Five Lies about Missions

Lie #1- “The Bible is an important book, but it was written at a certain time, to a certain group of people, in a certain setting. God’s call no longer applies to our world today.” It is obvious that the Bible has a grand mission concerning sin, redemption, and glory. God is on a mission for the sake of glory, his excellent reputation. People are called to preach and lay down their very lives for the sake of the advancement of the Gospel. How can readers appreciate the narratives without getting involved? They do so by believing the lie that the context is so different that the commandments, though important and meaningful, are not relevant for today. You find this lie more prevalently stated within liberal denominations but it is believed in the conservative denominations as well. I want to say that this is antithetical to the Bible, church history, and my own experience. The glory of God, his excellent reputation, is the foundation for missions. God’s glory is always relevant, then and even now. God’s righteous passion and delight is to display and uphold his infinitely valuable glory. It is no mere theological jargon to suggest that God’s highest passion is the praise of that which deserves the most praise, himself. All throughout Scripture God is said to do things for his own glory: God chose his people for his glory (Eph. 1:4-6, 12,14), created us for his glory (Isa. 43:6-7), called Israel for his glory (Isa. 49:3; Jer. 13:11), rescued Israel from Egypt for his glory (Psa. 106:7-8), and raised Pharaoh up to show his power and glorify his name (Rom. 9:17). God defeated Pharaoh at the Red Sea to show his glory (Exo. 14:4,17-18), spared Israel in the wilderness for the glory of his name (Ezek. 20:14), gave Israel victory in Canaan for the glory of his name (2 Sam. 7:23), did not cast away his people for the glory of his name (1 Sam. 12:20-22), saved Jerusalem from attack for the glory of his name (2 Kings 19:34, 20:6), restored Israel from exile for the glory of his name (Ezek. 36:22-23), God forgives our sins for his own sake (Isa. 43:25; Psa. 25:11), gave his Son to vindicate the glory of his righteousness (Rom. 3:25-26), instructs believers to do everything for his glory (1 Cor. 10:31, 6:20), tells us to serve in a way that will glorify him (1 Pet. 4:11), and he tells us that his plan is to fill the earth with the knowledge of his glory (Hab. 2:14) How can God’s people gaze upon a missionary God without becoming missionaries themselves? How long will they read a book about glory and decide not to give any? The Bible cannot and will not be gagged as irrelevant. Context can never trump the text. God is still calling and commanding people to service worldwide. It is important to remember that the Bible is appreciated fully when it is obeyed fully.

Lie #2- God is moving powerfully and miraculously overseas. However, his miracles do not happen in the West. John 5:17 says, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” God is at work all over the globe in different ways. It is pure arrogance to think that because God is working over there in X way that he is not working over here in Y way. We think it’s miraculous if someone gets healed in Indonesia. The Indonesians think it’s miraculous that we all are blessed with multiple Bibles within our own homes. God is powerfully working all around the world. It takes the eyes of faith to see his miracles, the tiny displays of his heavy glory.

Lie #3-If God wants me to be a missionary, he will give me a special call. To me, this is one of the most dubious and pernicious of the lies mentioned. I have discussed missions to fellow church members back home to get the reply of “I’m not called to missions like you. It is not my calling to go.” As my pastor, David Platt, said:

I wonder if we have in some ways intentionally and in other ways unknowingly erected lines of defense against the global purpose God has for our lives. It’s not uncommon to hear Christians say, “Well, not everyone is called to foreign missions,” or more specifically, “I am not called to foreign missions.” When we say this, we are usually referring to foreign missions as on optional program in the church for the faithful few who apparently are called to that. In this mind-set, missions is a compartmentalized program of the church, select folks are good at missions and passionate about missions. Meanwhile, the rest of us are willing to watch the missions slide show when the missionaries come home, but in the end God has just not called most of us to do this missions thing.

But where in the Bible is missions ever identified as an optional program in the church? We have just seen that we were all created by God, saved from our sins, and blessed by God to make his glory known in all the world. Indeed, Jesus himself has not merely called us to go to all nations, he has created us and commanded us to go to all nations. We have taken this command, though, and reduced it to a calling—something that only a few people receive.

