“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you are right” is attributed to Henry Ford. But whatever its origins it captures something of the challenge of sharing our faith and engaging in mission; too often we think we can’t do anything so we do nothing.
In many areas of life it is not speed of progress which makes the biggest difference but direction travelled and mission is no exception. And in order to establish a direction I’ve found the acronym BLESS useful; it fits well with the mantra that we are blessed to be a blessing (as was Abram in Genesis 12:2-3), is easy to explain and helps people to see how they can take small steps to engage in mission.
• Begin with Prayer – We discover our mission and begin to go about our mission with prayer, asking “God, who and how would you like to bless someone today?”
Prayer is vital because:
- it tunes us into God and his heart of compassion for people
- it opens us to responding to his Spirit’s prompting: perhaps with prophetic words and symbols
- it invites God to give us divine appointments.
- it gives space for God to recreate his dream for creation in us.
• Listen – We live in a culture where listening seems to be a dying art – lots of noise, lots of people wanting to shout for attention, lots of people wanting to speak. Sometimes it can seem that people aren’t listening so much as waiting for their turn to speak.
If we are to be a blessing to people we need to pause and to listen.
Listen to God ~ where is he at work; and listen to people.
There are several instances in the gospels where Jesus asks someone “what do you want me to do for you” Before doing anything, Jesus listened.
• Eat – Jesus did a lot of eating; and his eating habits got him into a lot of trouble; not because of his table manners but the manner of people he shared the table with: Sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes and so on.
In the culture of the time eating with someone was an affirmation of a person’s worth and value; it was a way of associating with them and an expression of love, care and concern.
So when Jesus ate with people it wasn’t because he needed the first century equivalent of a big Mac but because he was giving people a glimpse of the kingdom of God. He was a missional eater.
Perhaps you’d not thought of eating as a central activity of being a missionary. And maybe in UK culture the nearest equivalent is a coffee shop.
If Jesus were here he’d spend a lot of time in coffee shops; costa, starbucks, independents: a way of giving time and attention to people.
It’s the way we form relationships with people; it’s how we develop beyond small talk and occasional conversation. It’s a way of building friendships and opening up possibilities for the kingdom ~ often it creates space where folk can be real.
It’s something that we can do in lots of areas of life, in church, at work, socially…. Building relationships with people.
• Serve – After praying listening, and even eating together, we serve, knowing that in serving we receive much more than we could ever give. Noble prize for loving their neighbours, but serving people is the Jesus way. Jesus loved people and got up close to them; he laid hands on them when they were sick. He loved them and gave them space to be themselves.
If we are to serve people, we need to get alongside them, to share their hurts and pain.
But we also need to follow Jesus’ example and serve powerfully – because he had the power of God.
Whether our acts of serving a big or small – if people have needs we can pray and ask God to intervene.
If people are trapped we can ask God to free them.
If people are crushed, we can ask God to restore and reconcile them.
We can be those who serve and act as channels of God’s blessing and love.
• Story – When the opportunity arises, we tell our story – the story of how we found our way back to God in Jesus.
There’s a famous quote that is trotted out from time to time “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words”. There are two problems with this. First the quote should be ‘when necessary, use words’ rather than if necessary. Second, whilst it is attributed to St Francis of Assisi, it’s not his quote. Francis was clear that people’s deeds needed to match their words: to love in deed and tongue, word and truth. But he was also clear that the gospel needs to be taught and preached so that it might be understood. In fact the miss quote comes from the 1990’s
The truth is that the kingdom of God needs words; the gospel needs to be spoken otherwise it isn’t really the gospel and without words people will not understand the good news. If we are to bless people we need to share with them the story of God; and the story of how we found our way back to God through Jesus.
Of course we need our words to match our deeds. But can you really imagine anyone one saying “Feed the hungry, if necessary use food”. Preach the gospel – tell people about what God has done in Jesus. Share with people what God has done in your life. What your life was like before you were committed to following Jesus. How you come to make that commitment and what you did. And how your life has been since you made that commitment?
All of use are called to share in Jesus’ mission – reaching out to those far from God.
We all have a mission to be part of and a mission to do – and the Lord wants us to get stuck into it.
The thing about Blessing people is it is something we can all do.
Fundamentally it is about living life with Jesus and sharing our lives with others.
But we do all need to do it and we need to practice living like this all the time.
When Jesus sent out the disciples for the first time – they were not ready. They had not fully understood Jesus message. The Holy Spirit had not come on them in the way he would in Acts. Some key elements of Jesus salvation mission were still to be accomplished. They were not ready – but they went anyway – and told people about the kingdom of God.
We will never feel that we are ready – but we should go anyway.
We should go and share how the kingdom of God is near.