Iris Ministries has planted thousands of churches, mostly in Africa, and cares for over 10,000 children daily.
1 Corinthians 13 serves as a significant reminder of what is most important in missions. If we speak the local language fluently, operate in signs and wonders and willingly sacrifice our possessions and even our lives for the gospel, it is still worth absolutely nothing without love.
When we are deeply rooted in the Father’s love for us, our love for him and for people will overflow in Spirit-empowered ministry that brings transformation to individuals and nations.
– Heidi Baker
The Primacy of Love
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” —I Cor 13:1-3 NIV
Love in not a concept or theory, or even an important part of missions, but the center of everything we do and why we do it. It is the very heartbeat of our movement. So what does love look like? Love has a face. It looks like something. It looks like someone. When we are motivated by love and are confident that “the God of the impossible” lives inside of us, we can do anything and go anywhere, and nothing will be too difficult. This is the great mystery: that God has chosen to inhabit and posses little jars of clay with His lavish love so that we can spread His fragrance to the darkest ends of the earth, and to every person we meet each day. When we know how extravagantly loved we are by the Father, we are able to lay down our lives in obedience with great joy. As ministers and missionaries, this is the life of joy to which we have been called.
The Father’s Delight
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” —1 John 4:18 NIV
As a missionary I have been beaten up, stoned, shot at, shipwrecked, had knives to my throat, been thrown in jail, slandered, mocked and ridiculed many times over, but I’m not afraid. I am not ashamed of the Gospel. I have known persecution and suffering, and counted it all joy! I have walked into the middle of gangs armed with guns and knives and told them to stop what they were doing, in the name of Jesus, and they dropped their knives and said sorry! They were surprised to see that I wasn’t afraid of them. From where does that kind of confidence come?
One day I had a vision of the Father and He was smiling at me. I saw that He took great delight in me and His smile undid me. He picked me up and danced with me all around a field. He loved the dance. We pirouetted. We leaped across the field. He danced and smiled at me.
I was completely undone by His love for me! I know that I am totally loved by my Father. This is the place from which my confidence flows. My fearlessness comes from knowing Him and knowing His delight in me. When the Father tells you that He thinks you’re awesome, you’ll go to the ends of the earth without hesitation.
We are also willing to hear his discipline when needed because we know He loves us. Likewise, a wife who is in love will obey her husband. It’s hard for a wife to obey a mean, grouchy husband, but when a woman is in love, she doesn’t have to be told to submit. She will do anything to please the one with whom she is in love. Obedience comes out of knowing you’re loved. When you know you’re loved, you will go anywhere He sends you and do anything with joy.
People often say to me that it must be a huge sacrifice to work with the poor, to spend time in the slums and be exposed to malaria, cholera and dysentery. My response is to laugh. To me there is no sacrifice at all! It is a joy because I have given my life for the One I love. I find joy in being a missionary and doing what I am called to do. I am a happy missionary! To me, the poorest villages where I minister are simply wonderful! They are the most glorious place on earth because Jesus is there. When you get a revelation of the Father’s heart for you, you love whatever He tells you to do and obedience is joyful. He rips away your fear and you are able to do things that you wouldn’t normally do. And things that would usually bother you no longer do, because you’re moving out of love.
I Will Not Leave You as Orphans
As a ministry God has called us to take care of orphans and widows, but we never call our centers orphanages because the Father never leaves us as orphans (John 14:18 NIV). He adopts us into His family and we become sons and daughters.
Sometimes people come to visit us and they expect to see ragged misery, but instead they are surprised to meet hundreds of happy children. They wonder how an orphan can carry so much joy. Our children know that they have been adopted and are no longer alone. They are in a family and live lives full of love and joy, knowing that they are sons and daughters. In fact, they get to minister the Father-heart to our visitors. These are kids that the world says are cast-off orphans. And yet, generally they are a delight to be around. Jesus pours His extravagant love through them.
