• 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!

Want to be part of our team?

We had friends over yesterday and they introduced us to a new game (let’s call it the ‘H-‘ game). The goal was to ‘create’ the best fireworks display ever.  The unique feature of the game was that everyone was working together on the same team towards tteamwork-1his task.  As part of the game, to start, we were each given four cards which we held in our hands.  The information printed on the cards, however, could only be seen by others as our cards were turned outwards toward the group.  Obviously, this made for a lot of fun (and confusion) as each of us had no idea of the cards we held in our hand.  We needed the questions and input of others to discover what pieces of the larger ‘puzzle’ we held in our hands.

Okay, I couldn’t help but make a link to the importance of teams. 

For one, working on a team can be just plain fun.  During the game, H-, we had some good laughs around the table as we tried to help each other figure out what cards each of us held in our hands.  A team should not be a burden, but a community where it is just good to be together with one another.

For another, working on a team can be harder than you think.  When you can’t see your cards, it’s hard to know where you ‘fit in’ the game, or to the team.  It takes effort to find one’s way into the bigger picture of the team.  Our default mode of ‘individualism’ often causes us to turn away from others, rather than work through the struggles of learning to hear others and work as a team.

Finally, once you know the benefits and blessings of working on a team, you start to tell others with the goal of inviting them to ‘join’ your team.  After playing one round of ‘H-’ with our friends, other friends happened to show up and we all started telling them about the great team game we had just finished.  We were ‘inviting’ them to join our team.

Okay, I couldn’t help but make a link to the importance of teams. 

How do I, how do you, share your excitement about our teams and invite others to become part of one of our teams?

Why Am I Not Happy?

My unhappiness can stem from various causes.  Sometimes, the cause can be found in external events or circumstances.  Sometimes, the cause is just a plain unhappy-child-3‘B.A.’ as friends used to say, that is, a bad attitude.  Whatever the cause, unhappiness can be a sign that something has stepped between us and that which we prize more than anything else.  In other words, something is blocking us from our idol and that makes us unhappy.

As cross cultural workers, I think we can be blinded to what are the idols in our lives and ministries.  One that runs particularly deep is a sense of or the idol of entitlement.  We push back when people try to put us up on a spiritual pedestal as if we are some super saint.  “We are just normal Christians like you,” we reply.  Yet, we become unhappy very quickly if there is a problem with our support being deposited or the reimbursement of vouchers we have submitted.  We may not say it out loud, but we certainly are thinking: “I deserve better than this!

The idol of entitlement can quickly give rise to a critical spirit.  Before we know it, we can be running our agency down as if everything people do is “not up to snuff” and declaring that ‘other agencies’ do a much better job.

Psalm 139:23-24 are verses that talk of the daily ‘pruning’ that God wants to do in removing idols from our lives.  Happiness returns to my heart when the ‘everlasting way’ takes me back to Jesus and I recognize how the idols in my life never meet the deep needs of my heart.  Only Jesus does.

And because Jesus does, I love where He has placed me.  I love World Team because that is the community He has allowed me to serve in and where His work will continue to be done in my life at this part of my journey.

My perception, your perception

Do you remember the majority/minority discussion of a few posts ago (https://worldteamjourney.wordpress.com/2016/11/15/what-difference-does-it-make/)?  Well, I heard another example of how this can creep into our relationships.

Today, I was talking with a good friend of mine who is a pastor.  He recently went back to school to do further theological study and enrolled in a school with an excellent reputation. However, the school is not of the same denomination or theological persuasion as is he.

The first week ‘back to school’, he found himself in a majority/minority situation.  As he sat around the lunch table with others, he heard comments about what others thought people in his denomination believed.  Most of the time, he commented, their ‘perceptions’ were incorrect; as if they had built some kind of ‘straw man’ which they could easily take apart through theological argument.

All he wanted, he shared, was for someone to ask him what he actually thought and believed.

Time and time again, I underestimate the deceitfulness of my own heart, and the heart of others.  How easy it is to be callous to the feelings of other brothers and sisters who may not see things the same way we do.

my-percpetionThe rub in all this is that by failing to listen to others, we miss an opportunity to ‘grow up more into Christ who is our Head’.

We will certainly not always agree with one another theologically, but listening well to others, being able to articulate how another perceives a spiritual, theological truth opens a door to deeper community.

Handing off the baton

It is a simple statement that gets lost in the larger context of one of Paul’s letter where hehanding-the-baton writes: “and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith.” (1 Thessalonians 3:2).  This is the same Timothy who was earlier called Paul’s ‘beloved and faithful child in the Lord (1 Corinthians 4:17).  This Timothy, Paul’s fellow coworker, is now sent to minister to the church at Thessalonica.

Paul had ‘handed off the baton’ to Timothy.

What that process looked like is not completely clear or written down.  We can see different parts of the process as we read about Paul’s journeys and study his letters to churches.  We can observe that there was a beginning when Paul identified Timothy for development, there was time spent with him in training, and there was a time when he was sent out on his own.

What does all that mean for you and me?  For one, it raises a simple question: where am I, where are you in the ‘passing on the baton’ process?  Are you in the process of training someone?  Or have you not yet taken the first step of identifying someone or some people in whom to invest?

