“For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel…” (Ezekiel 3:5)
“What on earth are you choosing this section for to encourage us in praying for ministry among East Asia’s peoples Martin?” Good question. Well before we go any further it is important for us to pause and take this section to heart. It is the people of God, the ones who know the language and who should understand the purposes and character of God who can often be the most difficult group to see transformation and change among.
And this is why I am picking up this section in the prophets call to declare the name and Glory of God. The ministry which God has permitted us to be a part of as a fellowship contains many strands. Yes, there are situations where pioneering work is taking place. However, increasingly there is a healthy growth of partnering with indigenous churches and allowing them to set the tone, serving where we are needed.
Partnership can be difficult. And particularly partnership across cultures has the potential to expose the worst in each believers heart. As outsiders coming alongside, we will have a degree of detachment, allowing us to see blind spots in the local church. Now, I want to be really clear, this should not fill any of us with a sense of superiority of smugness. There are few things more repulsive than the believer with a swagger.
No, what it should do is fill us with compassion and a desire to see the people of God strengthened and turned again to their saviour and Lord. For some of those we are praying for this month their context is supporting and encouraging local church leadership to see initial evangelism expand, people come to know Christ as Lord and see this overflow into an indigenous mission movement.
Sometimes that requires conversations which are tough, pointing people back to the good news of Christ, the growth of the kingdom and away from a path of either despair or triumphalism. As we pray this month we need to ask for wisdom for our colleagues in these contexts. Yes, most are using foreign language, but they will be speaking the language of the people of God, reading the bible together. So in that sense, which seems to be how God is speaking to Ezekiel, they are not speaking a completely unfamiliar language.
Following on from that, let’s be a people who pray for the local church leaders in the various nations and peoples among East Asia. Ask that God would release his people from fear and produce in them a heart which desires to please their Father in heaven, asking for his will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
This is not an easy section of Ezekiel, and his ministry to the people of God was very difficult. However, into such situations God speaks, and he does bring transformation which leads to his mission becoming an increasing reality.