No one can deny the value of ongoing learning in our life and ministry, yet, curiously, we often overlook it. For 12 years I was a missionary with Resonate Global Mission in Haiti. I remember early in my mission ministry, I got very tired. I had learned a new language, gotten to know a new group of Haitian leaders and mission staff, and overcome some serious illnesses and family challenges. I seemed poised to enter a period of fruitful gospel labor. Though outwardly things were going well, inwardly my energy and engagement were waning.
Eventually I realized I was in a ministry rut, and what I missed was the discipline of ongoing learning. A discerning person once wrote, “Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold” (Prov. 3:13-14). One of the ways God shares wisdom and understanding is through the ongoing learning that happens in intentional peer mentoring relationships: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17).
Two fellow missionaries and I started a peer mentoring group and began to meet regularly. I learned that I could share all my joys and sorrows confidentially with my peer mentors and receive their prayers. We reflected on the shared ministry challenges we all were struggling with. We held each other accountable to be the fathers and husbands God was calling us to be. We chose books to read and discuss together.
The insights and learning I gained from my peer mentoring group were for me springs of nourishing water for the soul. The challenges of life and ministry in Haiti never abated, but I experienced learning and growth, both intellectually and spiritually.
The stories you’ll read this month in Our Shared Ministry reflect the blessings that Christian Reformed folks are experiencing through peer and cohort learning. Some of the greatest services that CRC agencies and ministries offer help congregations with peer and cohort learning ideas and models.
Perhaps many of you have already experienced the blessings of peer and cohort learning through small-group ministry. Maybe you have a good friend or friends who function like a peer mentoring group for you. Whatever the case is, I am sure you would witness to the impact this has made on your life and ministry.
Globally, we are at an inflection point in the history of Christianity. In the West, churches are losing or have lost their cultural influence. In other places in our world, the church and its influence are rapidly expanding.
Our societies are changing at the speed of the internet. Our neighborhoods are becoming more diverse through immigration and migration. Social and cultural assumptions that have existed for centuries are crumbling. If there was ever a time to listen to God’s wisdom, it is today.
Through peer mentoring and cohort learning, God can open our minds to faithful and innovative ways of thinking about Christian life and ministry. I believe Christ is calling the CRC folks out of anxiety about these changes and into the opportunity these changes provide for mission. Learning together is one way we can be faithful to that call.