And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are…” And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
—Acts 15:36, 41
When Paul begins his second missionary journey, it is less an evangelistic journey in the truest sense and more a journey of encouragement. Paul says to Barnabas that they should visit those places where they had already proclaimed the word of God to see how they are for the purpose of strengthening them.
The Greek word for “visit” comes from the same root word for overseer or bishop. Ultimately, the role of the district office is much like what is described in Acts chapter 15 following the Jerusalem council. As district staff travel up, down and across the interstates of Missouri it is to visit, encourage and strengthen the churches, schools, church workers and people of God. Regarding the word for visit, one scholar writes, “Even when ‘episkeptesthai’ means ‘to seek out someone’ in the NT, it never implies merely ‘to visit’ them in the usual sense, or for selfish ends, but always ‘to be concerned’ about them with a sense of responsibility for others.” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament)
With Paul’s emphasis on visitation, encouragement and strengthening in mind, Missouri District leadership have worked to identify five critical targets of emphasis in our work for this triennium. I will unpack these targets in the upcoming editions of Encourage. These targets are areas of concern and for which there is a great sense of responsibility in the eyes of the Missouri District Board of Directors and staff. Here are the critical targets:
- Healthy Servants
- Healthy Congregations
- Healthy Schools
- Strengthening Families
- Engaging Communities
The work of the district staff is ultimately only to support the work of our congregations, schools and workers through visitation, encouragement and strengthening others to stand firm through the Word of God. It is our prayer that what would our workers, congregations would be healthy as they strengthen families and engage their communities with the Gospel. Plans, like leaders are fallible. However, our hope remains that those we serve would feel supported for the work that the Lord has given to each of them. I hope that you will look forward to the next few editions where I unpack each of these critical targets further. May the Lord bless this visitation, encouragement and strengthening of the members of the Missouri District that together we might be faithful witnesses.
Prayer—Lord God, You have called Your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go but only that Your hand is leading us and Your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan