"WorldView Conversation" is an ongoing discussion of global events, issues and trends: What's happening, why is it happening, and how might God be using events for His purposes? How can you get involved and make a positive impact? My twice-monthly WorldView columns will be posted along with other thoughts and observations, but I want to listen to you. What do you think?
As a follower of Christ: I am
called not to comfort or success but to obedience. Consequently, my life is to
be defined not by what I do but by who I am.
Henceforth: I will proclaim His
name without fear, follow Him without regret and serve Him without compromise. Thus: To obey is my objective,
to suffer is expected, His glory is my reward. Therefore: To Christ alone be
all power, all honor and all glory, that the world may know. Amen!
Those 83 words challenge a number
of things we hold dear as modern Americans: personal independence, success,
comfort, unlimited options. They comprise the creed, which is first memorized,
then lived out, by students accepted into Fusion (imbstudents.org/fusion), a challenging year of mission training and action for
college-age Southern Baptists.
Fusion, now in its 10th year, is a partnership
between IMB and Midwestern Baptist College, the undergraduate program at
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri. It puts
students through far more than an academic overview of missions. They spend the
fall semester living and studying in a close discipleship community,
participating in specialized training programs, doing ministry and evangelism
in the Kansas City area — and holding each
other accountable to their commitment. For the spring semester, they head
overseas to join IMB missionaries in various locations. Fusion teams are
trained to go to the least-reached people groups, so they often travel to
physically challenging or high-security areas around the world.
Wishy-washy believers need not
apply. Well, they can apply, but they won’t stay wishy-washy for long.
Gwen Noonan* found that out for
herself when she signed up. Noonan, now 20, entered the Fusion program in the
fall of 2012. She was as an enthusiastic 18-year-old from California searching
for exciting ways to serve the Lord. In Fusion training, she soon learned that
God seeks more than our service; He seeks our whole being.
“During our contingency training, we were put into scenarios
that felt so real — even though they weren’t — that I really had to ask myself whether or not the
gospel is worth my life,” she said. “Is Jesus, really knowing Him, worth all
that I have to go and glorify Him in the nations?”
She also learned about Karen Watson, whose words and life
helped inspire the Fusion Creed. Watson, another Californian, was one of four
Southern Baptist relief workers killed by unknown gunmen in Iraq in 2004. A
former law enforcement officer known both for her toughness and her passion for
God, Watson knew the risks of working in Iraq. She had willingly returned there
shortly before her death after several previous close calls with death.
God calls there are no regrets,” Watson wrote in a now-famous letter found in a
sealed envelope marked “Open in case of death.” She left it with her pastor
when she departed for the Middle East in 2003. “I tried to share my heart
with you as much as possible, my heart for the nations,” Watson said in the letter.
“I wasn’t called to a place; I was called to Him. To obey was my objective, to
suffer was expected, His glory my reward, His glory my reward.”
Fusion training confronted Noonan
with spiritual reality. “Learning more about Karen’s story helped me
realize His Glory really is my reward and really is worth it,” she said.
“Knowing the sweetness of Jesus even in the midst of these hard things, knowing
Jesus even in His sufferings, was something I would be willing to lay my life
Noonan’s commitment deepened when she went to her mission
assignment overseas, which involved developing friendships with Muslims in
order to share the gospel. It wasn’t easy, but she found Christ already was
“I went through a time of loneliness,” she remembered.
“Jesus was just so faithful during that time, and He used the creed to
encourage my heart. [He said] ‘I am so worth it. I have suffered for you and to
obey My Father. Abide in Me and know the sweetness of laying your life down.’”
During that time Noonan, a musician, also completed a song
based on the Fusion Creed that she had begun writing during training. When she
returned to the United States, she recorded “The Creed” and participated in the
making of avideo featuring the song: https://vimeo.com/112718306.
