An Illustration of Missions & Evangelism
As a young pastor, I was called to serve the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Carrollton, Georgia. Joe Whit Walker served as chairman of the pastor search committee. We quickly became good friends. Not long after I became pastor of the church, I received a phone call from Joe Whit who owned and operated the Oldsmobile, Toyota and Cadillac dealership in Carrollton. Joe asked if I could come out to his office and I assured him that I would be there in a few minutes. When I sat down in his office, Joe said, “I don’t know how much you know about the car business, but used cars are a very important part of our sales and provide much of the profit in our business. We travel around to various car auctions and bid on automobiles, then haul them back to our car lot on our truck haulers. I have decided that in order to cover more territory and go to more auctions that we should have a company airplane. This past week I purchased a Cessna 150 for my son, Greg, to learn on, and I just wanted to ask you, have you ever wanted to learn how to fly?” I responded, “Sure, I guess most young men have thought about that from time to time, but I never thought I would actually have an opportunity to learn how to fly.” Joe Whit then said, “If you would like to take lessons and get your pilot’s license, I would love for you to use the airplane and you and Greg can learn together. You will just need to pay for fuel and the hourly charge for the instructor.” I expressed my appreciation for such a generous offer and said that I would love to do it.
After several months of training under the instruction of Bob Husby, an outstanding flight instructor at the West Georgia Regional Airport, I did indeed learn how to fly and secured my pilot’s license. Just before my instructor turned me loose, he gave me a good lecture covering many of the important points that he had taught me during my training. Then he said this: “When you go out to fly, you may go out during the afternoon and although you plan to be back before dark, it may not turn out that way. You may find yourself actually flying after dark, so I want you to always take a flashlight with you. If you are flying at night and your electrical system fails, you will not be able to see your instruments even though your instruments continue to work on the vacuum system. A flashlight is a cheap $3.50 back-up system for your electrical, so always take a flashlight with you, but be careful about the kind of flashlight that you take.” At that point I said, “Bob, I understood everything that you were saying, but I don’t understand what you mean by ‘be careful about the kind of flashlight that you take.’”
Bob responded, “I’ll be glad to explain. I had another student who secured his pilot’s license and I gave him this same lecture before I turned him loose. He actually had an airplane and he and his wife decided they would fly another couple with them down to Panama City Beach, enjoy a good seafood dinner and then fly back to West Georgia Regional Airport. The pilot-in-command did the appropriate pre-flight check of the aircraft, and he did have his flashlight with him. They took off from West Georgia Regional Airport headed to Panama City which should have taken them about an hour and forty-five minutes. On the way down to Panama City, it got dark and the pilot who had become distracted by the conversation and laughter in the cabin was not paying close attention to what he was doing. When he finally came to his senses, he realized that he didn’t know where he was, that he should have already been at his destination in Panama City, and he looked out of the aircraft to see if he could get his bearings. When he looked out and then looked down, all he could see underneath his airplane were the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. He had overflown his destination of Panama City and was somewhere out over the gulf. He had no idea where he was. His instruments were not reading properly and he couldn’t figure out why until he realized that the flashlight he brought on board, which he had put on top of his instrument panel, was one of those flashlights that had a magnet on it. The magnet had drawn all of the instruments off course. At once, he snatched the flashlight off of the instrument panel and at that point God blessed him real good because the instruments returned to their proper heading. They had not been magnetized by the magnet. He was able to turn the airplane back north and found his way to the Panama City Airport where he landed safely.”
They went out to eat after they landed in Panama City. I’ll bet he didn’t eat a bite. I know I couldn’t have eaten after that experience! After dinner, they flew back to West Georgia Regional Airport and landed safely.
I have thought about this illustration many times in relation to the local church. The Lord Jesus Christ has set the church on a true course of missions and evangelism. The Great Commission clearly instructs the church that we are to take the Gospel to all the world and to baptize believers in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and that we are to teach believers to follow those things that Jesus taught us. The church is to be on a true course of missions and evangelism. Unfortunately there are times in the life of a church when an individual or a group of individuals with a magnetic personality have the potential to draw a church off course. The church must always be on guard against getting off course from what Jesus has called us to do as the church. One would do well to ask, “If the church is not engaged in missions and evangelism, why are we here?” There are millions of people right here in Georgia who do not know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. We need every church to be determined and watchful in order to stay on the true course that Jesus set for His church, the course of missions and evangelism.