Thursday, November 25, 2010

Lessons Learned in East Asia

Luke 12:48: "To whom much is given, much will be required."  -Jesus

This verse was on my heart frequently during our trip to East Asia.  We have received much from the hand of God, and one day we will be required to give an account of what we did with it.  I was reminded while I worked with pastors overseas that many of them would give their left arm to have the seminary education I have received, to have to the mentoring I've enjoyed from seasoned pastors and leaders, to have the resources and staff that I get to work with every day.  In short, I have been a giant stewardship responsibility (as have all of you) before God to do something with all that He has poured into my life.  I hope that I can stand before Jesus one day and honestly say that I was a good steward of what I had been given - that I served His global church who did not have access to the many resources I have enjoyed.

Beyond this overarching theme, Barie and I sensed the Lord teaching us several important lessons during our time in East Asia that we pray we will not forget soon...

1- If we are going to reach the nations with the gospel of Jesus Christ, we have to learn how to reach cities.  The urbanization of the globe has been occurring for decades, and it is a phenomenon that I have read about repeatedly.  However, it is hard to appreciate how many people live in cities around the world until you go to some of the biggest cities in the world and see the dense population with your own eyes.  The cities in East Asia are huge, and while the gospel has spread rapidly in rural areas (like it has in other countries), it tends to slow down in urban areas where people are more occupied with career pursuits, wealth accumulation, and their educational goals.  Sound familiar?  If the church of Jesus Christ is going to see the gospel truly go to the ends of the earth, we have to pray that God will raise up missionaries both in our own country and abroad who will live in and take the gospel to people who live in cities.  I think we are going to look back after the next fifty years and say that the cultural transformation that took place in our lifetimes was the complete urbanization of the globe.  How will we respond?

2- Government support and public legitimacy are not important goals for the church as they negatively impact its purity over time.  One of the most interesting conversations with church-leaders in persecuted countries is about their relationship with the state.  While some look at the freedom we enjoy as westerners with envy, others see the purity and simplicity of having a faith that is oppressed by the government.  This insight surprised me, but as a student of history, made total sense.  Throughout history, as the church has received government backing and sought public legitimacy, the church has been taken off-tract from its primary mission of making disciples of all nations.  Why?  Because government support and public legitimacy tends to bring people into the church who do not have a genuine love for Jesus Christ, but rather who want the power, money, and influence that the church enjoys.  This was a helpful reminder to me about my goals as a pastor in America.  As I engage city-leaders in my city, my goal is to be a representative of Christ, not to change my message in order to get their favor.

3- Finally, no work we have as disciples of Jesus will make more impact on the world than raising up children who love Jesus and love the world.  It was bizarre to go half-way around the world with my wife without our kids and find that God spoke to us about our family, but He did!  Barie and I were both reminded by our time with missionary families and national families that our most significant work is how we raise up the next generation to love Christ and to love the people of the world.  Our tendency as American Christians is to protect and separate our kids from the world, but the gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to raise up children who love the world that Jesus died for.  Barie and I came back with a renewed passion to invest Scripture and the gospel in our kids, but not just for their sake.  Instead, we feel called by God to impart a passion for Christ in our children for the sake of God's glory among the nations.  May God give us wisdom as parents to raise up kids with a global perspective on God and His work.

There is much more we could share about the trip, from the funny cultural experiences we had to the remarkable people we met.  I hope at some point in the future that we can get some time to show you pictures and share more stories.  But overall, we are just thankful to God for what He allowed us to do in the lives of others and what He showed us and what He did in our hearts while we were away.  We serve an awesome God who is at work around the world and in each one of our lives.

Pray for us that we will have wisdom in knowing how God wants us to be involved in the world in the coming years.  We will pray for you that you will take time out of your schedule in the coming years to get overseas and see what God is doing all over the globe through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

No comments: