By Lisa Blystra
President & CEO, Crossroads
The new year has begun, which means it’s the perfect time for us to pause and reflect on the incredible growth in 2018. We celebrated nearly doubling the number of students in our mentorship program, and we have been working to recruit more volunteer mentors to come alongside our growing number of students. We rejoiced when we released a new introductory Gospel-centered Bible study for our students and new training materials to empower Crossroads mentors for the ministry to which they are called.
While we celebrate the rapid growth in the past year, we remember that a short burst of ministry excellence is not our goal. We are committed to fruitful longevity. Many churches, nonprofits and even individual Christ-followers experience brief moments of ministry success before burning out. But Crossroads must be faithful and fruitful in caring for prisoners long-term.
When Jesus talked about the coming Kingdom of God, He did not indicate instant results. We live in a culture that values instant impact and rapid results. Although we might prefer to pop a frozen dinner into the microwave, God’s Kingdom is more like running a farm-to-table restaurant.
In Mark 4, Jesus used agricultural imagery to paint a picture of the coming Kingdom. The Kingdom is like a farmer sowing seeds, Jesus said. It’s like a mustard seed that slowly grows into one of the largest plants.
These agricultural metaphors are helpful for us as a ministry committed to seeing the Kingdom come in prisons all over the world. With this metaphor in mind, here are three ways we will approach our ministry with intensity in the coming year:
We will work hard.
Farming is no easy task. Early mornings, laboring in the hot sun, day after day. You can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, your brow sweaty or your hands calloused.
At Crossroads, we too are sowing seeds. Every letter a mentor writes, every check a donor writes, every Bible study that is created, printed and shipped out is a seed being planted. And a lot of work goes into this process.
We don’t do this work to appear successful, achieve certain performance metrics or feel like we have accomplished something for God. We do it because it’s the work Jesus is doing. We want to partner with Him and be His visible presence in our world.
We will wait patiently and prayerfully.
In Jesus’ parable, we are reminded that the farmer can do nothing to make the crops grow.
“‘Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head,’” Jesus said in Mark 4:27–28.
Because this is Jesus’ work, we aren’t responsible for making things happen. We plant the seeds. He does the supernatural work of bringing them to life.
A big part of fruitful ministry is waiting on the Lord. Waiting for Him to speak and give direction. Waiting for Him to move in people’s lives. Waiting for Him to provide resources. Just as the farmer in Jesus’ parable waits for growth, we too wait for God to do His work.
We don’t wait passively, but prayerfully. One of our practices at Crossroads is to gather and pray every Thursday morning. Staff members are also encouraged to spend the first twenty minutes of each work day in prayer. This cultivates faith and expectation that God will move in His way and according to His timing.
We will celebrate the harvest.
When we see glimpses of the Kingdom of God behind bars, we take time to celebrate! We share stories of students’ lives being transformed. We have a party with staff and volunteers at our home office when we release a new Bible study. We pause to thank God when more prisoners and mentors join us in this life-giving work.
When we pause to celebrate and thank God, we remind ourselves that this is not our ministry, but the Lord’s. When we recognize that God is doing amazing things, those moments are forged in our memory. The next time that we find ourselves in need, we can remember the Lord’s faithfulness and His abundant provision.
This is our rhythm for ministry: working, waiting and celebrating with eager anticipation and wonder the amazing things God has done.
Whether you are a donor, a mentor, a mission support volunteer or a prayer warrior, I’m thankful for your labor in planting seeds, your patience in watching them grow and your voice in celebrating the work in which we are blessed to participate. 2019 promises to be a fruitful year for the Kingdom. Thank you for your partnership in making that a reality.