Alaska is a unique place to build. Structures, roads and pipelines all require special building practices to withstand the arctic environment. Many of the buildings that were built in Alaska sixty years ago show signs of major flaws in their foundations. The people who were building back then did not know the long-term effects of permafrost. These buildings now have floors that heave like a roller coaster. Some buildings were put up in a hurry during the pipeline days. The hasty construction is yielding its fruit today. Of course, these buildings weren’t made to last. They did the job for which they were intended: house pipeline workers until the job is done.
As I sit here on the brink of this adventure called Alaska missions, I ask myself, “What is the foundation of this ministry?” I am reminded of Paul’s strategy of going where Christ was not yet preached so that he would not be building on another man’s foundation. Everyone in ministry can appreciate that sentiment, but the reality is that most of us are building on someone’s foundation. Each of us has to evaluate those unfinished items left by those before us and ask ourselves, “Is this the best place for me to start? Can I immediately begin building on the work done before me? Do I need to do repair work on the foundation another has laid? Do I need to tear the foundation down? Or do I just need to pick a new building site?”
Missionaries have been present in Alaska for over one hundred years. My own mission agency has been in Alaska for more than 60 years. The work of building the church in Alaska has already begun. The foundation has already been laid. Buildings have been erected. However, many missionaries in Alaska look at “the Church,” especially in the villages, and think, “Something is wrong here.” As we look at the frost heaves in the Church in Alaska, we must look at the foundations of the work. But just as we must understand the underlying permafrost that affects a physical foundation, we must look deeper than the foundations of Alaska missions and look at the ground underneath for the source of the problem.
The foundation of Alaska missions was built by the American evangelical church. When I was staying in a home during our recent 19 months of support raising, I saw a book on a living room table titled, Revival and Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism by Iain Murray. After reading the introduction and the first chapter, I recognized that this needed to go to the top of my reading list. I realized that I wanted as the foundation for my ministry the same thing as the men who experienced true revival in early America. But the reality we face is that this is not the foundation of evangelicalism today. The American church today is built upon the foundation of revivalism rather than true revival.
In the coming blogs, I will be introducing you to some of the major ideas in Revival and Revivalism. I encourage you to get a copy and read it along with me. Let’s share any insights we receive, and let’s be challenged toward a more Christ-centered life and ministry.