Who shall I send?
I’ve been hanging out with a group of college kids from the states who are here on a missions trip…watching them has triggered thoughts about the mission field I live in, that which neighbors my country and my responsibility. It all started with a visit to a massai village in Amboseli, followed by a video in which were clips of Wusakile ministry (a church plant that I served in briefly in Zambia) cupped off by some time spent with kids at Kibera two days ago and Mathari today. Everywhere I look, I see fellow countrymen who do not know Christ as Lord, I see churches that preach a cheap hopeless prosperity gospel, which is no Gospel. Although most churches in my Baptist circles would state that they have a passion for missions both local and foreign…the reality is we are doing very little. What could be the reason for our slackness? A few ideas creep into my mind…most likely all tainted by some form of ignorance or another…but for what its worth here is my two cents worth:
1. The Misplaced Christ
We sing about Him, we hear Him mentioned every now and then in the message, we even “pray in His name” but it really is not all about Him. In our hearts…our motives for coming…our pursuit in the “worship” time, He often gets the backbench. I think our Churches could easily make the priority of gathering “running a smooth crisp service”…flawless in all that was done…not a bad thing in itself so long as it is not the end that we seek. We could turn it to a social gathering where the chief end is to impress those who come by giving them what they want…whatever that may be, thus judging the end product by a majority vote. We have in many ways fallen into the trap of evaluating church through the opinions of men not the Head of the Church…the One who walks among the seven candlesticks and evaluates each local body of believers. When we relegate Christ to becoming merely a part of the service “Knowing Him and making Him known” takes a back seat as well. For when the center of all that we do is about knowing Him, no one can stop us from making Him known
2. The Misplaced Gospel
We see no place of the Gospel in the life of the believer…it is looked upon simply as a message for unbelievers to hear. In Letters to the Church in Rome and that of Ephesus the Gospel features predominantly…in his other letters he points his readers back to the Gospel as the source of the grace they need to grow in Christ; Col 2:6-23 he points them to what they have become in Christ all they need to live the Christian life…not legalism…not help from angels, In Ephesians He spends the opening chapters explaining different facets of our salvation, in chapter two he zooms in on our unworthiness, Christ’s great grace, and the mind-blowing results of God’s work in us, in chapter three he is talking about the great blessing that we have in receiving the revelation of the mystery…he is rejoicing for the great honor of being granted ministry of preaching it, and praying for the Ephesians that they might be strengthened so as to grasp the grandness of what we have through Christ…then and only then does he let loose and rolls out imperative after imperative to these Christians…
My point is when the Gospel is taken out of its central place; the central commission left to the church looses its place. When we forget how great a salvation we have received we loose the urgency of taking that salvation to the dying world around us. A heart saturated in the Gospel that saved us is a heart that needs little encouragement to seek the glory of the One who died for us, by taking that Gospel to the lost.
3. The Misunderstood predicament
We as the Kenyan church exist in a context where physical needs abound. We have poverty and corruption all around us. These external needs affect us greatly…and they ought to. But there is a greater need still that which God sees when He looks at the world. When God looks at the lost He sees a more urgent need for they are spiritually naked, poor and sick Rev 3:17, and the consequences of these needs are incomparably worse. Christ did not come to primarily address the physical John 6:26-27, He came to redeem man from the curse of sin, Mark 1:35-38, 10:45, in tandem, the church has been called to address the source of all problems; sin, and the antidote is the Gospel of Christ. When we misdiagnose the problem we do the greatest disservice to the very ones we seek to help…for we the church have been left to cater to their greatest need, their need as sinful men to be reconciled to a holy God. Our focus on their physical problems will take its right place as a tiny finite demonstration of Christ’s great love for us shown by His death on the cross on our behalf. To merely address the outward problem of poverty and sickness is utterly useless if it is not predicated upon the work of Gospel proclamation. Note, my argument here is not that the two problems are equal and that both should be addresses neither am I saying that the Church has no role in addressing physical needs, I am saying that when we address their physical needs we ought to be using it as a means to dimly illustrate the love of Christ shown us on the cross, to which we point all men, for outside the crucified Christ there is no hope…not for the poor or the rich. We are stewards of the most potent, most powerful transforming life giving “agent” in our fallen world…the Gospel concerning Christ, Rom 1:16-17; II Tim 1:10; I Corinthians 1:18. Let us not lay It down only to take up rusty, broken, blunt implements as we seek to give hope to a dying world.
4. Our Misplaced Joy
In many ways I feel as one who has forsaken the incomparable joy of sacrificing self (comforts both of this world and that of serving in a place and a people that I feel at home with) so as to reach others. Christ taught that unless the grain dies it cannot bear fruit, John 12:23-28 This is especially the case when it comes to preaching the Gospel in the sprawling slums of Nairobi and reaching out to communities that live in hard access regions. When we die to all the little trappings of pleasure that are around us and come to God with no strings attached…laying our all on the altar, then we make room for the incomparable joy that is to be enjoyed by all those who like Christ “sacrificed” their own little joys for the eternal joy of others; Heb 12:2, Psalms 126:6. We trade the infinite joys of tomorrow to enjoy the insufficient, temporary joys of today. Very few of us are willing to sacrifice…time, money, pride or life to know the great joy of taking part in the greatest task man has ever has “glorifying God through the reconciliation of sinners through Christ” this is accomplished as we make disciples of Christ among all the people groups around us. And we have been gifted with 42 of them just in our country!!!
May our gracious God revive our hearts to the great task that He has called us to, and may He strengthen our hands to lay hold of the plough, and to keep faithful to the task.
The Savior’s message “Go and tell”
Was meant for me, I know full well.
Just the need alone to know
Can be God’s gentle call to Go.
Some to distant lands may fly;
Others telling friends nearby;
All this precious Hope may share,
And give, and intercede in prayer.
Honoria A. Groves