Réveille… (Part 16)
“And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” (Acts 16:10, ESV)
Now there’s a model worthy of being made into a maxim: “Paul saw - we sought…”
From he-to-we without even blinking. The problem of sending resolved before it was even a problem. How? A familial, enlightened excitement about the power of the Gospel and the prospect of preaching it in a new place… Seamlessly, cooperatively, passionately, joyfully—and again—immediately.
That’s not quite how it’s done today. We have allowed tradition and stagnation to be viewed as spiritual strengths… standing so firmly on the truths we embrace that we’re standing still. Prospective kingdom workers are forced to thread their way through a maze of capricious, idiosyncratic visions of kingdom work. The way things are now, they might raise support in a few years… having spent time, health and lots of money in the attempt to raise money in order to go somewhere—anywhere—besides in circles.
Stripping away all the tradition baked onto precedent which had also been based on tradition: What’s so hard to understand about going and sending?
In 1990 I wrote an article called “Deputation/Furlough: An Indictment.” It opened this way:
Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary: Deputation: 1. a deputing or being deputed. Furlough: a leave of absence Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Deputation: no reference Furlough: no reference
I ended with: “May we confront the work of missions with an ever-increasing spirit of collaboration in the ministry of reconciliation that has been committed to our mutual trust.”
If we loosened our ties and got over ourselves for a bit, I think we could come up with some less tedious, more efficient and blessed ways to get our Pauls to their Macedonias.
Again, the urgency to expand on the concept of a deeper, symbiotic relationship among all parties involved is undeniable. It starts at the foot the cross and reaches into the hopelessness and suffering in every soul without Christ. What are we not prepared to do to get there and stay there… to facilitate and finance the endeavor… to stay the course along side of our boots-on-the-ground pioneers? Who knows, we may even have to learn to play better with others for the sake of the greater good.
In the opening chapters of The Contemplative Pastor the author highlights a few characteristics he deems essential for a shepherd. He calls one of them “subversive.” No, we don’t sneak around and undermine things. But we do embrace an underlying design for where we want people to be, whether it takes a year or a lifetime to see them get there. We lift up the Savior in word and deed. We work at friendship and physical presence in their trials and tragedies. We strive to not lose sight of the big picture in the detritus of our daily walk.
Since we’ve not been granted discretionary powers1 to make things happen when we don’t see the Spirit working our way or according to our timetable, we submit to the limitations we’ve been given. We’re “there.” We can’t create spiritually defining moments for others… but we can be there when those defining moments roll over them. These are the moments when we fulfill our role as mentors. And even that word might be too strong. Maybe we’re just nudgers… I started to say pushers, but that reminds me of something else. Appropriate nudges in timely moments… maybe over a long period of time. The goal never changes. We want to see everyone come to maturity in Christ.
“For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” (Colossians 1:29, ESV)
But that bleeds into the next post: “Being There.”
Over the years, I’ve called myself a church planter. A better descriptive title might have been “Gospel planter.” Church planters tend to plant church services and a place to conduct them with all the required paraphernalia and protocols. Signs with adjectives are created to try to get people to come. I guess the adjectives are designed to let people know where we stand. They’re great if our purpose is to attract people who already understand what our adjectives mean and agree with them. For someone like me before I came to Christ, those signs with adjectives might as well have been written in Sanskrit.
A Gospel planter is the person out there who thinks the best way to plant the seed of the Gospel is to share it personally with actual persons we meet and talk with… get acquainted with… and maybe someday actually become intimate friends with. It can take a long time, which means we have to be there a long time. Eventually, birds of a feather flock together… as will the sheep of Jesus’ fold. Starting with a person beats starting with a building.
My point: If we think through what we really want to accomplish by “being there,” it might free us to consider simpler, innovative ways for “getting there.”
It could be as simple as moving into a different neighborhood… something scary like moving into a ghetto… something intimidating like a neighborhood where little English is spoken. Yes, learning a language is a daunting task. But let me tell you how satisfying it is to be involved with people in their native tongue… and how awesome it is to watch the lights come on as the Gospel in their own tongue reaches their heart.
And maybe—just maybe—pioneering with the Gospel will take you to places you haven’t even dreamt of yet. Lots of people have found novel ways to get into other countries—like finding a job teaching English, for example.
We know a young woman in Mexico. She’s a dedicated believer with a heart for people in the Muslim world. She’s already been to the backside of the desert. She and her team are days away from departing their homeland, heading halfway around the world. They’re going to a place where it wouldn’t be helpful to share specifics here. They’ve devised a project to set up a business focused on women. It’s designed to do what I’m writing about—going somewhere to be there and pray for opportunities to befriend and share the Gospel. We support her and her team’s project. We are so proud and excited!
Where’s “there” for you? Where could you go to meet new people, make friends, and live a Jesus kind of life among them? Being there means your light’s shining there. How far are you willing to go?
Now back to the symbiotic part: Have you ever heard “You’re either a missionary or a mission field”? The corollary is “You’re either a goer or a sender.”
Genuine senders share in the passion and the risks inherent to Gospel kingdom enterprises. They will look like Luke and company in Acts 16. When God told Paul to go to Macedonia, they immediately figured out how to get him there. Today’s senders need to be proactive… creative… and immediate with their response to needs presented.
Too often, we react to the word “commitment” like it’s a four-letter word. Where the transforming work of the Spirit has been allowed, commitment to Gospel work simply looks like excitement and adventure.
Ready for the ride?