02 March 2015

Farsighted Missions vs. The Unheroic Everyday

And Jesus came up 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 the Son and the Holy Spirit, 
teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; 
and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Matthew 28:18-20, The Great Commission

Be The Someone from K H on Vimeo.

What's wrong with this video?

Well, not everything. OMF is a reputable mission organization founded by Hudson Taylor. It works to spread the gospel in Asia. This video shows the need there is in East Asia for frontier missions--for translation projects of the Bible, for people to go and live among the unreached people groups to gain trust, to live truth and hope and love, and to speak of Jesus.

However, this video also feeds the dangerous mindset of farsighted missions if this false message is taken: Missions is something that happens far away from home.

A Look at the Video
I came across this video while looking up Perspectives classes, and the start of it gave me great hope. I thought the woman in the car would be so inspired by her "vision" that she would begin reaching out to the homeless and jobless in her city or seek out immigrants or marginalized people or her next door neighbor who seemed sad. I expected that she would see the need for Jesus right in her hometown, right outside her window.

Instead, the "vision" was a segue into the gospel needs in East Asia. Yes, there are needs in Asia! Yes, they do need prayers and advocates and volunteers! BUT is it right to have people passionate about global missions who do not move to share Jesus with their own communities?

A Look at the Word "Missions"
"Missions" has changed in the past 100 years. OMF itself attests to the changes that have come since Hudson Taylor first began the China Inland Mission--and of course they should adjust with modernization. However, the church's definition of "missionary" has also changed, and this hurts two groups of people.

The modern definition: A missionary is someone who leaves his home (for short-term or long-term) to bring the gospel to another group of people. 

The first problem is that this definition is too narrow. It doesn't include Christians who live in their home country. Therefore, many believers leave the evangelism and mission work to the people whom their church supports financially. And these missionaries also receive a superhero status, which can endanger their humility and their openness to God's leading.

The second problem is that this definition is too wide. It groups together overseas workers with frontier missionaries. There is little distinction between those who live and minister in a foreign country and those who live and minister to unreached people groups.

So our modern definition of missions excuses church members from participation and dwarfs the impact of frontier missionaries.

A Look at What Jesus Said
Many of us have the Great Commission memorized. What does it mean in our day-to-day lives? Does it mean, like this video insinuates, that we should help with the global efforts to reach tribal people in East Asia?  Does it mean we equip, finance, and encourage missionaries? Or does it mean we should be the missionary in whatever situation we are in--near home or abroad--to share the gospel ("baptizing") and to disciple ("teaching") those who are within our circle of influence?

Can it be both? Yes, certainly. But it cannot be one without the other. 

We are to be missionaries wherever we are.
We are to keep a global perspective and participate in spreading the gospel to all people groups.

It may feel much more heroic to be involved in global mission work, but we are supposed to be sharing Jesus with all the world--and that includes the familiar, unromantic world that we step into every day.

Abide in Him,

Why is it easier and more satisfying to invest in faraway missions than in our own neighborhoods? 
How would you adjust the modern definition of "missionary" to include all Christians in the Great Commission but also raise awareness about those who are with unreached people groups?

Related articles you may also appreciate:
Yes, I'm a Missionary, Aren't You?
The Boastful Pride of (Missions) Life
What Missionaries Can Learn from Moses
Phrases That Steal Praise: Dissecting Christianese

Related links:
Joshua Project
Village of Hope Uganda
"Be A Missionary Every Day" children's song on YouTube

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