We provide these meeting notes so that our blog readers can catch a glimpse inside our regular face to face meetings, learn what kinds of topics we address, and what ideas come from the the prayers and discussions.
About 20 people gathered recently at a home in Portland, Oregon to discuss their support roles to God’s movement in Africa. Two discussions arose that presented ideas that might be helpful to others who are also involved in loving and supporting African friends.
The first issue came up as we thought about the way we humans often stray from what the Lord has begun. This raised the question:
How do we help an organization or a fellowship to stay on track with what the Lord wants for them? Some of our reflections were:
- Probably the first question to consider is whether or not the original vision was something that came from God or was something people thought up and have used to control others or to raise finances for the organization.
- Given the sense that the original vision was God-given then it is important to watch for the first step or two that takes us off track. Down the road this will be a large divergence from the original objectives.
- A discerning process is important because God is not bound by the original vision. The Holy Spirit clearly sent Paul and Barnabas to Asia Minor, but when Paul thought they were to go back to that part of the world he discovered God closing doors and sending the team to Europe via the “Macedonian vision.”
- Often the personal needs of those in leadership cause them to move off as they seek affirmation and importance by promoting themselves and/or their organization. Those in leadership need to seek to experience transformed lives.
- In any group those in leadership need to have the gifts of pastors/shepherds who care for the needs of those in their group even if that is not their primary responsibility.
- When nudging people back on track it is important to know that no one wants to go “back” so the original objectives should be stated in ways that they become future goals.
- Ownership of these ideas must belong to those in leadership and not one of us as an outside consultant.
- To make any lasting changes it has to be done relationally rather than institutionally. Rules and procedures of an organization can bring immediate changes but they won’t last.
We also discussed another question that is important to all of us as we involve our friends in Africa. How can we take people to Africa on short term missions that will be helpful to them and to what God is doing in Africa? The books we have recommended in the past: When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert and Giving Wisely by Jonathan Martin are basic to understanding these issues. And some of the ideas surfaced in our discussions
- Go to be with people who are deeply connected to their communities so whatever gifts of love and encouragement you bring will be giving through those who already have the relationships. We want our presence and our gifts to build good things for those we know who are ministering to others.
- It is important that those going see themselves as going to learn – not to contribute out of their financial surplus or their “wealth of knowledge”.
- If there are no relationships well established with those in Africa then it is best to not have the trip be project centered. In that case, we need to go to be with the people to relate, to watch, and to cheer what God is using them to do. Projects can come after the relationships are well established
- Hopefully those who go are walking together in a close fellowship so those they meet in Africa are invited to “join with us in the fellowship that we have with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”
Notes by Kent Hotaling