I am sitting in our local Starbucks sipping on my favorite iced green tea (I am a bit of a tea snob) and am beginning to feel a sense of anxiety. I both hate and love this part of my job -- meeting with a new missionary or ministry leaders looking for church partner. They have a raw desire to transform their community. It is so contagious I can’t help but get excited. I love hearing their stories of how they were led to serve and how lives are being impacted because they obediently said "Yes!"
But, you see, the problem is (as much as I may want to) I can't just say, "Yes!" For I had long since set in place missionary partner policies to hold myself accountable and to help me maintain the clear vision God had given our community for outreach. And the reality that, more than likely, I would have to say NO never gets easy.
This couple is no different. They are from our area, attended a local Christian school and are recent college graduates responding to God’s call on their life. They desire to care for and disciple college students with an emphasis on international students. They are doing everything “right.” They have clear discernment of their call, a financial plan, spiritual support, and a ministry plan. They are dream missionaries. BUT they don’t match up with our communities current call to care for the widow and the orphan, and they lack a strong connection with anyone in our church. As I look at these two hope-filled faces, I pray about how I can give an "empowering" NO. I am reminded of all of my friends who love the college where they work. Can I connect them with my friends and see if there is a match? Maybe it will be a first step in developing relationships in our community and eventually become one of our church supported missionaries. So I say the dreaded words,, get their contact information, ask them to keep me on their email prayer list so I can follow them, pray with them and, as they leave, I send their information to my friends.
We as Christian church leaders hate to use this tiny word because we have coupled it with rejection. But maybe, just maybe, its power lies in how it impacts transformation. Not only for the person saying the word but those receiving it. Steve Jobs puts it this way,
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I'm actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”
Jesus even had to say no to those he loved. Take, for example, the story of the rich young ruler. He was perfect on paper, but not quite ready to partner with Jesus.
“Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:21
This is because Jesus understands the bigger picture. That saying yes to some things will lead to destruction (even the good things), while saying NO to the right things can lead to greater healing and transformation.
These sweet college missionaries have now been on the field for three years, have two adorable boys and have raised enough support for both of them to serve full time. My NO didn’t stop them from being all God has called them to be and, who knows, maybe the Lord will call us to partner in the future.
What are you struggling to say NO to?
Step Back, Pray and Speak An Empowering NO….