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Core Values at Iris – Simple, Controversial and Not Optional!
Some key elements at IRIS Ministries and in Jesus' ministry are controversial, although absolutely necessary. They should be normal in our Christian lives and ministries everywhere.

It was an unlikely spot for a leadership conference aiming for global revival! Hidden away in our cozy little African prayer hut on the beach, with stiff ocean breezes whipping our crude canvas walls, we gathered together to represent our worldwide Iris family. Far out of town on a rough, sandy road under clear, brilliant African sky by day and under a starry southern array with a bright moon by night, we met with God and melted together in His Presence. The natural ambience felt wild, raw and peaceful; the spiritual ambience was a milestone in our Iris history.

IRIS-Prayerhut

For the first time we convened our key Iris leaders from bases around the world to pray, soak, worship, dream and find unity together. Well over one hundred missionaries and nationals from dozens of countries descended on little Pemba in our remote corner of Africa. For days we ate and drank, wept, laughed and celebrated together as we built each other up with faith-building encouragement and testimonies. We were so honored to have Bill Johnson as our guest speaker, and he brought such an atmosphere of depth and holy presence. We were awed as we began to grasp the extent of what God has been doing among us, and the strength of our family bonding. We as a missions-oriented body are in fact enjoying God and our life of service to Him to a degree Heidi and I never anticipated thirty years ago when we first headed for the mission field.

The meetings were also a chance for us as leaders to articulate like never before what it is that makes Iris "Iris." The word is Greek and also Portuguese for "rainbow," as Heidi and I began as a Christian dance-drama ministry called "Rainbow Productions." We saw our different creative talents as colors of a rainbow that the "Son" shines through, giving a beautiful result.

We "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3), and have never tried to emphasize anything that is new, unique, clever or different. We try not to be controversial, and share with all Christian streams what no born-again believer can argue with: the glory of the basic Gospel, repentance and faith in Jesus, the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ, avoiding anything that would empty the Cross of its power, knowing nothing but Christ and Him crucified when backed against a wall, seeking righteousness that comes from faith, transformation through adoption by our Heavenly Father, and understanding faith working through love as the only thing that counts (see Galatians 5:6), with the hope of attaining to the resurrection from the dead (see Philippians 3:11).

As we changed course from an itinerant evangelistic ministry to stopping for the poor, we became more and more holistic in our approach to missions. We had no choice. When people are thirsty and starving, the holiest thing we can do is offer a cold drink of water and fresh bread. But we're not just social workers; we have fresh bread that comes down out of heaven, Jesus Himself! And so our ministry is not finished. We go on to "proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ" (Colossians 1:28).

In the process we find that we cannot just be an orphanage, or a church, or a Bible school, or a humanitarian aid organization. We can't just hold bush conferences, plant farms and engineer micro-investment. We can't just specialize in education and technical assistance. We as a broadly-based international family must embrace all of the above, and more... All the while we share with Paul his attitude in Acts 20:24: "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the Gospel of God’s grace."

Spiritual chain reaction

But we have discovered that some key elements of our lives and ministry in Jesus are controversial, although absolutely necessary. We think they should all be normal in the Christian life and in Christian ministries everywhere, not special and unusual. Heidi and I began naively in these areas, but now realize we must prize, protect and nurture these values in our hearts, and impart them to others. If we lose any one of these values, Iris would not function and be what it is today. When they all come together, it's as though we have a spiritual chain reaction, generating life and heat in the Spirit! The following five values are not the only critical ones to us, but the Holy Spirit brought them to the forefront of our minds at our leadership meetings.

Core values

1) We understand that we can find God, and can experience intimacy, communication and companionship with Him in His Presence, if we share His love for righteousness.

Missions has often been taught as unromantic; it is disciplined obedience to the Great Commission. Prayer is hard work, feelings are irrelevant, getting the job done is what counts. We don't need spiritual experience to proclaim the Gospel. We can't expect immediacy and intimacy to be normal. We can function without His manifest Presence.

We feel the opposite. We've gone through enough fire and hardship to know that without actually finding God, in fulfillment of Jeremiah 29:13, we cannot do what we do. We cannot love with supernatural, unstoppable love unless we actually experience the love of the Father for us first. As the radiance and exact image of the invisible God, Jesus is a spiritual lover, our perfect and ultimate companion. Our first value is to know Him in a passionate relationship with a love that is stronger than death (see Song 8:6). We major first of all not on mission strategy, methods, projects and fundraising, but having the life that the world needs and craves.

But neither are we attracted to mindless, impersonal mysticism, experience without content and relationship. We pursue passion and truth, not just eastern balance and serenity with no actual basis for happiness. We relate to God with our minds and hearts both; we engage with Him, and find life and joy in our interaction. When we find Him, we find and gain everything... Without Him, we can do nothing of real value.