Every weekend some of our children come over to our house for a sleepover. One day I was watching them as they ran in to our house, opened up the fridge and dumped the ice trays out all over the kitchen! We don’t always have electricity, so when it’s on it’s very exciting because that means we all have ice. It is such a delight for the children to have ice, and they get very excited about it. My children didn’t come in and ask politely if they could have some ice. They simply knew that they had access to the fridge! They weren’t even that sweet or tidy about getting it. They made a huge mess. As I watched them eat the ice I was thrilled because I knew that they were confident that this was their home and that they had access to the things in our house. The Spirit of adoption had healed their orphan hearts.
Like them, I am starting to understand that we have access to heaven’s resources. Whenever I preach the Gospel in the bush of Mozambique, I always ask if there is anybody deaf or mute in the village. When they bring the deaf-mutes to us for prayer, we are always confident that we have access to their healing because we know that we are co-heirs with Christ and that we are seated with Him in heavenly places. We want to take that which God says is ours and release it in this world. As I lay my hands on them, they begin to hear and speak, and the village starts to come to Jesus.
When you understand who you are, then you will start taking risks. But if you have an orphan spirit, you will be too afraid to try in case you fail. Sons and daughters are able to flow in great humility and great authority at the same time. They are confident that they have access to the Father’s house. They know that they are His so they are able to suffer without fear.
I have watched our children preach the Gospel when they were being stoned, while visitors locked themselves in a truck! They are mostly unafraid because they know they are children of the Most High God, loved and accepted. They often fearlessly lay their hands on the blind and their eyes open up. They take hold of crippled legs and the cripples start to run! We cheer them on as we watch them move in Kingdom power. We even cheer them on when they fall short of the Kingdom.
The Father wants to embrace each one of us and tell us who we are until we believe Him and begin to move in unstoppable boldness. Ministry and missions have to flow out of this place of confidence because we can only change the world when we understand who we are and who He is in us. When we really understand that we are sent out as sons and daughters and not just servants and workers, it will change the way we minister and do missions. We will flow out of radical love and fearless confidence. We will move out of a place of rest rather than striving, and we will go long-term, without burning out. We will finish well.
Abiding in Love
“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” —John 15:5 NAS
How do we bear abundant fruit? How do we birth revival and see whole cultures transformed, and nations bow at the feet of Jesus? We can’t make revival happen. We cannot create it. We cannot force fruit to grow, just as a branch cannot bear fruit by itself (John 15:4).
The only way it’s able to bear fruit is by remaining in the vine. We cannot bear fruit that lasts unless we learn how to abide in Jesus. It’s as we worship Him and enjoy His love that He creates the fruit. We cannot create fruit, but we can live in intimacy! A tree produces fruit by simply abiding, not striving.
Many of those who come to visit our ministry ask about our method and strategy for growing thousands of churches within a few years. My husband, Rolland, and I start laughing because we know that we cannot produce anything ourselves. We do not have a ten-point plan on how to bear fruit. Fruit only comes from the One who is altogether perfect! Our desire in life is to live inside of the heart of Jesus and to love Him. We don’t love Him to get fruit, but fruit always flows when there is intimacy. When we abide in Jesus, the true vine, it just happens (John 15:1).
Our goal is not to be the leading church growth movement on the planet. Our one desire is to be in love with Jesus, to love Him well and to abide in that love until it flows from us and touches every man, woman and child we meet each day. We are on the mission field primarily to learn how to love. That’s it. It’s so simple that it scares people. We don’t have anything else. We didn’t just come here as teachers, but also as students of love, desperate to know how to reveal the heartbeat of Jesus to this dying world. We are just starting to learn. My daily cry to God is, “More love, Lord!”
Our national brothers and sisters often lead the way. They teach us what love and generosity look like.
