIEVERS? Somehow I think not. Yet I spend all my time and efforts on the rearing of my children and secondly on how I can effectively minister in our "WORSHIP" services week after week. (AND PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT I RECOGNIZE THE IMMENSE VALUE AND IMPORTANCE OF THESE TASKS, ESPECIALLY THE PARENTING.)

I don't want to be disobedient to God's plan for spreading the truth of His gospel. I still think this topic is a little tricky, but I am planning to spend more time examining ways that I can do better in this area. And out of curiosity, I wonder if any of you are seeing growth in your churches due to NEW believers? I would love to hear your stories in that case.

And I would love to hear any of your thoughts on all of this. I have barely shared a smidgen of my own, so I know you all probably have much to offer!

Blessings on you today.

37 comments:

Ladyluck said...

Wow Tara... go ahead and ask some hard questions, won'tcha?

My first thought was that yes, right now, my ministry and main purpose is my home, ie, my husband and children. I am not serving God any less than I was during my term as a foreign missionary or my time as a Christian school teacher, I am however serving God quite differently. However, I do have to be sure that I'm not using this very valid truth turn into a handy excuse for doing nothing.

The second thing I thought of was one of our MOPS speakers this year. I don't even know if I can "nutshell" it, but I'll try. They were missionaries in Chad and she had a very busy schedule of all kinds of "missionary" things. God eventually bonked her on the head and told her to stay at home and take care of her husband and kids, so she did. She found that when she was obeying God by following his commands to submit and "helpmeet" her husband and care for her children and house, God did the work of bringing her opportunities to do "missionary" stuff. She got more results going out only a few times a month vs. her former hectic schedule.
I'm sure I botched that, her teaching was SO good, but I hope I got at least that one aspect laid out.

I'm looking forward to your further thoughts.

Tara said...

Jody, I know exactly where you're coming from. I remember being SO annoyed in Missions classes when I would learn about missionaries who left their own families to go and
'save the world'. I reject that philosophy. Yet I must confess lurking somewhere in me, I have probably used 'my family/children as Ministry' thing as a cop-out for not witnessing and sharing the plan of Salvation. I'm just being honest here, and it's really not something to be proud of. It has been on a subconscious level that I have done this, but now I am recognizing it, and I have to decide what to do about it. Don't plan to start a 'door-to-door' evangelism plan, but I think I need to be more attuned to opportunities that God places in my pathway. And that's another thing: I remember I used to pray and ASK God for those opportunities. I don't do that so much anymore. So I think I have some work to do, my friend.
And I look forward to hearing more from you and the others on this as well.

Kimberly said...

This is a BIG topic...and as much as my mind likes list making, I'm not sure how realistic being great in every "category " is..that's not based on on any great theological studies, but just from observations in quite a few churches, I've found that churches seem to just be stronger in diffrent areas..almost like a "church personality" or calling. I do think that most churches are weakest in the discipleship category..that issue has recently been in my mind. Real change comes, I think, 1st from the transformational power of Christ but then from how much mature Christians are WILLING to pour their life into another...and that's where it often breaks down...in all types of churches, not just our background. Programs, etc. just don't cut it. Has to be relationship..both on the personal and corporate level.

Personally, it has been hard for m to be out of my "counselor" role which in many ways was my "ministry"..of course, I do alot w/music, but I really miss the "personal" interactions from small groups/etc. But do we cling to our "roles" and ignore the ministry needs all around us? sorry for the LONG response, but I too want to be challenged to not rest in my "minisrty" as a caregiver while not reaching our to others.

Marty said...

Tara,

Great topic! I have been reading on this exact area in my own life. I, like you, consider my husband, children and home my first place to minister. This is done sucessfully when I am in daily devotion with God. I cannot give what I do not have! But, I agree that our "ministry" must not stop in the home. I think we must be like Christ in His ministry and "go to" the needy. I have an opportunity with working part-time in the "world" that I can live my faith and christian walk out in front of others. I have been given the opportunities to witness the gospel. One example, I foud my self schedule to work on Easter Sunday. I was very upset because that is my favorite holiday of the year. I did try to get off, but it didn't work out. I worked that day with a nurse that is only PRN and we rarely get on the same shift. Discussion was started (because of Easter) and I had the wonderful privelage to tell her about my Jesus and what He can do in her life as well. She is seeking God thru the Catholic church and has not be satisfied. To make a long story short...I knew God wanted me to be at work that day to minister to her. Please pray for her as I contiue to witness to her. I also find that I find mothers at Steven's baseball games that are very willing to talk. I have been able to witness to them through different topics such as my homeschooling, my church, etc...

I know your heart and I love your commitment to your family. Keep it up! Ask God to bring someone into your life to introduce to Him. HE WILL! It's a good challenge! I love to hear and see how God is working in our lives...even thou we are miles apart. Alot of the topics have been right where I've been living. Thanks for sharing! I by know means have arrived on this subject, but I am trying to take advantage of every little open door. (The salesclerk, my mail lady, ...you'd be suprised how a discussion can follow a "God Bless You")

Love ya tons!

Anita Dalkin said...

I'm not a mother myself. But, the best example my mother left me when I was young was that she would tote me around and take me visiting the elderly and widowed in our neighbourhood. We would bake things together and take them and have a friendly chat. She taught me how to think of others and what they are going through and it was a great lesson I learned.

