Thursday, September 24, 2009

Can't I Just Stay Home?

In recent days I have encountered a few people personally and heard a few more stories about people who do not believe that international missions is something that local churches should be pursuing. Most often the case is made that there is plenty of need here in our community or in our state, and we should let people take care of themselves in other parts of the world.

So, I’ve set out to think about this a bit. I’ve come up with five quick reasons of why we should pursue missions internationally. By no means do I consider this an exhaustive list, but it’s what comes to my mind quickly. Here we go…

1. Jesus tells us to go.

In Luke 24:46-49 Christians are told to proclaim the Gospel to every nation. In Acts 1:6-11 Jesus commands Christians to make disciples from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. The concentric circles of Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth show us that missions is not to be exclusively about our own backyard. Followers of Jesus are given a picture of a circle that grows until it encompasses the entire globe.

I believe people lose sight of the fact that missions is first and foremost a Gospel ministry. The primary mission is not meeting physical needs. Meeting those needs is important, but they are secondary to sharing the Gospel. When people tend to think of missions as only a meeting of the physical need then it might make sense that we should spend all of our time helping poor people in our town. But missions is more than that. It is primarily about sharing the Gospel.

2. There are people that have not heard the Gospel.
According to the Joshua Project there are over 6,000 people groups on the planet today that have not yet heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is hard for people to believe that own numerous Bibles and can purchase a Bible in the check-out aisle of your local supermarket, but is true. There are millions of people that need to hear the Gospel not for the sixth or seventh time, but for the first.

3. People’s needs are the same all over the world.
Just this week I stood on the Mexican banks of the Rio Grande and talked with a missionary who was working with people in deep poverty. We discussed what was going on in their lives, their physical needs, and, most importantly, their spiritual needs. I was very moved by the fact that the core needs of the people there were the same as the people who live in my nice, clean neighborhood in Kentucky. Sin takes us on different paths, but it leads to the same longing in our hearts. The longing for redemption, healing and direction. Don’t be fooled by those who tell you that you can’t relate to someone who speaks a different language and lives in a different culture. You have much more in common with them than you think.

4. Followers of Jesus are encouraged by the work of other followers of Jesus.
As a pastor I am often lifted up by others working alongside me in ministry. Whether they come to lend a hand in the work God has given me to do or simply report on what God is doing through their work, their encouragement is always invaluable. It has been such a blessing to talk with pastors in Honduras and, now, Mexico to hear how the Holy Spirit faithfully works among God’s people and calls the lost to repentance. I believe that if I am encouraged by others I can be an encouragement to others. It is well worth the time and energy to offer this encouragement.

5. American Christians are some of the most financially blessed people in the world.
Many Christians around the world do not have the resources to leave their home countries to travel on short-term mission trips around the world. God has blessed many, if not most, American Christians with the financial ability to go to the uttermost parts of the earth and share the Good News. How are we stewarding our money? Is it being used for the sake of the Great Commission or the American Dream?

That’s my quick list. What do you think? Disagree? Can you add anything to it? I would love to hear from you.


jason pettus said...

I am always disappointed, when I hear people say that foreign missions are not needed, when we need to be doing more at home. The fact of the matter is that I along with all the other Gentiles of the world are believers because there were those that were willing to leave the comforts of their culture and go to a place where they were abused and harmed so that my the world could hear the Gospel. The Gospel is among us in America because those from the Mediterranean in the first century were willing to look beyond their homeland and obey the call of Christ to take His love and light to the world. Those that received that message have continued to pass it on to other cultures. I pray that the cause will not be lost on our watch.

Those that do not support and encourage foreign missions are disobedient and selfish people and will have to give an account to Jesus who sent us as the Father sent Him (John 20.21).

Tony Peavler said...

Jesus’ whole purpose was (and is) lost people! They were His priority every day (Luke 19:10). His life model for us demonstrated a willingness to go to the most ignored and shunned, in the most unpredictable places. He demonstrated passion (love) that drove Him to an intentional sacrifice. He came to purposely seek out those who were lost and connect them with God.
During Jesus’ last days on earth, He told his followers to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the world to carry on His work (Acts 1:8). If we were to interpret this direction in modern English it would look something like this: You are my witnesses in your city, your country, among the outcast/forgotten, and the world. Jesus clearly defines the task of “what” He was instructing His followers to do (witness), and "where" they were to do it (everywhere).

Christ's instructions were not given with conditional clauses of desire and/or opportunity, nor did He present the instructions as a recommendation for His followers. We are called to observe the instructions of our Lord. As Christ followers, if we choose to honor only portions of the instructions, we are choosing to be disobedient.

God has called us to be a part of what He is doing. A missional theology applies to the whole life of every believer. Every disciple is to be an instrument of the kingdom of God, and every disciple is to bear the mission of God into every sphere of life. We are all missionaries sent into a non-Christian culture. In all aspects of our Christian life, we must choose to regularly assess where we are in relationship to our walk, and our witness is no exception. We must be intentional about how we meet the command to ensure that we are, in actuality, fulfilling the expectation.

