5 Observations and Exhortations for the Mission Community

Everything we experience in life is an opportunity to grow in Christ. If we are truly building our lives on the solid rock as Jesus directs us in the Sermon on the Mount, then these experiences are like bricks laid on a strong foundation that is Christ.

 

So as we, the Staff, process GMI’s closure and the dynamics that are at work, I would like to share with you how we are taking this opportunity to build on the solid foundation Jesus provides for us. We believe that God is on the move, and our job in finishing well is to steward what we have learned, and encourage each of you in the work God has in front of you.

 

We have come to realize that we need to be willing to consider how God may have allowed GMI to close as a means of grace in the lives of the staff, our community and the broader mission community as we wrestle with how we can best serve Him in this day and age.

 

As you read these observations and exhortations, will you consider boldly taking them up as leaders and influencers in your ministry organizations?

 

Invest in the Long Game

All of our ministries are buffeted by consumer pressures for immediate results. Some of this is driven by a theology that demands an urgency which tends to override intentional engagement. Other times this is driven by the never-ending push for progress and results. Whatever the reason, too often we are being pushed to gloss over the preparation, the research, the evaluation, and dive straight into the work. If the Global Church is to stay engaged in mission over the long haul, there must be a depth of understanding, relationship and ideation that leads to inspired outreach. Of all the organizations who should realize this, we did—we do! Yet we were unable to make the case for the value of investing in this intentional and thoughtful process. In the end, GMI was striving to communicate the importance of this Long Game, but we needed short-term wins to stay viable. The very reality we were trying to advocate for was not something we had done sufficiently internally. We would encourage you to ask yourself where you are in communicating the value you offer to your various constituents in order to invest in the long game.

 

Embrace Kingdom-Centered Outcomes Thinking

One of the best ways to prepare for the long game is to ask God for insight into the outcomes He wants you to focus on. So many of us are busy with activities that look and smell like impact, but show little fruit. Many times what is needed is a better understanding of what God is asking us to drive towards. If we have learned anything at GMI, it is that asking good questions and listening to the answers can revolutionize ministry impact. Our team believes that every ministry that is willing to ask God “What are You accomplishing with our obedient efforts?” will gain new insight and understanding that will bring clarity to the work. We at GMI were committed to this and were beginning to implement it internally. However, we did not do so quickly enough to use that important information in showing the value we provided to donors and other ministry constituents. We encourage you to consider taking a fresh look at what outcomes God is asking you to obediently pursue, and then pursue them courageously.

 

Stay Committed to Reality-Centered Insight

As ministries we represent a cause and one or more ministry strategies. With each cause and strategy comes passion and drive to impact the world. But there is baggage too; assumptions, expectations and blinders to reality. It is essential that we as ministries have a way to get out of our own heads and see the world from new perspectives. But this is not easy and many times the results aren’t popular. It takes courage for a leader to allow reality-centered insight to get a hearing in the echo-chambers of the board room, leadership retreat or field meeting. Yet only those who discipline themselves see beyond their own limitations to the bigger picture of what God is trying to accomplish. That is one of the functions we at GMI feel like we were fulfilling and we are actively praying for new players to take up that role. We encourage you to allow outside input into your ministry directions so that you can see a fuller picture of what God is doing.

 

Take Risks on New Funding Models

We have all been dabbling with new funding models, trying one here and another there. We attend countless conferences and internal meetings parsing this issue. But in the end we can’t bring ourselves to make a major move. GMI was in the middle of an aggressive change in business model (driving towards service/product revenue and project donations) and it did not end in success. I’m concerned that many will look at our story and say, “See, we need to slow down and take it slow.” If that is what people learn from our closure, then we have failed. The reality is that we did not push our new models aggressively enough. We committed to a new model, but because of being under resourced we could not implement it with sufficient energy and speed to see the results. Embracing new funding models requires courage and decisiveness, but we understand there are real risks. Yet, while the current model of personal support for individual missionaries still has validity, it will be insufficient to fund the growing support role that many mission organizations must fill as they serve front-line workers from every part of the world. When I refer to our “support role” we are referring to the reality that a growing percentage of our work as global mission organizations today is training, equipping and supporting front line work done by partners. This work will have to be funded differently as many donors will continue to transition their giving away from those who support mission and towards front line projects. As ministries we are overdue for a reality check about where personal support raising is still viable, and where it is not. We need to aggressively adapt with new and creative models that will allow the work to continue over the long haul. We encourage you to be bold in this area (bolder and quicker than we were), even when others caution you to hold back.

 

Ask Your Donors for More than Their Money

While much lip service has been given to the move from transactional giving to transformational giving, under the surface much of this is not being implemented. Unfortunately, it is being treated as a new strategy sitting on the same philosophy of asking one group to give money to another who is then tasked with owning the cause and implementing it. Our experiences of donors expecting quick results, while being unwilling to fund what is most critical to the future of mission, is an indicator that they are being “used” to fund mission work they do not have ownership in, or even truly understand. Until we ask donors for their hearts and minds before we ask for their money, we will continue to be buffeted by dramatic fluctuations as donors seek purpose without understanding the true nature of today’s mission challenge. To the extent that we have been successful in asking donors to join us in the cause of knowledge stewardship, the change we have seen has been powerful! Donors have begun to respond with a commitment to God’s call on their life to be stewards of their knowledge. But building relationships is a long road of faithful presence and we were not able to last long enough to reap that reward. However, many mission organizations have a depth of relationship with donors that gives us hope that other causes can make that change in their relationship with their stakeholders. Be encouraged that if you engage transformationally with your donors and offer an opportunity for them to be owners in your cause, the result will be a powerful partnership for the Kingdom. We encourage you to ask your donors to own your cause, join in its fulfillment and understand the challenge you face.

 

These five observations and the exhortations we are sharing are not small things. We know that these issues will require bold leadership. We hope that these thoughts will be an encouragement for you to take some new steps that will provide new opportunities to boldly trust God.