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Life Is a Mission Trip. Take It!

 David Alan Black  

As everyone knows, the Great Commission involves both evangelism and edification. Which is more important? Well, can anyone tell me which wing of an airplane is more important? They're both vital. And, frankly, I think it's wrong to prioritize one. Personally, I've always loved the teaching side of the equation. I've been privileged to teach in South Korea, Romania, Holland, Ukraine, Armenia, Switzerland and many other countries (some of which must remain nameless). This summer I'll be spending 4 weeks in Ethiopia teaching in both Burji and Alaba. On the other hand, you can't make disciples until people come to Christ and embrace both Him and His Gospel. So the Lord arranges to have me sent to the white-unto-harvest fields as well, be it a prison in Gondar or a rural village in Guji or my own neighborhood. Evangelism and edification -- it's the only strategy that gets the job done. Obviously, if the chain breaks at a weak link, we'll miss our goal.

Jesus had a third strategy that we often overlook. Matt. 9:35 says that He taught, preached, and healed the sick. I was flabbergasted when I first read that. You mean if I'm going to be a missionary like Jesus I have to pay attention to people's physical needs? In a way I already knew the answer. In any type of medical work that Becky and I are involved in, God wants to use it to serve the larger goal of evangelism and edification. One day in Ethiopia this good old boy from southern Virginia happened upon the grieving father of an 8-year old who had been beheaded because her family was Christian. He had no means to bury his headless daughter's body. Then I met a woman who desperately needed fistula surgery in Addis but had no means to get there. A boy in Gondar needed a cornea transplant. A pastor's wife in Dila needed a C-section. And the list goes on and on. In each case God allowed Becky and me to meet that need. If Jesus were to suddenly appear and ask you to do something for Him, you'd do it, right? And I bet you'd do it diligently, selflessly, and immediately -- no questions asked. In a way, Jesus appears to us all the time in the hurting people of this world. He's asking us to make them His disciples. Surely we won't deny Him the desires of His heart?

God isn't hunting for extremely capable, highly-educated, hard-driving big shots who drum up magnificent strategies to win the world for Christ. He's looking for men and women (and this includes our youth!) who are willing to carry out His plans when He asks. And with the helpful leading of the Holy Spirit, we'll be able to figure out who to help and how, through teaching, preaching, and healing.

So my question is: Is disciple-making a habit of life for you? For me? The Greek verb manthano ("learn") has been defined as "to learn by practice or experience, acquire a custom or habit" (H. K. Moulton, The Analytical Greek New Testament Revised, p. 257). To learn something means to practice it. The idea is that of thought accompanied by effort. It involves acquiring and applying new information that comes from God.

So, is disciple-making a custom or habit in our lives? Is the Great Commission a lifestyle rather than an occasional "mission trip"? This may sound harsh, but Christ wants whole-hearted commitment to His Great Cause. We need to get serious or get out. As Jay Carty used to say, "Either paint or get off the ladder. Cook or get out of the kitchen." Frankly, for me the most formidable hurdle to overcome is the chaff in my life. It does nothing but drain me physically and spiritually. There are only so many hours in a day, and I need to learn how to invest them wisely. If you determine -- really determine -- to become a Great Commission Christian, you will take whatever steps are necessary to get rid of the chaff in your life. Your being the hands and feet (and mouth) of Jesus in this world must be your number-one priority (Mark 16:15). Never forget the absolute indispensability of the Holy Spirit's power to refocus our lives. It was only after Pentecost that the disciples, filled with the Spirit, went out and changed the world for Christ.

Alvin Reid, professor of evangelism at SEBTS, says, "Life is a mission trip. Take it." I couldn't agree more -- intellectually. I need to become radically convinced that the mission field is not only Ethiopia but the ground between my own two feet. Wherever I go I want to be on fire for Jesus. I want to be quick to take advantage of discipling encounters the Lord brings my way. I want to learn how to pray regularly, frequently, even for long periods of time for those who do not yet belong to the Sheepfold. I want to develop attitudes and actions that influence non-Christians toward salvation, help other believers develop a closer relationship with God and a more Christ-like lifestyle, and reveal the love of Christ toward those who are in physical need.

Life is truly a mission trip. And I want to take it!

May 22, 2010

David Alan Black is the editor of

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