Envisioning the Next Eight Years

Article by

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

I think the reason I respond so positively to the ministry of Ralph and Roberta Winter is that they really are committed to spreading vision and giving hope more than they are to raising money.

That is the way I want to be. And that is the way I want Bethlehem to be. No doubt we will soon be into some kind of major fund-raising effort for the expansion of our home base. But I am totally committed to keep the mission and the vision at center stage, not money. What does it profit if you pay your contractor and lose your vision?

We exist to savor, instill, and spread a vision of God. And more and more I sense that God is building Bethlehem into a significant “spreading” church. It is mind-boggling to ponder the spiritual as well as the financial implications of sending out fifty vocational missionaries before 1995. We are increasingly persuaded that we should carry a large percentage of each of our missionaries’ support.

Imagine: Let’s say there are thirty missionary units (couples or singles) among this fifty. And suppose that a fourth of their support in 1995 is $15,000. That would mean that BBC would need to give $450,000 annually in additional missions support over our present $240,000 in 1995, not counting the increase of our present missionaries. Or, assuming that this need comes gradually, say 15% a year between now and 1995; that would mean $2,430,000 in additional missions giving between now and 1995.

Someone may ask, “Is that really possible while raising five million dollars to build the home base over the next seven years?”

Perhaps a more important question to ask is this: Why has God raised up at Bethlehem fifty young people with the deep conviction that they should give their lives, not counting the increases of our present missionaries, too, in the cause of Christ cross-culturally? Does the answer to that question imply a call to the “senders” to become the kind of home base that can sustain an expanding front-line force?

In other words, could it be that the question is not: Can we expand the home base while raising two million dollars for the front lines? But rather the question is: Is God calling us to expand the home base precisely because we must support an ever-expanding front line force?

If God is saying yes to the vision of this church by raising in our midst fifty full-time missionaries (not to mention 15+ ministerial apprentices), is not the main test before us whether we will believe him to provide what is needed to spread that vision?

And is this not what people really want to support—not a monument, not a clubhouse, but a thriving base of operations, a living nerve center where the vision of the Lord of lords is savored and studied, and where strategies are dreamed for spreading that vision across the city and around the world?

Pray earnestly for the Long Range Planning Committee and the Missions Board as they put the plan in place for these next crucial eight years.

Looking to the merciful and mighty Commander with you,

Pastor John