I was fresh out of a seminary class concerning the biblical theology for life and Mission of God’s people and about to head off on my first cross-cultural mission trip with Amy at my side. We were both eager, excited, and prepared to ‘Go Beyond’ the walls of the church in hopes of taking the gospel to the nations in the country of Jamaica. I had been studying up on different gospel sharing methods and was ready to change the world with the Word of God. However, God had His own plans for this trip and showed me that the greatest change that would occur was to be in my own heart.
We go with our own expectations.
There were countless hours of strategic planning, the gathering of materials, and agendas put together for our trip, but there was something being forgotten. We were forgetting the simple fact that in all things “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord” (Isa 55:8-9). The One true and living God of the universe was at the helm and I was not. We were going with our own plans and expectations of how we thought God was going to move amongst the people we would minister to on the trip and how we would be used. What I had hoped would be this grandiose time of gospel proclamation where many would be saved by both the preaching of the Word and through our time visiting in the churches, ended up being more about “equipping the saints” (Eph 4:12) than “proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom” (Matt 4:23). What happened is God changed my expectations from the things I thought should happen on mission for Him to what He wanted for each of us.
God changed our direction
If we are not careful, we can turn what we believe to be the mission of God’s people more into what we feel it is, instead of allowing the Holy Spirit and the Word to guide us toward His desire for us. I hear if often said by Pastor and have adopted the statement that “we move as God moves” and find this to be a fully accurate summation of how we are to think, not just locally on mission, but while doing the work of missions no matter our location. Each place we travelled on this trip I showed up prepared and ready for God to empower me to proclaim the gospel, but God “who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,” (Eph 3:20) had it planned that I was to equip others with practical ways to share the gospel and give books to the leaders. They knew the Word of God, their pastor had invested
in them by teaching that “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet 1:3) is found in the Scriptures, and it was clearly written on their hearts (Rm 2:15). They just needed the gospel sharing materials that I possessed and taught how to use what they had little access to. The churches we helped had a zeal just as great as my own for the advancement of the gospel, and I was going there to change them. What really occurred is that my life was the one changed by their love for God’s Word. I believe each of us left Jamaica and came home with a greater desire for each of the spiritual disciplines due to their witness and passion for the Word. The greatest thing, however, for me to
observe was their concept of time, Island time. All schedules are a suggestion there, and not a guarantee. In our busy culture where time is of the essence, time equals money, and is considered of immense value. On Island time however, people show up to church services when they show up and get finished worshipping when the pastor has completed his preaching. God changed my direction by slowing me down, removing me from the excessively busy patterns of life, and helped me really see the beauty in being content with having only His Word.
Missions reveal our dependence on Him
The first thing that occurred when we arrived heading off through the treacherous mountain hills crossing the island to the other side, was recognizing that God is completely in control, and we are utterly dependent on Him. There were more times that I can remember closing my eyes in prayer and asking the Lord to keep us all safe, as we stared down in inches separating us from the cliff’s edge. I was asked to preach with only a day’s notice and no idea this would be called of me before going. Nevertheless, in all these things God removed each of us from our comforts and revealed our total dependence on His provision, reminding us that since the beginning of time He is worthy of our trust. Then He saw us through it.
Let each of us be reminded whether we are going on mission down the street or across the globe, to give up our own lofty expectations and anticipate that God is going to move how God is going to move. This will require us to “move as God moves” (Pastor) and humbly submit ourselves to where the Lord is leading, even a change of direction. May each of us recognize that whether we are taking the gospel down the street to our neighbor, or across the seas to the nations, we are completely dependent upon God to complete the mission of God’s people “to go and make disciples” (Matt 28:20).