Reforming the Spheres

A range of emotions swept over me as I watched the video clips before the sermon.  Shock, since I don’t meet face-to-face with such secular worldviews in my job at a Christian school.  A mix of fear and overwhelm and doubt, since I try so hard to prepare my children to be lights in this dark world, but will my work be enough?  Then I felt thankful, realizing God has given me faith since early childhood.  If it wasn’t for His claim on my life, I could easily have the same vague, inaccurate picture of Him and His Word like the people on the video.  Finally I felt compassion, remembering that Jesus wants me to care for and reach out to those people who don’t yet know him.

In my two years at a Christian college, I learned that relativism is one of the greatest challenges believers face in a post-Christian culture.  Relativism is the lack of belief in ultimate truth; anyone can create their own definition of what is true.  One woman in the video said, “I pray every day, but spiritually I do my own thing.” A man said he finds spiritual answers in science.  Another man said perhaps there is a “spiritual force” that rules the universe, but we cannot understand it.

These views stand in stark contrast to the Christian worldview of one God in three persons who we can know through his Word, which is holy, without error, and inspired by the Holy Spirit.  I am excited about this sermon series, because studying the Bible’s themes will strengthen our worldview as believers and help us discern between falsehood and truth.

Another truth I remember from college is that we can reform our spheres of influence.  Our extended family is a sphere, our workplace is a sphere, the gym, the coffee shop, and so on.  If we see these spheres as our personal mission fields and pray for God’s guidance, we will develop compassion and notice opportunities to fan a spark of faith.

I don’t want to live with a spirit of fear or judgment toward unbelievers; I want to see them as thirsty people who need the living water of Jesus.  When I study the Bible regularly, I become more aware of opportunities and I am less fearful and judgmental.  When I fall off track, my awareness plummets and my fear and judgment rise.  I am looking forward to regularly studying the Bible in the coming weeks and seeing what opportunities God presents in my spheres.

Which people in your spheres need your influence this week?

4 Takeaways from Everyday Missions

Recently I entered my third year as a secretary at a Christian high school.  I have learned much about teenagers in my time there—mainly that I cannot communicate in the same way with them as I do with my own younger children.  What I’ve learned about teens also helps me in my interactions with the unchurched or unbelieving.  Here are four of my takeaways.

  1. Begin with prayer.

On the drive to school in the morning, I pray that God will open my eyes to the needs of the students.  I pray the Holy Spirit will give me his words, not my own, when I have the privilege of meeting those student needs.  Praying beforehand prepares me for opportunities throughout the day; I am not as tongue-tied or apprehensive when I pray in advance.  I pray in the same way before attending a gathering where unbelieving or unchurched people will be present.

  1. Look for in-roads.

Teenagers are typically guarded in their initial responses.  They are easily embarrassed and go to great lengths not to look foolish.  They can be difficult to get to know, unless you look for an in-road.  I look for a common interest as a talking point, whether it’s the St. Louis Cardinals or Vera Bradley purses.  Genuine compliments are always appreciated, even if they momentarily embarrass a teen.  Compliments and common interests are ways I open conversations with people who may feel threatened by my faith, and this approach is often well-received.

  1. Care enough to develop relationship.

Like people of all ages, teens love to talk about themselves.  When I listen well, I pick up on the feelings behind the words, and I hear what’s important to them.  Listening is one of the best ways to earn trust, because people feel your care for them when you listen.  It also gives me opportunities to keep the conversation going in days ahead because I can ask follow-up questions.  Once I’ve taken the time to develop relationship, I earn the credentials to speak into a person’s life if God calls me to it.

  1. Be authentic.

In the fall of 2014, I presented my testimony in a chapel at Saxony.  Even in a crowd of 220 students and staff, you could have heard a pin drop as I spoke about the struggles of my teen years.  I believe God used my story that day because I was willing to be vulnerable with some of my deepest hurts.  Teens respect authenticity. The whole world desperately craves stories from Christians who are willing to be vulnerable.  The world doesn’t want or need any more saccharin versions of what faith “should” look like.  Pastor Mark says, “Tell your own story—no one can argue with it.”  I practice that as often as I am able, especially in a non-Christian setting.

What ways will you use to reach the unchurched or unbelieving in your everyday life?

Minister where you are

"El bon samarità (1838), de Pelegrí Clavé i Roquer" by Pelegrín Clavé y Roqué
“El bon samarità (1838), de Pelegrí Clavé i Roquer” by Pelegrín Clavé y Roqué

This week I have listened to a book on CD while driving to and from my job as a high school secretary.  Philip Yancey tells thought-provoking stories of people in ministry in his book “Finding God in Unexpected Places.”  He devotes one chapter to Louise, a woman who started her own Jericho Road ministry in the Atlanta slums.  She simply looks for needs and responds to them, no matter how inconvenient or costly, using the Good Samaritan as her inspiration.

One night Louise got a call from a woman whose husband had beaten her again.  Louise headed right over and helped the woman calm her screaming children, make supper, and clean the house for two hours.  She was tired but peace-filled when she headed home.  Around midnight three elderly women called Louise because they had no food.  Louise, a senior citizen herself, went out to buy groceries and climbed three flights of stairs to their apartment.  She prayed that the Lord would help her since she was so tired.  She prepared a meal and the four women feasted together, praising God and singing hymns until almost morning.

I confess that I became somewhat discouraged by Louise’s example.  Working full-time and raising a family is so time-consuming and seems to leave little room for service opportunities.  When I worked from home, my flexible schedule allowed me to volunteer more often, and I miss those times of fellowship and service.  I want to serve now—I just don’t know how I can add even one more thing to our schedule.

Then God helped me see, as I drove closer to the high school, that my outward ministry is now at work.  My positive attitude can serve those teenagers.  They need kindness, attention, and respect.  They need godly examples.  I can serve in that way.  It’s not as dramatic as Louise’s work, but it is important in God’s eyes.  In fact, I don’t think a person like Louise could do my job.  Yancey described her haphazard methods and disorganized files.  I must be highly efficient and organized and able to constantly multitask in a working environment which would conflict with Louise’s organic style.  That thought pulled me out of the comparison trap and restored my faith in God’s calling on my life for this particular time.

Of course, my primary ministry is in my home as a wife and mother.  I have often felt pressure to do more than “just” serve my husband and children.  Yet I am happiest when I’m cooking and cleaning and spending time with them, making the home a haven for all of us.  This is an unseen ministry to the world, but God sees it and calls me to serve well.

Where is your ministry?