I remember my first trip to China over twenty years ago as being quite an adventure. It felt a bit James-Bondish. Along with a few Filipino pastors, I smuggled Bibles across China’s border and secretly delivered them to couriers, who in turn delivered them to pastors in rural areas of China. Our training was intense; our mission was eternal; and our cargo was priceless. By accepting those smuggled Bibles, our Chinese contacts were risking years of imprisonment. Our risk? We risked being yelled at and sent back to Hong Kong.
Much has changed since my first trip to China. Each time I return, I’m impressed by all that God is doing in a land that’s tried so hard to keep Him out. As I taught a group of fifty Chinese pastors, I felt compelled to say:
“Years ago, thousands of pastors and missionaries traveled to China from all over the world to smuggle Bibles and teach the Chinese church. In the coming years, thousands of pastors and church leaders will come to China from many nations, not to teach, but to learn from the Chinese church.”
They seemed puzzled as to why people would come to China to learn from them. Considering what Christ had done for them, they’d responded to the Gospel by simply giving the Lord back all they had, and in doing so, risking their lives.
I also remember the conversation I had with Mark, a former Every Nation leader in a restricted Middle Eastern country. We were sitting in a coffee shop in Manila. He had spent six months in prison after being charged with the crime of apostasy for becoming a believer in Jesus Christ. The punishment for such a crime was death. Not only had he come to believe in Christ though, he had spent a decade risking his life to lead hundreds of Muslims in that country to Christ. During his imprisonment, Mark believed that a miraculous release was possible but understood that execution was the likely outcome.
__Mark believed that a miraculous release was possible but understood that execution was the likely outcome.
As Mark and I talked, I heard not one word of regret or question as to why God allowed things to be so difficult for him. Instead he talked about his suffering as a “gift” from God; merely his reasonable service. To him, it was nothing radical, unusual, or unexpected — just part of following Jesus and carrying a cross.
Borden of Yale
Mark’s comment about having no regret reminded me of the William Borden (1887-1912) legacy. As a student right after the turn of the century, Borden was a persistent evangelist on the campus of Yale University. A group of incoming freshmen, led by Borden, began a network of prayer meetings that turned into a campus revival. Despite opposition from Yale professors, by Borden’s senior year, 1,000 of the 1,300 students at Yale were meeting in small group Bible studies or prayer groups. Throughout his college years, Borden was a part of the Student Volunteer Movement, considered by some to be a “radical” Christian group that was determined to take the Gospel to every nation. After graduation from Yale, William Borden set his sights on becoming a missionary among the Muslims in Kansu, a remote region of China, which was considered to be one of the most difficult missionary assignments on earth.
__Despite opposition from Yale professors, by Borden’s senior year, 1,000 of the 1,300 students at Yale were meeting in small group Bible studies or prayer groups.
Borden of Yale was probably the most famous student for Christ, minister of compassion, and foreign missionary of the modern era. He was somewhat like the Tim Tebow of his generation. Within three months of his arrival in Cairo for language school, William Borden was dead at the age of twenty-five. He had contracted cerebral meningitis. While many might have considered it to be a great waste, Borden did not. Scribbled on a piece of paper found under his pillow was a note with his final thoughts:
“No reserve; no retreat; no regrets!”
I SEE THAT SAME KIND OF ATTITUDE, commitment, and response from people all over the world as students become campus evangelists and eventually go out as missionaries. The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome,
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, (in view of God’s mercy [NIV]), that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).
Many preachers challenge their congregations to “make radical commitments” to Christ. I’ve probably said it myself many times. But the willingness to lay it all on the altar is not really radical. “In view of God’s mercy,” it is the only reasonable response.