January 26, 2001
The sociologist on an African jungle expedition held up her camera to take pictures of the native children at play. Suddenly the youngsters began to yell in protest. Turning red, the sociologist apologized to the chief for her insensitivity and told him she had forgotten that certain tribes believed a person lost his soul if his picture was taken. She explained to him, in long-winded detail, the operation of the camera. Several times the chief tried to get a word in, but to no avail.
Certain she had put all the chief’s fears to rest, the sociologist then allowed him to speak. Smiling, he said, “The children were trying to tell you that you forgot to take off the lens cap.”
On a different slant President Franklin Roosevelt made these comments sometime during his long tenure in office as our President: “Since becoming President, I have come to know that the finest Americans we have abroad today are the missionaries of the Cross. I am humiliated that I am not finding out until this late day the worth of foreign missions and the nobility of missionaries. Their testimony in China, for instance, during the war there, is beyond praise. Their courage is thrilling and the fortitude heroic.” That’s quite a compliment isn’t it?
What do you think of when you think of missions? Strange sounding names and odd diets? Tales of voodoo and native religions? Dry presentations?
Jesus told the disciples’ as recorded in the final chapter, chapter 28, of Matthew’s gospel, to GO.
Go make disciples – Go make responsible believers.
Go baptize them – Go help them publicly confess their commitment to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
Go teach them – Go help them understand how to follow me and what it means to follow me.
Then in Acts 1 he gives them guidelines for that going by reminding them of what they are to become – witnesses – persons who know first hand what it means to be changed from the inside out in Acts 1:8 “When the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
One of the barriers to dreaming God’s dream and possessing the future He has for you and me is that God is interested not just in 111 S Oak St, not just in Kendallville, not just in Noble County, not just in the state of Indiana, not just in the United States of America, not just in North American, but in the entire world. And God’s vision includes people whose names we do not yet know in this area but also people whose names we do not yet know over there in a country in whose language we do not speak or understand.
In Romans 9:13-15 we read:
(READ THE PASSAGE)
The history of the Christian faith is filled with people who responded to the call to become world class Christians and did so in the midst of great cost to themselves and others. Here are just a few:
Matthew Culbertson gave up his commission in the United States Army to become a missionary. At Shanghai (this was in the late 1800’s) he did valiant service during the Taiping riots. A minister said to him, “Culbertson, if you were at home, you might be a major general.” The missionary replied: “Doubtless I might; men whom I taught at West Point are major generals today.”
And then went on to say this: “But I would not change places with one of them. I consider there is no post of influence on earth equal to that of a man who is permitted to preach the Gospel.”
Dr. R.A. Jaffery, the co-founder of the Alliance Bible Seminary in Hong Kong, who went to South China as a missionary, well over a century ago. He suffered from a weak heart, even as a young man, and also had diabetes. Nevertheless, Dr Jaffery began his day at 4 a.m. After his personal devotional time, he began writing articles in Chinese for the religious magazine of which he was the editor. He even designed a special desk that could be pulled over his bed to save his strength.
After some thirty years in Hong Kong, he was called to Vietnam to pioneer the Alliance work there. The church that he began had membership of more than sixty thousand Christians when he left for Indonesia, where he pioneered another ministry.
He was obedient to the call on his life until his death in a Japanese prison camp.
Some of you maybe saying, “so what, Jim? These men are ancient history.” Let me tell you about a young lady who was graduated with a degree in Mathematics and, if I remember correctly, computer science.
Her degree would have allowed her to find a very good position with probably just about any company she chose. The money would have been great and probably the position would have been secure. But, God had other plans.
She served for a year or two as a youth pastor in a Church of God congregation in Budapest, Hungry. Then she returned to pursue a master’s degree from our School of Theology in Anderson.
Then God directed her to a place called KIST, Kima International School of Theology in western Kenya. Where she now serves. Her name is Tammie Tregellas.
Susan, the boys, and I have been privileged to have Tammie in our home. We pray for Tammie in Kenya just about every night. Here is one who answered God’s call to ministry in a far away place as a single person to cultures far different from the one in the small Kansas town she was raised in.
But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent?
One of the barriers that we must overcome if we are going to dream God’s dream for us is to become concerned and involved with God’s mission and work beyond our own borders. How do we do that?
There are several ways to overcome this barrier:
1. Be willing to go. To be a missionary today means more than just preaching and teaching the gospel.
Nurses and doctors are needed in areas of the world that have very little healthcare. Teachers are needed to teach missionary children. Technical people are needed to fix and maintain computers, airplanes, laboratory equipment, and a whole host of other things needed to help proclaim the gospel.
And you don’t have to go for your entire life. Many individuals have gone for a summer or month or a year or two.
Such individuals help out the career missionaries in very helpful ways. Church groups, often several churches together, go for 10 – 14 days to help with construction projects or seasonal events such as VBS or other types of ministries.
2. Put a face to missions. Ministry has a human face. Just look around the sanctuary this morning. I don’t see any robots or druids or non-humans around. I see people. We are in the people business. People are the reason that we are here.
Out in the foyer this morning are around 60 prayer cards. They are the prayer cards for our career and special assignment missionaries that are currently or will be serving on the mission field. They have left home to serve abroad or in areas of this country that are far different that where they have lived.
Select one, take it home, post in a prominent place, and pray for that person or family. Send them a Christmas card. Remember their birthdays. E-mail them if possible. Let them know that you are praying for them. It will make a difference.
We also need to work as a congregation in this area as well and I have three suggestions:
- Let’s consider a work camp experience with another congregation to either an area of this country where we have a mission or another part of the world.
- Let’s have a mission’s conference sometime within the next year and publicly support some specific missionaries.
- Let’s consider developing a sister congregation partnership with an overseas Church of God congregation.
The command to Go and make disciples is our primary mission. We have a responsibility to be involved in that mission.
When the Israelites crossed the Jordan River and took possession of the future that God had for them, it was part of God’s plan for us, for you, for me.
It was necessary for the Israelites to occupy the Promised Land because it was there that Jesus would be born, arrested, tried, crucified, and resurrected so that we would have the opportunity to hear the gospel and make a decision to follow Jesus Christ.
We have a similar responsibility. To Kendallville, Noble County, the state of Indiana, the United States of America, all of North America, and the entire world. We have been called to Go and make disciples. Amen.