Back to the Future

Lessons from Bridge Senegal


During the years I served as superintendent in the Metropolitan District, I had a favorite way of introducing the “heart” of the C&MA to visitors who came to my office. I would walk with them down a long hallway lined with a series of posters depicting scenes from the early days of our movement, stopping at each one for a moment to see the mighty things God did through the ministry of A. B. Simpson and the Gospel Tabernacle. Then we talked about what it would be like to go “back to the future.” Without fail, the poster that captured the hearts of every guest was the one displaying a photograph of the class of 1896 of the Missionary Training Institute (now Nyack College). It is amazing because it depicts an incredibly diverse gathering of young men and women from every ethnic group present in New York City in the 1890s. Striking poses that reflected the seriousness of their calling, this group was committed to “changing the world for Christ.”

Over the succeeding decades the mission of the C&MA “to the nations” never changed, but the faces of the ones being trained and sent became increasingly less diverse. By the middle of the twentieth century, the missionary force of the C&MA was almost entirely composed of white North Americans. Along the way, while we were trying (often with remarkable success) to “change the world,” we unaccountably—and sinfully—became “conformed to the world” (see Romans 12:1–2). That failure both harmed our brothers and sisters here in America and hindered our work abroad.

In pondering the impact of the repentance and forgiveness given and received so powerfully in Senegal, I was reminded of an obscure verse tucked away in the first chapter of Deuteronomy. In it, we are told that the journey from Horeb (Mt. Sinai) to Kadesh Barnea, the entry point to the Promised Land, takes 11 days. Because of their disobedience, it took Israel 38 years to make a journey that might have been completed in one and a half weeks! While, to the glory of God, much has been accomplished by the C&MA in the last century of labor—literally millions of men and women have entered the Kingdom of heaven around the globe, I am wondering how much more rapidly we might be able to traverse the road ahead now that we have cast off “everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1).

On a recent trip to both the suburban and urban campuses of Nyack College, I was struck by the incredible ethnic diversity of the students and faculty. This has become, once again, the most ethnically diverse Christian college in America. (Our other three colleges are showing a similar trend.) Likewise, our force of international workers is becoming, once again, an incredibly diverse band of men and women “from the nations” moving “to the nations” with the goal of changing the world for Christ. The path from Horeb to the Promised Land is clear. Let’s go back to the future!

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