Sweeping Someone’s Path to the Nations
By Shane Bennett
Check me if I’m wrong on this, but I believe only one sport involves something being thrown, shot, hit, or swatted, after which the players extensively manipulate the course of the object. None but noble curling.
You’ve seen it, right? One person slides a giant rock down the ice while two more people crazily sweep a path before it? Of course it’s far more subtle, sophisticated, and, if you’re into curling, more beautiful than that. In fact, curling is known as “chess on ice.”
So how about curling as also a great metaphor for mission mobilization?
For the sake of brevity, I’ll overlook some of the most obvious possible parallels… that missionaries’ heads can be as hard as rocks! That many popular missions destinations are so crowded we have to knock others out to stay there?! That Canada has won more curling championships than any other country. (O Canada!)
No, here’s what I’m thinking: A curling team or “rink” consists of four members. The one calling the shots and coordinating the effort is called the “skip.” Let’s say we’re actually praying the way Jesus told us to pray in Luke 10:2, asking “the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest,” and our Skip, the Lord, actually says yes and does so.
The stretch of ice between the launch and the bull’s eye is long, slippery, and fraught with obstacles. Mobilizers are like sweepers, receiving instruction from the Skip and sweeping faster and slower, lightly and vigorously, all to end of helping the stone arrive at its most strategic point.
Last month’s Practical Mobilization column talked about how to find potential missionaries in your midst. This month, let’s think about the influence God may have us use to help them as they go. How do we sweep?
I assume you know people who overdo it. We—I mean they—assume they “know God’s will” for someone else or speak and act as if the thing they are doing is pretty much the only thing God is into these days.
It’s important to note: The Skip calls the shots! It’s the Skip’s job to see the whole ice. The sweepers implement the strategy of the Skip, not the other way around.
Here are four ways in which we “sweep” laborers into strategic points in the harvest.
1. We encourage prospective long-term workers to persevere.
Most valuable things are hard to do. Preparing for career-level, cross-cultural service carries many normal challenges, plus the oddness of pursuing your career in a hugely different place with a new language and without tons of models. These days there is growing stigma on people who assume others should also believe things they believe. And if you raise support to do this? Yikes.
Sweep. “Keep at it.” “I’m with you.” “You’re going to kill this.” Sweepity, sweep, sweep.
2. On the other hand, sometimes they need to slow down.
A wise mission mobilizer knows when to go all yellow light on a candidate. This is hard for me, but you see a few people or a cute couple spin out and hit the wall and you may think, “Let’s don’t be cavalier about this.”
It may be time to offer more prayer, advice, and help in spiritual development. Perhaps basic discipling. This early investment pays out in long-term effectiveness.
3. A good mobilizer helps prospective workers wrestle with strategic decisions.
A good sweeper helps the rock follow the right path to the right destination. Again, under the guidance of the Skip, we help people consider where they might go and with whom.
If, like me, you’ve grown up in a western culture that specializes in individualism (“I think, therefore I am” and “What’s God’s will for my life?”), it might be particularly important to consider the “go with” parts of the equation. Whom do you go with in terms of spouse, church, team, and agency?
I don’t know every missions agency. There are a gazillion of them. And I’m a little biased toward my org, Frontiers, and Missions Catalyst’s publisher, Pioneers. But I like to imagine that I can objectively help people think about where they might fit. With a list of options longer than you find at the Cheesecake Factory, it’s nice to have a friend who’s familiar with the menu.
We can also help find training and mission experience for people as they respond to God’s launching. Take someone to their first Perspectives class if they haven’t been before. Help them think about a training internship like Launch Global or TOAG. Advocate for appropriate scouting and vision trips to potential locations.
4. And finally, smooth the ice of support raising.
Feeling adventurous? If the Skip instructs you to do so, you could buy their house or take care of their student loans! Maybe buying them a copy of The God Ask (or lending them your copy) is more your speed. Introduce them to people who might share their vision and significantly fund them. And always, pray and encourage perseverance.
Jesus said to ask the Father to send out laborers. I assume he did so knowing God would say yes. So, fellow sweepers, let’s grab our brooms afresh, listening carefully to the Skip’s commands and get some rocks on the button.
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Curling image: Medyr/Fotolibre. Creative Commons License.