What Do You Mean, Incarnational Mission?
Paul declared: “Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without a witness” (Acts 14:17).
Historical research and the study of the origins of ancient civilizations confirm what we would expect. If God created mankind and was, therefore, at the roots of their existence, then surely—no matter how their basic belief systems may have “de-evolved” by today—there will be evidence of His Fingerprint in their origins. This is now an established fact … polytheism followed monotheism. There is reference, in the origins of the oldest folk religions on the earth, to the One True God, His creation of the world, the fall of man and the need of a sacrifice to appease God’s judgment. In each of the oldest civilizations there are even references to the worldwide flood and the sudden appearance of many languages!
This is a crucial thought. Not only is it consistent with the Bible record but it highlights the following:
- There exists a God-shaped vacuum in every human being that only He can fulfil (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
- In every people group there is an essential connection with the True and Living God (Acts 14:17).
- Mankind lost this connection and instead blindly placed his faith, initially, in the created world, and through “de-evolution,” into the myriad of false belief systems and religions that spawn the earth today (Romans 2:20-25).
We can be greatly encouraged that God has prepared all peoples for His Gospel and we enjoy the privilege and responsibility of cooperating with Him as He draws all mankind to Himself. And cooperating with Him involves incarnational mission.
So, what do you mean by incarnational mission?
Jesus Himself was the ultimate example of contextualisation, the model of incarnational mission. God came as a Man to man; as a Hebrew to the Hebrews. He fully entered Jewish culture and life, transforming it from the inside out, restoring its redemptive purpose. Paul also modelled this Kingdom principle: “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).
While we’re called to live in the world but not be of it (John 17:16-18), contextualisation is more than merely wearing trendy clothes and sporting a cool haircut. Rather, it has far more to do with our attitude of heart, to lay down our prejudices, including our religious ones, discerning God’s fingerprint in those we serve. So let’s look at some Biblical and historical examples of incarnational mission, and the issue of contextualisation, to both inspire and challenge. Fasten your seat belt.
Consider a Biblical example: “The Priest of Salem” (Genesis 14:18-20)1
God revealed Himself to a pagan man named Abram, and gave him what we call the Abrahamic Covenant: “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). God sent Abram to the “nations” by directing him to Canaan in which ten main tribes resided (Genesis 15:19), not to mention approximately thirty other entire “nations” spreading from Egypt to Chaldea that are mentioned in the first 36 chapters of Genesis. More ethnic subdivisions are given in these amazing chapters of the Bible than anywhere else.
While there were cities, such as Sodom and Gomorrah, steeped in utter decadence and others close on their heels, such as the cities of the Amorites (Genesis 15:6), Abram was in for a surprise if he thought he was the only follower of Yahweh. Abram arrived at a city which took its name from the Canaanite word for “peace”—Salem. This word would later give rise to the Hebrew word for “peace”—Shalom—and would later contribute to the name “Jerusalem,” meaning “the foundation of peace.”
At Salem, Abram met its king, Melchizedek; a combination of two Canaanite words: melchi meaning, “king” and zadok meaning, “righteousness.” The “King of Righteousness” among the decadent Canaanites? Moreover, he was also the “priest of God Most High [El Elyon]” who “brought out bread and wine” to Abram (Genesis 14:18). Both El and Elyon were Canaanite names for Yahweh; El appears in Ugaritic texts and Elyon appears in ancient texts written in Phoenician. These words later worked their way into a number of key Hebrew words such as Bethel (the house of God), El Shaddai (God Almighty) and Elohim (God). Amazingly, the Bible uses the Canaanite name for God, El Elyon, interchangeably with the Hebrew word “Yahweh.”
Melchizedek then blessed Abram saying, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High [El Elyon], Possessor of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High [El Elyon], who has delivered your enemies into your hand” (Genesis 14:19, 20). Abram did not correct Melchizedek saying, “Excuse me, but the correct name for God is not El Elyon but Yahweh!” Nor did Abram reject the blessing saying, “I cannot receive any blessing in the name of your pagan deity.” No! Rather Abram “gave him a tithe of all” (Genesis 14:20). The writer to the Hebrews would later honour Melchizedek as superior to Abram and the Hebrew’s Levitical priesthood (Hebrews 7:1-17). “[Melchizedek] blessed him who had the promises. Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better” (vv. 6, 7).
