It looks like I’m not the only one having epiphanies about making disciples. J. Lee Grady, the former editor of Charisma magazine and the director of The Mordecai Project, posted an article this week called Why Relational Discipleship Has Become My Priority.
It was fantastic.
To hear someone of his stature emphasize that he’d rather spend a few days with four or five key pastors in an area rather than having a stadium full of people listening to him preach is phenomenal and encouraging.
I’ve been on the mission field in Peru for three years and a half years now, five if you count the accumulated amount of time I lived in Holland and came to a point sometime early in 2011 where I faced a strong sense of dissatisfaction with what I was doing.
I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew I wasn’t being effective and that I was…wasting time.
I knew God called me to Peru, but I had still not “found my groove” or hit my stride. I’ve heard other missionaries say you don’t feel like you’re doing anything until after three years. Others told me they felt like they weren’t seeing the fruit of their labors until a decade later. So, I encouraged myself that I’m on the right track, but it’s just taking me the appropriate amount of time to get there.
To be completely honest, on the ground the doors have not burst open nor has my phone rung off the hook with speaking engagements or invitations to come to preach to multitudes like a few years ago I had expected I’d eventually grow into. I had a man of God I respected greatly insist that if I were really called to be a teacher to the Body of Christ, then I’d be teaching more. Keep in mind I just turned 30 years old last year. And his generation doesn’t really “get” the internet and that podcasting and blogging has been reaching accumulated thousands of visitors over the last 5 years.
But because I don’t have some brand new revelation to put into a book that sells a bazillion copies like the Prayer of Jabez, or have some kind of outlet where I’m in front of a pulpit day in and day out, I’m not really “teaching.”
I guess I fail.
But as for other more practical on-the-ground stuff here in Peru, I know others who’ve not even stepped into their true gifting and callings until their 40s. Heck, Moses didn’t lead Israel until in his 80s! My platform just doesn’t happen to be a traditional pulpit. I don’t feel in my spirit that I’m languishing just because I’m not doing the same as others.
It’s been difficult to navigate conflicting opinions and schools of thought as some men in my life have encouraged me to wait until I’m 40 before publishing my first book, while others insist the fact I’m not “doing more” for Jesus than I am is evidence that I’m not in my right calling or something. Obviously after much prayer, thoughtful consideration and on occasion, fasting, I’ve come to the conclusion I’m right where God wants me and can see the difference in my life where I’m flourishing in true community.
I’m not writing this in any way to defend against something, but just process thoughts and I have a point I’m getting to.
Hourly Wage Christianity, or Paid On Commission?
One of the things many people may not realize about life on the mission field or for many pastors is the way productivity works itself out in our lives. In some cases, they feel they have no break from the demands of ministry, as people call them in their personal time and drop by their houses unannounced with problems needing prayer. If they were paid by the hour, it would be as though they work a smaller hourly rate than the rest of us confined to the average 40-hour work week based on the amount of overtime they wind up needing.
I don’t know why I’m going in this direction, but almost all of the jobs I’ve had were factory work or blue-collar jobs which required me to do a task over and over all day for my entire shift, come back the next day and repeat the task. I’d have lunch breaks and two other 15 minute breaks. This put a work ethic into me and showed me how to steward my time and be busy during those shifts, accomplishing whatever the task I was being paid by the hour to do.
As a result, when I first came on the mission field, the most difficult adjustment I had to make was not language or culture, but time management. In both The Netherlands and now Peru, when I first arrived in both places, I felt like there was nothing to do with my time unless I created something to do.
I had never had this problem before.
I’m a settler or developer, and not a pioneer — at least in that sense — and in each case, I had leaders with tremendous vision who I’d go to and ask for tasks or run ideas by. Over time I became busier or networked with other ministries as I got more familiar with the culture, but not necessarily more productive.
In the last couple years of my life, God has opened up ways for me to make money monetizing my writing (not much, but it’s like having an extra supporter every month), making money ghost and copywriting (enough to supplement my support for the time being), and I’ve made several WordPress websites for businesses and ministries on the side over the last year and a half.
In most of those cases, I had to move my thinking from an hourly wage mentality to a per-project mentality. I had an opportunity to make a decent-sized amount of money for a project last Spring and lowballed the price I charged because I was thinking of how many hours it would take to do instead of how much it was worth to the client to have me do it for them.
Obviously, more money results in more freedom, and working on a per-project basis has helped me modify my lifestyle and function on the mission field in the best way I see possible for my effectiveness in disciple-making. I have tasks that I can use to make money and not worry about my support levels, and I go visit people in Pacifico and am making disciples in Los Cedros and continue blogging and writing as well as podcasting, which in itself is a platform for ministry as well. This is the lifestyle I believe God has designed for me to be more effective long-term in producing fruit that hopefully can be said has lasted, rather than just being busy for the sake of being busy and produce things that right now look like they’re fruitful and productive.
Therein lies the problem for a lot of Christians.
We have a busyness mentality more than a productivity mentality.
Compare it with having an hourly wage or having a flat salary. Or a commission. Different methods of receiving payment will result in different strategy and work ethic and use of our time. We think large numbers in a stadium is better than having four people to pour ourselves into, who themselves will do the same, and so on.
What if more of us started living life for the kingdom of God with a view for the fruit and results we’ll have produced, rather than a view of occupying time (keeping busy) until we die or Jesus comes back? If we were given a paycheck for our faith, and it were on a results-based paid commission, rather than an hourly wage — would some of us live any differently?
Would you be busy or would you be productive?
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Take a look at Jesus’ use of his 33 years on the earth. He was no less God Himself and didn’t even enter public ministry until he was around the age of thirty at most estimates. What did he do with those previous years? Keep in mind he was a blue-collar worker, and then even when he entered ‘full-time’ ministry, he spent three and a half years discipling twelve guys.
Sure, there were big giant public gatherings of people who followed and heard his messages, like the sermon on the mount, and the occasions when he multiplied the fish and loaves of bread for thousands of people, but his primary hands-on time was with just a few people. Then they rocked the known world.
If most successful ministries were to evaluate this based on their strategies, I’m sure many would have concluded he needed many more sermon on the mount-like speaking engagements to reach more multitudes.
But he didn’t.
He was the most productive he could eternally be with his life and changed all of history.
Mind you, he was God, I realize that, but still.
Are you making the absolute best use of your time?