What is quiet time and what does it have to do with cross-cultural mission?
What is quiet time and what does it have to do with cross-cultural mission?
Ross shares his three elements of a quiet time, bible reading, prayer and worship.
When we have our quiet times, should we have a plan or leave it to spontaneity? Ross investigates what scripture can teach us on this topic.
We have just launched our most recent course Crossing Cultures 101! It’s free to complete and consists of 3 online modules with several lessons in each, to be completed in your own time.
This is the course we wish we could have done before starting our missionary journeys - and, after learning a lot of things the hard way, it’s the course we would recommend to you!
Crossing Cultures 101, as the name suggests, is a very basic introduction to the subject of what it takes to move into a new culture and thrive there. In a sense it is so basic that it will probably raise more questions than it answers. But that might just be helpful! Better to start having the conversation before you go than to be shocked when you get there by issues you were not expecting.
We know from personal experience that having sufficient support and training is vital to thriving on the mission field. Our concern is that across the world, there are many who are setting off without those very things. This course won’t give specific help for adjusting to the actual culture you are moving to, but it will give a lot of general principles that will apply in any crossing-culture experience.
We think there are three different groups that would benefit from doing this course…
Firstly, those who feel called to go and are just beginning to research their way to finding out what is involved. I’d like to think this course would give you the basics and cover, with broad brushstrokes, the things you need to know as you begin to embark on this journey.
Secondly, those who have already set out on the journey and are discovering, perhaps the hard way, that there are a whole host of things you had not thought about before you left. For your encouragement, both Ross and I started out this way, with no cultural training, and we at separate times had to learn everything the hard way. We wish there had been a course like this that we could have done back in the day! It certainly would have helped.
And thirdly, our target is the churches that are sending folk out – for those churches to know, if they don’t already, what it takes to support those they send out well. If you fit the role of a sender rather than a go-er, you may prefer to skip the first two modules and focus only on the third. But on the other hand, doing the first two modules might also help you understand what those who have gone out are experiencing when they go through culture shock, for example, not knowing what has hit them. Finding that this is a normal part of the process of cultural adaptation will help mitigate the concern you might otherwise feel as you hear about their struggles. They will need your understanding to help them push through and come out reasonably intact the other side!
So that’s it - three modules, about 13 lessons in total, taking only about six hours to complete! There are other free courses on the site that you can also sign up for (go to: https://courses.fieldpartner.org/courses), and more will added in time. We will be there in support as well, and, in addition, we’d love to see fellow students form a cohort amongst themselves, providing mutual support and encouragement.
If you are reading this and you fit any of the categories mentioned above, I’d like to invite you to sample the course and give us your feedback in the box below. Or, if you know anyone else to whom it might apply, please forward the link to them as well.
Thank you for your interest and welcome to FieldPartner!
A while ago my husband and I were talking with a friend about the huge task that faces us in setting up an online training school. In the course of about an hour’s conversation, Eric asked a telling question. He said,
“Ross, Christine – looking back over your several decades of experience in international living – and granted the fact that you didn’t receive any cross-cultural training before you went – what would you say now are the top five things you wish you had known before you went to Asia?”
Wow – what a great question!
Below is my own considered answer. For me, this list actually encapsulates the substance of a basic course I have constructed, called Crossing Cultures 101. These issues I am talking about now are some of the topics that are covered in this course. And let me just say here, if you would like to come on board for that course – or if what I say in these few moments resonates with you in any way, please do sign up! It’s totally free to join.
OK so let’s drill into this: Five things I wish I had known before I went!
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But when it comes to life, ‘stuff’ often just happens, and sometimes good planning does not! Perhaps we only realise later that a bit more time taken early on, along with a lot more good input received from others, could have helped us build a stronger foundation for our marriages or our ministries. Looking back, Ross and I regret that we didn’t take time out at the time we got married to do some of our adjusting to each other in our own culture first. But we were young and zealous, Ross had already been in Taiwan for six years by then and was fully involved in student ministry, and I had two years of full-time language study facing me before we could start a family… We thought we didn’t have time for that, and besides, it was complicated by other commitments. However cultural adaptation, on top of marriage adjustment, were about to take a huge toll on us. If only we had realised how it was going to be and taken it slower!