While certainly mystery surrounds Melchizedek, the point must be clear: God was at work in the Canaanite people, independent of Abram, and had actually progressed further in His revelation to—or through?—Melchizedek than He had to Abram at this stage in human history. This means that we can and should anticipate the redeeming hand of God in the diverse history and origins of all “nations.” God has been revealing Himself to all mankind, even while His specific revelation and promise to Abram would bring about the redemptive key to unlock His blessing to all “nations” in Jesus Christ. “Nevertheless, He did not leave Himself without a witness” (Acts 14:17)
The Old Testament writers were not alone in using “pagan” words for God. The New Testament writers did the same. The Greeks first used Theos as a general term for any deity, as we use “man” to refer to any man, rather than a personal name for any one man. However, Greek philosophers such as Xenophanes, Plato and Aristotle used Theos as a personal name for one True God.
Two centuries after Plato and Aristotle, the translators of the Septuagint—the Old Testament into Greek—used the name Theos to translate the Hebrew word “Elohim.” They wisely decided not to use the word “Zeus”—meaning “King of gods”—since it had deep unbiblical, cultural meaning attached to it. Pagan philosophers had made Zeus the offspring of two other gods, Cronus and Rhea. An offspring of other beings could not equal Elohim, the uncreated One. Theos on the other hand, was error free, and so the Septuagint translators chose this word; as did Paul (Acts 17:16-34).
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus first used the term Logos, which means simply “word,” to designate the divine reason or plan which governs the universe, in around 600 B.C. John then used this favourite Stoic philosophical term—Logos—as a title for Jesus Christ. In his Gospel, he wrote, “In the beginning was the [Logos], and the [Logos] was with [Theos], and the [Logos] was [Theos] … The [Logos] became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14). Using these two Greeks words in relation to “Elohim” and Jesus Christ, the Bible reveals itself as cooperating with, rather than destroying, something valid in Greek history!
Let’s now look at two examples of God’s dealings in history. The first story leaves me in tears every time I think of it; the second fills me with hope—and urges me into action.
A Historical Example: Viracocha (The Incas, Peru)
Pachacuti—sometimes spelt Pachacutec—was king of South America’s Inca civilization from A.D. 1438-1471 and was responsible for the Inca Empire’s most flourishing years. Somewhere during his reign he began to doubt the deity of the sun god, Inti. He noted that the sun kept to a set path across the sky and kept certain hours like a labourer. He also pointed out that the sun could be blocked out by the clouds. Pachacuti concluded that he was worshipping a created object; not the Creator. Where would he find knowledge concerning the true God, cut off from Judeo-Christian influence? The answer: in the history of his own culture. As Paul declared, God “who in bygone generations allowed nations to walk in their own way. Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness…” (Acts 14:16, 17).
Pachacuti aligned his searching of the Creator with his own culture’s almost extinct memory of Viracocha—the Lord, the omnipotent Creator of all things. He recalled that his own father had once claimed to receive a revelation of Viracocha, reminding him that He was truly the Creator of all things. Pachacuti then took his father’s discovery to its ultimate conclusion: a God who created all things alone deserves worship.
The concept of Viracocha was of great antiquity; the worship of Inti was a more recent “de-evolution” from the purer original belief system. The Inca people had “exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creation [in this case, the sun], rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25).
Pachucuti then called the priests of the sun together at the Temple of Coricancha and denounced Inti as god. He established renewed worship for Viracocha—the true God, and Inti was declared merely a created entity. He then composed reverent hymns to Viracocha which were discovered by the Spanish priest Cuzco, in 1575, revealing Pachucuti’s revolutionary understanding of God. Among other thoughts, he understood God to be uncreated and eternal, completely self-sufficient, even manifesting Himself as a trinity! He understood that God was worshipped by angels but created man by His word for fellowship; a relationship that brought peace and order to the world. Pachucuti understood that God had compassion on man’s wretchedness, and was man’s sustenance, judge and forgiver, enabling man to fight off their evil inclinations.
Incredible! Though not entirely Biblical, Pachucuti’s revelation of God’s true nature is absolutely breathtaking considering he had no contact with the Judeo-Christian world.
