We love video newsletters, but we also want to communicate more verbally and thoughtfully as well. For this reason we will start again to send out written newsletters along with more still/video galleries.
Recently I completed a Doctor of Ministry project titled, “TOWARD A BIBLICAL ‘STRATEGY’ OF MISSION: THE EFFECTS OF THE FIVE CHRISTIAN ‘CORE VALUES’ OF IRIS GLOBAL.” It was written for seminary professors, but I realize now that its conclusions could be useful to anyone wanting to know us and our Iris “DNA” better. And so we provide in this mailing my concluding chapter. Please let me know if you have questions, would like to discuss issues, or receive a file of the whole project….
Above all, may Jesus be found by you all the more as you hunger and thirst for His Kingdom and righteousness!
Much love in Him, always,
REFLECTION, SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
This project has taken an unusual course, in that it aims to contribute toward training for ministry not through an experimental exercise in a very exclusive, specific ministry activity, but making every effort to determine what is the cleanest, most incisive cutting edge of ministry and missions, the very heart and core of the life of ministry that affects every ministry activity. We have found that in facing the extreme needs of the poor and uneducated of Africa, more mental effort, revelation and sensitivity are required than ever to reduce the gospel to its simplest and most effective form. We are always asking, What do the people need most? What exactly do they most need to hear now? How can we make the Good News most understood? What are we asking God to do in our ministry? What is the essence of salvation and life in God? What do we have to offer? How can we avoid missing out on what is possible? How can we deliver the whole counsel of God to an illiterate and isolated people? In short, how can we deliver God Himself to the people? How can we bring in His presence? How can God become the total answer through our ministry? How can we avoid diluting the Good News in any way?
In the Lord we developed a desire to minister to the poorest of the poor and the most desperate of the desperate, and gravitated to Africa knowing specifically that if the gospel could be proven in that crucible, it would hold true for anyone anywhere. We were after the glory of God. We were after tasting the powers of the age to come. We were after the largest down payment on heaven we could experience. We were desperately fervent about not missing out on anything that we could possibly experience in God in this life. We wanted no regrets on Judgment Day, no lessening of our eternal reward, no losing out in the next life because we tried to keep anything in this life. We wanted the purest possible experience of the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, a true fulfillment of the Great Commandment. We believed in seeking revival without limits, running the race to win and fully coming alive.
THE GLORY OF GOD
What strikes us most in our long history of ministry is that we as human beings invariably and drastically underestimate God and His power and glory. Our dim vision and remaining sinful nature still cause us to fall short of comprehending and apprehending God to the fullest extent possible. Jesus constantly proves Himself better than we think. As we continue to experience more of Him, we are astounded by our previous dullness and lack of faith. We daily, constantly repent of our past misjudgments. Our life-force consists of anticipating even more revelation of God’s glory. We meditate continually on His greatness.
And so we learn that our ambition is to enter into that glory, to stay in heavenly places while in this life, to taste and drink of the nature of that glory, and experience the climax of that glory: ultimate relationship with the King! All power, understanding, authority and anointing flow from being connected and united with our all-glorious God. Our fire and zeal derive from knowing there is no limit to the glory of God, and every day can be more extraordinarily glorious in Him than the previous.
We are also struck by the fundamental understanding that no power on earth can separate us from that glory. Our salvation is perfect and complete. Nothing can keep us from glorying in Christ Jesus to our hearts’ content. It is that completely open door to perfect life in God that keeps us moving forward with unlimited motivation to preach the Good News to the poor.
The corollary to our apprehension of the glory of God is our knowledge of our own weaknesses. Our history in Iris has humbled and broken us to the uttermost. We have never been more conscious of our own weaknesses, inabilities and failures. Truly we stay low and minister in fear and trembling. We have absolutely nothing to recommend ourselves in view of the surpassing glory of God. Our only possible response before Him is to go lower still, to die and become nothing so that He can become everything to us. Our own pride and self-confidence are the biggest obstacles to our ministry, our greatest stumbling blocks, the most obvious chink in our armor. We find it so extremely relaxing and enjoyable to release all confidence in ourselves and simply glory in Christ Jesus. After we have done all, we throw our crowns down at His feet and take credit for nothing. The more we acknowledge our weaknesses and helplessness, the more the power of God rests on us.
