The Irony of Missions

missionsI remember listening to missionaries tell stories and share slide shows – not Power Point projections, actual slides on carousels. They were from “the mission field” a place with terrible roads, lack of electricity and unsafe drinking water. They worked with people that looked, dressed and spoke differently than we did. What I knew about missions as a child is that they were far away, in difficult to reach places, and we needed to fund missionaries to print Bibles and build churches. I also hoped, at a young age mind you, that God didn’t call me to the mission field because I didn’t want to go. Continue reading

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Have You Heard the Good News?

Screenshot 2013-06-09 at 1.26.46 PMJohn the Baptist sent his own disciples to Jesus, asking if he was the one promised or should they wait for another. Jesus responded “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers  are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.” (Luke 7:22) Have you heard the Good News? And if so, who told you? Continue reading

Fred Luter’s Call for African-American Missionaries

Fred Luter with Tom Elliff

Fred Luter with Tom Elliff

Fred Luter is the first African-American to serve as SBC president.  But of the 4,900 missionaries serving the International Mission Board, only 27 are African-American.  That’s only 1/2 of 1%, despite the fact that 1 million of the SBC’s 16 million members are African-American.  There are far more Hispanic and Asian missionaries in the field, and Luter would like to promote change.

“A lot of our African American churches are in the ‘hood,” said Luter, who pastors Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, La. “It’s a daily fight every day. [People ask me], ‘Why do I need to go to Africa, Asia or Europe? We need to get people saved in this community.'”  “It’s a both/and approach,” Luter said. “We need to reach the people in our neighborhoods and get African Americans out on the foreign field.”

Read this article in full at Baptist Press.  

Here’s Our Chance

Today is Halloween, which happens to be one of a long list of things Christians disagree about.  At our house we carve a Jack-o-lantern and hand out candy, relegating the holiday to a children’s event only.  We have good friends that turn off all their lights, go to bed early, and complain that people still knock on their door.  Christians disagree on celebrating Christmas, voting in elections, serving in the military, consuming alcohol, and even the use of caffeine.  How Christians feel about _______ always depends on which one you ask.

Hurricane Sandy may go down in history as the worst weather-related disaster in our nation’s history.  This is our chance to be the body of Christ.  More than teaching rhetoric, Jesus taught his disciples to go and do.   Continue reading

Just Ask the Gardener

not really our gardener

There are certain things you get used to.  When you grow up with electricity in every room, and with hot and cold running water, its easy to forget that most of the world’s population does not have those things.  The same is true in ministry.  On any given day, I will have students in my class from Ethiopia, Nigeria, Thailand and South Korea.  I have had students from Japan, China and Russia, but none right this minute.  Most days I don’t even think about it as this is “normal” where I live and work.

One of the blessings of the ministry I work in is the unique blend of individuals God has brought together to do the work.  My wife and I came from Georgia, but we have friends from Colorado, New Jersey and Alaska.  One couple came to serve with us after spending 16 years on the mission field in Nigeria.  Every person that’s here left behind a church that misses them; all of our fellow missionaries were church deacons, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders and such like back home.  I listened to a good sermon tonight about the three parables in Luke 15 delivered by our gardener.  Yeah I know, right?

If one of my students had a question from scripture, he or she could easily ask our campus minister or Bible teacher.  But would you take the same question to a bus driver?  I happen to be an ordained minister and a school bus driver.  Our gardener plants flowers and designs landscapes 6 days a week, and pastors a small Presbyterian church on the weekend.  He is just as qualified to answer Bible questions as our basketball coach – who has also traveled to Rwanda to teach English and to other countries doing medical missions.

Stephen Tracksel said “I am not a great man of God, I am a man of great God.”  The next time you turn on the tap or flip a light switch, try to remember where all blessings come from.  And the next time I wave at the gardener, I will try and do the same.  May we all be instruments of His will.

More Than Enough

More Than Enough happens to be a song by Chris Tomlin.  It’s about how God’s supply is more than enough for our needs.  I’ve borrowed the title, but tonight I was thinking about something other than his song.  Take a look at these verses from Exodus 36:

2 And Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whose mind the Lord had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to do the work. 3 And they received from Moses all the contribution that the people of Israel had brought for doing the work on the sanctuary. They still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning, 4 so that all the craftsmen who were doing every sort of task on the sanctuary came, each from the task that he was doing, 5 and said to Moses, “The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do.” 6 So Moses gave command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp, “Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary.” So the people were restrained from bringing, 7 for the material they had was sufficient to do all the work, and more.

In order to build the tabernacle according to God’s instructions, the Hebrews were asked to donate the materials.  Carpenters, goldsmiths and seamstresses were asked to do the skilled labor.  In this passage, stuff just poured in until Moses had to command them to STOP giving.  Wow.  Can you imagine that happening today?  What if the ushers had to push people away from the offering plates because they were full?  What if the soup kitchen had more food than they had hungry people to feed?  What if the local coat closet was busting at the seams, and they ask people to stop giving them winter coats, gloves and scarves?  The Hebrews had an abundance of materials because they had basically plundered Egypt as they were leaving.  They didn’t steal anything; the Egyptians not only let them leave, they begged them to take whatever they wanted and get out.  They were commanded to leave quickly.  God provided them with an abundance of loot before asking them to make a donation.

Whatever God asks us to do, he has already provided us with more than enough to do it with.  Whether its material, or finances, or talent and ability, God provides for us all we need and more, then asks us to trust him with it.  Whatever God has called us to, he equips us to be able to do.  Even if we can’t see it yet.  God knows what he can do; sometimes he just wants to prove it to us.