A few years ago, I was invited to speak at a missions conference at a church in Maine. The only time I had available was early December, and I reminded the pastor that most North American Christians are thinking of nothing but Christmas from the time they make the post-Hallowe’en dental appointments for their kids until they’ve finished returning all their unacceptable-for-some-reason gifts somewhere close to New Year’s. Not only that, but traveling in Maine in December can be dicey.
“Don’t underestimate my people,” the pastor chided. “I’ll ask them what they think and get back to you.”
The verdict came a couple of days later: “This congregation can’t think of a better time for a missions conference than Christmastime. Come on up!”
I did, and forged a wonderful relationship with that church. I agreed that the celebration of Christ’s birth meshed perfectly with the Great Commission.
But this weekend I was reading the passion and resurrection texts again and now I’m not sure. I might actually go with Easter for the best time of year for a missions conference.
“…and said to them, ‘ Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’ ” (Luke 24.46,47 ESV)
Did you catch the “to all nations” bit? Jesus Himself makes a clear connection between His resurrection and the missional intention of the Father. The reason is clear: without the resurrection, there is no gospel.
What if the gospel message were, “Jesus died three days ago, and we’re here to tell you he’s still dead.” There’s no lordship, no hope, no joy, no wonder, no salvation, no glory in a message like that. Yet that’s the best religion can do.
But the good news of the risen Christ? That’s something else again–a message of hope and redemption for everyone in this dispair-wracked world!
It snowed at the end of the conference, and I had to spend a night at the Airport Hilton in Portland because my flight was canceled. Another good reason to have a missions conference at Easter.