Enroute, Jeff has been plucking away on his laptop like a madman, shuffling through his detailed notes, and trying to commit our already fading memories to writing. Jeff is a master at observation and analysis. I’m confident he’ll bring order and clarity to the jungle book of experiences we’ve had.
I think I can speak for both of us in saying that this trip had more of a personal impact on us than we anticipated.
For myself, I learned that my evangelistic zeal is too easily dampened. We have lots of excuses, many good ones, why we don’t open our mouths and share our testimonies more freely. Through our silence we are no longer students of the Great Commission, learning and sharpening our witness in ways that can only be done through practice.
This trip made me realize that we can’t really ‘workshop’ or ‘seminar’ our way to doing evangelism. We really just have to do it; share our testimonies with anything that moves, look for that “man of peace” who will engage us. This is Jesus' way of evangelism training. Evangelism seminars are very helpful, we need them. And we also need to obediently follow the Spirit as He shapes in us evangelistic lifestyles.
I’ve found that I’m about three steps removed from the experience of Paul, and Peter, and the other post-resurrection disciples. Their experiences seem other-worldly and surreal. You see, the apostles used a word that we rarely use to describe each other: Boldness.
We admire other Christians for their prayerfulness, or their service, or their kindness, or their gentleness, or their compassion. But rarely do we admire Boldness. When was the last time I described myself as prison-bound, Muslim-confronting, hunt-people-down-every-day, hot-blooded bold about the Gospel? People describe me as being Bald, but not Bold (sorry, I couldn’t resist a bad bald joke!).
Seriously though, we “evangelicals” think that a brother in Christ probably did something wrong if he offended someone by sharing his faith. If an unbeliever is offended by our testimony, we want to apologize for it! There’s something seriously wrong here. Of course if a well-intentioned brother is tactless and unloving as he shares about Jesus' love, that's an incongruity that should be addressed. Even in those cases, though, we should be glad that the gospel goes forward, whether in "pretense or in truth" (Phil. 1).
If you do a search of the word “bold” and its derivatives in the New Testament. You’ll find that its a very important word. The apostles were bold. Jesus promised Spirit-filled boldness. They got stoned and beat up for being bold. Other Christians betrayed them because of their boldness. They prayed for boldness. And they asked for even more boldness!
Another take-away from this trip is that the American church has a lot to learn from our brothers and sisters overseas. In fact, we should seriously consider asking some of these Uzbeks, and Kazakhs, and Tajiks to come over here and tell us what we desperately need to hear. So let’s drop any paternalistic notion that missions is a one-way street to non-Americans. We have as much to learn from believers in other countries as they can learn from us. They’re truly our partners and it would be a good idea if they came over here and kicked us in our...back pews. Those Ninjas have a few things to teach us “grasshoppers”.
Jesus promised that the Gates of Hell will not prevail against the church. If I remember correctly, there was only instance during His life that Jesus indicated that the Gates of Hell were seriously threatened. It was when the disciples went out boldly witnessing, two by two, and Jesus said, “I was watching Satan fall from the heavens like lightning” (Luke 10:18). So, if we think that the Prince of the World has too much sway over our culture, we know there is at least one thing we can do to bring him down...Spirit emboldened witnessing.
Lets pray and work for lightning to fall in our part of the world.