I’m a missionary. My wife is a missionary. Our 8-month old baby girl is a missionary.
My wife and I went abroad to do mission work in China with the expectation that we’d never return to the U.S. We lived as they lived, ate what they ate, breathed the same polluted air they breathed, took the same crowded buses and searched for the same kamikaze-like taxis that they searched for; but what made us missionaries is that we had completely surrendered our lives to the holy calling of God and were totally committed to doing nothing except what God told us to do.
I’ve already written on what it means to be a missionary; that a missionary is not a “church office”, but is a life totally surrendered to the will of God- it’s the absolute surrender of control over your life to God so that you neither move, nor stay, unless you’re convicted that it is the will of God.
When my wife and I were called back to the U.S.- much to our surprise- we were called back to the U.S. not as returning citizens, but as missionaries. And although this is sometimes difficult for family and friends to understand since they may have been expecting you to return and “get on with your life”, being a missionary is not about “where” you live, but about “how” you live.
Thus, being a missionary is about one thing; calling. The missionary life is entirely spent on seeking out and obeying God’s calling. The theme of a missionary life is “here I am, Lord send me!”
WHAT’S IT MEAN TO DO MISSION WORK?
Doing mission work is also about one thing: faith. Mission work is all about whether or not you have the living faith to answer God’s calling. The theme of doing missionary work is “a hand set to the plow that doesn’t look back”.
While every mission field is unique in its physical demands, no mission field is exempt from this law of faith.
There is a tremendous cost to mission work; oftentimes you have to uproot yourself and your family from your family and friends, and you may have to leave the place you’ve called “home”. Indeed, you may be called heartless for leaving your family, regardless of how much your heart suffers when leaving them, and your mission work may be demeaned as “just a phase” and “getting it out of your system”, your financial plans may be upset, your cultural imperatives will be challenged- or shattered- and everything will test your faith to say “here I am, Lord send me!”
Why does everything hinge on money? Is God so destitute?
To many missionaries, the decision to stay or go hinges on whether or not they can have an all-expenses paid trip and raise enough support to fill their 401k. I leave their judgment to God, but, I challenge my brethren to consider whether or not such profiteering is really the faith of Jesus Christ, who had no place to rest His head?
NOTHING BUT FAITH
What stops so many missionaries from doing mission work is that they don’t understand that doing mission work is about nothing more than faith. Far too many Christians think that doing the mission work they were called to is about “faith and money” or “faith and networking” or “faith and notoriety” or “faith and recognition”- maybe even all of the above!
But when someone realizes that doing mission work is about nothing more than faith, then they rise up and go with the conviction that says “take my life, but I will share Christ!” Then we will go as the great cloud of witnesses that came before us went into perilous lands with the gospel to save the souls of those who were eager to kill them! This “program centric” view of mission work is why so few individuals “go”- the “faith-centric” view of mission work is why so many Christians went in times past.
U.S. cities lay in spiritual desolation because Christians are focused on building programs rather than going to preach Christ in the “I am here, Lord send me” faith that is all that is needed to do the Lord’s work.
Do you feel led to reach university students? Pray and find a place where there is a university and go reach them!
Is your heart being stirred to preach? Pray and preach! Perhaps you just need to find the darkest spiritual town square or city street you can find and preach!
It was “faith”, not program, that drove men like David Brainerd to expend his life for the sake of the gospel and endure the derision of his peers for the sake of Christ’s calling. And I guarantee you that it will be faith that drives you through the storm to reach the lost where God calls you!
BUT WHAT ABOUT EVERYTHING ELSE?
I’m not denying that there are sometimes extensive processes involved in doing mission work, but, the person driven by faith will figure everything else out.
My wife and I had no idea what we were doing when we went abroad the first time- but we had faith. We did what we knew to do, and we went!
Were there things we could have done better, or things that we should have done that we didn’t do? Absolutely! But we went, and souls were saved, weary hearts were healed in Christ, and close relationships were forged in the love of Christ- even our own faith was purified by fire!
WHAT ABOUT BIBLE KNOWLEDGE?
This question comes with baggage, but deserves an answer.
There will be all kinds of opposition and lying deceptions that arise to confront the gospel wherever you go to preach Christ. “Going” does not require that you know every answer to every question before you go. But you are charged with answering such questions.
However, if you do not know the gospel or the hope you have in Christ Jesus, how can you preach? Indeed, how can you believe? The fact is that many professing believers do not know the gospel, nor the hope that they have in Christ. I do not believe this is an issue about “doing mission work”, but rather, about being a Christian.
Here’s why I say that: in China we baptized a sister who’s husband was a member of the communist party and a non-believer. The sister used the scriptures approach of winning her husband over without even a word, and, the husband eventually became a believer after a gospel workshop we had that she hosted in her house. Immediately after we baptized her husband he began going and knocking on his neighbors doors and teaching them about Christ from the Beatitudes, which was literally all he knew.
The prerequisite is that you be born again through the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23)- if you do not meet that prerequisite, then you have need that you be saved from your sin and born again of the true gospel of Jesus Christ!
However, the idea that an academic threshold of Bible knowledge be met before you are qualified to go out and do the work God calls you to do is outrageous! Knowledge helps and is critical, and every Christian ought to be found faithful stewards of God’s calling by sharpening and refining themselves, and, even more so, to grow and increase in their knowledge of the One whom they love, but, the idea that you have to know everything before you go is alarmingly crippling!
So-called mission philosophy is overwhelmingly convoluted and complicated; the gospel did not spread by these modern methods- in fact, because of many of these methods, missionaries are not preaching the gospel at all because they’re being directed away from preaching the gospel towards humanitarian efforts that make Christ an after-thought and last mention, rather than the all-consuming and bright purpose and reason for all that we do!
The mission field may require you to do certain things to prepare yourself- the faith will carry you through that process on wings of eagles, but it will also keep you from getting bogged down in endlessly complicated processes that Pharisee’s want to put on you so that you can never go!
What is Jesus Christ calling you to do? Every Christian has a call from Christ- no one is exempt. Are you called to mission work in your neighborhood? Are you called to preach Christ in homeless facilities, in hospitals, at work and to your friends, or abroad?
Know your calling and let your living faith take you to your destination.