My wife and I, after having left our careers, home, and family in the United States, answered a call to go to Ecuador and serve as missionaries. We work in a region of Ecuador where there have been no other missionaries for many years. It is not the city, and the population nowhere nears the populations of the cities in Ecuador. On any given day, there are hundreds of missionaries, short and long term, visiting the cities and doing Kingdom work. In our region, the Cloud Forest, harvest workers are few and far between. We are often challenged in ways that most would find intolerable. Many times, we have been trapped by mudslides, without electricity, phone, water, and a myriad of other life threatening situations. We have been attacked from without and within by people and spiritually. Nothing here works out the way we want it to, and if it does, it usually takes twice as long as expected.
In spite of the renewed interest in being missional and reaching our native communities, which we think is absolutely encouraging, we were called by God to serve in a foreign mission field and become part of another community in a different part of the world. We do believe that Making Disciples is an integral part of every believer’s life regardless of where you are called or where you find yourself. In that light, we have moved from what would be considered more traditional methods to what we believe are God-inspired processes. In fact, I would call them “7 God-Directed Deviations in Disciple Making.”
1) From Follow Up to Follow In
Following up with a person or a community usually entails a consistent pattern of entering people’s day-to-day lives for a time and then leaving again for others to do more follow-up. We have chosen to follow people into their lives and live amongst them, work amongst them, suffer and cry with them, grow with, encourage and be encouraged by them. Following in and staying in, to us at least, seems more like the biblical pattern of Jesus.
2) From Outreach to Inreach
Closely related to the first, it remains somewhat different. In outreach, when you have to leave where you are, where you live, or where you have been called to reach others “outside” of where you would normally live, there always comes a time when you have to return to where you came from. That place is often contextually different from the place you reach out to. Reaching inward, within your sphere of influence, is naturally more productive because your context is already defined. You should not have to seek how to be culturally relevant; you should already be culturally relevant.
3) From Fly Paper to Flying Like Eagles
The desire to attract and trap is replaced by equipping and setting free. We have to trust God in that when our time of influence over a community or a person is done, that He will propel them into the next phase of their lives.
4) From Dependency to Development?
We do not want to be pushers of the gospel offering all sorts of addictive attachments so that we can report large numbers of “salvations” but are more focused on developing those that God has appointed us for and to. Though it may seem to us to be too few at times and hurt our prideful effectiveness, we know that focusing on a few at a time in equipping and development have much greater long-term impacts. We focus less on being leaders and more on the development of leaders.
5) From Verbal to Tactile
In the abundance of words there is foolishness. (Proverbs 10) We don’t minimize the eternal power of the Scriptures or the use of those very same Scriptures to bring people to salvation. At the same time, we are convicted that there has been, in most cases, entirely too much talking and not enough action. A woman whom we recently visited in a remote town said, “They come to preach sometimes, but never has one come to visit the poor, pray for the sick, or help those in need.” This was the answer she gave when asked if any Christians have visited. Our desire is to never be one of the “they.” My wife and I make sure we physically touch every single person in appropriate circumstances. A hug, a kiss on the cheek, the laying on of hands, or even a simple pat on the back. Then we evaluate how we can touch their lives in the most effective way with our current ability and capability.