During the last month of this year TLI staff will be sharing stories of how God has used us in 2014. Enjoy! Today comes from Josh Montague.
On my first trip with TLI a year ago, I had the privilege of
teaching Iranian and Pakistani immigrants in Athens. I had just finished
preaching through Mark’s Gospel in my church in Wisconsin and was now working
through that book with with these men and women entering Europe, many as
political or religious refugees.
Mark’s Gospel has two main themes. First, Mark wants to show
that Jesus is God. He does this by showcasing Jesus’ miraculous ability, his
authoritative teaching, and the confessions by men like Peter and the Roman
centurion. Second, Mark repeatedly emphasizes the high call to discipleship
that Jesus demands of his followers. “Follow me” is a common command. “Deny
yourselves and take up your cross” is a central teaching.
So when I taught this in the suburbs of Madison, there was a
cultural understanding of Jesus’ divinity. No one here is surprised to learn of
the Bible’s presentation of Jesus as God. But when you teach about the radical
discipleship to which Jesus calls us, suburban Christians are confronted with
their idols of security, possessions, comfort, and wealth.
Skip back to Athens. When I told these immigrant church
leaders that Jesus calls us to lay aside all else for the sake of knowing and
following him, many of these immigrants shrugged their shoulders and a few even
verbally said, “We’ve done that!” Some in the group had left Iran because they
wrote pamphlets about the Bible. They were fleeing to Europe for their lives,
leaving behind families and homes. But when you teach these students from
Muslim backgrounds the clear biblical teaching of Jesus’ divinity, there’s a
weight in the room. There’s no cultural assumption about Jesus being God in
Iran. Many of these students would have thought this teaching utterly
blasphemous just a few months prior to our study.
The Bible is so rich, not just in our own personal reading,
study, and preaching, but in it’s impact across different cultures.
Comfortable, suburban Christians need to be stirred up by Jesus’ call to
radical discipleship. Iranian and Pakistani immigrants need to see the clear
presentation of Jesus’ divinity in Mark’s Gospel. Mark, inspired by the Holy
Spirit, beautifully weaves these themes together and the global church is still
benefitting from that ancient text.
Darren Carlson is the Founder and President of Training Leaders International. As President, Darren oversees the general direction of the ministry and serves as an advocate for pastors with little access to formal training and thoughtful cross-cultural theological engagement. You can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.