Serving Christ at home or abroad changes our perspective on just about everything. These days, I cannot help but listen to the news or read my Bible without the sense that our time is growing short. This is nothing new for believers, as the early Christians lived with expectancy of his return at any moment.
While the Church has grown complacent with what may be seen as a delay in his coming, we cannot relax in our calling. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic revealed, if anything, that everything can suddenly change on a dime, so we must press on in reaching the nations.
God can use a pandemic, scripture, and even words from fellow believers to wake us up to the brevity we have in a certain location.
When we were in one Middle Eastern country, a colleague from another organization shared with our group that he sensed the Lord telling him our time was short in this land. As we listened to him, prayed together and as a couple, my husband and I believed this was from the Lord. It gave us renewed motivation to press on in witness and discipleship of new believers, knowing we might be forced to leave at any moment. We wanted to leave behind believers ready to take up the mantel in leadership and witness.
One by one, ex-pat workers were forced to leave the country. The prophecy had proved true.
Though our departure was swift—we had ten days to leave the country—we left without regrets, because we had done our part, pouring into the lives of believers in discipleship, mentoring, and hands-on training in witness and church planting.
Not every closed door left us with the same feeling or sense of accomplishment, but they did serve as reminders that we must work while we can or while it is still day, as Jesus told his disciples.
Think about the example of Paul, as he was working in Ephesus. (See Acts 19). What an amazing ministry he had there, hosting daily discussions with Jews and Greeks in the lecture hall, and being used by God to perform miracles. For two years, amazing things were happening. However, in the midst of all this, Paul was feeling within himself the Lord was leading him to Jerusalem. He was already shifting toward a new direction when something happened to get him moving a bit faster.
A first-century flash mob rose up in opposition.
If it hadn’t been for a level-headed city clerk, who knows what that mob would have done to Paul and his group. Thankfully, he escaped unscathed on this occasion, but the uproar confirmed to Paul it was time to get out of town.
Though Paul’s departure was perhaps quicker than the local believers expected, he did take the time to encourage them before he left. You may not always get the chance to encourage local believers when a door closes quickly to your ministry, but if you are able, look for ways you can bless and pass the baton of service to those you leave behind.
Empowerment goes a long way to seeing a strong ministry continue.
Do you sense an urgency in fulfilling the Great Commission in the place you’re planted? Whether you remain a few months, years, or a decade, commit to working while it is still day, building up a new generation of workers who will carry on when your time is done.
Grace and Peace
For more on doors that close quickly, read When Doors Close: Changing Course in Missions Without Losing Your Way.