A few weeks ago, some Honduran pastors asked me for advice on how to do church.
That’s the punch line. Now allow me to set up the joke.
My 13-year-old son and I were blessed beyond measure to serve for a week in Honduras with Lifetree Adventures. We traveled 16 hours from our home to the missions house we stayed in–accommodations that were more luxurious than sacrificial (although we did end up with two lizards in our room). The facility had been built through sponsorship dollars that a local church had the vision to solicit so short-term missionaries could visit all year long.
This was the same church that we visited that night, but instead of it fitting the stereotype in my head (two guys singing along to a guitar and a set of maracas) their service blew me away. They had a full band, creative lighting and staging that blew away my own stuff back home. God began to drill into me the awareness that a lot of what I spend my time on– preparing a program–isn’t what makes what I do unique. I knew that, and yet I’d still gotten distracted.
It caused me to consider, “What is really, really necessary?”
The next day we toured the land our missions house was on, spending time in a neighborhood of homes that the church built for orphans and families where a parent was sick. To decrease the cost of creating these homes, this same church started a small concrete business to supply their efforts and generate revenue through sales (they sell more than 3,000 every week).
This money went back to the church, who in turn invested it into their projects.
Next to the concrete business was a small shack where coffee beans were ground and eventually bagged for sale. Each bag had a picture of two orphans on it to remind the seller that they were taking part in a life-saving opportunity every time they bought a bag. This ministry has even made its way to the United States to maximize its reach even further.
Eventually, we hopped into the back of a truck and went to invest into a school that was placed in a community of shacks that were built after Hurricane Mitch devastated the land 15 years ago. This school cared for kids in that area, including those with special needs and infants needed extra medical care to survive. Primarily, the school shared Jesus with the kids while equipping them to learn English, technology, and their basic subjects.
Later, we toured a small tortilla factory on site that helped feed the kids and created even more revenue for the church and its projects. They make and sell 15,000 a day to area restaurants, and some of that money helps fund small loans the church gave to various people so they could start a business. This micro-financing was then paid back so someone else could be blessed.
The church also had a ministry to women in prison, as well as another area where people’s homes were literally made out of garbage. They came in to create solid homes of concrete to care for and help those they had a relationship with to become influencers in their neighborhood. They disciple them, just as they do anyone else in their church – with four layers of investment going on.
I could go on, but I think you get the point.
Likewise, I hope you understand how embarrassing it was when a group of pastors asked me and another pastor on my team for advice on how to do church.
I listened for a while as they talked, and finally chimed in through our interpreter.
“I understand why you’re asking us for advice,” I began. “In America we’re blessed with information. We have Christian bookstores, conferences, networks, podcasts, music, and more.”
After the interpreter shared that, I asked, “I’m going to guess a turning point for your church was when the hurricane hit.” They nodded, and I learned that prior to the hurricane the church was stalled at 50 people. Now it was running more than 600 weekly.
I asked, “What happened after the hurricane?”
One of the pastors explained through the interpreter, “Before the hurricane we were trying to build the church without success. After the hurricane, we started focusing on the needs in our community and began to disciple people with the expectation that they would disciple others as they had been taught.”
I listened, then added, “As I said, we have plenty of information in America…but here, you have desperation. I’d trade my information for your desperation any day.”
Since coming back from that trip I’ve drawn their ministry plan on paper, even though I’m pretty sure they never even thought to do this in Honduras. It’s amazing and I’ve been sharing it with everyone I know locally, asking them to consider what the exponential needs are that we should care for–from one-on-one discipleship to the unique opportunities we can seize.
We need to multiply the multipliers, so to speak.
Because I’ve learned the hard and humbling way that missions is a joke… meaning, it causes you to realize how funny you’ve become wasting so much energy on the next program, event or thing. While you’re doing this, fat with information, churches around the globe poor with desperation are doing church without knowing how spot on they are.
This isn’t an anti-America post. I’m not on a missions trip high. I’m sober with questions I think you and I need to ask.
Namely, what is really, really necessary?
- What would your drawing look like? Would it have arrows pointing all over the place, or would everything just point to the middle?
- If your church or youth group were to close its doors today, would the community even notice? Would the world notice?
And… how have you and I become punch lines in a great big joke we call “church” that has plenty of information, but not a lot of desperation?
Thank you for loving students!
Tony / @tonymyles