“. . . was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world,” I Tim. 3:16
One of the greatest compliments a master craftsman can give is to invite a journeyman or apprentice to join him in producing a work of art. Children growing up often want to “help,” and even we adults are not unfamiliar with the joy of being asked to make a contribution to a project we value. God’s dream is to gather together a large group of beloved persons with whom He may enjoy a meaningful love relationship for eternity. The amazing wonder is that He is inviting you and me, not just to be a part of that special group, but also to partner with Him in the grand enterprise of gathering it. It is a high calling and noble privilege to become God’s partner and contribute to His grand design. All human beings were created to love God and enjoy Him forever, but some of us are not yet aware of this. Those of us who already know Him, therefore, have the unique opportunity to contribute to something that means very much to God.
God is everywhere in the whole world. There is no place He is not already at work, and He is inviting people everywhere to participate in His grand, worldwide, soul-saving, church-building, family-extending project. The challenges and opportunities of this present generation surpass those of previous centuries. Our physical bodies eventually slow down, but if we expand our horizons, our adventure of discovery, growth, and usefulness can continue well into our senior years.
The Frog in the Well
In the introduction to this book, we noted the Chinese and Korean parable of the frog in the well. The frog in the well thinks all the universe is like the stone walls, darkness, and occasional splash of the bucket that make up his “world.” Each of us frogs may be excused for being born and raised in our own wells, but through magazines, travels, books, or conversations, we have ample opportunities to break out of those narrow confines. Becoming the best possible “frog” doesn’t necessarily mean you have to get out of your well physically, but there is no reason to remain there mentally.
Since God created the whole earth and all the frogs therein, we all ought to be aware of what is going on outside our well. Given that the frogs in our well have good news all frogs ought to know, we have all the more reason to be concerned about the frogs outside our well. Even if we don’t all go to other wells, there are many ways we all can be involved in God’s great worldwide enterprise.
Every one of us was born and raised in a specific place on this earth that influences our worldview. In order to help us view the whole earth and God’s grand design from a wider perspective, let’s consider the following facts.
A Demographic Perspective
Our “picture” of the world can be brought up to date by reading excellent books like Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, edited by Ralph D. Winter. This marvelous reader contains 124 chapters of the best missiological writing available. Hundreds of years of missions experience and years of scholarship are recorded in its 782 pages. Some of the statistics below are in that book. Winter’s Perspectives has four sections: Theological, Historical, Cultural, and Strategic. Reading it will inform you about world evangelism, missions, related stories, and insights; you can read of life and death outside our well.
The human race can be viewed from many different perspectives. Let’s look for a moment at all the people in the world from the perspective of how far away from the nearest church they live. Why this perspective? Churches, for all their imperfections, remain the best tools for world evangelism. Jesus, wise strategist that He is, said He would build His church. From a strategic point of view, it is in churches that the gospel is preached, evangelism is taught, new believers are nurtured, workers are trained, and encouragement is given. Because of that the distance between a person and the nearest active church is a big factor in determining the likelihood of someone becoming a Christian. The multiplication of churches in the world remains the best strategy for winning the world for Jesus.
Using data from the Status of Global Mission” and International Bulletin of Missions Research, 10.7% of the population of the world are the dedicated “Great Commission Christians”—the most powerful group of people in the church. This group includes those with a life-changing, genuine faith they are likely to want to share with others. There are also others inside the organized church who are either “second generation Christians” or for some other reason call themselves Christians but do not have genuine faith themselves. They, too, need a conversion or a change of allegiance in order to become true believers. They are called nominal Christians and make up approximately 22.4% of the population of the world. Some Christian workers are especially gifted at working patiently with this unique type of unsaved person. Nevertheless, both dedicated and nominal Christians are already in the church. Combined, they make up approximately 33.1% of the population of the world.
