We just had eleven American students come to Joburg for a month long mission trip. Perhaps the most important thing they learned is that God works in his own time and for his own purposes in the salvation of people.
It would be a delight to tell you that we saw a hundred conversions to Christ in a month. It would also be a lie. Let me tell you how many we saw after literally hundreds of gospel conversations.
In The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World, Don Carson provides some comforting words for guys like me who lead mission projects like the one we just had. During a panel discussion, he said:
There are people who went to Korea in 1900, planted churches, and saw the church grow to a quarter of the world’s evangelical population today. There are people who went to Japan about the same time — and no place on God’s green earth did the church grow more slowly than in Japan. What are you doing to do? Say, “All the ones who went to Korea are spiritual — particularly loved of God?” The ones in Japan aren’t blessed of God? God works on another scale.
South Africa is a de-churched culture on the brink of European-like post-modernism. The soil is hard, and cultivating takes work. Seeds have been planted. And if they grow, God is glorious. If they don’t sprout anything, God is still just as glorious.