Joe Handley




Stories from Joe Handley, president of Asian Access



Mission? Really?            

Bible Passage:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” ­— John 15:1–5 


An Activist General

A few years ago, I was asked to develop an article for a new journal: The Journal of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care. Writing that article "A Reflection on Contemplative Mission" caused me to pause and consider the mission path of my life and the way I lead within mission. You see, perhaps you are like me: wired for mission. Ever since engaging in this mission life, I’ve been an activist at heart, in my mind, and in activity. It’s probably why I am at where I am today, though likely God would have a different view of that because honestly, the only reason I’ve come to this place is because of Him.

As I pondered the emergent field of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care, I was also thinking deeply about the mission agency in which I was now serving, Asian Access. For years, I was inspired by the likes of Henri Nouwen and Dallas Willard, but I led my life and mission more like a general rather than a spiritual formation guru. I was all about mission!

A Different Focus

But, Asian Access had a different approach, one that was compelling, transformative, and healthy yet one that seemed to develop both healthy leaders as well as mission catalysts. And, these catalysts did not always burn out, like many who I’d known over the years.

In fact, I met one Nepali graduate who had completely burned out. He was one of the most successful church planters in Nepal before joining Asian Access but his time with God diminished and his focus was all about mission. But this focus led to burnout and a near marital collapse.

The renewal of this focus from John 15 is what turned his life around and caused me to pause. Often, those of us in mission are compelled by the Great Commission and all the passages in Scripture calling us to mission. But, mission is not our first priority!

Ministry Flows From Relationship with Jesus

Rather, our relationship with Christ is most important. As we abide in the vine, we will flourish and grow, and through that, we will bear much fruit. The tragedy of our story is that oftentimes when we focus on mission, we burn out or lead toxic lives that lead others astray. I’ve met many a mission leader who was too toxic in their relationships or living on the edge rather than walking with Jesus and leading out of that relationship.

Friends, the best way to lead our lives is not to focus on mission but rather to focus on Christ. Let Jesus take the center, abide in Him and walk deeply with him. When we abide in Christ, we will bear much fruit.

Apart from him? NOTHING!


“Everything in the Christian life and experience depends on the quality of our love relationship with God. If that is not right, nothing will be right.”
—Henry Blackaby


Is your focus on Mission or is it on Jesus?

joe sig blue
Rev. Joseph W. Handley, Jr., Ph.D.

Joe HandleyemailThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


More Information

  • This article was reposted with permission and originally published by Missio Nexus. Copyright © 2020 Missio Nexus, All rights reserved.

Missio NexusMissio Nexus is an association of agencies and churches representing over 30,000 Great Commission workers worldwide. • PO Box 398 Wheaton, IL 60187-0398 •


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