The Not-So-Great Commission

29 05 2007

Just over a month ago my wife Carolyn and I announced to Armagh Baptist Church that I will be standing down as Pastor, in order to follow the Lord’s guidance to serve Him overseas. We hope, in God’s will, to go to Peru next year with Baptist Missions, and at the moment we are preparing our hearts and minds for the big changes that lie ahead for us in coming days. I finish as Pastor of Armagh Baptist on Sunday 2nd September 2007.

While this blog doesn’t exist to put the intimate details of our life on display, I felt it might be good, from time to time, to share some of the things which God is putting on our hearts about His work for us in His world. We may in time include a range of the of the things which God has used to guide and challenge us, or we may simply stick to some thoughts about mission. Let’s say that the posts will develop organically – which is a posh way of indicating that I haven’t a clue how sharing like this will turn out!

Peru is a country which God has laid on our hearts over many years. We visited in 2000, and again last year during my sabbatical leave. You can read more about that here should you so desire. At the moment I’m gathering up all of the books that we own on Peru, and hope to read through them before next year. These range from the spiritual (i.e. Andrew Reid’s excellent ‘By Divine Coincidence’) to the merely entertaining (i.e. Dervla Murphy’s ‘Eight Feet in the Andes’).

One book which is very special to me is ‘The White Rock’ by Hugh Thomson. The reason why I value it so highly is not because of its contents (I haven’t actually read it right through yet) but because I bought it in a bookshop in Cusco. The little import label on the back makes it special in my estimation. I dipped into it yesterday afternoon, with its high-spirited account of one man who decides to up sticks and go on a Peruvian expedition to find a lost Inca ruin. I hope to work my way through it in coming months, and it promises to provide plenty of laughs and local info.

At the beginning of the volume is a quote from Hiram Bingham, the man who purportedly discovered Macchu Picchu as an ancient site. His sentiments are strong and heartfelt: “Those snow-capped peaks in an unknown and unexplored part of Peru fascinated me greatly. They tempted me to go and see what lay beyond. In the ever famous words of Rudyard Kipling there was ‘Something hidden! Go find it! Go and look beyond the ranges – Something lost behind the ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!'”

While these words are compelling and rich in emotion, they also betray something deep about our human psyche – our love of adventure. Bingham gives voice to the deep seated wanderlust that has driven all great explorers on in their desire to push new boundaries, to cross new frontiers.

In reading these words a thought came to me – how easy it would be as Christians to confuse this most human of emotions with the sense of call to serve God overseas. Undoubtedly there are times when our language about mission can betray this sense of a ‘not so great commission’, of simply conceiving of the mission field as something different, exciting, unexplored, exotic.

Thankfully the Biblical picture is much deeper and more real. The imperative in Matthew 28:19 is not necessarily on ‘Go’ but on ‘make disciples’ The command is to carry a message, to seek souls for God, to nurture spiritual life in new converts, to help them identify with the people of God (baptism), and to learn more and more about Christ. This is the desire which should drive us on, these are our commissioned orders from the captain of our faith. The rest is geography, along with God-given burdens for individual countries and people groups.

The consequence of this is that mission is not simply for the adventurous (although how greatly has the Lord used people of a pioneering spirit) but for all of us. The Great Commission begins as soon as I set my feet on the foreign soil of meeting with an individual who doesn’t know Christ, it continues as I venture forward with new Christians helping them to realise new frontiers in their Christian walk, and it culminates in seeing that person become a seasoned traveller themselves, ready to guide others along the path they have found. For us it isn’t that Rudyard Kipling says ‘Go’, but that our Redeemer says ‘Go’ – and more than that, tells us what to do when we get there.


No-Name Preacher

24 05 2007

Doggie’s breakfast has a great post on preaching – very moving, very Christ honouring. I’ve found it a real blessing to read these thoughts this evening.

Carey’s Counsel

24 05 2007

I was looking through some of last year’s photos from Peru, and this one really grabbed my attention. We have used it in Powerpoint presentations about our trip along with William Carey’s famous exhortation: ‘Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God’. The people in the picture have climbed over safety barriers at Colca Canyon, waiting for condors to rise on the early morning thermals. They are taking a risk to see something beautiful happen…

Audio Interview with David Earnshaw

24 05 2007

Over at Men for Ministry we’ve posted an audio interview with Rev. David Earnshaw from Freshbrook Evangelical Church in Swindon. He covers topics such as the call to ministry, desert island books, the greatest needs within evangelicalism in the twenty first century, and advice for preachers setting out in their ministry.

The only problem with the interview is the sound of my own voice!! Horrible to listen to oneself – especially my use of words like preachin’ and teachin’ rather than preaching and teaching!! Forgive and overlook that, and you’ll be blessed by the interview.

Useless Sacrifice, Pointless Martyrdom

23 05 2007

It’s funny how a familiar text can suddenly take on a fresh force and energy at times when you read it. This happened to me a couple of days ago in 1Corinthians 13. This section of Scripture has been so sentimentalised, trivialised, and romanticised by the cultus of the Christian wedding that it is easy to forget just how revolutionary the Apostle Paul’s teaching is. He is centralising love in our expression of salvation, placing it in a crucial relationship to the entirety of our discipleship and integrity. Paul is making our love for one another as believers the benchmark for the rest of our activities and ministries.

Somehow I find this easy to take in when it relates to speaking in ‘tongues of men and of angels’ and of having faith ‘so as to remove mountains’, but v3 completely radicalises my thinking on what is to be a sincere disciple. Paul states that we could give away everything that we have (think about what that really means for a moment), but without love it is useless. Then he goes a step further: ‘if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing’. Now that’s amazing!!!

Somehow in my mind martyrdom has a holy air about it, and undoubtedly it ought to as I think of brothers and sisters, past and present, who have yielded their lives for the gospel. But even this ultimate act of commitment to the truth of God is completely vacuous if love is absent. I could go to the stake and still be in disobedience, because I have failed to love my brothers!!

How revolutionary this ought to be in Church life. We are sometimes tempted to think that if we are active, sacrificial, busy Christians then it’s acceptable to harbour some ill-feeling or loveless sentiment in our hearts against other Christians. Paul says no. If we don’t have love, the it’s all for nothing. What a challenge…

Iain H. Murray Interview on Men for Ministry Blog

4 05 2007

Few men have been used more of God to bless and enrich my spiritual life, and my preaching, than Iain H. Murray. His books carry an incisive and analytical edge combined with devotional warmth and reality. Whether it’s his two volume Lloyd-Jones biography, or his astute treatment of evangelicalism in the twentieth century in ‘Evangelicalism Divided’, his books come with a guarantee to bless and challenge.

Iain has very graciously agreed to be interviewed over at the other blog which I help to run, Men for Ministry. His answers and reflections on preaching are extremely helpful.

Taking a Stand in Brussels

3 05 2007

The following email came in this evening from my MEP. Praise God for men and women like this who are using their gifts to highlight the suffering of our brothers and sisters at the highest levels of politics.

Dear Pastor Roycroft,
Thank you for your email.
I share your dismay at this latest outrage in Turkey.
I try to use my position as an MEP to keep a particular spotlight on
religious persecution throughout the world. I have previously raised
the situation in Turkey and on foot of the events of 18 April I have
tabled fresh parliamentary questions to the Commission and Council of
I am strongly opposed to EU membership for Turkey, having spoken against
it in Parliament.
I direct you to a couple of references from my website:
You will also find some questions on persecution issues at
Thank you for taking the time to write to me on this important matter.
Yours sincerely,
Jim Allister