By Doug Lucas
I might have tried to become a doctor. That’s what my mother wanted. Honestly, my dad didn’t care, just so long as I landed a “secure job.”
Perhaps I would have done something with music. Everyone told me I had a gift for playing piano.
My high school guidance counselor said my academic test scores were high enough that I could take my pick of universities across the land. And somehow, I managed to finish high school as valedictorian and president of the student body. He argued that I had a good chance at a full-time scholarship at a school like Indiana University.
But something within me kept pointing me toward at least one year in a Bible college. It seemed like the right thing—pick up at least a few credits in Bible before I went off to study for that “real job” my dad hoped I’d land.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), the Bible college I attended had a requirement I deemed rather silly. The school said I had to take a semester-long, three-credit-hour class called “Introduction to World Missions.”
Honestly, I didn’t even know what it was. I asked for a meeting with the college president to appeal for an exception. He wouldn’t budge. After pleading my case in every way possible, I finally convinced him to let me take a course called “Principles and Methods of Missions,” because it at least began with a nine-week Bible study. I figured, whatever missions was, at least I’d be studying the Bible for nine weeks. That couldn’t be ALL bad, could it?
Yikes. During those nine weeks, the professor took us through 52 different Scriptures dealing with God’s plan of redemption for the planet. We learned about Jonah being sent to a faraway city called Nineveh. We studied about Abraham’s willingness to take off walking, even though he didn’t know the destination. We studied possible outcomes for those who hadn’t heard of Jesus. We learned about the Great Commissions (there must have been more than a dozen versions in nearly that many books).
The professor was rather stern. Honestly, I feared him at first. His grading was harsh. (How was I supposed to know Colombia was spelled with two o’s and not a single u? There went my prospects for a perfect midterm exam.) And he was more of a historian or theologian than missionary.
But that was all part of the magic that changed everything inside of me. And I do mean everything. I went into that class reluctant and resentful. After nine weeks, I was like the prodigal son in Luke 15. I now had serious questions about what would happen to unreached peoples around the planet. I felt so sad that local churches were either “woefully ignorant or willfully disobedient.” And that word, missions, began coming up again and again in Scripture.
No longer was I shopping for a vocation. No longer was I seeking a comfortable salary. In fact, I began to realize the only “security” we could hope for was wrapped up in a theology of evangelism that would seek to rescue the nations. Instead of focusing solely on becoming a physical doctor, my perspective had changed: I was now afraid for the souls of billions.
What happened to me was simple: theology had spoken. It’s the one benchmark that never changes. Job markets fluctuate. Automobile manufacturing tosses and turns. Financial securities and mutual funds take roller coaster-like downturns. But the Bible never changes.
We spent hours on Psalm 67, Ezekiel 33, and Isaiah 6. By the time we arrived at Matthew 28, 3 John, and Revelation 7, my life’s compass had taken a major turn. Based on theology, there was no other recourse: Jesus had commanded us to make disciples of all nations. If we don’t, not only will we be disobedient, but in addition, those nations have no promise of any hope or help of escaping eternal darkness, having lived and died without good news of a Savior.
I spoke to the young lady I was dating at the time. (Our outings were mostly “study dates” in the library. We didn’t have much money to see movies or go to restaurants.) She listened and agreed: we had to do something. We began praying. Others soon followed. What resulted was nothing short of a miracle.
Now, just a few decades later, Team Expansion has sent more than 300 full-time world-changers into more than 40 countries. Last year, attendance at the churches they’ve started soared to 17,446 worldwide. They baptized 1,387 people last year while starting 130 new churches.
Theology has changed for all those new followers, all because theology changed me as well.
Doug Lucas married the “study date” girl, Penny Tapp Lucas, and they’ve served with Team Expansion since day one in 1978. Learn more about the unreached and how to reach them at these three websites: www.TeamExpansion.org, www.U4theU.com, and www.MoreDisciples.com. E-mail Doug at DLucas@TeamExpansion.org. Doug requests prayers for health and blessings on his college missions professor, Thomas “Mr. G” Gemeinhart, who is still focused on theology and missions in Grayson, Kentucky.