Beyond the Beer – A Race to Be Noticed

A story of what happens when you live for the good of your city in ways specifically designed for your hometown. 

Last week, I preached about how we should live for the good of our city. Living for the good of our city means we need to plant roots, to multiply, to pursue the peace of our city, and to pray for our city.

Planting roots in our city means we need to establish a presence in our neighborhoods and in our city.

– Establishing a presence means living like Jesus in the midst of sinners.

One way we can do this is by throwing block parties for our neighbors.

One time, my community group was celebrating an anniversary when we were invaded by a group of festive bohemians. We could have left because they smelled and were doing things that made us uncomfortable. Instead, we made the best of it and pursued the good of our neighbors. Here, Rob and I jam with a new friend.

I heard of lot of people quickly excuse themselves from this opportunity because in their mind, I just didn’t know how awful some people’s neighbors were. In response to this mass exodus from the need to reach our neighbors in this way, I offered my take on one of the most common objections to the idea that we should throw parties for our neighbor: “But They’ll Bring Beer.”

In short, many of our objections to reaching out to our neighbors this way for the good of our city come more from a self-righteous fear. When we fail to reach out to our neighbors because they might act like unbelievers, we are creating a level of holiness that Jesus himself did not feel was necessary to reach.

Jesus did not consider himself so holy that he would only interact with sinners in sterile situations. He sat and talked with actual, real-life prostitutes who sold themselves for money. He ate with real-life thieves who stole money from their own countrymen on behalf of the enemy. He drank with real-life drunks who did not exercise self-control. This is how the Son of God himself lived as one who had been sent to a hostile culture. We should be worried when we refuse to live in ways that Jesus did.

But establishing a presence in your neighborhood is much more than just throwing block parties. There are dozens of ways to live “outwardly” for the sake of your city.

– Establishing a presence in your city should be contextualized.

I wouldn’t recommend waving the Terrible Towel near any Cardinals fans in PHX.

A lot of times, the way you can best live for the good of your city is in a way that is specifically designed for your hometown. The way one might best reach a neighborhood in Pittsburgh will probably look a lot different than how one might best reach a suburb of Phoenix.

When thinking about how we can best live for the good of our city, we should consider what makes our city unique. What part of the life in the city provides a sense of identity to the people of the city?

In other words, “What makes us, us?”

When we are able to pinpoint ways that will uniquely fit the makeup of our neighborhoods and our cities, we will be more effective in promoting the peace and welfare of our city. We will also be more effective in finding favor among our neighbors who experience the blessings of our tailor-made handiwork.

The Need to Be Noticed

In Wheeling, people love to run.

In the city of Wheeling, the people are passionate about their races. During the course of the year, there are several opportunities to take part in 5Ks, half-marathons, and other types of races. On any particular day, you will find scores of runners of all ages, skills, and sizes trekking down National Road, where our church building happens to be conveniently located.

Day after day, people run, jog, and walk by our building; and for the most part, they don’t even notice us.

Despite the convenient location, I still regularly have conversations with people that go something like this:

Neighbor: “Oh, it is nice to meet you. And what do you do?”
Me: “Oh, I’m a pastor.”
Neighbor: “Oh…ummm…. Ok. What church?”
Me: “First Baptist Church.”
Neighbor: “Oh…. First Baptist Church…. where is that again?”
Me: “It is on National Rd. Right next to the cemetery. It has the big blue sign.”
Neighbor: “Oh, you mean the one with the big glass window in the front.”
Me: “No, that’s the Christian Church… You know what? Don’t worry about it.”

People run, jog, walk, ride their bikes, walk their dogs, drive to work right past the building day in and day out. Yet many of our neighbors do not know we are there.

But, today, I have greater hope that some of my neighbors might have a different conversation.

– Establishing a presence in Wheeling happens when the runners notice you.

This is because of an outreach event that some of my friends helped put together on their own initiative. Right in line with the city’s running culture, my friends decided to set up hospitality stations for those who were participating in the Ogden Newspapers Half-Marathon last month.

They rallied together, pointed their compass outward, and served the city around them and established a presence with their neighbors.

They gathered oranges, they sliced the oranges into smaller pieces that the runners could manage, they created signs with encouraging messages to spur the runners on, they put together an exciting playlist of songs that would lift the runners’ spirits, they showed up on race day and clapped, screamed, and cheered with unbridled enthusiasm from the first racer to the last.

Bright and early that Saturday morning, they set aside their preferences, comforts, and desires in order to reach their community.

  • They didn’t pick their favorite fruit to eat.
  • They didn’t write their all-time favorite Bible verse.
  • They didn’t pick their personal favorite songs.

With each action, they thought about what would best meet the needs of their neighbors. They considered the interests of others as more important than their own.

They looked a lot like Jesus.

Thinking outward and living for the good of your city doesn’t always have to be as risqué and controversial as throwing parties for your neighbors; although sometimes, it is. Sometimes it can be as simple as looking to where the people of your city are gathering, and going with an orange slice and a smile.

When you live like that, it is amazing what happens. Your neighbors start to notice.

– Establishing a presence in your city often results in finding favor with your neighbors.

Even as the event was still going, my friends heard runners say things like, “Oh, you don’t know how bad I needed this orange.” Middle-aged men limped by with a little more bounce when they heard the familiar theme song from one of their favorite sports movies. Neighbors walked out of their houses just to see what was going on at the church next door. In the hours and days following the race, my friends were told more than once that they were the best part of the race.

They looked outward. They pursued the peace of their city, and their neighbors noticed.

– Establishing a presence is something we all can and must do – no matter what city we live in.

You might not need to do an outreach for a race in your community. Maybe where you live, people hate to run. But where ever we live, we should think deliberately about how we might effectively reach our neighbors by living for the good of our city.

What about you? What are some ways that you or your small group or your church has pursued the welfare of your city and neighborhood? I’d love to hear from you.

The World Cup: “One Game [Man] Changes Everything”

The World Cup is back!

The following is a post that I wrote four years ago as the World Cup kicked off in South Africa. Now it is time for the tournament to begin in Brazil. With a new opportunity to watch the nations of the world to gather together, I wanted to share this again since the substance behind the World Cup’s shadow is still as true today.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please let me know if and when you are going to be watching the World Cup, and who you will be cheering for.

My team for the third World Cup in a row is Ivory Coast. Go Elephants!

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“One Game [Man] Changes Everything”

As the official slogan for the FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa, “One Game Changes Everything” demonstrates how much enthusiasm the world has placed into an amazing game. Commercials for the World Cup show babies being named after favorite soccer heroes. Statues are built to memorialize the greats. In the news, it is common to hear reports of crazed fans rioting and even killing each other over the outcome of a game.
No matter what you’re personal feelings are about soccer, you cannot deny the level of passion involved.

The World Cup has once again captured the world’s attention. Even the United States has followed the tournament this year with enthusiasm. I believe there are two underlying reasons why the game has captured our attention like never before.

Two reasons the World Cup Captures our Attention

First, the world is longing for hope. We don’t get much hope from the news reports of

This is what we are used to seeing when the world comes together.

everyday life. Instead of hope, our normal days are filled with fear and anxiety.

What is causing audiences to be rapt with awe with the World Cup is what took the nation by storm in the last presidential election. In the midst of the usual, depressing spin of life, people found something that looked like “hope”.

Real or not, hope is contagious.

Second, the world is longing for unity and peace. Along with the Olympics, the World Cup is one of the few regular events that brings the nations together to perform on one stage. The diversity of color and culture – this canvas of international flavor  – rightfully inspires us.

Beyond the beauty of the sport, the World Cup presents to us two realities that capture the hearts and minds of every person: hope and unity among the nations.

Two Longings Left Unfulfilled

However, even as the World Cup points to these truths, the hope and unity it presents is not complete or final.
First, this longing for hope ultimately points to the hope and unity found in Jesus Christ alone.

“Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God,” (Rom 5:1-2).

Second, not only is the hope we all long for ultimately found in Christ, but the inner longing we each experience when we witness gatherings of people from across the globe such as the World Cup are rooted in God’s purpose of bringing people from all nations to form a people for His son.

One day the nations will gather to celebrate the One who does change everything.

“And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth,'” (Rev 5:9-10).

While the marketing team behind the ads for the World Cup suggests that “One Game Changes Everything”, one can appreciate how this game points to the great truths that we as a people long for hope and to be united with others from every nation; however, the game of soccer fails to ultimately fulfill those longings.

These longings are not satisfied by a mere game but are fulfilled by the One Man Who Changes Everything.

“For God was pleased to have his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross,” (Col 1:19-20).

