Missions Catalyst

Subscribe to Missions Catalyst feed
Updated: 1 hour 16 min ago

⛔ Nine reasons you’re not going to make it ????

Traps and Tendencies that Keep Us from Global Ministry

By Shane Bennett

Editor’s note: We hope this month’s Practical Mobilization article provides some insight for you. You may, however, find it more applicable to those you are currently encouraging to follow God to the nations, essentially the ones you’d like to mobilize. Can I invite you to reprint this, share it widely, and forward it to the friends it might help? Thank you. — Marti Wade

Introduction

It’s the pinnacle of Christian service, right, the role of the foreign missionary? The long-dress-wearing, once-a-week-hair-washing, pop-culture-unknowing, weird-food-loving, strange-language-speaking, stunningly holy, terminally single woman who has given her all for an odd set of people and a hopeless work:

Is it any wonder you don’t want to be that?

But let’s say you’ve outsmarted the stereotypes. You’ve seen through the gauze of hero-worshipped missionaries. You can actually picture yourself serving God where God is little known. And now you’ve set your heart and head in that direction. You’ve put your hand to the plow (1 Kings 19:21).

Good for you. But you want the bad news? There are a thousand little evils in your enemy’s bag of tricks all custom-designed to keep you from doing what God has laid out for you to do. Here are just nine of them. Be on your guard.

1. The bubba you’ll fall for

He’ll fulfill 24 of the 25 items on your list since puberty, but he won’t care about the world. This doesn’t make him a bad guy. In fact, it makes him sort of a project and, for that, all the more intriguing.

Or Bubba may be a Barbara, and when you’re standing next to her in church twelve years down the road, you can know the capacity of God to make plans B, C, and Z work but still wish you were worshipping in another culture.

2. The specter of your past

I don’t know what people have said and done to you, nor do I know what dumb stuff you’ve done as a result. But I hear the whispers of those things even now: “You’re damaged. You’ve slept with too many. You’ve messed up too much. Your contribution to things that matter may be small. Don’t get your hopes up!” If you only hang onto 18 of the 1300 words here, let them be these:

You did not deserve the damage that was dealt you,
and it does not have the last word.

3. The weight of your culture

Like air and gravity, your culture exerts tremendous and largely unnoticed influence. It is relentless and almost always wins. The “bet the rent” odds indicate you will grow up to love, spend, and vote like your parents. The more that tweaks you right now, the greater the likelihood it will happen.

Thirty-one years ago, I could fit everything I owned on the roof of my little yellow Ford Fiesta, shared with two friends and all their stuff for the summer. Three months ago, I had three houses, a mountain of debt and five kids. I’m not kidding about the culture deal.

4. The lure of trendy causes

To be fair, some causes are trendy due to their merit and many of us should rally to them. Matt Damon is right about water. Malala is right about educating girls, and Jesus was right about justice for the oppressed (Matthew 25:31-36). But offering the life of Jesus in cultures that so far have heard little about it has not often been trendy, nor is it now.

Causes are rarely single and compartmentalized, for sure. It’s a messy world. But this is true: If some of us do not focus on and work terribly hard to tell people who haven’t heard about the life Jesus offers, we will drift toward work that’s easier, more measurable—and honestly, trendier.

5. What you take in as entertainment

I have no right to judge your viewing habits and I would not float mine forward as a good standard. But let’s be honest, we live in a time when you can see pretty much anything you want at pretty much any time. Our dads had to hide their dirty magazines. You get email invitations to look at stuff and you simply need to angle your phone a bit.

This is not easy to deal with, but it certainly works against our spiritual health and maturity. At the shallow end, it makes us weak. At the deep end, it will leave you disqualified and sitting on a pile of manure you’ve shoveled together yourself.

6. The debt you’ve accrued

It may have seemed like a good idea or it may have looked like the only way, but now, oh my, what a mess. Again, I have no grounds to judge, but let me encourage you to question the common narrative, to consider who benefits from you buying that next shiny thing, to think critically about the messages of your culture, and to bring someone older and smarter than you into the loop of your money habits. (Yeah, people actually do that. It hurts like heck at first but makes you happy later.)

7. The need to please others

Right now, you may be doing any number of things simply because your parents wouldn’t want you to do them. That’s normal. But over time it’s also normal for us to want to live a life that makes sense to the people most important to us.

This is part of what makes society work and shouldn’t be written off too hastily. But it must be weighed against the tendency of God to ask for radical obedience and his track record of using ordinary dopes like us to accomplish extraordinary things, and often to the bewildered surprise—even disappointment—of friends and family.

8. The lazy longing for comfort

Life is hard work and most of us at some point give in to the desire to float downstream for a while with a cooler nestled in the tube tied to ours. But to find yourself doing effective work in North India, speaking Urdu like a champ, will require more than going around the bend of a lazy river.

You may be flush with your own power and energy, right now. That’s God’s gift. Run with it! But keep your head up and your eyes open. You wouldn’t be the first rock star to find yourself satisfied plinking a couple of tunes around a campfire.

9. A numbing love of tolerance

ISIS and the devils in Burma (and elsewhere) notwithstanding, tolerance is the tenor of global culture these days. It is the utopian theory de jure.

Honestly, it has a lot going for it. Jesus was certainly more tolerant than the religious leaders of his day. And people will like you better if you overlook their quirks and flaws. But what do you do when the wave of tolerance washes over you and you wonder if Jesus really is necessary for life?

Tolerance to the right degree will enliven your Christianity. Taken too far, it will neuter and then kill it. Well before getting to that point, you will have compromised enough to give up the crazy notion of raising your own salary and raising your kids in a killer hot place with little or no access to the internet.

Conclusion

If you’ve made it this far, can you do two things for me?

1. Respond

Take a second to share which of these would most likely knock you or your friends out of the race, or another thing if I failed to mention it. Comment on Facebook, reply on Twitter, or share your thoughts on our website.

2. Remember

Since this is list is too grim for even my worst days, remember with me that God is more powerful than all of these, in all their various combinations, in all areas of our lives.

These nine reasons you’re not going to make it could be—should be—proven wrong. One day I’d love to have coffee with you right in the middle of what God calls you to and celebrate our respective victories.

NORTH AFRICA: God Provides a Husband

Source: Partners International, January 30, 2019

D. is a woman who has been a convert for years but who do not attend church. She isn’t able to attend church or leave her home due to the traditions of Kabyle [Berber] society. We’ve been in contact with her for the last two years [by] phone. When she became the age that her society deems the age to get married, she made it clear to her family that she would never agree to marry a non-Christian.

Her mother began to question her. “Where will this Christian man come from? No one knows that you exist.”

D. became worried, but we prayed with her. We told her that beyond the walls and roof of her house, she has a Father in heaven who will provide for her because he loves her.

A few weeks after we prayed with her, a man within our church expressed to us his desire to get married. We told him about D. and how she wanted to get married to a Christian man. We then put them in contact with each other and prayed the Lord would bless them. The Lord allowed their relationship to progress and they recently celebrated their wedding in a church.

We give glory to our Lord who tells us that he will build his Church, and nothing will prevail against it.

» Read full story and learn about the Berber Evangelistic Association, an affiliate of Partners International.

» Marriage questions are tricky for new believers in contexts with few Christians, but also for Christian parents who are concerned about their kids’ choices. See When Christians Marry Muslims (Shane Bennett).

SOUTH ASIA: Solar-powered Evangelism

Source: OM News, January 2, 2019

A team in South Asia is using the sun to help share the good news with people who have never heard it. In this region, there are many isolated villages scattered about the mountains, disconnected from the rest of society. This results in a lack of education and illiteracy for many. OM has been sending teams with solar-powered audio Bibles to these villages. These audio Bibles are not just great for reaching those who cannot read, but also a great tool to help villagers share the gospel with others.

On a recent outreach to one village, a team met a woman who had received an audio Bible from another team a few months before. As she listened to the words of scripture, she understood that [Jesus] is “the way, the truth, and the life.” Eliza shared this good news with her husband and they both began to realize this news was too good to keep to themselves. They decided to share it with their whole village.

Pray that Eliza, her husband, and others who have received audio Bibles would not just hear the message of hope and see it as something good, but would truly accept the gift of salvation by putting their faith in Jesus and continue to share it with others.

