Friday, August 29, 2008

Remembering "God So Loved. . ."

I met Narcisco Zamora in June, a Peruvian Christian known as the Walking Man. His simple story impressed me and in July I introduced copies of his book at our local camp meeting.

Zamora describes his experiences in Latin America in Walking Man (Quilldriver, a $10 soft-cover book ($12.95 by pp mail). His journeys led him from the abject poverty, frequently accompanying delinquent behavior, to becoming an Assembly of God Christian and minister, and in 1984 a Church of God minister-missionary (Anderson).

His treks through the jungles of Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Cuba and elsewhere abroad. His story reveals raw, primitive evangelism. Frequently, he told his story of Jesus to people for their first time. As the walking evangelist, he clocked more than 1,000 miles of mountainous terrain, by day and night. During his travels he introduced the Church of God message into two new nations.

Traveling with minimal personal items, his preaching bible, and a packet of tracks, he walked. He upgraded to a mule when available, then a horse, being always in humble circumstances and distributing literature furnished by Christian Triumph Publishers of Corpus Christi, TX. (a ministry I have had associations with for more than half a century.

Describing Zamora‘s newest effort, Assist News Service reported:
"The role of American support in worldwide missions is important," said Zamora in the release. "I have partnered with many American churches and hope to continue to do so. Nonetheless, the Great Commission applies equally to Latin Americans, and I started the IMMS to prepare nationals to fulfill it, effectively and efficiently. We must be good stewards of God's resources."

Thinking about Zamora, I look at the bigger picture and see other issues within our Chog ranks: budgetary giving crunch threatening a shortfall, nationals like Zamora who serve mostly outside of national sponsorship, congregations with local mission projects (like Riverside, CA serving in downtown LA, Tijuana Mexico and Kenya).

Some struggle with “designated” giving, as opposed to budgetary giving, and worry about balance between congregational autonomy and support of mutually determined national ministries. As a pastor of 45 years, I well understand that struggle for balance. I know that Chog Ministries has a problem--facing accusations of controlling from the top down. They need our loyalty, but face congregations wanting to maintain an assumed autonomy.

A look at our history, as well as our predominant “thinking” should put much of this to rest. It isn’t our organization et al that we need to improve; we need to redefine and reaffirm our primary mission as a corporate Church Body. What I know is this: I have an injured right hand and a “gimpy” ankle, both from accidents.

It was my hand at first: two fingers require some adjustment for typing, which was my biggest concern at the time. After more than twenty years of dealing with “my” issues, I know this: when “I” tell my hands to type this message, my fingers coordinate their efforts to the best of their abilities and this message results. It isn‘t 100 words a minute, but I have written hundreds of pages and thousands of words.

When my “gimpy” ankle gets a notice from up above my shoulders, that I want to take a walk, my limbs coordinate their efforts and I “go for a walk.” As a result, I have probably walked thousands of miles. My general health is the better for it. Although I now walk slower and less than I once did, I still walk. I volunteer for special causes and I am the caregiver at our house.

What I conclude from this, is that we need to sweat the lesser issues less and focus on the really big issues of loving people in the name of Jesus. I have two questions: (1). What is God’s primary focus? (2). How do I (we) achieve that mission. Chog Ministries is not all of the ministry of the Church of God, but it is an important slice of the pie.

The greatest thing God ever accomplished culminated on that first Easter. That was when we began to understand the desire of God’s heart--the only mission we have. That focus will allow national and local ministries to co-exist side by side, a lot of foggy thinking and personal squabbles will fall away, and as a church body we will be liberated to say to Jesus, “Yes, we can!”
We could do a better job of taking care of God’s business, if we were not so involved in sweating the small stuff. We need to get our heads and hearts back in God’s ballgame.

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