Abundant Gospel Sowing

Love

Photo credit: david a lea (Creative Commons)

When I was a new Christian, the group of believers I was part of participated in many forms of evangelism. We were trained by some of the best organizations in the Christian world. We went door-to-door, we distributed tracts, we told people about the Four Spiritual Laws, we witnessed to our friends. And we saw fruit. We sowed abundantly and we reaped accordingly. Certainly some of those whose lives were touched are still going on with the Lord. Our lives were centered on mission.

We have lost the skill of sowing abundantly.

We were motivated by things like the story in the last post tthat tells how most Christians are "making daisy chains" rather than caring about the lost. My question; is this a good motivation for mission? provoked an instinctive response from most of the people who responded.They recognized that the message most people will receive through the story, despite the truths being portrayed is this: "Many people are going to hell. You are not doing enough about it. You are not good enough; you are guilty."

Guilt is not the motivation that Jesus wants us to have.

So how do we gain a heart to sow abundantly while not being motivated by guilt and obligation? I think part of the answer lies in these verses in 2 Corinthians 5 which I have abbreviated to clarify the message.

Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others.  Christ’s love controls us.  He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.

 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

 God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 

What motivates us for mission? Mission originates in the heart of God: For God so loved the world that he gavie his son. As we draw closer to God and get to know his heart, his love for others will motivate us. 

 

 

 

 

Motivation for mission

Daisy chain

This story used to motivate me to reach out to my friends who didn't know the Lord. It comes from Things as They are: Mission work in southern India by Amy Carmichael (1867-1951), a missionary from Ireland who opened an orphanage and founded a mission in Dohnavur. She worked for 55 years without a furlough, and wrote many inspiring books.

The tom-toms thumped straight on all night and the darkness shuddered round me like a living, feeling thing. I could not go to sleep, so I lay awake and looked; and I saw, as it seemed, this:

That I stood on a grassy sward, and at my feet a precipice broke sheer down into infinite space. I looked, but saw no bottom; only cloud shapes, black and furiously coiled, and great shadow-shrouded hollows, and unfathomable depths. Back I drew, dizzy at the depth.

Then I saw forms of people moving single file along the grass. They were making for the edge. There was a woman with a baby in her arms and another little child holding on to her dress. She was on the very verge. Then I saw that she was blind. She lifted her foot for the next step . . . it trod air. She was over, and the children over with her. Oh, the cry as they went over!

Then I saw more streams of people flowing from all quarters. All were blind, stone blind; all made straight for the precipice edge. There were shrieks, as they suddenly knew themselves falling, and a tossing up of helpless arms, catching, clutching at empty air. But some went over quietly, and fell without a sound.

Then I wondered, with a wonder that was simply agony, why no one stopped them at the edge. I could not. I was glued to the ground, and I could only call; though I strained and tried, only a whisper would come.

Then I saw that along the edge there were sentries set at intervals. But the intervals were too great; there were wide, unguarded gaps between. And over these gaps the people fell in their blindness, quite unwarned; and the green grass seemed blood-red to me, and the gulf yawned like the mouth of hell.

Then I saw, like a little picture of peace, a group of people under some trees with their backs turned toward the gulf. They were making daisy chains. Sometimes when a piercing shriek cut the quiet air and reached them, it disturbed them and they thought it a rather vulgar noise. And if one of their number started up and wanted to go and do something to help, then all the others would pull that one down. "Why should you get so excited about it? You must wait for a definite call to go! You haven't finished your daisy chain yet. It would be really selfish," they said, "to leave us to finish the work alone."

There was another group. It was made up of people whose great desire was to get more sentries out; but they found that very few wanted to go, and sometimes there were no sentries set for miles and miles of the edge.

Once a girl stood alone in her place, waving the people back; but her mother and other relations called and reminded her that her furlough was due; she must not break the rules. And being tired and needing a change, she had to go and rest for awhile; but no one was sent to guard her gap, and over and over the people fell, like a waterfall of souls.

