The missionary challenge…

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Acts 16:1 Paul went on also to Derbe and to Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer; but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the believersb in Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; and he took him and had him circumcised because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they went from town to town, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in numbers daily.

In Acts chapter 15, the chapter just prior to this one, there was a council in Jerusalem among the senior leadership of the fledgling Christian church discussing whether new Gentile believers should be required to be circumcised and follow the law of Moses. The decision was – no. They would not, which was an important development for Paul and others preaching the gospel outside Israel.

That said, we now read that Timothy, a promising young leader in the church, was circumcised before being allowed to accompany Paul in his missionary work. Seems strange doesn’t it? What gives?

Well, what gives is that the starting point for Paul in his missionary work was often the Jewish community in whatever town/village he happened to be. Timothy would not be very helpful if he were forced to remain outside of the synagogue – which is where the mission field usually began. So, for the sake of the mission, Timothy had to do what he had to do.

Sometimes, as leaders, we are required to do things others are not.

This is simply a reality of leadership. It’s also a reality of mission, which requires us to embrace the culture of those we are seeking to reach with the gospel message. Often in the church we resist this missional truth. We want to believe that we can keep things as they are and teach new people to embrace a new culture – our culture. This certainly makes things less stressful for those who are already a part of the church, but it’s not a very effective missional plan.

I’ve visited hundreds of churches over the last decade or so of working as part of a bishop’s staff, a national denominational staff, and as an independent consultant. Here’s one thing I know for sure.

Empty/dying churches are often filled with wonderful Christian people who want the world to adopt their church culture rather than the other way around. 

Lord Jesus, the young leader Timothy was willing to do whatever was necessary to reach another people with the gospel. His example challenges us to examine our own practices. Give us grace to, like Timothy, do whatever needs to be done to share the good news of your love for the world. We ask this in your precious, holy name. Amen.

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