» Read full story.

» Let’s also lift up other believers who live in isolated areas. See Ten Ways to Pray for the Secret Church in Afghanistan (Open Doors).

BRAZIL: American Missionary Accused of Genocide

Source: God Reports, January 25, 2019

An American missionary in Brazil is under investigation and may be charged by authorities with genocide for making illegal contact with a remote indigenous tribe, potentially exposing them to diseases.

Brazil’s National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) have asked authorities to look into an incident that took place in December involving missionary Steve Campbell and the Hi-Merimã tribe. FUNAI notified federal prosecutors and the police in early January about the alleged encounter.

Campbell and his wife are based in Rondonia, Brazil and work with the Jamamadi Indians in the Brazilian state of Amazonas. While Campbell lived among the Jamamadi, he entered the more isolated Hi-Merimã tribe’s area by accident while teaching the Jamamdi how to use GPS devices, according to the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo.

» Full story includes pictures and background on this situation, which has also been covered from diverse angles by other news sources.

INDONESIA: Former Governor Released after Two Years in Prison

Source: World Watch Monitor, January 25, 2019

Jakarta’s former governor, known widely and simply as “Ahok,” walked out of prison January 24 after serving nearly two years for blasphemy.

He was granted early release, four months ahead of schedule, for good behavior. Outside prison in West-Java he was greeted by his eldest son and Nicholas and a group of supporters.

In a letter to his supporters last week, the Chinese Christian, whose real name is Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, asked people not to come to prison to welcome him, out of concern “for the common good” and “for the sake of public order,” according to the Catholic news service UCAN.

“Ahok will finally be out of prison and reunited with his family, but he should never have been imprisoned in the first place,” Elaine Pearson of Human Rights Watch (HRW) said earlier this week. “Ahok’s unjust conviction is a reminder that minorities in Indonesia are at risk so long as the abusive blasphemy law remains in place.”

Since 1968 more than 150 people have been imprisoned and at least six people were convicted under this law in 2018 alone, said the organization.

» See full story with links to related news.

» Also read Tides Turn against Indonesian Christians, which reports a shift in interreligious relations these last two years (Mission Network News).

EGYPT: Work Begins on New Coptic Church, as Promised

Source: Barnabas Fund, February 4, 2019

Work began on January 26 to build a new church at New Alamein, one of 15 of Egypt’s new “fourth generation” cities on the country’s north coast. Church leaders thanked President al-Sisi for allocating the land, which seems in line with his promise that new towns should include churches as well as mosques.

New Alamein, about 110 km [or 68 miles] west of Alexandria, is designed to accommodate three million people and be a gateway between North Africa and southern Europe.

The president attended the opening of the cathedral in Egypt’s planned new administrative capital. At the Christmas service on January 6 (when Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas Eve) he expressed his support for Christians, [saying,] “You are our family, you are from us, we are one and no one will divide us.”

Al-Sisi’s government has also continued the process of legalizing church buildings with 508 applications approved in 2018. However, progress is slow and more than 3,000 churches that have applied for approval since 2017 are still waiting to be registered.

» Read full story and see a more general article about the fourth-generation cities.

» See also Is Sisi Good for Egypt’s Christians? (Wall Street Journal).

FILM: The Least of These, the Graham Staines Story

Source: SkyPass Entertainment

In rural India in the late 1990s, journalist Manav Banerjee moves with his pregnant wife to Orissa. When speculation mounts that local Australian missionary Graham Staines is illegally proselytizing patients, Manav agrees to investigate undercover.

Coming to theaters across the US on February 1 with a special sneak peek on January 31, The Least of These tells the story of Graham Staines and aims to beautifully illustrate the power of love, hope, and forgiveness to overcome hate.

» Watch the trailer below. Learn more or find a theater.

WEBINAR: Nurturing the Missions Call

Source: Sixteen:Fifteen

Students who sense God is calling them to be missionaries may feel scared or uncertain about what to do next. Join Sixteen:Fifteen and David P. Jacob for a one-hour webinar designed to equip pastors and youth leaders to help young people keep their passion for ministry alive.

