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Who's the Missionary?

1 July, 2003 10:17 PM

Tonight is Living Room again — we're up to week 4 of Ignition. I've really loved reading through Acts as a group. The past few weeks have been very challenging to me on a personal level as I think about my own call to Mission. Three stories have hit home to me in chapters 8-10.

- Philip and the Ethiopian (Acts 8:26-40)
- Saul and Ananias (Acts 9:1-43)
- Peter and Cornelius (Acts 10:1-48)

In each case I've found myself asking the question, Who's the missionary? Each time I've answered 'God'.

Previously I've always read these passages with Philip, Ananias and Peter 'doing mission'. I suppose there is an element of truth to this in that their actions and words play a part in the process of others coming to know Jesus, however the part they play is relatively small when you consider the part that God plays in each case.

In each instance God's Spirit has been at work in the lives of the Ethiopian, Saul and Cornelius. Each have already encountered God in different ways. The Ethiopian has been delving into Scripture and is grappling with a passage that describes Jesus, Saul has a dramatic confrontation with Jesus on the road to Damascus and Cornelius sees an angel and receives instructions from God.

God is at work with each individual, he's already drawing them to himself before any of the 'missionaries' even enter the scene. The 'missionary' is not called to 'save' the other, but rather to join God in what he's already doing — to play a part in a much bigger picture.

Mission is often presented to us as being a huge responsibility that we must pursue at all costs. I remember as a young person being taught how to do it in a very formulaic manner. It went something like this:

- Select a Target.
- Create an opportunity to share with them.
- Tell them your story of how you became a Christian.
- Run through some bible verses (you might also use a diagram or formulae to illustrate the separation of humankind and God....two cliffs with Jesus as the bridge seemed to be a popular way to do it)
- Close the sale by putting the hard word on the other person and asking them to pray a prayer of repentance.

There was some flexibility to this at times — but the pressure was on to create opportunities to make disciples — we had to report back on how we did at small group. The responsibility was ours to make it happen. I remember many times lying awake in bed at night scared petrified that it 'wouldn't work' for me and feeling terribly guilty that I'd not been able to get past the first couple of stages.

I love that in the stories above the responsibility rests upon God's shoulders. I love that we are not alone in mission but that God actually engages with us in it. I also love that in the midst of each story God not only draws the 'pagan' to himself, but also manages to draw the 'missionary' to him also. It's a beautiful picture of how it can (should?) be.



Regarding Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, here's a
sermon I wrote back in seminary about that passage. I had (and still have) much the same take on the passage.

Mike » 1 July, 2003 11:01 PM

A great preacher was once teaching students at a Christian University the art of preaching. For an illustration, he took them to the local cemetery and then began his lesson.

Standing over the grave of John and Jane he asked one of his brightest students to begin preaching a message saying the day of the Lord is here, rise up and join in Him in Heaven. The young man laughed. Again, he asked someone else. No body would preach to the two dead people, so he did. "Arise and join Jesus in Heaven he called." No response. Louder (thinking they couldn't hear him), he said again, "Arise and join Jesus in Heaven! The day of the Lord is here!". Nothing.

Why did nothing happen, he asked his students? The answer was because the preacher had not the power to rise from the dead. Jesus himself would have to come back to rise John and Jane from the dead to be with him.

Yet, in the pulpit, we preach with such fervor and conviction thinking that *we* can affect people's lives. Yet, it's the same, the people we are trying to affect are dead. What power do we have over them? None. Jesus has to rise them from the dead.

It was then said that the power from the pulpit has left because man thinks *he* can make a difference. As soon as we start thinking we can do this, that we can reach the lost, that we can preach a good message is when the power of God no longer flows through us. It's only when we *know* that *we* cannot do it, but that God can, is when the power of God will flow.

Same with missions. Same with your thoughts in this post. God is the missionary. Can we do it? No. Can God? Yes.

Jeremy » 2 July, 2003 4:31 AM

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