The MASTER'S VOICE
|From Maintenance to Missions
The Right Reverend Benjamin Kwashi
The Diocese of Jos, Nigeria
Transcribed by Kathleen Mulling, as presented at "New Wineskins 2000" conference, held at Ridgecrest, North Carolina, Easter Week, 26 April, 2000.
I know that in America you are specialists in everything, so if somebody has a problem that's psychological you look for psychologists; you look for this and the other. Everything has to do with specialists. And the title I have been asked to speak on is from "Maintenance to Missions." Now I'm not a specialist on maintenance, so I don't know why I have been chosen to speak on this topic. But, I do sincerely appreciate and want to thank Sharon and the entire E.C.M.C. for asking me over. I thank you very, very sincerely. I am greatly humbled. I know that there are greater people in America who could have taken this topic, who could have done it, better than I would, but God has put it in your hearts to ask me over.
And, I have had to travel about 17 hours to be here, and I want to assure you that I will not travel 17 hours to be here for just 45 minutes; it wouldn't be worth it. So I will give you... in my country when you buy something and people really like you they give you extra, you know; so I'll give you some extra. I can see Lynne nodding her head because she's been in Jos she knows it. If you're a nice person you buy tomatoes for maybe $1.00 and they can add some 2 extra for you because, you know they like you. So I'll give you extra time.
It's been prophesied the Lord really wants me here for a time like this. Please bow your heads and let us pray: God our Father this is the hour that You may move Your church in America from maintenance to mission. Fulfill this, Oh God, and do the miracle of fruitfulness, Dear Father, in the name of Jesus, deliver Your church from anything that will hold us back. That we may move, Oh God! Send the Holy Spirit to accomplish this. And I ask it this day, in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Two Sundays ago the Lord provided a remarkable milestone in the history of the Anglican Church in the Diocese of Jos. After the morning service two Sundays ago we went to three different places in the City of Jos, all within the Cathedral Archdeaconry, and we laid the foundation stone for three new churches. One of them has been worshiping in a school for a year or so, but the other two are real babies, and they need a simple small basic structure, where they can gather people, teach them and worship. For many years there were only three Anglican churches in the whole city of Jos. Today there are more than twenty; but, to lay the foundation stone for three within a space of 2 hours is a record! An exciting record! And I'm privileged to be part of it.
The problem of maintenance has not yet hit these churches. And I pray that they never do, I pray that in fact they have nothing to maintain, that all their concern with is growth. The maintenance syndrome is essentially a geriatric one. It is a geriatric disease. And my prayer is that before these churches reach the age where geriatric problems could hit them they will have given birth to so many babies that the grandparents will be more concerned with development of the young ones than with their own in growing toe nail.
Maintenance, brothers and sisters, is concerned with upkeep of structures of all kinds. And this struggle is actually far more expensive than mission in every way. In times of finance, of manpower, of time and energy, in the process of seeking to remain on a tame plateau, maintenance tends to bring in its train internal struggles, quarrels, gossips, and discontents of all shapes.
One British judge, which I know, has a very ancient historical beautiful stone building. For several years now, however, they have been preoccupied with arguments as to whether the pews should be retained, or whether they should be replaced with more modern moveable seating. Such a preoccupation eats like a cancer into the finance, relationships, and the entire work of the gospel. This kind of maintenance is not concerned with life but with depreciation, and even with death.
Think of a baby who grows daily to become a spoiled child, a youth, or a mature adult... either the baby grows or he dies. There must be a constant replacing of the body cells and tissues. In the Christian life we must either grow, or decay and die. There is no other alternative; standing still is not an option. Because, if we stand still those around us continue to move forward so that we are left further and further behind.
The problem of moving from maintenance to mission lies not with the new churches but with the older ones. By the time a church has reached the third generation of Christians, and suddenly by the third thirty-third, a lethargy has actually crept in, and it is often assumed that committees, boards and PCCs are there to maintain the fabric. There may even be a fabric committee, and so on to ensure the stability of the status quo, while the pastor is left to do the mission, which is after all, said to be "his thing." No wonder the mission fails. He cannot do it alone, and indeed if he tries to do it alone then he has not properly understood the nature of mission.
Mission is the concern of every Christian. Boards and committees must be effective channels for missionary activity.
A new vision is needed! A new obedience is demanded! A new commitment is called for! A new understanding is required!
Mission is concerned with growth, excitement, new beginnings, new opportunities, new horizons!
Let no one deceive you into thinking that missions bring no problems. What baby ever grows up without crying?
The New Testament assures us there are many problems, situations and solutions which we ourselves shall encounter in the walk of mission. We must therefore pay careful attention because if a church is to move out from maintenance to mission there are no alternatives to biblical principals.
