This summer our calling to mission as Christian disciples has been the focus of our Summer Joint Sunday School class that takes place during the Sunday School hour. Our study and conversations as a congregation is based on reading and discussing two books: A Mile in My Shoes by Trevor Hudson and Punching Holes in the Dark by Robert Benson. Both of these books offer unique insight into what it means to be Christian disciples in mission. Our study is not limited to just what these authors have to say about mission. Group discussion has been an important part of the study thus far. By bringing in our own unique and insightful experiences in mission, the participants in the study add great depth that strengthens our understanding and calling to this important aspect of Christian discipleship.
In the first part of our summer study, A Mile in My Shoes encourages us to live everyday in mission. The author had led his congregation on mission trips before that would occur periodically throughout the year. These were good and fruitful things to do; yet he envisioned his congregation living in a way in which everyday was an opportunity to do good deeds in the world for the glory of God. This work of living a mission was not a specific time set aside to go and check a box that they had served others for a week out of the year and now could go back to the routine of their own lives. Rather Hudson’s vision was to help his congregation reimagine what Christian mission is so that each and everyday was an opportunity to serve others in need.
There are three essential steps that Hudson cites in his book that are components of living each day in Christian mission. First there is the encounter. In this step we are exposed to the needs around us. This can be intentional when we go to serve a specific need in our community (example: volunteering at the food bank or serving at a soup kitchen). It may also be unintentional when we are aware of the needs around us as they present themselves. This awareness allows us to be observant to the needs of others so that we may give of ourselves so that others may thrive.
Following an attentiveness to encounter and help meet the needs of others, Hudson says that reflection is the next step. After an encounter, Christian pilgrimages living a mission must reflect on their experiences. Hudson writes that reflection is necessary because, “we do not learn from experience; we learn from reflection upon experience.” In these moments of reflecting on our experiences, we gain deep understanding of how God was working in and around us as we served to meet the needs in the world. We can also come to more clearly understand the perspective of others and how they view and live in the world. Reflection can take place on both an individual level as well as with a group. Both are equally important. Individual reflection helps us to personally understand an encounter with more depth. When we reflect with a group more insight can be gained as a diversity of views help the individual learn from experience.
The final essential ingredient in a life lived in mission is transformation. After an encounter and reflection upon it, transformation occurs. This transformation happens deep within our souls so that we may continually live our lives with greater Christlikeness. With this we will also continue to have hearts even more aware of the needs of others in the world around us, thus providing more opportunities to live a life in mission and encounter others in need.
If you are feeling a calling to transform your life and live in a way that is more Christ-like, our Summer Sunday School program is a great opportunity to begin that journey! If you have not yet had a chance to join us, it is not too late! That is because I just summarized some of the main points in the first book (although I would encourage you to read it!) and we will be starting with the second book (Punching Holes in the Dark) in a couple weeks and you will be able to jump right in! In this second book, the specific ways we can live in mission to the communities around us and let the Light of Christ shine through will be discussed. “Go Ye Therefore” has been the scriptural theme Hayes Barton UMC has been living into over the last few years. This study will help us to continue to follow that calling and live each day in a way that lifts others up and glorifies God. For this, may we help to make it on earth as it is in heaven.
With peace and love,