Posts tagged ‘Mission’

Dirt to Stars

Credit: Juan /

At the church where I serve, we end each service with a commission from the apostle Paul:

Shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life. (Philippians 2:15-16)

This picture from Paul is tied to the very beginning of history.

When God creates the cosmos, He fashions a couple of ruling bodies. On creation’s fourth day, He speaks into existence the ruling bodies in the sky:

God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights – the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:14-18)

The stars, moon, and sun, Genesis says, “govern” the day and night. They are heavenly ruling bodies.

Then, on the sixth day, He creates some more ruling bodies on the earth:

God said, “Let Us make mankind in Our image, in Our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:26-28)

Human beings, Genesis says, “rule” over all creatures. They are earthly ruling bodies.

As Genesis goes on to explain, these human beings who rule over the earth come from the earth:

The LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

And yet, there is this hope that human beings, like the heavenly ruling bodies, will not just be dirty and dark, but will shine like the lights in the sky. Sin, of course, dashes this hope when God tells Adam that He will return to the dirt:

Dust you are and to dust you will return. (Genesis 3:19)

But Paul restores this hope. He says we will “shine like stars in the universe” (Philippians 2:15). But how? Paul explains:

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” (Philippians 2:14-15)

Paul says when we live without grumbling or arguing, we shine. We go from being dirt from the world to offering light and hope for the world.

This world is full of dirty stuff. Let’s not add to it by our grumbling and arguing. Let’s shine light on it by our joy and peacefulness. This is our world’s need – and the Church’s call.

May 3, 2021 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

When A Missionary’s Zeal Turns Deadly

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The wisdom, or lack thereof, of John Allen Chau’s deadly decision to try to witness to an isolated tribe of indigenous people on North Sentinel Island, off the coast of India, is a topic of hot debate.   Initial reports portrayed Mr. Chau as a reckless explorer and mountain climber, seeking adventure in far-flung, exotic locations.  It quickly became apparent, however, that he was also a devoted missionary committed to preaching Christ to the Sentinelese people.  Although his initial overture to the tribe appeared clumsy – in his journal, he wrote about how he “hollered” to the tribespeople, “My name is John. I love you, and Jesus loves you” – he was also heavily vaccinated and linguistically and medically trained before embarking on his journey.  It turns out that Mr. Chau was not just some hotheaded adventurer.  He was a calculated planner, even if his planning finally proved to be woefully incomplete.

Among evangelically minded Christians, there is little debate over whether we should share our faith.  The call of Jesus Himself is to spread and share His message to and with the world.  There is much debate, however, over how we should share our faith.  Clawing your way onto a remote and, according to Indian law, off-limits island and confronting tribespeople who are known to be hostile toward, probably because they feel threatened by, outsiders hardly seems like an effective missionary method.

During this time of year, Christians celebrate the incarnation – that the God of the universe took on flesh in the person of Jesus in space and time in the little town of Bethlehem.  In His incarnation, Jesus carried out God’s mission by preaching God’s message and doing God’s work of dying for us and for our salvation.  Jesus’ incarnation, then, was part and parcel of Jesus’ mission.

In our outreach efforts, Jesus’ life can serve as our model.  Mission and incarnation should work together in our lives, too.  Our evangelization of any people should always be coupled with a careful contextualization.  This is what Mr. Chau appears to have overlooked.  He wanted to reach the people of this remote island, but did not have workable plan to enter into their culture and customs, as Jesus did when He became man.

The reality is that, because of the islanders’ hostility toward outsiders and the Indian laws that shield them from modern society, reaching these people will take more than one person’s plan.  Coordinated diplomatic efforts will probably be required so laws are not broken and, of course, a careful posture toward the Sentinelese people themselves is absolutely necessary.  Building trust with them will take much time and, frankly, in this case, probably nothing less than a miracle of God.  But that’s okay.  God is, after all, quite good at the miraculous.

I appreciate Mr. Chau’s passion to reach the unreached.  And I am saddened by his death.  I pray for his family and friends who are, I am sure, grieving.  Mr. Chau’s devotion to Christ’s mission is a laudable devotion for any Christian to have.  But learning from his dangerous and ultimately deadly strategy is also necessary.

The death of Mr. Chau should call every mission-minded Christian to take some time to learn and reflect so that we can better witness and love.  Jesus wants nothing less for the sake of the many souls who are still far from Him.

December 3, 2018 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Godly Vision, Not Personal Agenda

Window 1It is axiomatic that vision is integral to leadership.  No less than Warren Bennis, a pioneer in the field of leadership studies, defined leadership as “the capacity to translate vision into reality.”[1]  If a leader does not have a vision, he will lead aimlessly.  If he cannot articulate a vision, his organization will wander aimlessly.  Leadership requires vision.

But that’s not all leadership requires.  Leadership also requires mission.  After all, mission is what gives purpose to an organization’s very existence.  Vision, then, is when the leader of an organization understands his organization’s strengths, gifts, and capacities, and capitalizes on these in ways that fulfill an organization’s mission.  Thus, the mission of an organization and the vision of its leader must work in synergy with each other.

When it comes to the organization – or, better yet, the body (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:27-28) – that is the Church, her mission is clear.  After all, her mission was crafted and communicated by Christ Himself:  “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).   The mission of the Church is to make disciples by baptizing in God’s name and teaching God’s Word, all the while exuding a lively confidence that Christ is continually with us, empowering us as we carry out His mission.  How precisely this mission is accomplished from congregation to congregation is a function of the vision of a congregation’s leaders – specifically, its pastor.

Sadly, in my years of ministry, I have seen far too many pastors who, rather than casting visions that capitalize on their congregations’ strengths, gifts, and capacities, push agendas based on their own likes and dislikes, preferences and antipathies.  They may say they’re casting vision to congregations that have none.  But what they’re really doing is asserting agendas that bully congregations at their weakest points.

To the leaders in Christ’s Church, I offer this plea:  don’t confuse your agenda – no matter how noble it may seem – with Godly vision for your congregation.  One, by God’s grace, can breathe life and excitement into a congregation.  The other can frustrate and deflate God’s people.  And Christ’s mission is far too important to settle for that.  Christ’s mission deserves true vision.

[1] Kevin Kruse, “100 Best Quotes On Leadership,” Forbes Magazine (10.16.2012).

December 2, 2013 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Ghana Eye Clinic – Day 5

What a week it’s been!  Today we wrapped up the last day at the eye clinic with a bang.  We saw 465 people, sharing the gospel with every one of them, and we gave away 355 pairs of glasses.  This brings us to a grand total of 1,829 people seen and 1,420 pairs of glasses given away for the week!  God has blessed us during this trip mightily!

To all of you who have been praying for us throughout the course of this week:  thank you.  You have been a tremendous support for us, even from thousands of miles away.  Tomorrow, we will head down to the Ghana coast to see a castle that was once used for holding slaves.  It is sure to be a memorable and reflective experience.  Sunday morning, we will worship here in Accra and then Sunday night, we will begin our journey home!  We appreciate your prayers for the remainder of our time in Ghana and for our travels home.

One more time, here are some pictures from our day!

This was our trip to the clinic each morning. And I thought San Antonio roads could get bumpy!


It began as another busy morning! There were more people lined up waiting for us to begin the clinic today than there were yesterday.


Ivan and one of the local pastors helps a woman get a new pair of glasses.


Michael is all smiles with this woman and her grandchild.


Arnold gives a man a sight test after he receives his new pair of glasses. The man was thrilled with his new crystal clear sight!


Julie poses with Joan, a local member of our team.


In addition to glasses, we also gave away crosses. Each of the colored beads reminds us of a key part of the faith. Black = sin. Red = Jesus’ blood. Blue = faith. White = holiness. Green = growth in Christ. Yellow = eternity.


Julie poses with some of the kids from the clinic.


We went through a lot of reading glasses this week!


Each evening, we would eat supper at the Baptist House, a place that hosts missionaries and other foreign travelers. There, we met a precious girl named Tyra. We looked forward to seeing her each night!

Tyra helps us sing a Concordia classic!


This is our team from this week. Soli Deo Gloria! All to the glory of God alone!

