• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

Dependent

You know you’ve become the missionary you were meant to be the day you become dependent on the people you were sent to serve.”

I had to read that statement twice before I began to seize its full significance.  Why?  Because my natural tendency, as well as yours I would imagine, is to believe ministry is more about others becoming dependent on me as ‘full-time worker’ than on me becoming dependent on them.

In the book, The Ideal Team Player, Patrick Lencioni argues that there are three core qualities to an ideal team player. They are hungry, they are smart, and they are humble.  The hardest to measure and assess, he said, is humility. 

Pride is probably our default mode in most ministry efforts.  We want to do the job well, and we enjoy when others notice the good job that we are doing.  Appearing dependent on others makes us look weak, less capable than we thought, lacking the necessary skills to do the job, or not “leading” as we should.  Pride is one of those root sins that keeps us from admitting (or asking for) our need for others help and for God’s help.

So, maybe one indicator of a heart that is learning humility is to assess its ‘dependence factor’; that is, how much does that person demonstrate real need of others, real need of God in the culture in which they find themselves? 

You know you’ve become the missionary you were meant to be the day you become dependent on the people you were sent to serve.”

By the way, I pulled the quote at the beginning of this blog from another blog by Jonathan (http://leadbysoul.com/leadership/the-quiet-leader/). The quote is from a documentary interview of his father, John W (WT Papua alum).

He mentions my name

I remember playing for our university football (that’s ‘soccer’ for those from North America) team. Each day before a match, the coach would post the starting players for the next day’s game.  It was always a bit of a traffic jam in front of the posted sheet as everyone on the team wanted to see if ‘his name was mentioned’.  It was always a disappointment when you looked at the list, knowing you had been ‘mentioned’ the previous week, only to find that you were notmentioned’ this week.

Mark Jones, in his book: Knowing Christ, makes this statement: “Since Christ ‘always lives’, he always intercedes. There is no Christian alive who has not had Christ mention his or her name to the Father.”  Every time, we look up to God, we can be certain that our name has and is being ‘mentioned’.  We are His, and because of that bond, Christ ever lives to plead our need, and speak of us before the Father.

Multiple applications came to mind as I mulled over the notion of the intercession of Christ on our behalf:

  • When I walk out my door to reach, invest, or equip another, I do not go out alone. Christ is interceding for me, for His glory, that hearts might be opened, that faith might be deepened.
  • My worth is not dependent on my ‘output’.  My status as a child of God has been settled forever in heaven, and this frees me to engage others from a heart that knows it is loved.
  • It is not just myself and others who are interceding in prayer.  Jesus Christ is interceding before the Father on our behalf.  To put it in colloquial terms, this just takes prayer to a whole new level.
  • Though I may grow weary in prayer, Jesus ‘ever lives to plead our need’.  It is the divine hand that reaches out and picks us up in the midst of our exhaustion to let us know that when our strength comes to its end, His strength is only just beginning to be manifested.

Your ministry week may have been tough.  So, may the knowledge that Jesus Christ ever lives to intercede for us before the Father strengthen and encourage your weary heart and mine!

A simple read

I read a fair number of prayer letters of fellow WT workers.  It allows me to catch a small glimpse of their world and to be more informed in my prayers for them.

Sometimes, a simple read opens a door to an insight into a culture and to how fellow World Team workers are seeking to apply the Gospel in the context where they find themselves. Here’s one recent example:

It is K- New Year, one of the biggest holidays in this Asian country where everyone travels to their home provinces for a 3-day festival which marks the end of the harvest season … Our family spent some of the holiday in PV province and had the opportunity to attend the infamous Mango Party.  Our fellow teammates, J & C have been hosting the Mango Party for over ten years during K- New Year.  It is an event that embraces the traditions of the K- holiday of playing games and fellowshipping together, but also brings Jesus, our risen Savior, to the forefront during a time in this country where there is much focus on spirit worship … During this holiday, T & I, reflected on how in most religions water represents washing, cleansing, or starting over. As we watched people seek advice and guidance through elders and monks at local temples, our hearts were stirred once again to share the true living water of Jesus Christ with those we live amongst daily.  In our own power and strength, we can never wash away our sin or cleanse ourselves enough. How amazing is it that we have a Savior that loves us so much that he gives us Living Water EVERY DAY so that we may NEVER thirst, that we can come to him in our own broken condition and be accepted into his family and stand in the cover of his grace.”

Imagine that, a Mango Party that offers an opportunity to share the ‘water of life’ with others in that culture.

