The story of the Apostle Paul’s life wouldn’t make a very good Hollywood movie. That is because, as Pastor Carel Geleynse reminded me in a recent devotional (and with credit to Andy Kuyvenhoven), the story is inconclusive. The book of Acts ends with Paul under house arrest, waiting to be tried for being a Christian. But we don’t know what happens. Luke doesn’t tell us.
But that is because the story isn’t about Paul. The story is about the Gospel, and the spread of the Gospel. That story continues today, and it continues through the work of Home Missions and World Missions and especially now as these two organizations join together in missional ministry.
I am personally encouraged by this new direction in mission in three ways:
First, many Muslims are coming to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The book, A Wind in the House of Islam, by David Garrison, highlights how God is moving in the Muslim world. In the 1800s there were just two people group movements to Christ among Muslim people groups (a movement is defined as either 1000 baptism or 100 churches started). In the 1900s this number rose to thirteen. In the 2000s (and we have only been in the 2000s for 15 years) there have already been 69 movements to Jesus. God is doing something special in our time. More Muslims have come to Christ in the last 14 years than in the last 14 centuries. I recently participated in a ministry training event called Hamilton Challenge. As part of our experience we went door to door to share the Gospel. Not everyone was interested in talking to my partner and myself, but two Muslim families on the street were very happy to talk to us and we were able to share the Gospel with one of them. We have opportunities to reach people of other faith traditions in Canada and the USA. Home Missions and World Missions together will be better able to do this.
Second, secular North Americans need to be re-engaged with the Good News of the kingdom of God. At a recent seminar on engaging the pagan mind by Pastor Joel Boot of Westminster Chapel in Toronto, we learned about the Hinduization of western society. Western society is increasingly adopting ideas and practices from the East, including yoga, meditation, and even karma and reincarnation. At an outreach event on Canada Day, I spoke with three people who believed in karma and to some extent reincarnation. The influence of Christianity in our society is decreasing and the influence of other philosophies and religions is increasing. That gives us new opportunities to share the Gospel with people who are interested in spiritual things. Using the combined expertise of our two mission agencies will be more effective in reaching out to our changing society.
Third, our neighborhoods are now global mission fields. The writer of Ecclesiastes wrote that God has set eternity in the hearts of men. This is still true today. People are interested in spirituality and want to talk about it. Christians are inhibited today to bring up spiritual matters. During my interactions with people over the week of ministry training I met people who had been deeply hurt by the church. When we listen to people’s stories then we make space for God to work in our conversations. I also discovered (or better yet was reminded) that people of other faith traditions are very open to talking about God and are not as inhibited to talk about religion. Jesus said that the fields are ripe for the harvest. Therefore ask the Father for more workers. What is great about the push these days to be missional is that we are all called to be ambassadors for the kingdom – and to remember that ambassadors don’t make citizens. They only represent the country in the best way possible. It is up to the countries to make citizens. In the same way it is God who makes converts. God only asks of us that we be ambassadors and represent our country (or better yet our kingdom) in the best way possible.
We are called to care for others, to help make our communities better places to live, and to open up spaces for spiritual conversation. We can start by first of all believing that people want to talk to us about spiritual things – and then being good listeners. Most people have some sort of back story, some sort of religious experience that is important to them. As good ambassadors we are first of all good listeners. And when and if we are asked for where our hope is placed, let us be like Paul and share the love of God through Jesus Christ. Helping churches engage in cross-cultural mission work both here at home and overseas will be the natural outcome of one mission agency.
The mission field is all around us. I am thankful that Home Missions and World Missions are coming together to continue the story of the spread of the Gospel and to play a role in God’s plan for the peoples and nations. Let us all pray for our leaders as they work to join these two organizations into one Gospel spreading agency of the Christian Reformed Church.