by Mark Overstreet
Last week I returned from Asia, serving leaders in a country who have worked tirelessly to share the gospel and seek transformation within communities of the unreached billions who live on the continent. Every time I travel, I come home humbled and changed by the hearts and lives of these great servants.
In some of these countries, the gospel has been proclaimed for centuries. When we discuss the challenges of their work, over the years, I’ve noticed several themes arise from the experiences and wisdom of these leaders. In a recent meeting, I worked to distill from our discussions a few key barriers to sharing the good news in places resistant to the gospel.
Perhaps these reflections could assist us as we consider how those in our families, neighborhoods, and offices could hear and believe.
First, never forget from where you’ve come. Among many of the leaders with whom I’ve worked, they feel their transformation in Christ often distanced them from their families, friends, and communities. Time here won’t allow for us to discuss the importance of the new community of faith. These leaders explained the great changes in their hearts. And they explained the great changes to their schedules.
Some of these leaders have become increasingly concerned that commitments to the new community of faith often pull them too far away from those who need the Light. How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard (Rom. 10:14)? How will their neighbors glorify God, if they spend little time seeing, hearing, and understanding the good news within these communities?
Second, live in the tension between two worlds. Every Christian has been called out of the darkness, but let us remember that we’re also instructed to speak of the great work of Jesus for the world to those who still live there. What a simple reminder from a quiet leader, “His Light is marvelous, but many leaders admit that often our communities become so satisfied to speak of the Light, discuss the Light, and ponder the Light that we keep it hidden from the communities out of which we’ve come.”
May living in the Light produce in us a holy hunger to go back into world of pain and suffering to point others to the One who set us free. We must remember the words of the apostles, to abstain from the “passions of the flesh” while living, speaking, and serving close enough for them to see and hunger for a new and living hope.
Third, remember the day of his return. The stone that was laid in Zion—the cornerstone of the church—is a stone of stumbling. Of all the themes that should keep us focused on the lost, may we ever remember the day of his advent. One leader asked, “How will they stumble on him if we aren’t in their paths?”
How will they know he is excellent if we do not share with them the good he has done in us? Many remember the lives from which they’ve been called. Many remember the shame. Some recall the thoughts and images that defined us.
How will they turn to him and give him honor unless they receive mercy from us? How will they glorify him in the day of his return unless his people listen, learn, and serve these communities with the mercy-filled hope of gospel transformation?
May God give us the bright and shining reminder of his return, so our days may be filled with the hope that more may see and hear and come to be known as ones who have received mercy. May we lead them to his merciful feet.
What an honor to be with humble leaders who desire to see the billions reached with the hope of the gospel. May we live with the memories of the good and the bad of our past, abstaining from the small thinking that keeps us from living in the tension between two worlds, and serving with changed lives the communities from which we’ve come.
At the end of a long day of meetings, one wise leader reminded me of these words: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice, for I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt 9:13).
He explained, “How will we ever reach these communities unless we go, sit, eat, and share about the king of mercy?” Unless we live in mercy, unless we are filled with the spirit of Christ, we will not. May God raise us up as a new race, new priests, a new nation who knows the mercies of God and lives in such a way that the world sees his love through us.
What could we learn from these observations? Could we honor this community of leaders and listen to their words? What could we change about how and where we spend our time? Where is God calling us to go and serve? The world awaits our answer. He is the answer.
Mark M. Overstreet (@moverstreet) is Founding Partner/CEO with SRV International. Mark serves fourth world cultures in leadership development and community transformation. Through worldview analysis, communication strategy, and contextualization, he co-labors with global organizations in areas including healthy partnerships, orality, mission, program architecture, strategy, and evaluation.