Jacob is the author of the related ebook It’s Your Call, recently published by William Carey Library. Looks like it might be a good resource to distribute broadly; take a look and let us know what you think.

The webinar will take place Wednesday, February 6, 2-3pm EST.

» Register for the webinar. You can also watch recordings of past webinars from Sixteen:Fifteen.

» See also Afterglow or Transformation? on how churches are maximizing the long-term fruit of student mission conferences (Catalyst Services).

DRAMA: At Any Cost, a Story of Obedience and Sacrifice

Source: Faith Based Musicals

What if, instead of a film or speaker at your next mission event, your church, school, or ministry presented a drama with a mission theme? Such a choice would also immerse participants in the story for weeks or months as they learned their parts and put the show together.

Faith Based Musicals has developed a simple, one-hour musical production that shares the story of Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, and three other missionaries killed in Ecuador in 1956. Based on Elizabeth Elliot’s book Through Gates of Splendor, the production includes singing, basic acting, and a combination of movie clips and still images and can be presented by any group with at least five (male) singers.

» Learn about At Any Cost. They also have a musical production based on the life of Corrie Ten Boom, inspired by the book The Hiding Place.

» See also dozens of mission-related scripts listed at the Christian resource website DramaShare and let us know if there’s one you’ve used (or created) that might interest Missions Catalyst readers.

SERVICE: Short-term Mission Solutions

Source: XPCulture

Need help organizing and equipping a short-term mission team? XP Culture has lots of content you can use along with a variety of online trip management tools to help you serve your team better and improve the impact of the trip on them and their hosts.

Some of the resources are free; any STM participant can create a free account to go through 90 minutes of video content before or after the trip. The basic level of service is US$30 a person, and for a bit more you can customize materials and create your own training courses.

XPCulture is certified as a resource provider by the Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Mission (SOE).

» Visit the XPCulture website or watch a two-minute overview video.

» Read about other tools and services designed to help you manage mission trips (ShortTermMissions.com).

EVENTS: Coming in February

Source: Missions Catalyst Events Calendar

February 1-2, Santa Barbara Mission Conference (Santa Barbara, CA, USA). An annual event.

February 1-3, Missionfest Manitoba (Winnipeg, MB, Canada). Free, annual, community-based mission festival for all ages.

February 3-8, ABIDE (Joplin, MO, USA). Re-entry debriefing for global workers from TRAIN International.

February 4 to June 9, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (online). New classes begin throughout the year.

February 6, Nurturing the Missions Call (online). Webinar from Sixteen:Fifteen.

February 10-22, Second Language Acquisition Course (Union Mills, NC, USA). Provided by the Center for Intercultural Training.

February 11-15, Emerging Leaders: Developing Critical Skills (Orlando, FL, USA). Training event from Missio Nexus.

February 12-13, Support Raising Bootcamp (Austin, TX, USA). Provided by Support Raising Solutions. Events in various locations throughout the year.

February 14, Building Missionaries: Fostering Souls for Success on the Field (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus.

February 14 to March 14, Foundations of Media Strategy (online). Training course from Mission Media U.

February 15-16, Midwest Conference on Missionary Care (New Hope, MN, USA). An annual event.

February 18-21, Thrive Retreat (Tuscany, Italy). For North American women serving cross-culturally. Retreats in different locations each year.

February 20 to March 20, Story in Ministry (online). Mentored course by Mission Media U on applying elements of story to your outreach.

February 21, Creating an Annual Fundraising Plan (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus.

February 21-22, Standards Introductory Workshop (Clackamas, OR, USA). Training in the Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Mission.

February 22-23, Short-term Mission ConneXion (Clackamas, OR, USA). An annual event.

February 22-24, Missions Fest Alberta (Edmonton, AB, Canada). Free, annual, community-based mission festival for all ages.

February 25 to March 23, COMPASS (Palmer Lake, CO, USA). Language and culture acquisition provided by Mission Training International.

February 28 to March 2, IMPACT Gathering (Dallas, TX, USA). Annual event for those desiring CPM among UPGs of SE Asia.

» View the complete calendar, which includes some interesting listings for March, April, and beyond. Want to know more about a specific event? Contact the event organizers.