It was actually at a festival that Jesus made that famous pronouncement: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38)

Thanks to my World Team colleagues who shared this insight in a recent prayer letter!  Much food (or ‘water’) for reflection!

You need to watch and pray!

If you haven’t watched this video, I would like to encourage you to do so.

Just imagine you are on a prayer walk in Mississauga and join in pray with Keith and others for the needs of WT Canada.

Thanks Keith for doing this. Pray as well for each one of our Ministry Support Centres and global partners!

Multiplicational ministry

I recently read the following quote:

Here, then, is the shape of mission for … the twenty-first century.  Here is the way ahead – a team of focused missionaries who have caught the vision of church multiplication, who have seen the larger picture, who understand that biblical multiplication of reproducing churches results through a determined equipping of local believers for the work of church planting.  It is a vision that calls for a new breed of missionary. One who finds fulfillment, not so much in gathering the harvest, but who by investing his or her own life and energy in the training of others, assures the multiplication of that harvest beyond anything they might have done alone.”

It seems to me that there are a lot of ‘strong’ words in this short quote: ‘the way ahead’; ‘focused missionaries’; ‘seen the larger picture’; ‘a determined equipping’; and ‘a new breed of missionary’.

However, it was the last line that set me back a bit on a first (and even second) read.  The writer argues that investing in others, training them, “assures the multiplication of that harvest beyond anything they might have done alone.”

Multiplication.  It is part of what we say we are all about as World Team workers.  Yet, it is a tricky concept to get our hands around and see how it should work it out in our day to day ministries. 

The author of this quote simply pushes us back to the importance of investing in others (spending the time and energy) to train them to carry out the ministry.  This is the exhortation that Paul gives to us in Ephesians 4:12 – “to equip the saints for the work of ministry”.

Investing in others for the purpose of multiplication bears fruit in the long term, not necessarily in the short term.  The investment is well worth the effort because what is left behind after we leave is a growing number of people carrying out the ministry, and multiplying themselves in others!

One question, though, came to mind and caused me to assess my commitment (or determination) to invest in others and “assure” that kind of ongoing multiplication: What do I prefer more: to do a ministry activity myself OR spend the time it takes to train another to carry out that activity (and as a result be recognized by others)?

Moving to more of this kind of investment and multiplication probably starts by addressing our own pride and desire to be recognized and valued by others.  We must constantly remind ourselves that ‘the God of all grace’ (1 Peter 5:10) is the One who loves us with an unfailing love and called us to be part of His family, His global spiritual community.

By the way, the quote above?  It was written by Joe Conley when he described the outcomes of the Caliraya conference (the launching of our united mission) in 1999 in the Philippines! Just put “WT in” in place of the 3 dots in the early part of the quote.

Celebrate Grace

While sitting with a group of believers, someone starts playing a worship song on the piano or guitar. They are just playing the music.  What happens next?  Those who know the words begin to softly sing along with the music. 

Peter, at the end of his first letter (1 Peter 5), shares some parting counsel with his readers.  Some of the words of wisdom stand out from the others: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you into his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm strengthen, and establish you.” (5:11)

Peter describes God as ‘the God of all grace’.  It’s interesting that he didn’t write: ‘the God of grace’, but the ‘God of all grace’ as if to underline that God’s very heart is one of abundant grace. 

All of us face difficulties and struggles in our work to see disciples raised up and communities of believers multiplied.  There are numerous obstacles such as our own pride, the hardened hearts of others, or just plain daily living. There is an enemy as well who seeks to wreak havoc in our lives and in the work in which we are engaged.

Peter’s counsel to his readers, and to us, is learn to celebrate the God of all grace.  Despite everything that may be happening around us, one thing does not change and will not change: God has placed His unending love on us and no one will ‘snatch us’ from His grip.

It’s always easy to say what I just wrote.  It’s quite another to lay hold of it each day, with our arms of faith.  Probably why we need to find ways to ‘tell ourselves the Good News’ again today, tomorrow, and each day this week.

A great way is by remembering or rehearsing the words to songs that put our hearts back on Christ.

Here’s a song I might suggest: Yet Not I But Through Christ in Me

What gift of grace is Jesus my redeemer
There is no more for heaven now to give
He is my joy, my righteousness, and freedom
My steadfast love, my deep and boundless peace

To this I hold, my hope is only Jesus
For my life is wholly bound to His
Oh how strange and divine, I can sing: all is mine!
Yet not I, but through Christ in me

Memorial service for John W