Editorial

The Worker Pipeline

By

When I was 16 years old, I wondered about a lot of things, but I had a firm conviction that I would invest my life in the advancement of the Kingdom. And growing within me was a desire to do that in another country. Some things about that dream seemed deeply challenging, of course, yet it also felt surprisingly normal. I was the son of a pastor, so committing my life to the church appeared quite natural. During my junior high years, my parents ministered in an international church in Asia, and I experienced firsthand what life in another culture was like. This further served to break down barriers to cross-cultural missions work, in my young mind.

But by age 18, I was feeling full-blown frustration at the preparation required for being a missionary with the C&MA: interviews, physical and psychological examinations, preliminary ministry experience in a U.S. church and, of course, years of Bible-based education. Because I never excelled in academics, this one loomed as the largest roadblock.

It was easy to question such demands in light of world need, mixed with a convenient dose of eschatology: if the Lord was indeed returning soon, didn’t urgency demand that I get to the mission field as soon as possible? I could comprehend the wisdom of sending quality workers, but wouldn’t a bit of inexperience be offset by youthful vision and boundless energy, not to mention the additional years I could give to the cause? It seemed outrageous that no one in charge had pondered such matters.

Time and experience alter the way we see things, often considerably. Today, I have quite different opinions about criteria for evaluating the character and qualifications of those preparing to enter the harvest field. Missionary preparation is still demanding, though certainly more flexible as realities and needs change. And what we once called the “candidate process” is now frequently referred to as the Worker Pipeline.

The word “worker” hardly needs defining; we understand that life investment in the church of the living God is an all-out effort. But think for a minute about a pipeline. A simple round object manufactured in varying sizes, it serves as a conduit for vital liquids. In industrialized societies, oil and natural gas come to mind first. But water also moves through pipelines—and as we take living water to needy souls in parched nations, the integrity of that pipeline becomes essential.

The parallels to Kingdom advancement and candidate character are numerous. A pipeline usually is not polished metal but just rough, gray concrete. Once installed, it gets little attention. In fact, it is normally thought of only when things fail to flow as intended, when there is a flaw or breakage. A piece of pipe on its own is of no value; many pieces or sections work together to achieve the desired result. To function, it is usually buried in a lot of dirt. And above all, it needs to have a layer of rock underneath to hold it steady.

I am serving in Brazil, which has a bountiful supply of pure, clean, natural drinking water. Yet many people do not live near a spring or other source, so we must find a way to take it to them. Living water is no different; many lost people live far from anyone who knows the Source, and our mission is to get it to them. The pipeline the C&MA uses is people, and they must be workers who do not burn out, give up when the heat is on, crack under pressure or attempt to function isolated from others. Thus, we continue to set the bar high and are not surprised that some wonder, as I did, why we demand so much.

The comparison is not perfect. A pipeline is usually set on a slight incline so the liquid flows effortlessly. But in the candidate/worker pipeline, prospective missionaries quickly get the impression that a lot of effort is involved—that they are moving uphill, struggling.

To a young worker, newly arrived on the construction site, it can appear that the requirements are extreme. But a seasoned laborer, who likely has spent draining hours and precious energy digging up broken pipe and doing repairs while the entire pipeline is shut down, understands the need for quality control.

Join us in the worker pipeline, but don’t chafe at the on-site inspectors. Experience has shown that they exist for the common good, both yours and that of the work.

Past Alliance Life Issues

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