History’s Largest Human Gathering | World News Briefs

 

Once again it’s time for the world’s largest human gathering, the Kumbh Mela. See related story below. Image from Allahabad, 2001 (source).

  1. KYRGYZSTAN: Project Toktogul
  2. INDIA: Hindus and the River Ganges
  3. WORLD: Five Tech Trends That Will Impact Mission
  4. AFRICA: Putting Jesus’ Teachings into Practice
  5. WORLD: High Levels of Persecution in 73 Countries

KYRGYZSTAN: Project Toktogul

Source: Far East Broadcasting Company, January 3, 2019

On December 14, FEBC Kyrgyzstan received an FM frequency for the station they plan to launch in Naryn, a city in the central part of the country. Less than a week later, Janysh, director of FEBC Kyrgyzstan, abandoned his vehicle due to heavy snow and rode for four hours on horseback in -10-degree weather to the top of a mountain to visit the transmitter site and begin initial planning. The station is expected to be up and running by late spring or early summer once the snows have melted.

In a video sent from Janysh during his snowy trek, he explains how part of the first stages of planning involves determining whether FEBC should rent or build their own transmitter. As the staff continues to make plans for the new station, lots of funding and prayers are needed to help the station meets its launch-date goals.

» Read full story or jump to the Project Toktogul page and watch the 15-minute video, which I highly recommend. Maybe it really speaks to me because I am sitting in a deep freeze here in Northern New York!

» Readers might also be interested in a recent edition of the Global Missions Podcast exploring the question How Is God at Work in Central Asia?

INDIA: Hindus and the Ganges River

Source: International Mission Board, January 4, 2019

The Ganges River begins in the Himalayan mountain range in northeast India, near the border of China. It meanders southeast across the plains of northern India, delivering offshoots of its holy water via new rivers as it makes its way toward the Bay of Bengal on the coast of Bangladesh.

All along, as far back as history has recorded, people have asked more from the Ganges than fish, hydration, and a good bath. As early as one thousand years before Christ, people who would eventually be known as Hindus viewed the Ganges as a birthplace of the divine. It’s believed to be a crack in our physical world where the supernatural can slip through and immerse us mortals in its wonders.

Hindus have submitted various creation narratives about how the Ganges River came into existence. [Some] hold that the river not only sprung from a god but is itself a goddess. Rajiv Malik, a writer for Hinduism Today, summarized this view by writing, “Ganga is a living Goddess who can be felt in one’s life and can have a positive and profound impact every time one has her divine [viewing].” People with Malik’s view will refer to the river as Mother Ganga.

Despite the varied opinions, the cornerstone of most Hindu beliefs about the Ganges River is that because of its divine origin, it offers divine opportunity. For that reason, people travel for days and stay weeks along the riverbanks, hoping to siphon a bit of blessing and peace.

» Read full story.

» Let’s pray for the up to 150 million people who will participate in this year’s Kumbh Mela pilgrimage. See Why Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj Is Festival to End All Festivals or see it in dramatic pictures (The Guardian). See also In a Muslim-Majority Country, a Hindu Goddess Lives on (National Geographic) or watch the Prayercast video on praying for Hindus.

WORLD: Five Tech Trends That Will Impact Mission

Source: International Mission Board, January 14, 2019

In 1949, Father Roberto Busa approached Thomas J. Watson, the founder of IBM, with a simple proposal: let’s bring words to your computer! Busa recognized God’s ultimate creativity and dominion over all creation. And he challenged Watson to take the computer beyond pure computational power and make it work with text.

Busa was motivated by a desire to digitize the works of Thomas Aquinas so they could be accessible to anyone with a computer, but the result was that digital text revolutionized communication. Busa once said, “Since man is a child of God and technology is a child of man, I think that God regards technology the way a grandfather regards his grandchild.”

I wonder what God thinks of his technological grandchildren today? Is he pleased with the way we have used our God-enabled creativity to create the tech that is impacting this world?

Let’s take a quick tour of five technology-enabled trends and explore their implications for Christian mission.

1. Uberization
2. Blockchain
3. Surveillance
4. Artificial intelligence
5. Internet of things

» Read full story and consider each trend’s implications. I learned a lot!