THE PERFECTION OF MULTIPLE PERSPECTIVES
In the course of our ministry in Iris we have increasingly enjoyed great release in understanding that Christian doctrine is not an untidy mass of extremes in constant, inexplicable tension. God’s perfections cannot be encompassed by singular positions and perspectives on various issues. Our fellowship should not be a battleground of competing arguments. We should learn again not to underestimate God. Science in this century has been traumatically humbled by observations made in the field of quantum physics. It is simple fact that this dimension of our existence would not operate at all if seemingly incompatible models of the laws of physics were not all valid and operative. For example, our entire electronic semiconductor industry depends on our understanding of quantum mechanics, a model that seems in complete contradiction to our understanding of electromagnetic waves and fields. Yet both must necessarily be operative.
God is perfect and impassive, but He is also wounded, vulnerable and sorrowful. The Christian life is extremely difficult, only for mighty conquerors, but also effortless in Christ and the power of the Spirit. We are favored royalty in the sight of God, but also like the apostle Paul the off-scouring of the world. Jesus became poor so that we might become rich, but we have suffered the loss of all things for the surpassing value of knowing Him. We have free choice, but we did not choose Him, He chose us. We work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for He is at work in us to will and do His good pleasure. We “labor” to enter His rest. No one seeks God, but we are to seek His face. All who came to Jesus were healed, but He may have other more immediate priorities for us.
How great it is not to argue positions on these issues, but to exult in God’s perfections. We underestimate and diminish God if we doubt that freedom and sovereignty can coexist. Probably no other theological understanding has given me more freedom and exhilaration than to realize that God’s sovereign workmanship in me produces real and total freedom in relationship, and that I am under no pressure whatsoever to assert that freedom apart from His will. I am utterly free to pursue Him with all my heart, and at the same time trust in His total control of me by His Spirit. This is a great mystery, but one that we delight in. Our experience in Iris has taught us to revel in these perfections of God, to accept and thrive on all of scripture, and to be free of debilitating tension.
OUR OTHERWORLDLY FOCUS
We take much criticism for being mystical, impractical and otherworldly, of no earthly use. And yet our history is evidence of the opposite: our focus on spiritual, eternal, relational values and faith in an all-powerful Savior from another dimension has produced massive physical transformation and the practical bettering of lives among our people in Mozambique. Nothing could be more practical than knowing our God as well as possible. He is of great value, both in this life and the life to come. Without trusting in His gracious, supernatural presence and provision, we could not have put millions of dollars into improving lives in Mozambique every year, and been able to feed, clothe and care for in joyous fashion so many people. By trusting in Him alone and not in any fundraising techniques, we have been able to show the practicality of being otherworldly.
At the same time, we realize that ultimately we live for another life, not this one. We are strangers and pilgrims on the earth, spiritual commandos deep in enemy territory. This world is not our home. We wait faithfully for an inheritance, a Kingdom not made with hands, to be revealed to us at His coming. We understand that what can be seen is temporary, and what is not seen is eternal, and so we keep our priorities in line with reality. Against the modern charismatic trend of promising all blessing in this life and also the life to come, we insist that receiving Christ is a matter of choosing Him and life with Him in heaven over anything this world has to offer. We set our hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
We have learned in Iris not to succumb to tempting, lesser visions, but to keep an eternal perspective in all things. We are after the end result of God’s dealings with us, our eternal destiny, and realize with Paul that “light and momentary afflictions” in no way compare to the glory that is to be revealed to us.
OUR ESSENTIAL CORE VALUES
Our core values were taken mostly for granted in our early years. They seemed obvious from scripture, and nothing to emphasize in any special way. Of course we needed to find God, depend on Him, be humble, go to the poor, suffer for Him and rejoice in Him. But over time we found by more exposure to the many worlds of ministry around us how controversial these values actually are. Now, after thirty-some years, we recognize how extraordinarily definitive they are of our ministry, but still insist that they are all perfectly normative for all the church and all Christian mission.
Our experience, as described in spotty fashion in this dissertation due to limitations of space, has only increasingly confirmed the absolute need for each of these values. Iris would collapse with the loss of any one of them. We do not impose them on our ministry; the Spirit of God has imposed them on us. We simply recognize them and adopt them, both by choice and sheer necessity, and we continually perceive in hindsight how they have operated in our ministry.
For example, we could not have designed revival in Mozambique. We can say it was triggered by spiritual hunger, but that hunger was produced by divinely superintended preparation. How does a nation become hungry for God? It must be humbled. Mozambique suffered five hundred years of colonialism and slavery. Thirty years of warfare reduced its infrastructure to shambles. From being the “pearl of Africa,” a destination of choice for the adventurous rich of Europe, it descended to being the poorest nation on earth under communism and atheism. It was humiliated to the extreme, desperately dependent on foreign aid. Then in 2000 it was subjected to the worst flooding in recorded history since Noah, enduring torrential rain for forty days and forty nights. More damage was done by that flooding than all the years of warfare. Severe droughts, AIDS, the world’s worst medical infrastructure and educational system all contributed as well to bringing Mozambique to its knees before God. It had no national pride, no hope, no plan. It was in this atmosphere that we saw a massive cry for God rise up all across the country that we had never witnessed or heard of in all our experience and readings of history. What must happen to other nations for them to acquire such hunger?
Heidi and I alone could do nothing against such a challenge. We were not backed by any church. No one sent us or supported us at first. We had no plan, other than to show up and trust Jesus. We stood alone on the streets of Maputo, thrilled at the chance to see what only God could do. He opened doors. He softened officials’ hearts. He convicted victimized street children of their sin. He filled them with His Spirit and revealed Himself to them. He filled them with massive love, peace and joy. He motivated them to preach boldly and authoritatively on the streets. He began healing the sick and restoring hearts.
We had no intention of starting churches and building Bible schools, but extreme hunger among pastors demanded that we do so. Then He began raising the dead through our pastors, and desire for God spread like wildfire through the bush, and eventually through all ten provinces. No one could have stopped these pastors, who could not help but leap from one village to another starting churches in every village with no one telling them to do so. Signs and wonders exploded like bombs all across the country. People suffered extreme danger and hardship to come to our bush conferences because they heard “Jesus was in town.” We had no money for beautiful facilities and impressive productions, and we could never have triggered such fiery desire, but the Holy Spirit drew the people with power like we had never seen. None of this could have been the outworking of a programmed procedure.
Before Heidi and I ever arrived in Mozambique, God was preparing pastoral leaders in the bush, like Surprise Sithole, revealing Himself in spectacularly dramatic ways without the aid of missionaries or any planned influence. They became not our students, but our teachers. They should be teaching in Western seminaries the realities of the gospel and the depths of the love of God.
We never had promise of any financial support, and could never have raised it anyway. We absolutely had no plan in place concerning how to fund our ministry. God had to like what we were doing and provide, or we would have to shut down and go home. We never had any contingency plan. We were always totally dependent on God for every material provision.
Our plan always began with our first core value, finding God and seeking the face of Jesus in everything. We could not have lasted a single day without our second core value, depending on God’s miraculous provision for every material and spiritual need. We never could have earned the amazing favor we now have with the government without first going to the poor and not trying to impress anyone, our third core value. We suffered endless, repeated, impossible hardships and persecution, but did not retreat and protest. We are still in Mozambique because of our fourth core value.
We are criticized severely for our seemingly frivolous fifth core value, but we challenge anyone to go through what we have gone through without a massive, continuous, daily dosage of the joy of the Lord! It is our motivation, reward and greatest weapon, expressing all the faith we have in Jesus! And it is a gift straight from heaven, nothing we can plan or program. We must approach Jesus for it with open, empty hands.
THE PLAIN GOSPEL, PURE AND SIMPLE
Theology gets complicated, and missiology gets sophisticated, but we rely on the purity and simplicity of the gospel, which is simple enough for young children. Our early pastors functioned with incredible anointing with no Bible school education, nor even Bibles, but just a knowledge of the simplest scriptures, like John 3:16. Simple faith in Jesus was all they needed, the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. People in the bush streamed to Jesus, and were healed of all kinds of diseases with only the barest knowledge of the things of God. All they needed was Jesus, who exercised His power without any planning or strategy on the part of these naïve, pioneering pastors. They simply followed the Spirit.
