Recently, a young missionary came into my office to complain that Wycliffe doesn’t focus enough attention on community mobilization. He felt that the translated Scripture would be better received if we were showing more practical interest in the welfare of indigenous people. He was frustrated with the organization’s “tunnel vision” and impersonal focus on linguistics and Bible translation. This wasn’t his first time to come into my office and express his opinions about the need for more community development and relationship building in the organization’s work. He reasoned that these efforts would strengthen local churches and increase evangelism, which would in turn increase the demand for translated Bibles. He felt our leadership was unwilling to take faith-based risks for the sake of the gospel and people were suffering as a result. Hmmm…let’s see if I’ve got this: We need to strengthen churches, do evangelism, preach the gospel, take faith based risks and build relationships? Sounds pretty solid but not exactly groundbreaking information. Wycliffe has been fielding these complaints and arguments for over 50 years. Even though his material wasn’t new, I was impressed that he believed he was founding a movement within Wycliffe akin to the Reformation. His grandiosity was fascinating even though his ideas were reruns.
The big question to any ministry is always: Why aren’t you doing more? Churches hear it all the time. Missions hear it all the time. We all receive more demands to be involved in worthy causes and opportunities than we can satisfy. Wycliffe Counseling Ministries is often asked why we aren’t doing more life coaching, career development, interning students, various support groups, workshops, spiritual formation, writing books, spiritual warfare, conference speaking, prayer healing, teaching graduate classes…and the list goes on. Those are all worthwhile opportunities and valuable callings but we sure can’t do them all. Which brings us to the next big question in ministry: How do you know what to say yes to and what to say no to? Keep reading.
When I was a boy, my dad observed that the barn needed a new roof. The old one was leaky and needed more than a good patching. I asked Dad why we didn’t do it ourselves. We could save a ton of money. We owned the tools. We possessed the knowledge…more or less. We could do the job. Dad said, “No. Just because we can do it doesn’t mean we should do it. We need to do what we do. There are people who do roofs for a living. They don’t do cattle. We do cattle. Besides, real roofers will do it faster and better and not die in the process. You and your brother will fall off the roof, do a lousy job and I’ll end up having to hire somebody to fix your mess.” Dad was right. We had to do what we do…what nobody else could do. I think it’s the same way with ministry. The formula is fairly simple: Focus on what you do that nobody else does and cooperate with others as they do what they do. In Wycliffe, we do Bible translation. That doesn’t mean we don’t care about relationships, the gospel, evangelism and church vitality. We do. But we have to focus on what we specialize in rather than get tied up doing worthy tasks that we don’t do as well. In counseling ministries, we prioritize tasks that support Bible translation. If a counseling opportunity benefits Bible translation…we’ll do it. The further an opportunity moves away from people getting the Scripture in their own language, the less I am willing to invest my limited resources in it. If it’s counseling and it helps Bible translation, I am willing to talk.
So, what did I tell the young man who wanted to see Wycliffe doing more than we already do? I told him he was like a guy who goes into Home Depot and complains to customer service that they don’t have a nutritional supplements section. He reasons that Home Depot obviously doesn’t care about their customers’ health. Don’t they realize that stronger and healthier people will do more home improvement projects? Don’t they care as much about their customer’s nutritional wellbeing as they care about their houses? Why doesn’t Home Depot step up and address this glaring need? Eventually, Home Depot might just say to this person, “Um…I think you’re confusing us with GNC. They don’t do hardware and lumber and building supplies but they can help you with your nutritional ideas.” He got the point…maybe. I hope.
Hey…it’s fortnight. Go out there and do what you do…and do it well.