About co-mission-ed

My name is James Browning and I am currently serving on the Mission Committe at Calvary Church of Pacific Palisades as well as in the Children's department. I am currently working on an MDiv with an emphasis in missions from Talbot School of Theology. Originally from Bolivar, Ohio, I am currently living in Los Angeles after having spent some time in Guatemala City, Guatemala, and Quito, Ecuador.

I Hope You Brought Enough For Everyone

The worst part about being grown up is the fact that we don’t bring in snacks for everyone in class every time someone has a birthday. The worst thing that could happen would be to not bring enough. The internet is based off of these same principles (maybe that’s why it can come off as a little childish sometimes). The more times something is shared, the more likely it is to be viewed, enjoyed, read, heard, etc. 

Many local churches and ministries are posting content online and around the internet. As believers we are called to share our faith, share our hope, and share the Word. The early church shared the Gospel under the harshest of conditions and in the midst of desperate persecution. We can share it practically anonymously online!

But while anonymity can provide a sense of security it is also the least effective way to share the Gospel. The physical and spiritual evidence of Christ in our lives is the most powerful testimony that we have. A quick look through any online comments section will show that people are not going to be persuaded through logical and reasonable arguments. They aren’t even going to listen to logical and reasonable arguments. But they are watching our lives.

Personally, I disagree with that old saying, “preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words.” I believe that it takes both and boldness as well. But I do believe that the principle of living a VISIBLE life of godliness is crucial to any conversion and church growth. Without that growth and new members the local church withers up and dies.

Paul’s letters in the New Testament are a great example of Christian sharing. The letters were typically written to specific churches, often with specific people mentioned in them. But those churches would pass them around entire regions and today we are still sharing these letters. 

I think it is a great idea to continue our heritage of sharing. I think that more of us ought to be sharing what our pastors and churches are posting online. Not just “liking” it, but re-sharing. The important thing is to back up our “shares” with our actions. We can live our lives out loud like no other generation in history and we are most concerned about privacy. Too often we view the internet as a secret entrance for bad things (and it can be) but maybe we should see it as a pulpit instead. Or even better as a dining room table that we can invite our neighbors in and feed them when they are hungry. 

Christianity can be like a 3rd grade classroom during someone’s birthday. We have some really exciting news, let’s make sure that we share it with everyone.

Innovation In An Ancient Religion

Did you know that Nintendo is over 100 years old? It’s true, originally starting off as a playing card company, Nintendo has since morphed into an electronic entertainment giant. If Nintendo had stayed the course as a playing card company, most of us in the United States would probably have never heard of it. But as a result of their willingness to change even after decades of tradition in a very traditional company they are now a global player.

The church needs to be flexible as well. Not about the basics. The Gospel, the divine Jesus Christ paid for our sins through his death and resurrection, is the central tenet of the church and without that we are no longer the church. But in most of the churches that I’ve been in, more people get upset and leave over style than substance.

This is due to two reasons. The first is that most people believe that they need to feel comfortable in a church to be getting anything from it. The second is because the substance and the style are often confused. This is our fault as the church for not making the substance more clear.

Both church members and those who serve in the church ought to remember that the reason for the church isn’t for me personally, it is for others. It is to spread the Gospel and further the Kingdom. It is help the helpless and give hope to the poor and hopeless. A fight in church over music ought to be a little more of a “No, lets listen to YOUR kind of music.” “No, no, let’s listen to YOUR music this time.” Humility and service are what the church is built on. Without humility, the church will crumble on a shaky foundation every single time.

But what does this have to do with innovation? True innovation within the church requires humility. Not everyone is creative and not everyone is tech savvy. So when someone who is comes up with a plan to reach more people, it is often met with resistance at worst and indifference at best. It is true that not every new idea is better or even a good idea at all. However, many times when a new idea is presented the hearers feel overwhelmed at the idea of learning something new all over again.

Brothers we are servants, we have no choice but to obey. We are prisoners of Christ, our calling is our command. Whether that fear of the unknown is due to our comfort zone, our pride in believing that our way is better, or our insecurity, it is all irrelevant to our obedience.

For those who are innovators, they need to remember that while others around them may be willing to serve, it might not be as easy for them as it is for those who love what is novel and new. It is more of an act of service for someone who has been serving in the church for the past 50 years to completely change their ministry than it is for someone who has been there for a year and comes up with some “great new idea.”

These changes and innovations are needed though. Our own society is changing rapidly, in particular they are changing how they communicate. Communication is one of the key components of culture which means that those who change with the new forms and methods of communication are actually forming a new cultural community. Without learning to reach out and communicate with the culture then we are like missionaries who move to a new country and refuse to learn the language. I personally would stop supporting them.

The church has been innovative in the past. The whole missions movement is relatively recent. The first book off of Gutenberg’s moveable type press was the Bible. I want to repeat that, the first book off of one of the most innovative pieces of technology in the entire history of the world was the Bible! The entire Reformation was a complete and world changing innovation in thinking.

So I would like to challenge the church to innovate. Don’t divorce innovation with prayer and careful study of the Word of God, but innovate. Most of the men and women of the Bible that God called into a new and transformative life were already old, from Noah through Abraham and more but they were obediently willing to change. So we can be as well.

Back From The Jungle

Our team just returned to Quito from Misahualli, Ecuador. This small town is located at the junction of two rivers in the jungles of Ecuador.

During our three day stay we worked with a program called Its About Jungle Kids. This ministry has grown from being a family living in the jungle to a school of over 60 students on a former chocolate plantation along with various other fruit trees.

Ecuador is a land of coffee and fruit. The mountainous terrain and location on the equator make it unique. But more than its geography and climate Ecuador’s people make it special. The jungle village of Misahualli has a small but diverse population. Several different indigenous groups, Latinos, and groups of tourists from all over the world seeking thrills in the Amazon jungle all make their way through this town.

Over the next week we will be posting more pictures and videos from our time here. Check back to find out more about the jungle kids, thieving monkeys, and bridge jumping.
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Going Mobile… Whether You Like It Or Not

Today Microsoft announced their new tablet called the Microsoft Surface. Except they were fairly reticent to call it a tablet. They referred to it mostly as a PC and claimed that this new product was more than just a tablet and more than just a laptop. It was both.

From the little that I’ve seen of it, it seems like they are right. It is a very thin, fast, and powerful tablet that comes with a case that has a built in keyboard. It will run all of the apps that Windows is pushing for their upcoming release as well as all of the traditional Windows programs, including Microsoft Office. What does this mean for missions in general? Not much, at least not right now. However, it is a big step in a shift that was started with the iPhone. The world is gradually going more and more mobile.

A tablet of this size and convenience running any Windows program but with the convenience and mobility of a tablet is going to catch on. So much so that Microsoft didn’t even trust all of their normal partners (HP, Dell, Samsung, etc) to handle things right, they wanted to make their own, and encourage everyone else to catch up.

Missionaries are like most people in that they are not typically on the forefront of technology. The reason being that they don’t need to be. But sometimes something comes along that changes things and forces everyone to adapt. Email is one of those things, Skype is another. Social media is quickly becoming another in that line. Many missionaries and many people around the world are still using Windows XP which is fine. But by the end of this year we will be able to work anywhere with a tablet running a new faster more powerful operating system. They will be able to plug this tiny little tablet into a display, either TV or projector, and display their content, and everything is being built to adapt to this. That means that your current computer and programs have a limited shelf life. If Moses were around today, his Psalm would be asking God to teach him to number the days of his desktop.

The problem that this brings up is the fact that these changes require a learning curve. I happen to really like Windows 8, but it initially appears VERY different. The question is, is it worth the effort? For most people it will be. Windows is going to live or die by this new shift, Apple is already living and thriving off it, even Ubuntu (Linux) is getting into the game with a phone operating system that will plug into your computer and run everything right from your phone.

Fortunately many missionaries are up for the challenge. Learning a new operating system can at times be tedious and even challenging to some. But it pales in comparison to the challenge of learning a new language and culture and working day in and day to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a dark and hardened land, thirsty for the truth.

We’re Going To Ecuador

And it’s going to be a party!

