Colleagues in ministry

Last month we conducted a colloquium, and this month began as many of our colleagues in ministry returned to their homes after a conference in which we participated in suburban Melbourne. At each, I was blessed to be part of something bigger, knowing full well that the work we conduct in the harvest fields of the Lord is but a sampler of so much of what He is doing to accomplish His plan. But at each of these gatherings, one for a single day, and the other over several days, I was challenged and informed of that once again.

The picture of the jigsaw puzzle reminds me, that is, it puts into my mind once again, that a part may well represent the whole, but it is NOT the entire whole. That one puzzle piece on the left when held in my hand is the representative. If I hold it up and have a look of curiosity on my face, you might think, "Bob needs to find his place" or "Bob is trying to finish something of a puzzle" or "Bob stole a puzzle piece off Larry's card table and is being cheeky." Whatever your conclusion, it's clear that synecdoche is in play.

Synecdoche is the figure or trope in which a part is used to represent the whole. Like 'cutthroat' for 'assassin' or "threads" for 'clothing' or "wheels" for "automobiles." This puzzle piece represents the whole, and thus is a synecdoche.

Now, grammar lesson aside, what prompts this consideration today is that my work is part of the whole. And when people at Keysborough last weekend or Rowville this weekend, or in Houston at the beginning of next month or... wherever I travel... when they say to me, "I love your work--" what they mean is they love the whole puzzle, that is, the work (and the workers) who are participating in the work of Jewish evangelism. They are commending the work of God, all the work and all the ministry, of all the workers in Jewish evangelism. Wow, that's a significant amount of folks, in a wide swath of territory from Geraldton in Western Australia to Sydney to Israel and London, from San Francisco to Johannesburg and Essen and Berlin. From 187th Street to Wall Street in NYC. And it's not only geographical. It's from Jews for Jesus to Celebrate Messiah, from Chosen People to Friends of Israel, from the HIT network (Hosting Israeli Travelers) to Awake to Israel, and every messianic congregation worldwide.

Sometimes workers in a particular field, like Jewish evangelism or marriage strengthening or pastoral homiletic development or campus "ministry" battle with one another. They hear about another similar work and about someone commending it. All of a sudden they become territorial. I remember at the university which I attended and where I was part of a ministry team back in the 1970s. Our campus ministry was significant and to this day continues under a new name. One of the wrong behaviors I remember and about which I'm embarrassed concerned other ministries. We called one of them "The Ohio House" although I don't think they ever titled themselves as such. Our work was similar to theirs on many levels. We both had Bible classes. We each had the university as our major focus. We both believed in Jesus as the only Savior and hope for the world. Theologically and at times sociologically we were indistinguishable. But they were 'the competition' and thus when I heard about what they did, I had difficulty in celebrating their successes. Shame, I know, but it's in part true.

I guess that's what made this collegiality I experienced the last week, and last month so pleasant. Under the rubric of the Lausanne Movement and specifically one of the 36 subgroups, the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism,  the conference this week highlighted to me the beauty of real fellowship and real support. To outsiders, there is probably competition among us, but when it's only us, it was a great feeling. We started each morning in public prayer together and it's almost impossible to badmouth or compete with someone with whom you pray.

Synecdoche is the word today.
And prayer.
And this Scripture: Romans 12:15: "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep."

If you want to see photos from either the colloquium or the LCJE conference they are here:


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