Promoting Christ-centred Biblical Ministry

Index of Articles
reprinted from the September 2000 edition of Essentials  


Richard Schumack

Richard Schumack works in inner city cross cultural ministry
  Waiting on a chair.  
  It had taken a few tries to make initial contact with my friend, but finally I had arrived at his home with him both in, and expecting me. His wife answered the door, and I was ushered into the living room. I would have to wait, as he was praying - the 4th of his daily prayers. I sat alone (well almost alone - the 6 yr. old daughter was delighted to have some entertainment in a dreary afternoon) and waited. 10 minutes later he came into the room, said nothing, and took a dining chair away. He soon returned and, still silently, indicated I was to follow him into one of the bedrooms. In the room was a bed and the dining chair, nothing else. He motioned me to sit on the chair, which I did, and then left me alone again. As I sat for what seemed like 5 minutes (though it probably wasn't) I wondered what was on earth was going on? Why this room? Why one chair? What was he doing? How long would I wait? Why had I been banished from the living area?  
  As I waited, it seemed to me that I was in a living parable that described much of what it is to be involved in cross cultural ministry. Crossing cultures you move in a constantly unsettling environment. Why are people acting that way? Why do they react so strongly to something so small and have no problem with big issues for me? Why do people so often not turn up to appointments?  
  In a sense, you are reduced to the level of a toddler. The environment you move in is attractive, interesting, occasionally wondrous (particularly the food), but so much of it is new and alien. Communication is usually basic and often confused, but there are occasional glimpses into the profundities of people's lives. You are having to relearn the basics of body language, comprehension of time, personal space, manners and sexual protocol. You are frustrated because you are skating across the surface relationally, and depth appears so far away. Thank the Lord for sport - at least soccer conversation crosses all boundaries. We are one in Man U at least.  
  Waiting for a sign.  
  However for me, being unsettled goes much deeper than relating to people or understanding culture. Our whole ministry is unsettled. I live with the feeling that we are making it up as we go along. There are no Christians in the people group we are working with, and next to none in the world. There are no obviously successful models of reaching them with the gospel. There are some obvious points of social contact, but very few with the key people in their community - the fathers. Most days I am left waiting for some sort of sign that we are on the right track.  
  I keep reminding myself to remain confident, that in the end there are no secrets to mission. There are lost people, and a message that will bring them back. These lost people are a heartbreaking mixture of fear and hope, warmth and caution, hospitality and isolation, generosity and violence, all with no comprehension of a God that is love. And the message we bring is a brilliant message. It is liberating and majestic and satisfying and beautiful and it is the power for salvation. Lost people, and a message of salvation. It's just connecting the two that is hard. How do you become deeply involved in a such a proud community enough to be an effective communicator?  
  Of course, essentially this is no different to any other ministry. All ministry is to some degree cross cultural, and is about connecting people with the gospel. But when you don't have a single Christian, and when the cultural and religious gap is so wide that you cannot hide your ministry behind numbers or committees or events, you are stripped bare. There is just you and the Gospel.  
  And most of all, there is a Father in heaven who rejoices at the rescuing of a single lost one and who is at work by his Spirit. I remember Acts 18 where God encourages Paul to keep preaching because He has people in the city. And I remember that people have taken Bibles and are willing to talk, and appreciate our care for them. But still there is no hint of who are the Lord's, and no hint of when they might be reborn. So we wait.  
  Waiting on God.  
  The great thing about all this is being driven to do just that - to wait on God. To wait and see who are God's. To be driven to prayerful reliance on Him. I am back on that chair, but I am not alone, never alone. The room may be dark or strange or lonely but we are the body of Christ and his Spirit is with us. And we wait for God to weave the fabric of His kingdom in us, and through us, and through the room until He returns.  
  My father was a child during the war. He had lost his mother when he was three, and my grandfather was away in the army, so he was raised by different relatives. At one time during the war he was living with an uncle and aunt on a farm outside a small country town called Taralga near Goulburn. It was Christmas time, and my grandfather had promised to come and see my father and his sisters for Christmas. On the day the train was arriving, my father and his sisters walked the miles into town and waited at the station. The train arrived, and my grandfather wasn't on it. He hadn't turned up.  
  We are surrounded by millions of individuals who are waiting for something or someone who won't turn up. Allah won't turn up. On the day the Moslems I work with come face to face with eternity they will be devastated. But we are waiting for a heavenly Father who will turn up. The resurrection cries out to us that Jesus Lordship is real, his return is guaranteed and our resurrection to eternity is certain. That's why I was there on the chair. That's why I stumble through my days and weeks trying to see where the Spirit is moving. That's why I wait for God to use me and those around me.  
  One of the cool things is that occasionally there are glimpses into what the Spirit is beginning in people's lives. My friend eventually came back into the room. We sat and talked in halting English about his life and family. At the end he smiled a beautiful smile that is etched into my mind. A smile of warmth and gratitude. And just last week he took a Bible in his own language to read. Please pray for him. That is why I was there on the chair at all.  

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