If you recall the t.v. show, “Happy Days,” which ran from 1974-1984, then you may also recall that Arthur Fonzarelli, or the Fonze, had a difficult time making the statement, “I was wrrr…wrrro.” (WRONG) Well, none of us wish to admit that we were wrong, but sometimes it helps. So, I was wrrr….wrrong, at least in part. I am referring to a tweet that I sent out on August 6 sending readers to an article written by Ann Coulter concerning the doctor who contracted Ebola while in Africa on mission. Although I continue to agree with some of what Coulter wrote, and especially much of what she wrote in her rebuttal to her critics, I didn’t offer any exceptions to what she wrote.
Coulter went a little far in attributing motive to those whom she criticized. She came across as mean in some of what she said. However, those two things do not erase what she got right. I think she had some valid points.
Mission work is important work. America Christianity has been one of, if not the most important contributors to the spread of the gospel to the most remote places in the world. God has blessed us with abundance of wealth, and of knowledge in order to do mission work. Therefore, American Christians who have the desire (given by God) and the means (also given by God) to do mission work, they should do just that.
My agreement with Coulter’s article is in one, maybe two areas, and I admit that I may read my view into what she wrote, to some extent. First, there is what seems to be a prevailing attitude in American Christianity that each American Christian who isn’t doing some form of foreign missions, those Christians are not living in God’s will, aren’t really living like a Christian, and in some circles are seen as either lesser Christians, or not Christian at all. To that I say, hogwash. If you recall Paul’s instruction to the Church in Corinth, not all of us have the same gifts, which logically means that we don’t all have the same ministry. Paul said, “All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of hearings, do they?…” and so on (I Corinthians 12:29-30). Thus, I would conclude that if you don’t have a desire to go on a mission trip, then don’t. It doesn’t make you less of a Christian. Nor does it mean that you are not living in obedience to God’s will. There is a mission field just outside your front door; in the cubicle next to yours; next to you on the assembly line, etc.
Secondly, I agree with Coulter that there is, or at least seems to me that there is so much focus on going “over there” on mission, that we neglect what is going on in our own nation. I’m sure that you have all noticed that our nation is quickly circling downward in the toilet. We can’t seem to share the gospel with the people next door, but we can go to a nation with a language that we can’t speak, and a culture we don’t understand, and build a house or heal the sick, and never share the gospel with anyone. Then somehow that serves as a missionary activity. I understand that both building houses for people, helping the sick are good and important works. There is nothing wrong with doing that on a mission trip. However, if that is all you do, then please don’t call it a Christian mission, or sharing the gospel. Unless you are able to clearly share the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ, then the best that you are doing is making their trip to hell a little more comfortable.
I believe that we have lost site of what is meant by living a Christ-like life. In an article for WORLD magazine on-line, Dr. Anthony Bradley hit the nail on the head, so to speak. His article, entitled, “The ‘new legalism’,” (http://www.worldmag.com/2013/05/the_new_legalism) Bradley took to task the idea of the “radical” Christian life. Bradley’s conclusion is worth reading:
Why is Christ’s command to love God and neighbor not enough for these leaders? Maybe Christians are simply to pursue living well and invite others to do so according to how God has ordered the universe. An emphasis on human flourishing, ours and others’, becomes important because it is characterized by a holistic concern for the spiritual, moral, physical, economic, material, political, psychological, and social context necessary for human beings to live according to their design. What if youth and young adults were simply encouraged live in pursuit of wisdom, knowledge, understanding, education, wonder, beauty, glory, creativity, and worship in a world marred by sin, as Abraham Kuyper encourages in the book Wisdom and Wonder. No shame, no pressure to be awesome, no expectations of fame but simply following the call to be men and women of virtue and inviting their friends and neighbors to do the same in every area of life.
There is a vast mission field outside, and maybe even inside your own home. No need to seek a “radical” or even a “missional” lifestyle. Just live for the glory of God in all that you do. Paul says as much in several places:
1 Thessalonians 4:11 (NASB95) “and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you”
2 Thessalonians 3:12–13 (NASB95) “Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.”
1 Timothy 2:1–2 (NASB95) “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
My conclusion of the matter is simple; bloom where God has planted you.
I should have been more careful in offering unqualified agreement with Ann Coulter’s article. I was wrrr…not to make that clear at the outset. So, here is the pot calling the kettle black. For what it is worth, I pray this helps.