November 22, 2013 at 4:13 pm 1 comment

Ghana Eye Clinic – Day 4

Wow!  It was a busy day!  Today, we saw 442 people, shared the gospel with them, and gave away 357 pairs of glasses.  The word is getting around to many communities in Accra about our eye clinic.  We expect another busy day tomorrow!  Check out the pictures and stories from today.


This was the scene outside this morning as we arrived. There were 100 people waiting an hour before the clinic.


This was the scene inside as soon as the clinic opened.


One of the local pastors talks with a man about his vision problems.


Our host, Ivan, is hard at work making a pair of glasses.

The kids at St. Paul Lutheran Church hosted a performance in their courtyard today. Line dancing isn’t just country dance halls, it’s for school kids in Accra too!


Tristina shares the gospel with a man and prays for him.


We have made lots of new friends and seen lots of precious smiles on this trip!


Michael works with a woman to discover just the right pair of lenses for her new glasses.


Even at the end of the day, the kids of St. Paul still had plenty of energy. They were literally doing cartwheels!


The school kids had plenty of energy, but we didn’t. Arnold, Pam, and Tristina still had smiles on their faces, though, even after a long day.


At the end of a long day, a little help is always a good thing!

There’s more to come tomorrow!

November 21, 2013 at 3:58 pm Leave a comment

Ghana Eye Clinic – Day 3

Today’s numbers:  We shared the gospel with 354 people and gave away 253 pairs of glasses.  This was our biggest day yet!

Check out the pictures and captions below to find out more about today’s clinic.

Pam works hard sorting reading glasses for the hundreds that need them.

Pam works hard sorting reading glasses for the hundreds who need them.

Arnold and Tristina have been working hard all clinic!

Arnold and Tristina have been working hard all clinic long!


Our host, Ivan, talks to the pastor who is the president of the Lutheran seminary in Ghana and is taking some time out of his busy schedule to share the gospel with hundreds during the eye clinic.


Tristina poses with one of our fabulous volunteers, Justice. Justice works hard routing people through the clinic to make sure everyone gets to the right place.


More of our fabulous volunteers! This devoted group sat outside all day in the hot Ghana sun welcoming visitors to the clinic.


Tristina and Pam are still smiling even after a long day at the clinic.


This little boy’s name is Michael and our team has decided to “adopt” him. He has a degenerative eye disease and will need ongoing medical care to preserve what little vision that he has.


Michael’s eyes.


Our host, Ivan, has a friend, Mustapha, who works to build bridges between the Muslim and Christian communities in Accra. Thankfully, the relationships between Muslims and Christians are very good in Ghana. Mustapha has invited several of his friends to the clinic.


Tristina uses the portable autorefractor to measure a boy’s eyes for new glasses.

The children of St. Paul Lutheran School in Accra are a talented bunch!  Check out this video of their mad musical skills.

November 20, 2013 at 3:47 pm 1 comment

Ghana Eye Clinic – Day 2

We’re all settled in and things are going great!  Today, we saw 256 people and shared the gospel with each one of them.  We also gave away 220 pairs of glasses.  Four of the people we saw were deaf.  Thankfully, our team leader, Julie, is great with sign language!  Our clinic closed a little early because Ghana was playing against Egypt in a big football game (that would be “soccer” to us), qualifying them for the World Cup.  After our day at the clinic, we stopped by some local markets and perused some of the local wares.

Here are some pictures.  I’ll post more soon.

Does this thing come with a snooze button? Good morning!


If you think San Antonio rush hour is bad, you ought to try morning traffic in Accra!

If you think San Antonio rush hour is bad, you ought to try morning traffic in Accra!

Two terrific pastors assisted in helping triage patients, figuring out what glasses they needed and sharing the gospel with them.

Two terrific pastors assisted in helping triage patients, figuring out what glasses they needed and sharing the gospel with them.

Michael and Arnold are hard at working, making glasses for all sorts of different prescriptions.

Michael and Arnold are hard at working, making glasses for all sorts of different prescriptions.


Julie signs to a deaf man so he can understand what glasses he needs.


The girl on the left came in yesterday, but we couldn’t offer her treatment without her mother. Today, both mother and daughter came in and received glasses!


I’m pretty sure Julie is working on a passport for this little man so she can bring him home. She didn’t want to let him go!


