• 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!

Gifting a challenge — Why?

Earlier this year, I gifted this challenge to you, to us as a World Team Global community: “To concretely see, observe and identify the impact of our efforts among two people groups.”  After holding two online forums earlier this month, I realized that the ‘why’ behind this challenge may not have been clearly communicated. the-challenge

So, why did I ‘gift this challenge’ to you, to us?  Three reasons come quickly to mind.

First, God calls us to declare His glory to the nations as a community.  When the apostle Paul reminds us of the fact that we are the recipients of the ‘mystery hidden for ages’, he calls us to join him in teaching, proclaiming, declaring that mystery to the nations which is ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’ (Colossians 1:24-29).  The ‘you’ in this text refers to us as a community; a community called to take up this ‘challenge’ to declare Him to the nations.

Second, such a challenge binds us together in new ways as a global community; uniting our strengths and resources towards accomplishing together something that we could not accomplish alone. By nature, we are focused on the ministry to which God has called us.  However, when we lift our eyes off that local ministry for just a moment, we gain a greater perspective of what God is doing in our part of the world as well as many other parts of the world.

Finally, other ministry initiatives would be the natural fruit of taking on such a challenge.  As our hearts are ‘warmed’ by seeing the impact of the Gospel in concrete ways among two unreached people groups, many in the WT Global community will naturally propose other projects to other unreached peoples.  As we see God work, we are spurred on to trust Him to see the Gospel impact other peoples and nations.

No challenge is by nature ‘easy’.  Having each other to ‘spur one another on’ is our best next step for addressing any challenge.

Join us for another series of online forums where we will further discuss this challenge.  Information on times and the link will be sent soon.

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.

Taking part in TC4u

I believe that each of us, as World Team workers, could benefit significantly from a mentor, a coach, and a community. 

TC4uBack in 2014, we re-introduced one another to the idea of building community with others for our spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.  A small working group put together the document: “TC4u: Transformational Communities“.  If you have never seen this document or can’t currently find it in your files, drop me a note and I’ll make sure to send you a copy.

This document describes how a Transformational Community (TC4u) is one that:

  • believes and holds Christ as the Head of the community
  • believes that God is relational and has created mankind in His image as relational beings
  • believes that the community is a provision of the Lord for their transformation and growth
  • believes that they are secure and confident in justification through Christ
  • believes that the Trinity lives in community, chooses to include us in their community and that community is part of the mission
  • believes the NT church voluntarily practiced sharing all things (koinonia), in response to God “freely giving us all things”

One of the statements that struck me the most in re-reading this document was the following:  “TC provides a broader source for discernment about our lives, relationships, and ministries. Our own sins and weaknesses deeply affect our discernment about ourselves. God often provides better perspective and protection through others’ involvement in our lives.

That work of discernment can occur individually as we meet with others; that work can occur as we meditate on the Word together and the Spirit speaks to our own heart; and that work can occur through the insights and words of others in a community of which you and I are an active part.

Outside of community, each of us can be easily blinded to our own shortcomings and sins.  The role of community is to remind us of, drive us back to the Cross.  At the Cross, we hear again those words that are so precious: ‘your sins have been forgiven; you are my child

I honestly look forward to getting together regularly with the community that I am a part of with my wife and others.  What we do, might not look the same in your context or situation.  However, because I and others in the group see community as so vital to our growth in grace, we’ve worked out the best way at this point for us to be ‘in community’ as often as we can.

Team or community?

What is a team?  And what is a community? 

To put it in as simple terms as I can, a team is a group formed around a task and a community is a group committed to life together as the people of God.  In our World Team Global network, we can easily confuse these two, mixing them so closely that they create misunderstanding and ministry stagnation.

Much of the confusion arises from false expectations that we may each bring to a team or a community.false expectations

One false expectation is that one’s team will automatically be his/her community.  This may or may not be the case.  One’s community might be best found outside of one’s team.  It’s a discussion we should not shy away from; one that would probably help our teams process and discern what community would look like for each member.  It would give us insight as to what kind of community would serve to best enhance each one’s ministry growth.

However, when one ‘demands’ that his/her team be the needed community, and when that ‘need’ is not met by the team, a good deal of heartburn can occur; frustration that derails a team from its primary mission.