Although most pledged devotion to Viracocha, the sun priests, in fear of losing their vested interests, reacted badly. So, an unfortunate compromise was struck. To avoid social upheaval and public confusion amongst the masses of the lower class people, Pachucuti ordained the worship of Viracocha as a ruling upper class religion. The revelation of the true God was therefore kept from the Inca people.
Perhaps Pachucuti hoped that in time, worship of the true God would permeate the Empire, but time was not on his side. Within a century, the merciless Spanish conquistadores destroyed the royal family and the Inca upper class.
We can only just dream of what might have happened had messengers of the true Gospel arrived ahead of the conquistadores. In fact, the Incas themselves believed a prophecy that one day Viracocha would bring them blessing from the west by sea! But messengers of Christ never arrived. Instead the heartless political conqueror, Pizarro, arrived with his blood-thirsty army; exploited their prophetic expectations, and destroyed the Incas and their Empire.
Are you like me, challenged to the core? Let us now consider another example that ends on a better note…
Another Historical Example: Thakur Jiu (The Santal, Calcutta India)
In 1867, missionaries Lars Skrefsrud and Hans Borreson discovered the Santal people, nearly two-and-a-half million people, living north of Calcutta, India. Skrefsrud learnt their language quickly, and became so fluent that Santal from all over came just to hear a foreigner speak their language. Having built up a wonderful, integral-relationship with the Santal, he began to share the Gospel message, anticipating many years before being able to make significant headway so far removed were the Santal from Judeo-Christian influence.
What followed was absolutely amazing! The Santal were immediately captivated by the message. Investigating their compete fascination and eager response to the Gospel, Skrefsrud was told by a leading Santal sage: “What you’re saying means that Thakur Jiu has not forgotten us after all this time!”
Skrefsrud was blown away. The word Thakur Jiu meant, “The Genuine God.” Upon further discovery, Skrefsrud discovered that the Santal had a long standing tradition past down from generation to generation of one Supreme God Thakur Jiu. He learnt that the Santal believed that Thakur Jiu created the first man, Haram, and the first woman, Ayo, in a place to the west of India in a region called Hihiri Pipiri. They believed that an evil being named Lita tempted them to disobey Thakur Jiu, breaking relationship with Thakur Jiu. The result: Haram and Ayo fled from His Presence in shame. From this point, the Santal believed that they were disconnected from relationship with “The Genuine God,” and fell into superstition and demon worship.
The Biblical parallels in this Santal tradition were mind-blowing! Furthermore, the Santal people believed in a worldwide flood, and that Thakur Jiu spared “a holy couple” to continue mankind’s legacy. Descendents of this “holy couple,” journeyed eastward where they eventually settled as the Santal people between India and present day Bangladesh.
According to Santal tradition, on this long and despairing journey, their forefathers lost their faith in Thakur Jiu and began to slide into fear-based spiritism. One of the first demon-gods they embraced was “Maran Buru”—the wicked spirit of the mountains—which they felt they had to appease. Over time, other superstitions, spirit-appeasement and sorcery practices developed.
The Santal’s view of the nature of Thakur Jiu again had amazing Biblical parallels. But they were a people living in bondage to spiritism, living with a clear sense of guilt from breaking covenant with “The Genuine God.” They had felt God had cursed and rejected them, leaving them forsaken to the whim of evil spirits. Were they in for Good News, or what…? The question hinged on how Skrefsrud and Borreson would respond.
They could have shot down Santal tradition as “of the devil” or, just as Abraham accepted El Elyon and the apostles accepted Logos and Theos, they chose to embrace Thakur Jiu as Yahweh’s name among the Santal! And they did so, after wisely discovering no disqualifying errors attached to this name. It was not filled with unbiblical notions such as the Greek name Zeus was, but seemed to be God’s fingerprint in a people prepared by Him for salvation! One factor that helped Skrefsrud accept Thakur Jiu as a legitimate name for Yahweh was his own Norwegian mother-tongue. The Norwegian Christian name for God was Gud which had also sprung out of the same pagan background as Theos in Greek.
Did Skrefsrud’s acceptance of this name make any difference? On a grand-scale! Realising that the God of the Bible had been intimately involved in their history, preparing to reveal Himself through His Son Jesus Christ, meant the Santal people were a “nation” ripe for harvest. The Good News that Skrefsrud brought of forgiveness and reconciliation with Thakur Jiu immediately brought a spiritual awakening among the Santal people. Skrefsrud himself baptised 15,000 precious lives, and statistics tell of a further 85,000 converts in the immediate years that followed as other missionaries poured into help with the harvest.
Alleluia! Amazing! Amen?
Let’s continue with two more stories that provoke thought and inspire action.
Another Biblical Example: “The Unknown God” (Acts 17:16-34)
Athens, in the first century, was a city full of idols. In fact, “while Paul waited for [his team] at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols” (Acts 17:16). One historian went on record as saying, “It was easier to find a god in Athens, than a man.” Another joked: “One may as well carry rock to a quarry than take another god to Athens.” Redeeming the time, Paul sought to present the Gospel of the Kingdom in this city. But how? How was he going to present the Gospel in a city numb to the true and living God?
What Paul did, reflecting his knowledge of the context of Athens, was to highlight God’s work in the city; discerning His finger-print amongst this apparently “God-forsaken” people.
During the sixth century BC, Athens had suffered a devastating plague. The Athenian city fathers had offered sacrifices to every possible god, wondering who they had offended. Finally, in desperation, they had asked Epimenides, a Cretan philosopher—influenced by Judaism’s monotheism and sacrificial worship—for counsel. His solution was to sacrifice unblemished sheep to the true God to stop the plague. When the plague miraculously stopped, he refused to give them the Name of God; concerned that the Athenians would merely add him to their pantheon of gods. True to form, they built an altar anyway with the inscription, “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.” Paul then referred to God’s redeeming work in their history by pointing to this inscription; saying, “Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you” (Acts 17:23).
Paul would later refer to Epimenides as a “prophet” and even quoted him, “One of them, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons’” (Titus 1:12). Plato also referred to Epimenides as “that inspired man” and credits him as one of the great men who helped mankind rediscover inventions lost during “The Great Flood.” It appears that God was at work in Athenian history and Paul recognised the “trigger” of hope.
Paul went on to explain to his captivated audience in Athens: “He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him…” (Acts 17:26, 27).
Many of Paul’s Greek audience at Mars Hill, though initially glued to his contextualized preaching, finally scoffed at the idea of the resurrection—as many Greeks did. However, some believed. One of those who believed was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus (Acts 17:34). Although the immediate fruit in Athens seemed sparse, God was at work. According to history, Dionysius later became a prominent leader in the church of Athens.
This Biblical example again shows us the importance of discerning what God is doing in a people group—and then cooperating with the Lord of the Harvest who does “not leave Himself without a witness” (Acts 14:17).
Another Historical Example: Magano (The Gedeo, South-Central Ethiopia)
Several million people, divided in different tribes, live in the hill country of south-central Ethiopia. One of these tribes, approximately half-a-million people, is called the Gedeo. They like, their neighbouring tribes, believe in a benevolent, Supreme God called Magano. However, these tribes are bound in spirit-appeasement, specifically in appeasing an evil being named Sheit’an. When Canadian missionary, Albert Brant asked why they regard Magano with awe and reverence, but sacrifice to Sheit’an, he was told:
“We sacrifice to Sheit’an, not because we love him, but because we simply do not enjoy close enough ties with Magano to allow us to be done with Sheit’an!”
The amazing redemption of this tribe began with one man from the Gedeo tribe, named Warrasa Wange. He was of “royal descent” among the Gedeo, and he forsook Sheit’an sacrifice for a pursuit of Magano. He began to cry out to Magano to reveal Himself. Amazingly, Warrasa Wange began to receive incredible, specific visions of Magano’s desire to reveal Himself, to free and restore the Gedeo people back to Himself.
In brief the visions revealed that two-white skinned strangers would arrive, revealed exactly what tent-structures they would erect and the exact location at which they would base themselves, namely Dilla, a small town on the extreme edge of Gedeo tribal land. Then Warrasa Wange claimed to hear a voice: “These men will bring you a message from Magano, the God you seek. Wait for them.”
