WEC has been around for over a century, and now has almost 2000 missionaries, coming from about 50 different countries, working in 90 countries around the world. In short, we’re a big mission with a long history and lots of experience. Given our size and diversity, it might come as a surprise that WEC has a remarkably stable and coherent way of doing things, an organizational culture we hold to with deep conviction. Missionary candidates are required to live at our headquarters for four months, a time of preparation, of evaluation, and, just as important, a time to absorb the WEC ethos, to become “WEC-ized”. We take very seriously the transmission of our values to the next generation of missionaries.
A single image that sums up the core of how we do things is a circle of missionaries bowed in prayer. All the linguistic fluency, eloquence, and earnestness in the world cannot, by itself, bring human hearts from death to life. Only God’s Spirit can do that. And God’s Spirit can still change hearts even when the human means are terribly flawed. The work is God’s; the glory is God’s alone. And so, openly confessing our own inability, we seek God in prayer to do what only He can do.
And when we need to know God’s mind about what to do next, we do the same. We believe very strongly that God gives guidance to the fellowship of missionaries out in the field as they seek Him in prayer. No head office directives, no charismatic leader whose word is law – we believe the prophetic mantle rests on the whole team of workers on the ground. We don’t go forward in any major decision until there is concensus that the will of God is known. We have no “Lone Ranger” missionaries: nobody moves ahead until the fellowship believes it’s what God wants. We are all on the same level. God may speak through any one of us, especially through the lone voice of doubt. When there is no concensus, we take that as a sign that we need to pray and wait on the Lord more. Since the early days WEC has had a tradition of “praying through” divisions and obstacles, and we have seen countless times how divisions have been resolved and obstacles to the work removed.
Yes, we do have leaders. They are chosen by the fellowship to do all the necessary background tasks that help the rest to keep doing their work. Important decisions, however, are only made when the whole fellowship is together.
New missionaries are approved for service only if the fellowship as a whole, having seen them living in community for four months, believes they are called by God for service in WEC.
Of course, even were WEC a fellowship of perfect missionaries, there would need to be some rules and structures in place, just to avoid institutional chaos. And since we are by no means perfect, we need rules even more! But there is something deeper here as well. We don’t seek God as to whether we should look both ways before crossing the street. That’s because God teaches us through our experiences in this world, so that we learn some wisdom about how to go about things. In nearly a century of experience as a mission, we have learned a few things – often the hard way – about missionary work. Some of this wisdom has become codified into a little book, the Principles and Practice of WEC, that we all must read and agree to abide by. Knowing how large, old institutions can become rule-bound, we strive to keep the book small, to preserve both the freedom and the necessity of each fellowship of missionaries looking to God in prayer.
And so we strive to maintain that biblical balance, learning from experience, yet giving God a free hand to lead us any way He wants.