The Jolly family (Jennifer doing her counseling ninja skills, and the boys doing their childcare ninja skills and me there to, well do my thing) and a team of Three Rivers folks (Brittany leading childcare and Graham and Anna Rose providing wold class hospitality) are finishing up our preparations to leave for Croatia for 10 days. Why? For what?
When we planted TRC 15 years ago, we started our church already at work in a hard place where the gospel was making fresh headway. Workers had been getting after it for years and fighting to stay and keep the faith. Much blood, sweat and tears have been invested in this place, and the word of God continues to speed on, and the gospel continues to do it’s powerful work.
However, the more we tried to focus on this one place and this one people, the more God called people from TRC to other places. This supernatural work of God created some questions. How do you adequately send your own covenant people to other places than where you are strategically focused? How do you fund folks not working within your tribe’s sending agency? How do you shift the paradigm from professional ministry to domains where professionals engage with their vocation (this changes the funding paradigm when fully at work, but is hindered where economic development is not up stopped speed in some hard places)? How do you pastor your covenant people around the world? Is member care the responsibility of the sending agency or the local church? How do you manage expectations from folks in a post-Christian context who want a product in the local church versus being focused on mobilization to and for the vision? How do you mobilize an all volunteer work force so you can focus your finances on the vision rather than employing people to provide some service? How do you grow and increase your output when facilities hinder but buying or going somewhere else would require stopping city and global engagement that has deep deep deep roots?
With a vision that culminates in the reaching of the nations, we discovered more questions than we had answers. We still have more questions than we have answers, but one thing we’ve come to see: strategies have to shift, and paradigms change, but the shepherding of God’s people for the local church is a fixed truth that demands attention.
We didn’t do the best job responding to what God was doing in populating the world with TRC people early on. We simply blessed them and released them. That’s not bad, but it’s also not a ringing endorsement of the Spirit’s work to raise up laborers for the harvest either. As our people went, we lost track of some and some we kept in touch with. Some, our folks sent have engaged in providential encounters not knowing those were former Three Rivers folks leading that work.
Recently, we’ve begun to wrestle with the question: How do we shepherd our people who are scattered around the world even if they are not in our “focus” place and people? This is even a question among workers in our “focus” place and people? How do we do member care? Is that the job of the agency or the local church?
We’ve come to believe that member care belongs to the local church, and this is a way, not the way, for the local church to stay hard-wired to the world as it mobilizes it’s people to engage their domains around the world and make disciples.
Member care inside the local church is a booger in itself, and member care globally is even more so, but it does not change the fact that the local church’s people need to be cared for at home and abroad.
So many factors affect member care. Are they connected to a small group of covenant members so as to have a line of communication to the whole church and leadership? Are they connected so as to serve the needs of the fellowship? Are they present? Have they cultivated deep relationships inside the church? What about the people around the world in domains and working with agencies, how are they doing with these things? Should global workers be expected to keep up relationships with their local church?
I guess, what I’m saying is that if the local church takes seriously the Great Commission, it’s strategies are going to have to shift with the mobilization of it’s people, church leadership is going to have to make better sense of the apostolic and prophetic gifting (don’t hear crazy misused nonsense type of stuff, I mean the Ephesians 2:20; 4:11-16 kind of pioneering and building around our cities and the world not some title of fake honor), the pastors are going to have to become public square and globally savvy, and the members are going to have to commit to the fellowship and learn to care for one another and not just expect that church leadership gets paid to do that work so they don’t have to.
We are bringing some TRC members to a location that is safe and relaxing in order to invest in them, serve them, and bring them good tidings from their home folks who keep in contact via all means necessary to show consistent love (Including a Vic Beasley signed football for one Falcons fan scattered abroad). What Paul brought in tidings from the fellowship when he visited, we are trying to do for our folks from our folks at the hub in Rome, GA.
So, local church, get serious about the Great Commission. Strive to find the sweet spot in using your tribe’s sending agency and your responsibility to do more than simply write a check, and let your strategies develop as you hear the Lord and obey him in discipling the nations from the local fellowship in the local city. It’s a wild ride, and you will have more questions than answers, and it’s worth all the blood, sweat and tears you’ll sow.
We’ll let you know how this global member care gathering goes, and I’ll let you know when we solve all the challenges. Until then, go, pray, heal and preach the gospel.