A long-term Wesleyan missionary serving in a restricted access country humbly shares some of his own heart-struggles as he comes to grip with leading while dying to self.
One of our indigenous medical residents is preparing for future missionary service in another country. She was struggling with a fellow Christian a few weeks ago. It had to do with a difference in strategy as to how best to lead a Bible study among new believers. Convinced she was right in her methods, nevertheless, her coworker had not been won over to her position despite her setting things clearly before him.
Would I be willing to speak to him? Or was there a way that she could approach him that would convince him of his mistaken strategy? How can we convince fellow Christians to do things "right," or to believe "right things"?
2 Peter 1:5-8 helped me that day as I remembered God's promised way to keep us from ineffectiveness.
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our roots growing deeper into him, our lives being closer to him–fruit will come because of this.
There is much division in the church on this mission field. One Christian has a personal disagreement with another. Sometimes there is a theological disagreement, and cooperation is not possible because the other belief system is "not pure." Sometimes it is simply that two believers belong to churches that do not know each other.
How can we, in light of these realities, unite for God's kingdom expansion in the country in which we serve and around the world?
In my role as a leader, sometimes I find myself disagreeing with other key leaders on our team. In one recent important decision, our leadership team was split 5-1 on a certain issue. (I was the "1.") There was much unity of heart despite disagreement. Though I felt ("knew") I was right, nevertheless, I submitted to the leadership team. But I unconsciously magnified the negative consequences of the decision, and in doing so, I subtly underlined that everyone should have listened to me. In fact, I felt that everyone should always just listen to me.
What is it about my character that craves the esteem and acclamation of the men and women around me? How can I overcome this pride? What scars from my past lie deep in unknown places that tempt me in my vulnerable state to show myself to be "great"?
I transparently shared my troubled spirit with my friend, a believer in the country where I serve. Later that week, I uncovered the passions that caused me to feel so strongly about issues, passions related to pride and self-worth that need the cross. In repentance, there came peace.
There is a deep need in my heart to come to a closer place with God. Only there can these hidden places be exposed, the blackness lightened, and rest (real rest and peace) can return.
I think the only way the national church in our country, or any country, will be able to find unity, to join together across personal, cultural, and theological boundaries for God's kingdom expansion, is to grow deeper roots into God. Strategies and human wisdom are not enough. Passions and pride must be crucified. Transparency, humility, forgiveness, reconciliation, prayer, yielding one to another–there isn't another way forward.
Lord, please let it begin with me.
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