Mark Driscoll's catastrophic interview with Justin Brierley made waves at my house primarily because of his comments about the church in England. My husband grew up in England and his family is deeply involved in small church plants across the pond.
Driscoll's perception of the weakness of the British church is pretty offensive to us, and Don Carson put words to our objections in his post today.
We must not equate courage with success, or even youth with success. We must avoid ever leaving the impression that these equations are valid. I have spent too much time in places like Japan, or in parts of the Muslim world, where courage is not measured on the world stage, where a single convert is reckoned a mighty trophy of grace. I am grateful beyond words for the multiplication of churches in Acts 29, but I am no less grateful for Baptist ministers like my Dad, men who labored very hard and saw very little fruit for decades in French Canada, many of whom went to prison (their sentences totaled eight years between 1950 and 1952). I find no ground for concluding that the missionaries in Japan in the 20th century were less godly, less courageous, less faithful, than the missionaries in (what became) South Korea, with its congregations of tens of thousands. At the final Great Assize, God will take into account not only all that was and is, but also what might have been under different circumstances (Matt 11:20ff). Just as the widow who gave her mite may be reckoned to have given more than many multi-millionaires, so, I suspect, some ministers in Japan, or Yorkshire, will receive greater praise on that last day than those who served faithfully in a corner of the world where there was more fruit.
As Isaac and I search for a place and ministry overseas, I wrestle with two schools of thought. It was Blackaby in Experiencing God who instilled in me the idea that I should look where God is at work around me and that is where I should join Him. Look to see where the Spirit is moving, and then join Him at work there.
But then to Carson's point, is this a subtle movement towards valuing only outward success in this instead of a long obedience in the same direction? I mean, Jesus really did say that His true followers would bear fruit. On the other hand, the Hebrews 11 faith chapter is filled with the great heroes of the Old Testament and yet, "None of them received what had been promised". I think of Ezekiel's great commissioning, and yet God sends him while also saying that people would not respond or listen. Ezekiel's success was in his obedience, not in the great revival that came through his ministry.
Practically speaking as a young couple looking at the world, do we look for where Christianity is multiplying and go there because that is where the Spirit of God is currently working? Do we go to India, to Africa, to South Asia? Or do we, perhaps, find a place where our giftings can be used to help build the church, and faithfully work there, whether or not there is great response or if it's a popular "cool" spot in the Western church's eyes? How do we balance the command to be fruitful and the command to obey even if there is no response?