Fruit

The value of long-term missions, especially cross-cultural missions, is the fruit it can produce. Time and investment are key. Not just marking time, nor the investment of money. These things produce their own fruit, but they are not spiritual, nor do they always further God's kingdom. I'm talking about the time it takes to invest in people and God's mission, which will always extend God's kingdom. It's not rocket-science, as they say, it's obvious. It's what Jesus did when establishing the Kingdom of God on earth. He invested His time in people—twelve men in particular, three men more deeply (Mark 1:14-20; 3:13-19). This same model works today, but is not always followed. Why? Because it requires commitment, faithfulness, persistence, and other such qualities and disciplines not so popular in our current age.

It is the cure, if you will, for discipling the present distracted generation. It is time-tested on the world's mission field. So, it is just as relevant now as it was in the time of Jesus. Relevant for local (home) missions and world (international) missions.

The past few weeks have reminded me of this. I had the privilege of preaching in a local church of a couple I've mentored for many years. Pastor Randy was one of my students and then one of my teaching staff at the Bible school. By his own admission, he was not an easy student. Manju, his wife, was the classmate of my oldest daughter, Becky, and on my administrative staff for several years. She calls herself a Filipina trapped in an Indian body.

They are one of several couples who are the continuing fruit (John 15:5, 8, 16) of the Bible college, or as some called it, the Bridal College. So be it. I see no shame in finding your life partner in a school of ministry of any level, especilly when the couple continues on in ministry.

I see no problem encouraging couples in marriage who have a commitment to God and His kingdom. Often, their families don't see it that way, nor their friends, nor the prevailing culture. Randy and Manju are a good example. They are from two very different cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. They are two very different personalities. And they fit together as true disciples of Jesus, bearing fruit that lasts.

This past year they resigned from their stable positions on the Training Center staff to pastor a small church full-time. The church is in a residential area adjacent to the (at times very noisy) airport. They have stepped out in faith and God has honored their faith. In that alone, they have been an example of faith for their church that encourages the people to follow the same Jesus they follow.

Time investment is not for those who look to whatever is expedient for the moment, or whatever is popular and trending. It requires vision from God and the grace of God to persevere in His calling. It is an investment in people and their lives. A building of relationships that requires commitment, faithfulness and lots of acceptance and mercy. The things we see in Jesus.

When others see this in us, whether as recognized leaders or simple followers of Jesus, they are more able to see Jesus in us. This is how God intends for His kingdom to be built, in any geographic location and within any culture.

Are you a follower of Jesus? How do people see your life as an example of His? How do they see you at work, at play, at home, or wherever you may be? Another way of saying it is, what is your influence on people?

We will produce some kind of fruit in our lives and in the lives we connect with, but what kind of fruit is it? Is it fruit that encourages others to walk in faith? Is it fruit that produces others who follow Jesus as we follow Him?