I’m taking this title from my devotional today (October 27). Last year amongst my late grandfather’s collection of books I found an original copy of Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest. I have always heard about it and decided to start reading it. It’s a great way to start your day. Short, sweet, and to the point, Chambers pulls no punches about what God tells us through scriptures. But I’m not here to give a book review. You can read them now for yourself, in common language, for free. Here is a link to the devotional I read today that inspired me: The Method of Missions.
One thing we constantly struggle with as missionaries (I think I speak for most missionaries worldwide, not just my wife and I) is our performance driven American perspective. We are conditioned to look for results. We want numbers. We want charts, graphs, and tables that show a direct cause and affect relationship between our work and salvation. When it comes to the world of missions we take a very worldly perspective towards an otherwise spiritual and Kingdom process. In studying the book of Acts, we never see this kind of evaluation. We always see Jesus’ followers loving others and as a result, people coming to know Him. If you haven’t done so already, please stop here and read the link I provided above so you can understand better what I’m saying. I’ll wait…
As I try to learn more about God and who we are because of God, I realize that this performance driven mentality hasn’t helped us in missions, but actually has been holding us back. How often have we pulled missionaries out of the field because their performance ratings weren’t high enough? How many people have left the field disappointed in themselves because they didn’t perform the way they think they should have? How often have we neglected the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit to talk to someone about Jesus for fear of “failing”? We look at the manmade restricted parameters that are imposed upon us or we impose upon ourselves and think “failure”. It’s no wonder…we’re looking at it all wrong! We are looking at a heavenly process in a worldly way.
Jesus commanded us to go. Go and teach. Go and tell. Go and make. He didn’t say, “Go and save.” Yet we have created such a “God complex” about reaching the lost that we think that it is up to us to save those who are not saved! This is why we spend countless hours on Facebook bible-bashing nonbelievers (I’m pointing my finger at myself first and foremost) and get frustrated when we cannot convince them that God is real, that Jesus loves them, and that there is more to this life than they know it. We turn away shaking our heads, blaming them and ourselves for their lack of salvation when it is not up to us (or themselves, for that matter) to save anyone! It is not our responsibility to convince others into salvation. That’s God’s job. Let’s look at some of the things the Apostle Paul had to say about this:
Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.
17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. 18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God.
(1 Corinthians 1:17-29)
1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
(1 Corinthians 2:1-5)
Now I know that is a little bit of scripture to read, but can you see how foolish it is to think that it is up to us to save people and to walk away frustrated from a conversation when someone isn’t saved by it? Paul explains how foolish it is to think this way! Yet we look to our charts and numbers and call ourselves (or others) a failure because it doesn’t stack up the way we think it should. In the Romans 16 reference, Paul highlights that the way of the world is flattering and convincing speech to convert others to our way of belief and thinking. In the words of my late grandfather, “I pity your God…” that we would think God can’t save others and that it is up to us.
Jesus calls us to go and share Him, not save. If we want to count numbers, we should count how many people today have an opportunity to experience God and His Kingdom as a result of interacting with us. If we want to evaluate our progress or effectiveness in the mission field, let us look to how many people are growing closer to Christ as a result of knowing us. If we have to put pressure on ourselves to perform for God, let it be in our self-evaluation of the strength of our relationship with Him which will result in others knowing more of Him as a result of knowing us. A good man once told me (and his son recently reminded me) that missions is about loving others, period. This doesn’t just apply to those called to move to another area, but everyone who is saved and calls themselves a Christian. Jesus said it best:
18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 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)