The first module in my course focuses on this topic at some depth and, if you come with me, we’ll be checking out our assumptions and beliefs about the ‘right’ way to do things. Often, we are completely unaware of how our own socialisation influences the way we do life and the value judgements we make about others who do life differently. This shows up hugely when we arrive in a new culture.
Here are some danger signs to watch out for:
In Module Two of my course I depict the whole cultural adaptation process as navigating a path between two mountain peaks – one being my own culture, where I belong and feel comfortable and the other being the new culture, which is at yet a mystery. In between these two peaks there is a valley, involving pitfalls and dangers and sheer hard slog. This is Culture Shock.
Not everyone navigates this valley successfully, but yet, the challenge of it can be an adventure that draws you on. In the course we will talk quite a bit about the anatomy of culture shock and what it takes to navigate through it.
And then there is Reverse Culture Shock (or Re-entry Stress) to navigate through as well, when returning home. This too is a ‘real thing’, but often more shocking because it is not anticipated! People assume that going back to their home culture after an assignment in a different culture will be completely straight forward and nothing to worry about. After all – are we not just returning home? Well, yes – but in the same way as you can never step into the same river twice (as the philosopher said!), you will be a different person after all you have been through, and the people and situation you are returning to will also have changed. That can make for some unwelcome surprises, which it is good to be prepared for. There will be a lesson in Module Two that deals with this issue as well.
This brings us full circle to the first issue – how vital it is to build a good foundation and prepare well for our endeavour before we leave. That includes having good closure with those we leave behind and building a strong support base at the sending end. Why? Because we need to stay connected with those who know us well and are sending us out. We need their support and understanding, to involve them on our journey and keep them on side in what we are going through.
Here is one thing we strongly advocate for anyone going into another culture: find a core group of friends and family members who are willing to support you on this venture, be a sounding board for you and provide encouragement when you are struggling. They will be worth their weight in gold!
And look for support in other quarters too:
Hopefully you will find that in the place where you are serving. But what if you don’t? This is where we in FieldPartner hope that we can continue to help, by providing an on-line community: others who may be at a different stage and are probably working in a different culture from you, but who can still encourage you and cheer you on.
Of course you may not have kids, but if you do, you need to know they experience this journey very differently from you. Kids have the capability to ‘enter’ a culture and learn a language much more easily than their parents, but they may also feel deeply the loss of their former life. They may blame you for the discomfort and disorientation they are feeling. Embracing a new culture may come more easily to them, but going through that process will also permanently alter their identity. From now on life for them, even more than for you, will never be the same. So in Module 3 on my course, we will also be looking at terms like Third Culture Kid and Global Nomad, helping you (I hope) to think through the implications of your choice to move abroad as it might impact on your kids.
There are some definite upsides to this, but also some very real challenges. We will be looking at what some of those are.
OK so there you have it in a nutshell! Five things I wish I had known before I went. In actual fact, I didn’t know half of this for many years, but that is a story for another time!
In these 5 talks Ross shares his life’s message. He shares concerning what the Bible says about cross cultural mission being the heart of God’s plan for the church, especially focusing on the book of Acts and the early church. God has used this teaching in the US, Africa, India and Asia - where churches have adopted this teaching in Bible schools and essential training of believers.
The Antioch Factor ＃1
The first talk is a basic introduction. Ross starts with Acts 1:8 to show that Jesus divided the world into 4 different territories, and every church should involve in each of these 4 regions. But often we ignore the difficult one, “the ends of the earth”, even though Jesus told us to reach peoples who are different from us. This is a unique opportunity to think this matter through before the Lord.
The Antioch Factor #2
Ross in this second talk in the series looks at more verses from the New Testament, to show that cross cultural mission is a key part of the Bible's teaching from Genesis to Revelation. He then begins to look at the church in Jerusalem. He comes up with a very surprising conclusion which may shock you! Listen on to find out what that conclusion is!