Mission is essentially giving what we have received, and you cannot give what you do not have. We must listen to God before we talk to men. We are only the messengers who carry the message. A messenger, or a missionary, does not have an importance of his own. His main and only importance is in the fact that he delivers a message. The messenger may not be very educated; he may not even be a man or woman of any significance in the society; but, he's at the door to receive a message from the master and to deliver it and also to receive a message from the people to deliver it to the master. Messengers must be faithful, true, trustworthy and loyal; but, when their job is done they are forgotten and they ought to be. It is the message which is to be remembered. 'He must increase; but, I must decrease' John 3:13.
Are we really prepared for this? Or do we secretly long to see our name inscribed on the list of donors? Or, do the preachers and ministers dream of seeing their names in fluorescent lights on the streets, or having their own TV show, with all the fame and glamour and monetary worth that brings? It happens; it happens all to often even in Nigeria. So how do we move forward, how do we move forward from maintenance to mission? Indeed we should; we should move.
Let us think for a moment of the kind of situation which some of the prophets and indeed Jesus Christ himself encountered. Right from the patriarchs there has always been a tug of war between maintenance and mission. Indeed there must always be a struggle between them because they are mutually exclusive and cannot both rule at the same time.
Maintenance is trying to stay where you are. Mission is moving out.
Maintenance is holding on to what you have. Mission is giving away what you have been given.
Maintenance is conservation, even embalming the dead. Mission is bringing new life.
Maintenance is grasping at false security. Mission involves risk.
Maintenance is living by sight. Mission is living by faith.
Abraham for example was held up even when he was told to go. Even though he didn't even know where he was going. Moving in faith involves risks; if there is no risk there is no need for faith. Today his family would have thought that he was mad, and his wife would have probably refused to accompany him.
In Deuteronomy we hear how God chose the people of Israel so they might be set apart to be a Holy people, a people dedicated to the Lord, for the Lord alone, to use for his purposes. But, the temptations to pride and power, to selfishness and possessiveness, often proved too strong to the Israelites; and, the people failed and suffered for it. From time to time, however, God sent a prophet with a new vision and a new hope, a fresh understanding.
In Isaiah we hear how the servant who was a light to the nations joined a struggle in a call to the missions, it was eventually obeyed and called the people to a new awareness of the world around them and the need for change, for justice and righteousness.
Malachi saw that the level of the temple and of the society and the family had fallen far below the standard which the Lord required. The situation then was more one of degeneration than of maintenance. Though I am sure the religious people would never have realized that, and would certainly not have appreciated such a criticism. Once the fire of mission has been lost it is devastatingly easy to enter into an accelerated downward spiral.
Now you can begin to time me.
Jesus Christ himself faced a situation that was plagued with maintenance problems. By the time of Jesus, the Jewish temple, the center and the very heart of the Jewish worship, the key symbol of their relationship with God, had been built and rebuilt for hundreds of years. The temple had become a monument. Way back in the time of King Solemn God had commanded such a temple be built; but, eventually it had become such a sign, not of a living relationship but of a fossilized institution. Vision had largely been replaced with blindness, freedom by servitude; maintenance not mission was again the rule of the day. Jesus came into that situation as a breath of fresh air; and, with the fire of the Spirit He came proclaiming the kingdom of God and took his agenda from the prophet Isaiah; and, I have a strong feeling the time is now for the judgment in America.
Jesus wants to do it again. Jesus wants to use you ordinary people... like you and me. The Lord wants to do it again.
Oh, that we may wait on the spirit of the Lord to anoint us afresh! That we may go out and anoint and announce the good news to the poor. To proclaim release for prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, the broken victims go free, to proclaim the year of the Lords favor.
Here Jesus set a world changing agenda, a clear vision, a clarion call to mission. What is involved here brothers and sisters is correct theology, a true understanding of Godís purposes, a life which is rooted and built upon prayer and worship with unshakeable commitment to the will of God and to the kingdom of God!
And, as we consider our topic tonight, moving from maintenance to mission let us look at these areas of our theology, our worship, our vision, and our mission.
And, when I said theology I want to base it on what Jesus said, in fact the gospels related that Jesus did not speak and pitch like the institutionalized leaders and teachers. They said he spoke with authority.
When Jesus spoke people listened and lives were changed. It is not that Jesus spoke and people said... this is America so lets put it the way... Americans you have a choice, your freedom... your freedom of belief, and everybody believes what he believes and everybody is... correct.
Dear friends Jesus spoke with authority, an authority that challenged what you thought was right and you had to choose.
We see from Malachi that the priests seemed quite welled trained in theology; but, they deliberately refused to put their learning into practice. They neither drew people to God nor drew themselves to seek to please God. That is why God then called them, in chapter 2 of Malachi, otherwise they were in danger of a curse hanging over everything they would have ever worked for. The priests had become indifferent to the law and to the covenant of God. In the New Testament we see the apostles deep concern to teach and claim young men and women who then would be able to teach others and also to lead the churches. In every first verse of the epistles to Titus, He speaks of this desire to further the faith of Godís elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with Godliness.
