Pastor Charles Kim when making his presentation described the characteristics of this generation in three words: Sensual, Immediacy, and Permissive. As I reflected on those three words they were more than just characteristics. To me, it implies a value – system or a worldview by which this generation organizes life and decisions. I realized that I tend to view ministry from that same paradigm too. I expect my assignments from God to be ‘well marketed’ and appealing otherwise it fails to capture me. Instead of obeying, I tend to rationalize His simple command ‘Go’. When sent, I expect immediate results otherwise I am frustrated and my faith starts to dwindle. I fail to realize that the process of obedience on my part itself is sometimes the only result I will ever witness in a life time of service. And finally I expect God to make exceptions with His standards so I can ‘do’ ministry failing to understand that the end does not justify the means.
At the Yanghwajin memorial, I encountered another paradigm of ministry, one that is memorialized and rarely practiced. It’s easy to understand why the missionaries did what they did. It was for Jesus. He was their one and only reason. But how they did what they did is something that I need to contemplate and learn from. As I read the epitaphs, I realized it wasn’t a technique, a ministry tool or a mission method that I can breakdown into 101 steps for successful ministry but a value-system structured around Christ’s own life and example.
The price they paid in persevering towards their God driven purpose is what made them true heroes. Despite the harsh reality of a war torn third world nation they perceived endless opportunities for the Gospel to advance. The flames of undying passion for the cause of Christ burned down the challenges they encountered. Sickness, disease, and death could not dissuade them to renounce their faith but became the impetus to persevere. Many did not live to see their dream realized but all of them left a legacy. Rather than focus on immediate impact and instant results, they looked beyond and foresaw their impact for the future. They recognized that they were agents of transformation in their time playing their part, building on each others efforts. But never thought that they were ‘transformation’ it self. They were people of deep convictions and often suffered much for the same. There was no ambiguity between their beliefs and actions. What they lived for, they died for.
Their faith in Christ, commitment to and sacrifice for the cause of Christ, selfless – service, and sheer hard work was a way of life and they would have done ministry no other way. Is it possible to take this and package it into a method? I doubt it. It is a legacy that is passed down and the next generation should learn to receive it graciously and apply the principles in the present contexts. . But who does this generation emulate!? Unfortunately it seems like it is the present day TV evangelists, mega-church ministers and multi-billion dollar para-church organizations who are receiving all the attention. They are defining ministry instead of the ‘indigenous modern day missionary’, who is a true disciple of Jesus Christ with a life style witness. As long as this trend continues, the paradigm of ministry will remain one of sensuality, immediacy and permissiveness.
I don’t doubt that there are modern day missionaries that live passionately, pursue a purpose that is God driven and persevere at all cost to advance the Gospel. I have witnessed many in my own context. But our generation needs more of them living among us to redefine ministry to mean ‘for Christ, in Christ and through Christ’. I came away deeply convinced to redefine my paradigm of ministry. I want to pattern it after the great heroes of faith that I encountered at Yanghwajin and after countless missionaries that laid down their lives for the advancement of the Gospel in India. With a Christian heritage going back five generations, I have witnessed my forefathers receive such a legacy of ministry from the missionaries and pass it on. It is my turn now.