Our newsletters of late are more focused on the challenge of missions than they are on reporting mission news and what’s going on in our global enterprise of mobilizing harvest laborers. These articles, usually placed at the beginning of our newsletters, are thoughts I’ve penned as a vivid reflection of our work to engage believers with the mandate of missions.
I’ve never forgotten an impacting message I heard from the book of Matthew nearly forty years ago. That message, “What in the World Are You Doing, For Heaven’s Sake?” was the turning point of our embracing what Paul describes in Romans 20 as reaching beyond the reach of the gospel. It wasn’t long after that that we left our careers and stepped from a local ministry to embrace church planting efforts in areas around the world without a gospel witness. What follows is another of my journal writings.
“That mission trip… it really changed my life!”
It’s amusing how we define elements of our lives, whether love of a particular item, a favored place, a valued person or treasured object. We sometimes roll things off the tongue without contemplating what we truly mean.
As a mission’s mobilizer I continually have people telling me of mission trips they’ve participated in –what they liked, what they disliked, and then they’ll usually add “It really changed my life.” Hmm… I’ve always wanted to ask ‘how’ it changed their life though I cower beneath the fear they may think my questioning is disparaging.
What really are ‘life changing’ experiences? Let’s think about it.
I embraced the gospel at age 22. Literally, a one-hundred-eighty degree turnaround from a path straight to hell to stepping into the fresh light of Christ that changed my life forever. –That’s the life-changing power of the gospel!
A life changed by the gospel means an about-face from the self-driven downward ways of sinful man to the upward ‘set-your-eyes-upon-Jesus’ path to righteousness, all because of what Jesus did on the cross. I still remember the feeling of the weight of sin lifted from my shoulders the night I became a new creation in Christ. It wasn’t a flashy public display but a humble bowing beneath my sinfulness in a dingy little barbershop where I recognized the generous grace offered by Eternal God as I read through the first five chapters in the book of Romans. Jesus changed my life!
I can’t recall how many books I’ve seen with a by-line that says “Read this book; it will change your life.” My friend, books don’t change lives but the gospel does! Oh sure, books may give us insights to put us on a more determined path –the Bible does that, but it is the message of Christ crucified, buried and risen that puts the Light of Life into darkened hearts to awaken our soul to the life of God in Christ.
Nowadays I hear a lot of comments from people returning from mission trips who say ‘it changed my life.’ But if such ones continue doing what they’ve done before the trip without ever actively getting involved to deliberately reach those outside the hearing of the gospel, then I question whether the trip changed their life. Yes, perhaps mission trips stir our hearts to a deeper level of compassion but compassion without action produces nothing.
While it is true that mission trips enlighten us with fresh information about the needs of lost people, that knowledge has no practical application in our lives unless we embrace it. It’s no different in education; knowledge without action makes knowledge knowledge, and nothing more.
Case in point: Some years ago while speaking on the willingness to ‘go’ I offered to take the entire church gathering to a local restaurant for a steak dinner. –I was willing to do that although I didn’t have the resources to pay the bill. But I was willing! Compassion, like willingness, needs action if it is going to change the eternity of another.
While it is our desire to heighten the awareness of the need for laborers to reach the 3 billion people who never heard of Jesus, we realize that all our pleading, all our motivation, all our stimulating the interest of God’s heart for the nations will never produce a single worker outside such individuals coming to grip with the fact that every believer is responsible in the task Jesus gave us to do. That’s pretty stark, yet true.
I’d love to see Jesus return during my lifetime as has every generation of believers before me. …And I believe it’s very possible as long as we follow God’s plan to declare Christ to every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. The job is doable… we can finish His work but it’s gonna’ take believers stepping to the plate to engage the effort of declaring Christ among those who never heard the gospel.
We’re looking for those whose lives have been so transformed by Christ that all they can say is “I can’t stay; I must go.” Perhaps you know of some young people and some not-so-young people –individuals or families who need a little nudging… some encouragement to step out and embrace what Jesus commanded us to do.
I’ve been challenging churches to look among their flocks with the intent of recognizing those with the potential to serve in missions, and then to invest in such ones with instruction and equipping to deepen desire among those whom they can send in reaching one of the 3,000 people groups waiting to hear the gospel. That, my friend, has more prospective possibility in bringing, to lost people, the message able to change lives for eternity.
Just as the gospel changes lives, we desire to see people who will make a deliberate choice to make an about-face and do something in respect of the gospel. We meet people who express to us that they would like to do something with the gifts & abilities God gave them. But when it comes to doing it they shy away. There are many able-bodied-people with gifts that could be invested for God’s glory and hasten Jesus’ return. We’re here to assist you if you desire more info.
What is it that changed your life? And ‘what in the world, for Heaven’s sake’ can you do in declaring the life changing message of the gospel to those who sit in darkness.
–from my April 2018 Journal Notes