Pruning the Vine
“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” —John 15:2 NAS
Abiding in Jesus also means we allow Him to cut off every branch in us that bears no fruit. Out of His great love the Father cuts away everything that isn’t fruitful in our lives. Sometimes it hurts, but the pruning is so that we will bear even more fruit.
When I was in Toronto once, I was on the floor seven days and seven nights under the power of the Holy Spirit. I was unable to move in my own strength. I couldn’t even lift my head, and I had to be carried everywhere, even to the restroom! I couldn’t eat or drink by myself. It was almost like being a quadriplegic. The Body of Christ had to take complete care of me. When I was thirsty, the Lord had to speak to someone to come and pour water down my throat. This was really difficult for someone as active as me, and I felt like I was going to die. The Lord told me that’s exactly how He wanted me! Dead. He would then raise me from the dead. During this time God was wooing me deeper in to His heart and showing me how I could do nothing without Him, and I could do nothing without His Body. I was learning about dependence on Him and inter-dependence in His beloved Bride. We were all created to be in family and can do nothing without each other.
On day three, as I was lying on the floor at church, I felt a hand on my chest and liquid love pulsated through me. I was completely undone, as I had never felt love like this before. It was like a rolling river going through me, over and over again. I thought that the person who had his hand on me was the most anointed person on the planet. Later Rolland told me that no one had been anywhere near me during that time. The hand on my chest had been the hand of the Lord Jesus Himself! He was teaching me about His burning heart of passion.
Fruit Flows from Intimacy
At that time we only had three churches. One of them was for our children and staff, so attendance was mandatory. But after being stuck to the floor for seven days under the heavy, weighty glory of God, when I got up and went out, revival happened! A team grew up around us. After that experience of intimate love, fruit just started happening through our little lives and through our Mozambican and missionary family. I began to see every miracle I had ever dreamed of. Then the Lord spoke to me and told me He wanted more of my time. He had to chop away the things that were not important to Him. Where I minister in Africa, we face many pressures and long queues every day.
The needs seem overwhelming at times, so we have to contend for time in the secret place. Without the Presence none of it means anything. His Presence is what we live for, and ministry only makes sense when it flows out of this place of abiding. I determined to give Jesus even more of my time and not give in to the constant pressures around me.
I am learning that in the anointing we can produce more fruit in a day than a lifetime of striving and trying. This is a place I must contend for daily.
Hearts Full of Passion and Compassion
Even though I had been a diligent missionary for twenty-nine years and preached the Gospel for thirty-three years, He still had to prune many things in my life to take me deeper into the secret place of His heart. Some of my favourite times are walking and snorkelling with Jesus. Just Him and me. Fruit comes out of a laid-down love affair with Jesus. God is not just concerned about how much we can sacrifice for Him by being on the mission field. He is not impressed by how miserable we can be. It doesn’t earn us brownie points in heaven!
He is concerned that our hearts are full of passion for Him and full of compassionate love for our neighbour. A heart that is full of passion will do anything, go anywhere and withhold nothing. This is how Jesus wants to send us out into His harvest field: full of passion and compassion. He wants to captivate our hearts with love until they burn with holy fire and we walk the earth as the fragrance of Jesus. I won’t go for any reason other than love.
What Does Love Look Like?
To be the love of Christ to those around us, we have to ask ourselves this question: What does love look like? What does it look like, specifically, in the culture we are called to reach? In my nation, Mozambique, where there is much suffering due to clean water shortage, loving a village looks like drilling a fresh water well so that people no longer have to walk for hours in the blazing heat to get a cup of clean water.
Loving those who are hungry and dressed in rags looks like food and new clothes. However, this wouldn’t be a good demonstration of love to those living in London or Seoul, where there is clean water running out of taps constantly and most have wonderful clothing. Most people in the first-world don’t lack severely in a material way. They’re not malnourished, barefooted and dressed in rags. We need to ask Jesus to give us eyes to see what their needs are. And reach out to them with His heart in their poverty. Even though they may not be literally hungry, they may be starved of love and acceptance. To the lonely and rejected, love looks like acceptance and friendship. It may look like a hug or a word of encouragement. In the busy cities of the world, like Hong Kong, love may look like taking the time to sit with someone long enough to hear their story so that they know they matter. Love may look like you sharing a meal with them in the middle of a busy day.
