Missions: Three-Legged Stool
“That evening after sunset, the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases…” (Mark 1:32-34, NIV 1984).
We were seated at the banquet that we plan each year to initiate our ministry in their country. Actually, this is their ministry and we had come to support God’s work through them. Our mission leader, Dr. Mark Johnston, spoke preliminary introductory words to our American team, many of whom were new to Albania. His words were wise regarding the chief focus of our time there: “This time we spend in Albania will bring with it significant work. Each of you has patients to see, lectures to give and other assignments. But these assignments are the least important things you will do; the most important work that God will do with you will be done through relationships.”
Of course, Dr. Johnston was right. Unless we have the gift of preaching, any significant influence for Christ will come through our relationships with those who know Him not, relationships that lead to the gospel message. These meaningful relationships are usually built upon a framework of service that supports them and gives them shape. Our work in Albania is built on 25 years of faithful service to the Albanian people. The Albanian medical community welcomes our present mission because we come with excellent teaching and excellent medical care. Thus, many will hear the words of Christ that are spoken within relationship because we have assisted them in the work they feel is most important.
Both relationships and service are vital. Together, they are a larger and more accurate picture of the Christ incarnate (the Christ who both raised Lazarus from the dead and spoke gently to the woman at the well) than either alone. Our long history of faithful service in Albania has led to long-term relationships where Christ has been introduced and some have found Him there. Service leads to relationships and relationships lead to service. And both must lead to message. The danger comes if we see our service or perceive our relationships as the completion of our message, a message that should be presented with touch and laughter and tears and hard work, but a message that must also include the name of Jesus.
This is true for missions, and it is also true for our lost neighbors, colleagues and patients.
Let me do the work of love that leads to the relationship where you may be introduced.