by Gary Corwin
The scriptures are full of admonitions and promises related to waiting upon the Lord. Countless sermons have been preached on it, and many thousands of troubled hearts have been encouraged by references to the subject.
The scriptures are full of admonitions and promises related to waiting upon the Lord. Countless sermons have been preached on it, and many thousands of troubled hearts have been encouraged by references to the subject. Nevertheless, for many of us it is a difficult concept because it runs counter to our self-reliance and the value we place on action now. This is true for us as both believers and as co-laborers with Christ in the task of mission. Space doesn’t permit me to review the many wonderful biblical passages related to waiting (see “The Holy Spirit and the Pace of Mission” by Cody Lorance on page 326), nor to acknowledge those places where waiting is the wrong thing to do, such as in response to God’s great gift of salvation. But we can review three areas where waiting may be exactly the right response to our missions context.
The first area is the initial period of support raising. This is a time of seeking God’s provision. Because some of our missionary readers are supported directly by their denomination or because they are tentmakers, they may not experience the joy of support raising. However, I ask your indulgence as we discuss this issue that affects many EMQ readers.
How well I remember that period exactly twenty-five years ago when my wife and I became appointees with SIM and were in the process of raising our support in order to serve in Ghana. Looking back I am grateful that the Lord laid it on our hearts to trust him to supply our needs through people and churches that we knew well and with whom we had been involved in ministry. We wanted this because it would provide an external confirmation to the personal calling we both felt, and also because we didn’t want to be just one more name on the back of the bulletin at fifty churches where nobody really knew us. We figured we would be a lot more likely to be prayed for if people knew us personally. This also meant we lost very little support when our ministry moved from a base in Ghana to one in the US.
Throughout that process we had in our minds that if God chose not to provide our support immediately we would not automatically conclude that he didn’t want us to go overseas. It might be that he simply wanted us to wait and minister to more people at home. As it turned out, our support was raised in just seven months. Had that not been the case, though, we were well prepared for a wait. While I’ll never know for sure, I’m still convinced that it would have been a good wait and far more fruitful for the kingdom than a frantic itineration among the unknowns.
A second area where I believe waiting constitutes the better road is with regard to God’s preparation. While the “professional student” syndrome is always a danger, the old dictum is still true that “a sharp axe cuts a lot more trees than a dull one.” Cross-cultural ministry, while exhilarating and an education in itself, is not a walk in the park. It is best engaged in when you have an appropriate acquaintance with the best methodologies for issues such as language, culture learning and cross-cultural communication. It is also important to truly understand what the scriptures have to say about central truths like the nature of the Church, mission and the gospel, or what history has to teach us about the mistakes we are prone to make. In spite of widespread and enthusiastic advocacy for “drive-by mission” (short-term mission that is lacking the appropriate training and readiness), there are aspects of ministry for which there is no substitute for adequate preparation. Such preparation is worth waiting for.
Finally, it is important to wait for productivity. It’s one thing to wait for provision and preparation, but once you’re out there running hard after your ministry vision, it’s awfully hard to wait for the results. You are keenly aware that those who sent you out to pursue that vision in the first place are waiting somewhat impatiently to hear results. This especially becomes an issue if you are committed to taking the gospel to the least receptive peoples, settings and religious blocks.
Besides the need to fight the demons of seeking personal accomplishment and significance, it is also necessary to combat the parade of new “keys” to rapid success. For every complex challenge, it seems there is a very simple solution offered that is almost always wrong. Most of the time what is called for is not a new key, but the steadfast ability to trust, labor and persevere. In the final analysis it is God who opens doors that no person closes, and closes doors that no person opens (Rev. 3:7). It is also God who draws individuals to himself (John 6:44). If we hang in there and do our part, yet wait for him, it’s hard to imagine that we will be waiting in vain.
Gary Corwin is associate editor of EMQ and missiologist-at-large for Arab World Ministries, on loan from SIM-USA.
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