The conversation was animated as the Global Operations (GO) team discussed a thorny issue. We did not lack the motivation to understand the issues, nor were we lacking ideas for possible solutions. At one point in the discussion, a rising frustration compelled me to ask myself, “Really?! We’re tied up in this matter here and now and it helps us communicate the gospel with the lost how?!”
The issue under discussion, while important in regards to how WorldVenture stewards its resources, remains secondary in relation to our overarching purpose. And while our integrity and finances impact our broader WorldVenture family, our debate was a classic example of where the “good” distracts from the “best.”
And therein lies a current reality: we are dealing with frustrations arising from necessary upgrades we need to make in our World systems, while also reimagining our gospel engagement in the world.
When we discuss changes happening within WorldVenture, we need to create understanding on what exactly we’re talking about. So, with that in mind, I want to talk about two arenas: “above the line,” which concerns WorldVenture’s purpose and philosophy, and “below the line,” which concerns WorldVenture’s policies, procedures, and practices.
Above the Line
Back in the day, the Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society (now WorldVenture) was founded so that Baptist churches could send out gospel-believing and gospel-preaching missionaries to fulfill the Great Commission. These Baptist churches and missionaries held to theologically conservative, evangelical beliefs concerning the Trinity, the deity of Jesus, the authority and inerrancy of the Bible, and the desperate need of mankind for the gospel. Over the years, our belief in our founding mandate of sending missionaries has been tested and yet, it’s still the reason why we exist.
Along the way, previous generations of colleagues in WorldVenture landed on some core ideas that set WorldVenture apart from other missions. One guiding philosophy comes to mind immediately: a unifying vision that characterizes the whole of WorldVenture, while entrusting the context-specific application to specific team of missionaries.
“I believe the single greatest challenge at WorldVenture—and therefore our greatest opportunity—is that of reimagining missions beyond what we have known and practiced.”
A second distinguishing philosophy grows out of our belief in the autonomy of the local church. Rather than having an Americanized agency, we prefer to see missionary teams become international as, together with colleagues from other nations, we proclaim the gospel that is for all peoples.
I believe the single greatest challenge at WorldVenture—and therefore our greatest opportunity—is that of reimagining missions beyond what we have known and practiced. We are turning toward what we have termed “360˚ missions.” This is an “above the line” reality with profound and widespread ramifications. In my personal opinion, this is the defining reality check for our generation, both within WorldVenture and in the greater North American church. The whole believing community is to participate in God’s purposes, not just a select few. We see this in Jesus’ assumption in the Great Commission passages, as well as in God’s assumption with His chosen people throughout the Old Testament. We have the opportunity to reclaim the priesthood of the believer in living on mission with God.
Too often, newly appointed professionals express grateful surprise that their gifting and vocational experiences are valid contexts in which to make disciples. May the day quickly come when their testimony is normative, not the exception at WorldVenture! To paraphrase what Moses said to Joshua: “Are [we] jealous for [our] sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!”
I believe this preaches better than it is lived out, for our assumptions die slowly.
Below the Line
Over the years, our policies, procedures, and practices have changed dramatically. I’ve heard stories from years ago where the mission required men to wear suits and ties in the office. I’ve heard from some of our alumni that as single missionaries, they wrote to the home office seeking permission to get engaged, and the time lag on that correspondence lasted for months. All this to say, times change, and so has WorldVenture. One thing I have found in my experience here is a willingness to reexamine our policies, procedures, and practices when they no longer seem applicable in our contexts. We still have standards of conduct and rules of engagement; however, we also seek to adapt our organizational processes to better accomplish our mission work. And, we make every effort to keep the administrative tail from wagging the strategic dog.
Just as there is room for all in the Kingdom, so there is room for all in Kingdom work.
A “below the line” challenge at WorldVenture is the modernization of our IT and Financial systems. A complete technology overhaul is long past necessary; it is imperative for the very integrity of our mission. We must do this and we must do this now.
Yet, the difficulty in this challenge does not simply involve transitioning from a proprietary software platform—written in 1978—to a modern software system capable of handling the demands of our mission today. We must also rewrite the rationales or assumptions that inform the logic of our support calculation model.
Sounds rather complicated, doesn’t it? It is. And yet, our goal is to launch a robust system that fulfills our responsibilities as trustworthy stewards. We need to have a simplified and transparent reporting process that everyone can easily understand. Arriving at that outcome is like managing a major road construction project, where normal traffic flows are rerouted around the actual construction zone.
Just as we adjust our expectations driving through a construction zone on the highway, so also do we look forward to the day when we get to pick up the WorldVenture construction cones.
Remembering Israel’s History
Throughout the book of Deuteronomy, Moses connects Israel’s “above the line” dots. He points out that God was fulfilling his promise to Abraham by giving to the Israelites what was promised: a land of their own, a posterity as numerous as the stars in the sky, and becoming a blessing to the nations. And without pause, Moses connects Israel’s “below the line” dots by emphasizing the covenant as well as their personal and community conduct expectations. Prophetically, Moses foretold to the people that losing sight of their “above the line” calling would lead to their demise, such that even the “below the line” details would be of no value to them.
May we never lose sight of our why even as we reconstruct our how.
“These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence. No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.”—1 Corinthians 10:11-13 (The Message)