 

Tim Duncan: Marathon Runner, Mutant, and Pastor

An Unexpected Inspiration for Long-Term Ministry from the NBA Finals

Over the last year, I have heard one refrain from my senior pastor countless times: “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Ministry is a sport of endurance. Scores of men have been in my position as a rookie pastor; far fewer last long enough to leave a true mark on the people they serve.

The true champion pastors, I have been told, tough it out in one place, plant roots, and leave a legacy through the new leaders they develop.

These are just ideals for me – something to strive for, not something I have accomplished in any measure.

But as I meditate on these goals, I do seek examples for inspiration. Of course many of these examples are actual pastors who have a track record of fruitful ministry. I read their books and read some more. Write down quotes from conversations. Listen to their sermons. I crave any word of encouragement I can find that might spur me on.

Sometimes I even find the inspiration when I am not looking for it.

Such was the case the other night as I watched Game 3 of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs.

Watching this championship best-of-seven series is an annual ritual in mybasketball home. In fact, with our anniversary always around the same time of the event, my wife and I can keep up with what we were doing different years according to who was playing in the Finals that year. The Celtics beat the Lakers during our honeymoon. The Lakers beat the Magic when we went on vacation with my family. The Heat beat the Spurs last year when we moved to Wheeling.

Basketball is a big deal in my house. In fact, my daughter’s first word longer than 2 syllables? “Basketball.”

All this to say, watching the game the other night was nothing unusual. I wasn’t setting out to find some special inspiration for pastoral ministry. I just wanted to enjoy a good game.

But with one fleeting comment from ABC lead announcer Mike Breen, who was probably just trying to fill air time as the game slowly closed out, I immediately thought back to all the conversations I had been having with my senior pastor about the long-term approach to ministry.

Tim Duncan: The Real-Life Superhero Movie

Commenting on the future Hall-of-Famer Tim Duncan, Breen pointed out, “When Tim won his first championship in 1999, [his teammate] Kawhi Leonard was in the first grade.”

What an amazing story and testament to the long-term greatness of Duncan. While the game continued, I started to dwell on just how long Duncan had been serving as one of the greatest, yet most humble players in the NBA.

I thought about what it would have looked like if 1999 NBA Champion Tim Duncan had shown up to little 1st grader Kawhi Leonard’s school for an NBA Cares event like the Spurs just did recently. I imagined what it would have looked like to see Duncan pick little Kawhi up on his knee to read a picture book. Would he have any idea that this little boy clinging to his baggy shirt would one day become his sidekick in another NBA Finals fifteen years later?

Tim Duncan is the real Wolverine. The mutant who never ages and watches his future X-Men teammates grow up, get old, and move on while he is still fighting more wars.

Then I started thinking about Tim Duncan’s career in relation to my own life.

In 1999, Tim Duncan won his first championship. I was graduating 8th grade and getting ready for high school.

In 2003, Duncan won his second championship.  I was graduating high school and getting ready for college.

In 2005, Duncan won his third championship. I was rescued from the fraternity lifestyle and called to pursue Christian ministry.

In 2007, Duncan won his fourth championship. I was graduating college and getting engaged to my future wife.

In 2013, Duncan goes to his fifth finals and loses for the first time. I was graduating from seminary and loading a moving truck headed for my first role in ministry.

In 2014, Duncan makes his sixth finals and is two games away from winning his fifth ring. I am wrapping up my first year as a youth pastor and living in my first house with my wife of six years and our two children.

My life has gone from one monumental life change to another in the last fifteen years. Tim Duncan is just doing what he has always done. He is still the same old Wolverine.

Same Old Tricks in the Same Old Place

What makes this even more impressive is the fact that he has done it all in one place.

Like a lot of pastors, NBA players usually make many changes between teams during their career. Michael Jordan played for the Wizards. Shaquille O’Neal played for the Suns, Cavs, Celtics after his glory years in Orlando, LA, and Miami. Garnett and Pierce went to Brooklyn. LeBron famously left Cleveland. Guys like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli who spend their entire career in one place just do not exist anymore.

In my mind, Tim Duncan is not just a great basketball player. He is a mutant superhero. He is a pastor.

He puts in the work day after day, year after year constantly serving the same congregation to which he was called in 1998. He hardly receives any public attention while guys who have never done anything near as noteworthy like Blake Griffin and Kevin Love get all the commercials and notoriety like a bunch of NBA Prosperity Gospel preachers.

