There was a time when this type of leverage did exist, and it was purely due to economics and education. In far too many cases this created an unhealthy dependency upon the church in the West, and we’ve been second-guessing the results ever since.
Fortunately, times have changed. Today the challenges and opportunities are all still there, but we face them in a different way. We now face them together with our national counterparts. Just what does this look like?
Leaders Working Together
Earlier this week we once again spent several hours with Baptist seminary leaders here in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The topic was the future of Theological Education here in the state.
It was an enlightening experience. Each of us put on the table what we could offer. Then, working together, we began to see what a healthy partnership would look like. And the take-away was that together, we had something solid that was so much better than anything any of us could do on our own.
Observations from the Meeting
As I observed this process, I began to see several things that stand out with all of the recent works we’ve been involved with.
Any new initiatives must have the following:
- Seeing a Need – In each of the new works we’ve been a part of, someone has seen a need. It might be an area of the city with no known church. It might be a lack of training for church leaders. But, someone recognized a need and then acted on it. We should train ourselves to observe in this fashion. Do you see any needs around you right now?
- Serious Prayer – Not only do we see needs. We must also begin to act upon them. And there is no better way to begin than to seek the Lord’s wisdom, discernment, and enabling. In prayer our motives are purified, co-laborers are brought together, resources are found, hearts are softened, etc. This is the most basic and necessary step and must never be overlooked. (Matthew 7:7).
- Creative Spark – We see a need. We are praying. Now what? Something seems to ignite our creativity, our passion, our desire to see something better. Often it is nothing more than a rally cry. One of our friends in Bolivia began a leadership training course called, “No More Excuses (No Mas Escusas)” and it took off, and continues to multiply. Sometimes it’s a simple plan. Sometimes it’s a sense of shame that no one else is doing anything. But somehow, the fire gets started.
- Unyielding Persistence – Someone picks up the ball here. Things begin to fall into place. But there always comes a point in the middle of the process that gets messy. When that happens, it is extremely easy to give up. Doubts set in. Schedules don’t line up. Funds are short. A million things can happen. This is when we need “unyielding persistence” to keep us going. Once we’re through this messy part that always exists in the middle of any plan, we find that the end is glorious! It might be new believers, new disciples, a new church, a new training facility, etc. But man, it was worth all the effort!!! (Romans 8:18).
- Active participation – I personally think it is ugly for someone to identify a need and not do anything about it. We are to be doers of the Word, not hearers only (James 1:22). Talk is cheap, and there is too much of it. Let’s all take up the challenge and get involved! Just do something. You might feel it’s insignificant, but God might be able to use it in ways you cannot even imagine!
- Continued Follow Up – No matter how great we think things are going, they’ll always need some kind of a tweak here and there. We are dealing with people. You can’t maintain any relationship without being vigilant and diligent about it. Ministry is no different. The Apostle Paul, the greatest missionary of all time was actively doing follow up. How he did it without Email, Facebook, and Skype, we may never be able to fully understand, but what is important is that he took every new initiative seriously enough to follow up regularly.
We all want to leave a lasting legacy, a positive contribution to the work of the Great Commission. That’s why I think the changes we are seeing today will go a long way to ensuring that we see healthy and mature churches tomorrow that will continue to thrive when we are long gone. We are not leaving a dependency of any kind. And that right there, might be the most important aspect of these changes.
Discussion Question: What new initiatives are you involved with? How can I pray for you?