What am I doing here?
It’s a question all of us have, at one time or another, asked ourselves. As I wrote yesterday in my now-famous Bollywood entry (no, not really so famous, just famous in my mind), I’ve wondered over the years what am I doing here serving as a missionary? What is it that keeps me here serving and working?
I don’t come from a family of ministers nor do I have any natural talents that this world would think could help out on the foreign field. One might think that to qualify for this work endless degrees and pedigrees would be necessary. While those things aren’t wrong (I do have a couple of degrees) they aren’t what qualified me to serve in Africa. All I needed to do was say, “yes” the day that God called. Personally, I didn’t find answering the call difficult; I found explaining the call of church planting to others difficult.
So, on occasion like Saul of the Old Testament, I find myself running after donkeys (1 Sam. 10:2 – Saul was looking for his father’s donkeys, but he was meant to be king.). Little rabbit trails meant to appear important but actually distract me from my main purpose: to extend the Kingdom of God among those I serve. There have been times when I’ve taken detours looking for donkeys that appear more important than planting churches. This is not a glorious calling nor does it naturally garner a lot of support as planting churches doesn’t seem to be as necessary as establishing larger community outreaches. Isn’t it enough to pray over a lesson, over a student, over a patient? Aren’t there enough churches?
Church planting is our call and I’ve given up apologizing for it. While some are called to open hospitals and universities, our grace lies with the planting of local churches that have always been found among the poorest of the cities we find ourselves in. God’s given us a vision to see 1,000+ churches planted on the continent and perhaps even beyond. We believe that God’s arm in the earth is extended to the world through the local church. We love starting churches from scratch that grow by reaching out into surrounding communities with activities that address the felt needs of those around us. In Malawi, where we are at this time, those types of activities include community health teaching, football games for youth, adult literacy classes, to name a few. The needs faced here differ from those found abroad – but to touch people and gain their trust, we need to speak to areas where they feel a need and this is exactly what we work for.
Once we have established ourselves in communities, the rest falls into place naturally. Not only are churches born but from the churches come the “classic” outreaches we so long to see: schools, adult education, leadership academies, etc. The difference we see in working this way is the spiritual covering and growth that comes with the churches provide a solid foundation for all that comes afterwards. If the foundation is not solid, how can hope for churches and outreaches that will live beyond us?
What makes this kind of mission difficult is the time that it takes to see these things come to pass. We are now many years into planting churches (we moved to Africa in 1987 and planted our first church in 1992) and are just now beginning to see an acceleration in growth.
Yes, I’ve been guilty of chasing donkeys – things that I think would “enhance” or in some way speed up the process of what we’re doing. The problem was, however, in chasing those donkeys I got sidetracked and my progress was hindered.
Let the donkeys take care of themselves in whatever you’re doing. As Samuel said to Saul, “the donkeys you’re looking for have been found” (1 Sam. 10:2), meaning, those issues you’re pursuing will take care of themselves, they’re not meant for your time and attention.
Remember, you’re meant to be a king.