By Reverend Kyle J.A. Small, who participated in a vision trip to Thailand.
I knew very little about the work prior to traveling to Thailand. Thankfully, my ignorance was broken as we traveled discovering the work of God in the lives of people and creation throughout Thailand.
The work is alive – the church is dynamic; the ministry holistic, and the structures supportive. Without overly romanticizing the work in Thailand, it is clear that the missio Dei is evermore embraced by the believers in this part of the world. Leaders and participants in Thailand spoke of their faith as a movement. The grammars of faith were kinetic not institutional; pentecostal not overly pious. The life in Christ movement throughout Thailand is a dynamic and powerful movement – from God for people (and creation).
The movements of the Spirit throughout Thailand sent me home wondering: “What is the Spirit calling us to become in our local U.S. communities of faith? Are we moving in ministry: living as a transformational presence of local and global proportions created and led by the Spirit? I ponder these questions and seek to understand what I can learn from the powerful movements throughout Thailand. There are at least three dominant themes I glean from the trip:
Spirit created and led ministry is:
1) beyond programs to possibilities – Need based ministry is rarely repeatable on a mass scale. There is no “box” that contains the answers for each place and time. Needs are diverse depending on the who, what, when, and where of a community. Responding to localized needs are a gift from the Spirit, by which we are invited to discern and discover how to participate with God in the unlimited possibilities.
2) going from mechanics of ministry to effects of belonging - I was inspired by the focus on the effect of ministry and less on the mechanics of ministry. The Covenant’s primary theological concern is the reconciling work of atonement. We can learn from God’s people in Thailand to place less energy on the “how” and more energy on saying “yes.” We need to focus on the testimony – how is our life different now that we have seen Jesus Christ anew? This shift might move us away from the dependency of our own brilliance (look what we can accomplish) and more on the life of the Spirit in the world (look at what God is accomplishing).
3) beyond buildings to blessings – In the U.S., the gospel is often more about building the Kingdom than it is participating in an already existing Kingdom. The focus of the Sustainable Development Research Foundation (SDRF) turned away from building the Kingdom and focused more on blessing people with the Kingdom. The shift in perspective recreates the church as a people of blessing more than a place of protection.
The work of the gospel in Thailand is vast, and I am grateful for the opportunity to explore God’s mission in this place. I look forward to the continual unfolding of this experience as I, along with Lindsay (his wife), continue to serve and lead a local congregation into similar possibilities of a gospel imagination. Thank you for this opportunity to travel and be blessed.