A group of us plays soccer on the Wheaton College soccer field at 6 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. We represent various ages, colors, sizes and skill levels. Some stay in their part of the field and wait for the ball to find them. Others always seem to be in the right place at the right time. Some work to make the perfect pass even when they have the ball in front of the goal so they can share the joy with others.
One younger fellow almost always shoots the ball himself. No matter where he is on the field, he dribbles toward the goal until the pressure is too heavy and takes a shot just about every time. But I can’t remember seeing him score a goal. He’s usually off balance and worn out by the time he shoots.
While riding my bike home from the field the other morning I started thinking about missionaries I know that live like my young friend. They are good at what they do and have what they need to get the job done (so they think). They have their nose to the grindstone because there’s a lot to get done and don’t look up long enough to communicate with those around them, much less with the church around the world that would be motivated and mobilized by their example.
As I thought about this, the Lord began convicting me of my own isolationism. Rather than stop and share the joys and sorrows and challenges of ministry with others, I have often kept to myself and missed the mark. It’s more efficient that way, I convince myself. I don’t have time to involve others by telling the story or training a young person or inviting a short-term team. In my zeal for my work I have often forgotten that my primary purpose is to bring glory to Christ by growing and nurturing His body.
Patrick Morley, author of “The Man in the Mirror” says, “One definition of failure is to succeed at the wrong thing.” What if we finally finish a ministry project but the fruit doesn’t last or there is no successor and it dies or the local church doesn’t believe in it enough to support it? Would that be considered success?
On the other hand, wouldn’t it be wonderful if you and I were able to multiply the work God has given us in one corner of the world by faithfully and passionately communicating what the Gospel was accomplishing! Maybe someone else has a piece of your ministry puzzle that you don’t have. Perhaps our story will spark God’s call on others. It certainly will if we tell it well. The only way to find out is to “pass the ball.”
Did you see the grueling finish of the women’s cycling road race in Rio? American Mara Abbott found herself out in front after her Dutch competitor wiped out on the final decent. She had 5 kilometers to go and she was almost a minute ahead of the next riders. We all thought she had the gold medal in hand. But all alone, she had to fight the wind resistance without any help. Gradually three competitors, trading positions to let one another rest, narrowed the gap and, with seconds remaining, passed the exhausted Abbott leaving her in fourth place.
Are you a team player?
Do you communicate well with your fellow missionaries?
Do you let others take the lead when it’s their turn?
Do you wait for the church to catch up with your ideas so you can walk together?
Or do you simply want them to send your support so you can get your work done.
Let’s nurture the Body of Christ around the world through our work so He gets the glory and the fruit will last.
Thomas and Susanna Smoak served the Lord among the abandoned children of Brazil from 1995 to 2016. They have six children and live in Wheaton, Illinois.