Today we received a letter from Jerry Rankin who is, as most of you know our esteemed leader and President of the International Mission Board. In his letter he mentioned a phenomenon that I had noticed on other blogs namely that some are saying that our overseas workers are demoralized. He does not believe this to be true. I am here to tell you it is NOT true. Our overseas workforce is facing unprecedented challenges and is excited about seeing God come through again and again. There are two issues that are brought up by some as to why our M's are demoralized. One is the issue concerning the policies passed by the trustees over two years ago about Baptism and private prayer language. The other is the issue of annual reporting and whether we are ethical in our reports. I have strong feelings about both issues so let me tell it like it is.
First, the new guidelines on Baptism and Private Prayer language were unnecessary and wrong. But these guidelines apply to new candidates and not myself. They have not curtailed my work in any way so while I am concerned that our Trustees make good decisions I will not let their decisions good or bad make or break my day. I do not- as some have wrongly suggested- 'work' for them. I work for Jesus alone and I pray for these good brothers and sisters to make good decisions. End of story. Everyone I know on the field feels the same.
But now we need a story. I met three M's recently just outside of my 'Middle Earth'. I was deeply impressed by each one. M1 is an SC for an unreached people group. He is eager to engaged them in any way he can and has found several creative ways to do it. He is everything our organization is looking for but he feels that his fellow M's don't understand him and he often feels like he is not supported by our leadership. He is writing a letter to challenge them to adopt a new idea he has. He wishes that he had better fellowship with the other M's living in his area but feels estranged from them since they are on other teams with other focuses.
M2 is another SC for another unreached people group. He works with particularly difficult to access people and is constantly finding ways to improve security and maintain access. He is everything our company is looking for in an M worker. He wishes that he had better fellowship with the other M's living in his area but feels estranged from them since they are on other teams with other focuses.
M3 is another SC for an unreached people. His people are at least engaged and he does a fantastic job of motivating national leaders to reach their people. I suggested to him- what I had been told by several nationals- that the Church among his people had really taken off in the last ten years. He denied that and said no, the Church had been there for over fifty years and it was needing more growth. I think that it is interesting that he has been there for the last ten years and that is when most of the nationals think it has really taken off. Hmmmm. He wishes that he had better fellowship with the other M's living in his area but feels estranged from them since they are on other teams with other focuses.
Do you see the pattern? Each family I spoke with were tremendous men and women of faith. Each of them was seeing God work in their lives and ministries. But too often we all let the enemy speak in our ear. We allow him to convince us that we are alone and unsupported. It is not true. We are not alone and we have great support.
Now, about the reporting numbers I am growing weary of some of my colleagues comments about this. Some feel that we are reporting baptisms and church plants that we should not take credit for. Well, that depends on what you are measuring. A hundred years ago a good M went out, shared his faith, won some to Christ, baptized them, gathered them into a Church and pastored it until he could raise up national leadership. When he reported a baptism it was him that got wet, when he planted a church it was him that hammered the nails for the building. Those days are long past us. We have grown in our understanding of what it is God is calling us to. I have never physically baptized any man or woman from Gondor where I serve. Why? Because I should not. I empower nationals to do this. The nature of our work has changed. I am not an Evangelist, nor a Church Planter. I am a Church Planter Trainer and so are most of us out on the field today. When I report baptisms I am reporting baptisms done by national workers with whom I am working. This is not dishonest- it is the nature of our work. If people think that our baptism numbers represent baptisms done by M's themselves then our numbers are misleading but I don't think that is what people think. Our numbers represent the work God is doing in our lives and ministries. How many baptisms the national workers I work with are performing and how many churches they are planting is very relevant to why SB's pay me a salary to be here.
So, to repeat: We are not discouraged. We are excited about what God is doing around the world and we are over the moon about being a part of it. Join us in celebrating what God is doing to reach the Nations.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
After going to the high school graduation of my daughter we are now back in the West. I have just spent several days with my dad and have now traveled down to see my mom and brother. I will continue to blog this summer while I am here but I have had very little internet access so far. In two weeks we will check into an M house and be stationary for a while. There is much I want to say so watch this space.