He demonstrates true leadership by sharing leadership. He steps back so that other guys can step up and take ownership. He has made room for guys like Parker and Ginobli, and Leonard and Green to thrive and to reach their full potential. Instead of demanding to be the one who does everything, he has given up playing time and stats in order for other future leaders to establish themselves. His team is not the single pastor model. Duncan works with a plurality of elders.

David Robinson did it first for Tim when he was younger. Now, Tim is paying it forward to Kawhi. It is a modern day metaphor for the Apostle Paul’s ministry to Timothy and Titus who later passed on what they knew to other faithful men who would do the same.

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So on days when I have no idea how to embrace the marathon outlook of ministry, on days I want to sprint and take an easier route, I am going to think about that dream elementary school classroom where six-year-old Kawhi is sitting on the great Tim Duncan’s lap reading a book not realizing that one day he is going to be carrying the legend to the cusp of his fifth NBA Championship.

I imagine that little boy would look up to the great athlete with eyes of wonder and think to himself, “One day, I am going to be like him.”

Me too, Kawhi. Me too.

7 Simple Steps to Actually Finishing The Longest Book You’ve Ever Read

In April, I sojourned back to my home of four years (Louisville, KY) for a pastor’s conference with a group of about ten men. There were more than a handful of meaningful takeaways that have impacted my life since the conference, but one unexpected application has already bore great fruit.

Southern Seminary. Louisville, KY.
Southern Seminary. Louisville, KY.

Because of my trip to Louisville, I am on pace to finish the longest book I have ever read (that wasn’t part of an assignment for school) by the end of the summer.

During this panel discussion alongside Matt Chandler, Kevin DeYoung, and John Piper, Derek Thomas, the Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina, significantly changed the course of my year by sharing a personal anecdote about a season he spent with one of his mentors. Early in the morning, Thomas and his mentor would wake up and read aloud from the works of John Owen. Now, reading John Owen at any time during the day is a supreme challenge. Thomas’ story of reading such dense material in the early hours of the morning along with his mentor arrested my imagination.

I started to ask, “What would it look like to try to do something similar in my own life?”

The fruit of that meditation has led me to uncover a method of reading incredibly long books that entails far less pain and fewer instances of warring against the urge to fall asleep.

To be upfront, I am still working my way through my first book using this method. However, the fruit of this endeavor has already proved to be so worthwhile that I thought it best to pass it on now so that you can have the opportunity to adopt the strategy this summer as well.

Many thanks to Derek Thomas and his unnamed mentor for the inspiration to pursue this adventure.

Seven Simple Steps to Actually Finishing the Longest Book You’ve Ever Read

1. Pick a reliable partner. You need to have confidence that your partner is going to be there for you. You need someone who will finish each section on time and hold you responsible for doing the same.

Like the example of Derek Thomas, I have found this method to be especially beneficial in a mentor relationship. Within the context of mentorship comes natural levels of expectation for growth and challenges. Reading a massive book alongside someone you are in a mentor relationship with provides a great opportunity to develop character as well as to have fun while learning aside one another.

Whether it is a mentor, a mentee, an accountability partner, or just a good fried, do not go on this trek alone. Frodo needed Sam. You will too.

2. Pick a worthy read. You not only need confidence that your partner is not going to waste your time by not keeping up, but you also need confidence that the book isn’t going to be a waste of time either.

Pick something that has been on your dream reading list for a long time. Tackle a book you have always wanted to read but have always put off because of its unflattering weight. Get recommendations from people you respect. Choose an all-time classic.

Personally, I wanted to introduce my reading partner to the world of Biblical Theology (the study of the Bible in which one traces a major theme throughout the big-picture story of Scripture). So I bought a pair of copies of Tom Schreiner’s 736 page, The King in His Beauty. It has not disappointed at all.

736 Pages of Awesome

There’s freedom here. Pick Calvin or Tolkien. Grudem or Tolstoy. Owen or Dostoevsky. Edwards or Steinbeck. The bottom line is to pick something actually worth a season of your life.

3. Pick a time to regularly meet with your partner. This doesn’t need to be written in concrete, but you want a reliable time that will consistently be available for you and your partner.

Bright and early in the morning before work and school will usually be a good option. Make some coffee if you need to make it less painful. The pleasure of reading aloud with your partner will quickly propitiate any early morning grumpiness.

