…but are actually planning to stay, I will go.” That was the response tonight from one of the missionary candidates who was presented for commissioning at the IMB Commissioning Service. I was stopped in my tracks by that phrase. The service was a powerful reminder to me of a number of issues.
1. It was a reminder of the greatness of our task. We have unbelievable numbers of people that need to be reached, and unfortunately we’re really not even keeping up with the growth rate of humanity, let alone pushing back the darkness of sin. We need to be more aware of that.
2. It was a reminder of Southern Baptists’ ability to disagree, and work together in love. I spent time today with a number of IMB trustees, former missionaries and current missionaries with whom I have strongly disagreed over the past year. We were able to join together tonight around the cause of Christ and celebrate what He is doing around the world. I have maintained for some time now that personal interaction is needed in the SBC because it’s much more difficult to attack when you recognize that you’re dealing with an actual person and not just a name on a blog.
3. It was a reminder of how much I sincerely love the IMB, its staff, missionaries and trustees. I know many may think that I don’t because I am, at times, critical on this blog of some of the actions of the trustees, but it’s quite true that in reality I passionately love the IMB and its people. I am hopeful that people don’t see my criticism as personal critiques but rather as an attempt to deal with what I believe to be unhealthy, and unfortunate, situations. As one IMB missionary reminded me tonight, “What unites us is far greater than what divides us.” Amen, I agree.
4. It was a reminder of my own struggle with God’s call. I could use your prayers in this area. I first felt God’s call to international service when I was 15 years old. I surrendered to that call and moved to Burkina Faso with my wife after college. Due to illness we returned home and began pastoring Missouri Valley. Yet in spite of all that, I still struggle with God’s call overseas. What’s most difficult to understand right now is that I feel very called where I am at, and very happy to be where I am at, and yet I still feel (almost daily) God’s push in my heart for the peoples of the world, and particularly West Africa.
So, in conclusion, tonight was better than good – it was amazing. I praise God for the service and I look forward to struggling with Him over His will for my life.