John Allen Chau: Called

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By John Thompson

John Allen Chau, on November 16, was obedient to his call from God. In answering that call he lost his life. We grieve with his family, but we grieve not like those without hope. For we know that we will see John again one day. 

However, this is the question I keep returning to over and over again: was it worth it? I think John answers it best in his own words,"This is not a pointless thing...The eternal lives of this tribe is at hand."[1] The prophet Isaiah was called of God also. He was called to proclaim repentance to his people. Like John, he was killed for his obedience to the Lord. Listen to what God told him, “Go and say to this people: Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed” (Isaiah 6:9-10, ESV). God called Isaiah to preach repentance to a people who would not listen to him and would eventually kill him by sawing him in two. Was it worth it? Obedience to Christ is always worth it. What does obedience to Christ look like, “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow after me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25, ESV). 

As I hear more and more about John’s death, I have been disturbed by the rhetoric surrounding it. “’Was Chau's landing on North Sentinel island via kayak and subsequent announcement of God's love to the Sentinelese "the best strategy?’ asked Keith Eitel, dean of the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. ‘We don't know.’ Yet to be seen ‘is the inspirational impact of such a martyrdom,’ he said, noting the impact of the 1956 martyrdom in Ecuador of missionary Jim Elliot and four of his colleagues when they tried to reach an uncontacted UUPG.”[2] Instead of asking was it worth it or was it the best strategy, the question we should be asking is why was it not us? Why were people not trying to reach this group? In John’s diary entry from Nov. 16, he wrote, "’I love you all and I pray none of you love anything in this world more than Jesus Christ.’”[3] We are saddened by the loss of John but we are also reminded of our sin. We are reminded that we do love things more than Christ, because if we did not, then no barriers would prevent us from sharing the gospel. 

I think of all those who have written about John’s methodology for reaching the Sentinelese. Then I remember that Jesus did not call us to methodology. He called us to obedience. On October 8, 1732, John Leonard Dober and David Nitschman boarded a Dutch ship selling themselves into slavery. Why? Because people were dying in their sins in the West Indies. John Leonard Dober and David Nitschman would die as slaves, sharing their faith in the West Indies. Lottie Moon, Eric Liddell, Betty and John Stam, Jim Elliot and Nate Saint all gave their lives for the gospel and the people groups they were called to by God. Jesus puts it this way, “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more they can do.” (Luke 12:4, ESV). What should we fear? We are heirs with Christ! Instead we should be obedient. Christ tells us to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19, ESV). Jesus does not tell us to come up with strategies. He tells us to go.

We as Christians have grown to enjoy comfort. We have become lazy. Let us cast off the sloth of this day. For we are called to obedience. We are called to go to all nations. John Allan Chau was called to the Sentinelese people, “Mat Staver, founder of Covenant Journey, said in a statement. ‘Chau brought gifts for members of the indigenous tribe and carried his Bible with him on the island in an effort to befriend the Sentinelese, to share Jesus with them. He was willing to give his life to share Jesus with the people on North Sentinel Island. Ever since high school, John wanted to go to North Sentinel to share Jesus with this indigenous people.’"[4] Like John, we are called to obedience. Yet, how many of us are like Jonah. Instead of obeying the Lord’s call on our lives we turn tail and run for Tarshish. 

Jesus has placed a call on all our lives. It is the call of His Lordship. It is a call to obedience. We are to be taking the gospel to those who live near us and to those who live far from us. Jesus called us be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the end of the earth. Are we being his witnesses? Are we living out Jesus’ claim on our lives? Are we denying ourselves and picking up our crosses and following him in obedience? We can live out our call by living lives of gospel hospitality. We can live out our call by giving to things like the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. 100% of all donations go directly to support missionaries all over the world who are right now making disciples of unreached people groups. We can go on short term mission trips to evangelize and train disciples. We can live out our call by being sent ourselves.

I will end with a reminder. If John’s story would have had a different ending, if instead his life would have turned out like Bruce Olson’s (missionary to the Motilone tribe) then we would be heralding John as a hero of the faith. But for every Bruce, there are countless others who lost their lives attempting to make contact with a people group. Jesus calls us to give of our lives. John’s life reminds us that we are to be living lives that bring God glory and honor. Thank you, for reminding us what truly living sold out to the gospel looks like. 


[1] Joglekar, Rahul and Mark Osborne. “John Allen Chau detailed efforts to convert islanders to Christianity in final diary entries: 'You guys might think I'm crazy'” ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/International/john-allen-chau-detailed-efforts-convert-islanders-christianity/story?id=59401238(Accessed November 27, 2018).

[2] Roach, David. “Crazed or Called: Missionary’s death debated.” Baptist Press. http://www.bpnews.net/52019/crazy-or-called--missionarys-death-debated (Accessed November 28, 2018).

[3] Joglekar and Osborne. ABC News.

[4] Davies, Guy, Rahul Joglekar, and Julia Jacobo. “American killed by isolated tribe in India after fishermen smuggled him onto the island.” ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/International/american-believed-killed-isolated-tribe-india-reports/story?id=59338929 (Accessed November 27, 2018).