SEND U blog

Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Firm grip on the Gospel
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Finishing Well: Keeping a Firm Grip on the Gospel

In the first post in this series on finishing well, I compared a ministry assignment to a leg of a relay race. I also pointed to the baton as a distinguishing feature of a relay race. Furthermore, I identified the baton as the gospel in our ministry race. The gospel is the distinguishing feature of our ministry.1 While Tom Steffen does not identify the baton as the gospel in his book, Passing the Baton, he does devote a whole chapter to “Presenting an Accurate Gospel.” (p 127-141 in the 1993 version of the book.) As relay runners must keep a firm grip on the baton, so also church-planters must keep a firm grip on the gospel. This is no less true for administrative assignments in mission organizations.

What is the Gospel?

This may seem like an unnecessary question. Yet, when we read the definitions of the gospel from Christian websites, confusion is evident.2Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel?, 2010. p 18-20. In a similar way, J. Mack Stiles warns of assuming and confusing the gospel and cultural Christianity.3 J. Mack Stiles, The Marks of the Messenger, IVP, 2010, p 37-47. It is critical to the race before us that we know what the gospel is.

The Gospel Holds the Bible Together

At the first conference of the Gospel Coalition in 2007, D. A. Carson made this observation in a message titled “What is the Gospel?”:

divine resources
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Utilizing Divine Resources for Spiritual Transformation

Editor’s note: We are continuing our blog series on mentoring using the Mentoring Pillars written by the late Jim Feiker, a former member of SEND International. This seventh pillar explains the importance of relying on divine resources in order to see real transformation in the lives of our mentees.

The danger of spiritual malpractice

Have you ever wondered what spiritual ministry malpractice might look like? Is it possible to be the most skilled facilitator in the learning process, have a great relationship with a person, and still be out of harmony with what God is doing in a person’s life? We are called to a divine ministry to enable divine work in God’s eternal people through his Spirit. To this end, God has given us his unlimited graces to partner with him in ministry. He knows that without us utilizing his dynamite resources, we will be ineffective and powerless. God’s work, done in God’s way, will experience His power and blessing.1 This last sentence is an adaptation of a quote from Hudson Taylor – “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.”

Empowerment means not human equipment, but divine enduement. It is possible to be splendidly equipped from man’s point of view, yet magnificently disqualified in God’s estimate. Prayer gives a new vision to the soul, a new contact with God, and a new hold upon God; it makes possible a larger recognition of divine resources, a fuller reception and consequently a fuller distribution.

Arthur T. Pierson

Therefore, the critical question for us is this: Are we relying on our skills and gifts, or are we depending on the Spirit of God and His divine resources to do His ministry?

God's purposes
Photo by Adriana Velásquez

Keep God’s Purposes in Mind

Editor’s note: We are continuing our blog series on mentoring using the Mentoring Pillars written by the late Jim Feiker, a former member of SEND International. This sixth pillar tells mentors that they need to remember God’s purposes for the mentee and work toward those ends.

In the process of spiritual mentoring, seeing the beginning and also the end are both of significant importance. We need to see both the way things ought to be and the way things really are now. Clarity in both where people are right now in their spiritual journey, and in where God wants them ultimately to gives us a realistic, balanced perspective.

To see only the beginning brings tolerance and grace toward a person’s humanity, but does not provide any direction in where to go. On the other hand, to see only the end purpose gives us direction. However, it may impose too high of standard (given where a person is now). It will lead to legalism and a failure to accept their humanness.

The journey between these two critical points is the process we call biblical transformation. Unless we are in sync with a person’s design (Pillar #5) and with God’s eternal purposes, we will not develop a clear God-ward perspective in our mentoring.

The purposes of God have three different aspects:

  1. God’s ultimate purposes in the universe – where he is going with his people into eternity.
  2. The universal purposes or objectives God has for every believer.
  3. His unique purposes or calling that he has for each person individually.
personal design
Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

Mentoring In Sync with Personal Design

Editor’s note: We are continuing our blog series on mentoring using the Mentoring Pillars written by the late Jim Feiker, a former member of SEND International. This fifth pillar talks about the need to mentor in such a way as to respect the God-given personal design of each mentee.

In the last pillar of mentoring, we dealt with the significance of working with God. We must partner with God in what He is doing in people’s lives. But we are also to be working with people according to their differences and design. To be most effective in mentoring, both where God is working in their life and how God has designed them must be on our radar screen. To overlook their design and desires is to violate a person’s very personhood and value before God. It is to disregard the principle of differences in the Body.