Faith and knowledge must lead or accord with Godliness. Christian living must be firmly built on a sound doctrinal base. Jesus warned of false teachers, and again in the epistles we see the apostle's concern to combat all false teaching. This is very clear in the epistles, such as those to the Colossians and to Titus, compelling that the gospel must be taught. But on-the-other-hand, nothing must be added on top of the Gospel.
This warning needs to be heeded in our churches today, and especially in our generation. Good biblical teaching is essential for life and growth, but to add human regulations, such as about or as to a manner of dress, or language and the like, and to give them an importance, comparable to that of the gospel itself, is liken to declaring the Gospel less, and to move sharply back from mission to maintenance. Christian doctrine on its own, however, is valueless if it does not manifest itself in the manner of life lived.
A person may follow a theology or religious study course and even gain a higher degree, but if this remains as purely academic knowledge and has no effect in that person's life, it is barren and useless. Follow the study of divinity with devotion says Foster. What matters is not a certificate or academic gown, but a changed life, a life so lived according to the gospel that other lives are attracted and the gospel is thereby spread.
Only a transformed person can transform his own and his community. In the profession of faith, any so-called worship which does not issue in a changed transformed life is fraudulent and bogus. This is how you can tell whether those who claim to have the faith are in fact telling the truth. Does that faith lead to a life of holiness and purity?
Holiness is being set apart for God; and, that involves living with sinners without sinning. Loving sinners but not sinning along with them, and also allowing your life to influence the life of others. When the priest does not preach the truth of the full gospel to the people, and to the congregation, and the congregation is full of unconverted members, you will from that congregation have a big responsible, wonderful life, unconverted church counsel, or vestry.
These unconverted pests, persons, may be very concerned about maintaining the church building, but they are incapable of accepting or discerning spiritual things that will bring glory to God. In fact they spend more time quarreling in the vestry meetings, misleading the congregations, and finally even quarreling with God himself.
And, believe me that is the trouble we have in the Episcopal Church, because these are the people who will decide on whether we should do mission or not. Where as if you had a vestry or council or diocesan or national church of converted people they would be mindful to please the Lord above everything and would do things to the glory of God and to the shame of the devil.
Ladies and gentlemen, to put it bluntly, a college where the word of God is not accepted as final authority will produce missionaries of maintenance; a college where mission is not in focus will struggle with maintenance. A college where the word of God is not accepted as final authority for all of life will destroy mission as a whole.
Upon the word of God mission is built or destroyed. When I say this I mean the word of God, the bible. In the bible we see the word of God, Jesus Christ made flesh. There we encounter God and his divine purposes for the world.
In the word we learn of his mission to the world. In accepting the word of God; therefore, we accept his mission to the world.
These considerations may raise questions for us today; but, I still put it to you, what are our priorities for the development of the life our church. How important is the nurturing of the faith of the people to whom God has called you... the deepening of the knowledge of the word of God, the hope of eternal life? What about the resulting Godliness?
Does your presence send people away, or does your presence encourage the people? Do the people see the hope that their faith is being nurtured when you are there? Is your own life drawing people to live holy lives? Is the church a catalyst for positive change for God living in the family, the community, and in the nation? With so much knowledge, so many degrees, so many Bible schools, so many doctors of divinity, are people becoming Christians and more Christ like? Is corruption being stamped out? Is there a great harvest for souls in evangelism? Is there an increase of love across races, tribes, and denominations? What is our priority, Maintenance or Mission?
These questions must be faced. But secondly, when we have our theology based on the word of God and people gather, we must worship. Where the word of God is truly taught, there true worship can be found. But, when truth goes missing worship becomes barren. For example, by the time, again of the prophet of Malachi, the people of Israel have returned from exile and were under a government. The temple had been rebuilt so they were able to worship there once more. Indeed the worship in the temple by now had been going on for a long time, enough for the priests to become weary, careless and grossly negligent of their duties. God was not glorified.
Malachi's first condemnation was therefore in their worship. The chief culprits were the priests. Even today the truth is that the priests, the pastors, or the leader, is a key factor in determining whether a church moves from maintenance to mission, or maintenance yet to more maintenance, or even from maintenance to degeneration.
According to Malachi the people are very religious, they go to worship, they know all the hymns, they sing all the canticles, but they do not honor God. They care only for themselves.
There seems to be a spirit of religion that was very strong among the people of Judea at that time, they had it right. In that they knew where to go when there was a problem. They went to the temple. They would go and pray and even shed tears. They were always in a hurry to go and worship God and to finish with worshiping. They would go and they would set a time limit for God. But sadly, they were not willing to listen to God; and worse still, they were not willing to obey God.