Persons who live within geographical and cultural reach of a Christian church make up another approximately 32.2.9% of the population—almost one-thirdof the people in the world. In missiology, we refer to this category of people as “reached,” not because every member of their society is already a Christian, but because there is a church that speaks their language and understands their culture within a reasonable distance. That society is reached because as the healthy church continues to do its job, many will be saved. There is plenty of work for the dedicated Christians in the churches in these societies, since they (the dedicated Christians) are only 10.7% of the world’s population. They are attempting to establish meaningful personal relationships and communicate with the 32.2% who live nearby, are culturally similar, and speak the same language. In other words, for every dedicated Christian in churches all over the world, there are three unbelievers within their cultural, linguistic, and geographic reach. The sobering surprise for many, however, is the next category.
About 34.7% of the people of the world live where there is no church within cultural, linguistic, and geographic distance. In other words, just over one-third of the world’s population is unreached. They would have trouble finding culturally relative information about Jesus even if they were actively searching. They are called the “unreached.” A further complication is that because they are not visible, many of us don’t realize they even exist. They are off our radar screens. Do we dare pretend they are not there? This is the spiritual demography of the world, even though many do not realize it. Seeing the world’s population this way helps us become aware of what is going on outside our well.
Now let’s consider the distribution of Christian missionaries in the world. Only 26% of the missionary force is working among the “unreached” people groups of the world, while 74% of the missionary force, including both Western and non-Western missionaries, are serving among largely Christianized peoples—those who are “reached.” Clearly, there is a great imbalance in the distribution of Christian workers in the world. We not only need missionaries, we also need to distribute them more strategically.
The unevenness of missionary distribution can be easily illustrated when you consider that the Chinese and the Hindus, each with over one billion people—together making up over 1/3 of the population of the earth—have only 4% of the mission force working among them. In the “reached” areas of the world, there are 185.6 missionaries per million people, but in Muslim areas there are only 2.73 missionaries per million people. It is important to be aware there are places in our world today where there are no churches within cultural, linguistic, and geographical reach of the 34.7% “unreached” of the world. We must move this information onto our radar screens.
Raising Awareness Levels
You read in chapter one about my childhood decision to serve as a missionary. Since becoming an adult I have pondered how a six-year-old child could make such a significant career decision. How could a little boy know that his sense of values was consistent with God’s heart for the world? The decision wasn’t based on formal missiological training, nor do I remember any missionary stories or particular conversations before age six. I do not know what I may have heard that caused me, with no prompting, to suddenly announce to my grandmother that when I grew up I was going to go to and tell the boys and girls there about Jesus. But I evidently heard something—missionary stories or conversations—in our home and church that planted the ideas in my heart. My grandmother made trips to and with goods and a message, and she talked about these trips as a matter of course. Maybe that was a part of it. We mustn’t underestimate the formative power of personal stories from parents, grandparents, children’s teachers, pastors and informed Christians in raising awareness in our generation of the eternally valuable service to be rendered in other parts of the world. Seeds of these wonderful ideas must be planted in young minds.
Another important means of raising missions awareness is from good books. Ruth Tucker has written an excellent biographical history of Christian missions called From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya. By reading it and others like it, we can grasp the dedication, challenges, obstacles, choices, and victories experienced by wonderful Christians. You can read of Polycarp, who, after serving for 86 years, was burned at the stake. A great victory was won for the Christians, since many non-believers were horrified by what happened. You can read about the Syrian traders who traveled the old silk road to western China and introduced the gospel. You can learn what they did correctly that led to 150 years of Christian influence among the elite. You can also learn what they did wrong that led to its eventual failure. You can read about Boniface, who, in a bold masterstroke of missionary genius, chopped down the sacred Oak of Thor the Thundergod and severed the root of the fear of Thor. Thousands watched the defiant act and were converted to Christianity when they realized that neither the tree nor Thor had the power to oppose Boniface. You can read about William Carey, who, against enormous public and private opposition, translated the entire New Testament into 6 languages and parts of it into another 29 languages in India. He also helped liberate widows from sati, the dreaded requirement to cast themselves on their dead husband’s burning bier. He was able to convincingly prove that sati was not required from the Hindu’s own sacred scripture.
