Fry’s Spiritual Leadership Model*

How can one teach spiritual leadership in a communal culture? Many current models for servant leadership are rather individualistic in their descriptions, focusing specifically on the necessary traits, skills, or duties of the leader. One model that I believe emphasizes community well is Fry’s Model of Spiritual Leadership. The basic premise in Fry’s model is that everyone in the organization is a part of all the parts of the model.

Although developed for secular businesses, on reading Fry’s explanation, one would almost feel like many definitions came from the Bible, rather than the research studies he cites. The model, in fact, is very basic, but I think that is part of its ease in helping a spiritual team work together. After interviewing some pastors in Mozambique for a course, I adapted Fry’s model to the Mozambican context, per the figure below, by simply adding the heart and cross to the Inner Life concept to avoid the implication that the church promotes any kind of spirituality. I also adjusted the organizational outcomes from business wording to the words highlighted by the Mozambican pastors I interviewed.

Here is a brief explanation of the model. The foundational section for the organization is encouraging each person’s inner spiritual life, i.e. salvation, sanctification, etc. for our perspective. Inner life includes spiritual practices like prayer, church attendance, and so on. These foundations produce faith, hope, love, and vision (for the future). The arrows show how the different facets interact.

The middle section indicates how people experience greater spiritual well-being in an organization when each one sincerely lives out their faith through the attributes listed in the first section, and the resulting vision leads members to feel they are accomplishing their purpose and/or fulfilling their perceived personal calling. Spiritual well-being is also experienced when the members show and experience love, thus feeling membership/community.

As each one in the organization lives out and experiences these concepts in community, healthy churches are produced with the outcomes that were desired in the vision, such as commitment to Christ, peace, growth, and community engagement. So, where does the leader of an organization fit in this model?

There is no focused attention on the leader in this model. Fry explains that the leader models the same spiritual attributes as everyone else. A leader also helps guide the organization’s vision and helps create self-directed teams which are intrinsically motivated to embody the organization’s spiritual values. Being in teams, members will develop leadership skills as well as strengthening their own personal and organizational expression of the attributes in the model. I am going to start using this model in training sessions in Mozambique to help give a clear picture of how a church can support each other. What leadership model works well in your cultural setting?

*Details on Spiritual Leadership Theory were taken from Fry’s 2003 article, “Toward a Theory of Spiritual Leadership” where he explains each part in detail and from his 2021 article, “What is Spiritual Leadership?”

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Relationship Based Transitions

Ten years ago we arrived in Nicaragua. Two Global Partners missionary families had preceded our arrival, so for our national leaders, we were expected to do as missionaries had done previously: teach in their Bible institute and fill pulpits. This was the unspoken Position Results Description we arrived under, but not the plan we had before we landed in Managua. We were left with a choice: either the perception needed to change or we needed to concede to the status quo. 

Our goals and the goals of the National church are the same: to see growth, leadership, health and Christ’s love demonstrated throughout Nicaragua and the world. The major differences come down to honor, timeline and partnership. 

Like most countries outside of the major developed Western nations, Nicaragua is a hierarchical culture. This was one of my most difficult cultural transitions to witness and process. It has often made me feel awkward and uncomfortable. As my time in Nicaragua passes, I have learned that Nicaraguans show their respect by honoring others with invitations to teach, preach and lead. I have also learned that we westerners can honor our Nicaraguan brothers and sisters by allowing them the opportunity to teach, preach and lead over us. By taking their place, we fail to reinforce their agency as national church leaders.

As North Americans we are in a hurry. We want to hurry up and get to the field, we want to get settled fast, we want to immediately get started with our job description, and when we are done, we are in a hurry to move onto the next project. Nicaraguans, I have learned, have a much different flow and timeline. I needed to learn that relationship-based leadership actually views a rushed conversation as wasteful, exactly the opposite of what we are taught in our western culture. This is worth added consideration and can impact our western concept of leadership transition in non-western contexts. Even though the goals can be the same, our timeline is, more often than not, a different timeline than that of our national leaders. We are left resolving the dichotomy between completing tasks and refining people.