Once a child caught at a tuft of grass that grew at the very brink of the gulf; it clung convulsively, and it called-but nobody seemed to hear. Then the roots of the grass gave way, and with a cry the child went over, its two little hands still holding tight to the torn-off bunch of grass. And the girl who longed to be back in her gap thought she heard the little one cry, and she sprang up and wanted to go; at which they reproved her, reminding her that no one is necessary anywhere; the gap would be well taken care of, they knew. And then they sang a hymn.

Then through the hymn came another sound like the pain of a million broken hearts wrung out in one full drop, one sob. And a horror of great darkness was upon me, for I knew what it was-the Cry of the Blood.

Then thundered a voice, the voice of the Lord. "And He said, 'What hast thou done, The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.'"

The tom-toms still beat heavily, the darkness still shuddered and shivered about me; I heard the yells of the devil-dancers and weird, wild shriek of the devil-possessed just outside the gate.

What does it matter, after all? It has gone on for years; it will go on for years. Why make such a fuss about it?

God forgive us! God arouse us! Shame us out of our callousness! Shame us out of our sin!

What do you think? The story is compelling and emotional; most Christians are "making daisy chains" in a spiritual sense.  Is this the right motivation for misson?

 

Guest post by Roger Thoman: 5 pitfalls of missions

Roger_crop

Roger and Brooks Thoman train and coach leaders in several developing countries, to multiply disciples and simple churches.  The poor are empowered as part of the process of disciplemaking assisted by strategic investments in projects that are pioneered and managed by national leaders.

Their ministry site can be found here, and Roger's blog, Simple Church Journal, is here.

 

A few days ago I received an email from Roger Thoman in response to some of the posts I'm writing on missions. His thoughts were so relevant I asked permission to use them as a guest post. Here they are:

Felicity, I love these posts on missions.  I definitely believe that the organic/simple church movement has the potential for transforming missions, and thus the world, because it supports planting the pure seed of the Gospel which has in it that transformative power and ability to naturally reproduce.  However, as you shared, there are many pitfall we have seen in missions and, unfortunately, many of these mistakes are easy to propagate even with those who have the ‘organic’ message.

You mentioned well the issue of exporting our native culture and our religious culture.  Though, with the organic message, we are not exporting our traditional buildings and church models, we still often export our western cultural norms and our Christian religious culture without realizing it.  You pointed this out when you spoke about the church of Nepalese needed to look like the Nepalese. 

Here are some additional pitfalls that, unfortunately, I see all the time in the mission field.

  1. An attitude that our culture is inherently better than the culture we are serving in.  This causes us to try to export our culture, as already mentioned, and it also causes us to take on a better-than-thou attitude among those we are seeking to serve.  We can find ourselves trying to change ideas or behaviors that the Holy Spirit is not working on.
  2. An attitude of paternalism which some have referred to as the ‘poison of paternalism.’  This is the attitude and motivation that comes from thinking that we are somehow above those we are ministering to because we come from a more ‘developed’ country serving those who live in a less ‘developed’ country.  This causes us to act like benefactors rather than partners and to believe that we are there with something to give while those who live in that country are meant to receive from us.  This pride keeps us from giving and receiving mutually which is essential for a beneficial, Biblical partnership. 
  3. We make the mistake of going to teach knowledge rather than learn from, support, and come under the movement within that culture.  The only thing we have to offer others is to call them back to the pure Word of God so that they can embrace it and adapt it to their life and culture themselves.  We can confess the mistakes the church has made (that we have made), but the truth of how to go forward and walk out becoming the true church must come from those who live in that culture.  So, we can call them back to the Word and then we must take the position of learners to see how they take the Word of truth and apply it into their own lives and situations.  Ninety-nine percent of what I have learned about ministering in the context of Africa I have learned from Africans.  Too many cross-cultural missionaries do not understand this and imagine that those they are serving are in need of their endless teachings.
  4. We go to have our own ministry built up and to feel good about ‘our’ ministry rather than to serve the ministries of the nationals.  As already mentioned, only those who are native to a culture can fully adapt the Word to their culture.  Our role must be fully to support and serve them, not the other way around.  Our goal must be to stand in the background and to give away whatever is in our hands until we are no longer needed which is usually sooner rather than later.
  5. We give finances in a way that creates dependency.  We feel good about giving but we do not understand the importance of first empowering people spiritually through discipleship that brings about worldview change and then partnering financially in projects that are owned by them.  