A second false expectation is that we will only find true community with people from one’s same culture.  As cross cultural workers, we have chosen, following God’s call, to ‘adopt’ another people and culture.  Yes, it’s not easy to make the transition.  And yes, it’s not easy to worship and to ‘live in community’ in another language that is not one’s own heart language.  However, the richness of His grace is so much sweeter when one enters into and engages in community across another culture.  One’s heart can learn to worship in another heart language.

A final false expectation is that team and community are places where we will ‘feel good’ all the time; it will be like a ‘family’.  Both team and community, according to the Scriptures, call for robust and honest dialogue and can at times pass by moments of tension.  However, a good team and a good community know how to work through conflict and tension; just as a good family does.

 

Community and the Gospel

In his groundbreaking book on the history of revivals, Richard Lovelace makes this insightful comment: “Few know enough to start each day with a thoroughgoing stand upon Luther’s platform: you are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance, relaxing in that quality of trust which will produce increasing sanctification as faith is active in love and gratitude. In order for a pure and lasting work of spiritual renewal to take place within the church, multitudes within it must be led to build their lives on this foundation.”

gospelcommunityIn our World Team Global circles, we are used to hearing the phrase: “preaching the Gospel to yourself every day”.  By that we mean to say our hold on the Gospel is tenuous and our hearts need to be reminded of the deep love of Christ each and every day in order for us to live out of the Gospel.

However, when we say that we must ‘preach the Gospel to ourselves every day’, I think we often read that reminder as an individual effort.  Whereas, the Scriptures appear to place this act of remembering in a community context.

And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty year in the wilderness that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart.”  (Deuteronomy 8:2)

And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.””  (1 Corinthians 11:24)

We can easily miss this truth as our English translations of the Bible do not distinguish between an individual ‘you’ and a collective ‘you’; something that many other languages have embedded in their structure and grammar.

The Bible underscores the critical importance of the community in preaching the Gospel to our hearts. Others are part and parcel of the process by which the Gospel is driven deeper and deeper into our hearts.

So if community is that important in the remembering process, then we need to go looking for that kind of community where we live and minister.

Yet we hesitate from seeking that kind of community.  I know I don’t, and I know you don’t like it when others try to ‘speak into our lives’; when the community seeks to be part of our growth process.  Oftentimes people just do not do a very good job of ‘speaking the truth in love’.  Yet, there is always some element in the words of others that can cause growth in our understanding and application of the Gospel.  Living out the Gospel in community and living in community through the Gospel is not an event, but a process whereby we learn to discern God’s voice to us through others.

I need to preach the Gospel to myself regularly.  I also need to call on others to speak the Gospel to me out of our community bond in Christ.

What do I have to learn from others?

Rebecca and I attended another local church this past Sunday.  A friend had asked if I would be willing to preach there during the month of July. It was the first time Rebecca and I had ever attended this church, even though it’s only a fifteen minute drive from where live.

Despite the fact that it is a local church of a sister organisation, most of what happened during the worship service was very ‘different’ for us.  ‘Different’ not in a bad sense, but ‘different’ in that it made us consider other perspectives or ways of approaching life and ministry.

Never stop learningLet me give you a couple of examples.  First, during the time of prayer, everyone prayed, all at the same time.  In our local church, maybe in yours as well, people pray out loud one at a time, one after the other, during time dedicated to open prayer.  Now I had experienced this kind of ‘all together’ prayer in small group contexts, but never in a church meeting of 40+ people.  Second, they gave room for people to grow in their gifts and talents.  The young woman leading worship explained, at one point, that a year ago she did not know how to play the guitar.  However, the need arose when their main worship leader left.  So, the church encouraged her to learn how to play the guitar and let her ‘grow’ in her ability over the past year.  She is now writing worship music which local Christian editors would like her to include in a new release of songbooks for churches. Third, for a small church they had an exciting and adventurous vision.  At the end of the service, the pastor explained that he would be leaving for Africa that week because of a ministry opportunity the church had to train a group of women in microfinance.  This would allow these women to meet the physical needs of their families as well as open doors of opportunity for the church to minister to the community where these women live.  As we left, Rebecca and I both commented on how amazing it was that such a small church could have such a large vision.

So, what happened for us in that two hour time frame this past Sunday?  We learned that we have plenty to learn from others.  I certainly shared from God’s Word which I believe encouraged and built up this group. However, I think we learned tons more from being with and interacting with this group of believers most of whom we had never met before.

What do I have to learn from others?  For one, that God works in a myriad of ways in the lives and hearts of His people.

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.