I have to admit a grave personal oversight, although I have read many books on leadership and taken a number of classes on the subject, it wasn’t until recently that I realized that the root word of succession is actually success. I failed to understand that healthy and lasting transitions are succession. Healthy transitions take place after an extended period of relationship and dedication. I once was meeting with a former Global Partners missionary in her 90s who asked me what we did in Nicaragua. After sharing for a few minutes she sadly said that they didn’t do many of the things we did, that they barely were getting people into church. I assured her that God used her time and efforts for His glory and ministry to the people she served. As missionaries we need to be utility players on God’s team. Whether it is the mission or the missionary, our roles and responsibilities are constantly changing, but there are always ministry needs.

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What will be in your eulogy?

As I sat in the ICU room, overwhelmed by all the beeping machines and wires that were connected to my son, it was clearer than ever before that life is a gift and we never know when we might breathe our last breath. During the time I spent next to my son’s hospital bed, I received a WhatsApp message from a leader, alongside whom I have been working. She was sharing an article entitled “The Heart of Successful Succession.” As I sat reading this article, I was faced with two parallel realities. On the one hand, I was faced with the realization that my son’s life was a miracle and something we almost lost. On the other hand, I was faced with the continued realization that the ministries in which I serve need to be able to function without my presence. The more I read this article, the more I felt that the Lord was clarifying, with urgency, the need to have people trained and ready to take over for me, whether it’s because I have tendered my resignation, or because I have taken my last breath on this side of eternity.

With the realities that Covid-19 has brought to our individual contexts, I am sure that we can all relate to the many uncertainties that life brings. However, there are several things that are certain no matter what: God is faithful and good, and our time in our current role is limited (whether that means we need to turn it over, resign, or God calls us Heavenward).  The certainty of role transition should remind us that even though we work within our specific contexts, we are a part of a mission that is larger than our personal contexts and one that extends throughout history, the present, and the future. We each have an invitation to look beyond our own vision, mission, PVCs, and experience, to grasp hold of the greater vision given to us by Jesus in Matthew 28:16-20.

With a focus on the mission of Jesus, we are invited to wrestle with questions like: “How would our leadership be different if we lived every day in light of the fact that we will eventually pass it on? How would it change if we became more aware of our mortality?” (Greer, 2021) Peter Greer suggests that every leader take time to write their own eulogy and focus on the difference between a eulogy and a resume. In the hustle and bustle of life, it is possible that we spend our time and focus on building resumes: accomplishments, titles, roles, etc. In this, we forget the things that matter most; those things with eternal value, which ultimately are the things we would desire to be said in our eulogies. Remembering our mortality invites us to live intentionally with purpose and clarity. 

In a similar exercise, Greer suggests we should also write our resignation letter. If the Lord continues giving us breath, there is a very good chance that we will walk out of our current positions at some time (whether through retirement, new callings, etc.). Recognizing that our days in our current roles are numbered, also causes reflection. We ought to be thinking about what goals should be created, what mentoring needs to be accomplished, and how to “pass the baton” of our ministry over in healthy, God-honoring ways. Remembering that we will one day transition out of this role invites us to intentionally create vision and a plan for the ministries the Lord has entrusted to us. We are speaking of a vision and a plan that not only has eternal value but is one which will most likely outlast any one season of leadership.

“We are trusted with leadership for a limited time, but we are all interim leaders.” (Greer, 2021) As we spend time evaluating 2021 and preparing goals for 2022, the real assessment will be how well the “baton” is passed to the national leadership to carry on the mission…the mission of Jesus. 

What do you hope will be included in your eulogy?



Greer, P. (2021, October 19). The Heart of Successful Succession. Association of Christian Schools International. Retrieved December 14, 2021, from https://blog.acsi.org/successful-succession

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The Facilitator Role in Cultural Context

Is the idea of an “M” assuming the role of a facilitator in mature fields based on American cultural values? Could it be that such a role would not be seen as desirable in many host cultures?