A full eight years passed by. Warrasa Wange waited patiently and resolutely for his Magano to reveal Himself. Then one hot December day in 1948, two Canadian missionaries arrived in obedience to God’s call; although they were not altogether confident or hopeful, finally arriving on foreign soil through great difficulties. Due to the charged political climate in Ethiopia, they had reason to be fearful, and were urged to base themselves in the peripheral, obscure town of… Dilla!
In God’s wonderful redemptive love for the Gedeo tribe, Albert Brant and Glen Cain had absolutely no idea that they were walking straight into the awesome purpose of God, and that they were simply going to be the answer to a prophetic vision a ‘pagan’ man named Warrasa Wange had seen eight years previously! In the years that followed Warrasa Wange and his Canadian brothers planted over 200 thriving churches among the Gedeo tribe.
Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!
Ready for one more story before I add some general remarks to stir your thinking?
A Final Historical Example: Y’wa (The Karen, Burma)
Imagine stumbling through the Burmese jungles and running into a rough, hill people who seem clearly pagan, practicing spiritism that included divination using fowl bones and numerous offerings made to appease the spirits, they clearly feared, called “nats.” They were a people so entrenched in their folk religion that they resisted aggressive and abusive religious and political attempts to convert them to Buddhism.
Yet in one decade, 100,000’s of the Karen people of Burma embraced the Gospel of Jesus Christ … the miracle happening not contrary to their folk religion, but rather through it. On closer examination of this people group, God’s finger-print was unmistakeable.
The Karen believed in the One “Supreme God” they named … wait for it … Y’wa! They were situated 6,500 kilometres from Jerusalem and had had absolutely no Judeo-Christian exposure; yet, their name for the Supreme God—Y’wa—is remarkably close to “Yahweh.” In fact, subsequent studies of the Karen have suggested that they, as a tribe, have remained in the age of the patriarchs. This would explain why their basic view of God avoided the “de-evolution” that characterized so many other people groups.
Furthermore, the Karen had a kind of “priesthood” called the Bukhos, a group that taught strongly against idolatry, thus effectively resisting Buddhism. They taught the fall of mankind … where an evil creature named Mu-kaw-lee deceived the first created couple Tha-nai and Ee-u, causing them to eat of the “fruit of trial” which Y’wa had commanded them not to eat. This disobedience brought physical death and disease upon the earth. The parallels to Eden’s account are remarkable.
The Bukhos taught the people hymns of incredible accuracy to the Bible’s revelation of God, extolling Y’wa as, among other things; Eternal, Creator, Omnipotent and Omniscient. They taught their people many of the Ten Commandments including worship of Y’wa alone, the sacredness of His Name and honouring one’s parents. They taught the command to love one’s neighbour, repentance and prayer.
Although they misled their people in making offerings to the “nats,” they taught that pacifying the evil spirits was only necessary until Y’wa would bring salvation and the complete revelation of His ways. And guess how they believed this would occur? They believed that a “white brother” would come from the west and bring the Book of life that their ancient forefathers had lost! He would give them Y’wa’s book and reveal His ways to them!
The first white man to encounter the Karen was a British diplomat in 1795. He was overwhelmed by their unprecedented welcome and openness to him; but not knowing their language, he was confused concerning their requests. Due to the tensions between the Burmese and the British colonialists he represented, he chose not to follow up these curious people, but the event was recorded in “An Account of an Embassy to the Kingdom of Ava in 1795.”
Then in 1816, the Karen rejected Muslim influence when a Muslim missionary attempted to introduce them to Islam. Although they accepted his gift of the Koran, the reason they rejected him was because he did not fit the profile of their prophecy: he was not a “white brother!”
Although the Karen were clearly the most prepared people group in Burma, they were certainly not the only people prepared for the Gospel with this amazing “trigger”—which missiologists now call, “The People of the Lost Book.” Other people groups existed awaiting “white” messengers2 who would return their Lost Book: in Burma—the Kachin, the Lahu and the headhunting Wa; others in southeast Asia—the Shan and the Palaung; a tribe on the Thailand-Burma border—the Kui; in China—the Lisu; and into India—the Naga and the Mizo.
When missionary Adoniram Judson arrived at Rangoon Burma in 1817 he could never have dreamt of the door he … and his Bible … were about to open. His target group were initially the Burmese not the Karen. Although he learned the Burmese language quickly he struggled to reach the Burmese people, taking seven agonizing years before reaching his first convert. Battling with severe loneliness and discouragement he did use his time well translating the Bible into Burmese. During these difficult seven years, unknown to him, Karen people passed his home daily coming from their villages to trade. Had he learnt their language he would have undoubtedly heard them singing their hymns of the Supreme God.
