Climbing on Track

This morning I’ll be preaching on Ruth chapter one and about her relentless love for her mother-in-law, Naomi. Yesterday, as I cleaned out the pond in our front yard water feature (what fun!), I listened to a message by Pastor Alistair Begg on verses 19-22. In his sermon, Begg referenced a relatively little-known man, Fred Mitchell, who was for a time director of China Inland Mission.

Unlike CIM’s much better-known missionary, Hudson Taylor, Mitchell lived in relative obscurity. In fact, he died in a plane crash. The pilot’s last radio call simply stated that the aircraft was, “Climbing on track.” Phyllis Thompson, in her biography on Mitchell, used that phrase as the title of her book.

In it, she offers this description of the man, as reported by Begg: “The abiding message of Fred Mitchell’s life is that he accomplished no great thing. His name was linked with many Christian organizations, but he was the founder of none. He turned the feet of many into the paths of righteousness but not more than others of his contemporaries. He made no spectacular and aspiring sacrifices. He effected no reforms. For the first forty-five years of his life the pathway he traversed was similar to that of thousands of others of other self-made, moderately successful business men. ‘From Village School to Chemist Shop’ would’ve been an appropriate summing up of his outward course. On that ordinary humdrum track, however, he walked with God, climbing steadily in spiritual experience.”

You can guess why my ears perked up as I was cleaning our gooey pond: “humdrum”– there’s that word again. Begg went on to explain how this humdrum pharmacist had a significant influence on China Inland Mission for the simple reason that he steadily walked with Christ. This is reminiscent of Paul’s words in Philippians 3:13-14 “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Let it be said of us, that like Fred Mitchell, we are “climbing on track” with the Lord in this way.


About the Name

“Humdrum.” Nondescript. Plain.

Not a really jazzy name from which to start a blog but here goes. And I realize that I’m only 5, 292 days behind the granddaddy of all Christian bloggers, Tim Challies, in writing this first post.

Let me explain. Since the Lord laid hold of me as a college freshman at the University of South Carolina, I finished college, spent 14 years in campus ministry, went to seminary, became an elder in my church, and have spent 20 years pastoring churches. During that time I’ve learned a few things– many of them the hard way. Along the way I’ve come to grips with the fact that I minister in relative obscurity.

Last year I taught through the Book of Hebrews. In doing so, I utilized several good Bible commentaries and came across this gem from F.F. Bruce:

There would always be a tendency throughout the churches for visitors who came
purveying new and esoteric doctrines to be regarded as much more attractive and
interesting personalities than the rather humdrum local leaders, who never taught
anything new, but were content with the conservative line of apostolic tradition.
Nevertheless it was those local leaders, and not the purveyors of strange teaching, who
had a real concern for the welfare of the church and a sense of their accountability to
God in this respect.

(The Epistle to the Hebrews, Revised in NICNT. Eerdmans, 1990, pp. 385-6)

I really resonated with what Bruce said and I hope it’s true of me. To me the majesty of the ministry is that I am privileged to spend time in the Word of God and to bring it to people in a way that is faithful to the Scriptures and edifying to the hearers. Let it be said of me that I am humdrum.