This disturbing question hit me as I listened to the recent Missio Nexus webinar led by Craig Ott on “Teaching and Learning Across Cultures” (Webinar: Teaching and Learning Across Cultures - Missio Nexus). He suggested that most Americans value a facilitative education in which teachers facilitate a learning process in which learners actively process information and discover knowledge for themselves. That value conflicts directly with beliefs about education in many parts of the world that value the teacher as the expert who delivers knowledge to learners who passively receive information from the teacher and try to master it. The difference in world views is illustrated from his handout below.

Any American who has tried to teach in a culture more collectivistic than our own (virtually everywhere in the world) easily relates to Ott’s observations and knows the frustration of trying to get learners to engage in the process when they are expecting simply to receive the wisdom coming from the teacher. Ott’s webinar then offers some suggestions for increasing student engagement but fails to dig into what we should do about the conflicting values.

GP has been promoting the facilitator role as the preferred approach for M’s in phase 4/5 fields. But have we simply been promoting an American value and ignoring how host cultures would have us to position ourselves? What is the alternative?

I’ve only questions right now. I’m hoping you have some answers.


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Confident Solutions vs. Cautious Support

You are a bridge every pastor and church needs. The Global Wesleyan Church is the unapologetic home team. While there are a few outliers, most Wesleyan pastors would love to have an exciting missions partnership opportunity with our Wesleyan tribe in the bullseye. You can be the one-stop shop every pastor and church needs to provide a substantive answer to the 4th Quadrant of the Acts 1:8 missional mandate of any NA Wesleyan Church.

 The mistake we sometimes make is in how we frame the starting point. Read that last sentence again. Don’t miss this. In the words of Donald Trump, “It’s HUGE!”

As GP M’s we are sometimes tempted by the genuine humility of cautiously inviting support. This is not wrong, but it is not best. NA Pastors are like the rest of us – mildly self-centered ☺. If your contact with them is about how they can help you, then you are just piling on one more expectation to an overworked, underpaid, margin-lite Kingdom servant.

You know an encouraging truth that in any given moment they may not. The truth is that YOU can play a role to provide a need, fix a problem, check off a box, “plus up” their leadership, amplify their mission, etc. (you get the idea). When you confidently offer a solution, you are already halfway there. Rather than partnership being about how they can invest in your ends of the earth vision, make the opening offer about how you can invest in what THEY need as a pastor of a local church to have a compelling and eternity-altering global impact.

Another small hack worth developing is to use second person language. “Deep down, you want a missions program that engages and excites your congregation. You’re the kind of leader that cares about our global Wesleyan tribe and that’s why we’re honoured to give you the kind of partnership opportunity that will ignite your ‘glocal’ leadership equity with your flock.” Pastors are like everyone else, they appreciate it when others believe in them.

At the end of the day, God did not call you as a cross-cultural servant to only impact the ends of the earth. He has raised you up as a bridge for us all. You care deeply about your North American sisters and brothers and how you need you to inspire and engage them in mission. So, bring on your confident solutions!

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Turning the “NO’s” into “YES’s”

A Pastor’s Perspective on Church Partnerships

It must be a tremendous challenge to live in two complex and ever-changing worlds at the same time: the ministry you are called to, and the process of raising funds to accomplish it. You probably feel like you are bouncing back and forth between your ministry hat, to your fundraising hat, and then back again. I am guessing that you didn’t start out in ministry because you love fundraising, but you have probably come to terms with it being a necessary part of the process. One of the biggest challenges is how you raise support has changed over the years. What you used to do, you can’t always do now. What used to work doesn’t always work now.

How can I help? Well, when you were seeking support, you are likely going to talk to a pastor like me. I am the one that will initially say yes or no to taking the next steps in presenting your ministry to others for support, so this is an opportunity to hear from the other side of the phone or email inbox.

I want you to know that I have a huge heart for missions and the work you are doing. I believe in you and your mission. I want to say yes to every phone call I receive, but obviously, I can’t. So what is the difference between a ministry I get to say YES to, and a ministry that I simply can’t? A big part of that decision is made by the fundraising aspect.

