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Thursday: Mission Complete — 6 Comments

  1. The "Challenge Up" section of today's lesson sounds like "What can we do to encourage people to join the church?" It's what I would expect from a church-published Sabbath School lesson, but I wonder if that notion is built on institution building rather than Christ-centred growth. I know that some will say it's the same thing but it is very easy to have the real goal overwhelmed by institution building.

    I come back to the illustration that I gave yesterday of the missionary couple who worked tirelessly their whole lives teaching people to enjoy education, but who founded no lasting institution or society as their memorial. They were content in the knowledge that they had contributed and that the notion of the joy of learning had been passed on to others.

    Over the years, I have taught a lot of students serious computing skills like programming and database management. I have to admit that very few of those students have become programmers or information managers. Yet the underlying skills they have learned have been a significant background to their careers in a variety of ways that neither I or they imagined. Those skills have formed the basis of successful careers in business, teaching, and others.

    Are we willing to accept that the expression of our relationship with Christ can be diverse and beyond the confines of institutional membership?

  2. Is our goal to reach more and more "people groups", or simply to let the gospel light in us shine on more and more peoples around us, wherever we are? When Jesus asks us to "make disciples of all nations" (Matt. 28:19) does He mean for us to get very analytical and statistical about linguistic, cultural, and ethnic groups around the world, crunching numbers and drawing up charts in boardrooms and on computers, so that we are sure we have reached all nations? Is it our job to negotiate to fulfill John's prophecy in Rev. 5:9; 7:9; 14:6 and 15:4, to make sure, pushpin-on-a-map-style that men are ransomed for God from "every tribe and tongue and people and nation"?

    My concordance says that the Book of Revelation uses the word "ethnos" (nations) at least 10 times, and that it refers not to persons but to a mass of non-Jewish individuals or a multitude of believers from all peoples of the world. We know from the Abrahamic blessing, also, that God's plan from the beginning is to bless ALL the families/tribes of the earth (Gen. 12:1-3). He wants the great diversity of cultures on earth unified in worshiping Him. In John 10:16 Jesus spoke of "other sheep" not of Israel which He wanted to bring into the fold, and in John 11:51-52, there is God's dream to "gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad". So God is planning on the great diversity of peoples to enter into His kingdom. He scattered them at the Tower of Babel, and He intends to bring them back together.

    Having said this, I think it is not my job to orchestrate the big picture. I'm not sure that it is a denomination's job either. If we listen closely to the Holy Spirit, we will move when He tells us to move and go where He tells us to go. An example of this is Paul on his 2nd missionary journey, when the Holy Spirit kept changing Paul's plans so that he ended up not going with Barnabas, and not going to Asia Minor, and not going to Bithynia, but instead entered a previously unreached area over in Macedonia and Athens. The Holy Spirit leads us to the locations and peoples He has prepared for our testimony and ministry. If the Conferences are drawing up strategies through programming and human logic and statistical data, it is likely we will miss the sudden, timing-sensitive movements of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus said to Nicodemus, "The wind blows wherever it wishes...you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. It is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit." (John 3:8).

    We might feel personally called, as Paul was, to go to frontier missions, places where Christ has not yet been heard of (Rom. 15:20-21; Acts 13:47), or we may be called to declare Jesus right at home, in places where Jesus's name has been heard and tossed about, but where Jesus and His mission and the gospel story is still not really known or understood. Acts 1:8 leads me to believe that witnesses are needed in all of the areas. God will make sure everyone hears. I am impressed to focus on the people I've formed a connection with, not on a blank "unreached" spot on a map.

  3. There's room for all the platforms to reach the millions of lost souls whether that be institutional, groups, individuals, etc. Follow the Holy Spirit's guidance and let's not get bogged down in the details. Plant, water, and God will increase.


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