You Will Go!
by Rob Weingartner
In a few hours I will be arriving in Rwanda, a place that I have not visited before. It is a country where the church has done some hard learning about God’s grace and forgiveness, and I expect that it will be a challenging trip. I’ll let you know how it goes. I always look forward to visiting with followers of Christ in other cultures and contexts. They help me to understand what it means for me to live faithfully as Jesus’ disciple.
One thing I’ve learned from our global partners is that it is not so much that the church has a mission as it is that the missionary God has a church! And our involvement in God’s mission is not primarily about getting the world into the church; it is about getting the church into the world. It is a lesson that we must continue learning.
Samuel A. Moffett arrived in Korea in 1890, appointed as missionary by the Presbyterian Church. After several trips to the northern part of the country, he decided to work in Pyongyang, becoming the first Protestant missionary to take up long-term residence in inland Korea. He faced much opposition and many difficulties. He was slandered, spat upon, shunned, and on one occasion even stoned by a group of young men who sought his life. Remaining steadfast, he focused upon preaching and founding schools.
After many years of work the day finally came when the first graduating class completed their studies at the Presbyterian Theological Seminary he founded; there were seven students. They graduated with a profound sense of gratitude and a desire to honor God. “We’re the leaders of a new church, the church in Korea,” they understood. And they went on to ask another question: “What does a real church do?” They went away on a retreat together to discern God’s leading, for a time of discerning prayer.
And they decided that they would themselves send out a missionary, because that’s what real churches do: they reach out beyond themselves to share the Gospel with others. They would send a missionary. But who would go? As one, the group turned to one of their number, a man named Rhee Gipoong, and said, “You will go!” “I’m willing to go,” he said. “But why me?” “Because you were the leader of the group that stoned Dr. Moffett!” they replied. He did go, to China and began work that continues to bear fruit today. Interestingly, he faced much the same kind of opposition as Dr. Moffett had in Korea.
When Moffett first reached Pyongyang, there was not a single Christian in the area; by the time he retired as a missionary, there were a thousand congregations in the region. But perhaps his greater legacy is a Christian community – the church in Korea – that has become one of the Christian movement’s great sending churches, sending missionaries all over the world.
For my more than thirteen years of work with The Outreach Foundation I have been traveling around the world and across our denomination, trying to pay attention, and I have come to the conclusion that there are basically two kinds of churches, those which behave as though they exist primarily for the sake of others – and those which behave as though they exist primarily for the sake of themselves.
What I consistently see around the world is that our global partners get it. They understand, to borrow the words that God spoke to Abram, that we are blessed in order to be a blessing. They understand that there is only one thing to do with Good News, and that is to share it!