You see I don’t like fundraising either, but as things have changed I am now the one who will communicate a new global partnership to the mission board, congregation, and online community for support. I am trying to raise support, but I need a partner! I need your help.

I want to help you raise the support you need to accomplish your goals. I want the people in the congregation to respond because I believe it is a critical part of spiritual growth and maturity. It’s not easy though, so I am much more likely to say YES to missions partnerships that have…

-A cause the congregation can get excited about People used to be willing to give to a person they believed in. Now, most people are only willing to give to a purpose they believe in. They are no longer moved by WHAT you are doing, they are moved by WHY you are doing it. People are living a fast-paced life and are bombarded with messaging all week long. It is challenging to get their attention and communicate anything to them. This is why your mission has to cut through all of the noise, get their attention, and compel them to respond. The good news is that people want to be a part of something that is making a difference. You want them to hear your mission and say, “This has to change, and I have to help.”

To say YES - I need to be able to communicate your mission in a quick, clear, and compelling way.

-Consistent content that can keep people excited about your mission Our attention span is getting shorter and shorter. Even if I can get the congregation pumped up and excited about your mission in a moment or a service if I don’t keep that mission in front of them consistently their excitement and support will quickly evaporate as it shifts to the many other cares and concerns of life. People want to travel, experience new cultures, and make a difference on a global scale. You have the opportunity to take them there and help them experience all of that. Take pictures, videos, and design content that can transport them there. Help them experience what their brothers and sisters across the world are experiencing and help them live the life of purpose they were created for. You will get a handful involved if you share your mission during a service. Can you imagine how many you will get involved when you share your mission with them all year long! When you invite them into the story consistently, it becomes personal to them. It might even become so personal to them that they begin to raise awareness and support on your behalf. Just recently my daughter and the girls in my neighborhood did a lemonade stand, but instead of keeping the profits, they donated it to one of our global partners because they understood the cause and it was fresh in their minds so it became the first place they wanted to help when they could.

To say YES - I need to receive pictures, videos, stories, victories, and updates consistently to quickly post and share with the congregation.

-Numerous ways for people, and the church, to help and see wins

One of the biggest challenges in connecting people with global initiatives is that everyone is in a different place spiritually and financially. It is good for everyone to take a step forward, but we don’t always offer a step that is accessible. We currently work with a ministry that has done a great job at inviting people into a significant meaningful step no matter where they are and what they have to give. You can give $1 and provide a meal for a malnourished child, $50 to send a love/food basket to their home and family, $480 to sponsor a child for a year, $1,500 to take a trip to see and love on these children, $12,000 to build a kitchen to feed children, $15,000 a year for three years to plant a new church and build a kitchen to feed children. As a pastor, I get so excited about all of these options because there is an exciting step for EVERY person - a baby step for a first-time guest, a medium step for someone new to giving to global causes, a big step for an individual who is experienced with missions, a small step/big win for a church, and big step/HUGE WIN for a church to celebrate with the congregation. This makes your ministry applicable and accessible to every person, committee, the congregation I share it with.

To say YES - I need to have opportunities for everyone to get involved. Baby steps, big steps, big leaps, and HUGE WINS.

Unfortunately, I can’t take away the need to raise support for the amazing work that you are doing for the kingdom. I wish I could because I believe that you are fulfilling a calling to do something that very few are willing to do. I want to see you succeed in raising the support you need to accomplish the goals you have in this ever-changing landscape of ministry and fundraising. Though I can’t remove raising support from the equation, maybe I can turn some “no’s” into “yes’s” to help you keep that consistent support growing.

Practical Steps

  1. Perfect your “elevator pitch” - write out the mission you are called to so it can be shared in a quick, clear, and compelling way.
  2. Commit to taking 1 photo, 1 video update, and 1 story every week - post on your social media channels and/or share with your ministry partners
  3. Brainstorm and write down opportunities for everyone - a baby step, big step, giant leap, and a HUGE win.
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How to Engage a Weary Pastor

I don't know where I first heard it, but the longer I live the more I believe that it's true, “The world is run by tired people.”

