By now we have all heard of or seen the trailer for the blockbuster movie, 1917. The story of two British soldiers in World War I who were selected to deliver an urgent message to a British regiment to stop an attack against the Germans. If the message is not delivered in time and the British army proceeded with the attack, they would be led into an ambush and 1,600 British soldiers would be massacred. To make the mission more personal, one of the soldiers to deliver the message, Lance Corporal Blake has a brother in the regiment that is about to be ambushed. The suspense-filled movie is a race against time through WWI trenches, "no man's land", and enemies, to deliver an important message to save thousands of lives.
To ensure that I don't introduce spoilers for the movie, I won't mention any specifics that would alter the way the story is told. But it is worth noting that World War I was a devastating war. Also known as The Great War, because it was so terrible. It was known at the time as the "war to end all wars" with over 70 million military personnel mobilized. It's estimated that over 9 million soldiers and 7 million civilians perished from 1914-1918. The dreadful conditions of trench warfare led to diseases on top of the injuries sustained from the fighting. The Spanish Flu was a deadly pandemic that originated during World War I. Because of the awful conditions within the trenches and soldiers from various countries being in close proximity to each other, the pandemic exploded around the world in 1918 infecting over 500 million people. It's estimated that over 50-100 million people worldwide (3-5% of the world's population at the time) died because of the Spanish Flu. World War I was a war the wreaked havoc around the world even after it ended.
War is a terrible thing that humans have enacted upon one another, destroying families, lives, and communities. But what I appreciated about this movie is the idea that a message, an important and urgent one, can literally save thousands of lives in the midst of suffering and devastation. Does this remind you of another powerful and urgent message that is relevant today? When I first saw the trailer early last Fall, I could not help but connect this story with our task to share the soul-saving Gospel message around the world. When I watched the movie in early January, there were clearly some metaphors that correlate with our commission outlined by Jesus in Matthew 28.16-20.
In an average 24 hour period, 150,000 people will die around the globe. In that same timeframe, about 225,000 babies will be born. Extrapolating that to a week, between weekly Sunday church services, a little over 1 million people around the world would have perished and 1.5 million babies would be born. This is every week. Our call to share the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus has never been more urgent and more complicated. However, in order to meet this need, we will need to expand our approach to training and equipping Christian leaders to carry this urgent message into their communities, especially in communities of poverty. Historically, there has been a blind spot in the Church assuming the poor cannot be used by God, at least not in major ways, because of their poverty and dependence upon others. Whereas the Bible flatly rejects that view and oftentimes commends the poor for their faith (Luke 21.1-4). Do we believe that God can use the poor for His Kingdom? Do we believe that He can speak directly to and lead the poor because of their faith? Or do we believe that being poor limits one's ability to independently grow in their faith and hear from God within their own community? James 2.5 says, "Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich and heirs of the Kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?" Our faith is in the Lord to do the work through faithful servants, not in the faith we put into people.
When we believe that God can use the poor, a literal world of opportunities open up for the Gospel to be preached around the world. The poor, sharing the gospel in their own communities, in a way that only they can communicate to the communities they know well. While our Western methods are not necessarily wrong and are fruitful in the West, we have to recognize that God is bigger than our own cultural and traditional methods. While the Gospel is and should be firm, clear and uncompromised, who is used to share the Gospel and lead others can be limitless. The vision of World Impact and TUMI is based on this belief that God will call and use the poor to reach their communities. TUMI doesn't just create curriculum and resources. We are about empowering urban leaders around the world to grow His Kingdom in their communities. It is with this belief that the Capstone Curriculum and the Evangel School of Urban Church Planting were created.
On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, immediately freeing slaves in the Confederate States controlled by the Union Army during the American Civil War. The Emancipation Proclamation was a Presidential Executive Order declared by Abraham Lincoln. It was not a law that was debated or voted in by Congress (theoretically, it may not have mattered since any member of Congress who would have opposed it went to the Confederacy). But because slavery was mainly a state by state mandate at the time, Lincoln didn't have the authority to end slavery. However, as Commander in Chief, Lincoln was able to proclaim by executive order, the Emancipation Proclamation, as a military order. As the Union Army defeated the Confederate Army, the territories that were won and in control of the Union allowed any slaves within that region to become free. In other words, the proclamation (words) issued by Lincoln literally freed slaves as the U.S. Army won battles. The message by Lincoln was clear, with authority, and with power.
As Christians, we have an even greater authority that allows us to proclaim freedom for the captives. The Gospel message brings freedom through Jesus Christ in love. As the Kingdom of God expands, people are set free. The journey isn't easy. Oftentimes, we can become injured or the focus of attacks, sometimes by friendly fire. The mission may even seem impossible, nor is there any guarantee that we alone would complete the task. But we press forward because the message is important and urgent. It brings freedom in its message. Dr. Don Davis once shared (paraphrasing), "When man fights wars, people suffer, families are destroyed and people die. But when God fights the spiritual battles, people are healed, families and communities are restored and we are given life."
Let's go all-in on sharing this all-important message to the world.