You may laugh or cry as you read stories of David Livingstone in central Africa, Hudson Taylor in central China, Lottie Moon and her great accomplishments in China, and C.T. Studd, who, after serving in China and India, began work in central Africa at the age of fifty. Or you can read of the five New Tribes Mission missionaries in Bolivia who gave their lives for the gospel in 1943. Then read of the five more who died at the hands of the Auca Indians in Ecuador in 1955. There are many stories of common folks with less spectacular, yet wonderful results for their efforts. My point is that there is a lot of very good missionary reading out there by which you can be greatly enriched.
Reading and reflecting on these biographies can help you, your children, your church, or circle of friends be more aware of the issues. The “Trailblazer Books” series, written for children and published by Bethany House Publishers, includes numerous missionaries’ biographies. These thrilling adventure stories introduce young readers to Christian heroes of the past. The same publishers also publish a “Women of Faith” and “Men of Faith” series of biographies, many of which deal with the lives of missionaries. The “Christian Heroes: Then and Now” series, also written for children and published by YWAM (Youth With a Mission) Publishing, can provide hours of fine reading for young readers or even wonderful parent-child reading times. These books assist us enormously in passing great values on to our children. The lives of these heroes and heroines still speak to us today. Allow yourself and your child to be expanded in perspective by real heroes.
We can also learn from their mistakes. Some of their sufferings were intensified through errors. Some of their families suffered needlessly. Some died needlessly. Is the gospel worth dying for? Yes, of course, but is it always necessary? No. If the deaths were needless, are there lessons to learn—even though God used the mistakes to further His cause? Yes. However, just because God uses a mistake does not make the mistake any less a mistake. As a trainer of missionaries, these are things I must think deeply about and teach. Yet the vast majority of missionaries’ suffering was unpretentious, pure heroism—a price to be paid for a valuable service rendered—and is to be lauded.
As our awareness increases, the Holy Spirit can use the information in our heads to stir us as He wills. He chooses how to use what is in our heads; we choose what we put there. The Spirit of God moved me as a six-year-old boy, but there must have been some stories told earlier which made that possible. This generation, too, can seize the extraordinary opportunities before us. Not everyone will live abroad, but everyone should be informed and involved. The frontier missionaries who take the time to research where the gospel is not preached and then go to those places are our heroes. They need our logistical help and deserve our greatest respect. May we pray for them as we celebrate them and their work.
Seven Advantages for This Generation
This is a great time to be involved in God’s work of world evangelism. There are seven tremendous opportunities before us never experienced by any previous generation. First, due to the world population explosion, there are more non-Christians alive on earth now than have ever lived in all the preceding centuries combined. If we seize today’s opportunity, we could win many souls to the Lord. Second, due to the same population explosion, there are more Christians alive on earth now than have ever lived in the preceding centuries combined. We have the manpower to do a big job well. Third, worldwide transportation and passenger service is the best it has ever been. This enormous advantage means we are able to travel easier and arrive sooner and more safely. Fourth, worldwide communication is the fastest and easiest it has ever been. From many fields we can send reports, prayer requests, and information, as well as receive affirmation and information from family, friends, and missions administrators in seconds at low cost via the Internet.
Fifth, we can be more free from disease while living abroad than ever before. We can purchase inoculations for almost any disease in the world. By merely using wisdom and keeping up on our shots, we can live almost free of disease. Sixth, there are greater financial resources available to finance worldwide gospel work than ever before. These resources can be and are being channeled through churches, missions organizations, and other unique networks to qualified and sincere persons. Seventh, there is a broad array of missiological tools available for today’s crosscultural worker. Linguistic helps enable us to learn languages even without a language institution. Crosscultural communication, which once was fraught with miscommunication and misunderstandings, is now possible with a reasonable degree of accuracy. The mental health of missionaries can be much better today by making use of lessons from applied cultural anthropology. We are able to do smarter missions today. Missions history has informed our missions practice so that colonialism and paternalism have given way to partnerships and fraternalism with many missionaries serving, as they should, under the guidance of the local people. Though the magnitude of the task is sobering, these seven factors cause us to rejoice because of the increased potential for serving well in our generation. This is a great day to be a missionary.
