by Don Christianson
In the early 1980’s it became evident to many associated with the United World Mission that God was about to “do a new thing.” The mission is now in the early stages of this new work of God. His leading has truly been amazing as he has used his Word to give us new vision and direction.
In the early 1980’s it became evident to many associated with the United World Mission that God was about to "do a new thing." The mission is now in the early stages of this new work of God. His leading has truly been amazing as he has used his Word to give us new vision and direction.
The word that God used to launch United World Mission into a period of organized growth is found in John 15:5: "I am the Vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing."
Jesus makes very clear his desire for us to bear much fruit. By this, I believe he means fruit beyond our own capabilities. He wants to do, through us, more than we could hope to accomplish on our own. The world will never be won to Jesus Christ by the sum total of our human efforts, no matter how much natural ability we diligently apply to the task. It is only the Holy Spirit, empowering and multiplying our efforts, that can bring about this "much fruit."
John 15:5 also teaches that "without me ye can do nothing." He doesn’t say that without him we will accomplish very little. He emphatically states that the result of ministering in our own strength is a huge spiritual zero.
This verse further tells us the secret of "much fruit" and how to avoid a lifetime of futility. It is to abide in him! Jesus was not talking about an isolated abiding event or a loosely connected series of such events. I believe he was talking about a lifestyle-an "abiding lifestyle."
In John 15, Jesus was speaking to individuals. The application of the spiritual principle set forth was meant to make his followers supernaturally fruitful.
What does this verse have to do with mission organizations? Are we not the living body of Christ called to accomplish his unique purposes? Was it not God himself who gave birth to our individual organizations and breathed his life into them? We are more than spiritual organizations. We are spiritual organisms. (Even in the secular world, a corporation is said to legally have a life of its own.)
Thereafter, it seems only natural that we should apply this same "principle of abiding" to God’s living mission entities, the body he has called to accomplish his work on earth. Put very simply, we become convinced that the first priority for UWM was to concentrate on-developing an "abiding lifestyle" for the mission so that we could bear much fruit for him.
What makes up an abiding lifestyle for an organization? We are stumbling along and still learning, but let me describe some of what we have done to create this lifestyle within UWM. Much, maybe all, of what follows is being done by other missions that have also been led in the same way by the Lord. Taken individually, the activities seem very basic and even obvious. Let me caution, however, that it is an overall attitude and consistent application of basics that result in a lifestyle-not individual activities.
The keystone in an organizational abiding lifestyle is consistent, quality, disciplined corporate times in the Word and in prayer. These are times when the body-whether the headquarters staff or a missionary team-spends time together with God. So much happens during such times! Directed Godward are activities such as worship, submission of will, confession of sin, admission of dependency on him, offering of prayer requests, etc. Received from God is a better understanding of his Word and each other; strengthened faith; wisdom; guidance, etc.
Throughout all of these activities, the Holy Spirit influences us to a greater desire and courage to be obedient and exercise faith. Obedience, of course, results in power in ministry, answered prayer and greater unity-everything we need to bear much fruit!
So much of our disobedience is directly related to not having an abiding lifestyle. We work hard to build the church of Jesus Christ, only to encounter defeat after defeat. Often it is because we have not first committed ourselves to him before committing ourselves in ministry for him. The "John 15:5 pattern" has not been followed! We must first commit ourselves to an abiding lifestyle which guarantees much fruit.
At UWM headquarters we devote the first 30 minutes of each day to the work of prayer and Bible study. It is not something we do before work, but is the first work of the day. We pray as a staff on a regular rotating basis for individual missionaries, taking two units each day. We also pray for the needs of ministries, donors and each other.
One of the home staff keeps a daily journal of our prayer requests and logs the answers as they are received. We now have page after page of answered prayer requests as a record of God’s faithfulness to the mission. What a source of encouragement to look at this journal and be reminded that God always answers prayer! Needless to say, this journal contains some very dramatic answers to prayer. Every two weeks we devote an entire 30-minute period to praising and thanking God for the specific answers to prayer.
Missionary teams in each of our 12 countries also structure their lifestyles to emphasize regular times together with God. Sometimes this is only two people meeting with their God in an isolated location. The structure varies with each field. However, one thing that each of our fields and headquarters hold in common is a commitment to make the time of corporate abiding a first priority. Ministries are scheduled around whatever structure is adopted, instead of vice versa.
A further part of the abiding lifestyle at UWM is personal prayer for one another. Home office personnel sign up voluntarily each month to pray for several missionaries daily during their individual quiet times. Overseas missionaries have asked for lists of home staff so they can do the same. In addition, within the home staff there is selection of monthly prayer partners. As a result, everyone in the UWM family is prayed for by a co-worker on a daily basis.
The donor constituency is also included in our emphasis on abiding. In addition to a monthly prayer calendar, Prayer Force Groups meet regularly in different locations across the United States to intercede specifically for the needs of UWM missionaries and ministries. A headquarters coordinator prepares a monthly "Prayer Force Report" of urgent concerns and, periodically, information on how to pray effectively. This has been a growing effort with unlimited potential.
Many other facets of the abiding lifestyle are developing at UWM. For example, we have committed ourselves to never discuss a serious problem or make a significant decision without first having two or more staff members involve the Lord through prayer. An annual mission-wide Day of Prayer is also held, with participation by donors, donor churches, missionary teams, and home office staff. In addition, each weekly administrator’s meeting begins with concerted prayer for the known needs of our fields. A monthly missionary newsletter with a brief Bible study is sent to the entire UWM family. Each year a book is prayerfully selected and given to the entire staff. It is chosen for its potential spiritual influence on individuals and the mission as a whole. Finally, spiritual retreats are planned regularly at each UWM location.
All of these activities, together, make up a mission lifestyle committed to abiding with him as our first order of business.
Don’t be misled. We do not believe in just sitting around "trusting the Lord." We do believe it should be a first commitment, followed by obediently and intelligently using the total resources he has placed at our disposal-human and material-to the best of our ability. Abiding should never be an excuse for laziness or slovenly work. At present, UWM is implementing a mission-wide program of strategic management planning to improve our productivity and accountability in the use of abilities, spiritual gifts, time, and other resources.
There are really only three steps in doing God’s work. They must, however, be followed in the exact sequence he has established. First, we must abide in him. Second, we need to exercise faith by working hard in obedience to his direction, intelligently using the resources he has provided. Third, stand back and watch God do everything else needed to bring about his desired results-much fruit!
God has proven over and over again to UWM that this is the way he would have us work. Since entering into our third phase of organizational development, he has brought about unusual growth! We have experienced a 55 percent increase in the size of our missionary staff, an 88 percent increase in the number of donors and a 78 percent increase in contribution income. Why? Because we are working harder or smarter? Because we can push God’s button through a ritual of abiding? No, I believe it is because we are sincerely trying to follow the pattern God established for doing his work. As a result, he is multiplying our efforts far beyond their worth, and, in so doing, bringing forth much fruit to his own honor and glory.
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