Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thoughts on missions work

I spent the morning in a very good discussion session on church involvement in mission work. Then, as I was headed back to the office, I was thinking about some of the things we talked about, and some of the other things I've seen in relation to Southern Baptist missions work. I was considering what you'll find on the International Mission Board's Website. You'll find three key words:

Which is not a bad plan. Pray---because Jesus said to, because prayer opens our hearts and ears to hear what God says (I've never encountered anyone whose call to ministry didn't come after prayer).
Give---because where our heart is, our treasure follows, and if our heart is with reaching people for Christ, our treasure will go there, because where our treasure goes, our heart will follow...
Go---because we have the best news ever and we ought to want to go.

But I think I've observed that we follow a different pattern. It's the pattern I learned in Boy Scouts for water lifesaving: REACH-THROW-ROW-GO. What does it mean? If you are on a waterfront and see someone in danger, the first thing you do is REACH: balance and brace yourself so that you won't fall in also, and reach for the person with your arm or something sturdy. THROW: if you have a flotation/rescue device, THROW it to them, so that they have something to hang on to. ROW: if they are too far to REACH, and you have nothing to THROW, grab a boat/canoe/kayak and ROW to them, and pull them into the boat. GO: as a last resort, and only if you have the proper training, GO into the water and get them.

Now, for water rescue, it's not a bad plan. Drowning victims often put rescuers at risk, so the REACH-THROW-ROW-GO plan is based on keeping rescuers as safe as possible. The goal, after all, is to save lives, not lose additional ones.

The problem is, we've borrowed that into churches. We REACH: those that are close at hand, or that are near enough to us that we can get them with an easy tool. We THROW: the Gospel by mass dropping tracts or broadcasting radio, even into places that very few people have radios (side note: the fact that the Gospel has been broadcast in English all over the world doesn't count as preaching the Kingdom everywhere. Without a radio to hear it, and without the Word in language they understand, people are not hearing the Gospel) We ROW: we stay in a safety net by going for short trip, staying in the best accommodations, keeping our cell phones and laptops, and bailing out soon.

Then, as a last resort, we GO: we send someone, who must be highly trained and certified, to go and risk themselves in getting in the midst of people's lives and sharing Christ's love with them.

Now, does everyone need to GO overseas? No. We've borrowed this in our attitude toward lost people in general. We'll reach people that are close to church involvement, and throw the Gospel to people that are distance. We'll even row to them, by taking all of our church trappings on the road, but we don't want to risk getting ourselves involved in people's lives, whether they are our neighbors next door or someone around the world.

It's not enough for us as believers to leave GO up to highly trained, certified professionals. True, we need them. They write great blogs, preach great sermons, have great faith. But most of us are a little more ordinary. We don't write great blogs(if we write them at all), we don't preach great sermons, we have a little faith. But we only need to cling to that little strength. Then, jump in the water in faith. Then, we engage the GO, and trust God to pull us out.

Does this invalidate all of the other methods and means? No, but we need to realize that many people will only be responsive if someone GOes to them. Will you GO?

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