Little Black Boxes


My boss recently handed me a copy of a surfing magazine and said, “This is the kind of thing we need to do for alife.” Though I enjoy a good “man versus unstoppable force-of-nature” adventure as much as the next guy, I was having trouble making the application. My mind (and mouth, unfortunately) flipped into slogan mode, spewing out mindless, predictable dribble like “Riding the Next Wave of Missions” and “Called to Surf.”

“No,” he retorted, politely concealing his disdain. “Look at the little black boxes.”

The featured article, entitled “Covert Operations: How to Keep Secret Spots Secret,” was riddled with little black boxes, each concealing a nugget of vital information regarding the exact whereabouts of an incredible surfing spot. It was clearly the intention of the author to paint a vivid picture of the adventure without jeopardizing the security of the location. Aha! Now I get it.

And so it is with many of the “covert” ministries of The Alliance. Our challenge as ministry supporters is to keep our workers “upright in the pipeline,” and we sometimes need to jump in to help keep them afloat. But there are also times we need to stay out of the water. All the splashing attracts sharks. Let me explain.

Several years ago, God opened an unlikely door into the country of . He raised up a reluctant Alliance pastor named to establish a church in this violent, war-ravaged, – dominant country. Death threats and car bombs were daily occurrences. Despite unspeakable adversity, the church more than survived—it thrived. And it multiplied. So great was God’s blessing on this body that those of us watching from the West could not contain our excitement. So we—and not just us Alliance folk but many denominational and parachurch groups—began splashing. Splashing on church bulletins and Web sites, in promotional literature, on personal blogs and social networking sites—anywhere we could stir the waters. The pastor of this church soon became the poster boy for “against-all-odds” ministry in tough places. Google searches of his name yielded thousands of sites, most revealing names, locations and specific ministry activities. And the sharks began circling. BIG sharks. And they’re still circling.

Two important footnotes here: First, no splashing is needed to attract predators. They’ll likely show up anyway—especially where God’s purposes are being fulfilled. We know that our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Whether lion or shark, he smells the blood and comes in for the kill.

Second, some splashing is okay. Stories, by definition, aren’t crafted to be contained. We can’t—and shouldn’t—help but celebrate miracles and milestones, especially those that are truly spectacular. But whom, in our clamor, may we have unintentionally invited to the celebration, and what might be their motives?

All I’m saying is this: Communications have changed radically over the past few decades. They are immediate and global. If a tree falls in the woods, we can pinpoint its location to the millimeter and its time of impact to the millisecond through an ever-increasing arsenal of unblinking satellites. If a man proposes to his girlfriend in Times Square (or just about anywhere else), we can watch the whole thing live from our laptops through an alarmingly saturated network of public webcams. And if I had spaghetti for dinner, chances are pretty good that my Facebook friends (and theirs) will know about it before the last meatball is skewered. Without sounding overly paranoid, we need to watch each others’ backs—because everyone else is.

Over the past month, I’ve received many letters and e-mails asking why we are broadening the circulation of this magazine when the Internet is so capable of broadcasting our message to the masses. My answer? Because the Internet is so capable of broadcasting our message to the masses. The second a name, place or face is posted, it leaves an indelible image, accessible to anyone, anytime through unfathomably powerful search engine technologies.

The C&MA Web site is an essential resource for anyone wishing to learn about the Alliance heritage, infuse himself with C&MA DNA or explore the many avenues of Kingdom service through Alliance ministry. I urge you to visit it regularly (legacy.cmalliance.org). But don’t go there for the information you’re about to read in these pages. Most of it will not be found online—but only in the little black box where your postal worker left it.

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