• 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!

Mission Forward

Mission Forward.  The term suggests movement or traction.  Perhaps, we ought to write forwardit: Mission (moving) Forward? More importantly, the term oozes enthusiasm and delight. Perhaps, we should edit it again to read: Mission (moving) Forward (with shouts of joy)?

You might be thinking that sounds kind of silly, but you and I know there is a difference between ‘moving forward’ in a long slow lane of traffic and ‘moving forward’ with a project where many team members are involved and contributing.  In both cases, you are ‘moving forward’.  However, the one brings you no real joy while the other creates a wellspring of joy that pushes you out to share the work with more people.

Our ‘mission’ is to work together in teams to see communities of believers birthed who will in turn give birth to other communities who will in turn give birth to other communities.  Our ‘vision’ is characterized by innovation, multiplication and expansion.  We want to approach the same task, but via different approaches or avenues.  Our goal is always a chain reaction of multiplication.  Our focus is on those who have the least opportunity to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

If Mission Forward is currently synonymous with drudgery for us, then we may need some ‘outside-in’ perspective.  We may need someone to help lift our eyes above the grind and see how our God is at work in this world.  If Mission Forward isn’t currently causing that gospel joy to well up in our hearts, then we may need to ask the Spirit to drive 1 John 4.19 deeper into our hearts.  If Mission Forward is one’s current driving motivation, then we should spread that joy to others and draw them into the work.

Mission Forward.

Are you growing tired of being excited?

The other day, I talked about how “whether you are in your 30s, 40s, 50s or 60s, one of the first ways to ‘fan the flame’ again of the movement is to sit and listen to a new worker making one of their first presentations to supporters.  It warms one’s heart to hear how God called them to work among these people with this team to fulfill this common vision.”  Then I realized that might not be the case for everyone.

TiredWhen that kind of talk doesn’t stirs one’s heart, one’s excitement or passion reservoir may be in the red.  What I mean by that is that life and ministry, in the short term or long term, can gradually ‘snuff out’ the passion that God placed in our hearts at the start to multiply disciples and communities of believers, to bring the Gospel to lost people everywhere we go.

In reality, it’s the same with the impact of the Gospel in our lives. We can so easily forget the ‘music’ that wooed our hearts to Jesus. We need to ‘awaken’ our hearts afresh each day to that amazing story of Christ’s love for us.

So it is with the mission God to which God called us.  Hearing the stories of others (in print, in person, by video) can serve to remind us of God’s call on each of lives that brought us to Himself.  Hearing the stories of others can also serve to remind us of that call of God that brought us to where we serve and minister now.

We can all grow tired. We can all lose our passion from time to time.  Yet, we’re part of a movement and other members can ‘call us back’ to that passion which drove us to serve where we are; to ‘call us back’ to God.

There is a BIG difference between a network and a movement

Sometimes when I talk, I can use words interchangeably that do not really mean the same thing.  For example, when I talk about networks and movements, I can make it sound like they are one and the same thing.  In reality, there is a BIG difference between networks and movements.

A network can be defined as: “An association of individuals or organisations having a common interest, formed to foster cooperation, provide mutual assistance, share helpful information, and attain a heightened awareness of the activities of the entities represented in the network.”  To put it in more down to earth language, a network is composed of people who choose to blend their forces together in a cooperative effort, all the while maintaining their own autonomy, identity, and ministry.

A movement however “is formed when individuals, groups or organizations unite into a single group with a common purpose, mission, values and strategic priorities.”  A movement involves bringing together diverse people and teams to work as one.  A movement creates a context or culture where everyone chooses to serve and work together in a united way towards the larger vision.paper boat

Why is it so important to make such a distinction?  Primarily because of ‘drift’.

‘Drift’ is where the original dream or vision of a group is slowly lost.  ‘Drift’ is where the call that brought each of us into this ministry movement has been muted.  ‘Drift’ is where life and ministry loses its passion because of being ‘self-comfortable’.

Whether you are in your 30s, 40s, 50s or 60s, one of the first ways to again ‘fan the flame’ of the movement is to sit and listen to a new worker making one of their first presentations to supporters.  It warms one’s heart to hear how God called them to work among these people, with this team, to fulfill this common vision.

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.