They were anxious for God to answer their prayers, but totally unwilling to do the things that pleased the Lord. They would be glad to finish with worship service in one hour and would be very upset if it went beyond one hour. But, they were very happy to spend the next two hours chatting over coffee, snacks, or a cup of tea, or anything else with no regard how God felt about them and with no regard for family relationships, or no regard for relationships with neighbors. We can only imagine why the priests and the congregations so degenerated. They had forgotten of the call that God called them for, to be his people, that it was a call to a life of prayer, searching out the mind of God and seeking to implement and do the will of God.
I myself have only recently learned of the casualty rate of the clergy in this generation, those who have fallen because of women or money or pride. I have learned that those who answered the call by God nowadays, are captured by the fancy nature of the vestments, by the beauty of processions, and by the show of intellectual theological abilities, but they have neglected the call to the sacrifice of time and energy in prayer.
These clergy reject totally the burden of the congregations they are called to serve. They lack the spiritual capacity to stand the rigors and difficulties of ministry. They like it when the congregations can meet their needs, and so they see the congregations as avenue for receiving ministration rather than seeking to minister to the congregations. The congregations shepherd the priests rather than the priests shepherding the congregations.
I am convinced and I have had it, and I have read it, that no congregation can ever rise in its own spirituality above that of its priests. If this is right then most congregations would be operating at 50 percent of its spirituality of their priests, and this only when they are doing very well. This is where good teaching of the word of God is found, where good fellowship and good prayer meetings operate.
A few from that congregation, a very few indeed, may rise up to 70 percent or 80 percent in their spirituality to that of the priests.
From this congregation is recruited someone who goes in for training into the seminary for priesthood. And if this person is operating at 50 percent when he goes to the seminary and if that seminary is very orthodox and non-evangelical, or liberal then that person is plummeted straight down to 25 percent.
So at graduation that person comes out 25 percent of the very spirituality with which he came from his parish at 50 percent in operation. And so he begins to operate also at 25 percent spirituality and leads the congregation. And guess the percentage of that congregation's spirituality, 11.5 percent.
So somebody from that same congregation, operating at 11.5 percent, hears a distant call from the master and goes into seminary at 11.5 percent; goes to the same seminary and there because they are fleeing the word of God anyhow, they don't believe it, they don't believe in miracles, they don't believe in the spirit of God, they don't believe in holiness, they don't believe in all such things, they consider it a too distant a thing, it is only for the illiterate Africans and so on. And so, he comes out of the seminary at 5.7 percent. And, you can imagine that person leading a congregation at 5.7 percent.
What level would that spirituality of that congregation be? And. over time you can see what happens to the church. They soon degenerate and very soon in the seminaries they begin to learn about pews and fabrics, and graveyards and funerals, and correct gestures, and gesticulations and venerations of all kinds, correct pronunciations. But, they have neglected mission, where the heart of God is! Reaching out to people and turning them from sin to righteousness, turning them death to life! Bringing them from the grave to the living!
Maintenance has turned into degeneration and so it leads to death. When worship is genuine the maintenance syndrome must give way. As the people are brought to the presence of God and lifted up with new vision, new purpose, new enthusiasm and new life, true worship will always remind us of what God has done in the past through history in the life of our church, in our own lives; and, that recalling will draw us out to form a response of adoration, of confession, of thanks giving... a response of giving our thoughts, our thoughts and bodies to be a living sacrifice through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Worship is at the heart of Christian life. When the blood ceases to flow in the veins the body dies. But when the blood flows life is renewed! And worship... true worship... is the key to life.
It is in worship that we receive a vision of God; through worship we are open to receive Gods vision. Not of our own self-centered desires, but the over whelming vision that comes from God. When that vision is truly sent and received it motivates and empowers us out into action.
Isaiah saw a great vision in the glory of God; he fell down in worship, adoration, and confession. He was cleansed and sent out. He could do none other than to respond, "Here am; I send me."
Such a vision is a transforming power in the life of any person. It is the fire which burns away lethargy and sin. It is a force which motivates and empowers us into action. No one can truly have the Holy Spirit and keep the Holy Spirit to himself. No one can receive a vision from God and do nothing about it.
When I was sent to Jos I was praying, and I went to the church, and my local church at that time was my Cathedral, I was the Vicar of the Cathedral, I was a priest, I am still the priest. And, as we were praying the Lord showed me very clearly, look at the city of Jos, and I saw the city of Jos; and, the Lord showed me that Jos was un-evangelized. So after service I took my car, I went around the city of Jos and figured out there was at least half a million people in Jos. And I did a little research, not an accurate one, but I figured out by the end of it that there were at least 130,000 people in church every Sunday in Jos. And the Muslim community was about 50,000. So there is 180,000 people you could account for. So very clearly the Lord showed me this vision, where are the 200,000, where are the 320,000?
So I called Tim and a few others and we sat down and we prayed and we decided on all kinds of ways of mission. And for us we didn't have a particular strategy. I know in America you specialize in church planting, or this or the other, everything is speciality. For goodness, when you are doing mission don't restrict yourself to anything. Allow God to be God!
So we decided that we were going to do anything that God wanted us to do. In some areas we went and played some music, people gathered and we would preach and we would start a congregation. In some areas we would send somebody who would start a church planting mission, and congregations began. In some areas we would pray, and somebody who was living close by there would say, "Hey I need all of you to come into my house for a prayer meeting." And, from a prayer meeting a congregation began. And, we released people from thinking that the work of mission was the work of any specialist. It was no work of any specialist; it is the work of anybody who wants God to walk with him. If you allowed yourself, go, and we would use you.
And, there are so many people in America that God wants to use, but you are afraid you are not a specialist.
The other was, since I was Bishop, the rule was in the hands of the Bishop, so I praise God for that! Because, there were many times I know when I was a priest I would go and say to a Bishop, my lord Bishop we want to evangelize in this place, and he would say no! No! No! Don't upset the Muslims, don't upset the people, don't do this, or have you got up to a hundred people, have you got a land, how much money is there, how much of this is this? We never did one of those in Jos. We are not like typical western people where you imagine the bridge and then you start planning on how to cross it before you got there. We got there first and then decided how do we cross this bridge?
And, so in all the congregations people were mobilized and motivated. The truth is that we went all over the place all at once, in fact one very senior member of the Diocese on board came to me and said, "Bishop this is all too unorganized, we are becoming jack of all master of none, this is too rowdy, we are to be organized and this and the other." He told me how very wise and intelligent this was... and honestly it is true... we were disorganized. We were not organized at all. But, do you know one good thing, God was organized. Because, one of the most exciting moments of my life as Bishop, I would sit down in office and somebody would knock in my office and say, "Bishop I have come to see you. We have a new congregation. What name shall we give it?"
And, then I would start looking up names of Saints. "Did you visit the place? And, how many people are there?"
"Oh we've got 15!"
I say, "15?! Man you call that a church?"
He said, "Bishop those 15 are enthusiastic. We had a prayer meeting. We had a Bible study, and there are 8 children there!"
I said, "Gracious me we call"... St. Peters, St. James, St. John, when all the saints are finished we call it... "All Saints."
And, this happened on a weekly basis, on a weekly basis! I mean there was no week that we did not hear of some people, so I now started pulling back from leading out in mission myself, and sitting down to say okay Lord what should we do now? But, it was in the context of worship that the Lord showed me this; he showed me the people are lost in Jos. People are lost!
One of the fastest growing congregations we started some 6 years ago and Tim would remember St. Michaelís. St Michaelís now has 1,800 people in its worship service. Just 6 years ago! Imagine... imagine friends... imagine that we didn't go... Imagine that we didn't go.
But, do you know what? Let me excite you a little bit further, now two thirds of the congregations in the Diocese of Jos are less than 9 years old! Two-thirds are less than 9 years old!
All because we saw a vision and we can't hold back; we are not stopping here folks, we are not stopping. I just told you about 3 new churches in Jos just 2 weeks ago. We are not stopping, we are going. And you know the other vision the Lord showed me was as we were worshiping, we had a thanksgiving service and it was the turn of the young people to come forward. And, I realized for the first time that in my Cathedral 70 percent were young people under 30; 70 percent were young people under 30!
I attended a Christian meeting and one of the speakers said to me that 75 percent of Africa are young people under 20... 75 percent! Now what further vision do you need for mission? It means that I should stop worrying about those people who think they are big men, and are old, and have the money. Let me start investing on people in their 20's because there is the future of the church.
And, we kept praying and worshiping and the Lord showed us another potential force... the women. And we found out that when a women is evangelized she is not only evangelized, she is evangelized with a whole home. That happens in Africa, I don't know about here, I mean here your children can tell you, "Mom I don't want to go to church," And you say, "Okay, you stay home." In Africa no child says to his mother, "Mom, I don't want to go." You bloody get up and go! You go where your mama goes kid! So when you evangelize women you evangelize the home. And I tell you these women are doing wonders today, they are doing great things. I don't know the secret, but God has given a special part of his mission to women. I mean they cry so very quickly, they shed tears so very easily, they are the weaker sex, and I know all that... Don't be deceived they are Gods powerhouse... when they mean business!
They go, finding their men, bringing them back from the beer parlors... from the alcoholic vendors on their knees... bringing them back into the church! It is these women that are holding their children in prayer when their children are off to school, and they come back born again. It is these women that are holding with their tears and on their knees... they meet together week after week after week, with their prayers that are holding and sustaining the mission of the church. God showed us that in a vision, we don't want to loose it.
God showed us another vision... another vision of the little children, so we set up a children's ministry. And you only need to be in Jos to see what our little children do. Five year olds... four year olds, already know what it means to be born again, and they can lead you to Jesus Christ if you don't believe it.
