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Missions 101

Tomorrow I Preach at My Uncle's Funeral

Feb. 13, 2015By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

My uncle recently died in the home where he was raised and his grandfather built. Our family farm has been owned by a Carlson for over 100 years. With the exception of a small stint in the Navy he either lived on the farm he grew up on or a mile away on another farm, both which were one mile outside of a town of 900 people. His kids all graduated from the same high school he did. 

He never had email or a computer. He had recently upgraded to a flip phone. I don’t think I ever talked to him on the phone except for a few minutes at a time, but we did spend a lot of timeIMG_1195 together. 

My uncle was a godly man, but not in the way most people I hear talk about godliness. He was not an evangelist, nor a reader, nor a Bible study leader. His prayers were short and meaningful. He had the same KJV Bible his entire adult life and listened to David Jeremiah and Charles Stanley regularly. He didn't get involved in church leadership - it just was not his thing.

These types of Christians often get a bad rap from young believers. Where was his radical (or super ordinary) commitment to Christ? Where was his passion for the nations? Why wasn’t he reading any good books? 

Do you think Paul was giving the Thessalonians a cop out when he wrote:

9Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody (1 Thess 4:9-12).

I will be the first to admit that this passage is written in a certain time to a certain people in a certain situation. But - were not the same issues and scenarios we face today faced then?

The type of questions I listed above move us into dangerous territory when we begin make up bench markers for godliness. Sometimes our soaring rhetoric is helpful to rally the troops and shake people from a malaise. It is necessary. Often times however it doesn't land in reality. 

Almost the entire town knows my uncle or our family. I once had breakfast in the town (where I have never lived) and someone stopped me to ask if I was his nephew. When he was on the farm he taught countless kids how to work, hunt, fish, laugh and play. He was a legend to every kid in the area during the time he was delivering mail, often delivering candy and gum to them. He would stop almost daily at the barbershop for a game of chess with his closest friend. When I was a kid I would wait there for him to finish his route to play him. He was the game leader at AWANA for years. He could hold a hundred kid's attention and always had a game to play. He could crush your hand with handshake, but would walk little kids around with tender care.

He played golf with friends and family. When grandkids came along he invested heavily into them. He took his first two at 4 and 2 on a crop duster without telling mom. A few years ago he chased an F5 tornado with a grandson as it approached a mile from the house. When one of the kids lit the huge shed on fire, the story is he prayed with him once and never brought it up again. He would attend all of their events and call them to check in. In the last 10 years of his life he volunteered most of his time by driving people all over the state to medical appointments.

He is the guy that is always moving when many pastors retreat to their office to read (including yours truly). He is the one who does not offer advice but is sought out often. His son-in-law told me he was the wisest man he knew. He was the one that would buy ice cream for everyone with him and pay for all the widows meals on his way out. Could this man be a hero of the faith?

If we are honest with ourselves, we don't know most of our heroes. Some people call it celebrity Christianity. I am more inclined to call it admiration. We observe people from afar, thank God for their gifting but then unfairly move into mimicking them, when in reality we don't know anything about them except for their public persona. Those with a public ministry can't model for a million readers what it looks to be a follower of Christ behind closed doors.

Uncle Don is a hero and a man worth modeling - not because he crossed cultures, left everything behind, shared the gospel with everyone or dove into heavy theological treatises. He is a hero, because of what Christ did in his life. He loved his wife of 57 years, raised kids and grandkids with a faithful care and presence, worked hard farming his land and later delivering mail, played games, drove people without transportation to health appointments around the state. He was judgemental toward no one. Loved by all. Respected by outsiders. This isn't hagiography. This is a picture of a godly man. This is radical. This is ordinary. This was because of Christ.

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

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