Letter From Joseph Tkach – May 2012

Posted by colin on May 5, 2012 under Pastor General's Monthly Letter | Comments are off for this article

May 1, 2012

As followers of Jesus, you and I are privileged to participate in what he is doing through the Holy Spirit to fulfill the Father’s mission to save a “lost” humanity. This is often called The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).

This Great Commission is often seen as a call to work for Jesus, by reaching out to as many people as possible and saving them for him. But that explanation is not quite right, and it can cause us to make a serious mistake in our approach to evangelism. It can mislead us to build relationships only for the purpose of “winning people for Christ.” If we approach evangelism like this we risk thinking of our fellow human beings as trophies to be won or lost in the battle for truth. It might work sometimes, but more often people resist such a contrived approach.

Through his birth, life, death and resurrection, Jesus saved the human race. The Great Commission, is the call to work with Jesus as he shares God’s love and life with all people, so they may understand that they are included in God’s master plan of salvation.

What is the most challenging missionary opportunity you can think of? Perhaps it would be to take the gospel to a remote tribe who has had no previous contact with civilization. Believe it or not, it is still possible to find people groups like this. For example, Brazil’s department of Indian affairs believes there are more than fifty uncontacted tribes living deep in the rain forests along the border of Brazil and Peru. These isolated people have no idea that the territory they live in is a part of Brazil. They have never heard of Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, Sao Paulo or the other major cities. They have no concept of being citizens of a powerful and influential nation with a growing economy.

Tribes like this often give themselves a name that simply means “the People.” With their limited perspective, that is the only identity they need. The only environment they know is the rain forest, and they regard anything beyond as a threat and will attempt to attack anything or anyone from the outside that tries to enter. But, as illegal logging operations relentlessly destroy their habitat, they have retreated deeper into the wilderness.

Those who want to bring them the benefits of modern medicine and education must be very careful. Historically, as civilization catches up with isolated tribes, it destroys them. Sometimes it occurs deliberately, by systematic genocide and slavery, other times occurring unintentionally, as their way of life becomes degraded by alcohol and drugs. Even well-intentioned missionaries have exposed those they wanted to save to diseases for which they have no immunity.

If we are to help “the People” we must move carefully and wisely, especially if their experience has taught them to regard our world as a threat. But what a privilege it would be to widen their horizons, and perhaps open their minds to understand their identity as sons and daughters of the Creator and Redeemer God of the universe. However, that is not an opportunity most of us will ever have.

Or perhaps it is.

You see, you don’t have to go to the rain forest to find people who do not understand their true identity as human beings made in the image of God. There are “uncontacted” people all around you. To find them may not be as difficult or as dangerous as travelling to Amazonia, but reaching them may be just as challenging. Their past experiences with evangelism may have left them deeply suspicious of Christianity, or even turned them against it.

Jesus warned us that the Great Commission would not be easy. He himself met strong opposition from those you would have thought would have been the first to welcome him. John’s Gospel tells us “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11 NIV).

The religious leaders saw Jesus as a threat. So, like the tribesmen along the border of Brazil, they tried to destroy him. Jesus’ message of forgiveness for all brought a new covenant between God and humankind. This new covenant undermined the religious leaders’ belief that they were a part of an exclusive religious “in crowd.” So, what should have been regarded as good news was seen as a threat.

However, John goes on to tell us, “to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13 NIV). These disciples were the first to be given the Great Commission. They did not think of themselves as an exclusive “in crowd,” but the first fruits of a much greater harvest that included the whole human race. They had a responsibility to join in the work of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to spread the good news to all who would listen “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NIV).

And so it is to this day. Most of the human race has no idea of their real, God-given identity. One of the great tenets of Trinitarian theology is the knowledge that Jesus, by becoming one of us, has opened up the way for all of us to become all that God intended us to be. When we understand this, it alters the way we regard everyone we meet. It is no longer “us” and “them.” Rather, it should encourage us to see our own life as a mission opportunity. Not as an enterprise to “seal the deal,” but perhaps to help someone get a glimpse of life in the gospel. You just never know, something you do might make the difference. But we can always make somedifference in offering simple gestures of kindness and grace! That is why we are encouraged to “Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives” (1 Peter 2:12 The Message).

Through our local congregation we can reach out. And through our national and worldwide church, we can reach even farther. I marvel at the opportunities our denomination has to share in the Son and Spirit’s mission from the Father, taking the Lord’s message of salvation to the ends of the earth.

Thank you for your continued encouragement, your prayers and your financial support.

With love in Jesus’ name,

Joseph Tkach

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