“In Spain, you can’t have all your eggs in one basket.”
A more experienced missionary friend told us this and it has proven to be so true. If you come to Spain with a precise vision, a concrete strategic plan, anything too specific for what you want to implement for ministry, you’ll likely headed for significant disappointment. The more specific your expectations, especially if those expectations all fit into “one basket,” the more likely that basket will go up in flames. The more narrow your perceived ministry path, the greater the likelihood that road leads to a dead end. Spain is a country that specializes in bursting the bubble of great missionary expectations. In other words, Spain needs flexible missionaries who are willing to try new ministries and fail, over and over, and over and over again, and without losing enthusiasm. Spain needs ministers that are willing to fall, get up, shake off the dust, and try something new. Spain requires flexible and stubborn resilience, persevering spirits driven by God’s grace.
Why is this the case? One reason is that any effective ministry means partnering with the evangelical church already at work here, and the Spanish church probably won’t be convinced right away that they need your particular gifting for their church. Of course, they’ll probably be looking for some of what you have to offer, but the truth is that they have their own set of expectations. They are often perfectly legitimate, of course, but inevitably a good portion of them won’t match who you are or where you think you’re going.
Consequently, part of the challenge Spanish missions is holding on to an unshakeable conviction of who God has made you to be and at the same time, having the wisdom to respectably integrate in a church with a servant’s heart.
A missionary must be convinced, absolutely assured, that God has good works prepared beforehand for him/her to walk in, in accordance with his or her spiritual gifting. I’ve found that I must believe with all my heart that God has particularly gifted me for exactly what he planned beforehand that I do in Spain (Eph 2:10). So far, the works he prepared beforehand haven’t all been what I originally pictured. I want to believe that God has given me gifts in Biblical interpretation and exposition and a passion for the text of the Scripture in the original languages. However, especially this year, I have been asked to wait to use these gifts.
I haven’t had much of a platform for teaching and preaching this year. For example, I’ve hit a number of dead ends in terms of designed Greek and New Testament courses (online and otherwise) that haven’t had enough students to be implemented. No churches have asked me to preach other than my own. I’ve tried to start book studies without much interest. I’ve tried to disciple a couple of guys without reciprocating interest. I’ve tried to take a small group to newer levels of enthusiasm only to find the group’s level of commitment waning. I’ve signed up to preach or teach and had those commitments canceled because of circumstances I can’t control. Currently I’m scratching my head, but I’ve got to believe that God will use my gifts and passion for his Word. I have to depend on the Spirit for the strength to believe Ephesians 2:10 and the previous affirmation of my gifts.
Not only do you need conviction for the good words he has for you, you also need to integrate in the church with a servant’s heart. Like Jesus, we need to lay down some of our “rights” to humbly serve (Phil 2:5-11). For example, our church has been dreaming that we take on a youth ministry. We have a great group of 6-8 young people that desire to have a place to connect with one another. Julie and I do love youth and we’ve done youth ministry before. We’ve been blessed by it. Also, just because youth ministry was not on our radar doesn’t mean God can’t restart that passion. This is probably an opportunity for us to integrate and submit to our Spanish church leadership. Will it require swallowing a bit of pride as many of our plans, dreams, etc., will get put on hold? Yes. Is it what God has prepared beforehand for us? That seems more likely.
May God help us hold onto Ephesians 2:10 and Philippians 2:5-11 in the days ahead.