Secondly, this work should take us back again to our Central Ministry Focus: “reach, invest in, and equip others to release them into ministry”.  The Central Ministry Focus is not a one day webinar we host.  It’s a journey of training where we work with others to develop them and release them into ministry.

Another way to put it, that I often heard from a New Zealand brother, was: who is your Timothy?

What am I supposed to be doing?

It seems like a rather straightforward question for cross cultural workers.  We would normally answer by using the verbal equivalent of our role.  What am I supposed to be doing?  Church planting, discipling, translating the Bible, or teaching, for example.what-am-i-supposed-to-be-doing

However, what if we tried to answer the question by ‘keeping the end in mind’?  In other words, what if we responded to the question by focusing on the longer term objective?

The World Team Ministry Framework puts it this way: “reach, invest in, and equip others to release them into ministry”.  That’s what I am supposed to be doing every day as I work as a church planter, discipler, Bible translator or teacher.  I am supposed to be raising up another corps of committed followers of Jesus who will join in ministry.

Two outcomes come quickly to mind.  First, the ministry is a shared activity.  We as cross cultural workers are only one part in much larger plan God has to ‘multiply’ His people around the globe.  Our role may be one of a church planter, but our longer term objective is to raise up other church planters.  Second, I will have to ‘stand to the side’ from time to time to let others be launched into ministry.  Just as someone did for us, we need to platform, support and encourage others into ministry which will mean letting others do the ministry in our place.

Perhaps this is one of the long term outcomes John was referring to when he wrote: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”  (3 John 4)

What difference does it make?

What difference does it make to be in the majority or the minority?hqdefault

Around the globe today, that’s a question on which a number of people are reflecting.  For some, it’s a financial question; for others, it’s a political question; and for still others, it’s a social structure question.

To be in the majority means that one’s way of seeing the world is the operating principle for the context in which one lives and works.  It’s a comfortable place to be.  To be in the minority means that one’s way of seeing the world is not the standard operating principle.  This can be an uncomfortable and awkward place to be.

Imagine that you have been invited to a dinner party where the host, and most of the guests, is an extrovert.  If you are an extrovert, you will feel very much at home at the dinner party and probably tell people later what a great time you had.  You are in the majority.  If you are an introvert, you will feel like the proverbial ‘fish out of water’ amongst all these extroverts.  The dinner party might be hard, uncomfortable, or awkward.  Rare would be the person at such a dinner party, from the majority group, who notices your uncomfortableness and tries to ‘bridge’ you into the conversation.

So, why am I writing all this?  In our World Team Ministry Framework, one of the elements of our organizational culture (our context) is community.  Community, Gospel community, calls us to address the differences, the disparities that may exist between us.  Gospel community calls us to think about others who may not be in our ‘majority’ in terms of language, culture, temperament or style of thinking; to think about others who may not be in our ‘majority’ and how they might feel. Gospel community calls us to turn away from ways that may isolate others, and move towards others to learn from their way of perceiving the world.

Have you ever wondered about when John writes: “And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude and as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah!  For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage supper of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready””, what language will be spoken when we are all gathered together in that way?  And what cultural cues will we follow as we sit down to the marriage feast of the Lamb?

Community: is the experience of God’s people sharing in common their relationship with Christ, stimulating each other toward growth in maturity … this kind of community operates through voluntary transparency and through speaking and receiving the truth in love.

 

What are our distinctives?

I am often asked: What are the distinctives of World Team?  There are two ways that I try to answer this question.what-makes-us-different

First, World Team’s distinctives flow out of our mission and vision of multiplying disciples and communities of believers.

  • World Team focuses on establishing communities of believers that will reproduce themselves in creating other communities of believers. We want to bring living examples of God’s church within reach of people who do not have a personal relationship with God.
  • World Team works in teams. We work in teams because we believe teams are a tangible expression of our need for all members of the body of Christ in order to carry out the mission mandate that He has given to us.
  • World Team members regularly ‘speak the Gospel’ to one another. It is the ‘air we breathe’ because if the Gospel is not good news for us, how can we expect it to be good news for others.
  • World Team’s size allows us to be more flexible in our approach, more innovative in our activities.

Obviously, others in the World Team community might put these distinctives differently or might add one or two others.  The point is that World Team has markers as to who we are and what we do.

A second way to answer the question is by asking a question.  Why are distinctives so important?  By taking a ‘marketplace’ approach to missions, we try to find our market niche and offer our product to those most likely to join us.  Now there is nothing wrong with trying to communicate well in this way.  However, the context of missions has changed in significant ways.  Many of us, as agencies, are quite similar in our distinctives.  In fact, several are considering inter-agency partnerships where people are recruited to ‘multi-agency’ teams. The focus is less on the agency and its distinctives, and more on shared distinctives and a longer term objective: multiplying disciples and communities of believers.

World Team has distinctives that make us different from others.  However, the World Team Global community is open to work with many other agencies and national movements because we all share similar distinctives and the same long term goal of bringing the Gospel within reach of lost people everywhere we go.