What is our focus?

by Rocky Grams

What is our focus as missionary educators?  Is it merely survival?  Is it a “don’t rock the boat” goal of merely getting by, maintaining the status quo?

Do we have a focus?   Does “Jack of all trades, master of none” apply to us?  Or in Spanish:  “El que mucho abarca poco aprieta.

One of the most widely read Christian books of our time is The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.  Over 20 million copies were sold.  Not bad for a Christian book.   His first book, The Purpose Driven Church, hit home with Christian leaders all over the world.  Two million copies were sold of that book.

The phrase “purpose driven” struck a chord.  Too bad that phase does not translate very well.

Leadership gurus have been beating on this drum for more than three decades.

Steven Sample, Stephen Covey, John C. Maxwell, Robert K. Greenleaf, Jay Conger, Richard Bolles, Jim Collins and a few others bring us the same clear message:  “Focus!”    Find your giftings and your strengths and live them out.  “Zapatero, a tus zapatos.

The Nike motto, “Just do it” is pretty simple and straightforward.  Maybe that’s why so many people wear T-shirts emblazoned with those three words in huge capital letters.

Focus and get it done.  Another phrase that does not translate very well.   “Hacelo, y listo” is the closest I can come.

Just saw a t-shirt this week that said:  “Just do it…tomorrow.   Jamaica.”  A good merchandizing ploy for tourists.

As missionaries, mentors, disciplers, educators, friends and confidants of our students, what is our purpose?  If you aim at nothing, you will surely hit a bull’s eye every time.

What is the goal?  Ephesians 4:11-16 is pretty clear…perfecting the saints for the work of the ministry until we all reach the stature of Christ.

How do our students arrive on campus their freshman year?  Half of them are second generation Christians, many of them pastors kids and missionary kids.  They have a pretty good base in Bible and theology and a notion of Biblical values and ethics.

The other half are new Christians–full of passion and commitment and also encumbered by the baggage of living under the influence of the postmodern, post-Christian culture.  We find major deficiencies theologically, ethically, spiritually and, many times, emotionally.

Just this week we had to expel two students for getting drunk, openly watching pornography, playing loud and lewd music and lying repeatedly about it all.  Where is the fear of God?  It has not yet been learned.  These young men hadn’t  been discipled, let alone finding their place as leaders in their church before they are sent to our classrooms, chapel, dormitories and prayer room.   Something was missing, for sure.

Our students and graduates will not be able to minister life and health if they are not healthy.   If a young man suffered abuse in his childhood and carries the heavy burden of bitterness and self-loathing, he will not be able to heal others until he has dealt with his own heart, with the help of the Holy Spirit and a chaplain or mentor.

If a student was abused by her father and cannot forgive, no amount of hours of class of theology and Bible will help until she faces her need to forgive God, to forgive her father and to accept and value herself.   Once she is healed, she can minister very effectively to others.  We have seen it time and again.

Do we want to help Christian business leaders along the way to influence?  How about musicians or film makers or the writers of children’s books?  How about passionate and tender pastors of the flock?  Do we accompany each life in God’s process of maturing that dream or vision?  How badly do we want to be catalysts of change?

This is a tremendous moment in history.  Never has a generation been so tempted and in so many ways.  Never have so many had so much potential at their disposition for good or for evil and, pretty much, for free.   YouTube and Facebook and chat rooms and online radio and blogs.   So much opportunity there for the taking.

The catch is…our students have to learn what to communicate and how to wrap the message in an excellent, attractive and impacting way.   This tech savvy, post modern, millennial generation who dominates all the apps in just a few minutes needs mentoring.   Dominating the technology is not enough.  Knowing how to carry on four conversations simultaneously via Line, Whatsapp and text messaging is not enough.  The messages must go beyond the banality of  forgettable chatter and find a way to hit home to the heart.  Where will they learn to think?  When will they decide to become a person of integrity and depth of character?

Yesterday one of our students asked me what to do with her tremendous burden to write.  She doesn’t feel qualified.  Who does, by the way?   Anyway, she would like to write Christian novels but knows she needs to be more widely read.  She lacks that base of knowledge and knows it.  She asked me to recommend some books.  What do I say?  She has already ready C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia.   How do I accompany her and the five students in my evangelism class who want to write?

