Here it is. The capstone to a tremendous 16-week mind-bending, heart-changing, life-altering experience. I cite many articles this week, as well as the last lesson we had. There is truly no greater name for these lessons that “Perspectives”. Oh, how mine has changed. God has grabbed hold of me and flipped me right-side up and I never want to go back. I hope these recaps motivate you to look deeper into our reason for living. At the time of this post, I’m five weeks away from going to an area in South Asia that has not been reached with the gospel. I’m anxious, excited, scared, ready. While I mourn the 14 years I’ve wasted, I look forward to the part God has for me to play in completing the task of Him receiving global glory. Read on. Be challenged. Be changed. Be obedient.
A little over a year ago, I began a journey to refocus my life in pursuit of spreading the gospel. I was confronted with confounding realities of the American dream and the state of the Church. I intensely studied the Word to understand God’s redemption story. I took a course to better understand the world Christian movement. And for the last several weeks, you have read these recaps of all that God has been teaching me regarding our role in completing the task. I’m going to pose many questions to you here which ultimately can be gathered into the same question our last instructor posed to us as we closed out the course. He did not ask “has God spoken to you?”, for that is the wrong question. Of course, God has spoken. The question is: what are you doing about it?
Our imperative is to become disciples of Christ and to go make disciples of Christ. How are you and I becoming disciples? What has changed in this journey for you? The original disciples were confronted by Christ and given a choice. They sat working on their fishing nets and Jesus invited them to leave it all and become fishers of men. It’s the same choice we have. We can choose to follow Him or we can choose to disobey. Like the original disciples, it will take as long to become a true follower of Christ as it takes for our nets to hit the ground.
A disciple understands that the message of the Bible is God’s glory. A disciple of Christ is someone who has God’s heart for the world. A true follower is the person who throws off all things that hinder. He/she sees that yes, God so loved the world, but even more importantly, “God loves His Son and has a wonderful plan for Him, to bring all the nations to His feet as Lord of all, and He loves you and me enough to give us a place in it.” (David Bryant)
Unfortunately, we’ve made Jesus into a mascot. On Sundays, we hear messages that Jesus is with us to cheer us up, reinvigorate us, and reassure us. It’s just like we learned back in lesson 1, we’ve made it about God and me. Our ability to drop our nets and become followers is being destroyed by our affluence and our trivial pursuits. We are constantly surrounded by comfort, security, ease of life, and pleasures that we drown out Jesus’ voice, calling for us to take up our cross daily. So I ask each of us today, what comforts are we holding on to that we need to let go of? What trivial pursuits are you and I chasing, distracting us from eternal matters?
Our vain, over-abundant, affluent lifestyles must change. We need to adopt a wartime strategy in our lifestyles. There’s a popular story about a luxury cruise ship, the Queen Mary, that was the symbolic epitome of affluence in America. But when World War II broke out, it was turned into a troop transport. The survival of our nation depended on such an act. The survival of millions of people who do not know Christ also depends on us doing what it takes to fulfill the Great Commission. A couple of sobering statistics from an article by Ralph Winter. We send 1/4 of what we spend on weight-loss programs to missions. It takes just spending $2 extra in over-eating at meals to add an extra pound of weight. $2 is more than what 90% of American Christians give to missions. The point is, if we’d simplify our lives, we could live generously. We have hardened our hearts (and our arteries) with our lifestyles, accepting status quo living as biblical following of Jesus. In Revelation 3:15-17, He declares His distaste:
“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.’”
One of the most sobering verses, which God used early in my journey, speaks to the urgency of re-evaluating our lifestyles. Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus speaking, states:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Let me ask specifically at this point, in light of all God has taught us and with our commitment to South Asia, how are you doing? Are you living life with a new perspective? Are you reading God’s Word daily? Have you opted in to the People Group of the Day prayer guide to pray for the nations? How have you adjusted your time to be available to serve? Are you evaluating your circumstances now in order to free up vacation time and finances to go to an unreached area next year? What are you doing about the truth you have learned?
Several weeks ago, I shared with my small group—a church-plant out of Parkway Place—the reason I believed God called our leaders (Larry and Wanda Remington) to start Compass. Following the New Testament model, I believe we are to become the called-out team, much like Paul and his missionary band were. If all we do is continue to meet on Tuesday nights, then we aren’t being obedient. This apropos illustration from Todd Ahrend exemplifies this calling even further:
We really want God to give us step-by-step instructions for life. But that’s not what God is in the business of, because our faith will never be built. That’s because faith is built upon the experience of obeying His Word. “We cannot expect to get all the detailed instructions before we are willing to begin traveling the path. The Bible doesn’t lay out a ‘map’. It gives us a ‘compass’. God calls you to join Him in journeying in a steady direction [True North] toward a grand global destiny.” (Ahrend) Our yes must be on the table before we know the details. Maps only give you details of areas already known. But this journey with Christ calls us to point our compass toward unknown territories where the gospel has not been taken. So we must be focused on True North—to do whatever it takes to live strategically and purposefully for the completion of the task. This is the mark of a World Christian. (Not a worldly Christian, which would be quite the opposite.)
