(Photo courtesy Global Advance)
A profile is a story which focuses on an individual or an entity. David Shibley, founder of Global Advance, has written 23 of them and put them into his newest book called "Great For God."
The subject of his profiles? 23 unsung heroes of the Great Commission in modern history. Yes, it's a book about missionaries. But, says Shibley, "To understand the times that we're currently in, we need to know how we arrived in them. So that's why I wrote about these wonderful folks. Their stories are full of courage, faith, heroism, and sacrifice for the Gospel."
The natural tendency is to put iconic figures on a pedestal. When it comes to notables in mission work, that pedestal is enormous. Shibley says that's what makes the stories of these people so accessible. They made mistakes and had shortcomings, too. "I think the stories of personality conflicts, of limitations, of success and failure, these are themes that transcend all generations."
It's what they did with the trip-ups that made a difference. Some learned through trial and error. Others, through disaster. However, notes Shibley, the end result was that "the concepts that they championed are very much at the center of how the church operates in our day."
How can a story about someone who lived in the 18th century impact believers today? Shibley answers that by sharing about the man whose profile he most enjoyed writing, William Carey, also called "the father of modern missions." "Here is a man who never took a furlough. 50 years of service for the Lord in India. He really opened up the interior of India to the Gospel, put many of the dialects of India into written form."
Then, a fire wiped out a decade's worth of translation work. Undaunted, Carey started over. As a result, there are some secular historians who credit his influence as having done more than any other single person to form today's modern India. "India, right now, is one of the fastest growing churches in the world, the church in India. So William Carey's life was a great seed that is continuing to produce fruit."
Shibley also notes that there was a common strand of DNA that linked the group together. He outlined 12 traits among the profiles, but "three really stand out to me: their love for Christ, their courage in the midst of enormous threats and conflict, and their huge faith where they just believed God for great things."
Readers learn from the legacy of:
- David Livingstone
- Lottie Moon
- Jim Elliot
- Eric Liddell
- Bill Bright and 18 others
Even if the idea of exploring a family tree of the modern day Church doesn't excite you, Shibley explains, "We want our lives to count, to make a difference. Here are 23 fantastic examples of men and women whose lives did, in fact, make a difference for the cause of Christ."
When you blow off the dust of some of these stories and find the contemporary application, that leads to some big questions like, "Will we consign ourselves to a little life, or will we be great for God?"
The last thing to consider about the message of the book: it takes a courageous life to change the world. How about you?