Author - Andrew Burt, Echoes International Mission Worker
Andrew and his wife Lorna joined a GLO church planting team in Enniscorthy in the Republic of Ireland in 1999. He now leads this local church and is mainly involved in leadership, Bible teaching, pastoral care and children’s and youth ministry. He has two teenage daughters.
In August 2008 they took the North Carolina state record for landing the biggest cat-fish at over 9.5kg. But the most amazing thing about this is, that it was 3 year-old Alyssa who caught it on her little pink Barbie rod. Her grandfather pulled it in as she danced up and down with excitement and worried that her rod was going to break!
But David and Alyssa don’t just challenge assumptions about fishing. I think they also challenge one of our commonly held assumptions about mission – that it should be left for the experts, as they are more effective than we could ever be in drawing men and women and young people to God.
…instead of our weaknesses being a barrier to mission, they are an opportunity for God’s power to be more clearly seen through our witness
For most of my life I’ve battled with that feeling of inadequacy. I’ve always felt that I’m just not good enough, experienced enough or equipped enough in reaching out with the gospel, in teaching the Bible or in discipling believers. My instinctive reaction is to feel like I should leave it to someone else, to the experts.
But that is not God’s will. God’s Word teaches us that God wants to use ordinary, everyday people like you and me to impact this world.
In 2 Corinthians 4:7, Paul wrote, “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” Our inadequacies and limitations are not problems for God because our effectiveness is not based on our ability or qualifications, but on God’s power working through us. And so instead of our weaknesses being a barrier to mission, they are an opportunity for God’s power to be more clearly seen through our witness.
The Samaritan woman who Jesus met at a well bears this out. If you and I were going to select someone to reach the town of Sychar, we probably would never have chosen her. She didn’t have the theological training, the good reputation or the experience we would look for. And yet her town was transformed with the gospel when she went back to her people with a simple but incredibly humble message, “Come, see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done. Could this be the Messiah?” (John 4:29).
I’ve seen this reality in our work in Ireland. Recently I did an impromptu survey in our home Bible study. I know that we’re not necessarily a representative group, but we are a pretty diverse group with men and women from five different nationalities, aged between 18 to 75 years old and ranging from mature believers to brand new Christians.
I asked them how they first heard the gospel or who was most instrumental in them coming to Christ. Only about a quarter of them had first heard the gospel from a pastor, evangelist or youth worker. The other three quarters had first heard the gospel through family, friends or work colleagues who were just living out the command to make disciples in their everyday lives.
This doesn’t mean that training is irrelevant or unnecessary. It doesn’t excuse our laziness in seeking to be as equipped as we can for the mission of making disciples of all nations. I am so grateful for my experience in evangelism through my local church in Scotland, my year at Tilsley College before we came to Ireland and the books and teaching podcasts that continue to feed into my ministry.
What this does mean is that our lack of education, ability or experience is no excuse for disobeying God’s call on our lives. We can’t use our inadequacy to justify our unwillingness to step into the role that God has for us in his mission and share the amazing message of Jesus wherever we can.
Just as Alyssa’s experience shows us that even little girls with pink barbie rods can be effective fishermen, I believe that God wants us to realise that we don’t need to be an expert to get involved in God’s mission. We just need to answer God’s call and say, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8).