Darryl's thoughts on the Christian Faith, Facts, and World Events
In my last post, www.internationalfishers.com/blog/build-the-wall, I wrote that most Christians are standing on the sidelines when it came to the Great Commission. According to Barna research group, only 17% of churchgoers have even heard of the Great Commission and knows what it means. Fifty-one percent have not even heard of the Great Commission. In this post, I will discuss some of the reasons why so few churchgoers understand, much less are actively engaged in, the Great Commission.
1. Christians are not being equipped for the work of ministry.
"For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ," Ephesians 4:12
In too many churches, many people attend church to be "fed"=encouraged, helped, inspired, comforted, and/or entertained. As a result many people who attend churches are merely consumers. They contribute nothing beyond possibly contributing some finances (like tipping an entertainer). These people do not encourage, help, inspire, or comfort others. Church leaders who minister to these people have to be careful that they do not become performers/entertainers. Instead, according to Ephesians 4:12, church leaders should be coaches. For more on this see www.internationalfishers.com/blog/church-services-should-be-a-lot-like-locker-roomsbut-without-the-bad-smell.
2. Christians mistakenly see the Great Commission as for other countries only.
"And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I amwith you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen." Matthew 28: 18-20. Whenever the Great Commission is (too rarely) mentioned, it is often accompanied by flags and maps of other countries. As a result, people see the Great Commission as irrelevant or foreign. Perhaps we should also hang up (at least in our minds) a tablecloth from our kitchen table and a map of our own neighborhood too because the Great Commission's "all nations" or "all the world" begins with those around our kitchen table, our neighborhood, schools, and workplaces and then extends to the ends of the earth as well. There is no option given in Scripture to either reach your local community or the ends of the earth (as far as you can reach). The requirement to go to "all nations" means both here and there. Traditional missionaries go, adapt to, and minister to places where others cannot go. They are your representatives. For more on this see www.internationalfishers.com/eternal-impact/i-went-so-that-you-could-stay-you-stay-so-that-i-can-go .
3. Christians mistakenly see the Great Commission as an optional/extra credit assignment. This is result of a combination of #1 and #2 above. Christians often think that the Great Commission is only the responsibility of the missionaries and perhaps the pastors and mission agencies. They fail realize that just as without fuel pilots are only pedestrians, missionaries cannot go to the ends of the earth and make disciples cross-culturally without sufficient financial, prayer, spiritual, emotional, and practical partnership/support before they go, during their mission terms, and during their times in their home countries. Returning missionaries also need partnership too so that they can re-integrate into the church and "regular" life smoothly. For more on the hearts and ministries of those who stay behind please visit www.internationalfishers.com/eternal-impact/we-stayed-so-that-others-could-go-a-missionarys-tribute-to-those-who-stay-behind .
The truth is that the Great Commission is a commandment for every Christian whether they are vocational Christian workers or not. Every Christian is called to be a missionary to their own family, friends, school, workplace, and community. Every Christian is in some way, called to be involved in world missions whether as a missionary or as senders (financially, prayerfully, emotionally, and/or practically). Missionaries are not "holy homeless" or "Bible beggars". Instead, they (we) are Great Commission Business Partners with you. We go so that you can stay. When we can no longer be missionaries, God may call you to switch places with us on the front lines of the mission field.
Build the Wall In Front of Your House: A Biblical Guide to Problem Solving
As a missionary in Cambodia since 2000, walls have been a part of my daily life for many years. When I first moved to Cambodia, I shared a mission-team house with other missionaries which was surrounded by a wall. When the 8-foot tall concrete and steel spike wall was no longer sufficient to prevent spiderman-like burglars from coming in to the property two nights in a row, the landlord added another 18 inches of coiled razor wire on top of that. My churches, Bible schools, and son's Christian school have all been surrounded by walls, gates, and guards. In developing countries, walls are not for decorative purposes but for defensive purposes. Israel at the time of Nehemiah was a developing country at the time and so the wall around Jerusalem necessary for the common defense.
I was reminded of how Nehemiah reorganized the people of Jerusalem to rebuild certain sections of the wall. I was also reminded of the phrase, "In front of their houses."
