It is that time of the year when you clarify what you have written. Yay!
Some members in my church family asked me questions about the Christian superheroes post. It was well-timed criticism. I realised even I could make mistakes (my, my)! Until then, I thought I was the blogger version of the undefeated Iron-man, kuch aisa!
I think criticism from people who care for you is like eating from a bag of flavoured candy with no labels. You won’t like all the flavours you encounter. But you’re glad you got the bagful of candy!
You are also glad that somebody, somewhere thinks that your posts are worth spending time on. Lol!
So let me put forth my thoughts in question-answer format. Not all of these questions were asked, but I think this will help.
1) What do I mean when I write “Missions in the context of the local church”? Is there any such thing in the Bible?
A: I must admit there’s no such phrase in the Bible. What then, does it mean? “Missions in the context of the local church” is how the Bible shows missions must be done: with centrality being given to God’s plan, which is His church. That’s how missions happened in the book of Acts (Acts 13:1-3).
Does this mean people need not go out to some far-flung region to share the gospel and make disciples? No, it means that the missionary should begin in the place God has placed them in.
What makes us think that people will labour for the gospel in rural Haryana when we have little desire to speak the good news to people here in Pune?
Also, a lot of missions is done on people’s own terms, with disregard to how God’s missionaries in Acts were the arms and feet of the church as it obeyed God to become the body of Christ. If missionaries must honour God today, they need to work with the local church, teach disciples about disciple-making in the context of church-planting.
I am not advocating lazy/ irresponsible Christianity where people don’t care for the lost whether near or far. If my post confused anyone, please forgive me. If God has called you to be a minister of the gospel in rural Andhra Pradesh, please go. If it’s among the social outcasts in California, please heed that call. But know WHY you want to do missions, check it with prayer, the Bible and with your local church, and then – do it!
2) Did I make a hermeneutical error in drawing a conclusion from Jesus’ life that is not mentioned in the Bible?
I think I did! 🙁 I wrote-
Eswine explains how Jesus became part of a locality himself. In fact demons at one point call out his name – “Jesus of Nazareth” (Luke 4:34), placing him and defining him by the location God the father placed him in.
Eswine concludes that Jesus became part of a locality and grew his roots there. I understood this to be something we can learn. But is this something taught in the Bible? I don’t think so. Please forgive me for drawing conclusions from a period of Christ’s life that is not mentioned in Scripture.
I still have questions though. Can we not draw conclusions from his life before he began missions? I do not see what is wrong in doing so. If someone can write in and help me here, I would be grateful.
3) Did I mean to judge missionaries out in the field with that last post?
I did not. Thankfully! God is judge, I am not.
I again apologize if my tone came out as if going to a far-flung place to preach the gospel is wrong. Actually, we in Marg churches need more examples where people consider the spiritual needs in unreached places and out of compassion discard their current work happily to go serve them!
And yet, our motives in doing even that should be questioned. I hope, becoming a missionary is not something that can’t be questioned!
I wrote this in my last post:
Please note that I denounce none of these Godly things. My concern is the motivation behind doing them. If you’re anything human like me, you’re also good at mixing up the good with the not-so-good… we mix up two things:
The desire to do great things for God, which is good, and
Our definition of “great”, which could be stupid and vain.
This post is not addressing people who are either lazy for God’s work or who are busy building their own kingdoms in the name of Christianity. This is for those involved in the Great Commission who court spiritual danger by portraying themselves as the Flash – everywhere, for everyone.
My post was about a subtle kind of idolatry : man’s desire to be the answer to all problems. We need not be at all places, doing all things. My point is – you need to be at some place, making some disciples. There’s a need for that in Delhi as well as in rural Bihar. God could call you to either. But don’t try to do everything and serve everyone, or you will burn out. Be purposeful.
Most people write from the lens of their own experience, and so do I. I judged my own missionary endeavours, or the lack of them, not anybody else’s. There’s much that I do (or don’t do) as a missionary in Wanowrie that bothers me because in the end God almighty will ask me (and you, reader) not just –
“What did you do with your life as a missionary?”
“But why did you do WHATEVER you did?”
4) Did I misrepresent Zack Eswine in my last post?
I hope not! It wasn’t my intention! I posted Eswine’s book review last time so interested readers can assess what he meant. Here’s a video interview from TGC for you to assess what his thoughts are. Here’s what I have understood about his work:
He writes about ministry as a human being. He says people forget they’re human.
He himself is trying to learn “I am not God” and yet follow him purposefully. I don’t think Zack Eswine is against missionary work in far-flung regions. Not at all. His problem is with the definition we give to “greatness”.
Greatness = Doing something bigger, in a notable way, as fast as you can. That is not God’s definition.
He says “life is mostly marathons not sprints. Marriage, church life, relationships…work.”
Whether pastors have 4000, 400 or 40 people in their church, they will be tempted to know everything, fix everything and be everywhere. A lot of people expect these out of pastors and full-time workers: omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience. But I am not the Christ. You’re not either.
I’m gonna do things one place, one time, and our congregations need to learn that.
Does this go against the truth that God’s people are often called to service that is taxing? No. Look at apostle Paul (1 Thess 2:9,10, 2 Cor.11:26,27,28). We are called to live by the very life of God! Is Eswine saying that Jesus did not serve until he got dog-tired? No! Jesus did that by God’s Spirit, and thus we ought to live today (Gal 2:20)!
At the same time, JESUS SAID NO TO MINISTRY OPPORTUNITIES (Mk 1:36,37,38). He was doing what was God’s will. I long for such confidence and certainty in my work in Wanowrie. May we be found making disciples as God shows us the needs. Not according to our agenda, as I wrote last week too.
Knowing our limitations is critical for Marg to be a family of missionary slaves. Or else we might be found living not by the indwelling life of Christ, but by rules and routines alone.
I feel this warning from the last post should be kept in mind so those who are already labouring as elders, missionaries and teachers in the churches, don’t spread themselves out thin and suffer burnouts.
Why all Christians must try to be MORE than William Carey, Adoniram Judson and Apostle Paul
Because the standard is Jesus Christ. These missionaries are just a handful of those who left their comfortable homes and went on a journey, when God guaranteed only death to self, eternal life and joy ahead, and… well, no guarantee of success.
But Jesus? His example is such that no missionary can match it! He left his home with God the Father, lived a pure life that I could not live and died a death I should have died as punishment for my folly and rebellion. So as we remember that we are exceptionally broken, we Christ-followers are also exceptionally empowered by the Holy Spirit who indwells those who have been brought from their old life to a new life under Jesus’ rule.
As we seek to obey God in being missionaries, let’s remember that faithfulness is more important than success and who can give us that, other than our Lord Jesus himself?
Let’s strive for greatness according to God’s standards, not ours.