Someone said, “When you come to the fork in the road, take it.”
Yesterday, Mary (my wife) and I drove from the sleepy village of Burtigny to the bustling Swiss city of Lausanne to do some errands and visit YWAM Lausanne for a meeting with one of our IT teams. We downloaded the turn by turn instructions to get to our destination. Mary played co-pilot, reading the French street names to me as I drove through the city to Office World where we would buy special envelopes for Tom Bloomer, the Provost of the University of the Nations.
Neither of us speak French. Between Mary’s interpretation of the street names and my reading of the street signs, we made several u-turns. In fact, we passed in front of Office World three times, before we noticed the big red English letters on the building.
I like the adventure of going to new places and meeting new people. However, the process of getting there can be stressful, and hilarious, especially if you heard our feeble attempts to pronounce French!
How do you find your way to a new destination? How do you respond when you suddenly realize, “I have not been this way before.”
There are key moments in our lives when a decision must be made, a direction must be chosen. And there are moments when a generation faces a similar choice of major significance to the future. Our choices, especially the choices made by leaders, will effect the destiny of a generation, and perhaps hundreds of millions of people.
I see the two choices this generation of emerging leaders are given today. I see the fork in the road, and the signpost with clearly inscribed names for the two pathways.
One road is named “The Way of Increase” and the other is named “The Way of Decrease”.
Both pathways are the way of influence and change. Both ways will impact the generation. Both ways are the way of personal sacrifice. Both ways shape the future and the way power is distributed.
The Way of Increase is exciting. It is the way most will choose. It’s the way of increased power, increased popularity, and increased numbers. The way of increase is called “blessed”; it’s the way of apparent abundance.
God promises blessing and abundant life, so choosing the path will not seem foreign. It’s easy to read the sign; it’s easy to choose the path way.
The other pathway is the Way of Decrease. This sign is very difficult to read; it’s foreign, unfamiliar, and unwelcome.
Why one would to take that sharp turn toward decrease is difficult to imagine. It appears to be a complete reversal of direction. Whatever progress was made seems to be lost the moment you take this turn. The way is narrow and difficult. Suddenly the smooth road becomes a steep incline and a very rough terrain. Few take this road, and most would mistake it for a path for sheep, anyone but me.
And that’s the choice. Will you take the easy road, or the narrow road?
The Way to Increase is filled with spiritual excitement and expectations of triumphing over any that might get in your way. It is the way to power. It’s a highway with speed and comfort, and many are on that road. You can congratulate yourself when you look in your rear view mirror to see multitudes following.,.you.
The Way to Decrease is the way of surrender. It is quiet there. Few are seen of this road. Tears fall on this difficult path, but few notice. Why would anyone take this path? Why did John the Baptizer say, “I must decrease?” It can’t be God’s way. It’s not producing the numbers and the excitement we have come to expect with our great and powerful God.
But those who choose the Way to Decrease have seen the top of that steep incline on that difficult path. They have seen the One who went that way to the top of that hill of the skull, calvary’s hill. They have seen Jesus hanging on that cruel cross on the Way of Decrease.
Why did Jesus choose the Way of Decrease?
It is THAT way, the Way of Decrease, that brings true Increase to others. The way of abundance is life-giving, life-surrendering, and power giving.
So the choice is clear. Take the path to gain power, or the path to give power. For every true revival in history has been a moment when a generation of emerging leaders have chosen the Way of Decrease, giving away and distributing power to the powerless.
One of the most significant shifts in world missions during the past several decades is the demographic shift in the center of gravity of World Christianity from the western world to the global south and the east. Certainly such an adjustment will require a new paradigm for world missions. Could it be a paradigm of partnership with short and long-term cooperation between established and emerging leaders in communities around the world?
If university students have historically been on the leading edge of new missionary advances, how will they be involved in the twenty-first century? Will creating partnerships with the new majority church of the global south require that some of the western models of evangelistic outreach be revised? Perhaps. We have confidence that God does want all to be saved, however the gospel from the western world has been presented as a private decision. To be sure, this is an uncertain foundation for the future. In much of the western world, this method of evangelism has too often produced a faithless, self-absorbed church, actively involved in evangelism out of fear or passivity, waiting for the rapture. Many young people have abandoned traditional church for a more secular activism.
This generation of students are uniquely positioned to travel globally with an increased awareness and engagement in social concerns, including globalization, environmental concerns, human trafficking, HIV/AIDS, and poverty. However, they lack biblical understanding of the meaning of justice. While they cry out for social justice, they fail to recognize that the scriptures, when they speak of justice, refer to the justice due to God.
What students require is biblical instruction. More importantly, students need personal input from a mentor. At a recent gathering of young leaders of the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, they concluded something incredible:
“We believe that the most pressing need in developing (and sustaining) young leaders is personal, relational investment from the older generation, as well as some like-hearted, peer-level friends.”
