“Alignment calls us to surrender our ambitions, dreams, plans and strategies to what God is doing, in contrast to what we think God should do and what we want to do.”
“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building”
(1 Corinthians 3:5-9).
In writing to the church in Corinth, Paul reminds us that our mission must be aligned to God’s mission. God told the church in Antioch to set apart Paul and Barnabas for “the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). The work was first God’s work and then Paul’s work. Human tendency is to pray for great “outcomes” as we do our work and focus on the things we want accomplished. However, when Jesus prayed, His mind was focused on “alignment” to God’s work: Not what I will, but what You will. Alignment calls us to surrender our ambitions, dreams, plans and strategies to what God is doing, in contrast to what we think God should do and what we want to do.
I am reminded of a simple expression in Shona, the language of many in Zimbabwe: chabadza. (Roughly translated, this means people working alongside each other for mutual benefit.) A badza is a hoe. When a person goes out to the field to plant seeds, water the crops or harvest their produce, they take more than one badza. They place the others on the ground beside them and when a neighbour passes by, he is expected to pick up the badza and work alongside his friend. What a great illustration of working together. God is in His field. He is planting seeds, watering and harvesting lives for an eternal reward, and He invites us to pick up our badza and work with Him. We must align ourselves with Him in His work; when we do, we can rejoice in the planting, the watering, and the harvesting.
As The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada celebrates 100 years of serving as God’s fellow workers, we must take a moment to thank God for the incredible expansion of the good news and to honour those who aligned themselves to the mission of God. Canadian Pentecostals were early and enthusiastic adopters of God’s mission, obeying His command to be witnesses to the ends of the earth. As early as 1908, 11 years before The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC) became a Fellowship of affiliated self-governing churches, two families and one single lady left Toronto for the mission field: Charles and Emma Chawner to South Africa; Arthur and Jessie Atter to China; and Barbara Johnston to India. These pioneers were soon followed by workers to Liberia (1910), Egypt and India (1911), Argentina (1913), Tanganyika (1914), and Kenya and the West Indies (1918). Over the next 108 years, more than 3,000 full-time Canadian Pentecostals have served as messengers of the gospel in more than 80 countries. “All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth” (Colossians 1:6).
A deep-seated missionary impulse from the Holy Spirit marks the PAOC. Pentecostalism and mission belong together, and you cannot understand the history of the PAOC without understanding its missionary vision and work. As in the Book of Acts, when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and the early church to empower the people of God to be Christ’s witnesses in “Jerusalem, … Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8), so, too, the Spirit empowered early Pentecostals to obedient fulfilment of the Great Commission.
Together with God, we have seen over 50,000 churches planted, over 40,000 workers trained and released into the harvest field, and more than 12 million people who have found their way back to God. For the PAOC, the mission of God has always been a central focus and a priority that has shaped the agenda of our international engagement. God pursues all people—every language group, every tribe, and every nation—with His love. This is not just a doctrine. It is the mission of a very personal God who “so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
As Pentecostals, we fully expect demonstrations of God’s supernatural power to accompany the proclamation of the gospel and our expressions of love in action. Miraculous answers to prayer, divine protection, healing of the sick, deliverance, the resolution of difficult circumstances, the opening of closed doors, and financial provision fill the testimonies of missionaries, national leaders, and millions of redeemed people. The distinct hand of God in every situation is our heritage.
Missions is not just about those who go. It’s also about those who send, those who give, and those who pray. In Philippians 2:25 Paul writes, “… I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs.” It’s because of Epaphroditus’s sending that we are able to read Paul’s letter to the Philippians since it was Epaphroditus who hand-delivered the letter. Epaphroditus was also aligned to the mission of God.
The word “messenger” used by Paul means “one who is commissioned and sent out.” The church at Philippi saw a need, they commissioned Epaphroditus, and they sent him out. They identified him as the right person to meet a need, declared that in a public way in the church at Philippi, and then they sent him out. Both Paul and Epaphroditus paved the way for our global workers to be commissioned and sent out of local churches and our Fellowship to work alongside God in places beyond our local context.
As we work together with God, let us continue to go, send, give and pray. The mission of God is fuelled by the feet of those who go, the hands of those who give, and the knees of those who pray. May our prayers always focus on how to align with God’s purposes regardless of our dreams, strategies, and the outcomes we hope for.
“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ ” (Romans 10:14-15).
Murray Cornelius is the executive director of International Missions for The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.
This article appeared in the March/April 2018 issue of testimony, the bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.