Cultivating Students with a Missional Mindset for their World

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I have said before in conversation with friends that I think that the world today is smaller than it ever has been. No, I am not crazy and do not believe that our planet is shrinking… but I do think we are more connected globally than ever before. An increase in affluence and a decrease in the inflation adjusted cost of travel means more and more are travelling and visiting different cultures and countries. Also, the global reach of the internet and social networks like Twitter have given us access to real-time unfiltered information about global events. No longer are we reading or watching the news the next day, instead we are following real time updates from the people who are actually involved.

The bottom line is this – Our students are citizens in a global community. They are more connected globally than ever before. And I believe that this reality demands a faith that is lived out on a global scale. It requires a global discipleship. I believe that the mission of the church begins in and is centred in its neighbourhood, but must also have a global reach and impact.

This really isn’t anything new. God’s plan has always been global. God told Abraham that “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3). He sent Jonah to call the foreign people of Nineveh to repent. Jesus told his disciples that they would be witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8) and called them to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28). God’s plan has always been global.

In light of all this, I believe that effective student ministry will be centred in the community while at the same time reaching to the ends of the earth. We need to cultivate in our students a missional mindset for the world.

So practically, how do we do that? Here are a few suggestions. I’d love to hear how you are doing it in the comments section.

  • Talk about it. This seems simple but I think it is so important. Take time in your youth ministries to actually talk about things that are going on in the world. They have already heard about it so take the opportunity to frame it in light of God’s story. Ask them what they’ve heard about the earthquakes in Nepal… Highlight the Syrian refugee crisis…
  • Pray.  Again, this seems like a no-brainer but I think it is a good reminder for us as leaders. Make it clear that God cares about these situations and that have the awesome opportunity to pray about them.
  • Be an Advocate. Get students involved and challenge them to be a voice for people who do not have a voice. A great example of this is Canadian Baptist Ministries “She Matters” campaign. Some of the youth ministries in our region have become involved with this.  Others have tackled issues like human trafficking or been part of letter writing campaigns.
  • Raise Money. I believe that one of the ways God calls us to be good news on a global scale involves our wallets. There are great organizations doing great work (our Springforth partnership with CBM is at the top of my list) and this work requires financial resources. Challenge students to give sacrificially and think creatively about how they could raise more as a group. You will be amazed at the great ideas they come up with!
  • Involve them in a short-term mission.   There is no learning like actually going and sharing life with brothers and sisters in Christ from a different culture. Far from mission tourism, when done right I think this can be foundational for a life of global discipleship. This has certainly been my experience. Again, our Springforth partnership with Camp Tumaini is a great place to start. Just make sure you don’t make these mistakes I wrote about before.

Our students are more globally aware and connected than ever before and are longing for a faith with a global reach and impact. I’ve given some suggestions on how to do this… what would you add?

– Adrian (@AdrianDGardner)

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God is up to Something!

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In Colossians 1:6 the apostle Paul writes that “the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world…” (NIV).   I have just returned home from a couple of days of connecting with youth and children’s leaders and am more convinced than ever that this is true in our time and context. In fact, over the last month the CABC Youth and Family Team (Renee, Jacqueline and I) have gone on the road meeting with leaders in Saint John, Fredericton, Moncton, Halifax, the Annapolis Valley, and on the South Shore of Nova Scotia. The ministry highlights and stories that we have heard in these meetings have been incredible. Be assured, God is up to something in our region!

It was just about a year ago when God started stirring a question in the hearts and minds of the CABC Youth and Family Team. As we sought God for vision we felt strongly that we were to call people with a question – Will you join God in changing Atlantic Canada one neighbourhood at a time? It seems apparent to me after these visits with children’s and youth leaders that God is doing something big in our region and He is inviting us to join Him in this exciting work.

We heard stories of students following Jesus and meeting together in their school to pray and grow together. We heard stories of youth introducing their friends to Jesus and of life change. We heard stories of new and exciting models of children’s ministry making a difference in their communities. We heard of youth and children who were taking a lead in advocacy campaigns like CBM’s She Matters raising the profile of the injustice that is gender inequality. We heard of churches and youth and children’s ministries that are meeting practical needs and being good news in their neighbourhood. All over Atlantic Canada people are saying yes and joining God in what he is doing, neighbourhood by neighbourhood. God is up to something in our region.

I was also struck by the great team of leaders that we have here in Atlantic Canada. We met chidren’s pastors, youth pastors, solo pastors, full-time, part-time, or volunteer, who are joining God in changing Atlantic Canada one neighbourhood at a time. This team is incredible and is serving sacrificially for the sake of God’s Kingdom. We need to continue to see ourselves as one team and not just leaders of individual churches and ministries. Together, we can join God in what He is doing!