I believe that in organised churches we tend to get tied up in all the organised gatherings and social functions (which are important and have their place). But, we forget those outside our churches and Christian circles whom we need to reach out to. Allowing your home to be open to others in the community so that they know that your home is not only a haven for your family but for others who need an oasis of mercy and grace is a wonderful ministry. It's like killing two birds with one stone. Reaching out to those in the community, sharing the gospel and teaching your children a wonderful lesson.

One of my favourite Christmas memories since we got married is when we invited our neighbour over for Christmas dinner. She had no family and was going to be very lonely on Christmas day. I couldn't pass up the opportunity of having her over and oh what a blessing the whole experience was.

Tara said...

I am so enjoying this discussion, ladies, and the various perspectives that come up.

Kimber: I agree with you on the 'church personality' thing. Also on the tendency to cling to 'roles' in lieu of additional mission/ministry. Good thoughts...

Marty: So glad to hear that you are being able to put your faith into action and are witnessing for God. I agree that He placed you in the hosp. on Easter for a reason. Goes back to my thoughts on be AWARE of the opportunities that come your way.

Anita: REALLY great thoughts from you here. I could so identify with what you were saying about learning ministry lessons from your mom. That was something else my parents did right: they taught me a respect for the elderly/seniors and for those who did not have a place to go on holidays especially. Our home was opened FREQUENTLY to citizens of the Manor for Sunday dinners and special occasions. And often to college students unable to travel home for holidays. This was a great example for us kids. And one I hope I can emulate. STILL leaves me thinking, however, about witness to those who are truly LOST and seeing new converts brought in. We can keep SOOOO busy doing these other necessary ministries!

Thanks so much for all your thoughts.

Kelly S said...

Hi Tara. I share your heartbeat on this one. Since having children and being "busy" with my family, I have often pondered this thought just the same as you are. In my circumstance, I know that taking on one more committment would be "wrong". Therefore, I have asked the Lord to help me when I'm in public to be a witness and he has.

I have come to realize that one simple and easy way that we witness and sometimes don't even realize it is by our appearance. I used to struggle with the idea of that but I have many opportunities where people in public approach me and ask me to pray about something in their life. When that happens, I'm very aware that the only reason they approached me in the first place was because I stood out to them because of my appearance and friendly countenance.

Another great tool I have recently started using with my family are little cards we pass out. If you're interested, Darrell Lee Stetler, Jr. designs and sells them. They are very affordable and VERY professionally done! They have a picture of the church, a short "catchy" description of what the church has to offer, phone numbers and a little map - all packed onto a business size card! They are very nice and so easy to pass out because they're so small. Whenever someone approaches us or we kick up a conversation with someone, I often pull one of those out and write my name and phone number on it and tell them I would love to get to know them better. I highly recommend it. Darrell Lee pastors a small church made up of mostly new converts. Therefore they have very little income and he started this business I think to help in that regard. If you're interested, I highly recommend it!

kayla said...

In thinking about this post I come up with more questions than answers. Since what Harold does is considered ministry I sometimes feel like just an enabler. In my geographic location there are so many opportunities for ministry that I would love to be involved in, but I work and take care of my home and kids and there doesn't seem to be much time left. I do agree that God sends opportunities our way, and I am thankful for that.
One thing I have been struggling with is the fine line between protecting my kids from outside influences until they are ready and exposing them to a sinful world. We were involved in bus ministry for awhile, and there were some kids that I felt like we really connected with, but I can't control what comes out of their mouths on the bus ,and I also can't erase it out of my kids minds once it is there. I want more than anything for my kids to see souls saved and great moves of God, but I also don't want to expose them to things that will hinder their spiritual growth. If anyone has any great insight in this area I would appreciate it.

Tara said...

Oh Kayla,

How COMPLETELY I identify with your concerns here! This is also one of my big concerns and I agree it is a fine line. I don't think there is an easy answer for it. I do know, as do you, that the biggest thing is having all the enforcement and re-enforcement possible present in the home. Our kids are still at the age where they value what we tell them above all others. We still have 'hero-like' status on what the final word is. That day is probably swiftly approaching its end. So I try to take advantage of it as much as possible to say 'in our family, such-and-such is acceptable. or isn't acceptable.'

To this point, one of my chief goals in mothering has been to protect the innocence of my children. I know some people will argue that wisdom and that's okay. It is a bedrock principle for me. This world is robbing children--hey, even adults!--from their innocence. So I try so hard to make sure that topics are not raised in their presence that will be too 'heavy' for their minds. There is plenty of time for that. I get so frustrated with people wanting to grow kids up so fast these days. We only get one shot at it while they're young!! Let us do the best we can!!! (side-note, I am unfortunately having to prepare to answer the 'what is divorce' question to my kids. I do this with a heavy heart. Up till now, they didn't know there was a such thing. But my cousin returned from Iraq, only to have his wife file for divorce before he reached their home. So sad. And now Lauren is questioning....)
However, this DOES INDEED pose a predicament when it comes to influences such as a bus ministry. One thing I tell myself is that I was exposed to all sorts of things like that as a child living there in H.S. My parents were involved with that, and my mom ran a home day-care. We were not ignorant of the outside world. So the question there, is what did my parents do right by me? And I search those answers out. Also, I think there really is something to the concept of a child's 'bent' if you know what I mean. I can already tell, though Reagan is super small, that all four of my children are TOTALLY DIFFERENT! And you other moms probably find the same thing in your homes. So I watch for signs that one or more of my children might be more inclined to the "allure" of the world or what is "taboo" so to speak. In that case my vigilance must be super-human! You probably already know if one or more of your boys is likely to be drawn in by language or whatever he may hear on a bus route. This is where I think the book Julia has mentioned "Shepherding a Child's Heart" is helpful. I read it several years ago, but I am ready for a refresher and I think it will be helpful to both of us in this area.