Finally the tickets have been purchased, so no matter what else happens on the trip, I can definitely say that I was there. This picture is from 2009 when I interned for Quito Quest located in sunny Quito Ecuador the second highest capitol in the world. What do I like about Quito? Well it probably isn’t the fact that we might be eating guinea pig (true story), and it probably isn’t the fact that even though Quito is on the equator it is always chilly. No it’s the people! Good people, great friends, and even a little flashback for my wife and I because the last time we were there was when we were dating. Kinda makes it the romance capitol of South America. Somebody should tell them to put that on a bumper sticker.

Using Your Gifts

The new Macs were announced this week and the reviews are looking good. The only downside is the model that was in the most recent review that I read cost $2200. You can email me if you are looking to send one my way.

But it did get me thinking. I do have a wonderful desktop computer that I appreciate very much. But there is always the latest and greatest to pique my interest and I started to wonder what I would have I would have to do to justify a computer that expensive. Then I started to think about what I am doing with my current computer to justify that. Oh, I get a lot of use from my computer, we even use it as our main media device for TV, movies, and music. And I can truly say that I am thankful to God for our computer. It is very much a blessing from God. But if our computer is a gift from God for the purpose of His greater glory, then am I doing that justifies owning the computer that I do have? Am I furthering the kingdom through what I own? In addition to my computer I also have access to the internet, a global, universal resource that is literally on par with literacy in regards to usefulness and importance to the global economy as well as education. And for that matter, am I even using my literacy for God’s glory?

These are questions that can seem philosophical in nature and not always very easy to answer in practice. However, it can be done through the Holy Spirit. As we are transformed more and more into the image of Christ we begin to put on the mind of Christ (Phil 2). This transformational work is a partnership. When we desire the work of the Spirit, when we open our hearts to the work of the Spirit, and when we faithfully live out the work of the Spirit, then we become not only like-minded, but also single minded. Seeking first the Kingdom of God. It is through the Holy Spirit, that we really can live out 1 Corinthians 10:31, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God. That is our purpose. That is how we can use the things that God has blessed us with to be a blessing to others.

What Are We Doing Here?

Using social media in missions and even regular church activity can be a little tricky. Particularly because the end goal and purpose is often different from that of the secular world. Our goal is two-fold: build relationships between believers and engage in genuine discussion with non-believers. I’ll break it down a little bit.

#1 Building Relationships Between Believers

As a family and a church we best reflect and worship God through unity. Ephesians 4 states this goal clearly and also gives examples of what happens when we exhibit unifying attitudes or when we spread dissension through gossip, being unforgiving, etc.

I confess that I am a little bit jealous of the Puritans’ habit of making a point to follow up and discuss what the pastor taught about each week. It was taken for granted by teachers that their topics had been discussed throughout the week and then the congregation would come the next Sunday prepared. I’ve heard that they would even lay out their notes so that people could come up and have a look at them on their way out to be better ready for discussion points during lunch or throughout the week.

Some of my friends are very good at this. They excel at bringing up and discussing the sermon or lesson later on and because of that they always get more out of it. Always. It doesn’t matter how poor the sermon was or even if you agree with it. Genuine Spirit-seeking discussion will always benefit the body. So why aren’t we sharing online what we are hearing in the pew? We have an excellent forum for that in social media and we aren’t taking advantage of it. It would truly benefit the whole church if even just 10-20% were discussing each week’s lessons online.

#2 Genuine Discussion With Non-Believers

It is well known that people can sometimes behave in ways online that are different from how they act in real life. Any quick look at comments on youtube show that people have a hard time having a normal discussion like rational adults.

I think that this has possibly intimidated many believers from engaging in discussion with their non-Christian friends online. I also know that some believers fall into the trap of getting into heated arguments and flame-wars with internet trolls.

But if we remember that we are called to preach the Gospel then it tends to put it more into perspective. We are not called to prove the other person wrong, so getting into an argument like that is counterproductive. We are also not permitted to sit quietly by. We are merely given then awesome responsibility to telling the world that Jesus Christ died for their sins and rose again on the third day offering us the hope of real eternal life! You don’t have to prove it true (because it is still true whether you prove it or not). It isn’t some online sales team where you are given a commission for each person that you convince and penalized for each failed convert attempt. The Holy Spirit is the one who convicts. We are to inform.