Our aim is to let nothing empty the Cross of its power. Our only hope is to have our sins washed away in the blood of Jesus. May we never stray from such simplicity.
THE POWER OF IMPARTATION
We have seen repeatedly over the years that Christian growth and power for service are functions of the sheer power of the Holy Spirit, and that power can be imparted with astounding speed. More can be accomplished overnight in the Spirit than many experience in entire, lengthy discipleship programs. One vision can change an entire life. One glimpse of Jesus’ face can change everything. One look into hell can change every priority. One taste of heaven and all attraction for the things of this world is lost. We should not and cannot underestimate what God can do to transform the most unlikely and undeserving people in a flash. In Iris we have seen callous, numb, uncaring souls changed into new creations overnight. We are especially seeing a new generation of young believers receiving impartations and visitations we older leaders never dreamed of at that age. Our values lead us to ask and expect all the more from God in the way of priceless impartations of every good gift from His hands, but always seeking His face more than His hands.
Our values lead us to respect, serve and honor others, trusting the Holy Spirit to do His work without any pressure from us. For that reason we have learned, when entering new villages and territory dominated by another religion, that our most effective beginning strategy is to honor chiefs and leaders of the area rather than to challenge their religion abruptly and create a negative impression before we have had any chance to show the love of Jesus. We do not want to appear the arrogant foreigners. Instead, we get low before them and introduce ourselves as ambassadors of love from Jesus, wanting to help their village in any way we can. We offer to dig wells, start a literacy program, bring medical teams, etc., and in general show warmth and care in all the sincerity of Christ. Very often, before the day is out on our first visit, the village and the area are opened wide to us. Land is offered for yet another church, our ministry teams are invited to present the Christian gospel, and the leaders themselves ask for prayer. And then the Holy Spirit continues to move and soon another village finds a perfect Savior.
In other words, confrontation and displays of miraculous power do not always win hearts. Faith must work through love.
THE UNBELIEVING AND HARD OF HEART
Our values teach us that we cannot arouse love until it so desires (S of Songs). Love and relationship are not produced automatically by external, physical miracles. We have noticed time after time that even those raised from the dead and healed of serious disease do not necessarily respond well to the gospel or stay fervent and faithful to the Lord. Only one out of ten lepers healed by Jesus came back to thank Him. This understanding leads us to concentrate in our preaching and teaching not solely on external signs and wonders, but always on relationship. Churches deteriorate, pastors fall away, people lose interest, revival declines and our movement dries up if all we emphasize are prosperity, healings, manifestations and external phenomena. In Iris we have never chased signs and wonders, but only the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Signs and wonders then chase us. “Doing the stuff” is not the point. Jesus is always the point.
When the miraculous occurs, pastors and leaders may become highly energized and motivated to preach passionately the power and love of Jesus to villages a hundred miles around. But we understand that the very people who experience these miracles may not themselves attain the relationship with God that we preach. And witnesses of miracles may still not believe, no matter how obvious the evidence. We are convinced that one reason God does not do more miracles is that they often get more attention than He does. And no matter how great physical miracles are, relationship with God is even greater.
We only have one destination, one home, one reality, one resting place, one source, one motivation, one reward, one possession, one point of contact with God, one source of real satisfaction—and that is Jesus. We cannot overemphasize Him in any way. He is all we have and everything we need. All we do is come to Him like children for everything. His is the only name under heaven in which we trust. He is our wisdom, sanctification and joy. In Him we have no anxiety about anything. He provides our guidance. He is able so speak to us, to guide us, to thrill us by His Spirit. Our souls find our greatest delight in Him and He gives us the desires of our hearts. Our five core values can be condensed into one: in Jesus we must enjoy life! In Him we can laugh, for our worst trials and challenges are small in His sight. Our message is always Good News. We can only give Him praise and honor forever and ever.
This dissertation has been a broad brush painting a large picture of what we have done, experienced and learned in the history of Iris Global, and intentionally so. Any more narrowly focused presentation would likely miss the aggregate significance of our five core values. But every point raised here invites far more detailed discussion, and an even deeper pursuit of understanding in the Lord. We in Iris feel we are just experiencing the tip of an iceberg of the power and presence of God. Let us forget what lies behind and press on the what lies ahead! Our hunger will sustain us!