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Seven years ago, my husband, Dan, and I were sent to Battle Ground, a small town in southwest Washington. Leaving ministry positions at a church of thousands to shepherd a congregation of about 50 people meeting in a middle school cafeteria was a radical shift for us.

Joy Russell

Our hope was to build from humble beginnings, and we anticipated a worldwide reach. But our church has not grown as we expected. Instead, there has been a steady stream of people who stay for a season and are then sent out.

The Lord told us that, if we would release people, He would bring more. But this goes against our cultural paradigm that says success is building a big church and enjoying all the resources that a large church has. We know how to draw a crowd, but God wasn’t asking us to just draw a crowd. He was asking for the infiltration and transformation of community and culture with the love of Jesus.

In the past seven years, our church of about 250 people has sent leaders to plant several new churches. We have sought to provide a place for healing and nurturing where people can mature in order to be sent back out. At this time, we are preparing to send our first missionary couple overseas; they hope to be on the ground by October to establish new Foursquare works throughout Eastern Europe. Our church body has become accustomed to the phrase, “In the name of Jesus, we send you!”

I wish I could say that everyone who leaves goes with vision and ministry calling, but sometimes people just leave. It is humbling to send in the “gold sheet” each month when you know the numbers don’t necessarily reflect the reality of what is happening in God’s kingdom.

Numbers are valuable because every number represents a life that has been transformed by the love of Christ. But we can’t be defined by our numbers—whether they are large or small. The Word of God defines us. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14, NKJV). The Word calls us to send out laborers who will go and live their lives in ways that will make God relevant to a world in desperate need.

Whether we serve in a megachurch or a small community fellowship, our success is measured by one thing: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20).

Please join me on my knees, postured in humility and anticipation of what God will do as we send more workers into the harvest.

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is assisting minister of Battle Ground Foursquare Church in Battle Ground, Wash.