Messiology — No, It’s Not a Misspelling

 

I am fond of a veteran, fiery missionary – George Verwer – who in 1963 founded a mission agency called Operation Mobilization that recruits and trains many young people for evangelism and outreach targeting little reached areas around the globe.  George Verwer is also famous for his pithy, humorous sayings that capture the less-than-ideal conditions of Christian missions.  One of my favorite Verwer sayings is the following: “Where two or three of the Lord’s people are gathered together, sooner or later there will be a mess.”  For those of us who are involved in ministry, we know first hand how true the above saying is.  The messiness of ministry – borne out of real life dealings with people who are broken and hurting and confused, not to mention our own brokenness, wounds, and confusion – often leads us to question our competency in ministry.  We might think, “What’s going on?  Why is ministry so frustrating at times?  Why am I seeing so little in the way of positive results?”  In truth, competency or lack thereof might be a small part of the problem.  Most likely, however, it’s really not a matter of ministerial competency.  The issue is the earthbound reality of our fallenness.  When fallen people, even though “saved” by Jesus, start bumping into each other in the mortar of ministry, things are simply bound to get messy.  At these times, it’s important to remember the other side of ministry – God’s side.  Verwer comments after the proverb above, “We, however, have a great and sovereign God who specializes in working in the midst of a mess.”  The Apostle Paul, of all people, knew both sides of ministry.  He knew the workings of the sovereign Lord.  He also understood the other side, writing, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:7-9).

The reality of God’s mighty oversight and our fleshly weakness, both elements together, gives us real life hope in ministry.  The missiological mandate of the local church – i.e., to be a missionary presence wherever the church is found – along with the messiological condition of the local church means that the Triune God must work things out simply because we cannot accomplish the tasks of God’s Kingdom without the Spirit intervening and working through us and our mess.  And that is exactly what the Spirit of God is good at: working in and through us, the “us” who are broken, hurt, and confused.

A fine mess, we now see, is the very stuff in and through which Jesus works His resurrection power!  Soli Deo Gloria!

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