To say it in a more contextualized way, “Most churches are run by tired pastors.”

No doubt there's been a massive amount of effort that has been given in recent years to the health, development, and care for the souls of pastors.  But even with this effort, most pastors have a desk that is cluttered with stacks and piles and they find themselves feeling scattered and weary.

Pastors have decision fatigue, and they’re emotionally exhausted. And some have full-on burnout.

When a pastor is tired they often catch themself coming and going. They come across as being disinterested when in reality they really do want to be interested.  When a pastor is tired they're not able to give the energy that is needed for the things that they care most about.  Lots of things suffer when a pastor grows weary.

I think most pastors genuinely want to make a difference globally in the far and hard places. But the weariness of daily ministry often becomes all-consuming and takes away from intentional thought and action toward global realities.

Most of my pastoral colleagues love what God is doing around the world, but they feel a pinch in their spirit. They want to be in a deeper relationship with work and workers globally, but relationships are hard when you're weary and they’re really hard when these relationships are being maintained in a wide geographical scope.

So what's a missionary to do when the pastors that you are banking on for support and encouragement are weary in the battle?

1. Look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.

I think Paul is on to something when he says that, “...each of you should look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” - Philippians 2:4

When you engage with the pastor, ask the pastor how you can support and pray for them and their work.  Reach out to them intentionally, just to say that you are celebrating and thanking God for them on that day.

Many years ago Dr. Jim Dunn told me that if you want to get certain things done in working with people you have to, “hold their baby.”  What he meant by this was that everyone wants their baby to be celebrated. Go out of your way to celebrate the pastors that you have contact with and take the time to “hold their baby”.

2. Intentionally pray for the pastors and churches on your support list.

The simple act of making a spreadsheet of all those who are partners and praying for them specifically is a gamechanger. Praying for them is good.  Letting them know that you are praying for them, is great!  It is possible to pray for a number of people by name and the gift that it is to people is truly valuable.

One of the ways that Dr. Wayne Schmidt has curried such great favor in the North American Church is his diligence in prayer.  I have watched Wayne in so many settings where he leads the conversation by saying, “I prayed for you by name today.”  This simple phrase brings a calm wind into the room.

3. Weary pastors want to be asked for help. 

Most often when a pastor is contacted by a missionary it is to ask for money.  I would recommend widening the ask.  If there is a situation that you are facing on the field or something that you are trying to personally navigate, ask one of the pastors on your support list for their input.

Most pastors, even weary ones, would find great energy and joy in giving thought in prayer and some level of discernment to the challenges you are facing. For me personally, I can say with confidence that I find energy in helping solve other people's problems, somehow it makes my own problems that much easier! 

There will be more to come in this series of posts on what pastors wish missionaries understood about the North American Church, but for today I will sum up this simple lesson up in this way.

Weary pastors need fellow travelers to pray, encourage, support, and involve on the journey.


Chad McCallum is the Lead Pastor of the Hayward Wesleyan Church in Hayward, Wisconsin

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Maintaining Interdependence

In a recent blog I suggested a possible metaphor for consideration as we move forward in developing a better plan for facilitating the work of missions. It was based on the idea of an electrical grid that interconnects systems. The word was interdependence. In an electrical grid these means if you are short on electricity then you can depend on me to help you from my supplies and vice versa.

The key word here is interdependence which is based on creating links and structures that allow all those connected to depend on each other easily and freely.

As I reflected on this word ‘interdependence’ I began to realize that it is an essential part of all that exists. Let me explain briefly.

God as trinity – Each depends on the other to complete their existence. Each has a defined identity and complete access to each. At the same time this interdependence does not diminish nor add to what each is within the trinity.

God and man – By choice God has made this an interdependent relationship. That may sound a bit egotistical but think about it. God has chosen to depend on us to carry out his plan. In doing so we are created to be dependent on him for resources, counsel and more. Obviously God can act outside of our involvement and does control all that is happening and yet at the same time his main channel of action is through us. He has created an interdependence by the vary nature of how he created us.

