(The photo is from a classroom at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut, Lebanon.)
In our common use of the word, “provocation” usually means “action or speech that makes someone annoyed or angry, especially deliberately.” (Webster Dictionary). There is an overabundance of contemporary examples!
However, there is another, less rage-inducing – but no less motivational – meaning: “testing to elicit a particular response or reflex.”
The New Testament writer of Hebrews includes a call to godly provocation in a three-fold mandate to the new community (being) formed by the sacrifice and priestly ministry of Jesus Christ: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:” (Hebrews 10:24, KJV).
This mandate has been transformative in my attitude toward fundraising – moving me from morbid fear and paralyzing distaste of “asking for money,” to seeing “the ask” as extending an opportunity for God’s people to participate in God’s mission! A godly provocation . . . unto love and good works!
I offer two such provocations in this communication: One more perennial and somewhat personal; and the other only a little less so. Both need some background/context.
First, I am delighted to extend the invitation for you to join in support of the ministry to which I am committed and devoted! For those who may not quite understand what it is that I do, exactly and passionately, as an Area Director (for Europe, the Middle East and Liberia) serving with International Ministries: I explain my work in three broad areas – First, I build and strengthen relationships with international partners, making possible the engagement of American Baptist individuals, churches, and organizations in God’s mission, with God’s people, in Europe, the Middle East and Liberia. Second, I am the primary staff responsible for the guidance and encouragement of our global servants (missionaries) who serve in the Area. Closely connected to this is the privilege of helping to recruit and accompany candidates in the journey of discernment toward missionary service. Third, I am the staff with primary responsibility to resource our American Baptist churches, national and regional partners, organizations, individuals and staff colleagues related to the Area – with particular attention to facilitating their global missional engagement!
International Ministries recently created a Leadership Mission Support fund, to encourage giving to our general fund in the name, support and celebration of a specific office personnel! (See: Leadership Mission Support brochure.)
Provocation One: I would greatly appreciate if you would make a gift to International Ministries in my name – celebrating God’s gracious working in and through me – now more than twenty-two years at IM! Thank you very much!
Second, and speaking of contemporary provocations: At the time of this writing, our partners and global servants in Lebanon are being negatively impacted by extended domestic protests and heightened regional tensions!
I wrote to them, expressing our concern and prayers in these challenging times. I find the response of my friend and brother, Elie Haddad, president of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, to be inspiring, instructive and convicting!
We are grateful for your prayers and for your concern. The current situation in Lebanon is definitely challenging, politically and economically, especially with the escalating tension regionally. We are most affected by the economic crisis and the banking situation. This restricts our ability to do some work with our graduates. Besides that, the ministry of ABTS continues almost unaffected. For ABTS, this will be a very challenging year financially. We rely on the conference center and guesthouse for a good portion of our revenue. This is suffering because of cancellations due to the situation. This means that we need to find other means to compensate for the lost revenue. We need to put an extra effort this year on widening our partner base. This is an area that you can be most helpful with, possibly helping us with new church connections.
In terms of readiness, we are used to living with instability and uncertainty in Lebanon. This is normalcy for us. We keep pressing on until we no longer can, then we make adjustments and press on. Living with this instability has taught us many lessons. We learn to have a heightened sense of calling. Our lens for decision making is not security and safety. Rather, it’s spiritual discernment. We try to discern what God is calling us to do at the moment and we strive to do it faithfully and relentlessly. These times of conflict are usually great opportunities for the Gospel and for the Church to engage the world meaningfully. God knows what He is doing and what’s going to happen (and we don’t). So, our only option is to trust Him fully. And we continue to experience His providence and His provisions no matter what the circumstances are.
Provocation Two: Please send a gift to International Ministries in support of the ministry of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS); and/or ask your pastor/church if they would partner with the Seminary in its mission, “To serve the Church in the Arab World as it realizes its Biblical mission of having Christ acknowledged as Lord by offering specialized learning resources and equipping faithful men and women for effective service.” Thank you very much!
Providentially, Brother Haddad should be in the U.S. the second half of March this year, if your church/organization has interest in hearing more about what God is doing at ABTS and in the Middle East at this time. Please let us know.