The Antioch Factor #3
God gave the Jerusalem church 3 great chances in Acts chapters 8-11 to understand His global agenda, but they did not. Ross asks the question “am I communicating to you the strength of resistance to the Gospel going to the ends of the earth?” Ross then shows how God birthed the church in Antioch to move with that global agenda.
The Antioch Factor #4
Ross stresses eight key elements that make up the Antioch church. He states that Antioch churches do not grow up by accident or naturally, rather like weeds in the garden. We have to be intentional in making sure these elements are in play in our churches.
The Antioch Factor #5
Ross continues to stress that Antioch churches do not happen by accident. He gives more elements that need to be in play for us to become an Antioch church today, sending folk out and supporting folk to reach the nations.
Often I think of a dear friend of mine who, many years ago, was involved with me in work into China. He was doing quite well and then he said to me one day, “I want to go home.” And I said, “No, no, no. Dig into the Lord. Spend time with the Lord. Get a hold of the Lord see what the Lord is saying to you.” and essentially a few days day he said, “No I want to go home.”
So the first thing is, and that's before you go, it's not after you go:
How's your relationship with the Lord Jesus?
Do you know him personally, but more than that are you walking with him day by day?
Our habit is when we get up in the morning (and I’m speaking to you from the Far East, it doesn't look like it because I got a sweater on but it's a brief really cold time. Actually, the locals here they keep saying to me, “Oh is so cold they got coats on.” I say, “It’s cold. It’s not so cold.” because I'm a Brit and have some idea what really cold is (actually from Scotland). So number one, you walk with the Lord. How are you doing with the Lord?
Do you know that the Lord has spoken to you? (Now Brad is going to deal with this in another talk in this group so I'm not going to go into that at length.) But are you sure that the Lord has called you? Can you stand on that call?
3. Do you belong to a Missions Based Church - a church it actually believes in mission?
Don't tell anyone that I say this, but a lot of churches actually don't believe in cross cultural work. They don't believe in sending people away from their local area. They may be doing an absolutely fantastic job locally, and there's so much we can learn for them. But they don't teach us and inspire us with a vision to reach people of other cultures, other nations. Do you go to a mission based prayer meeting? Now I'm not saying for a minute, “leave your church.” For what I am saying is, “Find that prayer meeting. Find that mission group that you can pray with, that you can share with.”
See you may say, “God has called me. I'm going to change Ethiopia -- Or I don’t know, any country you care to mention -- I'm going to change them.” Have you read a few read books about Hudson Taylor, and (William) Carey, and (David) Livingstone, and other men and women of God whose adventures and struggles and the rest of it, are there for us to learn about? Have you read those books? Please do. One of my classics was David Brainerd who was, if you like, a “cross-cultural missionary “to the indigenous people of the United States many years ago. Carey again as I say, Hudson Taylor - these men and women of God, we can learn so much from them.
I think of a group that my parents used to meet every year - just socially at Christmas time - and you’re going abroad what are you, going to do? Well that’s alright. Many people will look at you that way. Many people forty-eight years afterwards, he asked some people quite close to me, “What does he do?” They wouldn't have any idea, I don’t think. but I'm asking, “Do you have group of friends who have that same passion as you? That will be iron sharpening iron?” If you don't, if you’re a student in your student world, if you're a church member and your church world, find others who have that same calling.
Have you ever contacted with a missionary on the field? I know there are some closed countries where that might be difficult, but have you ever done that? It's a good thing to do. Get a hold of a missionary team. They may be too busy to talk to you, but finally…
Go on a short-term cross-cultural trip, that'll take you. I, as a Cambridge student, God had called me to serve as a cross-cultural worker. This is in the 1960s and I went with operation mobilization to Eastern Europe, and I finished in Russia actually at a time when Russia was really pretty tight. That mission trip did as much to confirm my calling, as the actual call itself did. Which I’ll talk about another time. Is that something that you've ever considered doing? Because it will change your life, one way or the other.
