Vol 1:12 Visioning and the Mission of God (Part 1: Seeing what God sees)

Since we are called to participate with God in God’s mission, how do we go about discovering or discerning what God is doing so that we can join in? And, of all that God is doing, what part of that involves us? How do we know what we are to be doing as the people of God?

Over the next four weeks we will explore how we envision our participation with God in God’s mission.

Often we think about ministry as seeing a need and responding to it. We can exert our resources and energies in doing good and then we burnout. We wonder why we can’t sustain the effort to do all that is needed to be of help to people in need. Perhaps it has to do with the way we see needs, and/or, once we see them, how we respond to them. If partnering with God in God’s mission is participating with what God is doing, perhaps seeing what we see is not enough. It seems that a first step in being involved with God in God’s mission is to develop a sensitivity to see what God sees (and what God hears) in the ministry contexts in which we find ourselves.

You may be asking yourself, “what does that mean?” “What does it mean to see and hear what God sees and hears?” It means to begin looking at the world differently – to try to capture how God sees and hears us and others in the midst of our daily living. It means that as we develop a God-centered way of seeing and hearing, we become aware of what is going on all around us in a very different kind of way.

I became much more aware of this a few months ago as I was involved in a prayer experiment. I was reading through Richard Foster’s book, Streams of Living Water, and came across the story of Frank C. Laubach, a missionary to the Philippines, India, and Africa in the early part of the 20th century, who did significant work in bringing literacy to thousands. Frank would often engage himself in prayer experiments to become sensitive to the needs of others.

As I engaged in one of these experiments, of praying flash prayers for people I met, drove by, walked by, or noticed during the day – just a momentary prayer lifting them up, praying for the Spirit of God to be present with them, to help them, to touch their lives, I began to notice something. These people whom I just noticed for a mere second, I began to wonder more deeply about them – what is going on in their lives? What are they struggling with? What decisions or situations are they dealing with? What relational issues are in the forefront of their minds? Even though I did not have the opportunity to engage the majority of the people I passed by, I began to take notice of them as I was going about my business.

In noticing them in this new way – I came to sense again that life was not just about me accomplishing my purposes, but that I was living among hundreds of others who are going through life with their own sets of hopes, dreams, and struggles. And then I realized, God must be very aware of all that is going on in everyone’s life. It helped me understand much more deeply the opening words of John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world . . .”

God’s gaze upon us as God’s creation is a gaze of love – God loves us and what God does in sending Jesus, the Son of God, is a sending that is motivated by love. What does God see as God gazes upon us? God sees our struggles, our hopes, our questions, our conflicts, our decisions, our relationships, our longings, our dreams. Because God loves us, God sees us. Because God loves us, God hears our cries, our conversations, our words of love, our words of anger. God sees! God hears!

And then it hit me – if ministry is to go beyond doing something for those in need and to go beyond seeing people as mere recipients of our “good” tasks, then we need not only change the pace and focus of our lives to see people as God sees people, to hear people as God hears people, but we need to be open to become sensitive to be shaped by God’s love for those we rub shoulders with each day.

It also changes the primary question of our missional involvement – it is not merely “what does God see?” instead it becomes, “Whom does God see?”

Without developing a sensitivity to seeing whom God sees and hearing whom God hears, and the way God sees and hears them, we will continue going about doing what seems best to what we see and hear, accomplishing our agendas, even if these agendas are named “ministry.”

Seeing people as God sees people and hearing people as God hears people, I believe is the beginning place for us to become aware of how we are to be involved participating with God in God’s mission. Since, it is God’s mission – we need to develop eyes and ears and hearts that are attuned to God’s eyes and ears and heart. To see and hear, we first need to become sensitive to what sensitizes the eyes, ears, and heart of God – otherwise what we see will only be what we see.

  1. Dale Ziemer says:

    Came upon your post, just now. Thank you for sharing. Brought to mind Richard Mouw’s statement: As people who love the Lord Jesus Christ, we desperately need as North American people to view our culture from a missionary perspective…. So as we turn on our television sets, as we look at the desperate poverty in our cities, as we think of the issues of abuse, as we reflect upon what it means for human beings to be dying of AIDS, we need to be able to see what Jesus sees, to hear what Jesus hears, to touch what Jesus touches, and to go where Jesus goes.

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