This message is coming to you while I am in China. Thanks to WordPress, I can schedule messages to be posted in advance; thus, you get a new post while I am bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of China. By the way, if you want to know more about the missionaries with whom I am connected in China, click on the China link in the blogroll.
Actually, I had the privilege of going to China last year about this same time, only I traveled alone to be with missionary friends there. This year I am taking a team with me, at the direction of the Lord, so there has been a whole different dynamic at work in the preparations. I have not only been preparing myself spiritually, emotionally, and physically, but have endeavored to help the others prepare in these ways, as well. In the process, I have found myself in God’s classroom a lot, but with the perfect Teacher. The lessons have been in the area of leadership for me, but they are applicable across the board. If they don’t fit you right now, perhaps they will help you pray more effectively for those in leadership over you.
Though I am not on staff at my church, I represent my church in heading up this team, so I have worked closely with the pastor who oversees our missions ministry and has much experience in this area. It is his first time having someone not on staff leading a trip, and it is my first time leading a trip, so this has been new territory for both of us. (Read this as, “lots of chances to learn.”) Because we didn’t clearly delineate all of our responsibilities for this trip up front, we ended up “working it out” as we went along.
Lesson #1 – Determine from the first who will be responsible for every known part of the trip preparation, never assuming anything. (I don’t know that this is a spiritual principle, but it’s a really good common sense principle!)
Since he had much experience at this, I didn’t question the financial deadlines the pastor set up for the team members – at first. With a critical deadline approaching, we were behind in the total money gathered, but were preparing to apply for the visas (not an inexpensive venture), after already purchasing the airline tickets. I admit that I was fretting over the lack of funds, though that’s not a new lesson I need – just one I obviously need to re-learn. It was only at this point, though, that it even occurred to me to ask about any deadlines for getting the trip money to the missionaries, since it is their trip we were taking. Because he was on staff, I assumed he had already worked it out with them. Since we both have a good personal relationship with them, he assumed we could send the money whenever we got it. Both of us were very wrong in our assumptions. When I contacted the missionaries, I found that the deadlines we had set didn’t allow enough time for us to meet their deadlines. This is when the light bulb went on for me about what was happening in the spirit realm.
Lesson #2 – Lack of submission has consequences that flow from the head down, just as submission from the head has benefits that flow the same way.
The purpose of this team trip was to work with these missionaries, yet we were actually in rebellion to their authority, from the outset, by not checking with them and submitting to their deadlines and other procedures. This was not intentional, but that made no difference in the spiritual realm. The consequence was that the provision the Lord had for each of the team members was kept back because of the rebellion of the head – which probably could have been avoided if we had done Lesson #1 and communicated better.
As soon as I was convicted, I made the decision that we would submit, not using any more of the funds until we had sent the money that was due to the missionaries – and we would ascertain and fulfill any other requirements in which we were negligent. I repented to the Lord for having been in rebellion, and for restricting my team’s finances because of it. I wrote to the missionaries, told them we didn’t have the money but would send it as soon as possible, and apologized for our failure to follow their procedures, assuring them we would right these wrongs. It was also important to repent to my team, as they were doing what they could, seemingly without results. I was determined that our team, starting with me, would be completely submitted to the authorities over us.
Lesson #3 – When the leader makes the determination to submit, no matter what difficulties the decision may cause, God’s provision (of whatever is needed) is loosed.
In this instance, from the moment the Holy Spirit helped me understand what was happening, and then helped me make the decision to submit, those things that had hindered the finances in the spiritual realm were loosed, and the money began to come in the natural. The amazing, “only God” result was the first payment being mailed only one day late, and the final one actually one day early, all glory to God!
These aren’t the only lessons I have learned, by any means. I suspect that while you are reading this post, I’m learning many more leadership lessons on Chinese soil! Because I’ll be learning for the rest of my life, I won’t say, “Stay tuned for the rest of the story”; however, I will say, “Stay tuned for more of the story.”