I could go on but let me just say that I am more excited about God’s purposes in the world than ever before because of the organic/simple movement.  But we must realize that the potential is in the Word of God and the Spirit of God organically taking root allowing the church to take its own shape in the culture it’s planted in.  As outsiders in a given culture we must learn how to support what God is doing in others and truly serve the movements, along with the national leaders of those movements, that He is currently birthing throughout the world.

 

The fate of the original 12 apostles?

Thomasslain

Photo credit: maudandoscar

In India a few years ago, we were taken to visit a church building that had twelve paintings, each portraying  the death of one of the 12 apostles. (I think it was St. Thomas Mount in Chennai, but I've been unable to verify that via the Internet.) Those images have never left me, in part because of their graphic representation, but more because they spoke of a faith worth dying for.

Would I willingly lay down my life in order to tell others about Jesus.

There are various different traditions as to what happened to the original twelve apostles. Here's a compilation of several versions: 

  • Andrew: Preached in modern day Georgia (Eastern Europe) and Bulgaria and was crucified in Patrae in Greece. 
  • Bartholomew: Spent time in India. Crucified in Georgia. 
  • James, Son of Alphaeus: was stoned and clubbed to death in Jerusalem.
  • James, Son of Zebedee: was beheaded by Herod.
  • John, Son of Zebedee: Was exiled to the Island of Patmos and died a natural death in Ephesus.
  • Matthew/Levi: Preached and was killed (with an axe) in Ethiopia. 
  • Simon/Peter: Was put to death (crucified) under Nero in Rome. 
  • Philip: preached and was executed in eastern Turkey. 
  • Simon the Zealot: Became Bishop of Jerusalem. Crucified. 
  • Thaddaeus/Judas son of James: Preached in Edessa and Mesopotamia. Was crucified.
  • Thomas: Was a missionary in India where he was killed with a spear. 
  • Matthias: Judas' replacement. Spread the Gospel into Syria and was stoned and beheaded.

(Sources: here, here, and here).

If these traditions are true, after the book of Acts, nearly all traveled widely in order to spread the Gospel. They also, with the exception of John, died violent deaths.

What does this say to us today? Do we have a message so compelling we would risk our lives to give it to others? 

 

Was the Great Commission given only to the eleven disciples?

Reach out
Photo credit: Alvaro Canivell (Creative Commons)

What does Jesus think about missions?

The Great Commission was given by Jesus to the eleven disciples after his resurrection. Here's the Matthew version:

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:18-20)

The Mark version:

And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.  Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.  These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe…:  (Mark 16:15-18)

I've heard some people say that the Great Commission was only given to the eleven disciples. It doesn't include us. Our lifestyle together should be enough to attract others. The verses that people use for this argument are ones such as John 17: 23

I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.

There is something incredibly attractive about a group of Christians relating well together. But if we believe that is all that is necessary, it gives us a great cop out. We are no longer commissioned to reach out to those who don't yet know him. 

It is dangerous to selectively omit verses that were given only to the disciples. If we applied that principle consistently, we would lose many of the teachings of Jesus recorded in the Gospels.

Personally I  I believe we need to be witnesses too. Here is some of my reasoning:

  1. Earlier in the passage in John 17, Jesus says this:  Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world…  I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.  I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. 

            It is clear that Jesus is sending not just the eleven disciples into the world but also those who             believe in him through their presentation of the Good News.

          2.  In Peter's exposition of the Gospel, he says this: Then you will receive the gift of the Holy           Spirit.  This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles—all who                 have been called by the Lord our God.”  (Acts 2:38-39)

According to Jesus, one of the reasons the Holy Spirit is given: But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere— in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

I believe that all of us are called to be ambassadors, those who represent the Kingdom of God to the rest of the world. Obviously, how we do it, and what motivates us is important too.

What do you think?