I say this to explain when I get frustrated with Christianity, with "church" I am not advocating anarchy. Especially after living in Rio a city on the verge of complete anarchy. The police do a traffic stop here with two officers heavily armed, for war, standing guard while the other approaches the car. The other day we were caught in traffic, arriving at the end there were around 50 police heavily armed behind there cars. What appeared to be a bullet struck the ground in front of us than what appeared to be another sprayed the passenger side where Melissa and Alannah sat with little rocks. Chaos sucks, it leads to traffic, abuse of power, corruption, disaster. As I write this blog I do not want chaos in my corporate relationship with God.
What I want is to like Jesus with the Samaratin Woman at the well, I want to bypass the image of religion and get to the heart of the issue with people. My frustration with Church is more that we have gotten so comfortable in a structure people I interact with can easily fake it. Everyone to whom I say "I am a MISSIONARY" knows what to say and how to act. To be okay, to be left alone, to feel important. It is so hard to get past the religiousity to just know someone for who they are and to be known for who I am it often feels impossible to accomplish the task of making disciples.
When she began to realize Jesus was a spiritual man, a leader the wall went up, the image. Your fathers say this mountain ours say this what do you think. I doubt at all she cared the least about religion in general. She cared about very little probably. A woman who had five husbands and living with another guy simply was just surviving, likely simply trying to survive.
This woman seamingly so uninterested in religion then leaves the conversation completely transformed, invigerated and passionate. So much so she was used by God to go back to her town give testimony of what had happened leading to the whole town going to see Jesus and believe.
Brazil is so over evangelized right now that it has been hard for me to know how to approach my "job" here. When I would say I was a missionary the look on peoples face was so apparent. I suddenly went from wearing shorts, being a bald buck toothed fat guy to a flashy suit, big hair, shiny teeth big boobed blonde wife spraying you in the face with water I prayed over for 50 bucks TV preacher. The image is all over TV, billboards on the front of churches, cars driving by with speakers blaring on the roof. As soon I become that guy in their mind they either run away or play the game. Fight or flight.
I am not saying there aren't many bible believing Jesus loving believers here in Brazil. Praise God even the worst prosperity doctrine churches have seen many people come to know Jesus.
What I am saying is I want to make disciples and that when something has become so common it becomes more difficult to find reality. We all make mistakes we all fall short but the problem when religion grows so prevalent in our Christianity, when the culture of the service becomes so routine we become in danger of becoming mechanical. Pray this, sit here every Sunday, hide your sin a bit and we are doing good. However often our building is full of people desperate to escape the bonds of sin just as much as if they never went. Everyone knows the right thing to say but still manages to go home to live with their girlfriend, be angry, fight, struggle with porn whatever it may be.
Disciples make all these mistakes too but begin to recognize change is good and that we need one another to do it. The idea of organized church should be to create an environment where we do this for one anther. Encourage, uplift, edify and exhort, confess our sins to one anther, teach and grow stronger that we might win more.
Recently I have began to make a switch in how I approach people. I tell them I am trying to open an English school or going to be offering classes next year. We will be. This doesn't mean we are no longer missionaries, that is the task in front of every child of God. We are simply adding something to the girls club, home groups, thanks giving dinner at church that hopefully allows to bypass that overly religious image and get to know more people more deeply.
A few days ago I began to see the success of this strategy or the potential success. I approached the owner of the kids school a few weeks ago about advertising and perhaps holding an English class there. I left missions out of the conversation. I offered and asked about teaching a PE class or two on American Football as a way to get more involved as a father and potential businessman. He jumped on it and had the PE teacher come out.
Thursday Melissa and I had the joy of a hundred or more kids piling around us excited to know us without fear of what we might want. We went and did a 2 hour class and played flag football, thanks Jody. It was great and the teacher had the most fun of all. He asked us to come next year for all the classes. The older kids that didn't have a teacher show even sat on the side and watched. Being themselves, a couple girls even dancing perversely for the boys. It was awful and awesome. We weren't the missionaries or the pastors to be avoided we were the Americans they want to know.
There are 1000 students at the school. They nearly all want to learn English. They represent about 600 families. They have fathers and mothers, brothers, sisters, step families.
We believe this is going to be a big part of how we begin to spread the gospel here. At the same time we continue to do our traditional stuff getting involved in the community in this way allows us deeper access and more opportunity to witness to those who we other wise wouldn't. On a scale I am not sure we are prepared for. Pray for us, that our faith would come through. That we would build long lasting relationships that provide opportunity to speak into these families lives. That God would direct those that not only want to learn English but those that would be open to him our way.
We don't know what the end result of English lessons will be, of English courses but we know we can be ordered and strategic without being in a box. We know God is opening doors in the kids school through Football and that English can attract those kids closer. We just want to respond to what God is doing and what He has put in us.
Above all else, if you read nothing else pray for Melissa and her girls. She has been doing this girls club a bit over a month. Girls here have little to do and many end up pregnant at a very young age. She has one girl about 14 that has a 2.5 year old boy. She has met with them once this week, will again tonight and is doing a clothing give away together with them tomorrow. There is no person I know better at bypassing religion than her. She makes a heart impact on so many hurting people. This is a vitally important ministry. Pray for more girls to come and for some volunteers to teach dance, sports and above all disciple these girls.