“Why do we need another American missionary in Oxford?”
This charming question was put to me during one of my first meetings in Oxford with a local ministry leader. We were sitting in his office, lounging on old leather recliners, sipping tea while enjoying the view of Oxford’s prestigious Christ Church College from his window.
I wish I could say I answered him with words of thoughtful wisdom or a thought-provoking question. But I was so rattled and taken aback that I launched into a long description of the many ways in which God had previously used us in London, followed by an equally verbose apologetic for our Oxford presence. He was not impressed, to say the least.
Listen as Danny shares his story of discovering God's vision...
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Not long after this interaction, I met with a financial partner in The Netherlands who asked me the same question. Why do they need you in Oxford? Why CRM? Why you? Once again, I did my best at describing our goals, of justifying the considerable investment of people and resources in this project, but I could tell I wasn’t really answering his question.
If God’s first attempt at getting my attention hadn’t worked, this one certainly did. I left our meeting with a profound sense of inadequacy, of quandary, of existential perplexity. I began to realize that while I could describe what we do—evangelism, training of leaders, mentoring, etc.—the why was unclear. Sure, CRM exists “so that the name of Jesus is made renowned among the nations,” and we want to see movements of the gospel to that end. But what did that mean specifically for Oxford?
Before I continue, let me mention that this wasn’t our first ministry assignment. Before coming to Oxford, we’d already spent four and a half valuable years in London, during which God had put us through our own personal “boot camp.” We’d tried, failed at, adjusted, and relaunched all kinds of ministry projects, and had discovered some that we felt were really effective ministry tools for reaching people far from God.
And so we were surprised when we found that ministry leaders in Oxford didn’t seem to care about our London accomplishments, nor that our ministry expertise would transfer over as neatly as we’d imagined. Sure, we had what I still think are some cutting edge and effective tools under our belt, like the DBS, but our confidence in what we do had done little to answer the question why it was that we had come to Oxford.
So in a nutshell, what I’m sharing is how I arrived at our why—our purpose.
Back to my early days in Oxford. Out of desperation, I scheduled weekly, all-day prayer retreats for the rest of the year at a nearby retreat center. I was out of answers. I needed God to show up, to speak, to communicate his answer to these questions.
And that was when everything changed.
Now you should know that I’m a lawyer by training, a pragmatist, a bottom-line type of guy. I’m not inclined to prolonged periods of solitude and reflection and seldom have experiences of God that one might consider extraordinary or marginally esoteric. But as I started to take extended time to meet with God, I began to discern three valuable questions that anyone arriving in a new ministry environment should ask.
The first was this: What is God’s heart? In other words, what is his “why” for our ministry environment? I needed to wait on him to reveal his plans for us and our setting. Everything flows out of this! God’s why should fuel all of our ministry endeavors, our drive, our ambitions, our passion.
As I sat in a small, 300-year-old room overlooking the rolling hills of the Cotswolds, I felt like God was slowly but surely downloading his vision for Oxford. I heard the words “flip the dream switch” and understood that God was calling me to dream bigger than I ever had. No longer was I supposed to operate in the realm of the “achievable,” “manageable,” or even “realistic,” but I was meant to expect great things from a great God who had promised to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
What emerged was what is now the OxfordHUB mission statement:
Our mission is to develop disciple-making hubs in every major European metropolitan area with the purpose of finding, developing, and sending out people with a capacity to lead disciple-making movements in their communities.
It was clear that Oxford was meant to be part of a much larger vision, a strategy to reach the entire European continent. This ostentatious vision was so much bigger than anything I could have assembled on my own. God had given me the larger-scale why, which would create the foundation of everything else we’d do in Oxford.
Stay tuned for part 2!
Danny Aanderud and his wife Christy live in Oxford, England, with their three children. They serve with Novo’s pioneering and cross-cultural division, Ethne.