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.




3 responses

29 05 2007
Gary Boal

All I can say to that post is AMEN!

30 05 2007
Gary Brady

This is quite something, Andrew. It is encouraging to know you are willing to take this bold step. Every blessing.

31 05 2007
Andrew and Carolyn

– Gary BoalThanks so much for your encouraging comment, and may the Lord continue to bless you in EHC.- Gary BradyThanks for your good wishes re the mission field. We’ve been wrestling with this issue in prayer for over two years, and feel so blessed, privileged and terrified to be following where God is leading.

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