The Apostle Paul wrote: “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation” (Romans 15:20; NIV 2011).
William Carey (1761 – 1834) wrote (from a sermon based on Isaiah 54:2-3): “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”1
I was at a Pastor’s Area Gathering recently where three tables of give-away books were laid out. Most of them were very old. They were the remains of a veteran Pastor’s library. I mined that dusty collection a couple of times and happily found a few buried nuggets. Old gold!
One of my unearthed treasures was a tome written by G. W. Hervey and entitled ‘The Story of Baptist Missions’. It was published in 1892, one hundred years after the founding of the Great Foreign Mission Enterprise by our own William Carey. In the book’s ‘Introduction’, A. H. Burlingham professed that Carey was “manifestly chosen by Divine Providence to inaugurate a wider and grander missionary movement than the world had seen before”.2 Birlingham continued: “[Carey] came forth to fulfil his apostleship in modern Gentile evangelization, as Paul was ushered in to fulfill his in ancient time”.3 What a legacy!
As I continued to read Hervey’s account of Carey’s life and mission, I couldn’t help but notice similarities between William and Paul in terms of their holy ambitions. The Apostle Paul wanted desperately to take the gospel to Spain (Romans 15:24). William Carey became resolute in his desire to take the gospel to India. Paul looked west to Spain. Carey looked east to India. Though they were people of different times, who were aiming for different destinations, their shared ambition was “to preach the gospel where Christ was not known” (Romans 15:20).
The Red Dirt Church Movement shares that same ambition. Across this sunburnt country, we are aiming to reach people who don’t know Christ. Our ambition is to continue to take the gospel to people at all points of the Compass.
Church Planting is proving to be the most effective kingdom strategy for the purpose of reaching non-Christian people. As Tim Keller wrote: “Nothing else—not crusades, outreach programs, para-church ministries, growing mega-churches, congregational consulting, nor church renewal processes—will have the consistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting”.4 Paul’s apostolic ambition did not end with new coverts.
He envisaged that new churches would be a consequent and necessary outcome of making new disciples. The Apostle’s twin hopes are intertwined in Romans 15:20 – new believers and new churches. Paul’s favourite metaphor for the church was a ‘building’.5 His desire was to build Jesus’ church with new converts, in new places. That way, he “would not be building on someone else’s foundation”. His ambition was that wide. His vision was that grand.
Holy ambitions need not be relegated to Bible pages, old sermons and dusty books. In these days, we should both expect great things from God and attempt great things for God. Red Dirt Churches are writing fresh pages in the story of Christian mission to Australians, no matter where we come from. God is choosing, from this generation, people whose vision is wider and grander. People who share that same kind of apostolic ambition. God is raising up leaders who will go to unreached people and start new, simple churches. New gold!
As an old man, William Carey – missionary veteran of forty years – reviewed all that had transpired and happily exclaimed, “What hath God wrought!”6 My prayer is that, when we look back in forty years, we will be able to say the same thing. And all this for the glory of God.
God bless you and the Red Dirt Church Movement!
- G. W. Hervey, ‘The Story of Baptist Missions’ (C. R. Barns Publishing Co., St. Louis, 1892) p. 5.
- G. W. Hervey, ‘The Story of Baptist Missions’ (C. R. Barns Publishing Co., St. Louis, 1892) p. xix.
- G. W. Hervey, ‘The Story of Baptist Missions’ (C. R. Barns Publishing Co., St. Louis, 1892) p. xix – xx.
- Tim Keller, ‘Why Church Planting’ (http://www.acts29.com/why-church-planting/). Having made such a claim, Tim wrote: “This is an eyebrow raising statement. But to those who have done any study at all, it is not even controversial”.
- Leon Morris, ‘1 Corinthians’ (Tyndale New Testament Series, Intervarsity Press, 1983) p. 66.
- G. W. Hervey, ‘The Story of Baptist Missions’ (C. R. Barns Publishing Co., St. Louis, 1892) p. 40