Jesus’ Wisdom in Missions

1 03 2012

My dear friend and mentor Marc Carrier arrived this week in Kenya, Africa with his wife and 8 children.  Right away he commented on being followed around by the masses who view him like he is some type of rock star.  I experienced a similar reaction in Tanzania this past Summer.  In my journal from my trip I made the following comment on my fourth day in country.  “We are celebrities but we cannot indulge it.  No one is served by it.  Nothing can come of it.  Only the Gospel is salient. ”  My next comment was that I had witnessed and prayed with over a hundred people that day to receive Christ after repenting and accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Master.   Marc observed that he hoped to utilize this misplaced curiosity in addressing the people for the Kingdom of God.  Obviously, I had benefited from the curious during that day as hundreds lined up to hear me share the Gospel message in small groups of five to twenty seekers.  They came initially because they were curious and I was available to indulge their interest.  Due to that curiosity I was able to use that opportunity to give them something they did not expect.  I embraced each person and told them I loved them and that they were now my brothers and sisters in Christ upon their reception of the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Being an American and white they saw me as a rich and privileged visitor. They wanted to be like me and have all the things in this world that they lacked.  I shared with them that I was only a poor sinner but rich in God’s Grace due only to the love and costly price paid by my Savior and He demanded a costly response to His truth.  It cost Jesus everything to save me and He demanded everything in return.

In my preparation for my mission to Africa I have tried to gain a clear understanding of Jesus and His instructions to the seventy when He sent them out.  I believe that in those simple and practical instructions lie some powerful wisdom for God on HOW to DO missions.  It occurred to me after reflecting on Marc’s observations that Jesus gave specific instructions for specific reasons.  He is wonderful that way.  We must study the Word to understand not only what Jesus says for us to obey, but also to understand better God’s heart in dealing with our fellow man.  You may have read my most recent post before this one and note that I reference these instruction in the post from Luke 10.   But one thing I missed was some of the reasoning behind Jesus instructions that I now understand.  I initially saw the wisdom in Jesus sending out the seventy with little in the way of provisions in order to keep from encumbering ourselves with accoutrements that would impede our true purpose and model methods that could not be duplicated by the very people we intend to disciple.  While this is true I now see further.

In the story of the woman at the well, Jesus sent the disciples off to gather provisions, but neglected to have them leave him the device to draw water for himself even though he was waiting for them at Jacob’s well in Samaria.  In those times each person carried a leather container that had two sticks that were situated at the top to hold the leather pouch open.  Then each person would approach a well that was covered with a cap stone and after removing it take the rope that was for public use and after unfurling their pouch, attach it to the rope.  They would then lower it for a drink or to fill their pot with water to port to anther location, perhaps home.  Undoubtedly this is what Jesus was requesting be used by the Samaritan woman.   Jesus knew He would need help from her to get water and knew that His disciples had taken theirs with them when they left.  Jesus planned on having to “need help” from another person in order to drink.  Jesus places His disciples  in a similar situation when He when He sent them out without money, food, a change of clothing  or sandals.  They would need things along the way.  A place to stay, food and if they were gone long, a way to have clean clothing.   He sent them out in such a state that they would need assistance from others.

With good intentions, we build hospitals, schools and hold crusades to further the Gospel.  But in so doing, we hold a power over the people we help by providing  jobs, paying salaries, offering patronage and controlling prosperity.  Sometimes we cause cultural jealousy, suspicion, unintended consequences and even fear, as others see the power we weld.  We bring technologies that the culture can never afford and model methods they can never emulate.  The statement above is a  paraphrase from a quote  by David T. Niles , This Jesus…where of we are Witnesses.   By going  in a position to need help we engage the culture and create no humiliation in the people we attempt to reach.  It removes us from a position of perceived pride and validates the culture and the citizens of the places we interact with.

Jesus could have taken provisions and need never to have interacted with this sinning Samaritan woman.  But His goal was interaction on a practical and relevant level.  From there He reached a person and engaged her in a way both disarming and effective.  He wisely sent His disciples out in the same manner. The results in both cases were stunning.  We are wise to find ways to place ourselves in a position of reliance on the common people in the culture we attempt to relate to.  Please pray for me as I continue to prepare to engage this wonderful people group in Tanzania and my brother Marc as he engages those in Kenya.  We need wisdom for ways to model sustainable missions and ennoble the people we attempt to reach.