Missional Questions, Missional Group

Whenever I am here in Asia, I make it a point to visit a Filipino community. There are two questions I ask them. These two become my way of evaluating their missional life and practice. The two questions are: What do you do when you are gathering as a group?v What are you doing to share Jesus to those who do not know Him?

In Auckland, New Zealand, I visited with a group of Presbyterian Filipinos. They gather together from different local churches and meet for a time of fellowship. They eat a meal together with good Filipino dishes. They exchange news of political events from back home. Much of their conversation is in Tagalog.

In Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, I visited with a group of Filipinos hailing from a pentecostal tradition. They worship together in the “charismatic style,” full of lively singing and the spectacular display of the gifts of the Spirit. They share freely, mostly in the Cebuano language, and never mindful of time.

In Malang, Indonesia, I visited with a Filipino family involved with an indigenous group reaching out to the Muslim people in their area. The family connects with the pastor of this indigenous group, who shares the gospel in the group’s tribal language and sensitive to the special needs of the Muslim culture. 

When I asked the second question, the first two groups could not give specific answers to the goal of reaching out to the local people around them. These groups from Auckland and Kinabalu spend most of their time within the circles of their Filipino friends. Filipino food and cultural events among their fellow Christians. Nothing wrong with these cultural expressions, but they take precedence over missional activities. Instead of going to their non-Christian friends, they spend their time and energies on church-defined activities. There is no attempt to go beyond their comfort zones. 

The third group from Indonesia is very missional. They intentionally find time to connect with a work among the local community. They partner with a local pastor who is doing ministry in a Muslim community. They leave their Christian comfort zones and reach out to traditions different than their own. This is a missional group.

From Asia To Asians

“In our country, white people were the first missionaries. So, whenever I think of missionary work, I always imagine a white man. But here in this gathering, I see many Asians going to other Asian countries doing missionary work.”

Pastor Lex, a pastor from our Fiji Free Methodist Church, shares in our BTC22 gathering here in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He hears testimonies of Chinese missionaries working in Cambodia, stories of Filipino English teachers sharing the gospel in Country-VN, and Chin pastors crossing the border of Country-LA for a time of ministry. 

The Joy Of The Father

The problem of the elder son in the story of the Parable of the Lost Son mentioned in Luke 15 is that he did not see the joy of his father. He did not feel the joy of seeing his younger brother coming home. Why? It is because he was occupied with his own entitlement. (Entitlement means the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.) He was focused on what was his right, and was not able to feel the joy of the father. 

We are not saying here that there are no rewards for those who work hard. What we are saying is that the joy of our Father in heaven should be our main focus in life. Do you see the joy of our heavenly Father in your daily life? Sadly, in our society today, people give more time and energy to collecting rewards and privileges. We seek out accolades and demand recognition from our friends and families, to the point that we stop longing for the experience of God’s joy in our daily lives? Ask yourselves: “Do you feel the joy of God in your life?” 

More challenging is that, even inside the church, we are experiencing this life of entitlement. Just like the elder brother, we tell God, we say to ourselves, “We deserve better.” We say: I have been a Christian for a long time, I should receive respect. We say: I have all these leadership experiences and academic degrees, people should recognize me. (In some older churches we hear this next one.) We say: My grandparents and relatives have worked hard for the growth of this church. Therefore, they should listen to me. *

The focus is not on what we deserve or what special treatment we hope to receive. The focus is on how our hearts, our spirits, our being, are aligned to God’s joy and compassion for people. Ask yourselves: “When you are singing, talking, being with your friends, and moving about in your workplace or at school, do you sense God in your heart? Do you feel the joy of God in your life?” Go ahead and turn to the person next to you, and ask them this question: Do you feel the joy of God in your life?

In the same way, the younger brother was also out of focus in his life. Even after he realized his sins, and was remorseful, he still did not feel the joy of his father. He wanted to change and leave his miserable life, and yet he could not relate to his father with love, but only as a servant or worker. In Luke 15:20-21, the story says that his father ran to him, embraced him, and kissed him. Despite all these affection, the younger son’s reply was out of self-pity. He said: “I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” His remorse and negative feelings is blinding him from seeing the love of the father. We should ask ourselves: When we are down and life is a mess, do we still seek out the joy of the heavenly Father in our lives?

What is most important is seeing and feeling the joy of our God the Father in our daily walk. In the Parable of the Lost Son, we see the joy of the father for both the younger and the elder sons. When the younger son was coming home, the father saw him from a far and ran to meet him, and welcomed him with a loving fatherly kiss (see verse 20). In the same way, when the elder son felt angry and refused to go inside the house for the celebration, the father went out of his way, went outside and pleaded with the elder son (see verse 28). We see the compassion of the father for both sons. Do you feel God’s joy reading this parable?

The Pharisees and the Scribes could not feel God’s joy because they are self-righteous. They are more concerned with the people around them and knowing who is the sinner and non-sinner. The younger son is lost, not only in his sins, but also in his guilt. He could not experience the love and joy of the father because of his self-pity. The elder son is full of anger and resentment. He cannot feel the joy of the father because of his self-entitlement. Let us not follow their examples. Let us submit our selves to God and pray that our heavenly Father will open our eyes and ears so that we can experience his joy.

Many people know that I enjoy taking care of plants. I have a potted plant garden outside our house. It is a small space but enough to care for twenty or so plants. I am happy when the plants grow, flowers bloom, and bees and butterflies come and visit my little garden. I am elated and more happy when our neighbors pass by and admire the colors of my potted plants. What really gives me abundant joy is knowing the fact that God is pleased with my garden. If you were going to ask me: “Do you feel the joy of God in what you do?” My answer is yes. Whether I am sharing the Good News to someone, or preaching God’s word from the pulpit, or simply caring for my garden, I know I can sense God’s joy in my life.

The Voice Of A Child

Sarah, almost ten years old, is leading the worship with her guitar and captivating voice. Several teenagers are dancing in front in step with the worship song. I notice more children are participating in the church service. I am blown away by their enthusiasm and desire to serve God here.

I decided to forego my topic for the anniversary sermon. I thought I would speak on God’s miracles on our children. The presence of several at this anniversary service is a testimony of God’s leadership through these little ones.

The children of the Light and Life Church FMC are serving God through music and songs. They affirm the words of Jesus when he said: “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Luke 18:16-17).

This Side of the Globe

New Zealand is very inviting. Gorgeous beaches. Inviting woodlands. Comfortable cities. Friendly locals. These are all encouraging factors to missionaries who are considering moving to another location.

I am not sure yet if I want to move in to Fiji, to Australia, or to New Zealand. I need to seek God’s will in my life. In my short stay here in Auckland, I have to confess I keep thinking about moving to this side of the globe.

One thing for sure is that I will go to a place where I am able to meet with local pastors and train them in missional service. God’s call in my life is to be of service to field workers in the areas of pastoral theology and cross cultural missions work.

Offering Forgiveness

I am in Suva, Fiji visiting with our pastors here. In one of our gatherings, just before the service starts, I sit with Torika, a grandmother in her early 70s. We sit and talk about her life as a believer.

“My late husband did not follow the Lord. But in his last breath, before he died, we came together as a family, my sons and I, and reconciled with him.” She recounted how her son gathered them together at her husband’s deathbed and they all spoke forgiveness and made amends with the wrongs done against them. The following day her husband passed.

I treasure these moments when the people I meet tell me stories of God’s redemption and release. I look forward to the day, as I continue my travel around Asia and Oceania, when I can share Torika’s story to other people, so that we can all glorify our God who offers forgiveness and declares reconciliation to the world.

Smelling God’s Call

“I am floating effortlessly, almost hovering over the waters. All around me are fish of all kinds. I cast my net and walk to the shore dragging the net and fish with me. And I opened my eyes.”

Pastor Moses shares with me the dream and vision he had of God’s call in his life just a few years back. He is resolve to obey this call and is now dedicating this year as the time to start a new church plant in his clan’s village. 

“I was praying when God’s vision occurred, ”Pastor Moses continues. “When I opened my eyes, my room was filled with the smell of fresh fish.” God is leading the way for our Free Methodist work in Fiji.

Liking This Work

Praying with the Fijian pastors and their families is one of the highlights of this missionary work here Suva, Fiji. Knowing that some of them are willing to go for missionary work here in the Pacific is an added bonus to my trip.

I like the way the Spirit is unraveling God’s ways to me during this short trip. He helped me know the people better. He gave me the once in a lifetime opportunity to witness a Sivusivu traditional ceremony. He showed me the generosity of the Fiji culture. I am richly blessed to be here.

I like this work of being a missionary.

Last Sunday’s Reflection

Paul says: “I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!” (2 Timothy 2:9). This simply means that God is not contained into just one place. God moves.

God is moving around the world. And my Free Methodist friends scattered in Asia can attest to this. Filipinos in Vietnam and Taiwan. Congolese and Tongans in Australia. Fijian Free Methodists will soon follow the movement of the Spirit of God. This movement does not come without suffering. But, despite the pain and hardships, we know that God is there with us all the way.

Our NT Lectionary Reading is from 2 Timothy 2:8-15. Read these verses and ask yourself the questions: Is the word of God alive and moving in your life? What kind of suffering are you experiencing because of this movement? 

Remember: “If we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:12a). Let us continue in God’s word.

When We Are In Heaven

"When we are in heaven, I want you guys to sing the same song that you just did this morning. There in the presence of our God, I will understand all the songs, whether they are in Kibembe, Swahili, or French. There I can celebrate your stories in these songs and glorify our God for His work in our lives."

I am in Perth, Australia,  visiting our Free Methodist Church of Perth, an African congregation. Most of the members are refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Pastor Lusema is leading this church. He has traveled with his family from different refugee camps in Central Africa.

Now, they are here in Australia, and this is the beginning of a partnership with FMWM-Asia. I am here in the beautiful city of Perth only for four days. But already I feel the Spirit of God beckoning me to come back for a longer and stronger connection with these communities of Africans. God will lead the way.