Many said they feel isolated and alone in their leadership. Many agreed that they do not need more skills training or instruction.They said, “We need intimate relationships, above us and beside us, so that we can provide the same for others.”
What is required for a new thrust in short-term student missions?
If thousands of initiatives already exist around the world, such as projects that relate to the fields of politics, economic development, cultural studies, the arts and religion, then these ongoing projects offer ample opportunities for short-term participants to come alongside and help. What is required is leadership for a new generation. That leadership will produce the structure for a new paradigm. What is needed is a new way to collaborate with the multitude of amazing initiatives.
While student volunteers for missionary endeavors were typically western during the 19th and 20th centuries, today’s student volunteers are from every nation. A new structure for missions mobilization should therefore be a way to offer a world-wide emerging generation of students the means to serve and learn alongside on-going projects around the world. This new structure must be a user-friendly and self-initiated program, with personal guidance.
This new structure will require a wide collaborative network of missions-minded hosts, mentors, and donors, working together to facilitate a new generation of student missions mobilization.
What is the lasting impact of a short-term cross-cultural student service project?
Internships benefit both the field project and the student. Many project leaders have expressed concern about the efficacy of short-term participation in missions. Therefore, rather than request the opportunity to send students to their field project, field hosts will initiate the invitation and determine the timing, the number of students, and the education level of those they invite. Qualified field projects that express the need for short-term assistance become hosts for student volunteers. The problems of short-term missions are many, however they can be resolved as mature and experienced leaders, such as our Hosts and Mentors, assist the Student with issues of language, culture, theology, and service.
Not only will they provide specific assistance at the invitation of field projects, students with international experience have proven to be “landing careers with international or multinational organizations.”
Practical service and careers are important, however the ultimate aim is lasting relationships, which are the fruit of a person following God’s call. From short-term participation comes long-term relationships, including the possibility that former student volunteers become donors or staff of the project they serve.
How are lasting relationships sustained?
Communities of christians are no longer merely local. Just like the apostle Paul extended his circle of missional partners through letters, today’s communities are more and more virtual. This new missions mobilization movement will require that we utilize all the collaborative tools of the internet. Individuals and groups are connecting and organizing themselves, often with missional purpose everywhere. Relationships begin in the short-term with close communication and prayer, and are sustained for the long-term through re-engagement and as new projects and participants are added to the community.
This new structure will partner with projects in poor communities.
Projects that extend the mercy and grace of God to communities in need, especially among the poor, will provide the deepest and widest possible impact. Projects will vary. The whole system of poverty, including the restoration of relationships, are addressed through service to the cultural, social, spiritual, personal, or physical needs of a community. Jayakumar Christian writes “what is often missed when speaking of poverty from a western perspective is the tendency to view poverty from a purely materialistic worldview.”
In order to address poverty, students should be mentored in a biblical christian view of poverty, understanding that poverty is a loss of identity and vocation.
Why is the mobilization of university students strategic?
University students will remain on the leading edge of new missional thrusts and structures because the university is God’s idea. The university is a cathedral of worship to the ways of God in every arena of society. God is the original creator, gardener, artist, law giver, communicator, builder and architect. etc. Missional engagement in a community, when emphasizing restoration of relationships, will include a myriad of approaches, including the restoration of relationship with God (religion, philosophy, theology), restoration of relationship with community (political science and economics), restoration of relationship with the environment (biology, ecology, engineering), restoration of relationship with neighbors (sociology, international relations, justice), and, finally restoration of relationship with the self (psychology, health care).
The need to create new structures for the mobilization of students into world missions cannot be under-emphasized. What is urgently required are leaders for a new generation of student volunteers.
I want to recommend a documentary my new friend, David Moore, produced. The title and the message of the video, Treading Softly, communicates the value, principle, and heart of “Going Barefoot”, which has been expressed often in and through our YWAM Ministries.
Going Barefoot is a metaphor that expresses a way in which we are called to serve the Lord Jesus as his witnesses and his change agents. Metaphors can be both positive and negative, so it’s important to evaluate them from time to time.
Just like the bronze serpent, a symbol’s value can change from healing to idolatry. Symbols can be very powerful with positive and negative affects. DL Moody and other Christian leaders of the 20th century declared, “The one thing needful is salvation or conversion.” Agreed. Moody, when criticized for his evangelistic methods, is quoted saying “Better the way I am doing it, than the way you are not doing it.” However, his positive evangelistic fervor, and gift, led him to say, “I have given up on this world; I am focused on rescuing lost souls.” His metaphor could be described as a “life raft,” powerfully influencing the 20th century Evangelical Church and conveying a message of Individualism and disengagement from social concern.
Unlike a ‘life raft’, Jesus’ parables were a message of transformation and growth, not merely of rescue and certainly not disengagement. Jesus metaphors were of seeds, fields, vineyards, yeast, and houses. Jesus’ call to us in the 21st century is to again take up his cross and his message of transformation and establishment. He is calling his Church to be a witness of His kingdom, building and growing, in the earth, not the witness of a ‘life raft’ escaping the earth.
Dr. Sherwood Lingenfelter describes “pilgrimage” as a people who are “at the same time ‘otherworldly’ and ‘this worldly’, both on pilgrimage and indigenous”. Youth With A Mission is an apostolic community, “called out” and “sent” to represent the Body of Christ as agents of transformation in every culture. We are not called to escape the world, as in Lingenfelter’s “Hermit game”, or merely supply a “life raft” for a hermitage. Neither are we called to shift from one cultural “prison” to another.
Servant-leadership, modeled and taught by YWAM International’s founder, Loren Cunningham, has been supported by the metaphor “going barefoot.” Leadership, for those on pilgrimage, is relational and not positional. To be “barefoot” as a faithful Christian is more than a leadership model, however. The metaphor, ‘”barefoot,” imparts a call to tread lightly, relinquish rights, embrace responsibilities, and take the risk necessary in all relationships. Going “barefoot” and having an “open hand,” another metaphor, is representative of a life that is surrendered and, like a “hand”, is open to give and to receive. Disarming humility, represented in one who is on pilgrimage is best for producing transformation. Each of the social games put forward an opportunity and an obstacle for producing transformation, however the barefoot pilgrim walks in and out of all of the social games.
The metaphor for the apostolic and evangelistic vision of YWAM, International, has been represented in the founder’s vision. Cunningham writes of “waves of young people crashing on every continent of the earth.” YWAM champions young people to “Go into all the world”; this is literally understood, “Go means a change of location.” Another metaphor, the “grace ticket,” often taught by Darlene Cunningham, is an effective metaphor for pilgrimage, representing the grace of God that is available at the time of need, whatever the social context. The “grace ticket” challenges us to live by faith with a willingness to be flexible to any situation trusting in God’s grace. These powerful metaphors contribute to YWAM’s forward movement and the call to every person, including the youth. To be on pilgrimage is not to be a passive non-participant; the pilgrim will likely make “waves”. As the “yeast” in Jesus’ parable is active, to be on pilgrimage is to be an active agent of transformation “working through all” of society.
Being an innovator and change agent can be challenging, especially when it takes time to define, develop, and produce the results of an idea.
Discipleship training is not a program; it’s a command to every believer. The way we have traditionally fulfilled this responsibility has been through formal instruction in a classroom or auditorium setting. We have called those formal gatherings “church.” In time this tradition of gathering and sitting in formal settings became more important than fulfilling the command to “go, make disciples.”
Let’s get back to the command; let’s get back to where we once belonged, making disciples. Let’s let Jesus be our example. Yes, Jesus did have people sit down and listen to him, sometimes in the Temple, sometimes in a field, on a mount, or in the intimate setting of a home. However, we should notice that the setting for his instruction was rarely formal. Instead, he practiced a non-formal and often informal method of making disciples. He said, “Come and follow me.” This was Jesus’ invitation to a life of a disciple.
Let’s “flip” discipleship.
What I am suggesting is that we change things up a bit. Let’s “flip” discipleship. If we were intentional about a reversed teaching model we could deliver instruction on the go, in the regular rhythms of life. If we were to “flip” discipleship, we could follow Jesus’ model and use the education tools of the 21st century.
Everywhere, in nearly every corner of the world of education, learning is going online. Some like it and some don’t. Let’s step back a moment and consider how today’s online learning tools might help us “flip” discipleship training.
Consider a moment how an interactive online learning environment might enhance discipleship of today’s Christ followers. What if we created hundreds of short Youtube videos to deliver content and we made discipleship more personal? What if we moved lectures outside of the classroom and allowed teachers, mentors, and disciplers to spend more 1:1 time with each disciple? What if Christ-followers had the opportunity to ask questions and work through problems with the guidance of a personal mentor/teacher and find the support of others on the same journey? What if we “flipped” church and made it a community learning on the go? What if church became a community on mission, making disciples?
We have developed just such a method with online tools and videos for discipleship training. It’s called the IPO Connection (Internship Placement & Outreach Connection). Through the ipoconnection.org and corresponding online course site, we are matching students (disciples) with field projects through homestays (sharing biblical hospitality), and equipping the students through dozens of short video lessons followed by personal interaction with a mentor (discipler).
What are the advantages of flipping discipleship training?
- Gives teachers/mentors more time to spend 1:1 helping students
- Builds stronger student/teacher relationships
- Offers a way for a collaborative community of students, mentors, project hosts, and donors to move together on mission with Jesus
- Produces the ability for students to “rewind” lessons, review them, and share them with peers. These video lessons are powerful!
Visit ipoconnection.org for more information.