No one has a vision of God and remains the same. But, it hasn't been easy because we are very sure and we know it that in neither the Old Testament nor the New are we ever promised that life would always be easy. But, we are promised that if we listen to the word of God, simple word of God, you can go on debating it here, whether it is the word of God or not, but I tell you the truth we know that it is. That is a fact! We know it is. And there we know too, that life wouldn't be easy, because we know it as a fact! Persecution we see on a daily basis, poverty we know, we live with it, we face it.
When I think about how much you all have put together to pay for my fare here I just chew my fingers, that's my salary for 3 years. But, we are not complaining because we see God at work, His true word. And yet, He says when you pass through the water I shall be with you... we know that. When you pass through the rivers they will not overwhelm you, walk through the fire you will not be scorched, through the flames and they will not burn you, I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD THE HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL, YOUR DELIVERER!
So why are you afraid of the vision to mission? When the Lord, the almighty, the all knowing... the great United States of America is just one tiny little thing in his hands. He says I know about you, GO He says.....I AM YOUR DELIVERER!
What is even greater than dying... is missions? God does not promise to shelter us so that we never experience fire and water, we shall go through them. But, God promises that he will lead us through, and we shall not be overcome by them. That's Godís promise. We sang it just now, nothing compares to the promise, the promise! You know the promise is like a check, all you need to do is to fill it in and He makes it true, He just makes it come to pass. That's all you need.
You know what, let me tell you something that's funny about life, even if you don't go for missions you will still have the problems that you have, do you know that? You might as well just go so that the Lord will fulfill his promise and then you will take your problems away. Glory, Alleluia!
Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, they are mounted with wings like eagles, they will run and not faint, they will walk and not be weary. If you wait on God then your strength will be renewed even in adverse circumstances. Of course when you see the vision it's exciting, it moves you, it empowers you, and you have this compulsion to action, you can't stand. There will be problems, there will be difficulties. The only thing is, the Lord will make true His promise, and here youíre called to wait on the Lord, in those times, wait on the Lord.
I remember visiting a friend in England some time back and we were talking and I said, well, I was leading a mission, and every time he would take me to the church and come back, and I said, "Who is your neighbor, why don't we invite your neighbor?
He said, oh, oh that his neighbor was a black lawyer, an African American, or African west Indies, and he's, um, he's a lawyer... he has nothing to do with God and stuff and all that".
I said, "Why don't we pray for him that God will send him out one day, and he'll go out". He said he never thought about that. You know that's part of mission?
There are many people in America that are locked up in their rooms they can't get out. Well, you tell the Lord, Father chase them out! Let them come out! And you know when their troubles overwhelm them, you know where they go. I tell you the truth, you know what I am saying is true, they look for Bible believing Christians, they look for you. But, you've got to pray them! And, if their troubles would be multiplied that they may come to the Lord, so it may be! And they come out and then you give them the Gospel, they go to the Church. They become believers and they move on. But, you need to wait, and this waiting is necessary so that your strength will be renewed even in adverse circumstances. When others are grouping you are flying.
An eagle is a remarkable bird it is strong enough to lift and carry a lamb or a small goat. It can fly exceptionally high, it is reputed to be able to see for 2 miles, it has no fear of the clouds. It rather embraces the clouds! Scripture says that we shall be like eagles! But in fact, we are... because we are not believing in God... we are like chickens!
What does a chicken do? A chicken scratches around the ground with their eyes down. Their vision is so limited to a speck of wood. Eagles on the other hand are very visionary they look not just at the new millennium but way ahead into the next century. A lack of vision kills the people. After church we tend to concentrate on what we can do now. We are not looking ahead, we are not looking at opportunities. We are in danger of being satisfied with chicken Christianity and not eagle faith, where God wants us to be.
The eagle has his head up, he sees ahead, soars into the future. If we do not plan ahead we shall be following behind. Take it or leave it that is the truth. We need the eyes of faith, such as Abraham had. We should not look at ourselves and what we can get for ourselves we must look ahead. It may be bigger, now it may be difficult, now... but look ahead at the end. What does God promise? God's promise in these verses is that we shall run and not be tired; we shall walk and not grow weary. Today we are all so afraid of being burned out... burned out syndrome... and burned out everywhere. These are theories that are not true and do not hold any truth for any true child of God. The remarkable thing is that this was never mentioned in scripture. The great men and women of the bible have their roots deep in the word of God. They never burn up. They could run and not be tired because they were deeply in the word of God. On the bread of life, on Jesus Christ, they were not depending upon themselves. When we think that we are finished then we are in all sorts of trouble. We begin to grumble, complain, anger, jealousy and bitterness means we are moving backwards to maintenance not forward into mission.
If however we wait upon the Lord and upon the word of God and focus on Jesus Christ, that would make us not weary, but it will strengthen us. We will not be threatened, will not even have any cause to give up, because He is there. We will keep going! Like Habakkuk who said, "As we climb the steep so the Lord does make our feet like the ones of a deer." We keep going, with every height we go further! Indeed we do more than just keep going, we look up and soar into Gods future with a vision and wings of eagles!
Now mission, we have right theology, we believe in the word of God, I have said that, that is the base. We are the worshiping community, and in worship, where it is a division of God for mission, now what's left is for us to do it. Jesus' vision and His personal commitment to the Kingdom of God and doing the will of God was clear and unshakable. Equally clear was His command to His disciples. What does He say, He says this, "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 that I have commanded you."
Now dear friends, whichever schools of theology you are coming from, listen. This statement is more than just a hint, it is not even a guide; and, it is not a suggestion. I have come all the way from Africa to tell you that this is a command!
The apostles took it very, very seriously because it is the will of the living God. All the things that follow on the wake of evangelism, the social consequences, the spiritual implications, the theological interpretations, they are important. But, they are not a substitute for this supreme will of God! The will of God is that the disciples should go and do! It is not for maintenance; it is for mission. Once the vision has been glimpsed the people cannot sit still.
V. J. Donovan says this, "Mission is the meaning of the church. The church can exist only in so far as it is in mission." In so far as it participates in the act of Christ, which is mission, the church becomes the mission, the living outreach of God to the world. The church exists only in so far as it carries Christ to the world. The church is only part of the mission, the mission of God sending His Son to the world. Without this mission there would be no church. The idea of church without mission is an absurdity!
But, let me further say what Charles Van Engen says, "The church of Jesus Christ finds its fullest expression only as it lives out its nature as a missionary people sent by God, as ambassadors. For what? For the reconciliation of the world." New beginnings quoted Charles, "Just as we must insist that a Church which has ceased to be a mission has lost the essential character of a Church, so we must also say that a mission which is not at the same time truly a Church is not a true expression of the divine apostolate. An unchurchly mission is as much a monstrosity as an unmissionary church." "
I have only recently got a book of Rick Warrens, and it is an excellent book I recommend it, The Purpose Driven Church. And there he speaks from practical experience and makes some points which are very relevant here. I am not just quoting books for you folks; I am saying what I believe! If these things had not worked for me any better, working in the in church of Nigeria, I wouldn't be here telling you this. The subtitle, Growth Without Compromising Your Message, he says this to set the tone, but he emphasizes that the key issue is not first and foremost church growth, but rather church health. "A healthy body will necessary grow. Moreover a churchís health is measured by the ascending capacity not its seating capacity. A church, which is healthy and growing, will have a clear purpose. But, a church without a purpose and mission eventually becomes a museum piece of yesterday's traditions." He concludes, "Successful ministry is building the church on the purpose of God, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and expecting results from God."
Now I identify with these totally because when I got to (the diocese of) Jos there were 72 congregations, but the church in itself was in deep crisis of all sorts. Again they were at that time, you know school of thoughts on various degrees, you know theology, and the bible was not at the heart of the churchís life. Preachers preached anything, and preached anyhow, and anybody could mount the pulpit and preach. There was so much crisis all over the dioceses. And, the first thing the Lord showed me was to get the health of the church, and the only thing that heals is Jesus. He is the greatest physician. And the moment that Jesus is preached from the word of God, peoples diseases begin to yield, relationships, and so on, and so on.
So I got scripture back to the pulpit, and we began to teach the people, and to preach the people. It was purely my responsibility, and people who didn't preach the gospel of Jesus Christ I told them so. And, I never put them on the preacher roster again. And you would say that is rude, but when it comes to God it has to be God. We just don't take anything here, because somebody says you come... and say if you didn't preach what was the word of God... after all I took and Oath as Bishop to be the chief theologian and chief pastor of the Dioceses! So if I didn't tell you that you were not preaching the truth who else would?
When it comes to the word of God dear friends, we may be polite, but we will still tell you the truth. Because, I would rather say the truth so that at least, even the end, out of choice, you end up in Hell, you would say, "Well that man told me the truth, but I refused to listen." I will feel better... I will feel better that way than not to telling you the truth and you are in Hell. How am I sure that I myself will get to Heaven? By-the-way, Hell is real! I have never been there, I will never go there... I don't want to go there... I don't even care about it, but I know it is waiting for Satan and those who volunteer to go there.
I remember lately in class we were discussing the issue of Hell. I am a student at Trinity. They put the subject, some say Hell is annihilation, some say Hell is allegorical, some say it's a metaphor, some say it's not real and all that. Believe me, whatever you say about Hell isn't going to change what Hell is, it is real! It's waiting there for Satan! You can give it all the human descriptions you want to give it to make you feel good, but it won't change the fact that it is still there waiting for Satan, and all who wish to go there! But, God does not wish with that anybody goes there, so be careful.
The apostles expected great things from God and therefore went ahead in faith. Not minding the risks and coping with the difficulties, which totally daunt many of our present day churches and leaders.