Pam and our host in Ghana, Ivan, screen people for reading glasses.


There was plenty of fresh fruit at the street market.


Pam made a new friend with one of the street vendors!

November 19, 2013 at 4:30 pm Leave a comment

Ghana Eye Clinic – Day 1

Our first day in Accra, Ghana at the eye clinic was terrific!  We saw 315 people who needed vision care and gave out 217 pairs of glasses.  We also had an optometrist onsite to see people who had a whole host of eye care needs.  Most importantly, we shared the gospel with everyone who came through our clinic.  Through the glasses, we helped people see God’s world.  With the gospel, we helped people see God’s Son!

Check out these pictures from our first day.


The morning was beautiful!


Pastor Bill shares the gospel with people as they first come to the clinic.


The kids from the day school at St. Paul Lutheran in Accra sing us a song.


One of our sweet kids receives a sweet from Julie!


Many people came to receive glasses and hear the gospel!

Two great Concordians, Michael and Arnold, are stylin' in the glasses we're sharing with the folks of Accra.

Two great Concordians, Michael and Arnold, are stylin’ in the glasses we’re sharing with the folks of Accra.

I’ll be posting more pictures soon, so keep checking back. Please continue to pray for our team!

November 18, 2013 at 4:16 pm 3 comments

Sightseeing in Ghana

Ghana FlagI’m not in San Antonio anymore, that’s for sure.  Instead, I am halfway across the world in Ghana, Africa with a team of my fellow Concordians and, together, we are hosting an eye clinic.  There are many people in this region of Ghana in desperate need of glasses.  We have the special privilege and pleasure of providing people here with the glasses they need in order to see.  In the process, we also get to point people to the One in whom they can see God Himself – Jesus Christ – by sharing the gospel.

As I’ve been working as a part of this vision clinic, I’ve been pondering one of my favorite stories in Scripture:

As [Jesus] went along, He saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” (John 9:1-3)

In the ancient world – and especially among the ancient Jews – it was generally presumed that if you faced a trial, a trouble, or an ailment, it was because you had committed some heinous sin to deserve that trial, trouble, or ailment.  Your sin and your trouble were intimately and inexorably interwoven in ancient thinking.  For instance, Rabbi Ammi wrote, “There is no death without sin, and there is no suffering without iniquity.”  If you were suffering, the rabbis taught, it was because you had done something wrong.  In fact, some rabbis taught that not only could a person be punished for his own sin, but a child could be punished for his parents’ sin.  Some rabbis believed, for example, that the untimely death of a child was the direct result of his mother’s dalliance in idolatry while he was still in the womb!   Such was the close correlation between sin and tragedy.

Thus, it is really no surprise that, one day, as Jesus and His disciples are walking around and see a man born blind, the disciples ask:  “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind” (John 9:2)?  Jesus’ disciples know the teaching of their Jewish rabbis well.  They know a man cannot be born blind unless there is some sin to warrant such blindness.

But what the rabbis assumed about the connection between sin and trouble isn’t what a rabbi named Jesus knows about this blind man’s plight.  This is why, instead of pointing to a specific sin committed by this man which had resulted in his blindness, Jesus explains to His disciples:  “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3).  This suffering is not the result of this sin or that sin.  Rather, God is up to something in this suffering:  He is using it to display His work.

The Greek word for “display” is phaneroo, from the word phos meaning, “light.”  God, it seems, desires to bring this man darkened by blindness into the light of seeing.  But God’s desire centers not only on the light of physical seeing, but on the light of spiritual seeing as well.  In other words, Jesus, through His eventual healing of this man born blind, desires to bring this man not only into the light of the sun, but into the light of faith.  And this is exactly what happens in the end:  “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Jesus asks. “Lord, I believe,” the man responds (John 9:35, 38).  When this man confesses his faith in Christ, he is brought into the light not only physically through the recovering of his sight, but spiritually through his trust in Christ.

All this week in Ghana, our goal is to help people see in two ways – spiritually and physically.  I covet your prayers that eyes would be opened – not only by the glasses we share, but by the truth of the Gospel we proclaim!

November 18, 2013 at 5:15 am 1 comment

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