They are also a team who face challenges head-on on a regular basis. Take time to pray for this group of pastors and ministry leaders that we can stay focused on the mission and keep going in this incredible task that God has called us to. God is up to something in our region!

As we met with these leaders and heard their stories I couldn’t help but feel that this was just the beginning. I believe that we will see God do even greater things in Atlantic Canada as we together continue to say “yes” to His call.

So what is your part to play in this? How can you say yes to God in joining Him in changing Atlantic Canada neighbourhood by neighbourhood? How can you represent Jesus and be good news in your community? What new, exciting, and creative paths is God calling your church to walk?

God is up to something in our region. It’s time for all hands on deck. Will you join with Him?

– Adrian (@AdrianDGardner)

It is Finished

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This Easter weekend as I have been preparing for our Good Friday worship time I have spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on these three words of Jesus that were spoken from the cross just before he gave up his spirit and died (John 19:30). Personally, I have always found these words especially meaningful and significant. It is such a simple and profound statement about the finished work of Christ.

When Jesus said this he of course was referring to the fact that the ordeal of his betrayal, arrest, trials, abandonment by his friends, flogging and crucifixion were over. It was finished. At the same time, he was saying so much more than that.

This year as I have been reflecting on this phrase I have been particularly interested in the fact that some say the word we translate as “it is finished” can also be translated as “the debt is paid in full.” When Jesus gave himself on the cross he fully met the demands of the law and paid our debt in full. Jesus, who was guilty of no sin, became sin for us (2 Cor 5:21). Jesus – the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

It reminds me of a verse of an old hymn:

“My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”

It is such a good reminder for me that the debt has been paid in full. The whole of my sin has been nailed to the cross. There is nothing I can do to deserve it or earn this free gift of God. And there is incredible freedom when I live and serve in light of this reality and stop trying to.

So, some questions for us to think about:

1 – Are we living and serving in light of the reality that it is finished and our debt has been paid in full? Or are we somehow trying to earn God’s love and approval?  I think we can slide into this quite unintentionally.

2 – Are our good works and love for our neighbours rooted in the love that we have for our saviour or again done in an effort to look good and earn points?

3 – How are you communicating to students or friends or neighbours that you have influence with that it is finished?  Do we emphasize the finished work of Jesus or instead stress (even unintentionally) a list of rules to follow in order to be acceptable.

This Easter (and always), may we live and serve in light of the reality that it is finished. And may we communicate and share this reality well in our neighbourhoods wherever we have opportunity – with friends, family members, neighbours, coworkers, that youth group or Sunday School class.

It is finished.

– Adrian (@AdrianDGardner)

Four Lessons from a Double Snow Day

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If you know me at all it is no secret that winter is my least favourite time of the year. To say that I am not a fan of the cold or the white stuff is putting it lightly. As the weather gets colder I find myself on travel websites dreaming of palm trees and sandy beaches… All that to say I was not thrilled with the Blizzard that greeted most of Atlantic Canada this past week and gifted students with the rare double snow day.

Even though I would much prefer a hot summer day, I think there are lessons for us to learn from snow days.

Here are four that came to my mind this past week.

#1 – The world keeps going just fine without me. Sometimes in the busyness of my schedule and all of the things I have to do I can get caught up in it all and think that it all depends on me. Snow days, when the schedule goes out the window and I just stay home, are a good reminder that I’m not all that important. The same principle I think holds in our attempt to partner with God in mission. As important as it is for us to join with God it is even more important I think to remember that it is God who does the work and we don’t need to do it in our own strength.    

#2 – Look for the positive. I’ve already mentioned that for me the snow is not a good thing. A Blizzard and double snow day would not be what I would usually refer to as a positive thing. At the same time, as I watch my children celebrate the news that school is cancelled and play outside in the freshly fallen snow I am reminded of the importance of looking for the positive. Rather than dwelling on the negative it is important for us to be people who think about things that our good, noble, and true. After all, who wants to spend time with someone who is complaining all the time and it is pretty hard to be missional if no one wants to be around you.

#3 – Family is important. Two days home with my children reminded me just how important they are and how worthy they are of my time and attention. Again, this is a good lesson when meetings and programs and events fill up the calendar.

#4 – Rest is a good thing. I worked from home the second snow day but took the first one just as a day off. I did nothing work related at all. I did clear the driveway but spent most of the day playing with the kids, enjoying strong coffee by the fire, reading a book that I have been meaning to get to, and taking it easy. It was wonderful. The result of that day was renewed energy and drive to get at the things that needed to get done the next day! It is almost like we were created for a rhythm like this. Mark Buchanan describes Sabbath as God giving us permission to take a snow day every week. Why wouldn’t we take Him up on it! We will be much more effective in mission and ministry.