Let me conclude this way. Let us think for a moment about Peter, the call of Peter, in Luke 5. Peter and his brothers were professional fishermen. That's all they did for life. They had heard about Jesus, and Jesus came to their village and was teaching... they listened. He came into their boat and sat there and was teaching... crowds of people gathered. That was fine... no trouble for Peter. Jesus could come, do His preaching, get out of his boat and go away... no problem at all.
You know there are many of us like that. Who go to church, give our little bits and we go out and we have done our bit for Jesus, and Jesus can go ahead and do his mission in Africa and leave us alone in America. Jesus can come and greet us on Sunday and then go to Africa and do the work.
Peter was pretty comfortable. And as far as he was concerned every time Jesus came to the boat... You wanted a boat here's one use there, do Your talking, when You are done then I will go and do my fishing. This time Jesus talked about teaching on mission. So He says to Peter... He didn't get into that boat... (instead) He got into Peters boat. He says, "Peter lets go out fishing."
Peter said, "No, you are a carpenter! What do you know about fishing? I should tell you about fishing. I've been fishing since morning and didn't make any catch. And, You a carpenter, coming at the late hour of the day, and You say we should go fishing! You're kidding! I mean You talk about coffins and all, then we would go to You straight away; You know how to put the nails together. But fishing? We have been doing that since morning!"
Jesus says, "No, go out in the deep."
At any rate Peter says, "Well if You say so. You fed 5,000 people last week, who knows what new things You are going to do now. Let's go!"
And, they went deep; and, friends we have been sitting where we are comfortable, and as long as we are sitting where we are comfortable, we will never make a big catch... until we launch out into the deep, and the reason why we are comfortable is so that we might (do it)... it's a launch pad... for us to move out from there to the deep. Whatever God has given to you now America is so that you might go out to the deep.
Peter obeyed, so they went. There was a huge catch... huge catch... massive! He called people, "Hey folks come and see some miracle here. This Guy, He is a carpenter but He sure knows something about fish! Late out in the day and we made a great catch, wonderful!" But, it dawned on him, suddenly he says, "Depart from me Lord, depart from me. I am a sinner!"
He realized the divinity of Jesus Christ, and believe me, never loose sight in your church worship, in you life, of the divinity of Jesus Christ!
He is Lord! He is... Always say that to yourself every morning; He is the Lord! And, the Lord commands you to go! He is the Lord! Don't forget that! In everything Jesus is the Lord!
They had this big catch. He saw the glory of the Lord. And Peter, it dawned on him that this, no ordinary person, is God in human form.
I bet if it was in America, it would have been a great business, because all the guy would have done... Peter would say, "Hey Andrew... Hey Jesus, thank you very much. Now you go into the mission field and we will set up Peter and call fishing, the Divine Fish Company, and we will support you with the money; or, Peter and Sons Incorporated, Divine Fish Incorporated... and Jesus you go ahead into the rest of the places and we will be supporting you with all the money." But, do you know what? Peter knew what many of us do not know. Peter saw the fish and looked at Jesus. He put the two on a scale and he said to himself, if this man can give me so much fish I will leave the fish and I will follow the man who can make fish forever.
God has given you love and put you where you are. He has given you all that you have. He's made Jesus Christ known to you, but you turn your back on Him and attempt to follow and keep hold of things He has offered already. It is not very wise. Peter knew that. He would rather go out and follow the man who would give the fish on a daily basis than stay where he was with the fish. Because, the fish will one day finish, but if he follows Jesus, Jesus can always make fish again. No wonder when Jesus called they followed.
This is the wisest decision you can ever make. Risk leaving the material things and maintenance and go after the Lord. Our theology must be right, so the foundation is true and the building stands. That foundation is the foundation of all aspect of Christian life, including our worship. Then in worship we are transformed and opened to God's glory to God's vision. That vision compels us to go out in mission to live for Christ in a world that has so often become sleepy, negligent, corrupt, heretical, and idolatrous. Such a world, and such a church, is death to God's word, and blind to the vision of the Lord! That world is waiting for you my dear friends. It is waiting for you and I.
Through the power of God that can change, beginning with you and me. Let the Holy Spirit convict us. Let the Holy Spirit convince us and commission us anew. For we go into the world not to advertise America or Nigeria. We go into the world not to advertise sin; we go not to even defend a particular theological position. We go in obedience to the Great Commission, anew!
Let His fire burn. Fire of cleansing and renewal, then Father may Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, Your glory revealed in us, in Your church, in America, in all the world! Amen.
An added note:
This is a
grace-filled message from Bp Kwashi. The city of Jos is in one of the
northern Federal states of Nigeria, and its population is heavily Muslim,
because the geographical area has traditionally been part of a shiekdom
overseen by a Muslim ruler. Abp Adetiloye of Nigeria decided in the late
1980s that he would send evangelist priest to the northern areas,
including Jos, to preach and teach the Gospel to all, including Muslims.
It was a darin decision; and we understand from what Bp Kwashi said that
the faithful preaching has borne fruit.