I’m often asked questions relating to mission performance and find myself a little caught out. There are good answers but can’t be related in five minutes, so I often leave such conversations feeling dissatisfied.
Given time to reflect, I’d like to respond to this: “What are the measureable results of the work of the New Zealand Baptist Missionary Society (NZBMS)?”
Over the last decade, in the various roles I’ve held in Baptist life, I’ve often been drawn to the parable of the growing seed in Mark’s gospel:
“[Jesus] said, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain – first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come’” (Mark 4:26-29).
Here’s the question: who does the growing? The simple answer is, God does. We partner with him in the planting and nurturing but God is the grower. We don’t know how he does it but we play our part, he plays his and the harvest arrives.
The next obvious question is, how long does it take for the harvest to mature? The answer’s easy when planting potatoes or lettuce seedlings. Keen gardeners can calculate harvest times. The Kingdom of God is different. We cannot determine with any accuracy when someone will be ready for “harvest,” but it’s not our job to grow, it’s our job to … well, you know!
A long-term investment
At NZBMS we look at all we’re doing through a 50-year lens and ask, “Where will each ministry be in 50 years?” We know from the outset that a ministry must extend beyond the involvement of one individual. Some years ago NZBMS was called to Thailand. The first seven years were critical in establishing ourselves. Then, in 2008-’09, we changed locations and emphasis. We were only able to do that because of a long-term commitment to Thailand.
When you make a long-term commitment to something, you need long-term goals.
Our consumer society wants immediate returns on investment. Unfortunately, many carry that consumerism into their support of missions, looking for instant gratification for seeds planted in God’s work. It means we can flit from one cause to another rather than pouring our resources into one long-term objective.
Nearly 80 years ago New Zealand Baptists commenced work in the Indian state of Tripura. This was pioneering work. It was, for many years, a work of seed sowing, watering, and waiting; there were occasional little harvests but the main harvest was yet to come. Then, 30 years ago, the Bible was translated into a tribal language and the harvest began. Now, as the result of 80 years’ investment, more than 5,000 people become Christ-followers each year.
Take time to re-read that last sentence – 5,000 new Christ-followers every year! I praise God for those early pioneers who went to this field, and those at home who caught the vision and prayed and gave of their resources, long-term.
In February I was in a village in rural Bangladesh where we have worked for over 30 years. The Gospel message has been preached there many times. I asked the question, “How many have come to Christ in this village?” The answer floored me. “There have been no converts. However, Muslims and Hindus now drink from the same well.”
I first felt frustration and then a deep reprimand from God who whispered, “How dare you judge my work. Your job is to work faithfully as I ask. I decide when it’s time for the harvest. You just get ready with the sickle!”
So, I can’t give you ‘return on your investment’ statistics every year. I can give the odd story of redemption but most the time I can only report on how hard the work is, how great the need is, how faithful the troops are, how under-resourced the workers are, and the need for more prayer and money. To be honest, I’m kind of glad about that because it’s not our job to do the growing, our job is … well, you know!
Now, a word to those who have faithfully prayed and sacrificially given over the decades, and to those who have served NZBMS and sometimes wondered where the fruit is: God promises the harvest is coming, all he asks is that we’re faithful in doing what he calls us to today.
We’ve been called to be faithful to his calling, to resource mission and to take that mission seriously. We’ve been called to plant seeds and water those seeds and nurture those seeds and the seedlings they produce. We do all we can to be fruitful, but the harvest is God’s.
But, you know, the harvest is all the sweeter when you’ve done the hard yards. NZBMS, with your support, has done the hard yards and has enjoyed the sweetness of harvest, and a greater harvest is yet to come.
With Permission From: General Directors Blog NZBMS