The Man (or Woman) in the Mirror

Man in the mirror (or woman)
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youth and young adults:

A Check on your own attitudes and responses to the world. Who is that “Man in the Mirror”?
By Jenna Blackwell

Do you listen to Michael Jackson? It can be difficult not to sing along to songs like Beat It, I Want You Back, or Man in the Mirror. A friend recently played a Jackson song as a trivia night question, and while it didn’t create an uproar, it certainly started discussion!

Not sure what I’m talking about? Welcome to cancel culture – the culture that ‘cancels’ a person, group or organisation due to a conflict in values. It is now at work in our community today.

Michael Jackson: This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA-NC
Man in the Mirror

Predominantly, it happens when there is a perception of immoral or unethical production, content, or in Jackson’s case, inappropriate behaviour with young people.

A Growing Awareness

People in today’s society, especially younger adults, are affected by mistrust, abuse and non-transparency. It may be because of their own experiences or learnt second-hand from the experiences of their parents. It includes the unbridled use of the planet’s resources, often fuelled by greed and unsustainable practices. Young people have an awareness in their hearts of the need for justice, equality, and fairness.

People in today’s society, especially younger adults, have been affected by mistrust, abuse and non-transparency.

The rise of clothing companies who value ethical practices and sustainability is a response to the is a concern of many, including the younger generation. This is because consumers boycott companies due to unethical treatment of workers. And more younger adults switch to ethical banks and superannuation funds.

Recently, our Mission Director, Stephen Baxter wrote, “The challenges facing churches are not due to the Church gone wrong, but a world grown different . . . God uses times like these to reform and renew his Church.”

Actions Speak Louder

So, what does this have to do with ministry for children, youth, and young adults?

These days, character speaks more than competency, and trust must be built and maintained. We have a message that needs to be heard by those who have never heard it, and by those who have heard a different variation of it.

We have a message that needs to be heard by those who have never heard it.
"Man in the Mirror"

It is a message of hope in Jesus Christ – not just for eternal life, but for transformation, change and love – here and now.

In these days of cancel culture, when character, integrity and aligning actions speak volumes (and the lack of such speaks even louder), we have a message that needs to be heard.

Since I started working for Tas Baptists a few years ago, several youth groups have shut down. Two new ones started, but overall, the youth scene has significantly decreased. This is sad and frustrating. And, while I am prone to take responsibility upon myself, we all have a part to play.

If younger people are willing to pay more for something that has a greater impact, what’s stopping them connecting with the cost of following Jesus?

Ponder these Points

As we imagine how to re-engage with younger generations (or any of society), let me present you with some points to ponder:

  • Following Jesus is costly. If younger people are willing to pay more for something that has a greater impact, what’s stopping them connecting with the cost of following Jesus?
    • Is it purely a lack of knowing or hearing? Or is it not being exampled?
    • Is it a lack of trust based on history – how we’ve treated people and the planet?
  • How well do speak of, and example, our Jesus of compassion, mercy, truth and forgiveness?
  • Do we value their voice? Are we too caught up in our well-known and well-loved songs?
  • Quite practically, is our tea and coffee ethically produced and traded? In other words, do we care more about Kingdom values or dollar values?

Checking that Man in the Mirror

Two questions for you to consider as you go about your work today, your church meetings and your Bible study.
"Man in the Mirror"

So, I have two questions for you to consider as you go about your work today, your church meetings and your Bible study. Let me challenge you to check yourself in the mirror.

  1. What are you doing with Jesus’ message of hope?

  2. How can you (and your church) share it, and example it, with the young people in your life?

Maybe today, you can take one small step towards sharing that message of hope with our young people.


Jenna Blackwell

Jenna Blackwell was, until recently, overseeing the Baptist youth and young adults’ ministry in Tasmania. She is the Tasmanian Baptists’ Leadership Development Coach, and a member of the AB Next Generations taskforce.
jenna@tasbaptists.org.au


READ MORE IN THE NOV/DEC 2021 ADVANCE | STEP BY STEP

Being an Imperfect Missionary

People

Heartlands Spring 2021

Heartlands News

Being an Imperfect Ministry by Jenna Blackwell (scroll down)
Walk | Pray | Love Events during November 2021
Baptist World Day of Prayer for Women by Elissa Macpherson

food for thought:

Mission in Tasmania

Jenna Blackwell ponders her frustration about mission in Tasmania

A friend once asked me when I first heard about mission or “felt the call”. I fumbled for words, speechless. No recollection, just compounding moments and realisations through teachings, coaching and mentoring.

It made me wonder: Am I a missionary?

I looked out the window at the blistering wind and thought of the people in my city, Jenna Blackwell, Food for Thought

Recently, I was sitting in my lounge room on a rainy morning, heater on, cup of tea in hand. I looked out at the blistering wind and thought of the people in my city – those without homes, without food, without heating, without safety, without peace.

Without.

I sat there in my frustration, guilt, and sadness.

Is it as easy as just going out into the streets and filling my lounge with people for a night, so they can get out of the ice and wind? What about the next night? What about the people fleeing domestic violence? What about those who are grieving loss?

There is so much hurt! How can I call myself a follower, while I sit in my comfort? Please, tell me you’ve wrestled with this.

Called to GO

As I reflected, I was reminded of my friend’s question about mission. We often think mission is about being overseas, or just for ‘really special’ people. But aren’t we all missionaries?

We are called to go – to the hurt, to the broken, to the lonely, to the messy. Jenny Blackwell, Food for Thought

My workplaces are mission fields – full of opportunities to show the character of God, and to connect people to the Kingdom. But I so often fail my own expectations. There is still something in me that desires perfection.

While there is a balance needed, and while I cannot do everything, I also cannot excuse my own laziness and selfishness.

We are called to go – to the hurt, to the broken, to the lonely, to the messy. While I know this to be true, it is uncomfortable. So many of our churches are full of middle-class people. Have you wondered why? Have you considered how to change this? Do you even want to?

Recently, Denise Stephenson challenged us to consider “unfiltered” selves, and an unfiltered church. Maybe there’s a connection between this, and our comfortable churches. I like comfort. I like safety.

But God does not call us to be comfortable. He calls us to follow the feet of Jesus, who did life with those who are messy, who others thought were unworthy, and no one wanted to be around.

The hard work of WRESTLING

I am an imperfect missionary.

As I’ve sat in my lounge over the last few weeks, soaking in Luke 10 and contemplating all of this complexity, I have wrestled – with myself and with God.

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. Luke 10:2 (NIV)

It’s been uncomfortable. But I have resolved to not be unattached and ignorant of those most vulnerable in this city. I may not have the right words or actions to understand this fully yet, and it is terrifying! But there is nothing about me that makes this easy or special. Just a hesitant willingness to follow God into the difficult, heartbreaking and vulnerable places.

I don’t know what it is to live and relate without privilege, and I don’t have all the words, or a 12-step plan. But I know following God must mean changes.

My next step is to learn to be in the places my privilege resists, and do it out of an overflow of God’s presence. To be an imperfect missionary.

God’s presence is key

After spending time in Luke 10, it suddenly hit me one day that immediately following Jesus sending the 72 out with power and authority, he told a story about a foreigner/outsider being the one to sacrifice and help someone in humiliating need. (Luke 10:25-37) In so doing, he challenged the one who thought he was right to take that same position of vulnerability and humility.

Doing is not the goal. Rather, it is about doing as an overflow of being. Jenna Blackwell, Food for Thought

Jesus then challenged the balance of being and doing. He reinforced that being at his feet was most important. To take the position of a humble learner who spends time and their teachers’ feet is to know the teacher and the ways of the teacher, so much so that everything one does is an overflow.

If life consisted of only being at Jesus’ feet, I think I would be at peace with that. It is my natural reflective state, and I could spend days in God’s presence. The challenge for me is to act, to do. But as I have been challenged to do, God has reminded me that doing is not the goal. Rather, it is about doing as an overflow of being – spending time at the feet of Jesus, in God’s presence, so that my life and actions may be an overflow, an extension, of the One that I live for.

Your call

I am an imperfect missionary, drawn to safety and familiarity. I am someone who, without compounding understanding, would not have called themself a missionary. But we are not on this Earth for ourselves.

We are called to be an extension of the Kingdom of God here on Earth – to spend time at the feet of Jesus so we may be filled to overflowing and transformed by his grace, ready to go about our daily lives, extending transformation to those around us – in our workplaces, in our homes, in our streets, in our cities and towns.

How is God calling you to be an imperfect missionary?

  • How is your balance of being and doing?
  • What does being look/sound/feel/taste like?
  • What does doing look/sound/feel/taste like?
  • What’s your next step?
  • Who are you doing the journey with?
READ Jenna’s POEM, INSPIRED BY THIS ARTICLE
Jenna Blackwell

Jenna Blackwell is the Tasmanian Baptist Mission and Leadership Coach
jenna@tasbaptists.org.au


Read more in the July/August 2021 ADVANCE | step by step

Without

Without. A poem by Jenna Blackwell
A poem by Jenna Blackwell
Jenna Balckwell
WITHOUT

Heater on, tea in hand,
Curtains just ajar.
Pen at the ready,
I sit, I watch, I wait for you.

The trees, like fits of rage on a drug-induced night,
Bend every direction in the gusty wind.
They are but shadows against the dark sky,
Mere blurs, not close to human.

The sky has been crying all night,
The fields are flooded in its tears.
My eyes on this city prompts my heart,
As a ten-tonne truck sits on my chest.

People. It's always people.
Without homes, without safety,
Without warmth, without family.
Without weighs on my chest.

Does without have a name?
We hide them away, buried in darkness.
We wish someone else would jump in the muck
And bring them to the light.

My heart rages at injustice.
But my outward eyes turn in on me
And the truck reminds me of its weight.
What am I doing?

Comfy, warm, safe, peacefully alone
I too have flooded tears, but not over this.
"Disconnect!" my mind screams
But I refuse to let this be another too hard basket

I don't want to sit in comfort,
Disconnected from those without.
I don't want to say "I'm yours, God,"
And not break for what breaks you.

I love comfort, but I don't want to live it
If it's outside of your reign.
I don't want to be another Sunday-goer
Who isn't transformed by you.

I want people to know your goodness,
I want lives to be transformed.
I want connection, not disconnection.
I want... to be without?

That's too scary to say aloud,
I wrestle with the discomfort.
But they say to live is to die.
To die to self is to live for you.

Without, they cry.
Without, I surrender.

Jenna Blackwell © 2021
Without. A poem by Jenna Blackwell
Inspired by Jenna’s article Am I An Imperfect Missionary?

Mission and Leadership Development

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engaging your community:

Opportunities for Churches and Leaders

At the May 2021 Assembly Michael Henderson and Jenna Blackwell spoke, describing their new positions with Tasmanian Baptists from 1st July.

Reengage | Reimagine | Realign

Tasmanian Baptists are now described as “mission-shaped”. But in the real world, how do churches do that?

Community engagement is the answer! For churches and leaders, it’s either a new way of thinking, or else, shifting 20th Century concepts into 21st Century form.

Mission and Leadership Development - Michael Henderson and Jenna Blackwell
Michael Henderson and Jenna Blackwell

Mission and Leadership Development

Thankfully help is at hand! From 1st July, Michael and Jenna are set aside to serve you and your church with mission leadership and development.

  • Michael with Mission and Leadership Development
  • Jenna as Mission and Leadership Coach

At the recent Assembly, they both spoke about how they can serve you and your church. Their talks were interesting, informative, and gave a glimpse into the ways in which Tasmanian Baptist churches can “skill-up” to connect with the community where God has placed them.

Why you should engage in leadership development

Michael explains Leadership Development

Jenna outlines “The Why”, and opportunities for coaching

WATCH their presentations at MAY Assembly

Saturday 8th May 2021 (42 minutes)

READ MORE IN THE JUNE 2021 ADVANCE | step by step