In July of 1973 our family of four moved from Canada to Korea. With the exceptions of Internet communication and the missiological training, which was only later gradually learned on my several furloughs, all of the above advantages were ours. Throughout our later years in Korea, China, and my trips to Asia and Africa since our return to America, we experienced all seven of these advantages. During our last year in Beijing, we could “talk” with our sons via email almost every day. Contrast this with David Livingstone and his wife who went months between letters from each other while she cared for their children and her own health in England and he served in the heart of Africa. Studying missions history will make us acutely aware of the tremendous handicaps that hindered our missionary predecessors and the tremendous advantages our generation enjoys.
Facing Previous Generations of Heroes
Our predecessors traveled months by ship, often arriving weak or ill, waited long months for mail, served in the midst of numerous life-threatening diseases, and faced cross-cultural communication problems without today’s missiological training. They learned languages without current linguistic helps and had no opportunity to read the hundreds of lessons in missions history. The most important tools of our spiritual work are spiritual—personal discipline, serving with love and humility, prayer, and fasting—and our missionary predecessors certainly used those tools. But here we are referring to the unique technological and educational advantages we have today. When we consider their disadvantages and their successes, how will we face these heroes when we get to heaven? Today’s advantages are so great, disadvantages so few, opportunities so vast, and stakes so high. How will we look them in the eye unless we seize the opportunities?
The zealous interest in world evangelism observable in many Christians today is extremely encouraging. And the complacency, seen in a few places, is probably not due to intentional selfishness. It is simply a matter of being uninformed—a frog in a well. Other generations have risen to the challenges and opportunities of their days. Our generation, partially lulled to sleep by convenience, ignorance, ease, and prosperity, will change with our help.
Sending Our Best
One of my favorite stories from the history of the early Christian Church comes from the great church of Alexandria, , in the second century. The elderly bishop of that church had been told on his deathbed that a man would arrive the next day with a present of grapes. That man was to become the bishop’s successor. True enough, the next day a rustic, illiterate, and married layman named Demetrius arrived with bunches of grapes taken from a vine on his farm. Through this curious circumstance, he was hastily ordained and, surprisingly, ruled well on the throne of St. Mark’s for forty-two years. During this time, the church produced three great scholars: Pantaenus, Clement, and Origen.
When a deputation arrived from India, according to Jerome, Demetrius asked his most famous scholar, Pantaenus—a Jewish Christian educated in Greek philosophy—to respond to an invitation to go to India for discussions with Hindu philosophers. The bishop considered the cause of the advancement of the Christian church in far away India no less important than the advancement of scholarship at home.
Lord, hasten the day when we again send our finest sons and daughters to this noble enterprise. The mission field is not the place to send less competent Christians or misfits. We have not done this exclusively, and God can use anyone. But that is no reason not to send our best-qualified Christian workers abroad. May we not be so ethnocentric that we feel other places in the world deserve less than our finest minds.
The Courage Factor
Even when we value participation in God’s great project of world evangelism, we still must have courage and confidence, or we will not budge from our well. When Char and I lived in Canada, we learned in 1972 that we were to go to the Orient. It was the beginning of the fulfillment of my childhood dream to be a missionary. I did not realize, however, that at a deep subconscious level I was afraid, until one day as I was praying, I felt as though God said to me, “Call me Dad.” I was shocked. My own dad and I were good friends, but the idea that God wanted to be closer, a friend, a buddy like my dad, had never occurred to me. To me, that is what He meant when He wanted me to call Him “Dad.” God deserves the respect and love associated with calling Him “Father,” but, in addition to that, He invited me to a new level of friendship. Praying alone in our church in rural Canada, I did not carefully analyze this, but as the years have passed, I realize this is what God was saying. I had known Romans 8:15, says “. . . you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba Father.’” Abba means “papa” or “daddy,” but I still had not experienced that level of intimacy with God. Even now, when work or life gets tough and I need to feel really close to God in prayer, I call Him “Dad.” I suspect He enjoys this as much as I do. It takes courage to serve the Lord, whether in familiar or new surroundings, whether in your usual ways and mother tongue, or new ways and foreign languages. But you can do it and with your Best Friend traveling with you, you can go anywhere. We don’t go alone. This is a partnership.
In the spring of 1978, as we were preparing to return to Korea for our second term, I was asked to serve as the “Acting Supervisor.” Until then I had served as director of student ministries, director of youth camp, counselor to pioneer pastors, and professor in our minister-training institute. This appointment, however, meant I would be responsible for the entire field and serve as chairman of the national board of directors. The international director of missions for our denomination and I were both guest speakers at a missions conference in Pennsylvania, where this appointment was announced to me. As Char and I passed through Iowa on our way back to California in preparation for our return to Korea, I shared the news with my parents, explaining that I had been given a considerable responsibility. I even confided that it sometimes seemed a little overwhelming and that I felt some anxiety over this. I was not sure whether or not it was a normal reaction to accepting a new responsibility. The next morning my mother told me that she had been praying and thinking about what I had said. She said I should not be afraid. My fears only indicated that I was trusting in myself, not God, and that was inappropriate. If I trust in God, I need not be afraid. My fear only served to reveal my misplaced trust. Since then, every time I am afraid of a responsibility, I remember her advice and that my fear tells me I have again misplaced my trust.
There are two wonderful and opposite characteristics of God that are an enormous help to weak humans struggling with tasks far bigger than themselves. One is the fact that God is nearby, and the other is that He is not. Let me explain. Because God is near, He is aware of our situation and perfectly able to identify with it. And because He is not only nearby but also bigger and more powerful than we or the little spot in which we are living (or struggling), He is able to help us. Were He only big and somewhere else, He might not want to help. Were He only near and feeling my anxiety, He might not be able to. I’m reassured that God is near and knows my situation and simultaneously is strong enough to do something about it. In theology, we call these two wonderful truths the imminence and transcendence of God. He is close and caring, and He is big and strong enough to help. Combined, they are a great encouragement to us. When we contemplate the greatness and power of God and the care God has for us, we have no reason to be afraid. Because we are frail humans we may feel afraid, but there is no reason to be afraid—if we are trusting in God. This is about as practical an application of the omnipresence of God I know. God is already there and invites us to join Him. We certainly don’t take God to places new for Him—or too difficult.
Creator and Savior
Throughout this chapter, we have been contemplating the fascinating privilege of our partnership with God. What an awesome privilege to work together with God! But our task is more difficult than building; it is reconstruction. Almost any builder will tell you it is easier to begin with a new foundation and build a new house than to repair an old house fallen into disrepair. Yet look what God is willing to do to give you and me the opportunity to participate in His great project.
Compare the creation of the natural world with the subsequent multiple recreations of fallen persons. In the creation of the cosmos, God worked by Himself, in a one-time performance, with perfect tools, in a controlled atmosphere, with no resistance or opposition to His creative work, and with the measurable result that non-existent heavenly bodies were made out of nothing—they began to exist. The greatness of the natural universe is an irrefutable testimony of His power to create. But in the miracle of salvation, an even greater and more profound dynamic is at work. In this arena, God works, continuously through the centuries; not alone, but with each succeeding generation of faulty “tools.” He does not work in a controlled atmosphere, but in a workshop cluttered with catastrophes of our making, recreating injured and broken people. He impresses us, not so much with His power, but with His love, producing results that are immeasurably beyond our comprehension out of messes equally beyond our repairing. God gives us the worth and dignity which comes from partnership with Himself. With this profound privilege in view, I sincerely want all the more to fulfill His dream for me and be my best possible self. This is not because at my best I become deserving of being God’s work partner, but because God wants a work partner who is an effective Christian at his best. My being at my best brings satisfaction to Him.
