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Missions 101

Posts Tagged: Missions

Missionaries Sent and Received in 2010

Feb. 11, 2015By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

From a 2013 study from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon Conwell. This is a listing of the largest sending and receiving countries. Notice the difference between the largest senders and the largest senders per million church members.Screen_Shot_2015-02-07_at_8.42.18_PM

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Doing the Ministry that You Didn’t Come to Do

Feb. 2, 2015By: Karl Dahlfred

Identifying your spiritual gifts can be both a blessing and a curse. 

It is a blessing to discover those things that you enjoy and do well. You can therefore choose to focus your time ministering in ways that play to your strengths. You are gifted in preaching, so you preach.  You enjoy serving, so you serve.

But knowing your spiritual gifts can also be a curse. It can foster an “I don’t do windows” attitude that refuses to serve outside your areas of giftedness. I don’t do admin. I don’t do kids ministry. I am not a teacher. I am not gifted in hospitality. If you are part of a megachurch, then maybe you can get away with such a wrong-headed attitude because there is an ample supply of people who want to do the things that you don’t want to do. But if you are in a small ministry setting, don’t count on it.

 As much as possible, we want to serve according to the God-given capacities that the Lord has given us. But sometimes we need to “take one for the team”. We need to do what needs to be done because there is no one else who is willing and able to do it. Whether it is a small rural church with a solo pastor, or a pioneering church plant on the mission field, the full range of spiritual gifts is not always present in that small, fledgling group that comes together for Sunday worship. Maybe you don’t have any musically gifted people. Or there is no one who has a passion for working with kids. Or nobody responds to the request for volunteers to set up the chairs and the coffee pot. Out of the twenty people that you have coming inconsistently, there is nobody who is really invested in the church except you and your spouse. What do you do then? Do you fold your arms and pout, claiming that “I am not called to photocopy and fold the Sunday bulletins”? Do you refuse to serve tables in order to devote yourself to the ministry of the Word and prayer?

 In Acts 6, the apostles were able to appoint a group of godly men to take care of the needs of the Hellenistic widows so that they could attend to preaching and to prayer. That was a greatoffice-worker-looking-at-his-notebook_zJXEJHwd delegation of spiritual authority and recognition of giftedness in the congregation. But in many ministry situations, there is an insufficient pool of godly people to draw from. If you can appoint deacons to serve the tables, that’s awesome. But what if you can’t? Then you need to take time away from something else in order to serve tables. You might not have as much time for sermon preparation or prayer as you’d like. But is neglecting legitimate needs of the congregation a viable option? Probably not. Of course, not everything that is a “need” is really needed, so it is important to assess things carefully on the spectrum of “need” versus “want.” And sometimes, what is needed is not what you want to do.

I applaud the many godly people who are “taking one for the team” and ministering in areas or situations that are not their first choice. But I fear that there are others who have the wrong frame of mind regarding working outside of “giftedness” or “primary calling.” In the context of missions, this shows up among both field missionaries and the churches on the home side that support them. 

Some missionaries are not able to use their strongest gifts as they would like, and they are unhappy about it, even bitter perhaps. Whether it is because of language limitations, the lack of an established congregation to preach to, or a request from their organization to do admin work, some missionaries are doing things that they didn’t think they’d be doing. After all the rhetoric about reaching the unreached and facilitating a church planting movement, they are pushing pixels in an office or teaching songs to a group of kids who would rather make fart sounds than sing “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” These missionaries would love to do more. They could do so much more. But they are “stuck” in a situation where they can’t. Not for now, at least. 

A number of years ago, there was a period of time when my wife was not well and I was stuck taking care of our toddler for long periods of time. We had just moved into a new ministry situation, and I was eager to get going. I wanted to do evangelism and church ministry with the local pastor. I resented the fact that my wife couldn’t help with our toddler more than she did because I secretly thought that she was capable of much more than she claimed she was. In any case, I made my feelings known and it wasn’t pretty. However, it was my fault for having the wrong attitude and exhibiting a lack of trust in my wife (and a lack of creativity with how much I could do with a toddler in tow). I wasn’t doing the ministry that I came to do and felt like I was wasting both time and money: my time and the money of those who were supporting us to do church planting. I should have had the perspective that this was just for a season, and been content with God’s (unexpected) calling for me during that period of time. Unlike the Apostle Paul, I had not yet learned to be content in every situation (Phil. 4:11). I am still working on that, by the way.