Jesus and Church – Again we see the fact that God has chosen to limit his action and depend on us to carry out the mission of the church. Jesus is the head and we are the body. He is dependent on us to carry out the plan and purpose of the church and we are dependent on him for direction and more. Along side of this is the idea of a body. All its parts are interdependent. It cannot function properly when this fails to function.

I realize that in some ways I may be oversimplifying this but that is the point. We need to get down the basics that allow creation to function, our relationship with God to function, the church to function, and the church as well.

Now let’s apply this to mission work, more specifically when a person from outside arrives to live and serve in a culture not their own.

From day one there is a need for the development of the structures that allow for this interdependence. There will be times when the flow is clearly more in one direction. That should not surprise us. When a person arrives they are highly dependent on those around them. They depend on the host people to help them learn language, learn culture, learn to live and so many other areas. But they do this in order to build the relationships and structures that will allow the dependence to shift and be able to supply what they have to their hosts.

Now is when things become hazy. There is a great danger that can develop. And unfortunately it happens all too often. The person who has come to share the good news begins to forget how dependent they were and allows the host to become more and more dependent on them. Sadly they forget that they are still dependent on their host in so many areas of life. They will always need help with language, culture, and planning. What happens though is that this becomes undervalued and of no importance to the mission. When in fact it should remain central.

If we lose sight of our dependence, it is possible that we will treat their help as something owed to us because we have more knowledge, more resources, more advanced skills, and so on. Suddenly we are in the world of ethnocentrism, and we may never let them stand on equal ground with us. This behavior and its impact will vary from place to place.

When we began to lose sight of our dependence is when things get complicated. The more the visitor rejects or ignores the local resources and undervalues its value the less likely there will be interdependence. So now when it comes to ministry and development all becomes dependent on the visitor with little concern for what the host may have of value that could be used to provide needed resources.

What development that does occur is to maintain what has been brought in from outside. This means local resources are disconnected and this creates a false view of what really can be done unless we have help from outside. In effect instead of using my power generator you buy your own and bring it to my country. On top of that your generator needs special fuel that is not available locally and so it must be brought in as well.

Now we find ourselves trapped and struggling to figure out how to facilitate the process of turning things over to them because we have not involved them in the process, not built connections to their world, and have no way of accessing what they have because there are no links, no adaptors, and no interest in connecting.

The only way forward will be to go back and maybe have everything dismantled and retooled before we can become interdependent correctly.

What we need to learn is how to build on and develop the dependence we had in the beginning so that it can be a key source in how to move forward. Instead of looking outside we look inside and let them do the work of looking outside. They have a better idea of what may function anyhow. Our task is to let them define how they want to be dependent on us as we learn how to continue to be dependent on them. Interdependence works that way, both working to access what the other has in a way that benefits both and grants the best level of access, the free flow of resources in both directions, that honors and respects what each has to offer.

We start out being dependent and then seek to be independent. This is wrong. Because it then forces them to become dependent on what we create. We need to learn how to continue to be dependent in a way that opens the door to interdependence.

There is so much more to explore in this. My hope is that I have not overly muddied the waters and that we can explore more fully how to become interdependent. How we can become a system or network that responds easily and quickly to each other to supply and receive in both directions the resources that will be needed to move forward in this new concept of world missions.

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Host Culture Re-entry

We have all studied culture shock and reverse culture shock (adjustments on returning home). But there continue to be changes and unexpected events if one returns to the field for a second, third, fourth time. Every time it is different. You may be married this time, or have children at different ages, or be empty nesters. Your assignment may change. Even culture changes over time. Here are some thoughts for returning to the field.

1. Don’t just settle into the same routine.

Even if your assignment is the same, look and see what changes have occurred in your friends or ministry area. How has God been at work? Is there a new opportunity? Is there any different way your children can be a part of the community or ministry?

In successive terms. you will continue to learn culture and language bringing more helpful insights and also realizations of past errors. Apologize if you feel it necessary. Give yourself grace. Laugh. Remember the apostle Paul said, “I press on…”. None of us is perfect. Even in our own cultures, we make mistakes and learn new skills over time.

