By Ryan Shaw
Ryan is the international lead facilitator for Student Volunteer Movement 2 (SVM2) and currently lives among the unreached.
In early 1947 an older single woman named Henrietta Mears and her assistant were on a trip visiting what was left of Europe just following World War II. Henrietta was the director of all Sunday School programs at Hollywood Presbyterian Church in California.
She had spiritually trained up thousands of young people over the twenty or so years of her ministry to that point. Hundreds of these had gone off to serve their country during the war, with multitudes losing their lives. What she saw in post-war Europe impacted her greatly as the Holy Spirit began unfolding a vision in her heart that would end up impacting the nations for Christ for generations.
Upon her return to California in the summer of 1947 she spoke at a summer conference and her theme was “a spiritual call to arms.” In the dark days of confusion, fear and destruction which marked the years following World War II, the Holy Spirit was orchestrating a divine call to young believers who would have ears to hear and respond accordingly.
Mears declared, “Jesus said that we must make disciples of all people. We are to take His gospel to the ends of the earth. We are to present the full doctrine of Christian truth. God is looking for men and women of total commitment.During the war, men of special courage were called upon for difficult assignments; often these volunteers did not return. They were called “expendables.” We too are called to be “expendables” for Christ.”
The spiritual seeds that Mears sowed during that particular conference have been felt globally over the last 60 years in a remarkable way. Both Bill Bright (founder of Campus Crusade for Christ) and Billy Graham (the world renowned evangelist) were present as young men in that conference.
Being An “Expendable”
They and many others met with Dr. Mears following this message and in fear and trembling offered themselves up to God for this most holy of callings – to be an “expendable” for Christ and His expanding Kingdom.
In our day there is possibly no message that needs to be more declared from the pulpits of the world than this one. When moral compromise, lukewarm love for Christ, biblical illiteracy, prayerlessness, self-absorption, idolatry, greed and pride mark multitudes of believers today, we need a massive rearranging of our priorities.
As we see from Mears’ circumstance and as church and mission history proves time and time again, a generation of believing young people who make it their single-minded aim to love God with all their hearts and surrender all on the altar to Him, will be used by His leading hand in mighty ways.
The Calling of the “Expendables”
God is calling us to be “expendables” for His glory’s sake and to bear this message everywhere we go. We need an emphasis today on the need for the body of Christ globally to be:
(1) consumed with abandoned devotion to Jesus Christ,
(2) to be growing consistently in its depth of spiritual life,
(3) to embrace Jesus’ upside down Kingdom ways and
(4) to recognize that every believer has been redeemed to participate in God’s purpose of global harvest (through Extravagant Giving, Extraordinary Praying, Surrendered Going and Impassioned Mobilizing).
An Example – Epaphroditus
We see this “expendable” spirit exemplified in Epaphroditus, one of Paul’s closest associates. We don’t know much of this servant of Christ other than in Philippians 2:25-30, yet the remarks of praise which Holy Scripture gives to him from the pen of Paul are worth considering.
He is called brother, fellow worker, fellow soldier, your (the Philippians) messenger, one who ministered to my (Paul) need. It is stated about him that he had a longing for you (Philippians) all and verse 30 provides the key insight into understanding the “expendable” spirit which was cultivated within him.
“Because for the work of Christ he came close to death, risking his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.”
In doing so Epaphroditus was faithfully living out the words spoken of true believers by the apostle John (the beloved) in Revelation 12:11,
“And they overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony and they did not love their lives to the death.”
Jesus’ last command before He ascended to the Father’s right hand in Matthew 28:18-20, given to His whole body throughout church history beckons us today.
“All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
In order to take Jesus at His word in this matter we are to give ourselves to being a people possessing the spirit of Epaphroditus. This is at its core a spirit of sacrifice – or a willingness to be “expendable” for Christ.
For we know that to teach those today who are still out of access to the gospel of Christ will require a life of uttermost service which will not be comfortable or easy. Like those who volunteer for the most difficult assignments in times of war, God is beckoning His corporate body to give themselves in such a manner to the sacrificial work of pursuing global harvest.