I’ve been a team leader for almost 8 years now. If I could sit my (much younger) self down right now, I’d tell myself not to forget five key things:
1.) Don’t forget your family. Paul, sharing with Timothy about what kind of man God has in mind to lead His church, spends the most time talking about managing your household well. (See 1 Tim 3:4-5)
Why is managing your household important? Managing one’s family life translates directly to managing God’s household.
Mission teams are no exception, and we can so easily forget this. Forgetting your family, not caring for them spiritually, not seeking their good, selfishly neglecting them (and often calling it a “sacrifice”) for the sake of your ministry, is a quick way to a lot of pain and burnout, or worse. Managing your household well equips, empowers, and qualifies you to manage other ministry responsibilities well.
Don’t forget your family.
2.) Don’t forget your Christian heritage. Although Christianity has been around a long time, for some reason, missionaries like to come overseas and brush aside thousands of years of Biblical and wise patterns of church functioning.
I’ve observed countless missionaries who view church attendance as “optional.” I’ve witnessed missionaries do away with commissioning qualified church leadership in new church plants because it slows down the “movement.” I’ve seen the Bible as the authoritative Word of God supplanted by other literature – or even their own thoughts or practical experience.
Beware, leader! Beware leaving behind thousands of years of wisdom for fleeting and passing “missionary methods”! Beware redefining that which has transformed lives and peoples and nations and cultures for centuries past!
Don’t forget your Christian heritage.
3.) Don’t forget that Jesus unifies. In The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer paints a beautiful picture of how unity happens. Imagine a room filled with pianos, all out of tune. Then imagine someone tuning the first piano, then going to the next piano and tuning that piano to the first one, the next piano to that one, and so on. What do you get at the end? A room filled with out of tune pianos.
Imagine the scene again, but this time the piano tuner pulls out a tuning fork. One by one, the piano tuner tunes each piano to the tuning fork, to the standard. What do you have at the end? A room filled with pianos, all in tune.
So it is with Christ. He is our standard and to Him we must look, must be “in tune” with! So much time and energy can be spent trying to unify your team (social gatherings, discussions, meetings, retreats, etc.), and these things have their place and value, but this most-essential, foundational principle cannot be forgotten: turn your (spiritual) eyes and your team’s eyes to Jesus!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus!
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim.
In the light of His glory and grace.
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, Hymn
Don’t forget that Jesus unifies.
4.) Don’t forget your God. This is something you already know. Walking closely with God is the most important thing you can do while you’re overseas. He is your strength, your life, your help, your hope, and if you do not continue in deep intimacy with Him, you lose sight of it all. Like a plant without sun, you will shrivel.
The shocking thing is not this truth; it’s that knowing this truth, you will quickly forget it. The busyness of life, family, ministry, platform, and on and on will come and take your eyes off the One you went to serve. In no time at all, what originally was about Him and borne of our knowing Him, becomes all about you.
He is your Source. As one of Hudson Taylor’s favorite hymns says:
Jesus I am resting, resting.
In the joy of what Thou art
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
Jesus, I am Resting, Resting, Hymn
Don’t forget your God.
5.) Don’t forget that Jesus loves you. Sometimes I call this “Kindergarten Christianity”; its so simple, so fundamental that kids sing about it in Sunday School.
But its all too often forgotten. I, too, forget it.
The Apostle Paul, talking about the new life in Christ, says “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20)
“Who loved me and gave himself for me.” Just think of that: Jesus truly loves YOU! That phrase alone is worth a lifetime of meditation. He loved you before you even trusted Him, while His enemy. He loved you before you ever “did” something for the Kingdom. And He loves you now – no matter what you “do for Him” or not. What amazing grace!
Every day – through His Word, prayer and meditation, by the power of the Holy Spirit – press this truth deep in your soul.
Don’t forget that Jesus loves you.