A passion for missions…REALLY?

Our radically Islamic neighbor, Somalia, has threatened to kill anyone who dares to spread Christianity in her country. On several occasions they have lived up to their words. As we pray, dream and plan on ways of taking the Gospel to every nation, tribe and tongue  let us first take a critical look at what we are doing at home to reach the lost in our community. Our churches exist in communities full of lost people, they work for us, we work for them and with them…some live next door, others live within our doors…yet many of them have not heard the good news of Jesus proclaimed to them. Our Churches have no burden for the lost…at times we do not even show a burden for the lost who regularly attend our services. If we have no passion to reach those who live amongst us…how can we profess a passion to reach those in hard access regions?  Churches that are planted from passionless churches often show no passion for the lost in their communities. Before we think about reproducing ourselves let us ask if we really want more churches out there who look like us. The most convicting fact though is that in most cases the members of our congregations lack this passion for the lost because we who lead them show no passion for the lost…we might talk about it…but rarely demonstrate it.

The recently completed census counted over 2,000,000 Somalis living in Kenya today. They have curved themselves a large portion of Nairobi that’s come to be known as “little Mogadishu”. With close to 500 of them crossing the border every week, their population is constantly spreading to other suburbs every year. By the providence of God the foreign mission field is in many ways being brought to town. The guy next door is practically the guy who three years back was living in “in-accessible” Somalia. I personally have over 20 of them as neighbors, which means that for me these realities lay a practical demand upon my life. They lead me to ask myself the question…”how sincere is my “passion” for the unreached in hard access regions whilst my neighbor yet remains unreached?” This is the same question I pose to you.

The forgotten mission

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

Lunching with an atheist

about two months back I had the pleasure of going out for a lunch that I was not paying for…so as you can imagine I was really enjoying myself. as we were conversing at the table (we were five of us, a christian couple from my church, a young lady friend of theirs and a german young man whom she had met randomly and invited her to church) the topic about the demise of christianity in the west came up. I thought of asking the german visitor if he attended church at all to which he answered, “no I don’t…actually I am not a christian at all!” my delightful lunch was about to take a turn. within a few minutes we were engrossed in a deep philosophical discussion about the existence of God…we were not arguing, our voices were not raised but we were definitely engaged in an intense debate. he did not believe the Bible was the Word of God did not believe that there was even a God, labeled christianity along with all other man made religions etc so we could not begin from the Gospel because he even rejected the idea that sin was a real thing however although we did not start from it we kept going back to it just because philosophy never saved any man. the class I took with Joel Arnold came through for me like the winning lottery ticket on the day of the draw (its just an illustration) his world view had way to many inconsistencies and I did my best to shake his false foundation in between sharing with him the Good News about Christ.

a few hours later we parted ways, he had been very open and friendly through the whole time so we all felt closer to him at the end of it all than at the beginning. despite that he had not called on Christ to save him. last sunday the couple that I had been out to lunch with that day gave me a message from our atheist friend, he wanted me to know that he was back in Germany now and is faithfully attending church!!! God can do wonders…pray that God would open his eyes to the sin that he is living in and grant him faith to call on Christ; mankind’s only hope.

The genesis of ministry in Nairobi…the roses and the thorns

Three months into post masomo(training) ministry…I’ve learnt two things…school taught me a lot…there is a lot that school did not teach me. I have the amazing opportunity to serve with the believers at Emmanuel Baptist and at Camp Lukenya. Both ministries have presented challenges that I was not expecting, e.g. handling a group of teens who did not seem to care at all about “expository preaching”…had to dig deep and teach myself how to warm up those dull un-interested teens get them loosed up and present the word in a manner that is appealing to them yet without compromising the message. At camp, its been mainly admin work, dealing with staff, doing job interviews for new employees, dealing with discipline cases etc…not the kinda stuff I came from college eager to do…but God has me learning all this from most probably the best guys I could.

Yet I have also gotten to do stuff that I really enjoy, teaching Bible study on Wednesday nights…we are going thru 1st Corinthians…beautiful stuff, loving it all the way, got to teach a workshop during the Leadership Conference and interact with the pastors as well. One thing I’m thankful to God for is that His mercy and grace are helping me along in the stuff I don’t enjoy doing so much (chiefly coz I’m largely un-experienced and feel as incompetent as I could) and in the things that I enjoy doing as well, He who called me indeed has been faithful thus far, I do not deserve Him, He has been good to me.

focusing on the harvest field

Nairobi my beautiful hometown is a city thats as diverse as any could be. it’s graced with a magnificent skyline in the city which is surrounded by slums crummed with the poor, highclass surbubs where the money bags of the nation sleep and a middle class that is slowly growing.

the issues that face it’s population which soars above 3 million people have been defined by many well meaning organizations in different terms ranging from poverty to corruption…but all these are mere fruits of a bigger problem…..Sin. the Gospel of Christ alone has the power to change lives..to give hope to the poor and the rich to give life to both groups for both are dead in their trespasses and sins. this must be done by all followers of Christ, the work mus’nt only be left for the Leaders of God’s people Eph 4:11-12 “ And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” the work of the ministry in Nairobi will only get done when we all take up the burden to win over the city one soul at a time. Nairobi counts on you