Sunday, November 08, 2009

Reaching the Resistant or Reaping the Receptive?

Which approach should get more priority? Or should it even be prioritized in the first place? My 2 cents worth...

       If ‘reaching the resistant’ is making sure that the people who are resisting Christ have heard of the gospel or received some form of Christian literature and that is it, while ‘reaping the receptive’ is to teach those willing to follow Christ,  to obey Christ’s commandments through discipleship, then I would say the priority should be given to the second approach. On the other hand, if ‘reaching the resistant’ is to show love and concern to the people who are resisting Christ by living amongst them and learning their culture and language, while ‘reaping the receptive’ is to make sure that those willing to follow Christ have said the sinners prayer and that is it, then I would say the priority should be given to the first approach. But because both approaches are subjective in accordance to one’s definition and view on how reaching and reaping differs, or the distinction between the resistant and the receptive, I would then do away with prioritising, but suggest two emphasis for our consideration to any approach towards missions.

       Firstly, any approach towards missions must be guided and reflected upon under the authority of Holy Spirit and the Bible. “The Spirit-inspired missionary acts of Jesus, Paul and the apostles, as well as their Spirit-inspired reflection on their practice, are authoritative for us...”[1] Our approach towards missions must have a biblical basis to it, any approach should be examined in the light of the Bible. The ministry of the Spirit is also important. We cannot direct where the Spirit will work, but instead we must be sensitive and obey where the Spirit is leading because the Spirit knows the thoughts of God. “In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”(1 Cor 2:11b NIV) Throughout the book of Acts, we can clearly see the the partnership of the Holy Spirit in the decision making of Paul’s missionary journey. Rollin Grams clearly explains our role then with the Spirit. “This does not minimize our planning and efforts, but it puts such into a spiritual perspective. Before, during, and after our planning, we must submit our understanding and calling and actions to the Spirit.”[2]

  The second emphasis for any approach towards missions is faithfulness. How faithful are we to the work God has called us to do? Be it in an area resistant to the Gospel, or in an area receptive to the Gospel, are we willing to see beyond human circumstances and realise that the growth of any seed is the work of God, and our job is to faithfully sow the seeds. “A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does no know how.” (Mark 4:26b-27 NIV) Looking back into the history of missions, we can see many great examples of men who were faithful to the call of God, and how God used them to bring about His harvest.

  Therefore the importance is not in prioritising any one approach above the other, but instead, it is our faithfulness in the process of any approach that has been guided and reflected upon under the authority of the Spirit and God’s Word, that holds the most important consideration.

[1] Samuel Escoba, A Time For Mission: The Challenge For Global Christianity, (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 2003), 20. 

[2] Rollin G. Grams, “Expanding the Argument” in response to “Some Thoughts on the Meaning of “All Nations”” by Frank M. Severn, Evangelical Missions Quarterly, (October, 1997), 423.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Our View of God Shapes Our Zeal for Missions

       Jesus’ focus was always on the Father and what the Father is doing. Jesus understood the futility of self but saw His fruitfulness in God alone. Jesus said in John 5:19 “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” 
       Similarly, our zeal and commitment to missions task must come from a knowledge that our Father is always at work. Knowing that He is always at work, we must then learn to see what He is doing and join Him. Being willing to join God involves us seeing Him as our Lord and Master. Following Christ demands us to give up our selfish rights and be obedient to His will and yield to His commands. And when the Father shows us what He is doing, we must readily join Him. Talking about believers’ response to the Master’s command, this is what Arthur Mathews has to say. 
“The greatest need today is for evangelical Christians to recover the obedience reflexes that have been so largely lost... O that love for Him might empty us of our shallow desires for self-expression and fill us with a longing to please him, to go in the way of his commandments!”[1]
       The Lordship of Christ in our lives will shape our commitment in obeying the Lord of the Harvest. If we do not see God as the Lord of our lives, we may not want to yield to Him whenever our will clashes with His.
       Secondly, it is important that we understand that God initiates His own program in the salvation of mankind. As we learn from Isaiah chapter 55 that the thoughts and ways of God are not like ours. The emphasis is always on God’s word. From the word of God shall all our missionary programs develop, because God’s word will accomplish His purpose. “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isa 55:11 NIV)
       With this in mind, it is always a challenge for us to ensure that the values that become the major driving forces in our ministry are the values that are according to the word of God. If we do that, we will have commitment and zeal for our missions task even though we cannot see the fruit of the work. But we will still press on because we know that the Lord’s purpose will be accomplished in His time and will. 

[1] R. Arthur. Mathews, Ready for Battle: 31 Studies in Christian Discipleship, p.13.

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