January 2, 2015

Missional: Share Your Story

My friend Sarah Jo has the inaugural post launching my series Missional: Share Your Story here in 2015.  I am really excited to share with you her responses, and I hope that you will be blessed, and challenged by what she has written.

Q: You discuss marriage and family quite a lot on your blog, was it a challenge for you to step into those roles as a young person?

It has definitely been a challenge - primarily because I wasn’t really prepared for or expecting it, though.  
I didn’t spend a lot of time dreaming about and planning for either while I was growing up, so besides a woeful lack of domesticity, I also had (and still have) a lot of selfishness to work through. I actually think that being young, not purposely waiting and building a career and a life of my own first, made the transition a little easier - but spending the time that I did wait growing in God (instead of building my own little kingdom) would have definitely been beneficial.

Q: How has marriage and motherhood shaped your understanding and practice of ministry, inside and 
outside the home?

Marriage and motherhood have made my practice of ministry more authentic - there’s no space to get 
away and be selfish for awhile without someone being affected and noticing. “Inside” and “outside”the home become the same. That in turn has shaped my understanding - shifting from seeing ministry as something formal, like doing a one-on-one Bible study with a college student, to seeing it as having grace for others’ quirks and serving and loving them in the way that they need (and not necessarily the way that I want to).

Q: I would love if you could share with us about your experience with "loving the city"; did it change 
your understanding of community?

Absolutely!  I initially started supporting local businesses and trying to get to know their owners because 
I saw it as responsible consumerism and because they were interesting people - people that I found it easy to connect with. Then I gradually began to see that they were also an “unreached people group” of sorts, since many of them were so far outside the church-raised Christian culture that interactions between the two were difficult. Our church started highlighting various local businesses and encouraging members to support them - it was interesting to me to see how uncomfortable the church-goers were and the awkward conversations that would arise as they tried to engage people who looked and spoke and acted nothing like them, especially since I had spent so much time in that part of town 

around those people that it wasn’t awkward for me.

It showed me how (in general) the church, especially in the South, has gotten off track in its 

understanding of community, imagining that Christianity will produce people who are all alike and don’t have any problems, and forgetting that bodies are made up of many parts, some of which come with scars that are still an important part of people’s stories. It’s so easy to focus on our differences, especially the external, obvious ones - but I think that focusing on what we have in common (redemption through Christ) helps us to overlook the rough edges and come together in unity.

Q: You have shined a light on human trafficking, each 27th of the month - what got you interested in 
the End it Movement? How has your research informed your view on consumerism?

I was already aware of the sex trade aspect of human trafficking, but a friend retweeted a post from the 
End It Movement last April that introduced me to the labor aspect of modern slavery. It really struck me, because it’s so unnecessary - people working in inhumane conditions to produce things that, for the most part, we don’t even really need. I had already begun a shift away from being a consumer and trying to be more of a co-creator, but that was very much a catalyst in speeding change. Consumerism is what got us into this mess to begin with - all the way back to Eden, we’ve been taking things for ourselves because we thought we deserved them, instead of cultivating the gardens and relationships we’ve 

already been given.

Q: What does 'missional' mean to you? And how does it work (look) in your life?

To me, missional means living life in a manner so distinctly Christian that people notice you’re different, even without necessarily knowing why or how (and then being willing to answer the questions they ask). 
In my life, that includes trying to lift up rather than tear down in conversation, minding what I say and how I say it in general, dressing and behaving in a manner that I believe reflects Christ, and, yes, posting photos of Bible verses and being unashamed in person and on social media about church activities and thoughts that arise from sermons and devotional time - not in a forced or pretentious way, but because that’s what I’m filled with so that’s what flows out. I do not achieve that 100% of the time - but God gives grace for the times that I fall short of living in a loving way.

Q: Name 5 things which have shaped your worldview into what it is today.

-Experiencing Christianity outside the “Bible belt.” Faith is lived out very differently when it is no longer 
assumed, and is less socially acceptable.

-Interacting and being friends with people outside my culture (that is, white, middle-class, Southern, 
Christian-raised), both Christians and nonbelievers. Viewing the world through others’ eyes has had a very healthy effect on the way that I view it.

-Motherhood. Nothing makes you realize how little control you actually have like being given charge of 

a tiny, sentient being with a will of their own. There are so many people (with kids, and without) that I 
have silently judged that I now wish I could find and apologize to.

-Knitting. Everyone uses the same tools and accomplishes the same product, but the steps between are 
individually unique, and the knitting community of extremely diverse, yet still strong and willing to help each other. It’s a beautiful metaphor of the Body of Christ in harmony.

-A growing comprehension of grace. Unmerited favor is a hard thing for me to wrap my mind around, 
both in being offered to me and in being something that I should display toward others. But that, probably more than anything, has shaped how I view the people and events that surround me.

Q: If you had the opportunity to share one important truth with our generation, what would it be?

The only solution to our aching world’s pain is Christ. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t raise awareness 
and print T-shirts and donate money and run 5-ks and go build schools for orphans in third world countries - but the only way any of that is going to have a far-reaching, lasting effect is if it’s fueled by a love that only comes from Love Himself.


Sarah Jo Burch lives in the South and is rediscovering her sense of adventure with her handsome and hardworking husband and inquisitive daughter, and blogs (usually over a cup of tea) about faith, the everyday life of a wife and mum, loving her neighbors, gratitude, and knitting - with pictures between. 

You'll find her at Paper-Bark Burch, posting between dishes and rescuing a Small Person who just learned to climb.

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Thank you for sharing!