6 Ways to Be Middle Class and Mission-Minded

Here are six straightforward ideas to challenge middle (and upper) class Americans to reject opulence and excess while building the kingdom of God:

  1. Keep your high paying job and give the majority of your income away by living in a small house (not every kid deserves their own room) and driving modest cars (Chevy gets you there just as well as Lexus).
  2. Use your vacation time to go on a short term mission trip with your church or missions organization.
  3. Host international students from the local college or university during weekends or holidays.
  4. Start or join an urban ministry reaching hurting families, particularly widows and orphans.
  5. Buy a house, car, or other useful items for missionary families to use while they are home on furlough.
  6. Cash in your investments, sell everything, leave your vocation, and serve as a missionary overseas (even if you have children!).

What are some others you have thought of?


A Muslim Wants to Come to My Church

Last night I hung out with six southern Africans at an apartment near where I live.  It was a motley crew, the kind Jesus would have shared a meal with.  If Pharisees would have been around, surely they would have said, “Why are you with those sinners?”

Everyone smoked constantly (not us, no emails please), we shared a few beers, one of the guys (MJ) quite inebriated, and for the most part, he talked about getting laid all night long.  Rylan and I were there because, I think, Jesus would have been there too.

So when we arrived and introduced ourselves, naturally there was the “Why are you in South Africa?” question.  They asked if we were studying at the University.  I said no.  So they asked again.  I looked at Rylan and then said, “Well, I’m kind of a campus pastor.  I work for a Christian group here in South Africa.”  Lucas, one of the guys, said, “Whoa.  You are drinking a beer.”

And so it started.

We talked about everything you can fit into a two and a half hour conversation.  We discussed the World Cup, politics, South African beer, sex, and of course, Jesus.  The Jesus conversation was riveting, but the best part of the night came when MJ asked Rylan what our thoughts were on sex before marriage.  In a sheer moment of brilliance, Rylan said, “Well, James, I think you can answer that better than I can.”

After a large gulp, I obviously told MJ that sex before marriage is a big no-no.  I told him about the wounds of sexual addiction before marriage.  I told him about the pain it can cause him and the women he sleeps with.  He told me that he has to sleep around to find the woman who “likes the same stuff I do.”  I told him that when a man and women love Jesus first, then fall in love with each other and capture each other’s heart and mind, then when they are married, they will have the best sex.  I said that married couples have total freedom, with no guilt, to experiment and learn with each other and together they will experience excitement, passion, and complete approval from God.

After I was finished, Nash (pronounced “nosh”), looked at me and said, “That makes so much sense.  That’s the way it should be.  I want to come to your church!”  Now, Nash is Muslim.  She openly admitted to sleeping with her boyfriend (who is Catholic).  She told me earlier that she would never leave the Islamic faith.  She quickly caught herself and said, “Well, obviously I can’t because I won’t stop being Muslim.”

I think that there was a small seed planted in Nash’s heart (as well as everyone else in the room).  I openly talked about Jesus and though Nash is very confused about who he is and what he has done for sinners, she heard a small, yet beautiful, truth.  She heard what kind of a change Jesus can make in a person’s life.

There is a different way to do marriage and sex.   It’s completely and wholly good.  It makes sense, but it only makes sense with Jesus, not Islam.  The cross needs to be made glorious to Nash and MJ and their friends so they can experience change.  Lord willing, as time goes on, Jesus will reveal himself to them and they will experience the change and abundant life that he alone gives.


How to Decide When to Leave a Church

I was asked a question yesterday about when it would be okay to leave a local church to find a new church home.  Obviously, it should be on a case-by-case basis and one should be intensely seeking the Lord during the process.  I made a list of nine questions to consider and answer before leaving a church.  Perhaps you might find these helpful:

  • Is there an unrepentant immorality issue with one of the leaders?
  • Do the pastors, elders, and deacons meet the requirements that are found in 1/2 Timothy and Titus?
  • Do the pastors, elders, and congregation genuinely love Jesus and people?
  • Is the Bible taught and the gospel preached every weekend?
  • Is there a missional mindset, focus, and philosophy of: “We want to (and have a plan to) reach this community/city/state for Jesus.”
  • Am I getting fed weekly, invested in, and built up in Christ?  Does this place fuel my joy in Jesus?
  • Do I find opportunities to feed and serve others and build the kingdom here?
  • What is my heart’s motivation for leaving?  Will I leave speaking poorly of this congreation, tearing it down, or will I leave praying for them?
  • Am I just complaining for an excuse to leave or can I really and honestly do something positive to help the area(s) of concern I have?

Can you think of any others?


Missionaries Are Everywhere, Not Just Overseas

When a person leaves to be a missionary to China or Africa or India or any other “far away land,” we get excited about him learning the language, lingo, and slang, participating in the cultural customs, wearing appropriate clothing and headgear, and listening to and enjoying the popular music and entertainment.

Why don’t we get as excited when someone moves across the tracks in his own city to a completely different village and tribe village for the purpose of spreading the gospel?

For some odd reason, some Christians think that if young Christian listens to hip-hip, wears FuBu, and talks like he’s “from the ghetto,” that he must be worldly and sleeping around.  Others may think that if a Christian listens to grunge and punk, wears a backwards hat, has tattoos down his arms, and likes the color black then he must have a problem with depression and drugs.

No one would look down on a Christian who moves to China to share the gospel and walks, talks, dresses, and eats like everyone else.  Let’s not do it to those who are in the villages, tribes, and cultures right here in our own country.  They are missionaries as well, laboring to live out the gospel in real community so that sinners like you and me will meet Jesus.

I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
– 1 Corinthians 9:22-23