The Left Side of the Graph

26 03 2012

The Left Side of the Graph

Most of the time in churches when a mission report is given (especially when money is being asked for), you are shown the tremendous results of people being saved and new churches planted. You are shown the right side or end of the graph that shows the last few years of incredible growth. What you normally don’t see is the left side of the graph that represents years of work with little to no fruit. Most of our missionaries who are working in the hardest and least-reached places are on that left side of the graph.

When my family and I served in Tanzania, we worked with a tribe of people called the Pare. In recent years we have seen tremendous growth in the number of baptisms and church plants among this people group, but what is not usually talked about is the seven years prior to that where we saw absolutely nothing happen. There were times that we were ready to give up and go home, especially when we began to experience health problems, but God kept us going back. It was not until after much suffering, perseverance, and tears that we started to see some fruit. I certainly don’t mention this to lift us up, because it was only the grace of God that sustained us.

In David Garrison’s book, Church Planting Movements, he explains that the number one characteristic of indigenous church planting movements is extraordinary prayer. This is what takes place during the long years of the left side of the graph. The problem is that many Americans just don’t seem to understand the power of prayer. When going on a mission trip, most want to build something or paint something or even share their testimony. Those are not bad things, but most people certainly do not want to go and prayer walk. It feels like they are doing nothing. They just don’t understand that prayer is the foundation for all that is done. It is the key to getting from the left side to the right side of the graph.

We must be in prayer for our missionaries who are on the left side. We cannot afford to abandon them in their greatest time of need simply because they are seeing no fruit among their people group. We must persevere with them through this time on the left side of the graph, so that we can then fully celebrate with them when and if the right side comes. Our church is currently working in a country in Central Asia with a wonderful team of missionaries. They are currently at 0-1, meaning they have no believers and are trying to get their first. The only, but most important, thing that we can do for them right now is to pray extraordinarily. They have and will face health problems. They have and will face real spiritual warfare. We must be the ones to come alongside them just as those that helped keep Moses’ arms lifted during the battle, and we must be willing to do this through the entirety of the left side of the graph.


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