5 years ago, I took the role of Minister of Missionary Care at Houston's First. It has been one of the most rewarding and stretching positions I have ever experienced in my short ministry career. Our team has seen and heard it all—from religious persecution to church planting movements, hidden depression to unexplainable joy through trials. Whether it comes through a screen or across the table, we have learned some life lessons from our missionary partners, and we would love to share some with you.
One of the things I like about working at Union Baptist Association is the kingdom mentality. I have the privilege of serving outside our institutional boundaries on occasion to serve a broader community. UBA believes we are better together not only at the local level but also as we share the gospel and sow seeds for the Kingdom throughout the world. Here are just three of the many opportunities I have to make a kingdom impact in our city.
I've been in combat in two combat theaters, but church planting has been the most grinding thing in my life. It's also brought me the most joy. So, if I had to sum it up in five words, I would say church planting is: grinding, joyful, mind-boggling, exuberant, and learning. Here's what that has meant for me.
It's official. The "back to the city" movement seems to be winding down, at least for the foreseeable future. For years now in North American ministry circles, much discussion has occurred over the rise of city populations. However, trends seem to be shifting once again toward the suburbs. While the particulars of strategy are most often confined to the specific local context, there are at least three high-level insights that merit a mention.
Missionaries working in countries where there is no printed gospel available in the heart language of the people use a method called storying to share their faith. Story sets have been created that create bridges (beliefs and views we share) and address barriers (beliefs that make it difficult for someone to believe) to the gospel. One such example is “Creation to Christ.” It is a crafted presentation that presents the whole gospel story of the Bible beginning with creation and all the way to Christ.
Every summer, the Mission Centers of Houston welcomes summer missionaries who come to Houston to serve the Near Northside community through the Mission Centers’ ministries. The summer missionary intern program started at the Mission Centers approximately 39 years ago under the leadership of Mildred McWhorter. Get to know our summer missionaries, and learn how you can pray for, feed, and encourage them this summer.
It feels like another life since I was a missionary in West Africa. Now as a work-from-home mom of two under two, going to the post office seems nearly impossible—nonetheless going to the nations. I wonder how I'm supposed to invest in people outside our home when just keeping everyone alive feels hard enough. But that's where the things I learned in West Africa come back into play. Turns out, these skills are valuable for all seasons of life.
For churches that find themselves in the suburbs, the rapidly changing demographics of these neighborhoods matter. It is no secret that the majority of evangelical churches are located in the suburbs of metropolitan areas. We must ask ourselves, however, if our churches are prepared to minister to new territory. Churches located on the same plot of ground where they started 3 or 4 decades ago may not have moved, but the communities around them have shifted.
Recently, I was told that I have the best work/life balance of anyone on the team. We were joking because I never leave vacation on the table at the end of the year, and I fuss at the other staff if they do. UBA doesn’t hire slackers, so it is not uncommon for one of the staff to get a little wrapped up in work, the to-do list, and unexpected challenges that arise. Before you know it, things are out of balance.
Over the years, however, I’ve come to believe that holding all the areas of my life in balance before God brings honor to him. My theology about balance involves the belief that all the aspects of my life are meant to be lived fully to the glory of God. Here's what that has looked like for me.
Senior adults are vital to the health and ministry of the church. A thriving senior adult ministry has very little to do with health fairs, trips to Branson, or games of forty-two and backgammon. Rather, a thriving senior adult ministry facilitates an atmosphere where older men and women can be intentional about reproducing themselves in the lives of younger church members. Senior adults are not the church of yesterday. Until the day God calls them home, they are the church of today, and there's a lot we can learn from them.