You may want to know how sausage (salsiccia) has anything to do with being a missionary, moving to Italy, or the daily ins and outs of preparing for “the field”. That’s good because if that’s so then I have your attention. I’ve never ground sausage before. Nor had I ever seen a sausage grinder until clicking on Google images. Admittedly, meat being pressed through a grinder turns my stomach a bit.
But, I have this wise friend who used salsiccia as an analogy to help me build a healthy view of missional identity. Sounds even funnier now, I’m guessing. But stay with me. This friend used this cured meat to answer the following question: Where should the missionary find his/her sense of identity?
This question (domanda) came from an existing conversation we were having. He admitted that a strategy he used for 10 years to build an Italian church plant had to be thrown in the trash can. This realization came for him not because attendance was low. The community he had been nursing into growth seemed to be thriving. It also was not because the people were not excited. The swelling of numbers was evidence that energy was there. The problem was he felt he had not fulfilled his purpose as a missionary.
“A missionary is someone who should be constantly working themselves out of a job,” he told me. After ten years of growing this Italian church (chiesa) he felt more like a pastor than a missionary. Which is a subtle course-fail for the missionary. He felt he was doing the opposite of what he should be doing — he was working himself into a stable job. And, he wasn’t making salsiccia.
Again, what does sausage have to do with anything? And…ewww.
Years ago I entered seminary to pursue the identity of a large American church pastor. Missions wasn’t even on my mind. I wanted a church with a Starbucks in it. And, I wanted to be on the web with people downloading my teaching videos. When I left seminary, this image was wrecked and I was lost. My pursuing purpose became a thick cloud and I was super nervous. Why did I spend all that money to leave seminary with absolutely no desire to build a church? What was really happening is what Oswald Chambers called “the destruction of our preconceived ideas, our narrow-minded thinking, and all of our other allegiances…” Click this link to learn more.
Five years later, I’m on Skype talking with my missionary friend (amico) about sausage. And, it’s brilliant. He explained that sausage goes through a process much like we do as workers in God’s missions field. And, just as this process breaks down and presses the meat, we are broken down and pressed. Then, raw materials are made for creating something delicious and life-giving. Sausage and the missionary’s purpose.
Asking, “What’s the sausage?” for the missionary is asking, “Why does the missionary put himself through the grinder of preparation and pressing to enter the mission field?” And, “What is the missionary making on the field?” Does the missionary enter a foreign land to transplant an American church model? Is a missionary effective if 25 years from the day he planted an international community he is still there? What is the sausage?
The sausage for the missionary is found in Jesus’ simple command to his disciples: “Follow me” and “make disciples”. The disciples entered the grinder when they agreed to go with Jesus for three years and do what he did. Eventually, the were ground to death. But, what did that produce? More disciples.
It struck me: That is what Jesus is calling me, my wife, and my kids to do in Italy. Not to make sausage, but to follow him and make disciples. And, we are feeling it even now. The grinder is brutal at times. Balancing daily pressures with fundraising. Answering the call of duty as parents (gentitori). Talking sometimes frustrated kids off an emotional ledge. Walking through the weeds of a vague vision. We are being ground and pressed, ya’ll.
But, it’s worth something. Not for the sake of working ourselves into a job sometime soon in Italy. Not planting a church we will be leading in 25 years. Not successfully transplanting brand America to the religious sector of Italy. It’s worth the disciples we will make for Jesus with Jesus’ help. Watch this video about the ultimate call to make disciples.
The sausage will be the duplicating of curious and sincere seekers in Italy. Those relationships will be worth all the nights we have prayed as a family on this side of the ocean. All the worried looks from family members and friends when we tell them, “We’re moving to Italy”. All the awkward conversations we’ve had about partnering with us financially.
When we make disciples, we will fulfill our godly purpose in Italy. And, you will all see the sausage God is making out of us.