Is this the world's longest respose?? I wonder if you can tell when a person is passionate about a subject?!?................

Sonja said...

Great discussion. I'm not going to really weigh in on the parenting part -- since that would be a bit presumptuous! However, I do wholeheartedly agree that a parent's duty is to the child first -- before outside ministry. My parents were involved in "ministry" in many ways, but my brother and I knew that we were much more important to them. They also involved us in their ministry and made us feel the responsibility of ministering to people at a very early age.

I also agree that one can't hide behind home responsibilities in order to "escape" from the outside world. My mom consistently shares Jesus and just a lot of love with the people she babysits for.

I believe that if we stay alert and vigilant, God will bring opportunities our way. The question is...are we ready for them? Have we prepared ourselves for those opportunities when they arise? Is Jesus so much a part of my everyday life that I talk about Him as easily as I talk about my other friends? (Obviously, when it's appropriate and the door is open.)

I'm thinking here.

Anita Dalkin said...

I hope it's okay to post a second comment on this thread.

Most of you know by now that I live in southern England. I didn't come over here under the direction of a Missions board and I am not sponsored by any church or organization to be here in full time ministry. I came to live here because I just so happened to fall in love with and marry an Englishman. I sat in Missions classes with most of you and had dreams and hopes of moving to a foreign land to be a missionary. But, what I find myself doing is living a pretty much normal life as I allow my roots to spread deeply into the soil of my community. I'm not here as a "missionary" so to speak but I feel we are all missionaries. And what I have found is that if you think you can't share the gospel with those in your own neighbourhood and home town...you probably won't be able to do it in a country far away. Most of us have been on TLC trips and what an experience they are. The opportunity to share the gospel, build schools, churches and help the missionaries is an amazing experience and something you carry with you the rest of your life. But, when you live somewhere it's different.

I'm fortunate that I do work for a Christian organization. And I find myself in situations daily where I get to share God's love with clients, client families and care attendants.

But, I often feel an ache to be more open with the gospel and minister to others. Since moving here I have not been able to find a church where I found real kindred spirits who believed and thought the same as I do. Right now we live in a tiny apartment but our next stepping stone is to move into a house. Gary and I have prayed and discussed it and we have plans to open up a Bible Study group in our home. I'm aching to do this and wish we could do it now. But, we must wait for God's timing. Oh...I've gone on to much with this comment and it's turned into a blog. But, Tara, I'm glad you started this discussion. I think it's great that so many of your are thinking outside your box and you have a desire to reach out to others with the gospel. I'm sure if we were less distracted and more in tune we would find opportunities in the grocery store, at the school, library, gas station...wherever...

Tara said...

Kelly: You are right about the 'appearance' factor. Most annoying thing there is being confused for a denomination of which we are NOT! People often approach me with that assumption and are so confused when they find out I'm Methodist! But I get your point. And I'll have to think about and look into the idea of the "church invite" cards. That is what you meant, right? Like mini invites? And I'll try to remember to email you w/my address today!

Sonja: first of all, glad to have you back :) I tried to leave a msg on your latest blog (which was hilarious, by the way) but it wouldn't let me. I think you struck the biggest chord with the important of being ready for opportunities when they do arise. And I remember so well Dr. Brown's teaching on praying specifically for the person/persons that God may place in your pathway for the purpose of evangelism. But if you meet up w/them, and you're not prepared, what good is it?! Like Marty mentioned, you can't give what you don't have. Good points here. And again, I know what your mom has done all these years is definitely her area of "ministry" ; it just happens it was something she could also use in an 'evangelism/discipleship' type role as well.

Anita: of course it's okay to keep posting to a thread! As long as there's discussion taking place, jump in! I think you are in a unique position to witness effectively, because you as of yet don't have children. So some of the concerns that others of us may have are not there for you right now. And having the heart that you do for evangelizing is the most important thing. That will come through to those around you. And just think of the RICH history of the church in England! There's probably so much right there that can be conversation starters.

I am still waiting to hear if any of you have NEW believers in your local churches. Anybody?!? ;)

~Heather~ said...

Good, deep, thought-provoking post.
It is sooo hilarious...for each time (or at least 3 times or so)that you post a comment on my blog...my sweetie comes in and sees it, and asks the same question..."Who is Tara?" So, I do the same thing over again, and take him to your blog, and show him pics. =) He's a busy missionary, with lots on his mind.
God bless you, and may God help us all to do all that we He wants us to do. Have a great weekend in Jesus.
Love, Heather =)

~Heather~ said...