Then God intervened … a rough Karen named Ko Thah-byu, known for killing over 30 men in a life of crime, came looking for work. Adoniram and his colleagues shared the Gospel to this, seemingly simple, dim-witted pagan … and God pulled the trigger! Ko Thah-byu devoured the message of the Gospel, realizing that he was the first Karen to receive the complete revelation of Y’wa. The “white brother” had arrived … and he had brought the Lost Book!
Ko Thah-byu urged his white brothers to return to his village … with the Bible of course! In the next few decades, the Karen and European missionaries witnessed over half a million people of the “Lost Book”—from the Karen, the Kachin, the Lahu … yes, even the headhunting Wa, the Shan, the Palaung, the Kui, the Lisu, the Naga and the Mizo—turn to faith in Christ.
“Here I am Lord. Send me!”
God is already at work in the nations today. When we went to Japan in 2005, God did not board our plane on His maiden voyage to Japan; He was already at work in this beautiful nation—and we were to cooperate with what He was doing. Our prayer wasn’t, “Lord, bless what we’re doing”—it was, “Lord, how do we bless what You’re doing?” We were confident that God had “not left Himself without a witness” in Japan; He was already there.
In fact, we learnt a vital truth from Barnabas’ trip to Antioch in Syria:
“When [Barnabas] came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord” (Acts 11:23).
Barnabas was sent from Jerusalem to discern whether the activity among the Gentiles in Antioch was a genuine work of God. He could so easily have brought his Jewish package with him and missed what God was up to. Entrenched in Jerusalem’s bias, he could have cut across the unique work God was already doing in Antioch. Instead, Barnabas was led by the Lord to discern the “grace of God” upon them … to witness the fresh work of God in their city and encourage them to “continue with the Lord.”
We are not called to be exporters of religion, promoting “our salvation package”, polluted with our cultural bent or coloured with what may be “working” in our situation. Rather, as “God’s fellow workers” (1 Corinthians 3:9), we are to co-operate with Him in firstly discerning His finger-print in a people group; His redemptive trigger in the nations we serve. When we come first to honour what God has already done, then we can open people’s eyes to the redeeming hand of God, who has always been at work among them. We can be confident that His eyes are scanning “the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9).
There are at least two crucial benefits in first discerning the grace of God in the people we are called to reach.
- It removes the natural prejudices that would otherwise develop; biases that would cause us to patronize and belittle the very people we have come to serve. However, when we show genuine respect for them, we not only establish credibility in the minds of those we are called to reach, but the undiluted compassion of God is released through our lives and ministry.
- It enables us to identify the redemptive trigger(s) in the people group. Discerning the finger-print of God in people and pulling the trigger is so much more fruitful and rewarding than attempting to impose our bias.
Then—and only then, I’m convinced—can we look to discern the strongholds and the prevailing demonic principalities that exploit the people we are called to reach. Discerning the spiritual forces that hold people captive is crucial if we are going to release the Kingdom Rule of God. Without question, we can rely on God’s power and resources to demolish demonic strongholds and liberate those who are bound … but we maintain a purity of perspective by first discerning the grace of God on the precious people we’re called to reach.
Even if you’re not crossing the seas to another nation (yet), give some thought to this issue of contextualisation. Jesus “became flesh and dwelt among us” and in so doing, we “beheld … the glory … of the Father” (John 1:14). As you enter your world, perhaps crossing the street to serve a neighbour or crossing into a specific niche of society, how can you embody the message of Jesus so that others “see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16)?
I think the two questions we need to consistently ask are:
- Father, what are You doing in my neighbour? Or in this niche of society? Or among this nation?
- Father, how do You want me to cooperate with what You’re doing?
1 This content has been adapted from Don Richardson’s exceptional book, “Eternity in Their Hearts.”
2 I realise that some may struggle with the mention of “white” messengers of the Gospel, especially considering the consequences of colonialism. I’m merely recounting the facts here. At the time of these events, God chose to use “white-skinned” believers to bring the Gospel to these precious people.