THE WINTER OLYMPICS SLOGAN SPLASHED DAILY ACROSS OUR SCREENS THIS WEEK REMINDS US OF THE PASSION DRIVING OUR TOP SPORTERS IN TURIN. It’s an almost fanatical passion demanding discipline, focus, sacrifice – blood, sweat and often a lot of tears. Once I found myself on an exercise machine at the local gym next to a long-haired, muscular athlete with bulging thighs. Only later as I watched the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City did I discover that he was our town’s local hero, Gerard van Velde, on his way to winning a gold medal in the 1000 metres. He obviously was far more committed than I to such exercise!
Paul spoke of such discipline, focus and sacrifice when he wrote to the Philippians about pressing on towards the goal to win the prize (Phil 3: 14). Our passion as Jesus followers is, of course, to know God and to make him known.
But how strong is our passion? The Turin Winter Games have stirred little response from us Europeans when it comes to grasping evangelistic opportunities. When last week 60 YWAM leaders from across Europe gathered for our biannual forum, our German leaders reported a similar low interest from Europe in outreaches during the World Cup this summer, despite the high involvement of hundreds of churches across the nation. The YWAM organizers expect over a hundred Egyptians to be involved, yet only a handful of Europeans have indicated their plans to be involved.
There can be many reasons for this: lack of a clear trumpet call to action, bad experiences in the past, high costs and questions about the effectiveness of such evangelism in the long run, to name a few. We reflected on these reasons last week and had to ask ourselves if we had become the tail instead of the head, leading out in novel, creative, effective proclamation.
After much discussion and prayer, I tried to sum up on the last morning what we were sensing God was saying to us, under the following headings:
· Founding vision – YWAM was birthed out of a vision of waves of young people spreading out across all continents, including Europe, engaging in all manner of outreach. We as leaders had no authority to retreat from our original mandate, either by design or default. Training was not the original YWAM vision and should only be seen as a means towards the fulfillment of that vision.
· Fighting and feasting together – As in the time of Nehemiah, God’s people are called to work together, each clan on its part of the wall until a trumpet call gathers all the people to fight together. Although the norm is for us to work in our own part of the vineyard, there is a bonding that only happens when we work together, fight together and are yoked together. Also in the story of Nehemiah, the people were instructed to feast together, for ‘the joy of the Lord was their strength’ (Neh. 8:10). We decided last week to call for such a Europe-wide feast, a Festival of the Nations, next year at Pentecost. More about this later.
We may have missed our chance for Turin, but it’s not too late to stir ourselves to join together for the World Cup, where churches in cities such as Frankfurt and Nuremburg are asking for hundreds of young people to come and help. Let’s look at how we can adjust our training schedules to mobilize both staff and students for this great occasion.
We’ll come back to this soon too.
· Faith not fear – whatever we do must be done in faith, in response to God’s instructions. Fear, whether that be of persuasive leaders, or of derisive opposition, can never be a right motivation. David, facing intimidation from his brothers, their fellow soldiers and the enemy, ran towards Goliath and towards God’s vindication.
Now there was a man with passion for God’s honour!
As we watch the Games and see the slogan, let’s ask ourselves, does passion truly live here?
Till next week,