I’m now sitting in the chapel of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School among several hundred church planters. I see these men and women as courageous warriors. They are the ecclesial gladiators who enter the coliseum with a pocket size Bible to fight the spiritual powers of the world.
Let me give you an example. Michael Card is a popular Christian musician and writer, known for his theologically informed lyrics. Card recounts the story of a Masai warrior who demonstrated inspiring faith and courage in his quest to see his own people come to Christ. His name is simply Joseph, the man who stepped into the public square and changed his community through the word of Christ. Joseph exercised the kind of courage and faith that church planters need. Actually, all of us who follow Christ need it. Following is his story:
“One day Joseph, who was walking along one of these hot, dirty African roads, met someone who shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with him. Then and there he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. The power of the Spirit began transforming his life; he was filled with such excitement and joy that the first thing he wanted to do was return to his own village and share that same Good News with the members of his local tribe.
Joseph began going from door-to-door, telling everyone he met about the Cross of Jesus and the salvation it offered, expecting to see their faces light up the way his had. To his amazement the villagers not only didn’t care, they became violent. The men of the village seized him and held him to the ground while the women beat him with strands of barbed wire. He was dragged from the village and left to die alone in the bush.
Joseph somehow managed to crawl to a waterhole, and there, after days of passing in and out of consciousness, found the strength to get up. He wondered about the hostile reception he had received from people he had known all his life. He decided he must have left something out or told the story of Jesus incorrectly. After rehearsing the message he had first heard, he decided to go back and share his faith once more.
Joseph limped into the circle of huts and began to proclaim Jesus. “He died for you, so that you might find forgiveness and come to know the living God,” he pleaded. Again he was grabbed by the men of the village and held while the women beat him, reopening wounds that had just begun to heal. Once more they dragged him unconscious from the village and left him to die.
To have survived the first beating was truly remarkable. To live through the second was a miracle. Again, days later, Joseph awoke in the wilderness, bruised, scarred—and determined to go back.
He returned to the small village and this time, they attacked him before he had a chance to open his mouth. As they flogged him for the third and probably the last time, he again spoke to them of Jesus Christ, the Lord. Before he passed out, the last thing he saw was that the women who were beating him began to weep.
This time he awoke in his own bed. The ones who had so severely beaten him were now trying to save his life and nurse him back to health. The entire village had come to Christ.”1
1 Michael Card, “Wounded in the House of a Friend,” Virtue (March/April, 1991), quoted in John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad! (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 93-94.