One of my favorite episodes of “Northern Exposure” is called “Our Tribe”. It’s about a local doctor being adopted into the tribe and given the name “Heals with Tools”. I would love to be adopted into a tribe and named “Heals with Instruments” but I only know one person, in real life, who has been adopted into a tribe.
I’d like to talk about the tribe that we’ve all already been adopted into—the tribe of Christ. Most tribes are defined by language, attire, diet, cultural behavioral patterns, world-view, and things like this. The next tribe down the river might have only a few, or even no similarities with the tribe you are comparing them too.
Our tribe in Christ breaks all the rules. We’ve got preachers in three piece suits preaching hell-fire sermons and dreadlocked food bank workers comparing the Gospel to the movie “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”. We’ve got Navajo churches meeting in pole barns and $7,000,000 buildings with jumbo-trons and a Starbucks in the lobby. We’ve got Christian Music Day at the amusement park with the most mainstream artists you can find, and Celtic punk bands with didgeridoos pleading with the church to follow what Jesus said, or even what James said. We’ve got Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and “Biker Sunday” and we’re sometimes guilty of worrying more about the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November than we do about making a HUGE celebration, with bagpipes and fire, of the Sunday when Jesus got up and left the tomb. We’ve got a free clinic run by a mega-church on Indy’s “upper west side” and AIDS workers in South Africa because they both love the least of these. We’ve got modern day heroes (unknown as they are) drilling for water in Thailand and anesthesiologists traveling to India to knock people out for the Gospel. We’ve got people inventing machines to get clean water to would-be dying people and film makers making movies about conversational Christian authors out of Portland. We’ve got people in canoes taking the Jesus Film up the Amazon with a small solar powered projector. We’ve got people in Tucson translating the Jesus film, live time, into new languages. We’ve got Bible Translators in Guinea, Bible churches in New Mexico, and Bible distribution in our hotel rooms. There are painters painting 3-minute, 5 foot by six foot portraits of Jesus, and painters painting houses on the Apache reservation (not knowing they were wearing gang colors) as a way to love.
I’ve personally seen the things or met the people on that list folks. Those of you who have met me in person know that I don’t look much like a missionary, which reminds me that I have a hair appointment this afternoon.
If God can be served, the Gospel spread, and people loved in the name of Christ with the things on the above list, how can anyone say that they’ve got no way to serve? Our tribe should have only one main feature—sharing the love of Christ as our one singular cultural behavior pattern. Do that in a way that fits the culture in Kalamazoo, Katmandu, or where ever you are, and you will have a mission.