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Good News--And Not Just For Us
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Good News--And Not Just For UsJune 07, 2012 - June 10, 2012 Printer-friendly version
Harry Heintz and Kevin Ware
HJH: I was in Kenya for the first time in 1995. I was teaching a classroom full of bright Kenyan pastors. During an afternoon break I was standing in front of the modest building having tea (the British influence continues) with the pastors and learning more words in Swahili. Most Kenyans speak three languages: Swahili, English, and one of about 50 tribal languages. A Land Rover pulled up on the lawn. Out stepped two white men. They noticed me, the only other white standing there. I introduced myself and they told me they were both missionaries, having served in Kenya for over a decade. They didn’t seem to greet any of the pastors. I asked them if they had mastered Swahili, having lived there for so many years. One said, no, they hadn’t bothered learning Swahili since most Kenyans can speak English. They got back in their large car and drove away. I thought bad thoughts in that moment. I thought they embodied the worst kind of western missionary work: ignoring local culture and custom and acting like wealthy, white westerners with all the answers. In a few minutes we returned to the classroom, where I had the great joy of teaching these young pastors who were so eager to hear me—and to teach me some of their language and customs.
KW: In Kenya, we got to meet Pastor Anthony, a wonderful Kenyan man who moved into the Kibera slum of Nairobi not because he had to, but because he chose to minister to the poor through child care, a Christian school, and a church in a tiny metal shack right in the middle of immense poverty. Anthony is a highly respected community leader and a bright light for Jesus in his neighborhood. It was easy to see the joy on his face when he spoke of lives changed and what God was up to. It was clear to Anthony and clear to us that the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ was bringing about growth and life change in the midst of one of the most desperate areas of the world.
HJH: God’s heart for sharing his love and grace is written throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament we find God making this covenant with Abraham: “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:2a-3b.) God gives this word to the prophet Isaiah: “I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6b.) One of my favorite books is Jonah, where God sends his prophet to a major city outside of Israel to tell them about God. Jonah resists and gets angry to God for being merciful. The missionary heart of God is on display from Genesis to Malachi.
KW: The call to global missions continues clearly throughout the New Testament. When baby Jesus is brought to the temple, the prophet Simeon immediately realizes that Jesus offers salvation to the entire world, and not just Israel. Simeon took the baby and said, “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” (Luke 2:30-32.)
In a world confused by an attitude of "you have your truth, and I have my truth, and there is no universal truth worth sharing,” we need to be clear that we have the one true message of eternal salvation and the responsibility to share it with our world.
Jesus’ Great Commission to his disciples shortly before ascending into heaven makes it clear what the focus of their lives (and our lives) should be. “Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'” (Matthew 28:18-20.)
“Make disciples” is the only imperative verb in this sentence. The other verbs (go, baptizing, and teaching) are the means by which the disciple-making occurs. We must not go into the world, whether locally or globally, without having the clear goal of making disciples of Christ. If the church is not sharing the Good News of Jesus as we go into the world, we are not truly participating in the Great Commission. Part of the call of the church is to be a part of God's redeeming work here in our broken world—bringing about the coming of his kingdom through righting wrongs, serving the poor, and taking care of the world he has made us trustees of. Those are ways of serving the command of the Great Commission. But without the sharing of the gospel, everything else we accomplish has little meaning.
If we travel the world digging wells, handing out medication, or building houses without also sharing that Jesus is the source of living water and eternal life, we are leaving a broken world a better place, but still hopeless.
Romans 10:13-15 says: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” What does it look like to be a bearer of the Good News?
HJH: It is hard to escape the fact that God sends people to people. The Bible is all about God sending people, like Abraham and Sarah, Moses, and Jonah. And then God comes among us in Jesus in the flesh. The technical word for this is incarnation. When I think of how Jesus came into my life I think of people that demonstrated this to me, that en-fleshed Jesus for me, that incarnated the Good News. And yet there is a technological revolution happening that is changing the world of communication.
KW: One of our former members and current mission partners is vitally involved in that revolution and using it to serve the spread of the Good News. By technology we have Paul Kulp with us right now . . .
HJH: Some significant shifts have occurred for the better in our time. Paul Kulp spoke to one: harnessing technology for God’s purposes. Another is the lessened role of the white American missionary. Since western missionaries were forced to leave China over 60 years ago, the Church in China has grown tremendously, even under a communist and often hostile government. The growth of the Church in Africa over the last century has been phenomenal. Our role there is not to preach the Good News but to support the Africans doing it far more effectively than we could. They need some of our financial, technical, and medical resources. We need their fervor for sharing Jesus. We are doing better at seeing proclaiming Jesus and helping people in need—addressing societal and medical concerns—as two sides of one coin, two ways of sharing Jesus’ love.
KW: The 2009 medical missions trip to Bangladesh I was a part of went with the primary mission of providing basic medical care and screening to remote Hindu village areas in the name of Jesus Christ. What was not obvious to me, until I had physically been there, was that our team was a small part of a very strategic Great Commission plan that Peter Halder is coordinating.
For example, having American medical doctors, who are held in high esteem by the eastern world, travel around the world to take care of these local villagers gave the community leverage to put enormous pressure on the local doctors to start providing affordable medical care instead of only serving the rich who could afford it. Having Americans there to legitimize Peter's work to local government officials had the effect of getting electricity to that village and orphanage, providing government acceptance of his future orphanage-building plans, and giving him freedom to spread the gospel message to many youth and adults without being shut down by the Muslim government.
Just as Jesus' healing ministry gave him the platform to share the message of salvation, so Peter's community service and educational ministries give him a platform to share the gospel to many. One of the most memorable parts of the trip was when Peter took us into his office and showed us on a map of Bangladesh how God is calling him to change his country through an expanding network of orphanages and youth educational programs, followed up directly with evangelism and youth conferences where the message of salvation is clearly preached. One of the biggest ways the Great Commission has changed in our generation is that we now have huge opportunities worldwide to be in partnership with incredible indigenous churches and missionaries to accomplish far more than we could ourselves as westerners coming into a foreign culture.
HJH: My experience in Russia has taught me much about the spread of the Good News. In 1890 our Presbyterian Church sent the Moffet family to Korea as mission partners. God honored their work and raised up a growing Presbyterian witness to Jesus. About a hundred years after the Moffetts went to Korea, Hueng Rae Lee, a retired business man and elder in his local Presbyterian Church went to Moscow to witness to Russians about Jesus. He didn’t speak Russian and knew he couldn’t preach effedctively, so started a seminary to train Russians to minister to Russians. This October I will go there for the seventh time to teach, bringing with me the Hvizdak family. In November Matt Clark and Niki Campbell will go on a team for the second time. Our planet is shrinking. And global ministry is bringing us closer together. And we pray for the day when every ethnic and national group will hear the Good News of Jesus in their own language. That day is closer than it has ever been. And this congregation is invovled in fulfilling the Great Commission our Lord gave us almosy 2,000 years ago.
To contact Harry Heintz and Kevin Ware about this sermon, please email or write to: Brunswick Presbyterian Church, 42 White Church Lane, Troy, NY 12180