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From This Place: Torrey Conference 2012

Despite lack of students, Michelle Sanchez gives perspective on missions


On Thursday morning, Michelle Sanchez speaks to students on abiding in Christ. | Ashleigh Fox/THE CHIMES

The fact that the gym had not just empty seats for the first time during Torrey Conference, but whole sections of empty seats was a good indicator of how exhausted the majority of the student body was the morning after Wednesday’s full day of sessions and workshops. The latte in my hand (Manhattan, extra shot) was only one of hundreds dotting the gym, and it was easy to see that even caffeine would likely fail to keep bleary-eyed students from dozing off, no matter the talent or passion of the speaker. Personally, I was hoping that the speaker would talk loud enough to keep me awake and throw out enough one-liners to keep me busy on Twitter.

No inspiring or touching videos preceded Michelle Sanchez, but she caught my attention right from the start. Published author, poet, graduate of NYU, one of Glamour Magazine’s Top Ten College Women of America in 2000, pastor of Christian Formation and more, Michelle immediately registered as one of those phenomenal Christian women who I will admire and ultimately never be able to measure up to. To top it off, she and her message were instantly charismatic, humorous and personally relatable. I have always been interested in missions, and I was intrigued by the message’s topic of the “secret” of missions, given by someone who, in my mind, had clearly “made it.”

But then, Michelle began tearing down every single one of my preconceptions and assumptions. The first hit: No matter what anyone has told you, despite the inspiring promises of any graduation or chapel speaker, you cannot and will not change the world.

“There is only one person who can change the world. And that person is Jesus Christ.”

As Michelle shared her story of her consuming desire in seminary to change the world, I saw my own struggles and desires and those of young Christians everywhere reflected in her words. Michelle told of her frustration with a certain professor who refrained from giving any missional advice or a series of steps to success aside from imitating and following Jesus Christ. It was only later when she realized that when it comes to missions, ministry, or any aspect of a Christian’s life, the only thing that matters at all is Jesus Christ.

Changing the world is not an easy thing. In fact, it’s impossible. So isn’t it a blessing that changing the world is not our job? Isn’t it wonderful that the only one tasked with changing the world is the only one who can? Jesus Christ is the only one with the power to affect the hearts, minds, and lives of the people who need him.

Michelle emphasized that anyone who tries to work for Christ instead of working with Christ will only fail miserably. She reminded us that the disciples had no power to multiply the loaves and fish until they brought it to Christ. Paul claimed no strength or influence aside what he received from the Holy Spirit. And Martha, who spent her time preparing and concerning herself with tangible ways to serve Christ, failed to join her sister Mary and concern herself with the person of Christ alone.

Michelle’s message completely transformed my perspective on missions and just living as a witness in general. Apart from Christ, apart from love, we can do nothing. No step-by-step plans, no secret advice, no special missional insight can help we live the “exchanged life” and seek only to fulfill Christ’s specific commission for each of our lives. We must never lose sight of the fact that it is not us, but Christ in us, who is the hope of the world.

“Though I speak with the tongue of men and angels, but have not love, I have become a resounding bass or a clanging cymbal.”
1 Corinthians 13:1

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