Ben Simpson said...

Brandon, I agree with everything you said. I might add to your #2 that we should let the biblical truth hit us like a ton of bricks that nobody is saved unless they hear the gospel. Nobody. No gospel ministry = No salvation. That means, unless that man in China hears the gospel, he has no chance at salvation. Couple this truth with the truth of the Great Commission, which you talk about in #1, and suddenly, we see a crisis that every Christian and his church is supposed to work to avert.

I would add two more reasons.

1) Churches and individuals who do international missions are greatly blessed. Sure, there is blessing in local and national missions, but when you get out on a foreign or cross-cultural field, the blessing quotient multiplies. In serving God locally, nationally, and internationally, I’ve experienced this personally. It’s the international trips that seem to grow me the most. There’s just something about getting out from among your own people and what is comfortable. It’s in this situation that we truly get to experience total dependence upon God. Our faith will grow in ways not otherwise possible. Suddenly, our perception of God grows because we see that He’s not just God in America. We find that He’s trustworthy and glorious everywhere! Furthermore, there is great joy in being part of God’s work to bring to faith those Christ purchased for God with His blood from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Rev 5:9). We get to be part of God’s global redemption plan! Finally, international missions pushes out of our self-centeredness. Oh, how we need that! Self-centeredness can be individual (focusing only on myself) or group (focusing only on my people). International missions gets our eyes of off ourselves and people like us. These are just a few of the blessings received by those who are faithful to cross cultural and geo-political borders.

To be honest, those who oppose or who are apathetic to foreign missions simply do not realize what they are missing. Bottom line, we have a duty to go, but God did not leave us to mere duty. God has put in front of unfathomable blessing and reward. May we run after the prize!

2) Churches and individuals doing international missions adds serious weight to the gospel and magnifies God. Maybe an illustration would be the best way to explain this. When my wife led a team to the Amazon Jungle of Peru, many could not believe that she and her team had traveled such a distance by car, plane, and boat to tell their small village about Jesus. It was mind-blowing to some of them. When we go to such lengths to get the gospel message out, it says to people, “This message is of greatest importance.” So, it adds weight to the gospel. Also, it magnifies God. You can imagine some pre-Christian culture saying, “This God of theirs must be awesome for them to go to all of this trouble.” God is also magnified in that by doing foreign missions, we declare that God is worth risking everything for.

Now on to a related question. Why would somebody say that we should just stick with domestic missions and then rationalize their disobedience by saying we’ve got plenty of need here? Let me quickly throw out 4 reasons:

1) Fear. They’re simply afraid to saddle up and cross boundaries for God.

2) Racism. They have a hard time loving people of other ethnicities.

3) Apathy. They’re probably not on mission for God locally either.

4) Ignorance. They simply do not realize or understand the biblical mandate that taking Christ to the nations includes every believer and, by extension, every church.

Anonymous said...

People generally do not even consider local missions. How many local missions does our church do on a regular bases? Haven't been able to find any since we got there.

Tony Peavler said...

Anonymous, It is true that often people don't think of local missions, but I think it more acurate to say that often people don't see missions in what the church and they themselves do locally. 

Missions is a lifestyle.   The lives we live everyday, be it weak or strong, are a daily witness on behalf of God.  The instructions from Christ in Matthew 28 and Acts 1 aren't directives to an organization to plan activies for others to be involved in, but instructions for each individual believer, who collectively make up the church, to go out and be vocal on behalf of God.  Therefore, it is our task as individuals, to be a witness with our own lives.   

The primary "mission" is the spread of the gospel, and we must be careful to not lose that focus.  Meeting physical needs is a good thing, but it is a means to an end, the vehicle that carries us to the place where we share the way of salvation.  As a church we use such vehicles on a regular basis, such as: providing food, housing and financial assistance, Vacation Bible School, visitation, Mothers Of Preschoolers, weekday preschool, as well as our weekly services. Each of these has the same end goal; to share the gospel.  Without caution, however, any of these vehicles can easily steal the role of the gospel.             

Jerry Pedigo said...

We are commanded to go into all the world and spread the gospel, help the widows and the orphans. The question just keeps coming to mind..if not us, who?

hotyogabowlinggreen said...

Our church is a supporter of Crossroads Pregnancy Center in Glasgow, as well as many other organizations. The Musicians Class supported last year and plan to support again this year, the Mountain Outreach Ministry in Eastern Kentucky. The Praise and Drama Teams are active in the local area and are constantly looking for new members and supporters. We need to remember that our mission field is a close as our own backyard..... Often we feel we must support with money and forget that we also can support missions with our time and our talents. This can be done with things as simple as a smile, a pat on the back, a hug, a shoulder to cry on, someone to laugh with, an hour visit with an elderly person or an afternoon of free babysitting for an exhausted friend. Each of us need to take a step back and slow down....look around and Pray, Love, Live, Laugh, and find the old fashion "joy, joy, down in our hearts". ----- Anice Bishop