Thinking Outside the Box
The Scripture teaches that we are priests. In addition to that, each of us is called by God to our individual professions through which we honor and serve Him. If this is so, then we should all pray as seriously about our calling and job performance as the preacher is expected to when he prepares and delivers his sermon. Do you realize you are just as “ordained” to do your job as an employee or employer in the will of God as the “ordained” minister? To think otherwise would mean that preachers were the only ones who could serve God completely in His will—a notion I reject. Philip, the deacon in the book of Acts, was not a paid professional, but he had tremendous influence for God. As other believers fled persecution in Jerusalem, Philip also left for an unnamed city in Samaria. We don’t know if he had career-related business there or not, but we are told a revival broke out. Next, he journeyed on the desert road from Jerusalem to Gaza where he met and led the Ethiopian treasurer to a knowledge of the Lord. After that he went to the area of Azotus—formerly hostile Philistine territory—and finally reached Caesarea, where he still lived years later when Paul passed through on his way to Jerusalem for the last time. Philip enjoyed years of fruitful “ministry” everywhere he went, but we never read that he was anything but a deacon. If we would eliminate the distinction between paid professionals and volunteers, we would release an enormous amount of creativity and energy by dignifying, recognizing, equipping, and releasing all the people in the body.
According to statistics, the most effective way to communicate the good news is person to person, friend to friend, and relative to relative in conversation. Survey after survey gives evidence that from 60 to 90 percent of Christians become believers through personal influence. Through the normal give and take of conversation, living and working together, and informal dialogue, ideas are shared in non-threatening ways. In a study by Win and Charles Arn of 240 persons who converted to Christ, 35 did so because of information transmission which includes tracts, Bibles, and other non-personal pieces. Another 36 converted because of persuasive monologue, which includes evangelistic sermons. However, the vast majority, 169, did so through informal dialogue—friendly conversations. In adult education, we know that more information is learned through conversation than speeches. More information may be stated in a speech, but more is learned through conversation. Learning through conversation allows for questions and answers, higher interest levels, non-threatening exchanges of information and more thoughtful—less emotional—decision-making. Conversation is more life-related, non-threatening, natural and—most importantly—is the most effective means of sharing the good news. The verb usually translated “preach” in the New Testament could just as well be translated “communicate.” We don’t have to “preach” to communicate, and experience shows us that conversation is more effective.
The Arn brothers analyzed another group of 240 persons, only this time all the subjects, after becoming Christians, later changed their minds and dropped out. Twenty-five of these had become Christians by information transmission, 6 of them by informal dialogue and 209 of them had made their original decision to become Christians on the basis of persuasive monologue. The persuasion of monologue produces a decision, but the decision lacks the depth that is made possible through conversation between friends. An emotional decision is made because of the emotional appeal, but often the reason is not understood. By contrast, the person converted through non-manipulative dialogue is more likely to continue after the decision because the understanding level is higher and a conversation has begun—a relationship has been established.
Interestingly, Chinese law requires believers there to use the most effective means of evangelism possible! Let me explain. Freedom of religion in China allows individuals to believe what they want. But there is no freedom of speech that allows believers to publicly propagate their beliefs in large meetings or through the media. So the Chinese believers use the only means available to them—personal conversations—which, as we observed above, is the most effective and economical means anyway.
The point is that if all Christians became active in meaningful conversation, wherever we are, the Christian family could win the world more effectively than if we were to somehow get everyone to go somewhere and listen to a sermon with us. Thankfully, some are converted through preaching. And some progressive Christian television programs effectively use a conversational format. This is commendable from a communication standpoint and further attests to the attraction of conversations over monologue. Nevertheless, statistics indicate that the most effective method of conversion is conversation—informal dialogue between a believer and his non-believing friend. Unfortunately, for some of us Christians, our social networks are limited to only Christians. We need not only to think outside the box, but get ourselves outside of it, too.
A Second “Conversion”
We are saved out of the world, but as we mature in the ways of the Lord, a second conversion back into the world is required—if we are going to season it as Jesus intended. This means that if you have any meaningful social relationships with non-Christians, those friendships may be your most valuable asset. Our holy huddle is one of our greatest weaknesses. We Christians enjoy getting together, but, unfortunately, we enjoy koinonia (communion, distribution and fellowship) too much and catch “koinonitus”—too much insular fellowship. Some of us memorize mechanical presentations and others lob messages from a distance trying to coerce non-Christian friends to become believers, but there is a better tack. Engage in honest conversation—speaking and listening. There is a type of “conversation” which is really only two people taking turns talking, neither truly listening nor responding to what they just heard. That is a kind of simultaneous monologue with polite interruptions and not the kind of give-and-take, listening and responding, being discussed here. We will speak more of this in the next chapter.
We must learn not to love the world in one way—the “world” of materialism, hedonism, humanism, idolatry, and unbelief. But we must learn to love the world in another way—the “world” of precious eternal souls is to be greatly loved. In God’s mind, it was worth Jesus’ death and should be worth our best efforts on its behalf.
Paul made it his ambition to travel, evangelize, and plant churches in new places. Yet Paul himself taught his readers to “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders . . .” (I Thess. 4:11,12, emphasis mine). Bloom where you are planted. If Jesus is the center of our lives, our good living will speak for us. And our ideas will naturally spill out through conversation in kindly ways. As Christians the world over do this, more and more people will want to become Christian.
God the Master Builder is inviting you and me to become His partners in a great enterprise. He wants not only to make you a part of His project, He also wants you to help Him with the work. Your unique participation is integral to its great design and vital to your becoming everything He intended you to be. It is questionable that we could ever be at our best unless we are engaged in some way in God’s grand project.
Have you ever heard people say: “I was afraid God would send me to Africa as a missionary if I didn’t do such and such,” as though service there were a punishment God gives naughty children? To the contrary, being sent to Africa is a great privilege—an opportunity for the obedient and the disciplined, not punishment for the disobedient and undisciplined. For some of us, foreign missions is an assignment that helps us become our best possible selves. I admit that I have my own bias—I would send everyone I met to the foreign mission field—but I am not the Holy Spirit. Clearly, such a policy would not be good in every instance. Serving on the foreign field is, nevertheless, a high privilege. God confers on us an awesome honor when He allows us to be His messengers.
God’s great world-wide enterprise allows for many forms of expression. Some are on the front lines while others work with logistics and supplies. The whole thing is a team effort, and each of us must find what part we can and should play. If the world is the field, we can only conclude that all of us already live on the mission field. After we discover where we are to serve, our task becomes one of merely finding out what we are to do there. Only the Holy Spirit can show you your place. The challenge considered in this habit has been to try to describe the enormity, grandeur, and value of the task, and trust that you will find where you are to be and get there—or, if already there, continue to serve there faithfully. The world is no longer so big that you cannot think seriously about the other parts. Neither are your conversations with your non-believing friends so unimportant you want to engage in them without prayer. We all have a major part to play.
Worth Versus Ease
We all have a standard by which we determine worth. We call this a value system. Some people evaluate the worth of their activity on the basis of the amount of pleasure it brings, monetary rewards it earns, or the amount of its prestige. But consider that what has eternal worth—what makes the difference in the destiny of eternal human souls—really has the greatest worth. Material things have their greatest value only insofar as they serve an eternal purpose.
During our years in China, Char and I met a number of other Christian foreigners living there. They were of all ages and in multiple pursuits—business, education, medical, diplomatic—you name it—all were seizing the opportunity to share their Christian faith in many different ways, not a few with Chinese university students. These well-motivated, visionary senior citizens and young adults, with eyes that see far into the future, have my most profound respect. They are some of the modern day unsung heroes and heroines of the church. Isaiah said of them: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation . . .” (Isaiah 52:7). People who have an eternal perspective don’t ask how easy a project is, but how much eternal worth it has. They know what is worth believing; they know what is worth doing; and they know what is worth talking about. How beautiful on the mountains are their feet! Because of their integrity—complete integration in what they think, do, and say—their conversations are a part of what God is using to win the world to Himself.