OK...After SPENDING MY "ENTIRE SATURDAY" READING ALL OF THE POSTS ON YOUR BLOG...I'm going to comment again. =) Yes, Tara, our Christian Nation Church (Pastor Carl Eisenhart...in Cinci, OH) has quite a few new Christians, that are growing in Jesus, and reaching out to their friends. And his church has been like that since we started attending there. This church's mission is who we are under.
Also, our churches here in Colombia are ONLY new converts! =)
Now, as a missionary's wife...my sister and I both struggled with the fact that we weren't going to have some GREAT personal ministry in our new foreign country...b/c that seems to be the expectations of many people in the states. But, I'll say that the words of Paul have come to me, that once a lady is married, she takes care of her husband,(And family) more than outside ministry. (That's from the Book "Heather", chap. 5 =) When I talked over my frustrations with my My husband, (more than 2 years ago) he assured me that I am doing exactly what he wants, and needs. I will say, that I have been thinking here recently that I don't know of one soul that I have personally won to the Lord, though I believe I have helped influence others for Jesus. There are a lot of things that I do here to minister for Jesus...but I think that like Kelly said, people ask us questions and know that we are Christians, by our appearance. Many of the Colombian ladies dress very WICKEDLY, so I do stand out (Besides the fact that my hair is VERY LONG...it touches the floor. In contrast some of our newly converted ladies have hair the length of Phillip's!) NOT THAT THE OUTWARD SAVES YOU....BUT I'M ASKING GOD TO KEEP ME SWEET ON THE INSIDE TOO...for when there are frutrating culture differences (AND THERE ARE LOTS!!!) and I want to be BUGGED, PEOPLE ARE WATCHING ME!!! I MAY BE THE ONLY BIBLE THAT THEY EVER "READ"!! JESUS, PLEASE HELP ME TO BE SWEET AT ALL TIMES!!! In Colombia, I cannot really open up my home for a Bible study, for we may have some things that other Colombians do not have (such as our computer), and might not understand, or might break in that night and steal! Seriously! (Stealing is part of the culture here!!) Phillip said that just by being a Christian, happy, functional family in front of our people in our churches, makes a HUGE impact...for they have never seen anything like us. Most of them are NOT married, just live with their man, and are very disfunctional and have come out of very disfunctional families! All of this to say, I'm determind to do my best both in church, and out of church...trying to show Jesus to those that I meet!

Thanks for the thought-proking discussion!

Love, Heather =)

Ladyluck said...

More rambling thoughts:
-Kayla- You are not "just" an enabler, you are "wow! an enabler" God calls it helpmeet, but ok ;-)

- probably a whole different topic, but do you other mothers of young children seem to be sort of funneled into children's ministry just by default? Confession. I'm a teacher, that's how God made me, but I don't enjoy or even really feel effective working with young children. I like youth and adults. HOwever, since I have young children, I'm ususally asked to help with nursery type programs.. I always feel so awkward saying, "well, actually, I don't even like ankle biters (unless they are mine)". Any words of wisdom?

-We changed churches about 6 months ago and I'm really only involved with the MOPS group (which I have been in for 4 years) Jeff is still gettting to know people and find his niche in the men's groups. So I'm honestly not sure how many lost people our church brings in (as opposed to church transfers).

-On the subject of opening your home to ministry vs. protecting your kids. we are wildly "over protective" of our kids' hearts and minds; Jeff had me stop attending one ladies bible study due to the things the kids were picking up in nursery. However, as I've mentioned before on my blog, we do have Jeff's 17 year old nephew living with us and he has friends. odd friends. friends that dress weird and talk worse. friends that Jesus told me i have to love anyway. I do not claim to have all the answers but here are a few things that have worked for us. The first summer we had Dean was also the first summer in the new house/new neighborhood. It quickly became apparent that these kids had potty mouths so they were not allowed in the house - not in a hateful way, in a "you guys need to watch your mouths around my children" way. I took literal gallons of iced Koolaid out to those kids that first summer and fall, and on occasion when I could hear their outbursts from in the house, sent the offender away. Guess what? They always come back. I was praying desperately that the crowd would thin or they would learn new words by winter! We eventually ended up with a core group of 3-4 kids and they were basically "house-trained" by winter. We do keep the number that come over at one time down to no more than 4 (anyone want to try to host more than 5 teens with no housemanners in a 1300 square foot home with three other kids under 5--be my guest!) We have been firm but fair with all of them and we correct their language with NO qualms. I have even had to pass out t-shirts when they come wearing skulls, demons or other gorey items of clothing. I know this goes against all of the popular "accept them as they are" ideas, but for us, with our small children in the home, it has worked. I've never yet had a kid leave and not come back. We feed them, love them, cart them to church, grocery store and walmart (for many of these kids, doing normal family stuff as mundane as a grocery store trip is something special). If they are here on Wednesday they come to church, if they want to stay the weekend, they come to church. This is getting way too long, probably something I should have posted on my own blog. I just want to say that it is entirely possible to set really firm limits and still minister. You CAN accept the sinner and not put up with the sin.

Marty said...

In answer to your question...Do we have new believers in our church? Yes, two young men come to mind...both married Christian women..(we won't go into that subject) and out of love of their wives started attending church...both have recieved Christ and are growing by leaps! Another gentleman led to Christ by and invite to one of our Sunday School Vollyball Games. He started attending our church, raised by a rebellious preachers son, he didn't know what he believed. He sought Christ and trusted Him as his Lord and Savior. AN AMAZING Transformation! He has been saved a little of a year now and is also diving into his walk with the Lord with his whole heart.

Our church also has a Spanish Service on Sunday mornings also and we hear weekly reports of salvation. These people are searching people for a country and a Saviour!

So YES! We do have people being led to the Lord...my prayer is that we will continue to reach out for those searching. But like I commented about before, my prayer is that our church will be contiually ready for the opportunity of the unsaved! And it starts with ME!

Sonja said...

Tara,
I think my blog is fixed. You should be able to comment to your heart's content now! :)

Tara said...

