Formations lesson for June 17: The Inclusive Partnership in Missions
June 1 2001 by F. Calvin Parker , Joel 2:12-19a, 25-32; Acts 2:1-15

Formations lesson for June 17: The Inclusive Partnership in Missions | Friday, June 1, 2001

Friday, June 1, 2001

Formations lesson for June 17: The Inclusive Partnership in Missions

By F. Calvin Parker Joel 2:12-19a, 25-32; Acts 2:1-15 One of the most significant developments in world missions over the past 40 years has been the increased participation of short-term personnel. In earlier years, before jet aircraft reduced international travel time from weeks and days to hours and minutes, Southern Baptists entrusted their overseas ministries to a few hundred career missionaries who were committed to what Adoniram Judson called "mission for life." The rest of us were encouraged to pray for them, learn a little about their work and contribute to their support. This pattern began to change in 1961 with the sending of four-year missionary associates. These were followed several years later by two-year journeymen. Meanwhile, Baptist state conventions began forming partnerships with overseas Baptist bodies and sending teams of mission volunteers to serve a few days or a few weeks. Mission boards developed a wide range of opportunities for persons from every walk of life to serve overseas. What was virtually the exclusive domain of career missionaries 40 years ago is now open to all who are willing to serve.

An appeal to all (Joel 2:12-19a) Soon after our retirement to Mars Hill, my wife and I encountered swarms of chirping insects that we recognized as cicadas. "They're locusts," a neighbor said, "17-year locusts." I'm glad they weren't the migratory locusts we read about in the Bible, those voracious grasshoppers darken the sky as they move through the land like a mighty army and devour all vegetation in their path. Apparently Judah experienced such an invasion in the time of the prophet Joel.

To deal with this crisis, the prophet summoned the people to repentance and fasting and prayer. Notice in verse 16 that he summoned old and young alike, even nursing infants. No exception was made for newlyweds, even though a groom was normally exempted from all civic duties for one year. All God's people, every single one, had a role to play in seeking God's mercy during a time of great need.

Power for all (Joel 2:25-32) In this passage the prophet foresees the day when God bestows on "all flesh" the gifts of His presence and power. Probably Joel has in mind only the Jewish people, but he clearly moves beyond the common view that God does His work through a few chosen judges, prophets and kings. His vision transcends class and age distinctions. We should not be surprised that "your daughters" are included, because women often had the prophetic gift in Israel. It may seem odd that "your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions," instead of the other way around. "Since young men are dreamers and old men seers," notes the Dummelow commentary, "it may be implied that youth shall have the knowledge of age and age the enthusiasm of youth."

The main point, of course, is that all persons, even lowly slaves, can enjoy intimacy with God and partake of his gifts. At the first Pentecost following the death and resurrection of Jesus, Peter announced that this prophecy had been fulfilled.

The universal bond (Acts 2:1-15) Luke describes the Pentecost event in dramatic, symbolic language. The assembled believers experience the wind of God's Spirit, the fire of God's power and the tongue of God's message for all humankind. The language barriers that have divided people ever since the tower of Babel come tumbling down at last. Peter would come to understand, albeit slowly, that the promise made in Joel was universal and all-inclusive, that even Gentile men and women would prophesy and see dreams and visions. God has no favorites. God is impartial.

Whatever the nature of the gift of tongues at Pentecost, the apostles were already equipped to preach to people from many lands. They knew Greek, the common language of the Roman Empire, for this language had permeated Palestine, especially Galilee where the apostles grew up. They did not have to attend language school or depend on a miracle.

We have a similar situation today in the global use of English. Even short-term missionaries are able to communicate the gospel wherever they go.

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6/1/2001 12:00:00 AM by F. Calvin Parker , Joel 2:12-19a, 25-32; Acts 2:1-15 | with 0 comments
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