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Tom Wolf to students: Imitate eagles to make global impact

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–If Christians are meant to rise up with wings like eagles, they should act like them, said Tom Wolf, missions professor at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., said to 400 college and university students at the Beyond ’98 missions conference Feb. 13-15.
“God wants to call out the eagles,” Wolf said during the Saturday evening worship rally at First Baptist Church, San Francisco. “God is doing something in this generation because the climate has shifted.”
Wolf, who occupies the Baker James Cauthen Chair of World Missions at Golden Gate, likened the current generation with those living in the first century. For the first time since then, he said, there is a dominant language; it was Greek and now it’s English. Instead of a Pax Romana, the world has a “Pax Americana,” along with worldwide economic interchange webbing every global citizen together.
“God chose the first century for the good news to be spread,” he said. “And we come now to the generation where it is technologically possible for all to hear the message of Jesus Christ in their own language.”
The Beyond ’98 conference aimed at mobilizing students to work inside the 10/40 Window, an area stretching from North Africa to Indonesia between 40 degrees and 10 degrees latitude above the equator, consisting of 62 nations and 1,700 people groups who have little or no access to the message of Jesus.
Students learned over the weekend that 95 percent of all unreached peoples live inside the 10/40 Window, yet the same percentage of Christian resources stay outside the region.
Despite the similarities between the first and 20th centuries, there is one main difference in the church, Wolf said.
“The American church is dominated by those of a pastoral gift,” said Wolf, who also serves as a teaching pastor of Mosaic (The Church on Brady) in East Los Angeles. “But the first century was not the century of the ordained in the church. It was the century of the ordinary. The first-century church was molded, motivated and energized by the apostle gift.”
Wolf said he believes that model is returning.
“Next century, God is returning the work of God to the people of God. There’s not enough ordained. They may, like Paul, be tentmakers and take their professions to a place.”
He said he hopes these newfound “apostles” will adopt Romans 15:20 as a verse to follow: “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.”
“(Paul) saw as his ministry to take the gospel to where it hadn’t been taken,” Wolf said. “There are so many churches in America where you can attend all your life and they’ll never send a team out, yet there are still areas of the world where the gospel has not gone.”
He then mentioned Isaiah 40:31, which says, “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (NIV)
He then cited Job 12:7-8: “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you (NIV)” before launching into some of his findings on eagle behavior.
Eagles are raptors, or birds of prey. Unlike songbirds, they don’t fly by their own strength. They soar; the wind catches them. Wolf quipped whether some churches might be full of songbirds rather than eagles, and asked, “If the Spirit of God were taken out of your church, would he be missed?”
Eagles are lean, unassuming characters, but also skittish and untameable, Wolf said.
“But they are sensitive to major changes,” he said. “They watch the weather and wait for the wind because they fly by the wind. For the world, this major change started June 4, 1989, with the uprising in Tiananmen Square when Marxism received a bullet in the head. Within a few years, the world was not the same.”
Eagles change their course of flight when the winds change, Wolf said. The eagles search for the front of the wind, find the edges of it and ride the ridges of the surrounding mountains, almost but not quite crashing into them.
“The mountains guide their pathway to the skies. The mountain that appears to be the obstacle becomes the pathway where they can soar. The highest mountain for an eagle is not an obstacle. It creates an updraft, the eagles sense it, and they know in their hearts that as they soar toward it, they will ride along the ridges.
“You are up against a futile task to go to the 10/40 Window,” Wolf said, “but the churches need eagles.”
Wolf also explained eagles follow bubbles of heated air around the ridges called thermals that result from uneven heating patterns in the earth.
“The rocks of the mountains retain heart longer than the grass on the ground. They release rising currents of air, allowing the eagles to shift from one thermal to another effortlessly.”
Wolf said he had assumed that eagles were lonely, isolated creatures, but he learned that they are squadron hunters.
“We must change our paradigm of sending isolated individuals and couples into a place and start sending apostolic teams. I believe God still wants to send out Pauls and Barnabases, Tituses and Timothys, Peters and Andrews — raptor squadrons of God.”
But eagles have one interesting characteristic that sets them apart from other birds of prey, he said.
“Most birds of prey, before striking, look over their shoulder because life to them is a two-edged sword, and they may become prey to other birds. But the eagle alone doesn’t check over its shoulder. It gives itself unreservedly to its destiny without looking back.”
The parallels to the church and its mission are obvious, Wolf said.
“If the message of Jesus is to go to the ends of the earth, there needs to be an acceleration of response and agreement with the Spirit of God to go. If we’re going to see churches mobilized right where we are, we need to call out those who will take the message.
“May God bring a return of the eagle by those who will say, ‘Lord, I will go.’ What seems to be obstacles will become updrafts.”

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