23 Nov In His Mission, God’s leading is not always apparently logical…
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians…
When we live to obey God in His mission, His leading is not always immediately logical to our human eyes. Yet, when we choose to obey, the impact is often multi-dimensional and beyond our human expectations. In Acts 8, Philip is the primary agent in a mass turning of a previously resistant people group toward Christ. Amidst that spiritual revival, in an unexpected turn of events, God’s angel tells him to “go toward the south… a desert place.”
As a missions leader, this is a no-brainer. You simply do not move your most effective field staff from a place with masses of highly receptive people to “a desert place.” Yet through Philip’s obedience to a seemingly highly-unstrategic directive, it contributed to the streams of influence that eventually saw the establishment of the world’s first Christian kingdom in Ethiopia, in 330 AD.
God’s mission is filled with such similar stories – God’s leadings that are seemingly illogical then, but on hindsight, highly strategic. For example, foreign mission workers intent on bringing the Gospel to the masses in China were heartbroken when the doors closed with the victory of the Communists in 1949. Yet it was their redeployment elsewhere, particularly in South-East Asia that laid the foundations for the vibrant and highly missional churches in these countries today.
At the same time, the closure of China’s boundaries incubated internal movements that saw the emergence of a highly indigenous Christianity, numbering an estimated 60+ million in the 1970s when the doors started to reopen.
Reflecting on my own personal experiences, if I were a missions leader, I surely would not have sent myself to do cross-cultural church-planting in the early 1980s. From a human perspective, it was not the wisest decision – to send a young English-speaking urbanite with no cross-cultural training to do solo church-planting in a rural area where most of the people spoke Mandarin, Tamil or Malay.
Yet, over that 8-year period there, I learnt precious lessons of faith. It deepened my participation in God’s mission, particularly that which involves crossing cultural and socio-economic boundaries. In addition, a church was planted among a people group that had no prior Christians among them.
In other words, missions training and solid strategizing can never substitute for a deep personal spirituality that is committed to knowing and obeying God’s leading in mission and ministry. God’s mission is to be done according to His leading – at times in ways that are seemingly unreasonable to our human eyes.
A word of caution though – “God’s leading” or the “leading of the Holy Spirit” should never be an excuse for laziness, shoddy preparation, and self-will that refuses to submit to spiritual authority.
Peace and Grace,
Rev. Dr. Chan NamChen