How do you do in a supermarket when you meet someone with a completely different culture and background? How do you do in the office, train, school or wherever, if you meet someone who is totally different. Do you say, why are you not the same as me, or can you embrace, are you culturally open and adaptable. If you go cross cultural, it's their culture not yours. You are not there to change them culturally as a cross culture worker. You maybe there to work with the orphans, preach, teach, work with poor but you are working with their culture and you are not there to change their culture by imposing yours.
Kingdom culture, the culture of Jesus, yes, but not your culture. Where their culture is not hostile to scripture, can you manage, can you handle that, it is really difficult. If I was doing more than 7-8 minutes quick learn I would tell you a lot but will do as well. So come to us and see us in FieldPartner, come and see us in our website. We will flash it up at the beginning and end.
Being with people of different culture. Not just meeting with them but befriending them. can you sit down with them, can you accept what they do, can you respect them. Are you always saying, well, why are these people behaving that way, because they are not the same as you or as me. So do you have those friends, do you have people you have coffee or tea with?
Have you ever done that? You say God has called me to work in Mongolia, well, do you know anything about Mongolia, do you know what it is like, do you know what they believe, eat, their strength and weaknesses? Am not telling you to read a whole story of Mongolian restraint, but have studied them?
Am I in any way witnessing, serving, discipling. Am not asking if you read the bible, I hope you do because you really need to. That ought to be my first talk. But are you someone who is really drawing people to Jesus Christ. We often say, getting on an aeroplane does not change you and that’s a fact. What is going to change you is what you are doing now.
No. 5 This is really good, really tricky. I will say it in Chinese (Chinese) “ first you have your vision, your calling on your life then you have your opposite number, your beloved”. What do I mean, if you are in beginning several relationships, fellow with a girl or girl to fellow, you will feel God has called me to cross cultural work, and that person you are getting fond of say (Chinese words) which is a very rude expression for” take a hike”. If they say that, you need to face out to what is going on, because probably it will cost your calling if you go on into marriage and so on. The reverse is true. My wife who has a call to mission in her own life, Brian and Jane, there is an advantage when they are there with you step by step. So, have you considered that if the fellow or girl you are keen on. Are they walking the same way.
What do you like in terms of gifts and temperaments, because one of the things is that you get stretched, someday once put it to me that, you are stretched so wide you could read a newspaper. What is your gift and temperament like, are you adaptable, are you able to face what is going to come that is the period you really struggle with culture, activities with this or that and you can say, I can handle that. How are you doing now in your church situation? Are you the one always colliding with people, then I suggest a period of discipleship in your local church might be the best.
Same idea, how do you do team work. How do you do in working with other people. How do you do about serving the Lord together in a worship group, evangelistic team, in putting the chairs together. Are you the one always saying no, do it my way? Please if you not do a team a work, it is sad to say but many of cross cultural workers fail not because of other people they are working with . we know, certain nations that if you put nation A and nation B together you gonna have fireworks. How do you make them work in a team. Particularly, realizing that the people you are working with maybe a completely different culture, not the people you are trying to reach but people on the cultural team when you go and work there.
- Team at FieldPartner
P.S. You can download this article as an infographic. Check it out:
Here are some keys I've picked up over the years of being a cross cultural missionary. I have seen many folk come and go on the mission field, and so I wanted to share these keys to help you start and finish well.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to Amazon. We will only recommend resources that we have personally read through and have found useful in our journey in mission work.
Why grumble when you can trust God? Is He not more than able to do above and beyond all that we ask or even think?
Whenever you are tempted, cry out to God for the strength to resist. After a while the devil will get fed up and leave you alone until another time. Don’t forget, you are most vulnerable to temptation after a major success, so be on your guard!
Missionaries need to pay careful attention to both their exegetical work and their hermeneutical efforts. Studying the Scriptures is primary work that needs to be done, and ought not to be cut short by pressing needs. Set apart time to study and meditate the Bible on a regular basis! If you need a book to help you, I strongly recommend Gordon Fee: How to Read the Bible for all its Worth
There are some books that ought to be on every missionary bookshelf: Roland Allen’s: St. Paul’s Methods or Ours is a classic. Foundational to community development is Brian Fikkert’s book: When Helping Hurts. For building faith, read missionary biographies. When I met Richard Wurmbrand, the advice he gave me was: “Write down all of the illustrations you can – keep a diary of your experiences in God. They will all come in handy one day.”
