Missions - Measuring Depth of Commitment
Revd. Dr. Chris Gnanakan, DMin, PhD. is the Director of Training for Outreach To Asia Nationals. OTAN serves in over nine countries in Asia where traditional missions is ‘restricted’, by equipping and empowering national, pastoral leaders to fulfil the great commission.
Chris, a native of Bangalore, worked as an electrician in MICO factory for 3 years before theological studies at the Word of Life Bible Institute and School of Youth Mission (New York). He obtained a Bachelor’s Degree from Tennessee Temple University and went on to do a Master’s in Divinity at Temple Baptist Seminary that he completed at the Asia Graduate School of Theology.
Chris was a youth pastor and ordained at Emmanuel Baptist Church. In 1990 he founded Banaswadi Bible Church where he was the pastor-teacher for over 10 years. He is known as a Youth, Bible & Mission conference speaker and for his radio broadcast with FEBA (Transforming Truth) and TWR (Thru the Bible). His passion is for evangelism, whole-life discipleship, mentoring, training leaders & empowering the Church in Mission.
Chris lectures on and produces curriculum for ‘Biblical Mandate for Evangelism’ at the Haggai Institute for Leadership Development (since 1999 at Maui & Singapore). As an evangelical, he has served as a consultant with the Commission on World Mission & Evangelism on-site London, Switzerland, Athens, Germany, Ghana, Kenya, Chile and with Urban Missions in Thailand, Hong Kong, Philippines and China.
During his stay and PhD research in the UK, Chris was a Teaching Assistance at the University of Leeds in the department of Theology & Religious Studies and also served as a minister at the South Parade Baptist Church, where he developed outreach & care cells. Chris teaches ‘Clinical Pastoral Education’ at the Bangalore Baptist Hospital. He is chairman for the Christian Forum for Child Development & Samaritan Purse’s regional Prescription for Hope program
Since 1995, Chris joined SAIACS as Professor and HoD of Pastoral Theology & Counseling and Dean of Chapel. Here, for 13 years, he trained leaders for ministry and mission in India’s globalising context and is passionate doing ”Evangelism through Local Churches”. He is now appointed to serve as the Director of Training for OTAN (Outreach To Asia Nationals) from June 2009.
Chris is happily married to Dorothy, an IT software educator, and they have two daughters Alethea and Charis. Chris enjoys memorising poems on the Bible and football.
Recently we installed a pump starter with a level indicator. This device starts the pump automatically as well as indicates if the water level in the tank is quarter, half, three-fourths or full. I wonder if there a way to measure of our commitment to Christ’s mission? The story of Peter’s missionary call and miraculous catch (Luke 5:1-11) provide a framework to examine our willingness and increase the depth of our own commitment.
This passage is significant for 3 reasons: (1) Luke registers, for historical interest, the commission of Simon Peter, the leading disciple and apostle of the early Church (2) the message in this miracle Jesus performs clarifies the conditions, cost and increasing depth of commitment required to be his follower (3) Jesus’ imagery of ‘fishing’ becomes a paradigm for discipleship and missions (Matt 4:19; following–fashioning–fishing). Let’s place ourselves in Peter’s sandals, heed Jesus’ call and assess our response to his: ‘Come let’s catch fish’, literally ‘take people alive’!
At level # 1, we find Peter among the crowd listening to Jesus’ words (5v1, words coming from the Lord) as he washes his nets by the Galilean shoreline. His attempts early that morning was futile and I wonder what his mood was like. Peter is ’there’; present with friends; part of the nice scenery. This is not his first meeting with Jesus, so evidently he hadn’t taking his call too seriously (Jn.1:42; Mk.1:16-20). At this point, his commitment to Christ’s kingdom may be termed Passive Missions. He is on the fringe of things, thinking: ‘What could I contribute? Would it matter or make any difference?’ Jesus is ministering to the multitudes with words and wonders yet these are the very things that crowd out Peter’s personal involvement.
