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For the Lord or With the Lord?

For the Lord or With the Lord?

Antigua, Guatemala

Principal's Pen - December 2023

One of the great challenges in mission work for young Christians, such as our Berean students, is finding ways to involve them in working “with” Jesus as opposed to “for” Jesus.  This has been a challenge from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as detecting what Jesus is doing in the world and joining "with" him is more difficult than finding things to do "for" him.  Come to find out, prepositions matter! The story of Martha and Mary illustrates the challenge.

 "Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:38-42, ESV).  

 In this account, the reader finds Martha engaging in service "for" Jesus, which, on the surface, seems to be the right thing to do "for" her very significant friend. One can imagine Martha preparing a meal, cleaning, and tending to the moment-by-moment needs of Jesus as he spent time in her home. Her actions were "for" Jesus' well-being and comfort, and she likely did everything with perfect hospitality on his behalf. But the reader is told how Martha's efforts "for" Jesus distracted her from a better choice, a better prepositional descriptor that would have given her what Jesus called "the good portion," that is, being "with" him.   

 Being "with" Jesus is the more favorable preposition in the story. Here, Martha's sister, Mary, deliberately chose not to serve with her sister but rather sit at the feet of Jesus to engage in meaningful interaction "with" him. Jesus praises her choice and, in so doing, emphasizes the significance of aligning oneself "with" him rather than resolving merely to do things "for" him. This underscores the text's theological principle: It's better to actively engage "with" Jesus, joining in what he is already doing, rather than coming up with things to do "for" him on our own.

So how can the church join "with" Jesus in his continuing mission to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God? The first step is to maximize the "with" posture and minimize the "for" approach for both local ministry and international missions. Many have heard the story of the church in Mexico that was painted six times in one summer by six different church groups from the United States.1 Undoubtedly, this story is an embarrassing example of work done "for" the Lord rather than "with" him. Some of those church groups may well have missed ways of joining “with” Jesus that Summer in promoting and proclaiming his kingdom.  

To discover what Jesus is up to, sending churches and individuals – and schools like Berean - need to search out the real needs in their own backyards and abroad.2 What would it have looked like for the American churches who sent painters to Mexico to do some research, contact local missionaries, and find out what conditions and specific challenges people were facing there?  Any one of a number of things might actually have been needed as a result of rampant poverty.  And whatever it was, from construction to teaching to supporting local health care providers, it could have been done in the name of Jesus, opening a door for maximizing the proclamation of the good news of the kingdom of God.  It just takes more prayer, more reflection, and more research to find places where we are in fact working “with” Jesus.

Good News About Missions

It turns out that many missions organizations have discovered ways to involve young Christians from the United States in international ministry work "with" Jesus. One such organization is Student's International (SI). This ministry pairs high school and college-aged students with vocational missionaries working in professional capacities in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. Individual students and groups register for a trip with SI, usually for a few weeks in the summer, and then choose a full-time vocational missionary to work alongside as they share Christ through their vocation.

 

 

Pictured left: A medical clinic in Guatemala. Pictured right: A trade school in Guatemala 

 

Examples of missionary vocations include Medicine, Physical Therapy, Dentistry, Education, Special Education, Finance, Sports, and Social Work. Students usually stay at a ministry base complete with men's and women's dorms and enjoy home-cooked locally inspired meals each morning and evening. Ultimately, students can witness and participate in seeing the Lord meet locals' spiritual, physical, and emotional needs. They also get on-the-job training from experts in what could become their future profession. Furthermore, students are immersed in Spanish and Latin culture, which is a fantastic way to utilize and further master the language they may have begun to acquire in high school, though it's not required. 

 

Pictured left: An English tutoring school in Guatemala. Pictured right: A physical therapy clinic in Guatemala

 

 

 

I was blessed to have joined Students International for a weeklong vision trip to Nicaragua and Guatemala last October. I stayed at SI's base in Nicaragua and toured all of their ministry sites there and in Guatemala. I was blessed to witness Christian missions done well, that is, "with" the Lord and his purpose. And because SI is "doing it right," I am pleased to announce that Berean Christian High School will be planning a trip for a group of students to an SI site in the summer of 2025. Dates and locations will be announced in the Spring of 2024. 

I look forward to seeing Berean students have the opportunity to see what the Lord is doing internationally and to see them interact “with” missionaries in the field through their vocations. It’s sure to be a life-shaping experience!

May the Lord bless you with a very merry Christmas! 

Nicholas Harris 


Notes:

See Ralph D. Winter, Steven C. Hawthorne, Darrell R. Dorr, Bruce A. Koch, and Graham A. Bruce, eds. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader, 4th ed. (Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library, 2009).

For an exposition on properly diagnosing a missions context see Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor... and Yourself (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014).


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