5 Minutes with Patrick Fung

Urbana sat down with Dr. Fung as he prepares for Urbana 15 to get to know him a little more beyond what’s listed in his bio. Here’s what he had to say:

How do you define mission or missions?

Number one: missions is not about us. It’s not our mission. It’s God’s mission to the world. It’s God’s salvation to the peoples of the world. Basically, the core message of Matthew’s Gospel is about the lordship of Jesus. When Jesus says, “…all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” he’s claiming the lordship of the whole world. Missions is calling the world to obedience to him.

Missions may not begin directly with evangelism, but missions which does not end with calling people to obedience to Jesus Christ is not holistic missions. It’s defective missions. You can have different starting points, but the ultimate call is to call people to live in obedience to Jesus Christ. It’s not just conversion, but following him. Jesus’ first command to Peter—or, first call—was to “Come follow me.” That’s in Matthew. Jesus’ last conversation with Peter as recalled in the book of John (John 21) is the same phrase: “Come follow me.” That’s missions: come follow me. It’s very simple. Follow Jesus unconditionally.

Jesus’ first command to Peter—or, first call—was to “Come follow me.” Jesus’ last conversation with Peter is the same phrase: “Come follow me.” That’s missions: come follow me. It’s very simple. Follow Jesus unconditionally.

What encouragement do you have for North American students as they seek to join in God’s global mission?

The one phrase that always encourages me is from Acts 13:36: “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep…” In his generation, David served God’s purpose. Missions is not about need. Of course, there are needs and of course, there are people who want to help meet those needs. But if you read that chapter the point is to obey, to follow God’s purpose.

Sometimes, we are so keen to help God. I think we need to reverse the question. Yes. I think we need to ask God, “What is it you want me to do to fulfill your purpose?” Let’s go to God with open hands, an open agenda. Sometimes we have a fixed agenda and we want God to bless what we want to do. Our challenge is to come to God with an open agenda—let God decide what he wants.

This generation has experienced brokenness beyond imagination. Often, we have not seen what is a healthy family. Or what is a healthy marriage. We grew up with brokenness. We’ve seen marriages broken up. We’ve seen relationships betrayed. So the new generation often has a distorted picture of authority. They actually despise authority, because they’ve never seen one who handles authority well. If the millennial generation has never seen what is a good father, how can they accept authority from the heavenly Father?

It is hard to relearn to submit to authority. I say, Obey the will of the Father. Well, even sometimes the word “obey” is offensive to me. I want to be good to people, but it is my business to say how. That is why surrender is hard.

We need to relearn—unlearn—what has troubled us. Then I think we can be used by God. Otherwise, we are haunted by this distorted image of authority. If we have a healthy image of authority, then we have a healthy image of self. We don’t have to prove anything; we don’t have to prove ourselves.

We need to relearn—unlearn—what has troubled us. Then I think we can be used by God. Otherwise, we are haunted by this distorted image of authority. If we have a healthy image of authority, then we have a healthy image of self. We don’t have to prove anything; we don’t have to prove ourselves.

Can you share a story about a time that has changed your trajectory in missions?

I was a young Christian, a two year-old Christian. I was a college student—or uni student—in Sydney. I hadn’t even heard the word missions. I went to a Bible study, came home, and couldn’t sleep. At 3 a.m. I got up and knelt before God. It was as if God was sort of urging me, “Tell me something.”

So I came before God and said, “Lord, I don’t know what it is, but there’s something that I need to come before you and say. Lord, I know you are challenging me to surrender my life to you. I think the challenge is this: to not just say, ‘Lord, I have this medical skill, I have this professional skill; I want to use the gifts that you’ve given me.’ It’s not that.”

God says, “Yes, your gifts, your talents.” But the challenge God had for me comes from Proverbs 23:26: “My son (or my daughter), give your heart to me.”

Give your heart to me. Five words. Give your heart to me. God says, “Give your heart to me. Sure, your skills. But give your heart to me.”

God says, “Give your heart to me. Sure, your skills. But give your heart to me.”

What would you like to say to Urbana participants as they get ready for Urbana 15?

Be excited. Be excited because of the joy of joining with another 16,000 students to listen to the word of God, to listen to others, learning about how to serve God. That’s very exciting. Be excited. That’s number one. There’s nothing else that brings better joy than to serve the living God.

Number two is to be open because God surprises us. You may come with a certain agenda or something you may want to find out. But God may surprise us. Be open.

And the third is, I think, be humble. In every generation God is looking for people who are humble. College students are very gifted people. We have gifts. We have talents. We have abilities. We have money. We have resources. But God may not use all of that to advance his Kingdom. So be humble. Look at what God is doing in other parts of the world. Be humble. Don’t just think about North America. God is doing wonderful things in other parts of the world—Latin America, India, Africa. Listen to voices from those places, as well. What God is doing among them will keep us humble. 

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