2. Give yourself permission to grieve loss.

Leaving family is not always easier the second or third time. Or it may be, but then it will be hard again when you have to leave your own children in your passport country. Sometimes ministry colleagues move on or pass away while you are gone from the field. Cross-cultural workers face loss in many ways, and it is healthy to find ways to say those goodbyes or express sadness.

You don’t have to always have a strong exterior. In a poor country, people may not feel they have a lot to contribute to a foreign worker. But when you are able to (appropriately) show an area of weakness, it gives them an opportunity to minister to you. 

3. How can you express appreciation or honor upon returning?

Every culture is different but consider if it is appropriate to bring a gift for your local colleagues or the top church leader. Early on we did not think of these things, but now we always bring a small item for the staff we work with at the Bible College and for the Church Superintendent. It can be something small they do not usually buy for themselves like a bottle opener/screwdriver tool or a plaque for their office. It could be a book or a pack of pens.

A second thing I was not conscious of in my early years was my lack of public affirmation of local leaders. Several times a year in church conferences, the leaders would publicly express appreciation for our coming to work with them. I would say something polite and sit down. But I began to realize that I needed to reciprocate and tell them that it was an honor working with them and express something specific that I appreciate about their efforts too.

I pray today that whatever season you are in that God would “give you complete knowledge of his will…. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need… May you be filled with joy.” (Colossians 1:9-11) 

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Making Disciples or Marketing Jesus?

Few people start their missions journey as great disciple-makers. It doesn’t come naturally to many of us. So we look for training in how to share the gospel and how to disciple new believers.

Maybe it’s a class at your church or a video series from your favorite leader. Maybe you’re even studying to get a missions degree in college. Every training has a different approach, and we begin to build a suite of discipleship tactics. We learn punchy questions to ask and catchy methods to share truth. We practice and time ourselves so we can get our gospel pitch down pat.

“I was taught — albeit subconsciously — that our task as disciple-makers is to market Jesus. But ... you don’t market the King of the cosmos.”


Then we cross cultures and expect our gospel salesmanship to win the day.

But there’s a problem. It doesn’t work.

I know because I tried it. I earned master’s degrees in religion and cross-cultural communication. Then I arrived in West Asia and learned that carrying a burden to convey Jesus is a recipe for burnout.

In my studies, I was taught — albeit subconsciously through our American worldview — that our task as disciple-makers is to market Jesus. We learned strategies to market Jesus the way we would market a business. But while capitalism may be a great economic philosophy, it’s a terrible way to do missions.

You don’t market the King of the cosmos.

If I think my job is to deliver Jesus to a needy market, I might as well be playing cricket on a soccer field. I’m living in the wrong mentality, and I’m going to ruin the very relationships I’m trying to form.

But what if my role is not that of an entrepreneur but an explorer? What if instead of working to start Jesus franchises, I’m to discover where Jesus is emerging and draw as much attention as possible to Him there?

The apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians that his work among them would not be complete “until Christ is formed in you” (4:19). We assume our job is to get the gospel message to [fill in the blank]. But it isn’t. It’s to nurture and grow what Christ is already doing, until that work is complete. Until Christ is formed in Galatia, London, Tokyo, and beyond.

“If I think my job is to deliver Jesus to a needy market ... I’m going to ruin the very relationships I’m trying to form.”


What does that look like, practically?

When I lived in the marketing mentality, I walked out my door each day with a burden to deliver Jesus to everyone I met. Conversations sounded like this:

  • Let me tell you about…
  • You need to hear this…
  • You don’t understand about…

But when I walk out my door looking to catch a glimpse of Jesus anywhere I can, I’m eager, expectant, and hopeful. Now, conversations sound like this:

  • Your experience reminds me of…
  • See the glory of the King in…
  • Look how these connect — I think Jesus is chasing you.

One a way of obligation, and the other is a way of wonder.

Which will you choose?

This article was originally published at crossworld.org.

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