A Calling to Betrayal

Following Jesus is a call to betrayal. There can be no fudging this. As soon as we affirm that ‘Jesus is Lord!’ we have committed an act of betrayal. We are announcing that all other allegiances and narratives must now be forfeit to a greater and deeper vocation. 

Ambition and identity are to be held lightly and be subject to Christ. All desires and aspirations are to be shaped by love. Selfish ambition has no place in the life of a Jesus follower. There can be no desire to make a name for ourselves (the sin of Babel) or to become ‘a big name’ on the conference circuit. We are, instead, to consider other’s needs as above our own, willingly working for the betterment of our sisters and brothers. Our identity is to be found in and through Christ and not through success or fame or riches. Our self-awareness is firstly found in being a recipient of God’s gratuitous grace and not in our being male or female, Gentile or Jew, slave or free. Such identities must, at most, be tertiary, for of secondary importance is being part of a new community of grace, the ‘called out’ ones, called together to betray previous narratives in favour of a better story. 

We see this played out again and again in Acts of the Apostles. Pentecost comes with a BANG, turning the usual, the ‘normal,’ upside down. It is the first taste of Mary’s Magnificat in the life of the Church: the humble become filled; the powerless become those who shape the future; the fearful become brave and the weak strong; the rich and powerful start to lose their place in the hierarchy because ‘there is another king, one Jesus.’

We see this unfold as Peter and John heal the cripple and have their first run in with the spiritual leaders. The disciples will not keep silent, threats or no; even imprisonment is no obstacle to them. And neither is the beginnings of persecution and martyrdom. Indeed, as Tertullian noted in Apologeticus, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. We see this again as Saul finds faith, as Peter encounters Cornelius, as Paul and Barnabus set off on their journeys; as the new movement spreads into Europe where it found a home for the next two thousand years; as the apostles wrote their letters and the Gospels, seeking to help the fledgling churches apply the stories of Jesus to their growing lives. 

And so a new narrative emerged, one in which ‘this Jesus’ takes the leading role, with the disciples playing necessary but secondary parts in a new story. These are not ‘walk on’ parts, but meaningful and insightful roles. They are the out-working of the in-breaking Kingdom of God, a process that continues even to this day. 

The concern is, however, that Europe, home to the faith for 2000, has failed to continue living a life of betrayal. Instead the church, instead of speaking the truth to power, became the power itself. The assertion moved from ‘Jesus is Lord!’ to ‘the church is the embodiment of the Kingdom and therefore you must submit to the Church.’ Ecclesiastical power was substituted for humility and the narrative of Jesus was lost.

We need to retell the Jesus story. We need to learn again the art of betraying the powers and principalities by embodying that first Christian creed, Jesus is Lord!

The views expressed in this blog post are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the GC network.

Photo by Edward Cisneros on Unsplash

Acts of the Apostles – Part 1

I am beginning a series of blog posts on Acts of the Apostles. They will be a series of reflections as I seek to draw some lessons from the biblical text and apply them to the contemporary ‘mission scene.’ You may agree with the points I make – but equally you may want to question some of the things I write. This is healthy and I welcome your comments and feedback.

Other better scholars will (no doubt) offer different perspectives, but I am approaching the text primarily as a missiological narrative rather than as doctrinal or historical accounts. Acts is an account of the spread and growth of the early church, from ‘Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). There are four main actors throughout the text: Jesus (1:1) and the Holy Spirit (1:8), the ‘Word of God’ and the Christian community. Off stage – in the wings directing everything – is the Father. The director and actors work in collaboration throughout the text as the story unfolds.

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Faith to the Extreme

If I said the words “extreme faith” to you, what would spring to mind?

A missionary leaving behind their home to go to an unreached part of the world? A terrorist bomber? The title of a Christian conference?

In our wider culture, faith to the extreme has become a no-go zone. Radical religion is socially awkward at best and dangerous at worst.

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Churches don’t care about mission

This is a complaint that I hear regularly from people who are professionally involved in promoting world mission. The accusation is levelled against individual churches, groups of churches and sometimes as a blanket condemnation of the church as a whole. For what it’s worth, I beg to differ. It’s not that everything in the garden is rosy, it isn’t. However, I’ve never met an evangelical church leader who had no interest in world mission and who didn’t wish that his church was doing more in this area. However, I have met a number of church leaders who resent what they see as pressure – bullying even – by mission agencies to be involved in their area of mission.

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Who can go?

It was a joy earlier this year for me (Ben) to be commissioned by my church into the ministry of Mission through Business. The local church has the authority and precedent to do this (eg Acts 13), and it was very significant for us as a family to have the church standing as a commitment to pray, encourage and hold us accountable as we move forwards.

In the run-up, the church took time to understand me and the ministry, testing the purposes against the Lord’s will. This went through various cycles, with the leaders, the deaconate and the membership all involved. The process will differ at each church, but one of the key tests remains the same:

What do we look for in a worker sent by the church?

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Church and agency partnerships

In the next couple of posts, I will be returning to a theme that I’ve touched on before and will undoubtedly touch on again; the partnership between churches and mission agencies. To let you know where I am going, the basic thesis of these two posts is that the way that mission agencies are set up makes it difficult for them to partner seriously with churches in their home countries. I’ll touch on a different aspect of this in each of the posts.

However, before going too far, I’d like to make a couple of statements.

  • I know that many agencies have some good partnerships with churches in the UK.
  • I believe that for the most part, mission agencies and their leaders take the role of the church and partnership with churches seriously.

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International Students in China–The Road Ahead? – Part 3

We’ve explored the great need and strategic opportunity of international student ministry (ISM) in China in my previous posts.[1] But who will reach, disciple, and equip them with the gospel of Jesus Christ? What is the road ahead?

We know that God is calling people from every nation (Psalm 96) and that the nations have come to China! This motivated the pioneers of ISM.[2] What can we learn from them about why and how ISM movements started?

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Churches receive believers of Muslim heritage

In turbulent times, God is working out his agenda to add to his church, people from every nation, tribe, ethnicity and language on earth (Rev.7:9). Iranians of a Muslim family background are finding their way to Christ in unprecedented numbers. What’s more, they are also attaching to local churches. It’s vital that existing congregations respond well – here’s why.

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Things Home Mission Can Learn: Serve – Part 5

When we lived in Gouabafla, I’d often spend an hour or so in the late afternoon chatting to people while cleaning up wounds of one sort or another. I treated machete wounds, abscesses, tropical ulcers and all sorts of things. I’m not medically trained, I’m just a bloke who knows a bit about first aid and who (unlike anyone else in the village) had access to basic medical supplies.

More importantly, I couldn’t claim to be in the village to share the love of God through the Bible and yet ignore the suffering that was all around me. I couldn’t do much about the poverty in the village, or the endemic corruption that reinforced that poverty, but I could clean out a dirty wound, treat it with antiseptic and put a clean dressing on while showing people how to treat their own wounds in future.

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