“The fact that a relationship exists does not guarantee that the good news of Jesus is expressed.”
In our 2020 Initiative we use a lot of numbers to define our vision and the goals we have for increasing the “missional vitality” of our leaders and churches. The initiative challenges us to believe that in the year 2020
, 1 per cent
of the Canadian population—350,000
people—will be part of 1,500
PAOC churches and disciple-making communities across the country. We are also challenged to believe that there will be 420
PAOC global workers in 85
nations outside Canada, 40
Mission Canada workers in new areas of mission within Canada, and over 10,000
children sponsored through ERDO’s ChildCARE Plus ministry.
Missional vitality, as envisioned in the 2020 Initiative, describes churches and leaders who “personally engage those who do not know Jesus in substantive relationships” and “generously give of their lives and resources.” As I have thought about these two statements, there is another number I’d like to see incorporated into our 2020 Initiative—the number 52.
The goal of 52 is that, over the course of a year, those of us who know Jesus would spend 52 significant time periods developing substantive relationships with those who do not yet know Him. What do I mean by “significant time periods”? It could be a full day or a morning, an afternoon or evening. The significance of 52, of course, is that for one meaningful time frame per week, we are building relationships with people outside the walls of our churches.
I know this challenge will be met with understandable questions and concerns. Some people will see it as one more guilt-inducing idea, another demand added to an already demanding schedule filled with valid expectations. It might even seem like a new form of legalism, where our lives are judged by a narrow and critical standard. So let me back up for a moment and clarify some of the principles behind the concept of 52.
Fifty-two is relationally based. It is important to recognize the relationships that already exist in our lives. All of us know neighbours, co-workers, fellow students and many other people with whom, in the normal flow of our lives, we can share the life and message of Jesus. We already have, or could easily initiate, the opportunity to develop substantive relationships with any of these people. The possibility of spending 52 significant periods of time with a variety of people already exists in our lives. I have seen this lived out in many different ways. Some examples include:
- Establishing a consistent community presence by volunteering in either a formal or an informal role.
- Coaching, teaching or leading community-based groups. This can often be integrated with family life when kids are involved in sports or the arts.
- Participating in church ministries and missions projects that are outward focused and allow relationships to be developed.
- Leadership teams scheduling time to serve in community-based settings; i.e., school breakfast programs, food banks, homeless shelters, etc.
The relationships formed in these and many other settings enable us to listen to, learn from, and serve the people God brings into our lives.
Fifty-two is also intentional. The fact that a relationship exists does not guarantee that the good news of Jesus is expressed. As a follower of Jesus, I must be intentional in sharing the message of Jesus in word and deed in all of my relationships.
I have a theory based on my observation of the church in Canada over the years. Many Christians feel guilty about their lack of relationship with those who do not know Jesus. So they seek to connect and find a place in people’s lives and in the life of our communities. This is good. However, they are prone to view the relationships they establish as the end goal. Not so good! To have a relationship with a nice Canadian guy named Dave is a good thing. To have a relationship with Christ—the One who lived, died and rose again—is the best thing. That relationship brings total transformation to a life.
We begin by engaging in genuine relationships with people. But we need the Spirit’s direction, wisdom and power to move nice relationships into transformational ones.
Fifty-two calls for a lifestyle that prioritizes generosity. To “generously give of our lives and resources” was purposely placed in our vision for missional vitality. The challenge to Give Every Day is a call to be generous with all that we have, just as God is generous with us. It strikes me that for 52 to be realized in my life (and I know I’m not alone in this), I must battle one constant deterrent—I’m too busy. The tendency of busy people is to become protective of their personal life, home and schedule.
Personal boundaries and time management certainly have their value. But what happens if we “protect” the missional life of Jesus right out of our lives? Fifty-two is a call to start with the end in mind. We are His Spirit-empowered followers. We are called to lovingly and sacrificially make disciples. Therefore, we need to prioritize the scheduling of significant time periods in our lives in order to establish substantive relationships with people who need to be transformed by Jesus. It’s not just another number; it’s the mission.
Father, I commit myself to the vision of 52. Teach me to generously give my time, energy and resources to the relationships You call me to. Let Your transforming life and truth be revealed through my life and through Your church. For Your glory. Amen.