• 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!

Going ‘national’

Our World Team Ministry Framework highlights the ‘guiding principles’ by which we WT Ministry Framework Jan 2016live and minister as a global community.  One of the ‘guiding principles’ that is a new addition from our previous list of ‘values’ is: incarnational.

The descriptor for this guiding principle is as follows: “As cross-cultural workers, we intentionally surrender our rights to our home culture, language, and ways and embrace those of the host culture. By this, we seek to model Christ, who emptied Himself of the privileges and powers of divinity, taking on human form, in order to carry out His mission.”

Many voices were raised in favor of adding this guiding principle to our list.  The more I have mulled over it, the more I have come to understand why Ray and others kept putting it in front of us as so important.

Living incarnationally pushes us back to the example of Christ (Philippians 2).  Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, chose to take on cultural forms, language and habits.  He expressed himself with words that others could understand, in cultural forms that made sense to the people he was addressing.  He made the effort to ‘be like us’ and to accept this world as his ‘home’.  Yes, his ultimate ‘home’ was not here. Yet, he did not make others around him feel that he was keeping himself a stranger to the world in which he found himself.

The word that I find the hardest in this descriptor is: surrender. Not many of us like the sound of that word because it strikes at our feeling of entitlement.  We have seemingly ‘sacrificed’ a lot to go cross culturally, and believe there should be some small return as a result.  However, God asks us to lay it all down.  In the process of that surrender, we will experience blessings and benedictions we would not have shared otherwise.

One blessing that surely stands out is the experience of deep friendship in Christ across cultural boundaries; discovering that God has truly broken down the barriers that separate us from one another.

Praying ‘online’

onlineprayergroupsI was part of an ‘online prayer’ meeting this past Wednesday.  Sounds kind of strange and impersonal.  However, seeing everyone’s face around the virtual table and being able to mobilise people from three different regions of the world to pray was a definite encouragement and certainly a plus to spend this time praying ‘virtually’ together.

Our prayer facilitator shared a brief word from the Scriptures, emphasizing how prayer is not something we should do out of duty, but out of a sense of opportunity to meet together around the possibilities that our great God has for His work and people in this world.  Now the first part of that insight is something we all know, but it was that second piece about ‘opportunity’ that stood out to me in a new way.

We were given the opportunity to have our awareness raised as to what God was doing in one part of this world and raise our voices to pray for that part of the world, joining others around the world in that work.

The World Team Day of Prayer is one such ‘opportunity’ for us.  Maybe we should re-name that time to something like: Join the WT Prayer Opportunity?  No matter what we might name it, there is plenty of room for innovation and taking our global prayer points and praying them with our teammates, our larger team, or even virtually with people from different parts of WT.

However, it’s done, it’s our opportunity to ask God will to fulfill His mission through His Church and His people in the world.

A word for the year

My word for this year would be: “Fear not”. fear not

Now, I’m not one to try and come up with a catchy phrase for each year, but this one has been laid on my heart since re-visiting the story of the shepherds and the announcement of the angel to them in Luke 2.

It’s amazing how many times this statement, “fear not“, appears in the Scriptures.  Here, in this text, it has the sense of ‘don’t be afraid, trust Me’.  The appearance of an angel of the Lord was often associated with judgment, but here it is an announcement of redemption, of joy, of life.  You could translate it: ‘don’t be afraid, come and see what the Lord has done.

I question whether I have what it takes to run 42 km again (see: “Gifting a Challenge”).  I’m ‘fearing‘ about running that distance again.  However, I’m going to take on the challenge because I want to make a memory with our kids.

You may be questioning why you should give any more effort to the task.  I’m inviting you to make a memory with me; a memory of two people groups significantly impacted, indigenous leaders raised up and working with us and teaching one another.

It’s going to be a lot of work, but when we cross that line together, we will say that it was all worth the effort.  “Fear not!  Trust God!

Save the date.  Tuesday, November 27th (#givethanksTuesday).  On that day, come and see not just what the Lord has done, but what the Lord will do through us and in us.

Gifting a challenge

Last Friday night for the first session of the Alpha Course sponsored by our local church, we were introducing ourselves around the table.  L–, a guest and friend of Jean-Claude, looked at me several times saying, “I feel like I’ve seen this man before.”  “Are you local?” he asked.  Jean Claude jokingly said that he might have seen me running around Cergy.  “David runs several times a week.  He runs marathons.”

Yes, I do run.  Or at least I try to run three times a week.  However, I haven’t run a marathon in over 10 years.  I didn’t correct Jean Claude’s statement, I let it ride (read, I let it ‘run’).  The challenge is gone. I’ve been running for my own stress relief and health, which is a very good objective according to my doctor.  The challenge, the vision of something greater is not part of what gets me up in the morning anymore to go out running. It’s become a routine.

In our family, we do what is called ‘Secret Santas’.  Each member of the family is given the name of another family member through an online program.  My oldest daughter drew my name this year and her gift to me was: the entry fee for the Florence marathon on November 25th of this year.  Another marathon?! The challenge is certainly not the same as it was a number of years ago – to run three marathons before I turned 50 years old.  However, it’s a challenge nonetheless; a challenge to run a marathon with two of my children.

The people we are most concerned about; the people for whom we work are the lost.  Our desire, our central ministry focus is to see all our work contribute to raising up disciples and communities of believers and praying for exponential growth (read, multiplication) of those disciples and communities across a people group.  Whether you are ‘on the ground’ in ministry or processing support gifts or mobilising new workers or keeping our finances healthy or fixing our IT issues, all of it has the same ultimate objective in mind.

