Activating Invisible Resources
by Carol Davis for ACMC Mobilizer Magazine

Perhaps you've seen the current series of ads for a particularly expensive car. In them, one man uses a valuable misprinted stamp to mail a bill, having no idea that it's worth thousands of dollars. A woman uses a rare coin to pay for a bouquet of flowers, and the cashier gives it as change to the next customer. A child is building a sandcastle at the beach and unearths an extravagant diamond ring, but is called away by her mother before she sees it. In each case, something of rare value is misused or missed entirely because they were not looking among the ordinary for the extraordinary.

As mission leaders we often lament a lack of prayer, new mission candidates and finances. But is it truly lack, or are these resources only hidden behind our inability to look at the ordinary like stamps, coins and sandcastles, to find the extraordinary? Are we, like those in the commercial, seeing only unresponsive people, limited budgets and static programming? Could it be that as we beg for more, God is saying, "Look around. Can you not see the abundance of my provision already poured out among you?" Lord, give me eyes to see. Make your resources that today are hidden and invisible to me, visible. 

Hidden from me was the incredible resource capacity within the youth ministry that I once led. Until that time, success for me meant filling slots with good youth workers and running a program smoothly. Our group had no musicians at the time, yet one Sunday a young man agreed to fill my program 'solo slot' in order to help me out. This pathway led to public humiliation for him and for me, a leadership lesson I will never forget. As his effort began, I suddenly realized what I had done. I could not look. The other teens respectfully hung their heads also. That afternoon I cried out to God for a better way to do ministry.  

That week as I read Ephesians 4, it was as if I were reading it for the first time. Clearly, the leaders of the church are intended to equip the saints for their work of service. It was no longer my job to convince youth or the youth staff to help resource 'my' ministry. My role as a leader was to equip them for their roles. Everything changed in my understanding and in my actions. I no longer saw a teenager with a bundle of needs, or a youth worker as a resource to make my ministry successful. I now saw people created and prepared by God for a unique and distinctive role in His Kingdom. My call was to treasure, nurture, equip and launch each into their God-designed destiny. Programs became simply one more opportunity for equipping them for reaching a lost world. The resources we thought were lacking for our ministry were only hidden from my view by my misunderstanding and inability to see and perceive the abundance in God's good hand of provision. God had fully resourced the ministry He wanted accomplished.       

All resources are limited, but never lacking for His assignments. As a leader, do you see scarcity or abundance? What treasured resources are already within your congregation, placed there by God as a kingdom resource? As you gain eyes to discover what is today hidden, I believe your congregation will be well on the journey to live out His distinctive role for you in the neighborhoods and the nations.    

For involvement in the theater of today's mission, God has been preparing within the marketplace a new kind of resource. We used to look for those with the missionary gift who were willing to go for a lifetime to one people in one place. The only other role was to pray, care for and financially support those who went. You were either a missionary or you were not.

Today new mission opportunities are presenting themselves with staggering speed and urgency.  Long-prayed-for places are opening suddenly and yet require fresh thinking and the placement of people into new kinds of roles. While many nations refuse to issue missionary visas, their governments are giving destiny-shaping roles for those who are willing to serve the building of their nation. These roles await the high-margin resources that currently lay dormant in most congregations.  Let me suggest new lenses for making visible what has been hidden by another era of missions thinking. These lenses help us see people in different categories and clusters, and discover greater opportunity in their existing connections.

1. Kingdom Professionals are Christians who work in the secular marketplace and become Kingdom-intentional about their acquired skills, networks, expertise and connections. They are often surprised to learn that their career capacities can be used for God's purposes.

Ricky, a young man in my congregation, was a carpenter-turned-contractor who was steadfastly disinterested in missions. He never attended a mission conference and often reminded me, "Missions isn't for me." One day we received an urgent message from a colleague in the Middle East, saying that a couple working on a relief project needed to return home for health reasons. The remaining team needed someone with construction skills who could come quickly to finish the project. 

I never once thought of Ricky because "Missions isn't for me."  After placing a simple note in our newsletter about this opportunity, I was shocked when several days later it was Ricky who approached me about the position. I explained the job's inherent dangers, such as the $10,000 price on his head if he were caught. I asked him to explain why he was suddenly open to being a missionary. His response demonstrated in a profound way that God works uniquely in each of our hearts. "I'm still single and I don't want a married man to have to take that risk." By the time he came to me, several friends had agreed to make the payments on his tools and truck while he was gone.  These were additional resources, typically hidden, that were unleashed out of a friendship network. 

In one year he oversaw the rebuilding of 1,027 homes, six schools, three medical clinics and 85 miles of roadway. The most important thing he left behind, however, were the new Muslim-background believers whom he had led to faith and discipled. It was his career preparation and experience that created the opportunity for him to serve. It was his spiritual ministry preparation and experiences within the context of small group life in a local congregation that made him effective. 