AFRICA: Putting Jesus’ Teachings into Practice

Source: Frontiers USA, January 21, 2019

“No, don’t beat the thieves,” Sheikh Idriss said into the phone as I sat in his simple home on the edge of the village. “And don’t arrest them, either. Let them go and tell them to come to the civil court tomorrow morning.”

The thieves were two poor women. They’d been caught stealing corn from the sheikh’s fields. The normal response was to punish them with a beating.

For several weeks, Idriss and I had been studying the Bible together. Most recently, we’d read about forgiveness, and today, Idriss saw a chance to put Jesus’ teachings into practice.

“Jesus says to forgive them,” Idriss said to me after finishing the phone call. “I want to take these things we’re studying in the Word and teach them to my people.”

Idriss leads a Muslim tribe of almost 100,000 people. As a civil judge, he used to rule his court with an iron fist. Idriss still gives out firm judgments—but now he delivers them with kindness and mercy. When men and women come to him for counsel, he often presents them with a gift: a portion of God’s Word.

» Full story reports that a ministry team has shared Jesus with dozens of sheikhs in this region. Some have clearly declared Jesus their Savior.

» See also another story from Africa, this one from Togo, Gospel Workers Push through Hardship (Christian Aid Mission).

WORLD: High Levels of Persecution in 73 Countries

Source: World Watch Monitor, January 16, 2019

In its latest annual survey of 150 countries monitoring how difficult it is to live as a Christian, the 2019 World Watch List showed extreme, very high, or high levels of persecution [in 73 countries]. A year earlier, it was 58 countries.

[Open Doors] reports that new laws in China and Vietnam seek to control all expression of religion. It says that in China, it’s the worst religious repression there’s been in more than a decade; some even say since the Cultural Revolution ended in 1976.

In the north and Middle Belt of Nigeria, meanwhile, at least 3,700 Christians were killed for their faith—almost double the number of a year ago (an estimated 2,000)—with villages completely abandoned by Christians forced to flee, as their armed attackers then move in to settle, with impunity.

Nationalistic governments such as India and Myanmar continue to deny freedom of religion for their sizeable Christian minorities, sending the very clear message that to be Indian, one must be Hindu, or to be Burmese one must embrace Buddhism. Extreme persecution also comes at the hands of radical Islamic militias.

In Mexico and Colombia, persecution mainly comes when church leaders challenge corruption and cartels. But, globally, it also comes from family and friends, from fellow-villagers and work colleagues, from community councils and local government officials and from police and legal systems. Christian women and girls face more persecution pressure in family and social spheres; men and boys are more likely to experience the brunt of pressure from the authorities or militias.

» Read full story and see the 2019 World Watch List Report.

Scanning the Edges, Rustling the Hedges

Scanning the Edges, Rustling the Hedges

Where field meets woods or fence meets field, that’s where the wild things are.

By Shane Bennett

Over Christmas and New Year, I’ve been tooling around Indiana and Ohio. Good days in real places… driving roads so hilly a Rambler could catch air… looking out over ponds and fields and woods, trying to channel my inner Wendell Berry.

Being here reminded me of one of the coolest classes I took in college, Wildlife Biology. I should have killed it. It was dead center in my sweet spot as 19-year-old. Instead, I got a C; in part because I couldn’t remember the number of square feet in an acre! (Still can’t.)

One thing in that class that did stick: the idea of “the edge,” the frontier where field meets woods or fence meets field, and the ditches that border country roads or drain acreage. That’s where biology really happens. That’s where the wild things are.

Over the years I’ve developed a habit of scanning the edge while I drive. Of course, this must be balanced with watching the road and firing off important texts. (Not really! Don’t text while driving!) I look at the road but also beyond, gazing along fence rows, scanning where weeds and trees abut. Sometimes, and with increasing frequency as the habit solidifies, my scanning is rewarded by the scamper of a squirrel, the flash of a white-tail deer, or a new bird for the life list. Simple, good pleasures for which I say thank you to the Father.

