The story went something like this:
“What is the main priority of your ministry, I asked? He was a ministry leader in a Latin American country and I wasn’t sure exactly how he would answer this question. He paused and responded by saying: ‘discipleship.’ I was thankful for his response and then asked him this question. How often does your discipleship start at conversion? His response: ‘almost never.” – Bob Moffitt, International Wholistic Missions Conference, 2015
How often in the USA do we consider evangelism and conversion as the first step in the discipleship process? Once a soul becomes saved, now we disciple, is often the thinking. Bob went on to challenge us to think of discipleship as the full process of helping others conform to thinking, living and loving like Jesus. And while conversion is a part in that process, discipleship often begins long before conversion as we experience, sense and see the love of Jesus through others and the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
For me it was a small shift in thinking and a new way to tie the heart of wholistic missions into the central calling of discipleship.
The overarching theme of this years’ International Wholistic Missions Conference (IWMC) seemed to revolve around the term discipleship. (Even though the declared theme was “The Whole Church on Mission”) Speaker after speaker and workshop after workshop continued to target the need for a core vision of discipleship in relation to wholistic ministry.
I especially enjoyed Jeff Lewis and his workshop titled “Your Whole Church on Mission.” I wish I could have absorbed everything that Jeff said but a few things stuck with me.
Jeff made mention to the fact that the term “missional” church is redundant. Isn’t mission the whole goal of the church? To live on mission with Christ, is to proclaim his gospel and make disciples of all nations. That’s “missional” and that is why we exist. A non-missional church is really not a church at all!
Jeff also made reference that for most churches missions is just seen as a category of ministry. Much like adult ministries, kids, care, spiritual formation etc. He likened missions work as part of the church costume. A temporary look that we wear not the DNA of who we should be. How do we change that??
Darrow Miller shared a great workshop called “Voices That Disciple Nations.” His theme for the time was the parable of Luke 19:11-15. He challenged us to see our vocation as our voice into culture and much like the servants in the parable to use our talents to govern creation until the king returns. Darrow shared a profound quote by Martin Luther that illustrated this message:
“Our whole life should be nothing but praise to God. Even if the Lord would return tomorrow, I will still plant a sapling today.”
Plenary speaker Dr. Mark Moore finished the conference with a great message about the weight of the cross. “The cross weighs as much as the suffering it bears.” The wood of the cross may weigh 75 to 125 pounds but the suffering it carries is far greater. As Christians we must recognize that we are called to pick up our cross daily and help to carry the suffering of those in need. It won’t be easy, simple or even totally possible but God has called us to engage, dig in and love for his glory.
Of course the best session of the whole weekend may have come on Thursday afternoon when Anna and I shared about the ministry of Reconciled World!
Any time you have several hundred pastors, organizational leaders and mission minded servants in one place you have a great chance to network and share ideas. The conference is always great for that. Over the course of 3 days I met many great leaders who are doing awesome things for the kingdom of God. The Lord’s gifting, creativity and love is so evident as you hear and celebrate what others are doing for the kingdom around the globe. I met leaders from Phoenix, Tucson, California, Indiana, New Mexico, South Sudan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nicaragua and Brazil to name a few.
Finally, it was encouraging to visit many of the booths. I was encouraged to see the many great things God is doing through other ministries as well. Audio scriptures are being delivered to the jungles of Asia. Prisoners in the USA are being loved through an incredible prison ministry. Refugees are being welcomed and cared for as they enter the US. Street children in Africa are being loved into the kingdom and many disciples are being made through training in education, health and savings groups.
If you are considering attending the conference in the future I give it high marks. Christ Church of the Valley is a great host and the teaching, workshops, meals, worship and ministry networking is well organized. A Well done is due to the hosts Global CHE Network and Christ’s Church of the Valley!
For more information on the conference, you can visit the website.