Today as a minister of the gospel we must manage hot buttons issues that can quickly sabotage the mission of God. Like many pastors today I went to seminary which for the most part is training to reach people already in the fold. But what if these hot button issues are the callings of God to shake up our settled world and adjust ministry for greater impact.
I believe future ministry expansion is in the margins of the unengaged but how do we sort mere “parroting cultural verbiage” from genuinely following our Lord’s admonition in John 4:35, “open our eyes” to see and reach the unengaged local mission’s fields. The great commission demands we “go” and not merely hang back till they surrender to our point of view.
Here are five principles that help engage and discern the world’s mission for me from the Lord’s calling me to “open my eyes” future ministry engagement.
How do I create a suitable environment for healthy, faithful dialogue.
- Centered in Christ: It may seem trite, but how can we hope to discern the razor-thin shades of deviation from truth without spending regular time with the Lord. Seek to be transformed by sitting with God before you seek to transform others. It was the practice of Jesus to be with the Father before major ministry events (John 14:26-17). “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly” (Proverbs 18:13, NKJV). People can see a fake.
- Stay informed, and admit ignorance: I read people who have a different perspective from me a lot. Don’t just read what you think is right. Check out the other channel. I know what Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons believe, not just what they want to tell me. Read about social movements. Admit the valid points of people’s arguments. Dismissing a whole perspective when there is a valid element to their point diminishes people’s trust that we are dialoguing in good faith and their interest in listening to our point.
- Eat the fish spit out the bones: I have rarely read theology or social argument that I agreed or disagreed with totally. Neither Fox News nor CNN has it all right. Dialogue can begin simply by agreeing on some points (maybe even just one!). Jesus commended the Pharisees for tithing mint and dill but disagreed with their omission of other things (Matthew 23:23). A partial truth can be something to build on later.
- Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to answer (James 1:19): If you are angry, you probably are not listening. People don’t always mean what they say. Look beyond their words. One person told me that she hated me because I would not be angry. I was angry, but I was more interested in listening. How we act as God’s ambassador in a discussion speaks volumes about our master and message. Second Timothy 2:24-26 lays down a clear standard: “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone. . . . Opponents must be gently instructed . . .” (NIV).
- Diversity of opinion may open new vistas: Be willing to explore people’s biblical insights based on their diverse perspectives honestly. No group holds the market on “God’s view.” The Israelites may have been God’s chosen people, but many Jewish Christians were slow to realize that God wanted others to be saved, too. The Greek-speaking Jews of the early church became deacons after a cultural crisis (Acts 6:1-7). Later they reached out to the Gentiles, too. The Gentiles extended the mission even further (Acts 9–13). The insight of diverse perspectives from other people can extends the mission into the margins.
We never fail to grow as long as we learn from each encounter with others made in the image of God.
Dr. Alejandro Mandes is executive director of the EFCA All People Ministry. A native of south Texas, he has advanced degrees in Social Work from the University of Texas and Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. He serves as founder and president of Immigrant Hope, and Executive Director for All People Ministries for the Evangelical Free Church of America. Alex created the Gateway Bible Institute, which provides non-formal theological training for urban and low-income pastors, and Spanish Bootcamp. In 2016, he helped organize the EFCA Refugee Crisis Task Force.
Alex is the former Executive Director and current board member for The Immigration Alliance. He also serves as a board member for The Navigator and the National Association of Evangelicals. He and his wife Julie have five daughters, and fifteen grandchildren.