Jesus came to preach good news to the poor and to proclaim freedom and life to the marginalized. Justice and righteousness are about access … access to truth and access to life. Oswald J. Smith famously asked: ‘Why should anyone hear the gospel twice, before everyone has an opportunity to hear it once?’
On the riverbanks of the dry and desert-like Sabi River of Southern Zimbabwe, you can find some incredible trees. When green, the Musasa tree can provide enough shade for an entire school assembly looking for relief from the blazing sun. At first, you wonder how the tree can be so fruitful in such a dry wasteland. Then you remember that its roots go deep into the soil and find the water that flows beneath the surface of the dry riverbed. The height and width of the tree’s lush green leaves comes from the depth of its roots in the life-giving water.
As I reflect on 100 years of mission impact around the world through Canadian Pentecostals, an old Sunday school song comes to mind:
Deep and wide, deep and wide, there’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.
From a deep, personal intimacy with the Father, with eyes firmly fixed on Jesus and empowered by the Spirit, the early Pentecostals scattered wide into the world, providing the life-giving shade of the gospel and living water that provided the foundation for human flourishing. They obeyed the call to make disciples and love their neighbours as themselves. They scattered wide with the firm conviction that the gospel in its fullness was the hope of the world, the power of God for salvation, and both living water and real water for the thirsty and marginalized. They loved mercy, acted justly and walked humbly with their God (Micah 6:8).
As we, The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, enter our second century, we must take stock and consider how we can continue to effectively fulfil the mission of God in the 21st century. Through dialogue with pastors, global workers, national partners and other stakeholders, we are carefully examining our priorities and our strategic focus. We have been “re-imagining” International Missions and seeking to hear the heartbeat of God for our generation.
These are the facts. Today, 3.1 billion people live in places where the church is not present. Consequently, they have little or no access to the gospel. Nearly three billion people live on less than $2.50 per day, with 800 million eking out an existence on less than $2 per day. This is not just! There is a fundamental injustice with respect to both access to the gospel and access to the basic necessities of life. Our strategic focus as a church must consider these two injustices.
Jesus came to preach good news to the poor and to proclaim freedom and life to the marginalized. Justice and righteousness are about access … access to truth and access to life. Oswald J. Smith famously asked: “Why should anyone hear the gospel twice, before everyone has an opportunity to hear it once?” Are we doing all we can to give people everywhere an opportunity to be transformed by the grace and love of Christ? Are we seeking to provide the opportunity for people to flourish socially and economically? Our witness must be robust enough to include the whole person, with all their needs, in the hope offered in the gospel. The foundations for human flourishing, spiritually and physically, are rooted in reconciliation to God, people, self and creation. “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (1 Corinthians 5:18).
The effectiveness of our ongoing witness and social engagement will be dependent upon remaining connected to a life-giving relationship with Christ. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing … This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:5, 8). Fruitfulness must be rooted in intimacy. Intimacy, in turn, will produce character seen in the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. As we spend time with Christ, His character rubs off on us; the nature of Christ is to give Himself for the sake of the world.
Intimacy produces Christ-likeness, and Christ-likeness leads to witness. If we are truly being transformed into the image of Christ, we will “bear fruit in every good work” (Colossians 1: 10). We must go deep in order to go wide!
These two emphases, the inward priestly devotion (going deep) and the outward scattered work (going wide) serve each other. In our passion to know God, we embrace the character of the missional triune God whose love is beyond comprehension. In our passion to reach the world, we are deepened in our walk with God when we meet the prisoner, the stranger, the poor, the widow, the orphan, the addict and even those who violently oppose the gospel. Paul grasps this connection between the inward and the outward when he prays that we, “being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that [we] may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19). It is the love of God that compels us into the world—from its depths to its full width. As we dive deep in our understanding of God’s love and character, we must remain open to the fresh new ways that the Spirit empowers us to witness in the world.
In the face of secularism, we must not become merely a church filled with well-formed Christian persons in deep communion with God and each other. The church must be true to God’s mission in the world. We must have a profound sense of engagement with the world and all its problems, both at home and to the ends of the earth. In our concern to be relevant to the emerging post-modern culture, the viability of our witness must not be severed from the depth of our rootedness in Christ and in the church that Christ Himself has built.
Murray Cornelius serves as the executive director for International Missions of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.
This article appeared in the January/February/March 2020 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2020 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photos © istockphoto.com and Jeremy Bishop,Unsplash.
1. Do Something.org. “11 Facts About Global Poverty.” Accessed October 20, 2019. https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-global-poverty#fn1