Jody, you made me laugh OUT LOUD on your comment regarding working with other people's "ankle biters"! It's just so 'me', I could have written it myself. I LOVE children but working with them has never been my forte'. So that was very funny! As for how I've handled the request, most often they see I have my hands full with caring for own kids and working with the music ministry. They don't ask so much anymore. I did used to just say that I was sorry, but my preference would be for them to find someone else. :) Also agree with your comment to Kayla. I meant to 'chastise' her on that earlier!!

Heather: Thanks for your comments. I was encouraged to hear the news of new converts at your home church. Also, I completely concur that your husband's own calling would not have the "power" behind it as much were you not there as his help-meet. I also think that you make an interesting distinction between actually praying the 'sinner's prayer' with someone and/or being an "INFLUENCE" toward that end. That's a good point for further consideration.............

Marty: I'm so glad that you shared your stories of new converts. It's encouraging to know that it's happening there and that you're seeing growth as well. Thanks for sharing with us..!

Kelly S said...

Hi Tara,

We have a lady that started coming to church, has 5 kids, her husband is in jail. The devil fights her more than anyone I know, but she is an amazing lady and has been serving the Lord for several years now. Has a beautiful testimony, teaches Sunday School, etc.

Another story is a man named Mike who brought his family to church years ago. He, his wife and several of his children had all gone to the alter, went to Pell City youth camp several years in a row. Mike's mother and several of his brothers started coming, but then he himself quit coming for years as did his wife and children. But in the meantime his mother got saved and had such a sweet spirit. She died a few weeks ago and our pastor had a chance to preach at the funeral to that HUGE family. Last Sunday at church, about 50 people from that family/funeral ALL CAME TO CHURCH! They all sat together and took up more than half of one side of the church! It was so exciting to see.

Yet, "strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it". We have had LOTS of people come to church, but decide not to stick with it.

I think we need to be VERY careful to not get discouraged. We're not responsible for saving the people. It's our job to be a witness and share the gospel, but most people won't accept it. After a while it gets discouraging because no one is coming that we invite; but...I keep reminding my chlidren that that's not our responsibility.

kayla said...

Awright already with chastisement.
I am very fulfilled in my role as Wife and Mother. The hats I wear at this stage in life all classify me as "helpmeet". I'm okay with that. It's exactly where I want to be right now, but I don't want to ever lose the desire to be out there personally doing the witnessing. There will come a day when my kids are grown, and I don't want to go into empty nest depression. I want to cultivate the urgency for evangalism now, not just for my kids, but for myself, so when the time comes I am ready for whatever hat God wants me to wear next.
I am very excited about some of the new outreach in our church. We recently held a rally in a trailer park in Indiantown. We have quite a few kids coming to church from there and parents are starting to come. Dr. Gorduek just held a Sat. morning session on understanding the Bible for some community people who came and asked if anyone could help them. As you know we have a new pastoral team starting next month. We are very excited to see what the future holds for our church.

Marty said...

Hey girls,

I have loved this topic...it has been a great inspiration...remember let us be inspired by each other in furthering God's Kingdom...don't get to "bogged" down with what we cannot do at whatever stage of life you are in...I loved Kayla's comment about wanting to keep urgency in her life so that when God's timing is there, she will be ready! LOVE IT! May we all be encouraged as we enter into worship tomorrow! May God Bless each and every one of you...you have blessed me today!

emilyatgratz said...

Hi Tara,
I hope you don't mind me browsing on the latest interesting discussion. I'm relatively new to blog-hopping, but couldn't resist the interesting topic. And I have found everyone's responses so interesting & true. Our church has about 10 new converts right now, and this also includes a couple of retrieved long time backsliders. We have a great team here, with Pastor Winter & Mark Calderon, but I still find myself wanting to "nurture" & feel responsibility for these new babes. I heartily agree with all of those that have said that family should always come first & we should protect first. And yet I am amazed again and again, that if I remain prayerful, and fulfill the duties with my family first, God is faithful to show me where I can specifically get involved in helping others without trying to carry the whole vision & burden for the entire church on my shoulders. For example, there was a wonderful conversion of a drug addict 9 months ago, great man, great potential. He is a great speaker & gave his testimony to the entire church this past Easter Sunday morning...only to fall back into drugs & disappear the next week. Thru a miracle & my husband making multiple trips to Maryland, he has been found & was in church this morning! While he was gone I cried & prayed for the family & called them to tell them I was praying, but really nothing I could do. Until today, when he requested that someone call his teenage daughter & try to get the lines of communication between them going again. It was a small step, but I couldn't bring him back, or solve his drug problem, but talk to his daughter is ...something God showed me specifically that I could do. I am going to continue to be in touch with her & thru this have once again realized that if we are open, God will open doors, but until then & first & foremost... we are hopefully keeping 2 or 3 or 4 little people from being the next druggies that someone else will have to help out.

Kimberly said...

This will be short:)
We have had quite a new influx of people in our church..some new Christians, some desiring a more traditional way of worship..(funny, huh, w/all of the focus on modern/seeker-sensitive styles)..that leads to some interesting "growing pains"..but I am learning that you don't get to "pick" the new people..just do your best to love and influence the ones who are there. And..back to my original point..having new people makes it even more important to understand the concept of lifestyle discipleship..and i still think that has been and continues to be the weakest area of all in most churches i have been involved in. And sometimes you just do the best you can..and God help us all as we are challenged to do our VERY best.
(good thoughts, Jody, on how you've balanced everything w/these precious children.)

