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Courageous faith from Jim Elliott to John Allen Chau


Tess Delbridge talks with NZCMS National Director Steve Maina to find out what courageous faith really looks like.

As John Allen Chau prepared to land on the remote North Sentinel island in the Bay of Bengal, its residents known to be violently hostile towards outsiders, he wrote in a letter to his parents, “You guys might think I’m crazy in all this but I think it’s worth it to declare Jesus to these people. Please do not be angry at them or at God if I get killed.”

According to his journal, during his first interaction with the tribesmen he shouted, “My name is John, and I love you and Jesus loves you.” They shot at him with bows and arrows. The following day, he was killed by the tribe, his body dragged along the beach and buried.

Chau’s story is reminiscent of the story of missionary Jim Elliott, murdered by a remote Ecuadorian tribe in the 1950s, and is somehow both inspiring and frightening for ordinary Christians.

“No matter which way you look at it,we need that sort of grit, where you know you’re going to be persecuted, you know you might die, but you’re still willing to go,” says NZCMS National Director Steve Maina.

“You’re not being asked to die for your faith in New Zealand, but we still find it hard to share the gospel,” says Steve. “Our confidence in the gospel is getting lost, and we need a reawakening of our confidence and boldness in the gospel.”

Steve’s vision for NZCMS is that we would recapture the need for urgent and courageous proclamation of the gospel to all people.

“We need to encounter Jesus in such away that he turns our lives upside down. Sometimes I have wondered whether that is actually the problem,” says Steve.

“We need to have a living faith and a living encounter with Jesus where it’s his glory we seek rather than our glory or our safety. In 2 Corinthians 5:15, Paul says, ‘he [Jesus] died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.’

“Is there a problem with our encounter with Jesus? Have our lives been transformed so much that we are devoted wholly to the saviour who has given his life for us?” Steve asks.

That’s the heart of the NZCMS mission.We exist to see lives changed by the gospel, bringing glory to God. This year we expanded our mission focus to include various communities at home here in New Zealand. We appointed someone to research how we could increase our work among migrant communities.We have two mission partners specifically focused on mobilising young people for mission, and we have recently confirmed our first mission partner to work among Maori people in South Auckland.

Across the world, the stories of gospel transformation continue. In the Philippines children are coming to the Lord in droves. There are new believers in the Middle East. Families in Asia are being equipped to protect their children from human trafficking, and in Africa, clinics and pharmacies are empowering communities and saving lives. And the stories of transformed lives continue to pour in.

These are the stories of what happens when people have a living encounter with Jesus.

We give thanks to God for our mission partners and supporters, who have caught the vision of courageous gospel proclamation across the world. But we want to go further. In 2019, NZCMS is prayerfully aiming to raise up 20 new mission partners to take up this challenge of courageous gospel proclamation, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.

“We cannot give ourselves to these bold steps without an encounter with Jesus,” says Steve.

“People are not naturally willing to give their lives to something where they think there’s a huge risk. But I’m praying that God can help us challenge that because I’m finding that if we’re going to be raising workers for the harvest, we cannot promise them safety. So we need brave people, men and women who are willing to go to places that are broken in this world and bring transformation.”

But not all of us need to be John Allen Chau, who was prepared to risk his life for the sake of bringing the gospel to the North Sentinelese. An encounter with the risen Lord Jesus enables each one of us to make courageous decisions to share the love of Christ. For some, being brave in this way may mean risking the good opinion of our neighbours or colleagues in order to see some won for Christ. For others it may mean the loss of a treasured job. And for yet others, it may mean a violent death at the hands of an isolated tribe.

Jesus says, ‘the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few’.

“Are you going to be brave or safe?”asks Steve. “You can’t be both.”

4 thoughts on “Courageous faith from Jim Elliott to John Allen Chau

  1. Thank you for all that has been written on the importance of proclaiming the gospel in this country Have recently reada book entitled Saving my Assasin by Virginia Prodan which I found to be huge reminder of the wonder of believing in the Lord Jesus with all my heart not just a portion
    Thank you Steve for all you have written
    Thank you CMS for the mission you encourage me with in a very small way
    God defend NZ indeed

  2. Don’t you think that in the eyes of the average ‘unsaved’ person,John Allen Chau’s reckless attempt to ‘save for Christ’ a tribe who were already living a much more civilised,though primitive way of life than so many thousands,even millions in our so called modern societies,which are in reality unreached jungles,was just a foolish stunt! It achieved nothing,Probably did more harm than good to the Christian cause.
    Far better,as is expressed in Tess’s chat with Steve, that we stand up and bring Christ’s message,not only to those living in our lesser priviledged places but more importantly to those in NZ who continue to ravage the many in our society who are defenceless ,who lack housing,lack opportunity to live even the most menial lives.Those who dictate the affordability of just plain living,those involved in the very lucrative wheeling and dealing of real estate and commerce in general,those who oppress,govern by guile.Only when we have our own house in order,will we be able to go out with credibilty and seek to save for Christ those unreached further afield.

  3. I notice that an anthropologist had earlier made contact with those people and survived. There is such a thing as being properly prepared. Jesus himself lived among us for about thirty years before beginning his ministry and people should not be impatient with CMS and other societies when they are asked to take some time training for the work.

  4. I agree with Steve’s comment that we need a fresh encounter with Jesus. In NZ there seems a lack of urgency to proclaim the gospel. This is in stark contrast to the Apostles who said, ‘We cannot help but speak of those things we have seen and heard.’ In these words is the key to renewing our passion for Jesus. In close communion with Jesus we need to see and hear the things of the Spirit afresh. Then there will be an overflow of passion to tell people abut Jesus.

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