• 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!

Are You a Lifer?

Words are a tricky thing.  Different meanings can be attributed to the same word depending on the context, culture and generation.  For example, the French equivalent for the word “opportunity” is “l’opportunité”.  That is practically the same spelling.  However, the meaning of the word in each language is very different.  In American English, it means a chance or an occasion [to do something].  Whereas, in French, it means a one off opportunity that may not soon be repeated.  So, you can probably understand why French believers snickered one day when the American leading worship said: “I am grateful for this ‘opportunité’ to lead worship this morning.

We need to better understand our context and audience, and then adapt our language in order to communicate clearly.  That is a little of how I feel in our mobilization discussions.  Those of us from the earlier generations (that is, pre 80s) talk about short-term and long-term workers.  Those terms can have either a negative or a very different meaning for those from later generations (that is, post 80s).  Probably not the best word choice to be using in our discussions.

There is no question about the need for ‘longer term’ work.  There are many things that simply will not happen in cross cultural ministry if sufficient time is not given to that effort.  But how do we express a key principle in other words?

That’s why I’m starting to call myself now a ‘lifer’ (see Global Mission Handbook, 166).   A ‘lifer’ is a person who has simply chosen to give his/her life, to make his/her career to minister in cross cultural contexts.  Those who come out for short or midterm opportunities are a certainly a vital part of the larger ministry.  But, “it’s the [lifer] who, over time, builds relationships with the people, understands their culture and sensitively contextualizes the gospel within that vibrant reality.” (166)

We’re looking for ‘lifers’.

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