These are a few things that I was reminded of this past week. And as much as I might wish otherwise, I’m sure there will be many more chances for me to learn these lessons before summer gets here… the Weather Network is calling for more snow tomorrow, Saturday and Monday.

– Adrian

@AdrianDGardner

5 Ways to Lead a Terrible Mission Trip

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Disclaimer: Short-term mission trips have been a key part of my spiritual journey. I have had the opportunity to participate as a teen and as an adult and have made them a key part of my ministry strategy at Grand Bay Baptist Church. I have been part of or led over 20 trips and I truly believe that they are incredible discipleship opportunities and well worth the time and financial investment. Tidal Impact is one of my favourites!  With that in mind, I thought I would offer these “tips” on how to lead a terrible mission trip. Just in case you’re not the best at sarcasm, these are not real pieces of advice… read them, laugh at the exaggeration and then seriously look at your mission trip strategy and see if there isn’t some truth in here… I know there is for me.  

  1. Don’t bother meeting regularly as a team before it’s time to go. I mean really… what is this going to accomplish? As if your evenings aren’t all booked up already with those committee meetings… am I right? Good news… this is one less thing for you to worry about. Just pull the team together at the last minute and everything will be ok. There is no need to take time for regular team-building, training, and biblical and theological reflection. Trust me.
  2. Focus on the Practical Training. If you insist (or are forced by your board) to get the team together before hand make sure you focus completely on the skills that your team is going to need while they away. Prepare that skit, children’s program, or maintenance skill and make sure it stops there. There is no need to spend time as a team looking at passages like Luke 4, Matthew 5, or Ephesians 2:8-10. And do not, I repeat do not, take time to pray together. You have more important things to get done before you leave right?
  3. Make Sure the Focus is on Doing and not on Learning. While you are away make sure that you get everything done that you planned on accomplishing. Prioritize this over everything else. Don’t bother wasting time each evening debriefing with your team and asking team members where they saw God at work or what He is teaching them. Instead, use that valuable time to paint that wall or build that thing. Remember, it is about doing, not about learning or discipleship.
  4. Remember that you know more than the people you are going to “serve.” Therefore, there is no reason to take time to learn about the context and culture that you are going to serve in or listen to their thoughts on how something should be done. Remember, you know best. Take charge and get it done. If this means that you have to be a jerk and hurt peoples’ feelings, so be it.
  5. When it is over, it is over. Ahhhh… the trip is done and now you don’t need to look at those smelly little pests again! You’ve done it! Whatever you do, don’t get them back together after you get home to debrief about what they’ve learned or experienced (If you’ve listened to my other advice this wont be much anyway). And most importantly, do not reflect with them on how to apply what they’ve learned to their own context and how to live missionally in their own neighbourhoods. The trip is over… your work is done. Now forget all about it and get back to life as usual.

– Adrian (@AdrianDGardner)

What have you been given?

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When I came back from my first trip to Bolivia I was useless. It wrecked me. After spending the better part of a month face-to-face with the harsh reality of poverty (and the church being good news in the midst of it), I found it hard to return to normal life here at home. I was not much fun to be around…

I remember one day our family stopped for gas and my children immediately asked for “slushies.” I quickly got angry, told them “no,” and snapped at them saying “You don’t need to get something every time we stop somewhere….you should be thankful for all that you have!” Like I said… not much fun to be around.

My response in those weeks after returning home was driven by guilt. I saw all that our family and society had and was paralyzed by guilt. This same type of thing can happen when we consider the many needs in our own neighbourhoods. Needless to say, I don’t think that this is the most helpful response.

A better response I think, and one that I eventually came to, is to ask how we can use what we have to serve others. 1 Peter 4:10 tells us that “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” This is in the context of spiritual gifts but I think the principle also applies more broadly.

Rather than feeling guilty for what we have, we can instead be thankful, recognize that it is all the Lord’s, and ask Him to help us use what we have to serve others.

This raises two important questions for us to ask if we want to join God in changing our neighbourhood(s):

  • What has God given me? And,
  • How can I best use what I have been given to serve others?

What gifts, skills and abilities do you have? Maybe you a good teacher or are mechanically inclined… Maybe you are athletic or are a great cook… Regardless of the specifics, you can use your skills and abilities to serve others.

What financial resources are at your disposal? The reality is that most of us are very rich by world standards. How are we using our wealth to serve others? Are we being tightfisted or openhanded?

What material possessions do you have? A car? A house or apartment? A boat or summer property? A kitchen stocked with food? How are you using the things you possess to serve others?

Instead of feeling guilty for what we have let’s be openhanded and thankful people who recognize that it all belongs to the Lord and then let’s be people who use what we have to serve others.

– Adrian (@AdrianDGardner)