In order to unleash Kingdom professionals, we must look beyond their lack of traditional missionary preparation. They can intentionally receive their training quietly and informally within the context of congregational life. 

2. Christian-Led Corporations bring astounding resources and connections as corporate executives became Kingdom-intentional. International businesses can offer visa platforms for Christian workers among the unreached. Many make available their facilities on Sunday morning for new church plants needing space. Their connections are often a bridge to still other resources. They lend credibility when they create and fill new positions.     

3. Advocates can be found in most churches. Advocates have the skills to build a long-term strategy for reaching an unreached city or people and assemble a network of people and churches to partner in the cause. Potential advocates are obvious, as they are now working to get a candidate elected or a new youth center built. Their concerns soon become the concern of others. Often potential advocates are not as involved in ongoing ministries such as teaching Sunday school or leading a small group. They typically prefer to start new initiatives. They are skilled at building relationships, finding resources and developing the steps needed to make something happen.

I'd encourage you to send such people on a short-term trip, help them catch God's heart for the nations, and then release them to use their gifting for His cause.  Missionary teams on the field and their agencies increasingly see the necessity for advocates to work on the field or at home base.

4. Affinity Groupings. Consider what people are already connected through your church's special interest groups. Look for what God might have in mind for this group. What door could they open that no one else could? Perhaps your church's small group leaders would be willing to help a national church make its small groups more effective. Home schooling parents may welcome the opportunity to take their children to the local university and meet with an international student who needs to practice English at a basic level. The children learn more geography, history and culture. What about the guys who play basketball together each Saturday morning, the senior adults, the trekkers, the Moms in Touch group or the musicians who love to jam? There are roles for all.   

Remember also that certain groups of people are especially open to new opportunities at certain receptive stages of life. Those who face points of change, such as graduation from school or glass ceilings at work, are open to considering missions. I've also found that people who are new to a church are more favorably inclined toward missions, as are people with previous overseas experience through study or military service, and Perspectives class graduates.

5. Congregational Programming. As a servant, look for opportunities that both add value to other ministries' programming, and also plant seeds in people's hearts for missions. For example, substitute teachers are often needed for Sunday school classes. Our mission leadership team prepared two scriptural lessons on God's heart for the nations that could be taught at the adult, youth and children's level. We then volunteered to teach anytime a substitute was needed. Another example is when our children's ministry sponsored a summer reading program, and we arranged for extra credit to be given for reading missions biographies. We sweetened the incentive by providing prizes.  

6. Sovereign Connections. Your members are widely connected to people, resources, opportunities and networks. These connections link to unlimited resources. I was assisting one church that lacked money for a short-term team that needed to leave within weeks. As we prayed and walked through an exercise to consider congregational members' connections, the answer came. Before midnight they had secured two airline tickets, courtesy of a frequent flyer's miles.

7. Wartime Lifestyle. During World War 2, everything was rationed, including food, clothing and gas. The nation's time, energy, money, goods and manufacturing capacity were reserved for the war effort, because its outcome was a matter of life and death. At that time I was a young girl and my feet were growing fast. Mother would simply take a razor blade and cut the toes out of my shoes so my feet could continue to grow until we had a ration coupon for the next pair. 

A war is going on in the unseen realm. Its outcome has far greater implications: eternal life or death for billions. Will we adjust our extravagant lifestyles accordingly? The "things" to which we cling take the precious resources of time, emotions, energy and finances to acquire and care for them. Perhaps a wartime lifestyle would unleash the greatest amount of hidden resources, and yet require the greatest amount of courage.

Resources once located, must be activated. Yet two keys remain for how finally to activate these hidden resources.

1. A catalytic message. Don't bore your people. The most exciting thing happening on the face of the earth today is what God is doing. If your message is old, don't give it. Assume that most in your church are mission-illiterate so avoid using jargon only understood by those in the mission community. Often a catalytic message is less about telling and more about questioning, asking for help and collaborating. You might have more knowledge about missions but you don't know what the graphic artist, the health care professional, the educator or the city bus driver knows. Bring them in on the conversation. Seek their insights.

2. Flexible infrastructure is the best way to involve those once they catch the vision. Younger people and those with full professional or family schedules will not process through in the same way as will your missions-passionate people. Give people a place to start that seems doable for them. Provide them with multiple options and plenty of opportunities for training.

The one who has called and assigned you has an abundance of resources within your reach - enough to accomplish everything He has asked you to do. The extraordinary resources are to be found in the ordinary. They are in your people, their connections, their expertise, their gifting, their willing sacrifice and in your congregational life together.  Go find the treasure.