~Heather~ said...

Tara, just heard that you are not feeling well...Just wanted you to know that you are in being held up in my prayers all the way in Colombia...isn't it wonderful to know that God is EVERYWHERE at one time.

Love ya, Heather =)

Kelly S said...

I didn't know you were sick. I just said a prayer for you. Hope you're better soon!

Tara said...

Thank you friends, for your concern. I am battling really high blood pressure right now. They're not sure why; I will be going back to the doc tomorrow morning. Been on bedrest all day today. I appreciate all your prayers and calls and emails! This all came about on Sunday, and I had intended to post some more interesting thoughts to this discussion that Derek and I were talking about. But it may have to wait a day or two!

Thanks again for caring!

Oh, and Emily: So glad to 'see' you here! I hope we can be in touch more. Thanks for sharing your thoughts in this thread. Keep it coming!

Juwah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Juwah said...

Tara;

I've taken a few days to respond to this one. Actually, I responded immediately and then deleted it. I am learning as I get older that the masses are not waiting with baited breath for my esteemed opinion. This is not a "feel sorry for me" statement, it is a "I'm finally growing up, just a little", statement. (Those of you who know me well, know what I mean, and are thankful, I'm sure.)

I won't go into my "thoughts" on the place of the church in ministry. But I will share where I've come to with regards to my role personally. I see my life as "seasons". When I was in highschool, college and beyond, I was in the season of freedom. I could go on Missions trips, volunteer for whatever ministries, and "reach out" in ways that I can't right now. I wish I had made more of those days.

The season I am in right now, is my ministry to my family. I feel no guilt for focusing 100% attention to thier spiritual growth. (not that any of you are doing any less, I'm just stating where I am) But my contribution to evangelism is molding two lives and encouraging another to pour everything at Jesus' feet. I can only do so much. I am not the kind to multi-task well.(as some of you are, I'm sure.) So if I focused on much else besides ministering at home, I would only do half a job at anything. I'm on the board of the Pregnancy Center in town, but the commitment to that doesn't cost my kiddos anything, and they enjoy the alone time with Daddy. However, I do try to reach out everyday, not only for the cause of Christ, but to be an example of service to our boys. I try to pay our bills on time, return my shopping carts to where they belong, truely listen when someone is talking to me, be gracious when the service at the local dive leaves much to be desired. In this, I feel I am Evangelizing everyday. In fact, Matt and I feel our children have been the best "ministry tools" we've ever had. The number of people who will stop us and comment on the boys' behaviour or on the joy they see in our family has surprised us. It really opens doors to shine Jesus. No it's nothing grand. No, I don't have a list of converts, but that's the season I'm in. When the kiddos are grown (which is coming all too fast) I will be able to really throw myself into another ministry, perhaps we can even do that together as a family.

I think we all agree our families are our first and foremost ministry, so that goes without saying, but here's my two cents on the place I have come to. As always, I welcome the opportunity to question my motives though. So thanks.

Tara said...

Julia; I'm glad you weighed in on the discussion before we moved on! Strange how we can "miss" someone when they're gone from blog-world for a few days! I am sitting down for the first time tonight to catch up a little bit. Breaking back in slowly.
>I found your thoughts interesting. Certainly I identify with your view on 'seasons'. Also agree that the group of ladies on this board are 100% committed to their roles as wives and mothers. What a great group of gals to call friends! You alluded to the things you do in your everyday life to be a witness and example. These are all wonderful, but I think it bears consideration that this doesn't necessarily equate with Evangelism, since there are also many sinners who pay their bills, have friendly attitudes, etc. I hope you know what I mean by this, and realize I am not diminishing the importance of these things.:) I want to clarify as well that I am not one of those people who is obsessed with the church membership log or feel an obligation to see NUMBERS in relation to this topic. I don't think there's any cause for pride in large numbers, but that certainly works the other direction as well. No reason to be proud of small numbers either! I was asking the question about new believers simply because it stands to reason that if all the churches on all our street corners (and we have one on EVERY street corner here) never see any conversion, any TRUE CHANGE in the lives of people, and are not affecting their communities in any way, then the church of Jesus at large is in serious trouble! (I have a feeling that's the world's longest run-on sentence!) And I do find it encouraging to know that some of our friends are seeing the salvation of souls in their churches. That's something to rejoice with them about.

So, here are my concluding thoughts on this thread of discussion, and I have been so blessed by all of you ladies and your insights and amazing spirits.

I think Kimberly's points on discipleship are SO crucial. As the body of Christ comes together week after week, I am becoming more aware of how important it is that we be equipped with the right tools/armor for the spiritual journey. These are not just so we can be proud of the things we've learned and pat one another the back. It would be SO easy and SO comfortable to just keep passing around what we're learning to each other! And I myself have been guilty of that mentality. The truth we glean from our time within small group fellowship and training should serve a purpose that enables us to truly follow the example of our Messiah. Jesus spent all that time investing in the training of his disciples so that when He commissioned them and ascended to Heaven, they would be able to reach this world for Him. And as I think of it, what each one of us are doing with our children CERTAINLY qualifies as part of our discipleship responsibility. We are investing in their training so that they are clear on the teachings of Jesus when they go out into the world someday. Sounds like Discipleship to me. :)

Well, anyway, I think these are my concluding thoughts on the subject. Anybody else want to weigh in on their conclusions, I'd love to hear 'em! You are a great bunch to 'hash stuff out' with!