We all tend to forget details over the years, and looking back at God’s faithfulness to you personally is major encouragement – one of the ways to encourage yourself in the Lord!
that God has shown you during your walk in life – small observations that leave an impression. You will find them helpful, not only as good sermon illustrations; they are powerful motivators for you personally! Remember, the parables are stories from daily life that Jesus uses in a powerful way!
like preaching and meditating on the cross, the blood of Jesus, the value of communion, baptism, vows, loving and trusting God in all things. Preach and teach such things, and do not be concerned about repeating yourself, let the Holy Spirit do His work by confirming your words.
It is a valuable resource that Father has given us in order for us to be built up in our faith. Pray often in the Spirit!
Balance your personal life, home and family life along with your ministry work. Allow time for the unexpected on your calendar! Don’t forget to plan in time to do your planning – away from the stress of your daily routine. Maintain a casual hobby and do some sort of sports, read a book at least once a month, and take an annual vacation. When you work, work with diligence and to the best of your ability.
Ask three questions:
Burn out is the modern term for weariness in the Scriptures. One of the main causes of burnout is doing things God has not required you to do – in your own strength. Stop doing those things, and get renewed before you begin to work again. Sabbaticals are more than just a good idea, they are valuable to keeping our spiritual health.
The problem with asking for help in our ministry is our reluctance to actually frame the asking question. James says, ‘you have not because you ask not’. It is how we ask which makes the difference. One thing I have learned is that when you ask, ask someone in particular if they would like to invest in the Kingdom work you are involved in, and then wait for them to answer. However they answer, be grateful for their consideration.
Mark Rutland writes (in Character Matters): Character is a composite of virtues and values. When we raise the banner of the Kingdom of God, we need to raise our character for all to see!
In some cultures, they exalt those of white skin and in others despise them. But often they are tolerated for their perceived riches and ability to bring wealth. It is a deadly trap to lose sight of your servant heart and purpose. Remember, God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Go for grace every time!
One of the things that the Moravian missionaries did was to write their autobiography when they came home at the end of their time of service. It was a requirement for all missionaries before they died to write their memoirs. I think it is a very helpful way to debrief after a lifetime of cross cultural ministry, and it becomes inspiration to others who will follow in your footsteps. Keep that in mind and make notes from which you write your own memoirs.
do not frame your work in generalities. Let folks be a part of your life by giving them specific illustrations. Tell the story and let people become involved in the growing excitement you have for what God is doing in and through you!
In correction don’t forget there are always two things that need to happen: Forgiveness and Restoration. Just because forgiveness occurs in an instant through the blood of Jesus, character formation does take longer. Make sure that the pattern of sin is broken and has been replaced with a habit of righteousness.
Training local leaders has got to be a priority along with preaching the gospel. Both are desperately needed in this world. Examine from time to time what you do and how you are doing it. Keep yourself abreast of leadership training materials. Implement what you have learned quickly and be open for feedback from those you are teaching.
by giving them real authority and real decision making abilities. When they mess up, help them put it right. Remember, mercy triumphs over judgment!
There are a lot of practical things associated with being a missionary. Hygiene is one of those things. Pay attention to your own personal hygiene. Keep yourself clean. Keep your house and vehicle clean. Take care of your possessions, and the possessions of others. If you break something that belongs to someone else, pay for it. If you borrow a car, at least pay for the gas you use. Build trust by being thoughtful and considerate.
When visiting friends for a longer period of time, be sure to make yourself useful by doing things that you can see need to be done. Offer to help, and don’t be afraid to get dirty! Leaders who can and do serve in practical ways are greatly admired. When you leave a home you have been staying in, let them want you to come back because you were an easy guest to have.
