Summary: A description of how Paul engaged in mission and its application to this current context
Disciples Make Disciples
This week I was reading the story of an Australian couple who went to Bangladesh as missionaries. When Stuart and Margaret arrived in the country they were informed, by the Baptist missionaries already there that the Muslim people were impossible to reach with the Gospel message. For the six years their experience seemed to confirm that conclusion. At the end of 6 years they were expelled from the country however they returned by themselves two years later.
They went to a city of 200,000 people, where they were the only Europeans, and to their knowledge the only Christians. They had no mission support agency but they determined to find ways to reach the Muslim people for Jesus Christ.
For six years they lived culturally as Muslims. That meant that Margaret never left the house, unless it was night. She was completely covered from head to foot in front of anyone but her husband. Stuart lived with the men and disciplined himself to eat what they ate, prayed when they prayed, and fasted when they fasted. They learned to present the Gospel in terms that were culturally appropriate to the Muslim people. For six years
The result that many many people came to know Jesus. Their effectiveness was an anomaly among missionaries to the Muslims.
Why did they succeed where others had failed?
From Bangladesh Stuart and Margaret returned to Australia to pastor a church in Melbourne. At that time, a little over a decade ago, it was a church with less than two hundred in attendance and they had been fighting for four years over where to locate the handicapped accessible bathroom. As you do in Baptist churches!!!
Stuart says that the little church in Melbourne thought they were getting a white Australian pastor who would do things like they always had done them. He goes on to say ‘They were wrong they were getting a missionary who understood that reaching people for Jesus Christ means understanding their culture and meeting them where they are, just as Jesus met us where we were.
At the heart of Stuart’s calling to ministry was John 1:14 ‘The word became flesh and moved into the neighbourhood’. MI reckon that’s why he was so effective in Bangladesh and why today his church is the largest Baptist Church in Australia. It is Crossways Baptist and I’m talking about Stuart & Margaret Robinson. Many of you would have heard their names.
His church is committed to being missionaries in their own land. It is a church clear on its mission to reach out to the spiritually sick who have no doctor.
Earlier this year I listened on the net to Stuart address his congregation about their visions and goals for the year. I heard him say that Crossway are aiming for 17% growth on their current attendance of 2000. And it will be consistent with their growth over the last few years – because the people think like and behave like missionaries.
And its not about their numbers or their size – its all about their focus and their values. Its about what they see as their primary purpose for existing.
Author Martin Robinson a British missionary who was in Perth last month has said, “It is necessary for the church to rethink its stance entirely and to become a missionary church within the west. Sadly, the church seems to be functioning in the West on the now outdated assumption that it belongs.”
A letter in last week’s Baptist Advocate made the same point – the western world is a mission field – we are a mission field – people are sending their missionaries to us. And what they are doing is coming and living in our culture and discovering what it will take to connect the gospel with ordinary Australian people. Folks – that’s our job!
In 2 Cor 4:3 Paul writes ‘If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.’ This is a life and death matter for those outside the kingdom of God.
Australia needs missionaries if we are to see the gospel impact our nation. And I believe our churches are packed with potential missionaries. I shared last year my dream for LBC is that it will be a church of missionaries – a church of people who are not necessarily all evangelists – but of people who all own the call to take the gospel to the world in whatever way we can. Australia needs people who think like missionaries to run our churches and our denominations so that they can be effective at what Jesus called them to do.
Never has Australia been such a godless place – yet never has there existed such opportunity for dialogue with people – if we will just take it up.