Like so many things in life, I once thought I knew a lot about this subject.
We have begun praying about whether the next step for our crew at QBC could be to plant a new community up in Yanchep. Danelle and I have been here 3 years now and haven’t sensed God poking us and urging us on, but I get the impression that those days may be numbered. It may be time to kick something into gear
But what to do?… Where to start?… And in fact haven’t we already started by being here, getting to know people, the rhythms of the neighbourhood and being a part of things?
Recently I was sharing some thoughts with a small crew of men I have the privilege to mentor and be involved with. We were gathering on the tail end of a denominational meeting regarding church planting and I wanted to tap into that subject while it was on the radar.
So I began reflecting on what passage of scripture was giving shape to my thoughts on mission work these days. What would be framing my thoughts and ideas around mission and church planting?
I gravitated naturally to Luke 10 – a great passage and full of helpful insights, but as I read it, it just didn’t feel like where my heart was at with the whole thing. I rummaged around a bit, delving into Acts and exploring some of the other NT books, but finished up back in Isaiah Ch 6 – the calling of Isaiah…And the more I read this, the more the tone of it resonated with some of what I feel today. So I started trying to come to grips with what I was feeling.
I probably haven’t seen Isaiah 6 much in this light before, although I remember those old visiting missionaries used to work it death… As I took some time to meditate on it the things I observed included:
Isaiah opens with a vision of God that captures and inspires him – of a holy God – not to be messed, but awesome and compelling. I’d be hoping that anything we do in this world would have its roots in a vision of God that is like this. If we don’t start with a vision of God then chances are we begin with just our own vision and dreams. At the core of this is knowing God and having an encounter with him that inspires us.
There is also a realisation of who he is, ‘a man of unclean lips – who lives among a people of unclean lips’. Isaiah begins with a correct perception of himself. He hasn’t got himself pegged as the saviour of the world Mark II. He hasn’t got himself on a pedestal. In fact if anything he is lamenting his own inadequacy and failing. Perhaps if we began with this kind of humility we may have more of a chance of seeing God at work, because we would know that in his absence we are helpless.
Next follows a revelation and experience of atonement and preparedness – Isaiah is met by God and this event somehow prepares him and activates him for his mission. I’m not sure how all of that works, but it seems like a kind of commissioning.
There is the request from God – ‘who will go for us?’ An opportunity to accept or decline.
Isaiah’s willing response – ‘here I am – send me’.
And then the description of how things are going to unfold. And this is where it gets really interesting because its hardly an inspiring message…
9 He said, “Go and tell this people:
“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’
10 Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull
and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
11 Then I said, “For how long, Lord?”
And he answered:
“Until the cities lie ruined
and without inhabitant,
until the houses are left deserted
and the fields ruined and ravaged,
12 until the Lord has sent everyone far away
and the land is utterly forsaken.
13 And though a tenth remains in the land,
it will again be laid waste.
But as the terebinth and oak
leave stumps when they are cut down,
so the holy seed will be the stump in the land
Sounds like a hoot.
Its a mission that has very little promise of fruit being borne. It sounds futile and fruitless as people’s hearts become hardened but the task just goes on and on… I wonder what it was like to get that call and be given that job?
I couldn’t help feeling that there is some of this flavour to mission in the west today, especially in a place like Perth. I’m sure we aren’t alone in this, but mission in the west often feels like a very difficult task.
In fact I am conscious that one of the things that holds me back from going full tilt at something like this is a dislike of failure – of being the person who gives the message that falls on deaf ears. It isn’t fun. I know because I’ve done it for a while now. But maybe that’s not the issue.
Interestingly there is no checking in by God to see if he is still up for it, but rather an acceptance that this is how it will play out and that’s just how it is. Its hard enough to find people willing to plant a church in the west, but I wonder if we suggested that Isaiah’s call might be some sort of a frame for operation if any would put their hand up?
I think the right ones still would.
And for what its worth I’m not wanting to be overly negative there. I believe what Paul said – that the gospel is the power of God for salvation – but I wonder if we have overplayed the ‘taking the city for God’ hand and finished up with a lot of egg on our faces. Revival hasn’t broken out in Perth. People are not experiencing Acts 2 kind of conversion experiences – at least in my corner of the world – but the call is still there to listen to God, love people, speak the truth of Jesus and pray expectantly that he will do his work