There is more to understanding and teaching in ‘Kingdom Finances’ than just ‘giving’. Though generosity is foundational to the nature of God, He is also the One who gives us the will and strength to work. Teach that along with the Scriptures that speak of saving, living debt free and providing for your family, building wealth in a godly way with a vision to invest in the Kingdom of God.
Do you provide adequate accountability to those in your country of service as well as to those who sent you there? I am accountable first to God, then my wife, and then my family. I am accountable to my home church, my supporters, the fellowship of ministers I belong to, my missions’ director, my local board of directors, my local organization, and the organizations that Globe Mission belongs to as the work we do affects them and the nation. The level of accountability I have varies dependent on the type of relationship I have with each entity. But we are not independent; we are interdependent, by choice.
Bear these 23 keys in mind when you are out in the mission field. They can make a difference to your success and the experience that you will receive.
Come back to me at email@example.com and let me know which you think really matters to you; or do you think I’ve missed anything? Let’s help each other succeed! There is plenty more material to help you on your way at www.fieldpartner.org
P.S. You can download this article as an infographic. Check it out:
The vision of FieldPartner International is a simple one. It is to serve the church and individual believers in matters relating to the Great Commission, that is taking the Gospel of Jesus to the ends of the earth. Behind that vision lies a strong faith that when we obey God, when we go to distant lands as He appoints, and when as churches we support those who go, God can use ordinary people in very unordinary ways. Recently I came across an amazing example of that.
A young New Zealand Maori girl called Tarore died in 1836 aged only 12, but her impact was incredible. Tarore was the daughter of the Maori chief Ngakuku. She had been a student of two of the earliest missionaries to arrive in New Zealand, Reverend and Mrs Brown. They wanted to teach people to read, so that they could read the Bible and learn about God’s love. Tarore was a good student, so she began to learn to read, she was given a copy of one of the first books of the Bible ever to be printed in Maori, the Gospel of Luke. Tarore read the Gospel to her father, the chief of the Waikato tribe. She kept her treasured copy of the Gospel of Luke under her pillow when she slept.
On October 19, 1836, Tarore’s life was taken from her by a raiding party from a different Maori tribe. They stole the treasured Gospel of Luke from under her pillow. Her death immediately created a desire for revenge but back in Waharoa during her funeral Ngakuku, her father, preached against reprisal saying there had been too much bloodshed between the tribes already. Instead he called his people to trust in the justice of God. No blood revenge was sought.
Meanwhile her killers had the book of Luke, but were unable to read until a slave boy named Ripahau, who had learned to read, was able to read it to others in the tribe. The Rotorua chief was convicted and became a Christian. He determined to seek out the dead girl’s father and beg for his forgiveness. That risked their tribal revenge and his death, but the father of the girl forgave him. Peace prevailed between the two men and a church was built to honour the message which brought about this reconciliation. Reverent Brown, the missionary, records in his journal in 1842: “In the evening, they were engaged together in worshiping God at their prayer meeting and were apparently on the most friendly terms. Who but the Christian loves their enemies?”
When missionaries visited in later years both the North and South Islands of New Zealand, they discovered that many of the Maori tribes had already become Christians due to the story of Tarore and her special book. Six years later Bishop Selwyn took his missionary journey through New Zealand. No European missionary had been to the South Island, but Selwyn found the people living in peace and following Jesus. Many people had learned to read and write. The only textbook they had known was Tarore’s Gospel of Luke and two pages from the Maori Prayer book.
The message is that the missionary couple the Browns were very ordinary people. But they were in God’s place in God’s time, and so God used them in most unordinary ways. Some say that in that period of time up to half the Maori people in New Zealand turned to faith in Christ.
My prayer is that the Lord would raise up many people like the Browns from amongst the believers in the church of our generation, and do such unusual works through them in other lands amongst other peoples.
(Source: Tarore And Her Book by Joy Cowley).