Nehemiah 3:23, "Next to them, Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs in front of their own house. Next to them, Azariah son of Maaseiah, the son of Ananiah, made repairs beside his own house."
Problems Are Often Too Big For Us To Solve Alone.
Americans, like myself, are usually programmed by our culture to be individualists. Therefore, we usually to try to solve all of our problems by ourselves and we expect others to do the same. This is a great tactic when the problems are small, because we can solve them quickly and individually. However when problems are too big for to solve individually, we often end up being frustrated with ourselves or others for being unable to acheive the impossible. The result is paralysis.
Other cultures are much more community-oriented. Therefore, they usually try to find community-based solutions to problems. This process is slower and can be less efficient than individualism when dealing with smaller or urgent problems but it really shines when dealing with large and long term problems. Maybe this is why the "Great Wall" was built in China.
I believe that the Biblical model is somewhere in the middle between Individualism and Community-Orientation and so it can have the best of both and avoids the weakenesses of both too.
When Problems Are Too Big To Solve Individually, Work Together As Group.
Some problems, like rebuilding a city wall, is too big for the individual to ever complete in a timely manner. Therefore, a group is needed.
Even If We Can't Solve The Whole Problem Alone, We Should Each Do Our Part, No Matter How Small.
The fear of being overwhelmed by the needs or the size of the problem often paralyzes us into doing nothing. For example, when we see a homeless person, we usually avoid eye contact because we know that we cannot solve ALL of their problems by ourselves. However, if we have the ability to help them either temporarily or permanently resolve ONE of their problems (even a cup of water), then I believe that we should do what we can to help, no matter how small.
Once I was walking down the street in downtown Los Angeles. I met a homeless man and started talking to him. I tried to witness to him, but he said, "Unless God gives me food right now, I won't believe!" Within, seconds, a man walking down the street past us put a sandwich into the homeless man's hands. Within a minute after that, a car pulled up to the curb, honked and a woman held out a bottle of water for the homeless man to take. Convicted and amazed, I took the man to McDonald, bought him lunch, and witnessed to him. When I left, the homeless man, was still homeless, but because that man and woman obeyed the guidance of the Holy Spirit at that exact moment (I don't know their spiritual backgrounds but they did the exact right thing in that momemt) the homeless man's problems were partially solved. 1. He got lunch. 2. He got dinner. 3. Most importantly, He had an opportunity to hear the Gospel.
Now, I am a missionary, unfortunately many people regard my family and I as, "Holy Homeless," because we live on donations. People get nervous, awkward, and distant when we mention our financial needs. The truth is that we are really Great Commission representatives. We go to the mission field in other's places, so that other Christians can stay behind and be senders.
Many Christians also wrongly think that the Great Commission is an optional extra credit project--it isn't. Instead the Great Commission is required of all Christians. "Go into all the world," starts by spreading the Gospel across your own kitchen table to your family, across the street to your neighborhood, across the city, nation, and world. Missionaries go to the ends of the earth so that you don't have to. When I can no longer be a missionary to Cambodia, God may call you to replace me as a missionary. Then I will be the sender for you.
The Great Commission (in the missionary sense) is the main defense (a wall if you will) against the localized extinction of Christianity in areas where persecution is strongest. Unless Christianity keeps growing, it will eventually be crushed by persecution at least in certain locations.
The Great Commission, as a problem/challenge/wall that needs to be rebuilt most Christians stay on the sidelines because they know that the needs are so great that they are overwhelming. However, the truth is that the needs are so great and overwhelming because most Christians are still on the sidelines! Instead of a few Christians doing and sacrificing too much, it would be much better, more enjoyable, and more sustainable if all Christians each did and sacrificed a little.
Here are a few real-life examples. You don't need to sacrifice your home to become a powerful Great Commission Wall Builder. Instead, you could just host some missionaries for a few days when they are on home-assignment. The costs for you will be minimal and the missionaries will save hundreds of dollars in motel fees (and missionaries usually have some interesting/funny stories so count it as entertainment). You don't have to give up your extra car to be an important part of the Great Commission. Instead, you could loan it to missionaries on home assignment for a few days. This will save missionaries hundreds of dollars in car rental or ride-sharing expenses. Even though missionaries need to raise thousands of dollars monthly in order to stay on the field and engage in meaningful ministries, (cheerfully given, sustainable, faithful, regular etc.) monthly donations from $10 to $50 (maybe cut back on the Starbucks and cable TV) are what they (we) need more than huge one-time donations (we welcome those too but we cannot really make plans).
