Word From Base Camp: MISSIONARY
What images does the word “missionary” conjure up for you? As I was growing up in the church, the word “missionary” took us to the far reaches of Africa or the jungles of Papua New Guinea or the wilds of Oklahoma (just kidding, Okies). If you became a missionary, it meant that you had to leave your family and home, live for years “overseas,” sift through the missionary barrels of used clothing, be happy with used tea bags, and be satisfied with really bad food like monkey brains and chicken feet. In other words, signing up to be a missionary meant signing up to suffer... a lot! As a former missionary and pastor, I would like to set the record straight on three common misconceptions—downright lies of the devil—about serving our Lord as a missionary.
- * Lie #1: You have to go far away.
- * Lie #2: You have to suffer great losses and grave danger.
- * Lie #3: You have to “win many souls” for Jesus.
Response to Lie #1: The Forgotten “Jerusalem”
If you have been in church for any length of time, you have no doubt heard a sermon on Acts 1:8. In this passage, Jesus offers His final instructions to His disciples before He ascends into heaven. Jesus says, “And you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth...” Used as a key text for nearly every missionary conference, the part of the passage that receives most emphasis is go “to the ends of the earth.” Many believe that is saying that you have to travel to far-away lands in order to be a true missionary. That is wrong. Today, the most overlooked mission field, especially in the American church, is our own “Jerusalem”—our own neighborhood.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I believe that “foreign” missions are a vital part of the church’s calling today. I have had the privilege of serving overseas for more than ten years in Australia. However, it has become apparent to me in the last decade that churches have placed so much emphasis on the “far-away places” that we have forgotten our own neighbors next door.
That is why I am so excited about the ministry of Fathers in the Field. This ministry calls godly outdoorsmen to serve as missionaries to fatherless boys in their own neighborhood. It is indeed a high calling to be witnesses of Jesus Christ to the 12.5 million fatherless boys and their families in the U.S., the vast majority of whom would never darken the door of a church. How beautiful it is to see un-churched fatherless boys coming to church and Sunday School, often bringing their moms and siblings along. This mission field is truly “white unto harvest.”
Response to the Truth: Church Champions, please have the Mentor Fathers recognized as missionaries of your church. Take pictures of your church’s mentor fathers and have them posted on the Missions board. Be sure to frequently ask for prayer for these “front-line” local missionaries.
Response to Lie #2: Suffering is not Prerequisite
Another lie of the devil is that a missionary has to suffer and that it is a sin to enjoy what he is doing. Of course, I recognize that missionaries often have to make huge sacrifices in their lives as they serve the Lord. And I want to be the first to say “thank you” to them for serving and sacrificing as they have. But I believe Satan over-emphasizes the suffering in order to keep millions of Christians from wanting to become missionaries. What is so wonderful about Fathers in the Field is that godly outdoorsmen get to enjoy what they are truly passionate about while serving as missionaries in their own hometowns to fatherless boys.
Response to the Truth: Praise God for the gift of your outdoor passion and then use it for His glory as a missionary to fatherless boys.
Response to Lie #3: The Great “Omission”
Much pressure is placed on the modern missionary to produce “results” with the raising of hands and the signing of cards— so much so, that missions is often reduced to a numbers game of who is winning the most souls. However, one only needs to take a closer look at the Great Commission in Matthew 28 to realize that Jesus was not emphasizing evangelism as much as he was discipleship. He said, “As you go, make DISCIPLES of all nations, baptizing...and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded....” Discipleship is the missing ingredient (the great “omission”) in many missionary endeavors today.
There are no shortcuts to discipleship. It takes TIME. Jesus took three years to disciple 12 rough men. That is why Fathers in the Field asks the Mentor Father and the Church to make a minimum three year commitment to the ministry and to fatherless boys. That time frame gives the Mentor Father/Missionary a real opportunity to develop a trusting relationship with the fatherless boy during which life-changing decisions can be made.
Response to the Truth: Do not get caught up in the numbers game. Take the long term view of missions.
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