Big plan, small part
Posted on: 8th June 2020
CMS missionary Terry Blowes, serving with Peter, works in local student ministry in Buenos Aires, Argentina, encouraging and mentoring leaders and others. Here Terry shares about how God called her to accept a tiny part in his big plan.
When we returned to Argentina in 2015 for a second tour of service, I was asked to work with the Asociación Bíblica Universitaria Argentina (ABUA) Buenos Aires student group. Together with an Argentine staff worker, we would be especially focusing on discipling and training the female leaders.
I was glad not to be given a leadership role. Argentina—especially Buenos Aires—had changed a lot in the ten years we had been out of the country. Before, we had lived in smaller provincial cities, but now we were adapting to living in a megacity. It was very different! Understanding the mindset of the mindset of city dwellers was a major challenge that required a lot of listening, observing and avoiding judgement in the midst of much frustration.
After our first year, the Argentine staff worker said he wanted a sabbatical. All of a sudden, I found myself as the only staff worker in a city of 100 universities and 700,000 university students! I was overwhelmed with the magnitude of the challenge and felt totally unable to fill the role.
I reflected on this experience and how it related to humility.
Firstly, my reaction could be read as humility, inasmuch as it was a realistic view of my limitations! But then I thought of Moses, when God told him to liberate Israel from captivity. His focus on his personal limitations wasn’t the response the Lord expected from him. God had given him a task and expected him to respond with faith, not self-doubt.
It is important that we have a realistic grasp of our own strengths and weaknesses, but Christian humility is about receiving with faith the challenges the Lord gives us. The foundation of our humility is a recognition of our total dependence on God to achieve what we cannot.
With sober judgement
In Romans 12:3, Paul tells each member of the church to think about themselves with “sober judgement according to the faith that God has distributed to each of you“. Not inflated and puffed-up. Not deflated. But aware of what they have received from God and ready to use it to build up God’s people.
My initial response demonstrated my anxiety more than any humility. The job was certainly too big for me, but God expected me to be his co–labourer, trusting that he would bear fruit through me according to his will.
“Christian humility is about receiving with faith the challenges the Lord gives us”
Also, I pictured a well-organised ministry with trained local staff coordinating large, active student groups, and came into a situation that was a long way from this end goal. I saw huge needs and challenges and knew it was way outside my ability to resolve. The second step in learning humility was to accept that, in God’s sovereign plan, my part may be very tiny! God wanted me to faithfully disciple the handful of committed students we had in our group, trusting him to take the next step with them in the way that he would choose.
Leading with Moses-like humility
There are many challenges in exercising Christian leadership in the humble way Jesus taught his disciples—being a servant, and aiming to build others up, often at your own expense. And yet exercising leadership means going ahead, accepting responsibility, correcting and teaching.
It is very hard to know how to achieve this balance in a Latin American context. The word ‘leader’ means ‘tyrant’ to many people, but, at the same time, people expect leaders to have strong characters and not hide their gifts and talents, or they don’t listen to them!
Numbers 12:3 says that Moses was “a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” And yet he exercised a strong level of public leadership. Perhaps his humility is partly understood in light of the preceding episode, where 70 elders received a share of God’s Spirit that was in Moses (Numbers 11:24-29). There, Moses expresses his great desire that all people would be filled with the Spirit. He was learning that the weight of responsibility in the leadership of God’s people is better shared with all of those God equips to serve together.
Three years after the challenge described above, I praise God for the keen Christian students I have been able to work with. There is no doubt that they complement my abilities, and that God is using our combined talents to make small inroads into reaching students in Buenos Aires. They have a fearful awareness of the great challenges presented in their university faculties, combined with an eager and prayerful enthusiasm to embrace the challenge in the power of God; a great demonstration of Christian humility.
In Philippians 2:1-11 Paul urges the local church to have a unity of purpose, achieved by following the example of humility of our Lord Jesus. The purpose in verses 10-11 is that Jesus would be honoured by all people and that as a result God would be glorified.
Since we first became missionaries in 1986, God has been presenting us with challenges way outside our personal abilities. Even with all of our past experience, God continues to show his fatherly love by regularly testing our dependence on him. Humility does not require avoiding being in the front line. But it does mean receiving from God’s hand the challenges he gives us, together with the local body, depending on God to achieve his purposes through us, so that Jesus’ name is honoured, and God the Father is glorified.
The desperate need to proclaim the gospel globally is too big for humans to handle alone. But is God calling you to a small part in his great plan? Contact your CMS branch to find out more.