Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | September 3, 2015

The Language of Movement

Missions is about movement — about taking intentional steps in the direction of those who are separated from God. The Bible employs the language of movement when talking about the spread of the good news. For example, Jesus commanded His disciples to go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. To go is to move from one place or point to another. That is movement.

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Jesus told His disciples that He was sending them out as His own Father had sent him. Jesus left heaven and moved in our direction with the intent of seeking and saving that which was lost. And, before He ascended into heaven, Jesus again used the language of movement in His final instructions to His followers. He tasked them with carrying the good news from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth — from familiar toward unfamiliar places.

Movement eventually leads to discovery. There are some things that we simply cannot fully understand apart from moving in the direction of those who are distanced from God. Whenever we enter into someone else’s context we make discoveries about them — and also about ourselves. And what we learn is important because it can help us to understand how to share the good news with our new friends in culturally relevant ways.

Making discoveries about others should lead us to respond accordingly or as Jesus would. It is not enough to make discoveries about others only to pity them or to leave it to someone else to respond or to turn and walk away. In the words of abolitionist William Wilberforce, “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” Knowledge always brings with it a corresponding responsibility.

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In a speech that he gave in April 1901, John R. Mott, one of my historical mentors, spoke about the responsibility of young people in taking the gospel to the nations. In that speech Mott said, “The last command of Christ is operative until it is repealed. It is not optional, as some would assume, but obligatory. It awaits its fulfillment by a generation which shall have the requisite faith and courage, and audacity and the purpose of heart to do their duty to the whole world.”

Mott challenged the people of his generation to move toward the nations — and they did! Luke recorded the account of a vision that the Apostle Paul had received while on his second missionary journey. Paul had a vision of a Macedonian man who was standing and appealing to him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9). The Macedonian man used the language of movement. Paul understood that language and consequently moved in the direction of the Macedonian man.

Today, more than ever before, we must understand the language of movement. Not only must we go to the nations in their respective geographical homelands, we must also go to the nations who are coming to our own homeland. Like the Apostle Paul, we must understand that we are debtors — that those of us who know Christ owe Christ to all people. That is what compelled Paul to move in the direction of people separated from God.

Ultimately, every Christ-follower must consider the movement of his or her life. John R. Mott once said that every Christian who is a Christian of reality ought to be a missionary Christian. And being a missionary Christian requires movement from where we are toward those on the other end of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.

We will not finish the task of global evangelization nor will we hasten the day when the whole earth will be full of the knowledge of God as the waters cover the seas unless we first learn to understand, embrace, and respond to the language of movement.


Responses

  1. Omar,

    I have followed your blogs for the past several years and mine them for use with my Sunday School class and on mission trips. I am part of a small para-church group ministry in Colombia, especially Bogota. Attached is my response to your “Language of Movement” blog which I have sent out to many of our associates. Once again, you nailed it. One of these days I would love for our team to meet with you. We are mostly located in west Houston.

    Kindest regards and may God continue to bless your efforts,

    Dave Beach Sparrow International Family Ministries

    September 7, 2015

    Attached is another excellent commentary by Omar Garcia (Missions Pastor at Kingsland Baptist, Katy, TX). I particularly second his quotation of Wilberforce:

    “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

    We must take this to heart. We should strive to instill in others a fundamental requisite that when one travels, it should not so much be to see the world in its grandeur, but as it actually was and currently is, and then attempt to do something about it. The world is a dark, lost and hopeless place. We can face it head on or ignore it. We as Christians are charged with bringing the light of truth, the light of Christ into it. That means we cannot simply look the other way and ignore what is around us. We must open our eyes and see, take our fingers from our ears and hear, open our hearts and love.

    How often do we as Americans travel? Where do we go? Where do we stay? With whom do we associate? I for one detest staying in ritzy resorts, especially in third world countries. This point was driven home for my wife and me in 1995. That year we had the wonderful opportunity to visit my folks while my dad did volunteer dentistry work for Rotary International in Montego Bay, Jamaica. We stayed in a Rotary supplied house in town. It was nice but not lavish. The house was blessed to have a very nice lady named Erma to serve as maid, cook, guide and friend. We also had the wonderful experiences of attending a local church; shopping in a local open air market; having a man climb a tall ackee tree so we could eat ackee rice; and, while at a second clinic up in the mountains, witnessing a local “school bus” unload children for school. It was an absolutely huge brightly painted blue and red dump truck with shiny chrome. It carried the neatly uniformed boys in the back and girls in the large cab. It was so large we could see none of the children as it drove up until it stopped and the kids climbed out. We also got to see the small houses and shacks where most of the population lived. We were able to meet and enjoy the locals. We also had the opportunity to visit a nearby resort. The contrast within and outside walls of the resort complex was stark. It offered fine dining, bars, pools and great offshore snorkeling or diving. Your every need or desire was available. Yet, so many people visiting that resort never strayed outside its boundaries. They never truly visited Jamaica or were in any way able to meet, understand and enjoy her people. What a shame.

    We as Christians need to see, experience and understand those who are different from ourselves. Diversity provides its own riches; its own rewards. One of my favorite quotes from Mark Twain *(The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It*) is:

    “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime?”

    Ouch! I think Twain was referring to us 21st Century Americans, especially Christian Americans living in Texas. We like our “one little corner of the earth”. Unfortunately, we cannot be Christ followers and be content to do nothing. We have got to be in the world but not of the world. To do so, we need to put on the full armor of God. We must prepare and go forth. To prepare, we must know our enemy. We must know what we are up against. We must see, understand and deploy a coherent strategy. We should not merely drift along.

    For us it is so easy to be contented living in our safe secure neighborhoods, attending our feel good churches, making our obligatory financial contributions, praying as necessary, and leaving the rest of the world outside our doors. However, therein lies an inherent danger. It is tempting for Christian’s, as we see our country’s greatness slide into decline (not surprisingly in lock step with its morals and ethics) to pull back into the safe confines of our local churches. We can cocoon up there and let the rest of the world go to hell in a hand basket. We are tired of arguing over our “outdated social views” – the sanctity of life and the Biblical concept of marriage; our outdated concepts of individual freedom, personal responsibility and hard work. As one commentary recently stated, we are in danger of retreating into our “church ghettos”. Places of relative comfort and safety while the world around us spins into deepening darkness. Just think of Warsaw in the 1930’s. The end result of this approach would be no different than as for the Jewish inhabitants of the Warsaw ghettos.

    Brothers and sisters, we need to wake up. We need to come face to face with the reality of the sex trade – be it as flagrant and widespread as on the streets of Bogota or Cartegena where ladies and girls have for various reasons lost all hope, or through the underworld trafficking and seedy brothels of Houston. Christians need to see the desperation of lives ruined by drugs, whether in our affluent neighborhoods, the slums of our major cities, the small towns and backwoods of America, or the apocalyptic images of the Bronx in Bogota. We need to see and experience; but also understand and show compassion. We need to remember that these are all God’s children and that there but for the grace of God go each of us.

    Folks – that is why we love to bring people on our mission trips to Bogota. That is why we develop relationships with wonderful children from such desperate situations and backgrounds. That is why we keep going back. That is why we are operating and hoping to expand our safe house for young women aging out of governmental institutions and orphanages. That is why we make home visits with and engage displaced families. That is why we witness and confront the desperate situations of profligate prostitution or minister to the people of the streets.

    “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

    It is our hope and prayer that by seeing and knowing and confronting the world we live in head on, that we – you and I – will be convicted to doing something about it, be it in our own Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria or world. We live in a world dying to know the gospel of Jesus Christ, a gospel of hope, love and life.

    • Hi Dave,

      Thanks for your very kind words and also for passing this post along to your associates. Thanks also for sharing your thoughts and your heart. Very good words, indeed! Would love to meet you and your team sometime. Thanks for your good work for the kingdom.

      Blessings,
      Omar~


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