Bill Tinsley is a colleague in ministry, a gifted author, as well as a passionate disciple of Christ who possesses the mind of a missiologist. I like the guy and love spending time with him. We meet regularly to encourage one another, stimulate one another in mission ministry, to drink coffee and lavish praise on his remarkable dog, Buddy. Bill is my friend. In fact, Buddy is too.
Most recently Tinsley served as the designer of WorldconneX, a new paradigm mission entity that sought to ensure the local church as the primary equipping and sending entity in God’s mission. Among other leadership roles, he formerly served as Associate Executive Director of Baptist General Convention of Texas and Executive Director of Minnesota Wisconsin Baptist Convention
Upon dissolution of WorldconneX by the Baptist General Convention of Texas, Tinsley founded the Tinsley Center which is partnering with Missional Church Center to assist congregations in finding their way forward in God’s mission. The following article is one of a series of reflection columns that Tinsley write weekly for distribution through local newspapers. In this article he addresses a subject that none can ignore if they are Shaped by God’s Heart.
We have ants. We have kept them at bay inside the house, but outside, that is a different matter. A single dropped crumb on the patio and the next morning a stream of ants appear, hundreds of them in a neatly organized operation to dismantle the discarded food and store it in bits and bites for later use.
How do they do this? Do the wandering scout-ants have cell phones? When they make a discovery do they place a call back to home base and say, “Send the troops. We have food!” Who organizes the operation? Who tells these worker ants to answer the call, and who plots the route, usually the shortest and least obstructed line to the treasure?
If they were humans, the searchers who discovered the food supply would immediately stake a claim, lay title to it and horde it so that they could be wealthier than all the other ants. They would let the weaker ants in the colony starve. And, they would probably spend most of their time in “ant court” defending the right to their possessions. “Ant lawyers” would probably claim the greatest portion of the wealth.
Why can’t we learn from these little creatures? Every year a billion people on the earth die of starvation. Every day 25,000 children, world wide, whose stomachs are bloated and empty draw their last breath. They die in remote villages far from public scrutiny. Over half the world’s population, three billion people, live on less than $2.50 per day.
I have to admit this convicts and alarms me. I need to be more like the little critters who invade my patio. I need to sound the alarm, send out the signal, martial others and join them in distributing food and resources to those who need it. But how do we do this? How do we know that our gifts get to the people and places where they are needed? There is so much graft and corruption in the world that charitable gifts are often routed into the pockets of the greedy.
I guess the best thing is to be alert to opportunities. When a beggar approached me on a parking lot in downtown Dallas, I took him across the street to Subway and bought him a sandwich. Unfortunately, as I listened to him, his story seemed to unravel and I am not sure it was the best thing to do. But it was something. When one of our church members returned from Kenya and made an appeal for people she knows who are starving, I sent a check. When I visited Tillie Bergin at Mission Arlington and saw the difference she was making among the poor in the inner city, I sent a gift. It’s not much. But, for me it is a start. If all of us gave more generously we could make a difference, like the ant.
Proverbs says, “Go to the ant … consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” (Prov. 6:6-8). John, describing true repentance and faith, said, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” (Luke 3:11)
Bill Tinsley has served as pastor and mission leader in Texas, Minnesota and Wisconsin. He has international experience in South America, Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe. He can be reached at email@example.com. His books are available at www.tinsleycenter.com.