This should be our daily question: what does it look like to manifest the love of Christ to those that I meet today?
Teach Me How To Love!
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay our lives down for our brothers.” – 1John 3:16 NIV
When we lived in London, we spent a lot of time on the streets ministering to the homeless. During this time I met a dying alcoholic named Patrick. Nearly every day for two years I would tell him that I loved him and that Jesus loved him. And nearly every day he would get really close to my face, look straight in to my eyes and tell me to go to hell. I kept bringing him food and telling him that I loved him, and I kept crying out to Jesus to teach me how to communicate His love to this man. One of my constant prayers is for the Lord to teach me to love. I don’t want any other thing but to live inside the heart of Jesus and to manifest His love to a dying world. Nearly every day for years, I would visit Patrick and tell him about love. Often he would spit at me. Sometimes he would take my food and sometimes he would throw it away.
Reduced to Love
“Let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” —1John 3:18 NIV
One day as I was out on the streets again, a woman I was ministering to began to beat me. She was a very angry and broken person. She had been raped sixteen times and had spent a year in the hospital with a broken pelvis. She was a lesbian and dressed like a man.
I often told her that I loved her and that Jesus loved her as I held her, fed her and ministered to her. One day she was very drunk and stoned. She was beating me and pushing me, but all I could feel was overwhelming love for her. When I looked at her she was beautiful.
Jean had a broken bottle and she said she was going to rip open my face and throw me in the river Thames. I told her how amazingly beautiful she was! I knew that she too was called to adoption and was predestined to be a daughter of God. As she told me that she was going to kill me, all I could see in her was beauty. I told her I loved her. After some time I began to feel very tired and thought I would either faint or die. I told God that whatever happened I wanted His love to be known in that place. Patrick was watching all this happen, and eventually he said he was calling the police. I told him not to because I didn’t want Jean to go to jail yet again. Then that man, who for two years had told me to go to hell, came and rescued me from her! For two whole years I had loved him, but he couldn’t see, understand or feel that love because there was too much pain in his own heart. Patrick grabbed me away from Jean, started sobbing on that street, and said, “For years you told me Jesus loved me. Now I’ve seen His love and I want Him.” We just held each other as he fell apart. He held me and I held him. In his dirty clothes and his scabies, lice and alcoholic state, I just held him. He met Jesus that day because He saw love.
I believe we have complicated the Gospel. Jesus wants to reduce us to the simplicity of love. My cry is to be hidden inside God’s heart so fully that I manifest His glory and never touch it. I want to be wholly hidden inside Him and love like Him; manifesting His love tangibly to the lost, the dying and the broken. I want to be His fragrance everywhere I go and love, not just with words, but in action and truth. A week after Jean tried to kill me, she came to my house with a dozen roses and said, “I’m sorry I tried to kill you. I want Jesus.” What a wonderful day! She got set free from all her anger and pain. That day she came home to the Father’s house.
Often we want plans and strategies to reach the multitudes. But love looks like something and revival has a face. Sometimes it looks like stopping for the same person, every day, for years, even if they keep telling you to go to hell. Love looks like laying down our lives for our friends and believing that they are lovely even when they don’t seem lovely. Jesus tells us that there is no greater love than to lay our life down for our friends. In love He stretched out His hands on the cross and gave Himself freely. He longs to fill His church with this same kind of love. Love that compels us to lay our lives down for our friends, so that we love them, even when they spit on us, reject us and persecute us. We love them when they are nice to us and when they are mean to us. And we keep loving them, whatever it costs, and never give up! If we love we cannot lose! This is how we reveal God’s heart to this broken world. Jesus wants to transform His Bride until she so radiates His tenacious love that no one can resist it! I will not say that this is not difficult. There are many days I don’t’ feel like loving at all. I have failed many times. But He keeps on showing me the point. He keeps on forgiving my shortcomings and drawing me to His heart.