Blessings,
th

kayla said...

As I said before I totally agree that my main calling right now is to my children. I think of being involved in ministry more of "leading my children by example" rather than depriving them of my time. Some of the families that I respect the most for the way their children have turned out are families that have been bound together in ministry.
I firmly believe in the "Power of the Gospel". I want my children to experience changed lives firsthand. I want them to know that I believe what I teach them at home so strongly that I am willing to go out and tell others. My desire is for them to "be Bold" in their belief that Jesus is the only way to heaven. I keep thinking of the Parable of the Talents. There are many interpretations of what Jesus was referring to in this parable, but I like to think of it as souls we lead to the Lord. When I give account to God for what he gave me, I want to be able to present not just my family, but souls brought to Christ by the witness of my family. It is not just a physical witness, but a verbal one also. "We must tell someone who will tell someone". I know that now that I put my beliefs in writing I better start doing a better job of practicing what I preach.
PS I am still concerned about influences on my children, but I know as they get older and grow spiritually those will lessen. Until then I think that it is up to us, with God's guidance, to find the balance.

Kimberly said...

I think you did a good job of "summing up" Tara...but then we started it up again...yikes, 31 comments!! I too have been thinking of the "power" of the gospel to CHANGE LIVES...and I am hungry to see more of that. (And as an aside, certainly there is power in children seeing the "messy" lives of sin transformed!)While believing strongly in Discipleship, there has to be that initial decision to get the process started! And while we as busy "caretakers" in this "season" of our lives may not personally be winning 100's to the Lord...I STRONGLY believe that those in church leadership should have that goal as at least a pretty important focus!! And then we as a body should all work together to do whatever we can to encourage/participate in such efforts. And thanks for shaking up our complacincy on this issue..(certainly we're all learning)Hope it didn't spike your BP:)!

Juwah said...

So much for closing this topic huh? :) I was talking with Matt about all this last night and I had to giggle at myself. I realize that my upbringing was mostly influenced by men and that has really affected the way I think. I like to "fix things" or at least head in that direction. Anyway, I found myself doing that with this topic. So perhaps some of you could help your friend with this.

It's seems to be a common thread running through most of the comments that perhaps we use our ministries to our families to excuse our lack of reaching out to the lost. So my questions is, what or how do we fix that? Maybe I'm not disciplined enough with my time, but I'm hard pressed to think of when I could evangelize, beyond my daily living for Christ, and give all to my family that they need. Just in the few lines I've written, I've had to stop 3 times to deal with Micah's attitude about the refrigerator magnets (of all things) and then explain that letters and numbers are different. Then I've had to have a long talk with Josiah about thinking of others and the golden rule because he didn't want to share a drink with his brother. This I'm sure reflects your lives as well, so what, when or how do we do it?

Before Matt and I had children we talked about it. Why were we bringing souls into the world? Just because we "wanted" children wasn't enough, we decided our primary reason for having children was to influence the world for Christ and to advance His kingdom. That, beyond any minsitry I had ever been involved in, had the potential to reach the lost and change the world enormously. So that's the ministry we chose to throw our time, energy, and passion into. We trust that the exhausting 100% attention we are giving the boys now, will reap a great havest for the Kingdom. I might not get to see that harvest,(and boy, does my flesh want to see that harvest)but I'm trusting there will be a harvest.

All that to say, I want to reach the world for the sake of the Gospel. I do care for and feel great compassion for the lost, but I'm lost as to how to do more than I already am in a way that would be more effective. Any suggestions?

Kelly S said...

I love this! Can we really solve all these issues? I'm just glad to know I'm not alone in these struggles!

I still wholeheartedly believe in Julia's previous statement about evangelizing in our every day living. So many people pass that off as unimportant, but truly your every day contacts that you meet will have way more effectiveness than going door to door. I think this idea of evangelizing, we're thinking of our trips to Europe where people are more willing to be "evangelized" but OUR culture is not as accepting of that. That by all means doesn't mean it should be thrown out the door as it too is important, but I think equally so.

I too feel very strongly the way Kayla does about outside influences on my children. I don't know if anyone else has commented on this or not and I would so much love to hear your thoughts.

Last year at our Easter egg hunt, we had a gay man come and bring his child but interestingly, he was very consumed with my Jacob - followed him around everywhere and insisted on holding his hand the entire time he was looking for eggs.

I also worry about the chidren coming to our church functions (picnics, vacation bible school, etc.) and sitting squashed in a seat next to my Joshua with short shorts and hardly nothing tops and terrible language. A few years ago at one of our VBS's, there was a gorgeous little pre-teen girl that came with tanned legs, blond hair, etc. - very short shorts. And I noticed two of our church member boys walking behind her and sort of nudge each other, look at her legs and smile. It was obvious by their embarassment that that was probably the first time they noticed such a thing and you could tell it really affected them. These are GOOD boys from GOOD homes.

I'm spending all this money to homeschool my kids to protect them from such things and then we go to church and they get it in Junior church. How do you balance the evangelizing type thing with keeping your children from that close of contact with wickedness?

Just so you know, this is my 4TH TIME to have to enter letters TO VERIFY I'M A PERSON in order to post! I'm smiling, really.

Anita Dalkin said...

