From a missional perspective, some of those who immediately spring to mind are Abraham, Moses, Peter and Paul. Characters who, through the role they played, or the way they lived their lives, or how they changed the way ‘things’ were done, are still remembered for their lasting impact as God worked both in them and through them. Despite their faults and imperfections, God used them in mighty ways in His mission – so what can we learn from their lives in order that our engagement in God’s mission might also have a lasting impact?
1. Step Out in Faith
Abraham began his missional journey with no real idea where he was going to end up or the significance of his calling to be a blessing to the nations – yet look at the impact that he had as the grandfather of Jacob/Israel. If you have been provided with an opportunity to step out and serve God, don’t allow uncertainties over how it will all work out to deter you from taking those first steps.
If we step out trusting God to guide us, He will; if we are willing to be used in His service, He will.
2. Invest in Relationships
In Paul’s various missionary journeys, we read of him planting and then re-visiting various churches. We read, too, of the love that he had for them and they for him. While he did visit new places on each of his journeys, he also made sure that he continued to invest in those churches that he’d shared in – whether through writing them letters, visiting them himself or sending others to do so in his place.
Paul’s ministry and mission had a lasting impact because he invested in people over time. So, in our missional engagements, are we committed to cultivating relationships or do we quickly rush on to the next ‘best thing’?
3. Be Prepared to Change Direction
In the book of Acts, we read of two dramatic changes of direction. One of these was spiritual, the other physical, yet both had a huge impact on the growth of God’s kingdom. In Acts 10 and 11, Peter and the church struggled with God’s mission to the Gentiles and the impact that doing things ‘differently’ had on their traditional understanding of how God worked. In Acts 16, Paul is set on visiting certain areas but God prevents him from doing so before giving him a new vision of a ministry in Macedonia. Peter and Paul’s willingness to ‘change direction’ hugely impacted the New Testament church and its understanding of God’s mission.
Is our missional impact being reduced because we want to keep doing things the way we’ve always done them or because we’re not prepared to venture into new territories?
4. Mentor and Be Mentored
Whether it’s the relationship that Moses had with Joshua or the one that Paul had with Timothy, in both the Old and New Testaments, we read of the lasting impact that great leaders had when they invested in mentoring younger people of faith.
If you want to have a lasting impact, who are you seeking to learn from and who are you seeking to pass on the faith and your experience to?
We might never be spiritual ‘giants’ like Abraham or Moses or Peter or Paul, but what better legacy to leave behind than to be known as men and women of God who got involved in His mission and who made an impact on the lives and communities that God put us in contact with.
Rev. Dr. Mark Welsh is the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s Mission Development Officer.