July/August 2012 - Vol. 61

A Report on the 2012 Sword of the Spirit International Coordinators Meeting, continued

Pastoring the Pastors - Saints, Missionaries, and Martyrs

The morning sessions for the first three days focused on “pastoring the pastors.” Presentations on the call to be saints, missionaries, and martyrs were followed by times for personal reflection and small group discussion.

The Call to be Saints

During the first morning session, Dave Hughes, senior coordinator of Word of Life community in Ann Arbor, Michigan, spoke to the coordinators about the Lord’s invitation to them to be saints. He explained that the pathway of being a pastoral leader is a pathway of holiness – a particular pathway of holiness for those called to do pastoral work. Dave remarked that this pathway requires “death to self” – laying down one’s life for others, as Jesus, the Good Shepherd did. Dave then described the role of shepherds: they know their sheep by name and take concern for their whole lives (Psalm 23), and they “feed the sheep” by leading people to the Lord, the “bread of life” (John 6:35). 

Dave went on to point out some of the specific challenges for pastoral leaders. These, he said, included the “usual suspects” of personal weakness and sin, and the precursors to sin, such as self-pity, discouragement, and a reluctance to be completely open about one’s life and failings with at least one other mature brother in the Lord. Dave explained the importance of keeping balance in the different spheres of life, service, and work. 

He concluded with three key steps for growth in holiness: first, staying close to a holy God. Second, staying centered in one’s family – if you can’t pastor your family, you can’t pastor your community. And thirdly, remaining transparent and open about your life with brothers in an accountability relationship. 

The Call to be Missionaries

During the second morning session, Jean Barbara spoke to the coordinators about the call to be missionaries – the call to go out, evangelize, and raise up disciples. He explained that this is part of the universal call of the church – to be a missionary people.

While there are many expressions of mission in the church, he explained some are equipped for particular types of mission which often require specialized training. Jean said that as part of the overall mission of the church, the Sword of the Spirit has been called to engage in a particular mission. Jean used the analogy of an elite army unit that has been trained for reconnaissance, like Gideon’s forces who were called by the Lord to fight for his people (Judges 7 and 8). With the Lord’s help Gideon won a decisive battle with only 300 men against a superior force. 

Ambassadors for Christ
Jean used three images from the Scriptures to explain how missionaries should conduct their lives. Missionaries are first ambassadors for Christ. As citizens of God’s kingdom they have been sent from their country, which is “in heaven,” to another city and country. They must travel light and not be distracted by other things, even good things, which might hold them back. If they encounter setbacks or opposition in the Lord’s mission, they must not yield to discouragement, but overcome it with an even greater sacrifice of their lives to the Lord. 

Not risk-averse
Jean also explained that missionaries are called to be good soldiers of Christ who do not get entangled with civilian affairs (2 Timothy 3-4), but who take on the mentality of soldiers who are fully equipped with spiritual weapons (Ephesians 6). He explained that a soldier must be ready at all times to undergo hardship and suffering, and even die in battle. Alluding to the example of Joshua in the Old Testament, Jean said, “there is no retirement age for those engaged in spiritual warfare” (Joshua 14:10-11).  Jean encouraged the coordinators to not let fear hold them back from leaving their comfort zones, taking risks, and being willing to suffer for the sake of the Lord’s mission. Jean remarked, “The Lord wants us to name our fears and face them… Some of us are risk-averse, cautious, and careful... Let us trust in the Lord who will give us spiritual courage as we engage in mission for him.” 

Patient and hard-working
The third Scriptural image which Jean used was the patient and hard-working farmer (2 Timothy 2:6, James 5:7). Speaking from his own experience, he sensed that the open door which the Lord has invited his missionaries to walk through is not necessarily wide open. It will often require hard and serious pushing to fully open it. Missionary work requires serious effort, patience, and hope – not giving up or turning aside from the great work.

Jean concluded by reminding the coordinators that every member of our communities is called to be a missionary and to take on a missionary mentality and lifestyle. It is important to invest young people in mission – to train them for mission and to teach them to take risks and step out of their comfort zones in doing mission. Jean concluded by saying, “may our response to the Lord’s call and mission be our legacy… And after a long and fruitful life, may we say, ‘we worked hard, we kept the faith, and we fought the good fight.’”

The Call to be Martyrs

David Mijares, mission coordinator for the Ibero-Americano region of the Sword of the Spirit, spoke to the coordinators about the call to be martyrs. David explained that the word martyr literally means “witness” – witnessing to Jesus Christ with one’s own life, even to the point of shedding one’s blood, as Stephen the first Christian martyr did (Acts 22). The call to be a martyr flows from the call to follow Christ as his disciple. That is why Jesus explained that his disciples must die to themselves and take up their cross daily for his sake. David explained that dying to oneself frees us to live for others. 

An act of love
David described martyrdom as an act of love. He showed how the highest expression of love is the willingness to lay down one’s life for others (John 15:13, 1 John 3:16).  He gave the example of Jesus in washing the feet of his disciples (John 13) and in dying for them on the cross (Romans 5:8). David explained that the greatest preacher today is the body of Christ – the witness of Christians living together in love and in laying down their lives in humble service of one another.

An act of war 
David also described martyrdom as an act of war. He explained how the Scriptures demonstrate this in the witness of the early Christian martyrs who overcame Satan “by the blood of the Lamb and by their word of testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death (Revelations 12:11). David explained that since martyrdom is the highest expression of love it is also the most powerful weapon against sin, death, and Satan (Revelations 2:9-11). 

Daily life training
David then explained how daily life discipleship is connected with martyrdom. He showed how the concrete situations of daily life can train disciples for martyrdom (1 John 3:17-18). He concluded by sharing how faithfulness to community life – laying down our lives for our brothers and sisters in Christ – is a great path to dying to self for the sake of loving and serving others. 

> continued page 3

ICM 2012 Report continued

> Presidents Address to ICM coordinators
> Pastoring the Pastors: Saints, Missionaries, & Martyrs
> Signing of the Covenant and Prophetic Words and Exhortation
> Youth Work and Mission Challenges
> Reflections from ICM Participants

all photos by (c) Nico Angleys 2012
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