What are the essentials of effective ministry and mission? What does it take to be a faithful and fruitful disciple of Jesus?
At Carey’s recent graduation ceremony, Nigel Pollock, National Director of TSCF, suggested that there are five ingredients: convictions, character, community, a clear sense of call, and creativity. This is a really good list, but I think I would add a couple of other ingredients.
The first is a close connection with Jesus. “Apart from me,” Jesus said, “you can do nothing.” We need, above all else, the Spirit of Jesus. And, in addition, I would add courage, a willingness to take risks. I’ve been reading recently about the spirituality of Protestant missionaries. They were incredible risk-takers.
Take C.T. Studd, for example. Born into a wealthy family, he became a household name as one of the greatest cricketers of his day, and was destined to a life of comfort in the upper echelons of English society. But, after re-committing his life to Christ, he joined a group of Christian students at Cambridge University who devoted themselves to prayer and sharing their faith on campus. Before long, Studd sensed that God was calling him to serve as a missionary in China. His family opposed him, but he went.
Studd had inherited a fortune from his father, but, following the example of his hero, Hudson Taylor, he gave it all away, trusting in God for the money he would need to do his mission work. After time in India, Studd felt drawn to take the gospel to “the heart of Africa.” There he launched an evangelistic ministry and founded the mission organisation we know today as WEC. It was gruelling work. Risky work. But thousands have come to faith in Christ as a result.
Mary Slessor is another pioneer missionary who typified this courageous risk-taking. Raised in a poor Scottish family, she was forced at a young age to leave school and work in a textile factory when her alcoholic father died. After coming to faith, she got involved in street ministry, visiting homes and inviting children to church. Her methods were unconventional, and attracted criticism. But she persevered. Over time, she became increasingly interested in the people of Nigeria and eventually volunteered for missionary service there.
After serving for a period on the coast, Slessor sensed that she needed to relocate into the interior and work among a people group that other missionaries had avoided. There, among the Okoyong, she rescued abandoned children, cared for abused women, negotiated peace between warring tribes, established social customs that protected slaves, and defended the tribe’s economic interests in the face of colonisation. She laboured for nearly a decade before she saw her first convert. But she started a movement that produced a church of 10,000 people, and with it a much more peaceful and prosperous society.
It can be a bit overwhelming to look at the lives of missionaries like C.T. Studd and Mary Slessor – at the risks they took, the sacrifices they made. But, as Gerald Sittser says in Water from a Deep Well, “The work to which they gave themselves unfolded over a long period of time. Each decision, event, experience and sacrifice, which might have seemed small and insignificant at the time, prepared them for the next. The cumulative effect was great indeed, though I am not sure that it seemed that way when they were in the middle of it.”
Their journeys began with one small step, one small risk. Studd took a risk when he became involved in a Christian student group at his university. Slessor took a small risk when she decided to start working with street kids.
“They were not thinking at the time of travelling to some exotic place on the other side of the world, at least not at first.” Rather, Sittser says, “They believed that the world God loves and wants to redeem is just outside their front door.”
The same is true for us. “Give God an inch and he takes a mile, though we hardly ever notice because we are actually walking that mile, one step at a time. We take one small risk; years later we look back and marvel at what has happened as a result.”
As you look at the world just outside your front door, where is God’s redemptive love needed? Perhaps there is one small step, one small risk, that you could take to answer that need. You’d be following in some great footsteps, the steps of One who risked everything for all of us.
– John Tucker, Carey Baptist College Director of Ministry Training