Over the past few months, we have identified a handful of mileposts marking our journey as a missionary community through the years.
In April, we marked the conversion of Hans Nielsen Hauge: Hauge came to faith on April 5, 1796. In May, we commemorated the formation of the South American Mission Prayer League: SAMPL was created on the campus of the Lutheran Bible Institute of Minneapolis on May 25, 1937.
Our milepost this month takes us right to the present: June 12-30, 2017. We gather these days for our annual missionary candidates’ Briefing Course.
For most of a century, we have gathered in June for Briefing Course. It is an opportunity for missionary candidates and serious inquirers to hear the story of the World Mission Prayer League and to share their own adventures in missionary obedience. We “brief” our candidates during these weeks in June: how to learn another language, how to care for their souls, how to prepare a family for cross-cultural service – and the importance throughout of depending upon God.
We anticipate a full complement of participants in this year’s Briefing Course: nearly twenty, as of this writing. They are from Canada, the United States, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. There is power-plant engineer among them, a military officer, a social worker, a teacher, several business people, a pastor, and more. Some are feeling called specifically to Africa. Others to Asia. Others, simply, are ready for anything, anywhere.
Here is a slice of their lives:
“A passion to do the will of my Father in heaven burns brightly in me….” (DB)
“…we seek to answer God’s call to advance his Kingdom…. to reach those who do not yet know His name.” (JPB)
“[I have] discovered a great passion to evangelize.” (JW)
“…we thought we wouldn’t be good missionaries because we weren’t pastors…. [Now God] has shown us that he has great plans to use people with all kinds of backgrounds for his service.” (NJM)
“[Christ’s] grace and mercy call me back to the foot of the cross every day….” (NH)
“I can’t imagine my life without Jesus and the love and forgiveness he has shown me.” (HRP)
“I am willing to go wherever God calls me.” (HRP)
“I’m not sure how or where God will lead…. But it’s a fun mystery.” (AN)
Where do people like these come from?
Let me return to a bit of research that we introduced last month. People like these, a case could be made, come from people like Hauge. They come from movements like SAMPL. A gospel “spark” has gotten hold of people like these. And the gospel has made them new.
Alison Stibbe describes the message of Hans Nielsen Hauge as a kind of prophetism, after the model of Walter Brueggemann. Here is a tradition that “deconstructs” a privileged way of viewing things in order to “reconstruct” a radical alternative. It builds an alternative “imagination,” you might say – an imagination that we often find at Briefing Course.
The view that professional clergy accomplish most every important spiritual thing is deconstructed. Hauge looked instead to the believing sisters and brothers – students, farmers, plumbers, peasants – as the indispensable means of God’s mission in the world. The view that theological things are only apparent to professional theological people is deconstructed. Hauge emphasized simple surrender to the Living Lord Jesus in simple hearts of faith. And a view that made abstract ciphers of the world’s lost – this, too, is deconstructed. Hauge understood lostness from personal experience – and would bend every effort to reach into the lostness with the life-giving gospel of Jesus.
This is a tradition less concerned for hierarchy and more concerned for life. It understands the things of faith to belong to the actual community of faith. It is committed to the Reformation concept of “the priesthood of all believers” – a bedrock principle of Luther’s Reformation. The priesthood belongs to the people.
This is where they come from – the sort of people that appear at Briefing Course. They may not know much about Hauge, it is true. They may not have heard of the Lutheran Bible Institute or the South American Mission Prayer League. Yet the “spark” that fired old Hauge himself, and enlivened the imaginations of LBI students many years ago – this is the spark that produces Kingdom adventurers such as these, to this very day.
“Imagination” is a good word for this dynamic. If we imagine ourselves duds, we may behave like duds, too. And if we believe ourselves “a royal priesthood,” redeemed by grace through faith in the wonderful Lord Jesus? We may come to behave like it! “What [a person] thinks is what he really is” (Proverbs 23:7, GNT; italics added). “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” (KJV).
I hope that you will notice the progression over these last three months. We’ve gone from Hauge, 200 years ago, to LBI, in the 1930s – to Briefing Course 2017. This is the way historical progressions work, often enough. Their “milestones,” eventually, may come to include you.
Other posts in this Mileposts series: