a summer that counts

I came across this article written by Philip Nation and thought it would be great timing since school is almost out.

Seasons all have their official dates that are set by… well, I don’t know who sets them. But they all start on a specific day on my Blackberry. But then there is the other 99.9% of us whose lives are controlled by other factors.

For many, it is the school calendar. Right now, the spring semester is ending and it’s the start of summer vacation. It is the glorious time of the year when children are home all day, vacations are taken, pools are visited, and then we look for something to do on the second week.

Each spring, I hear people making plans for the perfect summer. They vow that this is the year they go camping with the kids, visit the grandparents more, and have more fun than anyone thought possible. Then the new school year rolls around and everyone wonders what just happened to the two months of perfection they had planned. Time seemed to slip away so quickly.

I want to challenge your thinking about summer this year. You can still go on a trip, play in the pool, and camp with the kids. But what if you decided to make it a missional summer? Instead of counting the days until it was over, I want you to make your summer count! It all begins with the “why.” Why should I spend my whole summer or any of my summer on mission? That sounds boring. Even worse, it sounds like work. But if you want to have a memorable summer—then you have to get your mindset right.

When Paul was helping the Corinthian church understand their role in the world, he explained it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, “(18) Now everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: (19) that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. (20) Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ; certain that God is appealing through us, we plead on Christ’s behalf, ‘Be reconciled to God.’”

Our lives as believers are not about self; which is a tough concept when we are facing the summer months. It seems that summer is designed as a built-in “take a break” time of the year. Take a break from school, work, and even church stuff. But your summer can be the moment that you engage in the mission rather than disengage from the world. Let me give you 8 tips for making your summer count. And I promise that each one of them is possible!

1) Look at people with eternity in mind. Everyone has an eternity in front of them. We need to see them as God does and care for them like it counts.

2) Show some hospitality. Believers should be the people that everyone else wants to be around. So be the person who invites everyone over for a cookout or a game night. Remember, you’re the ambassador for Christ so get into the lives of people living outside the kingdom.

3) Watch for a chance to serve. People give away all of their energy on family, work, and menial chores. Look for ways that you can care for your neighbors—even if it is just cooking a simple dinner for them.

4) Visit someone new. Look around your community and find someone who needs a friend. Maybe it is visiting in a nursing home or rocking babies in the NICU. Make your days count with people who feel they don’t.

5) Go somewhere unexpected. It is not too late to get your family’s name on the list for a mission trip. Leave your inhibitions behind and get going to a place that needs to hear about Jesus whether it’s downtown or to the other side of the globe.

6) Take somebody with you. Whatever you do, don’t do it alone! Take your family, get your Sunday school class involved, or invite the whole church to go out on mission. And make sure to take the kids. They’re ready to change the world, so let them.

7) Be truthful. Missional believers contend for the faith while speaking in a way understandable to the hearer. No matter what—be ready to tell the story of Jesus.

8) Love like Jesus. He lived a robust life of caring for the lost. He did it by meeting their needs and telling them the truth. And I can think of no better way to make your summer count than doing both of those.

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2 years… and counting!

Today marks 2 years since a very pivotal event in my life. Two years ago, I was sitting in an all day strategic planning retreat with Dogwood Church where I served for 7 1/2 years when my phone rang. It was my brother-in-law who at the time was an assistant track and field coach at Liberty University, my alma mater. He was on the track and had just seen ambulances fly onto the campus and up to the Carter Glass mansion where Dr. Jerry Falwell’s office is located. A short time later, it was confirmed that Dr. Falwell had passed away.

Now, regardless of what you think of Dr. Falwell, whether or not you hold to his same beliefs or agree with everything he said, you cannot disagree that this man made a tremendous impact with his one lifetime. He impacted my life in so many ways: 1) It was at Liberty where my faith became my own and not just something I “inherited” from my upbringing. 2) Liberty is where I was exposed to and eventually called to full-time ministry. 3) I many life-long ministry friends at Liberty 4) I had an incredible time serving on ministry teams–YouthQuest and Sounds of Liberty–and traveled all across the country and even to Brazil with these teams. 5) I had the opportunity to get to know the Falwell family on a more personal level than most students as a member of the Sounds of Liberty. 6) I met my wife at Liberty. I could go on!

After news reached me of his death, I began to reflect on the impact he had with his one lifetime and I clearly remember asking God, “Am I where You want me to be to make the most of my one lifetime?” It didn’t take long for God to clearly impress upon me that, no, I wasn’t currently in the ministry position that would have the maximum impact for God’s Kingdom. However, He didn’t reveal what that next assignment was going to be for 18 months! It was a very difficult, soul-searching 18 months, needless to say! I wish I could say that I handled that time period with great faith and without sinful attitudes, but that would not be true.

Fast forward to today… I have no doubt that I am doing exactly what God wants me to do. I see him working all around me in ways I’ve never experienced in almost 14 years of ministry. He has softened my heart and given me a passion for those who don’t yet know Jesus and are all around me. He has led us to help plant a church that is attempting to go against the consumeristic Christianity that is so prevalent in our American culture. He has given me an “apostolic” type role (a leader of leaders and trainer of trainers) through our involvement in Missio. I can see how He has lined everything up… well, almost everything. After serving as a worship pastor for over 14 years, I can’t go back to that profession, at least not the way it has become defined in the typical American Church. To spend 40-50 hours a week producing a weekend worship service that gets consumed by an audience but has little if any life changing affect on them is not how God would have me spend my one lifetime. He has called me “to live like Jesus and to lead others to do the same” (browns mill church mission statement). The problem is that that is the only way I know how to make my living and my resume has 14 years of church music on it. So, the one last thing that I’m praying, waiting, seeking and begging God for is how He is going to meet our daily bread needs? I have a career–my career is that of executive pastor of browns mill church and to train other church planters and coach them in planting missional communities across the country. These two things are not able to pay an income at this time.

I can identify with Abram and many other Biblical heros who followed God’s call into the unknown. It is scary, risky and frustrating, yet surprisingly fun, exciting and adventurous! There’s no other way to live! I told God that if I were writing this part of His Story, I would bring the funding in so that I could devote all of my time and energy on browns mill church and training church planters through Missio. However, God rarely operates in the logical (at least human logic). His ways are higher than our ways. Please join me in praying that God would either provide a job for me (soon!) or bring funding in for browns mill church and/or Missio that would allow us to put all our time and energy into these two promising ministries. Thanks for reading!