Fruitful workers invite others to join them through committed intersession for themselves and the people they are engaging. They recognize that this can be as important as inviting people to join the team that lives in the host culture.
This fruitful practice is not about the worker’s personal prayer life or about praying for particular Muslim friends,3 rather it concerns mobilizing prayer and prayer networks on behalf of the whole society. Our survey data demonstrates the importance of this activity. When we asked participants at the GTFP conference in Thailand to rate the importance of mobilizing for “extensive, intentional, and focused prayer (i.e., a large number of intercessors over a long period of time),”the vast majority rated it “very important” (GTFP, Database, 2007).
Thus, the cross-cultural workers who participated in our study clearly placed a high value on the practice of mobilizing prayer. However, the relationship between the way a worker rates this activity and its fruitfulness is not as clear. In fact, a significant, but inverted, correlation exists between a worker’s rating of this variable and fruitfulness. Our data showed that those who rated this practice as “important” were almost twice as likely to have planted multiple churches as those who rated it as “very important” (GTFP, Database, 2007).
In other words, we have a bit of a dilemma here. While it is clearly a Fruitful Practice to mobilize international prayer networks, the time a field worker spends doing so might be better spent actively engaging CP work. Our research does not offer conclusive answers to this, but this finding at least hints at the importance of partnerships between active field workers and mobilizers at home, each doing what they are better positioned to do. However, we will do well to remember something members of our research team have noted elsewhere, “We must do more than pray, but it is unlikely that we will produce lasting fruit without praying.”
All the Fruitful Practices related to Society:
Society 1: Fruitful workers communicate respect by behaving in culturally appropriate ways.
A worker’s attitude toward the host culture sends powerful messages. Fruitful workers behave in culturally appropriate ways in major cultural domains such as clothing and food, and especially in regards to hospitality. The key is sensitivity to the local setting, not necessarily whole-hearted adoption of local practice.
Society 2: Fruitful workers address tangible needs in their community as an expression of the gospel.
Good deeds often help workers gain a good reputation in the host community. Fruitful workers make clear that their good deeds are an expression of the gospel; otherwise, local people may assume that the worker is simply a good person or is trying to earn religious merit.
Society 3: Fruitful workers relate to people in ways that respect gender roles in the local culture.
Gender roles, and the taboos associated with them, are potent issues in the Muslim world. While maintaining a biblical perspective on these issues, fruitful workers strive to understand gender roles in their local context and demonstrate respect for these social norms.
Society 4: Fruitful workers mobilize extensive, intentional, and focused prayer.
Fruitful workers invite others to join them through committed intercession for themselves and the people they are engaging. They recognize that this can be as important as inviting people to join the team that lives in the host culture.
Society 5: Fruitful workers pursue language proficiency
Workers who are able to freely and clearly communicate in their host language(s) are much more likely to be fruitful. Fruitful workers carefully consider questions concerning language choice, such as whether to use heart or trade language, sacred or secular language. By learning language, they also gain a deeper understanding of culture, making language proficiency fruitful across a number of different dimensions.
Society 6: Fruitful workers take advantage of pre-field and on-field research to shape their ministry.
Fruitful ministry is shaped by many different streams of information, including ethnography, linguistics, and history. Workers who conduct research or actively reflect on the research of others are more fruitful than those who base their ministries on preconceived ideas or the patterns of ministry in their sending countries.
Society 7: Fruitful workers build positive relationships with local leaders
By sensitively and carefully relating to local authorities, including non-Christian religious figures, workers gain respect and good standing in their host community. Those who are intentional about choosing their relationships with local leaders are more likely to be fruitful.