• 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!

Digging in

During graduate studies, I asked my primary professor (or lecturer) whdigging inat he would recommend I do to continue to grow in spiritual understanding and character.  His simple words were: “Select each year one topic of study, one area of life, and dig into it.”

Those words have served me well.

Biblical support for such a practice can surely be found in texts such as 2 Timothy 2:15: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”  Yet, the truth being said, such a habit is not easy to regularly or consistently practice.

We live in a ‘create buzz’ society.  Some idea, new start-up or project gets a lot of play and energy for a very short time period, and then we move onto something else.  I have heard it said that if you don’t capture someone’s attention in the first 1m30 of a video, the person will ‘get bored’ and move onto something else.  Now there is nothing inherently wrong with this ‘speed of interest’.  However, if it is not balanced with effort spent thinking, studying and working on specific issues and needs in ministry and life, then one risks being more easily ‘tossed about’ by whatever may come our way.

It takes perseverance to ‘dig in’.  In ourselves, we don’t have that ‘stick-to-it tiveness’.  Sharing with others around us what our ‘plan’ might be for the next six months would go a long way to getting us started to ‘dig in’ well.

What’s in a name?

Ruth arrived in Israel with Naomi after quite a series of difficult circumstances. Ruth, seemingly, did not even take the time to unpack her suitcases before she set out to find ways to provide for their material needs.  She ended up gleaning, by sovereign design, in the field whats-in-a-name-bannerof Boaz, a potential kinsman redeemer (2:20)

What strikes me the most in this biblical narrative is that everyone knows about Ruth, without knowing Ruth.  In other words, in spite of her incredible work ethic, Ruth is consistently referred to as the ‘Moabite woman’ (2:6).  No one calls her, ‘Ruth’.

Ever feel that way in cross cultural ministry?  That somehow your defining quality is not ‘Steve’, ‘Heather’ or ‘Joy’?  That the words most likely to come out of a neighbor’s mouth are: “Oh, you’re looking for the ‘Czech guy’.  He lives two doors down.”  You can begin to feel like a name-less person without roots; a person just ‘passing through’ another culture.

Incarnational living starts with a choice. Incarnational living also calls for that same choice to be made daily.  That choice is to find my identity first and foremost in what Jesus says about me.  Despite how others around me may ‘label’ me, Jesus knows me and calls me by my name (Isaiah 43:1; John 10:3).

Knowing that my identity in solidly anchored in what He says about me, I can then move into my world with confidence and courage to ‘reach, invest, equip and release’ others. I can give all my effort daily to serve the people to whom He has called me because His voice rings in my ears throughout the day: “You are mine!  I have bought you with a price.  No one can snatch you out of my hand.”

Why I love boards

Some of you read that title and thought, “Is he nuts?”  For most oboring board meetingf us, the topic of boards and board meetings is particularly dull.  Nothing could feel more unpalatable to our spiritual souls than sitting through a ‘bored’ meeting.

No, I do not believe I am ‘nuts’ to think that boards and board meetings are worth a second look.  And this past weekend reaffirmed my ‘love’ of boards.

I spent Saturday morning and some of the afternoon with people like Ray, Cedric, Tom and Anthony.  Several markers of that time together stood out for me.

One marker was time.  These four, along with others, gave up precious time from their full-time jobs to spend a day hearing about WT ministries, making decisions to remove obstacles which might hinder those ministries, and praying for those ministries.  If they didn’t believe in World Team, they wouldn’t choose to spend a Saturday in a board meeting when they could have been doing something else.

A second marker was insight. The various boards of WT and our partners are made up of people who bring incredible insight to the table; people who see things differently then we as cross cultural workers.  Ray made one comment during our conversations which was my primary ‘take-away’ from the meeting.  Up to that point, I had never even considered the insight that he shared.

The third marker was shared vision.  I wish I could come up with a better phrase, but these four are thrilled to be part of what WT is doing in the world, thrilled to be able to contribute in some way to helping WT accomplish its vision, thrilled to be standing behind us as cross cultural workers.  If they said it once, they said it at least five different times during our meeting: “We share the vision of World Team Global“.

Let me suggest two small follow up steps.  First, I would encourage each Ministry Support Centre board to put together a short photo/bio on each board member and send it to all members of the WT global community.  Second, I would encourage each of us to drop a short note of thanks to one board member.

Maybe that will help us begin to understand what boards and board members give to us as a World Team global community.

Preparing our minds for action

‘Drifting’ is something that can occur while standing and talking with someone.  I can be listening to the person, but in effect not really listening to them because I am not being ‘mindful’.  I am not ‘present’ with them at that moment.  Mindfulness is a discipline, a reflex that each of us should work on.

However, I also recognize that I can ‘drift’ in my walk with Christ.  I can go through the motions of spiritual disciplines without those disciplines or habits having enough impact to change the way I think and act.  I could say that ‘mindfulness’ applies not only to cross cultural communication, but to my life and ministry in general.

When Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:13: “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” is that not in some way a call to mindfulness in regards to our spiritual life? 20-week

Each time you run a marathon or participate in a triathlon, there is a preparation schedule or plan that you follow.  That plan oftentimes extends over many months and is meant to help you in ‘building’ towards the actual event.

The good news is that we are not alone in this preparation.  Surrounded as we are by the community with whom we serve, we can daily remind one another to ‘prepare our minds for action’.  Becoming more mindful in our life and ministry is a joint effort.

Drifting

On a recent health questionnaire for a medical checkup here in Europe, I read the statement: “I have a tendency to doze off while reading.”  You were supposed to state whether that specific ‘tendency’ happened rarely, occasionally, often or regularly.  I thought the question was kind of silly.

However, early in this week I read the following quote from a book on building cultural intelligence: “The idea of mindfulness is what we often talk about as being “fully present” or “in the moment”. With our minds always active and thinking about a million different things, it is sometimes difficult to just be present and focus our attention squarely on our current situation and surroundings …. Mindfulness also goes beyond this and involves how we absorb and assimilate what we hear in interactions with others from different cultural backgrounds.”

wandering thoughtsTo put it in other terms, we can ‘drift’ when we are in discussion with others, when we are engaging others in conversation and dialogue.  We may be physically present in the same room, but we are kilometers away emotionally ,and are intellectually unengaged.  If that discussion involves others who are different from us (particularly culturally different), the ‘drift’ deprives us even more of opportunities to grow in our cultural intelligence and empathy.

Mindfulness then is a habit, a reflex, a discipline that needs to be developed.  It needs to be developed in order for us to be of greater service to God in a world that is growing more and more multicultural every day.

A small step in that discipline would be to try and summarize what was said in a conversation, at different intervals, and ask the other to amend or add to what you thought you heard.

It’s a bit of work, but the effort would be rewarded in greater ‘mindfulness’.

If I could dream again

Have you ever found yourself ‘dreaming’ of how things might go better if even small things changed?  Have you ever ‘dreamed’ about the potential that would be released in the ministry and relationship spheres of a team if solutions were found for certain issues that beleaguered them?

If I could dream, if I could envision how we as a global community of World Team would be different four months from now, I would see a community of workers who choose to think well of others and hear them out.kids-listening

Whether it is a leader-leader, leader-worker, or worker-worker relationship, I am often surprised by how little ‘weight’ we give to the thoughts, ideas and direction of others.  In the case of leaders, I have noticed an unspoken assumption that whenever a leader ‘speaks’ (in writing or in person), their input can be discounted because the thinking is that he/she must not have the best in mind for those he/she leads.  In the case of teammates, we may talk much about community, but in the end ‘we will do what we have to do’ and will choose to ignore the input of others in our community to do what we (personally) think is best.

Yes, we can disagree with others with whom we work.  However, are we actually ‘mining’ the feedback, direction or ideas we receive for all it can teach us?  Is our style of followership causing those who lead us to ‘groan’ rather than ‘be joyful’ and thus depriving ourselves of their influence in our lives?

It’s a hard sentence to get out, but it might help us choose to think well of others and hear them out: “So tell me more about what you mean when you said …

If I could dream, if I could envision how we as a global community of World Team would be different four months from now, I would see a community of workers who choose to think well of others and hear them out.

If I could dream

Who would have thought that one day, one weekend would change the course of history.  Who would have dreamed of such an impactful shift in our world?

Thinking back on our Lord’s death and resurrection, I often imagine what went on in the minds of the disciples when Jesus appeared to them after His resurrection (Luke 24:36).  I wonder if the presence of the resurrected Christ brought a statement such as this one to their minds: “I would never have dreamed that …”  dream

Have you ever found yourself ‘dreaming’ of how things might go better if even small things changed?  Have you ever ‘dreamed’ about the potential that would be released in the ministry and relationship spheres of a team if solutions were found for certain issues that beleaguered them?

If I could dream, if I could envision how we as a global community of World Team would be different four months from now, I would see a community workers who ‘live out of’ the Gospel, not just ‘talk about’ the Gospel.

We have great resources available to teach us about and train us in the Gospel (for example, the Galatians study or Sonship materials).  Yet, I know of a lack of forgiveness among us.  Issues, situations or hurts from months or years past can be dredged up in our minds and keep us from moving towards others who are our fellow co-laborers to ask for forgiveness or offer forgiveness.  What happened to the Gospel in our hearts (Galatians 3:2)?  The Gospel stands as one of our guiding principles.  It is listed as one of our distinctives.  Nevertheless, our current lives cry out the contrary.

If I could dream, if I could envision how we as a global community of World Team would be different four months from now, we would be characterized by a lot more stories of people repenting, seeking forgiveness, and growing deeper in the knowledge and love of Christ.