Two Sides of a Coin

I am still grabbed by a story I heard while at ECFC earlier this month.

I went to find one of my heroes and former pastors, Ted Olbrich, who now serves as the foursquare missionary to Cambodia. I wanted to tell him how I recently read Leading Across Cultures by James R. Plueddemann. In this book, the former director of SIM (Serving in Missions formerly Sudan Interior Mission) and professor at Trinity’s Intercultural program stated that he finds farmers make the best missionaries. Plueddemann brought out this claim after talking about the difficult balance missionaries have to juggle between planning and preparation against waiting and ambiguity. Westerners love to think they can manipulate outcomes with excellent planning and forethought. Many in the rest of the world think we are foolish in trying to predict the future. Probably the truth lies somewhere in the middle. It is always there somewhere in the middle isn’t it. Right there where we left it before taking sides on an argument.

As Westerners, we love to plan and manipulate outcomes. However, much of the rest of the world lives comfortably in ambiguity with an understanding that we cannot predict the future. Plueddemann noted how farmers live in that balance of planning for the harvest while preparing for adjustments, unexpected and big changes that come to a crop.

My former pastor grew up on the farm. Maybe this is why he thrives in a country like Cambodia as the Foursquare church in that nation continues to be the world’s fastest growing church. The hindrances, corruption, and spiritual warfare that they navigate keep one nimble on that balance beam of strategy and sensitivity to the Spirit.

Here’s the story:

When I talked to Ted about this observation by a former mission’s executive, he said, It’s like that old story…let me say, he is chalk full of those old stories. He has more metaphors than a lady at the Kentucky Derby has hats.

His old story this time talked about the man from the East and the Man from the West who thought they saw a side of a coin. They argued over which side of the coin was more correct. However, as they got closer and closer they realized that was not a coin after all. In fact, as they came right up to it, they saw that it was in fact a ball. The reality Ted told me was that we have to have an integrated view of being spirit led and having strategy. Both have their place. We just need to know when to use which.

Do you find yourself wanting to map out the future or take it as it comes?

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