I stood trembling in front of the gathered assembly in Ludwigshafen. It was the summer of 1978, and I was going to preach my first evangelistic sermon in German. Though I had attended a German elementary school, I had no theological vocabulary. I had hardly spoken German in 14 years. As I preached, I wondered if those present even understood me. When I offered to pray for people at the end of the message, no one was more surprised than I was by the eager response that evening. I was overwhelmed by God’s faithfulness in the midst of my weakness and unbelief. It was a lesson to remember: Being useful and fruitful in the Kingdom of God requires dependency on, and obedience to God.
The memory of that experience returned as I reread the verses surrounding the great commission recorded in Mark 16:15. Verse 14 captured my attention first: “Afterward He (Jesus) appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table; and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after he had risen.” And then, in the very next verse, he entrusts the future of the Kingdom of God on earth to those very same hardhearted and unbelieving eleven disciples! He commissions them to preach the gospel to all creation! This apparently contradicts all of the leadership principles I had studied. Why would Jesus trust unbelieving people to be faithful with the most valuable task in history? Jesus goes on in verse 16 and following to explain all of the amazing things that will follow those who believe – which includes the eleven.
I recalled the fear and apprehension I had during that first tent meeting in Germany. At that time, I was of the same mindset as those disciples: I didn’t believe God could use me to effectively share the gospel. But my experience taught me that Jesus works in and through those who will trust him as they share the good news.
At first glance, the command to “preach the gospel to all creation” sounds like a lofty ideal, an unreachable goal used as a motivational tool. There was obviously no way eleven men could actually accomplish such an unattainable task. Actually, I doubt the eleven understood the command in that way. They had just been chastised for their unbelief because they had retreated to the comfort and safety of what they knew: their culture, their ways and their own understanding.
Jesus confronted their attitude and focus. He needed to redirect their attention towards God as a heavenly Father and put the priority of his Kingdom first in their lives. And he did that by challenging their core values. The commission was not just a call to go to all the world, but also a call to leave the safety of their Jewish heritage, language, culture, and background. Jesus confronted them with the necessity of going beyond their comfort and complacency into realms they were uncomfortable and unfamiliar with.
“Every creature, - really?” I can hear them asking themselves. “Even the Romans, the Indians, and who knows who else? What if we don’t speak their language? Or don’t like their food? Or they start to persecute us?” That list of excuses vanishes in the face of the command to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Taking the gospel into all the world is not a lofty ideal, it is a challenge to everything I hold dear, and a challenge to sacrifice everything temporal for the sake of the eternal Kingdom of God. In fact, the commission is exactly the right antidote to combat unbelief and hardness of heart by forcing every responder to renew their faith and trust in God.
The fact is, complacency is likely to hinder our relationship with the Father by making us susceptible to unbelief. When we must trust Jesus in our own weakness and inability, we find ourselves in a place where our dependency upon him mirrors the dependency Jesus had upon his Father. Any success can only be attributed to his work in our lives, and not to our own efforts. Pride dissipates in the presence of our complete dependency upon Jesus. But there is more: Jesus certainly trusted the work he had done in the disciples over the previous three years, but he trusts the continuing work of the Holy Spirit even more. He knows the continuation of his ministry is secure in the hands of the Holy Spirit who will always be with each of the disciples – leading, teaching, and correcting them. The Holy Spirit empowers disciples to remember and to do all that Jesus has taught.
When I first read verses 16 and 17, my assumption was: These signs will follow those who preach the Word. But verse 17 says: “these signs will accompany those who believe.” That includes the listeners as well as the preacher. Although I expect God to move with power when I preach, the promise of signs and wonders is to all who believe. It is one thing to believe God will confirm his word in me, it is another level of faith for me to believe God will also confirm his word in someone else if they will believe.
I am glad when God uses me for his purposes, but I am even more thrilled when those who believe see the works of God in and through their own lives. Is this way, God brings growth to all and not just a select few. In sharing the gospel with people unlike myself, my faith is strengthened and grows. Others, by observing my reliance upon Jesus, will be inspired to experience God themselves and share the gospel as well. Believers are a part of the greatest movement in all of history. As we continue to share the gospel by going, baptizing, and teaching others, our faith will contagiously impact future generations by transforming those who choose to believe. The result is that all creation will hear the gospel.