Fare Thee Well Campobello

When we look back on our last seven years (2013-2019), we consider that it has been our privilege to have come to Campobello Island and in some way play a small part in the work of the ministry. We came to be a blessing yet feel more blessed than we ever could have been. God has blessed us with the opportunity to come, the many things we’ve seen Him do and teach us along the way and as a bonus, with the blessing of friends who, though we never expected it, became dear to us in the Gospel. Even as I write this article, many more blessings come to mind and gratitude begins to overtake me. God has been good.

We first came to Canada to be to serve as Regional Ministry Director in Canada for DM2. We came to Campobello Island specifically to bring my grandmother, Marilyn, ‘home’ to get her health checked out. It was to us, God’s way of bringing us back for an indefinite period of time.

We always knew God had brought us but the overall reason did not become clear until later. Canada is ranked third among the top 25 countries of the world. It is considered a top country regarding the quality of life.

Upon arrival, we soon found that to be true. Having been raised in a third world country and my wife, being a foreigner, all of these things were a wonderful new experience for us. Canada is indeed a beautiful place, full of natural richness. The sunsets on the Atlantic Coast are something to wait for every day, the sea life which includes observing different kinds of whales, porpoises, fish and many crustaceans. The seafood, (fish and chips) ahh! Hockey is a truly great sport on any level whether you’re playing, cheering on the stands in the rink or watching live sitting at home. The right every Canadian has to medical coverage, the roads that get you quickly where you need to go, the white, snowy Christmases, the kindness of the people and their high standard for morality, the prevalent concern for social justice and human equality are just some things that come to mind that makes Canada a top country. As if that were not enough, Campobello Island is a place that is a small but tight community, gathering around its every member.

One might think surely our coming must have been to rest and enjoy these finer things of life right? That wasn’t our experience. What we soon found was the Gospel message in desperate need of clarification and for going back to the fundamentals of the faith. The church today the world over, is suffering from a catastrophe where the ‘method’ unto salvation has replaced the actual content of the Gospel and Canada is no exception. In fact, I venture to say it is also a leading country in this regard. Things that historically could have occurred as a natural response to the Gospel (like walking down an aisle, saying a prayer, closing your eyes and raising your hand, asking God for forgiveness, giving outward witness of repentance etc etc ) have in fact become synonymous with the Gospel message and have replaced the simple good news that Jesus died for our sins, was buried and rose again the third day (1 Cor 15:1-4). What I believe has happened is that we’ve inadvertently presumed for too long that our transmission of the Gospel message has been adequate enough and all along, to the demise of the great majority, the message became void of meaning and nothing more than cliches. It is incumbent upon the church today to wake up to this horrible dilemma. You see, the Gospel has nothing to do with what we do for God, it’s all about what God did through His Son who paid for everyone’s sin past, present and future. Salvation is only individually possessed by faith alone in Christ alone apart from anything we do. In fact, anything added to faith nullifies salvation by grace. You cannot say, “believe the Gospel…and…” for it to still be a free, undeserved gift. Having to verify faith, publicly announce, turn from sin, be sorry for sin, ask, make a deal, promise, be truly sincere in seeking, and confessing are examples of conditions that turn a free, eternally saving Gospel totally based upon the person and work of Jesus Christ, to a Gospel of works conditioned by man’s help. In fact, the Gospel of grace alone was at first offensive to me since it stripped me of everything I was doing for God and believe me I was a devout ‘Christian’.  God saved me out of this profound deception. I’ve shared a bit about it here.  God has given me a passion to show people the difference between a non-saving message of grace + works and the true Gospel which is the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16).
Ironically, It had been Campobello Island that had sent my grandparents (Marilyn and Glennie) back in ‘58 and parents (Borden and Joy) in ’75 to be missionaries in South America. So by 2012, for the tables to be turned and for those who once sent out missionaries to become a needy mission field is astounding. It is hard to realize that this could be happening to Canada of all places. The reason? The most basic truth that needed to be passed on from person to person was lost. Paul said,

we also urge you [believer] not to receive the grace of God in vain [to no eternal profit]

and in another place,

I am amazed that you [believers] are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;

What was passed from one generation to the next was not a clear Gospel and what was once a passionate missionary church over just a few generations morphed into a mere attendance minded church which generally speaking has a population of visitors needing to be entertained to maintain interest. Generally speaking Canadian missions today could be summed up as humanitarian aid. This is not the Gospel. It is nice to help people get food and water but it is not the reason we go. It is not the Gospel! It certainly does not save and rather only confuses people to think God’s love is equated to a better standard of living. How berating to the death of Jesus Christ!

Since the Gospel was not clearly taught and passed on, it has become corrupted into marketing identity or branding. Taking the youth group on a ‘missions trip’ usually means traveling to a poor country, arrive at the resort, go to a poor village, construct a building, go to the resort and return home to share in the church about the missions trip. I am sure that this opens the eye of many young people who have never gone outside Canada to the poverty that exists but exterminating poverty is not what missions is about. What we (yes I did my part to promote this too) naively have done is to train young people to be poverty minded and showed them ways to treat it rather than Gospel preparation and the pressing need of saving souls from eternal Hell. We’ve got to see that Gospel ‘branding’ is not our job. Our job is to stay faithful to the method and the message laid out in the great commission, focus on the Gospel message and simply relay it in a clear, articulate way.

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

The Gospel needs to be continually preached and held on to otherwise it all becomes vain. What has gradually happened is the once ‘being the church’ became ‘playing church’. In order for the church to stay alive, we don’t need to promote more marketing gimmicks. A new generation must be born again through the great commission which includes going to the lost, preaching a message and training (discipleship to the church) how to repeat the process. A church is one generation from extinction. So, you can see, a local church that doesn’t disciple the Gospel message dies.

There’s something I’ve been thinking about planting and the truth. This is something that everyone in the ministry should understand. Teaching the truth is a little like planting a seed. Once you sow the seed it must be covered over and left in the soil before you see any sprouting life result. You must trust the Word for the results and let it go. That’s what happened to the people in Thessalonica when Paul first planted the Word. Later he wrote to them saying,

…having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything.

It was the Word of God that was planted by faith. Not social justice, not gospel branding. Paul trusted the Word and taught it. They received the Word and it came to sprout life as it were to the extent that their lives were changed. It is God through His Word that changes us to become useful, productive vessels. As a person in ministry, you need to remember, to place a priority on the message is not to be confused with fanaticism. If you second-place the word of God in your ministry you plant in vain.

It is my hope and prayer that Campobello too would receive the Word and that the implanted Word would grow to the extent that the word of God would sound forth from here once again. I pray the church would see the need of the hour and stand firm in the grace of God, lest all the work invested be in vain. I bid thee fare well Campobello and God bless!