But it is not only missionaries on the field who can become discontent when they are doing work other than what they came to do. Some supporters don’t like it either. In larger mission organizations, it is not uncommon for missionaries to be asked to fill support or admin roles for a period of time. It may be for only a few months, or it may be a number of years. But in order to facilitate the productive ministry of the community of missionaries as a whole, certain roles need to be filled in terms of regional leadership, coordinating short-term teams, managing holiday homes for missionaries, or doing accounting. I know missionaries who were doing church planting, and were asked to fill another role for a season because there was no one else to do it. And after much prayer and weighing the options, they agreed to help out.  But after making a difficult decision to leave doing what they loved for a time in order to “take one for the team,” they were met with doubt and disapproval by some on the homeside. In one case, a supporting church reduced a couple’s financial support because they were no longer doing “priority” ministry. I appreciate that churches need to set priorities for spending their missions budget, but it would be great if churches met news of their missionaries' change of ministry with openness and understanding, instead of suspicion and disappointment. If the church secretary is out sick, will you cut the pastor’s salary if he needs to print and fold the Sunday bulletin, instead of putting more time into sermon prep?  Probably not, but that’s not much different than cutting missionaries’ financial support because they are doing an admin or support role for a period of time.

No matter who we are, we need to take a big picture approach with the right attitude. We can’t always be doing the ministry that we’d like to be doing, and neither can everybody else.  Stuff needs to get done and sometimes there is no one else to do it. If we are not doing what we feel most gifted for, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are being disobedient to God’s will. We can’t always ask, “What do I feel called to?” but rather “What needs to be done?”

In the body of Christ, we all need to work together. Ideally, the eyes will be doing the eyes’ job and the ears will be doing the ears’ job, and as each part works properly, the body of Christ builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:16). But sometimes the eyes are injured or unavailable, and the ears need to do double duty to help the body do its tasks. The ears need to be extra attentive to gather information about things that the eyes would normally report on. In those cases, let not the ears grumble at the extra work, or the other parts of the body criticize the ears for trying to fill in for the eyes. The Apostle Paul reminds us to “not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

If not all parts of the body are present and functioning, some parts will have to pull a bigger load for a season. And that’s okay, because serving the Lord is not about finding personal fulfillment in using your gifts, but rather finding contentment in doing whatever needs to be done so that God would be glorified. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

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Integrity Has a Price - Part 3

Jan. 28, 2015By: Jeff AtherstoneAuthor Bio

It's 2 AM and I'm wide awake... usually a good sign that the day didn't go as planned.

Long story short... nothing happened.

The squatters argued that they were not served a notice to appear, which is a bit funny because their lawyer was in court on time and they were all standing outside of the courthouse (so how is it that they didn't know to appear in court - seems fishy to me)... so now the seller of the land has to provide a legal document (insert a technical name that I can't remember here) which states that he really did serve them notice.

Due to this technicality the judge delayed the hearing until April 3.

But here is where the whole issue of integrity comes in. We could have had the whole thinggavel1 taken care of today for just under $1,000 (remember this is a $100,000 land purchase so we are talking less than 1%). All we had to do was pay the judge and our case would have been heard.

I believe this is where the Western influence (or let's get more personal and say missionary influence) has added to the corruption in Uganda.

To a westerner "time is money" so it has become common practice to "pay" (insert "bribe") to speed up service. This happens with missionaries getting work visas at the Ministry of Immigration. It happens for missionaries seeking to register their NGOs (Christian organizations). It happens for missionaries who pay to get out of traffic tickets so they don't have to stand in long lines at the bank to pay the real tickets. It happens with couples who want to speed up their adoptions. The list goes on and on.

I'm not saying that all missionaries do this, but it is also more common than it should be among this crowd.

Our cultural (not biblical)  impatience has created a system that encourages corruption.

Part of me wonders if "being slow" has become the most profitable business practice in the developing world?

