Archives For Bert Elliot

Many can relate to the life story of Bert Elliot, much more so than that of Jim Elliot, and are encouraged. The reason for this is that there are many more faithful stars than there are streaking meteors.

Notice, however, that in the subject of this post how I referred to these two men: Jim or Bert. Stated this way makes them alternative, a bi-furcation, an antithesis. But is this accurate? Is it right to make this an either Jim or Bert approach? Certainly not!

Whatever state God calls us to be, we are to pursue him and the ministry he has given to us with all of our being. And yet, it is tempting to make that state the normal and expected state of all. So our temptation is to make these two life-callings, with other variations between these two, alternatives rather than both/and (not often the same person, though over time that could happen).

In our day, with the attraction (temptation) of the celebrity pastor among Evangelicals, there is a strong emphasis placed on the Jim Elliot’s and it is often done at the expense of the Bert Elliot’s who are overlooked, ignored, forgotten or never known. In this case, Bert was unknown.

There are many who serve faithfully, who God knows, who those with whom and to whom they serve know, but because their faithful ministry is not in more of a public setting, they serve faithfully though obscurely. But the primary place of ministry and size of ministry and the known-ness of ministry does not make it better or worse. It is faithfulness to God’s call in a person’s life that matters. So whether God calls one to be a streaking meteor or a faithful star, be faithful – day in and day out until the end.

To whatever ministry God calls and equips us, and wherever that ministry takes place, it is important to remember three practical and pastoral applications: (1) we must not be envious of the one in the other ministry; (2) we must not universalize for all the ministry to which God has called one; and (3) we must be faithful to the ministry to which God has called us, and we must rejoice with those who rejoice regardless of the ministry to which God calls them.

Michael Kelley, Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life (Nashville: B & H, 2013), 205-206, writes of the providence of God in the lives of brothers. The one name we know very well; the other we have not likely heard of at all. In both cases, faithfulness to the call of God was central.

 

Jim Elliot’s story is a familiar one, but have you heard of Bert? I had not. But by God’s grace, I have now, thanks to a message given by Randy Alcorn fifty years after the men died on the beach in Ecuador. Bert is Jim Elliot’s older brother. He’s the one who isn’t famous.

He was a student at Multnomah Bible College in 1949, and he and his young wife were invited by a missionary to come to Peru and join the work there. Other than an occasional furlough, there they have stayed. Now in their eighties, they are still there.

According to Alcorn, if you Google Bert, you find less than seventy entries. But over the years, Bert and Colleen have planted more than 170 churches. And when asked to reflect on his brother, Jim, Bert’s response is stirring: “My brother Jim and I took different paths. He was a great meteor, streaking through the sky.”

Bert was not. He did not go streaking through the sky. Nobody lined up with their telescopes to watch his life. Instead, as Alcorn puts it, he was the faint star in the distance that faithfully rises night after night, always there. Always faithful. Always doing the same, boring thing.

In the kingdom of God, there is a great need for streaking meteors, but most of us won’t be that. We will instead be faint stars—husbands and fathers, wives and mothers. We will be accountants and teachers, business people, and students. We will go through life, day after day, doing very much the same thing tomorrow that we did today.

The important thing for us to remember is that we are needed. There is a great need for people willing to chase the little donkeys of life, not because it’s exciting but because they believe in the constant presence and purpose of God. There is a great need for people willing to stand in the midst of the boring, convinced that there is no such thing as ordinary when you follow an extraordinary God.

Rise and stand. Then tomorrow, do it again.

Whether a streaking meteor or a faithful star, God uses the ordinary to accomplish his extraordinary purposes. Be faithful!