2) We are totally dependent on Him for everything, and we need and expect miracles of all kinds to sustain us and confirm the Gospel in our ministry.

When facing great human need with our human frailties, we rapidly reach the limits of our resources, wisdom and love. We face overwhelming poverty, sickness, demonic attacks and every kind of evil. But with excitement and joy we aim beyond what we can imagine doing in our own strength. We run into the darkness looking for bad news because it is the power of God that gives the world hope. We don't apologize for seeking and valuing power, because without it love is incomplete and ineffectual.

Heidi and I began our life of missions with the dream of living out the Sermon on the Mount, taking Jesus at His Word that we did not have to worry about tomorrow. We imagined addressing extreme human need by example, living without anxiety, free to bless always with pure motives, looking to God alone for what our hearts and bodies need. We turn neither to the left nor to the right to gain support. At every obstacle our only confidence is in the Cross of Christ, and the conviction that God is thrilled to be trusted for miracles all along our way.

We believe we experience miracles because we value them and ask for them, understanding that He will give them to us only if they will not take us further from Him. For His sake we will lose our lives daily, knowing that by His power we cannot lose, but will be sustained and become more than conquerors.

The engine behind the growth of Iris in Mozambique has been a marriage of love and power; we do not have to choose between them, but can look forward to doing even greater works than Jesus, while remaining in His love.

3) We look for revival among the broken, humble and lowly, and start at the bottom with ministry to the poor.

God chooses the weak and despised things of the world to shame the proud, demonstrating His own strength and wisdom. Our direction is lower still...

We are not experts. We haven't learned how to do church and revival; we only know to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God (see 1 Peter 5:6). We gravitate to the low things of the world. Competition and comparison with others don't suit our DNA. We feel no pressure to succeed and excel, but we exult in doing things well by the power of the Spirit.

God's ways are the reverse of the world's. We waste our time on the uninfluential and the few, stopping for the one. We show where God cares when no one else does. We go to the neglected, the forgotten, the lonely. We will go anywhere, if possible, to minister to the meek and desperate, the poor in spirit, who truly understand their need of God.

4) We understand the value of suffering in the Christian life. Learning to love requires willingness to suffer for the sake of righteousness.

Discipline and testing make saints out of us, and produce in us the holiness without which we will not see His face and share His glory. With Paul we rejoice in our weaknesses, for when we are weak we are strong. Under great pressure we learn to rely on God, who raises the dead (see 2 Corinthians 1:9).

Jesus was rewarded for enduring evil opposition without sin. Our reward in heaven will be for the same – doing the will of God. We resist sin, to the point of shedding blood, if necessary, by considering His example (see Hebrews 12:3). Jesus is glorified now not because He exerted His power against His enemies, but because He overcame them with love. That kind of love entails suffering, the willingness to turn the other cheek, go the second mile, deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him. He showed us the only way to be counted worthy, and the angels sing of Him, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing" (Revelation 5:12). There is no shortcut to our heavenly inheritance. "Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory" (Romans 8:17).

5) The joy of the Lord is not optional, and it far outweighs our suffering! In Jesus it becomes our motivation, reward and spiritual weapon.

In His Presence is fullness of joy, and with Paul we testify that in all our troubles our joy knows no bounds (see 2 Corinthians 7:4). It is our strength and energy, without which we die.

The supernatural joy of the Lord may be the most controversial of our core values! But our aim is to impart so much of the Holy Spirit that people cannot stop bubbling over with love and joy! We pass through conviction and brokenness, even daily, but we are not left there. The Kingdom is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (see Romans 14:17), in that order. And in His joy we are all the more capable of compassion for others, unfettered by our own sorrows.

Heidi and I could never have endured this long without a river of life and joy flowing out of our innermost beings. We are not cynical and downcast about the world and the Church, but are thrilled with our perfect Savior, who is able to finish what He began in us. We gain nothing by being negative, but we overcome the world with faith that we can cast our cares on Him. Joy, laughter and a light heart are not disrespectful of God and incongruous in this world, but are evidence of the life of heaven. We are not referring to cheap and foolish levity that ends in grief, but exultation in the truth and reality of our salvation, a powerful work of the Spirit.

We in these days identify with the captives of Israel who were brought back to Zion:

"Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, 'The Lord has done great things for them.' The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him" (Psalm 126:2-6).

Rolland and Heidi Baker can be reached at rolland@irismin.org.  Iris Ministries Canada is based at #10 - 1425 Abbeywood Drive, Oakville, Ontario L6M 3R3. Tel: (905) 847-7749; fax (905) 847-7931. Web site: www.irismin.ca. Email: info@irismin.ca. Contact: Janis Chevreau, Director.

Originally published on Iris Ministries website, September 2010.

Used with permission. Copyright © 2010 Christianity.ca.

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