Activating Invisible Resources by Carol Davis
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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