By Sophia Fleming
“Creativity can take on new forms of expression and human insight can produce fresh fruit with each new age, but none of us begin with a blank sheet of paper! We are in the middle of the story.” Excerpt from the story behind the song By Faith*.
How often do we come into a new job or a new relationship or a new situation and look at it as just that – “new” when in fact it is anything but new? How much differently would we handle ourselves and the situation if we realized that we are only in the middle of the story, things have happened before us that have shaped what we have come to and we need to not be arrogant and assume we are the be-all and end-all, there is more to come. Now, we need to respect and seek out what has happened and then ask ourselves, “How can we contribute to the future?”
The philosophy of being part of the middle of the story has been shaping our work in the mission field, personally. Too often Westerners come into countries like Kenya with the intention to “set them straight” with no knowledge or respect for the heritage and history of those they came to “serve.” When we go into the mission field to serve, we need to realize that we are only part of the story that the Lord is writing in that area. We should, and do, feel privileged to be just that – only a part of the story. The end goal of all mission work should be to join God in what He has done and is doing, and celebrate with His people in what He will do, often when He has moved us onto another story board.
I believe this same philosophy also needs to transcend into all areas of ministry work and is yet another aspect of local autonomy. If we are updating our websites with study material, it should be to support other groups to grow in their story. If we are invited to speak as a guest speaker, we need to respect the group that we are speaking to and the heritage that brought them together, realizing that we may have an influence on the groups’ future, but we are not the end result of its existence. This is humbling, but true. We need to ask ourselves what gifting we have that God wants to use to help complete the story.
We also need to not assume that just because there is history that the end of the story is at hand. God brought you into the story, at this time, for a reason. Are you contributing to the end of the story, or just waiting to see what will happen?
I have heard many discussing end times, and how it shouldn’t be long now until Jesus comes again. According to Global Frontier Missions**, “It is estimated that of the 7.75 billion people alive in the world today, 3.23 billion of them live in unreached people groups with little or no access to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Jesus was very clear in Matthew 24:14 – “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (emphasis added)
One of those 3.23 billion people may be your neighbor, the clerk at the store, or someone a 24-hour plane ride from your home. What middle of the story is God calling you to be in?
Sophia Fleming is the Administrator for the General Council Churches of God (Seventh Day), Inc. (www.ACTSforGod.org). She and her husband, Patrick, recently returned from their most recent mission trip to Kenya.