In my opinion, one of the most challenging parts of starting new work is to understand how to align your day-to-day work with the goal that you are trying to achieve. You know that you want to see a certain outcome, but finding the right path toward that goal can be pretty difficult when you are, yourself, developing that path in the moment.
In my past, I’ve worked within organizations where I was hired to do a particular job. I saw a job posting, applied and got the job, and then went on to perform the role that I was hired to do. In the job that I’m thinking of, I was hired to be a salesperson. The company hired me to do that job, told me how they wanted to have the job done and what my goals were, and so that is what I did. My success in that role generally depended on my effort and my effectiveness in finding the right people who needed my product and explaining to them how my product could meet their needs.
In another role, I worked within an organization but was told that my job was to build an organization that would meet the objectives that I was given. I can remember that early in the organization’s development, we had some success in selling products, but I was asked about the progress that we had made specifically for the objectives that I had been given. At that point in our growth, I had to say “not yet”, in the sense that we hadn’t yet made any progress toward those goals. Despite our success in sales, we weren’t yet making progress toward the real objective. My job was to build an organization that would meet certain objectives, but I hadn’t done that yet.
At that point, realizing that I had not aligned my role, and that of the few people working for me, in the direction of the objectives, I made several changes. Those changes aligned us toward accomplishing the objectives and my role, and those of my co-workers, was now pointing in the direction of the success of those objectives.
In our work now, I’ve realized a few things that I believe have become pretty important to the success of what we are doing.
First, we don’t have anyone defining our specific objectives for us. We have to come up with those objectives ourselves, and the way that we state them makes a significant difference in how we should expect to operate within the context of our work.
Second, once we know those objectives, we then need to think clearly about what my individual role is in reaching them. Similar to the example above, you might find that you are having success, but that success may not be toward the objective that you hope to achieve. You may have good news to report to others, but if that good news is not taking you in the direction of the accomplishment of your objective, you have probably either not defined your objective correctly, or you are not fulfilling the role properly, taking appropriate actions to lead to the goal.
OK, so let’s stop speaking abstractly, and instead get specifically to the situation at hand. In our case, here are our objectives as I see them:
- See a discipleship and church planting movement
- That is led indigenously by the people that we are here to reach
- That will reach a minimum of four generations
What do each of those mean? Let’s break these down a little so that we understand what we mean:
1. See a discipleship and church planting movement. This means that we are setting out to see multiple disciples and multiple churches planted. We are not trying to make one group of disciples or one church that revolves around us, but instead a group of disciples that will go on to make disciples themselves.
2. That is led indigenously by the people that we are here to reach. We believe that God has called us to the unreached, and with the immigration that has come from Africa and the Middle East to Italy, we focus specifically on those who come from unreached people groups. To accomplish this objective, we may strategically partner with those who come from a reached people group in order to connect and reach unreached peoples, but throughout our work, we are focusing on unreached peoples. In the end, the network should be led by, and be reaching, people from the unreached people groups.
3. That will reach a minimum of four generations. This means that, if I am Generation 0, then I need to disciple someone (Generation 1) who will disciple someone else (Generation 2) who will disciple someone else (Generation 3), etc. We want to see this happen to at least four different generations, reaching those from the unreached, and starting communities of believers, creating generations of churches along the way.
People that study movements like what we are talking about here have helped us understand that our role is probably quite different than what we would have originally imagined. I think that when we originally landed, we thought that we would be the primary people who are sharing the Gospel, discipling, and starting the churches.
However, what we have learned is that the movement work needs to be indigenous from the beginning. The people that you are trying to reach should be leading or helping to lead from the start.
This makes a significant difference in how we understand our role. If someone else should be leading from the start, what should we be doing? We are primarily developing partnerships and working together with our partners. This is frequently called an Insider – Outsider partnership, meaning that the Insider is a person that comes from the culture or people group that you are trying to reach, and the Outsider is the person that is coming in from outside of that culture.
What could we, as the Outsiders, bring to the partnership?
First, we can help bring vision. It could be a vision to reach an entire city or an entire group of people. We can look into the scriptures together with our partners to see how God desires to reach all people, everywhere. We could also, for example, see how this actually happened in the Bible, read about what Jesus taught about making disciples, and learn how the Apostle Paul planted churches. We can ask questions to think together with our partners what it would take to reach these people and begin to develop a vision together to do it, making disciples and
Next, we can also help with discipleship processes and tools that can be reproduced from one person to the next. All of these, of course, are confirmed or changed within the context of the partnership for the purpose of reaching the people group, but this is another area that an Outsider may be able to help.
And finally, we can be an encouragement to our partners. We can encourage them in our words, affirming their work. We can encourage them by being a blessing to them or their families. We can work alongside of them to both model and coach what we are trying to do together. All of these things can be a significant encouragement to our partners.
So does all of this mean that we don’t share the Gospel, or we don’t disciple others to faith? Yes, we definitely do this, but it is important to consider the amount of time that we spend doing this on our own versus finding others to partner with to help them to make disciples and plant churches. In doing this, we can align our activities to have a role that will achieve the goals that we are trying to accomplish.