We have to take the long view, though it is extremely tempting to try and do it another way. I come from a culture that seeks and celebrates quick and immediate results that are quantifiable. We value taking our experience, ingenuity, and expertise and applying it to the problems around us as we seek to "fix" what appears to be broken. When we see a "problem" we develop an action plan, assemble the needed resources, and jump in with both feet to tackle the issue at hand. And the quicker we can do this the better.
And everything within me wants to do just that. But that's not taking the long view. And we have to take the long view.
The long view takes patience; a lot of patience. And the long view takes prayer; many days more prayer than action. The long view forces you to look not just at the next step, but to dream about the finish. To look to the "Z" even though you find yourself somewhere between "B" and "C." The long view does not just see problems that needs to be solved; it sees people that need to be nurtured, discipled, and equipped. And while the long view surely recognizes the problems in the local Body of Christ, it also sees the God-given potential of Spirit-filled brothers and sisters in Christ.
We have to take the long view.
To be totally transparent, the long view often frustrates me. I want to alert everyone to what I see needs to be done, admonish everyone with biblical wisdom and practical application, pass out a written plan where everyone has a specific job to do, and then hit the ground running so that we can get it done as quickly and efficiently as possible before my next newsletter update.
And that would work. It would even work well. I could lead the charge with my decade of ministry experience, my seminary diploma, and my wallet full of cash. And that would really work. But it would only work for my lifetime. It would only work while I and my family are here. This kind of strategy and approach where I take the lead will only be effective for the next 25 years or so while our family is in Senegal. And then what happens? What happens when the American and his ideas and his diploma and his wallet go back to the states? When that happens everybody goes back to somewhere between "B" and "C."
That's why we have to take the long view.
The long view does not run ahead of the local believers, but rather walks beside them and stands behind them. The long view recognizes that the greatest missionaries, church planters, and evangelists that Senegal will ever have will be discipled and equipped Senegalese church planters and evangelists. The long view feels the heavy weight of Jesus' command to makes disciples and settles for nothing less than disciples who are equipped to make other disciples. The long view does not look like a program that can be carried out step-by-step; it looks like you daily pouring your life into the local believers so that step-by-step they might go farther than you ever could. The long view sees the worth of the local church here, even though the church may be small, weak, and often scared. The long view helps local believers to dream with God and prayerfully ask Him what their "Z" looks like and then walks alongside them as they travel there.
I dare not settle for what I can do. I must desire what God can do through a healthy and equipped Senegalese church. That's the long view.
Indeed, the long view is slow, messy, and often frustrating. It is filled with more questions than answers and more than ample opportunities for mistakes. And the long view is not always filled with powerful stories that make for great and inspiring missionary updates. But we have to take the long view. For the long view is the story of God's grace changing a people, strengthening a church, and calling workers into the harvest from the harvest. And it's those type of stories of grace that will outlast missionaries like us and that will change a people for the glory of Christ.
We just have to take the long view.
Pray for us and with us as we take the long view and as we walk alongside Senegalese believers toward God's "Z" for the people of southern Senegal.