• 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!

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.

I’m not giving way

Driving to the World Team Global workplace, I have to cross a bridge that takes one over the Oise River.  It’s quite a lovely view in both directions.  Normally, it takes about three minutes to cross. Tuesday of this week, it took forty nine minutes!  Since we are in the summer months here, towns and ‘state’ governments take the opportunity to do a lot of roadwork.  Such was the case on the bridge this past Tuesday, moving a four lane road down to just two lanes.

What caught my attention wasn’t the roadwork, but the attitude of various drivers. Many had their own ‘method’ for dealing with the traffic tie-up and trying to get one more car ahead, by whatever means. One driver in particular caught my attention.

give wayThis driver was in the passing lane, next to a huge ‘earth mover’ type truck.  The truck was obviously ahead, but neither driver was going to ‘give way’.  With every meter, both drivers tried to ‘assert their authority’.  At one point, I thought the truck was literally going to scrape the side of the smaller car, and take the side view mirror in its path. I kept thinking to myself: “Just give way!  What’s the big deal?  So you’re behind the truck or behind the car, you’re eventually going to get over the bridge either three seconds sooner or later.”

Then it hit me that in my relationships with others at work, at home or in the neighborhood, I can be just the same.  Worse even.  I can be as stubborn as that car driver or truck driver, not wanting to ‘give way’ because my rightness is being challenged.  However, I don’t think it’s just me. In a given situation, all of us are capable of going ‘head to head’ with that ‘earth mover’ truck and pushing to get to the front of the line.

There’s why collaboration (one of the elements of our WT Ministry Framework organisational culture) is so hard.  It means we have to ‘give way’ sometimes.  It means we have to follow the consensus of the larger team at times.  All the while keeping in mind that we are going to get to the same end point.

There’s why delegation is difficult.  It means saying to another: “Go ahead, you work on this. I’ll support you, but you take the lead.”  It’s platforming or pushing another in front of you when we would prefer to be first or up front.

Next time, you are side by side with an ‘earth mover’ truck, merging into one lane, will you ‘give way’ or will you ‘hold your ground’?

Lost people matter

Have you ever come to the point where you have said to yourself: “I think I’ll just go and get a ‘regular’ job”?  As if to say that letting go of ministry would give you a ‘much easier’ life?

With a couple of colleagues, my wife and I are reading through the book: The Attentive Life.  I stumbled across this quote today in my reading: “The gracious indwelling of God with his people is not an invitation to settle down and forget the rest of the world: it is a summons to mission, for the Lord who indwells with his people is the one who goes before them in the pillar of fire and the cloud.  So the promise of his presence is clinched in the words, “Up, let us go hence.”  There is a mission to be fulfilled. There is a conflict to be waged with the powers of this world.”

Our calling is not one to a ‘cozy time by the fire’, but rather one where a God who abides in us, and we in Him, will cause us to see others as He sees them.  We will see lost people who © Martin Investigative Services, private investigators, www.marmatter to God.  We will see men and women created in His image, yet living broken lives separated from Him.

There are days when our calling wanes.  Those are the days when we need to drive our ‘root system of life’ deeper into Jesus, deeper into His steadfast love and grace.  Yet, it’s easy to tell ourselves we need to do that, but it’s just plain hard sometimes to make it happen.

That is why we need to cry out to God for His help in learning to ‘abide’ in Him; in learning to be attentive to Him in all that happens in our day.  We can remind ourselves of the importance of abiding. Others can remind us as well.  However, God needs to work in our hearts to cause us to draw near to Him and draw from His fountain of grace and wisdom.

Lost people do matter to God.  Abiding in God will thrust us out as cross cultural workers into the world with a renewed heart to share His Gospel.

Lost people matter to God.  Lost people will matter to us as well.

A practical example

Last week, I wrote a post titled: “Why I am not the centre“.

In that post, I made the following statement: “I’m not the centre because we (you and I in each of our ministries) want to ‘release people into ministry’.  So, at a given moment, the ‘spotlight’ has to go off of us and on to someone else.  Someone else has to be ‘equipped’ and ‘released’.

Pat & Jeannie sent me the video clip below.  When I viewed it, I realized it was a tangible example of why I, why we are not the centre.

Let’s take joy in the fact that we are part of an ever growing multicultural community of believers who long to share Christ with others.  Let’s take joy in how the Gospel can truly change the hearts of people.

Lost people can be invisible

I shared this short biblical meditation with the World Team Global Alliance (WTGA) last week:

We read in Ruth 2:10-11: “Then she fell on her face bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?”  But Boaz answered here, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how  you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before.””

invisibleRuth was invisible to a large part of the world around her.  She was a refuge, an immigrant, a foreigner.  Yet, out of all the workers in his field, Boaz noticed her.  She was not invisible to him.  He moved towards this foreigner and served her in ways that way beyond the cultural norms of the day.

Our world is shifting constantly.  In a recent UN report, it was stated that a record 65.6 million people are either refugees, asylum seekers or internally displaced across the globe. Will these people remain invisible to us?

In a blog post last month titled: What’s In a Name, I wrote: “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 more 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’.

Knowing that my identity is solidly anchored in what He says about me, I can move into my world with confidence and courage. 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.”

It is with that solid assurance that we are not invisible to our God that we can move into this incredible context of displaced people and ‘see’ who He wants us to see and to whom He wants us to minister.

This is our prayer as a WTGA and as WT workers as we move forward in this year.

Why I am not the centre

Why am I not the centre?  It’s because of people like Manu.centre of attention

Last night, we were participating in the bi-weekly small group from our local church.  My wife & I were actually part of the original ‘launch team’ that got this group started.  Our team prayed for several months about ‘launching’ this group, we then began the group, and it has morphed through several phases.  We are now meeting regularly; with about ten people participating each time.

So who is leading the group?  Well, it wasn’t me last night.  It was Manu.  Manu is a young guy with good skills.  He does a good job in preparing the meeting/study and is open to feedback.  He’s the future of our group, of our local church.

I’m not the centre because we (you and I in each of our ministries) want to ‘release people into ministry’.  So, at a given moment, the ‘spotlight’ has to go off of us and on to someone else.  Someone else has to be ‘equipped’ and ‘released’.  The struggle is that many times we think the person to replace us has to be ‘on the same level as Jesus’ to be able to do the work we do.  So, not being the centre is as much about ‘releasing’ another’ as it is about ‘giving away’ what we love doing.

The amazing piece is that there is such joy when you watch another move into ministry and take your input to heart.  I have watched Manu grow in his ability to lead our meetings and that is such a joy.

The amazing piece is that God gives us multiple opportunities to ‘reach, invest, equip and release others into ministry’.  However, I do have to ‘release’ others if I want to be able to start all over again.

If you are stuck at the ‘releasing’ phase, why not ask someone to come alongside and help you give away what needs to be given away, so that you can begin 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.