Happy New Year, Dear Friends!
This post is a little later than I had hoped because our family was hit with the coronavirus variant over the holidays. We are deeply grateful for your prayers and appreciate you for the way we journey together in life and mission.
Yearning to Develop More Leaders & Shepherds
2021 began with an interesting call from a Lausanne and WEA friend challenging many of us to focus on raising up and training millions of new Christ-like leaders in the coming decades. As the team requested my engagement in this new venture, I was led to share from Matthew 9:36 where Jesus saw the crowds harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
At the end of 2021, my reflections were in the book of Zechariah chapter 10:2. In that passage, the prophet critiques the false gods who have led people astray causing many to wander because they lack a shepherd.
The idols speak deceitfully,
diviners see visions that lie;
they tell dreams that are false,
they give comfort in vain.
Therefore the people wander like sheep
oppressed for lack of a shepherd.
— Zechariah 10:2
The same day that I was reflecting on Zechariah 10, a report came from one of our national directors describing the growing intolerance occurring in his country. And then another message received the night prior from another country director reflected on a different, integrated approach to developing shepherds for the future.
Yearning for Blessing for our Community
Along with the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and the conflicts and upheavals springing up all around us, our mission has tried to share the burden faced by a brother’s family as they live the nightmare of personal fallout from violence and persecution in their country. Our friend and faculty member’s family have faced ongoing struggles with their daughter’s worsening health challenges. Another national director couple has dealt with the wife’s ongoing health crisis. We grieve the sad reality of a national director facing ALS and cancer. And now, news that another national director’s family is fighting a covid outbreak in their midst.
Calling to Pray for God to Move
2022 begins with promise, and I’m encouraged that my home church is opening with a Daniel Fast call to prayer. As Jesus challenges in that passage, we must pray to the Lord of the harvest to send more laborers.
So, this is my word for 2022:
A call to be led by the Good Shepherd, to become like him as a shepherd for this world and to raise up a new generation of shepherds who will follow Jesus and serve the masses who are so desperately looking for help.
Looking to the future, we aspire to be “a vibrant community accelerating Christ-centered movements around the world… who equip and unify visionary Christ-centered leaders to influence Spirit-led change.”
As we lean into 2022 and strive to be and accelerate new shepherds for a weary world, I am heartened by former A2 board member Ray Ortlund’s grandson’s wisdom:
Not abiding in Christ darkens all of life.
Even the bright spots are dimmed.
Abiding in Christ brightens all of life.
Even the dark spots are lightened.
All of life takes on a different hue.
~ Dane Ortlund
My friends, as we abide in Christ this year, the Lord will raise up a new generation of shepherds to serve His Church and His Kingdom.
I’m eager to see what the Lord unfolds for us. Join me in expectation.
Joseph W. Handley, Jr., Ph.D.