A month ago another student shared that he has been writing a book on revival.  He’s been working on it for almost a year.  He gave me a copy of the first three chapters to read.  He also asked me to send the chapters to Dante Gebel when I traveled to Ft. Lauderdale for the ACLAME Summit last week.   Expecting to receive an envelope with the three chapters, I was pretty surprised to be handed a large box to send Dante…It contained the three chapters of the book, alright, and photos, a kilo of yerba mate and a jar of dulce de leche.    I didn’t even have Dante’s snail mail address.

Did I get it done?  Yes.  Someone went out of their way to help me believe when I was young.  A nonbeliever high school teacher went out of her way to help Dante believe, also.

When he was a teenager his pastor had said to him:  “Dante, God will never use you.”   What motivated that servant of God to say such dream squelching words to a young man?  Who knows?

But his teacher, in a secular setting, said to him:  “Dante, you are capable of speaking to multitudes.  You must read, and read some more.  Prepare so you know how to express yourself with clarity when your opportunity comes.”

Which person had the most influence on this young man?  The one who took the time to come close enough to see his potential and to sense his heart.

If we want to see church planters raised up, we have to put them in personal contact with church planters.  If we want the Lord to send forth evangelists–gifts of God to the church, as it says in Ephesians 4, who repair, perfect and enable the saints to do the work of the ministry of evangelism, we must put our students in contact with Ephesians 4 type evangelists.

Do we want to see missionaries sent out to the Unreached People Groups all over the world?  We must put our students in personal contact with risk-taking missionaries such as the Live-Dead team members that are working in so many closed countries.

Every Bible school should find the space and the time for this kind of mentoring.   It’s the contact beyond the classroom that will make all the difference in their lives.  Let’s find a way to schedule chapel services, picnics, retreats, symposiums, coffee times, evening services, missions trips, skype conferences.  There has to be a way to help bring our students into the presence of God.  There has to be a way for us to come close enough to hear their hearts.

Two years in a row Bibelskolen Substans–a Bible School in Norway, has brought all of the student body to Argentina to live the revival in various churches, to go out and serve in the neighborhood, to evangelize, and also to spend time on our campus.   Many of these young people don’t even have a Pentecostal background.  But God touches their lives in a special way.  Five of them received the baptism of the Holy Spirit in a service at our school a couple of months ago.

Two of the four administrators, Rakel and Ariel Alegre, are missionaries and also graduates of our school.   While they were here they shared a very novel idea.  Each of the four leaders coaches ten students.   It’s half an hour to forty five minutes of sharing and listening every two weeks–one on one.   What a commitment–spending time individually with the students.  But it’s really paying off.

What is our focus?  What is our dream?

Often that is the question our students ask Sherry, my wife, and me when we have them in our home for “pie night” –a time of games, fun and sharing.  Every single conversation with every group is different.

Our answer to:  “What is your dream?”  We tell them that we are living our dream, that our goal is to help each of them fulfill God’s dream for his or her life.   We just want to be enablers.

God help us.  And may He find us faithful.





4 Replies to “What is our focus?”

  1. Thank you, Rocky, for sharing your heart with us! For 27 years now, I have observed your life and example watching you disciple young leaders. You and Sherry have kept at it, so faithfully, and the fruit is apparent not only here in Argentina, but in many nations of the world where Argentine missionaries are serving. You have kept these principles at the forefront of your ministry through times of great joy and times of incredible battles. Thank you for not throwing in the towel when others did not share your vision and even opposed you. Your example inspires Charlotte and me to keep on, to run faithfully with the vision of imparting to our students here in southern Argentina what God has so abundantly poured into us through other faithful servants.

  2. Rocky, you and Sherry remind me of the poem:
    Wherever ripened fields you behold,
    Waving to God their sheaves of gold;
    Someone has suffered, bled and died;
    Some soul has there been crucified.

    Thank you for living your life to fulfill your calling,
    Making it a passion, and not just a job;
    Dying daily to self and the world,
    Stretching yourself to keep abreast of our challenging times.

    You are such an example of Christ and selfless, Spirit-empowered ministry.

  3. Good stuff Rocky. Our greatest joy as educators is the opportunity to be facilitators of the students’ dreams and callings.

  4. Rocky, great article! Lately, I have been meditating on sharing from that same passage in Ephesians in the context of a body of believers that Diana and I have recently begun to pastor. Your very well written reminder has challenged me to consider more creative ways to inspire and enable our students to hear and follow God’s calling. Mark, well stated.

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