I grew up the only child of a single mom. She worked at J C Penney, so especially when school was out I was alone a lot. I think it was during that time I learned to love the movies. Not sure how I got the money to get in – although I think it only cost a dime – but it must have been from finding soda bottles and turning them in for cash at Mr. Johnson’s corner grocery. Anyway, during those years – no TV, remember – I saw a lot of movies.
One I especially remember was the story of Sargent Alvin York, a conscientious objector-turned marksman of the First World War. At the Battle of Argonne in 1918, York and a half dozen of his buddies captured 132 enemy soldiers. I watched the movie right after it came out in 1941, and even though that’s been a while, there are several powerful lines I still recall.
Perhaps the one that has stuck in my mind the most vividly comes from a discussion between York and his immediate superior just after the Argonne saga. The officer is grilling York trying to discover how he and just a handful of his buddies were able to capture so many of the enemy. York’s laconic answer was something like, “Well, Sir, they’re out there; you just have to go get ‘em.”
It seems to me that’s a powerful credo for every missional church. “They’re out there!” Not because we want to fill up the pews of our churches, but because our God is a sending God. (John 20:21) That’s His mandate. That drives us; it keeps us awake nights. “They’re out there,” translates, “I want you to go get them.”
Many times E G White, a prolific Christian writer of the 19th century insists, “All over the world men and women are looking wistfully to heaven. Prayers and tears and inquiries go up from souls longing for light, for grace, for the Holy Spirit. Many are on the verge of the kingdom, waiting only to be gathered in.” (AA109) I urge you to let your soul marinate in that sauce for a while. Let those three sentences set the agenda for your spiritual bucket list.
In fact, let them set the agenda for your prayer life. Let them set the agenda for your church. “Dear God, they’re out there. We ask two favors: (1) Lead us to them, and (2) give us the grace to be who they need us to be when we get there.”
Maybe it ought to be stenciled above the door of the church so we can see it each week as we leave. “They’re Out There!” Because many are looking wistfully to heaven… You know the word “wistfully,” don’t you? It means with deep longing.
By Don Jacobsen