So today the squatters took a calculated risk and delayed the process. Now all eyes are back on us, the school with a mizungu (white) director. Will he bribe the court? Or better yet, will he pay us (the squatters) to stop fighting this case in court?

So here is the updated prayer list:

1) Pray that the judge, seller and squatters all show up in court on April 3 with all the legal documents filed correctly 
2) Pray that the judge grants us favor and makes his decision on the evidence
3) Pray that the squatters don't pay to win
4) Pray that the judge acts on his decision in our favor and sends his bailiffs to clear the squatters off the land
5) Pray that the squatters don't retaliate against the school or my family
6) Pray that the testimony of this purchase inspires our staff, students and everyone else involved to seek God's favor rather than paying for man's favor 

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Integrity Has a Price - Part 2

Jan. 27, 2015By: Jeff AtherstoneAuthor Bio

For three days we are featuring posts from Jeff Atherstone and his experience two years ago trying to negotiate land for what is now African Renewal University.

It's the halfway point... just over a week since being asked for the bribe to settle the land dispute and a week left until the trial.

A number of you have been praying with us and are curious about how things are going.

It's been quiet, really quiet. This is normal and if I keep calling the lawyers, seller, judge or409053_6753035_lz anyone else involved I will look like the worried mizungu. Then they will get confident that I will cave in and pay the bribe, so it is true that Philippians 4:6 really works (be anxious for nothing) even for handling corruption.

But I did check in with our lawyers today and received some great news. The seller and judge are showing up to court on March 6 and they are both aware that we will not pay a bribe. This is great news because at least our case will be heard and then ultimately the decision is in the hands of the court.

Personally I feel more at peace about the whole situation than I have at any point in the process (prayer is working!). I'm also excited for the students and staff. I really believe that a strong stand against corruption will be a testimony for the institution and a legacy for the students to follow for years to come.

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Integrity Has a Price

Jan. 26, 2015By: Jeff AtherstoneAuthor Bio

The next three days will feature posts from Jeff Atherstone and his experience two years ago trying to negotiate land for what is now African Renewal University.

It's no secret that corruption is a major problem in Uganda... on the world Corruption Perception Index we ranked #127 in 2010... which isn't as bad as Somalia at #178 but it still isn't anything to brag about.

What might be surprising to some who haven't experienced this type of corruption is that it is everywhere... the police, courts, government, church and business to name a few.
And today it is staring me in the face with a price tag beyond anything I have ever experienced.

Yesterday I was asked to pay a judge $1,000 which might not be much to some, but if I don't pay it, ARCC (Africa Renewal Christian College) could also lose another $100,000 (and yes, I am referring to US Dollars)!

First the good news! We found the owner of the troublesome land that I wrote about last June and agreed on a price for the land and drafted a purchase agreement with our board and lawyers in November,received all the funds and made the payment for the land in December. This last week the seller (after much prompting) filed a court case to stop the squatters from all construction, farming or any other developments. This is a great step.  Next, the squatters will face off with the seller in court. The seller (a lawyer) has all the proof required to show that they settled on the land illegally. The final step will be that the court will remove the squatters.

Here is the problem: even though the seller has the proof he needs to win in court, the judge is asking for $1,000 and the seller is demanding that I pay it!

If I don't pay it, the seller is saying that he will drag this case on as long as he wants (months, years, indefinitely), as a lawyer (and nephew of a well known politician) he is telling me that I have no choice. He can and will delay as long as he wants - pretty nice for a guy who introduced himself to us as a Born-Again Christian!

There is also an additional price. The longer this goes on the more problems we have with the community around us, because the illegal squatters all received their land from the local
Muslim mayor and he is doing his best to convince them that the Mizungu (white guy) will eventually get scared or impatient and pay them to leave. This also has a price! As soon as you start paying people who have broken the law to leave you alone, it invites new people to break the law in order to get money from you.

So, what do you do?

Sell your integrity for $1,000?

Risk losing the $100,000+ you paid for the land?

Risk threats from the squatters who still think they can get money from us (they have used poison to kill our animals in the past)? 

After a sleepless weekend and some great counsel from the ARCC Board, the answer seems simple: It is time to ask God's people to pray...

More on what happened tomorrow.

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