While most people don’t want to be preached at, they would like to talk about it. Either they are proud of their own views and thoughts (life and purpose are deeply personal and it does take a lot of thinking and rationalizing even just to come up with your own opinion) or they are unsure and would like help from someone. Either way, most people want to talk about it! Any hesitancy comes from the fact that they are afraid that you will think they are stupid for believing whatever it is that they believe or that you will try to get into an argument with them. So don’t! Don’t belittle their beliefs and don’t get into an argument even if they initiate it. We are out to share the truth in order to help and enlighten people not to prove that we are right!

So join me in a digital conversation. Let’s share the gospel with our social network because, after all, we’re sharing just about everything else!

Let’s take the Internet Back

Today’s guest post comes from Jay Kranda the internet pastor at Saddleback Church’s online campus. You can check out their great work at http://www.saddleback.com/internetcampus and see what they are up to. Also take a moment to check out Jay’s great personal blog at http://jaykranda.blogspot.com/

I don’t want to teach you about missions. I don’t want to ramble on about how Jesus calls his followers to go out to the entire world (read Acts 1:8 or just open to any chapter in the book of Acts to find a verse reference). I don’t want to talk about it because there isn’t a lack of teaching in the arena of missions, but a lack of doing. We (the church) just don’t do what Jesus says enough.

As my dad one time told me “I don’t pay you to think; just do it”.

Let’s just do it. Let’s tell the world about Jesus. Let’s go where people are at and not allow the fears and limitations to prevent Acts 1:8 from happening.

Be Jesus everywhere and anywhere. You can even be Jesus online. The World Wide Web is no longer for creepy stalkers and other misfits. The internet is for everyone, I bet your grandma has a Facebook account (my grandma gets my tweets pushed to your phone…crazy) and you are called to be Jesus everywhere.

Why online?

  • People are going to hell and those people are online (1 John 5:11-12 & Romans 6:23).
  • The Bible says to tell others about the hope of the cross to everyone (Matthew 28:18-19).

Why don’t we tell others?

  • We don’t think we know enough (this is lie…especially in a world where you can just Google it).
  • We get used to our daily routine and just get lazy or forget to share the gospel.
  • We are already saved and forget people don’t know Jesus like we do (I’m guilty of this).

How to be Jesus online

1. Live out what you believe in your posts online, your tweets, & beyond (Colossians 4-6)

2. Don’t delay sharing the hope of the cross because people are at stake (1 John 2:18)

3. Be in the world like Jesus or a more modern translation is to be on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (Matthew 5:13-14)

4. Love people who don’t know Jesus by sending private messages to people hurting and “liking” their content (Mark 2:5)

5. You are not alone in your work online because the Holy Spirit is present to help (John 14:15-17).

The reality is behind every post, tweet, and photo uploaded is a person who needs Jesus. People will always need Jesus (at least on this side of eternity). The technology will always change, but the need for Jesus will not. Stop thinking of online as a place where you get your news, see what is going on with your old friends, and start seeing it as a place where you can get Acts 1:8 accomplished.

Start by building relationships with new people online, invite people to church, and share links and blogs from your church’s website. Praying for you and please let’s make the internet a place where God’s gets all the glory. Let’s take the internet back as the early church took Jerusalem back in the book of Acts.

Jay Kranda

Pastor on the Internet Campus at Saddleback Church

Prayer Card Buddies!

Video

We have been hard at work on a few different projects in the past couple of weeks (as well as finals at seminary) and as a result haven’t updated this blog in a while. In interest of true confession, I have to admit, I’ve been hard at work on another blog. But don’t worry this is still my one true personal and will keep at it. But I would like to show off some of the additional work that I’ve been doing over at www.palisadesmissions.wordpress.com (I know, it’s an even longer name than this one).

So check out the video and enjoy the fruits of my labor:

If you would like one of them made for you, please leave a comment and I will get in touch with you and be glad to help out.

Heading to Ecuador

This July I will be a part of a team that is headed to Ecuador for 11 days. It is an exciting trip for several reasons but one of the biggest is that I will be returning to some places that I’ve been to before.

One of the problems with short term missions is that it can be a crucible of relationship building efforts and time. Then at the end of a week or two you never see those people again. While I do believe that short term trips are still important but they do have that downside.

That is why I am excited to see friends from a couple of years ago including my friend Dana who I went to college with. My wife and I will also be working with It’s About Jungle Kids, an organization that my wife spent a year with while we were dating and engaged.