With it being summertime, my partner and I are fairly open-handed on what day we will meet. We usually aim for 6 a.m. on Mondays, but are open to moving it to another day depending on the demands of the week.

4. Map out your reading plan for the entire book at the outset. Planning your reading schedule will help in a few different ways. It will prevent the completion date of the reading from being arbitrary. Knowing ahead of time when you will finish the book provides a sense of urgency to open the book up and work through a few chapters.

This will also ensure that you evenly space out your reading so that you are not reading hundreds of pages one week and only a few dozen the next. This step is especially helpful during the summer when you and your partner might be out of town on vacation. Mapping your reading ahead of time enables you to know how to work around these weeks that you will not be able to meet.

Below, you will see the Table of Contents from The King in His Beauty. Notice how I have written a date beside each major section of the book. This is the date that we will begin each new section together.

KinginHisBeautyContents

5. Meet together and start reading the assigned section aloud with your partner. When my partner and I get together, we read for an hour. We do not waste much time in small talk before or after our reading. We may highlight a few things after we have read a chapter, but for the most part, we read and nothing else.

We want to knock out as many pages together out loud as possible. The more you read out loud together, the less you have to read on your own.

The method we use to read aloud together is to alternate pages: I read one page. He reads the next. When we come to the end of a page, we finish whatever sentence we are on and let the other one pick up from there.

Nothing fancy here. Read a page. Take a break. Repeat.

6. Read the rest of the assigned section as homework. When your time together comes to an end, you need to set a page number as the place you will begin to read aloud when you meet back up with your partner. This short-term finish line should coincide with the long-term plan you mapped out in Step 4.

Agreeing on the next goal together gives you a firm plan for reading on your own over the next few days. It provides a clear idea of how much time you are going to need to dedicate to get to the next checkpoint.

I have actually found that if you pick a good enough book, the hard part is not getting to the checkpoint. The difficult thing is to not read ahead and to wait for the day you meet back with your partner.

7. Repeat steps 5 & 6 until the book is complete. When you map out your plan ahead of time and stick to it, it might surprise you how fast you can finish a rather lengthy book.

My partner and I started our 736 page wonder at the end of May, and we plan to complete the last section before the end of July.

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A few months ago, when I went to a pastor’s conference on the topic of evangelism, I did not expect to come across such a helpful takeaway in regards to reading lengthy books. Reading this worthy book with a reliable partner has already been a worthwhile endeavor for me.

I hope that some of you might try your own adaptation of this reading method I picked up from Pastor Derek Thomas. There’s still plenty of time in the summer to knock out that book on your list that you never dreamed you would actually finish.

I would love to hear some of your thoughts and plans. Are there any methods that you have used to help you finish some rather lengthy books? What’s the longest book that you read just for fun that you have ever finished?

“But They’ll Bring Beer”

The Most Common Objection to the Christian’s Need to Throw Parties

In Jeremiah 29, the people of God are given a distinct identity as exiles and sent ones who are to live in pursuit of the good of their city. As followers of Christ, we have been sent out as witnesses and must strive for the peace of our city and neighborhood.

The prophet Jeremiah gave the Jewish exiles an action plan for how they could live as sent ones in the midst of exile in Babylon. They were to 1) plant roots, 2) multiply, 3) pursue the good of their city, and 4) pray for their city (Jer 29:5-7).

Planting roots means establishing a presence in the city. Building houses and building gardens were long term projects. The people of God were to take an active role in the lives of the city around them. Instead of withdrawing from their city, God’s people were being called to engage the city.

As the people of God, we need to establish a presence in our city and neighborhood as well.

Here is just one way we can establish a presence in our city and neighborhood:

    • Throw Parties – In his book, Community, Brad House writes, “Christians really need to repent of their inability to party.” As people who have been brought from death to life and have the promise of eternal life, we have more reason to party than anyone.

So throw a block party. Give out free food. Play some good music. Set up a cornhole tournament. Provide a space for your neighbors to get to know you and to actually have some fun. Become a known asset to your neighbors by serving them and their families in a really simple way.

This will make many of us uncomfortable. The idea of throwing a party with our neighbors gives many us nightmares. Many of us start to come up with reasons why we’re an exception to this call to throw parties.

The number of potential objections is endless, but there’s one that I have heard over and over. There’s one thing I have heard Christians say in reply to this call to throw parties more than anything else:

“But they’ll bring beer.”

