• 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!

Thoughts Along The Journey

riddellsAs Rebecca and I have traveled to a number of regions where we as World Team work, we have been encouraged by our conversations with many of you. It has been our privilege to share with you the vision God has laid on our hearts for World Team and pray together towards that end.

In burgeoning and tangible ways God is using World Team workers to nurture, support and encourage the multiplication of disciples and communities of believers among lost people. We give thanks to our Father and cry out together that He will fulfill His promise that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14).

At the same time during our travels, we have felt somewhat like Nehemiah ‘visiting and inspecting’ the situation of the work and ministry in our “Jerusalem”. We have taken stock of our spiritual foundations and resources through our time with you. We have kept our ‘eyes’ open to search out those sections perhaps ‘in need of repair’ (Nehemiah 2). We have prayerfully observed two things which stand out to us.

First, a crisis is looming of which most of us are unaware. The crisis is that we are losing workers and resources at a faster rate than we realize. Coupled with our current aging workforce, our ‘foundation’ is weak or fragile. Over the past six years, World Team has had an average negative growth rate of five less missionaries per year. However, if we look at just the past two years, that average negative growth rate jumps to ten less missionaries per year. We have lost more people than we have brought in to World Team. Whereas the number of WT members topped 430 in 2002, we currently have approximately 380 members. Simply put, we have fewer and fewer cross-cultural workers to carry out the vision that He has stirred in our hearts.

But it’s not just about numbers, which brings us to our second observation. Most of us see our ministry as primary. We have often heard the words, “my ministry” or “my work” or “our people group” as if to imply that this work belonged to us and no one else. While our words reflect healthy ownership, the danger is we forget that every ministry fits into a much larger network of activity directed and orchestrated by God. We must never forget that we belong to a larger community that extends beyond WT. That community needs us to participate in its life at various times and levels. Some of our WT workers on one of our fields presently partner with several other agencies in an innovative approach to church planting. Their personal ministries are enhanced and multiplied by serving together with others in a larger project.

We know that God was already present and at work in hearts among the people to whom He called each of us. He uses us and others to build His church among those we serve. So, part of our ministry is to ‘open doors’ for others to get involved, to experience ministry. That is part of our larger calling as members of World Team. Steve Addison, Australia director for CRM Ministries states it in even stronger words: “Leaders grow leaders. They reject the arrogant notion that their ministry is primary. Like Jesus, leaders create opportunities that equip and mobilize others.” If then, it’s not just about numbers, our heart approach to ministry together needs to shift and change.

When we talk about ‘innovation’, we think about bringing to life creative ideas that we currently are not using. Perhaps the most innovative step that we could take in coming months, in light of these two observations, is to begin to think, talk and act as “we”. In other words, we need to think and act more interdependently. That could mean a corporate acknowledgement that “our walls” are badly in need of repair and that together we must begin to rebuild them. This will not be an easy task because it will require that we look beyond ourselves for the good of the larger community and ask how we could participate in a way that would make a significant difference. Sydney Missionary & Bible College (Australia) graduates almost half of their student body into cross-cultural missions. A weekly missionary-in-residence program allows cross-cultural missionaries to engage in discussions with interested students. Giving up a week of our time to participate in this program is one example of how we might look beyond ourselves to mobilize more workers into the harvest. There are schools both in Canada and the U.S. which have such programs as well.

What then should be our response to these two observations? Above all, we need to pray and seek God’s wisdom. As one writer put it, “it is not that we should pray about the work, prayer is the work.” That is and remains our primary work. Pray that God would confirm this vision in our hearts, so that we would become passionate about what He longs to do in us and through us. Pray that He would show us how to ‘rebuild the walls’ of World Team through thinking, talking and acting as “we”. Perhaps we would do well to commit to a monthly day of prayer and fasting over the coming twelve months as an expression of our total dependence upon God to meet us in this crisis. I would also suggest another response: prayerfully consider and implement innovative and sacrificial ways that “we” can come alongside each other to recruit, send and provide the needed ‘hands on’ training for a host of new workers. Why? So that Innovative teams multiplying disciples and communities of believers, bringing the gospel within reach of lost people everywhere we go,” becomes a growing expression of who we are.

I plan to share more with you. That will include asking more of all of us as a mission family later this year. Please share your thoughts and comments with me through this blog.

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