I got this email today from a friend, Michael Simpson who has been a missionary in Russia for the last season of his life. But now they are back in the States as God has taken their life a bit of a different direction. I love this, what they have learned and how God has asked them to live. What I really appreciate is how much more effective they are in God’s purpose outside the “job” of a ministry:
God has led us in some very interesting directions. By June, I will change my status and leave my salaried position. I’ve recently been working as an executive coach simply helping people with their goals, character, relationships and balance in life seems to always lead to meaningful spiritual conversations, and deep spiritual change for those that have that desire. It’s interesting, and frankly a little sad, how that was always my greatest passion as a business executive, but I thought I had to become a missionary to do it full time.
After six years in Russia, what I’ve realized is that I didn’t need an organization, a particular structure, or a particular “calling” to a group of people or geography to live my life in that amazingly fulfilling and purposeful way. God had already given me everything I needed with His Spirit to guide me into the conversations and relationships that he willed. What I did in Russia as a missionary was exactly what I did in America as an executive, but dragging around all the baggage that a salaried missions worker carries. It’s just MUCH more difficult to get over the trust barriers when you are being paid to talk to someone about God.
My wife and I will continue to visit Russia, but as business people, not missionaries. We are now setting up a business there, as an extension of our U.S. coaching business. This group of life and business coaches I work with want to help believers in very corrupt societies, like Russia, become coaches to help develop the character and even spiritual lives of business people there, but doing it through legitimate businesses, not fronts for ministry. After all, isn’t life ministry?
I have begun to abhor the false delineation the church has put on ministry vs. life. I have seen first-hand the negative effects on young believers who think they can’t serve God without being “IN” ministry, instead of simply being IN relationship and following Father’s whispers to wherever he leads. As an example, one of the greatest impacts to the people we’ve been helping in Russia for so many years is telling them the stories of changed lives and great spiritual conversations with the people we do business with, live near, and bump into at the grocery store. Our little seasonal chocolate business has created so many relationships and friendships and the most Spirit-guided conversations I could ever hope for.
The result has been that the Russians we know have realized that we were in Russia helping them grow in their relationship with Father because of our relationship with Father – not because of our job and organization. It has clearly inspired them to live similarly. Sadly, as a missionary, I could never have gotten that message across so credibly as when I was living it as a “normal” person filled with the Spirit of God, working out life and relationships just like them. Ironically, us being with them less has influenced them more. I’ve found they didn’t need ME as much as they needed my example.
Thanks again for slinging freedom (and) letting us know that it is okay to go with what we really sense in our spirit, has created great freedom to live as listeners who do not ignore what they hear. It certainly is never boring living that way, and there are WAY less politics to deal with.
I know this makes people nervous who are or who want to be in “full time ministry”, but what this unmasks is the myth that you’ll be more effective there, or that we all who follow Jesus aren’t at his disposal every moment of every day touching people he gives us. How he resources our lives is not the issue. It’s living as an expression of Jesus however he invites us to do that and however he chooses to provide for our lives and families. As one who has been free in this season to live with a full-time availability to Jesus, I’m not threatened by letters like this; I’m deeply blessed. When ministry was “job” for me, rather than the result of a fullness in my own life, I was far less helpful to others.
“I’ve found they didn’t need ME as much as they needed my example.” Those words just leap off the page. I love that line, that insight and that freedom!