We often hear about revival in terms of multitudes, but I believe that the face of revival is stopping for the one that God puts in front of us every day. If each one of us stopped long enough to see the brokenness of the one in front of us, and ministered the love of Christ to them, it would look like the revival of love and power we are praying for and longing to see.
The Church That Loves
“This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” —John 15:12-13 NAS
One of our pastors in Mozambique, Pastor Sithole, ministered the love of Jesus tirelessly in many villages day after day. He would walk and pray and pour out his life for love. This angered some people of another faith. They hated him for spreading the Good News. So one day they came to his house and told him that he would no longer spread the name of Jesus. They chopped off His tongue and cut off his lips so that he would no longer speak of His name. They chopped off his feet and told him that he would no longer walk and preach this message. They chopped off his hands and told him that he would no longer feed people. His wife and six children watched as this terrible thing was happening. Then they chopped off his head. In our movement hundreds of people have been raised from the dead, but Pastor Sithole wasn’t. His cousin, Pastor Surpresa Sithole, one of our international Iris directors, called us. The two of them had been very close. Together we cried and prayed on the phone. As we wept we asked God what love looked like in this situation? After we talked, Pastor Surpresa got in his truck and drove all day and all night with a huge sound system to the village where his cousin had been martyred. The police had caught one of the murderers, so when he got there he asked for the murderer to be let out of jail. Next he called the whole village together and said, “You may cut off our tongues, but you will never stop us from speaking about this message of love. You may cut off our feet, but hundreds will run behind us. You may cut off our hands, but we will still cry, ‘We love you, we love you, we love you!’ Because Jesus reached out His hands and He died for love.” Pastor Surpresa shared this radical, ceaseless, endless love with the whole village, and with the very man that had tortured and murdered his own cousin. The police said we were a crazy church and a crazy movement. But they also said that we were the church that loves. And thousands of people from another faith bowed their knee to Jesus that day because of love.
Radical fruit can only flow out of a radical life of obedient love and intimacy with Jesus. What would you do for love? Where would you go for love? What would you give for love’s sake? Wholehearted lovers will do anything and pay any price. Nothing is too difficult for them because they are totally abandoned. Not all of us are called to die for Jesus, but all of us are called to live for Him. Even if just one person reading this really understands what I am communicating, they would become a nation shaker. I am only a baby on this journey, but I know where I want to go. If we would really live a life that is so radically obedient for love’s sake that there is no “No” left in us, there would be so much fruit that whole cities would be turned upside down.
Possessed by Love
As missionaries our primary job is to love. I always tell our staff that it doesn’t matter what we do or how much we achieve in a day. What matters is how we went about it. Did we go through the day loving those we met? Did we treat the beggar asking for money with dignity? Did we take the time to hear what he had to say? Did we treat the children with patience when they misbehaved? Did we stop long enough in our busy day to see those in front of us and look into their eyes? If missions is just about programs and projects, then we need to stop, because what we do will be like a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If missions is about anything other than love, we need to stop and have more time in the secret place with Jesus.
Many of you may wonder who you are and what your purpose and calling is. My prayer for you is that you move deeper inside God’s heart and become fully inhabited by love, because love is our highest calling and our greatest gift. We can spend ourselves in service to the poor and give our lives to missions, but if we have not loved we have gained nothing. But if each one of us stops to love the one in front of us, each day, we will see the revival of power we long for spread to the ends of the earth.
Reproduced with permission from
edited by Randy Clark,
Global Awakening, 2012,
© Renewal Journal #13: Ministry, renewaljournal.com
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright included in the text.
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