Friday, January 19, 2007

The Bane of Vision

Ahh, the comfort of the status quo. Can anyone think of a more peaceful place than a rut that is constant? No surprises, no challenges, no criticism, no hassles. I remember watching the goat herders in Kenya who all they did everyday was tend to their flocks. They would get up in the early morning, throw rocks at the wanders to get back with the bunch, take a nap in the hot afternoon sun when the goats rested, herded them back to the kraal at night. What a life!

In this fast pace world we live in, especially if you are, like myself, self-employed, you can’t afford to “go with the flow.” My clients are those who have entrusted me with their resources to take the message of the Good News to people who have never heard. As I look at this new year I am forced to consider my teaching schedule in India, Kenya and the U.S.; launching a new initiative called the Center for Advanced Mission Studies (CAMS); publishing training material; upgrading everything from my webpage to real-time lectures online. My clients presume I will go beyond status quo; more importantly, my omnipresent Boss expects more of me than being in the rut of life.

I am well aware that many people in my profession, once in the system, can get lost in a rut and few people in the states know or care. Sad, but true, all one needs to do to continue to get support is write a newsletter once a quarter, tell a few stories about someone getting “saved,” about the neighbors coming down with beriberi, or how hard it is to find good bread at the local market and one can live a lifetime on the field. That’s a sad commentary on missionaries, it’s even more of an indictment to the local sending church and mission agency. Accountability is almost non-existent in my work and those back home who try to hold people to a standard usually know so little about missions they wouldn’t know how to evaluate a work if they were inclined to do so.

Does God expect us to have vision and goals? Yeah, I think so, but we need to keep things in perspective. God is more interested in our relationship with Him than sacrifice. But just being faithful, which is often code for “I’m unproductive but I’m still on the field,” isn’t what God has in mind either. He expects us to make plans as He directs our steps, to consider the work ethic of the ant and recognize that a little slumber and a little folding of the hands leads to poverty. I’d love to find a rut to ride, but I’m too paranoid that in the end I will end up cast into outer darkness because I didn’t diligently work out my own salvation. Okay, that may be stretching it, but a little holy fear keeps me on my toes.

As I look forward to 2007 I make no resolutions, except one. I resolve not to just let life happen, but, with His help, move toward some measurable goals. One day, maybe when I’m too old to move, I will take the time to throw rocks at goats.