Fascinating Creatures

This is a risky metaphor, but I regularly have more passion than sense, so let’s try it: There are edges in our lives, geographic ones and social ones. These edges are inhabited by fascinating creatures. People aren’t possums and I know my unguided curiosity can reduce humans to concepts and make the amazing creatures we all are into caricatures like those drawn on the streets of Disneyland. But the point stands:

Fascinating people lie on the edges of the main pathways of our lives. As followers of Jesus our invitation is to see them. Really see them. As well as connect with them, learn from them, and when appropriate, serve them.

Jesus was the master of this. I’m sure I don’t understand the full measure of social capital he happily spent to hang out with the woman at the well in John 4. You can almost see her, shy as a bird looking for a place to hide, when Jesus strode up to her at the well, uninvited.

Scan the landscape of your life for a moment. Who’s hanging out on the edges? Who’s the woman at your well? Your Zacchaeus? Who’s sick, in body or mind?

Because you’re smart, you’re probably already dissecting the metaphor and part of your brain is saying, “Hold on, Buddy.” Here are some cautions, caveats, and cop outs:

1. Wild things are wild.

Deer are beautiful, but you don’t bring them into your living room. You don’t let raccoons ride in the car with your kids. Caution is required.

But Jesus did this kind of thing! It stresses the heck out of me. I hear about folks who are loving marginalized people, opening their homes and I think, “Those are the heroes.” Jesus gives a wonderful parable in Luke 14 to show God’s commitment to those on the edges. A man scheduled a feast and the cool people wouldn’t come. So, he went after the rest, relentlessly. We are the rest. There are still more in the hedges and the streets, the ESL classes, and the little tent towns by the river. Does God want us to take them to lunch? Invite them home for dinner and a swim? Would Jesus do it?

2. You gotta keep your eye on the road.

You have a life. People who count on you, stuff that requires your attention, commitments long since made that must be honored. There’s no time to scan the edge, is there?

Now it would be absurd for me to judge your life. But let me say something outright that this time of year invites us to consider: There may be some things we could drop, stop, ease up or let go. Bob Goff famously says you can quit anything on a Thursday. If you’re reading this article the day it goes out, that’s tomorrow.

Anything come to mind? I’m taking an almost imperceptible step in the right direction by backing off on Words with Friends. If that doesn’t kill me, I’ll look for the next way to get my phone out of in front of my face to free a little time and attention for the edge.

3. There may be other people in the car.

Your posse might not approve you caring about people in the edges. For some of us this is a bigger deal than it should be. “If the tribe thinks it’s silly, maybe I shouldn’t do it.” Personally, I’m realizing with fresh disgust how deeply I crave the approval of my people. It’s not pretty, but it’s real. Let’s face it.

Last week, driving home with a pastor friend, I pulled up by a panhandler at a stop light. I grabbed snacks someone had given me out of my bag, asked him if he was hungry, and handed them over, perhaps in part to impress my friend. That went south when he commented that the guy had been there awhile and was being used by his family who capitalize on his diminished mental state.

God gives us friends and family for our benefit. But he also gives each of us nudges, passions, and weird ideas for the benefit of that community and beyond. Grace to you as you walk out the balance. I know I need that grace.

There’s also this perennial mobilizer warning: Just because something is your thing, don’t communicate that it’s everyone’s thing. (Unless of course it’s connecting with Muslims, which clearly God wants to be everyone’s thing!)

4. Finally, you can’t live in the edge.

I’m a 53-year-old white guy. I’ll never roll with the gangs like Father Greg. As someone who can drive a manual transmission, I can only marginally relate to Millenials. And as much as I love Muslims and am honestly devoted to them and the hope of life for them, I don’t understand a fantastically huge amount more than I do understand.

We can’t be them, the people who are in the edges for us. But we can be quiet. We can listen, look, and cherish. We can risk the embarrassment of reaching out and being rebutted, being told we don’t belong. We can try to connect, risking unintentionally assuming the role of patron, walking arrogantly in our privilege. We can live maybe a little more dangerously, a little more generously. If we’re careful, we just might learn something deeper about the dignity of humanity, the shrewd power of the underprivileged and the tender heart of a great God toward those in the edge.

I want to give it a go. Care to join me?

Pages