Monday, October 23, 2006

It Takes More Than Zeal and Money

I realize that the Apostle Paul did not take a class in cultural anthropology. I am also aware that understanding culture, studying the religion of others and looking for ways of contextualizing our message is not the only way to do work overseas. However, I do not ascribe to the theory that just being faithful is, in any stretch of the imagination, a sufficient substitute for strategic thinking.

Case in point. This past week a man and wife come over to visit where I was teaching. Lovely couple. They have lived in the country for about four years; have been teaching in a college and they both seem to be happy to be here. They, like so many people I have met down through the years, have a love for Christ, a love for people and have absolutely no idea what they should be doing. This is not just my assessment, it was theirs as well, and that’s why they came to see me.

These fine folks are not young and had been in ministry for several years in the states. Age doesn’t seem to be a factor when it comes to developing a strategy. If you’ve only been schooled in the theory of “ready, fire, aim,” it doesn’t make any difference if are 25 or 55. Zeal without knowledge only assures you that you will get into a mess faster but not smarter and certainly not more effective.

My new friends left me with a horror story. They have linked up with some people who have less knowledge than they do but have a ton of money in which to do ministry. Well-meaning people with money are even more dangerous than the poor and ignorant. Strategy is even less thought of when big donors want to move things down the road, get results and contribute to the spiritual bottom line (planting churches, seeing souls “saved”).

My great hope for this couple, along with the hundreds I teach each year, is that they will back up a bit, take the time needed to develop a well thought out plan and learn about those they have come to serve. Good strategy is no substitute for the work of the Holy Spirit, but I dare say His work is made easier when his vessels have a general idea of how and what they’re doing.