Anne blogs at Front Porch, Inspired about surrendering everyday living for sacred purposes. She and her husband, Jay, are founders of a ministry called The Bridge, focusing on missional living and advocacy for youth in vulnerable places of life. She holds an MA in Teaching Languages (English and Spanish) and is a lover of words and the Word, culture and communication. Jay and Anne have five kids, a front door that can’t stay closed, and an abundance of messy, holy chaos at their neighborhood center/home in Iowa – of all places.
This past weekend, a wonderful couple came to visit with us about ministry and The Bridge. It was an exhale of sorts, being around folks of similar composition, similar DNA, if you will.
The experience promoted me to dig out this short list Jay and I put together years ago, as we tried to process what types of qualities God has consistently brought up to us as areas in which to grow and to pursue personally and as a team in order to reflect Him better in intercultural ministry. So, below is a short list of characteristics that we value greatly, as God leads us in this adventure of intercultural relationships for His glory.
What about you? As God brings new people into your life and asks you to cross cultural barriers (as well as socioeconomic, generational, religious, etc), are there certain qualities you have found to be necessary? Which ones in the list below stand out to you? Why?
Connectors are people who routinely desire to be part of building community. This characteristic is seen in people who are consistently connecting people with other people and are eager to do so. Their desire is not to horde needy people but to actively seek to build a balanced, relational support system around vulnerable people. They themselves are well-connected, with evidence of stable, long-term relationships. They can manage multiple connections and can function in as a team player.
People who value relationships thoroughly enjoy simply being friends with others and are willing to extend themselves for the sake of getting to know someone or make someone feel comfortable. They are eager to share the Gospel and live out the Gospel relationally. They understand the value of discipleship “as they go” in the midst of relationships and daily life. They maintain healthy relationships, long and short-term, and they can discern unhealthy ones.
Those who aim to value openness consequently struggle with boundaries. These people seek to be open and grace-filled in their perspectives on life, politics, cultures, religion, parenting, others’ choices, etc. They see the value in opening up their lives with vulnerability and humility in order to connect with others. Valuing openness facilitates hospitality, a welcoming attitude, and the desire to maintain an open door. They are not prone to stereotypes. They strive to be open to God moving them around, open to change, open to something being different than they assumed. And, they are open to reason.
Valuing surrender and submission ultimately puts Jesus in the position of King and authority over one's life. Thus, these individuals yield to God first, and therefore to a local church body and to others in leadership over them. They can show evidence of working through stages of life and of life lessons learned, surrendered to God. They can affirm ways in which they've been challenged and have learned from parents, pastors, and leaders in their life. They are teachable, humble. They testify willingly to how God is leading them, how He’s redirected them, what they’ve been learning, and how they’ve been growing. They accept correction and seek wisdom.
Pursuing the call to sacrifice is not one anyone steps into lightly. Those are value sacrifice do so in regard to material goods, time, status, reputation, career, schedule, finances, life. By God's grace, they are willing to lay it all down for the sake of the Gospel.
And, while no one can embody these values without fail, we can seek after them. We can pursue them, because we believe they are characteristics embodied perfectly by Jesus Christ.
Finally, and coincidentally, this list forms the acronym "Cross" - which we didn't realize initially. Regardless, it drives home a final, overall point: May we be people who live because of the Cross, for the One who was nailed upon it. May the work accomplished there be the underlying and overarching theme of who we are and what we do, by God's grace.