Today, I am ‘gifting’ you a challenge. 

run with me 3Run with me.  Run together with me.  Not just to do your work better, not just to see a number come to Christ through our work and efforts, but to concretely see, observe and identify the impact of our efforts among two people groups.  Our tendency will be to want to ‘go it alone’ – just as I told my kids that I would run on my own and they could run ahead of me.  However, the joint chant should become: “I, we want to run with you.

How will we know?  How will we know what that concrete impact upon two people groups will look like?  We will discover it together as we talk, pray, dialogue, plan and pray again together. All of us.

I’m sending you a ‘save the date’ note by this post.

Save Tuesday, November 27th as the date when we will stand back to see what God has done as we ‘run together’ this year (#givethanksTuesday).

Praying Galatians

Yesterday, the WT France team held a ‘24 hr prayer vigil’. Team members were asked to choose an hour slot when they would be willing to pray for the members and work of the Franceteam.

The unique feature was that each participant was asked to read through the book of Galatians during his/her hour of the prayer vigil and use it as a guide in his/her prayers for other team members.

Praying Galatians. That was a unique twist.galatians-300x300

As I read and prayed, a number of verses seemed to come together to frame my prayers for those living and working here.  I could best summarize it by saying I began to pray for the Franceteam members that they would remember how ‘they were called in the grace of Christ’ and that they would freely share this message of grace with others, trusting God to call His people to Himself.

When the work of salvation is truly a work of grace, it is not tied to us and our efforts. God who poured out His grace into our hearts will be faithful to carry out that work in the hearts of others.  We are simply God’s ‘megaphone’ to proclaim to wonders of that grace, pleading with others to receive the gift of His love. All the while knowing that unless God opens one’s spiritual eyes, men and women will choose the darkness over the amazing light of His presence.

Praying Galatians was a unique way to guide our prayers yesterday.

If you’re feeling a bit discouraged or if you’re finding yourself starting to think that the ministry somehow ultimately ‘falls on your shoulders’, then take some time to read through the book of Galatians and use it to guide your prayers for your own heart.

Six characteristics of a team

Within the World Team Global community, we talk about the six (6) characteristics of an effective or fruitful team.  Stated simply, these characteristics are: common purpose, appropriate division of labor, accepted leadership, agreement on the plan, solid relationships, and good communication.

HumilitySomething struck me as I was reading through that list again recently.  All six are linked by one essential heart attitude or motivation.  Humility.

To agree to a common purpose and to share the workload means that we as team members will need to ‘give up’ something for the benefit of the group.  To stand behind accepted leadership, we must take our hands off the proverbial ‘steering wheel’ and allow ourselves to be led by another.  To agree to a joint plan means that we choose to stand behind the direction we as a group have taken.  And obviously, solid relationships and good communication can only occur on a team when each of us is willing to be transparent with others, acknowledging our mistakes, seeking forgiveness, and offering forgiveness to others.

Each characteristic seems to call for humility.

Humility though is often somewhat elusive to us.  No one has ever ‘explained’ how to go about growing in humility by certain action steps.  Maybe that is why it might be better to talk about ‘gospel humility’. It’s the humility that is the fruit of God’s work of driving the Gospel deeper and deeper into our hearts.  It’s not something we do, but something that is cultivated.  It’s about a heart that allows God’s Spirit to search us, pull us up short, and enflame our hearts with the overwhelming good news of the Gospel again and again!

So monocultural and multicultural teams can be fertile contexts wherein God works that gospel humility into our lives; where we learn the richness and depth of His love as we rub shoulders in team ministry with brothers and sisters who may not be like us but are committed to the same vision and calling.

A question on which to reflect: how has God used team members to further your understanding of and growth in grace?

Multicultural teams don’t work

Now that I’ve got your attention, neither multicultural nor monocultural teams work in the long run if team members don’t work hard to understand the ‘world’ of each member.

Teams do not work because team members do not take the time to understand another’s ‘culture’ or way of working.  I can be from the same culture as other team members, but if I am a ‘thinker’ and another is a ‘feeler’, I could be frustrated by his/her lack of being able to ‘make a decision’. It may feel like he/she is always stalling our team and never wanting to come to closure.  However, that is not how this person is ‘thinking’ or processing. Failing to understand another’s way of thinking will cause dissonance and conflict in a team.multicultural conflict

Teams fail, not because of the cultural make-up of the group, but because we believe our way of seeing and dealing with reality (for example, how to do ‘team life and ministry’) is the best or ‘biblical’ way.  Our own culture can create a sense of right-ness in our hearts, and keep us from humbly learning from others on our team.  We can miss the opportunity to experience team in a deeper way.

It is true that when you add the ‘multicultural’ card into a team, it adds another dimension that the team must address.  However, the ‘multicultural’ card will also add a dimension to any team that enhances its cross-cultural ministry capacity.

When two or more cultures come together to work on a church planting team, they must learn how to ‘bridge’ between the cultures represented on that team.  They learn not only how to ‘divest themselves’ (Philippians 2), but how to ‘translate and contextualize’ what another is saying.  This allows them, as a team, to be even better prepared to contextualize the message into the cultural context of the people group to whom they have been called.  In other words, they gain valuable experience for their ministry from learning to work together and minister to one another as a team.

So, whether your team is monocultural or multicultural, each of us needs to start by asking at least two questions so that our team can be built on grace and honesty:

  • What do I need to ask another to better understand how they think and process?
  • What heart barrier (cultural, emotional or spiritual) keeps me from hearing and learning from another who seems very different from me?