I find it interesting that we don’t do this with other words from Jesus. We take Jesus’ command in Matthew 28 to make disciples of all nations, and we say, “That means other people.” But we look at Jesus’ command in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” and we say, “Now, that means me.” We take Jesus’ promise in Acts 1:8 that the Spirit will lead us to the ends of the earth, and we say, “That means some people.” But we take Jesus’ promise in John 10:10 that we have abundant life, and we say, “That means me.”

In the process we have unnecessarily (and unbiblically) drawn a line of distinction, assigning the obligations of Christianity to a few while keeping the privileges of Christianity for us all. In this way we choose to send off other people to carry out the global purpose of Christianity while the rest of us sit back because we’re “just not called to that.”

Now, we know that each of us has different gifts, different skills, different passions, and different callings from God. God has gifted you and me in different ways. This is undoubtedly the case with the disciples. Peter and Paul had different callings. James and John had different callings. However, each follower of Christ in the New Testament, regardless of his or her calling, was intended to take up the mantle of proclaiming the gospel to the ends of the earth. That’s the reason why he gave each of them his Spirit and why he gave them all the same plan: make disciples of all nations.

Christians today in the West are not going to unreached people groups because they lack specific “callings” from God. It is fitting to point out that believers do not need special, divine callings. They have special, divine commandments that say to go to the nations! Taking Scripture seriously means following the commandments to cross cultures. Church members do not need special voices or callings to be obedient to clear commands. As Jim Elliot once said, “Why ask for a voice when you have a verse?” How many people have to perish while we wait for special callings?

Lie #4- I have made a bargain with God. If I work hard in my own church, then God will not call my children to the nations. There is no way God would want me to be without my children and grandchildren. I know it is painful to give up loved ones for the sake of the Gospel. As the Dr. Nik Ripken has said, “There is only one thing more difficult than releasing our own lives into the hands of God-and that is releasing the lives of loved ones. What risks are we willing to shoulder for the sake of the Kingdom of God? What is the hardest task? Going? That is difficult; however, going is not the hardest task. The hardest task is sending: sending our loved ones to serve the nations.” Christians are called to make the hard decisions of faith. The only thing that will provoke a believer to leave the loved ones behind is the immeasurable love of Christ he has for his people. When Christ loves you that much, you can go to the nations risking never to see your family again. Jesus said “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.(Luke 14:26)” His main point is to love Christ more than you love your own family. We are not in a place to bargain when God when it comes to his mission. We are commanded to go and be with him as he is going to accumulate more people to be with him. If you truly love your loved ones, you will graciously and trustfully hand them over to the One who loves them the most. Most men are not satisfied with the permanent output of their lives. Nothing can wholly satisfy the life of Christ within His followers except the adoption of Christ’s purpose toward the world He came to redeem. Fame, pleasure and riches are but husks and ashes in contrast with the boundless and abiding joy of working with God for the fulfillment of His eternal plans. The men who are putting everything into Christ’s undertaking are getting out of life its sweetest and most priceless rewards. Allow your loved ones to seek after the sweetest and most priceless rewards. Love calls you to that.

Lie #5- The safest place in the world is within the will of God. The most dangerous place to be is in the will of God. Both Christ and his apostles were in the will of God when they faced immense pain and hurt. Isaiah said of Jesus that “it was the Lord’s will to crush him.” Paul was told by Jesus “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name. (Acts 9:16)” Paul told the Philippian Church that it was a privilege to suffer for Jesus. “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him…(Phil. 1:29)” The will of God is a very dangerous place to be. Yet, it is the safest place to be. The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not cover you. God will give you grace to stand…to be beaten…to speak boldly…to even lay down your life for the sake of the Gospel. He gives dying grace only at the time of death. If believers in the West wait until the mission is safe, the mission will never be completed. We do not teach our congregants to fear the mission but risk it all for the sake of the mission, Christ receiving the glory due his name.

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