This fall I have been in several churches and fall associational meetings to speak about WMU. Our new logo and emphasis have been the backdrop for what I have shared. We have two new banners in the WMU office and I’ve taken them with me to a number of these locations. One of the banners has the new logo, tagline (missions for life), and our WMU vision statement (WMU challenges Christian believers to understand and be radically involved in the mission of God). The other banner has the artwork for The Story Lives On and the three points of this emphasis – celebrate, connect, commit.
Our 2012-14 watchword is taken from Act 4:20 – “As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20 NIV). Depending on the setting of where I have spoken this fall, I have shared some thoughts about the scriptural background to our emphasis, taken from Acts 4: 13-20.
The watchword verse is found in the story of Peter and John who had been arrested for preaching about Jesus and proclaiming the truth of the resurrection. It had all started when in Acts 3, they had healed a lame man on their way to the temple. That drew a crowd, and Peter, being a preacher, knew an opportunity when he saw one. The religious leaders took issue with their message and had them thrown in jail for the night.
This such a great story. Peter, the one that had been so afraid that he denied Jesus, is now bold and courageous. (Let me encourage you to get your Bible and read Acts 4:13-20 before you read the rest of this blog.) I want you to notice three things:
Peter and John were uneducated and untrained, but they had been with Jesus. The idea of uneducated and untrained is relative. No, these men did not have the education of the Pharisees. That would happen later with Paul, who did have that kind of education, and could take them on. But Peter and John had a far better education than the Scribes and Pharisees – they had been with Jesus. Jesus, Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, who had come to earth in the incarnation. What more education did they need?
We live in a world that is becoming increasingly first century. By this I mean that the world today is hostile to the gospel. The United States is not only becoming a secular nation, it is becoming a nation that is hostile to Christians. And my question to us is: Will others notice that we have been with Jesus? Are we spending time in Bible study and prayer? Are we serving the Lord through missions?
The critics had nothing to say in reply to the lame man standing there. What do you say to a miracle? It was not something they could deny or argue with. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It also says: Against such things there is no law. When we are Spirit filled, Spirit controlled, this is how we act. And the critics of our faith really don’t have anything to say. When we minister to people in need and we share Jesus first through our actions, we catch those who are hostile off guard and we open doors to share a witness with many.
Peter and John staked their lives and reputations on Jesus, declaring “we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” What is it that we cannot stop speaking about? Is it the latest ball game? Is it the bargain we got when we went shopping? Is it our favorite television show or movie? People around us are listening. Do we sound any different than our neighbors? Do we talk about what we’ve seen and heard from Jesus?
When John the Baptist came before Jesus, he said of himself, quoting a passage from Isaiah 40, “I am a voice of one crying in the desert, prepare the way for the Lord.” This is what I think of WMU – a voice for a lost world to challenge the church that we must be about preparing the way of the Lord. Our world is so deeply divided over competing claims of truth. Every day in the news there is another story of how religion and politics clash. We hear everything from how one world religion wants to eliminate all Christians to the stories of those who denounce the place of faith in civic life all together. Yet, it is into this world that we have been commanded and commissioned to make disciples. WMU helps a church fulfill its mission by serving as a voice for missions, calling the church to prepare the way for the Lord in the lives of those who are lost.
In WMU we are this voice by keeping missions before the church. That’s why we have seasons of prayer for missions, why we teach missions to children, why we have missions groups that are focused on learning about what is happening around the world in missions. While we may long for the second coming of Christ, we must not forget that millions of people have never experienced the first.
I am grateful for Kentucky WMU, for Kentucky Baptist churches that want missions to be a priority. The mission field begins when we walk out the door. And there are certainly plenty of lost people right here in our own communities. But WMU understands that Jesus did not say in Acts 1:8, You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and if you get done there, then move on to Judea, and if you have time, Samaria, and maybe the ends of the earth. No, Jesus said Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. Though prayer, we can reach the ends of the earth, even if we never get there in person. The IMB is looking for churches to adopt unreached people groups for prayer. There are amazing stories of what has happened through such praying.
Our giving touches the entire world. I will never forget my first overseas missions trip to Rwanda and visiting a mud brick church that the people had built themselves. As we arrived, the missionary said “Oh, and by the way, the tin roof on this building was put here by the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.” Our giving on this side of the world makes a difference on the other side of the world!
When we teach missions to children, we never know just how far those lessons will go. Think of our missionaries serving around the world. Many of them began to sense God’s call at a young age, often in missions groups like Girls in Action and Royal Ambassadors. This is why our “support missions” objective includes nurturing those who feel a call to missions. What better way than through weekly missions education, camps, missions events, and other ways to encourage children, youth, and adults to follow God’s call.
What about you and me? Does the Story Live On? Are we involved in missions through praying, giving, learning, and doing ministries to open doors for the gospel? While we long for the second coming of Christ, what are we doing to tell people who’ve never heard of the first coming? The Story Lives On in our hearts. But it must also live on in our witness, our ministry, our praying, and our giving.