Amazing Grace and the Sinking Boat

One of our primary objectives at Emanate is for students to learn how to clearly communicate the gospel into another worldview. This is no easy feat, as every culture has erected barriers and obstacles to a clear understanding of man’s condition and God’s gracious provision. But even before crossing language and culture barriers, messengers are susceptible to the limitations of their own worldview. Even here in North America, the gospel of grace is under attack from all sides, with countless popular books and conferences overtly or subtly advocating a grace + works soteriology.

For Emanate instructor Brian Wardlaw, defending grace is both a vocation and a passion. Why is this so important? Brian offers a story:

Back in the 80’s, I had the privilege of helping a church planting team get established in a completely new village.  This involved building an airstrip for them.  It was a week-long river trip just to get there.  We had a good-sized wooden boat; it carried our two months of supplies and us, five men.  

Along the way, we had two accidents and busted up the bottom of the boat twice on the rocks. The boat was made out of three-inch wide hardwood boards. It was a good sturdy boat, but it was no match for the rocks that punched their way through the bottom as we rocketed down the rapids. 

Instantly, the attention of all five men turned to the six-inch hole, where water was gushing into the boat. The pilot of the boat could not let go of the steering, but he was just as concerned as the rest of us. Frantically we bailed water and tried to fix the hole, but it was too serious. The pilot steered towards the shore and desperately looked for a place to pull in without doing any more damage. 

We made it to shore just in time, unloaded, and made camp. It took almost a day of concentrated effort to fix the damage. Forward progress had to be stopped. We could not ignore the problem. To continue on without resolving the damage would have been foolhardy and lazy. Our mission never changed, but our focus needed to shift before we could resume the trip safely. 

The funny thing about the whole incident is that all of us had to focus on less than 1% of the whole boat. This small six-inch broken piece demanded our attention. Why all the attention, when the hole was less than 1% of the whole boat? It is obvious — that little piece was sinking the boat and threatening the whole mission. If that little piece didn’t get the attention it deserved, almost nothing else mattered. 

Some people may wonder why I give so much time, effort and attention to defending a clear gospel message of grace. The reason I focus so much on a grace-based soteriology is because that seems to be severely “broken” in the understanding of many North American Christians, with devastating consequences. This broken piece is where the greatest error is gushing into our boat. 

A significant number of people are eager to serve on the mission field, with good  linguistic tools and good worldview tools — but the actual mission is in jeopardy if the gospel of grace is muddled. To quote Dean Van Vliet, ‘There is only one thing worse than not evangelizing the unreached; it is to evangelize them with the wrong message.’ 

Keep walking in God’s Amazing Grace; it cannot be improved upon!

Our training here at Emanate focuses on equipping the messenger to carry forth the most important message that could ever be carried. This is a sobering responsibility, accompanied by an equally sobering warning: 

“As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” – NIV, Galatians 1:9

Join us in praying not only that the Lord would raise up labourers for the harvest, but that those labourers would proclaim his gospel clearly, like they should. Subscribe here to hear more stories of the work God is doing around the world!