Why I Go
Why do I go on mission trips?
Largely because I want to be like the apostle Paul, my hero. In 1 Cor. 11:1 he tells us, "Imitate me, just as I imitate Christ." Now, this command does not stand alone. We must read it in its context. The command is a restatement of Paul's "evangelistically-motivated self-denial," to use the words of a friend of mine. Christ is the perfect model. He did not seek His own but thought of others -- for their salvation. So with Paul. He sought to become "all things to all people so that by all means I might reach some" (1 Cor. 9:). He was willing to adjust his life and behavior in inconsequential matters so as to avoid putting any barriers between a non-Christian and the Gospel.
This is the Paul I want to emulate. Some think Paul was essentially a great preacher. Others think he was a great letter writer. Still others believe he was a great theologian. But first and foremost, Paul was a soul-winning, pioneering missionary. The Gospel was at the core of his life and ministry. The essence of his missionary philosophy may be found in 2 Cor. 5:18-21. It was a ministry of reconciliation. And he wanted others to become involved in that same ministry. Paul never worked alone. James Dunn (in his book Beginning from Jerusalem) once called Paul's ministry a "co-worker ministry." Moreover, it is very clear that Paul avoided "marketing the Gospel for profit" (2 Cor. 2:17). In other words, because he was self-supporting, no one could accuse him of being in it "for the money." True, he had the right to financial support (1 Cor. 9:4-18). But he refused to exercise that right. Why? First, by receiving financial support he would have placed himself in a position of dependence on his patrons, and his freedom to preach the Gospel might have been impeded. Secondly, by offering the Gospel "free of charge," his life became a paradigm of the Gospel itself.
In short, Paul had a passionate heart for the mission of the Gospel, matched by a keen mind, a humble spirit, and a strong back. His primary goal in life was to take the Gospel where it had not yet been proclaimed. In addition, he viewed his tent-making trade as central to his life and work. God had allowed it to become a means for his ministry, not a hindrance to it. Indeed, his whole life was marked by suffering and inconvenience for the cause of Christ. "I will show you how much he will suffer for the sake of My name" (Acts 9:16). This is the same Paul who wrote to the Philippians, "God has granted you the privilege of not only believing in Him but also suffering for Him" (Phil. 1:29).
So how am I doing? When people think of Dave Black, do they think of a teacher or a preacher or an author or a professor? Or do they think of "evangelistically-motivated self-denial"? Do I really put others before myself? Am I willing to adjust my lifestyle to accommodate the Gospel? Am I a lone ranger or am I willing to work as a team member? Do I avoid marketing the Gospel? Is my life a paradigm of the Good News? Do I have a passionate heart for the lost?
No, not as I should.
But that's my goal.
Is it yours?
July 10, 2012
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.