Tara,

Hope you don't mind me joining in again. I am quite different from you all in the fact that I do not have any children and may I quickly add that we don't plan to have any children. I'm one of those weird girls that just doesn't have that maternal instinct. However, being a wife, daughter, daughter-in-law and also working in a office takes up so much of my time...I hardly know when I could fit anything else in. My husband and myself look after his 87 year old mother (with Alziemers) in our home and sometimes our life is so hectic it's a bit overwhelming.

But, I still believe it is important to reach out to others with the love and Gospel of Jesus Christ. And if you have children I think it is an extremely powerful example to them and shows them how much you believe in what you teaching them.

I know it's difficult to find the balance and how to prioritize everything. I do believe the most important thing in life is our families. But, by winning others to Christ you can be winning your own children to Christ. My mind is flooded with memories of the times my parents reached out to others and shared the gospel. I watched with eyes and heart wide open.

Tara said...

I think it may have been Kayla who mentioned before that this topic almost raises more questions than answers. Now that this thread is so long, it's difficult to keep up with who has said what. And I don't want anyone's stuff to be forgotten! Another thing is that sometimes we need to repeat ourselves just to remember!

I want to reiterate that I raised this topic with questions, not answers. What it has done for me is caused me to do some self-examination. I cannot speak for all you other ladies. It just so happens that I came to the realization that I HAVE used my sitauation as home-maker as a cop-out for not being ready to witness. I HAVE stopped praying that God would bring opportunities to share the Good News my way. I HAVE recognized a lack of compassion for the lost around me. In fact, since becoming a mother I have been extraordinarily ANNOYED by the culture around me, rather than having any urgency to influence said culture. I HAVE become very rusty on how to even share the plan of salvation should the opportunity arise. THIS IS MY CONFESSION. And again, it raises with itself very difficult questions. Julia, it's as you said: we're hard pressed for time for evangelism. Perhaps we are in the "SEASON" where our lives are simply to be a witness in and of themselves. Kelly, I still don't term that as Evangelism, simply because that's not the definition of Evangelism!!! But that in NO WAY demeans the value of living our lives as a witness! I truly hope you know what I mean.

I say again I have no intention of starting a door to door, or street-preaching, or anything of the sort. That's not what this has been about for me. And truly, the TLC aspect hasn't really even crossed my mind. For me, it is about the intent of my heart and being willing to be used by God for these purposes. HE is not willing that any should perish, so I shouldn't be either. And I dont' want to delude myself on matters of what takes place in the four walls of our church. As I mentioned before, gaining biblical knowledge is wonderful. And I crave it. I've always loved having a teacher/preacher show me things that I never knew before. It's just good! But biblical knowledge without action is really quite useless. And 'us four and no more' mentality in church assembly is surely not pleasing to the HEAD of the body. And it just comes to me as I write this, that Kimberly rang a bell here with her last comment. If we are a BODY of believers, all different parts working together, then that brings up an interesting scenario. ALL of us here ARE in the 'caregiving' or 'training' stage in life with our families. Actual EVANGELISM isn't on our front burners right now. But that does not excuse our local congregations. Not everyone in our congregations are in the same stage we are. Some people in the church need to be fulfilling that role. And as new believers are added to our fellowship, true discipleship can take place. And we can ALL participate in that! HOLD THE PRESSES! Did I just stumble upon a possible answer rather than a question! Who knows....!

Kelly, I confess that I just stumble and stutter around in trying to respond to your situation with influences. I did comment at length back to Kayla when she raised this issue. It is still a hard one for me. Because my personal tendency (definitely in my flesh) is to scoop my kids up and whisk them away to a deserted island to avoid such things!! Utterly ridiculous, I know. I just hate to see innocence robbed before its time. I have no answers for you. Only more questions. {SIGH}

If anyone here feels that I have diminished the value of biblical child-rearing, then I have surely not made my points well! For that is still my CHIEF goal and priority for my own life!! And likewise, I don't seek to diminish the impact of solid, Christian living on a daily basis before people. I just tend to differentiate between living a life of good choices from the actual "action-verb" method of Evangelism. Through all of this, I am asking God to help me be prepared and to be willing to share His love when able.

One thing I do know: I have confidence in all of you that your lives are making contributions to God's Kingdom that cannot be counted. I am blessed to call you friends. Your lives encourage me.

Anita Dalkin said...

Tara,

Here I am just saying that I'm really impressed that you have been asking these questions. I think it is really important to get away from the "my four and no more" mentality. I think you have challenged us to broaden our scope. Only a few weeks ago the small group Bible Study I attend...the leader asked us if we still remember the scripture references for leading someone to the Lord. Oh boy...was I so rusty. I put HSBC and more importantly God to shame. I can remember sitting in Envangelism class at HSBC and learning all the scriptures and what to say and how to answer difficult questions. "If you don't use it...you'll loose it" is so true. We do need to be prepared to give a ready answer.

~Heather~ said...

I too was challanged by this post, and the questions raised, and this has made me want to do more for Jesus. Thanks Tara!

Thanks for your nice comments on my blog! Yes, my latest post "From a Missionary wife's heart" would be a more "Tara and Kimberly" type post. ;) I told Kimberly the other day, that she has such a brillant mind, that sometimes I almost need Phillip to interpret the things that she has written or read. =) But, that's good that y'all are that way. We love y'all JUST like you are!
It has taken me about 2 years to get to where I am getting adjusted to the Challanges of missions life...and I'm sooo glad that God is helping me. I wouldn't trade places with anyone! Again, thanks for your sweet comment. I trust that your problems with BP are getting better!
Have a wonderful weekend in Jesus.
Love, Heather =)