We can maintain ourselves as World Christians through the different seasons of life. There are several practices of a World Christian. First, we can be goers. Some us may never literally go to another country, but the reality of today is the world is more connected than it ever has been, and we ARE commanded to go to people with the gospel. We have opportunities right where we are to engage people of different cultures. This truth segues into the second practice, being welcomers. The nations are coming to us; that much is clear. While they are visiting, we have the tremendous opportunity to reach them for Christ. Right here in Little Rock is a very prominent organization called International Friendship Outreach. They host events such as Conversation Club, which allows international students meet Americans and practice their English. This practical met need builds the kind of relationship necessary to bridge the way to Christ. Third, we can be senders. We’re not just talking about financial giving and prayer support. These are vital essentials, but World Christian senders go beyond that and make it their ambition to further the work of others through creative means. Fourth, we can be mobilizers, people who cast a vision for the work that must be done and the joy of accepting God’s invitation to be a part of it. These recaps have been aimed at mobilizing you because I care for you and want you to experience the rich and fulfilling joy I have had in this journey.
As four of us prepare to leave on a visionary apostolic journey to South Asia, we do so with God’s mission in mind. This is a short-term trip to gauge the spiritual condition of the region and identify potential native leaders in church planting. Short-term missions can be key in completing the task; the reality is not all of us are going to go on long-term trips or be “career missionaries”. (But if God asked you to be, would you obey? Have you ever boldly prayed whether you should?) These STMs can be successful, as long as we 1) realize and connect God’s purpose as being already at work, 2) plan and act in culturally relevant ways alongside time-tested strategies, and 3) do not use the experience as a primary method of promoting personal discipleship. (Again, it’s not about us.) As we walk with the Holy Spirit, our vision is that multiple short-term trips will work alongside the full-time efforts to train obedience and leadership in native peoples.
With compass in hand, we stand at the “you are here” mark, our “yes” on the table, ready to embrace uncharted territories in our lives and in the world. How can we be confident in the choices we make? First, we must each walk in this journey together. The American Dream route of self-exaltation will not work. Let us grow together and serve together. Go back to your church and bring back like-minded brothers and sisters who want or need to be a part of this journey. We must first multiply disciples here before we’ll ever do it somewhere else. So if we’re not growing, something is wrong! Be the voice in a body of believers who have made it about themselves. Pray constantly. Not just genie-in-a-bottle prayers, but prayers that exalt who God is, thank Him for what He is doing, and ask Him to fulfill what is already on His heart, that the nations would come to glorify Him. God will absolutely say “yes” to these things and cause you to succeed. Simplify your life. We all need to be freed to give and live generously, of our time, our talent, and our treasure. We are blessed to be a blessing. It’s not necessarily about selling everything you have, but rather if God asked you to do so, would you obey? Nor is it about redistributing wealth. We are a people saved by grace and we should live generously that way. The reason a tithe is not mentioned in the New Testament is because Christ desires for us to live purposefully toward generosity. The tithe should be the floor of our giving, not the ceiling. Finally, be a willing learner. Stay in God’s Word. Reject the notion this book is about us. But not only that, be informed of the world around us. Push your perspective into new territories. In the end, the question you need to ask yourself is the same one found on a tombstone of a renowned missionary leader: “Are the things you are living for worth Christ dying for?”
We don’t have to have it all together. We just need to be willing. What part of our lives reflect God’s desire to be known among all peoples? How are we being doers of the word and not just hearers? Are you even suffering for Christ? The Bible assures us that the gospel message is dangerous. If we have dropped our nets and followed Christ, we can be assured we will endure suffering. Do not care for how you will be received or for any discomforts. In Acts, the early disciples counted it as joy to be considered worthy to suffer for Christ!
“Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” (Acts 5:41)
Christ suffered in obedience to God, all the way to the cross. How can we expect not to suffer for that same message? Are you waiting on a special calling? You don’t need it! The mandate is clear! Just have a heart of willingness. Be a goer, a sender, a welcomer, a motivator. As the body of Christ, we have all been given gifts from the Spirit to build each other up, serve in love, and glorify God.
If we truly grasp the depth of love God exhibited by enduring our punishment and making a way for us to be with Him even while we were His enemy, how can any other response but obedience be sufficient? I deserve death and separation from the holy, perfect, loving God, in whom there is supreme satisfaction and fulfillment and purpose. Therefore, He is worthy “to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:13) Christ has done this for us. What will we do for Him? He deserves all glory! And I get to help give it to Him! Why do we take joy in being invited as a part of completing the task? Here’s why: May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering.