For centuries, the driving force behind this was what is now called The Great Commission where the risen Jesus tells his followers:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20
People hear the word “Go” and so they leave. They leave behind everything and go to a foreign nation, culture, world to spread the news of Jesus.
And many Christians are more than willing to put dollars and cents in funding missionaries who go in their stead. They feel good about themselves that they are somehow participating in The Great Commission as well.
But they aren’t.
They are willing to support missionaries, applaud them, pray for them, and sit back as arm chair quarterbacks while these wonderful people sacrifice all when they don’t have to.
People get missions and evangelism mixed up. To many Christians, missions is going to another country and evangelism is knocking on doors, stopping people in the streets, yelling on a bull horn from a street corner asking people the Four Spiritual Laws and where would they go if they died tonight. Evangelism is memorizing the Roman Road and the Sinners Prayer in hopes that someone will change in an instant to become a Christian. And people don’t want to do that. It’s scary. It’s not their gift. As with career missionaries, they’d rather pay someone else so they don’t have to do it.
So many Christians think that evangelism is something you do in events which are attractions to maybe get people to show up at church, or that a worship service is seeker friendly enough as to not offend a seeker if they actually come through the doors at all, or that evangelism is just getting kiesters in the seats and pews so the church looks fuller. That is not evangelism. That is recruitment for a club. And the church, the kingdom of God, is not a club.
Evangelism is missions. The mission field is not out there somewhere in the jungles or backwoods of some foreign nation. The mission field is at our front door. As soon as a believer, a disciple of Jesus leaves their front door, they are in the mission field.
There is an assumption made by a large number of Christians (especially in smaller towns in the Midwest) that somehow all the people around them must be believers. I heard that a lot when people learned I was moving to Hudsonville in Michigan. I learned quickly that was not the case (you can read more about it here). Followers of Jesus are to bring the gospel message not because it’s to get kiesters in the seats at church but to help initiate people into the kingdom of God. It is no longer separated between out there and State side, but at our front door. If you are a follower of Jesus you are also a missionary.
This isn’t a maybe. This isn’t a “Let’s pay someone else to do it” thing. This is you. You are a missionary. God spoke his word to the people of Israel so that they would know he was the one true God. They were to be a light to the world, showing the one true God. A holy people, a royal nation, a priesthood to the nations. As followers of Jesus, we are called as the the church to do this as well. To be that holy people, a royal nation, a priesthood to the nations going forth in Jesus’ name to proclaim the joyful message of the gospel.
Too many times we’re afraid. Too many times we don’t think we can do it.
Look to the missionaries sent out. Today they take time to know the culture and the people around them. They go out not as preachers pounding a pulpit, not as people asking about the Four Spiritual Laws, but as representatives of Jesus, sitting and eating and living with the people they minister to. Bringing medical aide, food, assistance to escape poverty, clean water, and the good news of Jesus. They take time to live, to know, to grow with the people they are ministering too.
That is all. And that is easier to do just outside your front door than it ever would be in a foreign nation. All you need to do is spend time with people. Get to know people. Live with people. Love people. And the rest will follow.
Back in 1999 I spent a summer in Hungary and Ukraine teaching English (and also acting and square dancing, long story). It was there that I felt the call into ministry. I came back home and talked with my grandmother about it. I respected her wise (and some times wise cracking) wisdom. One afternoon I sat in the back of her store, telling her about my time in Hungary and Ukraine. After I told her my desire to go out into the world to tell about Jesus she looked at me and said “By garsh, Josh…you don’t need to go to some other country to do that. There are more people out our back door in need of Jesus than out there.”
That stuck with me. I was to be a missionary here, not there.
If you are a follower of Jesus, you are called to be a missionary. The Great Commission does not say to go and throw money at the issue. It does not say to sit back and pay someone else to do it. The emphasis isn’t on “go” it is on “make.” We are to make disciples here, where you’re at.
So make disciples. The mission field isn’t out there, it is here. It is at your front door. You enter into each each day. Be that missionary you are called to be.