The Great Commission, Homelessness, and other problems are too big for us to solve as individuals. However, if we work together as the Body of Christ and each one is faithful to our own responsibilities, many problems can be resolved or at least minimized. If you see a need, don't be afraid to do what you can and give what you have. Trust that God will supply the rest either through other people or if necessary, He can even rain manna from heaven. But it is more likely to be a sandwich and a bottle of water from strangers.
Matthew 25: 35-36,
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’" Each of these things listed is reasonably inexpensive. The homeless and missionaries both need everything listed here.
I also recommend that you read my other blog article, "What is in Your Hand?" www.internationalfishers.com/blog/what-is-in-your-hand
Exodus 4:1-4 New Century Version (NCV)Proof for Moses4 Then Moses answered, “What if the people of Israel do not believe me or listen to me? What if they say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?”
2 The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?”
Moses answered, “It is my walking stick.”
3 The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.”
So Moses threw it on the ground, and it became a snake. Moses ran from the snake, 4 but the Lord said to him, “Reach out and grab the snake by its tail.” When Moses reached out and took hold of the snake, it again became a stick in his hand.
What is in your hand?
Is it a computer, device, or a phone? Are you using it for God's best purposes?
What else is in your hand? What do you own? What do you control? What areas of life do you have influence? Are you a leader?
Are you using everything you are, own, control, influence, and lead for God's best purposes?
These are the questions I am beginning to ask myself. What is in my hand? Am I using those things for God's best purposes?
Notice that God did not give Moses a new, extra, spare, modified, or upgraded staff. Instead, God took the same old staff that Moses had been using for years and used it in a miraculous way. God may not give us more or new resources, but He will use the common things that we already have in a amazing ways, if we are willing to throw them on the ground when God calls us to.
Throwing them on the ground means that we relinquish our own control over them and allow God to do whatever He wants to with them. The results may even be scary at times. Moses ran from the snake.
I have come to believe that one of the biggest hinderances for us (and others through us) experiencing all that God has for us all is that we look at the problems and they look too big when compared to our limited resources. We know that we and our resources cannot solve the problem or meet the need. Moses knew that his staff was nothing compared to Pharaoh's army. So, instead of doing everything we CAN with what we already HAVE, we end up doing NOTHING. Often, when we do nothing, others follow our lead and do NOTHING as well. The end result is that NOTHING gets done, no problems get solved (not even small ones which you (I) could have solved), and no one gets helped. If we live like this when we are strong, what kind of help can we expect when we are weak?
"The one who moves mountains begins by carrying away many small stones." Confucius
There are times when God wants us to speak to the mountains (problems/challenges) and they will move.
Matthew 17:20 New Century Version (NCV)
20 Jesus answered, “Because your faith is too small. I tell you the truth, if your faith is as big as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. All things will be possible for you.
But many times, God wants us to use the staff and other tools that He has already given us to take small steps. Also remember that God often does not expect us to solve big problems all alone. If we are Christians, then we are part of the Body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:12 New Century Version (NCV) The Body of Christ Works Together
12 A person’s body is one thing, but it has many parts. Though there are many parts to a body, all those parts make only one body. Christ is like that also.
Each Christian should think of ourselves as a single cell in a much larger body. If each one of us is willing to use what God has placed in our hands to the maximum God can use that power and multiply it miraculously.
On the other hand, we can say, I only have this old stick. God can't use it for anything. I am not going to do anything with it. I will just hold on to it. Of course, this attitude is the same attitude that the one who buried the talent had in Matthew 24:14-30. This passage should serve as a challenge and a warning to us.
What is in your hand?
A Christian Apologist, Author, Missionary, Husband, and Father. Darryl has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University (CA), an MA in TESOL from Azusa Pacific University (CA), and a BA in Political Science from Truman State University (MO).