By Shane Bennett
One of the funnest parts of January for me is the opportunity, sometimes, to help launch a Perspectives course by teaching lesson one. On the first night of class, it’s all hope and possibility. And since the odds of being the best speaker are slim, I’m happy to be the first!
The hope that infuses the Perspectives material and flows through the missiology that undergirds is what I find so encouraging, even invigorating: God is doing something huge for his name! And that work for his name not only involves cleaning, reclaiming, and restoring us, but even inviting us into the amazing honor of joining in his purposes. It’s staggering, really.
I want to blow on those embers of possibility in both you and me today by sharing five big hopes that I have for 2018 and asking to hear some of yours.
1. Substantive shifts in the global refugee situation
I hope that 2018 sees life turn toward good for many of the most gut-wrenching refugee situations. How great would it be for Syrians to begin to return home, accompanied by a massive reconstruction effort?
For the Rohingya I hope and pray for resolution that I honestly can’t even imagine. In my wildest dreams I don’t see how this situation can get better soon. But trusting God’s power to be superior to my imagination, I pray he’ll make a difference.
I also pray for the hundreds of thousands of would-be migrants to Sicily now marooned in Libya. In mid-2017 Italy partnered with a Libyan militia to hinder northward migration. While successful and good for Sicily, this has cheapened the lives of many who now suffer unimaginably in Libya.
Finally, I hope my country, the US (you hope for yours!) will act toward refugees in ways that honor God. It’s hard to see how we go from here to there, but again God can make a way.
2. A growing wave of young, smart, global entrepreneurs
Last weekend I watched a sharp documentary called Poverty, Inc. Depending on what you’re up to your ears in, it might make you sad. Or it might anger you. Or, if you’re like me and watch it with a radical young couple bent on honoring God and changing their part of the world, it might fill you with hope. Jesse and Jessica live in Liberia with For the Lamb. They’re starting a compressed-earth block company. They’re dreaming about their business helping Liberians and, even better, helping Liberians help themselves.
I’m dreaming about hundreds of Jesses and Jessicas from the US. From Europe. And even better, from Senegal, Syria, and Singapore… wisely and bravely stepping into situations where the enemy has stolen, killed, and destroyed, with their arms and minds full of the abundant life of Jesus.
I’m hoping they will be joined by hundreds of women and men skilled at PTSD counseling and training others. Few of the 65 million currently displaced people in the world will escape without some deep wounds.
3. A shift in sentiments toward Muslims
In 2018 I hope we see a measurable shift among Americans toward Muslims, both American Muslims and others. I’d like to see Christians on a grand scale trade apathy, anxiousness, and anger for connection and love toward Muslims near and far.
When God told Abraham that he and Sarah would be a conduit through which blessings would extend to all the peoples of the earth, that pretty much included everyone. And when Jesus hung out and laughed with Samaritans, he was showing us, among other things, how to interact with Muslims and others who like them. I would love to hear what you might be doing to make this hope real or what you think might need done.
I’d also like to invite you into my small, but growing effort called Muslim Connect, a super-short weekly email designed to help us think like God about Muslims and love them like Jesus does.
4. A fundamental increase in generosity
After way too long being way underfunded, I’ve hired what’s known in our tribal parlance as a Partnership Development Coach. Turns out this guy, who works as part of Stewardship Ambassadors, is not primarily going to help me talk people into giving to my ministry… he’s going help me help people grow in obedient generosity, and apparently that starts with me. You can imagine my surprise, as well as my hope for a broad-based increase in generosity throughout the global church and beyond.
What I hope to see grow in my own heart, an openness to gladly share of the good stuff God has given me, I hope to see grow in all of our hearts. Most of you, I’m guessing, are starting on a higher floor than me. But many of us have some room to grow.
Finally, I’m hoping that in 2018 we see God’s hand extended to continue gathering a great harvest. Recent research shows a growing number of multiplying movements to Christ particularly among unreached peoples. One observer has charted well over 600 movements in which multiple streams of disciples have reached four generations deep. This means someone following Jesus who leads her friends to him who then lead their friends to him who then lead their friends to follow him. Additionally, he sees thousands of movements that are emerging but have yet to hit the four-generation mark. What might we see as they mature?!? This is huge!
To give legs to both number four and five above, I’d like to give you at my expense a free copy of Stubborn Perseverance, a novelized story of a movement to Christ in Southeast Asia. It is both gripping and instructive. It will fill you with hope and wisdom for what God is up to in our day. To claim your free copy enter my name and email where it asks for the name of “your generous friend” (Ha!) Free print books are limited to the first 100 and only to the US. Kindle or pdf versions are not limited either in number or by geography.
I would love to hear your hopes for 2018 or your thoughts on mine. Respond to this email or post them on our website or Facebook page.