The Pandemic seems to have frustrated a lot of missions strategy. What is God showing us?
All Christians are called to be involved in missions. Even though some planning is necessary, we are not expected to see the end result. We are expected to step out “with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:22), knowing that His plans are never thwarted. We trust in a God who has saved us, not by faith in a strategy, but by faith in Him!
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Strategy brings excitement and should also bring trepidation. Excitement, because we submit our minds to be used by God to bring Jesus to the nations. It is about a human-divine partnership where we allow God to use the heart, gifts, and talents he wired us with. Trepidation, because the work is so much bigger than what we can plan. Also, there is the danger of our flesh taking control (“the idolatry of missions”) when we rely only on strategy. When the Holy Spirit is in charge, our hearts and minds may be guided to blend with his mind and heart in strategy.
A Missionary Journey
The apostle Paul was called to be “a chosen instrument… to carry (Jesus’) name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15, ESV). There are two kinds of missionary journeys we see Paul take in the book of Acts.
The first kind of journey is full of strategy. The strategic journey inspires us, from his itinerary to his contextually appropriate messages. We observe his work, his team, his supporters, his standing in persecution, to his prayers and his vision. Yet, it seems his task does not get finished. He knows he must still visit Rome, but it won’t be something he can strategize (19:21).
In Chapter 20 of Acts we begin to see that God wants to use another unexpected and unknown kind of journey. Instead of a strategic route from God through man, he uses a journey that cannot be planned for.
“Fake news” among the believers (21:21) and non-believers (21:28-29) set in motion an “unfair” journey for Paul. It was filled with interrogations, death threats, weak judges, long imprisonments (‘shelter in place’), a shipwreck and so much more. All those things we don’t plan for or pray for in missions. Yet, God used exactly those things to bring Paul before kings and the emperor of Rome, according to God’s plan and call.
What has God been calling you to do?
What unexpected journey do you find yourself on that you can’t strategize for?
How unfair is it?
What do you have to let go of?
In the midst of the trials, Paul is reminded that God is in charge and faithful and will fulfill his plan (e.g., 23:11, 27:23, 28:15). Are you trusting and listening still? What has God spoken and reminded you of?
The unplanned interrogations and shipwreck became God’s providential platforms for Paul to testify, share and demonstrate the Good News.
Turn your eyes to God’s providence, glory and presence. Then you will see the unplanned platforms he provides for you to testify about him. Or are you too frustrated with your situation that you don’t see this, saying only: “When things are better, I will serve again”?
Hold onto him in “unstrategizable” missions. His plans are never thwarted.
Alex Tee and his family have served with OMF for over 20 years. Their three children were born in three different countries. He now works as a missions consultant on the mobilization team. Aside from time with his family, he loves to go for a hike and capture God’s glory in creation with an old camera.