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The Fruit of Commitment

Commitment costs in the short-term but pays in the long-term.   Kelli Miller and Matt Patch lived and worked for three years in Kenya. They committed that time to discipling a group of Kenyans. Now those Kenyans are doing the same thing with others. Matt and Kelli are seeing the fruit of c…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
Commitment costs in the short-term but pays in the long-term.
 
Kelli Miller and Matt Patch lived and worked for three years in Kenya. They committed that time to discipling a group of Kenyans. Now those Kenyans are doing the same thing with others. Matt and Kelli are seeing the fruit of commitment. Even though they’ve returned to the States, the ministry is growing without them. 
 
Where are the Kellis and Matts in this generation? Have all the options and all the opportunities available to them made it harder for them to commit?
 
My answer is yes, it has. Here’s my experience with the World Race: Over 2,500 racers have gone around the world and seen its pain. They spend a year ministering to widows, orphans, and those who are suffering. And when they come back home I keep asking the question, how many will return to those in need to do something about what they’ve seen?
 
Few do. Most return home and struggle to reconcile what they’ve experienced with all the pressures of life.
 
The thing is, overseas missions takes long-term commitment. Commitment to learn language and culture. Commitment to leave home and all its comforts behind. It’s not easy.

The best things in life are like that – they take commitment. Deep relationships require commitment. Personal growth requires commitment. Trust requires commitment.

 
It’s worth considering what our commitment tolerance is. What is the longest we’ve ever committed to something? A half year or a year? Consider the notion that the best things you do may require at least a two or three year commitment – a year to learn and make mistakes, a year for mastery, and another year to begin to see fruit.

Making these kinds of commitments is difficult in that it is counter-cultural. All the options we’ve got in this modern day make it hard to commit. Every commitment to say “yes” to something means saying “no” to other things.

Some commitments

The good news is that commitment bears fruit over time. The best things in my life testify to this: Thirtyfour years ago Karen and I committed to each other and our common commitment has created a home where we’ve not only raised a family, but created a place where we’ve been able to welcome many others into our family.

I committed to a group of friends from college and almost every year since then, we’ve gotten together to celebrate our friendship and catch up on our lives.

I’ve committed to my call to mobilize and disciple young people and over time, thousands have responded.

Changing culture

So we’re taught to prioritize options over commitment. Given that the cause and effect of commitment is seen in the long-term, how do you learn it in the short-term? If our culture makes it hard to commit, what do we do? If our culture is broken, will young people be able to change it?

These are tough questions. Perhaps we need a crisis to take away so many of our options. Perhaps more pain will help us.

One of the young women Karen and I have mentored, Kacie Price, was at a crossroads after spending over a year ministering to orphans in Guatemala. Ministry had gotten hard and she was thinking “maybe it’s time to come home.” But God spoke to her about the benefits of long-term commitment and she decided instead to renew her commitment to pursue her call in Guatemala.

I like Jesus’ model. He invested deeply and gave his life. That’s commitment, the kind that turned the world upside down.

I believe we can change the things that we don’t like in the world. It may be a dream, but it’s one worth committing to.

What long-term commitments have you made? What pain are you willing to endure to walk out those commitments? If this is an area of struggle for you, let me suggest that you will grow in your ability to make commitments as you make commitments that stretch you.

Comments (10)

  • Commitment is something my mom taught me. She said you stick with it even if it is not comfortable for you. Unfortunately, the world screams just the opposite. Thank you so much for your commitment to these young people. My son Josh is learning so much from you and AIM. I know God is at work and I am so thankful we get to be a part of it. Josh said they were studying Dangerous Jesus. I am so glad. It was a very convicting read and will be an inspiration to many.

  • I just ran into Josh in the kitchen. What a pleasure he is to have around here! The product of your maternal commitment for years. Thank God for mothers who don’t give up on their kids!

  • Thanks Seth for this important reminder. I learned a great deal by observing the tenacity of a mother as she was the lead caregiver for a dad who took a long time to die. I’m watching a brother in law march to that same drummer. In AA we use phrases like “take it easy”, “one day at a time” and “its progress not perfection.” Far from pithy statements these are actually signposts for a committed life. Looking forward to seeing you and the AIM team in the not too distant future after some commitments are fulfilled here in Virginia. Blessings.

  • I like this. It is definitely a word for this day of short-term low impact distracted living. Christians that are willing to die for those they are ministering amongst are rare, but that is the model Jesus gave us. For some, the thought of physical death is not the hardest hurdle, but the death of other options in their life. (Those who caretake for aging parents know a lot about this as well.)

    Here in Mozambique, presidential and parliament elections occur tomorrow. There have been murders and kidnappings in the two years preceding this event, and some have fled to more peaceful safe environments. A peace accord was signed 1 month ago, but no one knows if there will be a long-term commitment to it. I am staying in my rental house alone due to hubby and other housemates being gone. (They didn’t ‘flee’ but are in the States attending to business before they return this month). Some have suggested I travel to South Africa due to the potential for violence here. But this is where I am called. This is where I belong. So I remain. (And if Holy Spirit told me to move, I would… so not being stubborn, unless you count my stubbornness to not be led by fear.)

    Interesting that World Racers as a whole are not returning to serve for longterm. I was hoping there would be greater success for that when compared to short-term mission trip attendees. I think many World Racers might not return, though, just because they don’t know how to. The programs you are offering WR returnees are hopefully a good step in changing those statistics, but I think you are right in recognizing that you are up against cultural hurdles that previously were not so strong.

    Commitment, faithfulness, discipline…these are not the sole domain of our parents and previous generations, but I think few would deny that today’s young people grow up in a more distracted drifting confusing world, so there are bigger cultural hurdles to overcome. But overcome them we must, if Jesus’ love and life are to get into the broken places of this world that are too easy to ignore for more comfortable options. Thank you for working to that end, and thank you to Kacie Price for digging deeper- the fruit will come.

  • And thank you, Melinda for taking up your cross and following Jesus to a place that scares other people. What an example to follow!

  • Brant,

    So, you’re back. I just went and caught up on your blog. Now you need to call me so I can get caught up on the rest of your life.

  • Although I enjoy many of your writings, Seth, this one particularly caught my eye with the mention of two amazing young people, Matt and Kelli. I had the joy of encountering them on the first WR Parent Vision Trip to Kenya, which my husband Ed and I had the joy of participating, with our daughter Joan, 2nd generation G-squad. lt takes plain old fashioned guts to make the sort of commitment you refer to in this article. Bravery, and an ability to walk away from everything and everyone you know and love, for the sake of the gospel and because you feel a calling to do so. I know. Because as the mother of a missionary it takes guts and bravery and trust and grace to be ok with my only daughter doing it. It does take commitment. A deep commitment to the One I know who holds the world in His mighty hands and yet knows every time a sparrow falls. Those are the hands that guide and direct the life of my daughter the missionary.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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