I don’t know about you but I find reading Christian biography a great privilege. It allows me a window through which to view some of the most important and influential moments and experiences of someones life of faith. Not only that, I find that as I
read more of the sovereign, kingly rule of Christ is displayed and it has a staggering capacity to draw praise from my heart and soul.
Recently I have been reading “On Giants Shoulders: Bringing New Life to Japan” the story of Patrick McElligott. He and his wife Sarah were long term, cross cultural missionaries working in Japan. What I found so refreshing about reading his own reflections of his work in missions was the simplicity of it all. He was an ordinary young man from London, his early years were not easy but God spoke, he believed in Christ and was called to service.
Like I said it is the simplicity of their faith in action which has struck me from their account of life in front-line cross cultural work. Each of their terms of service were richly used by God to expand his good news to the Japanese people. This was not without challenge both spiritually and practically. They had a young family that needed education in English which meant home schooling. They faced the great barriers of language, culture and quasi-religious ideologies. It wasn’t easy, but it was good and to God’s glory.
One great lesson which Patrick learned early on in his time working among the Japanese people concerned discouragement. He came to the realisation that “the devil is not so much interested in the relative size of the problem which he seeks to cause us despair, but in the depth of discouragement into which he can cause us to fall” (p.86). There is great wisdom in this especially when we too find ourselves pointing to Christ in times of discouragement.
Which got me thinking of some of the key questions which we can translate from the McElligott’s context to ours in the UK.
1. Do we understand the culture we live in? – Very often it seems that churches fail to recognise the environment and landscape which they now find themselves. In simple ways we need to ask ourselves this question.
2. Do we really believe that proclamation and prayer is enough? – This is a big one. And it needs to be asked. This is not just the stuff for “mission fields” but for the day to day life of the people of God across the world.
3. What are the main ways of communicating the gospel? – “Almost all the conversions which we have been privileged to see at Rakusei church were the result of family witness, one-to-one contact, or personal evangelism” (p.227). Like I have already said it is the simplicity of faithfulness to a life lived, loving Christ which has been a great encouragement to me.
This is an encouraging read which helps to expand the mind to see and act upon God’s growing kingdom through the world while at the same time engage us to look at our own context and apply similar faith filled simplicity to the communities of the UK.