As a culture, we as Americans like results, and that is true of the church as well. We admire success that can be measured and replicated. We also like convenience, as well as formulas or products that can help us achieve success in life and ministry, the faster the better. The problem is that genuine success cannot be achieved through shortcuts. It requires a lot of hard work, generally over many years, and faithfulness to a specific goal or vision. This, I believe, is especially true of those called to minister cross-culturally.
My husband and I, after years of fruitful ministry in another context, once again find ourselves in a time of preparation. We are the newbies, recent arrivals. After months of settling in: setting up a bank account, buying our STL car, finding a place to live, unpacking, studying and passing our Spanish driving tests, and learning the ropes at IMM, we are now in the trenches trying to make sense of the Spanish language and culture. I’ll be honest, it isn’t really fun, and most days we feel less than successful, but we know from experience how important this time is. We are laying a foundation for future fruitfulness. We know that without the language, we can’t understand the culture. If we don’t understand the culture, then we can’t know the felt needs of our neighbors and those whom we meet. If we don’t know their felt needs, then it is difficult to know how to present the Gospel effectively. So, if we want to reap the reward – kingdom growth – then we have to be willing to do the long, tedious, and sometimes monotonous work of language learning. Our success and potential reward are months or even years down the road, but they depend on the decisions we make and our faithfulness during this season.
The work at IMM is similar in that the successes that we share involve hours, days and weeks of hard work by the whole team. Most of the time we don’t share the tedious, monotonous side of the work, as it isn’t glamorous or necessarily very interesting, but it is essential, and conservatively makes up over 85% of the hours spent. But without that hard work and faithfulness, the results – unreached people hearing the Gospel - wouldn’t be possible.
Perhaps today you are frustrated in your area of ministry, tired of praying for that burden God has laid on your heart, wondering if the gifts you give each month to God’s work make any difference at all. I want to encourage you! In Galatians 6:9 we are told, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” God measures success very differently than we do. Work faithfully! Don’t give up! Your harvest is coming!