This objection on the surface seems very wise and compelling. But it falls short on many levels. Here’s what I want to argue: In most situations, the fact that your neighbors might drink or want to drink if you invited them to a party should not stop you from throwing a party.

Consider 3 reasons you should still throw your neighbors a party even when they might bring beer:

1. You are called to be the missionary – not them. – If you are a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit living inside of you. Your neighbors, in many cases, do not. You are the one who has been sent out as someone who has been changed by the Gospel; they have not.

When missionaries go to another country, they have to present the unchanging Gospel in a way that fits their cultural context. They adopt the language and go meet the people where they are. They do not show up on foreign soil and start demanding that everyone they talk to immediately adopt their own personal cultural norms.

As a Christian, you have been sent by God to be a missionary to your neighborhood. You have been called to go meet people where they are at, to speak their language. You are the one who has been called to sacrifice your comforts, your preferences, your safety, your desires for the sake of the good of your neighbors.

Refusing to throw a party because of how your neighbors might act declares to your neighbors that you are not the one called to cross cultural borders. You are declaring that it is their job to sacrifice their comforts and customs to reach you. They have become the missionary while you sit back in comfort and wait for them to find you.

2. You want to paint a clear picture of the true Gospel. – When you live in the midst of a hostile city, you want to live in such a way that you point those around you to the true hope you have in Christ.

Refusing to throw a party because your neighbors might drink distorts the true Gospel.

The Gospel is that God has given you life with him only through his grace worked out by Jesus Christ in his life, death, and resurrection. You did not change your ways so that God would accept you. God accepted you so you could change.

But when you refuse to reach out to your neighbors because they might behave in ways you do not like, you are telling them a different story. You are telling them that you became a Christian because of how good you are.

You are telling them that they need to first change in order for you to accept them as neighbors. A better a picture of the Gospel would be to first accept them into your homes and then call them to the hope that is available in Jesus so they can have the power to change.

3. You are following the example of Jesus Himself. – Perhaps the best reason you should go ahead and still throw a party even if your neighbors might drink is the fact that it never stopped Jesus.

Jesus’ very first miracle happened at one big party where the alcohol had dried up (Jn 2). Jesus not only went to the wedding even though wine was being served, but he also pursued the good of his neighbors by turning the water into the best wine of the night.

The Bible says the Son of Man came to do three things: 1. to serve and not be served and give his life as a ransom for many (Mk 10:45), 2. to seek and save the lost (Lk 19:10), 3. to come eating and drinking (Mt 11:19).

In fact, the Son of Man came to do so much eating and drinking, the religious leaders and Pharisees called him a drunk and glutton, a friend of tax collectors and sinners. Among other things, this implies that Jesus hung out with sinful people even when they brought their beer. The “religious” couldn’t stand it. How could Jesus pollute his reputation like that?

He did it because he came to serve, he came to rescue, he came to give up his own life for others.

So when you throw a party even if your neighbors might behave in ways you don’t like, you are in good company. You are looking and living like Jesus. That’s a safe place to be.

So while the objection, “But they’ll bring beer,” sounds wise and compelling at first, it is not an objection that I believe excuses one from the need to serve our neighbors by throwing parties and inviting our neighbors in the midst of their brokenness to experience the hope we have in Christ as we pursue the good of our city and neighborhoods.

At the end of the day, we need to let go of excuses. Being a missionary is tough, risky, and uncomfortable. But we can enter that discomfort because of the comfort we have in our Savior who entered the discomforts of our world so that we could be right with God.

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One note of clarification: As I said above, the possibility that your neighbors might drink should not stop you from throwing a party for your neighbors in most situations. This is not a universal truth. If you are under 21, you absolutely cannot throw a party where you invite and allow the presence of alcohol. As a believer you are called to follow the laws of your city. In your case refusing the presence of alcohol is what pursuing the good of your city looks like. Another example would be if you, someone in your family, or someone you are trying to reach personally struggles with alcoholism. If you know someone is battling addiction, you want to make sure that you are not putting them in a position to fall into temptation. As believers in Christ, we have freedom – not to a freedom to flaunt but a freedom to give up anything that might hinder a weaker brother who struggles with a specific sin. But all in all, in most situations, it is not appropriate in my opinion to forsake throwing a party for your neighbors just because you’re worried they might want to drink. As missionaries, we’re called to step into the darkness and live as a light that points to the hope we have in Christ – not to withdraw.