It is remarkable that Paul asked the church of Ephesus to pray for him to have boldness when preaching the gospel. The image I have of Paul is as one of the boldest and most fearless preachers in the whole New Testament, proclaiming Jesus even under persecution, during storms or in prison. And yet, when he has a chance to present a prayer point, he asks that “… may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel” (Eph 6.19). It seems that even the most dedicated worker needs God’s power and His supernatural strength to proclaim Christ with boldness. It also shows that Paul was very intentional about proclaiming the gospel, to the point that it became one of his leading motives for prayer on several occasions.

One of the main challenges in missions today is how to transform vision into action. There are many great visions and plans that don’t result in any kind of action. Most of us already have taken part in meetings, consultations and forums that have ended with great appeals and brilliant ideas, but that didn’t produce any action at all. There are also many actions, even involving deep dedication and sacrifice, that are not connected to the original vision. It’s not rare to see people working fast and hard but, at some point, realizing that those actions are not linked with the calling, passion and vision that the Lord had put in their hearts. Hard work doesn’t guarantee we are on the right path. Vision without action is just idealism. And action without vision leads to pure activism.

Every missional initiative benefits from periodic review of its vision, strategies and focus. One of the areas that frequently need to be strengthened is that of intentionality.

Intentionality results from clear vision and a practical effort to achieve a goal. Although it is a subjective element, it has been identified by many missiologists and practitioners as one of the most important for a team. It is necessary to be intentional in order to turn vision into action.

God was intentional in His creation, transforming His plan into reality: “And God said, let there be light" (Gn 1.3). Jesus was intentional when He gave us the great commission to accomplish. And His vision was a global one: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” (Mt 28.19). Paul was intentional in his ministry sharing the Gospel and planting churches; not just talking about it, but shaping his own life towards this vision: “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Co. 9.22).

Lesslie Newbigin differentiated between the missionary dimension of the church and its missionary intention. For him, missionary intention is the intentional effort of the Church proclaiming the gospel of Jesus where there is little or no Christian presence[1]. David Hasselgrave stressed that intentionality is one of the key elements for church planting in ‘hard areas’[2]. Other missiologists recognize intentionality as one of the main elements in missions, especially when dealing with challenges and complex contexts that demand being proactive.

From my observation there are two main elements that prevent us from being intentional in connecting vision with daily action: distractions and controversies.

Distractions are events or attitudes that don’t contribute to our primary vision. They are not necessarily sinful or negative activities, but are just not connected with our priority. These distractions may come in the form of entertainment (social media, TV etc), activities (daily personal demands) or even relationships that prevent us from relating to our target people. In other words, distractions may be anything that become the focus of our attention and are not connected with our vision.

Controversies are differences of opinion that generate interpersonal conflicts, either based on different concepts or behaviour. Many differences of opinions don’t result in controversy and may be quite helpful in developing maturity and discernment. However, some may generate personal disagreements that affect life and ministry, draining great amounts of emotional energy. It is incredible how a simple controversy with a colleague can capture our attention and emotional energy for a long period of time.

Both distractions and controversies have the potential to lead us into a busy life, but take us far from God’s vision for us.

Our vision should come from Scripture, from God’s calling, from the gifts He gave us and from the passion He puts in our hearts. Part of His vision to the whole church is to make Jesus known to all nations, which may be done through testimony (the way the believers live out Jesus) and proclamation (when His Gospel is verbalized). Both areas demand a high level of intentionality to become reality. Let me suggest five steps that may help you to be more intentional in connecting your vision with your daily actions: identify, learn, evaluate, pray and redirect.

Identify your share of the work through your calling, vision, gifts and passion. That demands that you identify what ‘not to do’. Don’t get involved in everything you see as relevant, only with those that are part of your share. The Lord didn’t call you for everything and everywhere.

Learn how to avoid distractions and controversies that may be barriers to you achieving your goals. The first step is to identify them. You can’t avoid all distractions and controversy in your life, but you can do enough to make sure that your daily focus is on the vision the Lord gives you.

Evaluate to see if your time, energy and resources are targeting your goals. In other words, evaluate if you are in line with your priorities. You may say something is your priority, but where you invest time, energy and resources is, in a practical sense, your real priority.

Pray that the Lord will help you to find ways to avoid distractions and to go all the way from vision into action. Put your vision and goals before the Lord in prayer daily.

Redirect how you spend time, take actions and use resources to fulfil your calling and vision. If necessary, make a radical change in your lifestyle to make sure your daily life is connected with God’s vision for you today.

When I and my wife Rossana were involved in church planting among the Konkomba people of Ghana, West Africa, like any missionaries living in a remote village, we had to deal with many daily activities that were necessary for living such as fetching and filtering water; working in a vegetable garden; fixing the electric solar system; responding to people’s demands; writing reports and so on. These were all important activities, but sometimes they were distractions from our main goals which were to learn the language, build relationship and present the gospel to the local people. Several times we had to evaluate and redefine the energy and time spent on different activities in order to focus on our priorities. Even today we still make an evaluation once a year to see if our daily activities are well connected to our vision – and every year we find something to be adjusted.

One of the challenges in life – and in missions – is how to transform a vision into action on a daily basis. Like Paul, let’s be intentional in our prayer, asking for the Lord’s help to connect our calling and vision with our daily actions. Let’s be intentional. 

 

Ronaldo Lidorio

[1] Michael Goheen - The Legacy of Lesslie Newbigin for Mission in the 21st Century.

[2] David Hasselgrave - Communicating Christ crossculturally.