Many a church ‘member’ attending another a manic Sunday, can frustrate and hinder its mission. Church is no ‘spectator sport’ to stand and observe what’s happening. ‘As fire exists for burning; the Church exists for mission’. It is the only organization that solely exists for the welfare of its non-members. Jesus’ interaction with Peter reveals the nature of the community his is forming. Are you part of a church that seeks the lost, at any cost?
At level # 2, we find Peter lending Jesus his boat. With the crowds pressing against him, Jesus notices 2 empty boats and requests Peter the use of his (v.3). He asks him to push it a little away from the shore so his voice could carry across as he sat and taught from this improvised pulpit. Note Peter extends his resources but stays at the shallow end. He did not need the boat at that time and felt good it could be used by Jesus. This stage, Proxy Missions is where Peter sends his assets without leaving his comfort zone. After all, it doesn’t cost or hurt him much; for what degree of sacrifice allows the use of one’s boat while washing nets? He is interested but not involved, yet.
Many churches when it comes to fulfilling the Great Commission are presence-shaped but not purpose-driven. ‘The Lord is with us; we feel his presence’ but tomorrow it is business as usual. Is this possible to have services as usual with Jesus in our midst? There were two empty boats yet Jesus’ asks Peter for his. God does not ask us for what we don’t have and always uses whatever we give him. Yet he wants more than our things.
At level # 3, Peter takes risks and is launching out deep with Jesus (v.4). After ministry to the crowds, Jesus has a mission for Peter that engages his personal skills. He tells Peter, an expert fisherman who returned from night duty, to row deeper to try catching fish again. This must have sounded absurd and been embarrassing to obey. This stage may be entitled as Participatory Missions. At best a carpenter, Jesus from Nazareth could make boats. This itinerary evangelist-rabbi was challenging Peter to do something Peter could, but on his terms in a different context. Something foolish under the given circumstances with no success guaranteed but only his empowering presence. Peter has reservations, he confesses his past struggles, but eventually obeys.
Mission-minded churches attempt great things for God and expect great things from God. There are members who are good at making comments and criticism about what is and should be happening. As a result there is undue concern for self maintenance (cleaning nets), rather than obeying God’s voice or meeting people’s needs. Obedience always leads to blessing; delayed obedience is disobedience. Faith missions is simply taking God at his word. Attempt something so great, that it’s doomed to fail except God be in it!
At level # 4, we see Peter learning to partner with Jesus and others: (v.7) Peter enlists as a follower of Christ his commander-in-chief and allows him to navigate his life as an adventure in faith. Jesus uses his willingness and skills to perform a miracle that results in the transformation of lives, primarily Simon’s into Peter– the Rock! This leads to a deeper understanding of self (sinful man), the greatness of God (Jesus miracles/messiahship), people’s real need (existential and eternal) Peter now discovers Jesus’ empowering presence that will cause him to further trust and obey (walk on water).
There is more to this level, namely, Partnership in Missions. Peter recognizes he needed others, there are other co-workers for/with Jesus and he was not alone in this mission. He summons his partners to help bring in the catch. Whether Peter became the first Pope or Pentecostal preacher, what is clear is that together with ‘the 12’ he learns to expect and attempt great things for God. We must develop greater partnership for global missions (divided we fall). We are heirs together of the grace of life (1Pet.3:7), our hearts must be knit together with love (Col.2:2) as we serve together for the faith of the gospel (Phil.1:27). We are a faith community; Emmanuel means God is with us, not me
What is striking and humbling is that Peter could have refused to hear Jesus’ words or at any point said, ‘No’ to his: ‘let me use your boat’, ‘launch out deeper’ or ‘follow me to be a fisher of men’. At that particular point, Peter would have missed out, not just on the catch of fish, but in experiencing the miracle and more so the blessing of being called and sent in Missio Dei!
Peter goes deeper, risking the loss of his reputation and career only to gain an experience of God in Christ. He discovers Christ is no ordinary teacher-preacher or miracle-worker, but God’s agent and his ‘Lord’. Jesus is Liberator from guilt and sin; Lord of Peter’s daily work and the true Leader of our missionary endeavors. He finds ‘in Christ’, God’s grace is greater than all our sin, Truth that sets us free and Love that casts out all fears.
Dr. Chris Gnanakan