Ministering in communities where He is least known can be discouraging.
Discouragement comes from many sources, but often the most crippling source is our own perception of ourselves. Who are we? Do we compare ourselves to those around us? Is our identity rooted in our good acts or our shameful past? Do we measure ourselves by the expectations of others? Are we defined by what we do, by our role, rank or title? Do we judge ourselves by our achievements? Our perceptions can discourage us, but they can also discourage those around us.
A couple years ago, a leader facilitated a discussion on disciple-making with a SIM ministry team. He shared the importance of passing on our love and passion for the gospel to local colleagues. This means equipping people and giving them the space to learn, grow, and even make mistakes as they lead, without risk of being disqualified in the ministry with us.
One participant raised her hand and asked, “How can I really disciple people, hand over the work to them and take the back seat when my value is in my competence?” At that moment, she could not see anyone taking her place or even being equal in the role, especially if they did not have similar education or experience. Apparently, this called into question her value and identity as a competent, well-trained foreign missionary—an identity that ran deeper than her desire to disciple and mentor competent leaders.
Our answers to identity questions are critical. How we see ourselves impacts how we treat ourselves, and how we see and treat others. How we see and treat others impacts our witness. Does a world living and dying without Christ see Christ in us?
Only when we see each other correctly can we nurture one another to reach our God-given potential. Only a truly biblical identity can free us to live out our love, becoming flourishing teams united in faith.