This year, Noonan has become a Fusion “advocate,” one of the
alumni who return to help prepare the next generation of Fusion trainees — not only for their overseas assignments, but for a
lifetime as disciples who make disciples. In January, 59 people now in Fusion
training anticipate going in teams to North Africa, the Middle East, Central
Asia and South Asia to glorify God. Noonan will lead a team of three young
women back to the area where she served last year.
Walls of the mind and heart are harder to tear down than walls of brick and
fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago brought great hopes of a new birth of
spiritual and political freedom, not only in the communist orbit but around the
world. In many ways, those hopes were realized. Old tyrannies began to crumble.
The Cold War ended after more than a generation of East-West conflict. Churches
and believers long imprisoned by persecution and fear were released into the
sunlight of liberty.
collapse of the Soviet Union followed the glorious opening in Berlin. Waves of
Christian workers from the West flooded into Eastern Europe and the former
Soviet republics to assist their brothers and sisters in the faith. An exciting era of
evangelism and church planting began.
era continues, despite the turmoil that has followed Soviet communism’s demise.
“The wall was an outward symbol of an inward reality,” Mark Edworthy, IMB
strategy leader for Europe, told IMB writer Nicole Lee. “Communism had erected
a spiritual barrier with its incessant denial of God’s existence and its cycle
of cruelty. Spiritually, we eagerly took up a hammer and chisel to work against
that greater barrier.” A quarter-century later, “we can see greater trophies
than stone and mortar as the Lord has continued to build His church throughout
the former Soviet sphere.”
But believers are working with urgency in Eastern Europe, Lee reported,
“because no one knows how long the door to some of these countries will remain
open. The ongoing war in Ukraine highlights the fact that, although the Cold
War is over, communism and other secular philosophies are still at work.”
The social and economic chaos of the immediate post-Soviet years led to
yearning — in Russia, at least — for a “strong hand” at the helm, which has resulted in new tensions with
the West in recent years. Those tensions are pushing the world to the “brink of a new
Cold War,” warned former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at a Nov. 8 event in
Berlin marking the Wall’s fall. Gorbachev, whose reforms helped hasten the end
of the Soviet empire, criticized global powers for failing to work together to
end conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, the Middle East and Ukraine.
For now, open ministry continues.
“We really don’t see any comprehensive political pressure that hinders the
advance of the gospel. Materialism and consumerism have replaced communism,”
said one Christian worker based in Russia. Still, he added, “Our time might be
short. Have we planted an apostolic burden among Russian church leaders? There
are some who [are passionate about reaching the lost], but we need many more.”
The message is one that has been repeated again and again throughout
history: There are no guarantees — except for
the presence and sovereignty of the Lord. Walls may fall, while others rise. In
the political realm, the Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing occurred in
1989, the same year the Berlin Wall came down. Yet the Chinese church, which
suffered one of its darkest hours during the savage persecution of the 1966-76
Cultural Revolution, continues to grow in size, vitality and passion for global
may seem silent on occasion. At other times, people simply don’t trouble to
hear his voice,” writes Philip Jenkins,
distinguished professor of history at Baylor University, in Christianity
Today. “As an example, we
might look at the experience of China, which over the past two millennia
has remained the world’s most populous nation. The story of Chinese
Christianity is a recurrent cycle of mighty boom years followed by what seemed like
total annihilation at the time, an obliteration so absolute that on each
occasion, it was quite clear that the church could never rise again. That cycle
has occurred five times to date since the ninth century. On each occasion, the
Chinese church has reemerged far more powerful than at its previous peak. Each
successive ‘nevermore’ proved to be strictly temporary.”
Today, the very existence of the church in the Middle
East, the cradle of the Christian faith, seems threatened by the advance of
Islamic extremists. But God will not leave Himself without a witness.
when institutional churches vanish, believers persist in many different forms,”
Jenkins writes. “As Anatoly Lunacharsky, the frustrated Soviet minister of
education, complained in 1928, ‘Religion is like a nail: The harder you hit it,
the deeper it goes into the wood.’ Sometimes it goes in so deep, you can’t even