The animals’ school

The animals had a school.1This fable can be found on the web in a number of places, but here is one example. The version that Jim Feiker used was adapted by Lorne C. Sanny from a speech by Dr. A. R. Broadhurst. The curriculum consisted of running, climbing, flying and swimming. All the animals took all the subjects.

The duck was good in swimming and fair in flying. However, he was terrible in running, so he had to drop his swimming class and stay after school in order to practice his running. He kept this up until he was only average in swimming. But average was acceptable. The others (including the teacher) were no longer threatened by the duck’s swimming ability. So, everyone felt more comfortable – except the duck.

ministry as relay race

Finishing Well: Ministry as a Relay Race

I have been doing a lot of thinking and reading about finishing well in the past several months. In part, this is because I turn 70 in November and will retire at the end of 2021. But I am also interested in this subject because SEND U has been asked to develop and find resources to help SEND missionaries finish well whether in a ministry assignment or at the end of a career. When reflecting on finishing well, I find it helpful to view ministry as a relay race. 1Tom Steffen’s book, Passing the Baton: Church Planting That Empowers also uses this analogy.

Over the next few months, I will be writing a series of blog posts on finishing well in ministry assignments as a leg in a relay race. In this series, I will be applying the analogy of a relay race to finishing well in a ministry assignment. Presently, I plan to write six more posts. This will be followed by a shorter series on finishing well at the end of a ministry career.

In this post, I want to sketch the analogy between ministry and a relay race.

Ministry as a Race

The apostle Paul describes his ministry as a race in a number of passages (Acts 20:24; 1 Corinthians 9:24-26; 2 Timothy 4:7). In the Acts and 2 Timothy passages, he uses the same word in the original language2 (the ESV translates it “course” in Acts and “race” in 2 Timothy). Interestingly, in both passages, he writes about finishing his course or race. In the former passage, he expresses his desire to finish his course and ministry well. In the latter, he expresses his confidence that he has finished his race well.

discerning where God is working
Photo by Ryan Loughlin on Unsplash

Discerning where God is Working

Editor’s note: We are continuing our blog series on mentoring using the Mentoring Pillars written by Jim Feiker. This fourth pillar talks about the need to discern where God is working in the life of the mentee. This determines their level of readiness for further growth.

My brothers and I own a lake cabin in northern Minnesota. Every year Bev and I trek to a small bay on the south side of Big Pelican Lake to observe water life and just to enjoy the beauty and solitude. The bay is often calm and mirror-like and is surrounded by forest. Early in the morning one can see air bubbles rising all over the water, indicating life under the surface exhaling their last bit of air before resurfacing. The bigger the bubbles, the bigger the creature. These bubbles have led us to find turtles, muskrats, and marine life. We go to the bubbles to find life.

 The same is true with a person’s heart. People express “life bubbles” from their hearts that reveal what is really going on in their lives. It is when we are sensitively watching and listening for these heart bubbles that we can often detect what is happening in someone else. We see what are root causes and issues, not just symptoms. These “bubbles” often reveal people’s needs and desires, where God is working, and what people are ready for. How do we detect the “bubbles”? How do we discern where God is working so that we can join him there?

Co-laborers with God

Accurately understanding how God views people and what our role is in ministering to them is critical to our effectiveness. We will minister to people with respect and grace if we have a biblical perspective on these things.

The Whole Christ: A review

The Whole Christ

I recently watched a breakout session from The Gospel Coalition 2021 National Conference (TGC21) discussing grace and works in the Christian life. Specifically, the question that was posed was “Does grace oppose hard work?”. However, the breakout session did not resolve the issue. Sinclair Ferguson’s book, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance – Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters provides helpful guidance. Because these issues are vital for evangelism and discipleship, this book is an important resource for missionaries.

The Marrow Controversy

The historical background of Ferguson’s book is a debate in the Church of Scotland in the early 18th century. Now, the term “marrow” seems a bit strange to our ears today. Yet, in the 17th and 18th centuries, it described the seat of a person’s vitality and strength, the essence of a subject matter.1Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Whole Christ, Crossway, 2016, p.22. The controversy acquired its name from Edward Fisher’s book, The Marrow of Modern Divinity, written in 1645. As Tim Keller points out in the foreword, the author “does a good job of recounting the Marrow Controversy in an accessible and interesting way”2 (p. 11).

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