If you asked 10 missionaries to name what they need to thrive in their lives and ministries, likely no two lists would be exactly the same. But hopefully everyone would include intimacy with Jesus, or something in that vein.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” — John 15:5
But how to maintain that intimacy? Especially if, as a missionary, you’re out of your element, in a different culture, operating in a second language, and building new Christian community?
Alas, there’s no quick fix here. The spiritual life is a marathon; sprints won’t do you well. Long-distance runners know that it’s best to start drinking BEFORE you get parched. So part of SEND’s prefield training includes introducing future missionaries to some techniques for staying hydrated, even during the most challenging parts of the marathon.
There are probably 100 topics that we could have picked! But we limit the techniques to seven areas, all presented by folks with real-life experience on the mission field or deep, long-term involvement with missionaries.
Over the next few weeks, we’re going to share highlights from those presentations, in a series called Flourish. Not all of you who read this blog serve as missionaries — but Jesus’ call to abide with him isn’t just for missionaries, either! We hope that any follower of Jesus will find some helpful advice here.
Some of these ideas will hit you and you will love them. Others might not be quite as impactful. And that’s OK — indeed, it’s simply a reflection of the diversity of the Body. As you read, we suggest you ask yourself: What is God teaching me through this post? What is he prompting me to work on? How is he leading me to dig deeper, to live life with more connection to him?
The goal is intimacy with God — and intimacy does not happen automatically or quickly. It takes time; it takes connection; it takes intent.
We start these spiritual life sessions by setting aside time for self-assessment. Honestly rate your intimacy with God — but avoid potentially guilt-inducing labels like “bad.” Reflect on where you’re at and where God is leading you. What is God prompting you to work on? How is he leading you to dig deeper, to be more impactful, to live life in connection with him? Be honest – you’re not turning this in! This is between you and God.
You can find a link to a version of the excellent spiritual life inventory that SEND uses on the blog Tending Scattered Wool. It was developed by Scott Shaum, a former church planter in Hong Kong and pastor in Detroit who currently serves on the Executive Leadership Team of Barnabas International.
A prayer for spiritual self-assessment
Father, help me to sense your heart. Thank you for loving me and for caring about not only where I’m at, but where you’d like me to be. As I reflect on my relationship with you, grant me openness, candor, accurate self-reflection, and understanding as I process what you’re saying to me.
More in the Flourish series
- Developing a prayer life that goes beyond ‘popcorn prayers’ — On the field, a missionary learns the value of boldly praying God’s Word for confession, spiritual growth, protection and salvation.
- Sabbath: A gift that helps us set boundaries on our busyness and adds rhythm to our weeks — ‘Setting boundaries can be particularly hard for missionaries, because we’re also called to sacrifice. Sabbath helps us regain perspective.’
- A menu plan for staying spiritually fed — Ways to keep your devotional life fresh and consistent — especially when you can’t be part of a thriving church community.
- To connect with the Lord, you do you — Recognizing your spiritual temperament — and realizing it might not be the same as those around you — can make for a closer relationship with the Lord and with other believers.
- Your body, your soul: The health of one affects the other — Seeing health as something that includes the spiritual, the emotional, and the physical helps us correctly prioritize caring for our bodies so that we can serve.
- Why it’s better to store God’s Word in your mind, not just on your iPhone — Even in this digital age, Scripture has more potential to transform, guide and encourage when it’s committed to memory.
- Finding friends who help deepen your faith: Deep, mutual, honest, encouraging, faith-building friendships are worth the time and courage it takes to find and maintain those relationships.
Banner photo: Samuel Zeller