July 2008

I found this article on the International Mission Board’s site today by Paul Chitwood.  Chitwood is pastor of First Baptist Church, Mt. Washington, Ky., and chairman of trustees for the International Mission Board. The article is about real heroes and how this idea played itself out with his children and their hearing the testimonies of IMB missionaries, who were now retiring.


Beginning in Jerusalem

After the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord, he appeared to his disciples and began to unfold them the privileged mission, they were about to take part in.  He told them in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  His mission for the disciples was that they would be a bold witnesses of the amazing things that had taken place with Jesus.  They were to share these things and the promise of salvation that comes to all those who embrace them.  But this mission was to begin in Jerusalem! It was to begin where they found themselves and was to spread to the farthest reaches of the creation.  It was to begin at home. 

In June, I had the blessing of traveling to Brazil for the fifth time on mission for Jesus. I went with four others members of my church and one from St. Louis and one from Alabama. We met one in Chicago and the other in New York and then we headed from JFK to Sao Paulo, Brazil.  From there, our final destination was Salvador, Bahia.  It is interesting to me that on the nine hour flight to Sao Paulo that my team members are always seated next to one another, but I am placed by some stranger, knowing that the Lord wants me to share the gospel with them.  

So, his name was Rodney and he was from the great state of California. He was a very interesting character. He had married a Brazilian girl four years earlier and was now leaving the US to become a Brazilian citizen to live there with his wife. He met her in Europe while he was living there for a short period. He was also an artist, very cultured and intellectual.  But when I responded to his question of why I was going to Brazil by saying, “To share the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he looked a little confused. He replied back, “Aren’t they already Catholic?” In my mind, I thought that’s the whole point! 

We left JFK somewhere around nine and around two hours before everyone turned out their lights to get some rest on the flight, Rodney began to share with me about his religious beliefs. He was a religious pluralist, believing all religions to be basically teaching the same thing and that it didn’t matter what you believed as long as it worked for you.  My attempt to share with him how I did not find this to be true didn’t really work, but it was nevertheless a good conversation. You know we have this fear that people don’t want to talk about these things, but two hours on the plane sharing a friendly conversation with a Californian-religious pluralist, puts those fears to rest. We had a very good discussion about faith and Rodney had an opportunity to embrace Jesus, but chose to remain without him that night. Pray for Rodeny in Fortaleza, Brazil.

Not only was this encounter an opportunity, but it was also a lesson. I felt like the Lord was speaking to me somewhere deep down that even though I was headed to the “ends of the earth” that the mission doesn’t start there, it begins where you’re at. All around us are people who are lost and searching for the reason they were created. They are searching and looking for this even if they don’t realize this is what they are doing.  They are looking to find the answer to this questions in so many different ways, but we have the truth in the gospel. So, let us transform our thinking to understand that the mission begins today where we’re at. This should be our primary focus at school, work, and home. We are called first and foremost to be witnesses. Let us think this way and make everything else secondary. 

P.S. here are a few thoughts on evangelism I’ve had lately:

1) Have you ever thought of evangelism as a means to increase your passion for Jesus? Sharing the gospel is basic to discipleship. So, being obedient in this area can only increase the power and pleasure we have in God. 

2) Have you ever thought of evangelism as a means to personal holiness? I think one of the reasons I have walked in defeat sometimes has been because of my lack of pouring out what Jesus has flooded my soul with. If we don’t share what we’ve freely been given we will decay spiritually.  Jesus said in Mark 4:21, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket?”  Surely not, so remember the mission begins in Jerusalem.