Looking For God at Work
By Ken Walker-
I wrote previously about the dramatic way Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God study touched my life. Recently I gained an appreciation for how the cornerstone of his approach has penetrated others’ consciousness.
Blackaby’s teaching emphasizes seeing where God is at work and then joining Him. If people in an area are expressing interest in spiritual topics or forming a church, that is a sign that He is already at work there.
I recently interviewed Rob Hoskins, president of OneHope, for an upcoming issue of Ministry Today, which will feature ministries impacting the church in the 21st century.
I was already familiar with OneHope; I previously interviewed Hoskins for a feature about leaders who had taken over for the ministry’s founder—in Hoskins’ case, his father, Bob.
The elder Hoskins started OneHope with the goal of distributing the story of Christ to children worldwide. That originally happened through its Bible storybook, Book of Hope, since translated into 142 languages.
However, as increasing numbers of children exhibited poor reading skills, OneHope added film to its outreach, followed by a burgeoning digital division.
While I emphasize this spirit of innovation in the upcoming feature, something else caught my attention that I didn’t have space to include.
It concerned one of the ministry’s failures back in 2006, when it had to close a program in Swaziland. Everything looked good on the surface; OneHope had distributed numerous resources there. However, end results were lacking.
A leading indicator: rampant sexual promiscuity, as reflected in the African nation showing the world’s highest HIV/AIDS rate. The United Nations has predicted it could be the first country to ever suffer extinction.
Such reality forced a serious re-evaluation. As Hoskins put it, Americans are good at measuring output. While he says careful use of resources is a stewardship issue, too many in the missions and church world fall into the trap of thinking “output” equals “outcome.”
“Outputs are a measure of your activity but they aren’t a measure of your impact,” Hoskins says. “We had a strong program as far as outputs go, but God began to show me we were having…very little impact among young people. We were checking all the right boxes, but we aren’t seeing any changes in sexual activity among young people.”
What is God Doing?
I was impressed by a ministry leader willing to discuss failure, which prompted OneHope to increase spending on research to better understand their audiences and evaluate the impact of outreaches. To more effectively spread the gospel, Hoskins says they also sought closer collaborations with churches and other ministries.
Then he spoke the words that made my ears perk up—wherever they operate, instead of assuming they can come in and solve all the problems, the first thing they ask is: What is God already doing?
“Let’s identify what God is already doing among children and young people in this country, among this tribe, among this particular group that’s at risk,” Hoskins describes their approach.
“What we find is that God is already at work and what we need to do is come in and serve what God is already doing. We bring our gifts, talents and resources to serve what (people there) are doing. So in many ways OneHope is increasingly becoming the Intel inside rather than the hardware that gets everything done.”
Listening to those words felt like flashing back 20 years. Just as I had experienced God and learned to be more sensitive to His leading, Blackaby’s philosophy had obviously worked its way into others’ thinking. And when you search for places God is at work, you’ll have less time to fret about what the world is doing.