Brian Stiller’s thoughtful reflections on his fruitful legacy caught my attention. Asked to leave some important advice for leaders today, he surprised me with what he called the “essence” or “central factor” that was the “primary learning principle which took hold and helped direct what I did.” He described this leadership principle as the responsibility to carefully build “sustainable ministries around vision and mission.”
Now in my 14th year of leading the International Missions thrust of our Fellowship, this advice resulted in some serious stock-taking. Are we a sustainable ministry? Are our vision and mission compelling enough, and are our structures flexible enough to last the next decade? Early last year International Missions embarked on a fresh examination of our foundations. We called it “Reimagining International Missions.”
However, before I share some thoughts on our strategic direction as we enter this new decade, let me first remind us that our mission is a delegated mission—it is God’s mission. Our sending is defined by the Missio Dei, the sending of God. The first and most important challenge of leading any Christian organization begins with discernment, with understanding our place in God’s great story of redemption. I am not the leader of this organization. I am a servant of the Father whose mission in this world must shape everything we do. Jesus understood this well when commissioning the disciples. “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21, NKJV). Our challenge is to prayerfully discern and align everything with God’s purposes and plans.
A second important reminder is that we stand on the shoulders of others. Reflecting on the legacy and effectiveness of the PAOC’s international work spanning over 100 years, one can only thank God for the humble yet incredibly bold obedience of nearly 2,000 missionaries who gave their lives to serve God. There is much to learn from our own history, our own story. Nevertheless, we must serve God in our own generation.
If trends continue, by 2030, the world’s unreached people groups, those with little or no access to the gospel, as well as those suffering extreme poverty, will be more and more concentrated in precarious and unstable settings. They will be increasingly subjected to violence, exploitation, abuse, and other serious human rights violations. The heart of God leans toward these people.
Our Impact Promise
Therefore, as we look to 2030 and consider the unreached and the marginalized, we make these two impact promises.
- We promise to relentlessly and passionately pursue every opportunity and use every means possible to give those with little or no access to the gospel an opportunity to hear the message of hope that is Jesus, a message that offers them reconciliation with their Creator.
- We promise to passionately and sensitively deliver Christ-centred, holistic and sustainable solutions to injustice and poverty, and to build communities of Jesus followers that seek to reconcile the vulnerable and the marginalized with their God, their communities, and humankind.
Our promise considers both the righteousness and the justice of God. We promise to help people reconcile with God and ensure that they are prepared for eternity, and we promise to address the issues of justice: poverty, human trafficking, refugees, hunger, clean water, racism, gender equality and education, etc. “For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice, the upright will see his face” (Psalm 11:7).
Our Strategic Imperatives
These five strategic imperatives will shape our operational strategy:
We will relentlessly advance the kingdom of God by making disciples among those with little or no access to the gospel.
Central to our work is the planting of communities of Jesus followers because we recognize that the local church is foundational to God’s mission. Jesus stated that He would build His church, for when two or three are gathered together, God is in their midst. This focus on church planting will be accompanied by a commitment to equip and empower leaders within every cultural/linguistic community, multiplying our global reach through thousands of indigenous leaders.
The Joshua Project notes that 3.1 billion people are numbered among those where the church is not substantially present. They have little chance of hearing a credible presentation of the gospel. They need witnesses, workers in the harvest field. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15).
We will passionately provide Christ-centred, holistic and sustainable solutions for the marginalized and the vulnerable.
Nearly one billion people live on less than $2 per day, and an additional two billion live in marginal and dangerous contexts on less than $3 per day. In 2011, 165 million children under the age of five were stunted (had a reduced rate of growth and development) due to chronic malnutrition. Twenty-five percent of all humans live without electricity—approximately 1.6 billion people—and nearly half the population of the planet has no access to clean water. Jesus’ expectations for His church are very clear: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matthew 25:35-36).
We will creatively build strategic and collaborative alliances for greater kingdom impact. We will partner to pioneer in keeping with our historic DNA to break new ground in hard places.
We are not alone in our passion to address injustice and bring the good news to the vulnerable and marginalized people in our world. Christ has been building His church, and that church consists of people from nearly every language, tribe and people. For over 100 years, the PAOC has established relationships with great leaders and great ministries. We are part of an international network of over 52,000 churches, 40,000 leaders, and 12 million believers.
We will prayerfully empower a deeply committed multinational team of workers who live out their Christian faith with boldness and humility.
Fruitfulness is dependent upon people who remain linked to a life-giving relationship with Christ.“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:5,8). Fruitfulness must be rooted in intimacy. Intimacy, in turn, will produce character seen in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5): love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The workers who represent us around the world remain our greatest treasure, and we are committed to their spiritual development and growth. As they spend time with Christ, His character rubs off on them. The nature of Christ is to give Himself boldly and humbly for the sake of the world. We are committed to equip our workers to understand and apply biblical truths to their social contexts for the benefit of those who need Jesus and the most vulnerable people in their communities.
We will thoughtfully mobilize sustainable, consistent funding streams.
Financial resources are not only necessary to the mission, they are also important to the donor. We commit to offering God’s people the opportunity to invest their time and resources in ministry that makes a difference. We desire to raise the right funds from the right donors for the right ministry focused on the right priorities.
We will make every effort to keep these promises and engage in these strategic imperatives, allowing them to challenge our own organizational mindsets, strategies and behaviours. Corporately and individually, we are committed to continue the story that is God’s salvation plan. This story changes nations through transformed lives because the message of Jesus is as compelling today as it was 2,000 years ago.
Murray Cornelius serves as the executive director for International Missions of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.
This article appeared in the April/May/June 2020 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2020 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.